Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Proton Inspira

By Andrew Fernandez

PETALING JAYA: The codename P-390A offers few clues but a glance at Proton's Waja replacement -- even with black tape covering its most distinctive features -- will leave little doubt that this is the Mitsubishi Lancer in disguise.

Tentatively set to be launched on Nov 10 (the order books are already open), the new Proton Inspira will bring to a close the Waja's 10-year life cycle.

We had the pleasure of sampling this new model on a drive to Genting Highlands on Tuesday.

While we were not allowed to show you the whole car in pictures, we've seen enough to say that with attractive pricing coupled to a proven model -- now rebadged as a Proton -- the national car company has a very strong contender in the C-segment of the market. This includes the Honda Civic, Toyota Altis and Kia Forte.

To begin, we found a car that maintains all the best qualities of the Lancer but with some added refinements.

Those familiar with the Lancer will know it as a pleasantly spacious car in its class, especially for those seated at the rear. It has a peppy engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that adds refinement to the whole process. It is a comfortable cruiser over long distances, The top of the range GT version is particularly sporty and good looking on top it.

Three variants will be rolling out of Proton's Shah Alam plant: the 2.0-litre CVT with paddle shifters controlling six virtual gear ratios, 1.8-litre CVT and 1.8-litre manual.

Prices begin at about RM80,000 (S$33,752) for the 1.8 manual while the 2.0-litre CVT is expected to fetch RM95,000.

Perhaps the major difference between the Lancer and the Proton is the front grille. While the Lancer's is sloped inwards at the bottom, it's the opposite for the Proton.

Elsewhere there are new bumpers in the front and rear and different body kit on the sides. The cooling for the transmission has also been improved with the addition of air guides.

The wheels come in an attractive dual tone and the tyres are specially developed for the model by Continental Sime Tyres.

The interior is essentially the Lancer's with differences in trim and gear. The seat material is new. The bluetooth-equipped audio system features a two DIN system from Clarion,

The 2.0-litre CVT gets some classier-looking simulated wood trim panels and climate control for the air conditioning which eliminates the fiddling in getting the temperature right.

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