REVIEW: 2022 Perodua Alza AV – the best family car below 100k in Malaysia, not just among 7-seater MPVs –

The new Perodua Alza is the best family car priced below RM100k. And beyond, but we’ll stick to the round number. Not just the best affordable MPV in Malaysia, but the best family car, period. Hear us out.

Perodua has been dishing out hit after hit of late, upping the ante when it comes to what we can expect for X amount of money. The volley of blows started with the Ativa in early 2021 – the small SUV saw the local debut of the Daihatsu New Global Architecture (DNGA) platform, Turbo-CVT powertrain, Level 2 autonomous driving and Matrix LED headlamps, among other features.

The market leader then updated the Myvi late last year, fortifying Malaysia’s best-selling car with some of the features that debut in the Ativa. Already miles ahead of rival Protons in the safety department, the Myvi is now offered with Advanced Safety Assist (ASA) in all variants, and the AV gets the Ativa’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keep Control (LKC) as well. The D-CVT brought refinement, performance and economy benefits to the G3.

That 1.5L NR engine and D-CVT combo powers the new Alza, which turbo engine aside, gets all the equipment found in the Ativa, and then some. The second-generation Alza is the best equipped Perodua to date, and it’s astonishing what we’re getting for the money, which is from RM62,500 to RM75,500 for the AV you see here.

No holding back the kit

Toyota Malaysia will have its own version of the Alza called the Veloz, which is the posh sister of the new Toyota Avanza in Indonesia. For this generation, the Alza was merged with the Avanza and Daihatsu Xenia, making it four versions of the same MPV. All sit on the DNGA platform, which also underpins the Ativa-Rocky–Raize SUV triplets.

The Veloz will be priced around RM95k, which means that the gap between it and the top Alza – both made in the same Perodua factory – is RM20k, a rather big premium for cars below RM100k. While the differences between Perodua and Toyota MPVs are deeper compared to the Aruz–Rush, including a 30 mm higher ground clearance for the Veloz, we still expected more. In other words, we didn’t expect the Alza to be so well-kitted next to the “big brother”.

As mentioned, the Alza combines the powertrain of the Myvi with all the kit of the Ativa, with the bonus of some new-to-Perodua features. Six airbags and ASA are standard from the base model (no compromise when it comes to safety), and there’s also the digital meter panel, ACC + LKC (this pack always comes with BSM and RCTA) and the Lexus-level Adaptive Driving Beam LED headlamps.

The Alza goes further with some new-to-brand features, such as the electronic parking brake (EPB) with auto brake hold (necessitates rear disc brakes), a 360-degree panoramic view monitor and a new infotainment system that looks better and has Android Auto and the just-approved Apple CarPlay. Brake hold makes daily urban driving so much easier and the PVM has a nifty steering button to manually turn it on. The ACC now has low speed follow or traffic jam assist.

This level of kit is way beyond what non-national B-segment sedans and hatchbacks offer for the money. Proton? The base X50 goes for RM86,300 and has just four airbags. Want AEB? P1’s cheapest car with ADAS is the X50 Flagship, yours for RM113,300.

If you want to go deeper, the next-generation Vios, which has just been revealed in Thailand, finally gets on DNGA and receives ASA (branded as Toyota Safety Sense, but without ACC). The new Toyota’s steering wheel and meter panel are the exact items used in the Ativa/Alza; ditto the minor cabin switches. So, we’re essentially getting the group’s next-gen B-segment stuff in advance via Perodua.

The same can be said of the Veloz, of course, but at RM95k, it’s less of a value proposition. Face and ride height aside, key differences include LED DRLs (you’ll have to GearUp in the Alza for DRLs, an overwhelming majority are going for it), 17-inch wheels (an inch up), black roof/roof rails, Toyota’s head unit (wireless AA and CP), auto air-con (but without P2-style memory) ambient lighting and a Qi wireless charger. We’ve detailed the differences in a separate post here.

Whichever way you look at it, the Alza is plenty of modern car for the money.

Family first

You’re here because you have a family, right? The Alza’s rear quarters is where it sets itself apart from passenger cars or small SUVs in the price bracket. It’s really plush here compared to the Honda City, Toyota Vios, Proton X50 and Perodua’s own Ativa.

The new Alza is 4,425 mm long and 1,730 mm wide, which means that its footprint is 205 mm longer and 35 mm wider than the original JDM-based model, even if the 2,750 mm wheelbase is unchanged. The larger body yields more interior room for both humans and cargo – interior length with the second row seats pushed furthest back is 2,765 mm, which is a significant 115 mm more than before. The 35 mm extra width of the body fully translates to interior width, too.

The old Alza was barely there as a three-row MPV and had only 83 litres of boot space with all seats raised. Now, it’s a usable 137 litres (+54L, good for a couple of duffel bags). With the third row bench folded (50:50), cargo space is now 498 litres, a massive 150L improvement.

Used purely as a two-row car (Perodua says 40% of old Alza owners did so), legroom is very generous when the middle row is pushed furthest back (you can even cross your legs), and feet can tuck under the front seats easily, even when the front chairs are at their lowest position.

Couple this with a wide range of backrest recline, a fold down centre armrest and a three-speed blower, this is as good as it gets for rear accommodation below RM100k. There are two USB chargers behind the front centre console, plus a single cupholder there. Speaking of drinks, there are handy cupholders on the rear doors (arm level, appropriate for hot beverages) and a row of them in the bin below.

The GearUp faux leather seat covers you see here have additional seatback pockets in various sizes. They appear to be designed for a phone, an iPad and a laptop/magazine.

This is before we even factor in the bonus over choosing an MPV over a B-sedan/hatch – the third row. It’s relatively pleasant back here – there’s enough knee and headroom for this 175 cm writer and my feet can slot in under the middle row, which is important. Usually, kids will be relegated to the third row when there are extra adults to carry, and they’ll be fine here – it’s not claustrophobic and there’s even a USB charging port and more cupholders.

Capacity is one thing, access is another. It was a deliberate decision by Perodua to keep the Alza’s ground clearance to a car-like 160 mm (Malaysian-spec Veloz 190 mm, Indonesian-spec Veloz and Mitsubishi Xpander 205 mm, Aruz/Rush 220 mm) and it pays off in the ease of access. There’s no need to climb into the Alza, and if you have elderly parents or passengers who are less mobile, this is a strong point. Access to the third row is also very easy thanks to the one-movement tumble fold function.

I see plenty of sense in the Alza being a family car if you have two kids (I don’t, but my parents loved the space), versus a B-segment passenger car (picture a child seat, a stroller and a week’s worth of groceries). It’s like a Myvi with extra legroom and a big boot, with a bonus row of seats for the parents/in-laws. Extended family outing aside, this is a spacious five-seater that’s as easy to drive as a B-hatchback due to its stance.

Happy driver, happy family

So, we’ve established that the Alza is a great family car, but you – the driver – are not forgotten. After all, happy driver, happy family, right?

The Alza’s cockpit is a pleasant place to be working in. The above-mentioned low ground clearance is very apparent if you’re coming from the Ativa, as I did. You can really feel those few centimetres when getting out of the car, when your leg touches the ground. The “regular car feel” continues with the conventional dashboard layout, as opposed to the MPV-style central meter position of the old Alza.

The driver’s seat is comfortable for long distances, being not too hard and well-bolstered. The leather-fabric combo is nice too – the quilt pattern isn’t too loud, and the accents match the deep red/brownish trim on the dashboard. I prefer the regular AV seats over the GearUp PVC covers – the latter feels a bit “puffy” and its brighter red doesn’t match the dash.

Much is made of Peroduas not having telescopic steering. Reach adjustment is always good to have, but in the Ativa and now the Alza, I have no problems in finding a good driving position, unlike in the Axia/Bezza. Perhaps I am of median height, but one should always try a car out for size. I also like that the Alza’s seat goes low enough, and you don’t feel like you’re “sitting on the car” as you do in a Myvi G3.

Many elements are from the Ativa. The sharp and customisable digital meter panel, the steering wheel (boss and bottom spoke design changed), the AC control panel with two memory positions, and the minor switches will be familiar to owners of the SUV, but the Alza AV’s head unit is an improved one.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen (size unchanged) has a slimmer bezel, a full row of fixed buttons, prettier tiled home screen and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a first for Perodua. With the latter, you can view and access navigation, music and messaging apps on the car’s screen – goodbye suction phone holders. Note that this new head unit is exclusive to the AV – the H uses the same one from the Ativa while the X has no touchscreen.

Another little luxury is the EPB with auto brake hold. Brake hold, which can only be offered along with EPB, makes driving in jams physically so much easier. If genie gives me one Alza feature for the Ativa, it’ll be this.

Sometimes, it’s amazing how a bit of colour can totally transform an interior. The X50 Flagship’s red dash top is an example, and check out this previous-gen HR-V’s wine red cabin. Of all the AV-exclusive items, the dual-tone cockpit might be easiest and cheapest to implement, but it makes a huge difference – compared to the H, the AV’s dashboard feels more special, more premium even.

Of course, it’s just an illusion of premium. This is a RM75k MPV and hard plastics are only to be expected, but even so, Perodua went further than it needed to. Look closely and you’ll find that the texture of the dash top has a unique grain to it, a cross hatch pattern similar to Saffiano leather – zoom into the image below (the one with my wallet) to see what I mean.

The AV’s brownish red trim lifts the overall ambience; dash top has a nice cross hatch grain

It’s nice that the red/brown dash section “flows” into the door panels, and there’s even a diamond motif at the end of it. The AV’s standard part-leather seats sport the same brownish tone and its quilted centre section matches the diamond theme as well. Together, all these little touches uplift an otherwise conventional dash design. At night, the array of lights on the meter panel and a full complement of steering buttons (zero blanks!) gives off a fully-loaded, high-tech feel. This one isn’t an illusion.

Nice as the cockpit is, there are a few question marks. I find that there’s no natural place to place my phone in the AV. The large void at the base of the centre stack in the X/H is sealed up in the range-topper, with slots either side of the transmission tunnel as replacements. But this is quite a stretch.

To me at least, there’s ample space for a phone slot on the centre console, where the Veloz has its wireless charger, but P2 elected to place a card slot here. The AV’s centre bin is also quite small, but at least its armrest lid feels nicer than the Ativa’s “soft” material, which is sticky and not at all cushy. By the way, the X and H get a different centre console layout, one with a “valley” to house the manual handbrake.

The Alza X/H gets a handbrake and a big cubby hole at the base of the centre stack

Speaking of empty spaces, there’s more of it on the centre stack. It’s certainly tall enough for three storeys of controls, but only one level is fully occupied. The vast space under the AC panel houses just the push start button and seatbelt reminder, drowned in piano black trim. A lidded cubby would have neatly filled up the space and added functionality.

The Alza’s rear view mirror has a somewhat compressed view that isn’t very natural, and the manual anti-glare tab didn’t work properly on our tester (wrong angle).

A balanced drive

The new Alza is a thoroughly pleasant drive, and it achieves this niceness not by wowing in any particular department, but by being well-balanced. I can’t think of anything to complain about, really.

We’ll start by addressing the most popular question – is it underpowered? Honestly, I don’t know why people are even asking this question, as Malaysians have been living with 1.5L naturally aspirated engines for such a long time. An NA engine of this size is the default for this class of MPV, as well as B-segment sedans and hatchbacks.

But it’s big and heavy, right? At 1,170 kg, the 105 hp/138 Nm Alza is only 20 kg heavier than the top spec Vios, which uses the same Perodua-made Dual VVT-i NR engine. For extra context, the sporty Mazda 3 Hatchback, which also comes with a 1.5L NA engine, tips the scales at 1,368 kg, nearly 200 kg more.

In practice, the Alza accelerates fine with four adults and their luggage onboard. Perhaps not as deceptively swift as the Ativa, but perfectly adequate for a family MPV. Honestly, I’m not sure how it’ll fare climbing Genting seven up, but how many actual customers do that? And if you do, I bet your expectations will be adjusted accordingly, and you won’t be doing it with a stopwatch.

The CVT transmits power efficiently and the Alza gets up to desired cruising speed with minimum fuss. Like in the Ativa, there’s manual mode with seven virtual ratios (omitted in the Myvi) but never did I feel the need to DIY, which points to an intuitive gearbox. D-CVT is the world’s first split gear CVT system and you can read more about it here.

Also unnecessary for me personally are the drive modes, because Normal is perfectly balanced, as it should be. You’ll definitely feel the difference between modes – Eco makes the car feel sluggish, like it’s towing something, while Power holds the revs higher and for longer – you do get better response, but the engine becomes noisy and tetchy.

Which is what it’s not most of the time. The calm powertrain contributes greatly to the Alza good cruising performance. At the highway speed limit of 110 km/h, the engine is ticking at just below 2,000 rpm, and 90 km/h is done at just above 1,500 rpm. That’s a very low range – the Ativa does 110 km/h at around 2,500 rpm, never mind the old 4AT cars – and it benefits NVH and fuel economy.

Powertrain aside, the Alza has good cruising manners. There are no abnormal wind issues even at speeds way beyond the national limit and rolling refinement is better than the G3 Myvi. We did encounter some rain and can confirm that the Myvi’s wheel-well water splashing noise is absent here.

For me, the biggest surprise in this pack of surprises is the Alza’s ride comfort. This could well be the best riding Perodua to date, with a stable primary ride at high speeds (sections of the LPT to Peninsular Malaysia’s northeast can be quite wavy, and the Alza coped with the dips well, with no ‘aftershocks’) and good bump absorption in the Klang Valley.

Alza has a car-like 160 mm ground clearance; Mitsubishi Xpander rides 45 mm higher

On our construction-scarred urban roads, the Alza rides better than the Ativa, which goes around with more jiggle and hop. As the Alza rides on P2’s own suspension tuning and ride height, it’s a job well done by our local guys and girls.

The rest of the dynamic package is in tandem. The steering is light and easy (there’s no pretence of ‘sport’, which is good) while brake feel is miles better than in the old Alza, which unresponsive pedal (for much of the travel, before it suddenly bites) can be classified as dangerous. Elsewhere, the Alza has good grip and well-tamed body roll – you really do feel the benefit of that low GC in the bends. Toyo Proxes CR1 is a surprisingly sporty tyre choice for an MPV, too.

All of the above are fused into an overall driving performance that’s well-balanced. The new Alza is a pleasing drive, not just for budget MPV standards, but also when compared with B-segment passenger cars in the price bracket.

Matrix LED-style Adaptive Driving Beam is simply amazing; even all the rear lamps are LEDs

Last but definitely not least for an affordable family car is fuel consumption. The recent media drive to Kota Bharu wasn’t very reflective of typical usage (we were a bit too fast), so I took the Alza AV out for a weekend of regular motoring.

After 407 km of mixed town/highway driving, including significant idling time during our photoshoot, I returned the car with the trip reading 15 km/l. I reached a high of 15.3 km/l before the shoot, and reckon that 14-15 km/l should be where it’s at for my relatively light right foot. Coincidentally, 14-15 km/l is what I’m getting from my Ativa these days.

That’s some way off the 22 km/l in what P2 calls the Malaysian Driving Cycle, which supposedly reflects local conditions (18.9 km/l in the more familiar NEDC), but claims are usually just that – claims. In any case, 15 km/l is a very decent return for mixed driving, and an outstation trip is sure to yield bigger numbers.

The best family car below RM100k?

After experiencing the new Alza on a long trip as both driver and passenger, and using it in my weekend routine, I think it is.

Compared to the other sub-RM100k three-row MPVs on sale in Malaysia, the Alza both a better product and a better drive, before even considering the Perodua’s price advantage. If you’ve noticed, there aren’t many comparisons with the original Alza in this review, and that’s because name aside, the D27A is worlds apart from its 13-year old predecessor in every aspect.

For those shopping in the RM70k to RM100k range, the default options are B-segment sedans and hatchbacks from Toyota and Honda. The Vios, Yaris, City and City Hatchback were recently joined by national SUVs in the form of the Ativa and X50. All have their merits and are great options if you’re using them as personal cars. Even as a two-child household’s sole family car, they’ll do the job.

However, none does that job as well as the Alza, which has space and versatility on its side. Its rear living quarters is the best here by some margin, and there’s the bonus of a third row for the extended family. Used purely as a spacious five-seater with a big boot, you’re not sacrificing anything in drivability and fuel efficiency versus the B-sedans/hatchbacks, as the Alza is low-slung and drives well.

For me, the Alza’s only drawback is the “less cool” image of an MPV. It may be low and sporty for for its kind (of the four faces, I like Perodua’s design the best; even the GearUp kit looks good this time) but it’s still a people carrier at the end of the day, and that might be a deal breaker for some. If this is a non-issue for you, and you have two kids or more, you owe it to yourself to consider the Alza, even if an MPV wasn’t in your original family car shortlist.

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