Frankly, How Good Are The Malaysian Cars?

I have driven Hondas and Toyotas all my life, so should I continue to do that when we go over to Malaysia or do we buy one of Malaysia's finest?  Any experience or comment?

Since it is tropical there, I would love to have a convertible or open Jeep type car to drive but I am worried about maintenance issues.  I don't want to spend my retirement years at car repair shops.

VWC wrote:

I have driven Hondas and Toyotas all my life, so should I continue to do that when we go over to Malaysia or do we buy one of Malaysia's finest?  Any experience or comment?

Since it is tropical there, I would love to have a convertible or open Jeep type car to drive but I am worried about maintenance issues.  I don't want to spend my retirement years at car repair shops.

I have no idea about the relative merits of Malaysian cars, but I'd say you wouldn't be that comfortable in a convertible. They're pretty rare here because when it's sunny it's boiling hot and humid, and when it's not sunny often it's bucketing with rain. There's also the security issue - rag tops are easily sliced open. Hard top is the way to go.

Thanks!  Yeah, my wife confirmed that a convertible is not a good idea (nor leather seats in cars) there. Ok, well, with so much sun maybe a solar powered car will come about soon....

I have a Myvi, most common car in Malaysia totally ubiquitous (it's a re-badged Daihatsu), fine for most use only time we may struggle is 4 people and luggage. I'd really not bother with an open top for the reasons already mentioned, I get around town on a small motorcycle and that's hot. Imported cars are more heavily taxed than local.

I've owned a number of Malaysian cars and they're all very functional and hold up reasonably well. (can's say the same about British cars from the 1970's - junk IMHO) My wife just a a fender bender a couple of weeks and ended up replacing the front fiberglass bumper, hood, and a fender. Actually a lot of damage for a small accident. But the repair cost was about RM2200, so VERY cheap in comparison with the US. She drives a MyVi as well, I have their minivan, the Alza about the same level of quality. But no major issues after 4/5 years on both vehicles.  I actually bought a Kencil about 20 years and ended up giving to my ex's secretary when my contract ended. For about 10-15 years ever time I cam back to Malaysia she would let me use MY car (standing joke). Finally after 18 years they had to replace it. But not bad for a vehicle I only paid RM21K at the time for. (can we say that I'm cheap)

OTH, I'm not quite as impressed with the Proton, but that's just me. My wife a Proton Saga for years and was fine with it. But once she got the MyVi I don't see her going back.

Many of the locals (my ex-wife, sister-in-law, wife's niece included) will bad mouth the local cars and insist on the Toyotas, Nissians, BMW's, MB, ... But they often pay 50, 75 or 100% more for their vehicles and end up with the same life-cycle. I just want the cheapest vehicle that gets the job done, I'm past the age of trying to impress the 'babes' at the stoplights.

Has anyone had experience with body strength of Malaysian cars?
After an accident?
I think safety should be a main factor to consider
I have seen myvi after an accident
Crushed like a matchbox

Early model Wira's and Waja's very strong bodies, however, there were no other safety components. These days like most other low cost vehicles, the bodies are paper thin and many parts made from plastic composites. Now at least there are air bags. Drive slow and safe or buy a good foreign vehicle that includes internal safety cage and compression crumpling from and rear. My personal opinion is that if its for family, spend extra for the best safety components available. Check out French, German or Japanese. After all, you'll use it every day I guess or at weekends for long trips.

You are right about the strength of body's, as I said my wife was just in an minor accident with her MyVi and we didn't feel anything. But the car was pretty well crumbled, although it didn't cost a lot to repair it. A friend of mine rolled his in a ditch, again the car was repairable despite looking bad. He on the other hand walked away with very minor injuries.

But I've also seen cases where the occupants weren't so lucky. I don't think they're as well built as the Hondas and Nissans, but they're not the death traps that some people make them out to be. If you want the safest vehicle, then something like a Volvo, Honda CRX, or such. But good cheap reliable transportation, the locals cars IMHO are fine. I've driven them off an on for about 20 years (had the old Kecil back in the 90's that I used yearly on visits, and full time the last 4-1/2 years), and have been happy with them. But, thank God, we've had no major accidents, so can't evaluate that part of owning one.

Again you should consider the type of driving you're going to do. We rarely take our MyVi out of the city, we feel more comfortable with the Alza for higher speed highway driving.

But love the small size of the MyVi in town in heavy traffic and parking. I personally get upset with some a.hole trying to do a u-turn with a large SUV in the middle of rush hour traffic. If you're going to drive in heavy rush hour traffic plan your route to avoid u-turns or drive a small car that you can do the u-turn easily. But backing up 2-3 times, blocking 3 lanes of traffic in order to avoid driving around the block makes you a first class a.hole IMHO.

Funny you mention the Honda CRX.  I still have mine and use it as a local commuter to the bus.  Wife doesn't want me to drive it on super freeway speeds but it still runs good after 28 years.  I should import that over there.... :)

They're good cars, but don't see them listed anymore on the Honda website. But a new Honda Jazz is only RM70K for new one. The cheapest MyVi is RM42K, to about RM50K with everything.

I actually made a mistake, I was talking about their SUV - the Honda CRV. Which starts at RM138K, about double the price of the Jazz. My niece has one (CRV) and it's like trying to drive a tank in Kuala Lumpur. She's used to it, but often has to not drive down certain roads and avoids u-turns at intersections. Where we can drive our MyVi pretty much everywhere.

Reckon it all comes down to what price you put down on safety

Ok, i have a 2001 Proton Wira and overall its the worst car Ive ever owned, much worse than how bad i figured it was before I bought it four years ago. Yet, even though that model hasnt been made in 12 years, it remains extremely popular in all forms.

Im trying to say many things at the same time so this is hard to sort out. I'll give random points:

1. Avoid Proton, choose Perodua or Toyota instead. Perodua (called P2 here) is Daihatsu which was bought by Toyota and while assembled here it has all engineers and quality control engineers imported from Toyota in Japan. That sets P2 apart from the others and explains their good reliability, good panel fit, etc.

2. LOCALS hang on to Proton because cheap Taiwan spare parts, cheaply made, cheap quality, are cheap. No other reason. Malaysians have a thing about parting with money, they wont do it!! Malaysians are so cheap! If even the car uses ONE DROP of fuel, then its "oh! consumption so high lah! I dont know lah! Must think this one lah!"

3. Proton have Mitsubishi engines, durable and reliable, but the bodies, chassis, suspension, brakes, electric, glass, etc, which are a local products are extreme lousy, crummy junk and fail over and over. Example, the seats in a Toyota are made with springs under the cushions but the P1 seats are a thin cushion sitting on a board (wood, plastic, something). Another example, I paid $500 to replace the steering rack and wow, it was so nice! Only **18** months later, its failed and needs replacement again.

4. There is no safety built into local products. I got rear ended a few weeks ago, it wasnt severe, but did more damage than the accident justified. Thats when I learned the bumpers dont even have styrofoam inside like every other car in the world. When you get hit in a local car, expect severe damage and even death. The doors have internal braces but they are thin and weak.

5. The frames of local cars are not up to the task, its no wonder the bodies twist when you hit hard dips in the road. Its all too-light duty. A ridiculous joke.

6. AMERICAN Toyota and others are much superior quality to the local Toyota, in safety, componentry and features. Even paint is superior in US compared to here. P1 has tried many times to enter the US market but the authorities refuse to let it due to low quality. But the same is true of other brands too. The asian cars meant for US are a far different product than whats offered to locals here.

7. Due to high duties, imports are extremely expensive, and given that even the local BMW, M-B, Volvo, etc  are crap compared to USA counterparts, its really money thrown away to take a Euro car here.

8. Avoid ALL Euro cars of any description,  better to take Kia or Hyundai if one hates Toyota. The parts prices for Euro cars are through the roof, which explains why secondhand Euro cars are being sold because the owners cannot or will not pay for the needed repairs, maintenance and parts. They walk away when the repair list grows too big. Buyer beware.

9. Avoid convertibles for the aforementioned reasons in the thread.

10. As ive said before in this forum, in terms of strength, safety and brute force, my next car will likely be a big-ass truck, never a car again here at all. All the cars are light-duty, something akin to a childrens toy. Thin this, weak that, silly this, awful that. Thats the cars. A 2-3-4-5 ton truck, with a big-ass rugged diesel engine and massive steel frame, NOW you got something.

11. China is now selling a variety of cars and SUV here and they are garbage as one might expect.

12. A KIA/Hyundai/Mazda SUV or something would be a better choice but if buying any car, my advice is to buy new and dump it in two years, dont wait for it to fall to pieces. In that sense, buy anything you like but with the plan to trade it in pretty soon.  This is costly to do, minimally in terms of depreciation but thats far less than the repairs that await you if you try to hang on to it.

13. Honda is a problem here, I dont know why. My friends all report various problems even on newer Hondas and there was that famous case of a Thai woman setting her Honda SUV on fire in front of her dealer because it was such a lemon. I dont know whats wrong with Honda but something is. Another problem brand here is Ford. Ford trucks, etc are good in USA but here..........oh my.......

14. STILL, there are diehards out there who just dont care. They buy the incredibly bad Land Rover or Jaguar because they want one and so what that the last repair bill was $3000. So what??

15. So, it gets down to what people always say, buy Toyota or Perodua and keep it simple. There are LOTS of cars id love to own here but they are not up to the mark and therefore an extreme waste of money.

DISCLAIMER: I write about whats practical, what works, what makes sense, not what promotes the highest perception of wealth or prestige which is the focus of the region. A local might say a Mercedes is the best car because it increases ones perception of the owner, not because it costs so much to maintain. Everything in Asia is perception-driven. Drive a BMW, people think you are rich, valuable and worthwhile; drive a Proton and people think you are poor and therefore you dont count in the world. 'You are a no-good, worthless crummy human being. You are despicable dirt. I cant even spit on you because you are so low.' Here, you are judged almost solely by your car because when when you are away from home thats all people have to go on. This was AGAIN said to me, this time by the police just last week when I went to deal with my accident report. He said, "Look, if you came in here with a BMW, id give you better service. But you drive Proton so what do you expect? Youre no VIP." I took it as a joke the first time but he said it three times before I left. For better or worse, i told his boss. When I went to the shop to repair the car, the owner came out and walked up to a shiny new Honda SUV because he thought it had to be my car. I said, No, its the Wira in back, there, and he started to walk back inside his office. I was better off before I had the car and people couldnt judge me. So thats something to think about too. Maybe its best to just go all-in and buy a Bentley and not care if it costs $15,000 a month to maintain. Thats my disclaimer.

Last thing! So after all i said, why did i buy a Proton Wira? Im a motorcyclist and thats where I spend my road time. I wasnt thinking about prestige or perception, only about heavy rain and when I needed to carry boxes. It wouldnt do any good to have an expensive, depreciating car sitting out there and I dont have children to haul around. I saw everyone driving Protons and thought, ok why not. One day it was pouring awful rain and I had enough. I pulled into a shop which had several for sale, picked out one, drove it around the block, no weird sounds, looks and drives OK, no major accident evidence, alright buy it, how bad could it be? I was in and out in 10 minutes. In HINDSIGHT, yeah thats another story, especially about perception. The car itself, i've put a lot of money in to make it as good and solid as possible but its still a Proton. For someone with zero budget, buy a Wira, they DO run and get around just fine. You can go anywhere in a Proton. When strange sounds from the engine bay and body come, just turn up the radio. Thats what my wife always does.

Continuing as I think of anything........

16. Malaysians and westerners have a much different attitude towards cars and what may be wrong with them. You can ride in a Malaysians car and they will tell you how nice it is even though a westerner could find 25 things wrong at that moment, many of which the westerner might not be willing to accept. This includes new cars which people will tolerate a lot from simply because its new, not because its so great. There is a different mindset and the cars here are appropriate for that mindset and no place else.

17. Color. People like what they like but silver and white cars are 10 degrees cooler on the inside than any other color, black being the hottest but that doesnt stop people.

18. Airconditioning is the most important and mandatory thing and a person cant even order a car without it. Because its on all the time, expect to replace compressors and clutches more often. But heaters dont exist at all, even though there are cold places like Cameron Highlands or Genting. In a way this is a good thing because heater cores and piping and the rest would add cost, complexity and more things to break down.

19. People love leather because its luxury but obviously its very impractical due to heat. Pick cloth and if its too tightly woven it too will be uncomfortable. I want something so airy I was thinking about going to Indonesia and having rattan seats made for the whole car, that would be fantastic and they would never lose their shape or need re-doing like every other cheap lousy seat in this country.

20. Car insurance is not up to the mark here. Its deficient in many ways but thats all there is and I pray one day for extreme reform in the industry. The companies in Malaysia are getting away with murder. TIRES are also not up to the mark, they are soft ply which wear out sooner. Companies claim soft treads are important because of rain-slick roads but thats a lie, just an excuse to sell more tires. Same with batteries which have a 1-year warranty and you can expect failure within two years. No Diehards here!

21. Overall, its also very expensive to have a car at all. Gas prices are the same as US, toll roads eat money constantly, maintenance isnt cheap. To have a car thats used often and kept very well is a real commitment and therefore unusual.

22. I think the most minimum car to own is a 4-door Toyota or Mitsubishi pickup. The latter is not as expensive and either are stronger than any car. They are not easy to park and they use more fuel, but much safer in accidents.

Well said, true and funny

Thanks for the detailed information!

I think my wife is going to buy her folks back there a new Myvi.  She figures we will need something to drive anyway when we eventually go back there.

Interesting and detailed post cvvo, I never realized that the same brands of as in the US are inferior to the US sold cars. But makes sense, my ex-wife had a BMW here 20+ years ago and it was constantly needing repairs. She used to blame me and say that I was rough on cars and shouldn't drive something as 'fragile' as a BMW. I never heard anyone in the US say that BMW's are fragile. Actually I never had issues like that with my American bought cars.

I have to agree about the tires and batteries, we've replaced both in both our cars after about 2-3 years. You can tell just looking at the size of battery compared to what you find in the US. OTH I've had to replace the tires on my Vespa after 3 years as well, so I don't think the motorcycle tires are much better.

Its not only in Malaysia, I have noticed quality difference, even in other countries, where there are no QC standards or checks, the standard goes down, especially the car body

I think I can answer the quality question. Its not that they are low quality here, i submit they are NORMAL. The problem is US which demands HIGHER for safety, emissions, and basic consumer ideas about quality. Then americans got spoilt and believed everything outside was low when it was really just normal.

You have to go back a long way to remember examples of this american consumerism about cars. In the 1970s and 80s, and starting before that, Mercedes had invented "leatherette" upholstery and thats how all the cars came, together with the safety standard of the day, especially bumpers. People thought they could pull an end run around the high prices of the cars by buying the same car in Europe and shipping it home. But when they tried to re-sell the cars later, people wouldnt accept CLOTH upholstery and weak bumpers, they thought these were very cheap quality cars when in fact they were the normal cars of Europe. Leatherette was for the upgraded US standard--not normal.

So I think Malaysian cars ARE normal, not substandard at all. But by California standard, they seem downgraded and americans think they are garbage.

23. If you like MyVi its a good choice for a pretty simple, reliable car and they are not very expensive--just small, not much room for boxes and people and luggage. Though city cars, im sure you can go anywhere in a MyVi but it might struggle to go up the mountains while full of people.

Any Japanese car is better than other cars sold here. I didnt mention Subaru and Isuzu, they are also very good. Suzuki had a car like MyVi but they have recently quit Malaysia so forget that.

24. Also, I didnt mention a small, important issue. In US, car registration is priced on declining value, here its priced on engine size like many other countries, even if the car is old and valueless. For this reason, locals are extremely hesitant to buy a large engine, especially in old, used cars. Fuel consumption is a problem but mainly its the ongoing crush of a heavy registration expense. Thats why mainly what you see in Asia are tiny engines that the owners are asking big engine work from like speed and carrying capacity. MyVi has a few engine choices, all small and manageable in annual fees. In Asia, whether its BMW, M-B or Toyota, ALL the engines are much smaller than US versions and that takes some getting used to. Engine sizes also figure into insurance prices, I suppose on the assumption that a large engine is more expensive to repair in an accident and the driver is more likely to speed.

25. This figures into resale. If you buy a large-engine car, it will decline in value faster and might even be unsaleable later. Cars that have 1.0 to 1.5 liter engines are the bread and butter of driving and therefore are more likely to maintain higher value--except the hateful Proton. Perodua and Toyota hang on to values best, not only for smaller engine sizes but overall reputations. As a tangent to depreciation, an argument against buying imported cars is that the import duty is high which makes the cars artificially expensive, but the full tax isnt recoverable when reselling because its depreciating with the rest of the car. This means you are actually paying two depreciation factors which in my view accelerates the loss.

26. Another argument for buying Proton or Perodua is that not only are the parts readily available for even old models but anyone can repair them, even those working under trees. If a person buys a Citroen, for example, nobody has specialized tools and the dealer doesnt stock all the parts and will have to order them from Europe which takes months. I know of no China/Taiwan/local parts for cars like that. The argument FOR buying a car like a Citroen is that those parts which are very expensive also last 10X as long as an equivalent Proton or Perodua part.

27. Not really a point but observation, when you see old P. Ramlee movies from the 50s, Malaysia seemed to be full of big american cars. But it all dried up and I dont know why. An early Prime Minister had a 1959 right-hand drive Cadillac (extremely rare and rotting in the museum at Lake Gardens in KL) but after that time there were no normal dealers selling cars like that. Ford had been around in one way or the other and Chevrolet has recently been bringing its small vehicles from its factory in Thailand and they are crappy little crap boxes and should be avoided.