** This article is the personal experience of a 2009 Proton Persona 1.6 Highline owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.
Facebook: Afiq Bazli
What is it?
The Proton Persona is a compact sedan that was launch back in August of 2007. My car that you see here was bought in April of 2009. Originally the Proton Persona was powered by the carried-over 1.6L DOHC 16-valves CamPro petrol engine from the Proton Gen2 hatchback. Eventually, it was replaced by the newer 1.6 DOHC 16-valves CamPro IAFM (Intake Air Fuel Module) petrol engine starting from 2008 onwards. This CamPro IAFM engine produces 110 Hp with 148 Nm of torque and power is sent to the front wheels via a 4-speed torque converter automatic.
My Proton Persona being the Highline variant was second from the top of the range which was the SE variant. This particular colour is called Metallic Blueberry Tea and was only exclusive to the Highline variant. Some of the notable features that you get on this variant are 4 wheels disc brake with ABS, EBD, dual front airbags, remote trunk opening and seatbelt pre-tension limiter. Besides that, there is also 60:40 split-folding rear seat, 2-Din radio and CD player with MP3, fog lights, reverse parking sensors, audio switch on the steering wheel and central locking with immobilizer alarm. So overall during the time it was decently equip given the price tag which was only around RM55,800.00.
Why did we buy the Proton Persona?
For me to tell you this story I must first bring you back to the time before we even got the car. So, bear with me okay. It started in the year 2008 in which during the time I was only a 16-year-old teenager and our sole family car at the time was a black 2007 Naza Citra 2.0 GS. For your information, I was and currently still living in Miri Sarawak. The Citra back then to my family of 5 people was a decent car. It was roomy, affordable and come with some nice features like a sunroof. The problem that arises was during our “balik kampung” season. You see my grandparents' place is in a more rural part of Sarawak in which do not have proper built roads. At one point our Naza Citra got stuck in the mud and needed to be towed out.
After living with the car for just 2 and a half years my dad finally had enough and sold the car. He bought a secondhand Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (J90) 3.0 TZ 4X4. This both solves and creates another problem as my mother find the car too big for her liking and had no confidence in driving it daily. After some discussion, my father decided to get a smaller car for my mother to use on her daily errands. Our budget back then only allowed us to get something below RM60K. So essentially the popular Toyota Vios and Honda City were out of the picture. We also rule out on getting a secondhand car as my dad’s Toyota Land Cruiser was already a second hand.
After looking around the new market for a while, my family finally rounded our options to 3 cars. They were the Perodua Myvi SE Facelift, Naza Suria GS and Proton Persona Highline. After testing all 3 cars we found the Suria to be underpowered and lacks essential safety feature like airbags and ABS. The Myvi, on the other hand, had good passenger space and equipment but at the price of RM53,800 (RM2K) less than the Persona, we found that the Persona to be more value for money. The Proton Persona had a much larger trunk and a more powerful engine. Long story short, that is how the Persona came into our possession. Over the years, the Persona eventually ends up being my car as I started working on my own after college and continue paying the monthly instalment to end.
What is it like to own and drive?
I still remember like it was yesterday. The first time I sat in the driver seat of the Proton Persona back in 2009 when I was just 16 years old with my parents at my local Proton dealership. The first thing that came to my mind was “Oh wow, spot on seating position!” I could totally imagine myself driving this thing soon. Of course, soon enough I did get my driver’s license 2 years later in 2011 and drove the Persona almost regularly. Oh, memories. Anyways, after nearly 11 years now my Persona is still mainly stock with the only things I change are the wheels from 15 inches to 17 inches, an upper mount 2 point Greedy front stabilizer bar and a new SE variant black trim headlamps as I dislike the old chrome ones. Here is what I experience owning Protons once “Pride and Joy”.
From behind the wheel, the Persona really put ride and handling above everything else. The Lotus tuned chassis which feature all-around independent strut suspension which makes the car an absolute joy around the corner or just throwing it in the bends. The hydraulic power steering has plenty of feels and you always know what your front wheels are doing. Occasionally I do bring my car to the local track circuit in the weekend and push it to the limits in a time attack. During those time is where I wish my Persona would have more power because you really need to rev it up in other to get that peak 148 Nm of torque out from the engine.
Of course, my Persona is also my daily car to work. In that regards it could be better than what it is. For one, the sound insulation is just bad. It is loud inside, especially at a higher speed. Engine noise and road noise are the most prominent and you really need to bring up the volume if you're listening to the radio. That rather loud noise from the engine is also thanks in part to the transmission only having 4 speed. So yeah driving around 90 or 100km/h your rpm is well above 2000. The rear seats also lack thigh support and can get tiring after seating for a long time.
Then there is the issue of interior plastic quality. Don’t get me wrong it is better than the Gen2 in that regards but yeah after 11 years you do hear rattles and shakes particular on my car is coming from the steering wheel audio switch, front passenger airbag cover and rear roof-mounted third brake light housing. I know right of all places. But did manage to eliminate them by putting some rubber matt between the gaps of some of them to eliminate the sound. So yeah all is good.
Speaking of good things, the Proton Persona does have some. The trunk is huge at 430 litres. Not only that you can also fold the rear seats if you have longer items carry. I personally manage to carry a mountain bike sideways at one point. The hinge on the side is not your typical goose neck type but the damper strut type. It's good to avoid your item being crush when you close the trunk, but it also made the truck rather heavy to lift especially if the hinge is not lubricated. On a positive note again like any other Proton cars the air conditioning is cold!
Next, touching about how it looks. Personally, I find this generation Persona to be a well-proportioned sedan compare to the newer one despite both having derived from hatchback models. I do find under stock suspension set up it makes the rear sits a bit too high. But at the same time from driver seat at night, the rather high rear truck lid blocks a headlights beams of the car behind you from glaring into your middle rearview mirror. At some point, I do not even know if there is a car behind me until I see the side view mirror. It is that tall! No need for your fancy modern monochromatic rearview mirror. My final gripe would be the third brake light not being bright enough especially in the afternoon the under the sun
Lastly in the topic ownership is maintenance. For myself, I stop sending my car to the dealership for servicing right around 6 years into my ownership. But yeah, I had no major issue with the dealership it's just around this time I could do the maintenance myself. You see I work as an Automotive lecturer and trainer. So far, I have replaced the water pump belt twice, new spark plugs, new brake pads twice, gasket, engine mounts and lower arm bushings to name a few on top of all the regular lubricant and coolant change. But that is the thing I like about this Proton Persona. Parts are always available everywhere and are cheap.
Overall, the Proton Persona experience for myself is both good and bad. It is a brilliant car to own if you prefer driving involvement and working hands-on with your car. But if you are looking for refinement or good resale value then go look elsewhere. My car for example even with less than 100K mileage will only fetch around RM11K in the secondhand market whereas a Myvi of the same year can fetch around RM16K. For now, I would keep my Persona as I have not accounted for any major issue with it yet. But in the future would convert this into track car and get myself another more comfortable and better daily car.