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Proton Satria Neo 1.6 Sport

Click to view picture gallery“A Proton Satria Neo was good
  enough for rally driver Tom Cave
  challenge in the 2010 Wales Rally.
  But how does the more humble
  road-going model stack up as an
  everyday road car?”

LOOKS-WISE, RIDING ON STYLISH TURBINE-BLADE alloys and wearing a distinguishing metallic silver-grey livery topped-off with twin dark grey stripes running over the roof from nose to tail and wrapping up either side of the central large-bore tailpipe, it certainly fits the hot-hatch bill. For good measure there's a high-level spoiler and shapely eye-catching rear light clusters.

It must be hard for the likes of Jeremy Clarkson not being exceedingly well-off; but being so tall. Most cars really don't favour tall drivers (or even tall passengers). I don't believe the Talking Head of Top Gear would fit in comfortably (he'd probably say he wouldn't want to but he'd only be saying that because it's in the script). While the Satria's three-door body style is enhanced by the long, steeply raked windscreen, if you stand more than 5' 10" tall there's a price to pay when it comes to headroom.

“The Talking Head of
Top Gear wouldn’t fit in
comfortably (he’d
probably say he wouldn’t
want to but he’d only
be saying that because
it’s in the script).
While the Satria’s body
is enhanced by the long,
steeply raked
windscreen, if you stand
more than 5’ 10” tall
there’s a price to pay
when it comes to
Open the door and drop into the bolstered suede-and-leather seat. Even with it set at its lowest postion many drivers will feel they need to sit lower still.

The silver and black, leather-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel (with remote audio controls that make up for the fiddly buttons on the Blaupunkt hi-fi) only adjusts for height and not reach so you can't sit further back to compensate for that raked screen.

Heavy screen pillars need a little acclimatisation, too, but you soon get used to them. That noted, so long as you're around the 5' 10" mark then you'll find the Satria's driving position okay.

On the plus side the seat base is longer than most so you do get decent under-knee support. You also have lots of foot, leg, shoulder and elbow room and while there's no centre armrest there are armrests built into the doors.

Door pockets are on the small side but will take the likes of a fold-up umbrella, etc, and there's room for more oddments in the multi-section cup holder in the centre console but don't expect to fit a lot in the glovebox if the handbook's already in there!

The dash is simple and uncluttered, with any-which-way air vents and a double cowl over the instrument pack; rotary controls for the AirCon are stacked vertically on a slim centre console. Trim materials aren't up to VW standards but they're not cheap-looking either. The gear lever is to hand and on the move the ride quality is civilised, especially around town speed bumps and potholes are damped out quite well.

It's an unexpectedly airy cabin and once belted-up in the matching suede-and-leather rear seats your passengers will be comfortable enough although knee- and foot-room is limited. Provision is made for three in the back but two is a far more comfortable number. Getting in and out is not a problem with easy access through the long front doors, and the front seats easily return to their original position.

Irritatingly especially when you return to the car laden with shopping the boot can't be opened other than by pulling the release at the side of the driver's seat. Once open, however, versatility is provided by the 60:40 split rear seatbacks; they fold nearly flat enough to make a useful loadbay when required. If you want fully flat you need to manually remove the rear seat base cushions. At 286 litres the boot is of a usable size; with the rear seats folded this increases to 615 litres.

“Even when you’re
quite brutal, the helm
remains impressively
sharp plus there’s
decent grip and body
control — point its
stripey snout at a fast
bend and it dives in,
hanging on gamely
and not
washing out
Back at the front-end behind the double grille there's a 1.6-litre petrol unit that puts out 111bhp and 109lb ft of torque. Zero to 62mph comes up in 9.5 seconds with a Continental motorway max of 118mph.

The four-pot lump is pretty vocal when worked but it revs willingly all the way to its 6,400rpm limit. Do so, and make full use of the gears, and it zips along just fine. On motorways its natural gait is around 80mph at these speeds it's an easy cruise.

Gear-changing options are five-speed 'stick shift' or four-speed auto. CO2 emissions are 157g/km and a week's real-world driving saw an average of 30.6mpg against the official combined cycle figure of 42.8mpg.

Given its purposeful stance, emphasised by strongly flared wheel arches, and Lotus' chassis input, you'd expect the Satria to serve up a decent drive. Of course, 'tuned by Lotus' doesn't mean 'handle like a Lotus', but even so it's pretty wieldy. Even when you're quite brutal, the helm remains impressively sharp plus there's decent grip and body control point its stripey snout at a fast bend and it dives in, hanging on gamely and not washing out. When you do get physical, the sport-style seats keep you in place. And when it comes to slowing down even when we had an unlooked-for, full-on emergency stop discs at each corner keep it drama-free.

When it comes to spec there are two trim levels: GSX and Sport. Sport includes climate control along with suede-and-leather sports-style seats, electric windows (one-shot down driver's side), power mirrors, MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, remote central locking, reversing sensors (you'll be glad of these), alloy wheels, front fog lights and driver and passenger front airbags.

What you don't get is ESP; it's not even optional. While stability control is wholeheartedly desirable, its absence does underscore the Satria's core character: it doesn't over-insulate the driver from the driving.
— MotorBar

Proton Satria Neo 1.6 Sport | 9,495
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 30.6mpg
Power: 111bhp | Torque: 109lb ft | CO2 157g/km