By Victor Kan

The Perodua Ativa Hybrid is finally being delivered, and being one of the lucky 300 subscribers, here’s my personal take on how it compares to the regular turbo variant of the Ativa.

Having driven the car for awhile both in painful KL traffic and on the highway across states, I guess now would be a good time to do a hands-on introduction to our first national hybrid car. OK, that sounds like a stretch, as technically this is a Daihatsu Rocky eSmart Hybrid through and through, but hey it carries the Perodua emblem, so let’s just say it is.

Looking very similar to the Ativa Turbo, the Hybrid can be distinguished by several differences when you know what to look out for. Let’s begin at the front of the car, which carries a completely different fascia. The grill is smaller and is an island, instead of the wide-grinning grill that ties the headlamps together on the Turbo. The fog lamps are encompassed in a diamond-shaped black case and not the Perodua T-shaped case. This creates a less aggressive front look for the Hybrid – I’ll go as far as calling it cute.

Moving on to the sides, another difference that juts out – and this isn’t something the Ativa Turbo can easily convert to – is the five-lug wheels. The Ativa Turbo uses four-lug wheels. The side mirrors are also of different sizes, with the Hybrid having slightly smaller ones; and if you look to the passenger side, the side mirror comes with a very JDM-looking curb mirror. The Hybrid rides a little lower than the Ativa Turbo, but in real life, it isn’t noticeable, unless you have them parked side-by-side.

As for the rear, how do you tell if the Ativa in front of you is a Hybrid? First, the ATIVA logo on the tailgate isn’t accompanied by anything else. No AV or H badges here, just ATIVA. Then, looking at the bumpers, the housing for the reflectors are – like the ones in front – shaped like rotated diamonds instead of Perodua’s T shape. Also, if you look closely at the driver side of the bumpers, you’d see a rear fog lamp. And as a bonus, the number plate bracket is tiny, as it adheres to Japanese plate dimensions, not Malaysia’s.

Speaking of the rear, did you know that the Hybrid has a full plastic tailgate? This had my mates asking “is it safe?”. Well, it’d better be, seeing that plastic is the tailgate material of choice for many newer cars in Japan. The upside of plastic is apparent – weight reduction. But don’t worry, it is pretty tough and robust – this isn’t the same plastic used to make those flimsy cutlery that comes with our nasi lemak.

Moving inside and into the driver’s seat, you’d immediately feel that the interior has a rather muted air to it. Gone are the blaring red found throughout the seats, door trim, AC vents and dashboard – instead, you’re greeted by a black, grey and silver themed cabin.

Now, depending on your age and preferences, you would either like it or hate it. I personally like it as I have always liked less “sporty” looking interiors for cars of such calibre. Perhaps this opinion will change when I can finally own a Bugatti Veyron. But until that day comes, I’d like a humble looking interior to match my humble little ride.

There’s hard plastic surfaces all around, similar to the Ativa Turbo we’re familiar with by now, but I’m glad Perodua decided to not skimp on the most basic of trim here. You can find soft leathery surfaces on all the places that matter – on the steering wheel, gear knob, elbow rests, and also on the semi-fabric seats and headrests.

The centre console has been entirely redesigned, as the Hybrid uses an electronic parking brake (EPB) instead of the traditional handbrake. This has allowed a pair of huge cup holders to be added. Coupled with the EPB is an auto brake hold button. This has spoiled me and I’ve been feeling lazier the more I use the car! More on that later.

The Hybrid retains the standard Rocky auto climate control with twin circular knobs. I feel that this looks more at home with the rest of the interior, along with the twin circular controls on the steering wheel, as well as the steering centre hub. But again, this is personal taste. Missing would be the memory function found on the AC controls from Perodua.

That said, I find the auto climate control much easier to use, as it’s a set-once-and-forget solution, so no matter if it is during a hot day, or a cold night, the AC would automatically adjust itself to the temperature we set. In fact, it can blow hot air too if required. As a bonus, there are seat heaters for the front seats, but I don’t think we’ll ever need them in our warm climate.

The trunk is largely the same, but you won’t find a full-sized spare wheel under the board. Instead, the auxiliary battery is there, along with some hidden compartments. So what do you do if you get a flat tyre? A tyre repair kit (basically an electric pump) is hidden away on the wall for that. I do like this a lot, as I rather not get my hands and clothes dirty, and would just re-inflate the flat tyre so I can drive to the nearest repair shop. More cars should go with this direction if you ask me. And the Hybrid has LED footwell lights, which come on automatically whenever the headlamps are on – lovely! (DT: Ativa AV has footwell lighting too)

What about the actual driving experience? This is a hybrid powertrain after all. But with so many types in the market now, which kind of hybrid is this? To best explain it, this car works pretty much like a full EV but minus the range anxiety associated with them.

How? The answer lies in the Hybrid label, because this car also has a regular petrol engine inside. Now here’s the beauty of this design. The 1.2L petrol engine is there solely as an electric power generator. It runs to generate electricity to power the electric motor (and charge the battery) that actually moves the car. So no CVT transmission in here guys, just a good ol’ electric motor.

Press the accelerator pedal and off the car goes with that signature smooth, instantaneous and torquey push from standstill, just like an EV should be! When the 1.2L petrol engine isn’t on, the car is very silent and still. It feels as though the car hasn’t even been started. The air conditioning system is also powered electrically, which is logical.

The Ativa Hybrid is equipped with an S-Pedal driving mode by default. You can switch it off if you desire. As the name implies, this is single-pedal operation where you can move and stop the car using just one pedal, without requiring the use of the brake pedal. The brake is only used when you need to make an abrupt stop.

Another major improvement compared to the Turbo would be the addition of the EPB and auto brake hold. It allows the car to keep itself stopped until you’re ready to move again, without having to use the handbrake every single time. Very handy for city stop-and-go traffic conditions. Another improved feature is the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). Thanks to the EPB, the Ativa Hybrid can perform low speed auto-follow (part of the ACC) from a complete standstill. This was not possible on the Ativa Turbo.

Remember when I said I’ve gotten lazier the more I use the car? That’s because my limbs are moving a lot less during driving. My left hand is always on the steering wheel, even in the city, as the EPB and auto brake hold does its job perfectly. No more fumbling to shift into N, no more pulling and releasing the handbrake stick at the traffic lights. And with the S-Pedal, my right foot rarely moves away from the accelerator pedal too. I’m beginning to feel like a couch potato – in a car seat!

Everything sounds good and dandy so far, but let’s get to the cons, or things that could have been improved. For starters, some features have been removed from the original Rocky Hybrid, and also missing when compared to the Ativa Turbo.

The 110V emergency electrical outlet that can be found in the trunk of the Rocky Hybrid has been removed. I was really looking forward to be able to use the car as a mini-camper, but now I would have to bring along an external power supply instead. Also removed is the Rocky’s head-unit, being replaced with a regular unit similar to the one found in the Ativa Turbo. This effectively also removes Apple Carplay, Android Auto, volume control on the steering wheels, and most painfully, the reverse camera. Also, blind spot monitoring is missing. Sad, but it is what it is.

So with the car review done, what do I think of Perodua’s leasing model? Although your name does appear in the vehicle’s grant and insurance, these super limited 300 units of Ativa Hybrids are technically leased, not sold. The payment is RM2,150 upfront with a recurring RM500 a month for 60 months.

Now, contrary to what some might think – no, you aren’t eligible just because you have RM500 to spare each month. Every potential lessee is properly screened through, just like how it works if someone were to take out a regular hire purchase loan. I guess that Perodua needs the peace of mind knowing that they won’t have to change lessees half-way through the programme.

All regular servicing, repairs, wear and tear parts, insurance and road tax are fully covered by Perodua, so the lessee only needs to pay for petrol. And this car is expected to run frugal too, with a claimed mileage of 31 km/l. No, I haven’t been able to reach that, but it isn’t that far off, so that’s amazing enough for me. The catch is the mileage cap of 100,000 km and that you cannot make modifications to the car whatsoever. For people who just want a fun to drive and frugal car to get from point A to B, this is definitely a steal.

UPDATE: Owner has been averaging 21 km/l over the first 1,000 km

I’m using the Ativa Hybrid as my main vehicle for work commutes in the Klang Valley, and I’m loving it. The car is not too big, has a high driver POV, feels nimble and has a small turning radius – perfect for weaving around in traffic. Best of all, it runs like an EV, so besides being super quiet, it also moves very effortlessly with the many stop-and-go moments in traffic jams.

The car’s overall build quality has been great; being a CBU from Japan may have lent a lot of credence to that. It doesn’t seem to suffer from the chronic issues that seem to plague the Ativa Turbo, as found on internet groups.

The largest downside of ownership so far would be the lonely isolation from everyone else. There hasn’t been a lot of forums solely dedicated to the Ativa/Rocky/Raize Hybrid. So getting support and asking questions specific to the hybrid may get you nowhere – hopefully this will change in the near future as Ativa/Rocky/Raize Hybrid ownership increases both locally and globally.

GALLERY: Perodua Ativa Hybrid, owner’s images

GALLERY: Perodua Ativa Hybrid

GALLERY: Daihatsu Rocky e:Smart Hybrid

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