When one writer describes the Satria as “the best car the company has ever built” yet still only gives it two stars out of five, then you probably know all that you need to about the standard of the cars that Proton currently sells.
Reviewers find it difficult to recommend the Satria Neo. While quality and comfort are nowhere near as good as almost all of its rivals, it’s not massively cheaper than some of them. The only good point is the handling which might appeal to keen drivers but there are others out there that handle well and then some.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel is a challenge for most as the steering only has rake adjustment. Quality is also criticised; there are uninviting hard plastics everywhere and all the controls feel cheap and flimsy.
If you’re more than six-feet tall, you immediately won’t like this car because there is hardly any headroom in the front (since the windscreen is steeply raked) or in the back. Whatever size or shape you are you will find space inside cramped plus getting into the back will be a challenge, as moving the front seats forward isn’t as easy compared to rivals. Even your luggage will find the Satria Neo uncomfortable because boot space is tight.
With a little help from Lotus, the little Proton is fun to drive around the country roads as the steering is sharp, it handles well and there is little body roll.
The Satria Neo will irritate you in other areas, though. When on the motorway, the engine is loud and drones plus road noise will rumble through the cabin, making you turn the stereo up. The ride is also too firm which is noticeable when driving around town and driving over a pothole will hurt.
In summary, it is quite fun to drive, but a Ford Fiesta is at least as good, and light years better in every other area.
The Satria Neo comes with a 1.6-litre petrol which produces 111bhp and 109lb ft of torque. It takes the car from standstill to 60mph in a not-so-swift 11.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 118mph.
It returns 45mpg and produces as low as 157g/km of CO2. Nearly all of the Satria Neo’s rivals offer more frugal petrol and diesel engines.
Most of the Proton’s competitors offer more refined engines too. This 1.6 makes a lot of noise and drones at motorway speeds. It doesn’t feel nippy in town either and it takes a lot of effort to get it up to motorway speeds.
You can get the car with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. One reviewer found the gearshift in the manual pretty ordinary. If you want cruise control then you’ll have to pick the automatic gearbox.
The lack of safety kit really doesn’t inspire confidence in the Neo.
It isn’t even possible to specify stability control, and only a maximum of two airbags are available, which would have been poor ten years ago.
Best not crash it.
Overall, it’s not as good as cars in the same price bracket but standard equipment isn’t too bad. Every car gets alloy wheels, front fog lamps, climate control, remote locking, electric windows and an MP3-compatible stereo. Upgrade to the Sport trim and you’ll get leather seats and sporty styling inside and out. Resale values will be weak too.
The Suzuki Swift costs the same as the Satria Neo and is a much better all rounder, but then the same applies for pretty much any other car in the class.
If all you want is a good looking and fun-to-drive supermini then you might like the little Proton.
If you are looking for anything else from a small hatchback though, we strongly advise testing all of its rivals first – they tend to outclass the Satria Neo in almost every single area, and won’t cost a whole lot more either.