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Breaking into our super competitive light car segment is a tough assignment; just ask Malaysian car maker Proton. The first time round, this very large company (which is used to achieving major success in its home market) could only make a small impression on the marketplace with its Wira range. But now, with new models and by handling its own distribution, the company is much more confident of gaining a significant foothold.
Though the four and five door models continue (with the new name of Persona replacing the Wira tag). the marketing emphasis this time around is focusing on a new three door hatch called the Satria. This seems to be a wise move, as the Satria looks good, drives quite well and is sharply priced.
The Satria range starts off with the manual GL which is priced at $14,790 'driveaway'. With dealer and statutory charges averaging around $2,000, this is a very appealing price. The manual GLi model (tested) also carries a 'driveaway' price tag, which is $17,490. The three speed automatic option on these two models costs an extra $1,200.
Whereas the GL and GLi Satrias have a 1.5 litre 12 valve engine, the top XLi model has a 1.6 litre 16 valve engine with another 17 kilowatts of power. In keeping with its sportier image, the XLi also has four wheel disc brakes (the others have rear drums), 14 inch alloy road wheels with lower profile tyres and a rear body spoiler. It also adds electric mirrors, cup holders, map pockets and a luggage compartment light. The XLi manual costs $18.490 plus 'on road ' costs, with the automatic (a four speed unit) adding $1,700.
Equipment levels in the GLi are by no means basic. Included are a high quality Blaupunkt sound system with in dash CD player, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, remote fuel lid and rear hatch releases, a 50/50 split fold rear seat (backrest and cushion), intermittent rear wiper/washer, a tachometer and electrically height adjustable headlights.
Based as it is on the previous model Mitsubishi Mirage (a model not sold in Australia), the Satria has sound, straightforward underpinnings that result in pleasant driving characteristics and good overall quality.
However, quality doesn't look quite so good in the fit, feel and appearance of some interior and boot trim items, as well as some exterior fittings. Nothing really bad, but just not up to current Japanese standards.
The Satria provides plenty of leg room and satisfactory head room up front, with comfortable, though not especially supportive, seating. Rear leg space is only suited to small children when the front seats are set back and rear seat comfort and width are best for two, not three. The rear side windows don't open, which could prove claustrophobic for some.
Being able to fold both the backrest and rear cushion (or half of them) makes for a very versatile luggage area, and there's good space available, depending on the number of seating positions being used.
Though outright performance isn't outstanding, the Satria's willing and pleasantly flexible 1.5 litre engine gives the car a good driving 'feel' and with liberal use of the gearbox, the rate of progress can be quite satisfying.
Also very satisfying in the test manual GLi was the low rate of fuel consumption, especially on highway running. Its usage rate of 5.3 litres/100 km was the best in class, according to our test results.
As with most cars of this size, the Satria does get a bit noisy at higher speeds from a combination of engine, road and wind noise. Another noise that may initially alarm owners is the sound of the rear mudflaps scraping when crossing some driveways and road dips.
The Proton Satria doesn't present any great breakthroughs in design or features, rather it's a good all rounder, with pleasant innocuous styling, a good range of standard features and an attractive purchase price.
Proton is well aware of the work it needs to do to establish a good brand image and is backing its cars with a class leading warranty and working hard on developing an extensive and effective dealer network.
Test vehicle supplied by Proton Cars Australia.
By NRMA Motoring, June 1997.
|Body type||3-door hatchback|
Excellent fuel economy
Limited rear leg room
|Country of manufacture||Malaysia|
|Warranty||Three years, unlimited km|
Manual GL: $14,790
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||1.468 L|
|Induction||Multi-point fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||66 kW @ 6000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||126 Nm @ 3000 rpm|
|Wheel size||13 "|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.7 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1690 mm|
|Fuel capacity||50 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||995 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||20|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||6.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||8.9 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.2 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||13.2 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||5.3 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||8.1 L/100km|
|Average on test||6.2 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||31.4 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||70 dB(A)|