From £8,975
Gen-erally very bad

Our Verdict

Proton Gen-2 2004-2012
The Proton Gen-2 offers a C-segment hatchback for the price of a supermini

The Proton Gen-2 is a hugely disappointing effort, despite its low price

Just how badly do you want a brand-new car? What are you prepared to sacrifice to ensure brand-spanking newness; that untouched, gleaming, never-been-driven feeling?

If you want a new car desperately – make that pathologically desperately – we would still struggle to recommend a Gen2, Proton’s new Wira replacement. It’s that disappointing.

It has its good points, so let’s get those out of the way first. It won’t take long. And if you happen to be hell-bent on buying a brand-new car and a nearly new Focus won’t do, these are the only points you’ll remember anyway.

It’s good value, at least for interior kit. The 1.6 GLS model you see here comes with air conditioning and a Blaupunkt sound system with a 10-disc CD changer, and retails at £9595. It has dual airbags as standard, but no electric mirrors. You’ll need to opt for the £10,595 GSX to get those; that version also comes with standard side airbags and anti-lock brakes. So you don’t get anti-lock on lower models, which seems a glaring oversight in 2004.

Compare the price with those of its similarly specced rivals and the Gen2 GLS is good value. Rover 25 1.6 SEi: £12,795. Ford Focus 1.6 LX: £13,300. Honda Civic 1.6 SE: £13,013. Vauxhall Astra 1.6 16v Life: £12,495. The Proton undercuts them all effortlessly.

It looks good, too. Styled with help from Proton-owned Lotus, it’s a well-proportioned, well-detailed car and is a pleasure to view from every angle. The nose is neat, with none of the grille paraphernalia that sometimes blights new cars from the Far East, and the rear lights are equally handsome. The dash is well designed, too, with a stylish Lotus-esque centre console, nicely integrated stereo and a neat instrument cowling.

The car rides and handles satisfactorily, with no obvious vices as long as you don’t expect Elise-like fun. The cheap Sime tyres lose grip very early in the proceedings as the car howls toward the verge with terminal understeer. The ride jiggles a little too much on washboard ripples, but is otherwise comfortable, with decent damping. The gearchange is quick and direct, and is the best of the controls.

However, the driving position is so awkward it borders on the bizarre. You sit far too high, with no way to lower the seat other than a tight knob which only lowers the front edge of the cushion. And the steering wheel – a hard black plastic affair with all the tactile delicacy of a granite slab – won’t rise high enough, leaving itself on your lap, between your knees. Tall drivers willl find the top of the instruments are obscured by the top of the wheel, which is unforgivable in a 21st-century car.

The problems don’t end there. The build quality inside is nasty, even for a car at this price. The plastic single-piece door trims, the centre bin with its flimsy hinges, the dastardly little swivelling cup holder and the switches and plastics are all so low-rent that they’re almost squatting. Combine that with a noisy cabin and you have a distinctly ordinary motoring experience, even for the money.

The 110bhp ‘Cam Pro’ 1.6 has adequate power and torque, but all the thrust is delivered at the top end, where it becomes extremely thrashy and makes you reach for ear defenders. It has the aural delight of a toilet extractor fan – the loudest one you’ve ever heard. This is a very poorly insulated engine.

The Gen2 very nearly became Rover’s next medium car. Good job for Rover that deal never happened.

Bill Thomas

Join the debate

Comments
5

7 April 2012

hmm, why is this here?

7 April 2012

[quote curious_insider]hmm, why is this here?
[/quote]


Because Autocar are uploading old roadtests onto the website. Pretty obvious really.

7 April 2012

I'm not saying the GEN-2 is a good car or anything, but this review seems overly harsh for a car that represents such good value for money.

7 April 2012

[quote Fidji]I'm not saying the GEN-2 is a good car or anything, but this review seems overly harsh for a car that represents such good value for money.[/quote]

Bear in mind that the price of £10k for the Proton relates to 2004 when a new Golf cost from £12.5k.

7 April 2012

[quote Maxycat][quote Fidji]I'm not saying the GEN-2 is a good car or anything, but this review seems overly harsh for a car that represents such good value for money.[/quote]

Bear in mind that the price of £10k for the Proton relates to 2004 when a new Golf cost from £12.5k.

[/quote]

True, but for £10k you could get a GEN-2 with loads more equipment than a more expensive entry-level Golf at the time. And the entry-level Golf would have a much less powerful engine. But then again, the Golf hasn't been good value for money for a while now, so it's hardly a good benchmark to set! I would have thought that a base Megane, Focus or Astra would be designed to compete with the GEN-2 more, although the Cerato and Elantra were much more similar.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka