Proton X70: What's the difference with CKD model? Answers to this and many more questions here

The Proton X70 is currently the most popular SUV on sale in Malaysia. In terms of size, the five-seater Proton sits in the same segment as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan X-Trail. However, its starting price of RM 99,800 also means that it’s actually priced closer to a lower range Honda HR-V, making it the most value for money SUV on the market.

There are a total of four variants to choose from, all using the same powertrain.

Specifications for Proton X70:

  • Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged
  • Transmission: 6-speed torque converter automatic, front- or all-wheel drive
  • Power: 181 hp at 5,500 rpm
  • Torque: 285 Nm from 1,700 – 4,400 rpm
  • Price: RM 99,800 – RM 123,800
  • Origin: Imported from China (CBU). Locally-assembled (CKD) variants to be introduced later this year

Here’s a summary of key differences between the four variants. Starting with the cheapest Standard 2WD variant (RM 99,800). Standard features include:

  • Six airbags
  • Electronic stability and traction control
  • Electric parking brake
  • Hill Hold Assist
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Auto Hold
  • 17-inch wheels
  • Halogen projector headlamps
  • LED front fog lamps
  • Fabric seats
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel
  • Dual-zone automatic air-conditioning with rear vents and air purifier system
  • 6-speaker, 8-inch touch screen infotainment with basic voice command

The Executive 2WD (RM 109,800) adds:

  • LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights
  • 18-inch wheels
  • 360-degree parking camera with front sensors
  • 8-speaker infotainment (otherwise identical to Standard 2WD)
  • Synthetic leather seats
  • Auto dimming rear view mirror

The Executive AWD (RM 109,800) adds:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system

The range topping Premium 2WD (RM 123, 800) adds:

  • Genuine Nappa leather seats
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Power-adjusting front seats
  • 9-speaker infotainment with upgraded voice command (expanded functions)
  • Advanced driving aids – auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind spot detection

Which variant is best to buy?

The pick of the range is the mid-level Executive 2WD variant. It has everything you need. The additional features available in the range topping Premium 2WD are a great bonus if you are open to spending more but if you are not, you are not missing out on much.

Does the “Hi Proton” function work as advertised?

Yes, we’ve tried and it works well enough with local English accents. However note that there is a difference in available functions between the Premium variant and other lower-range variants, mostly related to the type of commands it understands.

Also, note that the CBU, China-made Proton X70 uses Baidu-based operating system rather than the usual Google’s. As such, it doesn’t support Waze, Google Maps, or even Spotify. Instead, it uses Baidu maps (works well enough in Klang Valley, based on our experience) and Tencent’s Joox music streaming service.

Of course, you can still use Spotify via Bluetooth, while Waze and Google maps can still be shown using MirrorLink (Android phones only). The downside is that MirrorLink drains your smartphone’s battery faster as the phone’s screen needs to stay on throughout.

My salesman says it uses Volvo tech. Is it true?

The Proton X70 is based on China’s Geely Boyue and while it is true that Geely owns Volvo Cars, not every Geely product uses Volvo technology. In fact, very few Volvo tech is shared with Geely cars, mostly because of cost.

The X70’s 1.8-litre turbocharged engine (4G18TDB) is part of the G-Power engine series developed in-house by Geely, and has nothing to do with Volvo. The six-speed automatic transmission is developed by Geely’s Australia-based transmission specialist subsidiary DSI.

The X70’s body and chassis is also unrelated to any Volvo vehicle. Some of the driving aids like the blind spot detection system is shared with Volvo (only because they use the same supplier) but other features like autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are different from those used by Volvo, which because of its premium positioning, is of course far more sophisticated, capable of detecting not just adult pedestrians but also children, large animals, vehicles coming down the wrong way, as well as stepping in to make evasive steering maneuvers.  

However, some smaller items like the instrument panel, are adapted from older generation Volvo vehicles.

Are China-made products reliable?

The days of low quality, knock-off products from China are over and the current generation Chinese cars are, on average, similar in sophistication to Korean cars ten years earlier. Some Chinese brands are further ahead than the rest, capable of rivalling European products and Geely one of them.   

How has the X70’s reliability record so far?

The X70 was launched in December 2018 and deliveries were only ramped up on February 2019 so it’s still too early to say. The majority of cars won’t be due for their mandatory first 6-month/10,000 km service until October.

For now, there haven’t been any serious problem reported. Of course, there is no perfect car and whatever problems reported so far have been isolated cases. Initial negative feedback from owners were mostly regarding high fuel consumption (the X70 is a heavy car, the heaviest in its class).

Should I buy the CBU Proton X70 now? Will the CKD X70 have lower quality?

Currently, the X70 is imported from Geely's plant in China. Locally-assembled models will be introduced later this year and Proton has already conducted trial runs at its Tanjung Malim plant since June. 

Proton’s own data suggests that the quality of its cars now matches that of Volvo’s, but of course, the benchmark in this part of the world are the Japanese brands.

If it helps to convince consumers, Proton’s plant is now managed by two Japanese professionals, ex-Nissan’s Masazumi Ogawa and ex-Mitsubishi’s Yoshiya Inamori.

For a company that has invested so much to turn around the Proton, to presume that Geely will undo all the good work done so far by releasing lower quality cars doesn't make any sense.

Will the locally-assembled CKD X70 be cheaper?

Prices are unlikely to go down but you might get more features for the same price.

The infotainment will certainly be improved, as local sourcing will create opportunities to drop the current car’s Baidu-based Chinese system in favour of an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay alternative.

There are rumours that the CKD X70 will use a newer but smaller 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine paired to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not true. Yes, Proton will be producing variants of the X70 with this engine, but only for export.

The new engine is costlier to produce and is only meant for markets where cars are taxed according to their CO2 output – Thailand, Australia and Singapore are some examples. CKD X70 models produced for our local market will continue using the current 1.8-litre turbocharged engine.

The CKD X70 is likely to be introduced sometime in the last quarter of 2019.

Does the X70 drive as well as advertised?

Yes and no, but mostly a yes. It certainly exceeds expectations but some aspects of the car’s features are not integrated as well as the competition.

For example, the X70’s Auto Hold function is jerky (it works more like a launch control, requiring revs to build before releasing the brakes) and lacks the smoothness of the Honda CR-V’s.

The small instrument panel is also disproportionately sized against the car’s big interior, and is installed unnecessarily deep into the dashboard's recess. User interface feels a generation behind its rivals.  

The headline figures of class-leading 181 hp suggests a powerful drive but in reality, the X70 is slower than a 1.5-litre turbocharged Honda CR-V, mostly because of its weight. Beneath the fancy features, the X70’s chassis is at least a generation older than the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5.

Of course, Proton’s salesman will argue that the X70’s hefty weight makes it safer but that’s not how it works. This is not to say that the X70 is less safe, but without sophisticated lightweight construction, the X70 pays the weight penalty in poorer handling and fuel consumption.

On the move, the X70 is remarkably quiet, even more than an equivalent Honda CR-V, which is surprisingly noisy at highway speeds. It also covers undulating highway roads with better composure than the CR-V.

In the city, its tight 5.5 metre turning radius allows for easier parking and tight U-turns than the Honda CR-V’s 5.9 metre.  

Inside, the X70 is spacious enough and the ride is surprisingly comfortable too, comparable to many of its more expensive Japanese rivals. The Mazda CX-5 still trumps in having a more premium looking interior while the Honda CR-V has the advantage of having more interior space (its centre console box is still the segment’s best)

The Premium 2WD variant also packs a lot of safety features for its price, but note that it still lacks the more expensive Honda Sensing’s corrective steering function (Lane Keep Assist and Road Departure Mitigation).

The X70’s 515-litre boot is very spacious and closely matches the Honda CR-V’s 522 litres. However, the boot lid is unusually tight to close, even by the standards of an SUV and it also opens quite high up. The boot floor is also quite high, and opening is not as wide as the CR-V’s.  

Combined with its taller height (15 mm taller than CR-V and 19 mm taller than CX-5), closing the boot can be a hassle especially for average built ladies. Many Proton dealers are addressing the issue by offering power-operated boot option but this is not a Proton-approved accessory.

The X70’s taller ride height is also something that parents with toddlers or elderly members in the family will need to consider, as it requires a taller step up to climb inside than either the CR-V or CX-5.