Remember the popularity of the Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV), or people carrier from the late 1980’s to the 1990’s?
In the 80’s when it first arrived, the MPV was the dream car for many families. For the next 10 to 15 years it became the must have vehicle for families both big and small.
It has plenty of space compared to a sedan, good all round visibility and the earlier models sat on a car platform, so it had decent handling.
What then happened to the Honda Freed, Toyota Wish, Honda Stream, Volkswagen Touran and Mazda Biante in Malaysia?
It seems that today only the Nissan Serena is keeping families happy with a single compact MPV choice in Malaysia. Yes the Proton Exora is still on sale but this is a 10 plus year old product.
The Toyota Wish was a used import best seller together with the early model Honda Stream in the late 1990’s to 2015, and till today you still see families as well as single adults still liking them.
UMW Toyota introduced the Sienta compact MPV in 2016 and it was priced well, sold well and had a reliable engine and gearbox, despite some consumers not being impressed with the design.
In 2019 the Sienta was retired due to slowing sales despite many of its owners praising its space, utility, power sliding doors, comfortable seating for seven and easy city driving dynamics.
Then from 2010 onwards mid-sized MPV’s felt the sales pinch. The Ford S-Max, Volkswagen Sharan, BMW 2 Series Grand Tourer and Citroen Picasso arrived with great features, safety kits, innovative seating and roomy space.
However, Malaysians were not too keen because these vehicles’ selling price was higher than a used Toyota Alphard or Vellfire luxury MPV from Japan.
Malaysians on a budget opted for a brand new Hyundai Starex which had a bold nose and seating for the whole family with space to spare.
For the 2012 to 2013 period, the trend started changing and consumers wanted crossovers and SUV’s with seven row seats and a high riding stance despite having less room inside the cabin.
As families moved towards owning a seven-seat SUV, the demand for the compact MPV dwindled.
So, the Peugeot 5008, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 and now the CX-8 started a strong sales trend.
Then came the Perodua Aruz and Toyota RUSH, both compact seven seater Crossovers and took the Malaysian market with strength and impressive sales numbers.
However, after a few weeks with these compact Crossovers, owners with large families soon realised that the Crossover or Compact SUV did not offer the space, legroom and comfort that an MPV did.
But it was too late. The purchase was done, the loan documents signed and they had to live with their purchase for the next five to seven years.
It is not all negative though, as the sleeker looking Crossover or SUV is more exciting than the frumpy looking compact MPV.
DSF predicts that in the coming seven to eight years the MPV will make a comeback and Malaysians will once again embrace its family friendly benefits.
This writer still has a 17-year old compact seven seat Japanese MPV in the garage and it continues to serve in more ways than you can imagine.
Japanese brands today still offer many compact MPV’s like the 2020 Honda Freed in their line-up. These offer great interior space and drive feel for families.