New engines coming for Proton Persona, Iriz, Exora, maybe Saga too - between 2023 to 2027
Hans · Feb 1, 2023 02:05 PM
Proton ageing range of homegrown models, the Proton Saga, Persona, Iriz, and Exora, will be getting some much needed upgrades in their powertrain within the next 5 years, according to Proton’s Deputy CEO Roslan Abdullah.
When talking about the new and improved Proton under the stewardship of Geely, the Proton X50 and X70 get the limelight but as good as these two models are, it is important to remember that around 60 percent of Proton’s sales come from the ageing Proton Persona, Iriz, Exora, and Saga – collectively referred to within Proton as the PIES range.
Despite their importance, the Proton Saga and Persona – which contribute 50 percent of Proton’s sales, have been neglected for far too long.
Yes, the Saga received a new Hyundai-sourced 4-speed automatic in 2019 to replace the awful Belgian Punch-sourced CVT. However the 1.3-litre VVT engine driving the Saga is now nearly a decade old, and its higher fuel consumption is the only weakness in this otherwise excellent budget car, which rides and drives way better than the market leader Perodua Bezza.
It’s a similar challenge with the Proton Persona, which an otherwise excellent value-for-money B-segment sedan (priced from RM 47,800 to RM 58,300) that comfortably undercuts the Toyota Vios and Honda City by tens of thousands of Ringgit. The Persona is let down by its thirsty engine and a horrible transmission.
There’s also no permanent fix for the Proton Exora’s oil cooler hose problem – the weakest link in the decade-old 1.6-litre turbocharged but port fuel injection engine.
This will change in the near-term, as Proton has confirmed new powertrains are planned for its PIES range. No timeframe were shared but Proton says these, along with a pivot to battery EVs, will take place between now until 2027.
“Most of the sales volume in Malaysia is concentrated in a few segments and so Proton will continue to have offerings in sizeable and affordable segments, using homegrown products upgraded with new powertrain,” said Roslan, who emphasized the point on new powertrain, during a press event yesterday evening.
Roslan did not divulge further details, neither did he reveal if the powertrain upgrade is limited to just a new transmission or will it include a new engine. However he did make a reference to Proton’s investment into a new 180,000 units per year (when operating in 3 shifts) capacity engine assembly plant in Tanjung Malim.
The Deputy CEO added that the plant currently supplies the 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbocharged engines for its X series SUV models, but stressed that more models will be powered by variations of this engine in the near-term.
“The plant produces engines for models beyond the X50 and X70, and going forward there will be more variations of engines produced there that will be used in more models,” said Roslan.
The keyword here is ‘variations of the engines,’ meaning that it could be a detuned, probably even mild-hybrid versions of the 1.5-litre TGDi engine, which is referred to internally at Proton as the GEP3, for Global Engine Petrol 3.
For 2023, the Tanjung Malim engine assembly plant has a production plan for 60,000 units of these 3-cylinder engines.
Last year, Proton sold 59,214 units of the X50 and X70, but the port fuel injection TGi engine used in lower range variants of the X50 are imported from China. The Tanjung Malim plant currently only makes the direct injection TGDi engines.
The new and improved PIES models have an important role in supporting Proton's export goals. The near-term goal is to raise exports from the current 5,406 units to 10,000 units (no specific time frame mentioned, but Proton says its an interim goal).
Roslan also reiterated its goal to become the third largest passenger car brand in the ASEAN region by 2027. More on that here.