2014 PROTON EXORA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: People mover
Price: $25,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/205Nm 1.6 turbo petrol 4cyl
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
Touted as Australia’s cheapest seven-seat people-mover, the Proton Exora promises plenty of space for your dollar.
But, there’s a tradeoff. While the value equation is good, the quality isn’t quite there.
We spent a week in the base model Exora GX and while there were certainly things to like, it wasn’t all roses.
Quality: From the moment you settle into the Exora’s driver’s seat, it’s obvious that cabin quality has suffered under Proton’s efforts to keep cost low.
There are plenty of poorly-finished plastics with jagged moulding lines, the urethane steering wheel feels hard and nasty, the dash plastics are hard and so are the door trims.
Comfort: Front seat comfort though isn't too bad. There are fold-down armrests and a tall seating position that affords a clear view of the road ahead, and over-the-shoulder vision isn’t bad either.
Note though that the steering column adjusts only for tilt, not reach.
The second row slides fore and aft and the flat floor means having three across the bench is a realistic proposition (though the Exora’s width means it’s best that they’re slim-hipped).
And, at this price, the roof-mounted DVD entertainment screen is a surprise and means backseaters can be easily entertained on long trips.
The third row is pretty lacklustre though. Yes, there are roof-mounted vents to keep your two rearmost passengers cool, but the seats themselves have no headrests and the base cushioning is much too soft.
Third-row legroom is also lacking unless you push the middle row all the way forward, and even young children won’t be comfortable back there for long.
Equipment: The base model GX has power windows, power mirrors, manual air-conditioning and steering wheel-mounted controls for its audio system. Bluetooth phone integration is also standard, but there’s no audio streaming.
Both Exora models come standard with a roof-mounted DVD player, which can also read media from an SD card or USB key. For many family buyers, this may be the Exora’s trump card.
Storage: With the 50/50 split third-row seats raised, there’s enough room for a normal amount of shopping bags. Drop them and luggage capacity swells significantly.
With the two rearmost rows folded down you get a mostly flat luggage area that can swallow up quite a bit of cargo.
You’ll find a retractable bag hook in the front passenger footwell, as well as two gloveboxes.
There are a large number of other storage nooks dotted around the cabin too, and even third row passengers have some storage space of their own (as well as a cupholder each.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Exora is available with one engine and one transmission: a 103kW/205Nm turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol four and a continuously-variable automatic gearbox (CVT).
The engine is surprisingly strong, and copes well even with a load of passengers aboard. Though it’s got 'only' 205Nm, it’s available all the way from 2000-4000rpm - the part of the rev range you’ll spend the most of your time in.
The CVT is less impressive.
It’s slow to respond when accelerating from a standing start, indecisive when faced with hills and reluctant to kick down. It’s also very, very noisy.
Refinement: The Exora’s tinny construction and relative lack of sound-deadening doesn’t do it any favours in terms of refinement.
The cabin is loud and boomy at highway speeds, and the CVT makes a hell of a racket when it’s working hard.
Even at a light cruise there’s drivetrain noise aplenty, with a slight whine becoming evident around 100km/h. It sounds like the differential, and we hope it’s normal.
Ride and Handling: The Exora’s suspension is definitely directed toward the ‘comfort’ end of the spectrum, and so it should be.
The 16-inch rolling stock provides a supple ride over poor roads, and though the torsion beam rear axle isn’t exactly sophisticated, it does the trick in the Exora.
The steering is ponderous around dead-centre though, and it’s a chore to pilot along anything resembling a curvy road. For suburban duty though, the Exora rides well.
Braking: Ventilated discs up front, solid discs at the rear. A simple set up, but it works fine in the Exora.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars: this model scored 26.37 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The Exora gets stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, three-point seatbelts for all passengers (pretensioning up front) and dual front and front side airbags.
Curtain airbags are not available on the Exora.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres with five years roadside assist.
Service costs: Scheduled servicing is free for the first five years of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Kia Rondo Si ($29,990) - For four thousand dollars extra, the Rondo is better in every way.
The third row is more comfortable, it has more power (122kW), more torque (213kW) and consumes less fuel on average (7.9 l/100km) than the Exora. It also drives better, and its six-speed conventional automatic is leagues ahead of the Exora’s CVT.
It may not have a roof-mounted DVD player as standard, but the improved quality, performance and comfort makes us back the Rondo over the Exora. (see Rondo reviews)
Ssangyong Stavic ($29,990) - The Stavic’s key appeal lies in its grunty 360Nm 2.0 litre turbodiesel engine, as well as the sheer amount of car you get for your money.
It’s a spacious seven-seater for less than $30k, and if you look past the unfortunate styling you’ll see strong, capable people carrier. (see Stavic reviews)
Fiat Freemont petrol 7seat ($27,490) - While the Fiat Freemont Base can be had for the same money as a Proton Exora, opting for the seven-seat layout adds $1500 to the retail price.
It's good value though, and the Dodge Journey based Freemont is more spacious and feels far more substantial than the Proton.
The Fiat doesn't feel quite as zippy as the Exora, but with 125kW and 220Nm from its 2.4 litre petrol inline-four, it's not wanting for power or torque.
Most importantly though, head-protecting curtain airbags are standard on the Freemont. (see Freemont reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re shopping at the bottom end of the market, it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect a high standard of quality or features.
However, for a family car to not have full-length curtain airbags in this day and age is pretty hard to excuse, never mind the lack of cruise control.
You might be tempted into the Exora if you see it as nothing more than a disposable people mover; something that can be moved on once the generous five-year warranty and service deal has expired and the kids have found some independence.
But with the Kia Rondo already in the market and more than capable of equalling - and, in nearly every respect, bettering - the Exora, we have to recommend that you pony up the extra cash and head to a Kia dealership instead.
- Exora GX - $25,990
- Exora GXR - $27,990