Published on September 24th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair


How Much Better is the 2019 Proton Iriz

Here’s our take on the Proton Iriz for 2019.

The Proton Iriz received a pretty major facelift earlier this year, bringing the first major changes to the car since its 2017 update. Protons claim that they made hundreds of improvements to the Iriz. We don’t have the means to tear the car apart and find where those changes are, but we can say is that the car feels substantially better. But we had some concerns before getting into it that we’ll address before getting into the way the car has changed.

The first thing that perplexed us was the stark difference between the 2019 Saga and the 2019 Iriz. Previously they were both using the same Punch-sourced CVT, but the Saga was recently facelifted with a Hyundai-made 4-speed conventional automatic instead. Well, the way Proton operates under Geely management has changed drastically. To create products that really impress, each model gets assigned to different teams and they all compete internally and operate with some degree of independence. So while the Saga team may have felt the conventional automatic would have cleared most of their performance woes, the Iriz, Persona and Exora teams all preferred to stick to the CVT. But why?

Well probably because Geely also had a working relationship with Punch and had their own solution to overcome the CVT’s programming challenges. Whether or not Proton ended up using Geely code or sitting down and doing new programming of their own, the result is spectacular. What we experienced in the 2019 Iriz is a gearbox that knows how and when to respond to changes in inclines and throttle input, almost to a faultless level. 

However, no amount of programming can overcome this particular CVT’s clutch-operation. It’s still easy to perceive the slight climb in engine revs as the car starts from a standstill. While this is barely an annoyance, those who regularly drive in heavy traffic might find it a step down from the smoothness offered by torque converter-type gearboxes.

Elsewhere, the Iriz has improved vastly as well. Noise, vibration and harshness is an aspect that Proton’s engineers have excelled at this time around. The difference between previous iterations of the Iriz and this 2019 version is HUGE. The new car is exceedingly quiet to the point of nearing what’s expected in the C-segment.

Yet even with these improvements, I have a feeling the typical Myvi buyer has not been deliberately targeted. Proton has instead doubled down on their own, and the Iriz’s strengths. It’s now leaning further into the sporty, youthful image that it has always held. 

The redesign is the first thing that indicates this. Outside, you get new bumpers, a new grille, a piece of black garnish on the rear hatch with ‘PROTON’ emblazoned across it and sportier-looking wheels. It’s tough to say if the Iriz looks better or not. On the one hand, this is clearly a more modern look, and it’s certainly more eye-catching. But on the other hand, the headlights have gone from projectors to reflectors and the confident lines on the original Iriz have disappeared under a lot of busy styling. Very subjective here, but the car does still look good regardless of personal preference.

Inside, the X70’s gear knob, a modern-looking instrument cluster, a large voice and touch-enabled infotainment unit are all present. We found the new infotainment unit to be very functional, but a little cluttered in terms of its user interface. For instance, switching between types of media, there was no dedicated physical button.

What I personally liked about the new interior was the black headliner and the blacked-out hardware that it comes with. It’s the clearest indication that Proton wasn’t targeting the Myvi crowd, and instead were looking to appeal to those looking for sportier hatchbacks. The interior of the Iriz just looks so much better now with those semi-bucket, semi-leather striped seats, the tasteful red stitching and darkened interior pieces.

Proton has given the Iriz a huge price cut. From its 2017 price, which started at RM44,000, the new Iriz starts at just under RM39,000. But what’s even more impressive is that the full-spec 1.6-litre Premium went from costing nearly RM57,000 to now just costing less than RM54K. Considering how many features have been added (and Proton’s claim of closing their quality control standards with Geely’s and Volvo’s) this is an extremely good value for money proposition.

But like I mentioned before, I don’t think those looking for maximum value for money will still pick an Iriz over a Myvi. The Myvi still reflects traditional car buyer values of comfort, space and peace of mind. But hey, if you’ve always liked the Iriz, this is by far the best time to own one. The product is at its peak and the price is likely to be at its lowest point.

2019 Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium CVT Specifications

Engine: Inline 4, 16 Valve, DOHC, Petrol
Capacity: 1597cc
Gearbox: CVT automatic
Max power: 107hp @ 5750rpm
Max torque: 150Nm @ 4000rpm
Price: RM53,751

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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