By Chips Yap
Group Managing Editor
 

Sorry we can’t show you clear pictures of the new car as Proton did not allow photography

Price: From RM62,000 to RM75,000
On sale: From April 17, 2012 (orders accepted now)
Tech Highlights: 2 CAMPRO engines – 1597 cc I4  IAFM petrol engine, 110 ps, 148 Nm; CVT and 1597 cc I4 CFE petrol engine with turbocharger, 138 ps, 205 Nm, 7-speed PROTRONIC CVT


What is it?
Proton’s first global car, design and manufactured with world-class processes which take it to a new level in quality. The platform is adapted from that used for the Exora but with a multi-link rear suspension instead of a torsion beam.
 

The exterior styling is modern with a distinctive front end. Though I had seen a clay model over a year ago, seeing the final product as DSZ pulled off the cover gave me a tingle in the body and I can’t remember any other Proton causing that! I think it’s partly because the car looked very good and partly also because I felt that I (and some other journalists) had a small part in the development of the Preve. Right from the time he joined Proton, DSZ made it a point to engage Malaysian motoring journalists and welcomed our feedback and suggestions, to the point that when the Preve was being developed, he called us in to get our views. So I guess you could say I felt some pride too that this particular model was finally ‘born’.
 

For more details, click here to read our First Looks report of the model.
 

What’s it like?
A route of some 160 kms was provided to get the first experience of two versions of the Preve, the middle one with the IAFM engine and the top one with the CFE engine. The route – which went from Putrajaya to somewhere near Seremban and back – was a good one with a variety of roads though nothing that was particularly rough.
 

As we moved off in the IAFM version, the first thing that struck me was the solid feeling. With Protons in the past, there’s always been a certain ‘tinny’ quality that was apparent, either in the sound of the doors closing or the structure of the seats. The Preve felt like a more expensive model with everything tightly fitting. Even the glovebox doesn’t drop open crudely but eases downwards gently.
 

I didn’t drive the first leg so I looked around at everything and honestly, the tactile aspect was commendable. I think that many people will be ‘surprised and delighted’ with what they find inside the Preve. The textures are nice but sadly, the three buttons in the middle bring back memories of the cheap-looking buttons in the Waja. It’s not that the material is cheap but the surface is smooth and that simply makes them look like they are cheap.
 

There’s a lot of storage space available but I feel the cupholders between the front seats (and the two on the armrest at the rear) are a bit shallow. They can hold cans properly but if you put in the small water bottles, then they could tip over in certain situations.
 

As the speeds rose, I began to notice that the noise levels were rather high. Wind noise was low but engine noise was high and that CVT characteristic of the engine spinning to 5000 rpm and then the road speed catching up didn’t help either. I felt that more insulation would have made a difference but was told that such a solution would mean extra cost.

When it came to my turn to drive, I found the acceleration good and the shifting was smooth. What I was not happy about was the steering feel which, to me, was rather light. Bearing in mind that I had a driven a small EV to Putrajaya and that had electric power steering (the Preve uses conventional power steering), I should not have had that issue! Apparently, other journalists didn’t have the same feeling so it could have been my particular unit – also likely because when I got into the next car, I found the feel to be just right.
 

The brakes needed a bit of getting used to as they were specially calibrated for a certain kind of feel that would ‘bite’ more obviously. The engineers put in a lot of time and effort and they did a good job as it’s a nice positive action.
 

Ride comfort was firm but without any major bumps along the way, I can’t say how it feels on rough ground but I don’t expect it to be uncomfortable. The handling was, of course, as good as you’d expect from cars with Lotus DNA, now Proton R&H DNA. The car was pretty stable in sudden swerves and tracked well through turns.

The CFE version was a lot more fun to drive with the paddle shifters and extra power. It so happened that the leg I drove with it was along the old Mantin road to Seremban and it was really a joy using those paddles. The CVT worked as smoothly as a DSG and the only thing I didn’t like was the fact that the paddles follow the rotation of the steering wheel. My driving style has my hands staying mostly at the ’10 and 3’ positions so I find it better when the paddles are in a fixed position, like in the Inspira.
 

I have never had chance to try the CFE before so this was my first experience with the most powerful version of the CAMPRO (excluding the versions with the R3 stuff). From what I gather hearing the comments of the other guys, the engine in the Preve lacked the strong surge that was evident in the Exora Bold. But it was pointed out that their impression was probably due to the refinement of the car that masked the surge.
 

Also, an engineer explained to me that the tuning of the engine was such that acceleration is more linear. This is to add to the refinement of the car and the only challenge was ensuring that there was enough ‘oomph’ at the low end to satisfy younger drivers.
 

I also spent part of the journey in the back seat and was very impressed with the legroom. For a car in this class, there’s a lot of space in the back to stretch out and I found that I had to lean forward to keep a conversation with the engineer due to the generous distance!
 

Should you get one?
In the past, there were a few times when we motoring journalists went overboard in praising a new Proton model – only to find that the cars delivered to customers had many quality issues. It reached a point where we became cautious in praise always adding ‘but we’ll have to wait and see how the production cars are where quality is concerned’.

That’s been a stigma which Proton has tried hard to erase and with the Preve, they are very confident that they have all the processes that will not just ensure high quality but also maintain it consistently.
 

Proton has packaged the Preve well for the price range that doesn’t exceed RM75,000. Though some journalists felt that more could have been included, I think that Proton has done remarkably well to give almost as many features as cars costing over RM100,000.

Visit www.proton-edar.com.my to locate the nearest Proton dealer if you want to book the new Preve.

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