PROTON EXORA GXR REVIEW
What’s hot: A red-hot price for the number of seats you get, and well-equipped.
What’s not: Only 4-Star ANCAP rating, dodgy plastics inside.
X-FACTOR: It's a cut-price Odyssey, which will appeal to families on a budget.
Vehicle style: 5-door people mover
Engine/trans: 103kW/205Nm 1.6 turbo petrol | CVT auto
Fuel consumption listed: 8.2l/100km | tested: 10.1l/100km
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that Proton had quietly slipped out of Australia a year or two ago, leaving just a few Jumbuck utes behind for some entertaining paddock-bashing.
But it's still here and, under new owners at home (DRB-Hicom), has a building wave of brand new products on the way.
The Exora is the last of the "old" Protons, launched in 2009. It will soldier on for another eighteen months or so until its 2015 replacement.
We took the top-spec Exora GX-R for a spin to see what's on offer for what is surely Australia's cheapest people mover.
The Exora is styled like a big wagon and inside there's plenty of room. The front seats are high and feature armrests for that comfy, laid-back driving style anyone with a car full of kids can only dream about.
The view out from all seats is excellent; especially the panoramic front view. Some however may find the driving position slightly awkward as the steering wheel only adjusts for tilt (not reach).
The seats though provide good adjustment - forward, back and up - and lofty headroom adds to the spacious feel.
The second-row seats slide back and forward and split 60/40. The rear row can be split 50/50 and the whole lot folds down to make a wardrobe-sized load area.
The third row is for very small kids only, but the pair of seats there are reasonably comfortable.
On the safety front, there is no protection for rear passengers in the form of airbags or head restraints, contributing to the Exora's 4-Star safety rating. There is, however, air-conditioning vents back there, preventing it from getting too stuffy.
The materials and finish are nowhere near its Japanese or Korean competition, but when you remember this is a much older (and cheaper) car than any of them, there is plenty of room for forgiveness.
Equipment is modest but useful. Rear passengers get a roof-mounted DVD player that also accepts SD cards and USB sticks. The seats are leather trimmed and the leather itself shames some rather more expensive offerings.
Up front is an old-style dot-matrix screen with Bluetooth streaming for audio and phone, cruise control and a little fold out hook for shopping bags.
The passenger side has two gloveboxes, neither of which would hold a milk carton, but are nevertheless useful.
The doors have bottle holders and space for odds and ends, but everything will slide around as the bare plastic is very slippery.
The stereo is hardly going to shatter the windows and is tinny and cheap-sounding, but does a good job of helping drown out some of the racket from the CVT.
There are just four airbags, all of them for front seat occupants, contributing to its four-star ANCAP rating.
ON THE ROAD
Despite its obvious age, the Exora is a reasonable drive. We found it comfortable and easy to live especially on longer highway legs.
The modest outputs of the 1.6 litre light-pressure turbo are enough to get the Exora moving (with a light load, it must be said) and it will row along with city traffic.
There is a high-pitched whine from the CVT however, which can get a bit tiring, but that aside, it's a good cruiser, shrugging crosswinds even at high speed.
Cornering is obviously not a strong suit, with plenty of high-riding body roll.
The ride also deteriorates on undulating surfaces, with the body going up when the road goes down and vice versa. It's never a worry, but can be a bit disconcerting.
Rolling on 16-inch alloys and 205 tyres, the front-end gives up pretty easily when cornering but will maintain course unless you do something extremely silly (electronic stability control keeps things in order).
Drive it within the normal envelope - around town and on freeways and it's an agreeable drive and not uncomfortable.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
The Exora punches above its weight in some cases and is below par in others.
But, add pluses like the five-year warranty and five-year free servicing, and the positives outweigh the negatives.
The shortcomings are mostly minor, although, for a family car, its biggest debit is the 4-Star ANCAP safety rating.
The flimsy trim and a noisy transmission are however easily eclipsed by the seven seats and a very low cost of ownership. It may not be the best people mover out there, but it's by far the best value for money.
- Exora GX - $25,990
- Exora GXR - $27,990