The 2021 Perodua Ativa – formerly referred to as the D55L – is probably one of the worst kept secrets in the Malaysian automotive landscape. We knew it was in the making when the Daihatsu Rocky first surfaced in the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show – Daihatsu hadn’t even named the car yet at that point. That Perodua was pretty open about its development of a new compact crossover in the past couple of years did little to preserve the sense of mystery that typically shrouds a product launch as significant as this.
Now that it’s here, a new era of Perodua dominance is imminent. Priced from RM61,500 to RM71,200 across three trim lines – X, H (RM66,100) and AV –, the Ativa is now the most affordable compact SUV (yes, it has more ground clearance than the average hatchback and you can actually spec its Japanese counterpart with AWD) currently on sale in Malaysia. That's even lower than the estimated figures quoted when order books first opened less than a fortnight ago. And it’s certainly not for the lack of tech and specs.
QUICK FACT #1 – THE ATIVA IS THE FIRST PERODUA TO BE BUILT ON THE DAIHATSU NEW GLOBAL ARCHITECTURE (DNGA) PLATFORM
For starters, the Ativa is Perodua’s first ever turbocharged vehicle. As is the case with the Rocky and Toyota Raize in Japan, the Ativa derives 98PS and 140Nm from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo. The ‘D-CVT’ transmission that the engine is hooked up to is also a first for the brand, with drive going exclusively to the front wheels. Perodua claims this powertrain is capable of returning 18.9km per litre (5.3 litres per 100km), which is a few whiskers shy of the 20.1km per litre (5.0 litres per 100km) averaged by the naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four banger powering the Myvi.
At a glance, the Ativa looks very much like the Rocky and Raize on which it is largely based, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; if anything, its full-width grille probably looks sportier than the Daihatsu's. Like the Myvi, all variants get full LED lighting, although adaptive high beams are reserved for the H and AV variants only. Similarly, you’ll only find 17-inch wheels – just like the bigger Aruz – front corner sensors and a reverse camera on the two pricier models of the lot.
QUICK FACT #2 – THE ATIVA’S TRANSMISSION IS THE WORLD’S FIRST ‘SPLIT-GEAR CVT’, WHICH SUPPLEMENTS BELT DRIVE WITH ADDITIONAL GEARS AND CLUTCH AT HIGHER SPEEDS
The Ativa’s cabin looks straightforward and functional, but the equipment on board is fairly advanced for what the car is worth. Again, it’s the H and AV models that get the full digital treatment in the form of a visually customisable seven-inch TFT multi-info display with unique tachometer graphics and a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Ativa X’s interior may be comparatively basic but at least it gets its fair share of modern safety tech.
Six airbags, ABS, EBD stability control, hill hold assist, ISOFIX child seat anchors and lane departure warning (and prevention) are standard across the range, as is the updated Advanced Safety Assist system (ASA 3.0); auto-braking now works up to 120kph for vehicles, and 60kph for pedestrians. However, the top-spec Ativa AV gains Level 2 autonomy thanks to the inclusion of adaptive cruise control, lane keep control and blind spot monitor. The most expensive entry in the catalogue also gets rear cross traffic alert for good measure. The AV is also the only model that can be specified with a two-tone exterior (optional RM300 black roof), though this is only limited to ‘Pearl Delima Red’ and ‘Pearl Diamond White’ paintjobs (these 'special colours' command a RM500 premium).
QUICK FACT #3 – THE ATIVA HAS THE HIGHEST INITIAL LOCAL CONTENT RATE (95 PERCENT) OF ANY NEW PERODUA
It’s really quite impressive how far cars in the sub-RM80k bracket have come in recent years. With the way it's priced, the Ativa addresses Perodua's RM16k-wide market gap separating the Myvi and Aruz while creating a brand-new outside threat to B-segment sedans that aren't nearly as well-endowed with driver aids. Although the size, strategy and overall packaging differ quite a bit from those over in Tanjung Malim, we reckon the Ativa AV will still give the Proton X50 Standard a brisk run for its money.
After all, Perodua has the better track record as far as economies of scale are concerned, having consistently outsold Proton by a significant margin for the better part of the noughties. The company's recent announcement of its first sustainable blueprint (Perodua Smart Build) suggests that it's only just getting warmed up.
With Proton enjoying a resurgence of its own, which side of the Malaysian carmaker divide are you on?