Second-Gen Persona Scores on Ride Comfort

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Proton Persona has entered its second generation phase and not a minute too soon. Waning sales required an upgrade to refresh interest and the latest Persona won’t disappoint on that score. It has assumed a completely new look that is definitely mainstream in body design, which is good on one hand and not so good on another.

The previous Persona is the one we feel looks the best in styling as it has a certainly balance in body dimensions and distinctive cut to stand out on the road. By adding an extended rear for the boot to the Gen 2 platform, the Persona came out looking so much better. As the years went by, the novelty faded and it lost a good bit of its allure.

By subscribing to the mainstream styling profile, the second generation Persona now exudes new appeal and interest certainly looks revived among loyal Proton supporters. With this more common body profile, it loses somewhat the individuality that the previous Persona had. It’s a trade-off but a necessary one to keep up with the times and boost flagging appeal.

There was no mention of any improvement in the body’s aerodynamic profile but we believe that the new body design should be more slippery against wind resistance. As it were, Proton says the new Persona is capable of an average fuel consumption of 6.1 L/100km (about 16.4km/l) for the CVT (continuously variable transmission) models and 5.6 L/100km (17.8km/l) for the five-speed manual model. A more aerodynamic body helps improve fuel consumption as it means the engine work at lower revs to push the car forward (since there is less wind resistance), thus using less fuel.

Although the 1.6-litre engine is marginally improved over that in the previous model, the CVT is new having come about through Proton’s renewed links with Mitsubishi when it introduced the Inspira (which was essentially a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer) in 2010. This CVT is also featured in other Proton models but for the Persona, it is the first time.

The engine continues to be the four-cylinder unit with double overhead camshafts with variable valve timing (VVT); the VVT is another feature to the Persona. It is undersquarely configured with long 88.0mm stroke and 76.9mm bore to displace 1597cc. Output is largely unchanged with the power rated at 80kW (107hp) at 5750rpm and torque is 150Nm at 4000rpm.

The new Persona sits on a shorter wheelbase of 2555mm (from 2600mm for the previous model) and the overall length is 4387mm (4477mm). It is about the same in width as before at 1722mm (1725mm) but with the new body profiling, it is taller at 1554mm (1438mm). It has wider wheel tracks with 1490mm front and rear (1475mm and 1470mm). Given the change in body dimensions, the new Persona weighs slightly lighter than before, ranging from 1155kg (Standard manual model) to 1210kg for the Premium CVT (1170-1240kg).

We had a Persona Standard CVT for a few days and found its Lotus-tuned suspension to be the most enjoyable impression. This is basically a MacPherson strut front with anti-roll bar and torsion beam axle with coil springs and dampers at the rear. We could relate its ride to a Continental car with its firmness, yet is supple enough to iron out the bumps for a comfortable feeling. It reduced the jarring effect noticeably although the hardness of the rebound at higher speeds over uneven roads was also felt.

It was the car’s dynamic aspect when taken through our favourite corners and winding stretch that we were not fully confident with. The drive through the winding stretch was done during a heavy drizzle and the road was wet, although this was not the first time we had taken a car under drive impressions through such conditions.

With the Persona, the front wheels through the electric power steering felt somewhat light and the directional input slightly vague. We pushed the car at moderate speeds through some of the tighter corners but there just wasn’t the confidence to explore its dynamic quality further. This was despite having the standard Traction Control activated.

The Persona Standard CVT came with 185/55 R15 Silverstone Kruizer NS800 tyres as standard, fitted to 15”x6.0J alloy wheels. We believe that with a more premium set of tyres, the Persona is more likely to boost our confidence in pushing the car a bit harder through the corners or along winding stretches. On dry roads, the tyres squealed too readily through the corners and dampened our exuberance. Nevertheless, the body roll appeared to be nicely controlled without leaning too much through the bends.

The electric power steering also gave the new Persona a somewhat lightheaded feel when driving on highways. The car felt slightly floaty at speeds of between 110 and 120km/h, and we were again wondering if a better set of tyres might help things here although this is more of a body aerodynamic issue than road grip.

What earned praise here was the rather quiet ride that could rival the more expensive rivals. There wasn’t much air turbulence to be heard and the usual noise filtering through the suspension linkages was the road rumble, varying in pitch according to the type of road surface the Persona was driven over. Engine speed at 110-120km/h was about 3000rpm.

Although we engaged L (low) mode for the winding road drive, keeping the engine at speeds above 3000rpm, the firewall was good enough to keep out engine intake roar and the CVT rumble. Noise insulation material on the bonnet also did its work of suppressing engine noise nicely.

We did find driving the Persona at traffic crawl speeds somewhat tiring. Engine response to accelerator input was hard to master and there was often a jackrabbit type surge. It led to a jerky drive that some might find likeable for its strong spurt in initial speed, though we prefer a smoother and more progressive form of acceleration.

We were also rather curious about the surprisingly thirsty nature of the engine as the fuel tank level was almost at the midway point when we returned the Persona after about 160km plus of driving. Often, with other car drives, the fuel level was at the three quarter point or thereabouts for the about the same distance covered. We might have driven through some after-office traffic crawls but we didn’t expect the fuel level to decline this much.

Based on the fuel consumption readout (which is part of the ECO drive assist) on the multi-info display box between the speedometer and tachometer (we presume it’s a real-time figure), we averaged mostly in the 5.9-6.5 l/100km range. It was only after some robust driving and crawling in heavy traffic that this figure rose above 7.0 l/100km.
The interior is quite roomy and the two-tone matt black finish adds to its classy ambience, despite the rather cheap looking pseudo fabric stitching in moulded plastic on the dashboard top. For a Standard CVT model, its level of standard features was quite good. You get headlamp beam adjustment for height and ECO drive assist but if you want more, such as steering wheel controls, DVD player, GPS navigation, pushbutton start, you would have to look at the Executive and Premium models, which are available at higher prices of course.

The Persona Standard CVT is made available at about RM48,200.00 on the road without insurance but with GST for the metallic body paint variant. You have to add about RM6000 for the Executive metallic model and a further RM4000 for the top-end Premium version, which has leather seat upholstery.
For its attractive price, the latest Persona was not without its flaws. We were rather surprised that the glovebox didn’t sit fully flushed; this clearly reflected the quality control at the final assembly. The chrome strip in front also didn’t flow flush with the body at each end (you note this when the engine bonnet is raised), leaving the jagged ends exposed to incur possible cuts when working on the spacious engine area.

Inside the car, we found two of the four rails for the front seats to be ‘jaggedly’ exposed. For those who wear sandals or slippers, they should be wary of the rather sharp edges and not move too suddenly when getting out. It would be best not to put your exposed feet near the seat railings or guides, especially if you are a tall person. The taller Persona, however, has good rear headroom.

Proton continues to locate the turn indicator stalk on the left similar to that in Continental cars, probably for wanting to be different. Similarly, the central door locking button is not on the driver’s door armrest (a common spot) but on the dashboard along with the hazard warning and traction control buttons; another Continental influence. The Persona Standard only comes with auto down function for the driver’s window.

The boot is voluminous with 510 litres of luggage space. The Persona Standard comes with fixed rear seatrests and thin crossbars are used as a brace in a way. It is only the Executive and Premium models that come with 60:40 split folding rear seatrests to accommodate longish luggage or items.

What is laudable is that Proton has come out with a completely fresh looking Persona that is very much a car of the times with its mainstream body profile. It continues to be powered by an engine that Proton supporters are familiar with and the good ride comfort provided by the Lotus-tuned suspension adds well to its appeal.

Link – Persona Selling Price

Photo Gallery