Remember the Kelisa? better known as the slightly bigger Kancil, what happened to them? I don’t see them as often anymore, even the converted Daihatsu ones, have they all been driven to the ground? or maybe they’ve been kept in a garage to be sold off as a future classic soon. Back in 2014, I almost got a blue two-tone manual Kelisa instead of Old Yellow. Let’s talk a bit about the Kelisa.
The Kelisa was the third car made my Perodua (fifth if you count the Perodua Rusa and the Kembara), and is based on the then current Daihatsu Mira (L700). The Kelisa is the direct successor to the Kancil, which was also based on the same Daihatsu counterpart and both had animal names, though the name Kelisa, is named after the fish, Ikan Kelisa (Arowana) rather than something similar to a mousedeer (Perodua Kancil).
Interestingly the Ikan Kelisa is the most expensive aquarium fish and according to Chinese culture, the gold and red coloured fishes are very auspicious. The Kelisa on the other hand, was not the most expensive hatchback during its time nor did it have any lucky traits, in fact, when it was sold in the United Kingdom, it was the cheapest new car on sale at only £ 5,000.
Throughout its six year run from 2001, the Kelisa had one design change during its mid life cycle, the early models had a more late 90s/2000’s fascia with round lights and an upside-down arched grille. Later models had a full grille that reached both headlights. Both designs retained the centre triangular shaped piece with the Perodua logo. Other than that, the car was an exact copy of the Mira L700.
The Kelisa came with a typical vibraty 3-cylinder engine, common for Peroduas at the time, you can opt for a 850cc engine or a slightly more powerful 1 litre engine. performance wasn’t the focus on this car, it was meant to be a cheap town runabout and it did the job well, Kelisas sold like hot cakes with trim levels varying from transmission type, trim and wheels. The EX (base), GX (middle) and EZ (top) models were the main line-up consisting of different seat materials, steel or alloy wheels and basic kits like a Bluetooth system. There wasn’t much that could be done on a car this basic, but Perodua did one thing to spice up the line-up, some uniquely coloured versions of the Kelisa, let’s get into these Special Editions.
Kelisa Limited Edition
This was the first special Kelisa to be released, the Kelisa Limited Edition was a two-tone coloured Kelisa available in three different colours, Sparkling Silver, Kenari Yellow and Royal Blue. These two-tone models are distinguishable by the obvious two paint scheme, leather seats and steering wheel and badging that denotes either GXL or EZL. How many of these limited editions were made? I have no clue, but these aren’t extremely rare, you can find them for sale on a few car sites with both pre and post-facelift models being offered with this trim level.
Kelisa Special Edition
Few years down the line, Perodua introduced the Kelisa Special Edition, a slightly more cooler version of the Limited Edition. These SE Kelisas were offered in only two colours, Ozzy Orange and boring Ebony Black. Besides the eye popping paint (Orange ones), the SE got you clear turn signal lights, because that was a thing in the early 2000s, sporty fabric fixed head-rest seats with Special Edition stitched into it, similar to an AMG Mercedes, sporty white gauges and to top it off, a sporty body-kit with no engine enhancements at all, sporty isn’t it? Jokes aside, the SE model actually does look cool, with the orange paint it does make the car stand out a bit more and the body-kit was stylish for its time. In addition to that, alloy wheels were standard. This is the Kelisa that I would find and buy if I planned to get one.
Kelisa Imago Edition
This final variant of the Kelisa was the Imago, now the word Imago has two descriptions, the first one is a shopping mall in Kota Kinabalu, the second meaning is the full and final stage of an insect’s life. I’m guessing that the Kelisa Imago was referring to the insect definition, not a 4.5 star rated mall in Sabah. It sort of makes sense since the car has bug looking eyes, but it was named after a fish, why couldn’t they just called it the Final Edition? The Imago came with its own special colour, just one, Metallic Pearl Jade. Other additional cosmetics you got was chrome door handles and locks, silver trim and seats with Imago stitched on. In 2007, the Kelisa was replaced by the Viva which also had various editions primarily focused on colours and trims.
Kelisas converted to Daihatsu Mira Ginos
These converted cars aren’t factory, but it’s worth mentioning since it is a part of the Kelisa Culture. The Kelisa was based on the Mira L700, naturally, many people would slap on Daihatsu badges and be “JDM bro”. But true JDM bros will convert their Kelisas into Mira Ginos, the Gino was a variant of the Mira that had a more classic front end styling, similar to cars of the 50’s. The Mira Gino was heavily inspired by the Mini Cooper, with the obvious light arrangements and chrome bumper, it looked even more like a Mini in its three-door body style form (not available here).
I am told that Gino conversions are rather expensive, depending on how good the body panel swap is, and of course additional trim and features that you want to put, we even spotted a Gino Kelisa here on our Instagram page. Here are some true Gino Mira photos and how cool their mods can be (photos are credited to their owners).
Do you want one? well you should get one. Owning this small peppy car is a decent second-hand town runabout if you can get your hands on a decent condition one. I have stumbled upon a few adds of good ones that have been sold, most of which are the special coloured variants. Prices range from as low as RM 3,000 to the most expensive stock one I saw was at 15k, for a yellow limited edition model, there’s even a Gino converted model selling for 18k. You can check the listing from Carlist here.
While this Malaysian Mini Cooper (as many refer to due to the taillight resemblance?), the Kelisa has been both positively and negatively criticized, prominently by all three Top Gear presenters. While James and Richard appreciated what the Kelisa is, Jeremy Clarkson on the other hand, wasn’t to keen of it, so much so, he bought one off the showroom floor and mashed it with a sledgehammer. This video got so much attention, it was actually brought up by the Malaysian government and I believe resulted in Top Gear never to be aired on TV anymore, of course Jeremy had to ruin everything.
Here’s the videos below.
I would really love to test drive and review a Kelisa one day, these are cool cars that people taken for granted and sometimes completely forget about (excluding Kelisa fanclub people), some can’t even tell a Kelisa between a Kancil. This shows that the car did its job well, to be a cheap, simple transportation that people can drive to the ground and replace, these cars were never designed to be kept, as with many cheap cars, they were disposable, it’s even more evident by the fact that there aren’t many good photos of any Kelisa that I could use, you might have noticed that as I was explaining the different variants. The ones available are only through Carlist or other car buying sites.
Despite that, I think it’s a great car, especially the UK spec models with the cooler wheels. This could be a possible future classic, or something that us car nerds would get really excited if we see a clean one, just a few days ago I saw a Gino Kelisa which actually did put a smile on my face. Imagine being able to drive a Kelisa SE with only 600 kilometres on the odometer, now that’s concourse material! If anyone has a Kelisa that I could review, hit us up on our email!