The Proton needs to woo hearts as well as heads, and the Persona Compact SEi is almost the car to do it. Based on the just-superseded Mitsubishi Colt, but with a distinctive Proton design at the nose and tail, it's a neat, rounded car which looks modern enough for you not to notice it isn't.
What you do notice in the SEi are a go-faster spoiler on the rear edge of the roof, body-colour bumpers and chunkily wide tyres. Once you have got to grips with the sticky gearchange it proves rather lively, with performance on a par with that of a Volkswagen Golf GTi.
The SEi has a smooth, free-revving 16-valve engine able to deliver 111bhp, with quick, accurate steering and strong roadholding. It soaks up bumps effectively, too; this car's dynamics are well up to modern standards. But for all its accuracy, the steering provides about as much feel of the road as a video game.
Not quite a sporty hatchback, not quite a bargain runabout, the new Proton seems to be a bit of this and a bit of that. And in terms of all those added extras the ad implies, what do you get? Standard-fit air conditioning, a driver's airbag, a sweet-sounding but ultimately feeble stereo...
Proton Persona Compact SEi, pounds 10,499 Engine: 1597cc, four cylinders, 111bhp at 6,000rpm. Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed 116mph, 0-60 in 10.8 seconds. Fuel consumption: 34-39mpg
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