PROTON Holdings Bhd, the country’s first national car maker, has experienced its fair share of ups and downs over the past two decades.
The company, which at one point was Malaysia’s top selling car brand, is now the third best selling car maker in Malaysia. In 2016, it sold 72,290 vehicles.
There was a period when consumers’ confidence in Proton vehicles had declined. There was also a period of uncertainty when the company was in the spotlight as a potential takeover target by various carmakers - both local and foreign.
However, it appears that the company is starting to regain some traction, as it began producing vehicles that meet consumers’ needs at the right price point.
When we were asked to give its second generation Proton Persona a test drive, we were excited to see how this car and Proton as a company grew and improved over the years.
Proton Persona (BH6) codenamed P2-31A, is a B-segment car and is also the carmaker’s third generation of Proton Persona in certain countries, as for Malaysia, it will be our second generation. It was launched in August last year.
The car, which is one class smaller than the previous generation of Proton Persona, is based on an extended Proton Iriz platform. Despite being one class smaller, the new Proton Persona offers bigger headroom and large boot space. It has almost the same rear legroom as the predecessor.
During the launch, there were four variants of Proton Persona -- namely the Standard MT, Standard CVT, Executive CVT and Premium CVT. The ride we drove was a Premium CVT powered by a 1.6-litre natural aspirated engine mated to a continuous variable transmission. It is capable of churning out 107hp at 5,750rpm and 150Nm of torque from 4,000rpm.
The new Proton Persona is 4,387mm long, 1,722mm wide and 1,554mm tall. Its wheelbase length is at 2,555mm. At such measurement, it is 482mm longer, 2mm wider and 4mm taller than the Proton Iriz, and 90mm shorter, and 3mm narrower and 116mm taller than the previous Proton Persona. It even has a 510-litre boot space, 80 litres more than its predecessor. It comes with audio controls steering wheel, front fog lamps, two rear USB charging ports, remote trunk release, keyless entry with push-start button, leather upholstery, 2-Din touchscreen infotainment system, 15-inch wheels and powered retractable side mirrors.
As for its safety aspects, it is equipped with six airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-hold assist and ISOFIX points. It was awarded a 5-star Asean NCAP rating.
The Proton Persona Premium CVT variant is priced at RM59,800 inclusive of insurance.
We drove the Persona over a long weekend, clocked over 700km in it, drove passed highways, cities, urban, rural, damaged and rough road conditions.
With a boot space of 510 litres, it can easily fit in two 20-inch luggages and a medium sized stroller, for a small family of three to go on a vacation. We find that the Proton Persona Premium CVT is suitable for a small family and also young executives who are looking for a stylish and affordable car.
Its Android infotainment system connects flawlessly to any Android smartphone and is able to play tunes from the handphone. When the car comes to a standstill, the driver and passengers can also enjoy movies or music from the DVD system, or through a USB thumbdrive. The infotainment system also comes with a GPS navigation, for adventure people seeking places in an unfamiliar territory.
Most importantly, it comes with two USB charging ports for rear passengers to have easy access to charge their gadgets. Not forgetting, it also comes with leather seats. It makes life easier when passengers accidentally spill drinks on the seats, just wipe with a cloth and it will be done.
One of the most impressive discovery on the new Proton Persona is that the company appears to have started to pay more attention on the smaller details of the car. It also comes with keyless entry and push-start button. It is convenient especially for people who always have to search for the keys before accessing the car. As long as the keys are in the pocket, the owner can drive the car just with just a few presses of a button.
The Persona has a quality finishing on the dashboard, transmission tunnel, handbrake and inner sections of the door cards. It gives an impression that the company has put a lot of thought on improving the look and feel of the interior. For example, the new Persona has 10 storage compartments and seven cup holders.
We managed to clock about 7.1 litres per 100km in a mixture of city and mostly highway driving. The Persona gripped tightly on the road during high-speed cornering. It overcomes potholes and rough surface with comfort, only the bigger potholes were felt.
With the 5-star Asean NCAP rating, we felt more confident and safe driving the Proton Persona.