Review: 2005 Perodua Kelisa - Adorable, but is it safe?
Engine: 989cc EJ-DE DOHC I3
Drive train: Front Wheel Drive
Transmission: 4 Speed Automatic
Second hand value (2017): ~RM10,000
Who Drives a Kelisa?
This a 2004 Perodua Kelisa with a 1.0 litre engine and a 4-speed automatic gearbox. It’s the standard EZ trim. It has seat belts for all passengers*, a hands-free system for your phone (remember, its 2004), and an air ionizer.
*Seat belts were not available for back seat passengers of the 1st gen Kelisa
The Kelisa started out in 2001 by appealing to families looking for a second car to run errands. Young families would usually opt for a sedan as a first car. It is a small car with a small engine and is very easy to manoeuvre. When these families decided to let go of their little workhorse, the second hand Kelisa started to appeal to kids starting out in college or their first job (more accurately, their worried parents). With a second-hand value of slightly above RM10k, the Kelisa (basically a Daihatsu) is a reasonable choice.
You don’t get much. But at that price, no one’s complaining. Some first-hand owners are still holding on to the Kelisa because it’s just so convenient. Some of you reading this probably still drive a second hand Kelisa from your college days.
According to the owner, the car has never has never had to have any major repairs done. For a 12 year old car, that is quite an achievement. I’ve had to change the engine head on my 2007 Persona. That wasn’t cheap.
I’ve seen some tricked out Kelisa’s before but the most serious Kelisa I have ever seen would be one that I saw at the Melaka International Circuit.
I wish I had one to turn it into a fake Mini. (Daihatsu Mira Gino)
You could also convert it to a Daihatu Cuore if you wish.
What is it Like to Drive?
Although the steering wheel cover kept slipping (addition by the owner), the Kelisa was still very easy to drive. It is shorter than newer compact cars and it feels even more bare than my 2007 Proton Persona.
It is like a smaller version of my own car - Mostly mechanical, sits low, and has a rather bare and bland interior (If this was some racing Porsche or Aston Martin, magazines would use the word Spartan). The small turning radius is a plus point for city driving. You could U-Turn in places you would usually make a 3-point turn. Excellent city car.
Things are still mostly mechanical, which I personally like – Mechanical throttle, hydraulic power steering, and even manual windows for the rear passengers. Power windows are a luxury. I like the mechanical throttle because there was no buffer unlike the electronic throttle from the 2016 Persona
The doors are thin, so reaching for toll booths or parking ticket machines isn’t a problem. However it does make you wonder how safe you would be in a side crash. You could basically put your whole arm out the window.
It did hit 120km/h on the highway but it sounded rather strenuous. If this were my daily driver I wouldn’t bother driving it fast. It’s not really built for that, and it’s already more than 10 years old.
Does the dash vibrate? Slightly.
You sit quite low so cornering is pleasant. The short overhangs means there is less weight being thrown about when cornering at high speeds. Although small, nimble, and fun to drive, the small size, short overhangs, and lean build are a worrying safety signs. There’s not much of a crumple zone for your rear seat passengers and as mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t seem like it would fair well in a side crash.
Features from the Early 2000s
Before the emergence of Ipads and infotainment systems, car manufacturers had to think of ways to make the interior of a car a more interesting place to be in. This usually resulted in having a lot of unnecessary buttons and fancy layouts for the air conditioning control system.
The Kelisa had a few unique features of its own.
That on the right is a phone holder. I’m not kidding you. How does it hold the phone? Well when you buy the Kelisa (brand new) they would provide you with some magnetic stickers. Yes, magnetic stickers. You then paste that magnetic sticker on the back of your Nokia phone and attach it to the holder. Then connect your phone to the Aux cable via the audio jack. And in the car, I kid you not, is a built in ear phone. You put that ear phone in your ear and there you go – hands free feature.
Just in case you don’t notice the ear phone, they’ve put some bright green around it. I have never seen this in any other car, but modern magnetic phone holders are very handy. That’s probably why we don’t have this feature anymore. Plus, there is always Bluetooth and Loudspeaker if you really need to make a call while you’re driving.
That hole used to be the gear lock, but the owner had it removed.
We used to be addicted to cigarettes. Now we are more addicted to our phones
The wire bundle is where the air ionizer used to be. The owner had it removed because it made an annoying sound.
A Concern for Safety
I like the Kelisa but I wouldn’t really recommend it if you’re going to drive it a lot, or go far distances. Yes you may be a good driver, but as a fellow car enthusiast, I wouldn’t recommend you go crazy in your Kelisa. I like old cars, small cars, and cars that feel fast even when they are not. I like the classic mini. I think this picture of this mini is epic but as much as I romanticise the idea of owning a small old car, I do doubt the safety it provides in case of a collision.
Just stay safe and use the Kelisa for short trips, OK. And no matter how good of a driver you are, somebody else on the road could be an idiot. And unforeseen circumstances, are well you know, unforeseen. Anything could happen.
Look at this video:
Most old small cars wouldn’t fair well in a situation like this. We’re not just talking about the Kelisa.
This case doesn’t generalise the Kelisa, but since now the Kelisa is in the 2nd hand market, be weary of the condition of the car when you purchase it. And take this incident as a reminder to not modify your car chop shop style.
If you are a first-hand owner of the Kelisa, insyaallah, such an incident may not happen to you.
Just be safe, alright.
I have a penchant for old and small cars, but I don’t recommend you get this if you’re going to drive long distances or drive fast. If you’re still looking for a small car, get a new one if you could afford it. An Axia is almost double the price of this second hand Kelisa but is also most probably safer.
If you are a Kelisa/Mira/Cuore enthusiast and still eyeing a 2nd hand Kelisa remember to not push it to the limit. It’s a compact city car after all. Drive safe.