The C-segment SUV market is one of the most lucrative segments in Malaysia, evident by the increasingly many new models introduced by cars manufacturer, all trying to get a slice of the market. The Honda CR-V has been the long-reigning king of this segment and defending champion, that is until the Proton X70 came by and shook the market.
Proton X70 is the first SUV to be jointly developed by Proton and Geely, and is the first-ever premium SUV by a Malaysian brand. Competing in a new territory unfamiliar with Proton, it was a massive gamble, but it turned out to be a huge hit, so much that it hit sales record and brought Proton back on its feet.
Mention the word SUV, and the name Honda CR-V should ring a bell in your mind. The CR-V nameplate has been in Malaysia since 1997 and holds a reputation for being practical, reliable and comfortable SUV. No wonder it was a dominant force to be reckoned with.
But if the Japanese and Malaysian SUV are not your preferred cup of tea, there is one European SUV that we think is still worth your consideration and that is the Volkswagen Tiguan. It's not the first choice here but the Tiguan is highly popular in China, Europe, and North America. It's Volkswagen's global success story and we do think it's a credible fighter against the X70 and CR-V.
As mentioned earlier, the Proton X70's price undercuts both the Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan, saving you over RM 43,000. Looking at the price alone is enough to make you crack your piggybank to own a Proton X70, ignoring every other option available. It is well-kitted in the mechanical department too, but it is far from perfect.
Despite weighing 99 kilograms more than the Tiguan, the CR-V is the overall winner in the power-to-weight ratio department, as 0-100 km/h only takes 8.8 seconds. The Volkswagen Tiguan is the lightest SUV in this battle, but it also has the least horsepower between the two, hence the best it does 0-100 km/h in 9.2 seconds.
Sure, the CKD X70 gained a slick 7-speed dual-clutch transmission which adds 15 Nm more torque, but the car still weighs a whopping 126 kilogram more than the CR-V. The weight penalty is reflected in its 0-100 km/h time, taking 9.5 seconds. If you’re a family speed demon, then you would enjoy the CR-V more but only if the roads are straight, more on that later.
The dampers on X70 have been given some fine-tuning work by Proton, but it is not the full-blown Proton ride and handling treatment. The result is positive though, as the X70 now has the best ride comfort in its class, striking a balance between being overly stiff or too soft. Premium X variant's seats are wrapped in plush Nappa, but the biggest addition to the rear seats is the ability to recline from 27 to 32 degrees, which fixed one of the minor flaws on the previous X70. Elsewhere, there is a sheer number of USB charging ports littered throughout the cabin, even in each cubby hole at either side of the dashboard.
If you’re keen on something that rides a bit more sedate, nimbler in the corner and looks conspicuous while doing it, the Volkswagen Tiguan gives you all of those. It does feel similar to the X70 in terms of ride comfort, but it is slightly softer on the damper rebound. Those ‘Vienna’ leather on the Tiguan feels more upmarket than the Nappa leather on the X70, plus the base of the rear bench is long and supportive. We also love the addition of fold-up tables, complete with firm cupholders, which is useful for kids.
The current generation Honda CR-V is developed with American driver and road in mind, where users are plus-sized and roads are mostly straight. The best word to describe the CR-V's ride is it's like a sofa on wheels. The seats are not as supportive compared to the Tiguan or X70, and the leather looks a little cheap too. Because of its airy ambiance in the cabin, noise insulation requires more work. Honda tried their best, but unfortunately, it is similar to the Honda City's level of quietness, thus the CR-V loses out in ride comfort. However, it is the most practical among the trio, so not all is lost.
Driving Performance & Handling
With the more efficient 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Proton X70 is now able to transfer the power better to the ground better than before, with an additional gain of 15 Nm more thus giving the X70 a total of 300 Nm of torque. Output remains the same at 183 PS. Proton has ALSO retuned the power delivery characteristics to suit Malaysian’s slightly aggressive driving behavior. Body-roll has been reduced thanks to the fine-tuning of the dampers but as mentioned earlier, but the heavy curb weight makes it sluggish.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is a more driver-focused SUV compared to the two – with a quick, light and precise steering. Being the lightest SUV here shows its prowess in the corners. It's easily the most nimble and agile. Obviously it can’t match Mazda CX-5’s handling, but for something that as practical and looks understated, it is fantastically planted in the corners. However, we do feel like it needs more grunt, as acceleration from a standstill shows signs of turbo lag. Despite having a healthy amount of torque, we believe that Volkswagen is being modest with the engine's state of tune.
Sure, the Honda CR-V is the most powerful SUV in this comparison, with nicely weighted and precise steering, but unfortunately handling is its weakest point. The CR-V feels like driving a boat – overly soft, rolly-polly, and slow to respond to weight shift, thanks to the American specs-like suspension. Simply put, if you are a spirited driver, forget about corners – you are not able to put the power down as how you want it.
Proton claims the X70 will do 7.6 litre/100km with the new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, an improvement of 13% compared to the previous model's 6-speed torque-converter. The new gearbox weighs 23 kilograms lighter (75 kg vs 98kg) and the additional 7th forward ratio certainly helps to achieve that.
The Volkswagen Tiguan does it even better at 6.7 litre/100km on mixed driving conditions. With a 60-litre fuel tank, it can easily travel over 800 km with a single tank, which is impressive.
At the Honda side of the show, the Honda CR-V's claimed fuel consumption of 7.0 litre/100km on mixed driving condition has been proven, as coincidentally we managed to get similar results during our test drive. In real-world driving, the CR-V’s fuel consumption is comparable with the Tiguan, and these two make the X70 looks like a petrol guzzler.
With all the seats up, the Volkswagen Tiguan takes the lead here with 615 litre of boot space, followed by Honda CR-V with 522 litre, and the smallest is Proton X70 with 515 litre.
Once the seat goes down in the Volkswagen Tiguan (not entirely flat though) you are welcomed with a massive 1,655 litre of boot space in 40:20:40 configuration. The boot is easily accessed thanks to a low loading height and it has a practical, square shape. There are also a few tie-down points to secure cargo from moving around.
You are not wrong to assume the CR-V to have bigger boot space due to its long and wide appearance, but even with the second seat down, you only get 1,084 litre of space. But compared to Tiguan, it has more cubby compartments in various sizes that deemed it more practical. The cabin also feels a lot wider, thanks to door trims that have been made thinner. Plus, a one-pull lever on either side of the boot allows the 60:40 split rear seat to fold over easily and be raised without fuss too.
Unfortunately, we do not have data for the X70 overall boot space size with the seats down (60:40 similar to CR-V), but it is definitely the smallest among the two. Plus, the floor of the boot is high and eats into cargo space, and the tonneau cover feels flimsy. The biggest complaint back then was the heavy boot, hence in the CKD version Proton fitted an automatic tailgate function. Simply put, if space and practicality is your concern, you might wanna sway a little bit from the X70.
Infotainment & Safety
The Honda CR-V’s 7-inch touchscreen has one of the best integration of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay we have experienced, and we were thoroughly impressed with how the navigation info is replicated on the instrument panel, complete with distance to next turn indicator, almost BMW like. However, the audio quality on the CR-V is best described as sub-par, despite having 8 speakers as standard. What’s up with Honda and terrible speakers?
Another SUV on the list that features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is the Volkswagen Tiguan. The 8-inch ‘Discover Media’ touchscreen is crisp and operates smoothly, but not at CR-V’s level. 8 speaker bass and mid-range is great. However, the Tiguan certainly has the best sound quality compared to the X70 and CR-V.
Volkswagen has done extensive soundproofing work in the car to help elevate the quality of the sound, and it shows. If you need more oomph, you can opt for the ‘Sound & Style” package which adds the HELIX 300W soundbar.
Proton X70 8-inch touchscreen infotainment is comprised of Geely’s GKUI that runs using Android 4.4 as its base. As the GKUI operating system comes China, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which means no Google Maps, Waze, Spotify – but it comes with its own navigation called Baidu Maps and music streaming services is provided by Tencent. Yes, the infamous ‘Hi Proton’ is a great marketing gimmick, but as far as usability is concerned, you’ll get over it quickly as everything is faster to control using your finger. We would have easily traded Hi Proton for some proper Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility. Sound quality is great however, but the one in Tiguan sounds just a bit sweeter.
Safety-wise, the Proton X70 gets 6 airbags, stability and traction control, auto brake hold, emergency stop signal, and hill hold assist as standard, with a comprehensive list of Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) such as:
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
- Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
- Intelligent High Beam Control (IHBC)
It doesn't have Lane Keeping Assist and the cruise control can't handle start-stop traffic (Low-Speed Follow in the CR-V).
The Honda CR-V features similar amount of airbag and safety feature with the Proton X70, with additional Honda Sensing feature such as Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Low Speed Follow (LSF) and LaneWatch camera. Yes if you noticed the CR-V does not have Blind Spot Monitor, but we feel that the LaneWatch camera function is far more superior system.
Which brings us to the Volkswagen Tiguan. Unfortunately, there are no driver-assistance tech and it makes the Tiguan look ‘bare’ in terms of safety aspect. Standard safety features is still good enough though, with six airbags, a Driver Alert System (Rest Assist), ESC, ABS with brake assist, multi-collision brakes and ISOFIX mount.
It’s hard to argue against the Proton X70's price-value proposition. You get the latest safety and driving tech available on the market, equipped with a potent engine and transmission combo, wrapped around in a sleek and suave looking design.
But the X70 is still too heavy for its own good, which affects fuel consumption and handling, despite the new transmission shaving few kilograms off. The headunit system is still clunky and unrefined. It's also too early to tell whether its reliable in the long term.
For sheer practicality and proven reliability, the Honda CR-V has proven itself from time to time. If you are looking for a supple and comfortable cruiser with excellent fuel consumption, coupled with good Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatible infotainment unit, the CR-V is certainly the one to go to.
Thanks to its American-bias tune suspension, cornering is not its main forte, along with poor sound insulation quality that is similar to the level of Honda City.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is still a worthy SUV to be considered, despite being an ageing product. Interior quality is amazing and it strikes a good balance between sportiness and practicality.
However, it is lacking in newer safety features, particularly ADAS, and it needs more grunt to keep up with its competition.