No disrespect intended as this might come across as almost blasphemous but although the Proton Saga has always been regarded as the “kereta rakyat,” it’s probably time it relinquishes that title to the Perodua Myvi.
It’s the best-selling car in the country for a decade and there’s over a million units sold. If you haven’t at the very least sat in one, you’re probably not Malaysian. There, it’s been said and won’t be retracted.
There’s almost nothing the Myvi can’t do or hasn’t been proven incapable of. It ticks all the basic boxes; spacious, fuel efficient, affordable, reliable and could fill all the rudimentary motoring voids such as a first car, family car or back-up car. It was a no brainer to buy.
Feedback from owners too were nothing short of exceptional, more often than not though exceptionally full of hot air. “Best-handling” occasionally cropped up (quoted by all owners) and then there’s the single highest count of flashing high beams (quoted by everyone else).
Still, I never found myself recommending it to anyone. That honour went to the Proton Iriz for a simple reason; safety. The bare necessities of motoring can be whittled down to just a handful but excluding safety features to keep costs down should land you in a prison block that would see you piss yourself at the mere thought of dropping the soap in the communal shower.
The Iriz was much newer and had some impressive safety tech as well as fun handling for its price bracket. The brand’s own incompetencies though was the Iriz’s Achilles heel.
Perodua took some steps to address that with a facelift of the second generation in 2015 but that also marked the period when non-national marques introduced models that were within reach of Myvi buyers and the sometimes-false notion of a foreign car being better proved to be a crucial deciding factor.
For the all-new Myvi, Perodua had to bring out the big guns. Safety was the priority but other options in the segment were beginning to bring something else to the table that the Myvi lacked, refinement. The art of making an entry-level car feel polished and sophisticated beyond its price tag is a dark magic that few have mastered; and Perodua is now among the shamans.
In the cabin, the perception lies almost entirely on tactile feel and sight. If it’s a high contact area, it should feel premium to the touch and if it isn’t a high contact area, it should look good. The new Myvi does both exceptionally well.
The door panels had some decent fabric on the high contact spots and the leather gear knob felt a lot more sold than its predecessor. One thing that particularly stood out was the chunky, leather-wrapped steering with audio controls that was good to the grip.
For those spots that you don’t touch too often, some nice piano black complemented by matte chrome trims kept it looking as good as the competition. Even the switchgear has been upgraded with decent plastics and the multimedia touchscreen head unit gets navigation that’s user friendly and displays the reverse camera.
It’s still deceptively spacious with loads of rear legroom with hooks and an anti-snatch handbag hook. That built-in Smart Tag is a godsent too and should be standard on every new car here. If we had to gripe; and we have to because nothing is perfect, the interior could use with more USB charging slots. One in the front is not going to cut it.
On a deeper level, refinement comes right from the fundamentals which is the chassis. Perodua did start with the previous Myvi’s platform so the hardpoints are identical but it was tweaked extensively with additional bracing, extra reinforcements and 2.5 times more high-tensile steel that increases rigidity and reduces weight.
Whereas the previous car handled like a soaked roll of newspaper, this one was kept out of the rain. Body flex is down and the new compact trots around with some surefooted confidence that can be easily felt through the steering. Overall, there’s a big boost in stability that translates into driving confidence not too shy of its foreign peers.
The engines are new, with dual VVT-i in the 1.5-litre 2NR-VE. Power comes in at 101hp and 136Nm of torque with a four-speed auto between it and the front wheels. Power is more than adequate and the engine feels more polished.
It’s punchy and power remains linear throughout the revs. More suited for scuttling about town, it’s still just at home on highways and will easily cruise above 150kph provided there isn’t a full load and the kitchen sink in there. Coupled with that more planted feel from the chassis, it’s proving to be pretty adept at everything.
Cabin intrusions have been filtered out considerably. Wind noise and engine note are more muted courtesy of the better aero and acoustic windshield but some skimping on NVH was discovered by chance during a drive in the rain as water droplets kicked onto the undercarriage exposed a lack of sound deadening material on the bottom.
The game-changer here though is the aforementioned active safety in a car at this price. Perodua calls it the Advanced Safety Assist (ASA) suite and you’ll have to splurge on the Advance to get it. Four separate functions comprise the ASA; Pre-Collision Warning (PCW), Pre-Collision Braking (PCB), Front Departure Alert (FDA) and Pedal Misoperation Control (PMC).
It goes without saying that attempting PCW and PCB on the road should see you be disallowed from reproducing. FDA is pretty harmless and PMC could result in a huge repair bill due to your stupidity.
A stereo camera that detects a collision at speeds below 30kph and lets out an audible warning that is PCW. If no driver input is detected (braking), PCB automatically applies the brakes and brings the car to a halt. The system does cease to function after three time per engine start. So, if you’re bad at maths and try it a fourth time, someone’s going to be in serious trouble.
To reset the system, you have to switch off the engine and on again. And no, the eco idle stop doesn’t count as a reset.
FDA basically lets out an audible warning if it detects the car in front has moved during traffic. The last one; PMC, stops the car from driving forward into a wall if you intend to reverse out from a parking spot but slot the shifter into Drive instead. We didn’t test that.
The rest of the safety specs read impressively. Six airbags, stability control and a five-star Asean NCAP rating.
It represents a huge leap forward in terms of its predecessor. The Myvi is now the cheapest car with active safety in Malaysia and it doesn’t feel cheap behind the wheel (shameless plug).