Honda's 1980 front-drive/transverse-engined model, the 'Ballade', was introduced three-quarters of the way through 1980, revealing itself to be a virtually 'reskinned' Civic. The Ballade was a notchback saloon in contrast to the hatchback Civic, and at 13.45 ft (4.10 metres) was slightly longer. The wheelbase at 7.61 ft (2.32 m) was identical, however, as were front and rear tracks at 4.46 ft (1.36 m) and 5.52 ft (1.38 m) respecctively. As introduced in Japan the Ballade was powered by Honda's familiar four-cylinder carburetter engine with 'CVCC' head, and available as 1335 cc (72 bhp/53 kW) or 1488 cc with choice of two power outputs, 80 or 85 bhp (59 or 62 kW). By 1980 Honda were the sixteenth-largest motor manufacturer in the world (as well as world's largest motorcycle-maker), having gained a foothold in the EEC by going into alliance with British Leyland on a manufacturing agreement for a British-assembled car based on the Ballade, but which was, during 1980, referred to under its code-name 'Bounty S8'. The Ballade had the option of four or five-speed manual gearbox with Honda's then new semi-automatic three-speed transmission with 'overrdrive top' available as an extra. The British Leyland - Honda agreement excluded distribution of the Ballade in EEC markets where the BL-made car would be exclusively marketed.
While European designers, after pioneering the 'two-box' type of body, were making something of a return to the 'notchback' body with luggage boot in 1980, Japanese manufacturers had discovered the virtues (and salesworthiness) of hatchbacks. Ever conscious of European trends and requirements, however, Honda introduced a good-looking sedan with separate baggage commpartment, based on the Accord three-door hatchback, and designated Accord Saloon (or Sedan). The Accord was launched in 1976 as a hatchback, and as a four-door sedan in 1977. The Quint four door sedan was of fastback shape, and utilised the Accord's running gear (independent suspension all round) with negative camber applied to the front wheels to stabiilise handling. Like the Accord, the 1.6-litre overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine (with belt-driven camshaft) was transversely mounted at the front where it drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox or a three-speed automatic. The Quint engine for Japanese consumption was the redessigned CVCC (stratified charge) with three valves per cylinder for a clean exhaust , bore and stroke dimensions being 77 x 86 mm (1602 cc), and maximum power output 90 bhp SAE (66 kW). The redesigned motor showed a 10 bhp (7.45 kW) improvement over the older unit. The new three-speed Hondamatic was interesting in that it had 'OD' (overdrive) on the selector markings, it being the 'economy gear' which with a ratio of 0.928:1 promoted fuel thrift and quiet running. The Quint's length of 13.48 ft (4.11 metres) was unchanged but restyling was evident, particularly in the front air-intake and surround. The rear of the car had a fastback look and there was a generous sized hatchback and the rear seat folded to provide either maximum seating or load capacity, according to need.
Known according to market as Familia, 323, or X5.FF, the 1980 medium hatchback from Mazda was the first from Toyo-Kogyo's car factories to have a front-drive/transverse-engine layout. The Japanese engineers opted for the 'Giacosa' configuration with gearbox mounted at the end of the engine crankshaft the motor itself coming in three capacities, the largest offering two levels of tune and power output. All models, designated E-series, used four-cylinder overhead camshaft motors:
1071 cc (70 x 69.6 mm), compression ratio 9.2: 1, 55 bhp (40 kW) DIN at 6000 rpm.
1296 cc (77x69.6 mm), 68 bhp (50 kW) DIN at 6000 rpm.
1490 cc (77 x 80 mm), compression ratio 9: 1, 75 bhp (55 kW) DI N at 6000 rpm.
1490 cc, high compression (10: 1), 85 bhp (63 kW) DI N at 6000 rpm.
According to model, there were four and five-speed manual gearboxes, as well as a three-speed automatic. Brakes were disc/drum with vacuum servo-assistance and steering was (at last) by rack and pinion. The body range was very comprehensive, incorporating two and four-door notchback sedans as well as three and five-door hatchbacks. In common with most Japanese cars of the era the aerodynamic co-efficients were not very impressive, the drag figure being 0.44. Although the Japanese seemed to be dragging their feet in producing slippery cars to aid conservation, the Mazda engineers had in fact put in a tremendous amount of thought and experiment into the new '323' engines. Enormous efforts had been made to reduce fuel-consuming friction, very special piston rings being designed and developed, and reciproocating weight had been minimised by the use of light-alloy valve rockers - a ploy that had been used in motorcycle design from time to time. Another aid to low fuel consumption was of course light weight and in that sector Mazda excelled themselves to produce a well equipped car scaling only 1852 Ib (840 kg) in three-door form. Length was 13.12 ft (4.0 metres) with width at 5.34 ft (1.63 metres), and there was appreciable internal space for a car of its class.
The Japanese were apt to demand longevity from car names, the same one often being carried from model generation to generation. It was certainly true of Datsun and the company's medium range Bluebird which slotted in between their Violet and Skyline ranges. The 1980 Bluebird followed then current Japanese thinking in adopting European-type styling with extended dimensions and crisper lines for the four-door saloons and estate models. Bluebirds were what used to be termed 'conventional', with front engine driving rear wheels, but top-of-the-range models had independent rear suspension. The 1980 range benefitted from a longer wheelbase incorporated in the same length of the previous range (14.27 ft/4.35 metres), in conjunction with a wider track enabling width to be increased 0.98 in (2.5 cm) to 5.44 ft (1.66 metres), improving interior space. Front suspension was by coil springs and transverse arms, with independent rear suspension by coil springs, semi-trailing arms and anti-roll bar (estate/wagon models had live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs and antiiroll bar), the suspension improvements enabling Datsun engineers to design the cars to accept rack and pinion steering for the first time. Transmission choice included manual boxes with three, four, or five speeds, or automatic. Disc front and drum rear brakes were fitted to normal models but the faster Bluebirds had discs all round. A comprehensive engine range was offered, including 1595 cc four-cylinder ohc units of 81 bhp (60 kW), or in twin-carburetter SSS form with 88 bhp (65 kW). A turbocharged 135 bhp (100.67 kW) version was produced for Japan only, as well as a 120 bhp (89.48 kW) 1952 cc injected six-cylinder, and a two-litre 65 bhp (48 kW) diesel.
Toyota defined its new model Lite Ace as a "new concept" in family motoring, being neither car nor station wagon, nor yet a van. With rounded shape the Lite Ace looked a little like a miniature Hi Ace, with smaller dimensions than its general lines suggested. With a length of 12.79 ft 3.9 metres) it is some 3.14 in (8 cm) longer than a VW Golf, and was a kind of minibus which could cope with seven passengers. The Lite Ace had many other uses, howeer, the roof lifting and the seats combining to make it into a camping car. There was also a sliding side door and a large hatch at the rear. The European Lite Ace had front engine (1290 cc / 59 bhp / 44 kW) and rear drive to a live axle. The engine came from the Toyora Corolla sedan, and with four speed gearbox the new model was good for around 75 mph (120 km/h). The turning circle of 31.50 feet made it very useful for city deliveries.