Sunday, 20 May 2007

Great spots 4 - Proton Gen-2

Spotted this one today in a McDonalds car park near Manchester.

You don't see many of these around but this example provides a reminder that the Gen-2 is a handsome car. Many of the fundamentals are pretty sound as well - there was a certain amount of input from Proton-owned Lotus after all.

Unfortunately, this model was let down at launch by its cabin trim, which was rather flimsy and a bit too beige for most tastes, although Proton has recently changed the Gen-2's interior colour scheme by introducing the sorts of dark grey shades that European buyers prefer - and is offering free leather upholstery at the same time. I haven't seen the revised Gen-2 cabin up close, an omission I am hoping to rectify at this year's SMMT test day on Tuesday, but Proton's recent work on the interiors of the Savvy and Satria Neo does provide a certain amount of encouragement.

While UK Gen-2 sightings are, and are likely to remain, fairly rare events, things could have been very different. It was widely reported a few years back that MG-Rover was considering a deal to use the Proton as the basis of a Rover 45 replacement. I think this might just about have worked if Rover had carried out a thorough revamp of the interior while preserving the Gen-2's basic strengths such as its smart exterior styling, eager (if rather noisy) engine and keen handling.

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that such a happy outcome would have been unlikely. MG-Rover had already taken the approach of borrowing and then adapting another manufacturer's model to fill a gap in its own range by using the Tata Indica as the basis for a Rover 100/Metro replacement, the City Rover. It is now widely agreed, I think, that not enough was done to adapt the Indica to European standards; I suspect that MG-Rover would have been tempted - or forced for reasons of financial necessity - to take similar short-cuts with any adaptation of the Gen-2, with similarly disappointing results.

Anyway, I have to confess to having something of a soft spot for Proton and its quirky ways, so more on the cars and the company another time, I'm sure.

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