Christening cars with model names is a hazardous occupation, get it right and most times the sales move upwards, and get it wrong as sometimes it does happen and the model becomes the subject of ridicule, butt end of jokes or plain resentment. The early Japanese models had some unusual names which brought grins to the faces of native English speakers like the Daihatsu Naked, the Honda Dunk and the Suzuki cappuccino to name a few, but the most hilarious one was the Isuzu Giga light Dump, now we all know where we usually indulge in the dump, so its not very rewarding to tell your girlfriend that you are on your way for the customary romantic pick up in your dump. I wonder what Toyota was thinking when they named their minivan Deliboy, boy oh boy what sweetness I guess? Not to be outdone even big ticket players like Maserati have named their large sedan the Quattroporte, meaning four doors, because they probably thought it sounded funky in Italian but surely isn’t that stating the obvious and an insult to their customers intelligence? I wonder what buyers would think of Porsche if they decided to call their Panamera, Porsche four seats or four wheels?
The biggest guffaw was when Mitsubishi called their fabulous SUV the Pajero, not realizing that in the whole of the Spanish speaking world, which incidentally is the world’s second most spoken language that the word meant, “masturbate”. Sales did suffer in North and Central America and it was even named the masturbator, till Mitsubishi decided to rename it for those markets as the Montero. So obviously whoever is in charge of coining names at Perodua would have had the unenviable task of coming out with a name that befits the first sedan to ever come out of the Perodua stables after a full 22 years and I think he has come up trumps by going back to the roots of their national language “Bahasa Malaysia” to name the new one litre sedan, Bezza which is the subject of this test. Beza in Malaysian is said to mean “different” and this one is certainly different and the addition of another Z to make it a double Z is to denote 22, the number of years Perodua took to morph into a sedan. So job well done I guess, now lets see how well it stacks up in the dynamic stakes.
The Bezza is a rather smart three box A segment sedan and is an elongated Axia. Up to the B pillar they are identical and thereafter it has sprung a rather cavernous boot. Usually when a neat hatchback morphs into a sedan the designers do not do such a great job as it looks like an afterthought with a boot attachment, but in this instance they have done a pretty good job as the whole car looks like a proper ground up sedan design. The test car in Ebony black metallic and fitted with the optional “gearup” factory body kit and 14 inch eight spoke alloys, looked very handsome and looked like a premium sedan from the next segment. The chrome trim on the boot added a bit of sparkle to the rear end. I would have preferred a chrome exhaust trim to complement it as the rear diffuser does have a single aperture for an exhaust tip, and the space looked a bit naked and bare without one.
Mechanicals & Technology
The engine is the same tried and tested 1KR-VE one litre unit fitted to the Axia, with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing fitted to the inlet cam, the whole lot is rotated by a timing chain, which lends to its reputation for durability. The engine develops 67 bhp @ 6000rpm and 91nm of torque@ 4400rpm, and is coupled to a four speed automatic transmission.
In its home Malaysia, the Bezza has been tagged as an EEV (energy efficient vehicle) due to its frugality with the evaporative fuel. To earn this tag, a car of one litre capacity must return fuel consumption in excess of 20km per litre and the Bezza is credited with 21.3 km/litre. It’s got electric power steering a bit of a luxury in this segment I might add but helps to reduce engine load and consequently fuel consumption.
On start up the three cylinder engine splutters to life and idles with a bit of vibration on the steering. Again this is a trait of three pot engines other than in those luxury marques where extensive vibration cancelling shafts and fancy liquid filled mounts and dampers have been employed. The steering is nice to the touch and the long stalk gear lever slots to drive easily. The car rides very well and is nicely sprung, and over humps and bumps that I threw at it, she navigates and lands in a straight line without too much rebound and bounce. For a small car I would say the ride is very well damped and set to comfort. Though the steering had electric assistance, I did feel that it was not that light at parking speeds like in the Axia which I tested a few months ago, but yet it is light enough to make parking a breeze and the very thrifty 4.5 metre turning radius helps you turn this car even inside your grandmas kitchen.
On full blown pedal to the metal acceleration the little three cylinder engine turns coarse and throaty and holds its revs in gears and grasps for breath, like an ageing Tom Jones attempting to hit those high notes. To elicit the maximum power which arrives only at a heady 6000rpm,one has to plant ones lead foot in the carpet and watch the rev counter needle slowly inching its way towards the 6500rpm mark, but it is a wasted exercise as it takes ever so long to get there and made me realise that this car was not meant to be driven like that at any great pace. However once you realise its limitations and strengths and adjust your driving style to be in sync with them the car responds beautifully and smoothly and one only needs to ease pressure on the throttle slightly to coax upward changes. To obtain the best from this car one has to change gears around the 5000rpm range and no more and activate upward changes from the box by a slight easing of the accelerator on all gears to get the most rewarding results. After a few kilometres at it, I mastered the art of making smooth progress with minimum stress and I really started to enjoy its merits. Overtaking too should be a planned maneuver and with some anticipation and deft foot work on the throttle one can navigate safely with a mid-overtaking gear change, as opposed to holding on to revs.
The car, its engine and transmission have been designed for one thing and one thing only and that is economy, which is borne out by the rather pedestrian sprint time of 16.5 secs to 100kmh. However in the mid ranges hovering in the sixties/seventies, this cars natural habitat, the car is at its happy and cheerful best. The front disc, rear drum brake arrangement is quite adequate for its power capabilities and needless to say the suspension can cope with any cornering forces you can throw at it from the little engine with ease.
In appreciation of the suspension and ride I must say the test car was inflated to 30psi, hence the rather compliant ride quality, even though the recommended pressure for the low resistance Silverstone radial was 36psi, again a bias towards fuel conservation. Maybe such high pressures work in the Malaysian road network, but here in our urban jungle the 30psi was considered a good compromise by the local agents. I must say well done for taking the initiative.
Interior & Living With It
It will be a great little car for a family of five (with two kids) as it has a surprising amount of space both in front and at the rear with two ISOFIX points as well. it has a 508 litres boot which is double that of the Axia and can be further extended using the 60/40 split fold rear seat back. Just for reference a BMW 3 series boot can only hold 480 litres and the Mercedes E class a 540 litres, so this is a humongous boot for a car in this class and surpasses cars in the upper luxury segments as well. The front seats have plenty of head and leg space even for my 6ft frame, and the rears could easily accommodate three burly bouncers from your favourite night club, as the centre floor is totally flat. The car also has very innovative and flexible seating arrangements which can accommodate cargo and passengers in numerous configurations. Its also got an abundance of cup and bottle holders, a multipurpose container for coins and even a very thoughtful built-in tissue compartment. In order to maximize storage in the most space efficient manner there are seat back pockets and parcel hooks on the seat back that can carry a weight of 3kgs each, so you don’t really have to clutter your footwells with your daily shopping etc.
The Bezza also has s remote key with alarm and boot opening button and power windows, with one touch, down for driver are all standard fit. It is also equipped with a multi information display, which includes service info and consumption readings and reversing sensors so as small cars go, this one is pretty well equipped.
Lastly the icing on the cake and the most impressive female friendly accoutrement I have come across in a small car is the snatch proof bag hook attached to the side of the front seat, for safe driving even with the window down. As ladies go its got a vanity mirrors to blush your cheeks and paint your lips if you are a passenger, but if you are driving, the mirror in your handbag is your savior, as there is no vanity mirror on the driver side. The electric steering and frugal turning radius will make light load of your parking chores, but as the steering has no fore or aft adjustment not everyone will find the driving position ideal. There is no external facility to open the boot, you either use the keyfob or the lever beside the seat. The interior ergonomics have been very well thought through, and where day to day practicality goes I would give the Bezza full marks. It will be an easy car to own and run, and with a full tank of 36 litres of fuel (bigger tank than Axia) the family could traverse the length and breadth of Sri Lanka listening to their favorite music from the USB equipped stereo and still have sufficient juice left to commute to work the next morning.
It’s got dual airbags, three point seatbelts at the front and rear, ABS, EBD and 2 ISOFIX points as mentioned. So it’s pretty decent on safety despite being of a spec imported to keep the price down in light of our duty structure.
Fuel Economy & Price
Perodua has taken great pains to make this car a fuel sipper, its designed to run on low friction 0W-20 synthetic oil, and high air pressures of 36psi on low resistance tyres, and no “load stress” electric steering and many other fuel saving innovations, so customers in this segment are assured of a very economical car. Perodua engines have earned a good reputation for longevity in the market and this one is a proven and tested unit with a chain driven OHC, thereby guaranteeing trouble free motoring. For an additional Rs 200,000/= outlay one can opt for the rather nicely styled original body kit from Perodua as well.
However it is competing in a very busy and fierce market segment with all major manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, making offers and also the competition from the pre-owned small Japanese imports at similar price points. So customer is the king in this segment with a multifarious choice. The colour palette of the Bezza is limited to four and may be a damping factor in the sales stakes. The Bezza is priced at Rs 3.795 million and comes with a two year /50,000 km warranty.
The price is circa Rs 400,000 adrift of a similarly specced Axia, but for frequent load luggers and families with kids the Bezza makes more sense. Compared to the Axia the Bezza looks like the more rounded and voluptuous elder sibling as it looks fuller and larger due to its sedan silhouette. It also comes with a 4 star NCAP rating and has clinched the COTY(car of the year award) as well, and with the added bonus of being a part of the United Motors conglomerate customers would be assured of a trouble free and restful tenure of ownership.
For a family moving into a first car, and for a dad/mom who are not a wannabe racers this would be a great car to consider as it meets all the needs and daily demands of a small family and with a consumption of 21.6 km/litre(manufacturer figure), it would be very frugal to run too.
With its enormous boot and frugal consumption it would also appeal to rent-a-car companies as “self-drivers” to numerous bag carrying holiday makers and tourists, and opens up a new segment to compete with the airport pick up and drop fraternity as well. As Perodua rightly says, It is certainly beyond compact.
998cc DOHC VVT
67bhp @ 6,000rpm
91Nm @ 4,400rpm
Suspension – MacPherson Strut
Brakes – Ventilated Disc
Tyres – 175/65R14
Suspension – Torsion Beam
Brakes – Drum
Tyres – 175/65R14
Length – 4,150mm
Width – 1,620mm
Height – 1,510mm
Kerb Weight – 900kg
Fuel Tank – 36L
Boot Space – 508L