From £8,275
Good in the bends, but that's where the pluses end

Our Verdict

Proton Satria Neo
The Satria Neo is handsome, but its interior is cramped and filled with cheap plastics

The Proton Satria Neo is certainly the best car the company has ever built, but it is still unjustifiable

18 March 2011

What is it?

The Proton Satria Neo was first introduced in 2006 so it isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. What it is, however, is £2000 cheaper. Thanks to a March 2011 price drop, the Satria is now priced more realistically against the competition, likes of which include the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.

It’s also a big improvement on the last Proton we tested. The Impian we drove in 2006 suffered problems with ‘water ingress’ and ‘incompliant ride quality.’

Proton owns Lotus and the Satria’s chassis has been tuned there, which should bode well for its dynamics. According to Proton, the Satria is the model that it produced to attract a ‘youthful and sporty’ buyer describing the car as ‘the ultimate hot hatchback.’ Sounds exciting.

What’s it like?

A very, very rough diamond. Standing at a modest 5ft 7-inches tall, I had absolutely no headroom and failed to get comfortable. The seats, albeit leather and suede covered and very supportive, cannot be lowered anywhere near enough to compensate for the steeply raked windscreen. Fold the sun visor down and its high seating position results in a catastrophic loss of visibility.

The cabin itself offers little storage space and is plastered in a sea of brittle grey and more grey plastics, which are substandard considering the Satria’s price tag. The handbrake lever sits nicely enough in the hand but looks like a garden implement, the gearlever does away with ‘faux’ leather and instead employs a sheet of shiny plastic to hide the gear-linkages, and some of the switchgear – electric window buttons and heating dials included – are placed awkwardly too. To top it off, the cigarette lighter is crudely hidden beneath a rudimentary bit of plastic and the boot cannot be opened externally.

With a 111bhp 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet and a kerbweight of 1170kgs, performance should be more the Satria’s forte. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t. For all the noise the engine makes, its mere 109lb ft of torque fails to excite. Proton claims the Satria will sprint to 60mph in 11.8sec, which, in fairness is brisk enough compared with its rivals, but it doesn’t get there cleanly, suffering from a noticeable torque dip at 3000rpm. Give it time, though, and it’ll top out at a respectable 118mph.

At motorway speeds, wind noise is intrusive, the engine whines, and again, the lack of torque may disappoint.

Around town is where the Satria performs better. Its Lotus DNA allows for confident direction change and it rides firmly but is never crashy, soaking up potholes and bumps competently. Nevertheless, the Satria’s interior finish is so poor that it’ll emit more than the odd rattle over surface imperfections.

The clutch, too, squeaked every time it was depressed, making me hope that one of the Satria’s selling points included a limitless supply of lubricant – a quick read of the owner’s manual confirmed this wasn’t the case.

Show the little Proton a fast bend or roundabout, however, and the Satria shows its Ace card. Grip levels are very impressive – especially so on aggressive turn-in - and should you wish to unleash its inner Lotus, you’ll be very pleased with the result. Where most superminis would wash wide through a corner, the Proton clings on confidently and resists understeer well. Rewardingly, it’s even happy to be adjusted on the throttle at its limit. It stops pretty well too thanks to discs all-round.

Should I buy one?

As well as the Satria handles and taking its six year warranty into account, the facts cannot be ignored. At £9495, it still can’t compete, even with its newfound rivals, likes of which include the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa and Fiat 500. So unrefined is the interior and build quality that its apparent saving grace is quickly forgotten.

If you’re after something that’s refined, good looking, comfortable and which can cater for people who exceed the height restriction for a ride at Alton Towers, then look else where. It’ll be a while yet before this rough diamond is cut.

Alex Kertsen

Proton Satria Neo Sport

Price: £9495; 0-60mph: 11.5sec; Top speed: 118mph; Economy: 39mpg; CO2 emissions: 177g/km; Kerb weight: 1170kg; Engine layout: 1597cc 4-cyl in line; Installation: Front, longitudinal; Power: 111bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 109lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
24

22 March 2011

It's not often you read such a scathing review on here, but Proton seems to get most of them.

22 March 2011

'Rough diamond' seems generous after reading that review. Nine and half grand for that sack of cack is a hell of a lot of money, regardless of how much cheaper it is than a Fiesta.

Who buys these things when new? Fine as a second hand buy as transport but as a car to spend 9K on? Ouch.

22 March 2011

Always had a soft spot for Proton, but I don't know why, this is a decent looking car, but it is too expensive for what it is, also I am 5ft10 so I probably wouldn't even fit in one by the sounds of it, I would of thought Proton would get Lotus to design and develop the cars entirely to make them better. Never seen one of these cars on the road though.

22 March 2011

its funny, i read an article the other week about the fact that there are no truly rubbish cars anymore, well Proton seem to be doing their best to disprove that idea!

22 March 2011

And to think we once hoped that MG Rover would tie-up with them! Yep, that would've saved 'em!

22 March 2011

I really dont understand the continual bad press that Proton get. A cycnic would say that its because they have no advertising budget that they are an easy target, but i would like to give these publications the benefit.

Firstly, forget the nonsense Sport model, drop the leather seats and white stripe and you can get a standard model for £1500 less, a brand new 1600 cc car for £7995 with a bucket load of warranties. A car that is doing rather well on the rally circuit, that will make you smile as you drive and is a bit of a looker.

Sure it wont satisfy you if you regulary pray to the god if interior plastics but I recently parted with my 08 Gen 2 and it never missed a beat and nothing fell off.

I am not pretending that they are the best thing on 4 wheels but dont forget that Proton as a manufacturer has not yet reached its 30th birthday, I believe they are a business to watch for the future.

22 March 2011

[quote steven211]

Always had a soft spot for Proton, but I don't know why, this is a decent looking car, but it is too expensive for what it is, also I am 5ft10 so I probably wouldn't even fit in one by the sounds of it, I would of thought Proton would get Lotus to design and develop the cars entirely to make them better. Never seen one of these cars on the road though.

[/quote]+ 1 I am also 5ft 10 and all i can say is good help people who are 6ft plus!!

23 March 2011

The only Protons you see where I live are driven by the Police force, its probably all they can afford after buying a Lexus ISF patrol car...

23 March 2011

They may well have reduced the price - and at the new price point it makes much more sense to go for the entry level Hyundai i20!

23 March 2011

[quote carup008]

They may well have reduced the price - and at the new price point it makes much more sense to go for the entry level Hyundai i20!

[/quote]

+1 The Hyundai I20 is a better car, not as cramped and better built.

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