When Proton announced a significant price cut for the struggling Proton Savvy, I simply had to go drive this car. In case you're not aware, I am not a fan of cheap and nasty cars. I have taken most of my anger out on the Holden Barina so far this year but something tells me I have a new target, the Proton Savvy.
Test Model: 2007 Proton Savvy 1.2-litre Manual
Options Fitted: None
Starting at just $13,990 driveaway for the manual, it almost seems like the bargain of the century, even more so when you consider the features.
With a Renault sourced 1.2-litre engine that produces 55kW of power (5.7 litres/100km fuel consumption), a five-speed manual transmission, ABS, dual front airbags, 15 inch alloys, rear parking sensors and keyless entry, I couldn't fault the car on paper... so I went for a drive.
I am delighted to say that as far as this Proton goes, you really get what you pay for. With an interior resembling a 1990s Hyundai Excel, a gear stick that vibrates in 3rd and 4th gear and an engine which can deafen you in less than 5 minutes, I couldn't run away fast enough.
Let's start with the looks, although styling is subjective - this is an ugly, ugly car. It's not like other small cars where it can be ugly but still cute, this car is just ugly! The front is barely passable, but from the back, the sagging rear lights resemble a baby rat stuck in a mouse trap.
Proton obviously doesnt't have focus groups in Malaysia to seek public reaction before designing a car. I can't imagine any young driver walking out of a Proton dealership thinking "damn, that savvy is hot".
If you buy this car, what you will end up doing is approaching it with your eyes closed as much as possible, just so you don't have to look at it too much. But the real horror starts inside.
With uneven and unfinished edges as well as plastic sharp enough to cut your skin, the Savvy gives a hint of what we should expect from other developing manufacturing nations (such as China) in the next few years.
My biggest problem with the car is engine noise. There is next to no sound proofing and given the 1.2-litre powerplant struggles, you really have to redline on every gear change if you intend to keep up with traffic.
As I attempted to join the highway, my ear drums were ready to explode from the screaming whine of the engine - this can scare you at first since no engine should sound like Avril Lavign on drugs, but no - its just part of the fun! If you intend to go past 5,000 RPM, make sure you bring some industrial strength ear muffs because you'll need it!
But wait, there is more, cruise along in 3rd of 4th gear and the second you lift your foot of the accelerator the gear stick vibrates like a race dog trying to shag your leg. So along with unbearable engine noise and the vibrating gear stick, the Proton is not exactly a fun car to drive.
Surely I had a broken car? Nothing can be this bad! I took the car back and kindly informed the lovely gentlemen (who was keen to tell me the Savvy is Lotus inspired) that he owes me a set of new eardrums and a new Savvy.
He decided to come with me so I can point out the problems, he informed me the engine noise is normal, at least for a Malaysian car and as for the vibrating gearstick, "oh yeah that happens in the Gen.2s as well sometimes, it goes away after a while... I wouldn't worry about it" uha... a car with 150kms on the clock should not have vibrating issues!
In fairness, it's not ALL bad, the Savvy does have some Lotus blood in it after all. As far as handling goes, it would run circles around the competition (once it gets to speed). Comparing this to the Rio, Swift and Colt, the Savvy is easily the best handling small car. But that's a small victory in war Proton have already lost.
The stereo is also rather impressive for a $13,990 car. Using a Clarion headunit and worthy speakers, Proton have supplied a very reasonable stereo so that you can overcome the unbearable engine noise.
Why on earth have Proton stuck rear parking sensors to this thing? If you can't park this, you shouldn't drive. Rear visibility is very clear and as far as dimensions go, it's comparable to a micro car! Sure it's free and yes, why not, but don't let it persuade you, rear parking sensors in a car this small are pointless!
My friends, do yourself a big favour and give this (and the Barina) a miss - don't be fooled by the $13,990 price tag - think of it this way, if you value your hearing and sanity - its not worth the $2,000 saving!