Diesel powered passenger vehicles outside of the pick-up truck segment have mushroomed in recent times, thanks to players such as BMW and Ford, while some like Hyundai, Chevrolet and Land Rover have brought in torquey oil burner SUVs. This is in addition to truck based SUVs that traditionally use diesel engines such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner.

As for hybrids, they’re now a regular fixture in urban areas. The government’s tax exemption for hybrids below 2.0 litres has benefited Honda with the Insight and Toyota with its Prius; the former is the cheapest and most popular hybrid in the country now. Even premium brand Lexus has joined in with the fun with the CT 200h, RX 450h and the LS 600hL, although the latter two do not qualify for tax breaks.

Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) figures show that Honda sold 745 units of the Insight in July, and 3080 units so far this year, far higher than the costlier, but higher tech Prius, which did 158 units in July and 1085 units year to date.

By the way, Honda Malaysia sold more Insights than Civic 1.8s from Jan-July; the RM99,800 hybrid also highlights the ambitious price of the Jazz, making the supermini, which costs an extra RM10k, look very poor value.

Some considering the RM140k Prius may have decided to cough out RM30k more for a Lexus badge and the associated luxury. Launched in late February, the RM168,000 CT 200h has found 141 new homes so far. Interestingly, the RM196,500 Luxury spec is the more popular of the two CTs with 171 sales this year.

The hybrid RX and LS haven’t caught on though – only one unit of each has been registered, likely the ones on display at Lexus Mutiara Damansara.

Combing through the figures, it’s obvious that BMW is the diesel champ, which comes as no surprise since the company is the most vocal and active proponent of modern diesel tech in the country. It’s paying off – ‘Advanced Diesel’ vehicles now account for more than 25% of vehicles delivered by BMW Group Malaysia.

In fact, the F10 520d became the second top seller in BMW’s stable for July – with 62 units sold, it’s second only to the 523i’s 74 units.

However, many still fear the infamous “poor Malaysian fuel quality” issue, which according to diesel drivers Paul and Harvinder, are unfounded. Some are put off by the cleanliness (or rather lack of) at the diesel pumps, while others don’t like the clatter, which by the way, is near inaudible in the 520d’s cabin.

Another brand racking up big diesel numbers is Hyundai. The Santa Fe SUV and Grand Starex MPV both come with modern commonrail turbodiesels; the former with Hyundai’s latest ‘R engine’ with 197 PS and 442 Nm of torque, which is a lot of grunt for the capacity.

No surprise then, that 306 buyers chose the CRDi variant (Jan-Jul) compared to 182 for the 2.4 Theta II petrol. The 2.5L Starex (526 units YTD) remains popular thanks to its huge body and unrivaled seating capacity.

So while the seeds of hybrid and diesel sown in Malaysia are beginning to see fruit, there’s still a long way to go before these alternatives become mainstream. The hybrid cause is gaining momentum, but it remains to be seen if it can be sustained when government incentives are lifted.

For diesels, despite the facts and figures strongly favouring its kind, age long prejudice and perception is hard to reverse, and we’re a long way from Europe, or as our earlier story revealed, India, in acceptance.