PROTON dishes up a fresh new light-car serve with its all-new Satria Neo three-door coupe.
Backed up by claims of vastly improved quality, greater body strength and much higher safety levels, the new Proton is a good-looking, Barina-size hatch that offers comfort for at least two and presents a level of handling finesse rare in this price category thanks to the company’s associations with Lotus.
The good looks are backed up by a better-presented interior with a degree of tactility to the controls that unfortunately doesn’t go past a certain superficiality.
Hard plastics and silver paint abound.
Headroom doesn’t though, and while the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, the steering wheel moves up or down only to compromise the driving position for taller people.
The 1.6-litre DOHC Proton engine is lively enough but does nothing special even if 95 RON fuel is recommended.
The ride-handling compromise might be among the best in class, but that’s about it.
Model release dates: February 2007 - August 2012
Proton's best-seller in its dozen years in Australia was a rehashed version of the 1992 to 1996 Mitsubishi CC Lancer-based Mirage that was never sold here.
Pleasantly styled, the front-wheel drive three-door Satria was offered in several single-cam four-cylinder engine guises, ranging from a 55kW/108Nm 1.3 (1999—2002 GL, XLS), a 66kW/126Nm 1.5 (1997—1999 GL and GLi; 64kW/120Nm from the 2000—2002 XLi and 2002 GLi and XLS), a 70kW/138Nm 1.6 for the 1997—2000 XLi, and a limited-volume XLi Son Of A Gun Satria, featuring Lotus-tuned handling and an 83kW/137Nm version of the older XLi’s 1.6.
Then there is the most famous Satria, the GTi ‘hot hatch’, a popular boy-racer special that achieved cult status courtesy of its fiery 103kW/164Nm 1.8-litre twin-cam unit and Lotus-honed chassis.
A five-speed manual was the only gearbox on the 1.3 and 1.8-litre cars, while the 1.5 also offered a three-speed auto, with a four-speed auto also available on the short-lived 1.6-litre models.