There hasn’t been a car as crazily anticipated by our market like this and Proton “sort of” broke the internet recently with the preview of it’s new compact SUV – the X50. If we’re honest, even we ourselves were blown away just by looking at photos, that clearly we couldn’t wait to drive one. Happily, Proton invited us over to Sepang International Circuit yesterday and here we are to report our first hand drive experience with the new X50 Performance!
Let’s get the facts and figures out of the way. 1.5 litre Turbocharged 3 cylinder engine producing 177ps and 250nm through a 7-speed DCT gearbox. 100km/h sprint in just under 8 seconds. These are properly amazing figures, and we must not ignore the fact that these amazing figures are coming from a Proton!
Proton as a brand has been so heavily associated with an unconvincing stigma over the years as they’ve been manufacturing under engineered, rebadged vehicles. Of course, we can’t ignore some of the truly great ones, like the C99 chassis of the Proton Putra and Satria GTI but others just became a staple for budget point A to point B vehicles. This new car however is set to change the pace under the brand’s new ownership, Geely!
The new Proton X50 shares the same underpinnings to the Geely Binyue. When we say underpinnings, its more literally the whole car with a slight frontal fascia change and Geely badge taken off in favour of Proton’s latest ‘harimau’. The truth of the fact is that, what’s so wrong with this being a China derived Geely product? If we consider the massive brands under the family tree of the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG), cross-platform sharing of chassis, engines, and other parts are becoming a norm and well accepted Internationally. And what’s even cooler is the fact that Geely are making cracking cars and have been successful with Volvo. Go with the times, because we think that this step is just perfect from a new age of Proton!
What’s it like to drive?
We spent our time in Sepang International Circuit to explore everything that the X50 Performance had to offer. Between quarter mile drag run, to slalom, to track time experience all throughout the day, giving Proton the opportunity to truly showcase the car’s capabilities to us Medias. Yes, the X50 is jammed pack with so many tech gizmos (which we will talk about in this article shortly) but since this is the “Performance” version, we’re most interested to explore that part of Proton’s new compact SUV.
The chassis is based off Geely’s B-segment Modular Architecture (BMA) chassis which was developed in partnership with Volvo. With connections to the Swedish marque, safety was a top priority on the development of the BMA platform, holding a perfect 5-star Euro NCAP crash rating making the X50 a very appealing vehicle for the mass market. Despite all the structural rigidity and loaded up luxuries, Proton claims that the X50 Performance only weighs 1350kg which truly shows on the drive.
Being a crossover, the X50 Performance clearly wasn’t designed to find the limits of grip. But that hasn’t stopped Geely from making a confident car on the drive. Putting the car through it’s paces, we discovered that this little SUV drives beautifully on the corners, with hints of strong potential for it to be a HOT compact SUV. The ride is supple, and when you take the X50 through the twisty bits we found that the rear of the car rotates fluently, giving the positive feel that a driver needs in a fast-paced situation. Truthfully, there were initial qualms on the 3-cylinder engine. Many were not confident on the fact that an imbalanced motor would disrupt the cars feel. We’re happy to report however that the NVH ratings on the Proton X50 is pretty good for its class, and we had little to no hints of the 3-cylinder vibrations flowing through the interior of the car. Despite being only a 1.5-litre, the engine’s performance it’s pretty spectacular producing a high amount of power and torque. Qualities which we think will be Proton’s sales proposition to those out there looking for their next car.
If we had to complain, we’d appreciate if Proton fitted the X50 Performance with paddle shifters which should make the drive a bit more engaging. We also found that there was a slight throttle lag from the X50. When we say slight, on full throttle from a standstill, there was an off pace of about 1-1.5 seconds before the car got off the line. It is in no way the fault of the engine, however we have been told that this throttle lag is there to protect the longevity of the gearbox. Geely has fitted the Proton X50 Performance with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission which we’re sure many might be concern about. However, Proton is confident that they’ve put this platform over a 2 million kilometre test that the reliability is assured.
What’s it like on the inside?
Quality has been a hugely subjective issue with Proton over the years. But with the Geely partnership, no parts of the car were skimmed to develop this new X50 Performance. Truthfully, the car feels like a properly premium product, with leather and tech flooded all around the drive and cabin.
We love the infotainment system’s interface, that is very responsive and quite pleasing to the eyes. Gizmos like 360 degree camera with HD output is definitely cool for a car of this segment, where the X50’s competitors clearly hasn’t brought this department up to par. Sadly, we didn’t have the time on the preview to test out the car’s sound system, but we sure hope Proton and Geely didn’t skimp out on this department either as it’ll be a very important factor for the target market of the X50.
In terms of safety drive tech – things like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) are all standard in the Proton X50 Performance. For the general market, these tech are very important and will clearly appeal to many. However, for the drive enthusiasts, we’ll all find these drive assistance rather intrusive to our drive. But these elements are also part of making this car safe.
Being inside, the X50 Performance definitely feels like a quality product. The seats are wrapped in quality leather and there is a touch of class with the way Proton has made the two-tone interior to match the top skin of the dashboard. In comparison to the Honda HRV, which is the X50’s main rival, the interior cabin feels spacious and airy thanks to the openable glass sunroof on the interior. Visually, you can find plastics everywhere but they are in no way crappy to touch which is something many of us can rarely say about Protons of old.
What do we think?
Although our time was rather short with the Proton X50 Performance, the idea of this preview experience was to give us a hint of what the future holds for the brand and a quick introduction of the X50 to the market. At this point this article is written, the X50 is not yet officially launched hence there is final selling price yet. However, the indicative figure is for the price to start below RM100k which makes the Proton X50 an absolutely perfect candidate for everyone’s next car.
Our first impressions, well, we have only good things to say about Proton’s new compact SUV. It feels like a car that was developed by people who understands cars and care about the people who buys them too. This X50 Performance is in no doubt going to be selling like hot cakes, and for once Proton has a product saleable against rivals from other established Japanese and European brands. The brand only has 1000 units to deliver by December 2020, but we won’t be surprised that our roads will be flooded with the X50 within the next 2 years. Congratulations Proton, this is a good step into the future. Let’s all stay tuned to the official launch in a couple of weeks time!
Written By | Qhalis Najmi