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Proton hunts for hotter Satria GTi engine

Desirable offering: The Satria Desire points to the GTi.

Proton's newest hot-hatch to be replaced by a 160kW bahn-stormer

13 Nov 2006

PROTON Cars Australia and fans of the original Satria GTi will have to wait until early 2008 for a successor to the hot-hatch that put Malaysia's national car-maker on the automotive map in the late 1990s.

The next-generation GTi is still under development as Proton decides on a joint-venture partner from which to procure its more potent engine.

The GTi will be based on the all-new Satria three-door, which will rejoin Proton's range between the light-sized Savvy and the five-door Gen.2 hatch in February 2007 after a 12-month hiatus Down Under.

The redesigned Satria was launched in Malaysia in June and had been expected to go on sale here in October. It's now due on sale in February following its official Brisbane motor show launch in January.

The new Satria debuted at last month's Sydney motor show, where PCA re-emerged after a seven-year absence to announce a generous standard equipment list for its crucial new model and to reveal its Desire concept car - a preview of the second-generation GTi.

PCA has said it is keen to offset the 12-month delay until the GTi appears by offering an R3 (for "race, rally, research") version of the Satria with mild cosmetic and performance upgrades.

But managing director John Startari says the all-new GTi will be worth the wait.

"The GTi is still under development because Proton is in negotiation to select a joint-venture partner to produce its engine," he told GoAuto.

"It will share the (Satria) platform but unlike the previous GTi, which was adapted from the Satria, this will be a whole new car," he said.

Mr Startari confirmed the next Satria GTi would offer upwards of 160kW – double the performance afforded by the 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve Campro four-cylinder that propels both the Gen.2 and, in 82kW/148Nm Euro4 emissions-compliant guise, the new Satria. Malaysia's entry-level 1.3-litre four (70kW/120Nm) will not be available here.

In 1159kg 1.6-litre guise, Satria completes the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 190km/h, but its MacPherson strut front and new multi-link rear suspension systems are likely to again be tuned by Lotus for the GTi, which will make even its predecessor's perky 103kW/164Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder look lame.

Proton in Malaysia is believed to be working on a turbocharged engine for the GTi and a heavily camouflaged car has been undergoing testing in the UK with an output believed to be more than 140kW.

But Mr Startari said the new GTi engine, which should be mated exclusively to a five-speed manual transmission (regular Satrias will also be available with a four-speed auto), could be sourced from companies as diverse as Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Chery.

"Proton is at advanced discussion stages with (Peugeot-Citroen) PSA. They have signed a memo of understating which allows them to jointly look at each others' product plans 10 years out to see if the fit works," he said.

43 center image"That ends in January, but we're expecting an announcement later this year if all goes well." Although a joint-venture deal between Proton and PSA appears most likely to bear engine fruits for the next GTi, Mr Startari said future Proton engines could also come from Mitsubishi, whose models provided the basis for early Proton vehicles.

"Mitsubishi is still a technology partner and there's still a possibility to share engines," he said. "It's still a convenient partnership given Mitsubishi is looking for a base to develop its products in the ASEAN region and Proton can obviously benefit from the economies of scale Mitsubishi brings." Of the Mitsubishi Motors Australia plan to sell its 380 large sedan as a Proton in Malaysia, Mr Startari said: "Proton were looking at the 380 and to this day an official statement has not been made, so I can only imagine … it's been on the grounds of feasibility. The price of the car may not have been where they wanted it to be." China's Chery brand will begin production at Proton's Malaysian factory early in 2007 and Proton has also confirmed it is in discussions with an Indian car-maker.

However, Friday's announcement that Mahindra and Renault will co-build a greenfield plant in India could put one of India's biggest car-makers out of Proton's picture.

Whatever powers it, the GTi will also offer more equipment than the already well-specified Satria, which will be available in two variants – both with standard front seatbelt pretensioners, air-conditioning, reversing sensors, power windows/mirrors, remote central locking, an MP3-compatible sound system, a multi-function steering wheel, alarm, foglights, 16-inch wheels, a rear roof spoiler and power steering.

Depending on exchange rates, the entry-level Satria will be positioned between Savvy and Gen.2 at around $17,990. Features such as ABS, twin front airbags, superior cloth trim, climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control and alloy wheels are likely to be reserved for the flagship H-line variant.

What's coming from Proton:
Satria three-door hatch February 2007
Satria GTi hot-hatch Early 2008

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