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Car reviews - Proton - Wira - Aeroback GLi 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Practicality and economy durable Mitsubishi basis
Room for improvement
Poor brand image below-par styling, dynamics and performance based on an old Mitsubishi design

Proton logo25 Jun 2003

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

THE Malaysian Proton company had been manufacturing cars for 10 years before the brand made its Australian market debut in mid- 1995 with a range of models under the Wira badge.

The marketing plan was similar to that used by Hyundai almost 10 years earlier which was a combination of more space and features with a perfectly acceptable level of quality for less money than the Japanese and European competitors.

Proton also added a generous three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty to back the product and boost buyer confidence.

The Wira, which is the Malay word for warrior, had favourable reports from the automotive press and gained a decent sized toe- hold in what is probably the most competitive sector of the market.

The Wira delivered what it promised while it was on sale in Australia and the buyers are not complaining.

Proton built the Wira in a range of sedans and hatchbacks which relied heavily on Mitsubishi technology. Mitsubishi built Proton's Malaysian plant and tooling although most of the Wira's components were sourced from within Malaysia.

The sedan is an almost direct copy of the Mitsubishi Lancer with minor styling changes and a new price tag which was considerably cheaper.

The five-door Aeroback was based on the sedan with ample interior space for four or occasionally five people and ample room for luggage in the hatch area.

The Wira was available with two levels of equipment, GLi and XLi.

The GLi is a budget priced car so the equipment list is short although there are some extra features which gave it an edge over most of its competitors.

There are power steering, central locking and a four-speaker AM/FM radio/cassette plus all the small convenience touches expected by today's buyers. Air-conditioning and an automatic transmission were the only options.

The GLi version of the Wira is powered by a 1.5-litre, four- cylinder engine with a 12-valve cylinder head and multi-point fuel-injection.

The power output is 66kW at 6000rpm which is ample for everyday driving conditions.

Most Wiras were sold with the five-speed manual transmission as the automatic has only three speeds, which saps too much power and really hurts the Wira's acceleration and fuel consumption.

The Wira is no sports sedan but the suspension and steering incorporate Mitsubishi's expertise which makes it an easy, safe and undemanding car to drive.

Small diameter wheels with narrow section tyres are the limiting factors as far as grip and cornering speed are concerned.

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