Proton Persona 2008 - First Drive

sakuraguy

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sakuraguy

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Sendai, JAPAN.
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Proton Persona 2008 - First Drive



The Sirions, er, Myvis have been overbooked by three months, and here’s the baffling part – despite not having dropped in numbers for the Perodua, sales for the Persona aren’t exactly suffering either. On the contrary, they have been skyrocketing. Proton have managed to convince the better part of Malaysia that they can’t go wrong with 19,840 units booked within the first month or two.

Out of these, approximately half the numbers ordered have been delivered, while a good side effect is the increased number of bookings for the very, very old and aging Proton Saga which is now selling for RM26,999, pushed lower further by the Persona’s debut.

With a waiting list of up to 4 months for the highest trimmed models, you might see why Proton suddenly got confident and rejected a rather skewed deal with Volkswagen anyway (skewed towards Vee-dub anyway).

A pity then, for Proton might have become so much more, but in the mean time, we have to admit that the Persona is nevertheless, a brilliant attempt, but not without it’s usual, Malaysian quirks and typical shortcomings.



Styling

That cliché, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” never felt so right with the Persona. The exterior is big, nearly as big as the Lancer EX. In fact, it is a full 137mm longer than it’s Gen2 sibling, and slightly taller too (3mm).

Overall width remains the same, and so does the 2600mm long wheelbase, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the bulk of the modifications have gone to the humungous, 430L boot. That’s enough for two Golf bags, an ice box, loads of baggage and perhaps a child or two ..

The boot also makes the Persona heavier than the Gen2 by a mild 45kg, which really isn’t too bad when you consider the extra space you’re getting in the back. Proton’s decision to utilize the “high bootline-low bonnet” solution has paid off. We like the way it looks, and with a set of alloys that you don’t see on our test car that come as standard, we really don’t see how you could go wrong with it in this area.



Inside

What you could go wrong with though, are the interior plastics and switches. Unfortunately, in the midst of upgrading their Wira replacement model, i.e. THIS CAR, they entirely forgot that they were supposed to upgrade the insides of it as well.

An experienced motor nut could, and would be able to reminisce on these odds and ends in Protons, and Mitsubishis of past. A good example would be the Galant-ish (and hence, Perdana-ish now) transmission cluster, automatic window and mirror switches, and a terribly flimsy rear-view mirror. They in no way look the part of the otherwise great styling cues of the dashboard, steering and instrument cluster, presumably Lotus inspired.


Mechanics

Perhaps we’re being too anal, but not without reason, for the Persona has other, much more attractive qualities that could potentially put a Japanese and Korean sedan to shame.

First, is the Campro engine – a 1597 cc, 16 valver that throws out 110 horses at 6000rpm, and 148 Newton metres at just 4000rpm. Although not class leading, paper figures seem to suggest a good level of competitiveness, rivaling many Japanese 1.5 litre units equipped with all the bells and whistles such as intake and exhaust camshaft/variable valve timing.

The suspension setup also proves to be class competitive, with McPherson struts up front, and a proper, multi-linked rear setup complete with stabilizer bars all round. Our test car came with 195/60 profile 15” tyres, but really, a set of 16 inchers would have been sweet.



Driving Impressions

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Persona that will probably go unnoticed by hordes of Malaysians who make the purchase. Little do they know that this car drives as well as, if not better, than many rivals out there.

We might even peg it against the Mazda 3 and tell you that it is an absolute stunner in corners. While we urge you to play down Proton’s blatant claims of “Lotus tuned handling”, we must admit that Proton did their homework, and the car feels as if a considerable amount of effort was spent tuning, and arriving at a suitable compromise in terms of ride and handling quality.

We spent the better part of our test period driving in the wet, and on mediocre, comfort biased Silverstones. Consider that tackling South Buona Vista road at 60km/h through corners wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, it was pretty comfortable in the cabin. Although we absolutely would not recommend that you exceed the speed limit of the road, that should offer a little perspective.

The car’s turn in can only be described as crisp and precise, for lack of better words. The steering centre is remarkably accurate (although we wouldn’t exactly wax lyrical over the finishing touches though!) and there is enough feedback to please the enthusiast.

Anything too harsh, and it will respond with slight understeer, and then a small slide out of line should you mistreat it very badly, but even then it remains entirely possible to control things should you know what to do.


The Ride Quality

Handling aside, the other, more impressive bit would have to be the car’s ability to cruise at hooligan-ish right lane speeds on the north-south highways in Malaysia. Not once will you find the engine intrusive, and it is in fact much more hushed up than a Vios could ever hope to be.

Wind noise is the least of your worries, especially for a car of it’s class, and holding a conversation at a decent volume remains entirely possible. The age of Protons not being able to trace a straight line above 100km/h are long gone, and when we say this, we do mean it will do the job as well as any other Korean, or Japanese 1.6 litre sedan when it comes to comfortable, high speed cruising.


To Proton or otherwise?

The Persona retails for S$52,988, and for that price you get everything you see in the pictures, and 15 inch alloy wheels, AND leather seats. Should the automatic not be your cup of tea, a similarly specified manual retails for S$49,988.

Consider that the competing Chevrolet Optra goes for S$55,788, a Honda City from S$60,000 onwards, a Hyundai Avante from S$58,698 and the much smaller Mazda 2 from S$51,988. The only car worthy of comparing and consideration would be the Kia Cerato Variant that has had it’s price lowered to just under 51 grand in an effort to compete.

Even then, it would be a hard fight, which really goes to show where this Proton stands. While the interior fit and finishing standards aren’t up to par with either the Koreans or the Japanese, it isn’t reason enough to put the innocent buyer off just because the steering wheel feels harder than it should.

In fact, we reckon that a simple leather wrap should more than solve things, and from then on, anyone who buys this car will discover that there is much, much more to it than meets the eye.

“Malaysia boleh?”


Source: OneShift.Com
 

hoxy

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hoxy

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I agree that proton car nowadays handling is very2 good. I love my wira se just for it handling. Compared to my mums iswara aeroback 1.3l... it is totally on a different level. I am assured that Persona handling experience will be one of the best. Congratulation Proton... hope to see Proton grows stronger.
 

yayedr

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yayedr

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vroooooom....
hope PROTON will produce a super car one day~
MALAYSIA boleh!!!
 

crusader2

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crusader2

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I believe Persona has two types of model, one is sold locally while the other is being exported. Just like during the 90s for Wira, we have exported models for Wira in which the performance and quality is much better than the local ones. The exported models is what we called Wira SE now. So if this review is based on the exported models of Persona, I don't think it serve enough credibility for our local models. Usually, local models fair worse than that. We need some reviews on local drivers.
 

MiOKu

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MiOKu

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i think there is not much different between exported model on the newer model....
the onli different maybe is the baseline model which we can get here while they got higher specs as standard.....

and i do agreed that gen-2, waja and persona are seriously dam good in handling compare to vios and city.....
on highway drive i think those models are the best in that price range....
 

aril2303

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aril2303

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i think there is not much different between exported model on the newer model....
the onli different maybe is the baseline model which we can get here while they got higher specs as standard.....

and i do agreed that gen-2, waja and persona are seriously dam good in handling compare to vios and city.....
on highway drive i think those models are the best in that price range....
me agree.. i've tested gen-2 on highway, really satisfy me..
 
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RocketMan

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RocketMan

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Me own a Gen2, eventhough i dont like how the engine perform (a bit sluggish), but i still appreciate it sharps handling through bends, lowered it down and pedal to the floor while negotiating corner - for below RM60k category, the handling is still the best to me!!!
 

sanie

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sanie

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proton is improving... really nice to see this new saga from front view.. :top: