Proton’s bunch of fives
The Malaysian battler gives its best-value shot
IS five a lucky number for Malaysians? Motoring minor Proton, embarking on a plan to build 500,000 cars annually by 2018, aims to lure Australian buyers with a unique five-year free-servicing deal.
To enhance the value message, there’s a five-year warranty and roadside assistance coverage on the brand’s three fresh models, the Exora people-mover, top-spec Preve sedan and Suprima S warmish hatch, the latter two bearing five safety stars. All share a 1.6-litre turbo petrol four.
“We’re adding a lot of features never seen in a Proton before,” says sales and marketing boss Billy Falconer.
The Exora is claimed to be Australia’s most affordable people-mover and even in base GX spec it is full of fruit, including roof-mounted DVD player for aft passengers. Its four airbags earn four safety stars but the lack of headrests on the third-row pair is at odds with the company spiel.
It also claims to have seating suitable for seven adults.
Snow White, your ride is ready.
It can justifiably claim good all-round vision (the now-obligatory quarter windows behind the windscreen pillar notwithstanding) and the windows for the third row are positively panoramic compared with the likes of a Captiva.
Under way, the turbo makes its presence felt with a thrum rather than a whine — Proton maintains the forced induction is a means of boosting economy rather than performance. The whine instead comes from the CVT under acceleration, though on a freeway and outer-urban loop it was happily flare-free.
Proton makes much of its ownership of Lotus, whose engineers fettle the suspensions. The Exora’s ride is geared to comfort, its handling to neutral and its steering to ( just) communicative.
The interior is bland if varied: cloth trim in the GX; leather in the GXR; and dash pad (it’s quite a distance from the wheel to the base of the windscreen), door caps and lining in a mix of plastics and fake timber. The exterior styling makes it appear more compact than its 4.6 metres and it rolls on stylish 16-inch alloys.
Hailed as Proton’s most technologically advanced fourdoor, the Preve GXR responds easily to paddle-shifting its seven-speed CVT, the Belgianbuilt ProTronic.
It bristles with the safety and comfort gear that’s part of the Proton value equation but dynamically the four-
door does nothing to endanger or excite.
The little turbo punts it along with less aural accompaniment than in the bigbox people-mover but overall it appears suppression of noise, vibration and harshness remains a developing skill.
Launched only months ago in Malaysia, the Suprima S shares the Preve platform and its hatch styling makes it just a handspan shorter than the sedan. It’s not a bad thing to look at, especially in GXR guise with 17-inchers to fill the arches and emphasise the hipline on the doors shared with the sedan.
It carries yet more infotainment kit than the Preve. On our brief test, Carsguide left it to savvier types to use their phones to get WiFi to download the apps to turn the Smart Information Display into … yet another mobile device.
The hatch carries a “Lotus Ride and Handling” badge, not seen since Proton’s Satria GTI circa 2004. Whether due to the roads, windy weather, tyres or obtuse driver, this blessing was difficult to discern.