Depending on who you ask, the soon-to-be-launched Perodua Ativa (D55L) is either an A-segment car or B-segment car. So which is the correct answer? More importantly, what is this A / B / C segment thing?
The answer from us is simple, but others might / can disagree: The Perodua Ativa (D55L) is a (lower) B-segment SUV. And yes, you can loosely group the Ativa together with the (upper) B-segment Proton X50, keyword 'loosely.'
Also remember that most of the headline grabbing figures and features of the Proton X50 are only limited to one variant, the RM 103,300 TGDI Flagship variant. The remaining the three MPI variants, priced from RM 79,200 are RM 93,200, are quite evenly matched by the Ativa, which is estimated to be priced from RM 62,500 to RM 73,400.
The reason we say B-segment is because the Ativa is best explained as an SUV-version of a B-segment Perodua Myvi-sized hatchback. Keep in mind that the Ativa has a longer length and longer wheelbase than the Myvi. It's quite a stretch (or is it a squeeze?) to call the Ativa an Axia-sized A-segment car.
Also, there is enough room below the Ativa for an SUV derived from an A-segment Perodua Axia-sized car.
In Japan, this product is called the Daihatsu Taft, and that’s definitely an A-segment SUV. In Europe, there's the Fiat Panda, which comes with a 4x4 option mind you.
No, Perodua Ativa is an A-segment car!
But if you disagree and insist that the Perodua Ativa is an A-segment car, that’s fine too.
Nobody can say which answer is right or wrong because even Perodua / Daihatsu themselves don't recognize either A- / B-segment answers, so who is the judge?
That’s right, as far as Perodua / Daihatsu / Toyota and many other car makers are concerned, there is no such thing as A / B / C / D / E segment. These are just undefined terminologies used by casual users, often thrown about in Facebook comments.
Wait, so the alphabet soup of ABCDE vehicle segments is a lie?
Not quite, but it's just something that was coined by the European Commission as a guide to consumers. There is no definition to it so it’s not correct to say that the Ativa must be an A-segment car because it is shorter than 4 metres (Myvi is also shorter than 4 metres). Keyword ‘must be.’
Fun fact: Even European car makers like Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz don’t recognize these A / B / C / D segment terms. Instead, they have their own internal terminologies, which are more relevant for their internal planning work.
The Volkswagen Group for example, uses the A00 (Up), A0 (Polo), A (Golf), B (Passat), C (Audi A4), D (Audi A6), E (Porsche Panamera) grouping. China, whose passenger car industry was pretty much setup by VW, with the first Santana, naturally adopted Volkswagen's convention. This is why the Chinese media refer to the Passat as a B-segment car. They are not referring to the same standard as us.
Mercedes-Benz likes to keep things simple – Compact class refers to the A-Class, B-Class, CLA-Class and their derivative SUV models. The C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class are grouped under the Limousines, while larger SUVs and vans segments are grouped generically.
There’s no point in asking UMW Toyota Motor whether their upcoming Corolla Cross is a C-segment or a B-segment model, or whether is it in the same class as the B-segment Honda HR-V, because that's not how they work.
As a consumer demand-driven businesses, what matters most to the company is that the Corolla Cross is aimed squarely at the Honda HR-V’s customers base.
It’s the same explanation for the Perodua Ativa. Consumers don’t care what segment the Ativa is in and don’t bother telling buyers that they can’t compare an SUV like Ativa with a sedan like a City or a Vios.
Buyers will compare as they see fit. To be more specific, buyers will buy whichever model they can get their car loans approved, or the one that offers the most discount, or can deliver their cars fast enough.
Of course Perodua wants to pull buyers from the Proton X50 over but their humble low-key public persona means they won’t say that in public. Still, you don’t expect Perodua to introduce a new model so it could take buyers away from their own Myvi or Aruz do you? But of course, some low level cannibalization is unavoaidable.
Malaysia’s car market is relatively mature and our Total Industry Volume is no longer growing as fast as before. For someone to gain sales, someone else has to lose. In this case, it is the Japanese B-segment sedans, followed by the Proton X50.
As for Proton, the company will acknowledge the Perodua Ativa to be in the same class as the X50 if the X50 sells more than the Ativa. Else, the company will choose a different narrative, whichever that is more convenient to allow it claim the title of the No.1 selling SUV in its class.
Just like how the Perodua Alza and Proton Exora are two slightly different class of MPVs but Perodua won the MPV sales battle anyway. However, Proton's public relations will insist that the Proton Exora is the No.1 seller in its class. That's technically correct, but with who did the Exora won against? The ladder frame Toyota Innova that costs a lot more? It's a replay of the same scenario with the Perodua Ativa.
The challenge for Perodua is that they have to capture the compact SUV market (A- or B-segment, that's just semantics) with a smaller car than Proton's, because this is all that Daihatsu is able provide them with. You play with the cards you are given, and you make the most out of it.
This is exactly why Perodua Ativa’s variant line-up is planned as such. What the Ativa lacks in outright power against the base model Proton X50 Standard (98 PS versus 150 PS), it makes up for it with better features – 6 airbags with full suite ADAS and adaptive LED headlamps versus the X50 Standard’s 4 airbags and no ADAS.
Don’t get too hung up on whether the Perodua Ativa is an A-segment or a B-segment car. Both answers are equally wrong and equally right and nobody can say they are the judge. If you are a buyer, compare and buy as you see fit.
More importantly, Perodua and Daihatsu themselves don’t think along these undefined A- / B-segment lines because they develop cars to meet customer demands, not according to some vague alphabet-set of segments that they had no say in its conception.
As the Perodua Ativa’s donor cars the Daihatsu Rocky / Toyota Raize have to meet requirements of customers in both Japan (where parking space is a premium) and Indonesia, having a more compact dimension is necessary, hence its size compared to the China-focused Geely Binyue (Proton X50).
The Perodua Ativa and Proton X50 are not direct rivals, but they are close enough to still fall in the same shopping basket and will inevitably end up chasing after more or less the same crowd.