PROTON PREVÉ GXR AND SUPRIMA S REVIEW
What’s hot: Inexpensive, low-cost ownership, long feature list.
What’s not: Handling and comfort are lacking, an ordinary CVT.
X-FACTOR: Bargain basement buying, but with up-to-date features and technologies, there is more than we expected to these Protons.
Vehicle style: Small sedan and 5-door hatchback
Engine/trans: 103kW/205Nm 1.6 turbo petrol | seven-speed CVT
Fuel consumption listed: 8.6l/100km | tested: 10.1l/100km
And neither will the new quicker version of the Prevé, the GXR, nor the new Suprema S hatch.
Certainly, with help from Italdesign, these two new models (that share the same platform) are a leap ahead stylistically from earlier Proton models seen here.
And, true, much has also been made of the involvement of Lotus in sorting the chassis.
Proton invited TMR to put both models to the test in their top turbo-charged trim.
Sliding into the Suprima, the massive jump in the quality and design of the interior is obvious. Better, certainly, than Proton's new Exora people-mover that has also just arrived in Australia.
It's clean and well laid-out, with reasonably high-quality plastics and a much, much better fit and finish.
There's still room for improvement - the switchgear is of variable quality and the stalks and gear selector make some unfortunate noises when used, but the feel is that the interior comes from this decade, not early on in the last.
The cloth interior on the Prevé GXR is pleasant enough, and the front seats comfortable and supportive for the time we spent behind the wheel.
The Suprima's leather seats are more comfortable, although they both share the same basic structure.
Rear passenger room and headroom is good in both, comparable to the Hyundai i30, while boot space in the Prevé is very impressive. Both boots are class-competitive in size, but are significantly intruded upon by the wheel arches.
Wind and road noise aren't too excessive, but there are quieter cars in the class.
What is nice to hear is the exuberant turbo whistle when you put your foot down. It's not intrusive and there isn't any corresponding wastegate chattering, but it's kind-of cool.
The exhaust note in the Suprima is also a bit growly, which is a nice touch. (It also takes the edge off the leisurely performance.)
The dash houses good clear instruments and a central LCD screen with trip computer that can annoy because there is too much information to easily absorb.
The central seven-inch screen differs between the Suprima S and Prevé: the Suprima's is better, running an Android-based OS with bluetooth support, as well as USB connectivity (although it didn't speak iPhone).
The Suprima S GXR has a six-speaker stereo, and, though both share the same cheap speakers, overall sound quality is acceptable.
The Android screen also has wifi and can be connected to your home network or tethered to your mobile to download apps and stream music, such as Pandora. When you're stationary, you can watch Youtube or a DVD.
The Prevé's Clarion-branded screen is a little more run-of-the-mill, but is easy enough to use and did work with the iPhone's USB cable.
Suprima S also has front and rear reversing sensors, reversing camera, leather seats and some piano black trim highlights.
Both cars boast a 5 star ANCAP rating, with ABS, ESC, brake assist, belt pretensioners, active headrests, ISOFIX mounts and six airbags. The Prevé and Suprima S scored 34.25 out of 37 in ANCAP testing.
ON THE ROAD
The Suprima S proudly sports a "Handling by Lotus" badge inexpertly stuck on its rump.
This caused some tittering in the carpark but as soon as we got behind the wheel, it was clear - again - that there has been huge progress here, this time in dynamics.
The reality of the Lotus involvement is that the British company participates in the whole process, not just the handling.
The ride in the Suprima and Prevé is quite good, but suffers from the same heaving over undulating highway surfaces as the Exora.
Laterally, though, things are much better. Roll is present but progressive, with plenty of grip on offer from surprisingly high-spec Continental SportContact 3 215/45s on handsome 17-inch rims.
The steering has good weight, but the assistance is not variable and there's virtually no feel for what's happening below. This perhaps masks a greater capability than is at first obvious.
Take a deep breath and go a bit harder and the car comes to you in the bends. It's not the last word in driver engagement but it's not too bad.
The Lotus influence is also apparent in the traction and stability control - it's quite happy to give you latitude, with the inside wheel chirruping when powering out of tight corners, before being reined in when wheelspin becomes excessive.
But, with just 103kW and the droning seven-speed automatic CVT-with-paddles for accompaniment, it doesn't really qualify as a warm hatch. The best the Suprima can manage is a 0-100km/h time of just below 10 seconds.
On road, when overtaking, some planning is called for.
The Prevé GXR shares the same engine and CVT with the Suprima, but has a less aggressive tyre and wheel package as well as a slightly softer suspension tune.
The ride is marginally better, but the straight-line performance is identical to the Suprima hatch.
It's less willing in corners though and carries the same on-road flaws of the Suprima.
It's probably a matter of better tuning to the spring and damper rates to suit Aussie roads. But, thanks to the expected modest sales volumes here, don't hold your breath waiting on a retune.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
These two cars, the Prevé GXR and Suprima S GXR, are ok, and certainly reasonable buying at the price. They're not world-beaters - and Proton knows that - but there is no doubt that the brand is showing signs of life.
For the price and features, there's not much to argue about.
If you can live with the mostly minor flaws in handling and the dozey CVT automatic, these cars are solid value for money and a good (re)start for the manufacturer.