Changes to Australia's vehicle importation legislation means you can now shop overseas for your new electric or hybrid car.
Australia's federal vehicle legislation is currently being overhauled. W447 Interior Lights
Australia's current 'Motor Vehicle Standards Act (MVSA)' was written back in 1989, and is in the process of being scrapped and replaced by the Road Vehicle Standards Act (RVSA), as of 1 July 2022.
Alongside the raft of changes slowing bringing our road vehicle standards into the 21st century, vehicle importation laws are also being reformed at the same time.
For a deep-dive on the industry and sector as whole, read our piece on teething problems occurring in conjunction with the change from the MVSA to the RVSA.
Rest assured however, the vehicles we're discussing in this piece are not affected by those legacy laws mentioned in that story.
If the vehicle destined to be imported meets certain eligibility criteria – one of which is efficiency – it makes the cut.
As a result, anyone can freely import one the below five "eligible" vehicles, have it prepared for use on Australian roads (a process called "compliance"), then registered for road use.
It's worth mentioning that you can't just import whatever electric vehicles you'd like. In order for a vehicle to become "eligible", it must be approved by the Federal Government first, like the vehicles on this list below.
The Honda E certainly looks the part.
To quote the esteemed Rob Margeit on his quick drive of a 2021 Honda E: "There’s no question the E is a cute car. It’s bigger in the metal than it looks in photos, and a little smaller than the Skoda Fabia but longer than the Kia Picanto. City car-sized then.
"We didn’t get much time behind the wheel, but we had enough to experience the Honda E’s charm. Surprisingly agile and zippy, the small electric hatchback is at once cute and characterful."
Despite the cute looks and fun drive, it's not the value choice. The entry-level version in Japan costs ¥JPN4,510,000 ($AU55,000), meaning a brand-new car in Australia will cost in-excess of $AU67,000 by the time it arrives.
The 2022 Honda E's range under the WLTC cycle is only 283km, which is less-than-a-third of the range a $AU59,900 2022 Tesla Model 3 will achieve (491km).
What price do you put on vanity?
The Opel Mokka-e is the first of many electric vehicles coming from the German brand after it was traded by American auto giant General Motors to French auto group PSA.
Don't forget that Opel was once distributed by Holden in Australia when it was in the GM stable, before being axed locally in August 2013. Sometime afterward, GM sold the brand to Groupe PSA who later merged with Fiat Chrysler to become Stellantis.
Confusing ownership aside, the Vauxhall/Opel Mokka-E is an electric vehicle based on Peugeot Citroen's (PSA) 'CMP' platform, which underpins the Australian-delivered 2022 Peugeot 2008 and 2022 Citroen C4 SUVs.
As PSA's CMP platform was designed for pure combustion or electric propulsion only, hybridisation is not a possibility. That means unlike their Australian-delivered vehicles equivalents, international markets received fully-electric versions of all three cars mentioned in this piece.
As Opel is currently not distributed in Australia, the product remains free to import. The only model from the brand currently approved by the Federal Government for import under its Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle (SEV) register using the environmental criterion is the Mokka-e, in the below trims:
If you're more the pragmatic type, then a 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid wagon could be an appealing option.
Using virtually-identical running gear to Australian Toyota Corolla Hybrid models – a 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder '2ZR-FXE' engine with 72kW/142Nm, and the same electric motor – makes for relatively fuss-free ownership.
The biggest benefit of the Toyota Corolla wagon is its boot space, as the near-on 600 litres of storage is nearly three times greater than the boot space offered by the local Australian hatchback.
Of course, the rear body panels are unique to the wagon, however according to a specialist smash repairer parts are only eight to 12 weeks away from Japan, which is "no different to some locally delivered yet unique vehicles, like some European brands."
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid wagon (or Touring) starts from ¥2,580,000 ($AU32,000), so expect an entry-level Touring hybrid to cost over $40,000 when registered for the road.
As we've come to learn here at Drive, the Australian 2022 Suzuki Swift range is a good one.
Regardless of whether you buy the entry-level GL, turbocharged GLX or fantastic Sport model, the inherent bones of Suzuki's small hatchback are great.
Over in the brand's domestic market of Japan, it sells the 2022 Suzuki Swift in hybrid guise, which unites a 1.25-litre engine with a lithium-ion battery and closed-loop hybrid system, similar to what's found in a Toyota Corolla or Camry hybrid.
Suzuki Japan claims combined cycle figures as low as 4.0L/100km. Although a slightly used or near-new demo would represent better value, a brand-new 2022 Suzuki Swift Hybrid SZ costs ¥1,890,000 ($AU22,000).
That makes it a give-or-take $30,000 vehicle by the its in your hands, if you buy new.
The best way to think of the strangely-named 2022 Toyota Alphard is as a high-end replacement for the old Toyota Tarago.
Based on Toyota's "New MC" platform – the same one used underneath the recently-discontinued, previous-generation Lexus CT hatch – the Alphard is a totally different car to the Toyota HiAce-based Granvia sold in Australia.
It uses a transverse front-engined layout, with the option of on-demand all-wheel drive on certain trim levels. Aside from the wild Japanese styling, many are factory-ordered with reduced seating for just six, but all in captains' chairs.
Toyota refers to the Alphard as the regular model, and 'Velfire' as the 'sporty' version of the same car. By sporty, Toyota means looks only, as the Velfire adds no extra performance.
Whichever version floats your boat, they're both comfortable to lounge in. This writer had the chance to poke about and sit in a 2021 Toyota Alphard, and found the experience to be comfortable and cruisy. The hybrid versions use the same running gear and fundamental parts as Australia's 2007-2011 Camry Hybrid, with the same '2AZ-FXE' 2.5-litre engine and battery pack.
An interesting choice for sure, but not a cheap one. An entry-level seven-seater 2022 Toyota Alphard S Hybrid costs ¥3,850,000 ($AU46,000), meaning it'll likely cost more than $60,000 by the time you've registered it in Australia and paid for all that you need.
After more than a decade working in the product planning and marketing departments of brands like Kia, Subaru and Peugeot, Justin Narayan returned to being a motoring writer – the very first job he held in the industry.
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Copyright Drive.com.au 2023ABN: 84 116 608 158
Copyright Drive.com.au 2023ABN: 84 116 608 158
For Toyota Alphard Seat DAP Pricing– Unless otherwise stated, all prices are shown as Manufacturer's Recommended List Price (MRLP) inclusive of GST, exclusive of options and on road costs.