Throwback Thursday: The Perodua Kelisa, the whimsical hatchback


Welcome to another edition of our Throwback Thursday series, where previously we looked at Perodua’s game changer, the evergreen Myvi. Today’s feature is another one of Perodua’s most successful model that knows a thing or two about giving its driver, his/her senses and wallet a good time – the Perodua Kelisa.

Just like most Peroduas, it was based on the local manufacturer’s Japanese counterpart’s offering – the Daihatsu Mira L700 to be precise. The fifth-generation Mira debuted in the Land of the Rising Sun in 1998 before it was introduced as the Kelisa in our homeland three years later. Changes were relatively trivial with the headlights and front grille being the most notable.

Pic Credit: Wikipedia

Named after a fish that’s native to this country, three variants were made available at launch. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder DOHC petrol engine was the sole powerplant available; mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Three years later, a smaller 850 c.c. three-potter was introduced as the model’s base variant. The 1.0-litre made 60 hp and 90 Nm of torque while the smaller engine had a meagre 50 hp and 75 Nm to make do with.

It was in essence a Perodua Kancil, with a tad plushness and a dash of creature comforts. It was the most basic motoring means for the masses – it was easy to park, frugal in its fuel consumption and relatively accommodating to a group of five.

Light-footed with a lively engine were the traits most commonly associated with the Kelisa by its owners. Its peppy character was best enjoyed with a manual transmission and for a car of such basic and minimal provisions, it handled surprisingly well too. Most wouldn’t argue on the fact that it was reminiscent of the original Mini from the 1960’s. As the years went, Perodua came up with numerous special editions for the Kelisa – of which was an indirect a tribute to the evolution of Sir Alec Issigonis’ creation – the modern Mini Cooper.

Pic Credit: Wikipedia

How should we remember the Kelisa then? Definitely not by the infamous antics of Jeremy Clarkson more than a decade ago. We tend to agree more with his shorter colleague, who had a more positive view on the nippy little Kelisa and for good reason. It’s still one of Perodua’s “fun to drive” cars, the epitome of a cheap and cheerful mode of personal transportation. The bar was raised as such that not even its two replacements, the Viva and the Axia, could offer the same smiles per kilometer as the Kelisa did.

Years on, a mechanically-sound unit in the used market is still able to fetch upwards of RM10k and for the nearest thing to the original Mini experience, go for a 1.0-litre manual unit.


Travis Chang

Travis Chang

While his day job is as exciting as a certain beige saloon, he knows a thing or two about cars and motorsports. The true definition of motoring nirvana according to him is a clear and twisty tarmac surrounded with mesmerizing vistas, followed with a track list of indie tunes on the stereo. Any cars will do fine, not so for big MPVs which he loathes...
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