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Car reviews - Proton - Satria - Neo range

Launch Story

Proton logo13 Feb 2007

By CHRIS HARRIS

STRIKING styling, a sporty Lotus-tuned chassis, high equipment levels and drive-away pricing are the cornerstones of Proton’s renewed light-car assault with its second-generation Satria.

Dubbed Satria Neo, the three-door hatchback is on sale now from $18,990 drive-away for the entry-level GX manual, while the up-spec GXR starts from $20,990 drive-away.

Slightly smaller than the Gen.2 five-door hatchback, the Satria Neo is Proton’s fourth "in-house" vehicle after years of sourcing much of its technology from Mitsubishi. It joins the Waja sedan (introduced in 2001), the Gen.2 (2004) and the Savvy light car (2006).

The Satria is built on an all-new platform, and Proton claims to have made significant progress in quality, finish and refinement over the previous-generation car.

It has new soft-touch switches, a better integrated audio system with matching dash lighting, a thicker steering wheel, and reduced panel gaps with a tighter fit.

Noise levels are also said to be quieter compared to previous Protons due to increased use of sound-deadening material in key noise pathways, and a smoother and more aerodynamic body (with a drag coefficient of 0.35Cd).

The car’s overall design is a clean-sheet in-house effort from Proton’s Kuala Lumpur research and development centre. It was apparently completed in 25 months against the Waja’s 36 months, and at half the cost.

Key to such gains came in the shape of Lotus. The British sportscar and engineering firm, a wholly owned subsidiary of Proton, worked closely on the project.

According to the head of the Satria Neo development team Rosle Yaakub, Lotus proved pivotal in ensuring Proton’s ability to tackle such engineering programs.

"(Lotus) helped to speed up the development process but also ensured Proton engineers learned valuable lessons that we will be able to apply to future projects," he said.

"This project has given Proton the know-how and expertise to develop and build cars in a world standard timeframe, ensuring our dependence on outside sources is minimised in the future."

Proton is keen to point out that the Satria Neo represents a better-built and higher-quality product, as per its certification by Germany’s TUV Rheinland Group.

The Malaysian government-owned car-maker describes TUV as "the global leader in compliance engineering, testing and quality registration services" and sought its approval before signing both the Satria Neo and Savvy off for mass production.

Driving the front wheels is a development of the Gen.2’s 1.6-litre twin-cam 16-valve CamPro four-cylinder engine. It features a redesigned exhaust system, a revised state of tune and a recalibrated engine management system for improved performance. A flatter torque curve, for better low-rev response, and higher fuel economy were the goals.

Nevertheless, the respective power and torque outputs are 82kW at 6000rpm and 148Nm at 4000rpm, and are identical to the Gen.2’s efforts.

Combined with a low weight – ranging from 1159kg to 1190kg – the Satria Neo’s fuel consumption is ADR81/01 rated at 7.2L/100km for the FSM41 five-speed manual model, and 7.6L/100km if the FAA21 four-speed automatic gearbox is chosen, while the 0-100km/h sprint time takes 11.5 seconds, on the way to a 190km/h top speed.

One factor working against the Satria Neo is its taste for 95 RON premium-unleaded petrol, although Proton Australia says regular 91 RON unleaded petrol can also be used. Revisions have also been wrought upon the automatic transmission, for smoother and more responsive changes.

Proton claims the Euro IV-compliant CamPro powerplant was tested in environments as diverse as the Australian outback in summer and Sweden in winter, accumulating in excess of 1,000,000 development kilometres over 27,000 hours.

It also claims that the Satria Neo has a small-car segment-leading 14,000n/mm of chassis rigidity strength.

The Lotus-tweaked suspension features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear, with anti-roll bars and four-wheel disc brakes all round. Steering is via a powered rack and pinion set-up, while the ABS brakes include electronic brake-force distribution.

The Neo rests on a 2440mm wheelbase, and measures 3905mm long, 1710mm wide and 1420mm high.

Standard features include dual front airbags, air-conditioning, a CD player and remote central locking. Every Satria Neo also includes ABS, four-wheel disc brakes, rear parking radar, power windows, electric mirrors, an alarm/immobiliser combo, a trip computer and free roadside assist associated with the three-year warranty.

The GXR adds alloy wheels, front foglights and climate-control air-conditioning, while cruise control is standard on the automatic model.

Improved front seats are said to be far more comfortable and supportive than those found in previous Protons, while entry into the rear seat area is aided by a new seat-folding mechanism. A 60/40 split-fold rear seat boosts luggage capacity.

Among other improvements are redesigned front power window motors promising faster and smoother operation.

The previous Satria was a mild redevelopment of the 1992 Mitsubishi CC Lancer-based Mirage three-door hatchback sold here between February 1997 and early 2006. It became Proton’s biggest selling nameplate to date, with part of its success coming from the cult Satria GTi, a critically acclaimed hot hatch fitted with a 103kW/164Nm 1.8-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine.

Expect a GTi successor to join the Satria range next year.

A global "Desire has a new name" advertising campaign will be utilised to reflect the Satria Neo’s contemporary styling and presentation.

Proton Australia managing director John Startari is optimistic about the Satria Neo’s chances of success, believing that its youth-orientated styling will help snare new customers as well as previous Satria owners.

Mr Startari believes Proton will sell about 600 Satrias this year.

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