The Proton Jumbuck is a small two-door front-wheel drive utility coupe that arrived on the market in 2003. To date, it is the only vehicle of its kind to be released by the Malaysian company.
Based on the Proton Wira (available from 1995 to 1996), the Jumbuck shares the Wira’s uni-body construction. However , the Jumbuck includes an additional ladder frame connected to a torque box in order to improve the vehicle’s durability and strength, keeping with its status as a load-bearing vehicle.
The Jumbuck’s suspension is configured to combine the MacPherson Strut from the sedan version of the Wira with twist-beam, leaf-sprung suspension at the back. Other characteristics that clearly differentiated the Jumbuck from the Wira were the use of a rigid rear axle and a front stabiliser bar, as well as two ventilated disc brakes in the front and two drum brakes in the rear. The rear drum brakes were fitted with load-sensing proportioning valves to optimise weight distribution.
Here, the Jumbuck was available in two variants: the GLi and GLSi, with both models being identical aside from the addition of larger standard kit in the GLSi. The Proton Jumbuck is quite possibly the smallest utility vehicle on the used market.
Although criticised for its lack of safety features and basic front-wheel drive configuration, the Jumbuck is admired by some for its no-frills value. It is also considered a much trendier vehicle than other similarly low-priced utility vehicles. Production of the Jumbuck was discontinued in 2010, but many examples can still be found on the used market for very little money.
The Jumbuck used the same Mitsubishi 1.5L engine throughout its 7-year lifespan. This 4-stroke overhead camshaft piston engine has a power output of 64kW at 6000rpm and a torque of 120Nm at 3000rpm, delivering a top speed of 135km/h.
In terms of fuel economy, the Proton Jumbuck has an urban fuel consumption of 8.5L/100km, an extra urban fuel consumption of 5.8L/100km and a combined fuel consumption of 7.1L/100km. Although some have criticised the Jumbuck for its lack of fuel economy, these figures are considered reasonable for its size. In terms of emissions, the Jumbuck emitted 166g/km and was given a 3.5 Green Star Rating.
Despite the Jumbuck’s lack of power, the direct steering provides a very agile and fairly nimble feel. Although the ride is very bumpy without a load in the cargo bed, the grip of the tyres is much better than expected, holding tightly to the road. Having said this, it comes as a surprise to some to learn that the Jumbuck was provided with additional ride and handling enhancements by Lotus Engineering; with their renowned engineering prowess, they could possibly have done a better job in terms of ride quality. The quality of the ride does improve dramatically when the cargo bed is full, which is no doubt a trait of its leaf-sprung suspension.
In line with the no-frills approach with which the Jumbuck was conceived and produced, only one 5-speed manual gearbox is available, with no automatic variant ever produced. The gearbox itself is not amazingly smooth, and accordingly, one must apply quite a bit of force due in part to the slightly unusual shift pattern.
Some have complained about the car’s small standard kit; however, this seems a little unfair, as the standard kit found in the GLi model certainly goes far beyond the kit of the vast majority of vehicles from that era. Indeed, the GLi kit included air-conditioning, engine immobiliser, an alarm, power steering, and a CD player. The GLSi added power windows, power mirrors, and velour trim as standard. The only option available for both vehicles was the addition of metallic paint.
In terms of safety features, the Jumbuck is somewhat lacking, with no airbags, no anti-lock brakes, and a cable-controlled throttle. Accordingly, in 2009, the Jumbuck received a one-star rating from the safety experts at ANCAP. However, the Jumbuck is based on an old platform, so one might argue that this is to be expected.
In many ways, the Proton Jumbuck is unique and cannot fairly be compared to other vehicles. Indeed, its front-wheel drive and small size set it apart from many other utility vehicles.
If one were to make a comparison in terms of similarly priced utes, one might plausibly compare it to the Great Wall Motors V240. The V240 has four-wheel drive, a bigger 2.4L engine, and a greater carrying capacity. However, there is a stigma attached to vehicles like the GWM because it is known to be inexpensive. Conversely, the Proton Jumbuck is seen as a straightforward vehicle, and it is even considered trendy in some circles, making it a shrewd purchase for anyone on a budget who needs a decent ute.