The Perodua Alza was indeed the most anticipated car in 2009 for the Malaysian public and to an extent was even more over rated in its publicity than its rival from Proton which was the Exora. With so much riding on it, we decided to give the Alza a run for its money and we have to admit the Alza ticks almost all the boxes. Yes,almost all but not ALL. With its sibling, the Perodua Myvi still topping sales charts month after month, much was expected of this car or what they call as, Car 1 moment, MPV the next.

For some weird reason as Perodua puts it, the Myvi is turning out to be a cult car among Malaysians. Its only a matter of time before everyother car we see on the road turns out to be a Myvi. Perodua wisely used the same platform for their newest baby and are certain to have created another winner in the making based on strong interest even before 1st model rolled off the production line.

So we decided to take it out on spin and see what the “epic” Perodua Alza is all about. For starters, almost 90% of the design is based from the Myvi and when you see it in person it might actually strike you as just another Myvi but with a bigger booth. The similiarites just doesnt end there thou as the rest of the cabin also has borrowed large chunks of the Myvi for its interior design. The car does look very pretty in very Malaysian sense thou judging by the amount of looks we got when we took this car out for a proper spin around town and the coastal roads of Morib and Tanjung Karang.

The Alza we sampled is an SXi, which means it’s the Premium spec manual transmission variant priced at RM61,000 OTR. What you get over the Standard model includes 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 a silver trimmed cabin. That certainly is a lot of added equipment for an extra RM5,000.

The Alza is powered by the 3SZ-VE 1.5-litre engine which is the same cast iron block that powers the Toyota Avanza 1.5 and Rush. The unit on the Perodua is reported to produce close to 103 hp with 136 nm’s of torque on tap for the driver. This figure is only slightly lower than that of the Avanza’s suggesting Perodua might have re-tuned to the engine for marginally better economy. The test unit we got was equipped with a 5 speed manual transmission but the auto box is expected to be the more appealing and preferred option among the buyers.
Performance

The engine was surprisingly rev happy and since it was a manual, the Alza peeled away from traffic lights during standing starts amazingly fast. In fact many of the Wira’s and Waja’s we encountered while waiting in traffic seemed like small dots on the rear view mirrors (for a few seconds). Shame the manual box wasn’t a willing partner in this pursuit thou. The gears felt very sticky and rubbery to an extent and not to mention required abit of  extra effort  especially when shifting down from Gear 2 to Gear 1. The compactness or tightness of the gearbox also meant that we were constantly shifting to 5th instead of 3rd and is something that Perodua might want to look at in the later models. Nevertheless the Alza scores alot of points for being able to sustain its pace with minimal effort as well being rev happy. This means you’d be more than happy to floor the throttle at the expense of the fuel economy but be rewarded with a rather powerful surge from the 1.5litre 4pot engine. The engine does get a tad noisy after 3500 rpm’s which in the Alza should translate to about 105km/h at 5th gear.

Throw in the another 3 passengers in the back seat and the performance starts to dip. A lot more effort is required to move the machine but it does manage to rake up the miles once its on the go. The key factor here being momentum. Overtaking is not much of problem as well as the manual transmission copes rather well in 3rd and 4th and would rarely require you to drop to a gear lower than that.

But if you throw in another 2 or 3 passengers in the back and choose to utilize it as a people carrier, that is when your problems might start to suffice. While the car manages to still respectably peel away from standing starts, you will find your right foot going deeper and deeper in order to get moving. This means fuel economy will be rather average but for most mpv owners this isn’t too much of a problem since it is compensated with the extra weight carried.

Handling

The driving experience in the Alza is also rather pleasant. The ride is prettydecent and the suspension soaks up bumps rather well. Grip during cornering and high speed cornering is rather good for a fact and the car seems very stable as well during cornering. Body roll is at a minimum but we suspect the rear passengers especially those in the 3rd row might have a bit more complaints regarding the ride comfort but we figure the Alza will be more frequently used as 5 passenger car so this may have been an area Perodua might have chosen to ignore so it could keep the ride firm and car like. The 15inch wheels look good and are perhaps the best compromise between price and handling ability but we feel 16 or 17 inch wheels would be a much better option for more grip on the road.

Space

Space wise, the Alza feels much smaller than the Exora inside, and should be about the size of a Grand Livina. Like most Perodua’s the car is rather skinny meaning the 3 passengers in the back would have to cramp up slightly in order to fit. The head room thou is pretty high and should be more than adequate for the average Malaysian. Stepping into the Alza is rather easy. The doors open rather widely  and the height is just perfect which means 1 does not have 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 back and pull the base which is a two-step operation that’s less convenient. Once that’s done, the opening is small and those who are less nimble might have slight difficulties entering.

When put side by side to the Grand Livina, the Alza seems to measure almost the same. The Exora thou is certainly both longer and wider than the Alza suggesting a more comfortable enviroment for 7 seated adults. The key factor here being that the Exora and Grand Livina being fully fledged MPV’s while the Perodua is more of an elongated car.

Having fully foldable seats also meant you can easily configure the mpv to any sort of set up to ferry your goods. This makes shopping fun as you could get abit more creative with your purchases and not have to worry about shipping fees.When on 7 seater mode thou, the rear space is absolutely limited. At most you could get away with a few backpacks stacked vertically.

The 1 thing we liked about the ALZA was its numerous cubby holes, cup holders and rather pleasant looking dashboard. The only shame was the rather plain and cheap looking air cond controls. The audio system is bluetooth compatible and has a USB slot as well which we think is a rather novel touch. The standard OEM speakers looked up for the job but had a slight buzz when playing tracks with a lot of bass in it.

CONCLUSION

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.



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