In what seems to be a prequel to War of the Worlds, the R3 thread on Zerotohundred has been invaded by hostile aliens for over a week. Seemingly endless fighting between naysayers and non-believers of the R3 (Race Rally Research, Motorsports Division of Proton) movement and SR3 owners and its supporters have brought much intensity and colour to the recent spate of dullness in the thread. Apparent unhappiness with Proton as a whole and accusations that the Satria R3 is a mere rebadged, hasty snap-on job by Proton Motorsports to clear inventory, has sparked some fiery debates. Some backed by facts and constructive opinions. However, many baseless accusations, blatant flaming and below-the-belt personal attacks have ensued.

Efforts to diffuse the intensity has so far been futile as personal insults, at times involving fathers, mothers and the family dog, litter the thread.

I find it amusing how one car can cause such controversy. I’ve heard that no publicity is bad publicity, but this borders on the ridiculous! True, the Satria is a rebadged Mitsubishi Colt sourced from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC), and has been around for at least one and a half decade. And true, if my math skills have not failed me, it is an old platform.

Having said that, R3 simply took a tried and tested platform (the Satria platform is still raced in some countries) and improved on it. And thus the Satria R3 was born. Out of the intention to release a performance-bred, no-frills car for the enthusiast. This is the first effort, mind you. Without sounding like a kiss-ass Proton groupie, I’d say it is a good effort, though far from perfect. The AMG, M3, Brabus, Ralliart, Honda Type-R and Nismo comparisons are unfair for the 20-man strong outfit which probably had their fair share of hell with corporate Proton just to see the project through.

The Arguments
This is so typical of Proton, taking an old car, giving it a bodykit and new rims, then selling it as a new ‘special edition’. Look at the Proton Saga SE, Wira SE, Satria SE. Same old bloody engine! Same with the Satria R3. And it’s expensive! Anyone could have given it a SGTi bodykit, Recaro seats, MOMO steering, big brakes and suspension. What a rip-off!

Why use an aged platform when Proton has the Waja, Gen.2 and Savvy to work its magic on? From a purely enthusiast point of view, R3 took a base platform that worked, improved it, redefined how it performed and handled, then marketed it as Proton’s first official performance-bred product. The key word here is ‘factory-backed’. Reassuringly, a car with performance parts fitted that is backed by factory warranty. And 2 years at that.

The Satria/Colt/Mirage platform has been around for quite a while. This translates into plenty of spare parts, and availability of aftermarket modifications, many local. It makes perfect sense from a business point of view to make full use of the platform. From the bodywork, to carbon fibre bits, exhaust system, strut bars and suspension components, the SR3 consists of parts developed by well-known local tuners.

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Remember, this is R3’s first effort. The Savvy R3 Concept already shows that R3 is serious about its upcoming projects. From way back when the Satria R3 was first conceived, it was said that the ‘R3 treatment’ would be applied to every single product in Proton’s stable. R3 versions of the Gen.2, Waja, SRM and PRM should see the light of day in the near future.

The Satria R3 isn’t just a slap-on job. It took research and development and lots of testing to get the level of performance it proudly bears at this point. Mods you do not see, like the spot-welding of the chassis translates to a great handling car. When you look at the SR3 as a whole package, I dare say you will not find a comparable performance-based new car at that price point, local or otherwise. At RM78K, it’s just a RM5K premium over the more luxury-based SGTi.

My SGTi does 7.8seconds in the century sprint. Why is the lighter, more expensive SR3 slower than its predecessor coming in at slow-poke 8.6seconds?

Without insulting any SGTi owners, it is a well-known fact that the original manufacturer claimed performance figures of 7.8seconds for the century sprint is over-optimistic. Even with the more powerful MMC ECU-based EMS, pre-2001 SGTis manage around 9seconds at best. Siemens-based SGTis are a tad slower at 9.3s, mostly due to emission standards compliance. Looking at the math, the power-to-weight ratio of the SR3 is simply more superior as compared to any SGTi, be it MMC or Siemens-based. Quoted power output figures of 105kW, is also slightly higher than its SGTi variants (103kW).

To summarize, the 8.6seconds 0-100km/h is a proven, honest-to-God figure. No over-optimistic marketing bullshit. This has also been backed by dynos amongst some SR3 owners. 120whp, true to spec.

Don’t buy the SR3. It’s a waste of money. Better off spending the money to buy a Avanza. Or a MyVI. Or buy a 2nd hand 1.3litre Satria, stuff in all the goodies and you will still have cash to spare for 2 teh tariks and indomie rebus (with telor mata kerbau some more!)

If you think buying a 1.3litre Satria, seam-welding it then stuffing in equivalent or better performance bits into it is a smarter idea, then go ahead. But it won’t be a new car. And ever heard of chassis fatigue? How about manufacturer backed warranty? No? Ok. One could easily tread this route, as do many, but look at it this way, R3 has done the R&D and packaged the SR3 with attractive, proven bits of kit. It also is giving you 2 years worth of warranty and support. It is also giving you exclusivity with the rest of the 149 owners.

The MyVI and the Avanza are good cars in their own right. But they are NOT performance cars. It is silly for the SR3 to be compared to these cars. Different target market. Different requirements.

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Still not convinced?
Let me tell you why I like the SR3. I’ll break it down to 10 principal reasons just to keep it short and sweet. Alrighty, this is Verne’s SR3 Top 10 List:

Numero uno – the handling. It is an excellent handler with different characteristics to a SGTi. The SGTi is a good handler too, no doubt, but has handles different. This is apparent when you observe how a SGTi takes a corner as opposed to a SR3. The pitch, the roll. Different. Strut bars, custom damping, bigger front anti-roll bars, 10mm drop in ride height. They all contribute to the superior ride and handling. The damping of the SR3 is not overly stiff. Some people are shocked at the damping rates – just 2.5kgs front and 1.8kgs rear.

No. 2 – Better brakes. The front and rear cross-drilled discs coupled with Mintex is brilliant.

No. 3 – Top class steering feel. This is a major plus. No feeling of lifeless, over-assisted power steering. This is what is lacking in most cars. The feel is direct, much like driving a go-kart. Autoworld Malaysia likened it to driving a Mini. Direct, point-and-steer. Brilliant.

No. 4 – Better seats. The Recaro SR4 is firm and offers excellent support.

No. 5 – The Momo Tuner steering with supplied boss kit.

No. 6 – The stock anodised front and rear strut bars.

No. 7 – The rubber. Yokohama Advan AD07s are the stickiest road tyres in the market. Nothing comes close. FYI, the whole ride and handling feel of the SR3 was developed around the AD07s which is what gives it the confidence and grip on the tarmac.

No. 8 – The lightweight 16″ Advanti rims. Less unsprung weight translates to a lighter and more responsive car overall.

No. 9 – The full exhaust system. The tuned length stainless steel 4-2-1 header all the way to the cat bypass pipe to the free flow piping. Slightly bassy and pretty quiet at idle. Being non-restrictive, this is a performance feature.

No. 10 – The CF bits – carbon fibre spoiler and cam cover. Lightweight and trick-looking.

Notice that I haven’t really mentioned anything cosmetic. This is simply because the SR3 isn’t about bling-bling. Not that it is not aesthetically pleasing. It’s not about being a chick-magnet although to a certain extent it is. It isn’t about looks and making people’s heads turn when you swing by. It’s about driving. And true to its claim, it is a driving experience to savour. Every single time you step on the fun pedal and swing it through those tight bends. The looks, in every sense of word, in understated. No unneccessary body extensions and accessories. And yet, it does have presence.

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