The demise of the local car manufacturing industry has meant Australia's protectionist vehicle import laws have been relaxed in recent years.
While the import regulations ensure new-car buyers can't side-step dealerships, there are now plenty of opportunities for those shopping for a second-hand car to secure themselves something a little more unique.
CarAdvice spoke with Jarad Cole from Iron Chef Imports in Queensland about why some people choose to bring in a car from overseas: "Importing to order is an opportunity for buyers with specific requirements to procure a car with features and equipment not found in locally delivered models, be they practical or performance based".
While most people associate Japanese imports with performance cars, many people also choose to buy cars with mobility aids, designed specifically for people with disabilities.
"The import process is easy. The buyer will usually research models currently eligible for import, and then contact a broker to procure one in Japan. Most cars are bought from auction, and inspected in person prior to the broker bidding on their behalf," Mr Cole told CarAdvice.
While there are hundreds of different models available to import, we've compiled a list of five interesting Japanese-market vehicles you can now import into Australia.
Mitsubishi Airtrek – $10,000
The popular Mitsubishi Outlander of this era was offered locally, but it wasn't like this. The Airtrek uses a detuned engine from the rally-bred Lancer Evolution, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder sending 179kW to all four wheels. As both the Outlander and the Lancer Evo were available here, a lot of the spare parts for the Airtrek are relatively easy to get. This is the car for enthusiasts who need to carry a pram, and can be had for less than $10,000.
Suzuki Carry – $20,000
The antithesis of American pick-ups, the Suzuki Carry (as well as the Daihatsu Hi-Jet) are perfect for city tradies and country farmers who need a runabout. Known in Japan as 'kei' trucks, the models are fitted with economical 0.6-litre three-cylinder engines, but can offer genuine off-road capability with low-range four-wheel drive. Available with a tipper body or refrigerated box, new models of these little utes come with a surprising amount of safety equipment: dual airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control, collision avoidance, and lane departure warning. All for $20,000.
Suzuki Alto Works – $25,000
Another 'kei' car, but this is the performance version of the Suzuki Alto – a very small city hatch. The Alto Works got the works, with a turbocharged three-cylinder and all-wheel drive originally. Although Suzuki offered a number of engines over the years, early Alto Works models from the early 1990s were still shy of 50kW. It might now sound like much, but in vehicles weighing around 700kg, they may not be quite as slow as you would think. But if you need a more modern version, lightly-used models can be had for under $25,000.
Daihatsu Rocky – $30,000
Australia lost the Daihatsu brand in 2006, but the company continues to produce affordable models in Japan. While the first generation competed here against the original Suzuki Vitara, the Rocky has continued that tradition in its home country. The new Rocky is a small SUV, sharing its engine and underpinnings with the Toyota Raize. Powered by a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder producing 72kW/140Nm, the Rocky offers all-wheel drive and all the safety gear you would expect in a modern, economical SUV, for less than $30,000.
Toyota Blade Master – $15,000
The Toyota Corolla has been one of the most popular small cars ever offered in Australia, thanks to its reliability and strong resale value. So what happens when you drop a 3.5-litre V6 engine from the Camry into the body of a Corolla? You get the Toyota Blade Master. The 206kW V6 hatch provides a healthy power increase over the standard four-cylinder engines offered in Australian Corolla models. But the model is less of a master and more of a jack-of-all-trades, as the car's character is more aligned with a cruiser than with a hot hatch. Revised front and rear lights mean the Blade Master will stand out from a run-of-the-mill Corolla, but it won't draw attention to itself. The V6 Blade Master will cost around $15,000.