The 2021 Geely Emgrand Is The Next Proton Persona (And Honda City Killer)


The 2021 Geely Emgrand Is The Next Proton Persona (And Honda City Killer)

We're calling it, the 2021 Geely Emgrand, when it comes in to replace the Proton Persona, will also kill the Honda City! 

Geely is close to launching their 2021 Emgrand with bookings for B-segment sedan now open in China. Despite it being rather impressively equipped on paper, the car will start at just 87,000 yuan, or equivalent to around RM57k, making it a value powerhouse.

Proton leadership will likely not want to be stagnant in their pursuit of total domination in the Malaysian market, at least where possible, making the case to localise the all-new 2021 Geely Emgrand too enticing to walk away from.

Timing seems quite appropriate as well with the 2nd-generation Persona now 6 years since its initial introduction. Alongside the Iriz on which it’s based, the sedan has recently been given a visual refresh and spec boost for 2021, so there’s still some life yet to its current form.

However, if Proton is wise, they should use this time to secure a smooth transition into an all-new model.

If the 2021 Emgrand is everything the next-generation Persona needs, there’s really no reason why the automaker should waste any time in commencing the localisation process to bring the car under the Proton banner given its potential to even undercut the current-generation car through Geely’s supply chain and component-sharing synergies, especially given its shared BMA underpinnings with the X50.

Bringing a fairly large and generously equipped B-segment sedan to market under RM60k would be a tall order, but Proton should be able to manage expectations by positioning the 2021 Emgrand (or whatever its name here might be) as a more upmarket offering, battling longtime class leaders such as the Honda City on every front.

At the same time, instead of competing with the Perodua Bezza, the new Proton sedan will be able to tackle newcomer heavyweights such as the all-new Nissan Almera and perhaps the Mazda 2 by offering luxury features and active safety at a much lower price.

Remember, this is a car that could be lobbed into the Malaysian market at just around RM60k fully loaded, undercutting the competition by a huge chunk, making it such an insane value proposition that it might not even matter what the car looks like.

That said, on the design front, the 4th-generation 2021 Geely Emgrand might not be the Chinese automaker’s most striking car to look at, but it does have a clean and fairly sophisticated looking design that should fit in well with the crowd.

However, only by making trade-offs in the powertrain department has Geely has managed to keep the 2021 Emgrand’s pricing extremely competitive. Under the bonnet, it’s understood that a sole 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine will be the only choice, which is mated to a CVT to drive the front wheels.

Since the car’s final specifications still remain shrouded in mystery for the time being despite the order books already being open, we don’t know if more powertrain options will be coming eventually. For now, the 114PS and 147Nm figures are on par with equivalent engines from other brands and more than adequate for urban driving and highway journeys.  

Most Malaysians might not be too concerned about the 2021 Emgrand lacking the X50’s turbocharged power if it means better fuel economy and, crucially, access to the Emgrand’s rather modern and fairly luxurious interior. The mix of materials here looks to be really impressive, tied together by a very inviting design that’s anchored by a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Safety features should be pretty impressive as well, especially for the price. Should Proton be working on a Persona replacement based on the all-new 2021 Emgrand, moving heaven and earth to include the majority - if not all - of the active safety tech from the top-spec X50 should be their top priority.

To recap, the latest X50 Flagship currently offers Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Automatic High Beam control.

Of the would-be Persona’s competitors, only the City RS e:HEV offers that kind of comprehensive driver assist feature set through Honda Sensing. Remember, though, that it costs north of RM105k, leaving plenty of room for the Proton to thrive.

While it wouldn’t be able to compete with the advanced hybrid powertrain from the Honda, the next-generation Persona could potentially set the class benchmark for safety and overall value much like the X50 did upon its launch.

Proton has already revealed via its 5-year roadmap that a four-door sedan model would follow in the wake of the X50, and it’s also very like that the Malaysian automaker would have advanced knowledge of the 2021 Emgrand through internal briefings long before any public information was available. And, wouldn’t you know it, the current-generation Persona is getting to a point where they would already be planning for a direct successor.

Seems like an awful lot of coincidences.

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Jim Kem

Jim Kem

Content Producer

There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.