So, the 2022 Proton Iriz facelift has just been launched. It’s a pretty major update with new lights and bumpers, as well as a rather opinion-dividing crossover-styled Active variant, a surprisingly fresh interior revamp and the controversial choice of sticking to the Punch CVT gearbox.

There’s also no more manual option, no upgrades to the safety features, and prices have actually gone up a bit. In short, there are some pretty positive things and a few not-so-good things with this facelift, so let’s go through them. We’ll only be taking a look at the Iriz range, by the way, but do stay tuned for another piece on the Persona that’s coming soon.

The Iriz has been around for seven years, which makes it an old car by many standards. Most other cars that were launched in 2014 have already been replaced by a whole new generation by now, such as the Honda City, Mazda 3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X5, and so on. But for the Iriz, we get yet another facelift.

And yes, we know there are also a few models even older than the Proton still on sale today, like the Perodua Alza, Toyota Avanza, Mazda 6 and Ford Ranger. So yeah, it’s not the only one.

If you’ve been following the model closely, you’ll know that this isn’t the Iriz’s first refresher. It’s not even the second. At launch, the Iriz was a good-looking car with great specs, but it was marred by a less-than-ideal CVT transmission, let’s put it as that. The response was slow, it was on the loud side and a little jerky. Far from perfect, really.


The original 2014 Iriz

Come 2017, the Iriz Refinement was launched. This version looked pretty much the same as the original, but under the skin was a much-improved package, especially the CVT. Like the codename, it was a much more refined experience. It received new engine mountings, a new exhaust system and it all worked. It was significantly quieter, too, with a much better response than before.

Then came the 2019 Iriz. Proton, now firmly under Geely’s influence, gave its B-segment hatchback a striking visual upgrade, complete with an entirely different face and welcome tech injections from Proton and Geely’s more upmarket models. This time, the main focus was to improve interior build quality, while further refining the car’s NVH.

Fast forward another two years, and here we are with the current facelift. This round, it’s a much more substantial update, with the Iriz getting another set of new clothes on the outside and a near unrecognisable fresh interior. There are various improvements beyond that too, but we’ll get to that further down.

What’s clear here, though, is that Proton has shown great perseverance with the Iriz, continuously improving it over the years, despite it being a relative sales flop. On that, this was originally planned as Proton’s answer to the King of Kings, the Perodua Myvi. Obviously, it missed the lofty target. By a huge margin.

Still, it’s good to see Proton sticking to it, instead of just quietly forgetting about it like it did with the Suprima S. And the Perdana. And the Preve. And the Satria Neo.

Anyway, back to the 2022 Proton Iriz facelift. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s start with the styling. There are two very distinct versions of the Iriz now – the Standard and Executive variants get a new set of front grille and bumper, and it’s definitely nicer than before, especially the grille.

This is a fresh new look, and the red bow on the grille gives it a nice family tie-in with the X50, as to suggest that these two are targeted to the young and trendy crowd. Comparatively, the Persona facelift has a more elegant look with more chrome work up front, and even more so the brown interior inside, matching the more mature X70.

The effort Proton put in to differentiate the Iriz and Persona is commendable, even though they are now sharing the same face for the very first time. They are also the first homegrown Proton models (as in one not based on Geely models) to wear the latest Proton logo.

Still, you can see that the bonnet has a pointed cutout to fit the old Proton crest, but if you take a step back, we think it all fits quite nicely. This is now the third Proton logo to appear on the Iriz – just goes to show how long the model has been in service.

That said, strictly from the front, it simply does not look like a seven-year-old design. Even on the side, the new wheels work quite well to freshen up the ageing body, plus the distinctive lower side blades still look as good now as it did the day it was born. Some of us think that Proton pulls this trick off better than the Porsche Macan, which, incidentally, is yet another car still in service that is older than the Iriz.

But, once we get to the back, the 2022 Iriz falls a little flat. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the 2019 model, save for the red line at the bottom. Proton knows full well that this isn’t exciting enough, to the point where it didn’t even release any official photos of the Standard or Executive rear end.

The single image of the back that they did provide is of the new Active variant, which is a bit controversial, styling-wise. Now, the new Iriz Active replaces the Premium variant as the new range topper, and it gets a crossover-inspired styling package with chunky black plastic mouldings all around.

The recent market shift towards SUVs has certainly played a role here, very much like the similarly-designed Perodua Axia Style from 2019. Now, before you say Proton is just copying Perodua here, remember that Proton had the idea of a crossover-styled Iriz right from the very beginning, showing off the Iriz Active concept just days after the initial launch back in 2014.

Personally though, I much prefer the look of that original concept over the actual Iriz Active that we’re getting now. That being a concept, it had really cool features like next-gen LED glow DRLs and tail lights, a floating roof look that is all the rage now, a digital instrument cluster and a Tesla-style massive centre screen. It’s too bad it had to be toned down for production, even seven years down the road.

Again, the Iriz Active is an opinion-dividing model. Some people love it, while others absolutely hate it. For me, I fall somewhere in the middle, because in some parts, I think it’s a very clever redesign. It’s a somewhat easy way to create a completely fresh looking car without changing the basic shape of it, and for the most part I think Proton Design has pulled it off.

Here, the Iriz gets a unique silver frame up front that doubles up as a decorative skid plate, a honeycomb insert, rugged overfenders all around, matching two-tone multi-spoke wheels, and roof rails at the top. Beyond that, it’s the same old Iriz. Officially it’s 10 mm taller than the standard car, but that’s all from the roof rails. The ride height is exactly the same as the rest.

While it’s clearly not an SUV, it does give off a little bit of that desirable, fashionable vibe that you get from a modern crossover. The visual package gives off a significantly different look overall from relatively simple additions. In a minimal effort, maximum gain standpoint, the result is a huge success.

Of course, not everything is likeable. The wheel arch mouldings are a bit too chunky, a bit too thick, and the way they stretch towards the front and rear corners looks a little forced. Also, the tiny bit of “detached” trim on the rear doors look really out of place, though of course it’s not the only car to have these issues. The Mazda CX-30’s plastic fenders are even more exaggerated, and the Peugeot 2008 had the same door cutout too.

If you ever wonder how the fenders would look like had they been finished in body colour, well, you have Theophilus Chin to thank. This looks so much better in my opinion. Even the silly GTi-inspired Allen bolt heads around the fenders make sense now, giving it a bit of that Rocket Bunny look. So if you really don’t like the overfenders, here’s something you can easily do. Again, minimal effort, maximum gain.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the new LED headlights on the Iriz Active, finally matching the Perodua Myvi. But while the highway king has it fitted on all variants, here, only the top Iriz gets it. The lower models carry on with lame halogen reflector lights, which are so outdated now. Seriously, once you’ve driven a modern car with LED headlights, going back to halogens feels like you’ve gone back in time.

Another thing exclusive to the Iriz Active is the Goodyear Triplemax 2 tyres. The Executive, even though it also runs upsized 16-inch wheels with the same tyre profile, gets fitted with Atlas tyres, just like the Saga.

As for colour options, Proton has gone crazy this time with no less than seven options, including the Citric Orange and Passion Red taken from the X50. It’s nice to see a good selection of bright and vibrant colour options instead of the usual white and silver. For me, I’m loving my orange X50 and I think it looks just unique here on the Iriz.

Now, finally, we get to the interior, where the changes are even more important. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the near unrecognisable dashboard, making this feel like so much more than a mere facelift.

The upper central pod has been completely redesigned, now featuring a modern looking freestanding screen. To accommodate the larger screen, the air-con vents have been moved down, arranged in a more conventional horizontal layout. A byproduct of this change is that the vents will hopefully be allowed to direct air towards your face, rather than directly at your fingers on the steering wheel like the previous design.

Further down, the air-con controls are all new too. Gone are the loose-feeling triple rotary dials, replaced by digital controls that are similar to the ones on the X50. Now, it should be noted that they are not exactly the same, and certainly incompatible with those seen in the Lotus Emira, in case you’re thinking of having them retrofitted on the cheap.

Also, while the controls are digital, the air-conditioning is still a manual system, so no automatic climate control here. But, at least you still get Proton’s N95 cabin filter as standard, which is good to have today. There’s still no rear vents either, but that’s also the case with all cars this size. Just get a set of good window tint, and your rear passengers will be fine.

Just below the air-con controls is a set of three USB ports to charge your mobile devices. The Iriz now has a total of six USB ports – two more for the rear passengers and one cleverly tucked behind the rear-view mirror. Just like on the X70, this one is meant to directly power your dash cam, so you no longer need to route the power cable all around the headliner. The map lights are new too, now featuring LED lamps like on the Saga. It’s all the little things, really.

Let’s move on to the centre tunnel, which is entirely new. It’s far simpler and neater now, with three buttons up front for the front parking sensors, electronic stability control and a new Eco mode for the transmission. The gearlever is a carryover from the 2019 model, but it’s now standard across the range.

Behind that is the handbrake, flanked by a long row of cubbyholes and cupholders. Should be handy to hold your wallets, keys and other loose items, something the previous models struggled with. Also a welcome addition is a centre armrest, which should please a lot of people.

Other new additions include the steering boss cover, now with the uncaged tiger logo. This is actually a significant change for the Iriz, as previous models have always carried the old flat logo, even after the exterior moved on to the 3D logo from 2017. Now, finally, the interior has caught up.

Overall, it’s actually pretty amazing how Proton has managed to modernise the dashboard to this degree, despite the obvious limitations it had to work with. If you look closely enough, the entire dashboard is still built off the same old design, but the new parts really do transform the interior quite dramatically. It’s rare that a facelift update is this thorough inside.

The one thing that is showing its age a little is the steering wheel design itself. New logo aside, it’s a far cry from more modern designs in the X70 and X50 that look one or two generations newer. However, one small gripe we have is the removal of the frameless rear-view mirror first fitted on the 2019 model.

As you can tell by now, all the red splashes in the interior are exclusive to the Iriz Active, which also adds on sport pedals, part leather seats and my absolute favourite – bright red seatbelts like on Mercedes-AMG and Honda Type R models.

Lower models have all the red bits on the dashboard painted silver. The Executive gets full leatherette seats, while the Standard gets full fabric seats and unfortunately, the same old standard audio head unit, which is absolutely terrible.

The Iriz Active is the only one to get the fully upgraded GKUI head unit, now featuring a new interface. The “Hi Proton” voice commands are also no longer limited to the onboard navigation and music apps – it can now operate the air-con and window too, just like the Geely-based models.

However, unlike on the SUV models, asking the system to open the windows will only result in the driver’s side window coming down. Why? Because that’s the only side with an Auto up and down function.

Mechanically, the engines are exactly the same as before. The 1.3 litre VVT mill still makes 95 PS and 120 Nm, while the 1.6 litre VVT offers 109 PS and 150 Nm. These have not changed at all since the very first Iriz seven years ago, so that’s a little disappointing. But then again, the 1.6 still has a healthy advantage over the Myvi 1.5 in terms of output numbers, so there’s that.

Transmission-wise, there’s only one option, the Punch CVT. Yes, for the very first time, the Iriz is no longer available with a manual option. It’s sad, but unfortunately, that move is probably a wise business decision by Proton. Why? Nobody is buying manuals anymore. That’s a fact. So why bother making them? Based on recent data shown to us, only 3% of Iriz customers bought the manual. Yeah, just 3%, and you know there aren’t that many Irizes sold anyway, right?

I personally know first hand how small the demand was for the manual Iriz. When I was buying one last year, I was told that for CVT models, I could get one delivered within a few weeks or a month, depending on the colour option. For the manual, I could choose any colour I want, and it would be ready for delivery like, yesterday. That’s how bad it was.

So yeah, don’t go blaming Proton for stopping the manuals. Malaysians stopped buying them first. I’m just glad Proton stuck with it for long enough for me to get one for myself. And if you really want one now, I’m sure there are a few pre-facelift manuals lying around somewhere.

As for the CVT, despite being frowned upon, it’s one of those things that you really need to try out for yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard many negative comments about it. You know, it’s slow, it’s not responsive, it’s loud. But, the next question should be, which Iriz CVT are they referring to? Like I mentioned earlier, Proton has improved the CVT by leaps and bounds over the years.

The first version had issues, yes, there’s no denying that. But since then, the continuous improvements done to it have been impressive. The last version we drove in 2019 had very decent driving characteristics. Super refined, by far the quietest in the class.

This 2022 version, while Proton hasn’t publicly said anything about the CVT yet, the people we’ve spoken to within Proton said that a lot of work has been put to further improve it. And this is both in terms of hardware and software, so we’ve been told. It’s now smoother, more efficient, more reliable, the lot.

You can see that there are proper Eco and Sport driving modes too, which are new. We can’t wait to try it out when test drives are allowed again. And those of you still with doubts on the Iriz CVT, you should too.

Next, safety. This is traditionally Proton’s strong point, but here and now the Iriz is just about alright. It’s no longer a class leader in this respect. The Iriz was revolutionary back in 2014, being the first in the class, and at the time, the cheapest car to have electronic stability control and six airbags.

But while other brands have soon caught up and progressed even further, the Iriz has pretty much stagnated. This 2022 version has the same safety features as the seven-year-old original. ESP and six airbags, and still no AEB. The Standard version now has four airbags instead of two. But still, for a 2022 model, we would have expected AEB by now. And so should you.

After all, this car’s main rival, the Perodua Myvi now offers AEB even on its 1.3 litre model, so clearly Proton is lagging behind with the Iriz. Proton still boasts of a five-star ASEAN NCAP crash safety rating, but it should be known that the result is based on the 2020 testing protocol.

There’s now a brand new set of tests for 2021 which has a higher focus on active safety features such as AEB and blind spot monitoring. If the Iriz goes through the latest protocol, I’m not quite sure it would get top marks again.

Now, the only thing left to talk about is pricing. The 2022 Iriz now starts from just over RM40,000, going up to RM54k for the top-spec Active. The starting price has gone up a fair bit, as the previous Iriz came in from just RM36k, but again remember that that was for the manual version.

For the CVT, both the new Standard and Executive variants are about RM1,000 more expensive than before, which is fair as you do get extra equipment. The Active is now over RM4,000 more than the previous Premium, which can be a bit hard to swallow. But then again, the additional bits and bobs do cost more money, so that’s that.

More importantly, the Iriz price range is comparatively very similar to the Perodua Myvi, so there’s not much difference between the two, especially if you’re going to take loans. So choosing between the two comes down to preference, not pricing. If you’re planning on buying the new Iriz, let us know which model you will be purchasing in the comments section, below.


GALLERY: 2022 Proton Iriz 1.6 Executive facelift at showroom
GALLERY: 2022 Proton Iriz 1.6 Active facelift at showroom