Naza Sutera

It's Malaysian firm Naza's first offering to the Brits, but will we find the Sutera an attractive proposition?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

This is a promising start for Naza - with a little help from its friends. Pininfarina's styling is modern, and Lotus has excelled with the handling. The clincher, however, is likely to be the kit list. The Sutera has a very good standard spec, and if IM Group can hit its UK price targets, this newcomer could be an attractive proposition.

Malaysian car makers haven't exactly set the UK market alight. Although Proton and Perodua have made inroads into the budget sector, neither has really hit the big time.

Now, there's another manufacturer with eyes on Britain - Naza. Last week, we showed you pictures of the firm's first offering, the Sutera, and here we can tell you what it's like to drive.

Imported to the UK by IM Group, the company that sells Subaru, Daihatsu and Isuzu in Britain, the Sutera is a real 'world car' - and it has been developed in double-quick time. It was styled by Italian firm Pininfarina, and the result is smart and distinctive, with instantly recognisable triangular rear light clusters.

Inside, it's bright and airy, with a central instrument pod and controls. The dash looks smart, and is practical, too, as it makes it easier for Naza to build right and left-hand-drive examples.

There's only one choice of interior colour scheme - beige and grey - although the finish is good, with soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and doors, and carbon-effect plastic parts on the instrument clusters and controls.

Firmer seats would be an improvement for UK tastes - but it's comfortable enough, with plenty of legroom for passengers in the back. The Naza has 60:40 split rear seats, too, making it a practical load carrier. In terms of running gear, the Sutera is powered by a 1.1-litre engine sourced from Daihatsu, while the suspension has been set up by Lotus Engineering.

Once on the move, it's immediately clear that the Norfolk firm has done an excellent job with the ride and handling. The back streets of Penang have more than their share of potholes and speed bumps, but the Sutera absorbs the undulations, with excellent damping and no squeaks or rattles from the cabin.

On smoother surfaces, the car corners well, with precise steering, while body roll is kept to a minimum - impressive given its tall height. The 1.1-litre unit is revvy and puts out a respectable 65bhp. It's noisy if pushed, but tuned for economy rather than performance - as a city runabout, the Sutera in its element.

Where the Naza really scores is with its generous equipment tally - 14-inch alloys, power-steering, air-conditioning, dual airbags, remote central locking and electric mirrors all come as standard.

The top-of-the-range GSi adds rear parking sensors, upgraded interior trim and extra colours, although the powertrain is the same as the GS's. Expect prices to start at less than £6,000 when the car goes on sale early next year.

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