Axia’s a ‘meatier’ compact that packs a pretty punch

Where were you when the Kancil hopped onto our roads, costing a mere RM25,000?

I ask because its successor – two models up the automotive evolution scale – has nearly doubled in price, raising a few eyebrows.

The first below-1000cc model (it was 660cc) freed many Malaysians from stewing in the sardine-packed scrums of our (in)famous BMWs (Bas Mini Wilayah) as here was the key(s), promising liberation from public bus blues.

Bolting out from the Perodua menagerie was the Kancil. First produced in 1994, it was followed by a final upgrade in 2009. It was then replaced by the Viva, which ruled the roost until the entry of the Axia in 2014. Almost a decade on, the new Axia debuted with the car’s dimensions appearing bigger, putting it on the ‘plus’ size range of cars in this really compact car segment.

Let us see how this transformation has changed what was strictly utilitarian into something more in keeping with the ‘motoring Joneses’.

For a start, the new Axia looks bigger and far sturdier than its predecessors. It now sports a ‘meatier’ outline – not unlike a budding bodybuilder who has been pumping iron and sporting bulging biceps in the right places.

Size-wise, it is outwardly perceived to almost match the MyVi in size from certain angles, and appears to have borrowed many visual cues from the Ativa – the SUV from the same Perodua stable.

The interior of the Axia may seem rather pretentious, but really, for the segment of the market it is targeted at, it does give a sense of the driver moving up the ladder.

Your posterior and spine get the semi-bucket leather seat treatment, complete with padding and patterned motifs that give off a hint of sportiness. There’s an X-pattern cotton stitching on the lower rear seat that indicates some nifty needlework.

If there is one thing I really like and must comment on, it is the provision of two niftily-placed hooks; one designed for slings and handbags (anti-snatch hook) and another – a shopping bag hook. Perhaps, this feature could have come in handy in the case of a woman on the East Coast who carelessly left her handbag in the driver’s seat while she alighted to pop into a convenience store, recently.

Within a short space of time, a motorcyclist had broken her driver-side glass window and grabbed the bag – which contained some gold wafers and a sizeable amount of payroll cash! (I am able to tell this tale as the incident was caught on video and all that is left is for someone to own up to recognising the perpetrator!)

I remember from my reporting days when Malaysian automotive journalists kept egging and badgering car manufacturers to provide hooks where local drivers could hang their plastic packet drinks when they ‘tapau’ (packed away) food. The Axia appears to be amongst those who responded … good on ‘em!

For a small compact car, the rear seating legroom is quite generous for the average Malaysian motorist. But if you are an NBA wannabe, maybe big is relative!

On the dashboard, the 9-inch display is a Godsend when it comes to manoeuvring the car in tight spaces – to the point that you’ll wonder why all cars were never fixed with similar reverse cameras in them ‘bad, old days’.

Exclusive to the AV variant (top of the range) is a 7.0-inch TFT (Thin-Film transistor) multi-info display, so, no more staid, plain ‘ol analogue round dials!

In terms of performance, the Axia is niftily frisky. It is powered by a one-litre engine paired to a new dual-mode continuously variable transmission (D-CVT) that delivers 67hp at 6,000rpm, giving 91Nm of maximum torque at 4,400rpm. This makes moving up the gears quite fuss-free. This was borne out on the trip that involved climbing to a high elevation in the narrow trails leading up to a remote farm in Batu Arang recently – the location of the Selangor fruit valley.

And despite its rather restricted boot space, we managed to haul downhill a bounty of four freshly-plucked jackfruit, weighing 9 kilos each, as well as four decently-sized cempedak as our ‘fruits’ of labour!

Being on the compact side, safety is a priority. Being somewhat a little bigger than a decent-sized newly-wed gift fridge, the internal cocoon does not leave one feel exposed. The Axia comes with a whole host of active and passive safety features,  including six airbags to the front, sides, and curtains airbags for the neck and head region.

You want an alphabet ‘safety feature soup?’ Here goes; it offers VSC, TC, ABS,  EBD with BA. You get HSA and ESS, too. Okay – for the inhibited or uninitiated, here’s what all that stands for – in the correct sequence – Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brake Distribution with Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, and Emergency Stop Signal.

The list of active and passive safety features includes Smart Drive Assist, comprising Pre-collision warning and braking, as well as lane departure warning. Just imagine you are physically restrained from rear-ending the car in front of you and, should you wander off from your lane in a moment of ‘micro-sleep’ lapse; the car will keep you on the ‘straight and narrow’.

Its compact size and small engine make the Axia a real fuel sipper – you get 27.4km per litre. The previous model gave a mere 21.6km per litre.

If you are in the T20 category of Malaysian by the size of your wallet, you might still want to check this tiny terror out – if only to see how the other half gets by.

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