These are the latest versions of 7 sedans no longer sold in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG - Sedans were once the default choice for most South African car buyers. You bought a big one with a fancy German badge if you were wealthy. You bought a medium-sized saloon if you were somewhere in the vicinity of middle management, or you made do with a small one if you were shopping on a budget.
But while the smaller hatchbacks have maintained their popularity among budget-conscious consumers, sedans have waned in popularity as buyers in all segments have gravitated towards SUVs and bakkies. In fact if it weren’t for the ride hailing industry we’d wonder if there was a future at all for the four-door sedan.
And it’s not just a South African phenomenon - sedans have been waning in popularity in most parts of the world, with China perhaps being an exception. However, many global markets continue to sell newer generations of the sedans that were once popular in South Africa, but have now been discontinued, and some of them are actually quite interesting.
Did you know that you can still buy a Nissan Skyline sedan in Japan? Even the latest Sentra is quite an enticing prospect, although we’re not so sure about the latest Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Jetta.
Let’s take a look at the latest versions of six sedans no longer sold in SA.
The Accord is Honda’s second-longest running nameplate after the Civic, but it only made its way to South Africa in the early 2000s in its seventh generation. Back then, Honda offered two very different versions of the Accord - a sporty one for Europe (which SA received) and a more conservative Camry-fighter for the US - but for the last two generations Honda has focused its large sedan effort on the American side of the pond.
This has led to it becoming bigger and more refined, but ultimately lacking in charisma and driver involvement, but the latest generation (number 10) does at least have a more interesting design than its predecessor.
The new one offers some decent engine choices too, with buyers able to choose from two turbopetrol VTEC options: a 143kW 1.5-litre and a 188kW 2-litre, the latter being a simplified version of the Civic Type R’s engine.
The Hyundai Elantra was sold here until fairly recently, but the new one is a radical departure from the sedan that you and I know. Hyundai refers to it as “an everyday exotic four-door-coupe look”, and it certainly stands out from the Corolla Crowd.
Hyundai has also introduced a sporty N Line version, which receives a sportier exterior design package as well as a 150kW turbopetrol engine, and there’s a full-fat N version on the way to partner the i30 N hatch.
The Elantra has been significantly modernised inside too, with a digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen fitting under a single piece of glass.
The Nissan Skyline was a common sight on South African roads during the 1980s and 1990s, but now it’s a Japan-only affair and if you think the latest version looks familiar, you’d be correct.
The 13th generation Nissan Skyline is in fact based on the global Infiniti Q50 sedan model, which was also sold in South Africa for a few years. The Skyline has been given a Nissan-style ‘V’ grille as well as the obligatory round tail light elements but other than that it is rather similar to the Q50.
There are some enticing powertrain options, however, with the 400R flagship model being motivated by a 3-litre 298kW twin-turbo V6 engine. Buyers can also opt for a normally aspirated 3.5 V6 hybrid powertrain, with 225kW. Most models are rear-wheel driven, in line with tradition, but there are a few AWD options too. The Skyline is no longer available as a coupe, however.
Like the Skyline, the Nissan Sentra compact sedan was also popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s before it made way for the Almera, and it failed to take off after being reintroduced as an import in 2013.
That model has however been replaced by a far sportier looking vehicle with sharp styling that reminds us a bit of the latest Micra.
The latest (eighth-generation) Sentra is not exactly a global car, but there is enough demand to justify building it in the US as well as Mexico, China and Taiwan.
Unfortunately there is no performance version to really cash in those cheques written by the styling, and the most powerful version makes do with a normally aspirated 2-litre petrol engine that produces 110kW.
However, like the exterior, the new Sentra’s cabin appears quite enticing with its trio of circular air vents that would look at home in a fancy German saloon. It’s also got all the latest Nissan Safety Shield driver assistance gadgets.
Renault sold a sedan version of its Megane in South Africa in the early 2000s, but unlike its hatch counterpart that stood out with that shapely rump, the four-door kept things conservative for those seeking a Corolla with a French accent. This model was eventually replaced by the equally austere Fluence.
But as with the Sentra and Elantra, the latest Megane four-door is a far more enticing prospect - perhaps more elegant than sporty but still a very pretty car in its own right. In fact, Renault even refers to it as a ‘Grand Coupe’ in some markets, although admittedly Renault isn’t the only brand to have stretched the definition of coupe.
The Megane Grand Coupe is sold in a limited number of markets, including sedan strongholds like Turkey and Ireland, and other than the body style it is very closely related to the latest Megane hatch, which you can buy in South Africa.
Now here’s a name that will be familiar with South Africans who were around in the 1990s.
While the Toyota Camry exited our market in the early 2000s, it has continued to be a popular offering in countries like the United States, even despite the waning popularity of sedans.
But we have mixed feelings about the design of the eighth-generation Camry, which was introduced in 2017. It’s as if Toyota decided to shake off its ‘morning newspaper and slippers’ image and replace it with something that wouldn’t look out of place on a Star Wars set, but instead we end up with a sedan that just has way too much grille. Imagine cleaning the bugs off that.
On the technical front the latest Camry related to the Lexus ES that we know in South Africa, and buyers abroad can choose between two normally aspirated petrol engines - a 154kW 2.5 four-cylinder and 225kW 3.5 V6 - and there are hybrid options too. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Even more of a familiar name to us is Jetta, and Volkswagen’s long-running sedan was sold in South Africa until recently, when stock of the previous generation ran out.
VWSA can’t import the latest, seventh-generation Jetta because it’s only built in left-hand-drive guise, being primarily aimed at the US market.
This was also the first Jetta to migrate onto VW’s MQB modular platform, and buyers have a similar choice of engines, with the mainstay of the range being a 110kW 1.4-litre TSI turbopetrol.
However, the model that we’re really interested in is the Jetta GLI, which is essentially a four-door cousin of the Golf GTI, powered by VW’s 169kW 2-litre turbopetrol engine.
Now wouldn’t that make a brilliant successor to the Jetta CLI 16V that we once knew and loved in South Africa?