6AT mulled, is the Proton Iriz / Persona’s CVT that bad? Here’s what’s new
Hans · Aug 30, 2021 08:34 PM
On the surface, the new 2022 Proton Persona and Proton Iriz may seem like it’s more of the same. At a glance, both 2022 models are still more or less the same 7-year old Proton Iriz and 5-year old Persona that you know since 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Yes, there is now an SUV-esque / crossover-like Iriz Active variant but note that there is no difference to its ground clearance - 165 mm for variants with 16-inch wheels, 155 mm for 15-inch – identical to Persona.
The Iriz Active’s roof rails add 10 mm to its body's height (1,574 mm, versus Iriz Executive / Persona Executive's 1,564 mm, with identical 16-inch wheels) but don’t try to put a bicycle or anything heavy on it, because it's just for aesthetics.
So it’s just a lazy cosmetic change job to keep the old lady (or man) attractive enough for young suitors then?
Fun fact: Proton has spent 157,000 man hours and 180,000 test hours to do over 2,500 tests, on 200 new parts, 32 different quality improvements, and 6 performance improvements (including fuel consumption, braking, ride comfort, safety, and cabin quietness).
So to call it merely a cosmetic change would be very unfair to the Malaysian development team.
Of course, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed – the Proton Iriz and Persona are still using the same ageing body structure and powertrain. In the same time, Perodua has already launched two generations of the Perodua Myvi.
Adzrai Azizi is our local star serving as Vehicle Programme Executive, a role which Proton CEO Dr. Li Chunrong says is equivalent to being a CEO for the individual models. It also means that Adzrai is constantly hounded by Dr. Li.
Of course Adzrai would want to work on an all-new model but the reality is that Proton, like any car manufacturer, doesn’t operate with limitless resources.
A new model to replace the Proton Iriz and Persona will be introduced in due time but the new models are at least 2 to 3 years away. In the meantime, one plays with the cards they are given, hence the Proton Iriz Active, which allows Proton to side-step the competition from the younger Perodua Myvi.
That plus the new and improved GKUI voice-activated infotainment, which now also controls the power windows and air-conditioning, is about as much any manufacturer can do with an ageing platform and other limitations faced by the local team at Proton.
Adzrai spoke in great length about the many more unseen upgrades given to the new Persona and Iriz but for brevity, we will keep this topic to its CVT, which has received a lot of flak from users, including us at WapCar.my.
The CVT from Belgium's Punch Powertrain used by the Iriz and Persona has a reputation for being unrefined and jerky in slow traffic - the opposite of what a step-less, gear-less, CVT is supposed to behave.
Proton improved it in 2019, giving it a wider ratio spread with improved calibration. To their credit, the driving experience is noticeably better now, but only when you drive it in isolation.
Regarding the decision to stick to the CVT and not switching to the Hyundai-sourced 4-speed automatic used in the Proton Saga, Adzrai explained that based on Proton’s own survey, the biggest complaint from customers is concerns regarding the CVT’s reliability, rather than smoothness in operation (it’s not the best but it’s acceptable for its price).
The new improvements introduced in 2019 had reduced transmission-related warranty claims by more than 80 percent.
Unlike the A-segment Proton Saga, the B-segment Proton Iriz and Proton Persona competes in a field that’s dominated by CVTs, so to switch to a 4AT setup would be a step back.
Of course, Perodua has a different opinion on this but for Proton, a 4AT is not an acceptable option. A 6-speed automatic however, was once considered.
The more modern 6AT is something that's more aligned to Proton's aspirations but unfortunately it was just too expensive, and that was it.
Although Adzrai didn't say much about the identity of the 6AT transmission mulled, but the Toyota-affiliated Aisin's 6AT is the most commonly used in this segment, most notably in the previous Volkswagen Polo and Vento (MPI variants).
Then there’s the additional risk of introducing a new transmission in the middle of a mature model’s lifecycle. Since the improved CVT has already proven to be very reliable, Proton elected to keep it, but with several more improvements not available in the 2019 model.
For the recently launched 2022 Iriz and Persona (Proton chose to call it 2022 because it doesn’t expect marketing activities to ramp up until end-2021, due to Covid-19), the CVT gets two additional features – Neutral Idle Control (NIC) and Eco Mode with clutch disengagement during coasting.
The first is very important, because now it means that the transmission won’t overheat even if you leave it in D (instead of N) during extended waiting period at traffic lights or bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Previously, the CVT’s clutch will remain engaged and the engine’s idle speed will remain high when the car is held by its foot brake, thus putting strain on the transmission.
With NIC, the clutch disconnects when the car idles, so no torque is transferred to the transmission, even if the gear lever is still in D. So it makes no difference whether you shift to N or not.
It also means that owners of earlier CVT-equipped Protons are encouraged to shift to N for extended stops, thus explains Proton’s answer in our earlier post here.
NIC also works with the engine management computer to reduce fuel fed into the engine whenever the vehicle is idling. This lowers the engine’s idle speed, thus saving you a little bit of fuel.
Eco Mode on the other hand, goes one step further than just numbing the throttle response. When the Iriz or Persona is coasting at speeds below 70 km/h, it disconnects the clutch, effectively allowing the car to coast freely in Neutral.
Do note that you are not supposed to do this in a regular automatic transmission as coasting in high speed in Neutral will not only damage the transmission, but also lead to crashes because you will have no control over the power delivery.
Proton’s Eco Mode however, is designed with these safety considerations in mind so the clutch re-engages immediately (and seamlessly) when either the brake or accelerator pedal is depressed.
Proton claims fuel savings of between 8 to 10 percent but this is according to Proton’s internal driving cycle test, not real world conditions or UN-approved homologation methods like NEDC, which only considers a car’s default driving mode. This is also the reason why so many European cars don’t allow you to permanently disable the engine’s auto start-stop function.