The Perodua Kelisa. What was it??

Remember the Issigonis Mini of the late 1950s? It gave us basic motoring at very little cost and introduced millions of people, from princes to paupers, to car ownership. We loved it for its nippiness, reliability, roadholding, ease of parking, and the sense of fun we got from driving it. It was the biggest selling car that BMC had ever produced (even though it never made them a penny in profit) and we loved it. So why don't we love the Perodua Kelisa in the same way?

Launched onto the British market in 2001, it retailed for less than £5000 making it easily the cheapest new real car on the market. It proved to be reliable, economical and easy to drive. But it was basic. Air conditioning? Forget it. Cruise control? Never heard of it. Electric windows? Nothing wrong with the manual winders. Traction control? Errr... pass.

Basically a recycled Daihatsu Mira (what do you mean you've never heard of that either?) The Kelisa was named after a rather dopy looking fish by some un-named genius at the Perodua factory in Malaysia. it was launched with a choice of 847cc or 989cc three in line engines which gave performances which could best be descrbed as either dreary or uninspiring but it usually started every time and returned a petrol consumption of around 50mpg. Exciting it was not but this five door hatchback could usually get three or four people from A to B in reasonable comfort provided that they were all not the size of sumo wrestlers.

Ok it wasn't the best looking car by the early 2000s but it wasn't all that bad either, although Jeremy Clarkson bought a brand new one, then gave it every insult he could think of before beating it with a sledge hammer and finally blowing it up with dynamite. But then he always was a bit extreme.

Various upgrades were possible for those who wanted such luxuries as a car radio rather than just a hole for one but what was the point? It was a basic cheap car and those few - very few - people who bought one did so because they were cheap and there was no sense in paying out for extras since it could be likened to putting lipstick on a pig.

But OK it was still a half decent car at a bargain basement price so why didn't we all rush out and buy one? Much of it was down to the name. Jeremy Clarkson reckoned that it sounded like a disease and claimed that it was made in a jungle by people who wore leaves on their feet instead of shoes. The Malaysian government were not impressed.

Now then; would you boast to your friends about your new Perodua Kelisa? What if, instead, it had been called after a more adventurous fish such as a Piranha, Manta or Shark? I reckon they'd have sold five times as many.

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