This surprising vehicle was Australia’s top-selling car in 2019

Red 4WD drives around corner of country road.

Tim Nicholson

Posted April 06, 2020

Forget SUVs. These were the most popular cars in Australia in 2019.

With so many SUVs taking up space on Australian roads, you’d be forgiven for thinking the top-selling vehicle last year was a family-friendly SUV. But it wasn’t. Australia’s favourite vehicle in 2019 was a ute.

Top selling cars for 2019

When you break down the sales results and look at each of the main categories, some of the results are surprising. You might see a lot of examples of a particular make and model on the roads, but that doesn’t mean it is the top seller in its segment.

And the winner of top-selling car for 2019 is...

The Toyota HiLux took the mantle as the number one pick back in 2016 from its Corolla stablemate, and it clocked up its fourth straight year at the top in 2019. In fact, the second-best seller last year was also a ute – Ford’s Ranger, while the Mitsubishi Triton was fifth overall. 

Why are utes so popular?

The popularity of pick-ups can be chalked up to a few reasons. Firstly, a significant chunk of ute registrations are generated by fleet sales across various industries, including the mining sector that places large orders throughout the year. A quick look at any work site will tell you that utes are also still the tradie vehicle of choice. But they also make excellent family cars, and the majority of the utes on sales in Australia have genuine off-road ability, so they are perfect for a weekend getaway. A well-specified ute is really the Swiss Army Knife of vehicles.

What about SUVs?

That’s not to say that SUVs don’t sell by the truckload – they do. But in 2019, not one SUV cracked the top five best-sellers list. The number one SUV in the country was the wildly popular Mazda CX-5 with 25,539 sales – enough for sixth place overall. The eighth, ninth and tenth place getters were all SUVs, but more about them in a bit.


Car parked on rocky road with clouds in the background.

Mazda CX-5.

Top-selling cars by category in 2019

Most popular passenger car

In terms of traditional passenger cars, the highest seller wasn’t a huge surprise. Toyota’s perennially popular Corolla small hatch and sedan took top honours, coming in third overall with close to 30,500 sales, but that was still about 17,000 behind the HiLux.

Most popular small car

In the entry-level small segments, there are three clear leaders when it comes to sales. The Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and the Mazda3. While the Mazda3 was once the top-selling car in Australia (2011-2012), a move upmarket in 2019 that prompted a price increase from Mazda, saw the 3 slip down the sales ladder to seventh last year. Hyundai’s popular i30 – that gets a facelift later this year – overtook its Mazda rival in 2019, while in 2020, the 3 is being outsold by the Kia Cerato as well. 

Most popular mid-size vehicles

When it comes to medium and large cars, things have changed a lot in just a few years. The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore once dominated these larger segments, but the shift away from passenger cars and the closure of local manufacturing operations have had an impact. Once the most popular vehicle categories, the number of medium and large models available in Australia has more than halved and iconic nameplates like the Honda Accord, Subaru Liberty and Hyundai Sonata barely trouble the sales charts.

Toyota’s Camry remains the most popular pick among these models with a tick under 17,000 sales in 2019. A shift from local manufacturing to Japanese sourcing following the closure of Toyota’s factory in late 2017 hasn’t impacted Camry sales anywhere near as drastically as the Commodore when Holden moved to German sourcing after the closure of its local plant. Holden’s sales have declined so much that parent company General Motors has announced that it is killing off the Holden brand.

Interestingly, the next most popular medium/large car in Australia last year wasn’t an affordable mainstream model – it was a German luxury car! The Mercedes-Benz C-Class nabbed about 6800 sales, highlighting the trend towards more premium fare. In fact, the C-Class sedan and wagon range was Australia’s top-selling vehicle with a premium badge last year.

Benz is the brand of choice for buyers with deeper pockets too. Its E-Class and S-Class sedans topped their respective segments. 

Most popular people movers

When you think of people-movers, nameplates like the Toyota Tarago might still come to mind. But the Tarago is being discontinued – replaced by the larger Granvia – and the most popular seven-to-eight-seater family hauler is Kia’s Carnival. Given the popularity of seven-seat SUVs, however, people-movers are nowhere near as sought after as they were in the 1980s and 90s.

Silver car drives along highway with green panel in background.

Toyota Corolla.

Most popular sports car 

Chances are you’ve seen a few Ford Mustangs cruising the boulevards in the last few years and for good reason. The Mustang has been a huge hit for the Blue Oval brand and is the best-selling sportscar down under by some margin. When it comes to more exotic fare, Porsche’s iconic 911 takes the top spot. A new-generation model arrived in 2019 and it is comfortably outselling rivals from Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Most popular SUV, overall

As mentioned, the Mazda CX-5 ruled the roost as the top-selling SUV in the country last year, but Toyota’s well-received new-generation RAV4 has overtaken it so far this year. Whether the RAV4 can maintain its upward trajectory remains to be seen, but the fact that there is still a waiting list for hybrid variants suggests it will. 

Most popular large SUV

Larger SUVs are big business and there are none as popular as the Prado – yes, another Toyota. In fact, Brand T nabbed second place in the segment as well with the Kluger family SUV. If you are purely looking at rugged, 4x4 ute-based SUVs, the Isuzu MU-X is the top pick, outgunning Mitsubishi’s Triton-based Pajero Sport.

Most popular luxury SUV

Luxury brands are super popular in the SUV market and Volvo’s excellent XC40 topped the small-SUV chart last year, but the BMW X1 and Audi’s freshly launched Q3 are clawing back some lost ground in 2020. Mercedes-Benz was the favourite premium medium SUV in 2019 with its GLC, but BMW had the most sales for large SUVs with its X5, while the even bigger BMW X7 was the top upper-large SUV.

Most popular small SUV

Aussies like new models so when something fresh hits showrooms, buyers tend to jump on them early. But that’s not always the case. One clear example of this is Mitsubishi’s ASX. This year marks a decade of sales for the ASX and while it has had a number of facelifts and model year updates in that time, it is still the same model underneath. Age hasn’t wearied the ASX it seems. It is the most popular small SUV with just under 21,000 sales last year, easily outselling newer rivals like the Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V.