Practicality and fuel economy are usually associated with national carmaker Perodua, but more so about the former when it comes to its Alza multi-purpose vehicle (MPV).
This MPV has been around since 2009 and it's become a popular budget people mover with its 1.5- litre naturally-aspirated engine and even with up to seven individuals inside, it's still capable of getting the job done.
Yes, 10 years on, but thankfully the local carmaker has given it the latest refresher.
Our particular variant was the mid-range Alza SE 1.5, costing RM56,890 (on-the-road without insurance), and coated in a newly minted Granite Grey colour that's exclusive only to the SE and range-topping Advance (AV) variants.
As standard, since September, the Alza now comes with fog lamps, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel, solar and security window tint, reverse sensors, 15-inch silver alloys fitted with 185/55 series tyres and an audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Being the SE variant, this means that it gets larger front lower air intakes, new twin-bar front grille, side skirts, tailgate garnish, corner sensors, titanium-coloured wheels and leather seats on top of the standard bells and whistles.
The only difference is it doesn't have a roof-mounted monitor or the Android-based touch-screen multimedia system with Smart Link, Bluetooth, navigation and reverse camera functions. All that will set the buyer back an additional RM5,800 at RM62,690.
At first glance, the Alza is tall - readily identifiable with its raked front-end and box-like rear, all of which seems to overwhelm the wheels that obscure the front disc and rear drum brakes. The only consolation is that it looks more 'en vogue' now with more bells and whistles as standard.
There's still those bulbous headlights (now with projectors), but the Alza somehow looks leaner than before thanks to the combination of the redesigned front end that has given it less bare surface area due to the enlarged larger lower vent.
The same could be said about the rear which now sports a rear spoiler and slimmer rear LED light clusters - again helping it to tone down the excess bare areas.
There's also powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals that are not retractable and are only available Alza AV variant.
The front doors swing open rather widely to provide a gaping entrance that'll allow anyone ease of entry and there's nothing clunky to be had when shutting the door.
Inside, the Alza's overall 1,695mm width provides for a cabin that echoes of ample head and shoulder room.
The fabric upholstered seats feel soft in the hands and have also been firmly imbued with comfort. The steering wheel does feel relatively girthy in the hands with quite a bit of heft to it when turning.
The climate and audio controls on the dash are relatively in easy reach with highly visible knobs that engage with authority and buttons that feel sturdy enough for the long-run.
Although the sofa-like front seats are inviting and undoubtedly comfortable, having an extra-wide driver's seat due to the integration of a centre armrest with a generously sized storage compartment made it seem a little...odd.
The audio system has decent playback quality and comes with modern day capabilities such as a USB-port and Bluetooth connectivity.
There is a forward accessible storage compartment beyond the steering wheel, which could use with some felt applied inside to dampen the noise of its items bashing against bare plastic.
It did seem convenient at first thought, but accessing it when on the move made the senses tingle with caution with too many unsafe scenarios playing in the head.
With the local car maker trying to make the cluster highly visible and legible, it's been colourised with amber, white, blue, purple and green that puts it slightly on the messy side with too much illumination.
During low-light conditions, before activating the lights, it can have the ability to make anyone squint their eyes.
Also, being centrally-mounted suggests a rather dated design that manufacturers have all but departed from and have instead gone back to convention - right in front of the driver (where it belongs).
Although second row seat occupants will also be happy about spaciousness, the same cannot be said for those in the third row where it can be crammed for an average adult.
Also, being situated right above the rear axle means third row passengers will be feeling the direct brunt of bumps.
Still, it is impressive that the Alza has found a way to take on board seven occupants in total and that means boot space is extremely limited.
As long as there's five inside, coupled with the tall roofline, the boot becomes very accommodating and even more so with the second row seats folded seamlessly down to provide a flatbed from a vehicle that's just 4,220mm-long.
Furthermore, with all seven onboard, everybody gets access to one of the eight cup holders that litter the cabin.
There's one in each lower door insert (four), one in each rear door armrest (two) and one in each boot section arm rest for third row passengers (two).
Airflow to the rear section of the cabin was decent as was the overall comfort thanks to the 50:50-split rear bench.
For the SE variant, it comes with two airbags up front along with anti-lock braking system combined with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Reverse sensors.
Only the Alza 1.5 AV comes with a reverse camera for its touchscreen Multimedia System with Navigation & 'Smart Link' (for Android).
Ride and handling
At first notice, the Alza's steering feels hefty in the hands, even more so when navigating tight parking spaces.
But get this 1,125kg (kerb) MPV moving and surprisingly, it's got a sporty ride to it that feels both nimble and responsive.
The suspension offers a firm ride with a good amount of compliance and both pitch and roll are surprisingly well taken care of considering it's 1,620mm height.
The four-speed transmission may be buttery smooth, but often times the engine wants to be in the high rev ranges where the power resides - 104hp at 6,000rpm and 136Nm of torque at 4,400rpm.
This makes for a noisy cabin due to the lack of sound insulation and with a full load of seven occupants, which makes it struggle to get off the line, it'd be best to turn up the volume of your favourite tunes instead.
stem is only slightly affected, but there's doubt if it'll handle continuous abuse for long.
With a the 42-litre fuel tank filled up to about 75%, we managed to cover roughly 300km over the course of three days.
Considering the circumstances, the Alza's fuel economy of about 10.8km per litre definitely impressed.
The Alza, as well as all vehicles bearing the Perodua badge, comes with a five-year or 150,000km warranty (whichever comes first).
The mid-range Alza SE has a good balance of necessities, convenience and comfort dialed in, and while it's not going to break any sprint or speed records, it can fulfil the needs and roles required by a small to mid-sized family.
The cabin offers a good amount of spaciousness, with the ability to take on more bulky items on top of the fact that it surprisingly has a sporty handling characteristics to it.
Sure, it's got a few issues to resolve, but then again, which vehicle doesn't?
With all that the Alza is capable of, it just makes the earlier nit-pickings melt away. It was just that easy to fit in to anyone's daily lives.
And at under RM57,000 for an MPV that's been decently put together, there's really not much to think about at the end of the day.