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The automotive world stood still when Porsche took the covers off the first Cayenne at the Geneva Motor Show in 2002. Mouths agape, the world’s automotive media would later go into a frenzy calling it everything from ugly to outright blasphemous.

Porsche would lose many of its loyal fans who thought the company had lost its direction with the Cayenne. Most of them would later return when the Cayenne turned out to be Porsche’s savior.

The Cayenne would go on to be Porsche’s best-selling model for many years, until the Macan arrived but that’s a different story. A lot has been written about the Cayenne since then, but crucially the success of the Cayenne provided much needed cash flow for Porsche to continue building cars it was well known for, like the Turbo, the GT3 and the GT2. Not to mention all the RS variants that have since come along.

“I first saw the first-generation Cayenne testing around the streets of Stuttgart before the launch as I was there for a meeting,” said a former dealer recently in an exclusive but private interview.

“Just like everyone else, I didn’t think much of the design, but then I drove the car and was blown away. I have had the good fortune to own several Porsches and even race them, and the Cayenne is still very much a Porsche at heart. And I have owned every generation since the launch and still drive a Cayenne today,” said the person who we must keep anonymous due to a watertight non-disclosure agreement.

And therein lies the appeal of the Cayenne. Despite its size, its clumsy looks and weight, it is still very much a Porsche underneath. Call it a wolf in sheep’s clothing but the Cayenne probably single-handedly put the word Sport in Sport Utility Vehicle. And almost every automaker who builds a high-performance SUV must thank Porsche for the major risk it took when introducing the Cayenne.

We can go on and on about how successful the Cayenne is and how it has won several races and even explored roads where a SUV is not meant to go. But there is so much out there already that all it takes is a simple Google search.

We are here though to talk about how proud Malaysians should be for the fact that Malaysia is the only country outside of Europe where a Cayenne is built.

Since 2019, the Cayenne has been assembled in Kulim, Kedah through a joint venture between Sime Darby and Porsche AG. This has not only made the Cayenne more accessible to more Malaysians but it has also created high-skill jobs for Malaysians.

Not only that, Porsche has ensured that the Cayenne looks and feels exactly the same as its European made siblings. Step inside a locally-made Cayenne and it does not only look and feel the same but it also smells the same. It makes one wonder, if Audi has its legendary nose team that ensures all Audis smell the same, does Porsche have its own nose team as well? That is a question for a separate interview.

Now in its third-generation, the Cayenne is as popular as ever with Porsche selling 100,000 units worldwide in 2022 alone. With 2023 coming to a close soon, we are expecting the Cayenne to have found even more homes. Why? Because Porsche introduced the facelifted version of the third-generation Cayenne earlier this year, and it builds on the strengths of the already very capable model it is based upon.

Porsche Malaysia introduced the facelifted Cayenne for the Malaysian market in early October of this year, becoming the second locally assembled Cayenne. And just like the first one, it too looks and feels like it was made in Europe. And Porsche deserves credit for that since consistency in the automotive business is always difficult to emulate.

While the underpinnings may be the same, the face-lifted Cayenne is distinguished by an updated design. The front features arches at the side of the new bonnet that is also taller by a few millimeters, giving the new Cayenne a more commanding presence.

The front is also distinguished by new Matrix LED headlights that now only look great but are also quite smart. The headlights determine illumination levels by analysing data from the SUV’s speed, camera and navigation systems to ensure the driver has maximum visibility in low light conditions.

The side of the Cayenne is largely the same but the rear gets a new three-dimension taillights as well as a new light strip that runs across the width of the car and connects both the taillights. It gives the rear of the car a cleaner design.

Porsche Malaysia also provides customisation options for those who want their Cayenne to stand out. Take the wheels for example, the standard wheels measure in at 20-inches and feature quite a lot of rubber that is great to maximise comfort but look somewhat boring. For the adventurous (and with deep pockets), there’s also the choice of 21-inch wheels that look great but will set you back RM45,000. Or if that is still too small for you, there are 22-inch wheels that look amazing and cost an eye-watering RM49,000.

Powering the Cayenne is the same 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine found in the previous model. However, power has been hiked by 13PS and 50Nm for a total of 353PS and 500Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through an 8-speed Tiptronic S gearbox while top speed is rated at 248km/h. Acceleration from zero to 100km/h on the other hand is marked at impressive 5.7-seconds.

The interior of the Cayenne is where the new truly distinguishes itself from the old. The new Cayenne receives a full digital instrumentation cluster, which is a first for the Cayenne. This revolves around the new digital instrument cluster that measures in at 12.6-inches. In true Porsche fashion, an RPM dial still dominates the centre of the panel, just like it always has since the first Porsche back in 1949.

The centre of the dashboard is dominated by a 12.3-inch infotainment screen that offers Spotify and Apple Music as native apps. That means you do not need to plug in your phone to listen to either applications, but there is also Apple Carplay and Android Auto for those who need more.

The overall design of the interior is cleaner than before with fewer buttons and discreet air-conditioning vents that look like they have been merged into the dashboard. Even the traditional gear lever that used to be at the centre console has been repositioned to the left side of the steering wheel and is now a toggle-like switch rather than a lever, which we first saw in the Taycan.

However, Porsche didn’t go full Tesla with the digitalization of the interior. There still are some buttons and knobs such as the volume dial and tactile buttons for the climate control system.

And Porsche has also retained the grip handles located on the centre console, just as they always have been since the first-generation Cayenne. Most importantly, unlike a Volvo XC90 nothing rattles or buzzes when in motion.

The overall size of the interior remains the same with enough room for five people to get more than comfortable. And in case the rear passengers need to be entertained, you can opt for the Porsche Tequipment option that gives you two 10.1-inch touchscreen displays placed at the back of the front seats. This gives access to a variety of options such as Youtube and Netflix.

From behind the driver’s seat, the new Cayenne is still very much a Porsche at heart, just like it always has. The air-suspension does a brilliant job at isolating the cabin from the rumble and tumble of the road underneath. But when you want to have some fun, the suspension stiffens and gives you maximum control of the two-ton SUV.

The best part of the new Cayenne is its jekyll and hyde like character – soft and supple for maximum comfort at one moment, and it all changes at the press of the steering mounted button. Select Sport and the powertrain immediately comes alive and responds to every twitch of the accelerator pedal. The suspension stiffens to reduce body roll, but not to the point of being trashy. The passengers may not even feel the suspension stiffening if you do not mention it, such is its compliance.

At RM599,999 (RM662,499 with all the options), there really is little doubt why the new Porsche Cayenne is as popular as it is. While its competitors like the Volvo XC90, BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE focus on being efficient and comfortable, the Cayenne takes a different approach.

The Cayenne focuses on driving pleasure without compromising on comfort. It is still very much a Porsche at heart, and that can only mean one thing – uncompromised performance. Except in the Cayenne, you can share the joy of driving with five other people.

Specifications:
Engine: 3.0-litre, Turbocharged, V6
Power: 353PS @ 5,300rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,340rpm
Transmission, 8-speed Tiptronic S
Top speed: 248km/h
Acceleration (0-100kmh): 5.7 seconds

We like: Performance, Comfort
We don’t like: We prefer the previous design

Introduced towards the end of 2023, the S70 was one of the most highly anticipated new Protons simply because it is the first B-segment sedan the company has introduced in a few years. We shall debate whether it is a B or C-Segment model shortly, but every new Proton introduced in the past few years has been an SUV, and the S70 is a refreshing addition.

The S70 can be viewed as the successor to previous Proton sedans such as the Inspira and the Preve, but it does not share any technical similarities. In fact, the S70 is based on the Geely Emgrand which is a left-hand drive model in markets such as in China and the Philippines.

But it is not a simple rebadge, though the new Proton shares a number of commonalities with the Geely and is largely the same in terms of design except for a new grille and updated bumpers.

Proton did localise the S70 and says that it has been “tuned for Malaysian roads”. According to a powerpoint slide shared by Proton before a recent media drive, Proton spent 75,000 man-hours on testing the new car, 260,000 man-hours was also spent for R&D for Design Engineering, Proton’s engineers drove the car for a total of 1.2 million kilometres during road testing, and 453 new parts were developed to turn the Geely Emgrand into the Proton S70.

So, no. It is definitely not a simple rebadge.

The flagship variant, which is what we reviewed is officially known as the Flagship X and sits above three other variants. Prices for the S70 start at RM73,800 and goes up to RM94,800 for the top-of-the line variant.

During the launch, Proton said the S70 is a C-Segment model with B-Segment prices. Though we think that is far-fetched because the S70 is smaller than its C-Segment competitors, but the more for less marketing strategy is something Proton has used before and is in fact ingenious.

The reality is, the Proton S70 is closer to the Honda City and the Toyota Vios than it is to the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla Altis. Even so, it has the competition beat in almost everything, but pricing in particular.

The Honda City ranges in prices from RM84,900 to RM99,900. There’s also the most expensive City which is the hybrid variant that costs RM111,900, but because there’s no S70 hybrid, we shall leave that out of this.

Then there is the Toyota Vios which ranges in price from RM89,600 to RM95,500. So the Proton S70 is definitely the most obvious choice.

But the S70 is not only cheaper, but it also has an interior that is hugely impressive as well. The minimalist interior is similar to that of the Proton X50 and offers clean lines without the clutter of buttons and dials to distract you. It is also remarkably well built. Short of getting it stuck in mud and the beach, we drove it over all types of roads, and there was nothing that buzzed or rattled.

A few makers have tried the minimalist design approach and failed because the important buttons such as the air-conditioning controls and even audio controls are located deep inside in the infotainment system, which can be distracting.

But the S70 has physical buttons for the air-conditioning, while audio controls are located on the steering wheel. We would have preferred physical buttons for the audio as well so that the passenger can get to it easily, but we can live with the current set up.

The seats too are impressive with just the right amount of back support; however, thigh support could be better. It is difficult to beat the Honda City when it comes to seats, and the Honda still has plusher, more comfortable seats all around.

Though the interior is about the same as the X50, the S70 uses the same gear selector as the Proton X90, which means operating it needs some getting used to. You need to flick (not shift) the selector down twice to move from park to drive, and then up once if you want to select reverse.

There is also the option to shift manually, but even that requires a rewiring of the brain. Usually, manual shifting entail moving the selector down for upshifts, and up for downshifts. However, with the S70, you need to shift left for downshifts, and right for upshifts. Proton says this is a similar system to Volvo, but that does not mean it is good. Thankfully though, you simply need to press the P button to select park.

But that is about it as far as complaints about the interior goes. In fact, that’s as far as complaints about the S70 goes.

Tech wise, the interior of the flagship model offers a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment system with music played back through six speakers. There’s still no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but the good news is that Proton acknowledges that its customers want those features so is actively working on it. And once it is offered, those features will also be offered in some older models, if the hardware of the car is able to support it.

The Flagship X model also offers a sunroof which is something that we appreciate as there is nothing like opening the roof on a cool morning or sunset.

What is also quite impressive is the way the interior refinement. When driving around town, the interior is quiet and does well at keeping noise and vibrations down to a minimum. However, tyre and wind noise is quite apparent at highway speed past 110km/h.

The S70 runs on 17-inch Goodyear Assurance Triplemax tyres which are designed for longevity and durability, as such it uses a harder compound, and a by-product of such compounds is that road noise gets transferred back to the cabin.

The suspension is a combination of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. The set-up is similar to its competitors but is a nice balance of comfort and sportiness. When chucked into corners at high speed, the S70 obliges with little body roll and near neutral handling (no understeer or risk of the rear snapping out of line).

And when you have your family or friends in the car, it does a brilliant job at soaking and isolating dips and road ruts. Some netizens have criticised Proton for using a torsion beam, saying that it is uncomfortable. But a properly set up torsion beam suspension is just as good if not better than a multi-link suspension, and Proton deserves credit for the impressive ride and handling.

The powertrain on the other hand consists of a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged engine producing 150PS and 226Nm. Power is sent to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and the S70 needs nine seconds to reach 100km/h from a standstill. We saw a fuel consumption rating of 9.6-litres per 100km but that is after flooring it on the highway and getting stuck in Penang traffic. The official fuel consumption figure from Proton though puts it at 6.2-litres per 100km.

The engine has been reworked by Proton. It is the same engine that powers the Geely Emgrand but Proton added a turbocharger which in turn added performance. Power is decent and delivery is just shy of instantaneous with just half a second of turbo lag before a wall of torque meets the demands of your right foot.

However, Proton is still working on refining the turbo lag issue, particularly from a standstill. The moment of nothingness and the sudden surge of power often results in a wheelspin which can catch some drivers off guard, particularly when turning into a junction or getting off from a traffic light. This was felt by other members of the Malaysian motoring media fraternity who were unanimous in their feedback regarding the turbo lag.

But besides that, the Proton S70 is very nearly a perfect B-Segment car and will take the fight to the Honda City and the Toyota Vios. Particularly with its spaciousness, quality, pricing and powertrain.

While the competition makes do with whinny CVT gearboxes, the S70 stands out by offering a quick and smooth shifting dual-clutch transmission, just like the one in the X50 and X70. And the dual-clutch will always trump the CVT when it comes to refinement and response.

All-in-all, the Proton S70 seems like it is going to create some sleepless nights for the teams at Honda and Toyota. Proton is hell bent on offering a good product and has even resorted to delaying some deliveries to ensure that quality is not sacrificed.

But from what we experienced during our drive, Proton has a clear winner in the S70, but in a market that prefers SUV’s over sedans, time will tell how well it sells.

Specifications:
Engine: 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 150PS@5500rpm
Torque: 226Nm@1750rpm
Transmission: 7-speed, dual-clutch
Suspension: MacPherson (front) / Torsion beam (Rear)
Price (As tested): RM94,800 (Flagship X)

We like: Design, quality
We don’t like: Gear shifter

The post-pandemic automotive market has seen a significant stir in the electric vehicle (EV) industry with many automotive giants trying to make a mark in Malaysia. From affordable prices to eye-watering ones, but do any of them stand out from the crowd?

There are models from Europe and China, with the latter having made significant inroads with models that don’t only impress with their tech but also design. 

In fact, we have had some opportunities to test drive a specific model and jumped at every chance we had. The model in topic is none other than the smart #1 (hashtag one). A collaboration between Geely and Mercedes-Benz that was launched in Malaysia by Pro-Net, a subsidiary of Proton. 

We were in love from the moment we laid eyes on it. It has a funky-looking body that caters to every audience. No matter how old you may be, when you step inside it, you will feel a lot younger. Why do we say this? Because the smart #1 has many unique features and a very youthful personality. It has an amazing sound system with speakers by Beats, a grille that lights up which definitely stands out at night, a responsive voice command system and there is an array of body colours to choose from, including an outlandish yellow. 

Apart from that, the smart #1 is also offered in a Brabus trim. Yes, the German high-performance automotive aftermarket tuning company. Besides that trim, there is the Pro and Premium variants for those who prefer to take things slow with minimal charging times. Not to say that the 286hp, 343Nm of torque Premium variant is slow, but for a more thrilling drive and heart-stopping 0-100km/h time, the 422hp, 543Nm of torque Brabus is the way to go. 

Speaking of 0-100km/h time, we had the chance to test it out at the Pinnacle Kart USJ track. The Premium did it in 6.8 seconds but the Brabus on the other hand, did it in 3.9 seconds. The instant torque and launch are the best this writer has experienced in an EV (yet). We also got to test the handling, auto park feature, and evasive manoeuvre assist. 

The handling was exceptional for the Brabus, we felt confident when tackling corners and launching out of corners thanks to its sportier suspension setting. The Premium, however, has a little oversteer to it, making it feel a little hesitant to take corners at high speeds. 

The evasive manoeuvre assist on the other hand was responsive as it gave the driver an amplified push to the steering wheel when avoiding a collision.

The auto park feature, however, was a little challenging as it takes time for the car to detect an empty parking space, but we could speed this by manually choosing a spot by dragging a green box on the touchscreen. After this, the car attempts to park autonomously in that pre-specified green box, and we must say, is pretty impressive but can be time-consuming.

 

It would be faster to park the car on your own. However, we understand that this feature is still being improved and will take time to make it perfect. 

Now, with all that power, what is the driving range like? The Premium has a range of 440km while the Brabus has a range of 400km. So, to test if the smart #1 is “Long Drive” worthy, we were invited to do so during a media drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. 

After a short briefing, the smart team announced that there would be an optional challenge and the winner would get a prize. It was an energy efficiency challenge. The team that reaches Penang with the lowest battery consumption of kWh/100km will be crowned the winner. There were two categories, one for the Premium variant and one for the Brabus variant. 

To start the journey, we were all put in teams of three and our team was given the Brabus variant. This variant was not meant to be driven slowly. So, we decided to have our little challenge instead, to see who would reach Penang the fastest, just for giggles.

Some teams made only one stop to recharge but because we were flooring it half the time, following speed limits of course, we had to charge up twice. The smart app and integrated navigation system played a huge role in this journey. It was easy to use, and it assisted us in planning routes that had charging stations. 

We of course tried our best to choose the ones with a higher kW to reduce our charging time. We made our first stop at Behrang for a quick 25-minute charge with a 75kW which brought our car from 50% to 80%. 

During the drive, we were entertained by the sound system and enjoyed the instant torque. The Brabus trim allows the driver to turn on the virtual engine sound. It was fun for a while, but it is not recommended for long drives as it gets a little annoying due to the fact that it has a constant note playing on loop, unlike the sound of an ICE engine where it changes according to the flex of the right foot.

We were messing around with the infotainment system and voice commands and learnt that if you are not tech savvy, it might take some time to figure out how things work. The infotainment system is a learning curve and as the saying goes, you learn something new every day. 

Our second stop was at Sg Perak and we managed to charge the car from 14% to 80% in 30 minutes thanks to the 180kW charger. From there on, it was a straight road to Penang. 

Now, we have also heard many people say that the battery percentage decreases when an EV is stuck in traffic and that the range might drop. We are here to deny that because we were stuck in Penang traffic, Georgetown to be exact, and we managed to reach our destination at Hotel Angsana with a remaining travel range of 111km. While we were stuck in a standstill jam, we noticed that the battery percentage and range did not reduce. The range only reduces when the car is moving. 

We were the first ones to reach the destination with a 25kWh/100km energy usage. Not exactly energy efficient, but it managed to get us there just in time to take a quick nap and head down for dinner. The team with the lowest energy usage for the Brabus category had 16kWh/100km and for the Premium category, 14kWh/100km. They however, arrived just in time for dinner. 

Before we headed back to Kuala Lumpur, we made a stop at the smart Penang showroom for lunch and the prize-giving ceremony for the winners. 

We had the Brabus for the first day, and then hopped into the Premium for the drive back. We started off with only 127km of travel range because we were sightseeing and enjoying a drive around town with the car, which meant we had to make a stop at Gantang for a charge. 

It took 25 minutes for the 50kW charger to charge up from 40% to 80%. Since there was no challenge, we decided to indulge in the performance of the Premium variant as well. The instant torque in this was not disappointing and it has more than enough power to get you from point A to point B fast. Just that the Brabus does it faster. 

With all that fun we were having, the smart system actually notified us via a voice notification, that we had to charge up. Again, with the help of the Hello smart app, we were directed to the nearest charging station which was at Petronas Ulu Bernam which had a 150kW charger. In 25 minutes, we were at 80% and it was more than enough to bring us back to Kuala Lumpur with 110km remaining when we arrived at our final destination. 

We stopped to charge the cars four times and each charging session only cost us RM70 to RM80. So, is the smart #1 a worthy car for long travelling distances? Yes, it is. The car is fun to drive, it notifies you when it needs to be charged, and it detects if the driver is fatigued, which is helpful during long drives. The Hello smart app is extremely useful for route planning, which reduces range anxiety. 

The single-motor Premium variant goes for RM219,000 and the dual-motor Brabus variant goes for RM249,000. The pricing is decent when you consider everything that you get and we understand why it is as such. For a car that was styled by Mercedes and developed by Geely, and one that offers outstanding performance, we think the smart #1 is worth considering for those in the market for an EV. 

Premium Variant Specifications

Motor: Single motor

Power: 268hp

Torque: 343Nm

Range: 440km

AC Charging: 22kW; 10-80% in 3 hours

DC Charging: 150kW, 10-80% in 30 minutes

 

Brabus Variant Specifications

Motor: Dual motor

Power: 422hp

Torque: 543Nm

Range: 400km

AC Charging: 22kW; 10-80% in 3 hours

DC Charging: 150kW, 10-80% in 30 minutes

 

We like: Voice command, performance, looks and ventilated front seats

We don’t like: Steep learning curve for the infotainment system

Somethings are best left to the experts, so the saying goes. As context, would you allow an electrician to do your plumbing? Or a plumber to do your gardening? Or would you buy char koey teow from a pisang goreng seller? You should get the gist by now.

When it comes to buying cars, it would probably be wise to buy a car from the experts as well. Arguable I know but stay with me.

Elon Musk was recently asked for a response after BYD dethroned Tesla as the world’s largest maker of EV cars, to which he responded, “Tesla is an AI/robotics company that appears to many to be a car company.”

That may be fine by some, but it did not go down very well with me, it seemed like PR fluff to deflect the facts. But I respect that Tesla may recognize itself as more than just a car company. Call me a traditionalist, or a purist, but when it comes to buying or recommending cars, I am still inclined to acknowledge the old guard, and in the case of this article – BMW.

This may trigger some of the modern, younger readers because there are newer car makers that are quite good at what they do. BYD for example has taken the world by storm, and Geely too has done a stellar job, though a lot of that was achieved by outright buying or partnering with some carmakers and then relying on their tech, e.g. Volvo, Lotus and Mercedes-Benz.

But BMW has taken its own approach, one that it has long been known for, good old engineering and technology. It has long built some of the nicest cars to drive and no one can deny that. In the modern world of electrification, BMW has delivered once again.

That is no surprise though, about a decade ago, BMW stunned the world with the i3 and the intrepid i8. Both fantastic cars in their own right that have developed their own cult like following these days.

Those cars provided the foundation, both in terms of design and technology for today’s electric BMW’s. On that note, BMW Malaysia has been on a crusade of sorts to introduce as many electric models as it can, probably to capitalize on the governments incentives that encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.

And the iX is one of its most popular models.

As a backgrounder, the iX was the second purpose-built all-electric BMW after the i3, and is the fourth model under BMW’s i sub-brand.

In terms of sizing, it is similar to the X5, but it has its own unique design, which I must admit to thinking it was hideous at first but has turned out to quite handsome over time. It does not try very hard to be something unique and the simplistic design elements have worked in its favour.

The design though is not just visually pleasing, but it is also functional. The design of the iX is completely bespoke and is not shared with any other BMW model, and its aerodynamic elements such as the front, rear, the sealed underbody, and wheel areas are said to add over 65km to the car’s overall range.

Up front the gigantic faux grilles which were once criticized for being too large and ugly have also been charmed by time.

The plastic grilles are flanked by BMW’s Laserlight headlamps that are widely regarded as some of the finest in the business. These laserlights require 30 percent less energy than LED lights and are able to illuminate up to 800 metres ahead, providing maximum visibility in the dark.

The model we drove is the iX50, which is now the middle-child of the entire iX range in Malaysia. Though largely the same in terms of aesthetics and trimming, it has some distinguishing features such as the beautiful 22-inch aero wheels that hide 17-inch brake callipers that are finished in blue colour.

There is also a gold coloured feature that hugs the shoulder line of the car and is reminiscent of the monstrous XM model. This is how you can visually tell the iX50 apart from its lesser siblings.

There’s plenty about the iX that is unique, even the door handles, or rather a lack of them. The doors are not opened by tugging on to handles in the traditional sense, in fact the handles are replaced by recesses in the door. The doors are opened using electronic openers which operate at the touch of a button located inside that recess.

Once you open the door you will notice that the doors are frameless, a feature only seen in coupes not too long ago, and still look stunning.

Then before you step in, the other thing you may notice is the exposed carbon-fibre that makes up the passenger cell.

The body structure of the iX is made of aluminium, but there are parts of the body that are made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP). Parts such as the side frame, rain channels, roof frame, cowl plane and the rear window frame are all made of these two exotic materials.

Together this form something BMW calls the ‘Carbon Cage’. Using this instead of conventional steel shaves five kilograms off the overall weight of the car and adds stiffness and also improves range.

Inside, a spacious, minimalistic interior greets you. It does not do much to take your breath away, in fact you might be underwhelmed at first. But then you notice that the gear knob, iDrive controller and seat controls are made of real crystal glass, the same material that some chandeliers are made of.

The centre panel on the other hand has an elegant piece of open-pore walnut wood trim that reminds you that this is a car made with environmental conservation in mind. There is a bit of contradiction here though – shouldn’t environmental conservation mean that trees should not be cut down to be made into automotive trimming? Of course! That is why BMW only works with FSC-certified wood to ensure that forests are protected the way they should be.

Up ahead of you is BMW’s latest generation Live Cockpit Professional system that includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch central touchscreen system that houses all the controls, navigation and entertainment. These screens are not only massive but are also impressively slim, and they curve according to the curvature of the dashboard.

The iX is also the first BMW to be fitted with a hexagonal steering wheel. The reasoning behind it is that the polygonal geometry makes it easy to switch between automated and active driving. It is not only designed for convenience but also practicality, the flat top makes it easy for the driver to look past the screens as well for the all-important eyes-on-road driving.

Even the rear passengers will find the interior to be a special place. The iX offers a lounge-style ambiance at the back and the omission of the centre tunnel offers plenty of legroom. The sense of space is further complemented by the skylounge panoramic glass roof that boasts electrochromic shading functionality.

The panoramic roof is not only the largest glass roof fitted in a BMW, but it can shield the interior from direct sunlight at the touch of a button. If you want some light, the roof becomes translucent at the touch of a button, and if you want some privacy, you can simply press that same button and it blocks out everything in under a second. It felt great for the four days that we had the car, but some owners complain that it can be quite warm, saying that a physical shade would work better.

The most important thing about the iX50 is what it offers in terms of performance and range. And though it costs about RM143,000 more than the base iX40, the interiors of both cars are largely the same. The real difference is what powers the car.

Differentiating the iX50 is a bigger 111.5kWh battery and more powerful motors. It has a total system output of 523hp and 765Nm of torque. And despite weighing over two and a half tons, it is capable of some blistering performance – seeing off the 0-100kmh sprint in just 4.6 seconds and tops out at an electronically limited 200km/h.

And though it has more power and performance, it also has better range than the base model. The iX50 has a WLTP range of 630km while the base only has 425km.

The way the iX drives is also an occasion by itself, you are mostly cocooned in silence at regular speeds but as soon as you put your foot down, BMW’s Iconic Sounds takes over and makes you feel like you are driving a hugely powerful four-wheeled banshee.

It also handles impossibly well, which is quite a feat considering that Malaysian iX models do not have the dual-axle air suspension feature that is available in other markets. But you won’t miss it as the standard suspension already does a brilliant job at absorbing everything that Malaysian roads can muster.

And when it comes to charging the iX50, you can do that in just 35 minutes using a DC fast charger or 10 hours and 45 minutes with a 11kW AC wallbox charger.

The BMW iX50 is undoubtedly one of the finest electric cars there is in the market right now, but at RM528,430 (without the extended warranty option), it is also not cheap. But it has a lot to offer for that price in terms of tech and performance that it almost seems worth paying for.

So, considering that a full spec Tesla can nudge RM300,000 and some of the better EV’s are in the RM200,000 region, you just have to wonder if it is perhaps worth saving up to put down a heftier downpayment, so that you can drive around in what is one of the best electric cars to date rather than others that offer a lot but don’t particularly excel at anything.

Specifications:
Motors: Dual Electric
Power: 523hp
Torque: 765Nm
Range: 630km (WLTP)
Charging: 0-80% in 35 mins with DC / 0-100% in 10 hours 45 mins with11kW AC charger
Price (as tested): RM528,430 (without extended warranty program)

The Proton X90 created quite a storm when it was introduced last year. Not only was it Proton’s first D-segment SUV, but it was also its first seven-seater SUV.

There were lots of expectations, especially in terms of price, and truth be told, we were quite surprised when Proton announced the price of the X90. Not because it was expensive, but because it was surprisingly affordable.

The starting price for the X90 is just RM123,800, which is the exact same price as the flagship X70. There is an overlap in pricing there, but it makes perfect sense for those seeking more space and a bigger car.

But is it worth it? After being loaned one for a week, attending a wedding with it with eight people in the car and all the accompanying ceremonies throughout the course of a few days, we are surprised that we don’t see more X90’s on the road.

The X90 sits in the same segment as the Kia Sorento, Toyota Fortuner, Chery Tiggo 8 Pro and the Hyundai Santa Fe, among others of course. It does everything that the others can do, and it is a lot cheaper as well.

The X90 is based on the Geely Haoyue (also known as the Okavango in some markets) but it is not a simple rebadge job. Proton updated the design particularly around the bumpers and the grille to keep it in line with the overall Proton design language.

Besides the restyling, Proton said that it also updated the suspension of the X90 to ensure that it is better suited to Malaysian roads. During the launch of the X90, Proton said that its engineers tested the multi-link suspension over a course of a million kilometers on various roads in Malaysia.

You can be forgiven if you think that the suspension is a little bit on the softer side, but drive it for a few days and you will notice that it actually does really well at soaking up all the horrible things that Malaysian roads tend to have; pot holes, sudden inundations, overly aggressive speed bumps, etc.

In terms of design, the X90 is a big, long SUV that from certain angles has the proportions and even the silhouette of an MPV. In fact, there have been some fiery debates online about what the X90 actually is. But Proton refers to it as an SUV so that should end that unnecessary argument.

Inside, the X90 is mighty impressive. Quality is surprisingly good, in fact, we will go so far as to say that quality of the X90 is the best amongst any Protons, past and present.

We drove the Flagship variant, which is one of four variants on offer. The standard is priced at RM123,800, the Executive at RM130,800, the Premium has a RM144,800 price tag while the top-of-the-line variant you see here is priced at RM152,800.

Just for reference, the cheapest Kia Sorento is priced at just under RM212,000 while the entry-level Toyota Fortuner costs RM195,880. In fact, the only competitor that remotely gets close to the X90 in terms of pricing is the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro that costs RM159,800.

The X90 Flagship model is also the only model that comes as a six-seater, the rest are seven-seaters. The Flagship model offers two individual seats in the second row, which some call captain seats, and just about everything is wrapped in fine Nappa leather.

Now depending on how many people you ferry around or even if you like being driven around, the six-seater variant is not a bad deal despite lacking sitting space. As we found out, children appreciate their individual space as much as older people do. And if you don’t have too many people to ferry, this is a great way to go around.

There is also a full panoramic roof that adds to the sense of occasion as well as separate climate control for the second-row passengers. This is great but quite normal, what is not normal though is that the air-conditioning vents are located on the roof of the car rather than at the bottom of the centre console. This is ingenious as it blows cool air directly to your face rather than to your knee. If that still does not cut it, the X90 even offers ventilated seats for the first and second row seats. Several car makers, who charge a lot more for their cars, should take a cue from the X90.

The third-row passengers too will appreciate having their own vents as well as their own USB ports and cup holders, making the X90 perfectly suited for family escapades.

There is plenty of tech too, for starters the X90 runs on a mild-hybrid powertrain. The core is a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged GDI engine that is similar to the X50 Flagship as well as the new X70 models. It is mated to Proton’s regular seven-speed wet dual-clutch gearbox that sends power exclusively to the front wheels.

But that’s not all, being a “mild-hybrid”, there is a battery and a converter that works to provide more power while improving overall efficiency. It does this by utilizing six components that form the entire hybrid system – a DC-DC converter, a belt-starter generator (BSG), a lithium-ion battery, a battery management system, energy recovering braking system and a hybrid module control system.

Working in unison with the standard powertrain, the X90 offers 190PS and 300Nm of torque. Just for reference, that is 13PS and 45Nm more than other cars that run on the same powertrain but without the hybrid system. Aside from more power, the X90 also has 10% better acceleration and 13% lower emissions.

The X90 may be comfortable to drive or to be driven in, but when it is fully loaded, it does tend to feel a little underpowered. Despite it being up on power as compared to its siblings with same engine, it is also heavier and sits more people, so when all seats are occupied, it feels like it needs about 20PS and 50Nm more.

The trick though is to use one of the three driving modes (Sport, Normal and Comfort), particularly Sport mode. This is when the SUV feels more nippy and eager to downshift, giving you quicker access to power when you need it the most.

Despite that, the powertrain is undoubtedly smooth, but we have a gripe, not with the engine nor the gearbox or the hybrid system, but the gear selector. In regular selectors, you either move the lever once to move from P to D or vice versa.

However, in the X90, you have to pull the lever down twice. First to move from P to N and then again to D, which is quite weird. But to select P, you only have to press the P button. This is not something that will put buyers off, but it is quite awkward.

Continuing with the topic of tech, the meter panel is fully digitalized with a 10-inch LCD panel offering all the essentials such as speed, rpm and gear position.

At the centre of the rather large dashboard is a 12.3-inch infotainment screen that gives you access to music and navigation. However, we still loathe the fact that the X90 does not come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Great news though, some Protons executives have said that the carmaker will soon be offering those two systems, and even existing owners will be able to access it through a hardware update.

It also offers a host of features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, intelligent high beam control, 360 camera and one system that we were particularly impressed by – the door opening warning system. This lets you know when there is a cyclist or a motorcyclist that is approaching the car and warns you so you don’t accidentally open the door. The downside to this is it also works in traffic, and in Malaysia where motorcyclists are incessantly zooming past a car, the system is constantly beeping. And that can be annoying.

But then again, tech is not always perfect but the Proton X90 still has a lot to offer, such as impressive refinement, quality and tech that can put more expensive cars to shame. And at its price, there is simply no arguing against it.

Specifications
Engine: 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbocharged, mild-hybrid
Power: 190PS @ 5500rpm
Torque: 255Nm @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch with manual mode
Suspension: MacPherson Strut (Front) / Multi-link with Stabiliser (Rear)
Price as tested: RM152,800

We like: Refinement, quality, price
We don’t like: Safety systems can be intrusive

The world of electric vehicle has been thriving in the past couple of years, with new models being introduced every other month from well-known brands. Even all-new brands have been sprouting up like mushrooms after rain as well.

A lot of the all-new brands are from China, but some are also coming out of Europe and the good old USA as well. While that has been a common theme, some car makers are reviving well-known, legendary brands but as pure EV’s.

Take Lotus for example, the iconic British brand was bought over by the Zhejiang Geely group, and save for just one model, it makes only electric vehicles while once upon a time it made nothing but ultra-light high-performance cars. Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus, may be rolling in his grave but the company is now making big bucks, which should stop his twirl.

And we also have Smart, which is usually stylised in lower case. Though not as iconic as Lotus, Smart has been around since the 80s and has made quite a name for itself over the years.

Many associate Smart with Mercedes-Benz and they are not wrong about that. However, Smart’s story goes further than that. Smart’s foundations lays with Swatch watches when the latter’s CEO wanted to create a car with the same manufacturing technologies and personalization options as the watches.

But rather than going at it alone, Swatch began looking for automotive partners. Volkswagen had initially agreed to support the brand but that changed when a new CEO took up the mantle.

Smart and Daimler-Benz AG then reached an agreement in 1994 and a number of eye-catching cars such as the ForTwo and ForFour soon came around, but sales were abysmal.

Mercedes-Benz and Geely then formed the Smart Automobile Co. Ltd in 2019 and began building Smart cars in China. The German brand handled design and marketing while Geely would focused on architecture and engineering.

Fast forward a couple of years and Smart is officially in Malaysia with Proton thanks to Geely, except that this time there is a new company that manages the brand.

Proton New Energy Technology (Pro-Net) was formed in 2022 and handles sales of Smart cars in Malaysia and in Thailand. The first point of business was to establish the Smart brand in Malaysia, and thus, after a series of teasers, Smart was officially launched in Malaysia in November of last year.

Rather awkwardly called the #1 (pronounced as the hashtag one), the first model comes in three variants – the entry level Pro model, Premium, and the flagship model seen here, the Brabus.

Priced at RM249,000, this is officially the cheapest Brabus model that has ever gone on sale. And those that know Brabus will understand that Brabus cars are not your regular run of the mill models. Any car that has the Brabus logo is something remarkably special, and the #1 Brabus is no different.

While the lesser variants can be described as regular EV’s, the Brabus adds performance and good looks to it, particularly in this matte grey colour with its contrasting radiant red roof.

True to the original plan, the #1 was designed by Mercedes-Benz while Geely focused on the engineering. It is built on Geely’s Sustainable Electric Architecture (SEA) platform that also underpins other Geely brands like the Lotus Eletre, Zeekr 01 and Polestar models.

But the #1 runs on the SEA2 version to be exact, which is the same platform that is found on the Zeekr X and the Volvo EX30.

In terms of size, the #1 Brabus is 4270mm long, 1822mm wide and has a 2750mm wheelbase. At first glance, it looks similar in size to a MINI Countryman, but once you research the numbers, you will notice that it is in fact slightly longer than a Honda Civic. This should not come as a surprise though as the #1 is technically Smart’s first SUV.

Despite being quite large, which is something Smart cars were never meant to be, there is no mistaking its design. Somehow, Mercedes-Benz has managed to make it bigger, yet still retain its design DNA. The LED lights at the front and the back are connected by a light strip that runs across the length of the car. This looks good and accentuates the width of the car.

Take a seat in the captain’s chair and you are greeted by a minimalist interior. Directly ahead of you is a small 9.2-inch meter cluster that gives you all the essential readings such as the speed, battery charge and range of the car. Up ahead there is a 10-inch heads-up display that can be adjusted according to your height.

Dominating the interior though is a massive 12.8-inch infotainment screen that houses all the controls of the car. From here you adjust everything from the position of the side view mirrors to the safety systems, the entertainment, navigation and even look for the closest charging station.

One nifty feature that it has is a built-in navigation system with local info on charging stations. This shows you all the charging stations that are located near you, the status of the station (operational or not) and its charging performance.

The one feature we particularly like is that you can key in your destination into the map, let the car do the calculations for you and it will tell you whether you have enough juice to get there.

If you don’t, the car will show you where to charge and how long it will take you. It basically does all the hard work for you, and that is something that makes owning an EV more pleasant since there aren’t as many charging stations as petrol stations.

Once you have that out of the way, you can sit back and indulge in one of the finest sound systems found in an automobile. Entertainment is provided by Beats with 13-speakers placed all around the interior to ensure you don’t only hear your favourite music the way the artist intended you to, but also feel it deep in your organs.

But in case you are not an audiophile like us, you will be happy to know that the Brabus has its own augment engine sounds as well. There are two different engine sound options called the Smart original sounds and classic, which sounds too fake as compared to the former.

These sounds match the character of the Brabus, with 428PS and 543Nm at its disposal, this #1 is capable of some serious performance. The acceleration to 100km/h is seen off in 3.9 seconds and it has a top speed of 180kmh. This is blisteringly quick considering that it weighs in at a hefty 1900kg.

Even charging it up is quite impressive. The #1 is capable of 22kW AC charging which allows it to recharge from 10 to 80% in just three hours. That is seriously fast and rare. Most EV cars in Malaysia are only capable of 11kW or 7kW AC charging, and only expensive EV’s like Audi’s e-Tron’s or the Porsche Taycan are capable of 22kW AC charging.

But of course, it is also capable of some seriously fast DC charging. With 150kW capability, it can spruce up from 10 to 80% in just 30 minutes. The only problem? There are not that many 150kW DC chargers available that allow you to do that. As for range, the #1 Brabus has a 400km range as compared to the 440km of the Premium variant, but that is still better than the 315km of the entry-level Pro variant.

Besides its obvious performance talents, there is much to love about the #1 Brabus, such as its spaciousness that allows a family of five to get fairly comfortable with luggage space for a weekend at the beach. Build quality is great too and features such as the vehicle to load function lets you power up appliances like a fan or a coffee machine if you like to spend time outdoors.

Even driving it is super fun as the suspension has been stiffened to match its performance, meaning you can throw it into corners and slingshot out in stitches of laughter. But when you want to take it slow, just press a button to open the full panoramic roof and turn off the radio, sink into the ultrasuede leather seats and bask in its silent ambiance.

But it is not all praises for the #1 Brabus. The Gunmetal trim around the centre console tends to glare in the afternoon sun and this blinds you when driving. There are no audio buttons so you are left with the steering buttons or have to dive into that centre screen to adjust simple things like the volume.

Then there is the annoying Lane Keep Assist function that forces you to fight the car which wants to stay in its lane when all you want to do is swerve out of the way of a suicidal motorcyclist. These are simple things that can be irritating, but they are not deal breakers as there is plenty to love about the #1 Brabus.

In fact, and at the risk of being crucified by Teslaholics, we would go so far as to say that it is perhaps a better buy than a Tesla. We dived into Tesla Malaysia’s website and specified our very own Model 3. We chose the Long-Range version with 19-inch wheels and full self-driving capability. And that would set us back RM262,500. But its glass roof does not have a shade, nor can a tint keep it cool enough for a bald man to drive comfortably, so that is out.

Then we chose the Model Y and opted for the Long-Range variant with 20-inch wheels with self-driving capabilities and that would set us back RM293,000, which is substantially more than the #1 Brabus.

And besides, the real flex is owning a Brabus, how many people can say that? Also, if you buy a Smart over a Tesla, the friendly salespeople will even help you apply for a loan, where else with a Tesla, you must do everything yourself, very much like assembling Ikea furniture.

Specifications
Motor: Dual Electric Motors
Power: 428PS
Torque: 543Nm
Range: 400km
AC Charging: 22kW; 10-80% in 3 hours
DC Charging: 150kW; 10-80% in 30 mins

We like: Performance, Features, Handling
We don’t like: Simple controls can be hard to access

A recent survey by a global consumer think tank placed Honda as one of the top five most reliable brands in the world. And among all the models under the Japanese marque’s wing, the CRV was hailed as one of the most practical on a global level.

There is no surprise there though as the CRV is one of the most popular Honda’s not only on Malaysian roads, but around the world as well.

The Honda CRV has been locally assembled since 2003 and close to 130,000 units have found a home. And with the launch of the sixth-generation model just around the corner, we think more homes will be welcoming the CRV.

We recently drove the new model prior to its highly anticipated local launch and can say that owners of the current model will not recognize the new CRV except for the badge. Nothing except its practicality has been carried over to the new model.

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The introduction of the Perodua Ativa has been significant for the Malaysian automotive market, offering consumers a modern and technologically advanced option in the compact SUV segment.

The Ativa is Perodua’s first model in the Transformation 3.0 era which is named Perodua Smart Build. What is Perodua Smart Build? It aims to elevate Perodua into a global player but not only as a company, but also to globalise the entire Malaysian automotive industry – including suppliers and dealers. 

The Ativa is a shared model with the Daihatsu Rocky, which explains the uncanny resemblance between the two. However, there is a touch of Perodua in it. Which is why some consider it to be a bigger version of the Myvi. 

With that in mind, we were intrigued to find out what a daily Myvi driver would think of the Ativa. So, we gave the Ativa to a member of our team who owns a third-generation facelift Myvi. 

The main difference, the most obvious one, is that the Ativa is a compact SUV which translates to a bulkier body and more interior space. Exterior-wise, the Ativa looks like a Myvi that has been hitting the gym and is on steroids. 

So, what was our Myvi driver’s first impression when getting into the Ativa? There wasn’t much difference between the Myvi and the Ativa besides the size. The steering wheel is the same, the interaction with the buttons is the same and the overall feel of driving a new car was just not there. Well, there are minor differences but nothing too major that we would think that we were sitting in a different car. However, this is just a first impression. We then used the Ativa as a daily, swapping away the Myvi for some time and noticed several likes and dislikes.

First of all, what do you get for the RM73,400 Ativa? Well, the infotainment system is slightly bigger than the Myvi. The Ativa has a huge 9.0-inch “floating” touchscreen in the middle while the Myvi has a 6.9-inch touchscreen. However, the one in the Ativa did not feel as smooth. Although Android phone owners can connect their devices to the screen using SmartLink phone mirroring (an HDMI connector), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available (something we are never happy to hear).

Anyways, the excellent safety system that comes with the Myvi is also featured in the Ativa. Ever since the launch of the third generation of the Myvi, Perodua has been adding ever-more sophisticated safety features to its models. A lot of these are combined to form the Advanced Safety Assist (ASA) system, which aids in preventing collisions for drivers. The third iteration of the Ativa system can now detect two-wheeled vehicles and operate at night. It can operate at higher speeds of up to 120km/h for cars and 60km/h for pedestrians.

Pre-Collision Warning with Automatic Braking, Front Departure Alert, and Pedal Misoperation Control are the components of ASA 3.0. To monitor and evaluate the road ahead, ASA employs a camera at the top of the windscreen. 

The driver will be alerted in the case of an imminent collision, and the brakes will engage automatically if no action is taken by the driver to slow down. In addition to preventing the need for a costly repair, proactive braking would have slowed down the speed and force of the vehicle if a collision was unavoidable, aiding to keep all occupants safe and keeping injuries to a minimum, or none at all.

However, the facelift Myvi has level two autonomy for under RM60,000. The driver was not impressed by this as it did not play a major role in the experience, which is a good thing at the end of the day.

The Ativa also comes with the annoying eco idle auto start-stop, which Perodua has been offering since the Bezza and is something we turn off every single time we get in.

The main issue faced by the driver is the one feature that the Myvi has that was not carried on to the Ativa and that is the SmartTag reader, which is what got us scratching our heads as to why it was not offered. But it makes sense considering that the Smart Tag system will eventually give way to RFID.

You must be thinking, just wind down the window and use the Touch N Go card. Not that hard right? But having the Myvi as a daily driver for almost a year now, the convenience has always been there. We could easily check the amount left on the card and did not have to roll down the window and stretch out nor have to worry about replacing batteries in the SmartTag device. 

Moving on, the Ativa has a unique feature called air conditioning memory which we very much liked. The AC memory, which functions similarly to seat position memory, is controlled via the M1 and M2 buttons located on the dash. For example, you can programme one for chilly days and another for hot days which is convenient as we do not have to manually adjust the temperature.

The Ativa measures 4,065mm in length, 1,710mm in width, and 1,635mm in height, and has a wheelbase of 2,525mm. Not that much of a difference compared to the Myvi which measures 3,895 mm in length, 1735mm in width and 1515mm in height and has a wheelbase of 2500mm. We are not small or short people and we fit comfortably in the Myvi so the Ativa was just as comfortable with slightly more room to move around. 

What we did enjoy is the armrest that comes with the Ativa. A minor detail with a major comfort impact. 

Now, the Myvi has cupholders placed below the AC controls which we consider to be a convenient storage space. And if you do not have a phone holder, you could place it there too. In the Ativa, those cupholders are replaced with a small flat platform with just enough space to place your phone horizontally. The cupholders? Well, the Ativa has a feature that we are not sure is a clever idea. The cupholders are placed in front of the vents on either side of the dashboard and slide out whenever needed. While this keeps your drinks cool, it blocks the cool air from reaching you. But what if you have a hot drink? You will need to either turn off the AC or set it to the lowest speed. Not very convenient is it? 

It may not seem like a big deal but as journalists, we are always on the go and sometimes only have time for a quick drive-through to get our morning coffee which we prefer to be hot and not iced. So sometimes we found ourselves driving with the windows down just to keep our drinks warm. Dramatic, but some of us would do anything for a hot cup of coffee. 

Moving on to the performance. The Ativa features a 1.0 litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine which produces 98PS and 140Nm of torque connected to a D-CVT with seven virtual ratios that send power to the front wheels . It was also the first Perodua to ride on the Daihatsu New Global Architecture (DNGA) platform.

The Myvi on the other hand, has a naturally aspirated 2NR-VE 1.5 litre engine which puts out 102hp and 136Nm of torque. The gearbox is the same as the Ativa, but the Myvi is better in terms of fuel economy. 

This was a game changer for us as the turbocharged Ativa showed a significant amount of difference in performance though not so much on paper. The Myvi at times can be draggy when going uphill. But this was no issue for the Ativa. We did not feel it struggling to climb up steep hills and just like the Myvi, there is a “PWR” button on the steering wheel which when activated, gives a sharper throttle response. We tested it out although we did not have to use this feature and it added to the “amazed” experience we were having. 

Another minor detail we noticed is that the cabin in the Ativa is much quieter compared to the Myvi. The road, engine and aerodynamic drag sounds were slightly muted when speeding so that gave us some peace of mind during long travels. 

With all that power play, what was the fuel consumption like? The fuel consumption for the Ativa is around 7.5L/100km. You can reduce it by using the eco-idle function but that is a personal preference. Compared to the Myvi, which has a 4.7L/100km fuel consumption, it is still not enough to burn a hole through your pocket for refuelling, so we did not have to worry about that. 

We think that the Perodua Ativa stands out as a well-rounded compact SUV, compared to the RM107,000 Honda WR-V, but if we were to upgrade from a Myvi, we would not go for an Ativa because of how convenient the Myvi is. 

The Ativa can seat five to six adults, and so can the Myvi. The only difference is that the Ativa’s boot space of 369 litres beats the Myvi’s 277 litres. Yes, the Ativa is slightly more powerful, but if it’s power you’re looking for, then you are in the wrong market. 

So, if you have a family of five to six, or less than that and you’re in the market for a compact SUV, the Ativa shines the brightest here and it will not break your bank account. But the question here is, would a Myvi driver trade up to an Ativa? Not this Myvi driver, not because the Ativa is not good, but it is too similar to the Myvi, which is already a great car in every sense of the word. 

 

Ativa Specifications:

Engine: 1.0, 3-cylinder, turbocharged

Power: 95hp @ 6000rpm

Torque: 140Nm @ 2400rpm

Transmission: D-CVT

Suspension: MacPherson Strut (Front) H-Shape Torsion Beam (Rear)

 

We like: Build quality, features

We don’t like: Too similar to the Myvi

The Malaysian b-segment market is never short of drama. Manufacturers are consistently trying to outdo each other, but amidst all of that outdoing, it is the consumer that always wins. The segment consists of big names like the Honda City, Toyota Vios, Nissan Almera and even the Proton Persona.

But it is fair to say that the most popular are the City and the Vios. While Honda and Toyota are always outdoing each other, we are getting ever better cars.

The Vios is currently in its fourth-generation while the City has been around since the early 80s and is currently in its seventh generation. Over all that time, both have evolved to be mighty fine cars.

UMW Toyota Motors introduced the new Vios earlier this year to much fanfare. Sales have been brisk, but that’s unsurprising considering its popularity.

The City too is the other de facto go to model for those who want practicality and reliability. It is now bigger than ever, and with a recently introduced facelift, it may not be an all-new model like the Vios, but it has everything the Vios has and is arguably better to drive.

In terms of pricing, the Honda City RS petrol costs RM99,900 while the Toyota Vios is priced at RM95,500. However, Honda provides free labour up to five times within 100,00km or five years[NTSF(1] , while Toyota charges an additional RM3,220 for a five-year or 100,000km free service package. If you opt for the service package, that would bring the price of the Toyota close to the City.

So, which should you spend your money on? We dissect the two cars and bring you our opinion on which would be worth your money:

Engine:

Beginning with what matters most, both cars are powered by a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine. The Honda has offers its i-VTEC technology to make accessible power, while Toyota has its D-VVTi.

However, the Vios is down on power as compared to the City. The Vios produces 106PS and 138Nm, while the City offers 121PS and 145Nm. The difference may not seem that much but this is felt the most during acceleration where the City feels more eager to get up to speed.

As far as efficiency goes, both cars have 40-litre fuel tanks and are capable of providing about 500km of range on a full tank.

Drive:

Again, both cars ride on identical suspension set ups, MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear.

Both do excellent jobs at keeping occupants detached from the horrors of the roads underneath them. However, in terms of handling, the City feels more alive and is quicker to oblige every turn of the steering wheel. The steering feel of the Vios feels more muted and heavy. If you are into keen on more agile and responsive handling, you will appreciate the City.

In terms of braking, both also have the same set up – solid discs all around.

Design:

This is always subjective, but it is the Vios that has the freshest design between the two. The City has gone through several facelifts and now offers a bolder grille and sportier bumpers. However, the overall silhouette remains the same.