Having made an unexpected splash after announcing its return to South Africa in April after a twelve-year hiatus, Malaysian carmaker Proton has said its re-launch to the market is permanent and has no plans to leave anytime soon.

On Wednesday, the marque officially relaunched itself as an “affordable luxury” automaker, led by two SUVs, the X50 and X70, with three additional models, two sedans and a third SUV, confirmed for late 2023.

In the photo, the top-spec Premium rides as standard on 18-inch alloy wheels

Its return comes five years after Chinese automaker Geely took a 49.9% stake. Proton international sales director Stephen Xu said the brand had learned a lot from its initial foray into South Africa, which ran from 2005 to 2012, with sales of 5,295 units.

According to Xu, Proton’s decision to go it alone without any local help, supply chain constraints, lack of sources and models ultimately left it with no choice but to leave.

ALSO READ: Proton X50 and X70 feature list revealed

“Since our joint venture with Geely, we have spent a lot of time and effort on upgrading our plant in Malaysia. Today, after an investment of US$500 million, Proton’s plant in Tanjung Malim is recognized as one of the best in Southeast Asia,” Xu said.

“Today we are back in South Africa. And we are ready. We intend to provide our customers with an exceptional luxury experience based on the standards set by Geely.”

Proton is back in South Africa with the X50 and X70
The steering wheel has a distinct Skoda look, but everything else is unique to the X50

As well as being owned by Geely, whose model line-up includes Volvo and Lotus, Proton’s re-emergence has also come as Combined Motor Holdings (CMA) CEO Jeb McIntosh has identified the brand as filling a vital space currently unoccupied.

“Luxury brands have become so out of reach for most South Africans. The purchase of Geely’s stake changed Proton. When the brand became available, we jumped at the opportunity for several reasons, but mainly we saw a gap in the market for quality SUVs at an affordable price,” McIntosh said.

Proton is back in South Africa with the X50 and X70
The two-tone black and red leather seats are supportive and look fantastic.

Meanwhile, Proton’s managing director of sales, Michael Snodgrass, said the brand would not compete with or serve as an alternative to Chinese rivals Haval and Chery, but rather as a competitor to comparable models from Volkswagen and Mazda, among others. .

As you already know, both the Proton X50 and X70 are right-hand drive versions of Geely’s existing models, namely the Binyue and Boyue, both of which are based on Geely’s custom platform.

Proton is back in South Africa with the X70 and X50
The X70 will lead the Proton lineup for now.

The opposite can be found under the bonnet, where both use the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that Volvo uses in the entry-level as well as hybrid versions of the XC40.

The X50 comes in two configuration states; 110 kW/226 Nm and, in models with the T-GDI designation, 130 kW/255 Nm. Only the latest unit is available for the X70, which was updated in Malaysia earlier this year before being confirmed for South Africa.

Proton is back in South Africa with the X70 and X50
The top-spec Premium gets 19-inch alloy wheels and a number of safety and driver assistance systems.

Regardless of power, the only transmission option on both models is a seven-speed dual-clutch with front-wheel drive, or all four in the case of the X70.

A brief taste of both models at the national launch in Magaliesburg swung largely in favor of the X50, which felt confident and had plenty of go from an eager engine devoid of the usual three-cylinder roar.

Proton is back in South Africa with the X70 and X50
As part of the standard specification, the Premium boasts a nine-speaker Kenwood sound system.

For its part, the X70, which used a turbocharged 1.8-liter unit before its facelift, was more focused on comfort than sport, but still felt reasonably peppy given its mass.

There was no shortage of space in either model, and while ride comfort and steering were impressive, some materials felt a little less settled with braking performance, particularly in the X70, which was somewhat disconcerting.

Proton is back in South Africa with the X70 and X50
The seats are in brown Nappa leather and plush, and the interior is tidy despite a few cheap materials.

However, the general consensus is that Proton has done its homework, as both the X50 and X70, regardless of trim level, are packed with features that are either not offered or not mandatory on their intended rivals.

Along with CMA support, each sticker price of the X50 and X70 includes a five-year/unlimited km warranty and a five-year/80,000km service plan.


Despite the ambition, the perception will take some time and even difficult to see Proton as a serious alternative to the likes of Volkswagen and Mazda, rather than Chery or Haval.

There is no doubt that both the X50 and the X70 deserve more than just attention them intentions, but Proton is more than ready to write a new chapter in more ways than one.



  • X50 1.5T Standard DCT – R449 900
  • X50 1.5T Luxury DCT – R499900
  • X50 1.5T Executive DCT – R535 900
  • X50 1.5 T-GDI Premium DCT – Rs 579,900


  • X70 1.5 T-GDI Standard DCT – R529 900
  • X70 1.5 T-GDI Executive DCT – R579 900
  • X70 1.5 T-GDI Executive AWD DCT – R629 900
  • X70 1.5 T-GDI Premium DCT – Rs 639,900

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