Following last week’s article where we traced the origins of the Perodua Axia, we now take a look at how the Axia’s booted-twin, the Bezza came into being. Unlike the Indonesian Daihatsu Ayla-based Perodua Axia, the Bezza is purely a Malaysian effort as there is no Indonesian equivalent to the Bezza.
After the successful launch of the Perodua Myvi in 2005, Perodua spent a good part of a decade mulling over the need to introduce a sedan. After all, Malaysia was (then) still dominated by sedans.
Over the next several years, project lumbered along in varying levels of priority – for good reasons.
At that time, there was an unspoken rule within the local management of Perodua to exercise restraint in encroaching Proton’s territory, whom the Perodua sometimes respectfully refer to as its ‘elder brother.’
However this was just an informal arrangement that both companies had settled into. Perodua’s strength was in compact hatchbacks while Proton’s forte was in sedans and both companies were minding their own business at different ends of the market but there wasn’t any regulation that said both (then) national car companies couldn’t compete with each other.
At the same time, Perodua’s technical partner Daihatsu did not have any sedans that it owns the full intellectual property rights to. The company does sell several sedans in Japan but these are rebadged Toyotas, supplied by Toyota under contract, and limited for sale only in Japan.
Developing a new sedan required a lot of investment as Daihatsu hadn’t developed any sedans for more than a decade. The last Daihatsu sedan was the Applause, which was discontinued in the late '90s. Still, Perodua’s local management understood that no further growth is possible if the company doesn’t expand beyond compact hatchbacks.
The responsibility of convincing Daihatsu to invest in developing a sedan fell onto the shoulders of Perodua’s local management. Unlike other Perodua models, this project required a lot more upward push by the local management, as Daihatsu was understandably rather hesitant to re-enter the sedan segment after decades of absence.
The first steps in realizing the project began in a rather mundane manner. Long before the first design sketch was produced, Perodua spent a lot of resources conducting highly detailed market research - understanding how consumers use their Proton Sagas, quantifying every single aspect of the sedan’s attributes.
For example, how much would a customer pay for an extra 50 mm of rear legroom, or for the benefit of a boot, and for how big of a size?
Initially, Perodua/Daihatsu sought to compromise with a midway solution by using a fastback styling. A fastback offered similar utility to a sedan and the technical requirements wasn’t that big of a jump from a regular hatchback.
This fastback concept was presented as the Perodua Bezza Concept at the 2010 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show. Fancy sliding doors and sci-fi movie-style interior aside, the dimensions and silhouette of the Bezza Concept was what Perodua/Daihatsu wanted to gauge the public’s response for.
The concept car had a compact length of less than 4 metres, which puts it between a Viva and a Myvi.- the only two models Perodua had at that time. Oddly, the Bezza Concept’s rear was shaped/built using parts from a third-generation Toyota Prius, which also had a similar fastback styling.
The concept was refined further into the Buddyz Concept, which was presented at the 2013 KL International Motor Show.
Unlike the Bezza Concept, the Buddyz Concept had a very traditional three-box sedan shape. The front-end still carried more or less the same styling cues from the Bezza Concept, but the rear-half was completely new. If you look closely at the C-pillar and the tail lights, it wasn’t very different from a contemporary Proton Saga FL.
The production Bezza was launched in July 2016. The culmination of a journey that took more than 5 years.
It has a 4.15 metre length, which was slightly longer than the original Bezza Concept, but sharing the same 2,455 mm wheelbase as the Axia. The base model Bezza Standard G variant also shared the same 1KR-VE 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine as the Axia. The higher range Bezza Premium X and Bezza Advance is powered by a larger 1.3-litre 1NR-VE engine shared with the Perodua Myvi.
The Perodua Bezza is also decently equipped , with highest specification Bezza Advanced including electronic stability and traction control, hill-start assist, keyless smart entry, and engine push-start button.
It's significant milestone in Perodua's longterm goal of becoming a regional product development centre for Daihatsu.