IT’S easy to be impressed when you start with rock-bottom expectations, but this car has definitely surprised me.
The Proton S16, one of Australia’s cheapest car, has been a winner from the start. The lack of luxuries aside— because let’s face it, there are none— this car is great to drive.
It’s a lovely change driving off in a new car without feeling like you first need to read a manual. Everything is simple and easy to use, and there are no nasty surprises.
The car comes with power steering and is easy to handle.
Ducking in and out of busy city traffic is a breeze and even the horn is surprisingly powerful.
Space inside the car is also impressive. Unlike many of its cheap counterparts, the Proton S16 won’t cause too many cramped legs or squabbles over who gets to ride in the front passenger seat.
Having said that, you probably also won’t have friends queue up to go for a ride with you. It’s also unlikely to raise your social status, impress prospective dates or intimidate that jerk who cut you off. But the car has character, despite being basic.
I even found myself giggling when I discovered I had to use a key to open the boot — very old school.
It’s biggest downside is the single driver’s-side airbag.
Another shortcoming is the sound quality of the stereo.
With just two speakers, music lovers will be wanting to upgrade their stereos straight away — or risk listening to tinny, faint tunes.
There is no automatic version of the Proton S16 yet, though that’s coming this year. But while shifting between first and second gears in bumper traffic is not always a joy, you’ll be surprised how quickly you move through the five gears on an open road.
For a small— and cheap— car, the Proton S16 is surprisingly powerful and reaches 100km/ h relatively effortlessly.
It is also fairly fuel efficient, with an economy of 6.3 litres every 100km.
The bargain price means you probably also won’t have too many concerns squeezing into tight parking spaces or navigating hectic shopping centre carparks.
So should you buy one? As a basic, daily commuter car the Proton S16 is great value. But as a family car, or people mover, the safety features are not really good enough. Likes: Easy manoeuvrability; visibility; fuel use. Dislikes: Lack of passenger side airbag; sound quality; lack of compartment space.