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Proton Persona

Persona II

Proton logo1 May 2008

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

PROTON Cars revived the Persona nameplate for its second-generation small car in 2008. Based on the WRM44 (Wira Replacement Model) Gen.2 five-door hatch, the WRM41 Persona was launched wearing a headline $16,990 price tag – which is at least about $2000 below expectations.

This placed the Proton closer to baby sedans like the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent and Holden Barina – even though this is a full-sized five-seater small car with a 430 litre boot.

Only one GX-specification model is imported from Malaysia for now, boasting anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution, dual front airbags, rear parking sensors, climate-control air-conditioning, power windows, electric mirrors, remote central locking with boot release, five lap/sash seatbelts, CD/MP3/radio audio with remote controls, ally wheels, a trip computer with digital clock and… the glovebox that Gen.2 owners miss out on.

Proton says the Persona is much more than a boot bolted on to the back of the existing Gen.2’s posterior.

Beyond the fresh three-box silhouette (pencilled at the same time as the Gen.2 hatch was), the Persona departs from the Gen.2 with larger rear-door apertures for easier entry and egress, a comprehensively revamped cabin with measurably more rear-seat headroom, more flexible engine performance, revised automatic gearbox tuning and improved overall refinement.

Or, in other words, Proton has tackled most of the faults of the existing Gen.2 in order to create a more rounded, consumer-friendly small-car sedan that can better compete against the aforementioned rivals, as well as the Nissan Tiida, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Cerato, Holden Viva, Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer and Toyota Corolla.

The Gen.2 will also receive many of these upgrades as part of the facelift due in September, and will be rebadged as the Persona hatch.

Many body panels are exclusive to the Persona sedan.

Moving back from the restyled grille, there is a redesigned roof panel that is not as coupe-like in profile as the hatch, along with all-new side panels, back window, rear doors and alloy wheels.

Another area where Proton has tackled a Gen.2 weakness is driveability.

While on paper the Lotus co-engineered 1.6-litre CamPro four-cylinder petrol engine’s 82kW of power at 6000rpm and 148Nm of torque at 4000rpm seems identical to the existing Gen.2’s outputs, Proton says it has remapped the software for performance that takes in the Persona’s less-favourable power-to-weight ratio. In a nutshell, there is more torque available further down the rev range than before, as well as a less peaky power delivery around the 6000rpm-plus mark.

Smoother acceleration, better low-speed pick-up and improved electronically controlled four-speed automatic gearbox harmonisation with the CamPro engine’s power characteristics are claimed.

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