Review: It may have lost one cylinder but the new 2022 Proton X70 still feels exceptional
CY Foong · Jul 13, 2022 05:30 PM
As of June 2022, around 73,000 units of the Proton X70 have been delivered to customers ever since its introduction back in 2018. Since then, the SUV has been through two updates and this latest one seems minor on the outside but under the hood, the change is quite major.
Out goes the 4-cylinder 1.8-litre TGDi (184 PS/300 Nm) and in goes the smaller turbocharged 1.5-litre TGDi (177 PS/255 Nm) 3-pot that is also found on the Proton X50. Of course, hearing that change might be a deterrent against many buyers with comments like “Heavy car, small engine, sure underpower one” being a common cry.
But in our two-day media drive from Proton’s Centre of Excellence (COE) in Subang Jaya to Desaru and back, we’re here to report that things aren’t as bleak as some people like to assume. In fact, we might say that the smaller engine makes the X70 feel better.
Ride and handling – A lot more finesse around bends
It has been a couple of years since Proton last organised a media drive and coincidentally enough, the last Proton media drive involved the CKD X70. Our two-day journey spanned nearly 1,000 km across 4 states through twisty back roads and smooth, straight highways.
With a lighter engine in front, the X70 feels sprightlier around the bends. Gone is the boaty handling that plagued the pre-updated X70 and in comes a feeling of a bit more fun. It lacks that usual Proton handling but for an SUV of its class, it’s very good.
Through the windy roads as we head up to Bukit Tangga, Negeri Sembilan, we feel the new X70 is nimble around the corners but bear in mind, this is still an SUV so body roll is still present. At least it’s not that pronounced that one might feel car sick.
As for the ride, the 1.5-litre X70 is no different than the 1.8-litre X70. In fact, if one doesn’t mention the engine “downgrade”, it feels as good, if not great, as the pre-updated X70.
Comfort – Perhaps the best seats for a long-distance road trip
If there’s one trait that we would easily rank high on the previous X70, it is comfort and that has thankfully remained the same in the 3-pot X70.
Even at high speeds, the vibrations and wind noise are still minimal and you wouldn’t have a problem taking a nap in the back. No doubt we would be whipping out our trusty sound level meter to see how quiet the cabin is in the full review.
The engine is also mostly buttery smooth and quiet at high speeds. It's only when the engine starts revving above 3,800 rpm that the noise starts creeping into the cabin but it's certainly not intrusive.
Though the brakes might feel a bit vague at times, the stopping power feels gradual, smooth even. For those tired occupants sleeping in the back, it’s a blessing to not be awakened with a sudden jolt because of some joker who cut into the lane without signalling.
The suspension set-up for both the 1.8- and 1.5-litre X70 are virtually the same and that’s a good thing comfort-wise. Say what you will about Proton’s advantages in terms of pricing against its non-local rivals but we like to think that the X70 has the best seats in its class in terms of comfort.
A lighter engine can be a boon for handling but also at the same time, there are a few faults when getting up to speed. Even if the smaller engine is 43 kg lighter, the X70 weighs in at 1,615 kg which isn’t what you call featherweight.
We aren’t talking 0-100 km/h times here yet but during our drive, we felt the 3-pot engine sometimes struggled to bring up to speed. This was noticeable when trying to maintain speed on the highways and during standstill acceleration.
It’s also during the latter that you can feel the engine vibration more prominently though it quickly smooths out as you get up to speed. The X70 comes with three driving modes – Normal, Sport, and Eco. During most of our journey, we drove the SUV on Normal setting but switched between modes occasionally.
Sport mode fixes the initial sluggishness felt during standstill acceleration and it gives a bit of a boost when overtaking on the backroads. However, as the revs will be higher which also holds the gear longer, fuel consumption will be affected.
Eco mode solves that fuel consumption worry by maintaining the RPM to below 2,000 but that of course hampers the acceleration department. We suggest using this mode for long-distance cruises or if you’re simply not in a rush.
Fuel economy – Decent for its class
As mentioned a few paragraphs before, this drive takes a combined total of nearly 1,000 km with the first day being driven around a mix of backroads and highways while the second day mostly involves driving on the highway.
By the end of the first day, we arrived in Desaru with 3 bars of fuel left while the second day saw us arriving at our destination with 4 bars of fuel in the tank. We will give a more thorough fuel consumption test during our full review, but this gives a bit of an indicator as to how much more fuel-efficient the 1.5-litre 3-pot is compared to the 1.8-litre 4-cylinder.
At the X70 MC2’s launch, Proton claims that the 1.5-litre unit is 7 percent more efficient than the 1.8-litre unit. Nevertheless, it’s still impressive that we managed to travel around 500 km without the need to refuel, let alone still have some more fuel left in the tank.
The 1.5 TGDi Premium comes with Nappa leather upholstery, front ventilated seats, 9 speakers, and ADAS which are great considering that it starts from RM 123,800. What’s not great is Proton’s proprietary car connectivity system which mirrors your smartphone to the infotainment.
Unlike Perodua’s Smart Link which only supports Android, Proton’s mirroring set-up also supports iOS. On one hand, the system has a dedicated Spotify app which you can control on the touchscreen but it is quite basic. Nevertheless, the rest, including Google Maps is still only operable via a smartphone which makes the car connectivity system a tad bit redundant.
That might be a minor issue but here’s to hopefully Proton implementing proper car connectivity as standard in the future.
When the Proton X70 made its debut in 2018, it almost immediately changed the fortunes of Proton from a cheap “national” carmaker to one that is held in high regard by most Malaysians regardless of creed.
At the X70’s press conference, the Premium variants were revealed to be the most popular choice among buyers even though they are top-of-the-range.
In its fourth year and second update, the X70 was given a major makeover under the hood which might seem like a downgrade on paper. However, the real world is far from just black and white and in our two days with Proton’s flagship, it gave us a bit more colour with each drive.
The 2022 Proton X70 MC2 retains the same brilliance as the previous updates and is now a lot more enjoyable to drive (or sleep in). Parts worries aside, it is still one of the best SUVs money can buy.