Proton Exora review

* Seven-seat MPV from Proton * Price 13,500-14,500 * Malaysian-spec car driven...

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Euan Doig
22 September 2011

What is it? It's the first MPV that Proton plans to sell in the UK, and it will offer seven seats at a bargain price. We've driven an early Malaysian-spec car, which had a non-turbocharged 1.6-litre engine linked to a four-speed automatic gearbox. UK cars will get a 1.6 turbo and the choice of a manual gearbox or a CVT.

What's it like inside? There are seven seats arranged in a two-three-two formation. The two rearmost seats are easy enough to fold up and down, and there's (just) enough space once an adult is in there, for a short journey anyway.

The middle-row seats can be folded flat to provide a large, flat load area, or tumbled forward. They neither slide back and forward nor can be removed. The space around them is reasonable, and the backrests can be reclined if required.

However, if they are reclined, they get in the way if you need to raise or lower the rear seats. In the front, there's plenty of headroom, but legroom is in shorter supply. Here endeth the good news.

As an enclosed space in which to spend time, the Exora's cabin is dreadful. The plastics appear to have been designed and constructed using templates and trims found round the back of the factory after Nissan decided it was time to move on from the 1990s Sunny.

The materials and style are from a bygone era, one we bade good riddance to a long time ago. Switches and stalks operate with a cheap action, and even things like the armrests on the front seats can't be adjusted to suit. Oh, and while the steering wheel adjusts up and down, it was so stiff on our test car as to be nigh-on unmovable.

The car we drove wasn't a UK-spec model, so had only two airbags, but final cars will have front, side and curtain 'bags. The top-spec car we drove also came with air-conditioning and cruise control.

The glass area, meanwhile, is huge, but that only serves to remind you how nice the outside world is compared with the Exora's interior.

What's it like to drive? Archaic. The 1.6-litre engine pumps out 125bhp and 111lb ft of torque, and in our test car it was linked to a four-speed automatic gearbox. This is not a happy combination.

It actually pulls away from rest quite sharply, and feels fairly brisk up to around 25mph, but thereafter progress becomes much more pedestrian.

Acceleration is modest, and if you take the Exora out of its comfort zone onto, say, a dual carriageway, its shortcomings become even more pronounced.

It takes an age to get up to speed, and should you require an extra burst of pace, the ponderous transmission lurches down a ratio and sends the revs blaringly high. It is not a pleasant noise it's worth slowing down again just to reduce the racket. Still, the turbocharged 1.6 that's coming to the UK should perform better.

The ride and handling of our test car was a throwback to the bad old days, too. It allows even minor bumps into the cabin, and shudders over bigger imperfections, all the while allowing the Exora's body to float, bob, pitch, roll and sway, seemingly all at the same time.

The steering feels reasonably well weighted, but is slow and offers absolutely no clue as to which way the front wheels are pointing. You also have to twirl the wheel a great deal in low-speed manoeuvres, and should you up the pace a bit you have no idea whether the Exora will actually turn-in to a given corner.

Our car also vibrated above 50mph, which caused the interior to creak noticeably.

Should I buy one?
Definitely not. Proton is being naive if it believes UK buyers should see the Exora as a viable option. While the car will offer seven seats for a low price, and will come with a three-year warranty, it's failings are so huge that we simply cannot recommend it.

Even if you intend to run it as a taxi, you would be far better off spending a bit more on a Vauxhall Zafira or a second-hand Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Proton has much work to do if it's to make the Exora suitable for UK buyers.

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
Vauxhall Zafira

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