Proton has committed to gaining a genuine foothold in Australia, the carmaker said this week, starting with three new models in the next three months.
It's an ambitious schedule for the Malaysian carmaker, who up until now has only ever released one new model locally within a calendar year.
And there’s more new models to come in 2014, as Proton looks to give its local line-up a big makeover. As a result of the changes, the current Gen 2 and Persona range has gone into run-out mode, to make way for the new models.
TMR was on the ground at a Proton event in Sydney yesterday, where we learned more about what we can expect from the carmaker in the future.
Proton is aiming the Exora at “the dollar-conscience buyer”, with the entry level GX model sharply priced from $25,990 drive-away (making it Australia’s cheapest seven-seater) and the up-spec GXR priced from $27,990 drive-away.
That makes it up to $4000 cheaper than the entry-level Kia Rondo, even before on-road costs are brought into the equation.
Both variants get a 'six-speed' CVT transmission (six set ratios), 16-inch alloy wheels and a roof-mounted DVD player, along with ABS, ESC and four airbags combining to give the Exora a 4-star ANCAP safety rating.
Fuel consumption for both models is listed at 8.3 l/100km and no manual transmission will be offered.
Expect to see the Exora in showrooms around October 1.
PROTON PREVE GXR
Next on the arrivals list is the Preve GXR, a sportier version of the current Preve sedan. Proof of its sporting aspirations can be found at the back of the car, where you'll find a “Handling by Lotus” badge.
Above the regular Preve, the GXR gains leather trim, automatic headlamps, rain sensing wipers, cruise control and a seven-speed CVT transmission with paddle shifters.
The Preve GXR goes one better than the Exora safety-wise, earning a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
To enliven the driving experience a little more, a six-speed manual will join the line-up in the first quarter of 2014.
The CVT version however, is due in showrooms around November 1st, with pricing on both CVT and manual models yet to be confirmed.
PROTON SUPRIMA S
There will be two Suprima S variants in Australia; both feature a standard seven-speed CVT transmission and both promise to be the best equipped Protons to ever appear on the local market.
Standard equipment includes a seven-inch touch screen with satellite navigation, hill-hold assist, park assist with front parking sensors and LED daytime running lights.
The Suprima S debuted on the Malaysian market on August 17 and Proton plans to have the new models in Australian showrooms by December 1.
Along with its Preve GXR sister, the Suprima S also gets a 5-star ANCAP safety rating plus a six-speed manual option in the first quarter of 2014, with a price yet to be confirmed for either transmission.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
All of the new models will feature the same 1.6 litre turbo-charged petrol engine, developing 103kW and 205Nm while running on regular 91 RON unleaded. It is also E10 compliant.
They also benefit from a five-year warranty, which comes with five years roadside assistance and a five-year capped-price servicing plan.
THE FUTURE FOR PROTON IN AUSTRALIA
Since its entry into the Australian market in 1995, Proton’s success has been a bit up and down.
Kaye Aimes from Proton Australia told us what we can expect as Proton looks to reinvigorate itself in the local market.
Aimes said that enticing new dealers was the first step, with several new retail points signed up in the last six months and several more currently in negotiations.
Victoria is a key consideration, where the lack of electronic stability control (ESC) in previous Proton models (but fitted to all new models) was holding potential dealers back, as state government laws there mandate the safety feature be fitted to all new passenger cars sold.
Proton has also appointed a new marketing company, and the carmaker says we can expect to see some fresh advertising angles.
Ms Aimes added that the lack of 5-star safety ratings in previous models was hurting sales, but the carmaker is aiming to improve safety standards in future models.
And what about a follow-up to the Jumbuck?
“The Jumbuck is one of our most successful vehicles to date,” Ms Aimes said. “But as it was only sold in Australia and South Africa, it isn’t really viable for Proton to build a new one.”
Stay tuned to TMR, as we bring you more news on the renewal of Proton in Australia, including our impressions of its new models.