Perodua Kenari: Never mind the badge, just enjoy the ride

The Kenari wears a Jaguar grille on its Noddy-car face, and put a huge smile on Sean O'Grady's

Maybe the answer lies in which cars manage to leave a smile on my face. Being a natural miserablist, a man whose first reaction to the news that London had won the 2012 Olympics was to groan at the increase in my council tax, this is not easy. My old Mini City E certainly cheered me up; so did the delightful and so sadly overlooked Vauxhall VX220 sports car; so did the now departed MG ZS180 V6 I took to the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year; so did the Jaguar XK8 convertible I once spent a happy few summer days in. There a few others, too, but too few to mention.

You see, most modern cars seem to be made to impress rather than entertain. "Wonder at our build quality" (Audi) the makers seem to be saying or "observe the technical prowess of our gadgets department" (Toyota) or "look at the walnut on that" (Bentley).

Well, it's nice to be shocked and awed, but there are times when I'd rather have fun. Which brings me to the fabulous Perodua Kenari.

Yes, fab. You won't hear many car writers saying that, because Perodua, like the other Malaysian maker Proton, plus Tata of India and the Korean Hyundai/ Kia and SsangYong badges are often treated with a disdain bordering on racism. This is really just a product of mankind's hard-wired desire to find something to be snobby about, whether its what postcode you live in, what label you've got on your smalls or what car you own. Just as criminals who mug pensioners or deal heroin need "nonces" to look down on in jail, so, it seems, those of us on the outside need budget brands to orient ourselves in our beneficent consumer society.

So people look down on the Perodua with its resolutely Cubist lines. Well, as Elvis Presley once sang: "You're so square, baby/ I don't care". I never tired of the Perodua's looks and found its Jaguar-grille-stuck-on-a- Noddy-car face wonderfully audacious. From any angle it looks interesting, but especially from the side, which emphasises the baby MPV's vast headroom.

The real fun starts when you get going. It's just like an old Citroën 2CV in the way it rolls and rolls as you corner hard but refuses to let go of the road. I had much more success in keeping it stable than did the presenters of the BBC's Top Gear show, who wheeled it out for ritual humiliation on their track a few weeks ago. The 989cc engine revs like a Ferrari, well, Honda at any rate, and I loved spotting where they had cut corners on cost and equipment. Electric windows were there on mine, disappointingly, but there was no remote central locking, no air conditioning, and no steering wheel controls for the stereo, as you'd find on the average Clio, say. Great; less to go wrong. Nor is this some old hand-me-down design; it's actually based on the Daihatsu Move, (not sold here), so it's fairly up-to date. All for £6,205.

Your Kenari will depreciate faster than a "Michael Howard for PM" T-shirt, but as it costs so little in the first place you'll not lose much in absolute terms. Cheaper by smiles.

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