A sporty Malaysian motoring heritage: the Proton Satria

Published on August 12th, 2010

The Proton Satria is a car that needs no introduction to the Malaysian public. It is a popular ‘hot hatch’ model from Proton that first surfaced in 1995 as the first somewhat sporty two-door hatchback car to be produced by Proton. Production started in 1995 for the first generation and ended in 2005 after a glorious and extended production run of close to 10years. The new Satria Replacement Model (SRM), known as the Proton Satria Neo, was launched on 16th June 2006. The name Satria, which means knight in Sanskrit, was seemingly chosen for Proton’s 3-door hatchback to reflect on the car’s sporty image and value.

1995-2005; The First Generation Satria

The first generation Satria was based on a 3-door hatchback of the 1991 Mitsubishi Mirage (known as the Mitsubishi Colt outside the Japanese market). Changes were limited to front-end styling and certain parts and components of the interior which was borrowed from Proton’s four-door sedan, the Wira, which was launched two years earlier in 1993 and based on the Mitsubishi Lancer. Powerplant options included the 4G13p 1.3-litre 12-valve carburetor engine with a 5-speed manual transmission, and the 4G92p 1.6-litre 16-valve SOHC engine which came with either a 5-speed manual transmission, or a 4-speed automatic transmission. Hardly a year later in 1996, a facelifted version of the Satria was launched, featuring a new front grille and a different tail-end to the original Mirage, a move to visually and aesthetically differentiate the Satria from the Mitsubishi Colt. A couple of years later, Proton made available a 4G15p 1.5-litre 12-valve variant of the Satria which came with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Over the years, many Satria owners, be it those who owned the first generation or the second, began to discard the engines that their cars came with, in favour of more powerful Mitsubishi engines. Among the popular and powerful Mitsubishi engines that were used for conversions into Satrias were the force-fed induction 1.6-litre 4G61T, 1.8-litre 4G93T and 2.0-litre 4G63T engines. Normally-aspirated Mitsubishi engines also made their way into the engine bays of many Satrias, such as the 1.5-litre 4G91 twincam engine, the 1.6-litre 4G92 twincam and MIVEC engines, and the 1.8-litre 4G93 singlecam and twincam engines, just to name a few.

A truly, sporty hot hatch; The Satria GTi

On the eve of the Millenium back in 1999, the Malaysian public were treated to the arrival of Proton’s latest and sportiest model to date at the time, the sporty Proton Satria GTi, which boasted a claimed horsepower (hp) output of 138hp on tap courtesy of a 1.8-litre 16Valve DOHC (Double Overhead Camshafts) Mitsubishi-derived 4G93p engine, which was originally found in the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR, though in the Mitsubishi, this powerplant was a force-fed induction engine thanks to turbocharging and an increased compression to compensate for expected power loss.

This model was blessed as later on it underwent an evolution process thanks to Lotus Engineering, the Satria GTi’s engine and handling was later tuned and revised, delivering 141hp at the wheels. According to Proton, the GTi has a top speed of 204kmh, although on Malaysian roads many have seen the Satria GTi attained a higher top speed. After Proton took over ownership of Lotus in the mid-90’s, Proton roped in Lotus for the development of the Satria GTi and it was said that apart from developing the GTi’s suspension system, Lotus was also involved in the design and styling of the GTi’s exterior, with the GTi’s exterior body kit supposedly being functional for better aerodynamics. This was the reason why the GTi wears a Lotus Engineering badge below the Proton Satria GTi badge. At the time, Proton claimed that the Satria GTi was their fastest car it had ever produced to date.

The MMC (Mitsubishi Motor Company) derived version of the Satria GTi was produced from the very beginning of the Satria GTi, which was from 1999 until the mid 2002. The rather disappointing VDO (Siemens) version, which was said to have a little less power than the earlier Satria GTi, while suffering minor problems like cold start issues, was in production from mid 2002 until early 2004, when Proton disappointingly ended the production run of the Satria GTi without any clear successor for such a successful and well received model.

Proton’s Race Rally & Research – R3… conjures up the Proton Satria GTi R3

The Proton Satria GTi R3 was a much sportier, albeit limited edition version of the Satria GTi, which was only sold in Malaysia. The Satria GTi R3, based on the original Satria GTi, was introduced in late 2004. It was conceived as a run-out model of the highly successful Satria GTi, and was positioned at the top of the Satria range. The coined term R3 stood for Race, Rally, Research. The Satria GTi R3 was a redefined version of the Satria GTi that was produced by Proton’s motorsports development arm, R3, and not forgetting, with assistance from Lotus Engineering who were responsible for developing the car’s refined, performance enhancing, suspension system. Under the front bonnet of the Satria GTi R3 lay the same 1.8ltr DOHC 16-Valve Mitsubishi derived 4G93p engine that churned out a respectable 130hp.

The Satria GTi R3 differed from the other Satria variants that rolled off the Proton production line because it had a much stiffer bodyshell compared to other Satria variants, and this was made possible thanks to a double stitch welded monocoque chassis, with front and rear strut tower brace bars. The R3 was also stripped of its sound-deadening material and driver’s airbag, which helped bring the weight down to just 995 kg.

Original Stage 1 R3s utilised the same Mitsubishi-sourced 1.8-litre, inline-4 engine as the Satria GTi (albeit with a new free-flow exhaust system), producing 140bhp and 168Nm of torque. Power was channeled to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, similar to that of the GTi. The brakes were also modified, with the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) being discarded, along with the original ventilated front discs and solid rear discs, which were replaced by cross-drilled and slotted DBA (Disc Brake Australia) discs all round. M1144 series brake pads were supplied by Mintex Racing.

Externally, the R3 was differentiated from the GTi by its lightweight 16-inch Advanti alloy wheels. Although these rims are the same size as those found on the GTi, they have a five-spoke design with a gunmetal finish and wrapped in Yokohama Advan AD07 tyres. Also, the headlamps were smoked, and the roof spoiler was made of carbon fibre, which proved to be prone to theft as it was popular among car thieves, as quite a few Satria GTi R3 owners had to endure having their cars’ carbon fibre rear spoilers stolen, in some cases, more than once.

Many Satria GTi R3 owners resorted to removing their cars lightweight carbon fibre rear spoiler, and replacing them with those from the GTi, then refitting the original carbon fibre rear spoiler again though only for special events. Inside, the R3 had a sporty three-spoke MOMO Tuner steering wheel, a carbon fibre gearknob, titanium-effect trim and a pair of sporty, body-hugging Recaro SR4 seats.

All R3s came in Incognito Black colour, with R3’s signature red and silver stripes on the sides, while the interiors of all the cars were trimmed in black and red fabric. Only 150 units were ever produced and sadly there are much less now on Malaysian roads no thanks to accidents and car-jacking. Later, R3 introduced staged upgrades and tune-ups for the Satria GTi R3. The two stages (Stage 2 and 3) included a plethora of performance parts upgrades for both the powertrain and chassis.

Proton’s Satria Neo unleashed in 2006 to replace the aging and dated Satria

In 2006, Proton made the right step and decision in revitalizing the Satria model by introducing the all new Satria which was known as the Satria Neo. The Satria Neo was introduced to the Malaysian public back in June 2006 as a clear replacement for the aging first generation Satria.

Based on a new platform that was proudly and rightly so developed in-house by Proton (with some parts borrowed from the bigger Gen-2 and Waja), the car stayed true to its original form by being made available as a sporty-looking three-door hatchback. The car was supposedly developed at a staggering cost of RM500 million over a period of four years, and was expected by Proton to generate a monthly sales volume of 2000 to 2500 units. The car was also intended to target those who are “youthful and sporty.”

The Satria Neo was launched by then Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The entry-level Satria Neo, the 1.3 L-line, is powered by a 1.3 litre, inline-4 twincam Campro engine, producing 94hp at 6000 rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. The 1.6 M-line and top-of-the-range H-line models have 1.6 litre versions of the same engine, with a power output of 110hp at 6000 rpm and 148Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.

All cars have the option of either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearboxes which not surprisingly are supplied by Proton’s former partner Mitsubishi, that are carried over from the previous Satria. The H-line Satria Neo boasted safety features such as twin airbags, ABS with EBD and seatbelt pre-tensioners. All the variants of the Satria Neo came with an integrated Blaupunkt CD player which produced a decent and enjoyable sound. Although the Satria Neo was refreshing, it was not void of criticisms as critics and quite a few Satria Neo owners pointed out that the car’s cabin was disappointingly flawed as it suffered from a lack of headroom and legroom for rear passengers, and the lack of headroom was also a problem for average or slightly taller individuals seated in the driver’s seat and front passenger’s seat (even compared to the previous generation Satria), and lacklustre performance in comparison with the Satria GTi. The infamous torque dip of Proton’s Campro engine was also present.

Proton Satria Neo CPS in early 2009, Proton launched the sportier and supposedly slightly more powerful CPS version of the Satria Neo, replacing the top-end H-line version of the Satria Neo. It comes with an approving aggressively styled body kit and spoiler that purportedly pays homage to the Satria GTi and has no aerodynamic qualities what so ever. It is powered by a 1.6 litre Campro CPS engine which produces 125hp and 150Nm of torque, which reportedly does not suffer from the torque dip of the older Campro engines.

However, the timing of the cam profile switching mechanism is slightly modified for aggressive driving – the CPS mechanism in the Satria Neo CPS changes from low cam to high cam at 4400 rpm rather than at 3800 rpm as in the other CPS-equipped models such as the Proton Waja and Proton Gen-2, as well as the Proton Exora.

The limited and much-sought after Proton Satria Neo R3

Firstly it’s important to note that this is not the same Proton Satria Neo R3 as the model many prospective buyers out there want to own and drive. The car shown here is the one and only, sole development unit used by R3, and some specifications on this car differs from the first and so far only batch of a handful of Satria Neo R3s which were sold to the public. Only twenty or so units of the RM71,000 sporty two-door hatchback were produced thus far, although when the Neo R3 was first launched, it was mentioned that there would be fifty of these limited edition cars.

The Neo R3 was built from the mid-line Neo, which meant it had no airbags or ABS. Apart from looking different from other Neos’, the Neo R3 was equipped with better brakes as it had slotted front brake discs couple with Mintex M1144 performance brake pads. The wheels are also not the same as this test unit rolls on unidentified alloys, though the limited production Satria Neo R3 comes with Advanti SG15 17×7 inch wheels. The rims come wrapped with Bridgestone Potenza RE001 Adrenalin 205/40R17 tyres. The Adrenalins are good and gripping tyres as when the car was vigorously put through its paces, the tyres performed quite well under strenuous conditions.

The 1.6-litre Campro engine found under the hood is the original Campro powerplant, and although it is not a CPS engine, it is a CAMPRO engine that performs slightly better than the 125hp CPS engine. The only thing this CAMPRO engine has compared to the other Neos’ and quite a few wannabe Neo R3s’ that are now seen on Malaysian roads, are genuine yet subtle R3’s touches, such as, a set of red, 8mm R3 spark plug cables, an R3-tuned performance exhaust system and an R3 ECU with remapped settings. Under the Neo R3’s front bonnet where the engine lies, there sits an R3-tuned Campro engine which also looks slightly different from other CAMPRO engines as among others, it sports a red aluminium cam cover, an aluminium oil cap, and an R3 brake master cylinder cap.

All of this minor upgrades and modifications increases the car’s power up to 135hp at 6100rpm, with a torque figure of 164Nm at 4200rpm, which exceeds the usual normally-aspirated 100Nm per liter of displacement ratio, which is impressive to say the least.

Aesthetic dressing up includes the trademark Incognito Black paint, an R3 bodykit that consists of a a new front and rear bumper, side skirts, and an R3 rear spoiler. The trademark red and white R3 stripes are also on the car, something which many Proton Satria Neo owners are copying now.

The cabin of the Neo R3 is as sporty and inspiring as its exterior. Inside there are a pair of Recaro SR4 seats that come in red and black, as do the rear seats and door trim. Even the seat belts are red, and the floor mats are black with the R3 logo on them.

The Recaro SR4 seats perform well in keeping the driver and front passenger firmly in the seats, although these seats are not very comfortable for daily drives especially through traffic jams, the car’s occupants would still feel very much at home in these body hugging, racing derived seats. The MOMO Tuner steering wheel with the wheel spacer is superb, and it is that inspiring that most people who are lucky enough to be in the driver’s seat of this car will not want to let go of the steering wheel.

The steering wheel spacer is a functional addition to the cabin as it narrows the gap between the steering wheel and the driver, allowing the driver to sit in a better position when driving for better controt. The downside to the steering wheel spacer is that the indicator and wiper stalks are now further away from the driver’s hands.

The suspension of this car is as expected, much firmer and stiffer when compared to that of a stock Satria Neos, but the ride and handling is not at all rough or coarse, it is in fact, quite managable. Even though the car sports a lowered ride height and stance, the undercarriage it seems never scraps over speed bumps or humps. There’s no need to drive over speed bumps at a diagonal angle slowly. There is minimal body roll until the accelerator pedal is slammed to the floorboard.

As expected, being a front-wheel drive car, it does tend to understeer when put under pressure, which is of no surprise here. What this car does well, which is thanks to its stiffer suspension system and chassis, is that it sticks to its line when maneuvering fast around corners, which is impressive to say the least.

The steering feel and feedback is ever present, and thankfully this car is not equipped with a dull electronic power steering. The same cannot be said about the throttle response which is not as responsive and quick as it should be for a car with such a lively and sporty exterior and interior. The engine’s response does have a rather typical CAMPRO lag to it even after all the minor engine upgrades that have been carried out.

The Proton Satria Neo R3 definitely has the looks and a suspension setup that promises thrills and excitement for fast, performance induced driving, but the engine’s performance, or rather lack of it, really leaves something to be desired. R3 should definitely, seriously consider, producing a second batch of Neo R3s that would bring the number of cars produced to fifty, or even more which is better.

Although a couple of months ago, Proton launched the limited edition batch of only twenty five Satria Neo Lotus Racing cars which uses the Campro CPS engine, another batch of Satria Neo R3 would most definitely be welcomed with eager open arms by the Malaysian public, especially driving and motorsports enthusiasts, the Traffic crew included.

The Neo R3 is an exciting and sporty two-door hatchback which is a pleasure to own, drive and be seen in. It is the sort of car that is meant to take a beating when there’s a craving for putting the excelerator pedal to the metal floorboard for a fast and spirited drive ñ around corners and bends instead of straight stretches of tarmac. The Neo R3 does well in what it’s supposed to do, to be driven hard and fast like a race car when called upon, while being mild-mannered and subtle for cruising and driving about here and there.

words: Azdee Simon  pix: Syafril Ismail & Dinesh Appavu


  1. Posted by MiTec-i on August 12th, 2010, 06:20

    u forgot to mention about the satria neo clubsport

  2. Posted by Traffic Mag on August 12th, 2010, 17:56

    shoot! we missed out on the clubsport. thanks for the heads up ya!

  3. Posted by ZX1400 owner on August 16th, 2010, 22:48

    i just wanna thank you for sharing this info on your blog

    Sent via Blackberry

  4. Posted by aiman on March 27th, 2011, 21:09

    smart la satria neo..

  5. Posted by ASHOK KUMAR on March 31st, 2011, 12:43

    hai bro,,nama i ashok, kerja sebagai angota polis di petaling jaya, i nak masuk club u,,,boleh ke,, i pun guna satria neo juga,, i minat nak masuk kelab kamu,, yang ni num aku 0167008610

  6. Posted by Traffic Mag on April 1st, 2011, 00:53

    hi ashok. kami bukan club. kami independent media of motoring segment.

  7. Posted by black on April 19th, 2011, 02:05

    berape harga utk body R3

  8. Posted by Traffic Mag on April 19th, 2011, 03:33

    body ke bodykit bro? kalau bodykit, R3 ada banyak package of R3 bodykit for different models of Proton.

  9. Posted by Noel Bexter on May 26th, 2011, 04:13

    der kat mane na carik gear knob R3?

  10. Posted by Traffic Mag on May 26th, 2011, 13:51

    any PROTON dealer should have it. you can check out this link, it contains the addresses of dealers that carries R3 accessories.

  11. Posted by luis steven roy on January 26th, 2014, 20:18

    i’m intrested with those…r3 gear’s & equipment…is it available for waja has well…n how the pricing cost..?


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