BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Perodua certainly think they've hit on a winning formula. Offering the LIDL attitude to car selling, the Malaysian company have been piling them high and selling them cheap for some time now and with no little success. If you expect modern manners and refinement from a Perodua Kelisa, you're liable to be slightly disappointed but there is a school of thought that reckons that the latest crop of modern superminis are just that little bit po-faced. The Kelisa might be cut from old school cloth, but it's certainly a lot of fun and the value proposition is interesting, to say the least.
Models Covered: 5dr hatchback, 989cc [EX, GXi. EZi, SE Pack]
For those of you looking to save the planet, it'll come as some reassurance that Perodua are past masters at recycling. The old Perodua Nippa was a reincarnated Daihatsu Mira and the Malaysians once again turned to Daihatsu when they needed a replacement citycar, the Kelisa being, in effect, a rebadged and rehashed Daihatsu Cuore. Introduced in 2002 at a knockdown price of £5,300, the Kelisa started winning friends straight from the get go although not enough for Perodua's liking, a price cut of over £300 on the entry level EX model sending it below £5,000. The range was facelifted in 2004, the restyle running to a redesigned rear end, bumper and a honeycomb grille as well as a few trim and equipment upgrades. What is more significant is that Britain's cheapest car got cheaper again - going down to £4,842 for the entry level model. In December 2005, Perodua announced SE packs for the Kelisa, which added an RDS radio/cassette player and reverse-park control to the specification of the EZi automatic and the GXi manual versions of the Kelisa. The range-topping EZi SE automatic model also comes with colour-keyed mirrors and exterior door handles.
What You Get
The entry-level Kelisa EX gets Olympus upholstery with an option of metallic paint - although at £200, this represented nearly five per cent of the car's entire cost! Move up to the Kelisa GXi and you'll find improved upholstery plus protective side mouldings, while the range-topping Ezi automatic model came with all this and colour-keyed mirrors and exterior door handles. There's also a far wider range of colours available. The Kelisa is virtually as affordable as the car it originally replaced, the Nippa. This best-forgotten little runabout was notable only for the fact that at less than £5,000, it was the cheapest car you could buy in the UK. Not that this honour helped it much. Perodua had trouble shifting more than 1,500 units a year. The Kelisa just about retains the cheapest car title but it crucially also has the potential to appeal on criteria other than price. Yes, for much the same kind of cash as the Nippa, the Kelisa is a much better bet. Instead of being fundamentally based on a design (the Daihatsu Mira) which hailed back to the Eighties, its Cuore fundamentals mean it feels far more up to date. Or as up to date as a car based on something introduced in 1998 ever can be. All models came with the same 1.0-litre petrol engine and (unlike the Cuore) featured the same five-door bodyshape (no three-door option was offered). All also came fitted with twin front airbags, an engine immobiliser, power steering (crucial for a car like this) and a rear wash/wipe. Buyers who stretched to the GXi also got electric windows, central locking, metallic paint and cupholders. The automatic-only Ezi provided the full works in terms of equipment. Buying used as with buying new, the best advice, as with many cheap little cars, is to save your money and go for the entry-level model. To be frank, the quality of fit and finish, though adequate, is hardly of the best and plushing it up defeats the point to a certain extent. Careful design ensures that four adults can travel in reasonable comfort with adequate legroom and headroom, making even longer journeys viable. Wide-opening doors allow for easy access. You can even swallow a deceptively large amount of baggage should the need arise. Load volumes range from 155 litres VDA with the rear seats in place to 428 litres VDA with the bench folded. Unfortunately, a 50/50 split rear seat is not available.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Kelisa is not known to have developed any significant faults during its existence, the teething faults and recalls that afflicted its Daihatsu Cuore donor model having been thoroughly ironed out by the time the Perodua version made it to production. This car will in all likelihood have spent some time transporting children, so check the cabin for rips, stains and other damage wreaked by small hands. The backs of the seats should be checked for evidence of wear and tear, as the trim is not the most hard wearing. The Kelisa was designed for city driving, so check the exterior for knocks and scrapes, and check under the bonnet for accident damage or paint overspray. With 6000-mile service intervals, they also need a little more TLC than many more modern designs. Otherwise, the usual reminder to obtain a service history applies.
(Estimated prices, based on a Kelisa EX) You wouldn't want to buy a bargain basement city car and discover parts prices that will require you to take up an evening job to make ends meet. The Kelisa responds with some very cheap consumables. An air filter is around £16 and a fuel filter retails at round £11. An oil filter is £7 and spark plugs are about £7. A timing belt is around £38, whilst front brake pads are around £45 a pair. A distributor cap retails at around £45.
On the Road
The Kelisa is a car that is huge fun to punt around town. Under the bonnet lies a three cylinder twin-cam 12-valve 989cc powerplant, the very same not only as used by the Cuore but also Daihatsu's larger Sirion supermini. It develops a decent 54bhp, good enough to push the Kelisa to sixty in 14.8s on the way to a less impressive maximum of 88mph. More importantly however, it's reasonably frugal: expect to manage a combined figure of over 55mpg. On the road, you should find the whole package quite brisk enough to keep up with the traffic flow, and the strident engine note encourages foot to the floor progress. The gearchange on the manual cars is none too slick and there's a huge amount of body roll around corners but this only adds to the car's charm. With an overall length and width of 3480mm and 1490mm respectively, the Kelisa is more compact and narrower than the three door-only Ford Ka, a plus which makes it an ideal city car. Even better news comes in the form of a turning circle of just 8.6 metres, which means that parking spaces can be accessed with ease. Moreover, that high 'Toytown'-style roofline means that headroom is great and visibility impressive.
The Perodua Kelisa is a car that is possibly a better new buy than used. If you want the peace of mind of buying a new car, then it's hard to beat the Kelisa's knockdown price. For £2,500 - £3,500 on the used market there are suddenly a whole lot of talented claims for your money and the Kelisa comes up short in many regards. On the other hand, it is enormous fun to drive and if you want a car that hasn't had too many miles on the clock and features a reasonably contemporary date on the plate, the Kelisa could be just the ticket.