Remembering Proton Gen-2

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On 15th September 2006 Malaysian automaker Proton partnered with Royal Automobiles stepped into our market by launching 4 models namely the 1.3L Saga sedan, 1.5L Wira sedan, 1.6L Impian saloon and the Gen-2 liftback in 1.3L & 1.6L engine options. While 3 of them were based on old Mitsubishi cars, the Gen-2 was the one which stood out from the rest.

Proton began its vehicle production in mid 1980s with the aid of Mitsubishi since Proton had a technical collaboration agreement with the Japanese manufacturer, as most of the earlier models were rebadged Mitsubishis with minor cosmetic differences while those developed in later years despite visually different in terms of design were still purely based on Mitsubishi technology.

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Talking about the ones that landed in our market, the Saga (LMST) was based on the 3rd generation Lancer from the mid 80s, the Wira was basically a restyled 5th gen Mitsubishi Lancer from early 90s, whereas the Impian (Waja) which was heralded as the first indigenously designed car by Proton was actually built on Mitsubishi Carisma platform while having a Mitsubishi sourced 4G18 engine under its hood.

Proton in Pakistan: Wira, Impian and Saga from 2006

Among those, the Gen-2 was the center of attraction because it was the only one that looked pretty much connected to that era, as the rest of the three looked quite dated. It was modern, appealing and appeared quite youthful. The platform of Gen-2 was extensively developed in-house by Proton and Lotus, which was owned by Malaysian automaker back in those days. It was the key selling point of the car since the drive and handling was literally far superior than any other vehicle available in its class in Pakistan back in those days. The company even proudly touted “designed & handled by Lotus” in the advertising campaigns for this car.

Proton Gen-2 in Pakistan

Unlike the other three older Proton cars with Mitsubishi engines under the hood, the Gen-2 was available in two engine options in Pakistan, both being the state of the art CamPro petrol engines co-developed by Lotus & Proton. CamPro came from Cam Profiling featuring better power output and improved fuel efficiency while meeting newer emission standards. For better response, all CamPro engines incorporated electronic throttle control eliminating the need for friction-generating mechanical linkages and cables, which was something ahead of its times considering the sort of options available to us back in those days.

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There was a 1.3L CamPro unit good for 94hp and 120Nm and 1.6L CamPro that delivered 110hp and 148Nm. The 1.3L variants were paired to either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox whereas the 1.6L variants were only available in manual. Since CNG was a craze back then, most automakers in Pakistan were offering factory-fitted CNG vehicles, so was Proton. The Gen-2 also came with CNG variants in both 1.3L MT and 1.6L MT guise.

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Proton Gen-2 was loaded with rich features & equipment such as dual tone interior, air-conditioning, central locking, digital distance-to-empty meter, key-less entry with alarm, climate control, back wiper, CD player with AM/ FM radio, tilt adjustable steering, remote trunk & fuel lid opener, etc whereas the 1.6L variants came equipped with dual airbags, ABS brakes, reversing sensors, multi-function steering, leather seats, front fog lights and power outside mirrors. But the quirky thing was the presence of power windows for only front 2 doors in the 1.3L variants, as the rear ones had manual hand crank mechanism. The 1.6L variants had all 4 power windows though.

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Like other Proton cars, the price of Gen-2 was quite attractive. The base 1.3L MT variant was priced at Rs 849,000, the 1.3L MT CNG was available for Rs 889,000 while the 1.3L AT was priced at Rs 898,000. The 1.6L Gen-2 MT retailed at Rs 949,000 whereas the flagship 1.6L MT CNG was available for Rs 999,000.

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It remains a fact that Gen-2 was the bestselling car among the 4 Proton models that were launched in Pakistan, so much that its sales outnumbered the cumulative figures of the other 3 cars the company offered in our country back then. However despite being competitively priced and having a better value for money factor, Proton was unable to cut through the competition mainly because of poor after sales support, lack of available spare parts & limited dealership network.

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Within just a few years, Proton wrapped up its operations in Pakistan putting an end to its brief chapter. However even after almost 16 years, once can still spot a random Proton from 2006/07 on the roads and its encouraging to see the Gen-2 among those still performing. I recently spotted a black colored example on the road and truly, the car has a very decent road presence and stands out from the rest of the lot even after all these years. Gen-2 was a very good car but with a bad fortune, and despite the many positives, it wasn’t able to survive. It is pertinent to mention that all Proton cars were backed by 3-years/ 60,000 km warranty but interestingly the company packed up and left within the warranty period.

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Proton has made a comeback again, this time teamed up with Al-Haj Automotive with the introduction of X70 and newer generation Saga but the company again got off to a shaky start in Pakistan with X70 formally launched way back in December 2020 and no signs of CKD deliveries even in January 2022. The Saga too is witnessing a similar sort of situation with huge delays in deliveries, lets hope for Proton that the previous episode isn’t going to be repeated this time.

Proton Gen-2 in Pakistan

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