Nextrift’s Car of the Year 2023: Proton S70
December 30, 2023 Andrew Cheng

Thanks to various incentives offered by the government, 2023 is a great year for electric vehicles in Malaysia. A slew of intriguing EVs were launched here this year, including the impressive Hyundai Ioniq 6 and the BYD Dolphin. Suffice to say it has never been a better time to get an EV on our shores, and it shows: of 12,000 EVs registered in Malaysia since 2011, over 9,000 of them were registered just this year.

That being said, we still think the EV market in Malaysia has some ways to go before it’s really ready for mass adoption, especially in terms of pricing. With that in mind, we turn to conventional ICE vehicles for Nextrift’s car of the year, and the Proton S70 immediately comes to mind.

Of course, we are picking the S70 in the context of the Malaysian market, and we will explain why it’s the most exciting car for us below.

The Proton S70 is a highly anticipated model for Proton. After all, it is the national carmaker’s first sedan since the Persona, which was launched back in 2016. The positioning of the sedan is…well, debatable, as Proton is calling the S70 a C-segment sedan. This is despite the fact that it is based on the Geely Emgrand, which is sold as a B-segment sedan in various markets.

But looking at the S70’s feature set, which is quite a bit different than the Emgrand’s, it’s evident that this sedan is a step above other B-segment alternatives in the Malaysian market. In more ways than one, it can be said that the S70 is a B-segment model that’s equipped like a C-segment car, though this isn’t the main reason why we are picking it as our car of the year.

It comes down to one main aspect: sheer value for money. Four different variants of the S70 are available, starting from the base Executive model for RM73,800, going up to RM79,800 for the Premium trim. The Flagship and Flagship X variants, on the other hand, are priced at RM89,800 and RM94,800 respectively.

At these price points, the value proposition of the S70 is incredibly good, which is a great strategy for a price-sensitive market like Malaysia. It also undercuts the pricing of the two B-segment sedan staples in our market, the Honda City and Toyota Vios. The City currently starts at RM84,900, while the Vios retails from RM89,600.

What makes the S70 such a value champion are the performance and active safety features that you get for the money; let’s start with former. Under the hood of the S70 is the same 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder engine found in the non-Flagship X50. Producing 150PS and 226Nm of torque, the mill is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This powertrain is certainly more impressive than what the Emgrand gets in other markets, which is a 1.5L NA engine (102PS/142Nm) mated to a CVT.

If we were to compare the S70 to the Honda City and Toyota Vios, the S70 is distinctively more powerful. The City has a 1.5L engine that produces 121PS and 145Nm of torque, while the Vios features a 1.5L mill that does 106PS and 138Nm of torque. Both sedans also feature a CVT.

With that in mind, it’s evident that the S70 is a faster car compared to these two B-segment staples. This makes sense for a model that is positioned as a C-segment sedan, right? Well, yes and no, as the S70 faces stiffer competition in the C-segment market, such as the ever popular Honda Civic.

After all, the current 11th gen Civic is powered by a 1.5L turbo engine that outputs 182PS and 240Nm of torque; these are 32PS and 14Nm more than what the S70’s turbo mill can produce. But on the flipside, the S70 does offer more power than the Toyota Corolla, which has a 1.8L engine with 139PS and 172Nm of torque – 11PS and 54Nm lower than the S70’s outputs.

But there is one area where the S70 has the upper hand compared to these two C-segment models: its more sophisticated advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). At least, that’s the impression we got based on our brief time with the S70 at a media preview last month.

Naturally, the S70’s ADAS has the usual suite of active safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, lane centering control, and lane change assist. But what makes the S70’s ADAS better is its refinement. For example, the ADAS feels more capable at negotiating sharper corners, and the lane centering control works at lower speeds too.

It’s also worth noting that the ADAS of the S70 supports traffic sign information. This is a feature that is not commonly found in the C-segment market, let alone the B-segment field.

The fact that Proton is equipping the S70 with this level of ADAS at this price point – even though it’s only available on the higher-end Flagship and Flagship X models – makes it a great buy for those who want the best value for their money. Of course, the sedan also has Proton’s signature ride and handling.

Proton said that the S70 has been tuned for Malaysian roads, and it has been driven over 1.2 million kilometre in its development, taking up over 75,000 hours of testing. It also has three steering modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport), which can be customised to the car’s three driving modes.

The Proton S70’s competitive pricing, good performance, and refined active safety features are reasons enough for us to crown it Nextrift’s car of the year for 2023. While the EV market is seeing a boom locally, ICE cars like the S70 are still very much relevant in the Malaysian market. If you’d like to learn more about Proton’s latest sedan, check out our test drive and walkaround video of the S70.