To many, the Proton X50 is just a rebadging exercise of the Geely Binyue. While it might be true to a certain extent, it also does no justice to the amount of work that Proton’s research and development teams have put in on the car. Key among them are the improvements on the safety front of the Proton X50, so much so that these changes are also being implemented into future Geely models too.
Adapting a car from left-hand drive to right-hand drive (or vice versa) often surfaces some small, but critical issues – some of which remain hidden unless examined by a keen eye. For Proton, this task – in terms of safety, at least – fell under the watchful eyes of Zanita Zainuddin, Proton’s head of Safety and Intelligent Drive.
For example, in Proton’s efforts to achieve a full five-star ASEAN-NCAP safety rating for the X50, her team’s initial development tests often found tearing in the front floorboard area in frontal collisions. This is unacceptable in the ASEAN-NCAP certification, as the standards are extremely strict on tears affecting the feet area.
As a remedy, Proton engineers had to reinforce these areas with ultra-high-strength steel, thereby shifting the force of impact to other areas that do not present any threat to occupant safety. Overall, 40% of the body, including the front, side, and back, was made using a combination of high-strength steel variants.
And when we said ‘small’ issues, we meant it quite literally. Due to the engine placement, which is always on the right side of the vehicle regardless of the driving position, the carmaker said that the driver of a right-hand-drive Proton X50 would always be more vulnerable to foot injury as compared to the driver of a left-hand drive Geely Binyue in the event of a collision.
To protect the driver’s resting foot from excessive injuries, the footrest for the Proton X50 had to be modified to ensure that the foot remains on the footrest, with minimal slippage. It’s things like these that shows just how detailed Proton’s R&D team were in the development phase of the X50.
According to Proton, the curtain airbags on the Proton X50 has also been tweaked to provide better protection to the head areas during an impact.
Although this was done initially to comply with the ASEAN-NCAP criteria, which emphasised that the curtain airbags must cover a wide range of body types, the improvement in occupant protection from this slight change was so impressive that Geely has also committed to adopting this new design for its future models.
The timely partnership between Geely and Proton also presented them with the opportunity to work together on the Child Occupant Protection (COP) assessment. Interestingly, the C-NCAP which Geely’s cars are mostly developed for do not currently assess the safety of baby seats for child occupants, but will likely introduce this assessment in 2021.
Changes that Proton made in this area included lengthening the hook on the ISOFIX interface, making it easier to fit the baby seat, as well as readjusting its angle so that seats can be placed into the car securely.
With both Geely and Proton being subjected to different safety approval and market standards, both brands can benefit from each other in terms of technical knowledge during the development phase. In the end, it’s ultimately a win for us consumers, as we get to enjoy safer drives on the road.
“Proton has always emphasized safety as one of its unique selling points unbiased to any country or platform. It is not surprising then, that we continue to challenge ourselves so that this DNA is inherent throughout our range of models, be it our locally produced car or the current joint development with our partner Geely,” Zanita said.