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2003 Melbourne Auto Show Page 3


2004 Ford Territory (Australia)

Suzuki Australia enjoyed an unusual world first ripping the wrapping off what will become the Ignis Sport, a tiny three-door sports hatch with a power-to-weight ratio superior to some BMW models, the company claimed.

Powered by a feisty 82kW 1.5-liter engine, the Sport will help recover buyers of go-faster hatches who deserted in droves after the death of the Swift GTi in the mid-1990s. The car will also be revealed in Geneva later this week.

Daihatsu, Toyota’s micro-car building experts, revealed a new generation Charade micro hatch, essentially the new Cuore model powered by a 989-cc three-cylinder engine. According to officials close to the company, Charade is set to become Australia’s cheapest car when it launches within weeks. This could mean a psychological barrier-breaking sub-AUS$10,000 (US$6000) ticket, offering petrol-price aware motorists a Japanese-built car that’s cheaper than anything from Korea.

Still with three-cylinder cars, Mercedes-Benz Australia introduced the two-seater Smart City coupe and cabriolet to the Australian market, six years on from the French-built brand’s European launch. Priced from a stiff US$13,100, the company hopes to find 300 buyers this year claiming 100 orders are already inked.

Peter Nochar, managing director of Volkswagen A.G. owned Volkswagen Group Australia announced at the show Spanish brand SEAT would have another crack at the Australian market after unceremoniously departing in 1999 after a fraught four years. Czech-brand Skoda is also on its way back after a somewhat lengthier 20-year absence.

Still in the VW family, Bentley executives gleefully proclaimed 100 Australian orders in the bag (globally 3000) for the Continental GT, with deliveries due to start late this year.

Also on the comeback trail is Land Rover’s Defender 90 short-wheelbase hardtop diesel-powered 4WD, reintroduced after 23 years, though quite why is not completely clear.

Another 4WD making news was the Subaru Forester. The Australian-market high-spec XS Luxury Pack complete with side-airbags is the first Japanese-built car in the world to be awarded a five-star NCAP rating, thanks to a recent 29-km/h side pole impact test carried out in Japan.

Adding a seat-belt warning buzzer and the side-airbags was enough to qualify the Forester for its fifth star after an Australian NCAP test last December secured four-stars.

And finally, you might be wondering what has become of the third of America’s Big Three, in Australia.

Chrysler struggles here because it has little right-hand drive product. The Neon fell on the exchange rate sword last year (it was also out of its depth dynamically), while the PT Cruiser is too quirky and pricey.

Chrysler locals have authorised a RHD conversion program for the old Viper and the Crossfire concept car was on show, ahead of local sales starting before Christmas. But it is still too little.

A jolt in the arm for sales would be a badge-engineering deal with MMAL’s Magna product, or the arrival of some big RHD Chrysler sedans. What about it, guys?


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