There are minor flaws like still having no external boot release button (aside from the one inside the car and on the remote) and some cheap plastics, but most cars at this price range do anyway.
With the earlier Proton that were designed in-house, one would suffer from quality issues, ergonomic flaws and bad material choice, resulting in a horrid driving experience even though the cars actually handled and rode exceptionally well. I suppose it is the 'Handling By Lotus' that has made this possible.
But they had not resolved the ridiculous ergonomics and build quality. Hence the hobbit-like driving position in the Proton Satria Neo, the ridiculously low set steering wheel in the Proton Waja and Proton Gen2 and the appaling plastics in the Satria Neo again.
The Proton Preve has changed that. Slightly. The main controls are good to the touch and materials used on the top half of the dashboard is pretty good. The dark 'wood' trim makes the car look slightly upscale and the air-con vents are nice. The bottom half of the dashboard however isn't that convincing and utilises cheaper plastics, especially the loosely fitting coin box to the right of the steering column.
I suppose they've done what most manufacturers do these days – build nicely the commonly used parts than the not so common ones, to feel better. The exterior seems unoffensive and very unassuming. The exterior is slightly conservative looking. Proton could do with hiring a designer like Kia's Peter Schreyer doing up the car's (or Proton's) overall styling.
As for the driving experience the Proton Preve drives extremely well. When it comes to its ride and handling the Preve is actually very good. The steering is perfectly weighed. The ride surprisingly smooth and it rolls over bumps rather well. There is minimal road noise and it feels planted at higher than normal speeds.
Its corners with such composure that I have to say that it could be the most interesting small sedans that I have driven recently. It feels more resolved than the Hyundai Elantra 1.8 I drove recently.
It is surprising how such an unassuming car could actually be driven with such verve and sportiness. Using the paddle shifts, the sluggish CVT gearbox in 'normal' becomes better to use and if you really cane the car, the Preve comes to life. The 1.6liter (non-direct injection, variable valve timing turbocharged engine) pulls decently well from a stop until about 140km/h.
It starts to lose steam afterwards but it is still gaining ground at a rate a normal large 2.0-litre sedan would. So its pretty good. So good that we may end up getting tailed and flashed by psychotic drivers on the North-South Highway who think that a turbocharged 1.6liter sedan is a super car.
Punt it into a corner and you'd notice that while the brakes are ABS, EBD equipped, it would not engage unless you are really brutal with it. This is surprisingly one of the most unobtrusive ABS systems around in my opinion.
Proton has said that the Preve is their global car and this would mean that it would eventually be sold in Singapore. Of course Proton has an uphill battle when it comes to its image and branding. But this is the first Proton that is actually quite good to own and drive on a daily basis.
The question is whether people are willing to pay so much for one. As of writing this article, the Proton Preve retails for RM72,000 (S$29,300). It could retail for the same amount in Singapore Dollars due to the COE and other taxes, if the company can last in these times of ridiculously high COEs. Would a slightly dull and unassuming car that handles superbly well find buyers?
No idea really. Let's just wait and see.