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Proton Preve $18,000 in September

The Preve will be in showrooms in September with a starting price that should be around $18,000.

It marks the Malaysian battlers' brand finally shifting gears here in Australia.

The Preve the first Proton car developed for global sales, and not just an inwards-looking Malaysia market, and has new management at home to back the drive and end the perception that the company is just part of the country's public service.

The Preve - pronounced 'pre-vay' - will be in showrooms in September with a starting price that should be around $18,000. Proton Cars Australia says the Preve will be a rival to the Kia Cerato and Hyundai i30 and will hit following the baby Evora people mover, taking over from underwhelming efforts including the S16 and - despite strong sales - the baby Jumbuck ute.

It still only comes with a 1.6-litre starter engine, although there is also a turbocharged version of the small four. But Proton denies any desperation in the latest move. "No, it's not our last chance," Proton boss John Startari reveals to Carsguide.

"This is the start of a new product range and a new position for the company. There's never been a time when the company has been able to compete on an even footing in Australia in terms of specification, features and safety." Proton has not had any four or five-star safety cars in Australia, based on ANCAP testing, and it has also sold cars with engines too small for local conditions and drivers.

But Startari says that is changing and the company's new management, under the DRB-Hicom automotive conglomerate, is providing extra drive. "Proton has been very vocal in saying that Preve is the first global product. That can only benefit countries like Australia," he says. At present, Proton is only a blip on the Australian sales charts and has delivered only 379 cars to the end of April, a 23.7 per cent slide from 2011.

Even though the Jumbuck is officially gone from its brochures, it is still the best seller with 111 deliveries. Startari refuses to be downbeat with new products on the way, although he admits his job is not easy. "Obviously, every car manufacturer in the country has plans for their future and there are extra cars to back this up at Proton. 

"We've got Exora coming, which is a new segment for us and will fill a void from Jumbuck. Jumbuck had a niche of its own and it's the same for Evora, because non-one else has a small people mover. "Then we're looking at a hatch version of the Preve in 2013, as well as vehicles in other segments. But I cannot talk about that yet."