A fine achievement indeed
Story and photos by ANTHONY LIM
As an offering, this one must surely rank as an absolute highlight for a company that has well and truly come back from the ropes. Indeed, it’s all the more impressive given the fact that it’s unchartered waters that’s being treaded.
Say hello then to the Proton Exora, the country’s first fully homegrown MPV. As the third part of the great comeback, following on the successes of the Persona and Saga, the vehicle - developed from design to completion in 18 months and at a cost of RM450mil - is quite a sterling showpiece, and essentially completes the circle of reinvention for the brand.
As a platform, there’s nothing radical about it - a seven-seater MPV isn’t exactly a new type. But for what it is, it’s a very clever offering, rolls in at an excellent price point and incorporates enough winsome features that there surely must be little to complain about, and there really isn’t, but more as we go along.
At the point of launch, two versions of the Exora go on sale - the 1.6l AT Medium-line and 1.6l AT High-line, and both only come with a four-speed automatic gearbox, which features a retuned transmission control unit and a revised final drive. There’s a manual variant, though this is only slated for launch later in the year.
Visually, the Exora is best described as elegant; shades of the Toyota Wish and Honda Stream, benchmarks in the development of the vehicle, as well as the Mitsubishi Grandis, can be traced in the exterior lines and general flow, but the Exora has enough of its own identity, helped by a prominent enough looking front end and a tail that has one of the best looking tail-lamp clusters in recent memory.
The sleek vehicle, which has a coefficient drag of 0.33Cd, looks sizeable, and once you get inside, you’ll find it is indeed quite the spacious offering it promises to be. The dashboard is unfettered, there’s plenty of space, and the legroom on the second row is rather good, with the third adequate for short hauls. The rear doors open to a maximum angle of 80 degrees, making for easier ingress and egress for passengers.
As for seating layout combinations, the Exora does pretty well in this regard too, with six different seat folding configurations. Granted, with the rear seats up, there's little cargo space, but with the third row seats fully flat-folded and the second row stored forward the load-carrying space becomes very convincing. Ingress to the third row is by means of a single-lever seat-folding mechanism on the second row, and in use getting in and out is accomplished easily enough.
In terms of trim, the Medium-line version comes with a simple grey interior with fabric seats, whereas the High-line variant features leather and Alcantara-finished seats in light grey. Surprisingly, I thought the fabric seats offered a better visual perspective, both in terms of shade and texture - the leather looked a little on the pasty side.
Much attention has been paid to reducing the noise levels in the cabin - the firewall, door panels and floor pan have been given soundproofing insulation treatment, and all the pillars are injected with foam; effectively, it makes everything less zingy. As for fit and finish, there were some small assembly imperfections here and there on some panels, but nothing that would make you scream murder.
Plenty of new and subtle features abound, courtesy of an integrated Body Control Module (BCM) unit from Siemens VDO; this is the first Proton to be equipped with BCM and offers a whole new range of application options and items. With a total of 24 different functions, from follow-me-home lights, programmable door locking configurations and wiper speeds (this one is done rather neatly) to automatic hazard light activation during emergency braking from above 96kmh, the list is pretty comprehensive.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of mod cons throughout - yes, items such as 10 cup holders may seem like overkill, but better to have more than less, yes? Among the many small, but nice, touches is the inclusion of what is tagged a teh tarik holder, located below the glove compartment area, for your takeaways. Not new, but handy nonetheless.
In terms of safety, twin front airbags - standard fitment in both versions - and front seat-belt pretensioners are part of the kit, as well as ABS and EBD.
Elsewhere, the primary differences in both variants, besides the seat material, are with equipment levels, as the chart below shows:
Opting for the High-line version bags you fog lights, front seat armrests, cruise control, a remotely mounted navigation system, a roof-mounted DVD/LCD monitor - with SD/MMC card slots and USB port - for rear passengers, a rear spoiler and tinted glass. And of course, those leather seats.
Powering the Exora is the tried and tested 1.6l Campro CPS engine, here offering 125bhp at 6,500rpm and a maximum torque of 150Nm at 4,500rpm. Placed in a vehicle that weighs in at 1,422 (M-line) and 1,442kg (H-line), the result isn’t ever going to be breathtaking, but surprisingly the Exora goes about its business ably enough as an entire package.
The chance to sample the final product came at a press preview last week, and as is usually the case with previews, there wasn’t enough time spent with the vehicle to offer a firmer opinion than a mere skim-through, but it’s certainly a very likable sort.
First impressions reveal a vehicle that is as comfortable and pliant as promised. Ride comfort is high, and in general everything is geared towards cosy, though the softness comes through without being overly mushy.
A quick ride being seated in the third row showed very little undue modulation, with only large dips causing some discomfort. The lack of lower-end support here means that if you’re an adult - and a strappy one at that - it’s definitely not going to be rosy if you decide on say, doing Penang from KL, but at least you won’t be shaken senselessly while at that.
Performance-wise, the 1.6l pot is adequate enough for the job, under most conditions - at the preview, the vehicle showed a slight lack of urgency on take-up unless pushed, and doing so results in the block being a little shouty, but once you get moving the vehicle pulls along well enough, and at cruising levels the car feels tractable. This, mind you, with five adults on board.
As for fuel consumption figures, the claim is 7.2l per 100km at a steady rate of 90kmh, while for a combined cycle it is 9l per 100km. In the real world, with some of the loads that are going to be expected in many Exoras, those figures might differ a fair bit. Still, we’ll be able to tell you more about how well it does in terms of actual fuel economy - as well as operation over a wider range of conditions - when a full road-test is done, hopefully soon.
The pricing for the Exora Medium-Line is RM69,998, while the High-Line goes for RM75,998 (both on-the-road, without insurance). Six colour choices are available - Pyrite Brown, Gaia Blue, Genetic Silver, Tranquillity Black, Blue Haze and Solid White - and the vehicle comes with an extended warranty of 175,000km or five years, whichever comes first.
On the whole, this one should hit it right on the spot for a very large audience, and there are 2,500 of these so far from pre-launch bookings. Undoubtedly, detractors will continue to do the usual, but surely three out of three is more than commendable.