A post on the official Facebook page of prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that the premier met with representatives of DRB-Hicom and Geely last Friday regarding the future direction of Proton. That’s not exactly big news in itself, but the sentence that followed it is – Mahathir also got the opportunity to drive the yet-to-be-launched Proton SUV.

Now, a few units of the Geely Boyue – on which the national carmaker’s first ever SUV will be based – have been seen on these shores since last year, ever since Geely signed an agreement to buy a stake in Proton. The car was first put on display as a preview of the new model, before being caught undergoing testing on local roads. However, these test units have all been left-hand drive, contrary to a post on social media.

The red crossover seen in these photographs differs from the early mules in one key area – it’s absolutely, definitely a right-hand drive model. What’s more, the car sports a new slatted grille differing from the Geely’s concentric “expanding cosmos” design, incorporating what appears to be a shield-shaped base for the missing Proton logo.

This means that Proton is slightly ahead of schedule in terms of development, as it was only supposed to debut the first RHD units next month. The as-yet-unnamed Proton SUV will be launched in October as a fully-imported (CBU) offering from China, before CKD local assembly kicks off next year.

Clearly based on the new facelifted Boyue judging by the design of the front bumper, this car features few exterior changes over the donor car. This tallies with previous remarks made by Proton’s head of design Azlan Othman, who said that minimal design tweaks will be made to get the car out the door, but “changes will come in the CKD version next year.”

From what we can see, the Proton version will come with smaller 18-inch wheels – rather than the 19s introduced on the facelift – and will be available with brown leather upholstery. Other features of note include a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree cameras (with a three-dimensional view function) and the new flush-fitting eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Also seen is a camera at the top of the windscreen to enable the car’s driver assists. These will include features like autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning, and Proton has also confirmed that adaptive cruise control will be part of the kit list.

As for the engine, it’s a 1.8 litre turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine, as hinted by the TGDi badge on the doors. It makes 181 hp and 285 Nm of torque, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and an expected choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. So, what do you think of Proton’s new SUV?

GALLERY: Geely Boyue facelift