Comparison: Proton Iriz vs Perodua Myvi vs Kia Picanto – Entry-Level City Dwellers


Comparison: Proton Iriz vs Perodua Myvi vs Kia Picanto – Entry-Level City Dwellers

The Perodua Myvi has been the nation’s default entry-level hatchback for a decade now. It is a car that transcends class and suited for a wide range of buyer profiles – fresh grads, young families, pensioners, and even as a spare car for well-to-do households.

Proton’s answer to challenge the Myvi’s dominance is the Iriz, launched in 2014, but only fairly recently which we had the chance to sample in what we suspected would have been its most fun-to-drive guise, powered by the 1.6-litre VVT engine fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission.

New vehicles with manual transmission are relative rarities in our roads these days, but here in the office garage, we have Arvind and Aswan, who both own manual versions of the Kia Picanto and Perodua Myvi respectively. Both their vehicles being relatively affordable hatchbacks, we get them to pit their own rides against the Iriz.

Arvind – Kia Picanto 1.2

Price: RM54,400 (OTR with insurance)
Engine: 1.2-litre, Inline-4, Transverse, DOHC CVVT
Power:  84hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 119.6Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, Traction Control, Hill-Hold Assist, ISOFIX (rear), impact-sensing door unlock

What made you choose your current car?

The main factor behind choosing my Kia Picanto was tremendous value for money and suite of safety systems. During the limited time offer when I purchased my car at a heavily discounted price of RM41k – I got six-airbags, ESC, four disc-brakes, hill-hold assist and ABS brakes. There was no other car in the market offering so much for so little dosh.

I also loved its slick-shifting five-speed manual, nippy yet surefooted handling and frugal engine. I regularly achieve 6.8litres/100km on the daily trot with peaks of 8.0litres/100km during enthusiastic driving. The other incentive was because it’s still viewed as an ‘outsider car’, it stands out in a sea of Myvis.

Compare the Iriz’s driving experience with your car.

I love the way the Proton Iriz drives. It’s the best handling car of the lot, period. Superb body control for a relatively small wheelbase – coupled to superb chassis rigidity through the tighter corners. It feels solid, and steering weightage and response is nicely tuned.

The engine however left me wanting – it’s relatively lifeless below 3000rpm. It does pick up nicely thereafter but for a city car, I feel it should have more power down low. The over-rev feature common to more recent Protons is a bit redundant when applied to the Iriz. It feels as if there’s a mismatched (oversized) flywheel which doesn’t allow the engine to rev freely and jolts the drivetrain as you get into the next gear under hard acceleration. This feels unnatural.

On the inside, it does suffer from tyre and engine roar at speed and I would appreciate a slightly lower driving position. The clutch isn’t progressive enough in my opinion and gear changes are a tad notchy when compared to my Picanto. Otherwise it’s comfortable seating and good ergonomics makes for a rather pleasant drive.

What aspect of the Iriz would you like to incorporate into your car?

I would really love the premium in rear legroom and boot space when compared to the Picanto. The Iriz is a big car wrapped within a small shell. I also love the two additional USB charger ports in the centre console, the Picanto only does with one and doesn’t allow for USB charging. The audio system is another feature I would pluck off the Iriz – it offers rather good sound quality for a six-speaker setup.

Would you trade your car for the Iriz? Why?

Not at the moment. The Picanto still continues to impress me with its frugality and enjoyable driving character. Space is a concern sometimes but it’s a problem I can live with. The Iriz is a great car, which is why I convinced my sister to purchase one but it would need a more refined driving experience and a less thirsty engine to further pique my interest.

AswanPerodua Myvi 1.5 SE

Price: RM49,968.50 (OTR with insurance, solid paint)
Engine: 1.5-litre, Inline-4, Transverse, DOHC DVVT
Power:  102hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 136Nm @ 4,400rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Safety: 2 airbags, ABS, ISOFIX (rear)

What made you choose your current car?

There were three aspects that I took into serious consideration when I was narrowing down choices for my car: it had to be financially friendly, it had to be reliable, and it had to be fun to drive. Despite there being cheaper options such as the Axia, I felt that the Myvi offered me the right amount of space and practicality that I could live with. It was a car that felt comfortable for my (rather large) frame, while being compact in terms of external dimensions.

The reliability was a question that was answered after talking to a few peers about their own Myvis. It was a consensus that if you sent the Myvi for proper, regular servicing, it would keep on chugging for the better part of a decade. The variant I opted for was the 1.5 SE Manual – although had there been an Advanced model with a manual transmission I may have chosen that instead. The manual is not the most slick-shifting transmission on the market, but it does make the driving experience a lot more entertaining. The 1.5-litre engine also has a wealth of low-end torque that the 1.3-litre units don’t quite have.

Compare the Iriz’s driving experience with your car

It is clear that despite the Iriz being similar in capacity to my Myvi and packing a 5-speed manual as well, the execution of the two cars is entirely different. The strongest inherent characteristic of the Iriz is its fantastic handling balance: the chassis is neutral on the limit, and the steering is direct and precise even if lacking a little in feel. Dynamics has been Proton’s strong point, and the Iriz is no different.

In comparison, the Myvi lacks that dynamic edge in terms of precision and body control, but it makes up for this in a number of other ways. Where the Myvi gear shift may be notchy at times, it has a more positive engagement feel than the Iriz. The clutch pedal on the Iriz has very short throw and even less feel, but perhaps the largest issue with the Iriz is the throttle delay that became prevalent in the Campro era of Proton powertrains. The 1.6-litre engine itself is a little rough around the edges and it lacks the low end punch of the Myvi  which can make overtaking a little bit of a chore at times. At the top end of the rev range it does perform far better than the Myvi’s 1.5-litre lump, but rarely do you get up there to appreciate that high end pull.

Specific to this variant of the Iriz, the kit list feels far more extravagant than my own Myvi – although you could also attribute that to the RM 9,000 price difference and the fact that the Iriz Premium variants would appropriately compete with the Myvi 1.5 Advance. It is worth nothing that the Iriz comes with ESC, which is not available on any Myvi variant, although personally I feel that neither car needs such a system.

What aspect of the Iriz would you like to incorporate into your car?

By far it has to be the handling of the Iriz that I would like to incorporate, or at the very least, emulate in the Myvi. The Iriz is leaps and bounds ahead of the Myvi in terms of dynamic ability straight out of the showroom, with Perodua taking more conservative measures when it came to suspension selection and tyre choice.

Would you trade your car for the Iriz? Why?

No, both in the short term and the long run. As we have waxed lyrical about the Iriz’s handling ability, it remains the only aspect that impresses me about the Iriz. The powertrain was a good attempt but it still lacks the finesse required to be competitive in a modern environment, and the understanding that low-end torque is far more important for everyday driving. The Myvi is a lot easier to drive in day-to- day situations, and you can leave it in fifth gear for most of your commute unless you get trapped in slower moving traffic. I am also positive that I can bridge the gap between my own car and the Iriz with some aftermarket tuning. The Iriz is a solid product and a great attempt by Proton, but the Myvi is just that little bit better suited for my needs.

Concluding Remarks

As affordable entry-level hatchbacks, the Iriz, Myvi, and Picanto need to appeal to a wide range of consumers. They need to be affordably priced in order to be accessible to the masses, yet they cannot feel cheap so as to maintain their appeal in the eyes of affluent buyers who also look at this segment for spare vehicles in the household.

Perodua has undoubtedly gotten the formula right with the Myvi - the scores of these cars you see on the road bears testimony to that fact. The Picanto, for what it's worth, is an excellent effort on Kia's part. It is an effective demonstration of how to make an entry-level vehicle affordable and respectable. The Iriz, meanwhile, is a fine effort on Proton's part - it was developed with the least economies of scale among the three cars present yet having to meet the same requirements in cost and specifications. We also like that Proton went the extra mile with safety and driving dynamics of the Iriz, qualities often neglected in this segment.

Each of the three cars featured here has its own unique blend of strength and weaknesses. The Myvi is the consummate all-rounder, but we found that the perfect motoring solution in this pool would be a vehicle that combines the safety, ride, and handling of the Iriz; powertrain and cabin space of the Myvi; and the zestiness and sophistication of the Picanto.  

Read our earlier comparison of the Myvi 1.5 A/T against the Iriz 1.6 CVT here.

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