Why The Proton X50 Still Dominates the Malaysian B-Segment

The Proton X50 arrived in the Malaysian market in October 2020, generating a great deal of excitement at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic had created a sense of gloom. It was an immediate hit and today, the X50 has ascended to the No.1 position, not just in the SUV B-segment but is now also the overall leader of the entire SUV segment.

Although many new rivals have entered the market since 2020, the X50 remains a very popular choice for SUV buyers, being offered at attractive price points in all four variants with comprehensive equipment packages. In fact, much of what is offered in the X50 – especially the more premium variants – would typically only be found in models costing much more. Hence, like the X70, the X50 has changed the value-for-money proposition and offers consumers a premium product without them having to pay a premium price.

Pricing ranges from RM86,300 for the X50 1.5T Standard to RM113,300 for the 1.5 TGDi Flagship, with two variants – 1.5T Executive and 1.5T Premium, in between to offer additional choices for different budgets. Generally, the equipment included are commonised for the two upper level variants and two lower level variants.

Why the X50 impresses

In many areas, Proton has provided top specs for all the variants. For example, three of the variants have leatherette upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while all variants have intelligent entry with push-button engine start and remote engine starting.

While automotive technology has been advancing at a rapid pace, the X50 remains on par with current industry technology trends which have focussed on downsized powertrains. The TGDi engine (produced locally since July 2022), for example, has a 3-cylinder design with turbocharging and direct injection (in the Flagship version) taking output as high as 177 ps and 255 Nm with a displacement of just 1.5 litres.

With the 7-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) and three driver-selectable drive modes, fuel consumption can be as efficient as 15.6 kms/litre which means a range of at least 700 kms with the 45-litre fuel tank.

The X50 has many intelligent technologies which make driving more enjoyable and less stressful as well as safer. Extensive connectivity, including 4G and Wifi, keep the driver informed at all times and also connects the X50 to the online world for navigation and music streaming as well as weather forecasts. The voice command system extends to operation of the windows, sunroof and air-conditioning system, allowing the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel.

X50 occupants are not only protected by the well-engineered and tough structure but also numerous passive and active safety features and systems. These include systems like ABS, traction control stability control, brake assist and hill descent control, which are standard for all variants.

The 1.5 TGDi Flagship has Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which are similar to those in more expensive models. The features include Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Warning. Not many realise that with Auto Park Assist (APA), the X50 1.5 TGDi Flagship can even position itself in a parking bay without the driver needing to steer.

Why choose the X50 instead of competitor models

With the X50, Proton has a strong challenger in the B-segment of the SUV market which has seen increased competition in recent years. Immediate SUV rivals that come to mind are the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona and in recent times, the Toyota Corolla Cross and Perodua Ativa. Other than the Ativa which has a lower price range, all the other rivals start with higher price tags.

For the price-conscious, the Perodua Ativa may be the practical choice but it still has to be noted that the Perodua’s engine is significantly smaller. Both models have turbocharged engines but the X50’s 1.5-litre engine delivers 150 ps/226 Nm whereas the Ativa’s 1.0-litre engine produces 98 ps/140 Nm. The 53% greater power output of the X50 can more than handle the extra weight of the model with extra to spare for enhancing performance.

Dimensionally, the sleeker X50 has a slightly larger body than the Ativa which means better space within and that is an important requirement for most Malaysian car-buyers. The generous cabin width also adds to the sense of spaciousness in the X50.

It is against Japanese competition that the X50 proves to be a much better proposition not only with its lower price but also its comprehensive equipment level. A comparison between the X50 Flagship and the HR-V e:HEV which is the model line’s flagship will show that Proton can provide similar features for RM27,500 less.

Both SUVs have LED lights, 18-inch wheels and powered tailgates but Proton even provides a sunroof with the X50. Inside, the X50 has a larger infotainment display which runs on the 2nd generation of its GKUI system. And in these times when air quality is of great importance, Proton has installed a N95 filter in its ventilation system to remove harmful particles and purify the air in the cabin.

In the safety department, the X50 matches the HR-V with an almost identical ADAS. And while the Honda systems rely solely on a camera, the X50’s systems are fed information by a camera as well as a radar which constantly scans the environment ahead for obstacles and hazards. With the additional radar sensor, scanning is better even in conditions of poor lighting or bad weather conditions.

Right from the time it was launched, customers had to wait many months for their X50 – even during the period when lockdowns were in  force and the MCO slowed sales. Then as the market was recovering, parts shortages disrupted production and the waiting period was still long. 2023 should see more stability in production and shortening of waiting times.

Does second-hand value matter?

Used X50s have been in the market for some time now and the earliest units from 2020 are selling at a price between RM2,000 to around RM8,000 less than the price tag when they were new 3 years ago. This is a reflection of the popularity and high demand of the model which influences the value of used units. For example, a 3-year old X50 Premium which the first owner paid RM93,200 for in 2020 has an average asking price of RM91,000 in the used car market from various advertisements we saw. However, the Flagship version seems to have a marginally higher depreciation of about RM8,000 after 3 years.

There’s always the argument about whether it’s better to buy a brand new car with the peace of mind of being the first owner or a used model which may cost less. With cars being well built these days, you can generally expect a pre-owned car to be in fairly good condition unless it was poorly maintained or driven in a rough manner.

The good thing about used X50s at this time is that the model is relatively new and even the oldest ones are just 3 years old. This means that they would have been to Proton’s service centres periodically, ensuring proper maintenance was carried out. And with the standard warranty being 5 years, every X50 today is still covered as there is no limit on mileage.

In the short term, used X50s are likely to be in short supply as many owners have an enjoyable ownership experience and keep it longer. The number of units in operation are also only slowly growing due to the shortage of new vehicles in the past two years, so it will be a few more years before more enter the used car market.

Editor Info

Keshy Dhillon

A car stirs the soul, a motorbike is the soul. Keshy has been a motoring journalist for over a decade and has written for and founded a number of Malaysian motoring titles including Piston.my, Bikesrepulic.com, Motomalaya.net and other mass media titles.

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