Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Proton Gen2 L-line, M-line and H-line
Second coming
March 2005

PROTON has make significant inroads into the Aussie market over the past few years, with a solid offering of cars from small to medium and including a ute and a hot hatch.

Using superseded plant and parts from Mitsubishi, the models have been a modest success, albeit mostly super competitive classes.

Now it`s time for the second generation of cars from the Malaysian carmaker and the introduction of the "GEN.2" late last year was the first in the fresh new lineup.

Also on the books are a new Satria and a new baby car. These will be followed by a new hot hatch to replace the Satria GTi, a new two seater sports car, an all wheel drive wagon as well as a small people mover and 4WD SUV.

The GEN.2 has high equipment levels and a competitive starting price of $17,990 and sits in the small five-door hatch market segment along with Corolla, Pulsar, Elantra and Lancer.

It comes in three spec levels, the L-line, the M-line and the H-line and has had considerable input from the Proton`s partner Lotus.

L-Line comes equipped with air conditioning, power steering, driver`s and passenger side airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, four wheel disc brakes, central locking, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, trip computer, electric mirrors and steel wheels, with a price of $17,990 for the five speed manual. Auto across the range is an extra $1500.

M-Line also gets ABS, alloy wheels and cruise control on automatic versions and will have a recommended retail price of $18,990.

For another $1000 the H-Line includes all of the features of the M-Line but with the added safety of side airbags, climate control air conditioning, electronic reversing sensors, front and rear fog lamps, rear spoiler and mobile phone holder with a recommended retail of $19,990.

A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on all three models adding $1500 to the price.

All GEN.2 models sold in Australia will be covered by a three year unlimited kilometre warranty and Proton Assist three-year 24 hour emergency roadside assistance.

It is the first car to be produced at Protons new state-of-the-art greenfields manufacturing facility at Tanjong Malim, 100km north of Kuala Lumpur.

There were quite a few gremlins in the test car we drove that may be a result of the new facility getting things right.

The panel fit of the car was a little out, the passenger side window leaked a considerable amount of air, the hood lining didn`t have enough length to make it under the window surround on the driver`s side window and a button kept falling off the dash.

It should be noted that "pilot cars" - the very first off the assembly line - are sometimes those given to journalists for testing. This is an odd practice considering journalists tend to write about buttons falling off so it`s a good idea to give them non-pilot versions.

Anyway, that might be one explanation.

The new GEN.2 was styled by Protons Australian-educated chief stylist Damian Chia who drew inspiration from the traditional Malay kite, tquite a e wau, and the handle of the Malay dagger, the kris, in shaping the unique grille of the GEN.2.

Chia also gave the new car what he describes as "tiger-like eyes" to give the front a more forceful appearance.

The "Lotus inside" theme has been translated into a different and more modern design of the dash and cockpit underlining a strong sporty feel.

GEN.2 is the first Proton to use the all new Campro engine, the first four-cylinder engine designed and built in Malaysia by Proton.

It is a little underpowered for this class but still has just enough to keep most happy.

A high performance Campro with VVT (Variable Valve Timing) and Cam Profile Switching (CPS) is under development.

Suspension was developed by Lotus to give superior ride and handling and uses MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. And it shows. The GEN.2 is quite agile and a pleasant surprise.

All in all it`s a good little beast, especially in the handling stakes, but the quality issues (of the test car at least) leaves a little lingering doubt.



ENGINE: 1.6-litre 16-valve DOHC Campro four-cylinder

POWER: 82kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 142Nm at 4000rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual or four-speed automatic

FUEL ECONOMY: 6.5l/100km Premium Unleaded

PROS: It looks pretty darn good; price is competitive, especially for the standard inclusions; agile handling

CONS: Little low on power and torque; few quality concerns

BOTTOM LINE: $17,990