The Inspira which has roots to the latest variant of the Mitsubishi Lancer marked Proton’s return to rebadging Mitsubishi cars. This move probably made more business sense taking into consideration the huge investment outlay involved in designing a new car from start up and the challenge to recoup such an investment within a designated timeframe.
Three models were offered during the initial launch of the Inspira, ie 1.8 Manual Executive, the 1.8 CVT Executive and the 2.0 CVT Premium. The test model is the base model of the range and at the time of writing most of the car’s components including the engine are still sourced from Mitsubishi. Recently, Proton has refined the Inspira model range to the 1.8 Manual Executive, the 2.0 CVT Executive and the 2.0 CVT Premium. The 2.0 CVT Executive is now the base 2.0 model.
It is a credit to Proton that the base model 1.8 Manual Executive is not a stripped down version of its siblings. The 1.8 Manual Executive is still a well equipped car with similar features to the earlier 1.8 CVT Executive save for its 5 Speed Manual Transmission. Features such as Dual SRS Airbags, 4 Wheel ABS with EBD, ISOFIX, Immobilizer, alloy wheels, fog lamps, tinted film are all standard on this model.
The first variant of the 2.0 CVT Premium has the added features of leather seats, auto rain sensor, auto light sensor, fully automatic air condition, GPS, paddle shifters, cruise control, better interior fittings and a body kit. Proton did come out with a limited R3 version of the 1.8 Manual Executive toward the end of 2011, but the extras were more cosmetic in nature.
The latest variant of the 2.0 CVT Premium Inspira now includes a touch screen LCD display, reverse camera and 17 inch alloy wheels. The base 2.0 CVT Executive feature set is more or less similar to the first variant 2.0 CVT Premium minus the leather seats and bodykit.
Externally the Inspira is almost a carbon copy of the Lancer. To set it apart from the Lancer, Proton has its own body kit (for the Premium & R3 variants) and redesigned the front and rear bumpers. The front grille has a less aggressive look and missing is the prominent rear spoiler of the Lancer GT model sold in the Malaysian market.
First impressions were favourable the moment I open the door to this Proton. There is substance to the chassis and it gave an assurance that this is a well made vehicle. Compared to other Proton models, there is improvement in the overall assembly. The only let down was in the quality of the materials used for the interior in this base model.
The car seats are fabric which offers sufficient support but the material used and comfort levels could have been better. I have sat on the 2.0 CVT Premium which has leather seats and the comfort levels and support is better. Perhaps Proton should have offered a leather option for the buyers of all the Inspira models.
This test car is privately owned, hence those familiar with this model would have noticed that the hard rubber gear knob has been replaced with an aluminium R3 Proton gear knob just for aesthetic purposes. Internally the car is spacious with comfortable levels of legroom and headroom for driver and passengers.
The layout and the instrument panels are more or less similar to the Lancer. The two prominent large dials show the tachometer and speedometer. Other essential information such as fuel gauge, mileage, temperature, fuel consumption are all accessible via an ‘INFO’ button located on the right side. These data are shown on a small LCD display in between the two large dials.
Upon ignition, I noted the engine appears to be tuned down as it idled slightly above 600 rpm and just above 700 rpm when the air condition kicks in. Perhaps this is to improve refinement and reduce engine noise. Externally, the engine sounds refined and less noisy compared to other Proton models with the air condition on.
At the heart of this Inspira is a Mitsubishi MIVEC 4B10 engine. According to the specs this 4 cylinder 1,798cc engine is capable of producing a max power of 103 kW @ 6,000 rpm and a max torque of 177 Nm @ 4,250 rpm. Its top speed is 202 km/h and acceleration from 0-100 km/h is achievable in 10 seconds.
The 5 Speed Manual Transmission shifts cleanly with short throws. The clutch is lighter than the past Proton models. Absent is the notchy gearbox which I felt when I tested the manual Persona and not having to ‘fight’ with the gearbox makes driving this Inspira a more enjoyable driving experience.
I had an opportunity to briefly test drive the 2.0 CVT Premium. While I liked the classy magnesium paddle shifters, the slightly better interior fittings and the comfortable leather seats, the slower but dignified response of the CVT transmission from a stop/start position did not particularly appeal to me. Hence, the 5 Speed Manual Transmission is a better fit as I prefer an immediate response off the mark.
The detuned engine has some disadvantages especially at slower speeds. I noted that power and torque appear to drop off quickly, and this is apparent especially when you are ascending in a multi storey car park from slower speeds. The result is having to downshift frequently to 1st gear when you need to ascend to the next carpark level. I am not sure whether the CVT model has the same characteristic.
On the road, the Inspira is quick to get up to speed and it is easy to breach the speed limit. I suspect the car is not really performing up to its true potential. It would be interesting to see how the car would perform if Proton remaps the ECU for higher performance. The stock 16 inch Continental tyres performed adequately. Tyre roar is noticeable especially on older and coarse road surfaces. Both the latest 2.0 CVT Executive and 2.0 CVT Premium, have redesigned alloy wheels which is a step up from the earlier intricate design which is a challenge to clean.
One of the key strengths of the Inspira is the ride quality. The Inspira is one of the few cars in this class/price range to have independent front and rear suspension systems. Proton has hit a good balance between sportiness and comfort. I have not had the opportunity to test drive a Mitsubishi Lancer to have a direct A-B comparison but going by various comments in the web sphere the Inspira seemed to have an edge in this area over the Lancer.
Feedback from the steering was generally adequate. It is better than many electrical steering systems out there. However, there is still room for improvement in terms of accuracy. At the usual urban speed limits, the car was easy to steer with a slight hint of understeer during higher speed turns.
It was a challenge to assess the average fuel consumption of the car. The on-board computer offered little help as it resets the reading each time you restart the vehicle. Hence, I am using a simplified method to derive average fuel consumption by computing the fuel consumption based on distance travelled after the first two cycles of refueling.
The test car is still new and during the very first run we managed to cover a distance of about 470km before we topped up again (about 12.6 litres per 100 km). In the second run we managed to get better mileage at around 520km before the next top up (about 11.3 litres per 100 km). Both distances were mostly town drives. Fuel consumption should improve further once this car is adequately run in.
NVH was quite good for the Inspira. At the usual urban speed limits, the car provided a relatively silent ride which was comparable to higher priced competitors. Our quick test using the sound level meter on the North South Expressway gave an average reading of about 66db whilst cruising at 110km/h.
In Car Entertainment is via a Clarion CD/Radio set with Bluetooth (Phone) capabilities. There are 4 speakers, each located at every door of the car. Sound quality is within expectations at this price level. There is a useful sound processing option called VAPS which enhances the listening experience.
The CD player is quite sensitive on the type of discs it can play. Generally, it is okay with newer CDs and freshly burnt CD-Rs. Extended tests with older CD-Rs resulted in some errors and skipped tracks. Radio reception has a tendency to drop off occasionally resulting sound that is shut-in. Its Bluetooth performed well and was easy to set up to pair devices.
Some areas which can be improved include having better quality soft touch plastics for its interior, improving the quality of the fabric used for its seats or better still have a full leather option for all models. Having an autolock feature as standard would also be good for saftey considerations. One other area for consideration is to use burnt resistant material for its mufflers as there are noticeable burnt marks on the mufflers (just under the rear bumper) for many Inspiras seen on the road.
Nevertheless, the Proton Inspira 1.8 Manual Executive delivered on many fronts and represents a good value buy of a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer. At this time of writing this is the best Proton car that I have driven even though it has the Lancer DNA written all over it.
|Full Tank:||59 litres @ RM112 (Ron 95)|
|Road Tax:||RM279 per annum|
|Standard Service:||Range from RM200 – RM700 (estimate)|
|Warranty:||Please refer to Proton Dealer|
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax and Insurance is for Solid Colour and private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service is an estimate based minor to major service and excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized Proton dealer/service centre.
|Engine:||MIVEC, 4 Cylinder DOHC 16V engine|
|Max Output:||103 kW @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque:||177 Nm @ 4,250 rpm|
|Top Speed:||202 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100km:||10 sec|
|Fuel Consumption:||6.3 litres per 100 km|
Source: Proton Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized Proton dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!
Inspira Acceleration (Outside)