PROTON was given a massive boost last year when Norwich City, the football team which bears its name on their jerseys, was promoted to the Premiership. Suddenly, Proton was in every football fan's face.
Sadly - for some - the Canaries could not retain their lofty station and were later dumped back into the Coca Cola League. But are Proton cars still Premiership quality or not?
Engineered to exhilarate is the logo the company links to the Impian, which I think is a little over the top. Nevertheless, it has some commendable features.
It's comfortable, quite roomy, and generally pleasant to drive with impressive handling and ride qualities. It looks reasonably attractive, too, and its 1.6 petrol engine is plucky, even if it sounds a little harsh at times.
But overall it lacks character. Rather like hotel foyer music, it's simply not memorable. And, despite big improvements, I think it still struggles to shake off its budget-built background.
For instance, in getting into the car I needed to adjust the rear view mirror. Except the mirror wouldn't adjust. It seemed stuck in one position.
In the end I ended up altering the seat position, but I still had to crane my neck to use the mirror, and ultimately relied more on the wing mirrors.
It benefits from Lotus-developed ride and handling which is a big plus for the Impian in the road holding and cornering stakes.
Finely-tuned power steering also helps ensure a responsive drive and the Impian's suspension is constructed to minimise body roll and ensure occupant comfort, whatever the road conditions.
Smart design, lightweight materials and expertise from Lotus minimise vibration and noise for a quiet, relaxing passenger experience
The Impian does have touches that make it both comfortable and practical. The 1.6-litre engine gives you good fuel economy as well as ample power to overtake safely, and there is an automatic option on GSX and GLS models. However, there is no diesel alternative.
Inside, the Impian is pretty versatile, as you would expect. Folding rear seats that split 60:40 extend the large boot and let you carry rear passengers and luggage at the same time.
The cabin is elegant, if a little bland and perhaps a little cheap looking. The GSX version has leather seats, headrests and door trim inserts which give it a more luxurious feel.
Every Impian also comes with a Clarion radio/ CD player with RDS and steering wheel audio controls. Air conditioning with pollen filters and headrests on all five seats further increase passenger comfort.
Safety and security matters have been well thought out, so the car is as safe on the move as it is when left unattended.
Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) are fitted as standard across the entire Impian range to give you maximum stability under heavy braking.
For further reassurance, all Impians come with traction control for improved road holding in wet, slippery conditions.
Four airbags situated to the front and side of the cabin protect the driver and front passenger in the event of a front or side impact. An integral side impact protection system and energy absorbing bumpers further increase occupant safety.
Proton started life as a low cost car-maker importing to the UK. However, the Impian is aimed at more upmarket family buyers and, while it has some good points, I wonder if it can really compete against the likes of the Skoda Octavia and Toyota Corolla.
Although standard equipment is very good, its price puts it in the same bracket as much better cars, with more image and proven pedigree.
Proton Impian 1.6 GSX
Mechanical: 102bhp, 1,584cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 12.3 secs
Combined mpg: 42.2
Insurance group: 9
CO2 emissions: 161g/km
BiK rating: 19%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 3yrs paint; 6yrs anti-rust