Published on October 14th, 2010 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Proton Shows Us The NEW INSPIRA sedan
When Mitsubishi Malaysia first launched the latest Lancer EX, we Malaysians fell in love with it and long queues formed outside every single dealership and the waiting list grew. From today a new queue will form outside a different showroom. Proton lovers get ready as this is NOT a replacement Waja but instead it is a new product in their lineup and it is borrowed from the current generation Lancer. Many observers will comment that Proton has reversed its engineering progress by ‘borrowing’ its next car from Mitsubishi almost whole heartedly like it did some 20 odd years ago with the Wira and Saga. Well we are here to better explain why this is so. 20 years ago Proton was in its learning phase. Now they have learnt well and after the 1st generation Waja which was an almost complete Proton product (borrowed drive train only) global economic sense has prevailed in the auto sector. It just does not make any economic sense to develop a complete car if the selling market is not most of the world. Many global players have forged alliances since the early 1980’s with success for both parties.
Take the Ford-Mazda alliance which brought the early MPV, Bongo-Spectron, the sports hatch, Laser-Familia and executive sedan, 626-Telstar. Then some years later, Peugeot started a working relationship with Mitsubishi for their large SUV and city electric car. Don’t forget the many alliances we can see in Australia between Holden and Mitsubishi, Isuzu and Opel. Nearer to home in Asia there is the Renault and Samsung executive car collaboration. It just makes good economic sense and rewards shareholders handsomely. So now we have the new sedan which is a remodeled Mitsubishi Lancer. Starting immediately with 26% of local content (working towards 40% for next year and finally 60% in the near future) we are privileged to be amongst the few Malaysian journalists to test drive this car before it’s unveiling.
At its initial test drive, the Mitsubishi Lancer’s only letdown was the super expensive super sticky tyres and rather harsh suspension for city commute. All else was good. Not class leading in the cabin environment as with the Civic and Altis; but first glance at its concept car looks and very reasonable selling price made for a long wait list. Add the Japan fully imported (CBU) tag and there was little reason why not to buy one.
The front end was simply one of the most aggressively good looking cars to ever leave Mitsubishi’s production lines and Proton stylist have not reduced this appeal as they have just remodeled the headlamps, grille and bumper kit, The entire car still looks very ready to pounce, with a wide, proud stance, side skirts and new rear wing (2-liter only). 17 and 16inch alloys are now used with new (Lotus ride and handling engineers specified the rubbers) Continental tires. This brings tire replacement costs down by a huge margin. But does this new setup bring down the drive experience that everyone talks about when the Lancer GT is mentioned? Well NO! In fact, Lotus ride and handling engineers have hit the ’sweet spot’ here as we experienced first while ramming this car on the unmaintained back roads to Bukit Tinggi and Awana Genting.
Starting the car, there’s a nice note from the 2 liter 4B11 engine or even the 1.8 liter which is new to us. Both are MIVEC driven and quite capable, churning out a maximum of 140 bhp at 6000 rpm with the 1.8 liter and the 2 liter a more enthusiastic 155 bhp and 199Nm of torque. The engine is matched with Mitsubishi’s INVECS-III transmission which, unlike standard automatics, is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which is not the best in the world but it will do nicely here in Malaysia. On smooth tarmac, little difference can be felt. The ride is composed and any ‘uncle’ or ‘makchik’ will not complain behind the wheel or in the rear passenger seat. Comfortable and supple, it takes to the tarmac with no wallowing and negligible jolts.
Start a fast drive on ‘broken’ pavement and the Lotus tuned suspension does not judder or jolt and wheel travel is kept to a minimum without having the new INSPIRA pitching or rolling from side to side in quick back road maneuvers.
Inside, nothing much has been changed, and they really didn’t need to. The cockpit is driver centric, with all the controls in perfect reach. At the center of the instrument cluster is still a multi-info display that allows the driver to monitor the trip meters, fuel economy and fuel range. The LCD is flanked by your standard tachometer and speedometer. In the middle of the dashboard is a new Bluetooth ready Clarion audio system with 6 speakers. Only lacking part is a USB slot. All that is left now is the asking price. Tentative price is RM79,500.00 for the manual 1.8 and a quite reasonable asking price of RM94,500.00 for the top version 2 liter automatic with paddle shifters at the steering wheel. I say reasonable as the outgoing Proton Perdana 2 liter sold for RM98,000 and below. This is effectively gives the INSPIRA to take up the void left by the Perdana and entice buyers away from smaller less inspiring AFTA cars in the same price segment. Four (4) colours will be available, Plum Red, Silver, Black and White. 2 years FREE servicing will be extended to the first batch of buyers and this is well worth a few thousand Ringgit in value.
The ‘INSPIRA’ name came from within the Proton company walls and the staff, En Saiful who came up with the name walked away with a RM10,000 cheque for his effort. This could well be the down payment for HIS new INSPIRA.