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Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents - Craig Cheetham Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

Craig Cheetham buys a Pero­dua Kelisa and Richard Gunn has trou­ble with a MINI R50 auto.

On a busi­ness trip last year, I had cause to hire a car 500 miles away from home. The car in ques­tion was a Da­cia San­dero, cur­rently the cheap­est car on sale in the UK, and you know what? It was re­ally good. A bit ba­sic and kit­ted out with plas­tics that you’d be more likely to find in a kinder­garten, but over­all it was quite a de­cent steer. If you in­sist on own­ing a new car, you could do a lot worse.

It got me think­ing about the demise of the tra­di­tional bud­get car. Back when I was a nip­per, those on a fru­gal bud­get never had it this good. There were rearengine­d Sko­das, boxy old Ladas and the de­light­ful Yugo, all of which were very much of a com­pro­mise. Yes, they came with the back-up of a man­u­fac­turer war­ranty and were dirt cheap, but boy did you know about it when you drove them.

Then, in the 1990s, Malaysia got in on the act. The Mit­subishi-based Pro­ton was the state’s na­tional car and it re­ally wasn’t a bad one. A lit­tle old-fash­ioned, per­haps, but gen­er­ally quite de­cent to drive and ex­tremely com­fort­able.

Later on, Malaysia gave us Pero­dua, and the Dai­hatsu-based Nippa, which was the Yugo con­cept revisited. It was the cheap­est car on sale in the UK. Nippa gave way to Kelisa, which was based on the Dai­hatsu Cuore. So af­ter driv­ing the Da­cia, I was far too in­trigued to over­look a Kelisa that had turned up at my lo­cal breaker’s yard, who I think have me on speed-dial. It had seven months’ MOT and was only dis­posed of be­cause the owner’s grand-daugh­ter re­fused to be picked up from school in it.

I’d have told her to walk, but that’s be­side the point. Plus, it isn’t the best ex­am­ple – a mix­ture of four shades of

sil­ver and grey primer. But, it was also just what I needed – a work con­tract that in­volved mul­ti­ple train jour­neys in and out of London meant I wanted a car I could park near the rail­way sta­tion, in a ques­tion­able part of town, with­out hav­ing to worry about it, and the Kelisa fit­ted the bill.

Driv­ing de­lights

I handed over £200 and de­cided to see just how far the UK’S cheap­est car has come in the past 15 years. With­out want­ing to dis­credit the Da­cia, the an­swer is ‘not as far as I thought’.

Thing is, the Kelisa – £4995 in 2004 – is ac­tu­ally a fun lit­tle thing, pow­ered by a revvy 900cc three-cylin­der en­gine with a slick gearshift, it’s one of those cars that re­sponds well to what Basil Fawlty would have called a damned good thrash­ing. I gen­uinely haven’t smiled as much since I last had my Austin Mini on the road, which is about the same time as the Kelisa was new. It’s such a will­ing lit­tle thing, and it loves to be chucked around.

I hate to say it, but the perky Pero­dua has wormed its way un­der my skin.

Hav­ing run the MOT down to a mat­ter of days, I chucked the Kelisa in for a test to see if it re­ally was dis­pos­able or if it had a fight­ing chance of go­ing an­other year.

Imag­ine my sur­prise, then, when the only thing that trou­bled the MOT tester was a split rub­ber in the pas­sen­ger-side wind­screen wiper, plus a few ad­vi­sories for as­sorted bushes and balljoint dust cov­ers, which will be sim­ple enough to put right with an af­ter­noon on the ramp. The floor and sills are ac­tu­ally sur­pris­ingly good – with the ex­cep­tion of a small plated re­pair hid­den be­neath that patch of primer, it’s as solid as they come.

So, long live the Kelisa – it’s off to live with a new owner soon, though, be­cause I’ve tracked down a save­able ex­am­ple of its pre­de­ces­sor, the orig­i­nal Pero­dua Nippa. And yes, I am a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment.

Craig is de­lighted with the sav­ings of­fered by the cut-price Kelisa.

Dai­hatsu triple is an ab­so­lute hoot, revvy and with a great sound­track.

Cabin is bland but func­tional.

Sil­ver rat­tle can will im­prove off-side sill.

High-qual­ity pre­vi­ous bumper re­pair.

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