Proton Suprima S First Drive Review
Paul Murrell reviews the new Proton Suprima S with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL: Proton insists the Suprima S is not just a hatchback version of the Prevé. Regardless, it faces a tough fight in what is arguably the toughest market segment.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: Proton is using Australia to learn some lessons before it takes on the world, and that may be an expensive strategy. They are targeting the UK, Thailand, Brunei, Turkey, Egypt and South Africa as potential markets. Their attitude appears to be, if they can make it here, they can make it anywhere.
IN A MARKET SEGMENT where 65%of sales are shared between the Top Four sellers, it’s a tough battle to make headway. Factor in 18 brands and 23 different models, and even Proton’s modest objective of grabbing just one percent market share in the category (or sales of 128 per month) looks ambitious.
The first big difference between the Suprima S and the Prevé is the body style. The Suprima benefits from the input of Italdesign Giugiaro and manages to look both modern and stylish. Without a sneak peek at the badge, most people would be hard pressed to put a name to it.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine disguises its turbocharged boost remarkably well – it’s sluggish off the line and never feels involving. You always get the impression you are asking more of it than it is willing to give. Slightly unpleasant noises are the order of the day, and the CVT gearbox joins in with its own odd bass accompaniment. At least you get steering wheel paddles, so you can extract a little more from the engine than the gearbox, left to its own devices, seems willing to do.
Like the Prevé GXR, the Suprima is powered by a 103kW, 205Nm 1.6-litre engine that has certainly not been tuned for the boy racer set. Zero to 100km takes a yawningly slow 9.9 seconds (and feels slower as the CVT causes the engine revs to wander about with little relationship to speed). Despite this leisurely performance, fuel consumption sits at 9.1L/100km – far from acceptable in a modern context.
As with its other models, Proton trumpets the Lotus involvement in steering and chassis tuning – it even wears a “Handling by Lotus” badge on its rump. The Suprima is happy enough around the suburbs but take it out onto the open road or point it at some dodgy surfaces and it gets quite choppy. The steering won’t tell you much about what’s happening under the front wheels unless faced with a pot hole, at which time you’ll know exactly what’s happening. CVT transmissions are becoming more commonplace and with its artificial seven-speeds, this one does a passable job of matching power, torque and revs, but there’s always a drone from the engine.
The Suprima initially impresses with a stylish dash and soft-touch plastics, although it never feels more expensive than it is. The entry-level GX gets 16-inch alloys while the GXR gets 17-inchers. Both models get front and rear foglights, daytime running lamps, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input and steering wheel controls.
The GXR adds front parking sensors, rear spoiler, reversing camera, infotainment system with 7-inch touchscreen, sat nav, DVD player, paddle shifters, cruise control, push button start, auto climate control, auto headlights and wipers, hill hold assist and leather trim. The seven-inch touchscreen is powered by a computer running Android technology. This gives the owner the option of using WiFi through a smartphone or wireless network or, according to Proton, USB dongles that tap into mobile phone networks (although not currently available in Australia). I’ll need to spend some time with the owner’s manual (or a tech-head) before I can comment on this technology.
Safety sometimes seems like an afterthought in small car classes, but the Suprima S gets the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, six airbags, traction and stability control, anti-whiplash head restraints, active hazard lamps, and daytime running lights.
Proton in Malaysia decided it didn’t need a manual transmission in the Suprima (or Prevé) range until quickly disabused of that notion by local management and dealers. A manual variant will arrive early in 2014, bringing the purchase price down to $19,790 driveaway for the GX. CVT adds $2000 to that price.
The better equipped GXR is $26,590 driveaway with CVT although the manual, when it arrives, will be $24,990 driveaway. We’re not sure those prices are sufficiently lower than the more mainstream competitors to tempt buyers away, but it remains to be seen. Driveaway pricing plus the very attractive five year free servicing deal and five-year roadside assist are a significant factor in the total price package.