Admit it. The last time you actually drove a manual was when you were at driving school, stalling at every traffic light stop. As sad as it seems, manuals have certainly lost their appeal if compared to automatics. But, thanks to manufacturers like Proton, they actually offer a manual option for every variant of the Proton Iriz!
While the CVT-equipped Proton Iriz continues to receive flak, we have here a manual version of the Iriz 1.3 Executive. This is the highest variant of the 1.3 Iriz, which retails for RM46,210. This particular variant costs almost RM20,000 less than the Iriz 1.6 Premium CVT we tested here. After a weekend with the manual variant, we reckon it could be worth a second look. Here’s why.
Safety. The Proton Iriz is undeniably a safe car. Even the entry-level Proton Iriz comes equipped with dual airbags plus Proton’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), which encompasses ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control. Coupled with its strong HPF steel body shell, the Iriz managed to score the maximum of 5 stars in the Asean NCAP crash tests. In fact, in real world crashes, occupants of the Iriz are well protected. Kudos to the safety engineers.
The downside of the HPF steel body is weight. And boy the Proton Iriz is portly. Proton says that the Iriz tips the scales at 1,138 kg, and that’s a lot of weight for a little B-segment hatchback. Typically, a little hatchback weights anything from 1,000 kg to 1,100 kg. With a full tank of petrol plus passengers, the Iriz could weight as much as 1,400 kg. Now, that is a lot of mass for the little 1.3-litre VVT engine to muster. No surprises that the Iriz’s fuel economy is far from the best out there, as we registered just 12.1 km/L.
But, despite its weight, the little Iriz can be quite a hoot to drive. Thanks to the slick shifting five-speed manual, I was able to make the most out of the little engine. The engine, despite having VVT, still lacks low-end torque, which means that the driver will end up shifting more gears than needed. At least the clutch was light, which meant that even in traffic jam crawls, your left leg won’t require a massage later. The manual variant is also considerably quieter than the CVT-equipped version, and the well-spaced pedals meant that heel-and-toe is rewarding in the little Iriz.
Indeed, the little underpowered Iriz can be more fun to drive than the 1.6-litre CVT variant. Even with a heavy foot, the little Iriz won’t be landing you any speeding tickets. Think you’ve hit 100 km/h out of the toll booth? Look properly, you’ve only done 80 km/h. Yup, the little Iriz takes its own sweet time to build-up speed. But, carry enough momentum through corners, and you’ll be surprised that, despite having tall 65-series rubbers, the Iriz handles bendy stuff with ease. Body-roll is well contained, and the Iriz holds its lines very well. The stock Silverstone rubbers, however, will squeal in protest when pushed at its limits.
Furthermore, it’s the first time Proton has fitted an Electric Power Steering to its models. Yes, the Juara comes to mind, but let’s forget that awful van, shall we? The unit, according to Proton, comes from ZF. In short, the steering is brilliant. Proton engineers have managed to strike the right balance between road feedback and steering weight in the Iriz. The accuracy of the steering is also commendable, as you will always know where the wheels are pointing in the Iriz.
Being a Proton has its downsides too. Despite Proton’s best efforts, the Iriz is plagued with iffy Proton quality control. On the test car at least, the passenger side door rest bulges out, while the right rear passenger seat belt somehow got lost behind a panel. I would consider these as a minor annoyance, as owners can rectify these during their trips to the service centre. For what it’s worth, the Iriz’s interior is miles ahead of the one found in the Haval we recently reviewed. No, really…
In the Haval, we noted that the air conditioning buttons had good tactile feedback, but the rest of the interior quality did not reflect the price you paid. Ever since the Iriz made its debut two years ago, the biggest annoyance has been the feel of the air conditioning controls. Thankfully, the mushy buttons around the Preve and Suprima’s head unit did not make an appearance here. Apart from that, the Iriz is pretty decent inside, with seats that offer good waist and thigh support. Even sound quality from the stock radio is pretty decent.
In essence, the Proton Iriz, in this particular trim level, offers decent driveability coupled with excellent safety features. It may not be the fastest car round the block, but there’s a special kind of fun from driving a slow car fast. The 1.6 manual is our default choice if we wanted one, but it is a real shame that production has ceased, with very limited stock left. That would certainly be an interesting experience, we believe.
Specifications: Proton Iriz 1.3 Executive Manual
Price: RM46,210 (OTR with insurance)
Engine: 1.3-litre inline-4 Campro VVT
Horsepower: 94 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 120 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Proton Iriz 1.3 Executive Manual Photo Gallery