Published on November 6th, 2023 | by Subhash Nair


Proton X90 VS Chery Tiggo 8 Pro VS Toyota Innova Zenix Shootout

Proton X90, Chery Tiggo 8 Pro, Toyota Innova Zenix: which of these three should you buy in 2023.

The 7-seater market has been shaken up this year by not one, not two, but THREE all-new offerings in a somewhat similar pricing bracket. 

In May 2023, we got the Proton X90 – the largest and most expensive model to be marketed by the national car brand. The X90 is based on the Geely Haoyue/Okavango and carries some MPV DNA, but features SUV styling.

Then came the June 2023 introduction of the all-new Toyota Innova Zenix models. Here we get both a petrol and a hybrid version. Here we are testing the petrol model. The MPV basis of the Innova Zenix is more evident but it too features SUV styling in this generation.

Toyota Innova Zenix front

Finally in July 2023 came the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro. Unlike the other two, this is more of an SUV with a third row of seats than an MPV. However, it’s pricing and date of arrival make it a clear contender in the same space. So we thought we’d put all three in for a shoot out.

There will be more thorough individual coverage of each of these cars on the site in the near future, but we thought we’d give readers a rough overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the cars. For context, we drove the X90 1.5 Premium (7-seater) and Tiggo 8 Pro side by side, then switched over to the same X90 and the Innova Zenix petrol version side by side. 

Thoughts on the Toyota Innova Zenix

The Toyota Innova Zenix is the only 8-seater and the only one here powered by a naturally-aspirated engine with a continuously variable transmission. Just from that alone, you’ll be able to tell it’s the most practical and conventional of the lot. It’s priced at RM165,000 and is also the only model here to be fully-imported – our unit comes from Indonesia. 

Daniel is writing his full review on this MPV-with-SUV looks. From my time with the car this week, here’s what I liked about the Innova Zenix.

Advantages Of The Toyota Innova Zenix

The engine is a modern Dynamic Force unit with 174PS and 205Nm of torque on tap. It’s the weakest of the bunch and has to be worked at for power. Strangely enough, it’s the only one here with paddle shifters and really the only one that doesn’t really need them. That being said, it’s also the most intuitive vehicle to drive in this group. It feels familiar in its power delivery from start to stop. A short test drive will reveal this familiar driving character and perhaps longer use will bring out some appreciation for the way the vehicle is tuned. 

Comfort is good here thanks to the new TNGA platform. It felt modern enough behind the wheel and didn’t feel MPV-like at all in the corners. The driving position is high up and that long hood gives you an almost off-roader-like feel. The cabin controls were the easiest and most intuitive to operate – everything’s very Toyota in here. It also has a good-enough 360-degree parking camera and the highest number of USB-C ports of the group. Toyota did not short change here in terms of standard equipment. You get auto up-down power windows all around, ambient lighting, leather upholstery and a lot of practical amenities. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also present here. 

The biggest strength here is the third row of seats. It’s the most accessible and flexible in the Toyota Innova Zenix. The 2nd row tilts forward and slides very far forward, there are wide areas to step allowing easy entry and exit with grab handles on all three rows to aid. The third row here also has 3 seatbelts and headrests, though it’s likely only children will be able to sit 3 abreast. Still, the only one that can legally seat 3 in the back.

Disadvantages Of The Toyota Innova Zenix

This is also the only model here that can’t fold its 2nd row flat. It can be reclined somewhat, but this is less than ideal for maximum cargo moving capability.

While Toyota have done reasonably well in making sure all boxes are ticked in terms of equipment load out, the Innova Zenix still feels a generation older than its Chinese peers in terms of its interior feel. Displays aren’t quite as sharp nor are they as well animated.

Feature integration feels a step behind. You don’t get things like remote engine start or remote powered boot operation via the key fob. These aren’t deal breakers as most can live without this kind of “shine”, but we have to point them out as the two rivals are far ahead in this regard. The conventional powertrain is also less impressive in its technical capability, but will still get the job done with proven durability

Thoughts on the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro

The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro is the only vehicle here that doesn’t quite belong. It’s positioned as a luxury SUV killer and isn’t quite an MPV in SUV clothing like the other two. That being said, there will be some cross-shopping as the Tiggo 8 Pro does still seat 7 and does still intersect with the pricing of both these other rivals.

It’s locally-assembled in Kulim and is a right-hand drive conversion with some minor left-hand drive holdovers that we’ll mention down below. It’s far and beyond the most powerful vehicle in this comparison and the only one with all-wheel drive. You get 256 hp and 390Nm of torque from the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo via a 7-speed DCT. 

Advantages Of The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro

The biggest advantage of the Tiggo 8 Pro is its ability to dazzle. As mentioned earlier, this car is in a different league. It delivers a premium experience when it comes to figures, design and features. The best place to start is there. On first impression, the Tiggo’s exterior features the most upmarket design cues and the best SUV proportions with quad exhausts and an aggressive grille design.

The interior is even more impressive with previous generation Mercedes-Benz trim pieces done to almost exactly the same quality of fit an finish. Honestly, the cabin of this vehicle feels like it belongs in a car three times its asking price.

Practically, it’s also very impressive. This is the only car of the three with chauffeur seat controls on the front passenger seat, the only one with a blower control dial for the third row of seats, and the only one with a tonneau cover for security and privacy when cargo is being carried. The cover even has its own stowage location under the boot floor.

It also has a great 360-degree camera system, Android Auto and Apple Carplay is available too on the best displays and infotainment system in this group. 

Finally, we have to talk about the amount of power the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro serves up. 256hp and 390Nm of torque is nothing to scoff at. This is what a premium brand would easily charge double for and in the Chery you’re getting it at RM160K, which is completely unheard of. In terms of execution, Chery did a better than average job of delivering that kind of power too, which is very commendable given the cost constraints and the fact the engine was made in-house by this young car company.

Disadvantages Of The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro

That being said, the powertrain has its letdowns too. At low speed in particular, the Tiggo 8 Pro has an unintuitive throttle pedal. This is down to the use of a dual-clutch transmission with less than mature mapping. The clutch engages suddenly and this leads to either too little or too much throttle, which can be tough when parking the car. We spun the wheels countless times in the rain as the engine just wants to deliver a lot of power quickly. It also means the Chery is the thirstiest of the three.

The suspension is also the most firm of the three. It’s the best in the corners, but in a car this big, there are other considerations for a vehicle of this size. The third row of seats are also the least practical to use despite the blower controls. They’re hard to get in and out of. They’re also only accessible on the driver’s side, which indicates a right-hand drive conversion that wasn’t fully thought out – passengers should alight on the side of the road shoulder by default.

The final complaint is pretty minor. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to work the memory function on the powered boot and driver’s seat. 

Thoughts on the Proton X90 Premium

The Proton X90 Premium is the only national car on the list. It’s not a mere right-hand drive conversion – Proton fitted and tuned independent rear suspension, gave the cabin and exterior their own little appointments. Even the 2nd row air conditioning systems are Proton’s work. That also means it’s the least expensive of the lot.

The version we’re comparing here is the 2nd to top version at just RM144,800. There is a 6-seater version with a sunroof, a DVR, and chauffeur controls for RM152,800 but that was not available this week. The powertrain is a 1.5L turbo 3-cylinder with a 48V hybrid system and a 7-speed DCT sending 190PS and 300Nm of torque power to the front wheels only.

Advantages Of The Proton X90

Honestly, the best things I can say about the Proton X90 is that it’s the best balanced product of the three AND it’s the cheapest. The powertrain offers fuel-sipping qualities while still having enough torque to fully load up and take on the highway. Power is sufficient and response is brisk, which makes it more than acceptable for use in an MPV. Most impressive is the suspension tuning – it’s very absorbent over bumps and still offers good dynamic capabilities when pushed.

It was also very balanced in terms of practicality. Our 7-seater version may not be as practical for people-moving as the Innova, but access to the third row was actually good. My six-foot self could even sit in that row with headroom to spare. The middle row seats feature both flat folding for cargo stowage and even slide and tilt forward to allow access to the rear seats. There’s also an easily accessed hidden bin under the boot floor, one more between the front passengers and a large centre storage box too. 

The interior is also very well built and features good materials and high-tech screens. You also get a lot more equipment than expected at this price, including remote start, remote power boot operation, a good quality 360-degree parking camera, air vents for all three rows, USB-A charging for all three rows and a single USB-C in case that’s the only cable handy. We tried Proton’s built in Map app and it delivered good results, plus there’s Spotify installed on there too. 

Disadvantages Of The Proton X90

That’s unfortunately where the problems start. Geely and/or Proton’s unwillingness to adopt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto continues to give them more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe there’s a long term vision with ACO Tech and ECARX, but it’s self-serving and the vehicles and the customer base suffers as a result. No one wants what they have to offer but Geely. That may sound a little unfair, but if Chinese rivals like Chery can so readily offer AC/AA, there’s no reason why Proton cannot.

There are other disadvantage to picking the Proton. The powertrain here is for sure the most complex of the three. It has a hybrid element that is absent on the Chery and a small turbocharged engine and DCT which are absent on the Toyota. Complexity brings the great balance of the powertrain, but it does add more points of failure that will need to be addressed as the car ages. Even with a solid warranty and proven durability, we feel that’s a fair statement to make.

Finally there’s a little lack of refinement from the said powertrain too. This motor was impressive in the X50, but in a vehicle like the X90, there are vibrations and jolts that are sometimes felt that one don’t really expect in a car of this size and price.

Concluding Thoughts

I think Malaysians in this particular market are spoiled for choice and that’s a good thing. If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, the Mazda CX-8, Kia Carnival and even Kia Sorento continue to be great all-round products for people-moving. One could even wait and see what the next-gen Honda CR-V might bring to the table or even get a more tried-and-tested Nissan Serena if that’s your jam.

Of the three in the mix, we think the Proton X90 presented the best balance of qualities. An ultra-modern powertrain, good styling, solid construction, great practicality and excellent value. The Innova Zenix takes practical considerations to the furthest extent and is the one we’d recommend to those who need to move the most people the most amount of time while also wanting the car with the longest service life – ultimately cars are tools. The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro exceeds in spectacle and delivers the most power and luxury and equipment but doesn’t quite meet the same daily-driving and people-moving practicality as the other two. 

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

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