Proton-Celerio-Front

With the Persona launch done and dusted, Proton’s three car launch blitz in three months will continue with the Saga in September and Ertiga in October, as announced by Proton CEO Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Kenali at the test drive event of the Perdana, another car launched this year.

The last of the lot for 2016 will be the Ertiga, a rebadged budget seven-seater Suzuki MPV, with kits imported from Indonesia. We’re not expecting any further launches this year, and the people in Proton will absolutely need a break after a hectic 2016. But what about the compact car that was touted when Proton tied up with Suzuki mid last year?

That was the takeaway then – Proton would be developing a small compact car with the help of Suzuki, up to 1.0 litre in engine size and in a segment where P1 is currently not present. That points to the A-segment and a rival to the highly-successful Perodua Axia, which has mopped up that end of the market unchallenged.

Proton-Celerio-Rear

Suzuki has such a car in its stable, and it’s called the Celerio. Made in India, the compact five-door hatch is available there with a 67 hp/90 Nm 1.0 litre three-cylinder K10B petrol engine, mated to either the a five-speed manual or an “Auto Gear Shift” AMT transmission. An 800 cc two-cylinder turbodiesel with 47 hp/125 Nm is also available.

Here’s a rendering from Theophilus Chin that we commissioned, and it gives us an idea of how the Celerio would look like as a Proton. Not a straightforward rebadge job, this “Proton Celerio” wears the national carmaker’s familiar face, lifted from the just-launched Persona.

Neatly done, the signature “Proton wings” on the grille extend into the headlamps (like on the Persona) and are integrated with the hatch’s shoulder line. At the back, the plain Celerio design is spiced up with a chrome garnish that mirror the “wings” in front, and an Iriz-style diffuser. It’s significantly more dynamic in appearance compared to the original, which you can check out below.

Proton_Aria_interior

Will something like this work for Proton? The Celerio bombed in Indonesia, where only two units have been sold so far this year, so price is crucial. In any case, Perodua has a strong head start with the Axia and it won’t be an easy task, even with Suzuki onboard.

We’re also not sure if an “Axia fighter” remains a priority for Proton’s new management – the Proton-Suzuki partnership was inked when Tun Dr Mahathir was chairman (“I will make it happen,” Tun said of the Suzuki partnership) and Datuk Abdul Harith Abdullah was CEO. What do you think?

GALLERY: Suzuki Celerio