Test: Proton Satria GTI
Review by Mathew Salzone - 13/December/2007
1996 the Malaysian car company Proton bought a 63.75% share in the
small yet world-renowned British car manufacturer Lotus. This purchase gave Proton the use
of Lotus' entire research and development arsenal, the years of
automotive know-how and racing experience now at their fingertips.
synergy of companies benefited from the merger but the real winner was
us! Lotus' first task was a grim one indeed: turn the standard runabout Satria into a boy-racing rocket.
Proton needed this flagship to top off its ever-growing family of fleet and runabout vehicles. Did they
succeed? Well yes and no.
They defiantly fell short of the flagship
status they aimed for; even though this car is far superior to the
standard Satria it definitely leaves a lot to be desired compared to the
current Australian hot hatches on the market at the moment.
So where is the yes you ask? "Yes" was the
most intelligent thing to pass my lips while I hurtled around my first
corner, tucked firmly in for the most surprising ride of my life.
Model: Satria GTI
Price: $28,990 (1999-2004)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Engine: 1.8-litre, Inline 4-cylinder, petrol
Safety: Driver's airbag
Sold in Australia between 1999 and late 2004,
the Proton Satria GTI handles well on corners
Riding on 16-inch wheels with 205/45 tyres,
the Proton Satria GTI still cuts a sharp figure
Engine: 4G93 1.8-litre 4-cylinder
1.8-litre fuel injected engine (1,834cc) features double overhead
camshafts (DOHC), 16-valves, and has a 10.5:1 compression ratio.
Fuel Economy: 6.9l/100km
Max Power: 103kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 164Nm @ 5500rpm
While the Proton Satria GTI handles well,
the engine could have used more work
With twin exhausts, flared wheel arches, a
drop body kit and a spoiler, the Satria GTI
was considered a radical design in its time
Factory-fitted Recaro seats was
a very nice touch for the interior
"I want a car capable of gliding through all corners
like it's on rails but I don't want to spend very much
This was a task the Lotus engineers would have cringed at,
however they succeeded in this task gloriously.
To turn the standard Satria, which started a borrowed life as a Mitsubishi Colt, into an
artistic masterpiece that steers well is mind-blowing. I take my hat off to them every
time I look at this car, let alone sit in it - and the sitting is where
the story begins.
This car loves corners, lapping up everything you
can throw at it. Being more battle-axe than knife edge it's also easy
for the novice to drive as it leans slightly towards understeer in the
The ride is a little on the stiff side but won't rattle the fillings out of your teeth. The brakes are adequate for
the abilities of the car and the gearbox (being borrowed from the more
powerful Mitsubishi CC Lancer GSR) handles quick shifts fine and has a
relatively short gate. It's only a 5-speed transmission however, and does feel a
little wound up on the freeway.
Petrol consumption would also be a lot
lower with a 6th gear.
shift from first to second needs a little
effort but you'll get bigger shoulders as a result and one major
negative that can’t be ignored by the performance purist is
the lack of a Limited Slip Differential (LSD).
also has drive shafts of unequal length, which in extreme driving
conditions produces a front left single spinner.
Still, for a front-wheel drive hatch
back, this car can dance on a windy road.
When I first drove the Satria GTI, I was indeed impressed with
the way it drove and most of this was suspension tuning. I do feel that
the engine bay was overlooked though.
Sure, Lotus did their thing
with revised engine mounts and the GTI did get a larger 1,800cc capacity
but the selection of motor could have been better to begin with.
again Proton went looking into the Mitsubishi archives to find the CC
Lancer GSR engine, take off the turbo, add some high compression
pistons and presto - you have a N/A monster right? Far from it...
designed exhaust manifold and rear muffler, a cold air intake that
leads nowhere at all and the spark plug leads are prone to misfire and
For a car released in the prime of variable valve timing
technology it seems very unwise to not have such a fundamental feature,
and this alone leaves the GTI behind in the Stone Age.
More bad news comes
when you discover you have the later Siemens ECU driven model, 2002
onward. The car stalls when cold; running far too rich, which in turn
causes flat spots throughout the rev range. The steering wheel also
shakes at idle resonating with the plastic trim.
It's not all bad
however. The 4G93 engine still produces 103kW of power and in the car weighing
only 1100kg this is enough to make it move.
If you take one of these
little weapons to your nearest drag strip you will only do a 16 second
quarter mile but around a circuit expect to be very competitive against
higher capacity motors.
I fell in love with this car when I saw her happy face;
the body kit on the Satria GTI has hints from its lotus Elise and Exige
bigger sisters. The curves on this
car give it a complexity needed to disguise the Colt underneath.
obviously once again are having a big hand in the design of the talon-produced body kits.
Flared and studded guards give the car a unique
racecar look and allowing bigger 16-inch wheels to be squeezed
underneath. You can also get the GTI in an arrangement of colours as
long as it's silver. Quicksilver to be exact, a surprisingly hard colour
to find and colour match when the car is being restored after an
The body panels are also very expensive to replace after a
driving misfortune, and the front bar alone costs over $2000 unpainted.
The tow hook cover is is prone to breakage when parking so look out
for those concrete stoppers in car parks.
The first thing you see when you open the door to this
car is a pair of factory Recaro seats staring at you, the big bolsters capable
of holding you comfortably through any corner.
The steering wheel is
leather bound, although it's too large for such a small sporty car, but the aluminium gear knob is a nice touch.
Aluminium pedals look
fantastic but have no rubber on them and are very slippery with wet
shoes, though factory GTI floor mats are provided reminding you that this was
Proton's flagship car. Sadly that's all the nice things I can say about
The fake carbon fibre-look plastics on the instrument
surrounds are hideous, the lower XLS model having a more attractive finish.
The car creaks, squeaks rattles and moans. The rear parcel shelf
continued to unhook itself and jump up and down over bumps and very few of
the interior panels fit together well. In the dash in front of the
passenger seat there is an airbag-sized pocket that would fit
maybe a few coins or a set of keys.
No passenger side airbag option is
given and it's sad to see them cut a corner like this on a safety
Costing $26,990 the Proton Satria GTI is very good bang
for buck. This car while looking "out there" for some is perfect for
others usually the young and young at heart.
Coming right out of the
box handling like a race car and looking the part too its easy to see
why this is Protons highest selling car. At the end of the day Proton
built a car to a price, corners were cut and some mistakes were made.
They however got some things very right, the car with all its faults
and flaws still somehow wins the hearts of some. When you drive this
car you become a part of a group, you see each other on the street, you
wave. You see the other owners smile along with their little hatches
and your smiling too.
Its just about a fun drive and for that I
thank you Proton. Would I buy one? Yes I would and I did and she still
makes me smile.
- Sporty Looks
- Lotus Name Adds Cred
- Reliable Engine
- Goodyear Eagle NCT-5 Tyres (cheap)
- Siemens ECU is Rubbish
- Build Quality
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