Proton’s long awaited first SUV (sport utility vehicle) had generated a buzz even before its official launch in December last year, and members of the media got to check out whether the X70 lives up to the hype during a recent day-long drive in Langkawi, Kedah.
Over 12,000 bookings have been received for the X70 as of late December, and it is based on the Geely Boyue which is a huge hit among car buyers in China, thanks to its proven technology, premium features, European inspired design and competitive price tags.
Now, unlike the budget entry-level cars like the Saga, Persona and Exora that national automaker Proton is known for, the X70 is positioned as a premium product with all the expected bells and whistles, albeit with price tags that are cheaper by some RM25,000 to nearly RM40,000 than its Japanese rivals.
Does it measure up to the expectations of a premium product that costs more than RM100,000?
Our answer is definitely yes, and we will tell you why.
Our test drive unit was the flagship Premium 2WD variant, which is priced at RM123,800 without insurance.
Besides the Nappa leather upholstery, other features that are exclusive to the Premium 2WD variant include 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, powered front passenger seat, and a nine-speaker audio system with amplifier and subwoofer.
We started driving from the white sands of Cenang Beach, and took a long, circuitous route to visit the peak of Gunung Raya, the highest mountain in Langkawi.
It was a hot, sunny day and the cool, leather clad interior of the X70 was a comfortable cocoon as we sped past sun-soaked beaches and sailboats in a bay.
The 1.8-litre turbocharged mill with 184PS and 285Nm of torque was powerful, and with four adults in the car and a rear trunk area filled with luggage, there was no lack of grunt in propelling the 1.7-tonne X70 to decent speeds.
The 6-speed automatic transmission was smooth and responsive, and the electric power steering was accurate, though it did feel somewhat numb and it was a tad lacking in steering feedback.
Fitted with ContiUltracontact UC6 SUV tyres sized 225/55 wrapped around large 19-inch wheels, the X70’s comfort-biased suspension nicely cushioned the imperfections on bumpy roads.
What stood out for us was the highly refined quality of the drive; the exhaust roar is quite muffled under hard acceleration, and there was hardly any wind and road noise intrusion in the cabin.
We also checked out the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) on the twisty uphill route to Gunung Raya, and this is where the car automatically maintains a safe distance with the car in front.
With ACC (operates from 30 to 150kph), the X70 will slow down and accelerate automatically as it follows the speed of the car in front.
The ACC worked very well and it was activated almost all the way as we ascended and descended Gunung Raya.
However, don’t get the idea that the car can perform autonomous driving; for one thing, there’s no Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) here, so you need to steer in case you drift out from your lane.
The brakes have a progressive feel, and are not uncomfortably abrupt.
We also checked out the voice command system, which turned out as expected, based on our experience with similar systems in other cars.
The voice command function works best in a quiet environment and you need to speak clearly and loudly, otherwise you get puzzled responses like “I cannot hear clearly” and “Where will you go?”.
When it works, voice command is really nifty and you start by saying “Hi Proton”. The car will respond with a “Coming”, and you can give commands like “Set temperature to 20”, “Windows down” and “play Havana”.
Also, a highlight here is the Proton Link app where owners can use their smartphones to look at vehicle status data like fuel level, remaining travel range, mileage, average fuel consumption, and a trip log (where the car has travelled) and current vehicle location.
The app also allows searching for Proton service centres, and performing remote control functions like unlock trunk, open and close windows, and activating horn and lights.
Obviously, the Proton-Geely collaboration has put a lot of work into the digital connectivity aspects of the X70.
Also exclusive on the Premium 2WD variant are advanced driver’s assistance technology like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).
In the afternoon, we drove to Stadium Langkawi where we tested the X70’s 360-degree camera, FCW and AEB under supervision.
The 360-degree camera provides a bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings and in the first session, we got into a car where the windshield had been covered.
And we had to manoeuvred the car through cones, and reverse parked between two other X70 units - with the view from the 360-degree camera as our only visual guide.
We drove very slowly, and while the whole experience was quite unnerving and disorientating, we successfully completed the session without mishap.
Next, it was a test of the FCW where we accelerated to 65kph, and the car in front moved at 30kph.
As we closed the gap with the car in front, the FCW started beeping urgently and we stepped on the brake to slow the car down.
This was followed by a test of the AEB which operates at below 30kph.
This time, we accelerated to just below 30kph, with the car in front crawling at 5kph.
As we closed the gap, the X70 braked hard automatically and came to a full stop,with a harsh, and loud grating noise.
In summary, after a full day spent with the X70, we daresay it’s a very well engineered premium product that is on par with its Japanese and Korean rivals.
The nine-speaker system provides crisp audio quality in the hushed cabin, and the air purifier system seemed to work well, as we didn’t suffer from dust allergy.
Fit and finish in the interior looks nice, and there’s a high quality feel to the plastic surfaces and metallic trim.
We really like the Nappa leather seats which felt soft, smooth and luxurious.
In conclusion, the X70 is arguably as good as the competition and it is cheaper by up to nearly RM40,000 against the flagship rivals.
Proton X70 (Premium 2WD)
Engine: 1,799cc 4 in-line, turbocharged, direct injection
Maximum power: 184PS at 5,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 285Nm from 1,700 to 4,400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual mode
Features: LED projector headlamps, automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, Nappa leather seats, panoramic sunroof, two front power seats, 9 audio speakers with amplifier and subwoofer, 225/55 R19 tyres, 4 front parking sensors, electric parking brake, automatic dual zone air-conditioning, rear air-con vents, air purifier system, 8-inch touchscreen, voice command, 6 USB ports
Safety features: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD (electronic brake distribution), brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), hill hold assist, hill descent control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), tyre pressure monitoring system, 360-degree camera
Price (on the road, without insurance): RM123,800