The Perodua Alza is surely one of the most anticipated cars of recent times. In fact, this blog has been spreading the news of the Perodua MPV since early 2008, and we’ve been teased by numerous spy shots and revelations ever since. Well, it’s finally here now and we’ve got a chance to drive it over a weekend, covering 385km over a variety of roads.
Read the rest of the report after the jump.
The model we tested
The Alza we sampled is an SXi, which means it’s the Premium spec manual transmission variant priced at RM60,990 (OTR including insurance). Extra equipment over the Standard models include ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, dual airbags, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, leather wrapped steering with audio controls, driver seat height adjuster, fog lamps, rear spoiler, higher grade seat fabric and silver/chrome trim in the cabin. That’s quite a lot of added kit for an extra RM5,000 – well worth it in our opinion.
Here’s a brief recap of how Perodua’s MPV stands on paper to its immediate rivals. The Alza sits on an elongated Myvi platform and its 2750mm wheelbase compares well with the Toyota Avanza (2655mm), Nissan Grand Livina (2600mm) and Proton Exora (2730mm) even though it’s the second shortest here after the Avanza. The Alza’s footprint is actually much smaller than the Exora’s – the long wheelbase is derived by pushing the rear wheels right to the car’s edges.
Under the bonnet is a cast iron block 3SZ-VE 1.5-litre engine, as used in the Avanza 1.5 and Rush, although it’s mounted longitudinally in the rear-drive Toyotas and transversely in the FWD Alza. Perodua quotes 103bhp (104PS) and 136Nm of torque, which is slightly lower than the Avanza’s 108bhp/141Nm – perhaps a slightly different state of tune. Transmission options are a four-speed auto and our tester’s five-speed manual.
Living in the Alza
Using wheelbase length as a measure of spaciousness is more applicable in a passenger car than an MPV because rear overhangs contribute to an MPV’s interior length, so we shouldn’t read much into the Alza’s class leading wheelbase. The Alza feels much smaller than the Exora inside, and should be about the size of a Grand Livina, but with a much higher roofline than the Nissan which contributes to an airy and open feel. Stepping into the Alza is very easy, as doors open wide (typically Perodua) and the ride height is just perfect – no need to “climb” into the car.
Access to the third row is trickier. The Alza lacks a tumble fold system for the second row, which means you’ll need to fold down the seat backs (it doesn’t go fully flat) and pull the base – a two-step operation that’s less convenient than the Exora’s two-way, one-touch lever. Once that’s done, the opening is small and those who are less nimble might have difficulty entering.
From the driver’s seat
The centre mounted instrument pack is OK for clarity, but the trip computer didn’t have much info other than Range. The manual variant also lacks the driver seat extension and fold down arm rest since the gear lever and hand brake are in their traditional location – between the seats. What it gets over the auto are a couple more cubbies and cupholders.On the move, the Alza is a very easy and undemanding car to drive – the steering is light, turning circle is tight and clutch is similarly effortless. But the clutch pedal does not seem to have any biting point – it’s either up or down – and those without the habit of resting their foot on the clutch might crave for a foot rest – at present, the pedal is so near the centre console that Perodua wouldn’t have been able to fit one anyway.
The Alza’s gearchange could also be better. The shallow gates and imprecise rubbery feel means that there’s little satisfaction to be had swapping gears; the process feels quite crude and van-like actually.
Many have doubts whether a 1.5-litre is sufficient for an MPV and this is where the Alza surprised us and our passengers. Acceleration is lively, whether from rest or in gear, and there’s enough low down torque to merge with faster flowing traffic without venturing high up the rev range. You do hear and feel the engine buzz, as you would in other Peroduas, but it’s never annoying.
I ferried the family up to Genting Highlands to see how the Alza would cope with four adults on board, and it managed the task admirably. For the first half of the journey on the Karak highway, the Alza made decent progress in fifth gear; only a few times did I need to downshift to fourth to regain momentum. After exiting the highway to begin the climb, the Alza took care of slower traffic and more powerful but poorly driven cars mostly in second gear, even for the few super sharp slopes on the route. It did struggle a little to be honest, but so does its rivals, so there’s not much of an issue here.
That experiment showed that the Alza is pretty flexible on the move, although there’s an occasional hesitation and pause in the mid range, as noticed in our preview report. The Perodua feels more energetic, responsive and effortless than the 1.6 CPS powered Exora and although we did not do a side-by-side comparison, my money is on the car from Rawang in a performance test.
The Alza rides and handles capably as well. There’s not much body roll to speak of, and the ride comfort is relatively good – it doesn’t buck and bounce around like the Avanza or react so sharply to small bumps and ridges like the Grand Livina so it’s a good effort from Perodua. The 185-section Silverstone tyres aren’t exactly high on grip (ours were barely scrubbed in) but other than a steering that I feel should be tighter in high speeds, there’s very little to complain about. What the Exora does better is isolating the engine from the cabin, general refinement and car-driver communication.
On the matter of fuel consumption, I did 385km in the Alza with the trip computer showing a range of 150km (two bars of petrol) when I returned the car. The Alza’s full tank capacity is 42 litres and I added 10 litres to it, so the rough calculation points to 10.3 km/l, which is pretty decent considering the Genting detour. Perodua’s claim is 15.5 km/l for the manual, but keep in mind that it’s almost never possible to hit official figures.
As an MPV, it’s far from perfect. But to its credit, Perodua doesn’t call the Alza a full-sized MPV, preferring the “5+2″ occasional seven seater status. And if viewed as a bigger Myvi with much better legroom, a huge boot and two “emergency seats” the Alza becomes a brilliant proposition. We can see how popular the Myvi is with Malaysians, and if given more of the same with the abovementioned benefits at a small premium, there’s no reason why the Alza won’t be a runaway success. As a bonus, the Alza has adequate performance and is entirely decent to drive.