Proton’s 1.6-litre MPV can now be enjoyed in a spicier flavour.
Zestier Family Transport PHOTO: TORQUE

Proton gave budget-conscious family men reason for cheer when it launched the Exora, its very first MPV, three years ago. The Malaysia-designed people-carrier had the right mix of attributes – inoffensive looks, seven seats and a 1.6-litre engine, which made it a COE Cat A vehicle. It was (and still is) also considerably more cost-effective compared to the other two popular Cat A MPVs: the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the Volkswagen Touran.

The Exora’s affordability, however, was reflected in its performance. The naturally aspirated 1.6-litre that powered it could only muster 125bhp and 150Nm. When fully loaded, the 15.5-second century sprint timing claimed by Proton was more idealistic than optimistic. Those school runs would just have to be made earlier.

The arrival of the Exora Bold CFE, however, might just give bleary-eyed dads a few extra minutes of sleep and a few more reasons to smile while behind the wheel. CFE, which stands for Charged Fuel Efficiency, is a fancier way of saying “turbocharged”. This range-topping model produces 138bhp and 205Nm, 13bhp and 55Nm more than the non-turbo, Exora Bold CPS variant, giving it a massively quicker (by 4.2 seconds) 11.3-second century sprint time.

More importantly, since this added zing is available from just 2000rpm, it makes the car feel more animated despite the presence of a CVT (continuously variable transmission). Although there’s some whine and a palpable “clutch slipping” sensation, the unit remains fairly smooth and does its best to obey your right foot.

Although the cockpit remains car-like, you feel like you’re perched on top of the seat instead of sitting in it. You don’t exactly enjoy a “commanding” view, but the resulting vantage point is still useful. Other neat features that aren’t present in the base model include leather upholstery and a chrome-like finish on the centre console, plus a factory-fitted rear view mirror that incorporates a reversing camera display.

The Exora’s versatility, however, is still its key strength. Both the second and third row seats can easily be folded flat to turn this people-carrier into a goods-hauler, and the split-folding second row bench can even be made to tumble forward to facilitate access to the last row.

One downside to the Exora CFE’s added fl avour is that its claimed fuel economy of 12.8km/L is slightly thirstier (by 0.7km/L) than its CPS sibling. But then again, if you want to eat spicy food, you have to be willing to sweat – even just a little.


This article first appeared in Torque.

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