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[ LATEST UPDATE: Naza has updated the Naza 206 Bestari for the 2008 model year. Click the link for more information! ]

Finally after a long wait, the press fleet for the Naza 206 Bestari is ready and I managed to get a hold of one unit to write a test drive report. The Naza 206 Bestari, codenamed the NX-02 is basically a locally assembled rebadged version of the Peugeot 206, in fact the Peugeot lion badge is still displayed proudly on the rear hatch. Look after the jump for what I think about the Naza 206 Bestari.

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For one, this is basically the cheapest continental car you can buy first hand, though not the cheapest car with a continental feel. Some of you might be able to guess which cars provide a conti feel at an even cheaper price. Naza’s Gurun plant has successfully preserved the continental feel, goes to show having a different badge on the front and rear doesn’t mean the car is any different.

The 1.4 litre Peugeot TU3 engine making 75 horsepower and 120Nm of torque mated to a 4-speed Porsche Tiptronic gearbox feels underpowered for a car of this kerb weight. You slowly build up the revs and wait for the engine to enter it’s powerband, but you wait and wait and the RPM needle hits the redline, and you wonder when did peak torque kick in? Because you didn’t feel anything. As the engine approaches redline, there is some slight metallic vibration to be heard from the front. Also, I think the gearing isn’t quite suitable, as the Skoda Fabia 1.4 had similiar power to weight ratios but didn’t feel as sluggy as the Naza 206 Bestari.

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The gearbox also behaves differently to what you might expect with an automatic gearbox, it is not very willing to downshift even when you floor the pedal, instead forcing you to use Tiptronic manual mode and downshift manually. Apparently this is a common behaviour with French gearboxes, they all behave this way. Anyone with experience with another French automatic car care to share their experience? The gearbox is definitely intelligent though, it doesn’t upshift when you release the pedal while going downhill, instead keeping the revs high on a lower gear to take advantage of engine braking.

There are two other modes, one is a sports mode which shifts at a higher point as well as keeps to lower gears, refraining from upshifting when you ease on the pedal. The other mode is winter mode, which starts the car from second gear to prevent torque slip on slippery surfaces, though with an engine like this I’m not sure if winter mode is required!

Despite the mediocre engine performance, the comfort level and road holding of the Peugeot 206-based Naza 206 Bestari was really good, perhaps one of the best in car’s in it’s class. Very comfy and sufficiently damped over uneven road surfaces. Interior comfort is also good despite the smallness of everything which I will talk about later – the seats are semi-bucket-like in shape, cushioning you well. Being an old school supermini design like the Fabia, i.e.: it sits low, none of that high seating position crap which I really really don’t like, despite it allowing greater interior room. A lower stance coupled with lower center of gravity gives you greater confidence in driving the car.

Now that you know how the car’s engine and gearbox combination performs, I think we can all agree on the fact that this car was designed to take you from A to B with minimum fuss, offering nothing else. So let’s cover the practicalities.

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The car looks small for the inside, so naturally the inside is kind of small too, unlike the Myvi which somehow manages to suprise everyone with it’s feel of spaciousness on the interior. The front seats are nice and snug fabric seats. Egronomics are okay, the gear levers are easy to reach, you’d think this are part of the basics in interior design but trust me some manufacturers manage to screw up at this! Power window buttons for the front windows are located on the center console, but the rear power window controls are positioned behind, making it a little awkward for you to control, but I suppose it’s a requirement to position it there for the rear passengers to reach them as well. Steering wheel audio controls aren’t exactly on the steering, but on a separate stalk below the wiper control on the right. You can control radio channels/CD track selection and audio volume from the stalk.

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The rear seats can only fit two medium height adults comfortably, or kids. When someone like me (182cm tall) gets into the driver’s seat, you’ll have to push the driver’s seat quite far behind, basically destroying any chance of anyone but a child sitting behind the driver’s seat. As one passenger commented, “Gosh, this is like a two door car with four doors.” There are no rear headrests included in the standard package but they can be purchased as an option.

Audio system is satisfactory, it has decent treble and so-so bass, and is built into the dashboard design. The CD player tends to skip often over bumps and potholes, a problem I never had with my super cheap Pioneer CD player on my Satria. The audio system LCD display is multi-functional, being able to show information like specifically which door is open, external temperature, time, etc.

A neat feature of the audio system is RDS, which allows for the audio system to automatically adjusts the frequency of the radio station you’re listening to as you travel across the country. I’m sure you’ve noticed some CD players have the ability to display the station title. When you travel from KL to the south, the frequencies for the stations change. RDS scans for the new frequency with the same station name and automatically switches frequencies to the new station, not requiring you to fumble about trying to find out where’d you favorite station go.

Build quality of the interior was very decent, however I am abit concerned over this squeaking rattling noise which surfaced on day 2 of my test drive whenever the car went over even the slightest uneven surface. Sounds like the dreaded Proton rear hatch squeak. Whatever it is, I hope that if one gets this problem with his or her car and takes it back to Naza to rectify, the service personnel had better know how to fix it or risk Naza’s reputation going into the drain together with Proton. No one has perfect QC, the difference is how you fix the problem and how you treat the customer!

Other items to take note of include a follow me home function. When the car is turned off, flick the headlamp high beam feature once and the headlamps will stay on for a period of about 15 seconds or so, allowing it to illuminate your path or drive way. This is a safety feature. You also get adjustable headlamps from controls within the car, as well as an engine oil level indicator. Spare tyre is mounted under the car instead of under the boot mat, which could be tricky in situations where you have to access it. The fog lamp in the lower center of the rear bumper is spring loaded so it can withstand a few kisses to your Bestari’s butt. Yes, it is a fog lamp, not just a red reflector.

The air intake vent on the hood is not for cold air intake to the engine as most would think at first glance, but it’s actually a filtered air intake for the air conditioning system. This provides filtered air to the cabin, perfect for Malaysia’s annual smog season courtesy of our friends in Indonesia.

All in all, I think it’s an okay buy for anyone who wants something slightly different, for anyone who wants a feel of driving a continental car, basically those who can afford it as I think RM68,888 is abit too expensive for what it is. Also, the engine is way too underpowered for anyone who likes driving.

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