This is the one, folks. The new Perodua Ativa, or as you’ve known it from before, the D55L SUV. This is an extremely important model for Perodua as it debuts the new DNGA global platform, as well as its very first turbocharged engine and CVT gearbox.

On top of all that, there’s a whole load of new technologies, including ASA 3.0, as well as adaptive cruise control and Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. So let’s take a closer look at Perodua’s new baby.

The Ativa is priced between RM61,500 to RM72,000, which is slightly less than the estimated prices announced before launch. This puts it above the Myvi in the Perodua line-up, with a price overlap with the bigger, but less sophisticated seven-seat Aruz. This, Perodua hopes, is the new car that a lot of existing Perodua owners will upgrade to, as well as others who are looking at other brands, including non-national carmakers.

As you already know, the Ativa is based on the Japanese-market Daihatsu Rocky, which is also sold as the Toyota Raize. But surprisingly, the Ativa is priced cheaper here in Malaysia compared to its twin sisters in Japan. The cheapest models in Japan are already slightly more expensive than Perodua’s base models, and that’s for the absolutely kosong JDM spec with steel wheels, plastic hub caps and no radio.

Spec-by-spec, the Ativa costs around RM10,000 less than the equivalent model in Japan, and this is comparing between matching 2WD variants. The 4WD versions available in Japan (meant to tackle their snowy mountains) are even more expensive. It’s not always that we can say our cars are cheaper than in other markets, right?

But of course, we do miss out on a few extra features that are available on the Rocky and Raize, which will be mentioned as we go down. But still, RM10k makes a big difference in this price range, and to add to that, the Perodua version actually has a few upgrades over the JDM models. Again, more on that below.

In terms of styling, Perodua’s version of the small SUV gets its own look, with a much larger hexagonal front grille, similar to the Axia Style. Two chrome strips now join the LED headlamps together, while the foglamp housings are the same shape as on the Aruz. The extended L-shaped black bars match the Bezza. Unique to the Ativa is the silver skid plate, giving it more of an SUV look.

The headlights are full LED units across the range, with the top two H and AV variants getting auto headlights, LED foglamps and Adaptive Driving Beam. ADB works much like Audi’s Matrix LED headlamps, by controlling individual LED bulbs on and off to avoid blinding other road users. This is more advanced than the more common auto high beam function by allowing you to continue running the high beam even with other cars nearby.

Also new are the side view lamps, which help illuminate your surroundings when you indicate left or right at low speeds. This should be useful in spotting pedestrians, motorcycles or even animals. It also activates when you engage reverse, lighting up the area around the vehicle more effectively.

Less useful but perhaps more eye-catching are the sequential turn signal lamps, much like those found in far more expensive premium cars. With this, hopefully more drivers will start to use the turn indicators a little bit more frequently.

Unfortunately, the Ativa does not get LED daytime running lights, as the LED strips at the top are just the positioning lamps. Higher-spec JDM Rocky and Raize models do get LED DRLs, but on the lower bumper instead. For Malaysia, DRLs are available, but only with the optional GearUp bodykit.

The Blaze GearUp kit is priced at RM2,500, but as usual, you can bundle it together with the car loan, instead of coughing up RM2,000 to RM3,000 worth of cash later on. The styling, however, may not be up to everyone’s tastes.

Round the side, the Ativa rides on 17-inch dual-tone alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Turanza T005A tyres, while the base Ativa X gets smaller 16-inch wheels with Goodyear Assurance rubbers. It’s also worth noting that the Ativa now gets proper wheel arch lining, so it doesn’t look as bare as the Myvi. This should help with refinement, too.

The Ativa’s side mirrors are different to the Japanese models, but in a good way. We get the same wing mirrors as the Aruz, which are slightly wider and far more stylish than the bulky ones on the Rocky and Raize. We also get stabiliser fins on the A-pillar, which have just been introduced on the JDM models.

Keyless entry and start is standard across the range, and the door handle now uses an electrostatic sensor to lock or unlock the car, instead of a button like on the Myvi. Having said that, while the Japanese models have the sensor on both front doors, the Ativa only has it on the driver’s door.

One unique feature on the Ativa are the A-pillars, which remain black no matter the body colour. The Suzuki Swift has used the same trick for years at this point. The floating roof effect appears even more prominent when paired with a black roof, which is an RM800 option on the AV variant. In Japan, you’d have to pay an extra 77,000 yen, or close to RM3,000 for the same option!

Other variants get a body-coloured roof, and there is a total of five colour options, including the new Cobalt Blue, Pearl Diamond White and Pearl Delima Red. Round the back, the Ativa gets side window fins that aid aerodynamics, and squared off LED tail lamps. No sequential signal lights here, however, and the turn signals are actually using bulbs, not LEDs.

There’s also a “T” badge on the left, referencing the turbocharged engine up front. Seeing as that’s the only option available, it seems rather unnecessary, unless Perodua plans to have other engine options in the future. HV for hybrid, maybe? We’ll see.

The rear bumper is unique to the Ativa, and is slightly bigger and longer than the Rocky and Raize. Total length is at 4,065 mm, making it about 70 mm longer than the Japanese twins. The Perodua is also 15 mm taller, thanks to a slightly different suspension setup that’s specifically tuned for Malaysia’s road conditions and the occasional floods.

The ground clearance is now set at 200 mm versus 185 mm for the JDM pair. And if you’re wondering, the maximum wading depth is 250 mm, or just 50 mm into the body.

Perodua has also said that the Ativa has firmer suspension settings for a more balanced driving experience, as opposed to the more comfort-biased Japanese twin. It should also aid stability, as we Malaysians drive at higher speeds compared to the Japanese.

In the flesh, the Ativa really does look like a proper crossover SUV. It’s not just a tall, high-riding Myvi. In fact, compared to the Myvi, this is about 200 mm longer and 100 mm taller, so if you were to park it side by side with the Myvi, you can clearly see the size difference, although it’s not much. This car is not massively bigger than the Myvi, but it does look like a much more substantial looking car, and more expensive even.

Comparisons to the Myvi will of course lead to the styling similarities between the two models. You may think the Ativa is merely a rebadged model from Daihatsu, but Perodua designers were directly involved in the development of this new model in Japan, right from the very beginning over three years ago. So, any Myvi styling cues that you see on the new SUV are not coincidental, they are by design. Today, Perodua has 50 designers and engineers based full time at Daihatsu Japan.

Under the skin is the new Daihatsu New Global Architecture or DNGA platform. This is a modern modular base, in the same line as Toyota’s TNGA, Volkswagen’s MQB and Volvo and Geely’s CMA platforms. Perodua using DNGA is significant, as we are now getting the latest and greatest technologies from Daihatsu.

Before this, we’ve sort of gotten the old, leftover stuff. For example, the third-gen Myvi uses a modified version of the platform used for the second-gen Myvi, which in turn was based on the 2010 Daihatsu Boon. Likewise with the Aruz – even though it’s a shared model with the Toyota Rush, it was designed primarily for emerging markets like Malaysia and Indonesia. They’re not sold in Japan. Now, we’re really getting a JDM twin.

The front-wheel drive Ativa has a monocoque or unibody chassis construction, which is a lot more sophisticated than the more utilitarian rear-wheel drive ladder frame architecture used in the Aruz.

With DNGA, Daihatsu and Perodua can now come up with newer models 50% faster and at 30% lower costs. The platform was also developed with electrification in mind, so whenever Perodua decides it’s the right time to introduce its hybrid powertrains, the base will be ready for it.

The new modular platform is said to have class-beating stability and comfort, while being both more rigid and lighter than before. It uses 10% more high-tensile-strength steel plates than the previous design, so it’s safer too. The Perodua Ativa has a full five-star ASEAN NCAP crash safety rating, matching the Daihatsu Rocky’s five-star JNCAP result.

Also thanks to DNGA, the Ativa weighs just over 1,000 kg, practically the same as the Myvi despite being a bigger car. It’s slightly heavier than the Japanese twins because it uses a metal tailgate instead of plastic, plus the standard fitment of a full size spare tyre here. And if you’re wondering, it still uses rear drum brakes, but since it’s no heavier than the Myvi, that should do the job just fine.

Inside, the Ativa is almost identical to the Rocky and Raize, which again, is not surprising since Perodua had a hand in designing the model from the start. It’s an edgy, sharp design that’s meant for the younger audience, with some nice silver accents and plenty of red highlights to lift the cabin ambience.

Taking centre stage is a nine-inch floating display, which is nice. Not only is it big, it’s also a modern and thin screen, not like the old-school CRT TV screens we’ve seen in recent UMW Toyota models. But having said that, the interface sort of looks like an aftermarket unit. As for the six-speaker audio system, well, that’s nothing to write home about, quality-wise.

There’s a decent reverse camera on board for the top two variants, but unlike the Rocky and Raize, there’s no option for a 360-degree around view camera. The auto parking assist feature has been removed as well, but seeing as the Ativa is only slightly bigger than a Myvi, with the added benefit of a more commanding seating position and view out, parking really shouldn’t be a problem.

The air-con controls are unique to Perodua. Just like on the Myvi, it’s a manual air-con but with digital controls. There are two memory settings, too, so you can set one for hot sunny days, and the other for cool night drives. The twin-dial automatic climate control system on the Rocky and Raize is not available here.

The raised diamond textured centre console houses the short gearlever, and behind that is a pair of USB chargers, a HDMI port connected to the head unit and a 12V power socket. This area is lit by a small LED, which is a neat touch. The cupholders have been moved to under the side air-con vents, just like on the old Myvi.

Another Perodua-only addition is the lock and unlock buttons next to the handbrake lever, which is not available on the Japanese models. There’s also an auto-lock function that activates when you drive.

Also a Perodua-first is the seven-inch digital instrument cluster, which has four different display themes for you to choose from, each one with its own start-up animation. The themes change the way the rev counter is displayed, while the speedometer is a separate digital counter, a little bit like the FD and FB Honda Civic.

Additional cool features here include the choice of three turn signal tones, and a birthday or anniversary reminder so you never miss an important date again. One thing that’s still missing, is a temperature gauge.

The steering wheel is of a new design, identical to the Rocky and Raize. There’s more than 20 buttons on it, and the only blank button you can see is for the auto parking feature in the Japanese models. The leather on the steering wheel feels pretty good, and it has white contrast stitching – rather classy for a Perodua.

You’ll also see a few more blank buttons on the right hand side, but the big empty plate is actually reserved for the headlight leveller on the Ativa X. The H and AV have auto-levelling, so there’s no need for this. One of the top buttons is used for the rear foglight, which we don’t get at all. Seeing how a lot of drivers misuse this feature though, that’s not such a bad thing.

Moving on, the seats on the top-spec Ativa AV are wrapped in black and red leather, while the sides of the front seats have a suede-like material. It’s certainly unique and eye-catching, and there’s effort shown here to offer the consumers something different. Note the Perodua tags on them? Well, they look like a shirt worn inside out to us. Weird.

Both the front seats are manually adjustable, and surprisingly for a new Perodua, there is no handbag hook, or even teh tarik hooks to be found in the cabin. Another Perodua feature missing is the integrated SmartTag reader, perhaps dropped because the company thought RFID would be fully operational by now.

On the bright side, Perodua now fits a DVR or dash cam, together with Llumar security window tint as standard on the Ativa AV, so you don’t have to spend extra money at accessory shops. Equipment wise, the only glaring omission now is auto wipers, especially since the lights are already automatic.

So overall, we think nice of the interior. It is a nice place to be in – it’s cool, fresh and actually quite sporty at the same time. Build quality is also quite good, slightly better than what you’ve seen in the Myvi, but if you’re comparing this against the Proton X50, this is a few levels below that.

Everything you see here are all hard plastics, there are no soft, plush materials here, except for the centre armrest (a first for Perodua), as well as few bits on the door cards. Everything else, as is usual for Perodua, are all hard plastics. But then again, at this price range, you cannot really complain about it.

The one thing that is a big upgrade for Peroduas is the front seats. Finally, the front seats are very comfortable, very supportive, fit for long distance journeys.

Now on to the major drawbacks. The steering wheel is only adjustable for tilt, but not reach. There is no telescopic adjustment available here. That’s slightly better than the fixed steering on the Axia and Bezza, but really, much taller drivers will want to have reach adjustment, they’ll have a hard time finding an ideal seating position in this car. For long distance journeys, that is going to be a pain.

The centre screen does look good. It’s big, it’s pretty responsive, but there is a major problem with this one. It only has SmartLink, which is the same one in the Myvi, not very useful and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Proton missed the boat with not having it on the X50, and Perodua would have had a huge advantage if they had fitted it on the Ativa here. That’s a shame, for Perodua and us consumers.

As for rear space, it’s not too bad but unlike most other Perodua models, it’s not amazing nor surprisingly big. Over here, it’s just about the size as you would expect, which in a way is slightly disappointing. By Perodua’s own measurement, there’s actually less space here compared to the Myvi by about three to four centimetres. You can’t really feel it, but it’s not overwhelming in terms of space.

Compared to the Proton X50, it does feel a little bit more cramped, but the difference is not that big. This is the smaller car on the outside after all. A bigger fault is the lack of rear aircon vents. The cabin isn’t that big, so it wouldn’t take that long for it to cool down from the front air-con, but not having dedicated rear vents is still a minor fault for all Malaysian cars.

One more thing, the rear backrest can be reclined by a little bit, but even then it’s not all that comfortable. Plus, the seats themselves are very flat, not very comfortable, thus not very supportive for long journeys.

Moving on to the boot. The Ativa does not have a power tailgate, but at least it does have a keyless sensor back here. Inside, it has a two-level boot floor, offering 303 litres at the upper level, increasing to 369 litres with the lower level accounted for. That’s over 30% more volume than the Myvi, and slightly larger than the Proton X50’s boot too.

The tonneau cover is a soft, sunshade kind of cloth, similar to the one used on the Honda HR-V. It does its job of covering your items from prying eyes, but since it’s soft, you can’t put anything on it. When not in use, it can be twist-folded and stored under the boot floor.

Of course, the rear seats can be folded down at a 60:40 split, although it doesn’t quite fold completely flat. Also worth noting is the lack of usable hooks in the boot, but at least there are four metal tie hooks for netting at the corners.

Under the floor is a major upgrade over the Japanese models. The Ativa comes with a full-size spare tyre, and not only that, it gets the same alloy wheel and tyre combination too. We lose out on the under-floor storage, but knowing Malaysian roads, this is a far better option.

So, of course, we don’t get the JDM pair’s tyre repair kit, although the compartment in the boot is still there (but now empty). As usual for a Perodua, the jack is hidden under the front passenger seat.

For the engine, the Ativa has Perodua’s very first forced induction motor, a 1.0 litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine. This 1KR-VET engine is rated at 98 PS at 6,000 rpm, and 140 Nm of torque between 2,400 and 4,000 rpm. Perodua says with this downsized turbocharged engine, it’s able to provide performance exceeding that of a naturally-aspirated 1.5 litre engine.

There’s also a Power button on the steering wheel that primes both the engine and transmission to offer the maximum power output, meant for quick overtaking manoeuvres. When activated, the instrument cluster glows orange, too. Perodua claims an impressive 18.9 km/l fuel consumption figure for the Ativa, which is good enough to be classified as an EEV. You’ll also save some money on road tax, which is just RM20 per year here.

The auto start-stop system, or Eco-Idle as Perodua calls it, has been improved for the Ativa too. It can now switch the engine off at up to 9 km/h when coming to a stop, compared to 7 km/h in the Myvi. But of course, you can switch this feature off, like a lot of Perodua owners do.

This engine is in the same family as the 1.0 litre 1KR-VE in the Perodua Axia and Bezza, and it shares the same aluminium block, VVT-I variable valve timing, double overhead cams, timing chain and four valves per cylinder. But newly developed alongside the DNGA platform, the Ativa’s engine uses a single-scroll turbo, front-mounted intercooler, twin intake ports for the multi-point injection system and multi-spark ignition.

What it could really do with, though, is an engine cover, but it’s also not anywhere near as messy as the Nissan Almera‘s similar 1.0 litre turbo engine bay. It’s also worth noting that despite being turbocharged, the Ativa maintains the same 10,000 km or six-month service interval, compared to every 7,000 km for the Almera.

From left: Perodua Ativa, Nissan Almera

Also a Perodua-first is the use of a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. This isn’t any CVT, though, as it’s Daihatsu’s brand new D-CVT that was specifically developed for the DNGA platform. It stands for Dual Mode CVT, and it’s claimed to be the world’s first split-gear system of its kind.

This is not the same as Toyota’s Direct Shift CVT, but uses a similar concept of combining a CVT’s usual belt drive with a gear drive, for improved fuel efficiency, acceleration feel and quietness. Compared to a regular CVT, the D-CVT is said to offer less energy loss to belt friction, and lower whining noise under hard acceleration.

By shifting to the gear system on higher loads, Daihatsu claims it has a much wider range of ratios. While a conventional CVT typically has a ratio spread that’s similar to a six-speed automatic gearbox, the D-CVT is closer to an eight-speed auto. With higher gears effectively, the car can cruise at lower rpm levels, by as much as 550 rpm lower at 100 km/h compared to a standard CVT.

There’s no paddle shifters for the driver, but the gear lever has a sequential mode with seven virtual ratios. It also uses a small torque converter unit at low speeds, similar to Toyota and Honda CVTs, so it should offer a smoother drive than those that use a clutch pack, like the Punch CVT in Proton cars.

The drawback is, because it’s designed primarily for compact cars, the small and light D-CVT has a maximum torque limit of just 150 Nm, which is not much more than the’s Ativa’s 140 Nm output. So those looking to modify your cars, beware.

One interesting point is that despite being brand new to Perodua, both the turbocharged engine and CVT gearbox are made right here in Malaysia. In fact, Perodua says the Ativa already has 95% local content, the highest among its recent new models at launch.

Finally, safety, and this is where the Ativa absolutely shines. All variants get six airbags, electronic stability control, rear seat belt reminder and most importantly, autonomous emergency braking or AEB as standard across the range. That’s unheard of in this price range, and once again Perodua is lifting the safety standards for the entire industry here in Malaysia.

That’s absolutely the way it should be. Basic safety should be for all, not just the privileged. As a quick comparison, the Proton X50 only offers four airbags on the base Standard variant, and AEB is only fitted to the most expensive model at over RM100k.

The Ativa’s Advanced Safety Assist or ASA 3.0, standard across the range, has also been upgraded. It now includes Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, while the pre-collision warning and braking systems can now detect bicycles and motorcycles, on top of cars and pedestrians in version 2.0. It can now detect cars at night, too!

The AEB system can also operate at higher speeds, now up to 120 km/h compared to just 80 km/h from before. Another change is the removal of the three-time limit cap for the AEB system. Now, AEB can be triggered as many times as necessary, without having to restart the car.

Moving on to the Ativa AV adds on blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The last two combine together to offer Level 2 semi-autonomous driving, and at just RM70k, it’s by far the cheapest car in Malaysia to offer this advanced feature. Just five years ago, only high end luxury cars costing 10 times more expensive had similar technologies.

Having said that, Perodua says its adaptive cruise control system only works between 30 to 125 km/h, so if you go faster than that, you are on your own. It also means that it wouldn’t work in traffic jams, so the Proton X50 Flagship is a little bit more advanced still.

So that’s it for our first look of the new Perodua Ativa. What do you think of this car’s looks, price and package? And would you get this over the Perodua Myvi and of course the Proton X50? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Our full coverage of the launch of the Perodua Ativa

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa AV

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa H

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa X

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa AV with GearUp accessories

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa official images

GALLERY: 2021 Perodua Ativa brochure

Tags: ,