Review: 2017 Proton Iriz MC - Looks like a hot hatch, but isn't
Engine: 1.6L Campro VVT (I4 DOHC, NA)
Drive train: Front Wheel Drive
Transmission: Automatic CVT
Price (Brand New in 2017): Approx. RM58,000
Second hand value (????): To be updated
This time around I have to thank my high school friend, Hazim, who helped make this possible. Hazim is the owner of the Proton Exora Bold I reviewed in the past (link). This Iriz belongs to a fellow BBBSS alumnus with his name proudly displayed on the plate number. Thank you, Faeez, for offering this Iriz for a review on Cars of Malaysia.
I’ve driven an Iriz before but it’s an earlier version. This one is called an MC which has some minor updates done to it. I’ve also driven a 2017 Proton Persona (link) so getting into this Iriz felt rather familiar. Some minor modifications have been done to the car but they are not extensive. Hence, I shall categorize this as a ‘Car Review’ instead of a ‘Feature Car’.
What does the Iriz go up against?
Price wise, we have the obvious alternative, which is the Myvi. We’ve also got the Kia Picanto, but it is a little smaller. (The more accurate representative from Kia would be the Rio). If we increase our budget limit, you could also go for a Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Honda Jazz, Renault Clio, Kia Rio, Peugeot 208, VW Polo, Suzuki Swift, or a Chevrolet Sonic.
But I won’t be doing that.
If you’re already thinking about the Iriz, the most sensible alternative for you would be a Myvi. For every other option that I’ve just listed, you won’t be getting much car for your money.
I have driven a Mazda 2 previously (link) and as for now, it remains as the most fun hatchback I’ve ever driven. It does come with a hefty price tag, but I’ll use the Mazda 2 as a benchmark when rating the fun factor of other supposed hot hatches.
How Shall We Judge the Iriz?
Since this is a rather youthful looking car targeted at younger drivers, I shall be focusing on 3 things. The first being Youthful Aesthetics, the second being Fun Factor, and the third being Affordability (which includes fuel consumption, maintenance, and so on).
It’s Got the Looks…
With the subtle modifications done on the exterior, it does look very pleasing to the eye. It looks mean and angry. The angular taillights give a sort of futuristic feel and the overall design has a very good flow from the front to the rear.
Upon first impression I visualized it to be a very fun car. I imagined making it scream at the end of the rev range right before shifting gears. I visualized tossing it around in B-roads and I imagined the car to jolt even with the slightest touch on the throttle. I pictured this leaving a blazing trail of light on some midnight drive, leaving people in awe at just how fast this puny car is…
…but that was all just in my imagination.
The Iriz doesn’t really pack a punch. And I shall explain later in this article.
First, let’s have a walkaround on the exterior. Despite having R3 badges, this is not an R3 Iriz. Proton never made an R3 Iriz for the public. These badges are from a Proton Satria R3. So, this is a relatively stock Iriz. The springs are from F-Tuned (a local suspension system specialist). It’s got aftermarket wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE003 tyres. The hood and front bumper have a black wrap going on, the original Proton emblems have been swapped with black versions, the spoiler is stock, a front lip has been added, and this car sports a sticker from ‘biadap__’ on the right sidemirror. It’s even got Martini inspired seat covers (stock) which is a rather nice touch from Proton.
Looks wise, the Iriz is considerably good looking. The lines flow well and it looks like a fun car.
What Is It Like to Drive?
Let’s dive right in. This is where the let-down happens. It wasn’t fun. The throttle response was slow and the CVT was boring. An aftermarket electronic throttle controller has been equipped, but to me, it hasn’t helped much in increasing the fun factor of the car. The controller has options such as ‘economical’, ‘normal’, and ‘power’, but like I said, it felt like it didn’t help much. The ‘power’ mode felt a little jumpy and perhaps needed some time to get used to. ‘Economical’ mode slows down the already slow throttle response so that’s no fun. In ‘normal’ mode, which is what the car is by default, it is very similar to the new Persona, which is not responsive. To drive it quick, you really need to put your foot down. And even when you do that, there always seems to be a delay before the engine responds.
In cases like this, I would lean towards the option of a purely mechanical throttle control. It is way less complicated, yet super responsive. The only problem with a mechanical throttle is the inability to integrate with cruise control, which is something most Protons don’t have anyway.
Cornering is great. It’s a slightly tall car but I think it handled the corners like a champ. The electronic power steering was decent - Nicely weighted. I might have to give some credit to the F Tuned Springs and the Bridgestone Potenza tyres here. The chassis felt rather tight in the corners and the grip was great. Despite being lowered, the ride was as comfortable as standard springs. It was easy on my spine and driving over bumpy roads wasn’t a horrifying experience. It’s definitely not track spec but good enough for the occasional B-Road drives. The Iriz also handles high speeds pretty well. Mind you, it does come equipped with ABS and ESC. It’s also got full airbags. When it comes to safety, I have to give my thumbs up to the Iriz.
Although the corners were decent handling wise, there is a noticeable lack in power. If you just leave the car in ‘D’, it seems to not respond when you need the torque while exiting a corner. I received a few tips on how to get the most out of a CVT transmission but unfortunately, they were received after I drove this car. I was told to ease of the throttle as the torque starts to fade, and then floor it. I didn’t manage to try this. What I did instead was shift down to ‘L’ when I needed the torque. This does give the satisfaction of revving the engine a little but that’s as far as it goes in terms of options for your forward gears. You only have ‘D’ and ‘L’. It’s not that fun of a transmission. The small size makes it nimble for city driving, but I was expecting more in terms of responsiveness and agility.
The engine does sound a little raspy. I quite like that. It might be due to the aftermarket airbox.
Do aftermarket airboxes help?
Well, better flow does help add a little more power. As a matter of where it happens (low end/high end), we’ll have to look at dyno results. Usually it happens in the high end of the rev range. Power increase is not that much, usually between 1hp to 5hp and 5 is being very, very optimistic already.
It runs a 1.6 L Campro VVT engine, which in terms of capacity/swept volume, is large for a car this size. There’s not much grunt from the Campro, yet fuel economy is not great. Highway + city driving gives an average of 11.62km/l which is half of what my Axia gives.
My verdict on the
Lacks in both fun factor and fuel economy. That’s not a good combination.
There are Loads of Features (If that’s your thing)
Not all of us buy cars for the speed or the driving experience. Some of us buy cars for their features.
Safety features are on point for a RM58,000 car. It does have a 5-Star ASEAN NCAP Rating, and the A-pillars didn’t buckle. It’s also got full airbags. So, good job there.
Other features include an infotainment system, steering radio controls, sufficient space for young drivers, fancy seat covers, a considerably decent interior, a reverse camera, and fancy red stitches on the steering wheel.
Does it feel fancy?
It feels fancy in a youthful, sporty way. Although upgraded from previous Protons, the interior does have a hard, angular, rough edged feeling to it. It’s well done (less rattles) but the Myvi has a softer welcoming touch to the interior. The interior of the Iriz looks like it’s meant to be driven hard, but my experience with the car says otherwise.
Manual vs Conventional Automatic vs Automatic CVT
Let’s talk about transmissions. Since the Iriz uses a CVT, I thought this might be a topic of interest for you. If you just wanted to read about the Iriz, you can skip this section.
OK, I’ve driven all three types of transmissions (including tiptronic). The most fun transmission is the Manual. Conventional Autos can sometimes be great and sometimes disappointing. Automatic CVTs feel boring. I believe that higher performance cars are equipped with much more refined versions of Automatic CVT but I’m yet to try them.
What is the main underlying difference between these transmissions?
They work on different principles.
In a manual, you Slide the Gears to mesh them (using a clutch and a gear selector)
Conventional automatics use Planetary Gears
And an Automatic CVT transmits power through a CVT belt.
Obviously, the mechanisms for each transmission are a little more complicated than that, but to highlight the differences, I shall mention those things only. Automatics also have torque converters & clutch packs, and CVTs also have planetary gears & clutch packs. You can look these up on YouTube to learn more.
Pros and cons of each transmission type…
Manual Pros – You can select what gear you want to be in. Maintenance is a little cheaper. The car is lighter.
Manual Cons – You have to select what gear the car needs to be in.
Conventional Auto Pros – You don’t have to select what gear the car needs to be in.
Conventional Auto Cons – The Auto Gearbox sometimes doesn’t know what gear you want to be in.
CVT Pros – Smooth ride (No gear shifts)
CVT Cons – Only occasional high revs. Limited gear override options. CVT Belt is also a potential point for failure or slipping.
Let’s get back to the three points I mentioned earlier and see how the Iriz did…
Considerably good looking with subtle tweaks. Decent aggressive looks. Unfortunately, the good looks of the Iriz don’t translate so well onto its sedan counterpart, the Persona. Also, the Iriz R3 (Track Car) and the Iriz R5 (Rally Car) certainly spark some wild images of speed in the minds of young car enthusiasts.
Not fun. The weak throttle response ruins the whole experience. And we can’t blame the electronic throttle in general. Because I’ve driven other cars with electronic throttle control and they were better than this. The CVT was boring. You don’t need CVT for an entry level car. The Myvi doesn’t have CVT and neither does the Suzuki Swift. Heck, even and Mazda 2 doesn’t use CVT yet it was extremely fun to drive.
A 1.6L Standard Iriz would have been great (and probably push the price down by RM5,000). Unfortunately, the 1.6L is only available in premium. All other variants are 1.3L only. Fuel economy isn’t great for a car this size. Is it a good price? With all the features you get, I’d say it is reasonable.
I find most of the car decent with exception of the two glaring problems which are the throttle and the transmission. Will I buy an Iriz? I think I’ll take a Myvi.