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We’ve all seen and heard how bad budget cars can be. But is the Viva really deserving of the public’s stereotyped image?

19 Sep 2009

Perodua rose to international fame back in 2005 when Jeremy Clarkson did a review on the Perodua Kelisa. You would think that the Malaysian car maker would have been ecstatic to have their car reviewed by a certain controversial motoring journalist on probably the most popular auto show in the world, Top Gear, right?

Well, I’m sure Perodua would’ve been delighted if the review Jeremy gave was positive but unfortunately his opinions about the car were far from it. He remarked that the Kelisa was nothing more than a cheap soul-less appliance whose only purpose in life is to turn a profit for the corporation that built it. A car totally devoid of passion in its design and engineering.

After collecting his soon-to-be-thrashed Kelisa fresh off the showroom floor, he parked it within eyesight and proceeded to take a sledgehammer to it. All the while mouthing out all that was wrong with it. If the Kelisa were given a chance, it would’ve reminded Jeremy in between blows to its panels that not everyone can afford a car built with style and panache.

The reason for its existence is to take four people in reasonable comfort from one point to another while providing basic amenities like air conditioning and relative safety (I will elaborate further on this later in the article).

As if thrashing the Kelisa with a sledgehammer wasn’t enough, Jeremy proceeded to rip it apart from both ends using a crane to pull it while having the front tied down with a dead weight. Personally I think that Jeremy might’ve expected a little too much from the little Kelisa.
Then again, I can’t blame him. He is British after all and they’ve been spoilt with affordable and relatively well-built cars for as long as anyone can remember.


The Viva’s looks resemble that of a typical city car. Although at certain angles the car does look a little familiar. For example, the entire front fascia up till the A pillar looks as if it was lifted directly off the Chery QQ but with triangular headlamps instead of the QQ’s circular ones.

Beyond that point, the Viva’s designer went kindergarden on us. The side profile is uninteresting with no significant efforts to differentiate it from its pressed sheet metal origins. Obviously it was done to keep production costs low but it makes the Viva’s design about as interesting as a box.

Take a walk to the rear and you find that once again it all looks vaguely familiar. For me, it conjures up images of the Subaru Viki I used to see plying our streets when I was a much younger lad, albeit with a thicker rear bumper and taillights that are set higher up.


The driving position in the Viva is surprisingly very comfortable, although rear legroom does suffer if you have a tall driver. Seats in the Viva come upholstered in fabric with rather dull colours which give the interior a rather sombre feel. Even the factory fitted audio looks unassuming, blending quietly into the similarly coloured centre console. The Viva comes equipped with electrically adjustable and folding mirrors.

The audio system is adequate for most listening duties but don’t expect to be pumping any Black Eyed Peas through the factory speakers provided unless you don’t mind the distortion. Despite the spartan interior, the car does come with dual front driver/passenger airbags though I highly doubt anyone could walk away without a limp from a side impact collision.

The doors fitted on the Viva are so thin that if Jeremy took a sledgehammer to it, there’s a good chance the hammer will penetrate right through.

Another point to note about quality is the electrics. During the test, the demister failed to work despite the ‘in operation’ light being on. The window was still severely fogged up which begs me to question the Viva’s reliability.
As spartan as the interior is, I did manage to find a rather innovative feature. The dual purpose lever hidden just beside the handbrake lever is quite interesting. You pull on it for access to the rear boot space and push it to flip up the fuel filler cap.

In the Viva, the rear seats fold down (like in most hatchbacks) flat to reveal generous luggage space in case cargo capacity ever takes precedence over passengers.

Driving Impression

The 3-cylinder, DOHC 989 cc powerplant provides enough power for most road conditions but the car struggles to put its power down when it gets a little wet outside. If you thought that only powerful sportscars were capable of wheelspins, you would be surprised at what the Viva does at the lights on a wet day.

Without traction control, the Viva gives generous wheelspins at the lights when you mash the throttle. Although it might be useful for a laugh at first, it soon gets frustrating when you’re left behind at the lights picking up the small pieces of grip you can find.

On the highway, the Torsion Beam (front) and Macpherson strut (rear) suspension of the Viva struggles to keep its composure as its passengers are jolted about transferring every uneven undulating surface directly to the driver and passenger.

Engine and tyre noise are intrusive when driving at speed in high revs. The engine and tyre noise are so loud that it negates the purpose of having a audio system in the car since it can’t be heard unless its turned up to eardrum-popping levels.

So is the Viva bad? Well..I wouldn’t say bad but it does not justify its asking price. Compared to its lower priced competitors in this segment, the Viva falls short of terms build quality, ride comfort and performance.

But its redeeming quality is the fact that the car comes from our Malaysian neighbours, which puts the price and availability of parts in its favour. Consumers might find better options in the lower priced Hyundai Getz and Kia Picanto.

If second hand cars are not out of the question, one year old cars like the award winning Suzuki Swift could be a consideration. Let’s hope Jeremy doesn’t get his hands on this Perodua.
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Car Information

This model is no longer being sold by local distributors


: -

Engine Type


3-cylinders 12-valves DOHC DVVT

Engine Cap





45kW (60 bhp)



90 Nm



4-speed (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)



Top Speed



Fuel consumption


18.1 km/L

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perodua viva  perodua  budget car  small car  cheap car