** This article is the personal experience of a 1996 Proton Wira 1.6 XLi owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.
About the Proton Wira
The Proton Wira is Malaysia’s second national car after the Proton Saga, after it was unveiled to the public in 1985. The Proton Wira, its name translated into the word “Hero” in Malay. The Proton Wira produced from 1993 to 2009. It was basically a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer from the ‘90s and shared the same platform as the Lancer Evolution I, II and III, and was also sold in the US as the Dodge Colt.
It was, and still is a robust and solid chassis and has proved itself in numerous rally scenes around the world. Hence, it is popular among youngsters and JDM fans in the modifications scene; commonly seen modified with sport rims, tin can style exhausts, “Evo” bumpers and lights and stuff. It's also is a very common model, and it blends in inconspicuously into modern-day traffic. More often than not, there will be a Wira at every end of a stone’s throw. Hence, it's no surprise that the venerable Wira is the topmost stolen car in the country for a few years consecutively, from just being stolen for parts or being famous for being used in numerous crimes in the country.
Some history and how did I end up with the Proton Wira?
This particular unit here used to belong to my grandad. From what I heard, it used to cost around RM54,000 back in 1996 with all options ticked. When I was younger, my grandad would bring me to different places to “yumchar”, to and from school occasionally. I always felt that the Proton Wira always felt really comfortable for long rides, and also it looked really sleek and friendly on the outside. I also felt that it was really fancy for what it was, having things like a rear sunshade and a pretty good factory audio system then. Not forgetting that I found out that it had a light that lighted up when the signals are engaged when the main beams are on. Pretty interesting stuff to the young and inquisitive me back then.
For me, after my parents sold off their older generation cars and replaced them for more modern cars when I was 11, I remember feeling that the newer cars didn’t have the charm of the older cars. Newer? Yes, they are. Safer? They most likely are too. However, something was just missing about them.
Fast forward a few years, After I got my licence, I caught wind of my grandad wanting to have the car sold. So, I asked him privately one day, what was the amount that he intended to sell it for, and whether if I could buy it from him, to which he replied, since I loved the car a lot and I was handy with cars and he knew I would take good care of it, I could just have it, with the knowledge of it going to a good home rather than it being sold to someone else.
First Impressions of the Proton Wira
When I got the Proton Wira on the road for the very first time, I was honestly very impressed with it. When compared with a 2010 Proton Saga BLM which I was used to driving up to that point, It felt like a more stable, better-planted car to drive on the road. Not only that, but it was also noticeably more powerful while being quieter and having a lot less wind and road noise compared to the BLM. The steering feel was very precise and steering feedback, in my books, is pretty decent. I am a fan of Mercedes Benz, and I've driven plenty of different Merc. models over the last few months. While the Proton Wira is definitely no Merc in terms of ride quality, the steering feel and stability did remind me of a Merc. Definitely was a no regret that I really wanted this specific car and its not the case of “Your Dream Car does not match up to expectation” because, after that first drive, it was definitely a car I can see myself running around daily in.
What the Proton Wira is like to own and drive?
There's a very popular saying among car nuts: “If you do not look back at your car after you have parked it, you have bought the wrong car” which I honestly find quite true. Even until today, I find myself subconsciously looking at it after parking it, feeling thankful that I have this car while admiring the design of it. It has also given me more than 20,000km of trouble-free miles since I have gotten it and shows no sign of quitting anytime soon. In terms of maintenance, The Proton Wira is a pretty simple to maintain car for a college student to do so. An oil change every 7000km (Semi-synthetic), a gearbox oil change every 3 oil changes done, as well as others following maintenance schedule on time. Pretty standard stuff.
In terms of fuel consumption, the Proton Wira will happily do an average of 11-12 km per litre (minimum of 350km per fill-up for RM65, assuming RON95 at RM2.08) with a mix of highway and city driving from personal experience, which is pretty good on fuel for an old car. In terms of rear legroom, it's pretty plentiful and a Wira will comfortably seat 5 passengers with no issue. Its got a modest sized boot too, combined with the folding seats, the storage space is actually quite big. Funnily enough, I already had numerous people come up to me with high offers to buy the car off me, to which I declined all of them as for me, its worth a lot more sentimentally and I don’t think I'll be able to live with the guilt of selling it later on.
Since this Proton Wira unit is a 1.6 XLi sedan model, it had numerous features that came with it from the factory, which the 1.3 and 1.5 model did not, such as a 4-speed automatic transmission with fuzzy logic, foglamps, an automatic rear sunshade, power mirrors, folding rear seats, a rear armrest, 4 door power windows, 6 speaker Blaupunkt speaker system from the factory, a much smoother, refined and more rev-happy Mitsubishi 4G92 engine, 14-inch 5 spoke factory alloys, a stiffened chassis with some other bits and pieces that added to the overall rigidness of the car. Pretty nifty eh?
Work Done So far
I can praise whatever I want, as much as I want, and be defensive as much as I want about my Wira, but whatever said and done, it's still a 24-year-old car. Things do go bad, and wear and tear is definitely present. So far, over the last year, mechanically, the car has asked a new overhauled slushbox (a very common and famous failure point for the Wira 1.6 and 1.8), 4 new shocks as well as the replacement of some suspension bits, an ATF cooler to prevent premature wear of the new gearbox, 2 steering bushes, new tires, a new ac compressor clutch, a brake caliper and a refresh of the cooling system as rust has accumulated in it after the car has been left sitting for a while before I got my hands on it.
Looks-wise, just to get it to look better as well as to make it look younger, I gave it new headlights and side signal lights (old units have been leaking and fading, common issue, which causes the lights to be dim), as well as a refresh of number plates (old ones were yellowed and looked dreadful), a new steering wheel from a slightly later model but retaining the original two spoke style (the old steering was flaking and wiggling around, leading to the sensation that you don’t have full control of the car).
Since I love to listen to music while I drive, I got myself a new headunit with Bluetooth, Aux, USB and CD connectivity. All 6 speakers have been changed out to newer units too as the old Blaupunkt speakers have given way over time. A dashcam has also been added just in case. All these little nitty-gritty buts have been swapped out myself while the interior has been steam and deep cleaned by me, as well as the exterior of the car gets polished and waxed by me periodically too.
I've learnt quite a bit on how to work on my own car as well as how things are put together on this car, which I find quite a handy and lovely skill to past time, as well as save some money as well. I'm sure over the years, there will be minor nitty gritty bits that will need to be changed too, but that’ll be a story for next time.
Some of my friends who have Wiras too have told me that the Wira is a very tuneable and modifyable car, to which I do agree, after seeing all the mods and the bodykits available for the car. However, since this car is grandfather’s gift, as well as it has heavy sentimental value to me, I feel that it would be better if it would be kept in stock form. So far, my future plans include having it completely resprayed and rust proofed as there's numerous sprouts of rust everywhere on the car. I would also have the rims sent off to be restored professionally as well so they will look good. Interior wise, Ill just maintain it as it is because it is perfect to me the way it is. Other than that, its pretty much just regular and preventative maintenance, cleaning, then just drive around and have fun.
Despite the bad rep that the Proton Wira gets for being a poor man’s car or the top stolen car in Malaysia, it’s a really great and cheap starter car for freshgrads or even first time drivers. It definitely serves its purpose even until today, which is to be a reliable daily runner, that will get you from A to B. Prices on the used car market is about 3 grand for a beat up 1.3 model with a manual, while the 1.8 EXi models do fetch around 6-8 grand, not forgetting the Wira’s numerous spinoffs, such as the Satria, the Putra and the Arena. There were also the Wira 1.8 EXi Limited Edition homologated units that were sold back then so Proton was able to enter the rallying scene. Are there more comfortable and reliable cars than a Proton Wira? Yes, there are. But I personally feel that the Wira 1.6 is one of the better cars out there that I personally have driven and it also definitely is still a very viable choice today for people who just need a car for transport.