Writing your first impressions of any car is tricky. More so when the car in question is one of the very first few to roll off the assembly line – if it can even be called that at such early stage. The new Proton Preve (pronounced Prea-vae) is yet to be launched but a large contingent of media have been given the chance to test drive it. It was a decently long test route of 150km and we’ve got loads to share.
What is it?
Well, it is not here to replace the Persona. That model will continue to be sold, but only in the entry B-Line spec. The Preve is exactly like the Gen.2 with a boot, so in that sense it’s a four door C-segment sedan. Prices remain a secret until the (expected) mid-April launch but it was hinted to be between RM62,000 (baseline) and RM75,000 (top spec). It was also added that eventually the Persona will be phased off within a year; as it is production on the Persona will be scaled down to 1000 units per month while the Preve will receive chief attention at 4000 units monthly to start with. There will be three variants: 1.6 litre manual, 1.6 litre (CVT) and the turbocharged CFE with CVT box. The first two engines are now used in the Saga while the latter is currently in the Exora Bold.
Photography wasn’t permitted but Proton did provide these shots. Of course since the car has already been spotted (and photographed) so much, you probably have a decent idea of how it looks like. Let’s just say that it looks familiar. Before you swing that axe, Proton has plans for this to be a ‘proper’ global car. And when Proton says domestic market, it means Malaysia and our immediate regional neighbours. Personally, I think the Preve looks great – safe and pleasing, yet contemporary and striking. There are some gaffes, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a facelift or some quick work by the hard working after-market boys. For now, performance and ride quality are more important.
Families will be happy to learn that rear passengers get a lot more room. The car may not look that much bigger than the Persona but the cabin feels much more open. Knee room is especially improved, and the dark grey upholstery, as opposed to black, helps to make the space bigger.
Face it. Proton doesn’t build sedans and hatchbacks that don’t ride confidently. The Preve loses no points when compared to its C-segment competitors, the Civic and Forte. It seems to have the edge over the rest, except of course the class benchmark Ford Focus, but I don’t think they’re far apart.
First up for me was the CFE-engined Preve. Getting to a comfortable driving position was easy, but to make it optimal was almost impossible. The steering only adjusts to height but not to reach, strange for something that is, in this context, fully loaded. Other than that, no issues really. The materials used may not be top notch but at this price point, that’s okay by me. Unlike the materials on the dash and doors which have surfacing that is easy to scratch.
On the move, I am slightly disappointed. Suddenly I know why Proton is not too keen to harp on the word Turbo for the CFE engine. The car is fast off the blocks but not in the way that would suggest it has a turbine. The suggestion of speed is absent but the numbers prove otherwise. This Preve will outrun every other car in its class, but that is not the point is it? It could just be that this car is so tuned to regular type of driving that sensation of speed is not a main priority. I managed just over 200kmh in it. For a 1.6 litre displacement that’s very impressive. What’s more amazing is that it didn’t feel like I was bombing it. NVH was well subdued;the Preve feels a lot more expensive at this point.
The naturally aspirated IAFM Preve takes a beating compared to its force-fed sibling. It feels immediately overwhelmed by the weight of the car, and more than anything else the seemingly restrictive CVT. Yet, it still possesses a lot more refinement than the Saga with the same drivetrain, but that’s expected.
The Preve – at this point of time and based on this first impression – excites and frustrates me equally. It rides beautifully and with a lot of composure even at high speeds. The way it looks and the interior space it offers point to a design team that is more aligned with its customer base’s wants. Its chassis, exterior and interior forces the notion that Proton really does have a case for a proper global car. And then there is the Campro and the transmission. If it was better, it would be enhancing the package but right now it’s doing the opposite.
Regardless, the Preve will do well in markets that are not accustomed to truly modern engines (such as the TSI or Ecoboost), but then how many of such markets exist? I have a feeling that at the end of the day, Proton will still have to rely on selling this car with price as its main pulling factor rather than value, or (ideally) desirability. As they say, close, but no cigar – yet. Maybe the production car will be improved.