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Test drive review: 2016 Proton Persona Standard

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Wants versus needs. Easily one of the biggest factor when deciding to buy a new car. Most new car buyers would definitely want a new car that can wow their family when they balik kampung, but not everyone can afford to pull that off.

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In reality, what you really need is a simple yet reliable sedan that does the job without any fuss, at the same time being pocket friendly. Quite a number of Malaysian buyers in the real world can only afford vehicles up to a certain price point, given that our cost of living is ever-changing. Besides, for these buyers, what they truly want is a car that is easy to drive and easy to life with. Enter the Proton Persona, in Standard trim.

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Sharing its 1.6-litre Campro VVT four-cylinder mill with the Proton Iriz, power delivery is remarkably identical between both models. The full 150 Nm of torque peaks at 4,000 rpm, though for typical day-to-day drives, there is sufficient torque between the critical 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range. Horsepower is also identical to the Iriz, with 107 ponies unleashed at 5,750 rpm. Difference however lies in the refinement of the two models. New to the Persona is the reduced (4 to 3) and strengthened hydraulic engine mounts. This results in a significantly more refined ride than the Iriz its based on.

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Off the line acceleration won’t blow your socks off, as the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder under the hood isn’t known to be a powerhouse. The little Persona accelerates with sufficient urgency and achieving highway speeds is easy enough, given enough time. Performance aside, the Persona is a relatively efficient vehicle to roll off the Tanjung Malim production line. Proton mentions that the Persona sips 6.1L/100 km in their tests, but in my experience, I managed 7.2L/100 km for the first tank, consisting of 30% town crawls and 70% highway drive. The subsequent tank yielded 7.3L/100 km, with myself crawling through Penang’s traffic.

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In terms of body dimensions, the overall size is now considerably smaller than the model it replaces. Overall length has shrunk 90 mm, as the new Iriz-based model is only 4,387 mm. Width is roughly similar, though the new Persona does boast a significantly increase in height, coming in at 1,554 mm. Furthermore, the fuel tank has seen a reduction of 10 litres over the predecessor, as the Persona receives a smaller 40 litre unit.

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Smaller dimensions aside, what really sets the old and new apart is the driveability of the new model. Granted, the torchbearer now boasts a simpler rear torsion beam set up, as opposed to the fancier but costlier multilink set up. For most drivers, the difference is non-existent. In the hands of keen drivers, the older Persona feels better composed over rougher surfaces. With that being said, I find it almost impossible to upset the balance of the Persona, as the road towards Cameron Highlands from Simpang Pulai had plenty of twisty roads. Mid-corner undulations also fail to upset the Persona, thanks to the well tuned suspension.

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Speaking of the well tuned suspension, I did notice that the Persona features a more comfort-biased set up, as compared to the Iriz’s handling-biased configuration. Don’t let that fool you though, as the Persona is one of the best handling B-segment sedans out there. Sure, the Persona may not feature the finesse of the Iriz, but when compared to its key rivals, the Persona is far ahead in terms of ride and handling. I thoroughly enjoyed putting the Persona through its paces as I drove up towards Cameron Highlands. Despite fitted with some firm springs all round, the Persona rides over rutted road with minimal discomfort. As the Persona enters a corner, the body leans slightly and settles there, which gives me greater confidence to tackle the twisty stuff.

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However, on rougher roads with a slower speed, I did notice some rattling noise from the dashboard itself. This was more noticeable with the radio volume set low. The rattling noise, from what I understand, is also present on the Iriz its based on. Thankfully, that appears to be the only downside that’s carried over. Noise and harshness levels are far more polished than the Iriz, partly due to the new engine mounts. On top of that, we noticed that there is now additional sound proofing done to the wheel wells of the Persona, though finishing could have been neater as I noticed some excess sound proofing materials on the visible lip on the fender of the car.

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On highways, the Proton Persona swallows up the miles with relative ease. For those that travels on highways on a daily basis with lots of kilometres to cover, the Persona could fit the bill. High speed stability is pretty decent in the Persona, up till its absolute limit. Wind noise is noticeable at national highway speeds, though it does not get intrusive and it is entirely possible to converse with passengers without raising one’s voice. Steering weight deserves a mention as well. Proton engineers have done a swell job fine tuning the weight of the EPS whilst offering sufficient road feedback.

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My roadtrip with the Persona took me roughly 1,400 km of roads, covering highways, city streets and mountainous roads. Never once did the little Persona broke a sweat, seeing that I took the sedan up some really steep and slippery roads. For the average driver that travels to and fro work plus some annual holiday trips around the country, I can foresee the Persona soaking up the miles with ease.

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In a nutshell, the Proton Persona, in the Standard trim at least, offers buyers a really decent overall package. Interior space is sufficient for most families, though the lack of rear folding seats on the Standard trim is a miss, I feel. Combined fuel economy is average at best, but that figure can be improved with highway cruising. Where the Persona truly excels is the ride and handling department, as I feel that the Persona simply outshines most of its B-segment rivals with its excellent road handling manners. If your budget for a new sedan is in the ballpark of RM50,000, give the new Proton Persona a try. You could be pleasantly surprised. After all, the new model carries over the spirit of its predecessor, offering fuss-free motoring without breaking the bank.

Specifications: Proton Persona 1.6 Standard

Price: RM49,800 (OTR with insurance)
Engine: 1.6-litre inline-4 Campro VVT
Horsepower: 107 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 150 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

2016 Proton Persona Standard Photo Gallery