Australia’s taste for the cheapest and smallest cars has declined over time, as higher-riding small crossover SUVs have proliferated.

    A decade ago the ‘Light Car’ vehicle segment – as defined by industry database VFACTS – accounted for 12.4 per cent of the overall new car market.

    This market share figure declined to 7.7 per cent in 2017 between the newly separate Micro and Light segments, and this year the combined figure has fallen to 5.4 per cent combined.

    But equally interesting are the changing faces of the top-sellers.

    A decade ago the top-sellers were the Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, Hyundai i20, Holden Barina and Suzuki Swift. Five years ago they were the Hyundai Accent, Mazda 2, Yaris, Honda Jazz and Kia Rio.

    But in 2022 so far? The dominant players are those that maximise metal-for-money: the cheap and cheerful China-made MG 3 (40 per cent market share, 6131 sales), and the oft-forgotten Suzuki Baleno (18 per cent share, 2712 sales).

    Familiar models such as the Yaris and Mazda 2 have become pricier with the addition of more driver-assist features, while staples such as the Hyundai i20 and Accent, Holden Barina, Honda Jazz, and Ford Fiesta have either been retired or relegated to niche, hot-hatch-only status.

    The MG 3 has become a sales superstar both in the private and rental markets, having topped the charts in 2020 and 2021 as well. It lacks a five-star ANCAP rating and isn’t particularly cutting edge, but it’s cheap and has a long warranty.

    Another well-priced and in this case deceptively spacious option is the Suzuki Baleno, sourced from India. Its sales have skyrocketed 83 per cent this year to 2712 sales, and grew 275 per cent in April, thanks to clearly decent supply levels.

    By contrast, the supply-constrained Suzuki Swift has only managed 1023 sales this year, barely one-third of the Baleno’s haul despite being a better-known product.

    Year to date 2022, Micro and Light sales by model:

    MG 36131
    Suzuki Baleno2712
    Kia Picanto1816
    Kia Rio1395
    Suzuki Swift1023
    Toyota Yaris1015
    Volkswagen Polo881
    Mitsubishi Mirage617
    Hyundai i20 N351
    Fiat 500227
    Skoda Fabia59
    Ford Fiesta ST9

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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