Category Archives: test drive

2016 Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Sport+ Hatchback (Automatic) TESTED

So, what is a Ford Focus Sport+? This Ford’s full name is the Ford Focus 1.5L EcoBoost Sport+ 5 door hatchback. It is priced like the Titanium+ 4 door Sedan – RM139,888+ and like the sedan is packed to the brim with equipment. It has the usual lots of airbags (which you would only benefit if you crash), ABS, EBD, Traction Control (all of this would benefit if you are about to crash), that incredibly good Blind Sport detection system (BLIS) and incredible goodies that you could only get in a RM200,000 Volvo V40 T5 (as the Focus uses the same platform). Such goodies include collision avoidance, Active City stop (which actually brakes the car for you in anticipation of a crash) and self park features (parallel park and reverse park). 
Read more by heading over here.
We are active over at motoring-malaysia.blogspot.com. A lot of stuff goes on there as well as our FACEBOOK page if you need to get in touch with us.

Audi A3 Sedan – The Audi 1.4TFSI & 1.8 TFSI Quattro driven back to back

This is the A3 Sedan 1.8 TFSI Quattro – How do I know? I don’t. I had to look through my notes and then found out that the wheel design makes it a 1.8 TFSI Quattro – Ten Spokes.

Audi has recently launched the A3 Sedan in Malaysia and we get two variants, one is the 1.4 TFSI and the other the sportier 1.8 TFSI Quattro. Launched in 2013, the Audi A3 sedan utilises the Volkswagen Group MQB platform first seen in the current Volkswagen Golf and then in the A3 Hatchback and Sportback variants. It is because of this basic chassis sharing that the Audi A3 Sedan is a very familiar animal to drive.

But before we get to that lets start off with the similarities between the two A3 Sedans that we can get in Malaysia. Specs for both variants are high and if you aren’t paying attention, you think that you were driving the same car. You get xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, fog lights, headlight washers, anti glare rear view mirror, automatic air conditioning, 7 airbags, stability control, traction control, electronic diff lock, ABS, EBD, brake assist, immobilisers, ISOFIX, hill hold assist, Audi Drive select via MMI, Electric handbrake, light and rain sensors and some more in both variants.

What you don’t get in the 1.4TFSI are anti glare on the 1.8 driver side mirror, some aluminium trim inside, a slightly different steering wheel, different design for the 17 inch wheels (of the same size tyres), keyless go and sports suspension instead of something called the ‘dynamic’ suspension. Things are so slight that the only difference externally are the different wheels used. You get ten spokes in the 1.8TFSI Quattro and chunky five spokes in the 1.4TFSI.

So once you get into either car, you get the same quality of any Audi. It may be smaller than the B8 Audi A4 sedan but it actually quite similar to a B5 Audi A4 from the late 1990s. Those that drove one of those would feel just at home in terms of space and size. Of course, the only difference is the design and styling of the A3 Sedan, very up to date and current. It may be a little stubby looking compared to the A4 but not by much as it is still easy to get confused as to whether you are looking at an A3 sedan or an A4 sedan. It also shows that Audi needs better designers as they all look the same from the A3 to the A8. Nice, but too similar.

As for quality, typically Audi. The interior is top notch and comparable to the ageing A4 in some aspects. It may be slightly simpler in design owing to the fact that is is entry level Audi but the materials used as well as the switchgear incorporated are of typically Audi class leading standards. It is a nice place to be inside an A3 but aside from the round air vents, you could operate the car blindfolded if you came from a Mk7 Golf as the layout is similar. Platform sharing. Makes things extremely monotonous sometimes.

Anyway, the A3 1.4 and 1.8 Quattro both look the same. I suppose what counts here is the engine (both transverse instead of longitudinally placed in bigger Audis) and drive train. The 1.4TFSI is front wheel drive. It gets a 1.4liter Four cylinder direct injection turbocharged engine that makes 122 bhp and 200Nm torque. It gets VW Group’s 7 speed DSG transmission which is the latest dry clutch variant used in the current 140hp Mk7 VW Golf that we get here. It seems we got the lowest horsepower version –  most probably for reliability’s sake as this makes the engine very unstressed so it probably is good for the engine’s lifespan and would not overwhelm the dry clutch type dual clutch gearbox connected to it (Note ** being an Audi it will be built much better than a Volkswagen and should be very much more trouble free in my opinion.)

The 1.8TFSI Quattro gets the 1.8liter engine you see in the larger A4 but gets All Wheel Drive. 1.8liter four cylinder with 180bhp and 280Nm torque to play around with a Haldex (not like the permanently driven setup of the larger Audis as it is an on demand system no matter what Audi tells you) based transmission system running a 6 speed wet clutch type dual clutch gearbox. Much more power here.

Two 1.4 TFSI in white and a black 1.8 TFSI Quattro – its all in the wheel design

Of course when you drive both back to back you can tell that the 1.4 is slower in acceleration and grips a tad bit less on the twisties and bends. In most fast corners the understeer sets in much earlier than the dynamic suspension equipped 1.4TFSI compared to the sports setup in the 1.8TFSI Quattro. Even though the ride height of both variants are similar, when you drive the 1.4 through a high speed corner it feels less tied down with the front tyres (225/45/17 on both variants) feeling like its folding under the car. It also has a slight twitchier tail that is more willing to wag about. Most probably due to the front buckling under the car much earlier putting more weight transfer over the front wheels thereby making the tail lighter.

And in the 1.8TFSI Quattro, due to the sportier suspension (I doubt its the all wheel drive system at work due to it being an on demand system) things feel better tied down. Most would notice that you could take a corner at least a good 10kmh faster in the 1.8 TFSI Quattro than in the front wheel driven 1.4 TFSI. This is not to say the A3 1.4TFSI isn’t fun to drive. It is. It drives quite like the MK7 VW Golf 1.4TSI I tested a couple of months ago. It has about the same (quite high) grip levels and the same steering feel as that car (mainly because it has that same electro-mechanical steering system, which means that its nicely weighted but a little numb when it comes to steering feel).

On the point of power, the 1.4 TFSI with its 122bhp and 200Nm of torque isn’t all that bad. Audi claims that it can do the 100kmh sprint in 9.3 seconds and have a limited top speed of 205kmh. It actually feels slightly faster to 100kmh and even though its cornering limits were lower, an experienced enough driver (or a road tester) would be able to wring out every last drop and have some fun. Everything is predictable even though it is slower than the 6.7seconds to 100kmh and 225kmh top speed (limited) A3 1.8TFSI.

The 1.8TFSI Quattro in fact feels a little saddled with the extra driveshafts and weight as whilst it states that if would get to a hundred kilos faster than its smaller engined brethren, it actually feels just as slow, or as fast. I suppose the extra grip in the sports suspension makes things calmer and since its grippier, you could be going faster than you think.

Anyway, the point is that the 1.8 is faster than the 1.4. There is however more drama in the 1.4 due to its looser chassis setup but then again, if you want to get from point A to B faster, take the 1.8 TFSI Quattro.

And aside from that, there is no actual reason to buy the 1.8 TFSI Quattro. If you aren’t into barrelling down Genting every weekend or heading down South to Singapore to hit Sentosa Island or Marina Bay Sands for a game of cards, you are better off just driving the 1.4TFSI. It bloody looks the same. It is also more refined as at high speeds it does not have a throaty engine note. Above 4,000rpm, the 1.8 TFSI engine starts clearing its vocal chords a lot louder than the 1.4TFSI. The grip you get in the corners is also translated to a slightly harsher ride. Not by much and not as ridiculous as a Mercedes A250 but you know you’re buying a performance oriented sedan instead of a refined entry level premium sedan.

And buying one is the issue. The 1.4 costs RM179,900 without insurance whereas the 1.8 costs RM240,888 without insurance. How much is that? RM60,000? That price could give you an Audi A4 1.8TFSI (fwd not quattro but you don’t need it really) which is still the better car even though its on its last legs. Dry clutch over wet clutch DSG in the 1.4 over the 1.8? Heck, RM60,000 would get you tons of spare parts worth with change to spare IF the gearbox goes bust. Furthermore, the first few years are definitely covered under warranty if things go wrong. If you keep within the service schedule and drive within limits I don’t see why the 1.4TFSI should not be your first Audi to buy. And since its a 1.4liter engine and not a 1.8 that is coupled with AWD, its gonna cost you less at the petrol pumps too.

The 1.8 TFSI Quattro isn’t a bad car. Just ridiculously priced here in Malaysia in my opinion. You would still impress your office mates with a 1.4 as they wouldn’t actually know it was one. Seriously folks, only a very anal Audi fan  could tell the difference. I honestly can’t tell as after I drove both cars, I saw one on the street and I had to refer to my notes to tell which A3 sedan is was. It’s that similar folks, so safe your money and buy the 1.4TFSI.

1.8TFSI gets a sportier three spoke steering wheel inside……..

………………….1.4 TFSI gets a four spoke steering wheel and a normal key to start it up instead of a button.

Test Drive: The Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium CVT – Better specs and an automatic make it a better Iriz to drive


Let’s cut straight to the chase. The Proton Iriz 1.6 CVT Premium is a much better car to drive than the Proton Iriz 1.3 manual I tried earliet. Some of you may be wondering how can a CVT automatic be better to drive than a manual transmission? The actual answer is the car with the better overall package wins.
It’s quite straightforward. Its the extras over the base bread and butter model that does it for me. In the Iriz 1.6 CVT you get the following extra – the 1.6liter (modified) CAMPRO is more powerful than the 1.3 variant (95hp/120nm over 108hp/150nm), the suspension is slightly firmer and sportier in the 1.6 (which rides slightly harder but actually makes the car less bouncy over most surfaces. I.e more suspension tuning here), you get 195/55/15 tyres over 175//65/14 and the Iriz 1.6 Premium interior gets better leather wrapped seats which seems more grippy than the base model seats as well as a leather wrapped steering wheel. All of this, and maybe more makes the Iriz 1.6 a better driver’s car and a better buy even if it costs a whole lot more – RM62,888 (in the spec tested) over RM47,888 (1.3 Executive (M) tested earlier).
I suppose its the usual ‘You pay peanuts you get monkeys’ argument in play here. Of course it is. There never is such a thing as free lunches these days especially in the very tough small car market. But how much better is it?
You start up the Iriz 1.6 Premium with a start button instead of a key (Keyless Go feature) and like the entry model you get a pretty good driving position with the steering wheel (only allows tilt) nicely square to your chest. The seats in this Premium are leather clad and are grippy at the sides and are quite nice to seat in even after a couple of hours. And so after all the usual adjustments, you slot in the gear lever into ‘D’ and drive off.
The ride is firmish but not uncomfortable. Proton have done quite a good job here as usual (where you get good handling but usually sub-par finishing elsewhere) and the chassis grips well on most fast sweeping corners. The car resists understeer quite well and is predictable. Now you add the fact that you now have 108hp over 95hp it gets even more adjustable on the throttle. The Iriz isn’t fast mind you. It is now slightly more sprightly instead of just pedestrian. The 150nm does not make itself felt and the Iriz 1.6 feels very linear and nothing thrilling in terms of acceleration. Of course you get the all too efficient CVT transmission helping you out but it isn’t fun in terms of making outright speed, just decent forward progress.
Now the reason why the 1.3 manual isnt as nice to drive is partly down to the extra power of the 1.6 has and the fact that the manual gear shifter is too notchy for its own good. I can take notchy gear shifters, but this one is one of those shifters that feel that it has too much resistance when selecting any gear. It is a letdown as usually petrolheads would love a rifle bolt-like shifter, smooth and precise instead of having resistance spoiling each gearchange. So avoiding the gear shifter is a good thing. But there is a ‘but’ involved here.
The ‘but’ is that the CVT based transmission is super duper droney. It will hold 5,000rpm almost throughout full-bore acceleration. This means that if you are at the traffic lights, you press on the loud pedal and the Iriz 1.6 gets SUPER LOUD for as long as the accelerator pedal is fully depressed. Imagine going from 0kmh to about 140kmh in full throttle. You would need a good 11.1 seconds to reach 100kmh and say you took another 5 seconds to reach 140kmh. It would mean high revs for almost 20seconds. Even with soundproofing (and you must remember that this is an affordable hatchback and not a Mercedes S-class) those seconds would be a tad bit annoying. 
Of course, CVTs are usually like that and rubber band-like in feel. But the reason that transmission is in the Iriz is that Proton needs to get better fuel economy figures and a CVT is good at efficiency. Even when coupled to an engine that isn’t very efficient (yes, the CAMPRO derived engine is only slightly more efficient that before in terms of fuel figures). So it needs that CVT transmission to get fuel consumption figures closer to its competitors (it does not win and is still about 6.6-6-9l/100km (according to internal sources for mixed driving conditions) over compared to way under 6l/100km for the Myvi 1.5, Polo 1.6, Swift 1.4 and the newly launched Honda Jazz 1.5)
But that being said, if you drove it as a daily driver to the office and back the Iriz is very capable. At normal traffic speeds it is quiet enough to be very relaxed in it. The entertainment system is pretty good (with Navigation in this Premium spec) and again, the driving position is good. I suppose the grippy yet comfy seats and that leather wrapped steering wheel adds to the driver and car contact points. And that dashboard looks pretty good too (even with that fake moulded stitching). The only thing really wrong with an Automatic Iriz is the gearlock. It is bloody annoyingly loud. It is a loud ‘kerlack!’ when you start and stop the Iriz 1.6 Premium. When it comes to Proton, I truly wonder how they can make the hard things like handling and ride seem easy but make simple things like gear locks and some other stuff hard.
As for the rest of the car I have no complaints. Yes it is pricey at RM62,000, but name me any car with traction control (in all variants) as this price range and every other gadget that you’d want in a car. If you don’t want most of the gadgetry like daytime running lights, auto fold mirrors leather, etc, the base 1.6 Executive CVT sells for RM58,000 but loses the driver interaction part a little with the lack of leather bits which I kinda like. I think at RM58,000 most Malaysians think that they’d rather buy the cheaper 1.5liter Myvi SE which comes in at RM55,000.
Most think that the Perodua is the better car in terms of quality if not for specs. If you add ride and handling, the Iriz beats the Myvi hands down. In terms of interior material used and its quality I have to say that the Iriz 1.6 is as good as the Perodua Myvi. It is public perception and the fact that Proton can still get a few things wrong here and there. Not in terms of build quality per se but on the design factor (like the loud gear lock mechanism and the overall styling of the car which looks like the car is an econobox with small wheels and a big body – you can read what I think of the styling in the Iriz 1.3 Executive Manualhere).

So how do I conclude this article on the Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium CVT? can Proton make me an Iriz 1.6 CVT without the gadgetry BUT with leather seats and leather steering wheel and sell it to me for under RM55,000? That would be the price which I believe most people would have no problem in buying a 1.6liter hatchback from Proton.  

Short Test Drive: Proton Iriz 1.3MT Executive

…..


Proton has just launched its latest compact car and it is called the Iriz. The name, derived from the flower Iris but with a ‘Z’ is Proton’s latest foray into the compact hatchback market. Prior to this we had the Savvy and before that, we were served the Tiara. Both the Savvy and Tiara were hard hit with criticism and in my opinion, were less than average creations. I wouldn’t have bought them too. So is the Proton Iriz a compact hatch that any of us would want to buy or let alone drive? Well, I had a go in the Proton Iriz 1.3 Executive Manual and I think that it is better than any Savvy or Tiara out there. But is it better than its biggest competitor here in Malaysia? The Perodua Myvi?
To answer that question you’d have to start with the Proton Iriz 1.3 specs in direct comparison with a Perodua Myvi 1.3 (the 1.6 Iriz has the same dimensions if you are wondering but I am not touching on that variant here). The Proton Iriz  is longer at  3,905mm (3,690mm for the Myvi), wider at 1,720mm (Myvi: 1,665mm) and is 1,550mm tall (1,545 for Myvi). The Proton Iriz has a longer wheelbase at 2,555mm (Myvi 2,440mm.) The 1.3 litre Iriz’s engine, a supposedly new VVT based engine has 95 PS and 120 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm, (Myvi 1.3 litre has about the same horses if you believe Perodua’s statement that the Electric Power Steering brings 10hp back to the 86hp engine – 96hp  and 117Nm torque at 4,400 rpm). 

So according to the Top Trumps card specs the Iriz wins. But in reality you cannot tell the difference as if you sit in the Iriz at the rear you find that the Myvi still gives you better legroom. It has more comfortable under thigh cushioning though as you can tell there is more padding at the rear compared to the Myvi. Up front, it is as cozy as the Myvi but with grippier, more supportive seats. So you basically get the same amount of space inside if you compare with the Myvi. The boot is slightly larger though and would actually suit some families over the Myvi. 
The Interior

As for the interior as a place to be during your commutes I have to say that the layout is much more interesting that Proton’s last original car – the Preve and Suprima. Instead of totally dull, slab side or flat looking dashboard and its surrounds the Iriz is all black (which a lot of Malaysians love) and has nice shapes, angles and cuts. It is a more interesting place to be in than the Preve or Suprima. The plastics used are average industry standards for this category of cars while fit and finish is also about normal too. The driving position is quite good with the seats going quite low and even though the steering offers only tilt or rake but not reach adjustment. I could get comfortable easily and my contact points with the car, via my fingers, hands, bum and even feet all feel decent. Decent means that nothing bad, well, except for the notchy gearshifter in my left hand that is. The gearknob too is all plastic but so’s most cars within this B segment category too.
In this slightly higher specced 1.3 Executive you do get front parking sensors, a quite good sounding audio system, two airbags up front, ABS, EBD and also traction control! Traction control makes this one of the safest small cars you can buy in Malaysia. If you’re talking about safety, this little Iriz has most angles covered (more if you buy the top range 1.6liter Iriz with 6 airbags).
So anyway, you get into one, adjust the seat, mirrors, other stuff and then turn the key. Yes, this mid range 1.3 manual has a key whereas the top of the range 1.6 gets keyless go. But I like keys, they don’t get misplaced as there is a place to put them in and you may never forget that you left the keyless remote in the car when you get out. 
As with any new car you get going with some apprehension. With a new Proton there is a whole slew of emotions and feelings. Will it be a good car. I hope its a good car. Will it turn out horrible? Will I buy it? Really. Every time I get into a Proton I usually get thoughts like that because I am always looking to replace my affordable runabouts with other affordable runabouts. Usually this are either Perodua or Protons as they are cheap over here. Speaking about prices, the 1.3manual Executive tested here is RM47,888 (RM50,888 auto). Pricier than a Myvi 1.3 automatic. But if you can live with simpler stuff which is on par with the specs of a Myvi XT, you could buy the entry level 1.3 MT Standard at RM42,888 (RM45,888 for the auto). 
Yes. So in terms of space packaging and price the Iriz seems to be a little behind the Myvi but note that the car is better padded inside and has more equipment inside too. Seating positions is good and plastics will not make you cringe. There is also that plastic moulded stitching on the dashboard like the Toyota Vios too giving some percieved luxury to the cabin. Hey, Toyota does this, why can’t Proton.
The Mechanicals (engine & transmission – and weight)
Once you slot it into first gear (a five speed manual transmission) you’d notice that the shifts are notchy and the clutch is nice and light. Driving this car in traffic won’t kill your left leg and it is pretty easy. The engine note or noise is disappointing as it is not a pleasant sound. Very like the engine note you have in the Persona or the Gen2. Proton claims this is an improved engine which gives up to 10% better fuel economy. I suppose it does but it still sounds coarse like the old CAMPRO engine that you’d find in the cars mentioned above.  A Myvi 1.3 or a Swift 1.4 engine sounds way sweeter in my opinion.
I have to state that when accelerating, the engine note is prevalent until you settle down in a cruise. I believe this is down to two things – the new engine isn’t all new but a modified CAMPRO engine which has always been naturally coarse and the fact that this car sits in the B segment category and you can’t load it up with too much soundproofing. But that being said, the Iriz 1.3MT Executive weights a portly 1138kgs. Compare this with the sub 1000kg Myvi as well as the sub 1100kg Suzuki Swift, the Proton is a portly fella. Is there an excuse for this extra weight? I suppose the extra equipment and 5 star ASEAN NCAP rating maybe. 
I also need to try out the CVT automatic as with the manual it is easy to fill in any gaps in performance by shifting to a lower gear. In a CVT, the car does that for you and the driving characteristics may be different. 
Ride & Handling
So the 95hp more torque in the Iriz is actually on par with the Myvi due to this weight issue. And it does feel the same upon acceleration. The good thing about the Iriz is that being a Proton, the ride is way better than the Myvi in that bumps are properly smothered instead of flying or bouncing over them like in that Perodua. The car rides as well as a Suzuki Swift or even something closer to a Volkswagen Polo rather than something stiffly sprung like the Myvi. Road noise damping is good too. Shame about the engine noise again.
As for handling, well, its a Proton. The nose turns in pretty well. There is some body roll but everything seems well handled by the chassis. I must have to stop giving any more handling comments as I drove the Iriz around a small section of roads and there was not enough time for me to make a full assumption about the car.
Thoughts about the Proton Iriz as a whole
Iriz 1.3MT Standard spec – less spot lights and bodykit for exterior compared to Executive – same wheel design

So what else is there to say about the Proton Iriz? I don’t think its a bad car to get. Its styling looks come from what I would say to be the outcome of relying totally on Computer Aided Design as it comes out looking close in size to a Perodua Myvi with some Hyundai i10 cues (check out how the light curves up to the bonnet line as well as the slanted rear and pushed rearward wheelarch– very i10-like). They may need a Peter Schreyer from Kia to sort out the looks. I am not saying the Iriz looks bad, but it looks industry standard. It does not stand out in any way in terms of styling.
In terms of equipment and safety, the Iriz is the best in price. You get traction control throughout the range and no car brand would do this for you in Malaysia. Even Perodua gives you a basic two airbag car and not more for this price range. The seats are also good to sit on and even though the rear is smaller (by a bit) than its greatest competitor, it is actually comfortable as the cushions are thicker. Oh, it has proper rear seatbelts for even the middle passenger, but note that there are no rear grab handles on the roof for rear passengers to hold on too. I suppose if you can spare some cost, I prefer grab handles too. But traction control at this price range truly makes me happy. You now don’t have to be rich to get your hands on good life saving tech. With this Iriz, Proton has moved the stakes in the affordable car safety features here in Malaysia. 
As for ride and handling (up to a certain point as I haven’t had the chance to really clobber one across some windy roads), both are pretty good and the Iriz does things better than the Savvy and even the Saga in terms of these two items. For a hatchback of under RM50,000, this would be the car for enthusiastic drivers. 
The drawback to this car is the engine. It may be a revised CAMPRO engine but aside from the supposed 10% fuel economy gain, the coarse engine note brings down the total refinement package in this car. It is slightly heavy too at over 1,100kg for this sort of car. Oh, the notchy gear shift too, but I could live with that.
There is still some hits and misses in this car. Bear in mind that some of the flaws mentioned are not dealbreakers as one has to note that you’re buying a car under RM50,000 and you can’t win ‘em all at this price range. 
So the question one would ask is whether the Iriz is better than the Myvi. The most honest answer is Yes and No. Yes to ride and handling. No to engine noise and overall space packaging. Styling and material quality is subjective as some parts seem better, some parts seem worse. In short, the Proton Iriz in this manual 1.3 form is about right for the price you’re paying.
Would I buy one?  Personally I may opt for something even cheaper but offers nearly as much space – the newly launched Perodua Axia. That is if I did not bother about the 1.0liter engine and use it purely as a city car. So, in a case of wanting an Iriz or a Myvi at this point of time. I may buy an Axia. Or, I Would get that  Iriz Active Crossover Prototype that Proton recently previewed at the Alami Proton Carnival over the weekend recently. That is a much funkier Iriz as well as the fact that it does not try taking on Perodua head on – its a totally niche sort of vehicle and I like it. And how confusing is that for a conclusion folks?

TEST DRIVE: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI CKD – The wolf in sheepskin

A Volkswagen Jetta is simply the iconic Volkswagen Golf with a boot. But it actually isn’t as straight forward as that in the first place because Volkswagen does not simply slap on a boot onto the Golf. Take for example the current CKD (locally assembled) Jetta 1.4TSI that I tested here, it is actually based on the previous generation Volkswagen Golf Mk6 chassis with a longer wheelbase and totally different body panels. The Jetta also does not drive like the Mk6 Golf 1.4TSI nor does it feel like a Mk7 Golf 1.4TSI. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

The current Volkswagen Jetta has been around since 2010 in Europe and has been sold in these parts since 2012. This time Volkswagen has decided to locally assemble the Jetta in Malaysia and this is the model that I tested. The first thing you’d notice as you circle the Jetta is that is it is an unassuming, unimposing and but quite a good looking contemporary sedan with some nice light clusters front which coupled with the front grille make the car look wider than it is. A nice but simple styling touch. It comes with 16inch wheels and the interior gets cloth seats and the usual refinements that you would get in a C-segment or small family sedan sized car.
It is unmistakably Volkswagen in its DNA and it would never be mistaken for anything other than a traditional four-door sedan with a large boot. I suppose this is what Jetta buyers would want on the surface but in this 1.4TSI form, the Jetta is a surprising creature indeed.
The Engine & Drivetrain
Now when you get into its innards, the Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI has 160ps and 240Nm torque from its 1.4liter Twincharged (supercharged & turbocharged) engine. This is basically the same engine that you would find in the Volkswagen Polo GTI, but it has been detuned for the Jetta (the Polo GTI makes 180PS/250NM). The current Mk7 Golf uses a less powerful, but newer and smoother 140ps turbocharged 1.4liter engine which makes the same amount of torque. The reason why you still get the enigmatic Twincharged engine here in the Jetta is that the Jetta simply came out prior to the Mk7 Golf and it is based on the Mk6 Golf platform. It also means that it actually is more potent a car than the Mk7 Golf in terms of performance.
In terms of overall smoothness, the supercharger equipped Jetta is slightly less smooth than the Mk7 Golf due to the supercharger. It is slightly throaty compared to the turbocharged only newer 1.4liter and it isn’t as fuel sipping as the Mk7 TSI engine too. I suppose this is because of the state of tune the Jetta Twincharged engine makes – a good twenty PS up on the Golf TSI. Of course, when you make power, you tend to consume more fuel. It is pretty straightforward isn’t it? Oh yes, I have to state again that this is the most high tech engine that you can buy in Malaysia for RM130K or thereabouts.
The Jetta, according to what I have researched has MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. It runs on 205/55/16 sized tyres.
The Interior

As for the interior build, material and trim, the Jetta 14TSI feels good. It is a little plain in its execution but the ergonomics are above average with some tiny switchgear on the steering wheel  (as with any other Volkswagen I’ve driven these days) and a slightly fiddly side mirror adjuster located at the driver’s door
. There are soft touch materials used throughout the cabin but compared to the Mk7 Golf, it feels slightly more sedate and conservative (garnishing is minimal with a strip of something located above the glovebox). This does not mean that the interior is bad, it still sets the example of what cars of this size and range should have. Even the meters are very easy to read in all conditions. If you compare how legible the lettering on the meters with, say a Proton Suprima S, you can tell why the Germans are at the forefront in interior design. Almost everything is logically placed and clear to the eye.
The seats are cloth, but the steering wheel and gear knob are leather wrapped. As is usually the case in most cars of this class nowadays. It is easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat and I couldn’t find any glaring faults with the interior of the car. Rear seating space is good for a C-segment car. No complaints from me as if you really want more space, buy a Honda Accord or a VW Passat or a MPV. And yes, the boot would swallow items easily.
Driving the Darn Thing
Ken, Looking good old chap!

As stated above, the driving position is good and you get comfortable easily with everything within easy reach. Once on the move you’d notice that the car is bloody quiet for what is supposed to be a small family sedan. It is only if you are heavy on the throttle that you can the engine working hard. It isn’t noisy in an irritating way, it is as stated earlier, very throaty but in a nice sporty way. Much like the sounds in the Polo GTI but slightly more muted in line with its family car status. But still with sporty pretension.
Tyre roar and road noise suppression is very good and I have to say that it is on par with last generation’s B7 Audi A4. This is surprisingly a very refined small family car as normal speeds. The ride whilst on the firm side is comfortable even in the city and on the highway. Bumps and ripples are well absorbed in most cases. It also feels more tied down than the Mk7 Golf TSI and rides just as well. If one were to compare it with a Japanese competitor of the same price – say the entry level Honda Accord 2.0VTI (at RM135,900 otr) it rides better and handles better too (and is much faster). In other words, the car is extremely refined for its price and size.
As for handling, everything feels cohesive everywhere. In the city, on the highways and on the twisty roads too. The steering is nicely weighted and exhibits good accuracy (with feel somewhere better than average but not really great). At higher than usual speeds, the Jetta is simply fabulous. Even on the standard 205 width and16 inch wheels it feels planted and secure. Take a sharp corner at around 100km/h and the car simply tucks its nose and finishes off the corner in an instant. At 150km/h on a sweeping left hander all you need is a simple lift off the throttle and the car falls in line without any complaints. High speed lane changes are handled with ease. Yes, the Jetta’s handling is of the nose led matter, like most front wheel drives out there, but the thing is that this car is so easy to drive fast as understeer is really kept in check and the chassis has no unpredictable traits that I could really think of. The Jetta’s handling would actually suit most Malaysians who drive fast.
I have said earlier when reviewing the Volkswagen Polo GTI that the 1.4liter Twincharged engine as well as the 7 speed dry clutch DSG is a cracker. Even in this slightly detuned state it still packs a wallop. Yes you do feel that it could do with that extra twenty horses as it does feel like Volkswagen has stuck in a banana in the Jetta’s exhaust pipe making it feel a little tighter than the Polo in terms of outright power.
The DSG however feels better than the one in the Polo GTI but not as smooth as it is in the MK7 Golf TSI. It still has that slightly raw feeling when you’ve just started moving unlike the newer Golf. But what the DSG allows you to do is that if you’re into spirited driving, that DSG as well as the engine gives it all its got and will hold nothing back. Throttle response is also quite good due to the supercharger too.
Conclusion

The Jetta 1.4TSI is a surprisingly good car in terms of driving pleasure. Yes, some may be worried that the high tech engine (a twincharger; supercharger & turbocharger combo) as well as that DSG transmission unit may cause headaches in the long run but as I said earlier, this gives you everything you want in terms of performance and drivability. There is no other 4 door sedan in the RM130k category that would give you such a smile on your face or allow you to chase down 3.0liter sports saloons with ease (trust me, I know). IF the price to pay is some maintenance costs, so be it. If you sat in a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla Altis or even a Mazda 3 2.0 this will knock the socks out of these cars. Really.
Of course, if you’re buying this new, Volkswagen has that 5 year warranty (3+2 years) and if you’re wise, you’d service the car on time and ensure that you have a budget to actually maintain the darn thing before you actually buy. Just make sure you know that you’re buying a European car. It may be priced down to be affordable, but maintenance WILL cost slightly more than what you’d expect. Once that is in your head, only then should you jump in.

In short, the Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI is shockingly good to drive really fast. It may look like a straight laced gentleman, but it can become a ruffian in a split second. Bloody good fun if I may say so myself.
CKDVolkswagen Jetta1.4TSI Specifications
Base Price: From RM130,888 (without insurance)
Body: 4-door sedan
Mechanical Orientation: Front Wheel Drive
Engine: 4 cylinder 16 valve fuel injected 1.4-litre Supercharged and Turbocharged
Power: 160ps (5800rpm)
Torque: 240 NM (1500-4500rpm)
Transmission: 7 speed Dual Clutch Gearbox
Weight: 1380kg
0-100 km/h: 8.4 seconds (tested)
Top Speed: 221kmh (manufacturer’s claim)
Fuel Consumption: I got an average of around 8.9ltr/100km even after really going for it.
For: An all rounder, comfortable ride, overall refinement, extremely sporty handling, grippy chassis, nicely weighted and accurate steering, sterling performance from the 1.4 twincharger, DSG gearbox performance, ergonomic interior

Against: Twincharged engine may be too high tech for some, DSG gearbox isn’t as smooth as the Mk7 Golf TSI, sedate styling
Conclusion: A real surprise. Excellent in terms of driving pleasure, dynamics, grip and sportiness. It is a wolf in sheepskin. I.e it bites and it is still comfortable. My choice if I wanted performance over everything else (including maintenance costs) in the RM130K four door sedan price range .

Engine & Gearbox
  • 1.4l 160PS TSI twincharged direct petrol injection 4-cylinder engine
  • DSG 7-speed direct shift gearbox
Interior
  • 12v socket in centre console, front and rear and in luggage compartment
  • 510 litres of trunk space
  • Auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror
  • ‘Black Pyramid’ decorative inserts for dashboard and door trim panel
  • ‘Climatronic’ air-conditioning system with 2-zone temperature control
  • Glove compartment with cooling function
  • Height adjustable front centre armrest
  • Height adjustable front seats
  • Leather gearshift knob
  • Leather handbrake lever
  • Multi-function display ‘Plus’
  • Multi-function leather steering wheel with control for MFD and radio
  • Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
  • Mobile device interface MEDIA-IN with USB adapter cable
  • Radio ‘RCD 320’ with USB and iPod interface, SD card slot, AUX-IN, Bluetooth and 6 speakers
  • Radio remote controlled central locking with 2 folding keys
  • Rear air conditioning vents
  • Sienna’ fabric seat upholstery
  • Split-folding rear backrest with centre armrest with load-through provision
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
Exterior
  • Automatic headlight activation with ‘Leaving Home’ and manual ‘Coming Home’ function
  • Chrome grille
  • Electrically adjustable, foldable and heated exterior mirrors with environment lighting and curb view
  • Exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals
  • Front fog lights
  • Heat insulated windshield, side and rear windows
  • ‘Navarra’ alloy wheels 6.5J x 16″, tyres 205/55 R16
  • Door mirrors with integrated turn signals
  • Park distance control PDC (Front & Rear)
  • Rear fog lights
  • Twin exhaust tailpipes
Safety
  • 3-point front seat belts with height adjustment and belt tensioners
  • Anti-lock braking system ABS with brake assist BA
  • Anti-theft alarm system
  • Child seat anchor for child seat system ISOFIX
  • Curtain airbags for front and rear passengers
  • Dual front airbags with front passenger airbag deactivation
  • Dual front side airbags
  • Electronic stability control ESC
  • Hill-hold control
  • Rain sensor
  • Safety-optimised front head restraints
  • Speed sensitive electromechanical power steering
  • Three 3-point rear seat belts

Test Drive : 2013/14 Volkswagen Polo GTI – A spirited little terror


Hello folks, this review should have been out last Sunday but due to certain events I’ve only managed to complete it today. The 2013/14 Malaysian spec Volkswagen Polo GTI is in many ways like its more basic Polo 1.6 Hatchback that I tested earlier. Whatever that is not covered in here like its practicality could have been explained over there. This is the rest of it and do note that this is a review on how it drives. If you wanna know on whether it will break or not you may have to search elsewhere. But if you must know, nothing broke during the time I had the car. So on with the review then…….


The design, engine and drivetrain

The Volkswagen Polo GTI comes in either a 3 door or a 5 door supermini sized hatchback. The car that I tried was the 5 door Polo GTI. It is styled in the same manner as the bread and butter Polo hatchbacks but with some added makeup that it would need to live up to its ”GTI’ moniker. The same clean lines that you see on the more basic 1.6 and 1.2 TSI variants are still here and there are no outrageous bonnet scoops, vents or rear whale tails of any sort. What you get on the outside is a discrete bodykit kit with sightly different front and rear bumpers, twin tailpipes at the rear, 17inch VW Detroit wheels running 215/40/17 tyres. You also get some red lipstick, or in this case some red lines on the front grille too. Little red bits tell you that this is supposed to be a hot and spicy Polo instead of a low fat low sugar variant.

The interior is the same as the Polo 1.6 hatchback I tested a few weeks ago. Of course being a GTI you get more luxurious stuff like the aggressively bolstered seats (made by Recaro at the front) and better padded seats at the rear. The GTI part of it aside from the Recaro seats is the use of tartan cloth, a throwback to the first Volkswagen GTI, the Golf. It gets a tilt and slide panoramic sunroof too. The interior also gets a soft touch dashboard instead of the hard plastic one of the normal 1.6 hatchback and 1.2TSI. But aside from touching and feeling it, you wouldn’t know the difference but it is a good thing for a car that costs at least RM65,000 more expensive than the entry level car. There are also more aluminium and better bits on the dash to uplift this GTI specced Polo from the norm. Other bits include the Climatronic air-conditioning system, reverse sensors, a nice sounding audio system and the usual goodies like an armrest for the front passengers.
The Polo GTI is a hot hatch because of the firepower Volkswagen has given it. It has a 1.4liter Twincharge engine coupled to a 7 speed Dual Clutch Gearbox. The engine makes 180ps at 6200rpm and 250Nm torque from 2000-4500rpm. The DSG is a dry clutch version of Volkswagen Group’s pretty renowned dual clutch transmission. I have to state that this is the most technologically advanced small capacity engine that we Malaysians can buy at this moment. Just think about it, the twin charge engine is actually a 1400cc engine that makes 180ps (over 100ps per liter) by way of a supercharger to bring out low end grunt and a turbocharger for power at the higher rpm. It is a heck of a complex setup and note that after this generation of the Polo GTI and the Scirocco 1.4, Volkswagen may not produce it anymore due to its complexity and cost. Of course, with complexity comes maintenance costs, but this for now is another matter – I shall discuss reliability somewhere down below.
Driving the darn thing.
It is easy to find a nice driving position in the Polo GTI. Much nicer and sportier with the sports seats and a sightly flat bottomed, sportier (perforated leather for better grip) steering wheel with ‘GTI’ embossed on it. The steering wheel adjusts nicely and is of a very nice shape to hold. You then start the Polo with a traditional key too.
Now once on the move you notice that the DSG works like any other automatic transmission. The gear changes are smooth and instantaneous. However unlike a normal torque convertor transmission it isn’t a paramount of smoothness and needs more modulation than you’d like. It has the feeling of a regular manual transmission clutch in its initial take up and needs a bit of getting used to its feel. No, you’d never stall like a manual, but you feel that it does have a clutch down there somewhere. Note that you can control the Polo GTI by leaving it in Drive or knock it down to Sport (which I have to say is highly intelligent and aggressive in that it will shift down to a lower gear as soon as it senses you’re off the gas or on the brakes) or take over completely via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel or via the +- on the gear lever. A lot of choices and I’ve used all depending on the time of day and location. Keep it in ‘D’ for most normal drives and everything is smooth.
The ride of the Polo GTI is of course busier than the usual Polo. It feels more firm and nuggety. Most bumps are still very tolerable and things smoothen out once you’re cruising at around 110-120kmh. In fact hit 200kmh and you still feel secure in this car. There are no harsh crashes or any of that sort even if you encounter a large pothole or speed hump. It is slightly busy, but not of the head nodding variety, and not till you’d rather opt for something else instead. There is more tyre noise compared to the standard Polo, but on 215/40 series tyres, its about right but not loud and irritating. Make sure you have good tyres and all should be well in the road noise department.
The Polo GTI is one car which loves the accelerator pedal being prodded. Everything you hit that loud pedal a sonorous sound emits from the front of the car. There is a loud induction sort of growl and if you wind down the windows you’d also notice a slight whistle too. And couple this to a rapid pick up of speed after 2,500rpm (3,000 for the proper thrust to come) the package of maximum thrills in a small package seems to fall into place.
Once you hit the accelerator, the tyres chirp and the car rockets off. The noise emitted from the front (and some from the rear) sounds like a heard of angry hippos charging up a river bank. Luckily the sound it makes is matched with some performance. Front a stand still the Polo GTI will do 100kmh in around 6.7seconds and it will feel wonderous in doing so. It also has some impressive thrust if you are doing 90kmh to 120kmh – under 4 seconds. The Twincharge engine works very well with the 7 speed DSG in keeping revs up and gearchanges satisfyingly quick. There is no lag whatsoever in the gearshifts and the little Polo GTI never holds anything back.
So what does the Polo GTI remind me of…….? Well it feels like a properly angry, tuned performance car. It snorts and bellows and acceleration is quite relentless until about 200kmh (with more to come). And all of this from a 1.4liter engine. This is pretty amazing. The last time I felt this good (for a car in the 6 second to 100kmh category is a tuned Proton Wira 1.8 with a turbocharged engine. This car behaves like a tuned car, in terms of performance and also its handling.
And it can handle. Going up and down the usual roads where I usually do my road tests I found that the chassis works well within its limits and it does not get unsettled over ruts and bumps. As stated earlier, high speed stability isn’t an issue and on a road with hairpins, switchbacks and tight turns the Polo GTI performs as well as it should on its narrow chassis. Yes, the only drawback about this car is that it feels slightly on the narrow side which isn’t its fault as the Polo is supposed to be a supermini sized car and is sized as such. So when you are pushing it you would find that it would eventually feel like you’re standing on its tyres instead and you’d sometimes wish you had a wider car like the full monty Golf GTI.
Note that the Polo GTI is something that comes from Volkswagen and this means that you will find that the handling is also nose-led like other VW group products out there. It is on the safe side (which explains the extremely good stability at around 200kmh). The steering may be nicely weighted (really nicely weighted) and you will most definitely cock a rear wheel when doing some aggressive cornering but it feels very secure in doing so with the front leading the way rather than the rear stepping out a little to assist things…..which could be a good thing to most Malaysian drivers these days who have never driven anything rear wheel drive over the past twenty years.
The brakes are a little weak though. It has good initial feel but I think that ultimate retardation could be improved. The disc area seams large enough and I believe this could be down to what I think are single pot floating calipers at the front (instead of twin pot monoblocks ala Brembos or the equivalent) and at the rear. These are adequate in day to day driving but for track days or really serious, I just robbed a bank and I need to be as fast as I can as well as brake like crazy whilst avoiding the police type of serious, then I recommend that you’d need slightly better brakes.
But the Polo GTI is still a lot of fun. I managed to keep the traction control flickering whilst belting through the windy road. Tyres chirping, induction roar rumbling and the car working well through it all. The thing about the Polo GTI is that 180ps may be just enough to keep the driver happy and working for it up and down a windy road. It isn’t overpowered like some 300hp Evos out there and this actually helps an enthusiast work for the performance instead of just managing or balancing an overpowered car through the bends. In the Polo GTI, the driver still needs to egg out all of its 180ps and 250Nm torque to make rapid progress. You still have to think on where to place the car through the bends, where to add power, where to down shift and where to upshift. It is a blast. Especially since that DSG is superfast in its shifts. Somehow the package works if you want a decently fast car (not seriously fast, with that you need at least something with over 250hp these days) that would reward its driver and is forgiving too.
Conclusion and my opinion on maintaining a Polo GTI here in Malaysia

It is a great characterful entry level GTI that begs to be driven fast most of the time. That growl (some say that the sound is manufactured, but who cares) is addictive too. It is ultimately not as complete as the bigger Golf GTI (with its extra power, torque, overall balance), but still an entertaining little car. The main drawback to all of this fun is the price. At over RM155,000 your head may spin trying to justify purchasing this over a Mazda 6 2.0. This is one of the hardest things facing someone who wants to buy an imported, entry level performance car in Malaysia today. Your palms may be sweating and your hand may be shaking too much for you to sign that cheque for the booking fees.
The other, slightly scarier issues are the highly advanced 1.4liter Twincharger engine and the 7 speed dry clutch DSG. It is only after running the Polo GTI for a few days that I have come to the findings below:
The fact that it has two forced induction turbines as well as being direct injected (which means a higher than usual engine compression ratio) should tell you that this isn’t an ordinary engine. After a long drive when you try pop the bonnet you will find an extremely hot engine whose heat reminds me of a friend’s Lancer Evolution. Having such a tuned engine (even though it is from the factory) means that one should treat it with more respect than that of a normal engined car. I would suggest owners to maintain the Polo GTI religiously and not miss any service intervals (in fact if VW says 15,000km, do it even lesser if possible). Do make sure that the service centre provides VW504 grade engine oil (which is VW’s long life oil rating) for this and do not skimp on the quality of oil.
The same goes for the DSG. Buyers must note that unlike a traditional torque convertor gearbox or even a wet clutch DSG, a dry clutch DSG has two clutches to assist in the changing of gears. Anything dry rubbing against another surface would cause friction. And like a traditional manual gearbox’s clutch (which is a dry clutch most of the time) the clutch plate(s) would suffer from wear. So remember if you looooove flooring the accelerator at traffic lights all the time, a DSG clutch will wear out. This is different from something used in say, a Toyota Vios automatic. That Toyota can do Go Greens everytime of the day without any problems (as it has no torque too). So I would suggest buyers be prepared for a change of clutches if you intend to use the car for its duration if you drive like Senna all the time. Drive normally most of the time and the DSG may survive as long as it should. The occasional spirited driving and lighting up the tyres at the traffic lights are acceptable.  Again, note that it has clutches that may wear out and be prepared for it and you should do fine!!!! 
So once buyers see past these two issues and is prepared for it, the Polo GTI is a car that an enthusiast can appreciate and can bring a smile to one’s face. 

And yes, here is an in-car vid of the Polo GTI (By the way, lots of mosquitos kept me company that day):
Volkswagen Polo GTI Specifications
Base Price: RM155,888 (w/o insurance)
Body: 5-door Hatchback
Mechanical Orientation: Front Wheel Drive
Engine: 4 cylinder 16 valve fuel injected 1.4-litre Twincharge (supercharger/turbocharger)
Power: 180PS (6200rpm)
Torque: 250 NM (2000-4500rpm)
Transmission: 7 speed dual clutch gearbox with paddleshifts and Sports mode
Weight: 1269kg
0-100 km/h: 6.7 seconds (tested)
Top Speed: tested to 205 km/h (229kmh manufacturer’s figures)
Fuel Consumption: I got an average of around 9ltr/100km even after really gunning it.
For: Good Equipment, intelligent design and layout, quality, boot space, comfort, great seats, good ride and handling for a hot hatch, economical, good performance considering its a 1.4liter engine, superfast shifts from DSG, nothing really holds back if you’re gunning this little car.


Against: some tiny switchgear, sightly weak brakes for really spirited driving, super advanced engine needs a lot of TLC in the long run, superfast DSG needs the same TLC in the long run too, there is such a thing as a Golf GTI further up the price range too.
Sometimes, you get lucky and you find a base model to photograph your test subject with – Here we have the Polo GTI with a basic Polo for comparison.

The Proton Savvy and Fried Mamak Mee

I like frequenting our local mamak stalls and restaurants. Most of us do actually as the food and drinks are cheap and the atmosphere very relaxed. A nice mug of teh tarik and a roti canai would do wonders especially since both items would only cost you RM3.00 and below. It’s 2011 okay, and not 1989 where you could get both items for about RM1.00.
The variety of food is also the same at a mamak eatery. You get all the usual kopi O, teh O, teh tarik, teh halia, roti canai, thosai, capati and then higher up you get the nasi kandar and nasi beryani. There may be some slight differences in taste but the quality is almost the same so you can’t go wrong most of the time. Go into a stall in Ipoh or a stall in Klang and it would cost the same and the taste is pretty much the same.
However, there are times when they do screw up. They could have fish curry cooked in a pot that has not been washed since the 1950s. They could actually be kneading the dough of the roti canai with unwashed hands and fingers after sneezing. They could actually be serving fried mamak mee that was actually fried in under 45 seconds.
Now this last incident I clearly remembered even though it happened over a decade ago. I was at the local mamak corner shop and I somehow noticed that the chap frying the noodles was chugging along in a pretty efficient manner. Too efficient if you asked me as when I started timing how long he took to whip up a plate of fried mee he managed to stop the clock at a pretty incredible 45 seconds per plate. The question that came to my mind was whether the noodles were actually cooked. I then paid attention and then noticed that the noodles only spent 30 of the 45 seconds in the wok. Needless to say I have never ordered fried mee at that mamak shop ever again.
This brings me to the Proton Savvy and the recent report of it in the local Chinese daily, the Oriental Daily News. This piece of news somehow did not appear on the usual English and Bahasa Melayu dailies (blocked by the powers that be probably). It basically stated that Proton has stopped production of the Savvy due to quality issues. It seems the car has such an appalling quality record that Proton has deemed that if it kept on producing this car it would tarnish its image (as if Proton has a fantastic image in the first place).
Anyway, they also mentioned that somehow its partnership with Renault is disappointing as the general public has not embraced French technology in Proton cars. Obviously this has some merit as the Savvy actually suffers from a lot of mechanical issues. I will get to this in a while.
Now the ironic thing about all of this is that the Savvy was the first (and probably the only) Proton to be TUV certified. Now how Proton managed to get the Savvy TUV certified is beyond comprehension of mere mortals as now they’ve claimed the car to be of ridiculously bad quality. Did they employ automotive TUV standards in the first place or TUV standards for bread making as the car was so brittle? Did they Perodua send an undercover agent that worked in Proton’s quality control department so that when Proton developed the Savvy it would never, ever be a threat to the Myvi? Did Proton engage German TUV standards from 1938? Did Renault decide that instead of building car interior parts that just disintegrate they should now design engines that do the same? ( I still think Renault builds the flimsiest European car interiors around even to this day) 
Whatever the case, The Proton Savvy has become as unloved as its predecessor, the Proton Tiara. Of course its fate isn’t as bad as the Tiara but its pretty close I suppose, whether Proton likes it or not.
Now I managed to cop a drive in one of these Proton Savvys. A 2005/6 pre-facelifted one with the ridiculous looking ‘V’ design on the rear hatch. It was basically stock with the exception of nicer looking alloy wheels and a worn out steering wheel that had small chunks missing from the top of it. It looks like the plastic used for the steering must have come from France – all croissant-like and flaky.
The rest of the interior seemed normal enough with nothing missing. The great thing about the Savvy is that the seating position is actually spot on. The steering wheel is where it should be and not resting on your thighs like in the Gen2, Waja or Satria Neo. The seats are firm without the short squab that you’d find in the Waja. The view out from the cabin is actually good and I even thought that the seat wasn’t set too high. Everything was actually good.
The Savvy I drove was a manual. This meant that I did not have to suffer the jerkiness of an Automated Manual Transmission that was offered by Proton to those who somehow cannot use a stick shift. I believe the AMT gearbox also caused Proton pain and suffering due to quality issues. So anyway, I have to say that while I like manual gearboxes, the Savvy has one with slightly vague gear placement. It isn’t a car that you can feel comfortable straight away when it comes to gear shifts, that is.
The 1.2 (actually 1,149cc – which I truly wonder why Proton calls it a 1.2liter in the first place) is pretty tractable. It is able to move the Savvy quite a bit and does not like it struggles at all. Maybe if you load up the rear with people it may feel a little lethargic but with two upfront it covers ground decently well.
It also rides like a larger car. This surprised me a little as the ride and to an extent, the handling is pretty good. It corners well and even the steering feels connected. It holds the corners quite well and you actually feel confident driving this little hatchback. It could handle another 30bhp easily (the Savvy has about 74bhp). If it had that 30bhp it would feel like a Suzuki Swift especially since it rides as well as one. But it’s a Swift with really bad material quality as well as build quality.
So that is actually what the Proton Savvy feels like. On the point of build quality the car really suffers. The chap who owns it had to spend nearly a thousand Ringgit to get the fuel pump fixed. Utterly expensive for such a budget car and Rolls Royce-like in price when you compare with a Proton Wira’s fuel pump. It also suffers from a leak in the power steering system as the owner told me he had just topped up the fluid and when I took a peep under the bonnet it was down by half again. It also suffers from low speed jerks and also high speed stutters (same problem – either fuelling caused by a dirty fuel filter or clogged injectors, or a faulty throttle body, or some vacuum leak, or God forbid, a faulty ECU which could cost more than even the older Proton Wira).
So the Proton Savvy is actually crap after you’ve owned it for a while. It may be a decent drive but it is actually bloody expensive to maintain for such a cheap car. This is why Proton has stopped selling it. And another incredible piece of news is that the excuse given is that they build one car every 98 seconds or 700 cars per day so quality issues are bound to happen. I suppose someone should either tell Proton that Toyota does the same in around the time the mamak fries the fried mee. No food poisoning in the case of Toyota most of the time, right?

The Proton Savvy and Fried Mamak Mee

I like frequenting our local mamak stalls and restaurants. Most of us do actually as the food and drinks are cheap and the atmosphere very relaxed. A nice mug of teh tarik and a roti canai would do wonders especially since both items would only cost you RM3.00 and below. It’s 2011 okay, and not 1989 where you could get both items for about RM1.00.
The variety of food is also the same at a mamak eatery. You get all the usual kopi O, teh O, teh tarik, teh halia, roti canai, thosai, capati and then higher up you get the nasi kandar and nasi beryani. There may be some slight differences in taste but the quality is almost the same so you can’t go wrong most of the time. Go into a stall in Ipoh or a stall in Klang and it would cost the same and the taste is pretty much the same.
However, there are times when they do screw up. They could have fish curry cooked in a pot that has not been washed since the 1950s. They could actually be kneading the dough of the roti canai with unwashed hands and fingers after sneezing. They could actually be serving fried mamak mee that was actually fried in under 45 seconds.
Now this last incident I clearly remembered even though it happened over a decade ago. I was at the local mamak corner shop and I somehow noticed that the chap frying the noodles was chugging along in a pretty efficient manner. Too efficient if you asked me as when I started timing how long he took to whip up a plate of fried mee he managed to stop the clock at a pretty incredible 45 seconds per plate. The question that came to my mind was whether the noodles were actually cooked. I then paid attention and then noticed that the noodles only spent 30 of the 45 seconds in the wok. Needless to say I have never ordered fried mee at that mamak shop ever again.
This brings me to the Proton Savvy and the recent report of it in the local Chinese daily, the Oriental Daily News. This piece of news somehow did not appear on the usual English and Bahasa Melayu dailies (blocked by the powers that be probably). It basically stated that Proton has stopped production of the Savvy due to quality issues. It seems the car has such an appalling quality record that Proton has deemed that if it kept on producing this car it would tarnish its image (as if Proton has a fantastic image in the first place).
Anyway, they also mentioned that somehow its partnership with Renault is disappointing as the general public has not embraced French technology in Proton cars. Obviously this has some merit as the Savvy actually suffers from a lot of mechanical issues. I will get to this in a while.
Now the ironic thing about all of this is that the Savvy was the first (and probably the only) Proton to be TUV certified. Now how Proton managed to get the Savvy TUV certified is beyond comprehension of mere mortals as now they’ve claimed the car to be of ridiculously bad quality. Did they employ automotive TUV standards in the first place or TUV standards for bread making as the car was so brittle? Did they Perodua send an undercover agent that worked in Proton’s quality control department so that when Proton developed the Savvy it would never, ever be a threat to the Myvi? Did Proton engage German TUV standards from 1938? Did Renault decide that instead of building car interior parts that just disintegrate they should now design engines that do the same? ( I still think Renault builds the flimsiest European car interiors around even to this day) 
Whatever the case, The Proton Savvy has become as unloved as its predecessor, the Proton Tiara. Of course its fate isn’t as bad as the Tiara but its pretty close I suppose, whether Proton likes it or not.
Now I managed to cop a drive in one of these Proton Savvys. A 2005/6 pre-facelifted one with the ridiculous looking ‘V’ design on the rear hatch. It was basically stock with the exception of nicer looking alloy wheels and a worn out steering wheel that had small chunks missing from the top of it. It looks like the plastic used for the steering must have come from France – all croissant-like and flaky.
The rest of the interior seemed normal enough with nothing missing. The great thing about the Savvy is that the seating position is actually spot on. The steering wheel is where it should be and not resting on your thighs like in the Gen2, Waja or Satria Neo. The seats are firm without the short squab that you’d find in the Waja. The view out from the cabin is actually good and I even thought that the seat wasn’t set too high. Everything was actually good.
The Savvy I drove was a manual. This meant that I did not have to suffer the jerkiness of an Automated Manual Transmission that was offered by Proton to those who somehow cannot use a stick shift. I believe the AMT gearbox also caused Proton pain and suffering due to quality issues. So anyway, I have to say that while I like manual gearboxes, the Savvy has one with slightly vague gear placement. It isn’t a car that you can feel comfortable straight away when it comes to gear shifts, that is.
The 1.2 (actually 1,149cc – which I truly wonder why Proton calls it a 1.2liter in the first place) is pretty tractable. It is able to move the Savvy quite a bit and does not like it struggles at all. Maybe if you load up the rear with people it may feel a little lethargic but with two upfront it covers ground decently well.
It also rides like a larger car. This surprised me a little as the ride and to an extent, the handling is pretty good. It corners well and even the steering feels connected. It holds the corners quite well and you actually feel confident driving this little hatchback. It could handle another 30bhp easily (the Savvy has about 74bhp). If it had that 30bhp it would feel like a Suzuki Swift especially since it rides as well as one. But it’s a Swift with really bad material quality as well as build quality.
So that is actually what the Proton Savvy feels like. On the point of build quality the car really suffers. The chap who owns it had to spend nearly a thousand Ringgit to get the fuel pump fixed. Utterly expensive for such a budget car and Rolls Royce-like in price when you compare with a Proton Wira’s fuel pump. It also suffers from a leak in the power steering system as the owner told me he had just topped up the fluid and when I took a peep under the bonnet it was down by half again. It also suffers from low speed jerks and also high speed stutters (same problem – either fuelling caused by a dirty fuel filter or clogged injectors, or a faulty throttle body, or some vacuum leak, or God forbid, a faulty ECU which could cost more than even the older Proton Wira).
So the Proton Savvy is actually crap after you’ve owned it for a while. It may be a decent drive but it is actually bloody expensive to maintain for such a cheap car. This is why Proton has stopped selling it. And another incredible piece of news is that the excuse given is that they build one car every 98 seconds or 700 cars per day so quality issues are bound to happen. I suppose someone should either tell Proton that Toyota does the same in around the time the mamak fries the fried mee. No food poisoning in the case of Toyota most of the time, right?

2010 Peugeot 308 VTi 1.6 Automatic – The tame, slightly toothless French Lion

 I posted this review I did on the 2010 Peugeot 308 VTi on MyAutoBlog.org. I somehow do not like how this car handles, but from a Malaysian point of view, the only thing that makes this car a worthy purchase over its RM100k price range competitors is that:

  • It’s French. Therefore it is the cheapest continental car you can buy at this price range.
  • It’s pretty well built and the interior looks good compared to the Honda City, Toyota Vios, Altis and whatever in the price range.
  • It is really a whole lot of car for the price. The looks are very modern and nothing’s conservative about it when it comes to styling. Compare this to a Nissan Latio sedan or a Nissan Syphilis or a Corolla Altis (the latter two are more expensive than this car) and you know you’ve got a winner here.
  • While I know I mentioned that the handling’s a little sad (at least the 308 Turbo has more grip and more power to play around with – but it isn’t a good handling example also as it does the same hop, skip and jump over undulations and mid corner bumps ), the car allows some sense of class into a category that’s limited in choice. If you’re not into driving, or a car for the wife to ferry kids, it’ll do that just fine. And you’ll look better doing so than in any of the cars stated above.

Please do not throw resale value in here. If you start thinking about resale value, you lead a very dull and uninteresting life. Really. Start living a little.

Click here to read more about it and what I really think about the car.

2010 Peugeot 308 VTi 1.6 Automatic – The tame, slightly toothless French Lion

 I posted this review I did on the 2010 Peugeot 308 VTi on MyAutoBlog.org. I somehow do not like how this car handles, but from a Malaysian point of view, the only thing that makes this car a worthy purchase over its RM100k price range competitors is that:

  • It’s French. Therefore it is the cheapest continental car you can buy at this price range.
  • It’s pretty well built and the interior looks good compared to the Honda City, Toyota Vios, Altis and whatever in the price range.
  • It is really a whole lot of car for the price. The looks are very modern and nothing’s conservative about it when it comes to styling. Compare this to a Nissan Latio sedan or a Nissan Syphilis or a Corolla Altis (the latter two are more expensive than this car) and you know you’ve got a winner here.
  • While I know I mentioned that the handling’s a little sad (at least the 308 Turbo has more grip and more power to play around with – but it isn’t a good handling example also as it does the same hop, skip and jump over undulations and mid corner bumps ), the car allows some sense of class into a category that’s limited in choice. If you’re not into driving, or a car for the wife to ferry kids, it’ll do that just fine. And you’ll look better doing so than in any of the cars stated above.

Please do not throw resale value in here. If you start thinking about resale value, you lead a very dull and uninteresting life. Really. Start living a little.

Click here to read more about it and what I really think about the car.