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Malta 2016: Toyota Aygo and Yaris top rental-biased market

toyota-aygo-rabatToyota Aygo in Rabat

* See The cars of Malta in 50 pictures here *

Being one of the smallest new car markets in Europe doesn’t prevent Malta from being secretive. My contact at the ACIM – the Association of Cars Importers in Malta – is at first not very keen to share any sales detail about his market: “The information gathered locally between the car importers is only shared by them.” Sometimes the only way is to see for yourself and ask for forgiveness later. So I did fly to Malta and stayed three days, driving around every nook and cranny of the two main islands that compose the country: Malta and Gozo.

peugeot-108-vallettaPeugeot 108 in Valletta. 

There are two main elements that dictate the order of new car sales in Malta. Firstly, the tiny size of the country means there is absolutely no need for large sedans, MPVs or SUVs to travel for hours. You can drive around the main island of Malta in less than that. Therefore, mini and supermini cars are by far the most popular in Malta. Secondly, tourism is the third biggest source of revenue in Malta after freight trans-shipment and electronics and textile manufacturing. This means a large proportions of the newer cars in circulation in Malta are in fact rentals.
kia-picanto-valletta-pic2The Kia Picanto is among the top sellers in Malta this year.

Toyota is confirmed as the most popular brand in Malta so far this year and the only carmaker able to place two nameplates within the Top 5 as we’ll see further down. Kia comes in at an impressive 2nd place mainly due to the success of the Picanto but also the new generation Sportage, knocking its sister company Hyundai down to 4th place. Following a long heritage of purchase preference, Peugeot and Citroen both appear among the five most popular brands in Malta this year, in contrast with Renault which has traditionally been viewed as more expensive and less-value for money.

citroen-c1-vallettaCitroen C1 in Vallettakia-picanto-back-vallettaToyota Aygo and Kia Picanto in Valletta

Model-wise, observation on the roads of Malta has prompted me to estimate the Toyota Aygo as the overall best-seller in the country this year, which would mean the Yaris reign was interrupted not so long ago. The Aygo appears to attract both private local buyers and rental car companies, the perfect mix for a pole position. This prediction was 100% confirmed by ACIM so the Aygo is the official Maltese best-seller for 2016, distancing its big sister the Yaris – less favoured by rental car companies but the eternal favourite of local buyers – and allowing Toyota a fantastic 1-2 in Malta.

hyundai-i10-vittoriosaHyundai i10 in Valletta

In third position we find the Kia Picanto, also very popular as a rental car, followed by the Peugeot 108. The 108 follows a long line of success for the smallest Peugeot in the lineup, starting with the 205 and continuing to the 106 and 107. If the latter nameplates seem to have been favoured mainly by the local population, the 108 seems to be the new lover of car rental companies: seeing 3 or 4 parked next to each other at a tourist attraction is not a rare sight. The Hyundai i10 rounds up the Top 5, while the Citroen C1 and C4 Cactus shouldn’t be far off.

peugeot-108-gharb-gozoPeugeot 108 in Maltapeugeot-108-x3-san-lawrenz-gozo3 x Peugeot 108 rentals in Maltasan-lawrenzA typical car landscape at one of Malta’s touristic spots. 

The 2016 Malta best-sellers Photo Report continues below.

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Photo Report: The cars of Malta in 50 pictures

1-land-rover-nadur-gozoLand Rover Pickup in Nadur, Gozo

Up until today, Malta was a rather secretive market on BSCB with no official sales figures and one lonely update based on Youtube videos dating back to 2010. This is no more. Sometimes car sales data has to be sourced from the very source and on-location research is the best way. There will therefore be two separate Malta updates: one detailing the overall car park of the two main islands (Malta and Gozo) forming the country, and one detailing the best-sellers so far in 2016 – exclusive info you won’t find anywhere else but on Bestsellingcarsblog. We will start with the cars of Malta in 50 Pictures. This is a selection from over 700 snaps of the most striking cars I found in Malta. Enjoy!

2-toyota-hilux-zebbug-gozoToyota Hilux in Zebug, Gozo

First about the actual experience of visiting Malta. If you are planning to visit Malta in the near future, don’t bother perhaps read these lines before you commit. Granted, the colourful balconies, Valletta, Vittorioso and the entire island of Gozo are unique and splendid. However, if you need a room and a car, you must be prepared to end up paying 3 times what you agreed to pay for, for something that will almost certainly end up being the opposite of what you paid for…

3-daihatsu-hijet-marsaxlokkDaihatsu Hijet in Marsaxlokk

For example, a rental car booked online with Goldcar for 43€ ends up costing 118€ due to a ‘mandatory’ all-excess insurance to be paid in case you don’t have a credit card – no mention of this when the company accepted my debit card details online of course. It’s a seasoned business: the cancellation fee is set at 150€ so you are plain and simply hijacked. One hour wait later, I get a Peugeot 208 that was so damaged the staff rolled their eyes at having to write down all the bumps and scratches on the sheet. The hotel room and petrol stations were a similar experience, to the point that for each € spent, I ended up having to spend 3€ for things I had not agreed to pay for – or for actually nothing at all. One day, Malta will wake up with so many consumer law suits on their hands they won’t know where to turn. If all this sounds like an appealing proposition to you, then by all means go visit Malta. End of rant! Now onto the cars.

4-kia-picanto-toyota-rush-vallettaKia Picanto and Toyota Rush in Valletta

5-toyota-vitz-vallettaToyota Vitz in Valletta

A former British colony, Malta gained its independence in 1964 and therefore is a Left Hand Traffic country, requiring Right Hand Drive (RHD) cars. The two main islands that form the country are very small, therefore cars don’t get used that much and can be kept on the road for a lot longer than in a continental location. As a result, the Maltese car park is a striking collection of RHD imports, mainly from Japan, the UK and India. As soon as I hit the airport carpark a flow of used imports from Japan invaded the landscape, king of them being the Toyota Vits (aka Yaris) with original Japanese logo on the bonnet. A lot would follow.

6-birgu-street-sceneBirgu street scene

Malta being neutral during the Cold War, there is also a very distinct Eastern European influence on the streets with many 1980s and 1990s Skodas and Ladas. Korean brands have been present for longer than most European countries, with Kia trucks dating back to the early eighties still in operation.

fordson-thames-1948-1954-vallettaFordson Thames (1948-1954) in Valletta

6-ford-escort-rabatFord Escort Estate (1968-1974) in Rabat

7-kia-truck-xaghra-gozoKia Truck in Xaghra, Gozo

8-kia-picanto-peugeot-108-maruti-gypsy-mdinaKia Picanto, Peugeot 108 and Maruti Gypsy in Mdina

The best-selling new cars will be detailed in a separate post, but mini cars are the norm with the Kia Picanto, Peugeot 108, Hyundai i10 and Citroen C1 very frequent.

9-maruti-gypsy-san-lawrenz-gozoMaruti Gypsy in San Lawrenz, Gozo

The Maruti Gypsy imported as used straight from India has melted the hearts of Maltese drivers, especially on the island of Gozo where it is used as an airy taxi under the blistering summer heat that was enveloping the island when I visited.

11-maruti-omni-birzebbugaMaruti Omni in Birzebugga

10-maruti-800-vittoriosa2 x identical Maruti 800 in Vittoriosa

The Gypsy isn’t the only Maruti popular in Malta, with the 800 so frequent still despite its age that more than one example in the same street is a common occurrence as pictured above.

12-seat-ibiza-smart-fortwo-mdinaSeat Ibiza and Smart Fortwo in Mdina

13-tata-sumo-birzebbuga2 x Tata Sumo in Birzebugga

14-tata-telcoline-marsaxlokkTata Telcoline in Marsaxlokk

Tata has also had its very successful time, with some rarities popping up regularly such as various generations of Sumo and the Telcoline with its air of Mercedes pickup.

mitsubishi-l200-victoria-gozoMitsubishi L200 in Victoria, Gozo

One staple of Malta is the older Japanese pickups streaming along every single street and unsealed road, with the Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max of absolutely all generations extremely well represented.

land-rover-birzebbugaLand Rover Pickup in Birzebuggaland-rover-nadur-gozo-pic2Land Rover Pickup in Nadur, Gozo
land-rover-mgarr-gozoLand Rover in Mgarr, Gozo

But the main emblem of Malta will have to be the valiant Land Rovers spread all across the two islands and looking almost pristine. Malta is a fascinating voyage in time where most cars have been conserved to near their original state. Just for this, it’s well worth the trouble.

15-marsaxlokk-street-sceneStreet scene in Marsaxlokk

The Full Photo Report (50 photos) continues below.

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Malta 2010: Toyota Yaris should be on top

Toyota Yaris

The Maltese car market is influenced by neighbours Greece and Italy and, in all likeliness, should be led by the Toyota Yaris. The other models that could step onto the podium in Malta are the Hyundai Getz, Fiat Grande Punto and Peugeot 207.

Nissan Juke

The previous generations of VW Polo and Ford Fiesta also seem to have been pretty successful in the island so we can assume that the new gens should receive the same treatment. Let’s also note the dynamism of Nissan with the Qashqai, and the Juke, apparently very well received in Malta, and of Suzuki with the Alto likely to be well placed too.

More commentaries and photos below.

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