I guess today is the day that most of you have been waiting for the day that the car that promises to set off a snowball effect of recovery at Proton. First sightings of the new Proton sedan were early this year in April, but we actually got to see 3D renderings of it in March. Little did we know that it was a real car to be put into production.
UPDATE: Proton Persona SE now on sale for RM59,800!
As most of you have known by now thanks to a tip off by The Edge, the new Proton sedan is called the Proton Persona. The name is not unfamiliar as it has been used before for the UK market Proton Wira. This makes the name somewhat apt, as it is finally the car that will replace the Wira, something the GEN2 did not do when it was introduced a few years ago.
Proton has taken steps to ensure the Proton Persona is what the customer wants, not what the management wants. Many models clinics and surveys have been conducted to ensure market acceptance. After my first impression of the car at the media preview earlier this week, I must say that Proton has done a relatively good job with this car!
Read more on the Proton Persona after the jump.
Most of you have an idea of what the exterior looks like already. Its basically a GEN2 with a boot. Other than the tail lamps, the entire car from the B-pillar onwards has been reworked. The new car is 167mm longer than the Proton GEN2, and 12mm longer than the Proton Waja. The boot is a respectable 430 litres in size, which is larger than the Toyota Vios at 400 litres. It also features a lock, something that was missing on the Proton GEN2. A 60:40 split rear bench folds flat in case you need more space.
Rear headroom has been improved by 43mm over the GEN2 thanks to a redesigned roof curve at the rear. It now measures at 980mm, compared to 950mm in the Vios and 970mm in the City! It only loses out to the Myvi which has a pretty tall roof at 995mm.
The interior has been thoroughly reworked and I can tell you this – the interior plastics arent the best that Ive seen but it is better than some C-segment Japanese sedans Ive driven recently. The dashboard is based on the one from the GEN2 but it has had its quirkiness removed. Normal is the new black, I say. I think the public is fed up of Protons previous attempts to be all “sporty minimalist Lotus”.
Other than the twin-pod meter panel (which now features fully black meter faces instead of the black and white one on the GEN2), the GEN2s interior felt like the Wira replacement it should be. Even the Pirates of the Caribbean cutlass-style handbrake lever is gone now. One qualm I have is that the buttons in the center of the dash still feel very cheap, and they do not really have any obvious switched on or off feel when you press them – or you could say the buttons provide not much feedback to tell you you’ve pressed them.
The door panels have been completely redesigned. The power window switches are now on the armrest which is the preferred location for many. There is some decent cloth trim on the panels. I dont know about you but I prefer my elbow touching some nice cloth or leather instead of bare plastic. The seats have a new design and now the front seats are more conventionally shaped and feature a headrest.
The little analog clock which no one could read has also been removed, so the dash lines flow a bit better now. But the best part of all would be a glovebox, although it is not a particularly cavernous one. With just a few minor changes, the functionality of the Proton Persona’s GEN2-based interior has improved. I hope this new dash carries on to the new GEN2 facelift as well.
There is central locking and 4 power windows on all of the Persona models from the base line to the high line. You can control the central locking either from a button near the power window button cluster or a button on the dashboard which the passenger can use in case of an emergency. The dash button also doubles up as the alarm deactivation button in case you mistakenly trigger the alarm system. The doors automatically lock themselves once the system detects all doors are closed, the handbrake is released, and the brake pedal is pressed.
Rear legroom was not too bad, a testament to how the increased legroom measurements translate into real life application. That said, once someone tall sits in the driver’s seat, the rear passenger behind him will start to suffer a little, but it is typical of a sedan car in the B-segment size.
Now on to how it drives. Proton allowed members of the media to drive the car around its test track in Shah Alam. At first impression, the Persona feels like it has a more comfort oriented setup unlike the GEN2, and this contributed more to body roll – you cannot have everything of course.
Proton included a 9-point Vehicle Dynamics Chart in the press kit and it shows that the Persona outperforms the GEN2 in terms of Ride Comfort and Roll Control but the GEN2 beats it in terms of lane change stability and cornering stability. The car generally understeers a lot under pressure but most of the time it is recoverable via throttle lift off.
If you want to toss the car around, it can be quite lively but the supplied Silverstone Kruizer 1 tyres are not exactly performance oriented. I would say its a case of the Satria Neo 1.3 with Sime tyres all over again. Do change them if you want to have some fun with the car and have the budget. But I am sure Proton has reasons for the Silverstone Kruizer 1 choice as they are generally known to be one of the quietest tyres around within their price range and by far the best tyres to come out of the Silverstone labs to date.
I can see what Proton is trying to do with the new Proton Persona sedan. Families want refinement and general quietness in their drive. They dont want anything trashy or noisy. That explains the choice of tyres. The NVH is also significantly improved over the Satria Neo especially – and better than the GEN2 of course. There is minimal loud and boomy engine noise towards the redline. It sounds rather refined really. The Campro engine had an appealing sound in the manual transmission car. It had a pleasant growl that was not overpowered by vibration or metallic notes, and despite going way over the 6,500rpm redline it felt like it could still go. The rev cut off was a little over 7,000rpm.
We drove two automatic transmission cars, and one of it had a little irritating zingy noise towards the redline, while the other was as aurally smooth as the manual. Upon checking with Proton later, they took note of it and said the noise could be coming from the heat shield, so if you buy this car and get this problem, you can give the service center guys a hint on where to look for the source.
As for the Campro engine, it is pretty much the same as previous units. Still the same 110 (82kW) horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. There is still a general lethargy with the throttle at low to mid engine speeds, but the engine shines at high revs. This engine still does not have the Bosch Variable Intake Manifold system yet, but the automatic model does have an improved TCU. The improved TCU or Transmission Control Unit seems more intelligent now, making up for the Campros unfortunately torque curve shape by having no qualms about downshifting when needed with reduced delay, and the shifts are rather smooth.
There is nothing new about the Campro engine in this car really in terms of performance; its just that improved sound dampening have managed to make the car in a whole appear more refined. But there are some design enhancements over the original GEN2 Campro engines that have served to make the engine more reliable.
For one, the oil pan has been redesigned to be more crack-resistant. The drain plug has been moved to the side instead of it’s previous position at the bottom, and large ribs have been added on the bottom for protection. The oil pan in general has been moved higher up in the engine bay, but the volume remains the same.
Now on to some specs. The base-line model will have 15 inch steel wheels and wheel covers with 195/60/R15 tyres, central locking, 4 power windows, alarm with immobilizer, front disc and rear drum brakes, reverse sensors, fixed rear seats, and a normal CD player with 2 speakers.
The medium-line model is further enhanced with alloy sports rims and 195/60/R15 tyres, a drivers SRS airbag, a foldable split rear seat bench, steering wheel audio controls, an MP3-capable CD player with 4 speakers, electrically adjustable wing mirrors, and foglamps.
The top of the range high-line model gains additional features over the medium-line model – antilock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution, disc brakes on all four wheels, both driver and passenger airbags, and remote trunk opening.
Now for prices:
Proton Persona 1.6AT H-Line Metallic – RM55,800
Proton Persona 1.6AT M-Line Metallic – RM52,800
Proton Persona 1.6MT M-Line Metallic – RM49,800
Proton Persona 1.6AT B-Line Metallic – RM48,449
Proton Persona 1.6AT B-Line Solid – RM47,999
Proton Persona 1.6MT B-Line Metallic – RM45,449
Proton Persona 1.6MT B-Line Solid – RM44,999
All prices are on the road with insurance for Peninsular Malaysia. The prices have changed slightly since the teaser prices were announced last month. The Base-Line models are now slightly cheaper. While it wont really reflect much in your monthly installment amount, breaching the RM45,000 barrier by RM1 ringgit serves as a psychological encouragement to buy the car. Proton has negotiated with all banks for them to offer an interest rate of 3.88% for the Proton Persona.
At first impression, the Proton Persona is a worthy successor to the Proton Wira. It is improved in almost all areas compared to the Wira and even the GEN2. However there were still some build issues here and there, for example some wiring was left exposed, like the lock for the rear boot as well as some wiring in the footwell of the dashboard. The steering boss assembly in one of the cars I drove was also not up to standards.
These are normal quality issues with the early production batches of any car from any manufacturer. The true test of whether Proton has changed or not will be the test of time, and whether its service networks have been improved or not. It will be up to early adopters of this car to tell us of their experiences.
Anyway, for those who have the intention of buying this car and want to do something to it aesthetically to keep it a little different from the rest of the Persona crowd, this post might give you some ideas.