During the launch of the facelifted Proton Saga in 2019, Proton CEO Dr. Li Chunrong reiterated that the company plans to introduce a new model every year for the next five years – starting with the game-changing Proton X70 in 2019 (post-Dec ’18 launch). We have since got the second model in this five-year plan, the X50. Which leaves us with the question, what's coming in 2021?
During that same press event, a presentation slide was shared showing the (cloaked) silhouette of what looked to be a sedan model for both 2021 and 2022, followed by the silhouette of an SUV for 2023.
This makes for very interesting conjecture given Proton’s parent company Geely has no shortage of cool sedans – ranging from the Emgrand, Borui, Bin Ray, and the superb looking Preface – which would undoubtedly fit the needs of most sedan lovers in Malaysia.
Now to qualify the argument, we first have to look at Proton’s long-term plans to investigate why we believe the Preve replacement is coming next.
Proton’s long terms goals, reported through its 10-year turnaround plan include a production target of 400,000 units in 2027 and becoming one of the top three car manufacturers in the ASEAN region. 30 percent from that 2027 volume is aimed for export markets.
The company also hopes to produce upwards of 300,000 units by 2023 – coincidentally at the same time for it to launch those five new models.
At the time Dr. Li Chunrong added, “The first three years is the most critical period for Proton to turn around. The company-wide effort is being harnessed to achieve this objective. Geely’s technologies and experience in turning around Volvo are key factors contributing to the growth of Proton and the local car industry,”
Hence whichever beyond the volume-selling Saga and Persona, the ideal bang for Proton’s buck would come in the form of a volume C-Segment sedan to take on the likes of the Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, and the all-conquering Honda Civic.
This further cements why the rumoured MPV model based on the Geely Jiaji may have been shelved for now, as its large size and premium powertrain and equipment would price it closer to the likes of the Proton X70, and out of touch with most budget MPV buyers of the Perodua Alza and Proton Exora.
Please note that we’re not quite sure why people are calling it the S50, why not the R50 or T50, Proton could really call their next sedan model virtually anything, but we suppose it’s an educated guess.
Since bowing out in the early stages of 2019, Proton has not had a replacement for the Proton Preve, which is where the Geely Binray (or Binrui) comes in.
The Binray is based on Geely’s global B-segment Modular Architecture “BMA”. The BMA was independently developed by Geely and maintains the high flexibility and scalability inherent in the earlier Geely and Volvo jointly developed Compact Modular Architecture or CMA platform found on the X50.
The sporty C-Segment sized fastback sedan measures 4,680mm in width, 1,785mm in width, and 1,460mm in height, close indeed to the size of the Honda Civic (4,648mm length, 1,799mm width, 1,416mm height).
The wheelbase of the Binray measures 2,670mm (a tad smaller than the Civic's 2,700mm) but exactly the same as the Proton X70.
Depending on the market, the Geely Binray is offered with either a (98hp/215Nm) 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a (134hp/205Nm) 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo mill. Transmission options include a 6-speed manual, ‘8-speed’ CVT auto, or 6-speed dual-clutch automatic depending on engine variant.
Like the X50, the Binray is also designed to incorporate the latest body construction materials and techniques and houses similar levels of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The Binray is said to offer 14 advanced driver aids, also giving it Level 2 driving autonomy like the Proton X50.
On the inside, the Binray's simplistic cabin bears resemblance to both the interiors of the X70 and X50. The centrally mounted air-con vents in the dashboard are closer to the X70, while the 7-inch LED Instrument cluster and centrally mounted infotainment screen and climate control switchgear are mostly like the X50.
Elsewhere, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch materials on the door panel, and leather seats make for a stylish yet elegant cabin.
Besides the plausible new Binray sedan, updates for Proton Iriz and Persona are also said to be in the pipeline. Heavily camouflaged test mules have been spotted testing leading speculators to believe that the updates are pretty comprehensive.
With those two models covered, the spotlight will move onto the ageing Exora and Perdana models. While the last raft of updates for the Exora proving to hold out, for now, the dismal sales and interest in the Perdana D-segment sedan would seem the biggest question mark for Proton in 2021.