What is it?
A proton Gen-2 saloon with an LPG tank fitted in the boot. Proton will do this for no extra charge over the standard car. So for the price of a high-spec Ford Fiesta, you get a Focus-sized hatch with a 1.6-litre 108bhp engine and half-price fuel.
LPG fell out of favour with other mainstream manufacturers when the government subisidies for LPG conversions dried up in 2005, but with fuel prices currently so high LPG could be about to make a comeback. With aftermarket conversions forecast to double this year to 28,000 units, the timing of the dual-fuel Proton could be bang on.
What’s it like?
The platform for Proton’s ecological money saver is less sound. The Gen-2 has just undergone its third facelift. There are impressive levels of kit and there’s now a proper glovebox, but the overall execution still has a distinctly budget feel.
The Gen-2 still feels low-rent on the road, too. The driving position is awkward, the steering feels cumbersome and though the suspension provides reasonable body control, it runs out of ideas pretty quickly. The 1.6-litre engine also feels rather strained.
Fortunately the LPG part of the equation balances things out somewhat. The extra fuel tank fits neatly in the spare wheel well, losing you just three inches of boot depth. On the road there is a smidgen less throttle response, but if you’re in the market for a Proton this is unlikely to trouble you.
More important is the fact that your 55p per litre car also drops the Gen-2 down a VED tax band. This is because although LPG is a less efficient fuel (and so will give you marginally fewer miles to the gallon), its carbon content is lower than petrol, giving you an approximate 10-15 per cent saving in CO2 emissions.
Should I buy one?
A Focus-sized car for supermini money that you can run for peanuts is a compelling financial package. It’s just a shame that the car itself isn’t better.