Perodua’s Ativa is the latest ‘SUV’ to hit the Malaysian market with a vengeance. The automotive media have claimed the compact SUV has got some refinements, but let’s agree to disagree. Having ride in it for almost 8 hours in both freeways and rural roads, the Ativa’s refinement is best defined as 2.5/5, 5 being the highest score.
There’s only one way to find out if its true, and if its worth RM72,000. Our crew did a full day road trip to the edge of the State and back.
The Ativa is a car that’s slightly bigger than the Myvi, with a noticable 200mm ride heigh, giving you a feeling of driving an SUV . The engine is a 1.0 liter, 3 cylinder engine with a turbocharger putting out 98bhp and 140Nm. Power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT gearbox.
The Ativa has some valuable featured equipment for a car at this price, the list includes adaptive cruise control, active headlamps, lane keep assist and autonomous braking. Plus, there’s a digital instrument cluster and a 9 inch touchscreen with Perodua’s version of Mirror Link for your smart devices, called Smart Link.
We traversed about 170km from base in Petaling Jaya to the banks of Sungai Bernam, at the Hai Lan Seang restaurant. The 3+ hour drive took us right to the border of the state, across highways, felda farmlands, forests, paddy fields and finally to the fishing village where our destination was.
Getting out of the city
The Ativa is built for city driving and that’s not limiting it to city driving. It picks up easy thanks to the soft-turbo torque. The engine develops the torque quite high up, but still easy to jet in front of most traffic. Thanks to the start stop system, you are sparred from the 3 cylinder vibrations during idle. Thanks to the blind spot monitoring system, we were constantly alerted on passing bikers, especially when changing lanes. This feature tends to get on your nerves in the city.
Cruising on the Highway
We entered the NKVE and headed towards the Bukit Tagar exit via the North-South expressway. The Ativa cruised easily at 110kph, and could go all the way to 160kph with some huffing and puffing. We would’t recommend it though, as the front end felt numb and vague, and this didn’t inspire confidence at high speeds. More so, the engine vibration and cabin noise became bothersome above the 120kph mark.
The lane keep assist however worked well on the highway, and so did the autonomous cruise control. The 3 adults over 5 ft 10 inches had adequate space both in the front and the back.
Cutting across the FELDA lands
The drive got nteresting after the Bukit Tagar exit as we entered the FELDA lands of North Selangor. The scenes alternated between forests and FELDA plantation lands. In between nestled the various communities that worked off the land, preparing for the day’s chores.
Cutting right across this picturesque scenery is an unspoilt ribbon of tarmac. On a weekend you can see touring bikes and a handful of performance cars here. On these roads, the lightweight Ativa was able to get by, despite the numb and uncommunicative steering, torque delivery and tyre grip.
This plot of land with its vast paddy fields of North Selangor in Sabak Bernam is a sight to behold. The lush green fields are filled with freshly planted paddy plants, full flowing water canals and natural fauna. Something that is truly out-of-the-city and a true village scenario.
We were so mesmerized by the scenery that we didn’t realize the fuel tank had run dry, and the range showed 0km. Unfortunately for us, this was a remote area, with few fuel stations.
However we managed to squeeze 15 miraculous kilometers from the ‘zero ranged’ tank. The small size fuel tank would cause you to make multiple stops across long journeys.
Towards the border
As we closed in on our destination, we moved further away from civilization. The straight-ish main road lined with coconut trees gave way to a narrow two lane street. After half an hour from there, just when we thought there’s no more villages, our destination came into sight.
Its a cluster of fishing community houses lining the river banks and swamp lands. Our destination proper was the Hai Lan Seang Seafood restaurant. There’s a very ‘homestay’ like vibe about this place. Its a proper hideout hidden in an outpost at the states boarder, visited predominantly by biker groups. All you see out from here is the massive expanse of the Bernam river, and the state of Perak across it. A lovely place to enjoy the sunset view.
We went full Ego with our waiter, and asked her to surprise us. And she did. We had the mantis shrimp, poached prawns, fried rice, baby squids and Claypot cooked ‘Sembilang’ in tamrind sauce. The ingredients were fresh, the portions were generous. But the killer was that baby squid in marmite sauce and Sembilang. We were a satisfied bunch after the grub.
On the way back
After stuffing our stomachs full of seafood, we headed back via the coastal road. The dual carriage way was not lit most of the way, and construction work was still going on. The adaptive headlamps worked well in turning on and dipped when there were oncoming traffic.
The high ride height allowed us to go over the roadworks with ease, without transmitting too much of the jolts to our spines. The built in 2.1a charger allowed us to charge our equipment’s on the go after a day long shoot.
Finally back home
After 2 hours and 30 minutes from the restaurant, we finally made it back to Petaling Jaya. All in all, we were out for about 8 hours. Selangor is filled with such hidden gems across the state. If you do take the time to explore, a day is barely enough to even cover 1/3 of this big state.
The Ativa was far from perfect during the trip. The 3 cylinder engine was not the most refined unit, the tank was too small, there’s lots of road noise, and the damping, let’s not talk about it. However, it did work across the country side and freeways. Not once did the suspension bottom out, or the underbelly scrapped, or we felt the car huffs and puffs when you hit the accelerator hard.
Think of the Ativa as a ‘backpackers hostel’ of the SUV genre. It’s functional, and it will last the abuse a car undergo’s during extensive travel. However its not everyones cup of tea. And even if you do it, very few will want to do it over and over again.
The Ativa is best suited for short commutes, and it’s designed to stand off-tarmac driving, or flash flood wading. As a long distance car though, not quite. On the other, a full-spec myVi would be a better bet.