First drive: Believe it, CKD Proton X70 gets more kit and costs less

With over 29,000 units delivered in 2019 alone, Proton's star performing X70 sport utility vehicle (SUV) is re-emerging as a locally-assembled (CKD) unit and it's been given a few more goodies to go along with its long list of features.

Exactly a week before its official launch, members of Malaysia's motoring fraternity were given a chance to drive a few pre-production X70 Premium SUVs to Kuantan overnight.

To set it apart from the previous CBU X70, Proton has fitted the CKD X70 with a new logo in front. The Flame Red body colour was renamed as Ruby Red and Space Grey is a new colour option.

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Proton has also revised the X70's lineup by dropping the all-wheel-drive system in the mid-range Executive which means all variants are now front-wheel driven.

Everything else is pretty much status quo until you decide to pop the hood or raise the tailgate.

Under the hood, the local carmaker has decided to use a blacked-out engine cover for the powerplant which now gets a seven-speed wet dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that replaces the previous six-speed automatic gearbox. This lightens the vehicle a bit and frees up some horsepower.

CKD Proton X70: 4 versions from RM94,800 to RM122,800
Watch CKD Proton X70 launch live
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The 1.8-litre (1,799cc) turbocharged engine still makes 181hp at 5,500rpm but torque gets bumped up from 285Nm to 300Nm,  a mere 5% gain in torque.

But any performance gain is highly welcomed considering this SUV is a hefty mid-sizer that weighs in excess of 1,700kg (kerb) - yet manages to remain "light" in terms of pricing (starts from just under RM100,000).

At the rear, the tailgate is now powered and has the added convenience of hands-free function. Standing too close or right next to the tailgate with the key FOB and wiggling a foot under the rear bumper will do nothing but raise frustration levels so take a step back and repeat the process with a second or two of patience and everything will be dandy.

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Inside, the cabin sees no changes except for a newly designed gear knob and the inclusion of front ventilated seats.

There isn't a dedicated button for this due to the lack of any available blank switch covers but instead will require the user to go into the infotainment system and access a dedicated HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) app to activate it.

Also, the rear bench's 60:40 backrests can now be reclined for some added comfort and if the range-topping Premium X variant is opted for, a panoramic sunroof is included.

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To reiterate, the X70 is now only available as a front-wheel driven SUV and it's offered in four variants starting with the Standard that's newly priced on-the-road without insurance at RM94,800 (-RM5,000) and is followed by the Executive at RM106,800 (-RM3,000), Premium at RM119,800 (-RM4,000) and Premium X at RM122,800 (-RM1,000).

Highway driving was as smooth as that in the CBU unit. However, gearshifts were notably faster and lacked anything abrupt even in Sport mode thanks to the wet DCT.

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The added 15Nm of torque isn't noticeable, but thankfully the X70's lethargic acceleration hasn't regressed any further than this.

This could point to the fact that while the DCT did provide some significant weight savings,  the added kit may have somewhat neutralised the light-weighting effort.

While the X70 won't be winning drag races any time soon, it makes up for it in terms of a planted feel when carving up corners and cruising along highways.

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Braking was on point with a good amount of confidence provided should the need to bleed speed quickly arise.

We did try out the Advance Driver Assistance System (ADAS) before reaching Kuantan and was delighted with its abilities to prevent collisions.

However, it must be noted that it is still fallible and will require a drivers' attention at all times especially when the sun is pointed directly at the vehicle or during extremely heavy downpours that will interfere with the camera's detection abilities.

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Additionally, going through the slalom, the X70 is able to remain calm and collected when being manhandled through the turns but does have an inherent lack of feel, probably due to the high profile tyres.

Kudos goes to Proton for tuning the X70's suspension in which pitch and roll have been diminished from the Geely Boyue. Average daily drivers may still find it alarming from such, but the X70 will still deliver a somewhat neutral feel when going through the turns.

For what it's worth, Proton has up the ante with the latest X70, which is even more attractive than before. It's ratcheting up the pressure on rivals, which ultimately is good for consumers.

Autos Proton