is the third car developed by Proton itself, following Waja (Impian)
and Gen.2. The car is Ford Fiesta-sized thus is the entry level product
from Proton. In Malaysia, thanks to the protection of heavy tariff, its
competitor is only limited to Perodua Myvi – a localized version of
Toyota Passo. When it export to UK in the near future, it will face far
stronger competition from a dozen of European, Japanese and Korean
superminis. Is it competitive enough?
first sight, the Savvy looks quite promising. Not especially lovely,
but the exterior design has its own personality – the stepped
side windows and Land Rover-style clamshell bonnet differentiate it
from other mini cars on the market. Proton is not willing to disclose
who designed the car, but said it was developed under the leadership of
ex-Daewoo engineers who know small cars very well. Furthermore, the
ride and handling was tuned by Lotus (horribly, in Malaysia it even
marketed the car as "My first Lotus"). The chassis is made quite stiff,
forming a solid base for the MacPherson struts and torsion-beam axle
suspensions. The steering is assisted by old fashion hydraulic servo,
no tricks here.
measures 3.7 meters in length and 2.4 meters in wheelbase, thus it
provides competitive passenger room front and rear. Unfortunately – but
every bit predictable for a Proton – the cabin is poorly finished with
bad quality plastics, poorly fitted switch gears and filmsy air vents.
Above the passenger glovebox is an ugly big hole, ah, it is for fitting
the optional air bag. Talking about air bags, Western buyers will be
shocked that the not-so-cheap Savvy does not offer any air bags as
standard in its domestic market. Nor there is any power rear windows.
Well, the manually wind rear windows at least can cut power windows
faulty rate by half – a thing too notorious in previous Protons. The
driving position is definitely more ergonomical than Gen.2, although a
fixed steering wheel is by no means world class.
the clamshell bonnet reveals a Renault 1.2-litre engine - Proton's own
Campro engine is too big to be fitted here. This engine is the base
engine for Renault Twingo and Clio, having a single camshaft but 16
valves to produce 74 horsepower. That translate to pretty good
performance, but the downside is a resonating boom once the needle
passed 4000 rpm. On the motorway, the Savvy also transmit too much wind
noise into its poorly insulated cabin. In terms of refinement, it still
lags a long way behind European standard.
to the Lotus tuning, the Savvy rides and handles quite well in the
twisty. Its suspension tuning has European firmness, displaying more
driver appeal than Perodua Myvi. Over bumpy surfaces it does not crash
or bottom either. The steering is also well weighted and accurate,
although not very feelsome.
In the end, reliability problem is a hurdle Savvy must overcome. In
Malaysia, Proton has poor reputation about quality and honesty. Every
time it launched a new car it promised vast improvement in quality, but
every time its customers found being cheated. Today there are less and
less patriots willing to put their hard earned money on the gamble. No
wonder Proton set a pessimistic domestic sales target of 40,000 Savvys
in its first full year. That accounts for only 20-30% share of the
local small car market. If it cannot shine in the protected home
market, how can it export to Europe ?