Best new cars from Japan that we never got

Over the years we've received used imported cars which never enjoyed official export from Japan, even though they deserved to be.

Here's five top missed opportunities.

Nissan Cefiro

Later models were re-badged front-drive Maximas, but the rear-drive A31 Cefiro from 1988-1994 looked good, provided good space and shared six-cylinder drivetrains with the Skyline of the time including AWD. Could've easily been a 5-series competitor if marketed well. Now a very cheap used car.

Nissan Stagea

Another car that could have done better as an export, the Stagea was aimed at Volvo's 850/V70 wagon but soon gained a fine reputation of its own. Built from 1996 to 2007 with a redesign in 2001, it used in-line Skyline and V6 Z-car motors with RWD, AWD and turbo options. The US would've loved it.

Honda Crossroad

Not to be confused with the early Land Rover Discovery based models, the 2007-2010 Crossroad replaced the old HR-V in Japan and offered 2WD and AWD with 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines, and up to seven seats. Honda didn’t export the car in case it hurt CR-V sales. We don’t think it would have.

Mazda Verisa

A derivative of the early Mazda DY/Ford Fiesta joint venture, the Verisa has been built since 2004 and offers a tall, airy bodystyle, targeting the compact family/city car market in Japan. It's surprisingly roomy, offers 2WD and AWD and could have gone very well in Europe. A great used import buy here.

Toyota IST

The IST I and II sell well as used imports, and were launched as Scions in the US with 2WD or AWD and 1,3L-1.8L engines. The IST II got to Australia and Europe as the Urban Cruiser, but never came here as a new car. It could fill Toyota NZ’s currently empty compact SUV slot very easily.

Sunday Star Times