Proton Satria GTi – Malaysian hot hatch with Lotus tuning

For some of us growing up, the Proton Satria was an appealing three-door hatchback, and the version that was most lusted over was the one that bore the badge ‘GTi’. Thankfully, one such example was on display at the recent Art of Speed event, with NoEqual sourcing a car for its NEAT Fest exhibition.

Introduced in 1998 following Proton’s acquisition of an 80% stake in Lotus back in October 1996, Malaysia’s own hot hatch incorporated the technical skills of the British carmaker, which were also applied to the Perdana V6 that came out in the same year.

The ‘Handling by Lotus’ badge on the rear hatch is a reminder of Lotus’ development input, which saw new stabiliser bars front and rear, along with a larger set of brakes. The Satria GTi also saw a revision to its styling in the name of aerodynamics that gave it a distinct look that has been heavily imitated since.

The one-piece nose incorporated the grille, bumper and airdam, with the last item sporting a brake cooling slots beside small fog lamps and a deep lower intake. This aggressive look is complemented by overfenders with exposed rivets, which were further accentuated by black trim that had the script ‘GTi 16V’ done up in chrome.

At the rear, the car featured a sportier bumper and dual, square-shaped exhaust pipes, along with a larger roof spoiler. Also fitted as standard were 16-inch alloy wheels that carried a six-spoke design.

On the inside, the Satria GTi came with Recaro seats, but unlike the Wira C99, it didn’t get the Momo steering wheel and gear knob. Instead, the cabin had pedals and a gear knob made of brushed aluminium, as well as a four-spoke steering wheel.

The engine under the bonnet is a naturally-aspirated, Mitsubishi-sourced 4G93P 1.8 liter DOHC engine made 140 PS (138 hp) and 167 Nm of torque, with drive going to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.

All these ingredients make for a hot hatch that is capable both on public roads and on the track, the latter demonstrated by Tiff Needell in a classic Top Gear episode where the British racing driver took one out onto the Sepang International circuit prior to the start of the first-ever Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix.

Proton would later introduce an R3 version of the Satria GTi in October 2004, where just 150 units were offered. The limited edition model gains further improvements such as double stitch welding for its chassis, front and rear strut tower brace bars, some weight-saving measures and the interior features semi-bucket Recaro seats, plus a Momo steering wheel and gear knob.

While the regular Satria GTi didn’t have a limited production run, finding one that hasn’t been modified and is still in good condition these days can be a challenge. Be that as it may, the model still commands a strong selling price in the second hand market today.

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