CC Global – Our Kiwi Scrapbook: You Put Your Ractis On The Driveway, Not The Garden

CC has recently seen my favourite Holden Commodore spots from our recent trip to New Zealand. But what about other sights, unfamiliar in some way, be it name, appearance, or even existence, that we encountered. It’s a Toyota, Jim, but not as we know it.

Let’s start with the Toyota Ractis, a name that was new to me, and frankly sounds more like a garden chemical than anything else to my English English ears.

This is first generation Ractis, dating from 2006, which is a people carrier/MPV/compact minivan/monospace adaptation of the Yaris/Echo. This 2006 car was imported used to New Zealand in 2013, and has a 1.5 litre engine.

Although Europe did not get this car (or anything else under the Ractis name), we did get its predecessor and its successor under the Verso nameplate.

Talking of the Yaris and Echo, how do take yours? There’s the Vitz Clavia, complete with a chrome effect grille.

This 1999 car has a 1.3 litre engine and was imported in 2004, and mostly closely resembles the Yaris we saw in Europe.

Or the Platz, the Japanese market version of the Echo saloon, which Europe didn’t get.

This is a 2000 car imported in 2011, with the same drivetrain as the Ractis.

Or just a plain 2000 Vitz, with the 1.3 litre engine? It starts to feels as if a BMC badge engineering exercise has been going on.

Alongside the Vitz is a 2002 Toyota Estima, the second generation of the Previa seen in Europe. In contrast to the first generation, sold in the US as well, which had the underfloor mounted engine between the front seats, this car was built on the FWD Camry platform, thereby echoing usual practice from most other brands.

Another Vitz family member was 2004 Toyota Porte, a 5 seat MPV with an unusual sliding door on the passenger (left) side.

As befits a member of the Vitz/Yaris family, it comes with a 1.3 or 1.5 litre engine. In this case, a 1.3 litre car from 2003 imported in 2013.

One other Toyota that was new to me was this 2005 Toyota Mark X (X not 10). It sits in the Toyota range somewhere just above the FWD drive Camry. The Mark X has a rear drive platform, and followed the JDM Mark II and chaser saloons.

The X name references the fact that, like the preceding Mark II, it was built on the Toyota X platform. The usual engines for this generation were 2.5 and 3.0 litre V6s, with a no-option 6 speed automatic transmission.

This 2005 car was imported in 2017, and was clearly being well cared for by the new (and quite proud) owner, who was intrigued that I was intrigued, until he realised I wasn’t a Kiwi and that the car was unfamiliar to me.

Another unfamiliar Toyota was this 1996 Corona Premio, which to those suffering from jetlag has a certain Peugeot 405 look about. In Europe, the Corona name died out in 1996, replaced by the UK built Avensis, related to the Caldina.

This Corona is a tenth generation car, known as T210, and this example was imported used from Japan in 2001, with a 1.6 litre engine. Just to keep us on our toes, Toyota turned the Premio into a free-standing model from 2001, paired with the Allion, and the Corona name dropped. (I hope you’re keeping up on these Toyota name plates; I will never complain about BMC or Rootes marque and badge swapping again.)

Another 1996 saloon that was unfamiliar was this Ford Telstar Orion. It would have been familiar if it was badged as a Mazda 626. The Telstar Orion was actually a continuation of the previous (second) generation of the Telstars, which was a badge engineered 1987-92 Mazda 626 saloon. For the Kiwi market, the car was assembled in Auckland by Vehicle Assemblers of New Zealand, which was a Ford-Mazda joint venture.

More, I was going to say interesting, intriguing was this Honda Mobilio, a seven seat minivan (2+3+2 seating) built on the Honda Fit/jazz platform.

This is a 2003 car, imported to New Zealand in 2012, after the model has been discontinued. This was one of the most unexpected sights of the trip.

More familiar, if only because I recognised the name, was this Honda Crossroad. The name was first used in 1993 for a badge engineered (and UK built) Land Rover Discovery series 1 sold only in Japan. In 2007, Honda used the name again, for this more compact SUV, related to the Stream MPV.

The Crossroad was sold only in Japan from 2007 to 2010 and came with a 1.8 or 2.0 petrol engine. This is 2007 2.0 litre car, imported in 2018.

The Crossroad was effectively a re-bodied HR-V or CR-V, though the styling shows some Nissan Cube influences. I certainly didn’t predict Honda as I walked up to it.

Another car that familiar by name only was this 1995 Nissan Bluebird. Europe used to have Bluebirds, up to 1990 when the UK built Primera took over. This car, known as the Bluebird U13 series was first introduced in Japan in 1991 and was assembled by Nissan from kits in Auckland until 1997.

This example is a 1995 car with a 1.8 litre engine, and wearing its 24 years pretty well, even if the styling clearly places it in the early 1990s.

Also familiar in name only (just) was 1994 fourth generation Toyota Tercel hatchback. North America had the saloon, Europe only the second generation Tercel in small  quantities.

This car was imported to New Zealand in 1999, and has a 1.3 litre engine. Is it me or is there a hint of AMC Pacer after a hot wash in that bubble shape?

Unseen in Europe is the 2003 Mitsubishi Diamante saloon. The Diamante was assembled in Australia, alongside the closely related Mitsubishi Verada saloon, although there were significant differences between the Japanese and Australian versions, including for example MacPherson front suspension in place of multi-link on the Japanese version.

However, to keep us on our toes, this car was actually built in and imported from Japan, imported in 2001. This example has a 2.5 litre V6 engine, and fits many of my criteria for a V6 saloon.

And to finish, one name that is familiar and well-loved on CC – the Ford Falcon. I can’t hope to match Johnh875’s history of the Falcon, and I won’t try. This example is a 1999 Falcon Futura AU series estate. A 4 litre 6 cylinder engine gave 211 bhp. The most striking thing about this car was the size of it – all but 200 inches long – and the overwhelming whiteness of it in the sunshine. I don’t really do white cars and this reminded me why.

Our overall impression of New Zealand was hugely positive – friendly, welcoming people, great scenery, wildlife and vegetation and driving on the correct side of the road. What’s not to like?