From £7,8254

The Proton Savvy is the firm’s first attempt at a compact five-foor city car, conceived with the intention of widening brand appeal to attract more dynamic (read ‘younger’) buyers. Proton’s UK market base isn’t generally in the first flush of youth. 

It’s not a bad looking car and displays a modicum of aesthetic flair. The stepped window-line may look slightly uncomfortable for a car so stubby, and the ‘sporty’, centrally positioned chrome exhaust should not be interpreted as promising performance. The truth is, you will find yourself yielding on many a green light stampede.

The Savvy’s 1.2-litre unit’s linear power delivery serves up 75bhp at 5500rpm and 77lb ft at 4250rpm, but it’s a harsh, vocal delivery, especially when stretched to its 6100rpm red line. There’s also an intrusive booming noise in the cabin as you approach peak power which encourages you to make the most of a five-speed gearbox that feels both sloppy and stodgy. There’s also a five-speed automatic available, if that’s your preferred option. Claimed economy for both automatic and manual variants is 49.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 134g/km. 

The interior is roomy enough for a car of this size (3710mm long, 1643mm wide and 1480mm high overall) but it’s lacking in refinements and creature comforts. There is a confusing use of interior plastic colours and the three-spoke steering wheel, complete with TT-mimicking aluminium ringlet, is similarly low-rent.

The lack of reach and rake adjustment of the steering wheel is likely to impede taller drivers' views of the top of the day-glow yellow dials. The Proton's gearlever and handbrake lever gaiters are tailored out of that '80s vinyl plastic which feels worse than it looks, and the glovebox on our car didn’t sit flush to its mountings. Not having a key-operated boot release is also an oversight. The boot itself can swallow loads of just 207 litres with the seats up, which isn’t great but fair enough, stretching to 909 litres with the split-fold rear perches in the prone position. 

But it’s not all bad. The Savvy’s ride is firm but comfortable, coping well with pot-holes, drain covers, cats eyes and other road detritus, but vague steering prevents the experience from being anything an enthusiast might describe as ‘fun’. The rear seats offer impressive space and all-round visibility is good, which compensates for the standard but useless-in-practice rear-parking sensors. 

When it first appeared the Savvy was a positive move for Proton. But now the opposition, not least from Proton’s own home-market rivals Kia and Hyundai, has upped its game to a quite considerable degree. As a new supermini, the Savvy doesn't offer anything different. And with Kia and Hyundai pitching their base Picanto and i10 models respectively at prices within a hair’s breadth of the Proton it’s no longer got the USP of being a low-cost, budget option. In short, and in the light of how the budget city-car game has moved on recently, the Savvy lacks polish and the brand lacks credibility, and that makes it tough to recommend. 

Top 5 City cars

  • Volkswagen Up
    The Volkswagen Up city car isn't revolutionary, it's just quantifiably better than the opposition

    Volkswagen Up

    1
  • Hyundai i10
    The Hyundai i10 is offered with either a 1.0-litre petrol engine or a 1.2-litre petrol engine

    Hyundai i10

    2
  • Suzuki Celerio
    The Celerio is an all-new city car from Suzuki

    Suzuki Celerio

    3
  • Fiat Panda
    Panda’s 4 star EuroNCAP crash score falls short of some rivals

    Fiat Panda

    4
  • Vauxhall Viva
    Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE is priced from £7995

    Vauxhall Viva

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Proton range

Driven this week

  • Lotus Elise Cup 250
    First Drive
    29 April 2016
    The fastest, most track-focused and most expensive Elise ever made. It's simple, raw and immersive
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4S
    First Drive
    27 April 2016
    Slick looks, open-top fun and 911 handling sound brilliant, but the Targa has historically trailed the Coupé. How does the new model fare on UK roads?
  • Jaguar F-Pace 2.0d
    First Drive
    26 April 2016
    Jaguar's debut SUV wowed us abroad, but does it still impress as much here on the UK's roads?
  • Car review
    26 April 2016
    Electric saloon is ramped up beyond ‘insane’ for yet more effect
  • Car review
    26 April 2016
    Is this a genuine supercar slayer for top-rank sports car money?