While the unregistered Proton was being delivered to me for the test drive, a traffic sergeant stopped it to check for papers. I received a call because the traffic sergeant wanted to verify we were not on a joy ride. The polite man and I talked for over ten minutes discussing cars and the chaos on our roads. And when I mentioned the car was assembled in Bangladesh, he was surprised. Most people associate 'Made in Bangladesh' with household electronics, bicycles and tea-stall butter buns. Few know the Malaysian brand's existence of several decades in Bangladesh, much less their current assembly plant.
What is it?
The Proton Prevé is a compact sedan based on a concept styled by the famed design house, Italdesign. It features sharp creases and a raked profile giving it a visual impression of shoving through the air. The Proton has a lean shape similar to what Honda did with their City and previous Civics, but minus the flair in the details. As for dimensions, it is slightly wider, longer and taller than your standard Toyota Allion, seen all over our congested roadways.
How does it drive?
The Prevé is powered by a 1.6 turbo giving out 138 HP @ 5000 RPM and about 151 lb/ft of torque early on in the rev range. It accelerates a bit lazily and needs a hard shove of the foot to get moving fast. The power is delivered through an efficient CVT gearbox. The suspension setup is tweaked by Lotus as promoted by a subtle badge at the back. By tweaked, I do not mean race car but rather a firmer, tauter ride than similar cars. It will not wallow. The bumps are soaked smoothly while turns are less wobbly than a similar car like a Toyota Axio.
What's it like on the inside?
The Prevé (pronounced Pre-vay because you are likely having difficulty figuring it out) is plenty spacious. Cloth seats are comfortable and can seat five adults easily. The rear seat, while thickly padded, is a flat bench so more people can squeeze in without worrying about a hard centre hump. The dash is softly padded but there are a lot of dark colours. While well-specced and spacious, the interior material quality isn't up to par with its competitors from Honda or Toyota. The storage bins and lids feel flimsy and wobbly upon opening, although it is far better than the poor but spacious interior of the oddly shaped Nissan Almera.
All the switchgear is within reach, including a strange but not unwelcome central lock button placed in the, err, centre of the dash. Usually we see it only on the driver's door.
While it is a nice place to be in, the insulation could have been better. Plenty of road noise comes in followed by the typical whine from that CVT. Upside of this is for the enthusiasts who will enjoy that light whooshing spool of the turbo. It is faint but there.
There are six airbags including curtain bags up high to protect you (especially your head) from side impact. ABS, EBD and traction control helps keep things in line. Even on a muddy wet section, the systems helped keep the car from twisting away and running over my photographer.
Unusual, but mildly cool, is a dashboard info display that tells you if any bulb is out as well as the location. And to wrap it up, it has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Although the design is getting a little dated, it still looks sharp and will likely age well. It has lots of space (508 litres of boot space), adequate power, loaded with features for convenience and safety. That ANCAP rating is a big plus as safety is of the utmost importance. The interior fit and finish does need to improve to be on par with competitors. It rides well but suffers from road noise when pushed. What power it does have, it delivers well with a 0-100kmph time of just under 10 seconds. We were not able to fully test the fuel efficiency but most user forums report an average 11-12kmpl. That's based on mostly moving city traffic combined with highway routes. Our stagnant traffic conditions will really eat into that figure.
Let’s address the 'Assembled in Bangladesh' tag. While that phrase should fill our Bangladeshi souls with pride, many people connect it to an image of cardboard boxes. But the Proton is a rather good product. Where it falls short is the pricing, thanks to our taxation rules. At this range, the recon market with second hand cars offers too much competition. The Prevé is a great start but if the government does not develop better domestic production tariffs, this might not go very far.
Engine: 1.6 litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol (138 HP @5000 RPM, 151 lb-ft)
Transmission: CVT with 7 ratio paddle-shift, FWD.
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS EBD, Brake Assist and Traction Control, 5-star ANCAP rating.
Features: 16-inch wheels, push start, immobiliser, parking sensors, cruise control, touchscreen infotainment, in-car Wi-Fi, multi-function steering wheel, water repellent fabric seats, auto rain sensor, auto headlight sensor.
Price: Starting from TK 25,50,000.
For details, contact PHP Automobiles Ltd.
Photos: Rahin Sadman Islam