Proton Savvy Style

Adding a city car to its limited line-up certainly sounds like a good move for Proton, but how smart is the all-new Savvy?

The Savvy seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. It is designed to appeal to young buyers, yet its styling looks dated already. It's also a city runabout, but the difficult gearbox makes hard work of short trips. Add this to the limited dealer network, and not even the modest price will be enough to fend off the competition.

Adding a city car to its limited line-up certainly sounds like a good move for Proton, but how smart is the all-new Savvy?

When the Malaysian firm first took the wraps off its latest offering, we were baffled by the model's misfit looks. For a vehicle the company hopes will attract young buyers, the styling seemed dated. Haphazard badging and a mix 'n' match approach to the shape caused most of the confusion. The heavily sculpted rear sits uncomfortably with the sporty, deep-set nose and prominent V-grille. While the looks are sure to divide opinion, we reckon they are simply too fussy.

Inside, the yellow instruments are sadly the only obvious influence from Proton's sports brand Lotus. The cabin feels low budget - not least because of the vast expanse of grey plastic and a flimsy glovebox, which unbelievably opens to reveal the metal subframe and wiring. The steering wheel is also spoiled by the firm's use of cheap materials.

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At least there's a bespoke radio with simple controls and a display screen. Unfortunately, funds didn't stretch to electric mirrors - realising you need to shift the angle on the passenger side once you've pulled away is an irritation we thought we'd left in the Nineties.

Still, with prices starting at a mere £5,995 for the entry-level 1.2 Street, what did you expect? In fact, for the money, the Savvy offers a surprisingly comfortable ride. The seats are well bolstered and there is a high driving position, giving you a clear view out.

Additional marks are awarded for practicality. The split-fold back seats stow flat to create an impressive 909 litres of luggage space - although the internally placed boot release is annoying for shoppers looking to offload their bags in a hurry. Meanwhile, the extra £1,000 for the Style trim option also buys you reverse parking sensors, air-conditioning and alloy wheels.

Sharp steering and snappy brakes make light work of tight cornering, but the gearbox is one of the worst we've tested. Its vague and excessively stiff shift takes all the enjoyment out of the driving experience. What's more, finding neutral at a standstill is difficult.

The whiny 1.2-litre engine - shared with Renault's Clio - is no fun, either. It takes too long to build up speed, allowing virtually every other driver to overtake you, and then quickly runs out of steam. The noise is also overbearing, as the motor spins at 4,000rpm at 70mph. Proton hopes to shift 6,000 new Savvys this year, but most buyers will be better off looking elsewhere.

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