Once a while, car makers can genuinely surprise the buyers with a gem. The gem isn’t necessarily a sports car or a hot hatch. It can be as inconspicuous as a four door hatchback. No, really.
When the Proton Iriz was launched in late 2014, the company offered no less than eight variants of its then-new hatchback, with each variant offered with a CVT or a stick shift. Naturally, we were keen to sample the range-topping Iriz 1.6 manual. Indeed, the term range-topping and manual rarely jives together, but kudos to Proton for breaking that mold with the Iriz.
Production of the stick shift Iriz 1.6 only began in 2015, and units were quickly snapped up. Granted, Proton had to offer some discounts to clear its remaining stock, but it shows that even with a relatively high price, buyers were willing to get the Iriz 1.6 manual.
However, production of the Iriz 1.6 manual only lasted for a while, as the company only made 500 units of this gem. Proton later focused their production on the CVT and 1.3 manual variants.
For this review, we had a Citrus Green Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium with a manual transmission, a car that as inconspicuous as it may seem, may be one of the finest Protons ever conceived. Here’s why.
Those driven a Proton will no doubt know a thing or two about Proton’s biggest drawback, its Punch-sourced continuously variable transmission (CVT). On paper, the Belgium-sourced Punch offers the best balance between fuel consumption and power delivery, as CVTs are always in the right powerband. Thanks to that, initial CVT-equipped Protons had whiny CVTs that offered little to no driving pleasure.
Enter the Iriz. We tried the range-topping Iriz 1.6 Premium some time back, and walked away with mixed feelings. Indeed, it is far by one of the most refined Proton models ever produced (barring the Perdana), but smaller details like the CVT was still plaguing the Proton. Now, what about the manual-equipped Proton Iriz?
Back in April, we sampled the Iriz 1.3 Executive, fitted with a manual transmission. Ergonomics are largely similar between the two cars, though the largest difference is the extra grunt the 1.6-litre Campro VVT provides. The difference, for us at least, is day and night.
Off the line, the Iriz 1.6 accelerates with much urgency, though it does it with more refinement than its CVT-equipped sibling. Gone is the CVT whine when the engine is urged, as the manual variant of the Iriz revs smoothly to its 5,750 rpm redline. Once the needle reaches the redline, pop the clutch, engage the next gear and watch as the needle climbs nicely to the redline.
The other reason why the Iriz 1.6 Premium manual accelerates so well is due to its manual transmission, which has less parasitic loss when compared to the CVT. The slightly lighter curb weight (1,165 kg dry) also helps, as the CVT weighs some 20 kg more.
Clutch action is also light, allowing for really quick gear shifts. In fact, the gear shifts are really smooth, and slots into each position nicely. The throw between each gears could have been a bit shorter, we feel, as shifting from first to second smoothly takes some time getting used to. Nail it, and the Iriz rewards you with eager and seamless acceleration.
Furthermore, the nicely arranged three pedals did allow us to heel and toe when down shifting, something all manual drivers should learn. Another feature that owners of the Iriz 1.6 Premium (MT) need to know is that the car need to be in Reverse in order to fully lock the car, as leaving the car in Neutral can cause the battery to drain.
Overall, the Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium manual is an exception for Proton. The existence of this car proves that Proton is capable of making a manual car that isn’t restricted to the entry-level crowd. It is a shame, as Malaysian buyers cannot fully understand the beauty of driving a stick shift, as this Iriz is a testament of a new car done well. Kudos Proton for this gem.
Specifications: Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium Manual
Price: RM59,880 (OTR with insurance) *No longer for sale
Engine: 1.6-litre inline-4 Campro VVT
Horsepower: 107 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 150 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Proton Iriz 1.6 Premium Manual Photo Gallery