It’s one of the cruelest ironies of the automotive world: those with the most mouths to feed can least afford a seven-seat wagon.
But budget brand Proton of Malaysia may provide some relief, with a new cut-price family car to go on sale by the middle of next year. The new Proton Exora, unveiled at this week’s Sydney Motor Show, is expected to undercut the Kia Rondo7 – which starts at $25,990 plus on-road costs for a model with manual transmission.
Proton says its Exora seven-seater will be priced below the Kia Rondo7 – and come with more equipment, including automatic transmission, a gutsy 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, a roof mounted DVD player, parking sensors, cruise control – and air-conditioning for each row of seats.
In further relief to families, the Proton Exora will come with free servicing, roadside assistance and warranty for five years – the longest such coverage in the industry. “Australia is a tough market and Proton is still new to a lot of people, so we know we have to make a bold statement on price and peace of mind,” says Proton Australia general manager of sales and marketing, Billy Falconer.
“The quality of our cars is now right up there with other manufacturers and the five-year coverage is about sending a message that Proton is here to stay.” Proton says it will offer two versions of its seven-seater when it goes on sale in June 2013 – both will be priced below $30,000 drive-away. The high-grade model also comes with a rear view camera.
While the Exora is well equipped, a question mark remains on safety. The Exora comes with stability control (compulsory on all new cars from November 2012) but it only has four airbags – and they’re only protecting front seat occupants. The precious cargo in the second and third rows of seats have no airbag protection.
Proton Australia is unsure what safety rating the Exora will achieve when it is tested by independent authority ANCAP. The highest ANCAP score Proton has received to date is a “marginal” three-star rating (out of five) for its S16 sedan tested in 2011. The Proton Jumbuck ute scored an “unacceptable” one star rating when it was tested in 2010.
The Exora comes to Australia mid-way through its lifecycle. Released in Malaysia three years ago it has just received a facelift; this is the model that will go on sale in Australia. The next generation, all-new version of the Exora due for release in late 2014 or early 2015 will likely be a five-star safety car, Falconer says.
“Proton as a company has fully embraced five-star safety for the future,” he says. “They see it as an essential part of any new model.” Falconer says interest in the Exora has been strong at the motor show. “We’ve got a long list of names of people to contact when it finally goes on sale,” he says. “One lady has already tried to buy the car on display.”