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Proton bakkie, small car coming too

2005-08-23 08:55

The Proton Gen.2 will rival the Toyota Corolla

John Oxley

This was revealed by Albert Venter, MD of Proton importers Pearl Automotive.

Venter said the 1.5-litre Arena pickup would come here in November, with the Savvy 5-door hatchback early next year.

It was later revealed that station wagon and sedan versions of the Gen.2, which is currently offered only as a five-door coupe-styled fastback, would be developed by the Malaysian company and offered in South Africa.

We are also able to reveal full details and pricing of the current Gen.2 models, as well as our impressions after a short ride and drive around Johannesburg.

Two trim levels

Two Gen.2 versions will initially be offered, both powered by the same 82 kW DOHC 1.6-litre engine, and with either slick-shifting 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearboxes.

The GL specification sees the car equipped with an integrated Blaupunkt radio/front loader CD with RDS and four speakers; steering wheel-mounted audio controls, height, tilt and tilt adjustable driver's seat, a driver's left footrest, rear seats with adjustable headrests (the driver's seats are high back), 60/40 split folding rear seats, heated rear window, and climate control air-con (manual on the GL, automatic in the GLX).

All versions also get electrically-operated front and rear windows, and remote openers for the luggage lid and fuel fillers.

Alloy wheels shod with 195/55 R15 tyres are standard, and there's a space-saver spare. Bumpers, mirrors and door handles are body-coloured.

Inside the GL versions get dual front air bags full instrumentation including a trip computer which gives average fuel used, journey time, and distance to empty, with a soft-rim steering wheel, remote central locking, and a built-in immobiliser.

Power steering

Power steering with a height and tilt adjustable steering column is also standard across the range, as is ABS anti-lock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD). Big disc brakes are fitted front and rear, the fronts ventilated.

Suspension is independent McPherson front, multi-link rear, and as mentioned, it has been tuned and developed in conjunction with Proton-owned Lotus.

In addition to the above features GLX versions get a rear spoiler, rear park distance control, a sunglasses holder, full leather seats, side airbags, and automatic climate control.

The GLX automatic also gets cruise control.

All cars have a 3 year/60 000 km warranty plus a 3 year/75 000 km service plan, and service intervals are 15 000 km for oil changes, 30 000 km for major service.


  • Proton Gen.2 GL manual R137 995; auto R146 995.
  • Proton Gen.2 GLX manual R149 995; auto R159 995.

    On the road

    Our ride and drive in Johannesburg was short, although we have driven the cars extensively in Malaysia, but at least it served to indicate how they would behave at Reef altitudes.

    And we were impressed! The spunky 1.6-litre engine certainly delivers in the power stakes, although some journalists - mainly those from the coast - thought it needed to be revved more than usual for best performance.

    Personally I didn't find that a problem - maybe it suits my driving style!

    The cars' interiors once more impressed, with the touch of Lotus design evident.

    The main instruments are deeply cowled to prevent reflections in the steep windscreen, and a unique feature is the slim centre stack with the heating and ventilation controls mounted in a top-to-bottom row.

    There's lots of stowage space, but unfortunately this doesn't include a glovebox, although there's a tray in front of the front passenger.

    However, there is a big lidded stowage box between the seats.

    The cars proved quite comfortable despite a choice of what seemed the most broken-up roads in South Africa (or maybe that's just the way Johannesburg roads are becoming) and the engine was smooth and quiet except when being revved right to the 7 000 r/min red line.

    The front seats were very comfortable, while those in the back were firmer, while still allowing enough space for two adults.

    Nice touches include the extra power point (in addition to a cigarette lighter) and the load netting in the boot.

    Proton Arena heading for SA too


    A new carmaker for South Africa is always exciting, and Proton is certainly no exception, offering as it does a high level of specification at VERY competitive pricing.

    What's more the cars have the full backing of the Imperial Group, and by the end of the year will have a network of 20 to 25 dealers nationwide.

    Initial dealer roll-out will be in Pretoria, Centurion, Bryanston, Randburg and the East Rand almost immediately, with Cape Town, Umhlanga, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Northcliff and Hatfield to follow in October.

    Phase three will add Somerset West, Tygerberg, Durban, Pinetown, George, Botswana, and Namibia, with a further 10 to 12 before the end of next year.

    Although this staggered roll-out will mean large segments of South Africa will not initially be able to get cars, it DOES mean that the network is unlikely to get over-stressed in the beginning, as often happens with new products.

    Exciting times!

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