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Personal 101: High Time for A Brand New Robust Car

proton personal elegance car

(Looking for a new car, the enhancements for Proton Persona SE, now called Elegance. Proton Persona has the right package for the right price but as a friend with Toyota Vios has told me – it is still a Proton and that itself says a lot on the quality of the end product. Image source: Wikipedia)

When I “migrated” from motorcycle to car more than 8 years ago, I had originally intended my first car to be a cheap, second-hand car. There was plenty for me to learn back then and somehow it was impressed that I will be knocking my car many times over during my learning stage – so better to buy something cheap for the time being.

But when the day came to buy my car, I had a change of mind and decided to go for a brand new car and thankfully I did not knock much or got into a serious accident in the last 8 years. For the first 5 years, the car was great and despite some factory created defects, it was almost trouble-free.

In late 2009, my car was showing signs of deterioration – probably the limit of Malaysian cars. It was still getting me from point A to point B and it was still comfortable enough for long trips (especially with the self-improved NVH and sound system).

And after a good car wash and under showroom lights, it is still in a pristine condition. But something was lacking – the space. As my son is growing up, I realize that taking 4 adults along with him was not an easy option. Before long, we realised that he needed his space too especially on long journeys.

Further, we have started to have problems fitting in the luggage into the smaller boot space. So, in late 2009, as I was away and had time to contemplate on what I am going to do in the next 1 – 2 years, I decided that 2011 would be the year when I will change my un-powered but a very reliable car for something “better”. What I will end up buying would dependant on how much I would save up for my down payment.

In the meantime, I started Project Car to improve on my existing car so to buy time to save up enough for the new car and minimize the deterioration. The results have been rather impressive to some extent but at the end of the day, I know that I still need to “migrate” to a new car in 2011.

It is inevitable. And before 2009 (I think it was sometime in 2007), I was talking to a friend who had just bought a new car and we talked about my expectation of the specs if I too decide to change car too.

Among others, it includes the following:-

  • Rear disc brakes (no matter what, drum brakes is a big NO, no matter which model, year, technology on the plate for at the end of the day, it all depends on the skill of the mechanic who is working on the rear hubs)
  • ABS & EBD
  • Air-bags
  • At least 1.8L engine
  • Better suspension setup
  • And of course, more space (this means no hatchbacks and no more slamming of the back windscreen)

In recent months (especially after the trip to Kota Bahru recently), I have come to a conclusion that one does not really need a 1.8L or more engine for raw power – with the advent of CVVT, VTEC and what not; even a 1.5L engine is powerful enough. Further, with an increasing fuel price, riding on a 1.8L (that may not run on RON95) may not be financially sound in the long run.

But at the end of the day, the budget will dictate what kind of car that is feasible to buy. Other niceties, it comes as the original package would be nice – sport rims, leather seats and sporty body-kits but I am willing to do without for a new car – plenty of after-market accessories out-there.

toyota vios

(Toyota Vios looked sleek but at my budget, the specs were running on drum brakes and something about the centre console looks out of place. Image source: Paul Tan)

And as I looking at the various model in the market, it is obvious just how much Malaysians are paying through their noses for basic and reasonably equipped cars. The disparity between “local made” cars and foreign cars – equipment to equipment – is simply too great. Is it due to local contents? Not really, there are models are assembled in Malaysia and they have foreign parts but that does not explain the RM20,000 – RM30,000 difference.

The high price is one thing, the quality level is another. And I think there is no need to highlight the bad record that Proton been having with its level of QC in the past, so let’s hope that has improved and quality of service has improved too.

After considering my options, it boils down to Proton Persona and Proton Inspira (the other recommended model – Toyota Vios was too expensive and the lower-spec was running on drum brakes). I struck off Perodua from my list – there were too many of them at home and I do not want to add another Perodua model.

With two options at hand (I know I may get myself in trouble with Proton again and risk long waits at the service centre) but I had to consider my budget as well.

proton inspira mitsubishi evo

(Proton got bad comments on their decision to rebadge Lancer and turn it into Inspira but to potential car purchaser, it makes a value buy considering the package in the car. Image source: Wikipedia)

Proton Inspira was great – despite it is more of a Mitsubishi Lancer rebadge model, it was well built and reasonably equipped. It had more powerful engine too (it is not Campro) and the interior looked bigger. But it is going to cost me in the long run – for example, annual road tax for Persona was RM90 whilst Inspira was going for RM279.

Others may disagree – pay more now and see those parts last longer instead of pay less now and see those parts not lasting long (hence more money & time spent on service and replacements later). It is a dilemma indeed – the cheaper cost of owning car vs driving a better-built car.

Moneywise, Proton Persona looks good as the car to go for although reviews on the net have been mixed.

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