Almost 3 years old, the Proton X50 still leads its segment – Can it match younger rivals?

I clearly remember back in 2019, Proton was once again celebrated and trusted as a national brand, all thanks to its success brought by the birth of its first-ever SUV – the X70 in 2018, a product that was made possible thanks to its collaboration with Geely. Safe to say, the X70 was Proton’s first world-class product in a long time. And even though it was only around for less than a year, people were already looking forward to the national carmaker’s next possible SUV – the Geely Binyue-based Proton X50.

Just a year before the Proton X50 made its launch, there were lots of online coverages of the Geely Binyue, which later became the donor model for the X50. Many netizens just couldn’t wait for the B-segment to become a reality, and I was one of them.

The reasons why the Binyue/X50 was so highly anticipated were pretty simple. It came with many features that were never seen before on any Proton model. This includes the sporty and high-tech-looking exterior with full LED headlights, quad tailpipes, a sporty yet premium-looking interior with a thin floating screen, and jet fighter turbine-like side aircon vents, along with the Tesla-like Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities.

Fast forward to today, the Proton X50 is now nearing 3 years old and despite still being the best-selling model in its segment, it is now facing stronger competition than ever before. It now competes against the likes of the all-new Honda HR-V, Chery Omoda 5, Peugeot 2008, and to a certain extent the Honda WR-V too if you are solely comparing it to the X50 in terms of price alone.

RELATED: Proton cars to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but not on the next model yet

So is the Proton X50 still a good buy, or is it time to wave it goodbye and move on to its newer competitors instead? We are lucky enough to have the Proton X50 once again to share with you how it is holding up today.

The Proton X50 Flagship at a glance:

Engine1,477 cc; turbocharged inline-three
Transmission7-speed dual-clutch
Max horsepower175 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque255 Nm @ 1,500-4,000 rpm
0-100 km/h; Top speed7.9 seconds; NA

Proton X50 Exterior: Still a good-looking SUV, but now faces more modern competiton

First and foremost, the looks. Yes, you and I and many fellow Malaysians must have been seeing countless numbers of the Proton X50 running on our local roads day in and day out and because of this, we might have even gotten bored of it. However, by taking a step back, and looking at the X50 in an objective manner, it is still a pretty handsome-looking car.

We have to remember that the X50’s competitors have also grown in terms of design and kit, making the Proton X50 no longer as special looking as when it was first launched. Just place it next to the sporty-looking Honda HR-V, funky-looking Peugeot 2008, and the aggressive-looking Chery Omoda 5, and you might just get what I mean.

The X50 still carries that sporty SUV silhouette with those sharp and origami-like lines, together with the stylish full LED headlamps and LED tail lamps. The infinite weave grille with the red arterial bow running across, as well as the athletic-looking red brake callipers on the Premium and Flagship variants also contribute to the X50’s youthful exterior vibe.

Proton X50 Interior: Looks modern, but lacks modern features

The Proton X50’s interior is still the more impressive part of the car, even after all these years. It still looks just as sporty and modern as ever, at least for the most part. The choice of material here is also awesome, especially when considering the X50’s price point.

Its seats are pretty comfortable too. But as a Proton Iriz owner, I still have to say that the X50’s seats still don’t hug me through the corners as well as the Iriz’s.

The rear seats are also pretty comfortable, therefore sitting in them for a couple of hours on long-distance trips shouldn’t be an issue. The presence of the sunroof in this Flagship review unit is also nice, as it is totally missing on its rivals like the Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008.

Now, a few negative points that have to be pointed out here include the lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is a shame considering how good the thin floating infotainment screen looks. And speaking of the infotainment screen, the stock infotainment system here features a rather modern-looking and feature-filled user interface, but once again, the lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay just isn’t enough to make up for it.

This situation becomes worse when considering cars cheaper than the X50 such as the Perodua Alza already come with the feature out of the factory. However, the national carmaker has confirmed that those features will be coming with its future models, so there’s that.

When compared to its main Chinese rival – the Chery Omoda 5’s interior, the X50 obviously looks aged, mainly due to the Omoda 5’s panoramic screen. The X50 isn’t alone here though, as the Honda HR-V also has a similar screen layout, with its instrument and infotainment screens placed in their traditional positions. If this is of any help, the HR-V’s infotainment screen looks far less discrete than the X50’s too, despite supporting both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so it’s not all bad huh?

RELATED: Proton Saga Hot Wheels to launch in 2024: Malaysia-themed packaging designed by Penang girl

But it is to note that Geely currently has the higher-end Binyue Cool which has a more modern-looking interior with a floating panoramic screen. The only question left now is whether that model will be rebadged as part of the facelifted or next-generation Proton X50, we can only hope and wait.

While using the X50 as a daily runabout for a week, I noticed its interior, especially in the door cart area and centre console producing quite a bit of rattling noise. But considering the abuse it has gone through over the years as a media review unit, it has still fared better than expected.

Proton X50 Drive: No Proton Ride & Handling DNA, but still pretty capable and refined

Moving on to the most exciting part of the review – the driving aspect. One thing that needs to be highlighted to OG Proton enthusiasts here, first and foremost, is that the X50 has almost none of the Proton ride and handling DNA which is present in Proton’s homegrown models like the Persona, Iriz, Saga, and Exora. Therefore you will definitely be disappointed if that is what you are looking for.

However, that is in no way saying that the Proton X50 is a bad-handling car though. In fact, it is a rather capable handler, just like its bigger brother – the X70. It carries itself through the corners rather tidily, even when the stock comfort-orientated Continental UltraContact 6 tyres are already “screaming” at the top of their lungs going through Genting Highland’s sharp corners.

A couple of factors that still hold me back from going full beans with the X50 through the corners are the nicely contained but noticeable body roll, which is a given, considering it is an SUV after all, alongside the fact that the X50’s suspension is primarily tuned for comfort, as well as the steering wheel feel that feels a tad bit too light. This is despite the steering wheel being set to its sportiest setting already.

Power distribution is pretty smooth when you are driving the X50 in a sane way, but when you do decide to be insane (do drive sensibly guys), the car will certainly not hesitate and give you all of its 177 hp and 255 Nm via its direct-injected 1.5-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine, and doing this, especially in Sport mode might even surprise passengers who are unprepared. However, the engine can sound like a tractor when idling or during full throttle.

Speaking of throttle, the X50’s throttle response can be over-sensitive at times, which actually made me prefer driving the car in Eco mode most of the time for a smoother drive and more natural power delivery. The engine also vibrates quite a bit when starting up or turning off, which could be an issue of wear and tear or can just be the nature of 3-cylinder engines.

The 7-speed wet dual-clutch transmission (DCT) also shifts very smoothly and is programmed to shift into the highest gear for the best fuel economy whenever possible. However, the gearbox can be a bit lazy to downshift when given a kick down, taking a second or two to react to throttle inputs.

RELATED: Scoop: Proton Exora to cease production by end of 2023 – New MPV coming soon?

Another feature to be highlighted here on the Proton X50 is its Level 2 autonomous driving system, which comes with adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Stop&Go. It is undoubtedly a convenient feature, especially when travelling on straight highway roads.

But when trying out the Stop&Go function during traffic jams, its throttle and braking inputs can be a bit too sudden and jerky, making the experience not the most comfortable one. At the end of the day, it is still great to see the feature here and thumbs up to Proton for being one of the early carmakers in pioneering this feature in the local automotive scene.

It is when taken on a chill highway cruise that the Proton X50’s strongest suit was discovered – which is to be used as a comfortable urban cruiser. Thanks to the car’s pliant and comfortable suspension, smooth 7-speed DCT gearbox, and competent soundproofing (at least at speeds of 100 km/h and below), the car can coast on highways comfortably and quietly.

This is also when you will realise that it drives better than even cars that cost more. Compared to the Chery Omoda 5, the X50’s suspension is still more pliant and comfortable but loses out on the overly light and numb steering feedback.

Proton X50 Conclusion: The rabbit is fast, but it needs to keep running to stay ahead

At the end of the day, the Proton X50 is still a properly modern car inside and out despite its younger competition, and its advantage in price certainly helps out. However, its age is starting to show and a need for an update is certainly becoming more apparent as time passes.

We hope with the X50’s next update, it will be further improved and refined to keep up with the times. It would also be a dream if Proton would equip its new B-segment SUV with a 4-pot turbo engine in the future, along with an infotainment system that comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as some Proton ride and handling recipes added in too. Hopefully, that’s not too much of an ask, right?

RELATED: Proton commits to launching at least one New Energy Vehicle (NEV) per year



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here