Last chance to buy: Proton Gen-2

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The Independent Online


Launched: 2004

Engine sizes: 1.3-litre, 1.6

Performance: (1.6) top speed 118mph,0-60mph in 12.6 seconds

Economy: 39.21mpg

Safety: NCAP n/a

When's it going?

The Proton Gen-2 is still with us, but it's just had a mild makeover. Not that you would notice; there's a new interior and some fancy new alloy wheels. Otherwise it is pretty similar to the old model, which is worth tracking down because it's likely to be even better value now.

What's good about it?

Honestly? Not much; the Gen-2 has relatively little going for it. Most of them are bought by private buyers who want their money to go the furthest, and they only potter around locally and cover just a few thousand miles a year. That's why they love the value-for-money specification. The old entry-level GL had air conditioning, remote central locking, a CD player and electric front windows. If you could afford a GLS, then that would mean alloy wheels and a CD multichanger. The top-of-the-tree GSX models also boast climate-control air-con and electric rear windows.

It is quite a good car to drive, not that many of its typical buyers would ever find this out. Tuned by Lotus, a company that Proton owns, it is quite sporty and goes around corners very eagerly.

What's bad about it?

Just about everything else, as this is real lowest-common-denominator motoring. Engine performance is OK, but it isn't very refined and drones away on every journey. And its drivers won't be all that comfortable; there is a degree of adjustability in the steering wheel and seat, but there just isn't enough for most motorists.

Inside, it isn't as big as you think, especially in the back. The interior is not a pleasant place to be in quality terms; you're surrounded by an array of fairly grim plastics. Obviously the new, revised model has addressed this, but quality and standard of finish are the most obvious places where Proton has saved money. Ah well, at least it's cheap, but the trouble is that you lose a lot of money because of savage depreciation. You would be better off with a used Ford Focus than with a new Gen-2.

How much?

Is it actually possible to save money, seeing as the Gen-2 is already so cheap? Well, usually you can save a few hundred pounds, but Proton itself is offering up to five years of fixed-rate finance and throwing in a leather interior. The best way to get money off – apart from simply asking for it – is to look for low-mileage ex-demonstrators at dealers. Michael Edwards Car Sales (01942 246 688) had a 2007 1.3 GLS with 100 miles at £7,495, down from £9,595 brand new.

Any snags?

Not really. There has been just one minor recall in 2005 concerning a loose battery harness, but otherwise Protons are very reliable. The technology is proven, and the dealerships seem to be small and very helpful, according to owners.