This story is actually about Proton’s Homologation and Testing (H&T) team.
We got to join them during one of their secret test drives, which almost every Malaysian will know of as pictures of Proton prototype cars have been going around the web since the Waja days.
The story about the trip will be published in the October’s issue of TopGear Malaysia but since the car has been launched, let me share with you what I think of the new Suprima S as that was the car that I drove with the H&T team.
Although hidden under camouflage stickers and cardboards, the prototype can’t hide its hatchback nature, and while the front grille has a new insert, one cannot be wrong to say that this is a Preve hatchback.
Although a prototype, the engineers informed me that the unit I was driving was 99 per cent similar with the production unit. Well, the car had a production-like build quality, and with the launch date less than two weeks after my driving session, the production unit has long been delivered to the showrooms.
Size wise, the Suprima S is clearly targeted to the C-segment players, and although Proton’s benchmark cars were made out of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic hatchback, Opel Astra and Volkswagen Golk Mk6, the domestic market sentiment here will not approve of such comparison. Perhaps the Suprima S can be considered as another option for those in the market for a B-segment sedans or hatchbacks.
Design wise, the Preve required time for us to get use to the design and perhaps the Suprima S too will look better after a few months. The rear however, personally, is a bit too plain. Then again, looks can be pretty subjective and I shall leave it at that.
I was told that the engine tuning has been revised and thermal management problem in the engine bay has been reduced. Good, as I was expecting something like the Exora Bold CFE’s type of engine performance. Unfortunately, the turbo kick that I was expecting was none existence.
The engine felt as flat as the Preve, but with better mid-range delivery that could be utilised further by using the manual pre-selected ratios on the CVT gearbox.
The route to Genting Highland and back provided us with some twisty bits that were challenging enough for the car. The engine, while not really that impressive if you ask me, has sufficient pull to create a smile on your face.
Put it this way, the Ford Focus might not find it too easy to shake the Suprima S off its arse.
The steering still felt slightly numb at certain speeds while pedal play felt a bit loose and less solid. The seat has a decent design which gave us a slight side support to hold us during the corners.
The rear is a spacious area and will fit three adults comfortable while the Ride and Handling is expected, above average compared with its benchmarks. The car was obedient to our steering input and bodyroll was contained well, even if there was a slight dip which was purposely designed to inform you that you are leaning inside the turn and the car is gripping hard on to the tarmac. The rear too absorbed bumps and holes better, never suffering from any bump steer effect. Even the low profile 17-inch allows felt like it had enough sidewall pliancy to give a smooth and comfortable drive.
So is this the best car Proton has ever produced? Currently, in its stable, this is the best there is. It is a sporty 4-door hatchback that provides a comfortable ride and offers a big cabin and boot while the driver will be kept busy by the Suprima’s ability to out perform many cars in the same category.
I just hope that the aftersales service and the components are up to par with what Proton is asking us Malaysians to pay.