Here’s our first full gallery of Perodua Ativa Hybrids in the usual hybrid style you know and love, with every exterior corner and every interior nook/cranny covered. As a bonus, we’ve put the subscription-only Ativa Hybrid side by side with the regular Ativa Turbo that you can buy in the showroom.

If you don’t already know, the Ativa Hybrid is the subject of an Electric Vehicle Study and a Long-Term Mobility Services Market Study. The first study was to understand the driving behavior of hybrid vehicles in cities (Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru accounted for 60% of Perodua sales, KV alone contributed 40%), the other study was to understand consumers’ perception of Acceptance of a five-year subscription service, rather than traditional car purchase and ownership.

Program participants are required to pay an upfront payment of RM2,150 (including a refundable three-month security deposit, first month’s fees and stamp duty), followed by a monthly subscription fee of RM500 for the next five years. As Ativa Hybrids are registered with the company and not in the name of the customer, maintenance (including wear and tear items), insurance and road tax will be borne by Perodua.

This is a five-year commitment with a mileage cap of 100,000km during the period, averaging 20,000km per year or 1,666km per month. At the end of the tenure, the total amount paid to Perodua is RM30,150 and the hybrid will be returned to the company. By the way, all 300 cars are the same specification and color – Pearl White, without the optional black roof.

As mentioned earlier, this is a research and not a commercial subscription program, so participants must agree to have GPS telematics installed in their cars. This allows the P2 to study driving and usage patterns. Subscribers are also required to submit reports to Perodua on a regular basis, currently scheduled to be quarterly.

Moving on to the cars, the Ativa Hybrid is essentially the CBU Japan Daihatsu Rocky e-Smart Hybrid rebadged as the Perodua. The P logo (front, rear, steering wheel) and the Ativa wordmark are fitted by Japan’s DMC on cars in Malaysia, there is no ‘T’ (Turbo) badge on the tailgate, it’s plastic. Note that the rear license plate cutout is a small JDM square. From this point on, I’ll call the Ativa Hybrid the Daihatsu Rocky to reduce confusion, since we’ll be comparing it to the Ativa Turbo.

White paint accentuates the front end of the Daihatsu Rocky, which, as you can see, is quite different from the front end of the P2 design. The Ativa grille is wider and connects to the headlights, which is emphasized by a chrome strip. It gives the impression of width, a rather narrow car for my liking. The Rocky’s narrower grille has a cascading scale-like insert, which sets it apart from the Ativa’s horizontal lines.

Daihatsu has triangular cutouts for its fog lamps, while Perodua has an inverted “L” shape – the same pattern is repeated on the rear bumper. Speaking of the bumper and grille, the Rocky has been cut aggressively at both ends—you can clearly see the sharp vertical look. In contrast, the Ativa’s front grille is more prominent, and the edges of the bumper slope slightly outward. This, for lack of a better descriptor, makes Perodua slightly longer in size and more “natural” in appearance.

Other “spot the difference” points include the trim on the bridge headlights (all black on the Rocky, part chrome on the Ativa), the lack of skid plate-style silver trim at the ends of the Rocky, and the smaller, rounder side mirrors on the JDM car. The Rocky’s passenger side mirror adds two small mirrors showing the curb. Also, the Rocky’s mirror caps are body-colored; they’re black on the Ativa no matter which color you choose.

Since Ativa is now a household sight, Rocky stands out with his own unique face. And those cool wheels. The 17in two-tone rims feature a more dynamic knife-edge design, but the tires are less dynamic – it’s a hybrid, so compared to Ativa’s all-around Bridgestone Turanza T005A, the Dunlop Enasave eco-tyres are up to 100% efficient. Crucial 205/60 touring tires. The Hybrid’s 195/60 tires are also narrower.

By the way, the wheels on these two cars are not interchangeable. The Rocky’s rim has five lugs (which P2 says is better for heavier cars), while the Ativa has four. As is typical with hybrids, there are no full-size spares here, just a tire repair kit on the sidewall of the trunk.

As mentioned, the Rocky’s tailgate is plastic. That’s not uncommon for a Japanese car, but car companies often swap the hatches for metal for the Malaysian market, in keeping with the local mentality that steel is stronger. An example of this is the T32 Nissan X-Trail. Another area that has been tweaked to suit local needs is the suspension – the JDM Rocky has a 15mm lower setting and softer springs.

Before we get inside, note that the Rocky’s keyless entry works on both the driver’s and passenger’s doors, while the Ativa only works on the driver’s door. P2 says its approach—one touch to unlock only the driver’s door, two touches to open all—is for safety. We can back it up, but the sensors on the sides do add some convenience.

Once inside, you’ll find that the Hybrid features a high-mounted center console that houses an electronic parking brake (with AutoPark, according to Alza AV) and two deep cupholders. In contrast, the Ativa’s center console has a “valley” between the gear area and the armrest, where the manual handbrake and dedicated lock/unlock buttons are located. The latter is a feature missing from the JDM car. Win some, lose some.

Further up, the Daihatsu comes with its own climate control panel. This single-zone air conditioning cluster has two knobs and an automatic function. The P2 unit in the Ativa doesn’t have an auto mode, but I’ve found its unique two bit memory feature very useful – P2 users, would you trade memory for auto mode? Personally, I wouldn’t since I never use the car, but I do think the Daihatsu panels look better. Besides that, the starter button on the hybrid is blue, and the JDM has seat heaters too.

Moving on, the original Japanese head unit has been swapped out for a local Ativa unit, but that also means no audio turn buttons and a backup camera on the rebadged car. Technically, Perodua could add these, plus a dash cam, but maybe that’s too much work. Once you get used to these functions, it is difficult to go back to the original way of doing things, so it needs to adapt to the environment.

The ‘low-spec’ feel of the P2-ordered Hybrid is evident on first contact – its fob is missing two buttons, so it feels empty. Empty buttons on the steering wheel, the red highlights of the AV and the two-tone leather seats of the local top-spec cars confirm this impression. However, within a few kilometers, my butt fell in love with the Japanese seat, which was softer and more comfortable.

As for fit and material quality, the two are pretty much the same. These aren’t expensive cars, or pretend to be fancy cars. Instead, the dashboard has a unique design with strong shapes and geometric themes. Look closely and you’ll notice that the main dashboard parts have different textures.

Finally, hybrid-specific features include unique gauge badges such as Eco/Power/Charge instead of the usual tachometer (available in a variety of looks, such as Turbo) and a power flow page in the multi-information display.

There’s also the Smart Pedal function for one-pedal driving, and the S-PDL button sits where the ADAS button would have been. One-pedal driving puts regeneration and ‘engine braking’ to good use – once you get used to the S-PDL distance, the brake pedal is reduced to occasional use, such as a light tap to bring the car to a complete stop.

The Hybrid is powered by a 106 PS/170 Nm electric motor, with an 82 PS/105 Nm 1.2-litre WA-VEX Atkinson-cycle three-cylinder naturally aspirated engine acting purely as a generator for the hybrid battery. The electric motor sends power to the wheels through the HEV transaxle, meaning the range of hybrid models works similarly to extended-range electric vehicles such as Nissan’s e-Power system.

Unlike Honda’s e:HEV hybrid, there is no direct drive linking the ICE to the wheels, although in practice Daihatsu’s ICE – when activated – Feel Directly related to throttle movement. Incidentally, the Hybrid’s ICE is a 1.2L NA unit, while the Malaysian-built Ativas use a 1.0L turbocharged engine with 98 PS and 140 Nm.

On the WLTP cycle, the Hybrid’s claimed fuel consumption is 3.6 liters per 100 kilometers, or 27.8 km/l. Perodua says it was able to achieve 31.3 km/l in the Malaysian driving cycle, which should reflect local driving conditions. This means that a journey from Kuala Lumpur to Penang (358km) can cost as little as RM23 in fuel at the current price of RM2.05 per liter of 95 lei.

Sound too optimistic? We’ll try and share our findings. On paper and in looks, which do you prefer – a hybrid or a turbo? Also, what do you think about the RM500 per month subscription plan? Great deal, or would you rather own the car after paying for it?

Gallery: Perodua Ativa Hybrid

Gallery: Perodua Ativa Turbo AV

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