After reporting on how the premium brands fared in 2019, we continue with the fourth edition of our year-end recap, where we now shift our focus to other carmakers that are also part of the local automotive landscape, which include Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volkswagen.

While some brands focused on strengthening its core offerings, others have been more active by improving their operations to retain loyalists while enticing newcomers. So, let’s take a closer look at each of the five aforementioned brands to see what they have done, and what we can expect from them in the year to come.

Ford’s Power Rangers

The Blue Oval had a relatively quiet 2019, with the latest Ranger being much of its focal point after it was first introduced in the year prior. In March, the performance-focused Raptor variant in the pick-up truck line-up received two new colour options, with Absolute Black and Arctic White joining the existing palette for a total of four colours.

Later in October, Ford dabbled in the e-commerce space by partnering with Lazada to launch the Ranger Splash in conjunction with the site’s 11.11 Shopping Festival. The model featured a number of extra goodies over the existing 2.0L XLT Plus variant, and was limited to just 19 units, with every single one snapped up promptly after sales began.

Another limited-edition version of the Ranger would arrive in December, with the launch of the 2.2L XLT Special Edition in December. With a number of additional equipment and features over the regular 2.2 XLT Automatic variant, the model is currently being offered in limited units, although the exact amount wasn’t revealed by Sime Darby Auto ConneXion (SDAC).

In 2020, we are expecting the facelifted Mustang to finally make its debut here after being previewed at the 2018 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show. At the time, the updated pony car was originally scheduled to go on sale here in 2019, but nothing has materialised up until now.

Additionally, the Ranger received a small update in Thailand in November that also includes the availability of a new FX4 2.2 Hi-Rider variant, which is a possibility for us, along with other equipment revisions. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the latest generations of the Fiesta and Focus to make their way here.

Isuzu D-Max gets a new heart

It was a long wait for Isuzu fans, but in 2019, the company finally introduced the latest-generation 1.9 litre Ddi BluePower turbodiesel engine in Malaysia, with the D-Max pick-up truck being the first model to get it here.

The introduction of the oil burner comes as part of the pick-up truck’s second facelift in the country, with the RZ4E-TC 1.9 litre common-rail four-cylinder unit replacing the old 4JK1-TCX 2.5 litre unit – the 4JJ1-TCX 3.0 litre turbodiesel is retained.

Aside from a lower road tax that comes with the smaller displacement, the downsized mill is superior to the 4JK1-TCX by offering better performance – 150 PS and 350 Nm versus 136 PS and 320 Nm – as well as a 19% improvement in fuel efficiency, with a combined consumption figure of eight litres per 100 km.

However, just a month after the facelifted, second-generation model went on sale in Malaysia, the third-generation of the pick-up truck celebrated its global debut in Thailand. Completely overhauled with new technologies and a revised design, it isn’t known when and if the latest version of D-Max will make its way to our part of the world.

Pick-up truck aside, the MU-X could get a second update to match the Thailand-spec model, which is now powered by the 1.9 litre Ddi BluePower turbodiesel engine, matching the engine line-up of the D-Max it is based on. The seven-seat, ladder frame-based SUV first arrived in Malaysia in 2015, and was given its first facelift in 2017.

Mitsubishi Triton gets a new face, continuous updates

Like Ford and Isuzu, Mitsubishi prioritised its own pick-up truck, kicking off 2019 with the launch of the facelifted Triton in January. Highlighted by the company’s imposing “Dynamic Shield” face, the entire Triton range also shares a 2.4 litre MIVEC turbodiesel and four-wheel drive, with a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmission depending on the selected variant.

The Triton would continue to be revised over the year, with new features being introduced, like the Flying Sports Bar, digital video recorder, all-round monitor (ARM) as well as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The passenger-centric version of the Triton would later be joined by the workhorse version with the Quest making its debut in November, with the low rider truck being powered by a 2.5 litre commonrail turbodiesel as opposed to the 2.4 litre MIVEC unit.

A limited-edition version of the Triton would arrive in early December with the launch of the Knight, which is based on the range-topping Adventure X variant, with just 120 units being made available. While it matches the Adventure X in terms of price, the Knight benefits from additional accessories and unique touches to make it stand out.

Going into 2020, Mitsubishi could be poised to finally introduce the Xpander as an alternative to other seven-seat crossover MPVs in Malaysia like the Perodua Aruz, Honda BR-V and Toyota Rush. The model first made its global debut in Indonesia in 2017 before arriving in Thailand a year later, but has yet to be launched here.

Subaru EyeSight comes to the popular Forester

In terms of launches, the most significant for Subaru this year was the fifth-generation Forester, which we had the chance to try out on a journey from Penang to Bangkok. Not only does it ride on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) like the XV, the Forester also became the second model in the local line-up to come with the EyeSight suite of safety driver assistance systems after the Outback.

Another model that made its debut in 2019 was the XV GT Edition, which gets several aesthetic enhancements to give it more visual presence compared to a standard XV. These 17-inch two-tone alloys, front and rear bumper lip extensions, side skirts, a roof spoiler and two-tone leather seats. The XV GT Edition also comes with a side view monitor system, with cameras located on the lower half of the side mirrors to give a better view of what’s beside the vehicle.

Other initiatives made by Subaru over the course of the year were focused on improving the customer experience, including updating its flagship showroom in Petaling Jaya. The company also began offering a more comprehensive five-year/100,000 km warranty for vehicles registered from April 25, 2019 onwards, and switched to Motul lubricants since January.

In the year to come, we’re expecting the sixth-generation Outback – first revealed in April 2019 – to make its way to Malaysia. The latest iteration of the jacked-up wagon rides on the SGP, which is also used for the upcoming, second-generation Levorg, although the latter has yet to make its debut in production form.

There’s also the Forester GT Edition, which was previewed during this year’s Subaru Palm Challenge in Singapore, and follows the same path as the XV GT Edition with a number of visual improvements. A more distant possibility is the availability of the EyeSight suite for the XV in Malaysia, although we’ve previously been told this won’t happen until the crossover receives its first major facelift.

Of course, Subaru has yet to reveal a global facelift for the XV, but it should be noted the Impreza – on which the XV is based – did get an update in October. so a facelift for the crossover might not be far off.

Saying goodbye to the iconic Volkswagen Beetle while waiting for new sedans

It was a busy 2019 for Volkswagen, as it kicked off the year by improving the ownership experience with the launch of the Volkswagen Cares app and the accompanying Volkswagen Care Plus membership programme for owners with a vehicle that is five years and older.

This was followed by an update for the Tiguan, with the SUV gaining the advanced Active Info Display as well as revised LED tail lights. The Sound & Style Editions of the Golf, Passat and Tiguan arrived later on, with existing owners also offered the chance to outfit their vehicles with some of the enhancements found on these models later on.

July marked a bittersweet moment for the brand, as it bade goodbye to the iconic Beetle with a limited-run model called the Collector’s Edition as well as a massive party that saw 405 Beetles – both new and classic – gathered.

Volkswagen would continue to improve the ownership experience again in the same month by providing the Passat and Tiguan with an additional two years free maintenance. The company would also open the order books for the Arteon in July, a few months after the fastback model made its first Malaysian premiere at the inaugural Premium Auto Car Expo (PACE) in 2018.

Volkswagen’s global used car programme, Das WeltAuto, would be launched in August, providing customers interested in purchasing a pre-owned Volkswagen with peace-of-mind ownership thanks to a comprehensive 133-point check, a one-year extended warranty and one-year roadside assistance. In addition, Volkswagen cars older than five years get to enjoy Volkswagen Care Plus benefits.

The love affair with the Beetle continued in November, with the launch of the Retro Edition at this year’s PACE. Limited to just three units, the rare Beetle featured an accessories kit that includes aluminium side scuff plates, retro-style 17-inch ‘Circle White’ alloy wheels tyres, a rear spoiler and VW Tint.

For 2020, we’re expecting the Arteon to finally make its launch debut along with the facelifted B8 Passat. Originally, both sedans were supposed to arrive in the second half of the year, but it looks like those plans have been pushed back.

This post is one of several in our multi-part “2019 year in review and what’s to come in 2020” series, which covers a variety of major brands, albeit in different groupings. You can check out our earlier posts focusing on other brands as listed below: