This is a common phrase us Malaysians hear a lot. The brand is known to most as the go-to option only if we cannot afford a foreign make. What a sad sad thing, even my car buddies refused to join me for the test drive when they heard it was going to be a Proton this time. But inferior or not, the Suprima S still garnered a lot of attention from the media when it was launched a few months ago.
Getting into the car, my first impression was that the dashboard didn’t feel as ‘cheap’ as I’d thought it to be, judging from pictures on the internet. The keyword here is ‘feel’, as closer inspections later proved otherwise. Still it was bearable, just a tad rough around the edges compared to its Japanese equivalents.
Starting up the car was fairly quiet, but as soon as I stepped on the accelerator the infamous CVT whining filled the cabin. I think this is the No.1 deal breaker for a lot of potential buyers. Not only does it whine, it has a very noticeable throttle delay. Good thing that the whining didn’t get any more annoying than it already was when speed picks up, it was then that this car begins to feel fun.
I love the torque on this thing. Overtaking was effortless thanks to the 1.6 turbo engine. Even at a high 5th gear (I was using the shift pedals), there was enough grunt to go up hills easily. There was only the SA and I in the car though, not sure if a full load would make a difference. Steering wheel weight and feel was also great. I think the car will be in its element when going at highway speeds, but unfortunately I only managed to do up to 80 km/h due to traffic.
Another thing that has my thumbs-up is the suspension. During the launch event when they say the Suprima S is comparable to the VW Golf and Ford Focus, they most probably meant the handling and suspension only; other aspects are still far behind. Bumps and potholes were excellently damped, yet the suspension was not too soft for some cornering fun. Back-seaters would also enjoy the generous leg room. I’m about 5 feet 8. With the driver’s seat adjusted to my driving position, sitting in the back seat gives about half a foot of space between my knee and the front seat. This is more than a lot of other more expensive C-segment cars. One turn-off is the back seats don’t fold down completely flat.
There is no shortage of nice ideas put into this car, but not done well enough. One of them is the Android touch screen system. It is one of Proton’s heavily promoted items on the spec list, which I feel is rather gimmicky. The resistive touch screen is old tech, but still ok because some common settings can be done on the steering wheel buttons instead. What gets me the most of the absolutely blinding glare from the sun. The angle on this thing is all wrong, feels like a last minute add-on to the spec list, rather than a properly planned design. Even on the highest brightness setting, readability was very bad under daylight.
On the exterior side, closing the doors gave a ‘cheap’ feeling, including the boot door. Even the Perodua Myvi has a more solid thud. And while it is nice to have DRLs, they are not bright enough. Squatting a few meters away in front of the car with the DRLs turned on, it was not very noticeable under the 3pm sunlight. For something that was suppose to get other driver’s attention for safety reasons, these DRLs are not doing their job very well. The tail light is also too dim in my opinion. For comparison, the Preve has 14 LEDs for one tail light cluster. Suprima S only has 2.
While there are a lot of things to complain about, if you asked me if I would buy this car, my answer would be “probably”. You see, most of the stuff I complained about in this article are livable. Not very nice, but livable. For cars under RM100k, the Suprima S certainly has a place among the top when it comes to power and handling. For the aunties and uncles, the new Vios is probably a better choice. But if you’re looking for something fun to drive and fuel consumption is not your No.1 concern, then this car is quite a decent choice. Unless of course, you can afford a VW Golf or a Ford Focus.