Three years ago, Perodua took the bold step of introducing a ‘tallboy’ type of vehicle in the form of the Kenari, calling it a ‘Multi-Utility Vehicle’. It was a new kind of vehicle to Malaysians (though it was already commonplace in Japan) and initial reaction was divided. Some liked it and others thought it was an odd-looking car.
Perodua’s marketing people remained confident that the Kenari would eventually come to be accepted and all it needed was the right perception about what the car was all about. It was not your ordinary hatchback but something more versatile and before long, people – 74% of whom are married – started to like it and sales have been picking up ever since. Last year, 14,348 units were registered and this year’s first quarter sales have already exceeded 25% of last year’s volume.
But in these times of intense competition, there is constantly something new appearing in the market so change is necessary and for 2003, Perodua has decided to give the Kenari a cosmetic facelift to freshen the looks. However, with its aggressive cost-down program, it has managed to make the changes without changing the price of the basic models. According to Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Omar, Perodua’s MD, the new Kenari styling was done in-house by Malaysians.
|Kenari GX Aero|
All versions have new flush headlamp units with the inner lamps slightly overlapping the larger outer ones. The lenses are blue-tinted, enhancing the eye-catching presentation further. The grille is also new with a simpler honeycomb design but still maintaining the Perodua ‘corporate look’. At the rear, the extended light cluster units that are incorporated in the roof pillars have been restyled and look more discreet.
Gone are the low-profile roof rails which means the Kenari’s tallness has been visually reduced in a small way. Those rails were more for looks than anything else as few people actually put anything on them, so they won’t be missed.
Other changes include a new door mirror housing, a larger rear wiper arm (like the new Kancil’s), fitment of 14-inch titanium-coloured alloy wheels (with 165/55 tyres) as standard for all versions and re-profiled front and rear bumpers.
Inside, the fabrics are changed and the instrument panel (white background) is also new. A CD-player is now standard in the audio system and in response to demand for rear seatbelts, the Kenari has them as standard (and by mid-year, all Perodua models will have standard rear seatbelts).
While the GX and EZ are carry-over grades, there are also two new versions – the Kenari GX versions – the Kenari GX Aero and Kenari EZ Special (EZS). The former, which is expected to account for 20% of the 17,000 units forecast for this year, is available only with manual transmission because it is targeted towards younger buyers who enjoy more spirited driving. The EZS is a more luxurious version and so comes with standard automatic transmission.
|Kenari GX Aero dashboard|
The GX Aero, available only in Mistik Red, has a bodykit which sets it apart from the other new Kenaris. This bodykit is not adapted from any Daihatsu Move accessory but developed in Malaysia and made locally. It includes side skirts, a different spoiler and different styling for the rear lighting units. The interior of the GX Aero mirrors the sportiness of the exterior with ‘cubic’ printing on the centre dashboard console surfaces to give a bright finish.
As for the Kenari EZS, which is only available in a two-tone body finish, this is the most luxurious Kenari ever offered with leather upholstery for the seats, steering wheel and door trims. It also comes with a standard in-car phone system which is interfaced with the speakers.
Technically, the specifications of the latest Kenari are unchanged although like every manufacturer, Perodua would have made little changes here and there in materials, either to lower cost or improve quality. The engine is still the same 989 cc EJ-DE 3-cylinder unit with 4 valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts.
The transmissions are 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic units which have been optimized for the EJ-DE engine. Though the final drive is relatively low due to the output of the engine, the spread of ratios is well chosen and provides strong acceleration over a broad range as well as low revs at cruising speeds.
The suspension is independent up front with a 3-link arrangement at the rear. Though light, the rack and pinion steering has assistance while the large 8-inch brake booster generates plenty of pressure on the disc/drum brake system.
|Kenari GX Aero|
The new Kenari range should help Perodua pull away from its most obvious rival, the Inokom/Hyundai Atos. Though the Korean clone is competition, Perodua does not consider it unwelcome as it helps grow the segment.
Starting prices range from RM39,812 for the Kenari GX with non-metallic finish to RM45,706.60 for the Kenari EZS. More detailed price lists and equipment levels for each model are shown in the images below.