Should You? – 2017 Proton Persona (Premium) Review

This is the 2016 Proton Persona (Premium). I’ve driven the Iriz before and they are indeed very similar. Proton’s Persona-Iriz relationship is similar to that of Mitsubishi’s Attrage – Mirage, Honda’s City – Jazz, Ford’s Fiesta Titanium – Fiesta, Volkswagen’s Vento – Polo, and Mazda’s Mazda 2 (sedan) – Mazda 2.

The Persona name has been around for a very long time. The Proton Wira was called the Persona outside of Malaysia. Hence this would be the third body version for the Proton Persona. This Persona belongs to the B-segment, unlike its C-segment predecessor.

Engine: 1.6L VVT Campro

Year: 2016

Drive train: Front Wheel Drive

Transmission: CVT Automatic

Price (New) : ~RM 60,000 (Premium)

Second hand value (20XX):  To be updated

Succeeding the Persona (CM)

Since it succeeds the Persona name, I shall compare it with its predecessor – The C-segment Persona. The new Persona has better interior quality and build. You no longer get the rattling dashboard and steering wheel. The standard 4-speed automatic has been replaced by a CVT automatic gearbox. You also get VVT and ECO mode.

This isn’t a minor facelift with minor touches to the previous generation. It is a totally different car. Different chassis, different engine (same bore and stroke but now with VVT), and a different model segment.

One thing is still the same though.

The indicator stalk is on the left-hand-side!

The Engine

The engine still belongs to the Campro family. It still has the same displacement as the previous Persona (1597cc) but has a new block and new pistons.  It still has the same bore (76mm) and stroke (88mm) but now comes equipped with Variable Valve Timing (VVT). It’s still pretty much the same S4PH engine that you get in the earlier generation Persona kicking out just a tad over 100hp.

There are 2 types of VVT – Cam Phasing (as seen in Toyota’s VVTi) and Cam Changing (as seen in Honda’s VTEC (yo)). Proton’s VVT is a cam phasing VVT. This means the valve lift is either earlier or later (in reference to the engine stroke). The lift duration is constant.

The VVT Campro is paired to a CVT automatic gearbox. There still is a 5-speed manual option available, but only for the Standard model.

What is Variable Valve Timing?

Valve Timing is the timing or sequence for how long the intake valve is open and closed. The standard way to control this is via a cam shaft situated on top of the valve. We can talk about the classic rocker arm configuration but I’ll save that for a different post.

It looks something like this:

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See those two things with the spring?

Those are valves. They move up and down

See the thing above them?

That’s the camshaft

A camshaft is a shaft with cam profiles.

What the heck is a cam profile?


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Now as the cam rotates, notice that it is not a perfect circle. When the nose is pointing downward, it pushes the valve down. When the nose is pointing upward, the valve returns to its original position with the help of the spring.

So the timing of the valve movement (open/close) is dependent on the shape of the cam profile.

Honda’s VTEC uses 2 cam profiles

That’s one way to do it.

The other way is to either retard or advance the camshaft rotation.

Cam phasing explained in this video:


Trim Levels

The Persona comes in 3 trims – Standard, Executive, and Premium. Personally, I would always go for Standard models since added features are usually non-performance related.  Safety wise, the premium version offers side airbags and curtain airbags. Both the Standard and Executive models only have front air bags.

Safety features should probably be standard for all trim levels. It’s fine to offer luxury options such as more speakers, key-less entry, push start buttons, voice command, infotainment systems, and remote trunk release on more expensive trims. But safety? Probably not. When we package things this way safety seems to be more of a luxury than it is a necessity.

What is it Like to Drive?

The car feels buffered. On purpose? Perhaps, and I believe it is the electronic throttle control. I noticed this as I tried making a three-point turn or as I tried to move out of an intersection. It’s like a millisecond of buffer. Yeah I’m pretty sure it’s the electronic throttle control.

It has CVT so there’s really no revving unless you’re going downhill and have your foot off the gas. That’s good for safety. It’s as if you’re in low gear when going downhill so you don’t have to brake so hard. Otherwise it stays within the 2000-2500rpm on regular driving conditions.

It is taller than the older persona by 11.6cm so the older one drives better through corners (my personal view). The EPS is nicely weighted. The gauges do feel a little tiny. Tinier than the older Persona but definitely visible.

I was expecting cruise control when I looked at the steering wheel but upon closer inspection, they were just the audio system controls. (The Persona Elegance offered this feature).

Dimension wise, here is how the BH Persona measures up to the CM Persona:

2017 Persona (BH) 2007 Persona (CM)
Height 1,554mm 1,438mm
Width 1,722mm 1,725mm
Wheelbase 2,555mm 2,600mm
Length 4,387mm 4,477mm
Ground Clearance 155mm 155mm
Kerb Weight 1,155kg (standard manual) 1,170kg (standard manual)

Fuel Efficiency and Eco Mode

So you have an ECO mode that lets you know when you are driving economically. It’s a similar feature in the Honda City I reviewed previously.

So how can a car know if you are driving economically? Well you can have several inputs programmed such as low rev ranges, moderate throttle engagement, and consistent speeds. The eco mode disappears when you are stuck in traffic. It’s a read only function like earlier Hondas. So you have to teach yourself to stay in the ECO mode range if you want to be driving economically.

During this review, I was basically driving around town with a little bit of back roads. Being stuck in moderate traffic and accelerating like an idiot to the next traffic light gets you at 8.1 l/100km. Now, Proton usually puts its fuel consumption in this unit on the dash. In l/km, that would be 12.35 km/l.

Going through backroads and driving sensibly showed fuel consumption in the range of 7.2l/100km or 13.89km/l.

I didn’t have the chance to take this on a long highway drive, so I don’t know what the highway fuel consumption rate would be. On Proton’s website, it claims that it could reach figures of 6.1l/100km or 16.4km/l. It is a reasonably logical figure. The official website’s claim on fuel consumption was stated with the following disclaimer.

*driving constantly at 90km/h with Eco Drive Assist mode under predetermined and controlled conditions

You can use the figures to compare with other similar cars you may be interested in

The GPS based information doesn’t really match with the odometer based readings at the gauges. It does offer some interesting information though (like fuel and toll costs)

Notes from the Owner

  • This was purchased in February 2017
  • The Bluetooth connectivity can be unreliable at certain times
  • You get 3 times service with free labour charge for a new Persona
  • The Proton service centre will be able to run a computer-aided diagnosis via the USB port in the dashboard. You cannot run this diagnosis by yourself
  • The rear view mirror is pretty small.


Proton Persona in Malaysian Culture

The CM Persona is rather popular with the “slammed”, “stanced” or “fitment” culture, but this BH Persona may not be so popular with that crowd. It looks too tall and narrow, and the wheels look tiny. But hey, let’s see what interesting things people come up with.

The CM Persona also has a BTCC model which might have given visual ideas to the modification culture of the Persona.

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 The Persona (CM) is also widely used as your friendly neighborhood taxi

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I’ve only seen a few Persona (BH) taxis

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What will happen to the taxi service with the rise of easy to use ride hailing apps?

Things You Notice Along the Way

The plate number on this one is asymmetrical. This one in particular had it positioned in such a way because it got in the view of the reverse camera. The owner went to the service centre to get it fixed and this was the solution. Anybody with similar experience?

The side mirror position does make the car look taller than it actually is. It sits on the door, giving a somewhat elongated look to the A-Pillar. It  looks like a minivan with this setup. I don’t find this aesthetically pleasing but they probably had their reasons.

Less visual obstruction when trying to exit a junction?

No more finger slicing gas-hinge boot.

No more speakers in the back. This is becoming more common with a lot of cars to make them compatible with ISOFIX. You have a point to fix the child car seat.

Disc brakes are only available for the front wheels even on the premium model.


If you need a B-segment saloon with some fancy features at a lower price, get the B-segment Persona.

As a driver of the previous generation Persona, I still don’t like the way this one looks. It’s got good features, I just don’t like the look of it.

At higher than this price, you can get standard trims of the Vios and City. It’s also more comfortable than a Nissan Almera. I could do a comparison battle with these models but I would need some help.

Until then

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