Proton’s only late to the SUV party by five years or so (and I’m being kind here). Problem is, in those years it didn’t have anything that was remotely exciting. If glaciers broke off and melted in the same giant-sized chunks that Proton lost in market share, you’d be reading this with seawater at your knees. I may be alone in saying this but Proton’s ride and handling – as good as they are – should never have been a key selling point. Correction – preach ride quality because that’s a universal positive trait, but how well a Persona/Saga/Iriz handles is lost if a brand new car has an annoying rattle somewhere; worse when even a service centre technician seems indifferent to solve it.
The Proton X70 handles well and the overall ride quality is clearly of continental pedigree. Understandably we never really got to high-speed cruising owing to the largely narrow Langkawi roads but the SUV felt planted and composed at all times. Having said that, the ride quality is perhaps too ‘European’ and little road imperfections tend to make its way to the chassis. It still is comfortable, although a people carrier as such is better off with as much refinement as it can get. After all, ultimate comfort is a far better quality to get people hooked with the vehicle.
Not that that’s all the X70 has. The cabin is large with an ample glasshouse enhancing the effect. The floor is almost flat except for the minor bump down the middle and the panoramic roof further helps to make it feel larger. The base Standard 2WD model gets fabric-wrapped seats but the leatherette or Nappa leather (the latter for top shelf Premium 2WD, as tested) is the one to go for. For under RM124,000, the Premium 2WD feels that it offers the most value. Especially when you consider the features it packs.
Oh, to talk about the features the X70 has, now that’s something that’ll make you rethink what the rest in the segment are doing. Some features like a remote to control the front passenger seat setting is found only in premium D-segments (and the lone Camry) and is highly useful. But the main talking point (pun intended) is of course the voice command.
As a person with a long history in driving Protons, I have spoken to all of them. Admittedly, it was all a one-way communication and, truth be told, mostly in anger. From the less intense “Oh, so your power window switch doesn’t work again?” to my absolutely seething yells of “Just start the bloody engine when I turn the key!”. Not that the car has ever responded, of course.
On the other hand the X70 understands me and like demonstrated in the many video examples you can see over the internet, will do as told. Brilliant, but in reality some of the functions are more novelty than necessary. I mean, who’d complicate the simple task of changing audio volume using voice commands over using physical buttons which are quicker.
It does have its uses though, for example when on the move and setting a destination on the GPS is much safer by saying it out. However, the second X70 I drove had an issue between voice command and GPS integration, resulting in an almost comedic scene of a car full of adult men shouting out “Hi Proton!” a thousand times trying to get it to work; could have been an isolated case but still frustrating to experience.
The drive also demonstrated the X70’s other advanced features including Autonomous Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control. Unlike the problem I had with map guidance and voice command, these safety features worked like a charm.
I wish I can say the powertrain is flawed but the transmission and engine power are pretty good; especially true for the latter because I had initially expected the force-fed 1.8L engine to be underpowered. Turns out it was quite eager, even when going up Gunung Raya although the lack of paddle shifters was dearly missed during spirited driving.
Clearly, a few hours being in the X70 is not enough to truly get to know the SUV. But as it turned out, I have a good feeling about this one. Next is to find out about the average fuel consumption; let’s hope that works out well.
|Engine||1,799cc, TGDi, 4-cyl, 184ps, 285Nm|