At the start of the century, the company bought the UK sports car maker Lotus, and began to roll out cars of its own design. Their run as an Independent carmaker came to a halt in 2016, when the Chinese automotive giant Geely purchased a controlling interest of the company.In Bangladesh, the brand is remembered by most by the mundane, flat white Proton Sagas that used to make up a good chunk of the government fleet during the late 90s and early 2000s. Although not luxurious by any stretch of imagination, the cars were simple and reliable, as proven by the fact you can still have a rare encounter with one on the road.The current Proton lineup is radically different to that of the wedge-y Saga days. One of the first things Geely did after taking over the reins of Proton was to shake up its product line, introducing cars such as the Proton X70, a five-seat SUV based on their own “Boyue”line of compact crossover.
In the local market top-end “Premium” trim of the X70 rivals German some luxury marques in terms of features and luxury, featuring Nappa leather upholstery, Panoramic sunroof, and many other good stuff for a one-third sticker price. They also introduced the X70 “Executive”, a more adventurous sibling of the Premium that trades some opulent features for an All-Wheel-Drive system and a tougher interior. The latter being the subject of our review today.
Despite being a Chinese-origin design. The X70 lacks a massive front grille. This gives the car a more unique look compared to other cars in its segment, much desired effect in a country whose streets are flooded with crossovers of every make.
Proton has come a long way from its rebadged Mitsubishi days. Established in 1985 as Malaysia’s sole national car company, the name “Proton” is a Malay acronym for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (National Automobile Company). The company cut its teeth in carmaking by rebadging various Mitsubishi, and later Honda, vehicles.
At the centre of the “infinite weave” grille sits the Proton badge, a stylised head of a Malayan tiger. Fanking the grille are a pair of LED headlamps with integrated daytime running lamps, which have “Proton’’ inscribed onto their sides.Behind the front fascia, sits the car’s 1477cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine, borrowed from another one of Geely’s subsidiaries, Volvo. The 181 Hp and 255 Nm of torque made by the engine can barely be heard inside the cabin, as Proton went the extra mile and covered the entire engine bay with plastic cladding.Being an all wheel drive vehicle, the Executive sits on a set of 225/80 18-inch alloy wheels, which lifts the car roughly 190mm off the ground.
A red & blue “T-GDI” badge can be found on the front door, a reference to the car’s to the turbocharged gasoline direct injection engine.Much like the headlamps, the taillamps also spot the Proton inscription. In the middle of those is the powered tailgate, complete with automatic wipers for a rainy day. Despite having a three cylinder engine, the rear bumper features twin exhaust and a piece of plastic designed to mimic a metal skid plate.Climbing inside the X70, one would find a clutter free interior with smooth and soft edges. Our press car’s dashboard had a ash-wood-like finish, center of which sat an 8-inch infotainment system with voice command and a nine-speaker stereo system. The infotainment system supports Bluetooth, and has its own propierary app for phones that is somewhat confusing to use.
Underneath the screen are controls for the car’s dual-zone automatic climate control, as well as the gear lever and drive mode controls.
The entire cabin is finished in resilient black leatherette, with the driver being treated to a powered seat, a leather wrapped steering wheel and armrest. Both of the front row occupants have access to ventilated seats while the 2nd row gets an armrest with cupholders, individual reading lights and dedicated AC vents.
Six USB charging ports are spread all over the vehicle, along with a 12-volt socket inside the centre console. An additional USB port is hidden behind the car’s centre rearview mirror for mounting a dashcam.
The cargo bay of the X70 is quite large and illuminated, featuring a tonneau cover for those who value their privacy.
In terms of safety, the cabin is protected by an array of 6 SRS airbags with the car scoring a 5 star in ASEAN NCAP safety test. Proton also offers an optional air ionizer for the X70, designed to sterilise the air from any harmful elements. For driving safely in our city traffic, the car features a 360 degree 3D camera system that shows up on screen every time the indicator is turned on or the car is put into reverse. For parking in tight spaces, a set of six proximity sensors are given, two at the front and four in the rear. To prevent theft, the X70 comes with a built-in immobiliser and security alarm.
The Volvo-sourced engine of the X70 sends power to all four wheels through a 7-Speed DCT, which on road means relatively brisk acceleration after the turbo kicks in at around 1,500 RPM. The “sport” mode is largely symbolic, though one can put the DCT in manual mode to have more engagement.
The suspension is somewhat stiff, something that the Proton staff informed me is exclusive to the Executive trim. The brakes perform exceptionally well, as we discovered courtesy of an unpainted speed bump.
Because of time constraints, we couldn’t fully test out the off-road capabilities. We did took it off the paved roads around 100 feet, where is handled what little hurdle we could throw at it with ease.
In a market filled with front wheel drive crossovers, the X70 Executive stands out with its all-wheel-drive capability and relatively understated design.
If you are looking for a similar brand new, technologically advanced, luxurious five seat vehicle, you will have a hard time finding a similar spec car from other established marques, especially at this price point. Add the AWD system to the mix and one will find there are virtually no other options, except maybe for the Outlander PHEV, with the latter being almost double in price.