As I write this, we’re sat in a chronological window between the launch of the 2nd-generation Perodua Alza and the imminent launch of its Toyota-badged twin, the Veloz. As vehicle sales is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ proposition, which will win out in the end?
It’s well known Malaysians love a good MPV, especially one that punches above its weight when it comes to efficiently and effectively moving passengers from point A to point B, as inexpensively as possible.
The launch of this second-generation Alza has been awaited by family men and women for years following the maturation and, in the face of more capable competitors, the decline of its predecessor’s long career. After all, we’re talking about a car that’s been on sale here since 2009.
Like other Peroduas before it, this all-new Alza is based on an existing vehicle from the Toyota umbrella. In this case, it’s the 3rd-generation Avanza, which is also sold in Indonesia as the Daihatsu Xenia with very similar specifications, equipment, and pricing.
In Malaysia, local distributors UMW Toyota know too well the potential clash that would occur if they started offering an Avanza that locks horns directly with a virtually identical Perodua model, learning from previous experiences:
First, there was the Toyota Rush (based on the 2nd-gen Daihatsu Terios), a more expensive but ultimately doomed compact SUV due to the presence of the more sharply priced Perodua Nautica. In retrospect, both models failed to capture a meaningful chunk of buyers in Malaysia.
A few years later there was a close succession of launches between the Perodua Aruz and a newer-generation Toyota Rush with the huge majority of sales going to the former thanks again to pricing and being an undeniably strong value proposition, especially since there has not been any obvious compromise in build quality or equipment levels.
A wiser, more world-weary Toyota has confirmed that the Avanza will not be coming to the Malaysian market despite the nameplate’s lengthy history here. The conflict between the two marques just wouldn’t be worth the risk.
Instead of playing that game again, they will instead offer the Veloz, an even better equipped and more luxurious take on the Avanza to the point that it warrants a different model name - think about the dichotomy, or lack thereof, between the Vellfire and Alphard.
The thinking would be that, even against the range-topping Alza (2022), the Veloz would stand apart as a more upmarket offering that would have little problem justifying its increased price.
One question remains, though, is that really enough?
No matter how many features the Toyota could feasibly add, of which we already have prior knowledge since the Veloz is positioned similarly against the Avanza and aforementioned Xenia in Indonesia, will Malaysians see that as enough of an incentive? After all, it could still be perceived as an ‘atas’ version of a Perodua….
Does the Toyota badge carry that much weight in our minds? Beyond the RM75k mark, which is where the Alza’s pricing bracket ends, buyers encounter rivals such as the Honda BR-V (which too is due for a successor) and Mitsubishi Xpander. Perhaps in a year or two, Hyundai might enter the arena with the impressive-looking Stargazer.
In terms of ticking all the boxes, there isn’t really an area where the Alza is found particularly lacking. It features a comfortable interior, lots of space for passengers and cargo, a decent assortment of multimedia/infotainment features for the price, and even a complement of active safety (ADAS) features.
Any real improvement to this (the Alza’s) existing template can only be seen as slight upgrades - cosmetic at best, inconsequential at worst - and unworthy of the additional outlay for the Veloz.
The fact is, both the Perodua and incoming Toyota are so much more similar than they are different. Under the bonnet, for example, we find the same (and familiar) 1.5-litre naturally aspirated 2NR-VE four-cylinder petrol engine producing 106PS.
They will more than likely drive identically and feel, for the most part, the same to sit in over a long trip or city commute.
UMW Toyota are probably all too aware about the predicament they face. However, it still falls upon their shoulders to cleverly navigate past the launch of the Alza and position the Veloz as a more desirable alternative that retains its distinctiveness.
It’s their game to lose.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.