Some eyebrows were raised when the Proton Preve sedan was awarded the maximum five-star safety rating by ANCAP. But there should have been no surprise – Proton is Malaysia’s premier vehicle manufacturer, is strong technically on its own and benefits from a long-standing ride/handling/chassis partnership with British sports car specialist Lotus.
The Preve (pronounced ‘pre-vay’) is a small sedan and is clearly Proton’s best car yet. It joins the lineup which includes the S16, Persona and sporty Gen-2 – all handily priced and nicely equipped.
And you can buy the Preve with confidence thanks to Proton’s smart five year capped price servicing and five year warranty with roadside assistance.
Proton was created by the Malaysian Government and started producing cars in 1985 - the wholly-owned Proton Cars Australia commenced operations in 1996. Last year the company switched to private ownership under the umbrella of the giant DRB-HICOM Berhad conglomerate.
The Proton Preve sedan is currently available as a five-speed manual, priced at $15,990 ‘driveaway’ (as tested by CarShowroom.com.au) or CVT automatic for $17,990 ‘driveaway’. The first of Proton’s new-generation models, the Preve range will shortly be boosted by the arrival of a sporty GXR variant adding a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, leather-trimmed interior, seven-speed CVT with paddle shifters and touch-screen satellite navigation.
With a comprehensive suite of technological aids such as ABS, EBD, ESC and Lotus-developed chassis, as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, six airbags, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, the nicely-styled Proton Preve ticks most boxes for small sedan buyers…for example, with that five-star safety rating and priced from $15,990 this would be a very smart buy for young ‘P’ plate drivers.
The Preve is produced at Proton’s plant in Tanjung Malim which opened in 2003 and has an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles.
Power comes from Proton’s own 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine which delivers 80kW at 5750rpm and peak torque of 150Nm at 4200rpm. How does that compare? Well the Nissan Almera (from $16,990) delivers 75kW/139Nm from its 1.5-litre engine and the Honda City provides 88kW/145Nm from its 1.5-litre powerplant.
Zero to 100km/h takes 12.0 seconds in the Proton Preve five-speed manual we tested (12.5 seconds for the auto).
On the fuel economy front, you can chalk-up 7.2l/100kms for the Proton Preve five-speed manual we tested.
The automatic version uses a belt-operated six-speed CVT.
Proton Preve The Interior
Small sedan buyers will be surprised by the spacious interior of the Proton Preve and drivers will be pleased to find the combination of steering wheel rake adjustment and seat height adjustment provides for a reasonable operating environment.
Instruments are nicely presented in a curved binnacle and include Proton’s ‘Smart Information Display’ which includes the usual information plus a handy feature which advises if the key fob or vehicle battery is low on charge as well as a warning if any light bulb has failed (including the location of the bulb).
Timber-look trim highlights add a nice look.
Luggage space is handy at 508-litres and access is helped by a low lip and 60:40 split-fold rear seat.
Proton Preve Exterior & Styling
A traditional four-door, three-box small sedan, Proton’s stylists have given the Preve a modern look which is distinctive and quite sophisticated. With a wide stance, aerodynamic shape and high bootlid the Preve looks purposeful.
That look is enhanced at the front with a powerful arrangement of four projector headlights, Proton’s ‘winged’ grille, LED DRLs and fog-lights.
It’s all sleek and modern – a further example being the aerodynamic curved rear glass – and the rear-end scores distinctive tail-lights.
The Proton Preve rides on stylish 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels.
You don’t quite become Kimi Raikkonen or Romain Grosjean when you get behind the wheel of the Proton Preve. But even when you hit the very first roundabout the response of this small sedan reminds you Lotus has stamped its mark on the chassis.
By the time we’d arrived at the lower sections of our mountain roads test loop we’d already reached the inescapable conclusion that the Proton Preve’s chassis is so good it deserves more engine performance. And of course that’s coming in the turbocharged GXR model.
In the meantime that slick suspension calibration combined with grippy Goodyear Eagle205/55 R16 rubber on our Proton Preve test car to deliver reasonable balance, predictable turn-in and a relatively flat stance even at the limit.
Around town the Proton Preve’s naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine got the job done and nice steering assistance, standard parking sensors and reasonable all-round visibility made short work of our tight CBD carpark.
So, for example, parents of first-time new car buyers behind the wheel of a Proton Preve can rest assured their youngsters have a very safe, predictable and easy-to-drive small sedan under their control. Zero to 100km/h in 12.0 seconds (about the same as a Nissan Micra) - so the ‘hoon’ police aren’t about to come knocking - and ANCAP keep issuing press releases extolling the virtues of cars with five-star safety ratings so you have that peace-of-mind as well.
In direct comparisons with admittedly higher-priced small sedan rivals the only points deduction really is the interior plastics and trim materials of the Proton Preve…not quite as luxurious as some.
Car Showroom has never been to Malaysia so we can’t analyze Proton’s production facilities, technology and quality. But we have spent lots of time at Lotus in Norwich, we know Lotus very well and we know the engineers and management.
Ask us to name one company to provide the ‘world’s best’ suspension systems and that company would be Lotus.
In a market segment where most products have impressive offerings, that Lotus-developed suspension does give the Proton Preve considerable bragging rights. And no we’re not coming from the racing angle here, we’re talking responsiveness and balance to keep things safe.
Combine that with five-star safety, a spacious interior and five-year warranty/roadside assistance/capped price servicing and you ask yourself: has Proton missed anything with the Preve?
With a price starting at $15,990 ‘driveaway’ the answer is “no” and so this is a small sedan which deserves consideration.
Proton Preve The Competition
Although officially listed as a small sedan, the extensive interior space of the Proton Preve actually makes it a bit of a segment ‘straddler’…creeping into mid-size in some dimensions.
And if a spacious interior is high on your small sedan list, you’d best check-out the Nissan Pulsar. More expensive (starting price $19,990), the Pulsar sedan (96kW/174Nm 1.8-litre) was originally penned for the North American market so space is a priority. It’s an outstanding small sedan.
Likewise the Kia Cerato sedan (starting price $19,990) – lots of space, usual slick Kia styling job and loaded with features. Aussie-developed suspension is fantastic and both the 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre Kia engines have some punch too. A Car Showroom favourite in this league.
Our other CarShowroom.com.au favourite small sedans are the German-created Ford Focus and the Honda Civic – but both edge over $20,000 for the starting price so are getting a pricey for direct comparison with the Proton Preve.