There was a time when people found it hard to own a decent pair of shoes, or a watch, or a car, or a nice suit but now with the advent of mass production, everyone has to chance of owning one of the items mentioned above. In those days, people had to go to the nearest cobbler in town to repair or buy a new pair of shoes. This would mean walking or riding their horses miles and miles to get there; Only to find that the cobbler was away vacationing in Brussels and would only be back in about 6 months time. The person would be shoeless throughout the 6 month period as the nearest town with another cobbler or shoemaker would be a 2 week ride journey. During that time, his vegetable patch would wither away, his cows would be stolen and his wife and kids sold off to slavery. So he would have to make do with his old pair of shoes with holes in them. Now, with the advent of mass production, he would go to the nearest Bata shop and purchase his new pair of cheap shoes and be happy.
I would consider us as very fortunate that we live in an age where clothing, transport and telecommunication is relatively affordable. Notice that we have clothing as cheap as 5 Ringgit brand new, Cell Phones as cheap as 100 Ringgit brand new and 10,000 Ringgit for a decent used car. We have progressed a long way from not owning anything to everyone owning something useful.
The great thing about mass production is that you can mass produce really useful items quickly and cheaply for everyone to benefit. Of course the bad thing is that it creates something called unnecessary spending which is needed by the factory owners to keep on making money. This then created the reasoning behind having a ‘newly improved model’ every 4 or 5 years (or even less when it comes to cell-phones). You see it in cars and bikes mostly as well as fashion. Trends and fashion dictate what we must have instead of necessity. That is why my wife and I have a combined shoe collection larger than Imelda Marcos at her prime. But that is another story. Today we are going to talk about the cheapest and most sensible way of transport in
This car isn’t as small as you think it is. It isn’t like the Kancil which it replaces as it has really decent rear legroom as its length is the same as the larger MyVi except that it is narrower. But, it isn’t as narrow as the Kancil or the Kelisa (which it also replaces) which is a good thing. The memories of me driving a 1st Generation Kancil with another large friend was that of me and him rubbing shoulders and him leaning on me on fast corners. The seats weren’t supportive at all.
Inside: The basic 660cc Viva is pure hard plastic. I suppose paying RM25,000 and a bit more (after discount given) for a car would get you that nowadays. The seats and steering are not adjustable and it is all grey plastic. Very Spartan. However, I must add that the switchgear have quite tactile feel compared to some earlier generation Japanese / Malaysian / Korean cars. I suppose things have improved on that level. There is no power assisted steering for the base model but low speed steering won’t kill you. Acceptable driving position but seats without any lateral support.
Driving it: It understeers. I comes standard on 12 in rims and tires in 145/155 size. Any corner taken over the speed of 35km/h causes it to go into understeer mode. It needs more front end grip which you can get by putting either aftermarket rims and tires which are larger or finding a newly traded in set of 14 in wheels and tires from the 1,000cc model. I’d go down to Klang as often people go there to change tires and rims. However, you may wonder whether putting larger tires may cause extra drag for the minute engine.
The Ride: It rides better than the Kancil as well as the Kelisa. In fact, if you bought the previous generation Saga, this Viva rides better. But the main gripe of this car is that it understeers. This somewhat kills the fun of it compared to the Kelisa. However, what you are getting is a more refined car compared to even the Kelisa. I suppose you can’t win ‘em all.
The engine: It is a 660cc lawnmover engine stuck into a car. The 3 cylinder warble is quite addictive. It does need more poke. 39 or so bhp is merely adequate as my 100kg ‘svelte as a movie star’ frame and a 55+kg friend. You can hear it screaming as soon as it reaches a slight uphill gradient as you have to downshift in expectation of that short hillclimb. The car, if left in say, 3rd gear would just amble slowly up the slope and may irritate other roadusers. It does have a 8,000rpm redline, but why does it have that redline I could not, for the love of eating Lamb Shanks, understand why it does not make any form of power above 6,000rpm. Maybe it needs a free flowing airfilter and an exhaust system to extract all that power. You have such a nice high redline, but you aren’t allowed to exploit it. Motorcycles have an even higher redline if it were a 600cc sportsbike.
If I bought this car, I’d stick on a suspension system to kill the understeer and then work on making the engine breathe. I will be the mosquito that I mentioned earlier, buzzing around with a nice 8,000rpm dentist drill. I would be pretty fun. However, if I was working in a factory, just married with a kid on the way I wouldn’t. I’d just enjoy the fact that I have a nice comfortable car to carry the wife, kid and myself around KL even though I don’t earn a lot and I don’t want to go the 2nd hand route. Isn’t that what basic transport is all about?
* Many thanks to the owner of the car who I’m sad to say lost his Toyota Celica recently to desperate scumbags who steal cars for a living. May the person/s who stole that car one day gets struck down by lightning or flattened by a falling meteorite. And NO...he did not buy the Viva after losing the car. You think he's crazy? Nobody in his right mind would switch cars like that!