Review and road test of the Perodua Nippa (1997 - 2001)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Nippas ahoy! Whilst Proton have certainly established a Malaysian beachhead in this country, Perodua aimed to make an assault on the British market with the Nippa citycar. Carrying the title of Britain's cheapest new car, the Nippa certainly made a few friends with its aggressive pricing and tried and tested Daihatsu technology. If it represented great value when new, does the pocket Perodua make an even better used buy? With its cheap sticker price to a certain extent nullified, does the Nippa have anything else to fall back on? Find out here.
5dr hatchback, 850cc [EX, GX]
Those of you with an eagle eye for spotting recycled designs will recognise the Perodua Nippa as a facelifted Daihatsu Mira. Indeed, Perodua have made quite a business from appropriating other manufacturer's ageing designs, with their Kembara and X690 model s being based on the Daihatsu Terios and Nissan Micra respectively. This in itself makes sound business sense if you are planning to play the value card, as it means that Perodua don't have to recoup a big development budget. The fact that the Mira was never seen in significant numbers in the UK's roads adds to the subterfuge.
Introduced in 1997, the Nippa was available in two basic trim levels, both powered by the Daihatsu derived 850cc engine. The entry-level EX version wore the "Britain's Cheapest" title whilst the slightly more upmarket GX offered metallic paint and colour keyed bumpers in a modest raid on the Perodua options list. Three special editions were available in 1999, the metallic yellow Saffron (launched in June), the Sepang of August and the EX2 of October. In 2000 the GX was withdrawn from sale, leaving the bargain basement EX to continue blazing the discount trail. The car was eventually replaced by the Kelisa in January 2002.
What You Get
Whilst the little Perodua's shape is generic citycar, it won't have people tittering when you drive by, unless they catch site of admittedly pretty daft Nippa badge on the back. For a compact car, the Nippa is deceptively large with a cabin that creates something of a Tardis effect. It will swallow up to 188 litres of luggage in the boot and will take larger loads with ease if you use the handy split/folding rear seat.
Wide-opening doors allows for easy access and, once inside, passengers will appreciate the spacious interior. Its clever design ensures that four adults can travel in reasonable comfort with adequate legroom and headroom, making even longer journeys viable.
The Nippa's practical design combines style with safety. There are steel side impact bars in all four doors, while the rear pair also benefit from child locks, a move that hints towards this car's real purpose in life - the second car. It's the runabout you use for the school run, for trips to the shops and generally having a little bit of fun around town. In addition, the specially designed 'crushable' body also absorbs and disperses shocks in the event of collision, making the passenger compartment much safer. You'll search in vain for airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and anti-lock brakes, the Nippa justifying its low price with a back-to-basics approach across the board - including safety.
What to Look For
The Nippa is not known to have developed any significant faults during its existence, although only 1997 and 1998 models were subject to a recall concerning an incorrectly specified speedometer drive gear. Check that the work has been done, but it's not a serious problem. The Nippa will in all likelihood have transported children, so check the cabin for rips, stains and other damage wreaked by small hands. The backs of the seats should be checked for evidence of wear and tear, as the trim is not the most hard wearing.
The Nippa will undoubtedly will have been exposed to a fair amount of city driving, so check the exterior for knocks and scrapes, and check under the bonnet for accident damage or paint overspray. With 6000-mile service intervals, they also need a little more TLC than many more modern designs. Otherwise, the usual reminder to obtain a service history applies.
(Estimated prices, based on a Nippa EX) You wouldn't want to buy a bargain basement city car and discover parts prices that will require you to take up an evening job to make ends meet. The Nippa responds with some very cheap consumables. An air filter is around £14 and a fuel filter retails at round £10. An oil filter is £6 and spark plugs are about £7. A timing belt is around £30, whilst front brake pads are around £50 a pair. A distributor cap retails at around £40.
On the Road
The Nippa is one of those citycars that is happiest left in the city. The Daihatsu three-cylinder engine is extremely punchy up to about 30mph, whereupon the acceleration tails off, but by then you'll probably be away from a set of lights in front of some far more expensive rivals. The little Perodua feels like a bit of a minnow out of water on the open road. Dual carriageways and motorways seem frighteningly gargantuan, and rear seat passengers may feel unnerved by the sight of a juggernaut bearing down on them as the Nippa valiantly attempts to attain its 84mph terminal velocity. Best to stick to the Nippa's purpose in life, that is zipping through inner city traffic and into tight parking spaces.
Their narrowness also has genuine advantages. It's possible to squeeze through gaps that would have a Matiz or Seicento flummoxed. The high profile tyres and rugged steel wheels also mean that kerbing a wheel is not the unmitigated disaster in can be on more expensive models. The turning circle of 9 metres is amongst the smallest in its class, and fuel consumption is another big plus. The 675kg Nippa will easily be able to return 55mpg on a decent run, with over 43 mpg attainable in town.
Whilst some may view the Perodua Nippa as cheap, cheeky and chic city transport there are equally those who reckon it charmless, cheesy and cheerless. It probably fall somewhere between the two, offering neither the urban cool of an older Ford Ka nor the anaesthetic mediocrity of may ancient Vauxhall Novas and Toyota Starlets whose price it corresponds with. If you need a no-nonsense, no frills urban runabout - a car that won't give you an aneurysm should it suffer a dent or scrape, then the Nippa could be just the ticket.
Perodua Nippa (1997 - 2001) review by ANDY ENRIGHT