Published on June 25th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair


Why Are There Only 2 Japanese Hatchbacks in Malaysia?

I grew up in a house with a Japanese hatchback in the garage, and I’m sure many Malaysians my age or older have as well. Be it a Daihatsu Charade, a Toyota Starlet, a Honda Civic, or a Nissan March – most of us have experienced life in one of these.

It strikes me as a little surprising that the market for this little niche has all but disappeared.

In terms of affordable hatchbacks from Japanese brands, only 2 remain – the Honda Jazz and the Mazda 2. Yes, the Axia and Myvi have supplanted the sub-RM50K spot and they ARE based on Japanese technology.

But between RM68K-93K, there are only 2 options and both have had success. So why haven’t Toyota and Nissan returned with the Yaris and Micra/March?

To me, the answer lies in scale. Nissan and Toyota are HUGE car companies. They only see a business case when a certain volume of sales can be guaranteed. Honda and Mazda in comparison are smaller car companies. While they may be doing well locally, global numbers don’t come close to the big boys.

For context, Mazda sold fewer than 1.6 million cars in 2017, while Nissan sold 5.24 million in the same year. Honda did 4.77 million units in 2017, while Toyota sold 10.25 million globally.

It’s a bit of a shame that small numbers don’t make sense to big businesses. The longer these giants wait to make that move, the tougher it’s going to be for them to breakthrough.

But, to be honest, the Mazda 2 and Honda Jazz fulfil their respective roles really well as it is. The Mazda’s one of the most fun you can have in the B-segment while the Jazz offers versatility and ease-of-driving that you don’t find anywhere else. Plus, both hatchbacks don’t feel inexpensive unlike the Japanese hatchbacks that I grew up with.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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