The Proton Savvy is a five-door hatchback that was introduced in 2006 as a successor to the Malaysian company’s Tiara model in the supermini category. The Savvy was discontinued in 2011. The Savvy is an example of the improvements that Proton has made in recent years, and it is a product of the company’s ongoing partnership with Lotus Engineering, providing a departure from the antiquated design techniques and models that are still very much the focus of some other eastern manufacturers.
For a significant amount of time, the aging Jumbuck utility vehicle had been the most popular Proton model here. The Savvy represented part of Proton’s attempt to illustrate that it had sharpened both its sense of aesthetic value and its engineering prowess.
Upon introduction in 2006, the Savvy was the most affordable five-door hatchback available – a remarkable achievement considering the widespread market trend towards less expensive economical vehicles that continues to this day. The Savvy is an extremely light vehicle, with a kerb weight of just 965kg, facilitating the use of its tiny 1.1L engine.
The exterior of the Savvy was designed by Proton in Malaysia and features a clamshell bonnet providing efficient air ventilation. The Savvy is available in 5-speed manual and 5-speed clutch-less manual transmission.
Despite the fact that it is in fact a small car, the interior provides ample headroom and legroom. Overall, the Proton Savvy is a capable supermini hatchback, with a design that boasts significant improvements over, not only its Proton predecessor, the Tiara, but other similarly priced models.
The same 1.1L double overhead camshaft multi-point injection engine was used throughout its 5-year run on the market. This engine had a power output of 55kW at 5500rpm and a torque 105Nm at 4250rpm, producing an acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 12.5 seconds. While not exactly fast, the engine does work well around town, and it is quite responsive and free-revving, meaning that the Savvy is quite fun to drive at times.
The noise levels are perhaps not the best feature of the Savvy, creating quite a din from 5000rpm and upwards, and the manual gearbox can be quite temperamental. The rack and pinion power steering is impressively precise and quick – and obviously a product of the collaboration with Lotus Engineering – allowing the Savvy to turn with remarkable aplomb on corners.
With regard to economy, the Savvy uses 7.7L/100km in an urban environment, 4.6L/100km in an extra urban environment, leaving a combined fuel consumption of 5.7L/100km. While not the most economical car in its class, the Savvy is certainly more economical than some.
Standard features include 15-inch alloy wheels, CD player with Clarion stereo, ABS, park distance rear controls, air-conditioning, engine immobiliser, dual front airbags for the driver and passenger, power steering, an alarm, and power windows available in the front only. The only option available is the addition of metallic paint.
Unfortunately, there are no electrically adjustable mirrors, but the compact size of the cabin means that it requires no effort to reach over to adjust the passenger side wing mirror from the driver’s seat. There is no external boot release, but there is a substantial amount of cargo space.
The Proton Savvy is somewhat lacking in terms of safety features. While front airbags and anti-lock brakes are provided, there is no option for side or curtain airbags or electronic stability control, which really should be considered essential safety items.
Competition comes largely from cars like the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii which have marginally better fuel economy and bigger kit, including modern features like an mp3 connection. The Proton Savvy does have sensors for reversing, alloy wheels, ISOFIX child seat attachments, a reasonable 4-speaker stereo system, and air-conditioning. In addition, the low pricing of the Savvy significantly undercuts these models in terms of price.
The Savvy has a good build quality, good handling that makes it fun to drive, is extremely easy to park, has substantial cargo space, and marks a significant improvement over previous Proton models in the same class.