Review: 2021 Proton Exora 1.6L Premium CVT - There's A Reason Why Proton Still Keeps It Around

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Review: 2021 Proton Exora 1.6L Premium CVT - There's A Reason Why Proton Still Keeps It Around

If you're like us and wondering why Proton is still selling the Exora, then wonder no more because we think we know why Proton is still keeping it around.


The Proton Exora is the longest-serving member of Proton's current range, having been introduced in 2009. Just as a quick recap, the current Exora you can purchase is a three-times revised version of the national MPV.

2021 Proton Exora

After the first update in 2011, when the model received its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, it received a second one in 2017, mainly seeing some exterior updates such as a new Proton logo, blacked-out rear spoiler, new alloy wheels and some other blacked-out exterior pieces that gave it a fresher look. 

2021 Proton Exora infotainment system

The third update was conducted in 2019, which saw the long-serving member of the Proton family receiving interior updates such as the 7-inch (GKUI) touchscreen infotainment unit with the "Hi Proton" voice command system, new meter cluster design, additional USB ports, new seats, door trim upholstery, and a clear plastic bezel rearview mirror. Note, however, that most of these features are only available on the Premium variant.

2021 Proton Exora Interior

It's also important to note that both variants now only offer a maximum of two airbags: the 2015 Premium and Super Premium variants (on sale from 2015 to 2017) offered side airbags, so this can be viewed as a step backward, even at odds with Proton's current strategy, which - in the cases of the X70, Iriz, and Persona - has been to offer excellent safety features across the model range. Also, the Executive variant doesn't include stability control or a rearview camera.

Despite all these "misgivings", we still think the Exora can handsomely serve a family minus the expectation of it being the safest vehicle around - and here's why.

Interior and Comfort

The inside of the Proton Exora is a rather pleasant place to be in. The updated interior, seating and upholstery is a welcome addition and, for the money, looks quite stylish and plush. Moreover, it doesn't feel like an outdated MPV, which came as quite a surprise to me. 

2021 Proton Exora dash and steering wheel

What does give away its age is the plastics around the dashboard and door panels, and the same can be said about the toggles for the wipers and lights - but hey, it's no deal-breaker.

While the infotainment system, like in the Iriz and Persona, is intrinsically competent, it is not the flashiest around. Still, it does offer Bluetooth and Mirrorlink as well as a rearview camera (in the Premium variant), which will do the job of providing convenience for most buyers.

Seating configuration

In our opinion, this is one of the key reasons why Proton has kept the Exora around because when compared to vehicles in its segment and price range, it's pretty hard to beat the Exora's fantastic capability to house seven passengers comfortably. 

2021 Proton Exora 3rd row seats

Out of all other seven-seaters around its price range, it's pretty hard to beat the spaciousness of the Exora. In particular, the third row might not seem befitting to house a couple of adults comfortably on long journeys, but it magically does, especially when you recline the seats a little bit. Yes, someone past 6 feet in height might feel a bit cramped back there, but it'll be fine for the average Malaysian.

2021 Proton Exora 2nd row seats

However, with the seats reclined in the third row, it does present buyers with the problem of where to put their luggage. Well, we say with a quick investment in a roof cargo box, your luggage woes will be gone - so yeah, there are solutions for this problem.

How does it feel to drive?

Given the age of the Exora's platform and powertrain, it's surprising to experience that the Exora still drives like a newer more current MPV. Our drive to the east coast and back gave us the chance to drive the Exora on crowded city roads, the twisty highway of Karak, and the backroads of Pahang.

The Exora offers very composed handling and impressive comfort levels.

2021 Proton Exora rear view

A testament to its good structural rigidity, the Exora doesn't really wallow that much and tracks straight and confidently at high speeds. 

We didn't expect the Exora to be good when fully loaded with passengers and luggage, but the suspension setup is competent, making the Exora a very comfortable place to be in for long drives - more so than the Alza and even the Aruz, in our opinion.

The brakes on the Exora are a little meh, but we have no grouses with the overall braking performance.

While dated and thirsty by current standards, the engine is still a good unit – providing 205 Nm of torque from as low as 2,000 rpm, which is sufficient to get the Exora up to the highway speed limit quite quickly. Mind you, it does this with a whole load of passengers and baggage. 

2021 Proton Exora

But it's not all hunky-dory because as much as Proton has optimised the software of the CVT-type automatic transmission, such as on the Iriz and Persona, the transmission in the Exora is an older generation unit, so it's not as refined as the ones in its siblings. This is particularly obvious during initial acceleration, but it is pretty smooth when you're just cruising around.

2021 Proton Exora side profile

Conclusion

So why has Proton kept the Exora around? Because where else can you find this much space, practicality and power for under RM70k? The answer is nowhere else, especially when you consider the comfort level it provides for seven passengers for long journeys. Just buy a rooftop cargo box, and you're pretty much sorted for an affordable family carrier.  

Specifications for the 2021 Proton Exora 1.6L Premium CVT

  • Price: RM 66,800 - OTR without insurance
  • Engine: 1.6-litre, turbocharged, inline four-cylinder, VVT
  • Power: 140 PS @ 5,000 rpm
  • Torque: 205 Nm @ 2,000 – 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: CVT-type automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Safety: Two airbags, ABS with EBD, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control (ESC)


Adam Aubrey

Adam Aubrey

Content Producer

Wants to live the simple life, especially when it comes to cars and bikes. That's what tech is for he reckons, to make motoring simpler


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