By on August 12, 2016


I’ve been glued to various screens watching The Games of the Thirty-First Olympiad, much like many of you, I assume. Streaming some lesser-known sports, such as kayak slalom, which resembles a water autocross save the distinct lack of Tilley hats, has helped me get through slow days at the office.

But like any other time I’m watching a broadcast from another land, my petrol-addled mind wanders to the streets outside the televised event’s venue. I daydream about the cars parked there. What are those people driving that I can’t get here?

Brazil is especially intriguing, as the country’s overwhelmingly protectionist tariffs on automobiles, combined with requirements for locally sourced components, make importing cars into the country remarkably expensive. Some sources place the overall impact of these taxes at 80 percent of the value of the vehicle once it’s finally sold at retail. These brutal taxes make local production paramount, which means the country spawns some unique vehicles.

Armed with Google Translate, Deep Woods Off!, and my blue Ayrton Senna Nacional hat, I set out to find some of the most forbidden (automotive) fruit prowling the streets of Rio.

Ford Troller T4, Image: Ford Brazil

Troller T4

This deserves a place here on TTAC simply because of the name. As I covered back in March, this rugged body-on-frame SUV has quite a following throughout Brazil. Some have suggested, as Troller is part of Ford, that this should form the backbone of the revived Ford Bronco. It is, after all, based on the current Ranger platform. It’d be a great way to reclaim some of the cheap off-roader market that Ford has ceded to Jeep over the years.

2016 Fiat Toro

Fiat Toro

As Steph covered in March, Fiat is building this compact unibody pickup on the same basic platform as the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, and there is some speculation that it could make it to these shores as a low-cost alternative to midsize pickups from GM, Nissan, and Toyota. Whether it comes north as a Fiat or as a Ram, if at all, is a big question, but it’s a handsome little truck that may prove popular here.

Obvio 828

Obvio! 828

Now here is where we get weird. A two-seat electric sports car with vertical doors, developed in concert with Westfield (of Lotus 7 replica fame) and Lotus (of Lotus 7 original fame), and built in Brazil. The Obvio! website is short on details and long on superfluous exclamation points, but the claims of 121 horsepower and a 400 km (250 mile) range seem rather optimistic, especially in concert with a claimed two-hour recharge time. It’s an interesting looking runabout, though, which looks quite handsome in the British Racing Green with yellow stripes.

Super Buggy

Super Buggy

No, this is not a reference to TTAC on a day when the advertising is particularly obtrusive. No, this is another vehicle built on the Platform Chassis Variable platform that underpins the Obvio! 828 above. The Super Buggy, however, is a Volkswagen petrol-powered roadster that somehow seats four. Much like the Obvio!, I have my completely uneducated doubts that the Super Buggy would meet U.S. crash standards. But in the Super Buggy, I’d have a smile on my face when I die, and that has to count for something.

Renault Sandero RS

Renault Sandero RS

Longtime readers of my column know that I’m a Francophile, which I’m certain would be cured almost instantaneously upon actually needing to rely on a French vehicle. Still, a hot French hatchback has plenty of appeal, and the Renault Sport badge has long been the marker of Gallic performance. Now, the Renault Sandero is available with the RS badge in Brazil. Top Gear fans know the Sandero (badged as a Dacia) as a cheap, cheerful hatch popularized by James May and derided by the show’s other hosts. With only 148 horsepower, the Sandero RS isn’t particularly quick, and we have to wonder how well it actually handles as it shares much with the Nissan Versa — but my desire for a Renault Clio Williams colors my mind when looking at this Sandero.

Certainly these aren’t the only cars haunting the roads around Rio, but they are quite likely the most intriguing. I won’t be booking any southbound intercontinental planes anytime soon, but the thought of some cool rides give me pause.

[Images: Header, By National Olympic Committee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Troller, Ford Brazil; Fiat Toro, Fiat Brazil; Obvio 828, Obvio; Super Buggy, Wake Motors; Sandero, Renault Brazil]

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41 Comments on “2016 Rio Olympics: The Cars of Brazil...”

  • avatar

    If the Fiat Toro was available in North America, they might actually sell some Fiats. Looks like it could be a very practical vehicle for people that don’t want a thirsty large truck.

  • avatar

    This is an interesting thing to do for every major company represented by the readership.

    Even for a country like the UK which people think they understand has many unique nuances worth looking into.

    eg. cars like the Lada Niva, the Dacias and the homebuilt kit car industry

  • avatar

    The proportions of the T4 are nearly dead-nuts to the two-door “armored” 2004 Bronco concept.

    • 0 avatar

      If only Detroit had a better track record of ‘concept to production’ we could get our hopes up. Still, if Ford is making something similar in Brazil, there’s a chance something like it will show up here.

  • avatar

    Troller looks absolutely fantastic. I’d love to see a re-birth of affordable(ish) basic 4wd jeep-type vehicles on the US market, but I’m not sure where they’d fit into fleet-fuel economy plans. Maybe adopting some sort of UK-like system of low volume vehicles being excluded from safety and CAFE standards? I want me a Lada Niva or UAZ here in the US! Someone’s already beaten me to the punch it seems with this older UAZ 469:

  • avatar

    I thought that the “reborn” US Bronco would be heavily Ford Everest based… given its basis on the current global Ranger, that’s just been my conjecture.

    • 0 avatar

      The T4 is based on the same platform, and Ford hasn’t indicated that the Bronco will be a US-spec Everest.

      The Everest would simply take sales from Explorer and Expedition. Is rather have the Everest over our crossover Explorer, but the Explorer sells so well (best selling 3 row, and outsells the two row Grand Cherokee), I seriously doubt Ford would risk dethroning its cash cow crossover.

      • 0 avatar

        BOF, three row, smaller than an Expedition, OMG! Was the Everest’s selling point in my mind. Heck Toyota can still sell 4Runners next to Highlanders, why not Ford?

        The goal with the Bronco isn’t to set the world on fire with sales the goal is to amortize the Ranger platform better with the work that is required to Federalize it. The Bronco’s existence is more about selling Rangers than about selling Broncos.

        Plus I looked up the Everest reviews in Australian car mags and the fact that there is better cargo room behind the third row than in the Explorer is a selling point to me and would make me choose it.

        I honestly think that Ford would do just fine with a 4-door, three row Bronco. Soccer mom’s are still going to want the Explorer.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s the problem. Everest (and Territory) are far better vehicles than our Explorer. Explorer sales would tank, and rightfully so. I’m certainly not saying I prefer Taurus wagon…oops I mean Explorer. But I’m saying Ford prefers its cash cow as-is.

          The 4Runner isn’t a 3 row family type vehicle, although some use it as such. The Highlander also doesn’t sell as well as Explorer, so Toyota has less to loose in that regard.

          I would like to see Everest here AS the Explorer, not next to it. To replace it in everything but name. The 2.7L and 3.5L EcoBoost engines, along with a base 3.7L, would be fine for the American market. CAFE probably makes that option as viable as a $9,000 new Fiesta ST.

          I believe that Bronco will attack Wrangler, and not be a 3rd-row-equipped 4Runner. That would seem to be the area where Ford’s utility lineup is lacking, unlike the 3rd row family vehicle area which is Explorer, Expedition and Flex’s domain.

          Ford doesn’t have an affordable smaller offroader like Wrangler. Few do, but obviously there is a market for it, and the “Jeep image” buyers are not the only ones supporting it. Bronco is a legendary name and deserves to be on a legendary SUV.

  • avatar

    “Great news!”

  • avatar

    A year and a half ago, Marcelo would have written this. :(

  • avatar

    I love the looks of the Troller – like a blend of the Wrangler and a Toyota FJ.

    And the Fiat Toro is good too – perhaps a little too weird for the average truck buyer but it would have appeal to the same type of people who would want a Ridgeline, or have fond memories of their El Camino ;)

  • avatar

    That super buggy is coooool. I like the Toro as well. That would sell here, and while it might not compete with the big brands as suggested, I think it could compete with something like the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a Hellcat Trolller around here before…

  • avatar

    I can caption the Obvio! 828 photo.

    “Hey baby, wanna go for a ride?”

  • avatar

    The “Ram” Toro is quite attractive.

    I think Honda has proven that the unibody pickup niche is there, but a small one. Competing head on with the new Ridgeline would be a tough challenge.

    Fiat would have to undercut on price by many thousands plus roll out the dirtbag finance plans to do any volume. If those economics work, I’m sure the dealers would be happy to have another vehicle to offer.

  • avatar

    I made 20 trips to Brazil between 2012-2014, renting cars most of the time so got to sample a lot of the local vehicles. The largest size rental car I ever got was a Ford Fusion, which was deemed “Luxury”. Full size was a Fusion or a Renault Fluence.

    The Trollers are really cool vehicles. Ford has a small ute called the EcoSport that is quite popular. There are a dizzying array of micro cars with 1.0L engines to have the lowest tax rate.

    I even got to have a dealership experience, going with a business partner when he helped his son buy his first car, a Ford Fiesta. I’d love to have one of the turbo Diesel Rangers.

    • 0 avatar

      Based on my 1 trip to Sao Paulo they all drive VW Polos along with various scooters, motorbikes and small motorcycles which beep their horns constantly. But the gas stations have Ayrton Senna posters still up, so its hard to not love their passion.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The shot of the Troller looks very Landcruiser 70s Series when the front was moved out to accommodate the V8 diesel.

    If Ford could make a version of this into a Bronco, with a 3.2 diesel it would be a fantastic vehicle.

    It appears to have live axles front and rear, which will make it good off road and maybe not so good on road. But the XJ Cherokee was okay on road with it’s live axle front end.

    • 0 avatar
      CV Neuves

      Troller T4 is as 5 cyl, 3.2l Diesel with 200 hp, 6 gears, 4×4, costs ca. 32K USD in Brazil. Fibreglass body, 2.140 kg. 4.09m long, wheelbase of 2.58m. 135l trunk ;).

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