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Proton Persona 2008 review

Malaysian car manufacturer Proton has pitched its new Persona at the budget end of the small-car market. At $16,990 for the four-door, five-speed manual Persona sedan, it is the cheapest in the segment, based on the superseded Gen.2 platform but slightly larger.

A Persona hatch will arrive later this year, but the five-seater sedan arrives in one specification level for now.

A second model is coming mid-2009, thought to be bringing with it stability control and additional airbags above the sedan's two front airbags.

A four-speed auto adds $2000 and an after-market cruise control is coming and will cost $700 plus fitting.

Proton has packed the car with a healthy list of creature features, including power windows and mirrors, 15in alloys, trip computer, Blaupunkt audio with controls on the steering wheel, reverse sensors and fog lamps. Under the bonnet is Proton's 1.6-litre four-cylinder CamPro petrol engine with claimed fuel economy of 6.6 litres/100km for the manual and 6.7 litres/100km for the auto, with emission figures of 157g/km (manual) and 160g/km (auto). But the engine is no dynamo, with 82kW of power and just 148Nm of torque available only at high revs.

Proton Cars Australia managing director John Startari says the company is targeting young families, first-car buyers and retirees: “People who are looking more to running costs than power,” he says. “We believe we have the right compromise between power and fuel economy.”

Mr Startari says Australia has been allocated only 600 Personas this year because of unexpected demand in Malaysia and limited production. Cynics rightly suggested that the Proton Persona launch drive from the top of Mt Hotham down to Melbourne might mask the engine's lack of power.

Peak power is 82kW, which is respectable in this class and by no means the weakest, but it's at 6000rpm with the rev limit only a few cycles above. More importantly, peak torque of 148Nm only comes on at 4000rpm.

In the real world where you will have to work the gearbox for even meagre results, the economy will blow out. On the launch drive, my Persona used fuel at a rate of 9.3 litres/100km.

While the engine requires revs, it doesn't feel coarse when the tacho needle heads for the red line. The chassis, suspension and steering are capable of handling much more grunt.

There is little body roll or pitch and the ride is compliant.

There is a substantial amount of wind noise in the cabin, especially around the wing mirrors.

The cabin is generally stylish and modern, and the interior fit and quality are good.

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Range and Specs

(base) 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,400 – 4,070 2008 Proton Persona 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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