Malaysian styling works nicely on this new small car from Proton

Malaysian styling works nicely on this new small car from Proton

Proton’s Savvy is – dare we say it – a savvy buy in this day and age of rising fuel prices. With low fuel consumption this new car from the Malaysian maker is a little city car of the type that roams the streets of Europe in huge numbers.

From its pretty styling through its zippy driving feel to the superb suspension this little beastie provides a lot of driving enjoyment.

2006_Proton_Savvy_03 (rear)Proton Savvy is slightly smaller than the average offering in the Australian light-car class, so sits neatly into a sales slot that’s not being exploited by other marques at this stage. We put an emphasis on ‘at this stage’ because it’s an open secret that several other makers are investigating small cars as we speak. Some of which may be even smaller than the Savvy.

At just $13,990, Savvy costs less than any other five-door hatchback on the market. Savvy’s very well equipped and this price includes air conditioning, alloy wheels, ABS brakes and rear parking sensors. These items, if offered, would typically cost about $2000 more in a small car.

2006_Proton_Savvy_01Surprisingly, though, Savvy misses out on adjustable steering and one of our test drivers complained they couldn’t see the speedometer correctly because of the position of the wheel.

Interior room is very good for such a small car. Most buyers are likely to be singles or couples, but with some sharing of legroom the Savvy can take four adults of average size. Three children in the rear will work fine and Australian buyers who think the same way as European buyers may well be able to use the Savvy as a family car.

However, the centre-rear occupant doesn’t get the safety of a lap-sash safety belt or a head restraint. If your are using a child seat this can be an advantage but in this day and age three-point belts for all are rapidly becoming the norm.

2006_Proton_Savvy_04 (interior)The boot is already a good size, partly due to the Savvy using a space-saver spare tyre, and can be further expanded by folding the rear seat down. Cleverly, Savvy’s rear seat base folds up against the front seats and the backrests fold completely flat in the fashion of a station-wagon, thus freeing up a surprising amount of extra boot volume.

Proton Savvy only has a 55kW 1.2-litre engine. However, the car’s relatively low weight of 950kg gives it reasonably zippy performance and it’s fun to drive in traffic. The stop watch says it’s slow, but the seat of the pants says otherwise, and that’s what counts in the end.

The steering and suspension work is typical modern Proton – it works brilliantly. Lotus Engineering, which belongs to Proton these days, did most of the ‘chassis’ work. The Savvy turns in promptly and precisely, has very high levels of grip, feeds the driver accurate information through the steering wheel and is simply a ball of fun to experience.

2006_Proton_Savvy_02The only transmission offered in the early days is a conventional five-speed manual. On our test car it felt stiff and notchy at times if driving normally, though it worked much better if you carried out fast, sporting changes. Perhaps this is another part of the Lotus sporting influence.

The full manual gearbox will later be joined by a five-speed automated manual. This can either be used as a full manual, but without a clutch pedal, or asked to change gears automatically.

The advantages of an automated manual are that it doesn’t take power away from the engine and shouldn’t use any extra fuel. The disadvantage is that an automated manual is often rough in its gearchanges, especially in the lower gears. Obviously we will wait to sample one before we comment on the unit in a Savvy.

On the open road most buyers will find the car using about six to eight litres per hundred kilometres with moderate driving. Around town the figure is seldom likely to go over 10 litres per hundred.

Savvy has obviously been built down to a price and some of the materials, particularly the seats and dash top, reflect this.

Build quality is pretty good, probably due to Proton’s decision to call in German quality expert TUV following complaints about the below average quality on the Gen.2 model that was launched last year.

It will be interesting to see if Australians move in the same automotive direction as our European cousins, by switching to sensible, but stylish little cars like this new Proton Savvy.


Savvy 1.2-litre five-door hatch – $13,990

ABS Brakes: Standard
Air Conditioning: Standard
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
CD Player: Standard
Central Locking: Standard
Cruise Control: Not offered
Driver Airbag: Standard
Passenger Airbag: Standard
Front Side Airbags: Not offered

SPECIFICATIONS (Proton Savvy 1.2-litre five-door hatch)

Capacity: 1.149 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: SOHC
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 69.0 x 76.8mm
Maximum Power: 55kW @ 5500rpm
Maximum Torque: 105Nm @ 4250rpm

Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Five-speed
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
Final Drive Ratio: 4.214:1

Length: 3710mm
Wheelbase: 2395mm
Width: 1643mm
Height: 1480mm
Turning Circle: 9.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 953kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
Towing Ability: NA

Front Suspension: MacPherson Strut with gas shock absorber, subframe, L-arm, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Semi independent torsion beam axle with gas shock absorber
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Drum

0-100 km/h Acceleration: 12.6 seconds
Standing 400 Metres: 18.4 seconds

Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 5.7 L/100km

Three years/unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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