Published on November 20th, 2023 | by Subhash Nair0
Proton S70 Sedan Pre-Launch First Impression
Proton B+ segment S70 sedan will be another best seller, or will it?
Proton has very kindly invited members of the press to an early preview of its new S70. While still frustratingly not revealing key details like its price at that time, having the opportunity to spend some time in and around this sedan was nevertheless enough to form a good enough impression of what exactly this Preve-successor is.
For those who are even mildly curious about it’s confused identity however, it primarily stems from Proton’s aforementioned delusion in wanting to market the S70 as a Civic-rivalling C-segmenter. In fact, the roaring lion marque has proudly proclaimed for itself to have set the goal for this latest offering to crush said Honda and its Corolla competitor in the local sales chart for this particular size category.
Upon the mildest questioning on this aspect however, Proton will then promptly flip-flop to state that the main competition for this S70 is instead the smaller Vios and City. Something that will be more apparent when discussing the performance aspect of it later on. In any case though, the Malaysian automaker’s deluded insistence of this new sedan being a C-segment car also cannot escape the fact that it is built upon Geely’s BMA platform, which if you’re unfamiliar stands for B-segment Modular Architecture.
In short, the S70 continues on a long-standing Proton problem of suffering from what should be dubbed the Preve/Persona syndrome of being a half-segment car. Now this could of course be considered a good thing to promote for buyers to get a car bigger car for the price of a smaller car, but also remember too that getting more car isn’t always the luxury that Proton has always sold it to be.
Anyway, getting away from what is perhaps not something consumers will care to something more important to its buyers, the exterior design of the S70 could possibly be described aptly as unoffensive yet unfortunately also uninteresting. Stylish, as Proton describes it in its marketing material it certainly isn’t, but the LED light bar (with 190 individual LEDs) on this flagship model certainly adds some much needed pizzazz to a design that looks not unlike the generic cars you see in showhouse display sets.
For what it’s worth also, the front of the S70 is a decent-enough looker, with LED projector headlights (standard on all but the base-tier model) and cool little light show gimmick a nice little party trick to make owners turn back to stare once more after having parked their car. Proton is especially proud too of its bespoke X90-esque front grille, which while not wanting to speak down on the work done by the in-house design team, does nevertheless look like a mashup of Kia’s tiger-nose for its frame and Mercedes’ chrome pins on its fascia.
Continuing swiftly onto the wider topic of custom Malaysian touches made to this Sino-sedan meanwhile, it was emphatically emphasised by Proton’s design team that it has used satin chrome instead of blingy items to best match local subdued sensibilities. The 17-inch dual-tone alloys and optional custom bodykit are further among the highlights Proton touts for its input on the exterior of this S70. But there is unfortunately no getting away that this is still a Geely design, and a three year old one at that too.
Interior & Practicality
Happily however, said three year old design is still to be relatively fresh within. A feat which Proton would like to point out is thanks in part to its in-house redesigned floating centre console, with a custom T-shaped shifter and a cubby hole underneath it for extra storage. Other changes Proton is keen to also point out from the Geely Emgrand is the new songket-weave-inspired texture on its dash, but potential buyers will likely be more taken in by 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 12.3-inch central infotainment touchscreen floating atop (that is standard on Flagship and up).
A system that packs 6 GB of ram and 64 GB of internal storage, the central screen is decently fast and responsive enough to use. It also nets the typical but still handy Hi Proton voice assistant feature, but unfortunately at the expense of a physical sunroof button (on the Flagship X variants) as well as more importantly a physical volume knob.
As to be sadly but predictably expected too, Android auto and Apple CarPlay integration still eludes these Geely-Protons. Its 6-speaker sound system (that replaces the 4-speaker unit on the lower spec variants) does nevertheless sound crisp albeit slightly sunken after a bit of fine tuning, though what can’t be tuned out is the sea of hard and scratchy plastics that line all the major touch-points.
An interior that is on par with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan and BMW 218 Gran Coupe it definitely ain’t, Proton, despite what you may really want to try convince the world otherwise. But in all fairness to the S70, the cabin quality is to be on par with what is currently being offered in the City and Vios.
Proton’s further insistence as well for the S70 to be a C-segment car is just another shot in its own foot, as buyers will likely express some disappointment in the practicality (or lack thereof) in its cabin. That is as this B+ segment sedan is unsurprisingly smaller than the full C-segment Civic, and thanks to the packaging wizards that still work at Honda, means that the dimensionally-larger Proton is actually almost inseparable within when compared to the smaller City. An uncomfortable truth that is driven home when said B-segment Japanese sedan has a larger boot (by 6 litres) than the 500 litres Proton touts with its S70.
Though once again, in all fairness to Proton, the S70 is still big enough within for four lanky lads. The more well-appointed Malaysian will probably also appreciate rather squishy and comfortable seats too, but having three abreast with those moulded outer rear chairs will likely result in massive discomfort for all involved.
In its flagship trim at least too, the S70 is rather filled to the gills with features. Among the creature comforts available on this top-tier spec are a wireless charging pad, powered driver’s seat, 360° camera with a 3D display, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and a whole suite of active safety features, which is really what will probably seal the deal for most buyers actually.
Improving on from the stellar safety tech list that began with the X70, the new S70 now boasts a total of 12 assorted sensing equipment, that in turn apparently class-leading 13 safety features for its Level 2 ADAS capability. The most impressive of which what Proton touts to be its Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), which is basically Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) but now incorporates low-speed follow AND centering control too, that automatically keeps the vehicle within the centre of its lane.
Continuing on also from the recent slate of Geely Protons as well is for the S70 to be more than refined enough that no excuse regarding its price point needs to be given. Wind and road noise is minimal in this sedan, and it does remain rather composed when the over bumps, with little body roll in the twisties too.
Long gone are the days of a well-weighted Lotus steering feel in Protons however, with the three available modes of the electrically-assisted steering being light, lighter and lightest. It’s brakes too have an overly sensitive braking point for my tastes at least, with many gradual and supposedly gentle stops made during the admittedly short allocated test drive session ending up as quasi-emergency brakes.
On the flip side of stopping meanwhile, the 1.5-litre turbo three-pot under the hood — which outputs a headline worthy 150 PS and 226 Nm of torque — is also similarly as excitable as the brakes. Though perhaps as a consequence of tuning or just the course that was prescribed by Proton, it did not give me at least the confidence that said engine would be ideal on the road.
Why I say this is because I found the engine to be over-eager on the boost when just pootling around the prescribed at sedate speeds. Much like an excitable dog that is constantly tugging on its leash, this constantly zealous sensation may be fun in a hot hatch, but not exactly what is desired in a supposedly sensible sedan, and hence further contributes to confused identity this Proton suffers. And yes, the sport mode was confirmed to be off at that time too.
What is perhaps even more confusing though is this over-eagerness to completely disappear once the S70 lines up for a traffic light grand prix. Mash the throttle from a standing start you’re then met with a ginormous amount of turbo lag that basically means nothing happens till around 30 km/h, and by then the Honda City next to you will have already left you for dead.
Now of course, Proton would like to point out that thanks to its turbocharger (that surely takes its own sweet time to spool up) the S70 will eventually outpace said quick-of-the-line City and reach the century sprint in a very healthy sub-10 seconds. But just ask yourself this, how often do you go from 50-100 km/h in a hurry relative to 0-30 km/h?
And just being that little bit more pedantic too while on the topic of engines, Proton has, on the grounds of cost and performance considerations, only fitted all S70s with the base turbo engine instead of offering the higher spec TGDI option found on the higher-end X50s. The Malaysian automaker has also emphatically stated that there is no electrification plans for this sedan yet, which does kind of put it even further on the back foot when it comes to comparing this surprisingly thirsty three cylinder (if the similarly-heavy X50 is any indication) to its main competition’s fuel-sipping naturally-aspirated four-bangers.
Given that all these words are being typed out while still not knowing the price of the S70 yet, it is hard to give it the immediate thumbs up that its other Geely-rebadged siblings have received upon initial preview. This is especially when considering for this Proton to (either smartly or stupidly, it remains to be seen) been positioned right in between two segments with completely differing price tags.
If however as alluded by Proton for it to be around the region of RM 70,000 to RM 100,000, then, as mentioned in the conclusion way above, it should really be on the list of cars to at least test drive for anyone out there in the market for a Vios or a City. In fact, those considering a Corolla or a Civic too should at least give the S70 a look-see to just see if you could live with a slightly smaller car and save yourself a presumably healthy chunk of change in the process.
It is a decent enough car after all, with many superficial features being enough to mask its various inadequacies to the majority of its potential buyers. Though Proton is perhaps delusional in its goal for there to be 2,000 – 3,000 people who are going to want this sedan every month, especially when taking into account that the hot-selling X50 compact crossover has monthly sales figures that barely crested the 2,500 mark.
This article was originally written by Joshua Chin for Automacha.com