Top Rank: What is the quietest C-seg SUV on sale in Malaysia?

CY Foong · Jan 10, 2021 01:00 PM

The C-segment SUV market is surely one of the most competitive in Malaysia. With almost every major carmaker offering one, it’s not hard to see why these are gaining popularity among Malaysians.

They are spacious and practical for a growing family, with some even offering 7 seats. Plus, with a higher driving position, it’s probably an ideal vehicle for those who wish to command more presence on the road.

But while practicality and size are determining factors in getting a C-segment SUV, another often overlooked factor might be how quiet the cabin is. After all, you're upgrading to something bigger which might also offer a more premium price tag.

As such, you might expect a bigger vehicle to offer a quieter cabin.

Using our trusty sound level meter, we’ll reveal which is the quietest C-segment SUV currently on sale in Malaysia. We’ll be arranging them from loudest to quietest.

Side note, each of our vehicles conducted in the sound level tests went through a similar designated route. As such, the figures here aren't lab precise as the manufacturers' claimed figures, but they work as real-world benchmarks.

9. Mitsubishi Outlander – 70.5 dB at 110 km/h

It might be a bit too long in the tooth but if you’re looking for a simple SUV that is fairly comfortable, the Mitsubishi Outlander is just right for you. However, it is the noisiest based on our data. Our sound level meter recorded an average of 70.5 dB at a highway cruising speed of 110 km/h.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0L
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 45.5
60 63.5
90 69
110 70.5

As you can also see in the table above, those numbers aren’t exactly terrible to begin with as you’ll compare with its rivals. Despite achieving the highest recorded reading in this list, it feels a lot quieter in our review.

While the Outlander certainly shows its age, even among the rest of the Mitsubishi line-up, it’s a well-rounded SUV. Despite being a 5+2-seater, the third-row seats offer decent comfort even for average-sized adults.

8. Renault Koleos – 70 dB at 110 km/h

Starting from RM 182,867 (including SST), the Renault Koleos is one of the most expensive C-segment SUVs available in Malaysia. Based on how low it’s on this list, the quietness doesn’t quite show in its fairly high price.

Renault Koleos Signature
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 49
60 62
90 69
110 70

In our brief review, we found the French-Korean SUV to be a reasonably comfortable car. Sitting inside, you can’t help but admire the premium-looking wooden accents on the dashboard and door trims. Perhaps it’s the exquisite looks and feels that justify its high price?

Of course, there are a few niggles like the apparent wind noise when you’re cruising on the highway or that certain dials and trims don’t make it worth RM 180k. At least you do get an above-average sound quality to drown out the wind noise.

7. Honda CR-V (Pre-facelift) – 70 dB at 110 km/h

When it comes to choosing an SUV of any segment, perhaps the absolute safe choice would be the Honda CR-V. After all, it has been a Malaysian favourite for 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down based on how many of these are spotted on the road today.

Honda CR-V 1.5 TC-P (Pre-facelift)
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 44
60 60
90 69
110 70

While a facelift has been launched, the data we recorded is based on the pre-facelift CR-V. That being said, the facelift does have Active Noise Control (ANC) which could affect the new noise level results.

Based on our noise test readings, the pre-facelift CR-V feels a little bit high at certain speeds. According to our ratings on the noise level of the CR-V, at 90 km/h it has a higher reading than the segment reference (69 dB to the reference’s 65 dB). That harsh cabin noise is one of our deal breakers against the SUV. Could the facelift change that?

6. Toyota RAV4 – 69 dB at 110 km/h

If you think spending RM 180k on a C-segment SUV sounds ridiculous with the Renault Koleos, then the Toyota RAV4 and its RM 220k price tag must be as mad as a hat-wearing tea-swigging chum from wonderland. Look over its huge price however, and you might find that it’s a good Toyota.

Toyota RAV4 2.5L
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 49
60 62
90 64
110 69

Okay, maybe its noise level isn’t worth shouting for but the figures are pretty close to our segment reference overall. Inside, you don’t get the sort of premium air as the Koleos because it feels like an everyday, average Toyota.

But here’s the thing about being an average Toyota, it feels like it could last forever. The RAV4 can absorb even the most uneven of road surfaces and despite being a more ‘comfort-oriented’ SUV. We think it drives better than the Honda CR-V. Once again, the TNGA platform shines here through and through.

5. Subaru Forester – 69 dB at 110 km/h

Subarus are always seen as the left-field Japanese choice in Malaysia but the Forester is quickly becoming one of the rising models for the Star of Pleiades. For some, it’s a gateway to some of Subaru’s most famous features such as its AWD technology, Boxer engine layout, and the excellent EyeSight safety tech.

Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 47
60 57
90 62
110 69

Compared to the rest of the C-segment SUVs in this list, the Forester is easily the most rugged-looking SUV. Bland perhaps but still rugged. It might have the Subaru badge but don’t expect to call this a WRX SUV, because it isn’t that fast.

Apart from being quieter than the CR-V, another plus point over it might be its driving dynamics. It won’t go as fast as a WRX, but it does handle like one. In fact, the rear double wishbone suspension, combined with the boxer engine and symmetrical AWD gives the Forester good handling prowess.

4. Proton X70 – 68.5 dB at 110 km/h

The Proton X70 helped to turn the tide for Proton when it was launched in 2018. We thoroughly enjoyed Proton’s first-ever SUV model and it’s fair to say the sentiments remain the same with the locally-assembled (CKD) model that was launched in early 2020.

Proton X70 1.8 Premium X 2WD (CKD)
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 45.8
60 57
90 64
110 68.5

Needless to say, the differences between the early fully-imported (CBU) units of the X70 and its CKD derivative aren’t really that huge. Overall quality has remained the same all throughout and the X70 is very comfortable to be in whether it’s assembled in Tanjung Malim or Ningbo.

Granted while the CBU X70 knocks it out of the park with its low 67 dB reading, that version is no longer on sale. Still, there’s no denying that the X70 offers great value without the expense of comfort.

3. Nissan X-Trail Hybrid – 68 dB at 110 km/h

Moving away from the usual suspects, we have the often ignored but actually decent Nissan X-Trail. The twin of the Renault Koleos, the Nissan X-Trail offers the only hybrid-powered C-segment SUV available in Malaysia.

Nissan X-Trail Hybrid
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 44
60 60
90 63
110 68

That gives it some brownie points for those seeking something greener on their driveway. Based on the figures above, the X-Trail also offers very good noise levels thanks to adequate soundproofing in the engine bay.

Enhancing the comfort levels are the Zero Gravity seats which are really as written out of the box. You do feel like you’re floating comfortably, so sitting in one is truly worth believing. It is also noted that the petrol variant of the X-Trail also recorded similar noise level figures.

2. Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace – 68 dB at 110 km/h

It might be the only other 7-seater SUV on this list, but the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace feels more modern than the Outlander. At the same time, thanks to the lack of ADAS, it also feels a little more outdated than its rivals.

Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace R-Line
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 49
60 60
90 62
110 68

According to our data, the noise levels recorded are honestly impressive for a vehicle of this size. At 68 dB, it ties with the X-Trail Hybrid and the number one SUV on this list. Even more impressive, the readings are on the more potent R-Line variant.

We absolutely love the R-Line for combining Golf GTI performance in a family-friendly package. The ride can be a tad firm but you can adjust the settings in the R-Line thanks to Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC).

1. Mazda CX-5 – 68 dB at 110 km/h

It can be said that Mazda is pretty much the BMW of Japanese makes. Its Jinba Ittai philosophy sounds similar to BMW’s age-old pursuit of the ultimate driving machine but in the case of the CX-5, Mazda wants to also try to push itself in terms of comfort and quality.

Mazda CX-5 2.0L High
Speed (km/h) Noise level (dB)
0 (with A/C on) 41
60 58
90 63
110 68

Ranking as the quietest C-segment SUV currently on sale in Malaysia, the CX-5 in its 2.0L High variant might have the same average noise level on a 110 km/h highway cruise as the second- and third-placed competitors, but it has the lowest recorded average noise level at idle among the SUVs in this list.

The reason for that would be the impressive sound insulation. Thick door panels and double-glazed windows on the front help to suppress most of the wind and traffic noise. The ride might be on the firmer side in terms of SUVs, but it isn’t an entirely uncomfortable experience.

While the Mazda CX-5 currently rules the roost as the quietest SUV on sale in Malaysia so far, there are still some models we have yet to test including the facelifted Honda CR-V. Do watch this space for updates.

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