For me, the first to be released Persona is 2016's most exciting model among the four new Protons. This is simply because the Persona unlike the rest, likely received (and needed) the most work from Proton. The other three are merely improved-on models, namely the Perdana and the upcoming Saga as well as Ertiga.
It was a privilege to be some of the first in the country to see and grasp Proton's new B-segment sedan. I was able to get a feel of the Persona at Proton's own test track in the company's manufacturing facility in Shah Alam.
Product presentation and unveiling
At the exclusive preview event, Proton provided an in-depth presentation on the technical aspects of the car as well as its aesthetic values. Photography were prohibited, but Proton handed us the official photos consisting a handful of angles and details of the new Persona.
The car is said to focus on refinement, safety and practicality as opposed to previous Persona's big card, which is handling. But that's not to say that the new Persona is going to be a boring car to drive either.
<iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/W67qb4vcCZo" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="700"></iframe>
Compared to its predecessor, the new Persona is an entirely new car, despite being built on the Iriz platform. The powertrain and roughly front half of the car is carried over from the donor car. However, there are key changes and improvements made on the Persona, both mechanically and aesthetically.
In the flesh, the appearance of the new Persona looks sleek and proportional. It may feature a rather small set of wheels, but considering the aim and the segment that the Persona will contend in, I don't see it as a wrong thing to do. Overall, the shape of the new Persona is what Proton designers call the 'slippery design', likely an aspect to help with fuel economy.
Interior wise, the steering wheel, centre console arrangement and the seats are pretty much similar to that on the Iriz. The dashboard and door trims get dual-tone finishing to give a perception of a roomy interior, according to Proton's chief designer. While the Standard and Executive variants receive fabric seats, the leather seats on the Premium variant is surprisingly comfortable and looks to be sourced from decent materials.
Out on the test track, there are 9 Personas available, comprising all three variants and in both CVT and manual transmission units. The Standard Persona can be distinguished from the absence of front fog lights. Both Executive and Premium will get rear boot-lid spoiler, however, the Premium is further differentiated with its black-finished B-pillars.
I was assigned to the Premium Persona with CVT transmission. With encouragement from designated Proton personnel in the car, I took the Persona to 120km/h on the banked curves and speeding up to 140km/h on the straights.
At the curves, the suppleness of the chassis can be felt, as the suspension absorbs the gravitational force acting on the car. Inconstant steering angle through the banked curve would see the VSC indicator blinking as it interferes to stabilize the car.
The calibrated CVT gives the Persona smooth power delivery and helps to reduce the boomy drone that happened on the Iriz. The calibration also helps to give better response as it is now easier to 'upshift' or 'downshift' by modulating the throttle. It may not be very immediate, but is pretty predictable.
On the straights between the curves, improvements on the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) level of the car becomes more evident, with satisfyingly low wind noise. Proton claims that cabin noise is reduced by 2 decibels (dB) compared to its predecessor, thanks to changes in cabin insulation and the choice of Silverstone Kruizer (Standard and Executive) and Goodyear Assurance (Premium) tyres that are specially-developed for the new Persona.
With the manual transmission, the 1.6 VVT felt significantly more alive, power delivery as well as torque curve highlights the engine's true characteristics. The clutch pedal is light, although biting point is barely felt.
Throttle response is found to be pretty laggy. But then again, this car is developed with fuel efficiency in mind (aside from refinement and practicality), therefore stricter enforcement on the drive-by-wire system limits the go factor.
One thing to point out is the absence of a foot rest, which bothers me a little. It would be preferred if Proton would at least include a foot rest on their future manual transmissioned cars, as they did on previous models. You know, it is a small thing, but much appreciated by many drivers.
Wet braking and slalom test
Inside the high speed loop, there are a series of testing areas with different surfaces for different testing purposes.
After testing two Personas with the CVT and manual transmission, I went on to another Persona for further inspection and discussion with one of Proton's Ride And Handling engineer, Mr. Sharafuddin. It was nice of him to let me have a go inside the high speed loop for several other testing exercises.
After one more lap on the high speed loop (again, just to have more insight of the car), I turned left as pointed by Sharafuddin. First, I drove on a one-lane-wide straight line slowly, as the stretch feature 2 types of speed bump; a wide smooth bump as found in residential areas and another smaller-radius speed bump usually found in underground parking areas.
Then, we made a U-turn at the end of the stretch before we sped up towards the wet surface for a wet braking test. Sharafuddin asked me to accelerate before braking hard after passing a cone. During the hard braking, the ABS interfered pleasantly and quietly. The car was able to be steered fluidly into the direction where the steering is pointed during hard braking even on the said wet surface.
On the slalom course, the Persona's VSC was tested as we went faster and faster each time. On the third run, I almost thought the car wouldn't make it through the slaloms as Sharafuddin instructed me to increase speed.
Conversely, the Persona managed to obey to my steering input. It was only on the last cone that I can really feel the car would hit the cone before I straighten the steering off the slalom.
Proton really made use of their expertise in their recent models, including the new Persona. Apart from the VSC, its chassis and suspension play a big role in keeping the car in check during high speed direction changes (in emergency or critical situations).
The new Persona employs a faster steering rate, with 16:1 wheel-to-wheel ratio (16-degree steering input required per 1-degree tyre turn) as opposed to never ending 20:1 on the previous Persona, thus helping in steering control during slalom runs.
The new Persona retains many of the good bits from the Iriz such as its excellent body control and fairly decent interior quality for what it is. Even though the new Persona lacks gimmicks such as DRLs and projector headlamps as equipped on the Iriz, it excels in overall driveability.
The new Persona is set to be launched on Aug 23, and bookings are now open. Proton is also offering a 3-year free service package for those who placed their order by Sep 30.
Here's the link to launching story: http://www.zerotohundred.com/newforums/showthread.php?p=1064671346