The Proton Jumbuck ute is unlikely to make a comeback – but should it? Here’s what a new model could look like.
It has been nearly 15 years since the Proton Jumbuck – a budget-priced ute from Malaysia sold from 2003 to 2009 – was discontinued in Australia after receiving what was then the lowest crash-test score ever recorded.
The Jumbuck had no airbags, anti-lock brakes or stability control, and shared its DNA with a 1990s Mitsubishi Lancer, but – priced from $15,990 plus on-road costs – grew a following, with 6225 reported as sold over its life.
Malaysia’s Proton exited the Australian market in 2017, but the brand lives on in its home market, where it sells rebadged versions of cars from its parent company, Chinese car giant Geely.
Which got the Drive office wondering: what would a new Proton Jumbuck ute look like?
The illustrations above created by Theottle are based on the Proton S70 sedan, which is the indirect successor to the Proton Wira, the sedan which formed the basis of the original Jumbuck.
While the Jumbuck arrived in Australia in 2003, the Wira dates back to 1993, and is a relative of the Mitsubishi Lancer of the time – with tweaked styling to set the Malaysian-built Proton apart.
In contrast, the Proton S70 is a rebadged version of the Geely Emgrand sold in China, and is powered by a Volvo-designed 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine used in Australia in the Volvo XC40 plug-in hybrid.
The fictional ‘New Jumbuck’ is a single-cab ute version of the S70 sedan – and gains lifted suspension, larger tyres, and wheel-arch flares.
It is finished in a blue and beige two-tone paint scheme – the ‘hero’ colour combination in many of the official Jumbuck marketing images from 2003 – accessorised with a nudge bar, as seen on many Jumbucks sold here, and an original Jumbuck tailgate decal.
Utes based on passenger cars have vanished since the final Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes were built in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Even fewer car-derived utes were sold by brands not from Australia. The Proton Jumbuck followed the likes of the 1980s Subaru Brumby and Suzuki Mighty Boy.
From 2003 to 2012 – two to three years after the last examples arrived at the end of 2009 – Proton reported 6225 Jumbucks as sold in Australia, with 1225 deliveries recorded in its best year, 2005.
An all-new Proton Jumbuck was mooted for 2010 – based on a newer car, with modern safety features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control – but it never eventuated, and Proton quietly departed Australia in 2017.
The Jumbuck earned a one-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2009, the result announced one month after its discontinuation was announced.