SsangYong chucked an old Mercedes diesel into some of its cars and positively traded on that. Malaysian brand Proton rummaged through Mitsubishi's back lot looking for old Colts and Lancers to recycle into Satrias/Personas.
Their tweaking worked. Contemporary press reviews lauded the surprising precision of the front-drive chassis (based on Lancers that went on to become feared weapons on the world rally circuit), but weren't always so complimentary about the twin-cam engine, even though it looked quite Honda VTEC-y from a distance and gave the GTI a genuine seven-second 0-60 time.
The 1.8-litre's power tended to hide in a fairly narrow mid-range band and there were only five cogs in the gearbox, so any attempt to explore the 125mph top end could only be achieved at the expense of some upper-register hearing. On the plus side, the mechanical din would be drowned out by the punishing amount of road noise, and the ridiculously small petrol tank meant you got plenty of respite stops. At least you were comfy in the Recaro seats.
Nevertheless, the Satria GTI was an important car for the motoring press. Why? Because it gave belaboured car mags a chance to get one back on the keyboard cynics who were always accusing Troy Queef and his mates of taking a bung from some manufacturer or other. The Proton GTI allowed the muttering rotters to show that they weren't brand-influenced. A good car would get a good review, irrespective of the badge on its bum. And the GTI was, by and large, a good car.
While we're on this subject of angst among road testers, Shed knows quite a few of these folk, but every time he's tried to interest any of them in a 'get rich quick' scheme involving the sneaky addition of an extra star or blob onto a road test in exchange for, well, not to put too fine a point on it, money, they've always given him a blank look.
Inside, the excess of grey plastic pretending to be metal is very 90s, and outside the nailed-on-wheelarch look isn't for everyone except maybe owners of Porsche 993 GT2s. Other than that, the external look is sharp enough in a grown-up Saxo kind of way to make you wonder why every other Proton looks so minging. One possible answer is that Lotus had a bit of styling input too.
The nature of the beast - fastish car, not much brand value - means that there's likely to be more than the odd rattle and squeak in the cabin resulting from uncaringly hard use. The asking price is a bit hopeful. The vendor thinks he's got something cool and rare, but he's only half right. At the end of the day this is still a Proton, with all the associated respect that this does not entail. But there's still some appeal in the idea of a nippy little thing that no self-respecting TWOCcer would touch with a bargepole.
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