Proton Savvy Review
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Proton Savvy Tested March 2006
Avoid. Proton's first-ever small car is a big step for the Malaysian carmaker - but we're wondering whether it's one in the right direction.
Proton is moving away from its origins as a manufacturer of cast-off Mitsubishi designs. The Savvy is a completely new supermini that has been designed and engineered entirely by the Malaysian company, with a little bit of help from subsidiary company, Lotus. That sounds admirably ambitious, but it does depend on being familiar with modern design standards.
The headline-grabbing prices are certainly enough to win the Savvy attention - and the design isn't completely displeasing, either. Certainly not at the front, where the bold grille and characterful headlamps give the Savvy plenty of character. Which makes the weak design of the back of the Savvy even more disappointing - the centre exhaust just looks ludicrous.
The interior features plenty of modern design cues, but quality falls woefully short of what European buyers expect from a modern supermini. The plastics feel cheap and insubstantial, exposed screwheads are everywhere, the steering wheel feels greasy to the touch and the heater controls are set far too low. Seats are reasonably supportive and there's a decent range of driving position adjustment, but the rear seats lack headroom because of the pointless slope taken by the roof. The boot is small by modern supermini standards too.
The 1.1 litre petrol engine is a former Renault unit, but poor installation in the Savvy gives it truly dreadful refinement, the whiney, thrashy noise never abating and power poorly modulated through the jerky throttle and high-biting clutch. The heavy, inaccurate gearbox makes driving even more of a chore.
But worst of all is the chassis, which manages to do a decent impression of a small boat - rolling with sickening ease under the smallest steering inputs. Body control is dreadful, the Savvy wallowing over bumps and undulations - with far too much vertical motion building up to give any impression of comfort.
Against superior bargain rivals like the Kia Picanto, the Savvy feels almost embarrassingly off the pace.
Next: ratings and breakdown
1. Tidy front-end design
2. Supportive seats
3. Did we mention the front-end design?
We don't like:
1. Gutless, thrashy engine
2. Awful driving experience
3. Pretty much everything else
Most fun: n/a
Most sensible: 1.2 Street
Worst: 1.2 Street