A Wheel Thing has had three weeks with three different cars from Proton, the Malaysian based car maker. Well, make that two and a half cars. Why? The Suprima S hatch and Preve’ sedan are so close to each other that the “man in the street” would be hard pressed to tell them apart. There’s some sheetmetal aand plastic at the rear, a couple of changes in the interior but underneath the skin, nada. Ride, drive, handling are, to this driver’s mind, indistinguishable from each other. It’s the same 1.6L turbo four, same CVT, same somewhat tiresome drone from the engine bay. So just what is different?
Externally, it’s the rear, most noticeably; in profile the Preve’ has a strong resemblance to a Honda Civic, maybe even an Accord, with a touch of Mazda3, eschewing the rounded hatch look of the Suprima. There’s a boot lip spoiler (no reverse camera however), a fairly unremarkable looking rear light cluster and a sharp looking front, complete with a strip of LED DRLs. Tyres were Goodyear, instead of Continental, with no appreciable difference in ride quality.
The interior was also pretty much the same, with a Blaupunkt navitainment unit, some slightly different plastic trim and that was pretty much it. The seats were still moderately comfy, the dash still had an eighties red light theme, the left hand indicator stalk still feels clunky as it did in the Suprima. Boot space was, unsurprisingly, quite good.
Out on the road, unsurprisingly, you’d have to be a trainspotter to tell any difference in ride quality. Although fitted with Bridgestone tyes instead of Continental rubber, as found on the Suprima S tested, the Lotus tuned suspension provides a seat of the pants identical ride. A small amount of initial compliance hardens into a sports car like firmness, with just enough give to not break teeth. Steering is light, with a point and shoot feel, with no noticeable understeer and plenty of lateral grip when thrown through the twisty bits. I could feel the Preve’ hold onto the tarmac through some of the curvier roads I use to test, with no kickback through the wheel and with plenty of confidence through a particularly tight road with plenty of off camber turns. It has a long brake pedal though, feeling as if extra leg pressure is required to get some pad on disc bite.
The CVT is noisy, with a feeling of being unrefined and with seven preprogrammed shift points that seem superfluous, it’s left to the engine, as it did in the Suprima and Exora, to light the candle. The torque curve it has, from 2000 to 4000 rpm, shouts flexibility and the CVT does what it can. I can only wonder how a traditional six speed hydraulic ‘box or a manual would go…
It’s been interesting to finally sample a brand that has so much to offer to those that don’t need or want to spend a lot of hard earned. There’s promise, there’s two distinctly different models to choose from, there’s a measure of driveability that’s user friendly and capability that any average driver can live with. However, Proton are up against cars from Mazda, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Kia, Hyundai and so on that are more modern, more attractive and savvy Aussie car buyers will buy those. Interior trim levels and design needs to improve as they’re immediately outclassed by those other brands. As I see it, Proton are where Kia and Hyundai were some seven or eight years ago. Being cheap is one thing, people will pay for better and that’s where Proton needs to aim.
Head to http://www.proton.com.au for information on the range plus pricing. For other pricing options have a chat to Private Fleet and Bid My Car. For A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfgUf3EK4-s&feature=em-upload_owner