Proton S16

 Article last updated: 03/03/10

Proton S16
Sold in Australia from 2010 until present.
Price range when new: $11,990 - $11,990 AUD.
Engine power and torque range: 88-110kW, 160-240Nm (petrol); 80-100kW, 240-320Nm (diesel). 
Safety Rating: No rating available at time of writing
Size Classification: B-segment, small sedan.

"The appeal of the Proton S16 is that you have a brand new car for the price of a used car... but I simply cannot recommend a car with only one sixth of the acceptable number of airbags."

Editor's Rating:

The long and short of the Proton S16 story is this: it costs just $11,990, drive away, no more to pay. And I mean, "no more to pay", because there aren't even any options. No automatic transmission, and no metallic paint. This is the cheapest new car currently available in Australia. In Malaysia, this car (known as the Proton Saga) is highly regarded as the all-round people's car. The Malaysian Beetle, you could say. So what do you get for just under 12 grand?

You get a reasonably sized cabin - although the S16 is priced against A-segment city cars such as the Suzuki Alto, the S16 is much larger, and can fit four average-sized people (and 400 Litres of luggage) quite comfortably. You get a 1.6 Litre engine as well, which is adequate for moving those four average-sized people around, and once again, this is more than you usually get at this price point. So far, it sounds like brilliant value. You also get air-conditioning, a radio, a CD player, and an airbag.

Suddenly, the features that the S16 lacks become all the more obvious. For instance, it doesn't have ABS brakes, which is a feature that buyers have come to expect on every new car, nowadays. It's such a commonplace safety feature now that I don't think many prospective buyers will check for it, and as a result, will not note its absence. It is not surprising to note that there is no mention about the lack of ABS brakes on the Proton website, but somehow, it feels a bit wrong to be hiding a shortcoming of that magnitude.

Which reminds me: just one airbag? I'm sorry, but I simply cannot recommend a car with only one sixth of the acceptable number of airbags. Where the passenger airbag should be, there is a hole in the dash. It's as if Proton could have fitted this car with one, but decided not to. WHY?!?! I couldn't give a rat's defecation if the S16 has 5 cupholders (oh yes, and Proton touts this as a big feature), I just want to know that I'll survive if a methamphetamine-affected moron decides to clean me up on the freeway. Priorities please, guys.

The appeal of the Proton S16 is that you have a brand new car, with 3 years of warranty, for the price as a used car. And despite the 13-inch steel wheels, it doesn't look particularly embarassing or ugly, either. In fact, it succeeds in all areas, except for safety. But like bungie-jumping without a parachute, or sailing across Bass Strait without a life-jacket, it's just not worth it. Buy a used car with at least a 4-Star safety rating instead. But if you simply must have a new car, and don't care about safety, then I suppose you should buy this car. Wait! What am I saying? Don't buy this car. Save up for a few more months and buy a better car.

Find specifications from the Peugeot Australia website HERE. Read the Proton S16 Brochure (pdf, 555 KB)

Read more reviews of the Proton S16: Reviewed Feb 03, 2010: "$11,990 for a car? Are they kidding? I’ve seen options for car stereos priced higher than that!"


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