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Some nameplates live on in the consciousness of Singapore's car buyers forever. Some touch down for a while - and then never return. Here are a few of them.

14 Jun 2022

Deciding what should go into a model lineup can sometimes be delicate business.

A substantial amount of time and money goes into the development of any single car, even for different models that share the same platform. As such, the existence of every nameplate must be justifiable from a financial standpoint. In today's era of SUV-worshipping, the most commonly canned victims thus tend to be hatchbacks and MPVs.

The 2020 entrance of the Nissan Kicks e-Power likely reinforced the end of its sibling's tenure in Singapore (revealed further down)...
On the other hand, however, the case for selling a particular model sometimes just doesn't make sense in a certain market. Take Singapore, for example, whose market is small and skews expensive. Having similar offerings might lead to self-cannibalisation, whereas cars targeted at customers with thinner wallets invariably get crowded out. 

In the process of dilemma navigation, decision-making, and in one specific case we'll get into, pure marketing spiel, some nameplates are unfortunately discontinued in spite of our love for them. For whichever reason mentioned above, we cast the spotlight on a few which have fallen victim to this fate.

Subaru Exiga

Think turbocharged flat-fours, and the WRX or indeed even the 718 Boxster/Cayman are probably first to come to mind. Not an MPV.

Subaru's brief foray into the world of MPVs is unlikely to ever receive a follow-up - especially now
But a turbocharged boxer engine was exactly what one could have gotten in the seven-seater Subaru Exiga when it landed on Singapore's shores back in 2009. With the GT variant churning out 225bhp and 326Nm of torque, you could do school runs for all three kids and take the family plus grandparents out over the weekend… Then go hunting for unsuspecting, tuned Civics and Lancers when everyone was already asleep.

Nonetheless, it's safe to assume that the Exiga became recognised in no time - especially when Subaru announced a limited run of 300 units, tuned by STI. On the tamer side of things, a naturally aspirated 2.0i variant was also available for those who just wanted, er, bragging rights for an MPV with all-wheel drive (and maybe those theater-style ascending seats?). 

Unfortunately, production ceased in 2018 without a successor announced. While the U.S.A still has the boss-level Subaru Ascent to serve its seven-seat-seeking clientele, markets like ours are serviced only by five-seater models right now (the Forester has curiously never ventured further despite its size). To the Exiga, we raise a toast for something you could say has a truly unique place in Subaru's history.

Suzuki SOLIO 

In the days preceding the freeze of our vehicle population growth (as well as inflated COE premiums), Singapore's roads were friendlier to kei cars.

Small and stout: The SOLIO was likely one of the last kei cars to be sold by an authorised dealer here
Back then, quirky nameplates like the Mitsubishi i, as well as smaller siblings of the Exiga, the Subaru R1 and R2, were living proof that diminutive machines were fiercely capable of boasting outsized personalities. 

One of the last torchbearers on our shores for this special breed was the Suzuki SOLIO, in 2014. Extremely short overhangs gave it a pinched, stout exterior, but it delivered generous and versatile space for four thanks to a wheelbase longer than the Swift's. As a bonus, the car even came with automatic sliding doors.  

Was the SOLIO a van (à la the Every)? A hatchback? A very compact MPV? You answer would probably differ depending on whether you were looking at it in pictures, looking at it up close, or behind the wheel. But this confusion only served to enhance its enigma. While not the last word in good looks nor performance (it only came with a CVT-mated 1.2-litre naturally aspirated engine), the SOLIO's draw lay in being indisputably unique.

Nissan Juke

Remember what we mentioned about the issue of self-cannibalisation within a single model lineup?

Despite getting a second generation, the existence of the Kicks e-Power means the Juke is unlikely to return to Singapore
One of the victims of this dilemma-navigating was the Nissan Juke. The first generation car was a hoot to look at, featuring a bulbous body, blacked out door handles hidden within its C-pillars (yes, the Juke - not HR-V - did it first for modern compact crossovers), circular headlamps, and of course, those protruding, hideous eye-catching daytime-running lights.

Rear passenger space in the Juke wasn't the best because of its shape; neither was boot space. But the crossover delivered a decent enough drive especially if the turbocharged engine was opted for, and above all, accomplished what Nissan set out for it to do: It was an attention-grabbing statement piece.

As the Juke started to age, Nissan's revitalisation of the Kicks with a wallet and eco-friendly e-Power drivetrain marked a pivot in its strategy for the subcompact crossover segment. As such, despite getting a second-generation, the Juke hasn't returned to Singapore - and is unlikely to do so as currently iterated. 

Hyundai i45

Hyundai Motor Group's grand vision to move up the value chain started long before the genesis of, well, Genesis, and predated the times when it was churning out luxury-lite SUVs like the Palisade.

What we would have known as the Mk5 Sonata was instead the i45, thanks to slight branding tweaks
The Mk5 Sonata was part of its late-2000s/early-2010s shift upmarket, except that when it debuted in Singapore… It wasn't the Sonata.

It was the i45

An argument could be made that Hyundai was just getting recognition of its new 'i-something' models (think the i10, i20, i30, etc) up to speed - hence, similar treatment for the Sonata. But there were more than sneaking suspicions that there was a more pressing reason. Virtually synonymous with ComfortDelGro's clattery diesel cabs by the late 2000s, the 'Sonata' name had lost its mass market appeal. 

The early 2010s also saw marked improvements in the interior design and build quality of Hyundais
Still, this naming confusion wasn't entirely misplaced because the i45 represented a sizeable enough leap above its predecessor to earn a distanced identity. Marking a radical departure from the more reserved styling of the Mk4 car on the outside, Mk5 also appeared to take a leaf out of European playbooks on the inside by significantly improving on its predecessor's interior build quality and design. 

The i45 nameplate would ultimately prove to be a touring rather than residential act, since Hyundai's mid-sized sedan would resume its Sonata nameplate in its sixth generation here. Then, as the winds of change blew in the direction of SUVs, the model left Singapore entirely.

Honda Mobilio

Based on the same platform as the Indonesia-targeted Brio compact hatchback, the Honda Mobilio slotted itself size-wise even below the outgoing Stream, which was already below the full-sized Odyssey.

As evidence of how compact the Mobilio is, even the current Mazda 3 Hatchback is longer and wider
In our local lineup of Hondas, however, it was arguably a spiritual successor to the former by presenting seven-seater utility in an affordable and easy-to-drive package. It's likely even one-month old P-plate drivers wouldn't have balked at taking their parents' Mobilios onto the road; the car measured just 4398mm and 1683mm respectively in length and width. For context, that's shorter and narrower than the current Mazda 3 Hatchback

Nonetheless, as our region's bevy of capable, smaller MPVs (think the Toyota Sienta) has shown, sheer size doesn't always matter. The Mobilio was no exception to this with its generous interior space, providing just about sufficient headroom and legroom for Asian adults even in row three. Other highlights for the Singapore-specced models included a standard roof spoiler, and quite sporty-looking 15-inch alloys.

Clever interior design - as is the case for Japanese compact MPVs - helped maximise the Mobilio's utility
Like the Nissan Juke, the Honda Mobilio actually remains on sale in other territories (within Southeast Asia). It's apparently gone through three facelifts too, nearly 10 years into the job. But when a fresh round of Euro 6 emission standards were enforced here in 2017, the Mobilio - thanks to its aging engine - was one of the cars to get axed.

Either way, it's hard to imagine that it would have survived much longer too. Its status as a compact and budget-oriented MPV makes it a hard sell today, especially given that the hybridised Freed dominates parallel importer showrooms. Meanwhile, an extra pair of seats have also popped up in the SUV-silhouette of the CR-V.

While the Mobilio is no longer on sale here, we're not going to call it a done deal yet. If the stars align (by stars we mean, uh, a second-gen unveiling with a cleaner engine, and a favourable swing in the COE quota cycle), the nameplate may have a chance yet at renaissance.

In the market for a nameplate that you can no longer get brand new? Check out our Used Cars listings to see everything that the pre-owned market has to offer!

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used cars  pre-owned cars  suzuki  solio  kei cars  subaru  exiga  wrx  nissan  juke  hyundai  azera  honda  mobilio