It's one thing when a company like Perodua sells really old rebadged designs as new models and they turn out to feel really old and not up to much compared to the opposition. However when a company has clearly tried as hard as Proton to rejuvenate its range and gain some credibility, but the cars still turn out really bad, then you have to be concerned.
The Satria Neo is reasonably promising at first glance, save for the odd double-barrelled name. The styling is inoffensive, but it does rather have the air of a mid-'90s Seat model. It has a sporty look to it, aided by those flared wheel arches and the heady heights of 16-inch alloys if you go for the top-spec car.
Given that it retails (we were going to say sells, but we can't guarantee that it does) for between £9,000 and £12,000 you would have certain reasonable expectations about the capabilities and the quality of the car. If it sold for £7,000 we would go easier on it, but as it is Proton has a pretty audacious pricing strategy.
The interior quality is fairly dire, harking back to poor Japanese materials of the early-'90s (which sounds like a Mastermind topic) - the plastics feel desperately cheap and all sorts of rattles and shakes appear in the cabin the faster you go. Anyone taller than average height will find the Satria Neo uncomfortable to sit in, with its poor driving position and low roofline. In fact the driving position is pure early 1990s Japanese, which makes us a bit sceptical about Proton's claims that this is an all-new car - we suspect there are quite a few parts based on a 20-year-old old Mitsubishi Colt lurking under the skin.
The front seats are comfortable over short distances, holding you in well, but are too firm for longer distances. The Satria Neo will grate on the motorway anyway, with far too much noise being allowed into the cabin.
Proton insists that the car has been developed by Lotus, but it's hard to see where the precise evidence of this is aside from the warmed-over handling. You may need to call in a team of CSIs. The handling is actually fairly entertaining, the top-spec 1.6-litre engine quite powerful and the stiff ride lends itself well to the whole effort.
The handling isn't enough to redeem the car, though - especially at this price. You'd have to go through a bizarre thought process to pass other, more capable cars over in favour of this one. There are so many good cars available at the price that you'd be doing yourself an injustice to settle here.