The rules are simple and expected: no photography of any kind, to the point that mobile phones are surrendered at the reception. It’s more of a trust thing more than anything because there are no body checks; a very determined journalist – or a very desperate one – could easily sneak in some sort of visual recording device, but as I said, it’s a trust thing. After all, as eager people are in waiting for the arrival of Proton’s first SUV model, it is still ‘just’ a car. Scooping this won’t cure cancer or end world hunger.
So in I went into Proton’s Styling Studio, the only part of the company’s R&D department which has rather routinely accepted media presence, armed with primarily a pen and a notepad.
On the best days my handwriting is comparable to the random flight trace of a fruit fly so figuring what is written can be a struggle. But more than a few words pop out.
This came from ‘us’/the public, more accurately the result of a competition Proton held some time back. It was chosen from a list of four that includes: PX7, X700, and X7. More than 90,000 poll submissions, we’re told. That’s just how much the Malaysian public is invested in the new SUV.
Yes, Proton will be dropping the previous naming system (Saga, Persona, Perdana, etc.) and continue with an alphanumeric protocol. More pros than cons, in my view mainly because the Saga (for example) works well in Malaysia, but even in neighbouring country Thailand it means nothing. Price yet to be revealed, this will come at the launch.
Proton used up to 77 test vehicles during the development of what eventually became the X70, in addition to more than 500 systems test. All this involves a work total of 75,000 man hours.
Booking open 8/9
That’ll be tomorrow, and every booking must include RM1,000. Only at qualified outlets though, meaning 3S and 4S centres, most (if not all) are now sporting a new look. To be fair, we’re told that some well performing 1S and 2S centres located in non-urban areas may also take bookings. Again, prices not revealed yet, so stop asking.
Premium is top shelf followed by Executive, and Standard. Premium and Standard are only FWD, while the Executive also has an all-wheel drive option in addition to a front-wheel drive. Only one engine choice – a four cylinder 1.8-litre TGDI good for 181hp and 285Nm.
Ambitious without being futuristic, conservative but not boring. My notes show a simple ‘should age well’. I particularly like the steep window line rake up front-rear, with a sharp kink right behind the C-pillar. If anything the rear light cluster is a bit plain. Both front and rear overhangs are short, which is a good thing.
Up front are LED projectors with LED DRLs. Looking for that one single thing that truly makes it a ‘Malaysian’ car? (other than the obvious Proton logo on the grille) That would be the grille itself. Proton head of design Azlan Othman explains that the inspiration comes from traditional Malaysian patterns, not unlike ‘Awang Larat’ and ‘Itik Pulang Petang’. The result is what he termed as the Infinite Weave. It does look nice, although there’s only three lines of this Infinite Weave on the grille. This pattern is also seen, for example, on the door handle plastic inserts (inside the cabin) and the speaker grille. Trust me, you’ll see internet people Photoshopping the weave to other Proton models soon enough and posting it online soon enough. Before you know it - 2017 Saga with Infinite Weave.
Also, there are four body colours available.
I was first in the AWD Executive and almost immediately found a comfortable driving position. Good vision to the outside, and the inside does not feel cramped. Perhaps, a bit more travel for steering adjustability would be better but that’s not a huge problem.
Soft plastics all over the top of the dashboard and the doors. Space inside centre armrest not the largest, but I can live with that. Raised console sports a small open compartment at the flanks, perfect to place a mobile phone perhaps. Also perfect because this is where you find two USB ports. Another two are at the base of the centre console, rear-facing. There're another two for a total of six. Plus points there.
Build quality seems high, with materials used also feeling good to touch. I am told that this is the X70 that will see production with no more changes to it. And that’s good to hear because it definitely is a major departure from the Protons of past.
All the electricals were not switched on and that’s very deliberate. This first media preview is mainly to talk about the design and revealing the X70 name. Other components such as the car’s features will be presented in a later preview. Switching on the electrics would’ve revealed pretty much made that arrangement redundant. (Seriously, stop asking about the X70’s price)
The cabin’s quite big, like the (2nd-gen) Persona. The almost flat floor except for a little bump where the prop shaft would pass underneath enhances this feel. Three adults won’t complain much about knee- or headroom either. Expected more from the rear boot space though; the sill is high and so is the floor. Not helping is the tonneau cover that for some reason rests much below headrest level, thus limiting cargo height if you want to use the cover. Underneath the floor cover is what seems to be a full-size 225/60/18 spare tyre.
A quick scribble in my notes says ‘panoramic roof’. That’s only for the Premium version, however.
Here’s something very interesting – the front passenger-side seats features (motorised) adjustment, and its switches are also by the backrest’s side so the passenger/driver can easily make changes too. This is also the only variant to feature Nappa leather, in an elegant brown tone.
These are quick some quick notes, some not particularly crucial but a good reference: signal stalk is on the left, which I hope finally settles once and for all which side Proton is going to settle with. Fuel filler cap is on the left too, and if I am not wrong all previous new-gen Protons (Persona, Iriz, Saga) place it on right side.
Some (or is it all?) Protons have child safety lock switches which are inconvenient to turn on/off but the X70’s are easy to work. You don’t need a screwdriver, just a simple flick of a switch and your child can’t open the door from inside the SUV. Talking about safety, I can see the rear seats having two Isofix anchor points.