On test: Proton Gen-2 review (2004-2007 model) – MSN Cars UK

1 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on On test: Proton Gen-2 review (2004-2007 model) – MSN Cars UK
Proton Gen

On test: Proton Gen-2 review (2004-2007 model)

Model:Proton Gen-2 1.6

Bodystyle: Five-door hatch

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Date of Test: March 2005

The Gen-2 is, cunningly, billed as a ‘new generation’ of Proton. It’s the first new model to be developed since the company brought British sports car maker Lotus, and the first to be totally free of former Mitsubishi hardware. Even the Impian, Proton’s first ‘all independent’ car, used a Mitsubishi powerplant, but here a brand-new unit can be found under the bonnet, Lotus-designed and said to be rather smart.

Other variants may follow but for now the Gen-2 comes in a single five-door hatchback bodystyle, with two engine options and a handful of trim levels.

Where does it fit?

From different angles, you’ll variously see hints of old-shape Renault Megane, Seat Leon, BMW 6-Series and Rover 25 in the Gen-2. Original the shape isn’t, though it’s still the most contemporary-looking Proton ever. It is smaller than a Ford Focus, bigger than a Fiesta but priced broadly in line with the supermini, in the usual Proton way; more space and equipment for less cash.

Though there are still some surprising omissions on the spec list.

Is it for you?

There used to be a kind of in-the-know cool about driving a Proton, due to the Lotus connection. The old Satria GTI was a fine hot hatch that out-handled a Peugeot 206 GTI, winning underground respect, and the Malaysian company hopes for similar fortunes with the Gen-2. In reality of course, without a sporty-biased model in the range, it’s going to be brought by people to whom price is all, selling on the ‘new car for used car’ tag, and the image will suffer accordingly.

This is never going to be desirable in the way a 206 or second-hand Focus is, so may not initially be for you unless age, space and price are all.

What does it do well?

Perhaps the drive will ensure it is one for knowledgeable enthusiasts after all? The interior sends out the right messages, with sporty BMW Z4-style dials, a racy steering wheel and plenty of cues from the Lotus Elise.

Proton Gen

What doesn’t it do well?

Fire the engine and expect miracles, and you’ll be dumbstruck. It’s noisy, drones on the motorway, revs lethargically and feels aged. New generation it isn’t, not in this installation.

The gearchange is also unacceptably stiff and heavy, the throttle is snatchy and sharp getaways reveal surprising wheelspin; the Malaysian-brand tyres lack grip. Steering is vague, as are the brakes, and unbelievably, ABS wasn’t standard on our test car! Just like cars from a bygone age, whose suspension settings you feel the Gen-2 has stolen; it’s softly-suspended, bouncing restlessly at speed and leaning soggily into corners, offering little confidence or feel, yet still manages to offer a mediocre ride quality (though the latter is made worst by interior trim which creaks in unison to bumps).

What’s it like to live with?

Headroom is tight in the back but legroom is OK, making it a viable family car even if the boot is only average. You may question the appeal when you investigate the interior trim quality though, which in places is appalling. The steering wheel, column stalks and door trims are particularly poor, while exterior paint quality is also way below par; on sections, it was almost matt in finish, and stone chips on the bonnet and front wings had flaked off a worrying amount of paint, leaving just white undercoat.

Get past the quality and you’ll question the unremittingly beige-brown interior colour scheme of the test car, livened only by a good-looking Blaupunkt stereo and BMW-style orange instrument illumination. But the interior does show plenty of imaginative design, and so long as you don’t touch it or look too closely, it is the best aspect of the car. The pistol-grip handbrake is a lesson to Saab and Renault in how to make parking brakes a styling cue that are easy to use.

But when you live with it, you do more than just look at it. That’s the problem.

Would we buy it?

We struggle to see how Proton can call this a ‘new generation’, as it is one of the worst cars we have driven in a long while. The promise is there, not least in jazzy design and the on-paper benefits of the engine. But it simply feels far too underdeveloped, as if there is still a year’s honing still to be done. It is therefore all the more surprising that Lotus is willing to be associated with it.

This could be a decent budget car but, in its current form, you would be daft to choose it over any number of rivals.

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