Try to recall when or how long ago Proton made waves with its sedan offering. Guess 2016 and you’d be right. Yup, it has been seven long years since the Proton Persona was unleashed, and before that, the Perdana.
It sold in numbers as only Proton can and you might recall quite a few being utilised by the Royal Malaysia Police, and noticed them being used as public transport while queuing in the city’s taxi ranks.
I remember putting the new Persona upgrade to the test which gave me, for the first time, the sensation of driving on a banking corner at the Proton test track. Here, you need to hold on to your nerve, press the pedal, and hold it steady so the speed stays at a constant 140kph and you’d stick like glue onto the curved embankment – real heart-in-mouth time for this then nine-to-five, driver-commuter.
Since then, Proton has shifted its focus to the Sports Utility Vehicle segment (SUV) with the introduction of the X70, X50, and the X90. The X70 drew in a whole new band of Proton devotees – with more than 83,000 units sold by the end of last year!
Cue Nov 1, 2023, and for RM500 down, buyers can place their order for the soon-to-be-launched S70, Proton’s latest sedan. Though customer focus may have shifted somewhat to SUVs, Proton under Geely, has not totally given up on sedan fare.
Prior to the entry of the Chinese, Proton looked to its Japanese collaborators – Mitsubishi and Honda, as the base for its Waja and Perdana models. Geely being Geely – and Proton being Proton, this ‘hand-me-down’ legacy continues, as the S70 actually is a reworked version of Geely’s Emgrand sedan.
In the local market, it is one class up from the Toyota Vios and the Honda City in the B-segment, but pits in the same ring as the Civic and Corolla in the C-segment.
Proton arranged a media test drive session at its Centre of Excellence (COE) recently to enable the automotive fraternity to get up close and personal with the S70.
The hands-on driving session at the Proton test track was designed to give the media members an intimate feel of the S70 in a controlled environment.
We started off to test its turbo power and braking response. Lined up against the S70 were two competing Japanese sedans – albeit B-segment, though both with 1.5 litre engines.
The S70 itself comes with a 1.5 litre TGDI turbocharged, three-cylinder engine with a DCT (dual-clutch transmission) gearbox transferring torque all the way to the wheels.
On to the test track. When the flag fell, I could feel the turbo lag as the ‘rivals’ flashed past me from a standing start. However, within a few seconds, the S70 was thundering ahead and hit 100kph ahead of the competing duo. Brakes slammed and the S70 came to a completely safe stop before we ran out of tarmac on the straight line track.
That done, we tested the Level 2 ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) features of the S70 – which is only available in the top-of-range variant. The full list includes Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Traffic Sign Information (TSI), and Intelligent High Beam Control (IHBC).
Here, we got to drive the car around the test track, negotiating directional cones to see how the car behaved in anticipation of driver (mis)behaviour. All the while, the ADAS came into play to ensure we stayed on the ‘straight and narrow’. (We will get a better feel of ADAS in real, road-running condition once the S70 is launched and concerted test drives are conducted on our mean highways and byways soon).
What is left now is speculation of its price. It would necessarily be to the north of the current prices for the City, Vios, and Almera, which range from RM83,000 to RM99,000.
The event took almost three-quarters of the day off everyone’s time, but it was worth it. Now all that is left is for Proton to announce its pricing. So much speculation has surfaced and the media is having a whale of a time guesstimating its eventual sticker price.
Although it sits in the C-segment, pitting it against the Honda and Toyota Camry, its price would necessarily be lower. And since it is a notch above the B-segment Vios and City, the price would be a little north of those two popular sedans.
What would be a good quiz question, and perhaps a little competitive frisson of excitement within the automotive circle is; who eventually will have guessed correctly the exact S70 price!
Me? I am hopelessly caught in the competitive fun of it all and ready to stick my neck out.
So here goes – I put the top-of-the-range flagship model at around RM100,000. And who’s to bet that there will be at least a generous offer at a ‘Madani’ rate with around a third shaved off the sticker price?
So watch this space – get ready for the impending launch of S70.