We’ve driven the upcoming Proton X50. Well, sort of.
This here is the Geely Binyue, the basis for Proton’s upcoming B-segment SUV, most likely will be called the Proton X50.
But before we get started, it is worth mentioning that the China market Geely Binyue is not an accurate representaiton of the upcoming Proton X50, as Proton will have its own input on the SUV when it arrives in Malaysia.
The Geely Binyue made its debut back in August 2018, positioned below the Boyue (Proton X70) in Geely’s line-up of SUVs.
Exterior – Handsome exterior, but looks smaller in the metal
Thanks to a team of young designers, the Binyue’s exterior struck a chord, becoming one of Geely’s best-selling models since its introduction.
Mini Proton X70 it is not - the Geely Binyue has its own design that can be easily differentiated from its larger sibling.
A pair of sharp-looking LED headlights surround Geely’s ‘Expanding Cosmos’ front grille, while the front fog lights get angular housings, giving the Binyue a sporty appeal.
The sides receive a set of 18-inch alloy wheels and Geely’s signature kink along the belt line, much like the Proton X70.
As for the rear end, the Geely Binyue gets a pair of LED tail lights, connected by a large chrome strip with Geely’s name emblazoned across.
The Binyue also gets a rear spoiler and prominent rear diffuser that further accentuates its sporty appeal.
On paper, the Binyue's dimensions are actually quite close to some of its rivals, such as the Honda HR-V, but when viewed in person, the Binyue actually looks smaller than the numbers suggest.
Interior – Lots of high-quality materials, albeit a bit tight
Compared to the Proton X70, the Binyue’s cabin feels more upmarket, thanks to a good mix of high-quality materials and excellent build quality.
Key touch points feature soft touch materials and high quality metals, which not many segment rivals can boast of. Hard plastics are only evident on lower portions of the cabin, which isn't too big of a deal.
Furthermore, tactile feedback is pretty good, though it feels more Korean than European, as it lacks the satisfying damped button depress feeling that is famous of European cars.
However, cabin space feels tighter than the Honda HR-V, and interior practicality doesn’t quite come close to the Honda.
Despite its 1,800 mm width, sitting inside the Binyue actually feels tighter than the Honda HR-V (1,772 mm width), a testament of Honda's amazing space-efficient engineering.
That said, sitting inside the Binyue isn't as claustrophobic as the Toyota C-HR, thanks to the bigger windows at the rear.
Driving Performance and Handling – Properly capable
With 177 PS and 255 Nm on tap, the Geely Binyue is the most powerful model in its segment.
In our timed runs, the Binyue completed the 0-100 km/h sprint in 8.9 seconds, while the 100-0 km/h braking distance took 41.4 meters, far better than any of its peers, which typically takes about 10 to 11 seconds to do the same century sprint.
Although the Binyue is quite a powerful machine, its steering disappoints. The steering feel is vague and light. Feedback was also lacking, further emphasizing that the Binyue isn’t as sporty as it looks, nor does it drive as well as the power figures suggests.
Yes, the engine is powerful, but it's difficult to exploit it.
Then there’s the Binyue’s dual-clutch transmission.
Unlike modern-day DCTs, the one in the Binyue doesn't creep forward when you leave it in Drive. As such, hill starts can be tricky. There's a Hill Start Assist function but you need to remember to activate it manually each time you start off on a slope.
Traditionally, 3-cylinder engines aren't the most refined out there - often times sounding rougher than 4-cylinder engines. We wished to say that the Geely's three cylinder is as smooth as BMW's, but it isn't.
There's a lot of noisy clatter but at least you can't hear much of it once you shut the doors and sit inside the car.
With that said, the engine is far from being the smoothest when driven hard, but you do get a lot of firepower under the hood.
Ride Comfort – Proton definitely needs to do something
If there’s one aspect where Proton’s input would be greatly appreciated, it would be in the ride and handling department of the Binyue.
Never mind Kuala Lumpur’s occasional rutted roads, even on Guangzhou's pothole free roads, the Binyue’s suspension had a tendency of jolting occupants when going over road markings, and manhole covers. It rides very firmly.
As a result, ride comfort in the Binyue is far from pleasant, and long-distance trips in the Binyue can get uncomfortable on anything other than glass smooth roads.
With that said, we understand that the Binyue's suspension is tuned to meet the demands of Chinese buyers, as firmer suspension is a hallmark of sporty cars.
The firm suspension, however, does aid the Binyue in terms of body control, but there are many cars that can do the same while maintaining a far more comfortable ride. We are quite certain that Proton can do a better job at chassis tuning.
Conclusion – Definitely a model worth waiting for
When it arrives in Malaysia, the upcoming Proton X50 is expected to be priced around the RM 90,000 mark, factoring in the same quantum in price gap between the Binyue and Boyue in China.
It has all the right ingredients for a perfect formula – great looks, excellent build quality, strong performance, and an attractive price tag.
Further cementing its popularity is the fact that Geely has managed to sell more than 100,000 units of the Binyue in China within the first 8 months of its introduction
Granted, a lot of work is needed before the Binyue is ready for its Malaysia debut. Proton needs to work their magic on the suspension tuning of the X50/Binyue, especially once this car dons the Proton emblem.
Apart from the firm suspension, it would be nice if Proton improved the steering of the Binyue, injecting it with some DNA of the Iriz/Persona – which are perhaps among the better tuned electric power steering (EPS) systems out there.
We would also love to see the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the upcoming X50, as these feature like appeal to newer generation of car owners.