Remember back in the day when the only choice you have as your first ever car was either a Proton or a Perodua? Naturally, you would immediately choose a Proton because it has a more powerful engine, more space, and of course, a boot. Peroduas then were small city cars based off a variety of Daihatsus. Both Perodua and Proton were more like close cousins then the frenemies you see now. Perodua deals in making affordable cars for Malaysians and Proton was the symbol of engineering achievement for Malaysia. That all changed when Perodua launched the Myvi in 2005. See, Perodua was a small player and Malaysians tend to prefer 4 door sedans than hatchbacks. But as the urban population increase and perhaps the need for practicality than spaciousness becomes important, a shift in tide was seen in the Malaysian car market. Proton at around the same time launched its version of a small city car called the Savvy. Thus begins a shift in tide. Perodua was making best sellers after best sellers from that point out while Proton seemingly staggered and surprised by the sudden shift could not catch up.
Fast forward to 2016 and Perodua is now leading the charts. The Myvi has gone on for 2 generations with a number of facelifts in the past 11 years but it is no longer the prized champion of Perodua. That award belongs to the Axia, a small city car whose lineage traces back to the little Kancil/Nippa. The Axia was launched around the same time as Proton’s Iriz and although both cars are different in category (The Axia is a small city car while the Iriz is supposed to compete with the Myvi in the small family car range), many people cannot help but compare the two cars. The comparison between the latest car launched by the two Malaysian automotive giants did not stop there. Proton finally launched the newest Perdana, its flagship model that is essentially a stretched out old Honda Accord to much fanfare that quickly dissolves into a disappointment once you see sat in one and feel it. A few weeks later, Perodua finally launched its first ever sedan, the Bezza, which is a small family sedan that is essentially a stretched Axia to much fanfare and… Well, to find out more, read on my first impressions of the Bezza.
Writer’s note: I test drove the Bezza a few days ago at a nearby Perodua dealer. All photos are credited when noted. All views here are independently the writer’s own.
The Perodua Bezza is quite possibly a game changer not only for Perodua but the Malaysian car industry too. In fact, a few weeks ago I mentioned 5 reasons why the Bezza is a Proton killer. Not that I hate Proton but after one disappointment after another, it seems that RM1 bil government “bailout” seemed like a waste of taxpayer funds. The next Persona have a lot to live up to. It would be launched in a few weeks from now and if you’re interested in what’s under the new Persona, check it out here. Perodua on the other hand had been releasing success after another like it is the golden goose. The Myvi, Viva, Alza, and Axia had become market leaders in their own category and no doubt the Bezza will be one too. But how does it actually feel to drive? This is Perodua’s first foray into the sedan market and an actual competitor to Proton’s Saga. The Saga has been in production for years and the aged model shows no signs of slowing down. A supposed refresh is due soon and while it is cheap, buying one is just not likely.
The Bezza comes in two engine choices, a 1.0 VVT-i that is nearly similar to the Axia and a 1.3 DVVT-i that is similar to the Toyota Avanza. It comes in three trim levels, the Standard G, the Premium X, and the Advanced. The first two are offered with a choice of manual or auto and the one that I’m reviewing is the Advanced which is the top of the range model. Perodua’s entry into a new market is something that I’m intrigued to talk about. Initially, everyone thought Perodua’s first sedan would be based off the Myvi, which makes sense seeing the new Persona would based on the Iriz. Instead they decide to face head on with the Saga. Will it work? With bookings that have reached more than 10,000, Malaysians agree that this is a right decision.
The first thing when you step foot in the Bezza is how spacious it is. There is obviously no doubts in the spaciousness of the Bezza seeing the Axia is already pretty wide. The headroom and legroom is adequate even for those sitting at the back. The plastic feels thick but certain areas feel hollow. The dials for the air-conditioner feel pretty rubbery and it feels like I could easily take them off. But those are the only complaints I find myself with the car’s interior. The Bluetooth system works seemlessly and the touchscreen is a tad better than the Axia. The dials are clear and readable and the the gearstick feels solid. However, the coup de grace of the Bezza 1.3 Advance is the start button. Seeing that this is Perodua’s first attempt at introducing a start button technology, the button feels solid and it immediately attracts the attention of those who wanted to get a car this cheap that has that feature.
Driving and handling
Handling-wise, Perodua does not offer anything exciting in their cars unlike Protons. Driving one usually means a bland experience. Like decaf coffee. And it is no different with the Bezza. The gear change is simple and it does its job just fine. There is no sense of slowing down especially up an incline. The Bezza rides pretty smoothly for a car this size but it handles awkwardly with a slightly tall stance. Steering is a bit off-putting and the NVH is similar to the Axia. There is still wind resistance but it is not as bad most Peroduas. A function that Perodua boasts with the Bezza is the Eco Idle function. Found in most hybrids and Continental models, this function allows more fuel efficiency. The Bezza is already fuel efficient in the first place so this function is not much to actually brag about. I tried the system and it feels like it’s slowly draining the battery away. Yes. It is essentially a Stop/Start function but in a car like this, it is not really that useful.
Perodua was once known as a company that takes whatever Daihatsu car and slapped on the eliptical P logo on it. The Bezza is technically Perodua’s first in-house designed production model. (I don’t know whether the second-gen Kancil would count as that because it isn’t really based on any Daihatsu model I can think about) While the front looks pretty decent, the rear…doesn’t. I have mentioned before that he car’s design is not that bad but when I looked up close, it looks weird. Look at the picture above and see for yourself. The back makes the rear tyres look like trolley tyres. I know 14-inch wheels are indeed small but couldn’t they at least make it look a little more presentable? Overall, the Bezza has some Toyota elements in its exterior design. The rear lights remind me of a Toyota Vios and if you remove all the Perodua badges, it really does look like a Vios.
Overall, Perodua’s first ever sedan is not a bad effort. As a commuter, it works fine. Prices are even cheap and enticing too. The Bezza starts off at RM37,300 and this top spec model costs RM50,800 and it includes a start button, infotainment system, and…I think those two are the only interesting things. Nevertheless, at around RM51k with a lot of equipment for that price, it’s no wonder it is the car everyone is talking about. The Perodua Bezza is not only a Proton killer but a game changer for Perodua. Now if only they fix the disproportionate rear design.
A new start for Perodua. Just like that start button.