Proton Preve First Drive Review
Paul Murrell reviews the new Proton Prevé with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL: Proton’s target of becoming a “globally recognised player” in the automotive world is ambitious and the Prevé probably isn’t the car to get them there. But it may be a good start.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The Prevé is far from being a class leader, but Proton is moving in the right direction. It makes a compelling package at the price and with the level of equipment. Five-star safety, five year roadside assist and Proton’s unique free servicing for five years will swing it for a lot of bargain-hunting buyers.
You can understand why Proton sales and marketing manager Billy Falconer uses the phrase “going forward” so often – the company has had a rough ride in the Australian market and will want to be looking ahead rather than back. The Prevé is the first new model from the company in three years, so a lot is riding on its success.
Proton claims it has a wide stance, muscular look, aerodynamic silhouette and aesthetic design. We’d sum it up as unexceptional: inoffensive but fairly innocuous. But this is a strange category where styling ranges from totally bland to slightly quirky, so the Prevé fits in well.
A power output of 103kW is almost the default for the class. The Prevé achieves it at 5000rpm and puts out 205Nm between 2000 and 4000rpm using a low boost intercooled turbocharged 1561cc engine (the entry-level GX makes do with a non-turboed 1.6-litre engine). It uses 91 RON fuel and achieves consumption of a claimed (and not very economical) 8.6 L/100km. Initially, there is only one transmission choice, a seven-speed CVT with paddle shifters. A six-speed manual will join it in early 2014. We’re sorry to have to say it, but the overall experience won’t thrill enthusiastic drivers. The engine drones away, not at all helped by the slurring CVT gearbox. Proton makes a big feature of having its suspension tuned by Lotus (who are wholly owned by Proton) but it doesn’t make a noticeable difference to the driving experience – we shudder to think what it may have been like without Lotus input!
Ride is okay, but there is more road noise and wind noise than modern buyers are used to, especially when compared to the class leaders such as Mazda3, Holden Cruze, Nissan Pulsar and Mitsubishi Lancer. We don’t expect Proton buyers to be looking for ultimate sports handling, but the Prevé will discourage anything approaching exuberant driving.
By the standard of the small car class, the Prevé comes remarkably well-equipped, and this is even more impressive at the price. Ten-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels are standard, as is a roof-mounted antenna, 60/40 split fold rear seat, height-adjustable steering wheel, tilt-adjustable steering column, six airbags, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, front active headrests, multi-function steering wheel, smart info display, leather wrapped steering wheel, auto headlights, auto wipers, cruise control, push button engine start, in-dash satellite navigation, electric folding side mirrors and rear cup holders and arm rest. Leather upholstery will become a standard feature in the 2014 models without affecting the current price.
Proton has made a commitment to have every model in the range awarded an ANCAP five-star safety rating. This deserves high praise for a company that once sold its cars purely on price. The safety package starts with a reinforced safety structure body shell. This comes about through a more advanced hot press forming process for ultra-high tensile strength. In addition, the Prevé gets electronic stability control with standard brake assist and traction control, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, seatbelt pre-tensioners on the front seats, doors that lock automatically at 20km/h and unlock in the event of a collision, three child restraint anchor points including two ISOfix child seat mounting points. Reversing sensors are standard and the hazard lights activate automatically under sudden braking above 90km/h or in the event of a collision.
Despite Proton making a conscious decision to move away from using price as its prime motivator for a sale, it will be an important factor in the purchase decision for most buyers. Current pricing for the Prevé GXR with CVT is $23,990 driveaway. All 2013-build Prevés will benefit from a $1000 factory bonus while existing stocks last. When the manual variant arrives in early 2014, it will be priced from $21,990 driveaway. With five-years free servicing included, plus five years roadside assist and a generous warranty, that looks like remarkable value.