Top Rank: 12 rare and unique Proton Satria and Satria Neo models

CY Foong · Feb 13, 2021 10:00 AM

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Of all the pre-Geely Proton models, the ones that stand above the rest among Proton fans are the Satria and the Satria Neo. The two hatchbacks are some of the most sporty-looking Proton models ever sold and are beloved by fans.

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Launched in 1994, the Proton Satria was Proton’s first proper hatchback and was targeted at younger buyers. Judging by the number of Mitsubishi Mirage converts on the road, it’s a cult success.

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As Proton ventured into their own designs, so too did the Satria with the launch of its replacement, the Satria Neo in 2006. For a local design, it looked pretty handsome and represented an evolution of the Satria for the new millennium.

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Instead of gushing over the Malaysian equivalent of a Honda Civic hatchback, we want to focus on the rarest and most unique models of the Satria and Satria Neo. Following up on our piece on the rarest Wira models, we will show you not 10 but 12 special models beginning with…

12. Proton Satria Gemilang

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Built specially for the procession parade celebrating Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka Day in 2007, the Proton Satria Gemilang was a unique one-off that was a combination of a few Proton models. Despite the Satria name as well as the Satria Neo front and rear fascia, the Satria Gemilang was built on a Proton Chancellor (a long-wheelbase Waja) chassis.

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The door handles and dash definitely look familiar

Even the interior was taken right out of the Waja with the most notable being the dashboard. Powering the Satria Gemilang was a 2.0-litre V6 taken out of the Proton Perdana V6 and the Chancellor that produced 148 PS and 179 Nm.

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The Satria Gemilang is the only Satria model to feature 4 doors. However, it is not the only topless Satria as you’ll see later on the list.

11. Proton Satria Special Edition (SE)

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Compared to the Proton Wira Special Edition (WiSE), the Proton Satria Special Edition (SE) is slightly less famous. Unlike the WiSE though, the Satria SE served as the final special edition of the original Satria before it was replaced by the Satria Neo.

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Launched in 2004, the Satria SE was available in three variants, 1.3 GL manual, 1.5 GL manual, and 1.5 GL automatic. While the WiSE received some extensive performance upgrades, only the exhaust system in the Satria SE was tuned for the 1.5 GL variants with up to 4% boost in performance.

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Just like the WiSE, the Satria SE was also given cosmetic upgrades which include a sporty body kit, black painted headlight casings, an engine cover, racing seat-style front headrests, Special Edition meter graphics, gunmetal finish on the centre console of the dash, aluminium pedals, and a yellow gearbox console.

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The suspension had also been lowered and the Satria SE was equipped with low-profile tyres with 16-inch alloy wheels. Only two colours were offered, Dandelion Yellow and Black Panther.

10. Proton Satria Cabriolet

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As Proton was gearing up to make itself known in Europe, it unveiled the Satria Cabriolet at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show to garner some interest for production. With cabriolets receiving some popularity in Europe, Proton commissioned an unnamed droptop specialist from California to help develop this concept.

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Before Proton could ever figured out whether the topless Satria was viable for the market, the Asian Financial Crisis hit Malaysia and the project was scrapped along with Proton’s European expansion.

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Still, at least two prototypes were made and were shown across Malaysia through roadshows in the early 2000s. Nearly 25 years later when the Satria Cabriolet made news at the glitzy motor show, the topless Satria made headlines again when news broke out of them being sold at an auction.

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Needs a bit of TLC

Proton managed to pull out the Satria Cabriolet just in the nick of time and hopefully, we get to see it being restored to its former purple glory.

9. Proton Satria Neo R3

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When Proton released the Satria Neo in 2006, many fans were wondering whether there will be a hotter GTi or R3 version. It took Proton two years to give an answer but the Satria Neo R3 was a special successor to the Satria hot hatches.

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Only 10 units were made and all were painted in trademark Incognito Black. Unlike the original Satria R3 1.8, the Satria Neo R3 was less hardcore since there weren’t any enhancements made to the chassis.

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Even so, the Satria Neo R3 was given some performance enhancements which included increasing the spark plug cable to 8 mm, installing an R3-tuned exhaust system, and tuning the ECU of the CamPro engine (the original unit that was also used on the Gen-2, not the IAFM, CPS, or VIM).

The result was a power output of 135 PS at 6,100 rpm and 164 Nm at 4,200 rpm.

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Proton wasn’t just going to leave the visuals untouched. The Satria Neo R3 was given an aggressive body kit and wore 17x7 Advanti SG15 rims, wrapped with 205/40R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE001 Adrenaline tyres. The original brake rotors were swapped out with slotted discs paired with Mintex M1144 performance brake pads.

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Inside, the R3 received a pair of Recaro SR4 bucket seats at the front, an R3-branded gear knob, R3 floor carpets, a Momo Tuner steering wheel, and black and red trims.

8. Proton Satria Neo S2000 Edition Supercharged Concept

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Apart from the striking yellow paintwork that was inspired by the Satria Neo S2000 rally cars that were built by Mellors Elliot Motorsport, two things stood out with the Satria Neo S2000 Edition Supercharged Concept.

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Firstly, the body kit was designed by Proton’s R3 division. This consisted of the front bumper with a front splitter, rear bumper with diffuser, side skirts, rear spoiler, and wider wheel arches.

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The magic word is on the left side

The second and most interesting part would be the supercharged badge on this concept car. Yes, a supercharger in a Proton and paired to a CamPro CPS engine, it is said to produce a maximum torque of 192 Nm at 5,900 rpm! Proton claimed that the supercharger system would only work in high RPMs in order to not interfere with power at low RPMs.

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Proton originally wanted to produce 300 limited units for the public, but unfortunately that never came to fruition.

7. Proton Satria Neo R3 Turbo Concept

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If you think a supercharged Proton Satria Neo is bonkers, how about a turbocharged one? That’s what R3 did when it unveiled the Proton Satria Neo R3 Turbo Concept at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show (KLIMS) 2010.

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For this turbocharged concept, R3 went all out by installing forged pistons, steel connecting rods, a performance camshaft, a ported engine head, a 4-2 level 3 exhaust system, a carbon fibre airbox, and an R3 ECU.

As a result, the turbocharged Satria Neo produced 200 PS and 200 Nm and was mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission developed by R3.

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Similar to the Satria Neo R3 Lotus Racing, this concept used 4-pot brake calipers with a 295 mm floating disc courtesy of AP Racing and performance brake pads.

That’s not all. The concept also utilised an Ohlins suspension set-up while 195/50R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE55SS semi-slicks were adorned on all four corners.

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The visual enhancements were also given an all-out treatment with a carbon fibre bonnet, body kits, and accessories similar to the limited-edition Lotus Racing Neo, as well as front and rear bumpers that were painted bronze at the bottom.

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Inside, the concept was given the exquisite treatment of Nappa and Alcantara trims, Recaro front racing seats with Sparco racing harnesses, and a yellow 4-point roll cage.

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The yellow treatment continued with the gear console and the door cards, while the gear knob was made out of aluminium. Elsewhere, the infotainment system was a 2-DIN touchscreen unit with GPS, and a rally-inspired digital meter cluster replaced the original analogue meter cluster.

6. Proton Satria Neo Group N Cusco Rally Car

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Before rebadging Geely vehicles, Proton was rebadging Mitsubishi models. However, in 2011, Proton struck a deal with Japanese tuning company Cusco to produce a special Satria Neo that was meant for rallying. As a result, this became the first and so far only time that Proton was sold in Japan.

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The Proton Satria Neo Group N rally car was specifically developed and sold for Junior Rally Championship teams competing in Japan and Asia Pacific. The Satria Neo Group N was built upon a standard Satria Neo which can be bought in showrooms and later homologized according to FIA specifications to be used in competitions.

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Though not as powerful as the Satria Neo S2000, it is more affordable and as capable on rally courses. It can be said that the Satria Neo Group N is the little brother to the Satria Neo S2000.

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Group N is a production category that requires teams to maintain the original geometry and mounts of their car's suspension as the regular models sold to consumers. FIA also stipulates that the cars use the original engine.

Hence, the 1.6-litre CamPro S4PH used in the rally-spec Satria Neo is similar to the regular model, albeit retuned for competition use.

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Besides, this special Satria Neo was also given a full rally makeover which includes a full rollcage, a fire extinguisher, a trip computer, Bride racing seats, Takata racing harnesses, a three-spoke Sabelt/Nardi steering wheel, and many more.

Of course, let’s not forget the Cusco performance parts including a limited slip-diff (LSD) and adjustable suspension.

5. Proton Satria GTi

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No list of interesting Satria models is complete without the one Malaysian hot hatch legend that started it all. Introduced in 1998 after acquiring an 80% stake in Lotus in October 1996, the Proton Satria GTi was the result of a combined effort of the British carmaker’s technical skills and input with a humble Malaysian-made hatchback.

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If you can't tell, the British media initially had doubts

Apart from enhancing the ride and handling, Lotus gave the Satria GTi a stabilizer bar on the front and rear along with larger brakes.

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The exterior design wasn't just for show but they aided in aerodynamics. The front grille and bumper were designed to form an air dam which helped direct air better. There were also cooling slots near the front foglamps to help cool the front brakes.

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Adding to the aggressive looks were overfender wheel arch kits with exposed ‘rivets’ and a black trim on the sides with ‘GTi 16v’ in chrome letters.

Around the back, the sportiness continued in the GTi with square-shaped twin exhaust tailpipes along with a large rear spoiler. Fitted as standard are 16-inch 6-spoke wheels which gave the GTi its trademark look.

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While the GTi came with Recaro seats just like many sporty Proton models, it didn’t come with a Momo steering wheel or gear knob. Instead, it was equipped with a standard 4-spoke steering wheel and the gear knob was made out of brushed aluminium.

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Under the hood of the GTi sat a 1.8-litre 4G93P naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine that produced 140 PS at 6,000 rpm and 167 Nm at 6,000 rpm. It’s the same engine as the equally iconic Proton Putra and Proton Wira 1.8 EXi LE.

Weighing in at 1,115 kg, 0-100 km/h is done and dusted in 8.5 seconds and top speed is 210 km/h.

4. Proton Satria R3 1.8

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While many recognise the Satria GTi, a more special Proton hot hatch would be R3’s first-ever completely tuned-up car, and best of all, it came with a warranty coverage when it was new.

Limited to only 150 units, the Proton Satria R3 1.8 gave the Satria GTi a complete makeover by toughening up the chassis and improving the driving dynamics.

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The chassis enhancements included utilising a double stitch welding method which in turn strengthened the structure and reduced body flex to a minimum.

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Besides, R3 clearly followed the lightweight philosophy that was (initially) championed by Honda’s Type R. Features such as airbags, ABS brakes, and sound deadening materials were either thrown out or replaced with lighter materials. This extensive diet gave the Satria R3 a weight of only 995 kg!

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After shedding those extra pounds, R3 gave the Satria front and rear strut bars, upgraded the suspension system, gave bigger brake discs and stronger brake pads, along with an enhanced exhaust system.

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The 1.8-litre 4G93P that was similar to the aforementioned GTi was now boosted in performance to 140 PS and 168 Nm. Truly a legend among legends.

3. Proton Satria Neo R3 Clubsport

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Now, this is a Satria Neo that’s dedicated to the diehard track enthusiasts who want to set a blazing lap time in Sepang. Back in 2008, R3 offered a track-focused edition of the hatchback called the Satria Neo Clubsport.

Developed for use in a one-make series where buyers have to compete in, the Neo Clubsport was also one of the rarest Satria Neo ever sold with only 18 units ever built.

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The Neo Clubsport was powered by a 1.6-litre CamPro engine, but without CPS, since the engine was easier to tune. With a new camshaft, ECU, and exhaust system, this track-ready Neo produces 137 PS.

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As little as that figure may be, what differentiated the Clubsport compared to the R3 placed below it was that the Clubsport weighed 109 kg lighter than the standard Satria Neo. Fitting with the mantra that was uttered by the founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman: Simplify, then add lightness.

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Apart from the tuned engine and lightweight chassis, the Neo Clubsport was also fitted with a 6-point roll cage and a suspension set-up that was approved by the FIA to ensure it can be used on the track.

While the Clubsport didn’t come fitted with a Neo CPS body kit, it did come equipped with an R3 front splitter just below the bumper and an R3 rear spoiler which was designed at an aggressive angle to increase grip and stability on the track.

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Inside, the carpets and sound-deadening materials were taken out and the driver’s seat was replaced by a Recaro TS-G racing seat with a Sparco racing seatbelt. The original steering wheel was also replaced with a Momo Tuner wheel complete with an R3 boss kit and quick release.

All the lightness and enhancements allowed the Satria Neo R3 Clubsport to record a lap time around the Sepang circuit well under 3 minutes.

2. Proton Satria Neo R3 Lotus Racing

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This is it. The most exclusive and also the most expensive car ever produced by Proton R3. Limited to only 25 units and priced from RM 115,000 each, it was twice the price of a regular Satria Neo CPS but what made it so expensive?

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Well, the 1.6-litre CamPro CPS fitted here had been extensively tuned by R3. The laundry list of mods includes an R3 ECU, an R3 adjustable alloy camshaft, an R3 alloy pulley underdrive, an R3 titanium exhaust manifold, an R3 exhaust system, and a K&N air filter with a carbon fibre air intake.

All those upgrades gave the Neo R3 Lotus Racing a power output of 145 PS and 168 Nm which are 25 PS and 18 Nm more than the original outputs.

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Proton claimed the Neo R3 Lotus Racing had a 0-100 km/h time of 9.2 seconds (Neo CPS: 10.5 sec) and a maximum top speed of 200 km/h (Neo CPS: 190 km/h).

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Even better, the Neo R3 Lotus Racing can rev up to 7,500 rpm in every gear and the torque dip that was common with CamPro engines was fixed.

The suspension was also enhanced with Ohlins DFV (Dual Valve) adjustable suspensions, equipped with stronger rubber bushings and a tuned geometry set-up.

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In the exterior, the front and rear bumpers as well as the roof spoiler were made out of lighter fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) while the front bonnet was made out of carbon fibre.

Placed on all four corners were 205/45R16 Bridgestone Adrenalin RE001 rubbers with 16x7 Advanti rims. AP Racing brakes were also installed on the front for better stopping power.

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As this was launched in commemoration of Lotus’ re-entry into Formula One, all 25 units of the Neo R3 Lotus Racing were painted British Racing Green and this theme continued inside.

The seats and trims were wrapped in Nappa leather with carbon effects and the gear knob was made out of a special alloy composite.

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As amazing as this is, it’s not the ultimate Satria model. That honour belongs to the…

1.  Proton Artiga Concept

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Proton once partnered with a Chinese brand called Youngman to sell cars in China and while that is an interesting story on its own, we’d like to show you one of the results of that partnership. Making its debut at the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show, the Proton Artiga Concept was developed as research into Proton’s hot hatch future.

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And the result is, well it’s awesome, to say the least. Proton has really gone in deep with their carbon fibre fetish for this. The front hood, side skirts, rear wing, rear diffuser, and front lip have all been dipped in the exquisite material.

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In fact, the reason why it had so many carbon fibre parts was that the concept had the patented stamping process to mass-produce carbon fibre parts. Thus, potentially reducing the cost of these parts significantly. Who needs a sticker wrap, right?

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Besides the generous carbon fibre parts, the Artiga was equipped with wide wheel arch fenders (like a Rocket Bunny kit), giving off a unique and fierce style. This unique Satria Neo was also equipped with a central twin-tip exhaust, revamped headlamps, and 17-inch OZ Racing wheels.

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As shouty as it looked, it’s not what you would call a ricer. Underneath, the Artiga came with a supercharger that boosted power output to 182 PS and 240 Nm. With all that power and lightness combined, the Artiga can accelerate to 100 km/h from rest in 7.6 seconds.

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Sparco fuel cap too!

Remember that collaboration with Cusco? Well, the Artiga also came with a Cusco Zero-3G suspension system. Meanwhile, Endless 4-pot brake calipers were equipped for quick stopping power.

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Inside, carbon fibre trims were placed all over including on the steering wheel, dashboard, gear console, and door trims. Further complementing the lightness were the gear knob and pedals which were made out of aluminium.

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Giving the racing vibes were red trims which can be seen on the seats, the air-con vents, and on the steering wheel.

As the Artiga was so potent, its occupants were strapped in to a 4-point OMP racing seatbelt instead of a conventional seatbelt. Unfortunately, Proton’s partnership with Youngman was short-lived and the Artiga remained a concept.

Conclusion

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In this list, it’s clear that Proton had used the Satria and Satria Neo more often as a basis for their experiments in performance compared to other models. Just look at some of the modifications they crammed into them: superchargers, turbochargers, body kits, carbon fibres, lightness, and numerous others.

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Proton stopped producing the Satria Neo in 2015 but the popularity of it and its predecessor is still felt among Malaysian car enthusiasts with numerous owner clubs dedicated to the hatchbacks.

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Under the ownership of Geely, there’s no doubt a revived Satria powered by the 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder as seen in the Proton X50 would send hearts aflutter. Paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and it’s a dynamic recipe for sure.

Do you agree with our list? Which of these special Satria/Satria Neo do you fancy the most?

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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