Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Short Test Drive: Proton Iriz 1.3MT Executive


Proton has just launched its latest compact car and it is called the Iriz. The name, derived from the flower Iris but with a 'Z' is Proton's latest foray into the compact hatchback market. Prior to this we had the Savvy and before that, we were served the Tiara. Both the Savvy and Tiara were hard hit with criticism and in my opinion, were less than average creations. I wouldn't have bought them too. So is the Proton Iriz a compact hatch that any of us would want to buy or let alone drive? Well, I had a go in the Proton Iriz 1.3 Executive Manual and I think that it is better than any Savvy or Tiara out there. But is it better than its biggest competitor here in Malaysia? The Perodua Myvi?

To answer that question you'd have to start with the Proton Iriz 1.3 specs in direct comparison with a Perodua Myvi 1.3 (the 1.6 Iriz has the same dimensions if you are wondering but I am not touching on that variant here). The Proton Iriz  is longer at  3,905mm (3,690mm for the Myvi), wider at 1,720mm (Myvi: 1,665mm) and is 1,550mm tall (1,545 for Myvi). The Proton Iriz has a longer wheelbase at 2,555mm (Myvi 2,440mm.) The 1.3 litre Iriz's engine, a supposedly new VVT based engine has 95 PS and 120 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm, (Myvi 1.3 litre has about the same horses if you believe Perodua's statement that the Electric Power Steering brings 10hp back to the 86hp engine - 96hp  and 117Nm torque at 4,400 rpm). 

So according to the Top Trumps card specs the Iriz wins. But in reality you cannot tell the difference as if you sit in the Iriz at the rear you find that the Myvi still gives you better legroom. It has more comfortable under thigh cushioning though as you can tell there is more padding at the rear compared to the Myvi. Up front, it is as cozy as the Myvi but with grippier, more supportive seats. So you basically get the same amount of space inside if you compare with the Myvi. The boot is slightly larger though and would actually suit some families over the Myvi. 

The Interior

As for the interior as a place to be during your commutes I have to say that the layout is much more interesting that Proton's last original car – the Preve and Suprima. Instead of totally dull, slab side or flat looking dashboard and its surrounds the Iriz is all black (which a lot of Malaysians love) and has nice shapes, angles and cuts. It is a more interesting place to be in than the Preve or Suprima. The plastics used are average industry standards for this category of cars while fit and finish is also about normal too. The driving position is quite good with the seats going quite low and even though the steering offers only tilt or rake but not reach adjustment. I could get comfortable easily and my contact points with the car, via my fingers, hands, bum and even feet all feel decent. Decent means that nothing bad, well, except for the notchy gearshifter in my left hand that is. The gearknob too is all plastic but so's most cars within this B segment category too.

In this slightly higher specced 1.3 Executive you do get front parking sensors, a quite good sounding audio system, two airbags up front, ABS, EBD and also traction control! Traction control makes this one of the safest small cars you can buy in Malaysia. If you're talking about safety, this little Iriz has most angles covered (more if you buy the top range 1.6liter Iriz with 6 airbags).

So anyway, you get into one, adjust the seat, mirrors, other stuff and then turn the key. Yes, this mid range 1.3 manual has a key whereas the top of the range 1.6 gets keyless go. But I like keys, they don't get misplaced as there is a place to put them in and you may never forget that you left the keyless remote in the car when you get out. 

As with any new car you get going with some apprehension. With a new Proton there is a whole slew of emotions and feelings. Will it be a good car. I hope its a good car. Will it turn out horrible? Will I buy it? Really. Every time I get into a Proton I usually get thoughts like that because I am always looking to replace my affordable runabouts with other affordable runabouts. Usually this are either Perodua or Protons as they are cheap over here. Speaking about prices, the 1.3manual Executive tested here is RM47,888 (RM50,888 auto). Pricier than a Myvi 1.3 automatic. But if you can live with simpler stuff which is on par with the specs of a Myvi XT, you could buy the entry level 1.3 MT Standard at RM42,888 (RM45,888 for the auto). 

Yes. So in terms of space packaging and price the Iriz seems to be a little behind the Myvi but note that the car is better padded inside and has more equipment inside too. Seating positions is good and plastics will not make you cringe. There is also that plastic moulded stitching on the dashboard like the Toyota Vios too giving some percieved luxury to the cabin. Hey, Toyota does this, why can't Proton.

The Mechanicals (engine & transmission - and weight)
Once you slot it into first gear (a five speed manual transmission) you'd notice that the shifts are notchy and the clutch is nice and light. Driving this car in traffic won't kill your left leg and it is pretty easy. The engine note or noise is disappointing as it is not a pleasant sound. Very like the engine note you have in the Persona or the Gen2. Proton claims this is an improved engine which gives up to 10% better fuel economy. I suppose it does but it still sounds coarse like the old CAMPRO engine that you'd find in the cars mentioned above.  A Myvi 1.3 or a Swift 1.4 engine sounds way sweeter in my opinion.

I have to state that when accelerating, the engine note is prevalent until you settle down in a cruise. I believe this is down to two things – the new engine isn't all new but a modified CAMPRO engine which has always been naturally coarse and the fact that this car sits in the B segment category and you can't load it up with too much soundproofing. But that being said, the Iriz 1.3MT Executive weights a portly 1138kgs. Compare this with the sub 1000kg Myvi as well as the sub 1100kg Suzuki Swift, the Proton is a portly fella. Is there an excuse for this extra weight? I suppose the extra equipment and 5 star ASEAN NCAP rating maybe. 

I also need to try out the CVT automatic as with the manual it is easy to fill in any gaps in performance by shifting to a lower gear. In a CVT, the car does that for you and the driving characteristics may be different. 

Ride & Handling
So the 95hp more torque in the Iriz is actually on par with the Myvi due to this weight issue. And it does feel the same upon acceleration. The good thing about the Iriz is that being a Proton, the ride is way better than the Myvi in that bumps are properly smothered instead of flying or bouncing over them like in that Perodua. The car rides as well as a Suzuki Swift or even something closer to a Volkswagen Polo rather than something stiffly sprung like the Myvi. Road noise damping is good too. Shame about the engine noise again.

As for handling, well, its a Proton. The nose turns in pretty well. There is some body roll but everything seems well handled by the chassis. I must have to stop giving any more handling comments as I drove the Iriz around a small section of roads and there was not enough time for me to make a full assumption about the car.

Thoughts about the Proton Iriz as a whole
Iriz 1.3MT Standard spec - less spot lights and bodykit for exterior compared to Executive - same wheel design

So what else is there to say about the Proton Iriz? I don't think its a bad car to get. Its styling looks come from what I would say to be the outcome of relying totally on Computer Aided Design as it comes out looking close in size to a Perodua Myvi with some Hyundai i10 cues (check out how the light curves up to the bonnet line as well as the slanted rear and pushed rearward wheelarch– very i10-like). They may need a Peter Schreyer from Kia to sort out the looks. I am not saying the Iriz looks bad, but it looks industry standard. It does not stand out in any way in terms of styling.

In terms of equipment and safety, the Iriz is the best in price. You get traction control throughout the range and no car brand would do this for you in Malaysia. Even Perodua gives you a basic two airbag car and not more for this price range. The seats are also good to sit on and even though the rear is smaller (by a bit) than its greatest competitor, it is actually comfortable as the cushions are thicker. Oh, it has proper rear seatbelts for even the middle passenger, but note that there are no rear grab handles on the roof for rear passengers to hold on too. I suppose if you can spare some cost, I prefer grab handles too. But traction control at this price range truly makes me happy. You now don't have to be rich to get your hands on good life saving tech. With this Iriz, Proton has moved the stakes in the affordable car safety features here in Malaysia. 

As for ride and handling (up to a certain point as I haven't had the chance to really clobber one across some windy roads), both are pretty good and the Iriz does things better than the Savvy and even the Saga in terms of these two items. For a hatchback of under RM50,000, this would be the car for enthusiastic drivers. 

The drawback to this car is the engine. It may be a revised CAMPRO engine but aside from the supposed 10% fuel economy gain, the coarse engine note brings down the total refinement package in this car. It is slightly heavy too at over 1,100kg for this sort of car. Oh, the notchy gear shift too, but I could live with that.

There is still some hits and misses in this car. Bear in mind that some of the flaws mentioned are not dealbreakers as one has to note that you're buying a car under RM50,000 and you can't win 'em all at this price range. 

So the question one would ask is whether the Iriz is better than the Myvi. The most honest answer is Yes and No. Yes to ride and handling. No to engine noise and overall space packaging. Styling and material quality is subjective as some parts seem better, some parts seem worse. In short, the Proton Iriz in this manual 1.3 form is about right for the price you're paying.

Would I buy one?  Personally I may opt for something even cheaper but offers nearly as much space – the newly launched Perodua Axia. That is if I did not bother about the 1.0liter engine and use it purely as a city car. So, in a case of wanting an Iriz or a Myvi at this point of time. I may buy an Axia. Or, I Would get that  Iriz Active Crossover Prototype that Proton recently previewed at the Alami Proton Carnival over the weekend recently. That is a much funkier Iriz as well as the fact that it does not try taking on Perodua head on - its a totally niche sort of vehicle and I like it. And how confusing is that for a conclusion folks?


  1. Good review... the Active look great.

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