If you've got a limited budget to spend on a compact car, then essentially you've got two choices.

Either you buy a big-name second-hand or go for a slightly more affordable - but lesser known - new vehicle with warranty.

Frankly, you'd be silly not to go for the latter choice, especially when you consider the raft of models.

Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 106 are all worth a punt. Fiat Panda and Nissan Micra are good, and Daihatsu Sirion, Chevrolet Matiz, Kia Picanto and Daihatsu Charade are hard to fault.

Now you can add Proton Savvy to the mix. This new model has just gone on sale, supported by a comprehensive advertising campaign. If you haven't heard of Savvy, you can't have been watching much television recently.

It's a good car which matches the best in class in lots of areas. It's neat and feels like a much bigger car inside and it's well equipped.

The engine is willing enough around town but can come unstuck at speed. You won't want to do much motorway driving in this model, but then Savvy isn't really a motorway car. It's a city car, ideal as a family's second motor, and in that role it won't let you down.

Protons have garnered a reputation for being cheap and cheerful in recent years with little accent on style, but this new model promises to turn that reputation around.

It's a pretty, perky little car. In fact, a taxi driver outside our offices in Hall Ings remarked to me this week how good-looking it was.

"It's certainly better than a Micra, " he said.

Harsh on the Micra, perhaps, but he has a point.

You can tell Savvy will lower the average age of Proton drivers. Savvy's shape is typical of the class, with wheels pushed out to maximise cabin space.

Yet the details make it stand out. At the front the bluff, tall nose with a wraparound bonnet gives it a pug-nosed face, while down the flanks it has a strong crease and a dip in the window line.

It looks better on the move than it does stationary, and in a class where sharp looks are usually well down the list of priorities, the Savvy's appearance is likely to win over the hearts of some buyers at first glance.

The 1.2-litre engine is a Renault-sourced unit attached to a five-speed manual gearbox of the same origin.

With 75bhp on tap it needs a little encouragement to get going, but rarely does the Savvy feel underpowered in everyday driving.

Better still are the Savvy's road manners. The steering provides accurate responses, and tit reacts keenly to driver input. The level of grip is modest, but that allows spirited driving even at low speeds.

The short wheelbase and light weight means it can be undone by larger irregularities, but cars in this class rarely cover poor roads with such ease.

Savvy's cabin has come in for a bit of stick. OK, there are better ones about but it's OK. In terms of space it is on a par with rivals, with good head and legroom for front seat passengers.

Those in the rear have good legroom too, but even adults of average height will find headroom in short supply.

Overall the Savvy fulfils all that can be expected, and with a surprisingly upbeat driving experience, it may well win over younger buyers.

PRICE: £5,995.

ENGINE: 1.2ltr, 4 cylinder, petrol.

PERFORMANCE: 0 to 60mph in 13.9secs. Top speed 98mph.

EMISSIONS: 134g/km.

COSTS: Urban 41.3mpg.

WARRANTY: Three years unlimited mileage warranty plus three years RAC cover.


All T&A road test vehicles are independently selected and assessments are carried out impartially by members of our own staff who base their opinions only on the vehicle supplied for these purposes by the manufacturer.