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Car reviews - Proton - Persona - sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Sporty handling, spacious and pleasant interior, good amount of standard features, strong value, striking styling, good fuel economy, big boot
Room for improvement
Quality issues, poor interior plastics, dated trim, lack of engine torque, no side or curtain airbags, no electronic stability control, poor rear vision, no centre rear head restraint

8 May 2008

THE Persona makes a lot of sense in today’s climate. It is a spacious small sedan that competes on price with vehicles that are a size smaller and doesn’t use much fuel.

It costs less than $1000 more than the Holden Barina sedan and almost $2000 less than the Toyota Yaris sedan, which are better known but quite a bit smaller than the Proton.

The Persona is indeed a promising car and well worth checking out if you are after a small sedan that will be light on the hip pocket.

That said, the quality of the test car we experienced was well below par. It is likely this is a one-off car, a bad one that someone managed to let slip through the cracks. A fellow journalist with a different test car reported that his didn’t share the same faults as ours.

Most of the faults in our test car could have been fixed by a dealer, but the fact is that customers expect and deserve to get a car that is spot-on straight away and should only visit their dealer for the routine first service.

Let’s get these issues out of the way so we can concentrate on the rest of the car. The first was the fuel gauge that never went past the three-quarter full mark despite the tank brimming with petrol.

Then there was the rear-view mirror which vibrated so that sometimes you had trouble making out the following traffic, and the wing mirrors jerked when you adjusted them.

The gearbox was also extremely notchy and there was a lot of resistance going back from third into second gear. This was so noticeable that it is likely there is an issue with the clutch.

The Persona also rattled very loudly over corrugations as if something was indeed loose. As mentioned, a fellow journalist’s test car had none of these faults, so let’s hope it was a unique case.

Look past them and you will find a car that is worth looking at, but is still not a class leader.

The Persona’s best attributes are its excellent handling and spacious interior. In this class, roominess and an ability to tackle corners at speed are likely to win the Persona friends.

There is a lot of space inside the Persona, either in the front or the back. If you had one or two kids, this Proton is large enough to function as a family car.

That said, the boot is on par for a small sedan, which means there is a reasonable amount of space, but the area is simply not as practical as the load area of a similarly-sized hatch.

While the roominess of the interior is a positive, the quality of the surface materials is a negative. The harsh plastics look and feel cheap and while the seat and door trims feels fine, they look very dated - like something from the early 1990s.

On the road, the Proton handles very well. You can pitch the car into turns at quite a pace and it will happily hold its line and hang on like a sportscar. Thankfully, the engineers have managed to find a set-up that allows these sort of antics but still maintain a comfortable ride.

Unfortunately, the Campro engine doesn’t deliver enough punch for you to enjoy the Persona’s sporty chassis tune. This 1.6-litre engine does well enough in traffic, but come across a hill and its lack of torque becomes an issue. Under load, it really struggles until finally it goes past 3000rpm and hits a noticeable powerband.

At least the engine is efficient, with the test car recording an average fuel consumption of 6.3 litres per 100km, which is excellent.

There is a reasonable amount of standard gear in the Persona, considering its price. Things like alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a sound system that can be controlled via steering wheel-mounted buttons and anti-skid brakes are not usually standard at this price point.

It also has dual front airbags, but unfortunately other potentially life-saving features like electronic stability control and side or curtain airbags are not available - and can’t even be ordered as options.

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