Sunday, May 28, 2017
TEST DRIVE: The 2017 PROTON IRIZ 1.3 & 1.6 CVT Refinement Variants Gets Driven - Some Improvements Make the Iriz a Whole Lot Better
The Proton Iriz has been around for a few years already. When it first came out in 2014 I wasn’t too impressed with its drive. It was a dreary experience. It wasn’t that the car was ugly or anything. It was actually quite nice to look at and fresh at the time. It still is fresh to look at amidst a sea of Perodua Myvis. The main problem was the way it felt when you drove it.
The 1.3 manual I tried had a loose gear shifter which was super notchy to slot into gear at the same time, quite ironic in some ways (I heard this was fixed quite a while back). It was also rough around the edges in terms of engine noise and vibration came from it. The 1.6 Premium CVT however, it was the darn CVT gearbox that liked to hold high revs which caused the car to be noisy and vibrate its way to whatever speed you were accelerating too. Every time you d in an Iriz, it felt like you had on a pair of thigh massagers on at the speed of a blender chopping up vegetables. It was akin to a gorgeous woman promising you a good massage, but instead you got some wrestler from WWE pummeling you slowly, bit by bit and not very comfortable in the long run.
Basically both cars suffered from one simple issue, the refinement levels of the Iriz were sub-par. In terms of equipment inside all Iriz were decently specified. You had nearly everything you need and more in terms of equipment. The 1.3 Executive and 1.6 Premium edition, or whatever it was called were the great in terms of spec. The 1.3 was actually all you needed for an urban runabout. The 1.6 had ample poke to have fun in. Both came with great safety features and equipment. The only issue was clear and simple for me. It had terrible refinement overall. Could have been the worse in class. But now, it has been corrected and about time, too.
The Proton Iriz Gets Some Refinement
Proton has come out with an Iriz refinement variant to address and improve the compact hatchback. The newly refined Iriz will be sold at all Proton dealerships starting 1st June 2017. The exterior will have some slight cosmetic changes. There is a blacked out grille (from chrome) on all variants, two toned side skirting, two new colours and a black painted roof on the higher specced variants. The interior has new fabric and leather seat design (very much like the Martini Racing stripes – a very nice sporty touch) as well as a slightly different interior finishing in terms of colour tones.
Other notable equipment includes SmartLINK (for most smart phone devices) for the infotainment system and PKE (Proton Keyless Entry), again for the higher specification variants. All models get an ECO indicator now, in line with the changes to the powertrain and drivetrain which this car has.
The Iriz’s refinement or improvement exercise is like an iceberg. Most of it is actually underneath the surface. You cannot see it but it is a heck of a lot as it addresses the NVH and refinement issues that bug the overall outcome of the Iriz. Fortunately for Proton, this isn’t a daunting task for them as most of the work was done on the Proton Persona sedan, which in turn was based on the Iriz in the first place. What Proton has done is reverse the process again and incorporate all that they have found out whilst building the Persona back into the Iriz.
This is a very good thing as the Persona is one of the best compact sedans out there in terms of safety, refinement, ride and handling. The car offers the best bang for your Ringgit in terms of these categories which I think is very important if you like driving spiritedly. The Persona is up there with something that was designed by the Germans in terms of high speed stability and refinement. The only issue with the car is its slightly challenging looks (well, you can’t win ‘em all) and the market’s perception of the brand overall. It is actually better to drive than most of the Japanese and Korean compact sedans out there. So the Iriz basically gets what Proton has learnt from the Persona.
The most major change is to the Iriz’s front subframe. The Iriz gets the Persona’s three point engine (and transmission) mounting system. It used to have a four point mount which somehow was the cause of all the vibration issues which the Iriz suffered. Now with the new three point mounting system Proton claims that they’ve resolved this main issue of excessive vibration from the powertrain.
They’ve also added more soundproofing to the front of the car and also changed the rear muffler setup. All of these improvements in soundproofing are claimed to contribute to an interior noise level of around 5 decibels lower than the older Iriz. The rear muffler is quieter but still has the same level of performance as the one before so that performance isn’t sacrificed.
There is another big change to the drivetrain. Proton has remapped both the control units for the engine and the gearbox. Both the ECU and the TCU have remaps. The programming was done similar to the one used in the Persona and tailored to the Iriz. According to Proton, the Iriz now has a crisper throttle pedal feel than before. It also gets the nice, step-up style of power delivery like the Persona instead of holding on to peak engine revs all the way to the redline or whatever speed you intend to reach.
The additional programming also allows the new Iriz to achieve similar fuel consumption as the Persona. It also sports the same ECO light on the meter cluster which will turn green when you drive economically. According to Proton, the retuning of the ECU/TCU could be done on the older Iriz but slightly limited to the lack of the ECO set up in the new Iriz/Persona setup. Proton may offer a remap to the older Iriz customers but nothing has been finalised at this time. So you guys with the earlier Iriz, keep your fingers crossed!
And so to the drive experience...
I tried out the 1.6CVT Premium first and then the 1.3CVT Executive variants. The first thing you notice on the outside is the blacked out grille and the roof on the 1.6liter variant. The grille now makes the Iriz look so much better. Somehow removing the chrome has made the car look so much better than before. The front looks a little sportier in nature. The black roof also gels well overall although I think it may add up to the interior temperature if it is sitting under the sun for too long.
As for the interior, the first thing you notice here is the new pattern for the seats. Nothing else seems to be unfamiliar as I couldn’t tell whether there is that new coloured interior compared to the old one. The upgraded parts are all basically underneath and so the only real way to experience this new Iriz is by driving it.
In both the variants I tried I felt a marked improvement in terms of NVH reduction. There is definitely an increase in refinement overall. The 1.6liter (which is used in the Persona) and the 1.3liter engines have the usual character of the Proton CamPro engine in terms of the noise and feel it produces. It however is now held together by the new mounting points and feels so much better on acceleration. Vibration is a good deal lesser when you are moving away from a standstill.
The CVT gearbox also steps up gingerly without holding out the revs at peak horsepower or torque. It actually climbs more gradually than before. This adds to the refinement as any engine that isn’t screaming at the top of its lungs all the time is a good thing. Proton also says the throttle input is crispier than the original but to me this wasn’t much of an issue with the Iriz. I only felt the gearbox is better and there is less vibration throughout the car.
In terms of drivability, both the 1.6 and 1.3 are able performers at normal road speeds. I suppose the 1.6 with its 107horses and 150Nm is slightly better in the mid-range and high up (since the test was at the Proton test track, we couldn’t do a proper high speed run). The 1.3 (93hp/120Nm) feels very adequate driving at normal speeds of around 80 to 130kmh. The larger wheels and tyres in the 1.6 may contribute to better road holding over the really skinny looking 1.3 tyres but aside from making the Iriz look better, the Iriz could still holds the cornering line quite well.
In fact, the narrower tyres actually helped with the car’s NVH in my opinion. If you sat in the 1.3 at the back, it was actually a tad bit quieter than the 1.6. Less road noise in the 1.3 due to a narrower contact patch between the road and the tyre helps. Of course, since all Iriz variants come with Electronic Stability Control, the car is quite stable even if you take it into a corner too fast for your own good. So if you want the most refined Iriz in terms of noise levels, it is actually the skinny tyred 1.3 variants.
Other aspects of the Iriz like its steering feel are good. It is precise enough for you to place the car where you want, the chassis is very predictable in terms of finding its limits and the ride is quite excellent over the rough patches on Proton’s test track (well, Proton’s test track isn’t the smoothest track there is). Wheel control is good too over these rough areas as you can still hold the outside line on the banked corners at speeds over 140kmh if you are brave enough.
Now the question that some of you may ask are the improvements good enough?
Iriz 1.3 CVT Executive
I think they are. The NVH refinement upgrades now make the Iriz sit somewhere around the middle of the pack rather than way down below. It still would need a slightly more refined engine to reach the top of the compact hatchback segment. The Persona sedan, with the same engine and gearbox is quieter, this is also down to the fact that a hatchback is usually less rigid than a sedan and any sedan is usually more refined than a hatch.
However, it is actually good enough for someone as pampered as I am (yes, I am a very spoilt little boy) would want to drive it on a daily basis. You now add that slightly better than average refinement to a car that already rides comfortably (I like how the chassis absorbs the road undulations) and already handles quite well (i.e fun to take corners in), it becomes a car that I wouldn’t mind commuting in. It also looks a lot better than the Persona and if you do not need the bootspace, then the Iriz is for you.
The 2017 Proton Iriz refinement exercise isn’t a full facelift model according to Proton. This is just something that the management of Proton thinks that needs to be done as fast as possible. I suppose this is because it is actually quite easy to incorporate all of the fixes due to the parts sharing between the Iriz and the Persona. Proton has done the right thing by quickly bringing out this fixes for the Iriz.
I personally now think that the Iriz is actually now a much closer rival to the Perodua Myvi. It brings some fresh looks to it (funny how some black out does go a long way), that fun to drive factor, a better ride and almost equal refinement - I call it a draw as the Myvi has a quieter engine and smoother but ancient 4 speed automatic whereas the Iriz makes up for the comfortable ride and a soundproofing level which is very close to the Myvi. The Iriz may still lack a little bit in interior and boot space but that’s about it actually.
The only other issue is the pricing for the 1.6liter CVT. The current Iriz 1.6 CVT Premium sells for over RM62,400. It isn’t as competitive as one would like and I do hope Proton will bring is down to under RM59,000 where it The 1.3liter cars are the ones to get actually. With Proton’s long warranty period of up to 5 years, these give you best bang for your Ringgit in terms of driving pleasure and now, come with some refinement.
You definitely can now choose an Iriz if you want an affordable, fun compact hatchback as it now will will not shake, rattle and roll your body like it did before. Heck, it's now on my radar if I wanted a small, affordable roundabout that would give me that occasional driving pleasure and one that I would take on longer drives out of town.
The new 2017 Proton Iriz with these new Refinement bits will be sold at all Proton Dealers by 1st June 2017. Prices of the current range starts at RM41,500 for the 1.3 manual to over RM62,000 for the 1.6 CVT Premium.
The New Front Grille with the 'Proton Wings' in black (above) and the original Iriz with the chrome wing on the grille bit (below).
Another Iriz 1.3 CVT Executive. The external differences between the 1.3 & 1.6 are limited to the base 1.3 does not get the side skirts and rear spoiler you see here but these same alloy wheels. The 1.6 gets a black roof, a larger rear spoiler you can see down below and side skirts too.
Five New Colours -
Auto Open Hatch/Tailgate
New interior mats
New 'Martini Racing' type seat fabric
PROTON IRIZ 1.6 CVT PREMIUM ALL ANGLES