Proton Satria Neo Hatchback (2007 - ) review
Read the Proton Satria Neo hatchback (2007 - ) expert review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
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It may sound like we’re damning the Satria Neo with faint praise, but it’s the most handsome Proton, and some think its rear looks much like the Audi A3 hatchback’s. Every model comes with alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and body-coloured bumpers and door handles, as well as a chrome exhaust. The car’s low-slung, coupe-like profile lends itself well to the stripes which run over the car as part of the Sport trim, and only a fake aluminum plastic fuel filler cap spoils the overall look.
The interior is where the Proton Satria Neo feels most like a budget supermini: hard plastics cover every panel and it generally feels fragile. Fake bolt heads on the steering wheel centre and around the gearstick attempt to inject a racy feel, but look contrived. Ergonomically, too, it’s not great: the heater controls are too low, with hard to read graphics, the window switches are poorly located, and the driving position feels cramped. Despite height-adjustment on the driver’s seat, it remains too high for drivers of average height even in its lowest setting, and a panel above the pedals means the driver’s feet brush against it frequently.
The low-slung roofline may look good, but it robs space for passengers both front and rear. The rear is particularly cramped, and really only suitable for children, while the boot provides just 286 litres of room – about average for budget superminis of this size, including the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio. There’s not much interior storage space either.
Ride and handling
The bootlid proudly displays a ‘Handling by Lotus’ badge, and it’s clear where the company’s engineers have played a part. The steering is nicely weighted and surprisingly precise, particularly for a car at this price, while the handling is enjoyable, with plenty of grip. Trouble is, to produce such good handling, the suspension needed to be stiff, and that means the ride is as firm as a hot hatch’s, so the car is uncomfortable (especially in town) and not great on long runs.
Just one engine is offered in the Satria Neo, an 111bhp 1.6-litre petrol. It feels happiest around town, where it’s quite nippy, but it becomes noisy and thrashy at the motorway limit, and with maximum pull only coming at 4000rpm, it needs working hard to get the best from it. Buyers can choose from a five speed manual gearbox or a four speed auto, but the auto ‘box noticeably saps what little performance there is.
The Satria Neo’s low list prices may sound cheap, but plenty of makers offer cars that provide a nicer experience for similar money. To make matters worse, a lack of dealers and desirability means used values are poor, so you’ll lose more money in depreciation than on other similarly priced cars. Similarly, CO2 emissions of 157g/km for the manual and 177g/km for the auto are far higher than rivals and an official fuel consumption figure around 40mpg is similarly disappointing; and, to cap it all, you don’t have to look very hard to find another city car that costs less to insure.
The Satria Neo features fairly straightforward technology, but the interior trim feels flimsy. Sadly, too few have been sold for there to be reliable information on how trouble-free Satria Neo ownership is, but there are a few less-than-glowing reviews from owners on our website. At least there is a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, as well as three years’ RAC cover, too.
Euro NCAP hasn’t put the Satria Neo through its crash test programme, so we have no independent assessment of the car’s safety. Standard equipment on every model includes driver and passenger airbags, as well as ABS with electronic brake distribution and ISOFIX child seat mountings, but side and curtain airbags aren’t offered, even as options. Likewise, you can’t specify traction control or an electronic stability programme, which is disappointing when you can get such systems in many similarly priced rivals.
Two versions are available: GSX and Sport. Both are reasonably well equipped, with standard kit including a Blaupunkt MP3-compatible CD player, remote central locking, climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels and electric windows and mirrors. Go for a Sport model and you’ll also get leather sports seats and a sports stripe on the bonnet, roof and boot.
Few other cars at this price offer such engaging handling and attractive looks. But a poor interior, steep running costs and a lack of interior room means it is hugely compromised.