Even after 6 versions, here's why Proton's CamPro engines have poor fuel consumption
Eric · Jul 22, 2021 09:00 AM
The Proton CamPro engine, since its inception in 2004 in the Proton Gen.2, has the recognition of being the only Malaysian-developed engine to-date.
That alone could have been a remarkable achievement for Proton, but there’s a catch – CamPro isn’t exactly known for its fuel consumption.
Over the years, the CamPro engine received numerous updates and improvements, including the CamPro CPS in 2008, turbocharged CamPro CFE in 2011, and CamPro VVT in 2014 – all of which suffered from poor fuel consumption. To-date, Proton has introduced six versions of the CamPro engine.
More than 10 years ago, it was easy to pinpoint the Mitsubishi-sourced four-speed automatic as the cause of poor fuel consumption, so Proton attempted to remedy that with the introduction of the Punch-sourced CVT in 2011 in the Saga FLX.
On paper, the Punch CVT ticked all the right boxes, including improved fuel economy, lower cost, as well as a more compact footprint compared to the torque converter unit.
Compared to the torque converter unit, Proton’s internal tests on the Saga FLX back in 2011 indicated that fuel consumption dropped by an average of 5- to 10-percent – a pretty decent figure, all things considered.
However, in real-world conditions, things started to fall apart. Granted, the CVT excelled in highway driving as speeds are constant, with owners reporting an average fuel consumption of 7.14-litre/100 km, but when it came to stop-go traffic, that figure dropped to 10-litre/100 km, sometimes even worse.
Even with variable valve timing in the newer CamPro VVT engines, which was theoretically supposed to balance fuel economy and power delivery, the updated Proton Iriz and Proton Persona’s fuel consumption isn’t stellar. When we reviewed the Iriz, it returned 8.36-litre/100 km, while the Persona returned 8.4-litre/100 km – both are decent figures, but well below the segment average of 6.4-litre/100 km.
When forced-induction is added into the picture, like in the case of the Proton Exora, fuel consumption takes a bigger hit, dropping to 9.78-litre/100 km in our tests. The turbocharged Honda Civic’s logic cannot be applied for the Exora, as the Exora’s turbo is merely a bolt-on unit, albeit fitted in the factory.
Current CamPro engines still utilize the older port-injection fuel delivery system, as opposed to the more precise and modern direct-injection system. This explains why the turbocharged Exora guzzles so much fuel while newer direct-injection turbocharged Honda engines are more fuel efficient.
The CamPro engine is only half of the equation of Proton’s poor fuel consumption. Proton needs to put their own-developed models like the Saga, Iriz, Persona, and Exora through some serious weight-loss program in order to improve and match their fuel consumption with rivals.
You see, although Proton utilizes Hot Press Forming (HPF) technology to build its cars, which gives the body structure improved strength, not enough parts of the car is made to keep the weight low.
Take for example the top-spec Proton Iriz. It tips the scale at 1,178 kg, considerably more than segment rivals like the Honda Jazz (1,099 kg), Toyota Yaris (1,140 kg), Mazda 2 Hatchback (1,097 kg), or even Perodua Myvi (1,015 kg). 1,178 kg is also heavier than the now-discontinued Jazz Hybrid (GP5), which tips the scale at 1,158 kg.
So Proton has HPF for stronger cars, does it necessarily make their cars safer? Not really, as ASEAN NCAP crash test results shows little advantage of Proton's body structure versus current gen, lighter rivals.
A couple of years ago, there was a glimmer of hope for Proton, as the company detailed plans for a whole new family of gasoline direct injection (GDI) and turbocharged gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engines, co-developed with UK-based Ricardo and Lotus.
Six engines were planned out, with capacities ranging from 1.0- to 1.5-litre. There was also talk of a Petronas-derived NE01 for the Proton Perdana, but all of these were canned when Geely entered a strategic partnership with Proton in 2017.
For the time being, the long-serving CamPro engines will soldier on in Iriz, Persona, Exora, and Saga. While Geely did state that the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engines will replace the CamPro units, it is likely for future Proton models and not the current line-up.