Will Perodua Bezza be the end of the (Proton) Saga?

Automologist LING, who has driven her share of Malaysian-made cars, thinks that the launch of the Perodua Bezza sounds the death knell fo...

Automologist LING, who has driven her share of Malaysian-made cars, thinks that the launch of the Perodua Bezza sounds the death knell for Proton.

Perodua is finally launching its first A-segment sedan on 21 July, and bookings opened on Saturday in more than 181 showrooms nationwide. The Bezza, as it is called, was fully designed by the leading Malaysian carmaker, with the support of Japan’s Daihatsu, with whom Perodua has collaborated for decades. “Bezza” is a homophone of the Malay word “beza”, which means “different”; the double “z” represents the number “22”, which is the number of years that Perodua has been in the market.

There are five variants of the Bezza to choose from: the 1.0-litre with manual or automatic transmission; 1.3-litre “Premium X” with manual or automatic transmission, and the 1.3-litre “Advanced Version” with automatic transmission.

With the Bezza, the automaker is targeting young families and current Axia and Myvi owners who are looking to upgrade to a bigger car. Priced between MYR37,300 and 53,000, the Bezza is positioned between the automaker’s Axia (MYR24,000 - 41,000) and Myvi (MYR41,000 - 58,000) models; together with the Alza, a compact MPV, Perodua now has the entry-level market properly covered.

The Bezza is really rivalling only the Proton Saga (MYR34,000-38,000) and possibly the Proton Persona (MYR46,000 - 49,000); other similar models, like the Nissan Almera, Mitsubishi Attrage, Honda City and Toyota Vios, are priced MYR69,000 and higher. 

The Saga may be priced slightly lower (MYR34,000 onwards) and it measures slightly larger, but the Bezza has a slighter longer rear passenger space and significantly larger boot space - 508 litres compared to the Saga’s 413 litres; still, neither can compare to the Myvi’s roomy headspace. 

The Bezza has a 60:40 rear-folding seat which is extremely useful (in my experience, for carting long furniture items from IKEA). The top variant comes with a Smart Key for keyless entry and push start button, and a touchscreen double-DIN head unit that links to the smartphone to display apps like Waze and Google Maps.

But let’s get to the point - will the Bezza be the end of Proton? In January to May 2016, Perodua was the top-selling automaker by volume, selling 77,326 units of passenger vehicles; Proton was in fourth place, with only 28,766 units, despite having eight models on offer compared to Perodua’s three (before the Bezza was launched). Right now, Proton is hanging by a thread, and that thread is the Saga, the only model that actually makes decent sales numbers; the Bezza is threatening to unravel even that fragile thread.

I myself own a Perodua Myvi, bought new nine years ago, and it has NEVER ONCE broken down (touch wood) or given me any problems, except the wear and tear expected of careless driving (as is my style). There were also periods when I drove cars produced by Proton, namely an Iswara and a Gen-2, and the former became a clunker before its time while the latter spent too much time out of service and in the shop for repairs.

So, if I had to place fresh money on either Perodua’s new offering or Proton’s rehashed sedan, you know where it would go. I’m betting that most Malaysians would agree. And that would be the end of Proton’s 33-year saga.

Editing notes: this article earlier stated that the Bezza is categorised as a B-segment vehicle. 


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