Despite overall figures having tapered off somewhat in the past few years from the heady days of the mid 2010s, Malaysians have been consistent when it comes to purchasing cars. Simply put, we like cars, and we buy them with fervour.

There no shortage of zeal, as the numbers show. Yearly sales of passenger vehicles (PV) in the past decade have been always within the 500-600k band, as the annual total industry volume (TIV) figures released by the Malaysia Automotive Association (MAA) reveal. Here’s how it has measured up over the past 10 years:

  • 2019 – 604,287 units (550,179 units PV)
  • 2018 – 598,714 units (533,202 units PV)
  • 2017 – 576,625 units (514,675 units PV)
  • 2016 – 580,124 units (514,545 units PV)
  • 2015 – 666,677 units (591,275 units PV)
  • 2014 – 666,465 units (588,341 units PV)
  • 2013 – 655,793 units (576,657 units PV)
  • 2012 – 627,753 units (552,189 units PV)
  • 2011 – 600,123 units (535,113 units PV)
  • 2010 – 605,156 units (543,594 units PV)

In all, 6.18 million new passenger and commercial vehicles were sold in the last 10 years, and of these, nearly 5.5 million units were passenger vehicles, making for an average of 550,000 cars a year over the decade.

In 2010, vehicle registrations in the country were recorded at 20.18 million units (cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles). By mid-2017, according to the MAA, that number had swelled to 28.18 million vehicles, of which nearly 13.29 million were cars.

Adding in the numbers since then, an approximation of total PVs registered in the country by end-2019 would comfortably have it at well over 14 million, and given that the country’s current population is around the 32.5 million mark, that works out to a rate of about one car for every 2.3 people in the country. Little wonder about those traffic jams in the city, and during festive seasons, eh?

As the headline suggests, the story here is about the best-selling vehicle models of the past decade, but a bit more trivia and stats before we get to the list, which is made up by models from just four brands, namely Honda, Toyota, Proton and Perodua.

In overall terms, Honda sold nearly 725,000 cars from 2010 to 2019, while Toyota sold close to 840,000 vehicles. Proton’s total sales for the decade amounted to 1,129,450 vehicles, and the juggernaut that is Perodua placed 2,042,304 new vehicles on the road during that period.

The 10 top selling vehicle models in the country managed a combined total of 3,679,172 units, translating to nearly 67% of all PV sales during the period, inclusive of whatever numbers for number eight that may have ended up going the commercial route. Even if you remove that in its entirety from the equation, that achieved by the other nine keeps that percentage close to 63%.

In terms of specific models, the Nissan Almera just missed the cut into the final 10. A total of 125,128 units of the sedan were sold from 2012 to 2019, but that was only good enough to place the sedan 11th in the scheme of things. With that, on to the 10 biggest movers of the 2010-2019 decade.

10. Proton Exora – 136,024 units

The decade’s tenth best-selling vehicle is Proton’s first MPV, which has been around since 2009, albeit with plenty of revisions and variations (there was even a Range Extender Electric Exora prototype from 2010, although nothing came out of that) over the years.

The Exora received its first MC (minor change) update in 2010, and Bold and Prime versions, both powered by a 1.6 litre CamPro CFE turbo mill, were unveiled in 2011. Another facelift came about in 2015, in which the Prime was discontinued, and an enhanced version arrived in 2017 to replace the second iteration of the Bold MC. The two-year update cycle continued with the introduction of the Exora RC (running change) in May last year.

9. Perodua Bezza – 184,038 units

Perodua’s first ever sedan made its debut in July 2016, going on sale in 1.0 litre and 1.3 litre engined forms. Not quite the looker, especially with that rear, but buyers didn’t seem to care – in three and a half years, the Bezza has racked up enough of a count to get into ninth, proving to be a formidable Saga competitor. All the numbers here have been managed solely by the pre-facelift, because the new one only arrived at the start of this year.

8. Toyota Hilux – 221,240 units

There has been plenty of competition in the pick-up segment, but one truck stands clearly above the rest, at least in terms of sales (and in the number stolen). The numbers generated in the past 10 years shows how popular the Hilux has been, and not just with commercial customers. At the start of the last decade, the flag was carried by the long-serving seventh-generation, which went on until the eighth-gen made its Malaysian debut in May 2016.

7. Proton Persona – 242,106 units

Present day buyers will be familiar with the second iteration of the Persona, which was introduced in 2016 (and facelifted last year), but it is its predecessor that is primarily responsible for placing the car on the decade’s best-selling list, accounting for nearly 70% of the total number of units listed above.

The original Persona (not counting the Wira and its spin-offs that were named as such for export to the UK and Australia) was based on an extended Proton GEN•2 platform. It was launched in 2007 and was facelifted in 2010. In KL, unless you never ever took a taxi, chances are you’ve ridden in one.

6. Honda City – 263,945 units

Two iterations help get the B-segment City into sixth, the first being the third-generation GM2, which was launched in December 2008, and the fourth-generation GM6, which made its Malaysian debut in March 2014, both powered by a 1.5 litre i-VTEC mill.

Of the two, the fourth-gen has provided the lion’s share of sales for the type in the past decade – while the third-gen managed 84,000 units during its life-cycle, the still-on-sale fourth-gen, which was refreshed in March 2017, has easily outstripped it, having already hit 155,300 units by October 2018. The fifth-gen, due in sometime later this year, should continue the run nicely for the nameplate.

5. Toyota Vios – 288,737 units

The Vios has been around for nearly two decades, and over the last one has managed to keep ahead of its Honda rival, although the fight has been close. Malaysians will be most familiar with the second-gen, adapted from the automaker’s Belta sedan. The car that was given a manatee connotation was introduced here at the end of 2007, with a facelift arriving in 2010.

It was replaced by the sharper-looking third-gen in October 2013, with an update in 2015 adding some minor improvements. In 2016, the long-serving 1NZ-FE 1.5 litre mill and four-speed automatic were replaced by a new 2NR-FE Dual VVT-i unit of identical capacity and a CVT, with running updates being made in 2017 and 2018. The latest Vios, based on the Thai-market Yaris Ativ, premiered at the start of 2019.

4. Perodua Alza – 364,209 units

Perodua’s B-segment MPV arrived on the scene in November 2009, and the little seven-seater has proven there is a demand for budget MPVs, despite it now getting rather long in the tooth. Since its debut, the Alza has gone through two facelifts, the first coming in 2014 and the second, in September 2018. A replacement is rumoured to be in the pipeline.

3. Proton Saga – 515,004 units

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The nameplate that started it all for the Malaysian carmaking industry continues to plug away, and though it’s no longer top billing, more than half a million units sold is good enough to place it third in the decade’s best-seller list. More than three-quarters of Saga sales during the 2010-2019 period were managed by the second-gen BLM, which first appeared in 2008.

The FL facelift came in December 2010, followed by the FLX in 2011 and the SV in 2013. The run-out model for the generation was the Saga Plus, which replaced the SV in 2015. The third-gen, based on the FLX platform, made its debut in September 2016, and was facelifted in August last year, with a new Hyundai four-speed AT in place of the CVT.

2. Perodua Axia/Viva – 686,519 units

The second best-selling car of the decade in Malaysia is made up of two models, but they are so entwined that they can be considered one. The Viva was launched in 2007 and was in the market until 2014, although Perodua reports that units continued to be sold until 2017.

Its replacement, the Axia, took over in September 2014, and the compact hatchback was updated last September. Aside from gaining new kit, including VSC, two new variants were also introduced, an SUV-inspired Style being one of them. The cheapest car in Malaysia has been popular, no doubt about that – it’s the bigger volume seller in the Viva/Axia show, contributing 420,240 units to the total listed above.

1. Perodua Myvi – 777,350 units

Well, no surprise again as to which car model is top of the pops in the country –last year’s best seller is also the decade’s champ. The Myvi is a veritable monster, and it shows in the final numbers. What’s notable for this outing is that the total sold involved all three generations of the hatchback, with the final first-gen Myvi (which was launched in May 2005, and facelifted in August 2008) being sold in 2012, a year after the second-gen made its debut.

The second-gen facelift was introduced in 2015, rolling on until it was replaced in November 2017 by the third-gen, which took off like a rocket and has continued to go like one. Given that the new one accounted for a third (34.1%) of the automaker’s total sales for 2019, you’d be hard pressed to bet against it – and its next iteration down the road – from being the top seller again in the coming decade.