Proton's Compact, known since late 1999 as the Satria, must be one of the motor industry's best-kept secrets. New car buyers are immensely loyal to the Malaysian company's products and it's easy to understand the reasons why. The Compact/Satria, for example, is a medium-sized family hatch at a supermini price.
Used car buyers are now also beginning to see many of the attractions of Proton ownership. The company offers long and comprehensive warranties on all its new vehicles, a sure sign that reliability and durability are more than just sales talk. Used buyers have realised this and are beginning to discover the bargains that exist. Protons can still take a little effort to track down, however, unless you go through a main dealer.
Costing several thousand pounds below Western European competitors, Protons are relatively plush, easy to drive, hold their value and never let their owners down. In short, they get the job done better than anything else even close to the price.
Proton's first models, the Mpi Saloon and Aeroback, were launched here in March 1989. It wasn't until the arrival of the Compact in October 1995, however, that the rounded look with which we now associate Protons first appeared. Until October 1999, the 1.3, 1.5 and 1.6-litre three-door hatchbacks remained largely unchanged but they were then re-christened Satria and joined by a range-topping 1.8GTi model with twin cam engine and Lotus-tuned chassis. In 2000, Proton rearranged the mainstream model designations, confusingly adding 'S LE' to the trim levels and adjusting specifications slightly.
In early 2001, this approach was dropped, a five year warranty included on all models and the 1.6-litre model given a sportier look and re-christened 'Sprint'. If you couldn't stretch to the GTi, a £9,299 Sport model was introduced in summer 2001 that gave all the looks with an insurance-friendly 86bhp 1.5-litre engine.