> Driving refinement is very decent
> Power delivery is smooth
> Seats are soft and comfortable for long-distance trips
> Low levels of wind, engine and road noise intrusion
> Spacious interior
The new Proton Persona is, without a doubt, the best sedan deal in the 1.4 to 1.6-litre engined segment.
To recap, the B-segment sedan was launched in late August and is offered in three trims, namely Standard (RM49,800), Executive (RM55,800) and Premium (RM59,800).
The new Persona uses the same platform as the Iriz hatchback, and also has a 1.6—litre VVT (variable valve timing) engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission).
The powertrain delivers 107hp at 5,750rpm and 150Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
There is also a manual transmission variant priced at RM46,800.
The car is more fuel efficient, and comes with better safety features and cabin refinement. Safety features like ABS (anti-lock braking system), EBD (electronic brake force distribution), brake assist, traction control, hill hold assist, ESC (electronic stability control), ISOFIX points and top tether are in all Persona variants.
It is the first Proton car to have an ECO Drive Assist indicator.
All variants get 185/55 R15 tyres. It has a cavernous boot at 510 litres.
Proton chief designer Azlan Othman said the new Persona is about expressing executive sportiness. "It shares similar design traits with the new Saga, and has a bold and distinctive face, with a sweeping roofline, tall glasshouse and sculptured bodyside."
The Persona is a popular buy, with bookings hitting 8,000 units as of early this week. About 2,000 units have been delivered. The most popular variant is the Premium, with 45 per cent of bookings.
The Premium variant gets extras like six airbags, leather seats, engine start-stop button and keyless entry (via button on driver's door), reverse camera, and a touchscreen display with DVD player and navigation.
The most popular colour is the new and exclusive Carnelian Brown, with 35 per cent of buyers opting for it.
Other colour choices are Cotton White, Fire Red, Sterling Silver, Graphite Grey and Quartz Black.
While the Persona has the same powertrain found in the Iriz, Proton has re-calibrated the engine and transmission for more refinement and smoother power delivery.
We found the CVT to be a smooth shifter, and our co-driver, who is owns an Iriz, also noted that the Persona provides a more refined drive.
Which begs the question - will the improvements made to the Persona's powertrain be carried over to the Iriz in the future? According to Proton's management, this is something the automaker is presently looking into.
Compared with the previous Persona, the new car's kerb weight is lower by some 50kg. The new Persona has a kerb weight starting from 1,155kg.
At a constant 90kph, the new Persona is 10% (automatic transmission) and 13% (manual transmission) more fuel efficient compared with its predecessor.
On a recent 117km media drive in Pahang, from Jengka to Kuantan, we recorded an average fuel consumption of 5.6 litres per 100km after maintaining constant speeds of 70 to 80kph on highways and hitting some heavy town traffic.
This is based on the digital readout of fuel consumption, using the car's on-board fuel economy meter.
Some drivers in the media convoy managed to record 5.4 litres per 100km.
It should be noted we had to complete the 117km route within two hours; so we really could not drive very slowly to conserve fuel.
And the drive organisers had taken pains to ensure the air-conditioning in the cars could not be turned off.
When driven at 80kph on smooth highways, we noted that the tachometer needle was at 2,100 to 2,200rpm. At 110kph, the needle hovered around 2,900rpm.
At high speeds, we were not bothered by the low levels of wind, engine and road noise intrusion. As for the interior, the two-tone interior colour scheme looks sporty, and the stitched dashboard material lends a premium feel.
Compared with Proton cars like the Preve, the seats in the new Persona are softer and more comfortable for long-distance trips. We found the new Persona to be a well-designed car, and there isn't much to complain about here.
But we would have liked the cup holders between the front seats to have a bit more depth to better store small items, and we wished there was a centre arm rest and storage box.
All in all, after spending two days and over 500km with the new Persona, we dare say this is the best Proton car ever built from the ground up.
In terms of driving enjoyment, nice cabin materials, and providing value for money, it surpasses its non-national and higher-priced rivals in many ways.
The new Persona takes Proton further in terms of driving refinement and premium cabin quality.