PROTON has lowered the minimum price benchmark for a new vehicle in Australia to $11,990 driveaway, which is the sticker price of its new S16 light sedan.
The Malaysian car-maker says favourable currency trends allowed it to introduce the S16, which goes on sale nationally from December 1, at an even lower price than expected.
Proton Cars Australia (PCA) had promised the S16 would be Australia’s most affordable sedan at less than $13,000, indicating it would not undercut Suzuki’s new Indian-built sub-light-sized Alto hatchback, which in August set a new low watermark with a manufacturer’s list price of $12,490 (plus dealer delivery and statutory charges).
Suzuki has since lowered that mark again, to $12,990 driveaway for the month of November only, matching the current driveaway price of Australia’s former price-leader, Hyundai’s three-door Getz 1.4 S, which normally has a list price of $13,990 plus on-road costs.
Proton has now lowered those driveway prices by a further $1000 with the S16, which is based on the Malaysian market’s Saga sedan, but it has done so by sacrificing a significant amount of standard equipment, including a number of key safety features that are standard on most of its direct rivals.
While Hyundai has confirmed it will launch the Indian-built i20 hatch in early 2010 at a higher price than the Getz to rival the most popular light-cars from Japan, China’s Great Wall Motors will enter the light-car arena in mid-2010 with a 1.5-litre sedan, which could further reduce the lowest new-car price in Australia.
Final specifications of the nation’s first Chinese hatch are not yet known, but although Proton’s sub-$12,000 S16 arrives with a 1.6-litre engine, for now it offers only a single (driver’s) airbag for crash protection.
The five-seat four-door S16’s 82kW Campro 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine is complemented by air-conditioning, an AM/FM/CD sound system, remote central locking, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, alarm, power steering, power front windows and five cup-holders.
Proton says the 2009 S16 GX manual will be joined by a four-speed automatic version next February, before both models are replaced by manual and automatic MY2010 versions of the GX next July, featuring increased specifications.
At the same time, a flagship GLX version of the S16 will be added, available in both manual and automatic form and featuring twin front airbags, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), alloy wheels, reverse parking sensors and foglights as standard.
“S16 will be the only new four-door sedan available in Australia for less than $16,000 and will outpoint low-cost hatches and three-door models by offering a 1.6-litre engine and great equipment levels,” sais PCA general sales and operations manager Billy Falconer.
“Proton is known for its Lotus engineered ride and handling and strong styling and will now also be known for its market leading value.”
For now, however, the limited-run S16 will be available without a front passenger airbags and ABS brakes, both of which are standard in the base Alto GL, which is powered by a smaller 1.0-litre engine but offers six airbags as standard. Suzuki’s premium Alto GLX ($14,490 driveaway) adds electronic stability control (ESC) as standard.
Hyundai’s cheapest Getz comes with twin airbags as standard, while buyers must opt for the 1.6-litre Getz SX three-door ($15,340 plus ORCs) to obtain ABS and ESC as standard. The five-door Getz 1.4 S ($14,990 plus ORCs) and 1.6 SX ($16,340) offer identical safety specifications to the three-door.
While it doesn’t match the 4.8L/100km average fuel consumption of the three-cylinder Alto, the S16’s larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine returns a relatively respectable 6.3L/100km.
PCA says it holds a two-month waiting list for dealer stocks of the S16, but is offering customers test drives ahead of the December 1 on-sale date.
The S16, which has a 413-litre boot that embarrasses many larger rivals, will be covered by Proton’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre new-car warranty, along with three years’ free roadside assistance and a seven-year anti-corrosion warranty.
It will be available in five exterior paint colours, including solid white, solid red, ‘Mountain’ blue, ‘Tranquility’ black and ‘Genetic’ silver, and can be optioned with a number of accessories, including body kits, spoilers, alloy wheels, boot liners and reversing sensors.
“Miss Universe Australia 2009 winner Rachel Finch will be the face of the new Proton S16 and will be featured in TV commercials and print advertising campaigns,” said Mr Falconer.