Why Does Perodua Not Have Its Own GTI Lineup?

Why can’t the safe and sensible image of Perodua be expanded to include fast and fun too?

As much as Proton might want to say otherwise it, it is nevertheless undeniable that the true people’s automaker of Malaysia is Perodua. The Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sendirian Berhad is after all the largest car manufacturer locally, and it has consistently been the dominant force on the sales charts ever since the launch of its Kancil.

Interestingly enough though, while Perodua could be considered the wheels of Malaysia, none of its products actually brought true power to the people. And while there is probably a deeper discussion to be had on how car ownership affects local social mobility from that previous statement, let’s choose to interpret it instead as a slightly lighter question of simply why hasn’t there been a hot Perodua yet?

The production of a people’s car that could nip at the heels of a supercar isn’t exactly a novel idea after all, with just the word GTI being enough to recall a long line of fast Volkswagens (and don’t forget Peugeots) that has popularised the concept of offering cheap speed to the yearning masses since the mid-70s. 

And it is not like Malaysia hasn’t built its own hot hatch before too, because remember the 90s Satria GTI? A rebadged Mitsubishi Colt it might be, but this Proton with those three little letters on it was a pocket rocket that even earned the praise of bonafide racing drivers.

Unfortunately however, despite being around all of three decades already, the closest thing that Perodua had to show for in the sporty department is its Myvi Extreme that was launched with the second iteration of this popular hatchback. 

Featuring the 1.5-litre engine that is now the norm in all Myvis these days, this then-new twin-cam 102 hp power plant was touted be quite the pocket rocket, with the manual version of this capable of breaching the 100 km/h mark from a standstill in (just) under 10 seconds. The aggressive body kit that was standard with the Extreme trim also gave it the sporty look that is essential with a hot hatch. And it has to be said too that reviews at the time was more than a little complimentary about how this tarted-up Myvi handles the twisties (slightly) better than its regular counterpart. 

As much as Perodua would like it to have been though, this Extreme, despite its body kit and larger engine, was certainly no Golf GTI. In fact, even categorising it as a warm hatch would do a disservice to true warm hatches like the Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Focus ST. Both of which would incidentally run rings around the Myvi in any reasonable performance comparison. 

But it didn’t (and still doesn’t) have to necessarily be the case, because it should really not be beyond the wit of Perodua to properly spice up the Myvi. Or any other model for that matter. I mean, just think about it, imagine there being a BMW M car situation going on at Perodua, with a hot versions of everything from the Axia to the Aruz. Doesn’t that immediately and significantly elevate the image of Perodua?

Though sticking with just the Myvi for now and discussing further instead on how Perodua could potentially spice it up, its existing partnership with Daihatsu (and to an extent Toyota) would mean that it really shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for Perodua to transplant the 1.8-litre from a Corolla between the wings of the Myvi. Sure, the turbocharged three-pot from a GR Yaris would likely transform the Malaysian hatchback into a sports car slayer, but even this relatively sensible choice with 139 PS would be more than enough to make the Myvi fly, while still keeping costs low enough for commercial viability. 

And who knows, with this base engine being the same as the one in a Lotus Elise, maybe there might be a flourishing supercharger aftermarket too that could see over 200+ hp from this hot hatchback. Well, one can dream, right? 

Continuing conveniently on the topic of dreams too, Perodua has actually already dreamt up a hot Myvi previously with its GT concept that was shown of at the 2018 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show. Sitting significantly lower than stock and featuring Brembo brakes that were hidden behind a subtle yet sporty body kit, this apparent design exercise is nevertheless proof for the dream of a properly potent Perodua to not be totally removed from the Malaysian automaker. 

Now of course, five years on from the preview of the GT concept and here we are still no closer to a hot Myvi. Moreover, even the old Extreme variant of the second-generation Myvi was not followed up with a successor for this current iteration. 

In fact, a quick look at the Perodua lineup confirms for there to be nothing even actually remotely sporty around anymore. And this unfortunately is by design, as the Malaysian automaker (like every other corporation) is in the business of making money, which often means vanity projects like a hot GTI version that is of a low volume production but high development cost proposition is often rejected outright in favour of more revenue-generating ventures, like a people’s EV for instance. 

What more is that there perhaps will be those (with more rational heads) that will say it is a good thing too for there not to be a Perodua GTI. The road accident rate in Malaysia is after all high enough as it is already, even without a bunch of youngsters being able to get their hands on a powerful yet affordable hot hatch.

Then again, getting back to the topic of EVs though, an all-electric Perodua may also be the best chance yet for there to be a hot Perodua. This is after all as evident from the number of fully-electric minivans and crossovers these days that are capable of chasing down supercars, turning up the wick on an electric motor is significantly easier than making an ICE car go fast. 

So there might just be a chance yet for there to be a hot Perodua when the EV age eventually arrives for the automaker. The question now however is just when exactly that EV era will be…

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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