Fuel-efficient Japanese cars are the top choice for Rotorua buyers, a local dealer says.

New Motor Trade Association figures show 835 new cars were sold in Rotorua last year, 7 per cent fewer than in 2012, with Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris the three top sellers.

Used car sales were up 29 per cent at 836, with Honda Fit, Mazda Axela and Mazda Demio the most popular with local buyers.

Toyota Rotorua new vehicles sales manager Graeme Wilson said the Corolla was popular as it suited everybody's needs: "The finish is absolutely superb and it's reliable."


He said the typical Rotorua buyer of new Corollas was aged 40-plus. The Yaris was used by a number of Rotorua businesses as pool cars because they were well-priced "runarounds", Mr Wilson said.

Cars and More sales manager Brett Friis said the Mazda Axela and Mazda Atenza had been his biggest sellers in the past three years.

"The Axela has got a good name - easy to sell. I've never put a lady into an Axela and she hasn't bought it," he said.

Most women buying Axelas listed boot space and colour among their top priorities - with red or black a popular choice. Although most customers had a checklist of priorities, they usually left with a vehicle they had not previously considered but suited their needs.

"What they want and what they need is quite different."

The association's figures for new commercial vehicles showed the Toyota Hilux was the top seller in Rotorua, followed by the Holden Colorado and the Ford Ranger.

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Mr Wilson said the Hilux was the top-selling Toyota overall in Rotorua because of the region's strong forestry and farming industries.

"We rely very heavily on it."

Motorcycle sales rose to 70, up 52 per cent on 2012.

Nationwide, 82,433 new cars were sold compared to 98,971 used cars - up 7 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

The top-selling cars nationwide between 2009 and 2013 were predominantly efficient four-cylinder models, association figures showed.

Association spokesman Ian Stronach said the price of 91 octane petrol in 2009 was $1.63 a litre but by the end of 2013 it was close to $2.20.

"With petrol costs increasing around 35 per cent in that time, it was entirely predictable that there would be a swing to smaller-engined cars."