Proton are offering drivers the chance to dramatically cut their fuel bills by introducing two dual-fuel ecoLogic cars to their GEN-2 range. Matt Low reports.
Ten Second Review
Proton has expanded its GEN-2 range with two dual-fuel models that run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Protons will never be big sellers but with the promise of half-price driving on offer and no conversion cost, a GEN-2 ecoLogic could be the answer to your economy prayers.
There was a time in the not too distant past when LPG was heralded as the answer to soaring fuel prices. The government even offered motorists a grant to convert their vehicles to run on the alternative fuel. A lot of manufacturers began producing vehicles that ran on LPG and a network of LPG filling stations sprang up around the country in preparation for the revolution. So why aren't we all driving LPG cars already? Because the government decided to pull the plug on the grants and, left with a conversion fee of around £1,500 to £2,000 and a dwindling number of filling stations offering LPG, drivers decided perhaps it wasn't such a great idea after all. But now LPG is back on the radar in the form of Proton's new GEN-2 ecoLogic cars. The Malaysian manufacturer have been supplying over 300 of the dual-fuel cars to the Humberside police for the last ten years and the boys in blue say they have made savings of around £300,000 during that time. With that in mind, Proton have extended the dual-fuel system to their passenger cars in the hope that the potential savings on offer will appeal to the economical motorist.
The only engine on offer with the GEN-2 ecoLogic is a 1.6-litre 110bhp CAMPRO unit. It's worth remembering that this powerplant has been developed in collaboration with Lotus, who Proton own, and it provides a better drive than you might expect. It produces reasonable torque in the mid and upper ranges but you'll need to work the gearbox to get some speed up at lower revs. Fortunately this isn't too much of a hardship as the standard manual gearbox is a slick system. 0-60mph is reached in 12.6 seconds and it can achieve a top speed of 124mph. Maximum torque of 147Nm is produced at 4,000rpm. The GEN-2 ecoLogic runs on petrol for around 20 seconds after turning the ignition key, before switching to LPG when it is most economical to do so. This means you will have to demonstrate a certain amount of forward-thinking and ensure that there is always a bit of petrol in the tank so you don't get caught out. But aside from that it's a hassle-free system, with the fuel source controlled by a switch next to the gearstick. Four lights next to the switch act as a fuel gauge and tell you how much LPG you have left in the tank. Switching between the two is seamless, with only a very small loss of power noticeable when running on LPG and even then, only when climbing steep hills.
Design and Build
The build quality in the GEN-2 range is a big improvement on previous efforts and it's no different in the ecoLogic models. The interior features darker plastic for the dash and door trim inserts and the steering wheel is massively more sporting looking than the apologetic tillers seen in most cars of the Proton's ilk, as is the instrument panel. Everywhere you look, there are neat design touches, from the unorthodox handbrake grip to the semi-circular door pulls. Plastics quality still marks the GEN-2 out as a budget offering but there's little else to give the game away. There is a second filler cap next to the petrol cap which is matched to the exact colour of the car so the fact the GEN-2 is running on an alternative fuel is virtually undetectable. The tank itself is situated in the spare wheel well meaning you do have to do without a fifth wheel. In terms of boot-space lost, it's a matter of a couple of inches in depth so no great loss there. Both models feature 'ecoLogic' badges on the rear.
Market and Model
There are two body styles available in the GEN-2 ecoLogic range, the GSX hatchback or the Persona Saloon. The latest version of the GSX features a sporty interior with red trim on the leather seats, doors and steering wheel, remote central locking, an alarm and engine immobiliser, electric front and rear windows, twin front and side airbags, 15-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights. The Persona's inventory includes electric door mirrors, a boot-spoiler, a Rheostat dimmer, chrome number plate surrounding and a stainless steel exhaust trim. Both models feature air-conditioning with a pollen filter and height and tilt adjustable driver's seats. Both models feature halogen headlamps with automatic levelling, an adjustable steering column, power steering, reverse parking sensors and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. Entertainment is provided by an integrated Blaupunkt radio/CD player with RDS and a four way speaker system and a Bluetooth hands-free kit which works through the audio system can also be fitted as an accessory. In terms of safety, the whole GEN-2 range includes EBD, ABS, twin front airbags and rear childproof locks.
Cost of Ownership
At around 60p a litre for LPG, a Proton GEN-2 ecoLogic is going to be very cheap to run. Fuel consumption is increased slightly when using LPG but not enough to cancel out the low cost of the alternative fuel. The cost of converting a car to LPG is around £1,500 to £2,000 but Proton have absorbed that cost themselves, meaning the initial outlay for one of their LPG models will not cost a penny more than a standard petrol model. If you drive 10,000 miles in one year with the cost of petrol and LPG at £1.12 and 58p respectively, your savings should be in the region of £500. That's a sum not to be sniffed at. Proton also offer a three-year/60,000 miles total vehicle warranty with RAC cover on all their GEN-2 ecoLogic models. Liquefied petroleum gas is itself a by-product of extracting and refining crude oil and would be put to waste if it wasn't converted so if you're interested in saving the planet, the GEN-2 ecoLogic ticks all the right boxes. It also produces lower emissions than a standard petrol-driven car.
There are those sorts of drivers who, above all else, care about brand and image and for them, the Proton will doubtful even register on their radar. Then there are the sort of drivers who care about getting good value for money, then spending very little on running costs. For those sorts of drivers, the GEN-2 ecoLogic will be right up their street. The fact it offers no conversion cost and the potential to cut fuel costs in half will appeal to the more frugal driver and for this reason alone it will shift units. That said, the latest GEN-2 range is a marked improvement on previous models and the cars themselves are actually pretty attractive propositions. The exterior styling, interior quality and handsome list of mod-cons on offer here are rarely seen on budget brands and if doubters can get past the Proton badge, they may be pleasantly surprised.