24 December 2012

Preve' Review

Proton Prevé – our first impressions of the IAFM+ and CFE

The name of Proton’s P3-21A was officially confirmed on April 4th, and the date of its arrival has also been mentioned – the Prevé is set to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on April 16.
Ahead of the car’s premiere, Proton invited the media to a preview and test drive session with the car yesterday in Putrajaya.
The test drive route was comprehensive enough though, spanning 157 km in total, with both the normally-aspirated IAFM and turbocharged CFE variants driven, so both Anthony and I gained a fair bit of input about the car, which you’ll read about later in the story, but first, other aspects about the Prevé.

Examining the proof a little closer
The Prevé is built on the P2 platform, which is currently used by the Exora. This makes the P2 platform the base in which all larger-sized Protons will be built on. It will also be used for the Exora replacement, code named P6-XXA, due about five years down the road. As for B-segment cars, Proton will be utilising the P1 platform, which is yet to be revealed.

At the preview, Proton revealed its plans in other cars, based on these two platforms – there’s the P3-22A, a hatchback that’s next on the list, as well as the P3-30A, P3-31A and P3-32A.
So, if you add in the Prevé and the P6-XXA to the list, you’ll get six cars in total. It’s unclear as to how the other four will shape up, but the streamline to have two platforms and six products will be achieved by 2014.
Meanwhile, the Prevé will enter the scene not as a Persona replacement, as earlier thought, but placed between the Inspira and the Persona, at least in the immediate term.
To ease segmentation and offer clear differentiation, the Persona will now only be available in its B-Line entry-level specification, ahead of its retirement from the Proton model lineup in about a year and a half from now. Meanwhile, the Inspira 1.8 litre variants will be dropped, though a 2.0 litre manual version is set to join the 2.0 litre CVT in the Inspira lineup.

The Prevé will come in three variant forms, with two engine permutations and three transmissions, and indicative prices are from RM59k to RM73k, as mentioned previously. The two engines are the IAFM+ and the CFE, both 1.6 litre powerplants, and a five-speed Getrag manual is joined by two Punch CVT variations, the VT2 and VT3.
The CFE, to be seen in the High-Line version, comes with a low-pressure turbocharger that delivers 138 hp at 5,000 rpm and 205 Nm between 2,000 – 4,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a seven-speed CVT Punch gearbox, the VT3, dubbed the ProTronic.

Figures include a 0-100 km/h time of 9.6 seconds and a maximum top speed of 200 km/h. As for fuel consumption, the CFE gets 8.2 litres per 100km. In all, the numbers that the 1.6 litre CFE generates is said to be similar to that of a 2.0 litre N/A engine.
As for the IAFM+, the mill equips the two M-Line versions of the car, one with the five-speed Getrag manual and the other, a six-speed CVT, in this case the VT2. A thing to note here: the engine and gearbox is the same as seen in the Saga FLX SE, but retuned for the Prevé (no output figures were given at the preview, but it should be the 108 hp as seen on the FLX). Even the accelerator pedal is tweaked to make the best out of the powertrain and drivetrain.
A quick aside on why there are two variations of the Punch CVT box. Essentially, the VT3 transmission is a derivative of the VT2 – both share the same package, but the VT3 is capable of higher maximum input torques (215 Nm as opposed to the VT2‘s 186 Nm).

Currently, the IAFM+ engine is tuned for Euro 4 emissions, and the CFE with CVT is good for Euro 5 emissions. Now, you may think that the Malaysian government has not enforced emission regulations, so why bother. Call it future-proofing, although everyone else has arrived earlier. Already, Thailand is on the verge of starting its eco-car program that gives all sorts of tax breaks to cars that have low fuel consumption and low CO2 emissions. Proton is looking at penetrating the Thai market, hence the readiness of more efficient offerings.
Indeed, Proton says that with this car, it has taken its standard operating procedures, shaken it and turned it on its head. Two notable processes, among many others, have been implemented: simultaneous engineering and early vendor involvement. Proton claims that it has already nipped many problems in the bud. It is something they desperately and urgently need to get right.
The point is, Proton has a different goal, and is no longer content with making cars that are just ‘good enough’ for Malaysians, but something with a far more global outreach. The term ‘domestic market’ to Proton now means the whole of ASEAN, specifically, Thailand and Indonesia. And this ‘rethinking’ starts with the Proton Prevé.

As we already know, the Prevé will be Proton’s first global car. The first launch will happen in Malaysia, which is obvious. Three months down the road, Thailand and Indonesia will be getting the car, and the Aussies will see the Prevé a few months after that. While right-hand drive cars are the immediate focal point, a left-hand drive version is on the cards, aimed at the Middle-Eastern market.
One of the major changes done is how the car is manufactured. The Prevé’s body structure incorporates Hot Press Forming (HPF) tensile parts, which ensures better torsional body rigidity without incurring the penalty of extra weight. The Prevé measures in at 19,000 Nm/degree, which is pretty stiff.
In total, there are 12 HPF parts in the car, strategically placed at crucial points and centered around the cabin to reinforce the passenger cell to improve occupant safety; the company even has a snazzy acronym for it – RESS, which stands for Reinforced Safety Structure.
Still on safety, the Prevé’s top shelf variant comes with four airbags, while the two M-Line units will feature two airbags. Interestingly, at the preview, Proton MD Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin mentioned that the car has been designed to hold up to six airbags. As for crash test safety, the Prevé will be tested based on Australian NCAP specifications, although no results have been announced yet.
Aside from ABS, which is standard across the range, the High-line Prevé will offer Electronic Stability Control. The system was tested extensively in Australia, where three test mules and three pre-production cars were driven on various road conditions to find the optimum delivery package.
The promise is a less intrusive system, which progressively nudges things in terms of assist – it will first trim off the yaw and the roll of the car before sawing off the speed, which is its last option.

We were told that you can turn the ESC off on the car. Hold the switch button for three seconds and you’re driving without tethers. Almost. Even with the ESC set to off, the system will turn itself on once the speed goes past 150 km/h and when you brake, and will turn itself off once again when you you drive below said speed and off the brakes.
Speaking about brakes, Proton claims that the Prevé has the best braking distance among its competitors, stopping in 36.8 metres from 100–0 km/h. The three benchmark segment competitors do the same in 37.6, 41.2 and 51.9 metres, in case you’re wondering.
The suspension system consists of MacPherson struts for the front and a multi-link with stabiliser bar for the rear. Proton looked to the Civic and Focus as a benchmark for the Prevé’s handling, and the car borrows a bit of inspiration from the Focus’ Control Blade rear, with a hybridised version of things known as a knuckle blade. As for its ride, Proton looked to Germany – BMW and Mercedes – for inspiration. Again, more on that later.
What’s also interesting is the fact that the suspension setup has been developed together with the tyre that is worn by the Prevé, in this case a 205/55 series GT Radial featuring a new silica compound and offering the promise of low rolling resistance but good grip. The Prevé wears 16-inch wheels across the range.
A last technical aside, with the choice of traditional hydraulic power steering for the car – Proton has stuck to the tried and tested, saying that its unfamiliar with electronic power steering as yet and would want to put out a product that they have little knowledge on. You’ll see it eventually, once things are sorted out in how its possible to offer all the advantages of an electronic power steering with most of the feel and feedback of a hydraulic-based system.

In terms of placement, Proton is gunning for a piece of the C-segment pie, and puts the Honda Civic 1.8 and Toyota Altis 2.0 in its gun-sights, and the Kia Forte 1.6 is also in that mix (in development, the outgoing C307 Ford Focus sedan was also benchmarked). Already, test numbers have shown that the Prevé out-paces and out-brakes its competitors.
It’s also playing up the interior space card – Proton says that with 930 mm in front and 815 mm at the back, the car offers the best leg room in its class, and for luggage space has a boot volume of 508 litres. Indeed, with all this, and allied to offering more equipment than its main competition, the company believes that the Prevé gives good value for money.
One last thing to chew on, it has been revealed that the Prevé has one last card up it sleeves, and it’ll be made known during the launch.


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Terima Kasih.
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