Proton Savvy - The Verdict

For once, the Malaysian company has hit on a snazzy name for its latest budget car, and the Savvy does live up to it, says David Wilkins

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Price: £5,995 to £7,695
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol; 75bhp
Performance: 0-60mph in 13.9 seconds; 49.6mpg;
CO2: 134g/km
Worth considering: Daihatsu Charade, Kia Picanto, Fiat Panda

Proton has a patchy track record when it comes to naming its cars. UK buyers were spared the Putra, the Tiara and the Waja, for example, but we still got the Impian, the Persona and the Saga.

It is therefore all the more surprising that the Malaysian manufacturer has come up with such a great name for its new model, the Savvy. It's short and catchy - good for a small car - but better, it suggests that anyone who buys the car has made a smart choice. After all, which of us would not want it to be thought that we possessed a certain amount of nous?

Given that most decent car names were snapped up long ago, Proton has pulled off a minor coup by securing the rights to "Savvy".

The Savvy represents a departure from Proton's previous ways in other respects, too. It's smaller than the cars that the company has previously offered in the UK, and you may have noticed that its introduction was marked by a television advertising campaign - again, something that Proton doesn't do often. So, what's it like? In terms of looks, Proton has largely succeeded; the styling of the front is fresh and original, although the design gets less adventurous towards the back, where the light lenses have a dodgy honeycomb pattern. This is the only place, though, where Proton has indulged its traditional weakness for unnecessarily fussy surfaces.

When we tested Proton's larger Gen-2, we rated it more highly for its sound dynamic capabilities than its disappointing cabin. The Savvy is a car of more even abilities. The company doesn't make the strong "Handling by Lotus" claims for the Savvy that it does for the Gen-2, although most buyers will find that its performance and handling are up to the modest demands that they are likely to make of them.

On the other hand, Proton has put more effort into the Savvy's interior trim. The centre console and its switchgear are much better than what Proton has produced before, although the plasticky unadjustable steering wheel is similar to the Gen-2's. Some of the other plastics aren't great either, but this is probably excusable at the car's price. Of course, the Savvy wouldn't be a Proton without some unusual use of colour - in this case, the vivid yellow of the instrument dials. Sounds terrible, but everyone loved it.

In truth, the savviest buyers are still likely to look at the more polished European and Japanese competitors before considering Proton's new baby, but the Savvy still scores on value, being roomier and better equipped than most other budget offerings.

Robert Mason, 36, portfolio manager, Nottingham
USUAL CARS: AUDI A4, PEUGEOT 807

I must admit that I had never heard of the Proton Savvy, but it has a lot to offer, considering the price, including ABS, air bags, CD player, reverse parking sensors, air conditioning and alloy wheels. The downside is the cheap, plasticky feel about the dashboard and door panels. The Savvy would suit someone who wants a small "about town" car, but also occasionally needs to use the motorway, as it performs adequately in both situations. The driving seat was surprisingly comfortable on both country lanes and motorways, but the absence of steering adjustment was a big negative for me. Overall, though, I was pleasantly amazed by the Savvy, and would consider it if I needed a car of this sort.

Paul Baker, 55, Chris Baker, 13, from Gilworth, Leicestershire
USUAL CAR: MG TF 160

I'm tall so I know when a car is too small, but the Savvy's seats were fine, and the driving position good, despite the fixed steering-wheel position. I also liked aspects of the interior, but I'd change the beige trim to grey to match the dash. The ride was quite hard but it went around corners well. The engine was a bit noisy in the lower gears and when going over 60mph, and it lost power a bit on hills. Would I buy one? Yes, if I wanted a small car, although there were a few things that needed tweaking.

Chris says: A score out of 10? Six or seven. The look is nice, and the seats are comfortable, with good legroom. I also liked the dashboard and the quirkiness of it.

Leon Simmons, 49, day-care organiser, Loughborough
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL VECTRA

Before testing the Savvy, Proton was a manufacturer I knew little about, so I was surprised by the high equipment levels: remote central locking, alloy wheels, air con, electric front windows, radio/CD player, ABS, air bags. The Savvy is a small five-door car but feels spacious enough for four adults; the front seats give good support; there's plenty of rear legroom; and the boot's a useful size. The 1.2-litre engine was relatively quiet, the gear change smooth, and I liked the quirky dash, but the lack of adjustable steering was disappointing and the handbrake's shape strange. Externally, the Savvy looks nice from the front, but the rear isn't so appealing. All in all, however, it's good value for money.

THE VERDICT

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