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I bought my Proton 1.3 Special (P reg, 97) 2 years ago for £600. It had about 95K miles on the clock and since then I have put on 20K miles and spent around 300 pounds on maintenance.
The car starts first time every morning, so no problems there. It is mechanically pretty good, although is now starting to fall apart a bit.
Protons require servicing every 6000 miles (oil change, coolant etc) which will puch the cost of servicing up.
Engine : Not bad, it is a Japanese engine so should last. not very refined at the best of times, but it makes the car go forwards. I get about 30-35 MPG from mine, which isn't great considering its only a 1.3. Major service, every 60K requires new timing belt.
Gearbox : Very notchy not nice at all, but it hasnt broken yet! sometimes jams when left for a while, but this could be the brakes also
Ride : awful, dips in corners, bounces over speed bumps.
Interior : An ocean of grey plastic, functional at best, comfyish seats, easy reclining with a lever at the side, mine has a blaupunkt stereo which is quite good. Cavernous boot, but you can't put the seats down.
Safety : dont crash it! the body panels are made of paper. The door bends when i put the key in.
Security : My brother got into one with just a coat hanger in 30 secs, dont leave anything valuable in it
Looks : it looks awful, not why you'd buy one, but at least you stand out from the crowd
Features : bog standard what you expect from a basic car.
Overall its not a bad car its just very cheap. it depreciates like a big boulder off a cliff, (from 600 to 75 in 2 years), but if you are after a reliable, cheap runaround its perfect