Surely you know by now that the Proton brand made a significant comeback following its departure from the South African market in 2015. It's hardly surprising since it's not the first manufacturer to do so; think Citroen, who pulled the same stunt in 2017... Datsun is the latest manufacturer to leave the country in 2022, and it remains to be seen if it'll make a return, but that's a story for another day...
The big news here is the Proton X70 in Premium X guise, which sits at the top of the Proton hierarchy just above the incredible X50 crossover. As a rebadged Geely Boyue of Chinese origin, you can refer to it as a Chinese product, though its birthplace is Malaysia.
Unlike the sharper, sportier and funky X50, the X70 is the opposite, and by that, I mean it is mature and elegant while also remaining handsome. However, I am not particularly fond of the rear, thanks to the high-positioned taillights and a narrow rear window.
These give the SUV a tall and slender look that isn't particularly attractive, but looks are subjective.
Right off the bat, there are a few areas I believe Proton can improve on. Firstly, the interior already feels dated; the 8" touchscreen infotainment system is crisp and intuitive, but it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone pairing. There's also the button-clutter of the centre console. It's not that I don't like buttons, but it should be kept to a minimum in this day and age.
In its defence, the X70 comes with a host of standard features such as a Nappa Leather finish on the seats, ventilation for the front seats, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning, nine speakers, and a total of six USB ports plus an array of standard safety features.
Space remains impressive and can fit five large adults with relative ease while the boot space, despite its high boot floor, measures in at a generous 515 litres, which should be suitable for those weekend getaway trips. It is a margin bigger than the Renault Koleos and Mazda CX-5 cargo areas rated at 458 and 515 litres, respectively.
What you find beating at the X70's heart is a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that spews out 130 kW and 255 Nm channelled to the front axle. This is the same engine that powers the X50, and it's impressive in this application despite the weight differences.
On the road, the X70 gets up and goes without much fuss. The 7-speed DCT gearbox is agreeably matched to the engine. Add to the aforementioned attributes a plush ride quality accompanied by an in-check amount of body roll, and you have a winner.
While executing its tasks on the road impresses, it's not perfect. A lot is going on with the safety systems. For example, the lane departure monitor and blind spot assist would beep for no apparent reason and switching them off requires one to shuffle through layers of menus which proved to be a hassle.
Like its X50 counterpart, it's thirsty. It returned a combined fuel consumption of 9.4l/100 km even when driven efficiently.
On the plus side, it comes with an array of standard features such as six airbags, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind spot information system and four front
parking sensors, to name a few.
Though the Proton X70 excels on many fronts, it might not be to everyone's taste. If it's a Proton you want, it's worth pointing out that the X70 will appeal more to those who prioritise comfort and space, whereas the X50 will better suit those looking for a smaller and sporty SUV to drive around.
Priced at R639,900, the X70 is a good offering from Proton. Still, rivals such as the Haval H6 Super Luxury, Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Executive and Renault Koleos Dynamique aren't just equally affordable but feel better executed in many areas.