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The long-awaited 2016 Proton Perdana was officially launched today, and as a follow-up to the launch story from this morning, which covered the technical aspects of the car in detail, here’s a first impressions report on the second phase development of the new D-segment sedan.

Last month, the automaker assembled a number of motoring journalists for a short evaluation session with the P4-90B on the semi-high speed test track at its Shah Alam facility, where it is assembled.

There, we were given the opportunity to get up close briefly with the new car, which in its current iteration wears a new Proton-styled exterior but is still fully underpinned by the eighth-generation Honda Accord, as was the case when the initial second-gen appeared in December 2013.

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Then, the government service version had come complete with its original Honda skin in a case of full badge-engineering. The current civilian outing gets a significantly remodelled body so as to differentiate itself from the first phase offering and the donor car.

The exterior work – along with some minor revisions in the cabin – provides the only artistic and engineering leeway where changes are concerned, such are the restrictions brought about by the platform-sharing agreement with the Japanese automaker.

Some thoughts about the styling. In the metal, the base lines of the exterior are quite pleasant to the sight, even if a number of design elements may look like you’ve seen them before, somewhere else. Without playing spot-the-car in detail, here’s one that’s fairly obvious: the quasi-fastback flow of the roofline. If you’re thinking Jaguar XJ, well, no surprise that the Brit outing provided suitable design inspiration, somewhere in that mix.

I said base lines, because as the 2.0 – sans bodykit – suggests, things are quite resolved, unfettered from up front and from the sides. The rear looks a bit ponderous visually, but this is more an issue with the colour coordination of the bumper and its associated diffuser than with the actual shaping of the tail end.

Originally, the rear diffuser was painted in black, which provided contrast and visual relief. Now, it – as well as the front lip expension on the 2.4 – has gone the body colour route, which makes the overall presentation too heavy-set. Blocky is a view most of the editorial team here shares.

Besides taking away the visual impact from the chrome accent surrounds for the reflectors, the paint scheme also exposes those faux tail pipe blanks (which aren’t cut out) in stark, rather unflattering fashion. The first thing a number of buyers are likely to do is to head on over to the paint shop and turn the diffuser black, we think. Or have the blanks physically cut out.

Interestingly, we were told at the drive session that the doors are carry-over items from the Accord. The dimensions of the metal surface are identical, though the window and its frame have had to be shortened by a couple of inches to accommodate the corresponding C-pillar fixed window and the architecture of the sloping roofline, leaving the door with an extension.

Call it a styling statement or a design flourish, nothing wrong with that, but the protrusion calls attention to the very sharp edges of the plastic end insert of the rubber trim quite noticeably. Because of the way the door has been designed, this will surely be a contact point for operation; not just unpleasant to touch, it looks like an accident waiting to happen. Having pointed this out to the Proton folk, we’re told that it should be rectified as part of running changes.

Inside, the cabin takes on a more familiar feel, with the dashboard layout reminding what it is exactly that underpins the car. The few changes there are consists of new colour schemes and trim (black and grey for the 2.0, beige for the 2.4, with burled walnut trim) and an updated infotainment system, but there’s no escaping that it’s all known ground, the interior.

Despite the new sloped roof, perception of cabin space from the rear is very good. Likewise, seating comfort fore and aft, though a thing to note about the rear seats is how soft the cushions on the test mules were, especially so on the 2.4. Under load, the leather upholstery creased easily, begging the question of long-term durability.

Hafriz, who was also present at the drive, had the same view about the seats. The fabric/leather units on the 2.0 litre looks like they’d be a hardier proposition. Regarding the rear bench, we were told that the cushioning – and technical – aspects for both are identical to that on the Accord, the seats being made by the same company, Johnson Controls.

The initial take on boot space is positive, and to sight should be in the mid to high 400s in terms of volume, though there are some noticeable areas of void and it remains to be seen if the deep set boot will be easy to work with in day-to-day use.

Not much chance to play around with the six-speaker 6.2-inch screen infotainment system (with GPS navigation and a subwoofer on the 2.4), what with the limited drive time in the session, which was cut even shorter by a downpour that closed track time.

With that, on to drive observations. The ignition on the Perdana is keyed, so you’ll have to bring the car to life the old fashioned way. Considering that the Iriz has keyless entry and start, it does take some gloss away from the car, which is supposed to be the automaker’s flagship model.

No mistaking the sound of the two engine options under the hood, which are the R20A3 2.0 litre (154 hp at 6,300 rpm and 189 Nm at 4,300 rpm) SOHC and K24Z2 2.4 litre (178 hp at 6,500 rpm and 222 Nm at 4,300 rpm) DOHC i-VTEC engines from the Accord, paired with a five-speed auto in both cases (with paddle shifters on the 2.4). Everything is carried over wholesale, the engines complete with familiar Honda badging and covers.

This sight sets the tune for everything down the line. So complete is the badge-engineering that the only thing Proton engineers have been able to change in the entire running gear are the tyres, with Goodyear EfficientGrip rubbers replacing the Accord’s Goodyear Excellence units.

Proton claims that the new rubber, which has a lower rolling resistance and better wet grip, makes the Perdana 2dB quieter than the Accord. Aside from that, everything has been brought over as it was in the eight-gen Accord, be it suspension, steering or chassis-related.

As such, the short two laps each around the Proton oval felt like they were being made in an eighth-gen Accord. It was like revisiting the old car, with virtually all the feel, behavioral patterns, strengths and shortcomings of the original present in the Perdana.

Like on the Accord, the 2.0 mill again exhibited better engine response than the 2.4, decidedly snappier and more willing to hustle from the get-go. The 2.4, never the most sprightly thing, continues on here with its relaxed, almost lazy view of the world, unless you stand on it.

Once up to speed, however, the 2.4 comes into its element, feeling more effortless pulling the car along compared to the smaller displacement unit. Ditto the five-speeder, which continues to be a thoroughly competent performer; transitional aspects are good, and shifts up and down the range are clean.

Despite the limited time, it was obvious that ride and handling aspects don’t veer far from before. It drives like an Accord, and it inescapably behaves like one too. It’s cushy enough and steers decently, even if there’s very little feel coming off the wheel. Generally, comfort levels for a D-segment offering are good enough, if not class-leading, not surprising considering the platform’s age.

On the whole, NVH refinement levels are a mixed bag. In terms of tyre noise, the new rubber seems to have toned things down a bit, but the prevalent issue of noise seeping into the cabin, typical of the Accord, continues on. Not a deal breaker, but considering how the world has moved on, this aspect will have to be addressed in the eventual revision.

A more comprehensive road test will come about, for sure, but we get the feeling it won’t run far from that suggested by the short drive, which effectively points to a car with solid, proven engineering fundamentals, clad in a new skin. Considering the very competitive pricing, that doesn’t sound like a bad proposition at all, especially if you’re in the market for a D-segment sedan.

GALLERY: 2016 Proton Perdana 2.0

GALLERY: 2016 Proton Perdana 2.4

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