ACROSS THE POND – Proton Satria Neo 1.6 GSX

Skoda, Lexus diesels, Renault – they’ve all been noticed by GoodCarBadCar’s Across The Pond. Now it’s Proton’s turn, as the Malaysian automaker turns to the Satria Neo for a little more international attention.

North Americans won’t be seeing the Satria in showrooms anytime soon. To set eyes on a Proton would require some serious intercontinental travel. Proton had humble beginnings; its origin dating back to 1983 under a Malaysian Prime Minister’s direction. By times, their cars have been badge engineered examples of leftover Mitsubishi’s, and success was often assured in the home market because of high import fees and surcharges on better vehicles produced elsewhere.

Proton is the majority owner in British sportscar maker Lotus and was once a major stakeholder in motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta. That Lotus connection brings us to the Satria Neo, the second generation of Proton’s small hatchback. Check the badging on a Satria Neo 1.6 GSX and you’ll see a quaint nod to the late Colin Chapman’s firm: “Handling by LOTUS”.
And, as evo reported, the Satria is a bit of a diamond in the rough when it comes to on-road dynamics, despite some other not-so-endearing traits.

“The 1.6 sounds slightly thrashy and feels a little down on the quoted outputs – the result, one suspects, if tge hefty kerb weight of 1170kg. The claimed 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds feels about right. The gearshift is pretty ordinary, and the brakes don’t have the bite you’d really like.

Thankfully, the dynamics lift the experience. Initially it feels like handling has been sacrificed for ride quality; the Satria soaks up a bad road, delivering a smooth, quiet, controlled ride. Tack into a decent turn and, although there’s roll, the steering proves remarkably direct and accurate…. Keeping the Satria flowing is key. Grip is OK, but get too enthusiastic on turn-in and fine balance falls into scrubby understeer…. But the tail reacts nicely to a bit of lift-off weight transfer, aiding agility, and can be coaxed into a modest slip.”

The 1.6L engine produces 111bhp and is only two down on that figure in the torque department. Brits will pay £9595 for the privilege of owning a Malaysian hatch fine-tuned by a former F1 competitor, but evo does suggest that rivals like the Fiat Panda 100HP and Ford SportKa would serve you better.

Malaysia is risin’, ain’t no use denyin’.