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03 Jun 10 14:24
PROTON PERSONA - CNG Cool, Clean and Economical!
John K Lindgren
Land Rover ... the classic name in cars for the extraordinary driver...

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       "Malaysia Truly Asia"....

Yes, I've seen the tag-line in thick glossy magazines. And "Truly Asia" makes me think about the former British colony in the tropics and I can picture those white, pale long nosed rubber barons and the bearded fierce looking Borneo sultans.

In the present 21 century Malaysia annually imports tens of millions of tourists and exports everything from agriculture (rubber) to automotive products.

      Oh, yes the Malaysians love their cars; their impressive federal super highways built to almost German autobahn standard; their perennial hot Petronas Sepang F1 Grand Prix circuit; their relatively cheap domestic fuel and their national car Proton which was born in 1983.

      The name PROTON which has nothing to do with nuclear physics is an Malay acronym for PeRusahaan OTOmobil Nasional (in English: the National Automobile Enterprise). Proton also boasts a Lotus racing department. The legendary British bespoke race car marque was acquired by Proton in 1996.

      Today Proton cars are exported to 50 countries world wide. In Thailand Proton passenger vehicles made their debut in early 2007 with Phrahanakorn Auto Sales Co (PAS) as its authorised local distributor. Over the years it has averaged sales of 250 units a month. The model range includes the 7-seater MPV Proton Exora, the four door saloon Proton GEN 2, the hot hatch Proton Neo, the sub compact Proton Savy and Proton Persona CNG.

      Impressions. Walk around and eye ball the vehicle. Straight a way I see that this Proton Persona does not look like a Japanese designed, run of the mill standard four door 1.6-1.8 liter urban family sedan.

      When looking closer I see hints of Volkswagen and BMW styling elements. Like the protruding front wheel arches. The taut rear end. Fluid and sporty lines. This a European looking car. And see those big triangular crimson red tail lights. Reminds me of a prestigious Mercedes Benz E-class from Stuttgart. Jawohl!

      Step in side. There is room in this vehicle. Comfortable space for driver and three passengers. The cabin is well designed. The materials, the feel, the texture and the quality. This is automotive form and function. Like when you are in a well designed building. And it's quiet. The all important in-car-entertainment AM/FM/CD MP3 unit is a German Blaupunkt. (English blue point). The audio controls are connected to the sporty, good grip, three spoke multi function steering wheel. A clear influence from Proton/Lotus racing development. The safety package comes with double front air bags, ABS stopping power and EDB electronic brake distribution.

      In the engine room sits a Campro 1.6 liter petrol engine. Lotus engineering design, again. And this motor also runs on E20 gasohol (20 percent alcohol mixture)91 or 95 octane petrol and of course on CNG compressed natural gas. This is a NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle).

      The alternative fuel option that is up to 80 percent cheaper than standard petrol and gasohol. The 90 kg "gas tank" container is concealed in the trunk. On the rear window you'll the gree triungular CNG badge – indicating that this vehicle is a alternative (bi-fuel vehicle).

      Proton on the road. With a full gas cylinder in the trunk and the petrol tank filled up we hit the road. Gripping the study steering wheel inspires me. And I step on the accelerator. The bi-modal switch on the green NGV led indicator. Four dots, full tank. Ready to go. Hit the road Jack!

      In the Bangkok stop-n-go traffic with the ubiquitous U-turns, the in & out of parking lots was a piece of cake. The Proton Persona manoeuvres well. The steering is precise and there is good stopping power in the brakes.

      On the northern eight lane super highway direction Nakhon Sawan-Chiang Mai the Proton CNG is cruising smoothly at 120-130 kph. Sudden accelerations with four grown ups and luggage is not blistering fast - but steady. In the CNG mode 0-100 kph takes takes longer than than a petrol burning vehicle. But it comes at a cost compared to NGV models. Three times the cost.

      With the number of CNG/NGV stations increasing in metropolitan Bangkok and in the provinces more and more motorists are switching to gas. But, in the provinces the number of CNG/NGV pumps is somewhat limited. So if you run out of CNG which could happen when driving in the sticks, da hinterland. No problem just flick the switch and you're running on petrol. And petrol stations you'll find everywhere.

      In Thailand you’ll save up to 80% of the fuel cost. For example, if Petrol (Benzene) Gasoline is 3,000 THB /month then that cost will be reduced to 600 THB a month when you use natural gas. CNG is currently 8.50 THB per kg. Compared to 30.34 THB per liter for E20 the cheapest gasohol which the Proton Persona also runs on

      The Malaysian Proton Persona CNG is a well built and money saving urban sedan also suitable for occasional weekend beach or mountain resort escape. A test drive is recommended. Trust me!

PROTON PERSONA 1.6 High Line A/T

Price: THB 629,000

www.protonthailand.com

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