Proton Gen.2 2005 review: snapshot
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Knowing that Lotus has its parent company in Malaysia also gets a lot of attention, primarily disbelief.
But that's life in the British car industry, which has seen virtually all its big brands succumb to offshore ownership.
Lotus owner Proton doesn't dwell on history, rather it picks up on its British arm's substantial engineering excellence and injects it into its latest five-door hatch, the Gen.2.
Explore the 2005 Proton Gen.2 range
Yes, that's its name. Though for following traffic, the bootlid says CamPro Gen.2, proving that the erratic English of a 1960s Japanese car industry is not dead.
For heaven's sake . . . CamPro sounds like the nickname for a South-East Asian prostitute and Gen.2 sounds like her daughter. Wombat would have been better.
But what's in a name? The car is well designed, freshly styled with a blunt Mazda-like nose and a sweeping tail that is a bit Volvo S60-ish.
It's not a big car, though there's ample room for four adults and the boot is both spacious and extendable, thanks to the split fold-down rear seats.
Proton designers neatly trim the cabin in soft beige hues, so it's all quiet pastel and airy and welcoming in a warm and fuzzy sort of way.
The dashboard gets top marks, with easy-to-read instruments, Blaupunkt radio/CD that looks as though it came out of a Citroen, and an unusual vertical stand for the ventilation and airconditioning controls that is straight out of a Lotus Elise.
But there's no glovebox – an underdash tray holds your gear – and only one cupholder.
The seats are remarkable in having virtually no lateral support – but more of that later.
A bit fell off, but I put it back, indicating quality control is the next priority.
The best thing about the Gen.2 is its ride. It rates as one of the best rides in its class and has handling that will put cars costing three times its price to shame.
The steering feel is excellent, as are the ratios; the road holding is sharp and the body stance is flat; and the engine – though well down on power – is an eager player for some quick motoring.
Even the brakes are all-wheel discs, so the taut chassis is somewhat of a big, yet welcome, surprise.
But while you're enjoying that handling, your body is not. The seats are well finished, but have no lateral support and a shallow cushion, which don't produce much comfort. In effect, the car's handling is way above your ability to sit there and exploit it.
The engine appears to have all the credentials, though at 82kW it's down a bit on its rivals. However, it gets along without fuss and it accelerates faster than you expect.
The manual gearbox linkage is a bit notchy, though the ratios are well suited to the little engine.
It's a pretty good car at an exceptional price that outpaces the Koreans.
The final comment is that Proton's use of a space-saver tyre is inexcusable and, like any other carmaker who wants to go cheap on the Australian public, should be made illegal on safety grounds.
Range and Specs
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