Very few vehicles appeal to both women and men equally, and the Perodua Kembara is one of them. It manages to pull off that tough feat by appearing both masculine and effeminate at the same time, which is not something that you would expect to work together but in the small SUV’s case, it does.
Having been momentarily replaced by the Nautica (just as attractive but absurdly expensive), the Kembara has not been produced for a while so if you want one, you’d have to look for a used one. Fret not though as there are a lot of mint examples in the market today at very affordable prices, according to our classifieds listing.
Less than RM15,000 can net you an early pre-facelift model though its well-documented thirst for petrol might put you off. Spend around RM10,000 more and you can have a newer DVVT model that is more powerful and more fuel efficient. The ‘DVVT’ should not be mistaken for ‘Dual Variable Valve Timing’ which is found in the latest Corolla Altis though; that in the Kembara is a variable valve timing system but only on the intake side.
Despite its unflattering disease-related advertising campaign, the facelifted model is a lot more desirable and is definitely the pick of the range. Power from the 1.3-litre engine (86 bhp and 120 Nm) is adequate for city driving and the occasional highway sprints. Available with manual or auto transmissions, it is relatively cheap to maintain and reliable  – if it has been serviced on a regular basis by the previous owner or owners. Even with its permanent 4WD system, it should average about 12 to 15 kms/litre, depending on how heavy your right foot is.
On a test drive, it is advisable to look for a wide empty area and accelerate lightly from standstill with the steering set at full lock (both left and right).  Listen carefully for any knocking sounds, which are telltale signs of worn-out driveshafts – a common issue with older Kembaras. They can be rather costly to replace, so either haggle down on the price or get the owner to fix them before agreeing to buy the vehicle.
With its compact size and elevated driving position, it is an ideal choice new drivers. Parking will be a breeze, and so is maintenance. Sure the ride can be a bit harsh at times but on the flipside, the rear seats fold flat to carry big loads, or for something else altogether if you’re feeling adventurous…
Now what more could you ask for from your first car?        [by Hafriz Shah]

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