Written on 6/09/2005 10:00:00 pm by sikapitan

“I baru lepas tengok Savvy tadi. Comel la jugak…”.
I replied, “Oh…baru nak tengok? Waktu launch I dah usha…”
“Itu MyVi laaa..ini Proton Savvyy.”

Even before it begin, Proton got off to a bad start in Undergrounduate’s Unofficial Car Review. What is in a name? I cannot quite place it, but history has suggested that cars with names that sound dodgy will never take off. The Fiat Panda is a well-built car, but it cannot hold up against competitors like the Jazz or Scenic simply because it has been disadvantaged by a lousy name. In Malaysia, we have the Juara as the Champion of the most oxymoronic name one can put on a car. It does not look like a Juara in the first place, and well apparently, the rest of Malaysia does not need a Champion in their house. BMW and Mercedes has decided to play it safe and use numbers to mark their cars, while Porsche and Ferrari stick to exotic sounding names like Cayenne or Modena for theirs.

In Savvy’s case, jokes have already passed about the name at the mamak between my friends and me. It’s unfortunate that they came up with a name not dissimilar to Perodua’s MyVi. I’m sure it wasn’t their intention to sound the same, but it does seem rather like Proton came out with the car 2 weeks late.

Yesterday night, as are our newfound custom, FreDo and I went to the nearest Proton showroom. Imagine our disappointment when we looked inside the vast showroom and saw only one black Savvy on display. Compare this to Perodua’s attempt whereby the whole showroom was filled with MyVi of different colors and specs. Perhaps the reason why we have only one Savvy is that there is only ONE version available now. Proton has continued with the strategy of introducing the most basic model, as was in the case of Waja and Gen.2 before going out with the higher-end spec models later.

Perhaps it’s a case of testing the waters, but as an intelligent consumer, I believe that it is really an attempt at checking out how the car will perform in real-life condition before committing the factory to produce more. And for that very reason many Malaysians have delayed the purchase of a brand new Proton till everything’s settled. It’s a vicious cycle. If Proton is not willing to commit, with confidence, on its new models consumers will cast a wary glance rather than admiration. At the same time, if Proton were to come out with all guns blazing and a manufacturer’s defect surfaced then they will be in deep shit.

The car itself looks promising, with silhouettes of Peugeot 106 (yeap, it’s ONE – you don’t see it in Malaysia) in its design. The front bonnet though, looks a bit weird, with its angle a bit flat for my liking. The front end looks modern enough, but FrEdo commented it is huge with a hint of CRV in it. The side profile is its strongest point, with taut lines running along the side and slightly flared wheel arches befitting the beautiful multi-spoke rims. If the side is its Julia Roberts, then the rear must be Eric Roberts. Simply said, it looks weird, like a mashed-up combination of different designers’ ideas. The central exhaust pipe looks sporty enough, but a 1.2 engine and more than heavy-looking panels would ensure it is not a view any hot-rod Kancil will fear.

However, the most distinguishing feature I see in this car is its miniaturized “accessories” (sorry-out of words). I mean, the door handle, signal stalk, right down to its controls (like temperature and ventilation) are made for hands much smaller than mine, and I don’t have huge hands to begin with. Even more perplexing are the small air-cond vents they put in the car. Even a Kancil has bigger vents than in the Savvy. It will definitely make it an extremely hot interior, which is a pity because it looks rather fetching.

The materials on the seats are of better quality than the MyVi, but the front two seats need better head support. The gear is in a good position, and the centre column housing the CD player and other controls looks better than MyVi’s. It appears that the interior has followed on Gen.2’s success in looking modern and expensive. Let us just hope that it does not follow Gen.2’s quality defects. One problem though is its steering. It does not look good, and does not feel right for the car of this size. Furthermore, you cannot adjust it for rake or reach, and it is so far away from the dashboard and the display. It makes for a less than satisfactory driving position.

One _______ commented that the doors “feel solid”. This is the interesting part about Malaysians. I’ve always wondered what are they trying to find by closing the door as hard as possible, or checking out the engine bay, or rocking the car up and down. Is it possible that we are genetically engineered to be car mechanics? Old and young, they check out cars without really looking at the parts they could really assess. I mean, are they trying to look at the engine and determine if it will run faster just by its looks? Only when the suspension fails would you get the wallowing effect those people who keeps rocking the car is trying to find. It’s a mystery unlikely to be solved by me.

Anyway, without getting the chance to drive either one, I have to say the MyVi offers more bang for the buck, but the Savvy has its own charms. It looks classier and its interior feels better. Maybe if it wasn’t for the disappointing quality level of its predecessors I would be more favorable. In Proton’s defense, the Savvy is truly a Malaysian car – designed and engineered by a Malaysian company. The MyVi, on the other hand, is basically the Daihatsu Sirion. Interestingly, in a recent Autocar review, the Sirion paled in comparison to its competitors in the UK. It is a car with abilities; it’s just that it is not the best in any of them. So kudos to Proton for its brave initiative. Pity the marketing and name, though.


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