Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Proton Exora First Drive Car Review

Paul Murrell reviews the new Proton Exora with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

IN A NUTSHELL: The Proton Exora is touted as Australia’s cheapest (sorry, “least expensive”) seven-seater. Does it have more to offer than a price advantage?

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The Exora deserves to sell a lot more than it does, and as word gets around, it probably will. We’d feel a lot more comfortable knowing our precious second and third-row cargo was being protected to the maximum, and the four-star ANCAP safety rating doesn’t deliver this reassurance.

SINCE ITS RELEASE at the Sydney Motor Show in 2012, the Proton Exora MPV hasn’t taken the world by storm. In fact, getting hold of one to test has been nigh on impossible. Proton fixed that by letting us loose in both the GX and GXR.

As with all the categories Proton is competing in, the MPV market is a tough one, with Toyota Tarago, Kia Carnival, Honda Odyssey and Hyundai iMax dividing up 80% of sales in the class. Proton is aiming to nab a mere five per cent (or 33 sales a month).

The Exora is based on Proton’s P2 platform and let’s face it, MPV requirements don’t give designers much room to move. Large, triangular headlights flank the corporate grille. Turn indicators are encased in the side mirrors (a feature usually found on much more expensive vehicles, but liable to add to replacement costs if you clip a mirror) and the Exora rides on 16-inch alloy wheels. The GXR gets daytime running lights, chrome exterior finishes and a rear spoiler (more decorative than functional, we would guess).

Of all the Proton models the Proton Exora is the best to drive

The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the same one that powers other Proton models. It’s a low boost intercooled turbocharged engine that produces 103kW at 5000rpm and 205Nm between 2000 and 4000rpm. Its characteristics somehow seem better suited to the Exora than the Prevé or Suprima S. In fact, after driving all three, the Exora surprised us by being our favourite drive. Fuel consumption is claimed to be 8.2 L/100km (combined).

The Exora rides quite well and doesn’t thump through pot holes or crash over coarse surfaces to the same extent as the Prevé and Suprima. Since there are few differences in the specifications, we’re not sure why – perhaps the Exora has a little extra weight or it’s the additional 80mm in the wheelbase. Steering feedback is fairly minimal, but no worse than many other MPVs we’ve driven. The only transmission on offer is the CVT with its artificial seven-speeds.

The seven-seat Proton Exora has a typical people mover layout

Families will be familiar with the interior layout – it doesn’t vary from standard MPV practice. It’s a 2-3-2 setup, with the second row able to split 60/40 and the third row 50/50. It’s a very versatile arrangement. The centre console has two cupholders for front row occupants and a 12-volt socket (the GXR gets another one in the third row – something else for little fingers to explore!) The second row of seats have reclining backrests and the bases sit in one of two fixed positions. They slide forward for easier access to the third row.

The top of the dash and instrument binnacle wear a patterned, non-glare vinyl. Fit and finish in the Exora won’t win any awards, but everything appears well put together and capable of withstanding careless family mistreatment. The steering wheel adjusts up and down, but not for reach. Two glove compartments will be appreciated, although the plastic feels flimsy, and a foldaway hook is great for securing shopping bags. Smaller children may baulk at the claustrophobic atmosphere caused by high side windows in the third row. A real surprise at this price is a roof-mounted DVD player (it also accepts SD cards and USBs) so impatient little passengers will be kept amused. Leather trim in the GXR will be easier to clean after the inevitable spills than the cloth trim in the GX.

The dash layout of the Proton Exora is easy to use and the materials seem to be good quality

What class of vehicle is more deserving of maximum safety than one designed to carry families? The Exora scores a good, but still disappointing four-star ANCAP rating. Proton would have us believe it would have scored five stars if fitted with curtain airbags, but we disagree – the absence of headrests for the third row of seats would keep it at four stars. Four air bags leave occupants of the second and third rows unprotected. The next generation Exora, in line with Proton’s stated policy, will be a five star vehicle.

MPVs are bought by families (obviously) and most aren’t flush with cash, so Proton’s keen pricing from $25,990 driveaway for the GX and $27,990 for the better-equipped GXR will have strong appeal. It’s a sensible size and does most things very well. Five year free servicing and five year roadside assist are significant considerations in the long term ownership equation.

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Proton Exora

PRICE from $25,990 (GX drive-away), $27,990 (GXR drive-away) WARRANTY five-year, unlimited kilometres SAFETY RATING four-star ANCAP ENGINE 1.6-litre DOHC turbocharged petrol engine POWER/TORQUE 103kW/205Nm TRANSMISSION seven-speed CVT BODY 4.60m (L); 1.81m (W); 1.69m (H) WEIGHT 1475-1485kg THIRST 8.2L/100km (combined)

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober