WHEN it comes to model changes Perodua seems to have adopted the strategy of glacial progress.
Today’s new Myvi is nearly exactly the same as the old Myvi underneath its body, save for a few mechanical improvements to increase space and decrease fuel consumption.
Only when the new Myvi got the 1.5-litre engine did it seem that the Myvi had undergone a proper product change.
Having said that prices of the 1.5-litre Myvi variants starts at RM50,913 and goes all the way to RM61,713.
This draws the Myvi away from its closest local rival, the RM49,913 Proton Saga 1.6FLX and places it uncomfortably close to the Suzuki new entry level Swift variant, the RM65,901 1.5GX.
While local car makers have always enjoyed a price point advantage over foreign brands, can the top range Myvi Extreme 1.5 make a case for itself against the bargain-priced Japanese car?
No doubt with the big 1.5-litre engine tucked in the Myvi’s short nose, acceleration off the line feels far more lively than its normal engine brethren.
There is plenty of useable torque from the engine and the four-speed automatic transmission does a good job of delivering smooth changes.
Besides the added thrust, there really isn’t anything different in the way the 1.5-litre variant drives as compared to the normal 1.3-litre variants.
For all its sporty paraphernalia, the Extreme 1.5 handling goes pretty much unchanged, turning the steering just does the job of changing the direction of the car and nothing else.
Nothing wrong with that, just that if you are looking for more than just another point A-to-B car, the Myvi is nothing more than a dreary tool, and you can definitely do better than that.
The Swift and Saga are both fun cars to drive around in, but the kind of driver entertainment they couldn’t be any more different from their body shapes.
The way the compact Swift darts about tight roads stays true to the old-school hatchback recipe of sufficient amounts of grip, short wheelbase, instant reactions, and an enthusiastic engine.
Small it may be, but there are few cars we can recall that left a bigger smile on our faces.
With its weighted steering, suspension set for cornering stability, and refinement, the Saga would appeal to those looking for cornering ability rather than agility.
That said the Saga’s 1.6-litre IAFM engine and CVT transmission drivetrain doesn’t feel as enthusiastic as the Swift’s or energetic as the Myvi‘s.
The Saga’s engine takes time to build its speed, and while the CVT ensures a silky smooth power delivery, it isn’t the best choice to deliver a sporty drive.
If you find yourself spending many hours plying the highways and doing interstate journeys, the Saga’s refinement and stability is definitely for you.
If the job is to simply punt around downtown with the occasional country roads blast over the weekend, we find the Swift’s charms hard to resist.
In the world of the small car space is a shrinking premium, and it is the Swift that fails to make the most of its given footprint in this company.
Sitting in the back you do get the distinct feeling of the car’s diminutive size, as legroom and headroom can be best described as just enough for the average Malaysian.
Swing round the back and we found that luggage space isn’t that great either in the Swift.
While the rear luggage space has a removable floorboard to deepen and increase its luggage carrying capacity, even then it isn’t nearly as vast as the space you have in the back of the Myvi, never mind the Saga with its comparatively cavernous boot.
You could fit a weekend’s load of shopping in the Swift’s boot, but you would need to pack lightly for weekend away trips.
Between the Myvi and the Saga, we find that the Saga not only offers slightly more legroom, its seats feel more plush and comfortable too.
Where the Myvi clearly trumps the opposition thoroughly is with its numerous more useful compartments, storage places, and cup holders placed around the cabin.
You could empty the contents of your pockets, wallet, handbag, suitcase, and still not fill all the compartments in the car. The Myvi’s dash mounted gear shifter also means that there is a lot more space to put your personal belongings.
All things considered if you want to buy a car to “move-in” to and live in, the Myvi is the clear winner in this respect.
Little wonder then that the Myvi continues to be the car that Malaysians love to buy.
This being the range topper of the Myvi model range, the Extreme 1.5’s cabin comes fully appointed with everything the average Malaysian buyer would need.
The Myvi’s onboard multimedia system comes with a DVD-player, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and SD-card reader, as well as a built in GPS navigation software.
Look past its novel six-inch touch screen interface and the multimedia system’s sound reproduction isn’t as good as the other two.
When it comes to sound systems, the simple unit installed into the Saga Executive delivers the better sound quality.
Furthermore it has both USB and AUX input for you to plug your external devices into.
The Swift on the other hand is the most barebones of the three cars here; with the only feature worth pointing out is its simple audio system with a CD player and USB plug.
There is no on-board computer here for you to chart your fuel consumption, no steering wheel mounted audio controls,or fancy leather trim either, just plain fabric.
Yes, the Myvi Extreme 1.5’s asking price has brought it close to the Swift, but inside it is a world away from the little Japanese car in terms of features.
As a value for money proposition the local brands still has the home ground advantage of price as it is clearly seen with just how bare the Swift is compared to its local competitors.
Even with its relatively high price tag, it is hard to resist what the Myvi Extreme 1.5 has installed on board, as you wouldn’t need to further accessorise it.
It also goes to show how much great value the Saga 1.6FLX represents, as the price difference between it and the Myvi would more than pay for the upgrades and accessories to match the Myvi’s features.
On the flipside if you are looking for a decent, fun to drive Japanese car for RM66,000, you can do a lot worse than the Swift GX.
It is plain, but at least it has all the basic necessities, ABS with EBD and dual airbags, audio system, air conditioning, and electric windows.
The proper way to put it then is that for your money you will get a lot of features with the Myvi Extreme 1.5, a lot of car with the Saga 1.6FLX, and a lot of fun with the Swift GX.
Specifications of the Perodua Myvi Extreme 1.5
- Engine: 1,495cc four-cylinder 3SZ-VE
- Max power: 102hp @ 6,000rpm
- Max torque: 136Nm @ 4,400rpm
- Transmission: Four-speed automatic
- Safety features: Dual airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, and Isofix child seat mounting points
- Price: RM61,213 OTR with insurance
Specifications of the Proton Saga 1.6L Executive
- Engine: 1,597cc four-cylinder IAFM
- Max power: 107hp @ 5,750rpm
- Max torque: 150Nm @ 4,000rpm
- Transmission: CVT
- Safety features: Dual airbags, ABS with EBD
- Price: RM49,913 OTR with insurance
Specifications of the Suzuki Swift 1.5GX
- Engine: 1,490cc four-cylinder VVT M15A
- Max power: 99hp @ 6,000rpm
- Max torque: 133Nm @ 4,000rpm
- Transmission: Four-speed automatic
- Safety features: Dual airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist
- Price: RM65,901 OTR with insurance