Malaysian manufacturer Proton would like us to pronounce the name of their new compact sedan -- Preve  -- to rhyme with cafe so as to ‘give the new car a European flavour’. Whether or not that happens, it’s likely to get attention mainly for its value proposition.

PRICE AND FEATURES

Explore the 2014 Proton Preve Range

Proton Preve offers excellent value for money as it has a drive-away price of $15,990 for the five-speed manual transmission and $17,990 for the six-speed continuously variable transmission. These prices are $3000 under the launch prices announced earlier this year. Proton tells us the prices will remain until the end of 2013. Until then you can get a Proton Preve for the price of a Toyota Yaris or Mazda2, whereas it’s pretty much line ball with the larger Corolla or Mazda3.

Upmarket features in this low-cost car include LED projector headlights and daytime running lights. Seats are covered in plush cloth and all have height adjustable headrests, with active headrests in front for added safety. The top of the dash panel is made of a soft touch non-reflective material. The tilt adjustable, multi-function steering wheel carries controls for the audio and Bluetooth systems as well as mobile phone.

INFOTAINMENT

The comprehensive instrument panel has both analogue and digital instrumentation. The on board computer indicates distance travelled between two points for up to three trips and journey time. There’s information on approximate distance to empty, instantaneous fuel consumption, total fuel used and distance travelled since the last reset. In keeping with its sporty aspirations for the new car, the Preve instrument panel is illuminated in red.

The audio system, with AM/FM radio, CD/MP3 player, USB and auxiliary ports, is located in the centre panel, which at its base includes the iPOD and Bluetooth ports, and a 12-volt socket hidden under a sliding cover.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSIONS

Proton’s own design Campro engine is a four-cylinder 1.6-litre until, producing 80kW at 5750 rpm and 150Nm at 4000 rpm. Two new transmissions: a five-speed manual or CVT automatic with six driver-selectable ratios, put power to ground through the Preve’s front wheels.

SAFETY

Proton Preve has achieved a five-star rating in crash testing. Its comprehensive safety package includes six airbags including full-length curtain units. Crash prevention features include Electronic Stability control, Traction control, ABS brakes, active front head rests, reversing sensors and speed-sensitive, door locking and unlocking.

DRIVING

The ride and handling of the Preve are better than average for its class – which is what you would expect from a vehicle with some input from British racing car maker Lotus, a brand Proton once owned. But the Preve leans in the direction of safety and comfort and is far from being a sporting model.

The engine is on the dead side, which hardly comes as a surprise for its modest maximum output of 80 kilowatts, and has to be kept on song by good use of the transmission to get reasonable performance. Sparse cabin insulation lets in a harsh engine note, a necessary evil with high revving required to get the best out of an engine that doesn’t have a lot of power. The gearshift is somewhat rubbery – but when it is allowed to shift at its preferred pace it isn’t too bad.

The manual version we tested for the full week had petrol consumption that sat around five to seven litres per hundred kilometres on the motorway and in easy country driving. That consumption rose to nine to eleven litres in town due to the fact that the engine was working hard. This is a good sized car and Preve has generous leg, head and shoulder room for four adult occupants. It can carry up to five if those in the rear aren’t over wide. Mum, dad and three pre-teens fit easily.

The boot is already a good size and the rear seat has a 60-40 split folding function to take longer items. Hooks are positioned throughout the Preve and are ideal for clothing, bags and packages. A sharply sculpted body with a wide stance and 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels looks good, though it doesn’t really stand out from the madding crowd in this extremely competitive market segment in Australia.

VERDICT

You get a lot of car for a very modest price from Proton’s Preve as it competes with cars the next size up, including heavyweights like Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. It doesn’t have the style, engine performance or handling dynamics of these cars – but keep that ultra-low price in mind. Also keep in mind that the bargain price only applies till the end of 2013.