After months of reports, leaks and spyshots, the Daihatsu Rocky e-Smart Hybrid has finally been launched in Japan. The petrol-electric powertrain is important in our local context because it is widely tipped to make its way into the Perodua Ativa, given that Perodua has already been seen testing the hybrid SUV here.

The main event is under the bonnet, where you’ll find a series hybrid system akin to Nissan’s e-Power vehicles. The car is powered exclusively by a 106 PS/170 Nm electric motor, with the WA-VEX 1.2 litre Atkinson-cycle three-cylinder engine acting solely as a generator (a range extender of sorts). That mill produces 82 PS at 5,600 rpm and 105 Nm of torque from 3,200 to 5,200 rpm.

This arrangement, which eliminates the usual transmission and places the electric propulsion motor and motor-generator units in parallel, makes for a more compact layout – Daihatsu says it intends to fit the e-Smart Hybrid system to tiny kei cars next. The company also claims the electric motor provides strong performance at low and medium speeds, making it suitable for small cars in urban environments.

Another benefit of the system is that the lithium-ion battery can be made quite small and cost-effective, with a capacity of 4.3 Ah. All this enables the Rocky e-Smart Hybrid to hit a fuel efficiency figure of 28 km per litre (3.6 litres per 100 km) on the WLTP cycle.

In addition, the Rocky comes with a “Smart Pedal” feature that enables one-pedal driving, with normal and eco modes varying the throttle response. Increased sound insulation on the bonnet and under the engine cover and dashboard also muffle the sound of the engine when it is being used.

An exclusive honeycomb grille and e-Smart badges on the front fenders and tailgate differentiate the hybrid from other models. Buyers can also specify an external power supply function that can be used to charge electronic devices and appliances during emergencies.

The launch of the e-Smart Hybrid coincides with a mild refresh for the wider Rocky lineup. Notably, the WA-VE 1.2 litre naturally-aspirated three-pot that was introduced in Indonesia earlier this year has now been fitted across the entire front-wheel-drive lineup. It replaces the 1KR-VET 1.0 litre turbocharged engine, which is now only available in all-wheel-drive form.

Ostensibly, the biggest benefit is better fuel efficiency, with the 1.2 litre models now achieving a WLTP-rated figure of 20.7 km per litre (4.8 litres per 100 km), 10% higher than what the 1.0 litre mill could muster. This lowers the price of the vehicle by making it eligible for an eco-car tax reduction and an environmental performance reduction.

The improved fuel consumption comes at the cost of performance, however – outputs are rated at 87 PS at 6,000 rpm and 113 Nm at 4,500 rpm, down 11 PS and 27 Nm over the turbo engine. It is mated to the same CVT as the 1.0 litre Rocky models.

Other changes include the fitment of an electronic parking brake with auto hold, which also enables the addition of a stop and go function for the adaptive cruise control. Speaking of driver assistance tech, the Rocky gets an improved stereo windscreen camera, adding nighttime pedestrian detection to autonomous emergency braking and increasing the number of signs the traffic sign recognition system can detect.

New features include a roadside deviation warning function and a stagger warning to alert the driver if they are driving the car in a swaying manner. Lastly, the Rocky now comes with a cornering trace assist function that essentially works as a form of torque vectoring, braking an inside wheel if it sense understeer.

Prices for the revised Rocky range starts from 1,667,000 yen (RM60,700) for the base 1.2 litre L variant. The e-Smart Hybrid model is available in X HEV and Premium G HEV variants, priced at 2,116,000 (RM77,000) and 2,347,000 yen (RM85,400) respectively.