Quick Take: Proton Iriz 1.3 MT & 1.6 CVT

Proton's latest effort impresses in a quick trip to the Pearl of the Orient

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It’s here. After a hundred spyshots, many months of anticipation and one questionable tagline, the Proton Iriz has finally arrived. And the main question right off the bat is if it’s as good as its price and size rival, the Perodua Myvi.

So, is it?
First impressions are in the Iriz’s favour. While looks are subjective, it’s hard to deny the European charm Proton has managed to inject into its new hatchback’s exterior. The robotic rear end is especially interesting, flaunting a visual blend of the backsides of the Renault Clio and Fiat Punto. It’s certainly a welcomed change of scenery from the overly familiar sight of the Myvi.

Inside, Proton has failed to emulate one of the Myvi’s main selling points – space. Despite being the bigger of the two, the Iriz lacks the sense of spaciousness evident in the Myvi since its first generation. Rear headroom and legroom are areas where the Iriz is clearly beaten, but it makes up for it with better-bolstered seats that help with long journeys.

The interior is better appreciated up front where creature comforts (for the Premium variant) such as the engine start/stop button, GPS-enabled touchscreen head unit and plenty of USB ports are within sight and reach. But the driver seat is where you’d want to be, because on the road is where the Iriz truly breaks away from its Daihatsu-based competitor.

Is the Iriz fun to drive?
If you go for the manual, the answer is a resounding yes. We were given the opportunity to drive the 1.3 MT and the 1.6 CVT from KL to Penang and back and the former is easily the more engaging despite its smaller engine. The light clutch and tall ratios of the Getrag gearbox may take a while to get used to, but once you do, the Iriz rewards your faith with solid performance in a straight line. Put a steady foot on the throttle and the speedo will keep climbing confidently till 150+kph before the car begins to pant. NVH levels are still well in check at such speeds - a notable feat for a car of this size.

What’s more impressive is the Iriz’s stability at high speeds. Before hitting the highway, the car felt nicely damped over bumps and potholes – a sign of comfort-biased engineering. Or so we thought. The Iriz maintains its composure impressively even as we piled on the speed, staying level headed even through fast-entered bends. Grip levels struggle to match the Iriz’s superb suspension though, with the 1.3’s Silverstone rubbers often squealing around high-speed corners.

The 1.6 gets bigger wheels that not only look good but aid with B-road surefootedness, but the Punch-sourced CVT is often guilty of spoiling the party. It’s not too bad in everyday town speeds, with the artificial ratios clearly improved from the Preve/Suprima S days. But ask more from the CVT and it hesitates and whines, rendering the 1.6 hardly superior to the 1.3 on the straights.

Performance aside, both variants are pretty efficient. Keeping fuel consumption levels below 7l/100km was easily done in both, something Proton’s disgraced Campro engine often struggled with. On top of improved VVT engines, a new electric steering supplied by ZF helps with efficiency without damaging driving dynamics. There’s plenty of feedback with this one which adds to the Iriz’s overall fun factor.

Would it be wise to buy one?
It’s hard to deny the Perodua Myvi’s proven track record backed by Japanese technology versus Proton’s infancy in the hatchback wars. The Myvi is cleverer with space too – something many buyers in this price segment are after. In the Iriz, however, Proton is not offering you a like-for-like Myvi alternative. It’s a different breed altogether – one that comes packed with lifesaving features such as Stability Control, ABS, EBD, Hill Hold Assist and up to six airbags.

The Iriz earns its stripes on the road, with impressive handling, straight line composure and a ride that’s both refined and nicely balanced – credentials which make comparisons to more established makes such as the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift seem more justified. It’s too early to call the Iriz the segment leader just yet, but it is a car brimming with promise – just the right pick-me-up Proton needs after a series of heavy misses of late.

And for what it’s worth, the Proton Iriz strongly deserves a look if you’re after an affordable, modern and well-equipped hatchback. This one’s good.

SPECS

Proton Iriz 1.3 MT
Engine: 1,332cc, 4-cyl VVT
Max Power: 94hp@5,750rpm
Max Torque: 120Nm@4,000rpm
Performance: 0-100 in 12.2 secs, 165kph vmax
Price: From RM42,888

Proton Iriz 1.6 CVT
Engine: 1,597cc, 4-cyl VVT
Max Power: 107hp@5,750rpm
Max Torque: 150Nm@4,000rpm
Performance: 0-100 in 11.1 secs, 170kph vmax
Price: From RM56,888

Author: Daryl Loy

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