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The Mazda3 edged out the Toyota Corolla in Australia’s May car sales, though a battle between the two Japanese small cars is guaranteed for the rest of the year as they also vie for status of best-selling vehicle overall.

Just 133 units separated the Mazda3 and Corolla last month, with the locally assembled Holden Cruze not too far behind with 2680 sales.

Hyundia’s i30 was fourth with 2159 sales though the South Korean brand has only just launched its second-generation version of its hatchback.

The fastest-growing small car featuring in the top 10 was the Ford Focus, which finished fifth for May with its best monthly result – 1667 sales – since January 2008. Focus sales have grown 43 per cent year on year.

In contrast, the Mazda3 and Cruze have grown only 5 and 3 per cent respectively in the same period, with drops of 6 per cent for the i30 and 13 per cent for the Mitsubishi Lancer that was the seventh most popular small car in May.

It was beaten by a strong month for the Volkswagen Golf (1591), though the Lancer is slightly ahead for 2012.

The Civic (1147) was a rare bright spot for Honda in May, with a fresh version released earlier this year helping year-on-year growth of 12 per cent.

The Subaru Impreza was also launched in new-generation form this year but is struggling. 1033 sales for May placed it ninth, but year to date sales of 3364 are down 41 per cent on May 2011.

The Kia Cerato completed the top 10 at the Hyundai Elantra’s expense (702 sales), though the Elantra takes that spot in overall sales.

Read our separate story on May 2012 car sales to see the winners and losers for the month.

May 2012
Mazda3                   3288
Toyota Corolla         3155
Holden Cruze          2860
Hyundai i30             2159
Ford Focus              1667
Volkswagen Golf     1591
Mitsubishi Lancer    1351
Honda Civic            1147
Subaru Impreza       1033
Kia Cerato                820
2012 to date
Mazda3                      17,899 +5%
Toyota Corolla            15,222 +12
Holden Cruze             13,380 +3
Hyundai i30                10,976 -6
Ford Focus                  7429 +43
Mitsubishi Lancer        6777 -13
VW Golf                       5951 -5
Hyundai Elantra          3635 –
Subaru Impreza          3364 -41
Honda Civic                3344 +12