The entry level Proton range is still here and long due for a restyling exercise. And what better way to kick off the facelifted Iswara range by introducing the sporty Aeroback variant. The restyling exercise goes further than a splash of new paint though, because the Aeroback now boasts no less than 33 new additions that seek to make it appear fresh and new. They call it a Special Edition
Based on the 1985 Saga, the Iswara is a modern interpretation of the original Proton, and if one takes into account the time that it has been on sale, one can say that it is a car that had stood the test of time rather well. Though for a couple of years its image as a value-for-money, entry-level car was unchallenged, the recent arrival of more modern machinery had threaten to take-away the Iswara's reputation as a first-car for many people and relegate it into the history books forever.
Look back and you'll know that Proton is used to responding to changing trends and it doesn't take long before its R&D department puts on its creative hat anytime a car is dangerously close to fading from the minds of the car buying public. As far as Proton is concerned, age is a slow-moving process and like plastic surgery, any sign of aging can be masked or rid away by adding some clever cosmetic improvements.
Starting with the popular Aeroback 5-door, Proton aims to rekindle the attention of first time buyers with its base car, and for the Aeroback SE, the company claims that 33 new additions makes it worthy of being a subject of renewed interest. The refreshed look of the SE will soon be seen on the 4-door saloon variant as well, due to be revealed closer to the end of the year.
The look of the SE (or LM-SS, as it is known internally at Proton), reflect the tastes of traditional Aeroback buyers. Tones of performance car are clear in the design, which seeks to quell as well as satisfy the tendency of its buyers from doing their own after market "improvements". Proton believes that besides adding value to its existing model, the SE should attract buyers who wanted a JPJ-approved, factory-sanctioned car that is sporty as well.
And the balance between sporty and contemporary is judged well. "Quick Silver" paintwork is attractive as it flatters the car's sharp lines even in bright sunlight. The paint alone is able to transport the 1980's Iswara shape right into the 21st century.
While major panels are unchanged, other areas have been tweaked to give it new lease of life. The narrow front grille is given a unique, machine gun barrel appearance. The bumper's lower portion is also given a sporty touch, with an extended lip that gives it a deeper profile. The front bumper sporty theme extends to a more pronounced side and rear skirts. A rear boot spoiler has also been redesigned to complement a new roof winglet that incorporates a third brake light. Areas like rear tailgate and side protectors are now painted in body colour to achieve a trendy monotone look. The monotone appearance is also reflected in the Lexus-style clear rear lamps, which also provide better and farther visibility.
A new 5-spoke, 6J 14-inch alloy wheels also grace the SE with lower profile 185/60R tyres. This works with the new suspension geometry that Proton claims has been tweaked with help from Lotus.
While the SE's ride is firmer and more composed at cruising speeds, disappointing is the fact that little benefit can be felt when it comes to the SE's handling and cornering composure. The problem lies in its lifeless steering, which is limp off-centre and doesn't have the correct weight to convey what the front tyres are doing. The car also has a large amount of bodyroll under sharp cornering and this doesn't inspire confidence when driven the road demands rapid direction changes. But all is not lost however, as when driven at reasonable speeds because the SE has a better than average stability.
Driving is made a little more fun by stacking the gearshift gates closer, even if it's long throw. The dash is the same except for new instrumentation and a shift lever finished in shiny chrome-like material, as is the handbrake. The "rally-style" seats don't exactly grip your body in corners but at least it is clothed in better material.
The SE still uses the trusty 4G13P 1299cc 12-valve carburetor engine which gives adequate pull at 62kW at 6000rpm and 109Nm at 4000rpm. But it sure sounds like it's got more power when you rev the engine. Start it up and the exhaust burbles into life, the noise rises as you dab the throttle. It's perfectly accept-able when you are driving in the city and occasionally want a bit of "action" but can be annoying when you steadily cruise the highway, because at 100km/h and beyond, a noticeable boom will engulf the cabin and drown all other sounds. There are some other niggling problems such as ill- fitting glovebox and a rattling center console but this is perhaps confined to the test car.
At RM38,869 the SE is priced right for what it is, and when you throw in the extra kit like flippy paint, body styling and Lotus-tuned suspension, it sounds like the Iswara is still relevant and will be around for a couple more years.
|Brilliant paintwork takes the Iswara ....|