Is the upcoming Perodua D55L an A-segment or B-segment SUV. Is it even in the same segment as the Proton X50?
The short answer is yes. Both the Proton X50 and the yet-to-be-named Perodua D55L are B-segment SUVs although many will insist that the latter sits in the A-segment, but they are not entirely wrong.
Wait, what? We will explain more on that later.
What is this ABC-format vehicle segment?
Before we go further, we need to establish a few things. The Euro-style ABCD vehicle segmentation is commonly used by many but few actually understand what it is.
For example, many understand that a Toyota Camry/Honda Accord sit in the D-segment but few understand that the BMW 3 Series/Mercedes-Benz C-Class also sit in the same D-segment. That’s right. Compact executive cars are part of D-segment. The smaller A-Class and 1 Series sit in the C-segment.
Many will argue that you can’t compare a Camry/Accord with a 3 Series/C-Class (yes you can) but therein lies a problem, you can’t choose to adopt Euro-style classifications only in parts that you agree with, and ignore the ones that you don’t.
But here’s another curveball. Legally, there is no such thing as an ABC-style vehicle segment. Not even the European Union, whose European Commission came out with the format, adopt it in their official documents.
Most countries that adopt Euro-style vehicle type approval procedures to register a new car, Malaysia included, align its regulations for passenger cars based on just three categories – M1 (8 or less seats), M2 (more than 8 seats, less than 5 tonne), and M3 (more than 8 seats, more than 5 tonnes). These are the only segments for passenger carrying vehicles recognized by the United Nations World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP. 29).
So there’s actually no such thing as an A- or B- or whatever alphabet segment car?
As far as governing authorities are concerned, no. However that doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Sometimes, you need to accommodate the needs of the general public and rigidly sticking to the facts will only make things unnecessarily complicated.
For example, kg is not the measure of weight, but mass. Weight is measured in Newtons. Mass is measured kilograms. Weight is affected by gravity. Mass isn't. So should every medical chart be corrected to kg/mass, or should doctor weigh patients in Newtons? Of course not. Even physicists will close one eye and accept that things are just easier this way.
Likewise for our case. Some guidelines have taken a life of its own and it’s easier to just roll with it.
The European Commission came out with the ABC-format vehicle segmentation only as a guide for consumers, and did not specify the criteria defining each segment, so it is wrong to say that the limit for A-segment cars is 4 metres.
Besides, between overall length and wheelbase, the latter is a more important criteria as it has a direct influence on vehicle dynamics and cabin space. Overall length doesn’t mean much.
The confusion with the 4-metre limit for A-segment cars came from references to India-market cars, where cars shorter than 4-metre are taxed lower, and all sedans/hatchbacks in India are parked under the A-segment, starting with A1 to A6. B is used for utility vehicles.
However the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) have since proposed a new segmentation format (below).
The Perodua D55L is a twin of the Japanese market Daihatsu Rocky/Toyota Raize. Both models sit in a rather odd segment-straddling position.
It's only slightly bigger than a tax-deducted 'kei' minicar like the Daihatsu Taft, but smaller than mainstream B-segment SUVs like a Mazda CX-3, or the latest Toyota Yaris Cross (no relation to the jacked up Yaris sold in Thailand).
There’s no direct competitor to the Raize/Rocky. Its closest rival in Japan is the Suzuki Xbee, and after that, low-end variants of the Honda Vezel, which we know as the Honda HR-V.
Putting it in our Malaysian context, it's closest in size to a Perodua Myvi. In short, the Perodua D55L sits closer to B-segment than A-segment. Its 2,520 mm wheelbase is already longer than the Perodua Myvi's.
As we see greater proliferation of such cars, the B-segment range will only expand to include more sub-categories. You may see the D55L as a lower-B product, while the Proton X50, which will be based on Geely Binyue, is an upper-B product, closer to a Honda HR-V.
Volkswagen has already proven that the segment is big enough with the success of the T-Roc and T-Cross in Europe.
The T-Cross is a lower-B segment product while the T-Roc is an upper-B one.
So will the Perodua D5LL compete against the Proton X50 then?
Yes and no.
The Proton X50 is clearly a higher class product, and will be priced as such. It has a far more powerful 177 PS engine, and has an interior that’s clearly more premium than the more utilitarian Daihatsu Rocky/Toyota Raize.
Still, cross-shopping between the two is inevitable. The price gap that’s available to Proton and Perodua to play with isn’t that big. Neither brand commands sufficient brand elasticity to push their prices that far.
The most expensive Perodua Myvi and Perodua Aruz priced at RM 52,697, and RM 73,226 respectively. That’s more or less the lower limit for the Perodua D55L.
As for the Proton, the cheapest Proton X70 comes in at RM 94,800 (all prices without sales tax, valid until 31-Dec 2020), that’s more or less the upper limit for the Proton X50. It can’t go that far beyond it without overlapping the X70’s target market and cannibalizing Proton’s own total sales.
Asking what segment a car sits in is becoming irrelevant
At the end of the day, buyers make comparisons based on their budget and needs. Consumers don’t limit their choices only to a specific segment or bodystyle, especially when SUVs and sedans/hatchbacks are now overlapping each in prices.
We too, will adapt our comparisons to reflect current consumer trends.
Few SUVs are developed in isolation. Almost all are derived from a sedan/hatchback because today’s highly flexible modular platforms allow manufacturers to do so, which makes pigeonholing these cars to a specific segment difficult.
For example, the Honda HR-V is based on a B-segment Honda Jazz/City, but competes against a Subaru XV, which is based on a C-segment Impreza, rather than a B-segment like a Renault Captur. So is the HR-V a B-segment or C-segment SUV?
The Honda CR-V is based on a C-segment Civic platform, but also competes against the Toyota RAV4 (Malaysia’s taxes aside), which is based on a D-segment Camry platform. So is the RAV4 a C-SUV or a D-SUV? Both answers are correct.
The aforementioned T-Roc is another examples.
The T-Roc is based on the C-segment Golf, but its wheelbase has been shortened to make it compact enough to aim at a B-segment rivals. So is it a C-SUV or a B-SUV?
And to make things more confusing, the T-Roc is available in two wheelbase length, 2,551 mm and 2,650 mm. The latter is for Brazil and China.
Toyota offers four SUV models in the compact/mid-size range – the Harrier, RAV4, C-HR and Corolla Cross.
Average size of SUVs are growing, overlapping traditional segments
A-segment SUVs were previously limited to only Japanese ‘kei’ minicar SUVs – the Pajero Mini and Suzuki Jimny.
Then Suzuki added a wide body Jimny Sierra variant, as well as the aforementioned Xbee, which was in-between conventional rivals' sizes but sold well anyway.
Daihatsu noted the changing trend and followed suit with the Rocky. You can say that sizes of SUVs are changing across all segments. Lower segment ones growing in size, upper segment ones shrinking, filling niches we never thought existed.
Manufacturers build cars to meet consumer demand, not based on some vague, undefined vehicle segmentation method.
So it’s pointless to debate whether should this model be compared with another, because consumers will compare them if they are priced close enough to each other. That's the whole point of manufacturers creating such segment-busting products.
Whether the Perodua D55L is an A-segment SUV or a B-segment SUV is purely academic, because even Perodua/Daihatsu don’t have an answer to that. They will however, have a very clear idea who their target buyers are, and that’s all that matters.
But if you want an answer, our opinion is the the D55L is clearly a B-SUV. It would be really weird to refer to a car that has a longer wheelbase than a Myvi as an A-segment car. And yes, you should compare it to the Proton X50, simply because their prices won't be that far off from each other.