Review: 2022 Proton Persona facelift – Is the jerky CVT finally fixed?
Shaun · Oct 2, 2021 08:00 PM
The first-generation Proton Persona is, to me, one of the best-looking Proton models ever made. My family used to own one for 10 years, so I’m definitely not biased at all. And ever since the current-generation Proton Persona came out, I just couldn’t get over the bulbous shape.
The bigger drawback, personally, is the Punch-sourced clutch-based CVT. Taking off from standstill in a seamless manner is a hit or miss exercise and you’d have to adapt your driving style to it.
The 2022 Proton Persona facelift will not be able to address the exterior and suspension design complaints due to obvious cost and feasibility reasons. A transmission change would be more feasible but alas, Proton has decided to stick to the CVT and further refine it.
And to be completely honest, I was doubtful that yet another calibration exercise can change my mind towards the transmission and the car as a whole. But after living with the 2022 Proton Persona facelift for a few days, I was pleasantly surprised.
Exterior – Still bulbous
Before we get to the pleasant bits, we have to talk about the egg-shaped exterior. Yes, it’s based on the Proton Iriz and it would be too costly otherwise to develop another platform, but that doesn’t change how massive the body looks.
The tall body, tiny wheel arches that no matter the wheel size fitted, it just wouldn’t appear proportionate. The individual design elements like the headlamps and bumpers however, are generally pleasing to look at on its own.
There are new LED headlamps, redesigned front bumper, new grille, and larger 16-inch wheels. These keep the Persona’s appearance fresh despite being a 5-year-old model.
And just like the Iriz Active, the position lamp is still halogen that lights up right alongside the white LEDs, which isn’t particularly nice to look at. A quick change of the position lamp to LED bulbs would address it.
Interior – No more white and dark chocolate combo
Previously, the interior of the Persona can be differentiated from the Iriz’s interior by its two-tone colour scheme on the dashboard and door cards, or as I like to call it, the white and dark chocolate combo. It was, in a way, carrying on the Persona legacy since the first-generation model had it too.
In this round of updates, the two-tone combo on the lower part of the cabin is gone and only the headliner remains light-coloured. This range-topping Premium variant gets brown leatherette seats and matches the Proton X70’s interior colours. I think it looks rather good overall.
Apart from the change in colours, redesigned dashboard sees a floating-style infotainment display and there’s also a completely new centre console with an armrest.
The 8-inch touchscreen unit is identical to the 2022 Proton Iriz, which means that at the moment, it isn’t the smoothest of operation. Boot up time takes quite a while, the screen itself isn’t bright enough during the day, and is laggy at times.
The voice command feature frequently mishears instructions and feels more like a gimmick at this point. Though it is an interesting feature to have for a car at this price point.
Material quality is rather decent but build quality on our test unit was somewhat disappointing. There were buzzing noises coming from the centre console, specifically where the headunit sits, which became annoying quickly.
The 2022 Proton Iriz that we had at the same time also suffered from similar noises. We generally refrain from talking about such matters as it could be an isolated case, but having two cars with very similar noises make it compelling to point out.
Space wise, it’s identical to before with two tennis balls of kneeroom and one tennis ball of headroom for a 175 cm tall individual. Not exactly spacious per se, but it’s adequate.
Driving Experience – The update it deserves
At its point of introduction, the second-generation Proton Persona took a few learnings from the Iriz and improved upon it. So it already had tweaks to the CVT and general refinement updates.
However, there was an inconsistency in stop and go situations, lurching forwards at times at crawling speeds. The 2019 facelift made the Persona even more eager to accelerate, but the transmission is still a let-down in traffic.
In this 2022 Proton Persona facelift, the calibration exercise has finally made the CVT acceptable in traffic. It creeps forward naturally when the brake pedal is released and gently accelerates as throttle is applied, consistently.
If you were to look for the characteristic lurch, it can still be manifested by jabbing the throttle or sudden inputs during uphill starts. It’s just how a clutch-based CVT behaves and no amount of calibration can alter that behaviour.
But the good news here is that it’s finally decent enough to be unintrusive at low speeds with the newfound consistency. The engine and transmission feel better in sync than it ever did before.
Part of this update is the Neutral Idle Control that disconnects the clutch at idle to reduce strain on the transmission. The other part is the Eco Mode with clutch disengagement during coasting at under 70 km/h. These features work relatively seamlessly in the background.
Apart from the transmission, the Persona drives as well it did before, perhaps even better now that the borderline-lethal-in-wet Silverstone tyres are replaced by Goodyear. The rear-end no longer feels like it wants to swap with the front in corners.
Steering is among the better-tuned electric power assisted systems. You sit rather high but the spot-on suspension tuning and communicative chassis mean that you can be confident in the twisty bits.
Ride Comfort – Often raved, but still underappreciated
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Proton Ride and Handling phrase is not a myth. It’s the balance Proton achieves with the Persona or pretty much all of its models that truly impresses.
Over any type of road, the Persona just smoothens out sharp edges at low speeds and still remain taut at high speeds, a quality that is sadly underappreciated by many. To find this wonderfully balanced setup in Japanese B-segment offerings, you’d have to look at the Toyota Vios GR-Sport with its sports-tuned suspension.
The front seats are supportive, particularly the side bolsters as they hug the body comfortably in place. The seat base is of decent length, providing good thigh support.
Noise insulation is commendable for its price range. At 110 km/h, the sound level meter recorded an average of 69 dB.
2022 Proton Persona Premium - Cabin noise level
Fuel Consumption - Slightly improved
Two fuel consumption tests were conducted with the first returning 8.7-litre/100 km from a 135.1 km trip and refuelling 11.72 litres.
The second test returned 7.6-litre/100 km from a 119.1 km trip which required 9.1 litres to brim the fuel tank.
This gives us an average calculated fuel consumption of 8.15-litre/100 km. The 2019 Proton Persona returned 8.4-litre/100 km, which means the 2022 Proton Persona has improved the its fuel consumption by about 4 percent.
Putting aside the subjective and superficial topic of looks, the Proton Persona ticks all the right boxes for an affordable B-segment sedan. And this refresh has finally addressed the inconsistent CVT and made it tolerable in stop-and-go traffic.
There is still no AEB unfortunately, as Proton says that it would be too costly to implement which would raise prices. And granted, fuel consumption still isn’t great but credit where it’s due, it has improved.
At its price point, there is no other B-segment sedan on offer. Going for a 5-year-old used Japanese B-segment sedan is, in my opinion, just a means to avoid our local brands. The 2022 Proton Persona facelift does have its drawbacks but considering its price, it’s not difficult to forgive them.
Personally, I still struggle to overlook the awkward proportion. I would rather sacrifice boot space and go for the Proton Iriz instead but this is from the perspective of a bachelor. If you’re a family man, the Proton Persona is the way to go.
The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.