Is there a better looking supermini out there than Proton's Satria Neo. June Neary doesn't think so..
Will It Suit Me?
Most supermini buyers don't know about Proton's Satria Neo. I didn't until one rolled up in my driveway. But now I've been driving one for a few weeks, I'd struggle to visually cope with just about any other small car. If you haven't seen one (and you probably haven't), believe me, it looks that good. And since I'm pretty shallow when it comes to the importance of visual appeal, this Proton has something of a head start with me.
In its current form, this three-door model is a mere 3,905mm long, although Proton say they have made every effort to maximise the wheelbase in order to free up more room inside the car for passengers and luggage. It's certainly a step forward from the old MK1 Satria - but as few will remember that car, this is a largely irrelevant point to trumpet on the Malaysian company's behalf. The rear seat is a 60/40 split/fold number and with the bench in place, there's 286 litres of space. With it fully-folded, there's a surprisingly large 615 litres to play with. Making up slightly for the lack of extra doors is the fact that there's relatively easy entry to the back with a sliding front seat that features a memory function so that it always returns to the desired position. A height-adjustable steering wheel has been positioned at an easy angle to increase driver leg room.
Behind the Wheel
Two engines are available, both shared with the larger GEN-2 family hatchback. The entry-level powerplant is a 1.3-litre four-cylinder unit good for 94bhp. Teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox, this CAMPRO engine will get the Satria Neo to a top speed of 112mph and features a peak torque figure of 120Nm. Opt instead, as I did, for the 1.6-litre CAMPRO unit and you have a 111bhp engine capable of 118mph and producing 148Nm of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is also offered with this larger engine but I wouldn't if I were you.
Value For Money
Compare the prices of a Satria Neo to something modest like a Chevrolet Kalos and it looks very good value. The rather smaller 1.4-litre Kalos 1.4 SX weighs in at £9,195 and manages only 93bhp whereas the better equipped 111bhp 1.6-litre Proton not only drives better and looks better but seems a smarter piece of business to boot. As a point of reference, the entry level 1.6-litre Ford Fiesta three-door is priced within a whisker of £11,000. Although the headline prices of the Satria Neo models do look initially attractive, part of the sheen is taken off when it comes to residual values as a Proton will never fare as well as a name like Ford or Vauxhall. Still, there isn't that much in it and I'd argue that what customers lose in depreciation they can claw back when it comes to driving enjoyment. Economy figures for the Satria Neo are fair to middling, the 1.3 -litre achieving 26.7mpg on the urban cycle, 56.5 for the extra urban exercise and a combined figure a whisker under 40mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are probably this car's Achilles heel, the 1.3-litre engine managing a hardly saintly 168g/km. Rather curiously, the 1.6-litre engine is markedly better in terms of fuel economy. It'll manage 28mpg around town, 61.4mpg on a longer trip and maintain an average of 42,8mpg, Emissions are better too at 157g/km. The moral of this story? Step up to the bigger engine.
Could I Live With One?
All that be as it may however, I can't get away from how great this car looks -and how well priced it is. For those two qualities, I can forgive it (almost) everything.