A worthy Wira successor
A BIG breath of fresh air from Proton, the Persona is.
A video clip of the car - posted within minutes of the launch on Aug 15 - generated over 29,000 hits - one of the highest on The Star Online website.
As of late last month, the national carmaker has taken in over 8,000 bookings for the new car.
Whatever may have been said about Proton in the past, interest levels in the national car's new 1.6-litre four-door sedan are now exceptionally high.
Unlike its offerings over the last two years such as the Satria Neo and Savvy, which were aimed at specific niches in the market, the Persona is built and priced to be a true volume seller.
In the Persona, Proton appears to have addressed the quality and design issues that cropped up in the Gen.2.
These included cramped rear seats, a plasticky interior, a lack of a glovebox, sluggish engine performance at low speeds and rear doors that were difficult to open - among other fit and finish issues.
Other notable improvements are a quieter passenger compartment compared to the Gen.2's, even when the Persona is running at a high speed.
The interior also has a softer more inviting ambience than the original Gen.2 which saw extensive use of hard plastic trimmings.
There's new door interior panelling with redesigned door latches and a 430-litre boot that is even larger than the Waja's.
The Persona uses the 1.6-litre twin cam Campro engine, the staple of the Gen.2, Satria Neo and Waja models, which cranks out 111bhp at 6,000rpm and torque of 148Nm at 4,000rpm.
The Persona feels more responsive as its transmission control unit has been tweaked for smoother low to mid-range speed response - which comes into play during stop-and-start traffic in city driving.
The gear changes in the automatic version are now faster and smoother and there is less “hunting of gears” that was evident in the Gen.2.
The Persona's suspension system, which has been set for comfort, still maintains the Lotus-tuned handling for accurate steering and surefooted cornering.
We were also impressed by the sound insulation on the Persona which keeps noise levels comfortably quiet.
Conspicuously absent is the exhaust boominess of the earlier Gen.2 – something that drones on you during extended drives.
So besides offering substantial improvement, the Persona is arguably the most competitively priced offering in the 1.6-litre category.
RM44,999 to RM55,800 gets you a 1.6-litre car which rides and handles like a European car, with a decent interior, a large boot, better refinement and driving pleasure to top it all.