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This year will see the Proton Iriz and Persona siblings get their long-awaited facelifts, with the national carmaker already releasing the first images of the new models. Both receive substantial stylistic makeovers that are said to be inspired by the Geely-derived X70 SUV, but there are a few key differences between them.

Let’s start at the front – while the two cars previously sported completely different designs, this time the Iriz receives the Persona’s reflector halogen headlights, ditching its projector units. For some, this might be considered a downgrade, and unfortunately it doesn’t appear that the hatch will gain the sedan’s headlight levelling adjustment to compensate, as the adjustment knob has disappeared from both cars.

The upper grille remains a key differentiator, with contrasting designs for the chrome strip that links the headlights. Both cars now feature what Proton calls an “Ethereal Bow” design, which essentially means that the centre of the strip has been scalloped, much like the lower edge of the X70’s grille.

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The difference is that whereas the Persona’s chrome strip wraps around the grille, the Iriz’ continues its dramatic downwards sweep before dipping under the Proton logo. You’ll find different variations of the X70’s “Infinite Weave” grille pattern on both cars, with a thinner looping design on the Iriz.

Moving on, the bumper designs are largely similar with triple downturned air intakes and horizontal LED daytime running lights (a first for the Persona). However, the Iriz also gets a black front spoiler with a slightly contrived chrome strip, while the Persona gains a U-shaped gloss black insert that wraps around the corners of the air intakes. The former also has a larger centre inlet with a fake carbon fibre pattern.

As you’d expect, the rear ends get differing redesigns, although both cars receive the spaced-out Proton script instead of the previous tiger badges. The Iriz also receives a gloss black strip across the tailgate, visually extending the rear windscreen.

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The bumpers have also been reprofiled, with the Iriz getting a more ornate design replete with fake corner vents. It also has a larger black panel than before, incorporating the number plate recess and diffuser-like strakes along the lower edge. By contrast, the Persona has a simpler rear end, with the only embellishment being a wavy full-width chrome strip that is reminiscent of certain Mercedes-Benz models.

Redesigned two-tone alloy wheels complete the look, with a blade design for the Iriz and a simpler double-spoke design for the Persona. It also looks like the two cars will get new paint options (blue for the Iriz, a deeper red for the Persona), with the Iriz maintaining the black roof and rear spoiler (likely reserved for the range-topping model) that was introduced in 2016.

Inside, there are similar tweaks for both models, including a redesigned instrument cluster with cleaner, more legible dials (110 km/h, the national speed limit, is now at 12 o’clock). These feature silver ring surrounds, typefaces lifted off the X70, new digital fuel and oil temperature gauges on the lower edges of the dials as well as a larger full-colour multi-info display in the centre.

We’ve also swapped the faces of the Iriz and Persona – click to enlarge

Other touches include a new gearknob from the X70, a frameless rear-view mirror and revised fabric upholstery for the Persona (the Iriz keeps its Martini-esque stripes). There’s also a new touchscreen navigation system developed in partnership with Chinese tech company ECARX – which also helped build the Geely Smart Ecosystem (GKUI) – and it looks to be the same Android-based interface as the X70.

Of course, a few key differences between the Iriz and the Persona remain, with the sedan retaining its beige lower dashboard, transmission tunnel and door panel inserts (black on the Iriz). One thing of note is that the hatch now gets full black headlining to match the rest of the interior.

We’ve also taken the liberty of getting Photoshop wizard Theophilus Chin to swap the faces of the Iriz and Persona, which you can see above. The good news is that such a swap is easier to do in real life, now that both cars share the same headlights and bonnet, making a bumper switch a more straightforward process. Personally, I prefer the more classically handsome front end of the Persona, but what do you think?