The first thing I thought about when I heard that the new Perodua Kenari would have a 1-litre engine was that its performance would leave something to be desired. I guess this was because it had been a very long time since I had driven a 1-litre car and the last one probably didn’t have EFI so I expected something uninspiring.
It was therefore a surprise to find the Kenari zipping off in a rather spirited manner and then accelerating strongly up the gentle slope after the second turn at the old Batu Tiga racetrack. And this was the Kenari EZ which had an automatic transmission – plus another two people on board, one of which can be described as ‘big and heavy’!
With three cylinders, the engine sound was the same as that of the Kancil – a bit like an outboard motor. But the power delivery was smooth with each upshift occurring without any jerks. The only thing I found a bit odd was what felt like a ‘flat spot’ when I was running in third gear.
Concerned that over-exuberant driving could result in some mishaps, Perodua’s personnel had put cones in many areas to slow cars down but for me, the ‘chicanes’ provided more of an opportunity to test the manoeuverability of the car. The steering certainly showed precision and responsiveness as I swung the Kenari sharply through the gap in the lines of cones and then yanked the steering wheel to the right to get back on course.
I don’t know what my passengers thought of my driving (their first time with me!) but I was a bit determined to see if the car rolled much, given its height. But with the broad tracks, it appeared to be reasonably upright with no tilt to cause alarm to the occupants. In any case, charging hard through a corner would bring on a fair amount of understeer with the tyres scrubbing along the ground. Lift-off did not induce any lightness at the rear end and for the average driver, I’d say the handling is fool-proof and sudden swerving left and right won’t cause any controllability problems.
Can’t say much about the ride comfort since the track is hardly bumpy but with the wheelbase being generous enough, I would expect things to be comfortable enough for this type of car.
One of the passengers noted that the Kenari cabin was quieter than the Kembara’s at normal cruising speeds. The engine noise does intrude if you drive it very hard but at a constant speed of 110 km/h, you can still have a conversation without shouting. At the back though, the empty space where the boot is allows noise to come through but it is not objectionable.
I also had a go in the Kenari GX with the 5-speed manual transmission and it was equally enjoyable. The shifting quality is good and the throws between gear positions are short. The seating position is very good for tall and short people and those sitting behind will find a lot of legroom. But the most impressive thing is the height… it’s got such a high ceiling!
Perodua has promised to provide a testcar for a longer duration so we can see how it is living with the Kenari but for now, my initial assessment is that this is a great little car for all purposes and with the EFI engine, it offers performance that is nippy and I’m sure that fuel economy will also be good.