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First look: Proton launches first MPV

Platform potential: Exora is expected to be joined by van and ute variants built on the same platform.

Proton campaigns for more power from seven-seat Exora people-mover for Australia

21 Apr 2009

PROTON is understood to be considering a new people-mover and light commercial van for Australia, but with a more powerful powerplant than the standard 1.6-litre petrol unit fitted in Malaysia.

The new Proton Exora was launched last week in Kuala Lumpur in MPV form only, but Proton managing director Syed Zainal Abidin told Associated Press that the platform would spawn light-commercial variants for local and export markets, including a van and pick-up.

As well as being the company’s first seven-seater, the Exora is also claimed to be the first MPV designed and developed entirely in Malaysia, and is built with 90 per cent local content.

Proton Cars Australia managing director John Startari is overseas negotiating a deal for Australia, including the possibility of fitting a larger-capacity engine, a turbocharger or a turbo-diesel to make it more acceptable for this market.

The 1.6-litre CamPro engine fitted in Malaysia is the same as fitted to the Gen.2 in Australia, which develops 83kW of power at 6000rpm and 148Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Most comparative compact MPVs in the Australian market – including the Toyota Avensis, Hyundai iMax and Mitsubishi Grandis – are powered by 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engines that produce around 120kW and 220Nm. The Kia Rondo gets by with a 2.0-litre engine developing 106kW and 189Nm, still well ahead of the Proton.

In terms of size in comparison with the Avensis, the Exora is 98mm shorter, 49mm wider, 16mm higher and rides on a wheelbase that is 95mm shorter than the Toyota.

Proton’s new MPV is sold only with a four-speed automatic transmission at home, but is expected to be offered in Australia with a five-speed manual also.

Developed in only 18 months at a cost of about $A185 million, the Exora – the name of which came out of a national competition – was launched by a glittering array of local VIPs, including past and present prime ministers, emphasising the vehicle’s importance to the state-owned car-maker in its home market.

Its debut coincides with the introduction in Malaysia of a 5000 ringgit ($A1920) scrappage rebate for 10-year-old cars that applies only to new Protons.

The MPV sells in Malaysia from 69,998 ringgit ($A26,860) and comes with only two airbags, but the company claims it is designed to achieve a four-star Euro NCAP crash rating.

A more expensive H-Line model comes with cruise control, an LCD screen, leather seats with suede-like bolsters, a portable GPS unit, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone air-conditioning and a roof-mounted DVD unit.

Although the platform features a torsion beam rear suspension to go with its MacPherson strut front end, Proton is understood to have also developed a multi-link rear suspension if it is deemed necessary for export markets.

Like other Protons, the Exora’s suspension was tuned in Malaysia by engineers from the Proton-owned Lotus operation.

We have no indication yet as to when the Exora might reach Australia, but it will go on sale in Indonesia in July, Thailand late this year and the Middle East in 2010.

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