Monday, August 12, 2013

A hidden gem - Proton Exora Bold

Took delivery of my new car, Proton Exora Bold Premium, a 7-seater MPV on Tuesday, just in time for the balik kampung trip for the Aidilfitri. For those who have previously read my blog and wondered what happened to my blue Impreza, it was sold sometime way back in 2011. After marriage, found out it not feasible to keep the car anymore as it was seldom used and not so comfortable for normal driving around town. So I sold it off an traded for another one of my childhood dream, a superbike. But that's a story for another day.

This posting is about the Proton Exora I mentioned above. This is a car that I bought without even once sitting inside it, not even on display at showrooms or roadshows. Bought it purely because it meets my current requirement & budget and very good reviews from various publications. Of course, I know some people would diss it, simply because it is a 'Proton', but I am willing to take the risk. And having owned Proton Satria & Waja previously, and currently my wife drives a Persona, I think Proton cars are not really that bad, if they're properly maintained and cared for, which some are not.

To cut it short, I was surprised with the Exora, on so many aspects. Firstly, the CFE engine is really much better than previous Proton Campro engine. It is a turbo-charged 1.6L engine, a fact which Proton seldom highlights, for unknown reason. And I was also skeptical of CVT gearbox, afraid of rubbery feeling due to the constantly variable nature of the gearbox. But for this engine, CVT gearbox is the best option as the engine is always in the meaty part of the engine's torque curve (2000-4000 rpm), making progress easy and swift. Really changed my perception on CVT geabox, despite I have previously driven a Mercedes B-class with CVT box for almost a week. The flat torque delivery of the turbo-charged engine and the CVT gearbox is just perfect, unlike the naturally aspirated B-class. Can't say the Exora is a fast car, it is not, but adequate. Having said that, it's easy to keep a constant 120-130km/h on the highway and despite being in run-in period, already managed to reach 160km/h rather easily. In perfect comfort & silence, with no sign of strain from the engine. Adequate.

Also impressed with the improvement in Proton's QC process. The car was received with perfect paintwork. No blemishes, no over spray, not a single visible scratch. Wheels were properly aligned and balanced. In fact, all four tyres were also properly inflated to specification! Small things, but you'll be surprised that not all new cars roll out of the showroom in perfect running shape.

And then, the kit list. It's amazingly long, although I wonder why some of the features were never highlighted by Proton themselves. Some of them:

- roof mounted DVD system that also accepts USB thumbdrives, and plays MP3 plus a few other music & video formats
- Bluetooth enabled audio system that allows you to make and answer calls when paired with your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. And also plays and controls music on the phone via A2DP!
- 2nd and 3rd row air-cond vents, with separate blower control
- follow-me home headlights that continue to turn on temporarily after the key is removed
- automatic rear wiper activation on reverse with front wiper use
- selectable driver door unlock (unlock only driver's door on first press of remote)
- key remote transmitter battery level displayed on intstrument panel
- front wiper that slows down when stopping in traffic
- cruise control
- anti-glare rear view mirror (no day/night adjustment to do anymore, yay!)

these are on top of the normally highlighted features e.g. leather upholstery, electric folding wing mirrors, reverse camera, external wide screen GPS (a Lokatoo A1000, which can be modified to run Garmin software), ABS, EBD, dual air bags, smoked LED tail light, etc.. You'll be hard pressed to find another car that has all the features above, especially at this price point. So I was totally surprised.

But of course, it is not perfect. There are still areas that can be further improved:

- the plastics are really hard & the textures doesn't look very convincing compared to other manufacturers. Other manufacturers also use hard plastics for cars in this price range (yes, they do. Please check yourself) but they look more convincing and looks 'less cheap'
- the leathers on the seats are also rather nasty to the touch. Feels very dry & synthetic, which it probably is. But could be better
- the driving position also a bit tiring. The steering wheel need reach adjustment. Now I'm sitting too far from the steering wheel for ideal driving position
- should include some of the newer features available in latest model e.g. auto headlight, auto wiper, pedal shifter

All in all, i think the Proton Exora Bold is really a good buy. A value for money buy. No wonder I'm seeing a lot of them on the road nowadays.

For those who overlook this car because it is a Proton, maybe you wanna re-confirm your perception.