2001 Proton Wira Aeroback GLi 1.3 from Malaysia
Well thought-out, but poor build quality
After I bought the car from a shop, I straight away took it to workshops to have everything checked and fixed. Started at the front bumper and worked my way to the rear. Several shops later, I spent about RM5000 total, but now have an (almost!) really good car. That's how much deferred maintenance was left to me by the former owner. I cant even list everything I fixed, it's a very long list. So I haven't had anything go wrong since I purchased it, because I fixed everything before I started driving it.
People complain about the 1.3 engine being low powered, but there is a secret here. The engine had a "hesitant" miss and poor top end. I took it to a Proton dealer and several young thugs (I can't describe them any other way) drove the car and disappeared with it into the shop. After a period of loud revvings and noises, and hammers and bangings and yellings, the car appeared again, "Tune up, RM150." I drove off in disbelief; when you stepped on the throttle, the car wanted to leap off the ground. I was laughing, it had much more power, like a 2.0. But it still had the hesitant miss by the time I reached the next Proton dealer. I told them only about the miss and that I just had a tune up. They took the car, re-adjusted everything and the hesitance was gone -- and so was the power. Now it's back to having lower power and harder starting, but the engine is glass smooth. There is a secret somewhere in here to unleash power, and I don't know what it is. I didn't want to pay an expensive third time for a tune, but it takes a pro to get this right, and the point is that the power IS there -- hiding.
What goes wrong with the car isn't the car as much as the operator. Nobody wants to properly maintain their cars, and they complain when things go wrong; they don't replace worn suspension parts, but rant when it doesn't handle like an F1. They wait until a catastrophe and then look for some dirt cheap fix that is usually substandard, and then rant again for the money they had to pay out. What then to expect?
The car is smooth, reliable, and comfortable so far.
A problem on Protons with VDO instruments is that the gauges fail. This is because the solder in the panel wiring is too light and begins to develop solder cracks. The whole cluster needs to be worked by a pro and there are none in the country. This lack of instrument workshops causes people to simply replace the instruments with the same bad instruments, which is costly. VDO as a company couldn't care less and offers no repairs. The immediate cure is to lightly tap the top of the dashboard and the instruments start working again, but this is nonsense, you know?
It has very ample leg room, and the seat position and clarity of the instrument readings is very good. But the seating is also very low and the car is hard to enter and exit unless you are in top physical shape! Moving the seats back reveals lots of leg room, but then the gear shift is far away and you have to reach far to engage first and third gears.
Very ample cargo area with the rear seat down.
Very poor construction quality - it shakes and rattles, and the body panel alignment is atrocious. Four new motor mounts from Mitsubishi stopped all the vibration in the body. The car could have been excellent if there was strong attention to quality control during construction.
This car suffers no rust problems, which plagued other cars in which the wrong panel silicone sealing compound was used.
Driving is nice, quiet and smooth, no wind noise, very good views of the road, large windscreen and windows. But hitting road irregularities and holes sends noisy shocks through the body, but we can't find any obvious reason for it, all seems tight. I bought absorbers and a lower rear suspension link from Japan, very firm ride, correct ride height with no bottoming. Excellent in cornering, controlled and no body roll.
This gearbox has worn syncro rings, but gentle shifting gives smooth, non-grinding shifts. Don't force it to shift fast, shift it like a Volvo 122S or a prime mover and you will be fine. You must fully depress the clutch, not half-way like the prior owner did. The clutch pedal is very long throw and many people can't be bothered to do all this correctly, hence the damage to the synchro rings. Wira manuals would also benefit from a short-throw kit, but at RM550 it's not worth the money.
OEM window regulators are a problem; it's best to change to 3rd party kits with metal fittings instead of plastic.
Overall I like the car and enjoy driving it, but Proton's build quality isn't up to the mark. It's a car that begs to be liked, but you labor to do that. For best reliability use Proton parts, unless you know the 3rd party part is actually an improvement. Local parts cost less, yes, but the quality is terrible. Also, do not modify the engine, bring it to factory specs and drive it carefully. I know people disagree, but the unreliable cars are the modified ones. Don't try to make the car what it was never intended to be.
I would appreciate knowing where to buy replacement front seats, as the cushion shops don't want to cut and replace new foam.
Fuel economy is 10km/l with aircon on, in the city. I ran one tank with no aircon and the number jumped to 13km/l, a 30% improvement, but not nearly the 20+km/l people are getting in the newest cars. While people complain about the consumption, our 2001 Toyota Corolla 1.6 gets 7km/l, which is shameful and worse than the Wira 1.3 manual. The aircon system is in good condition, but there are many inefficiencies in the compressor and fuel system. High economy is attainable -- empty the boot, check alignment, correct tire pressures, careful throttle usage, don't sit idling at traffic stops.
The car is not heavy as people say, it just looks heavy. Examine the car from the underside and see everything is a cheap, lightweight component, and the body steel is thin and dents easily. The seating room is OK for two people and two small kids; not adequate for four adults plus gear.
I will return with any important updates.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 16th July, 2015
15th Jul 2020, 15:17
Accurate review. The general reliability of these cars was OK, with engine and gearbox being generally good, but I remember being in a few of these as taxi's when I was a kid, and the door trim and general interior was always falling to bits. Parents also had one later in life. Same happened to that car - rarely broke down, but had a very cheap feel. To be fair these cars were never marked as anything other than basic transport.