Proton X50 1.5 TGDi Flagship Vs Mazda CX-3 2.0L High: the battle of the ‘premium’ compact crossovers.
While the newly launched Perodua Ativa may have stolen some of its thunder in recent times, there is still no denying that the Proton X50 could still be considered the king of the local compact crossover segment currently.
Touted widely as perhaps the best car the Malaysian automaker ever made to date, this rebadged Geely has been able amass over 34,000 bookings up to this point. This staggeringly high demand for the X50 though has been both a blessing and a curse for Proton, as the supply of these compact crossovers are simply insufficient to cope with the overwhelming number of orders.
This resulting 9-month waiting list therefore may tempt some buyers into looking elsewhere, with one such (possibly unlikely) alternative will be the Mazda CX-3. Newly updated for the 2021 model year, this Japanese crossover brings with it quite a lot of added features with this most recent revision that puts it on an almost equal footing spec-wise with the Proton X50.
Granted, it might initially seem ludicrous to compare both these cars as there is a significant price delta of about RM 30k in favour of the even the top-tier Proton against the sole Mazda variant offered here. However both these cars are rather similar in philosophy, by being compact crossovers that are aiming for that ‘premium’ tagline.
So there is actually a reasonable question to be asked here in regards to which of these two compact crossovers offers the better premium-per-value proposition: the top-spec Proton X50 1.5 TGDi Flagship or (sole variant of) the Mazda CX-3 2.0 High? And it is this question that is hoped to be answered here by gleaning through the spec sheets of both cars, in today’s edition of Spec Vs Spec.
Before delving deeper into the nitty-gritty of the spec sheets, it is perhaps worth going through the genealogy of both these compact crossovers first. Just to have a better understanding of what these two cars really are underneath their respective skins.
Starting with the Mazda first, despite the 3 in the CX-3 model name, this particular compact crossover is actually based on the same platform as the Mazda2 supermini. Rather confusingly, it is the CX-30 that is in essence the jacked-up variant of the Mazda3.
Despite deriving its underpinnings from a car that is supposedly a segment smaller, the exterior dimensions of the CX-3 is nearly the same as those of the Geely Binyue with a Proton badge on its nose. Then again, the operative word there though is ‘nearly’, as the X50 is still the larger car of the two in nearly every aspect. Beating out the Mazda in length (4,330 mm vs 4,275 mm), width (1,800 mm vs 1,765 mm), height (1,609 mm vs 1,535 mm) and wheelbase (2,600 mm vs 2,570 mm).
As for the finer exterior design details of both cars, the X50 brings with it Proton’s signature infinite weave grille flanked by LED headlights with DRLs, 18-inch alloy wheels and quad exhaust pipes. Considering too that it is the top-spec X50 currently being discussed here, this adds a two-tone exterior with a black roof as well as a panoramic sunroof and roof rails.
Now moving onto the CX-3, the Mazda Kodo design philosophy is still standing the test of time, as this compact crossover still looks as sharp as the day it was first unveiled globally some six years ago. On the exterior kit front meanwhile, this jacked-up Japanese car features sharp-looking LED headlight and taillight clusters, 18-inch alloy wheels, twin tailpipes, a shark fin antenna, in addition to a panoramic sunroof that was added as part of this most recent update.
Speaking of updates, while the exterior may look largely the same as before, the interior of the CX-3 on the other hand gets a more substantial refresh with new leatherette-fabric seat upholstery and the new 360º surround view camera feature. This is on top of the other standard kit already included in this Mazda from before that includes a keyless go, a multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, powered drivers seat and door mirrors, automatic climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a semi-digital instrument cluster with a 4.6-inch TFT display, an electronic handbrake, a heads up display and a 7-inch central infotainment touchscreen with six speakers.
Continuing on the subject of its infotainment system, Mazda has also recently added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to the recently updated CX-3. A handy connectivity feature which, along with the heads up display, is missing from the extensive list of standard interior kit of the Proton X50.
Then again, what the X50 does feature instead is a larger 10.25-inch central infotainment touchscreen with ‘Hey Proton’ voice activation. Aside from all the features the CX-3 brings to the table already too, the Proton further adds a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, a flat bottomed steering wheel, front welcome lamps, an N95 cabin filter, rear air vents and remote control functionality via the Proton Link smartphone app.
In rounding up the interior comparisons, it is perhaps worth discussing dimensions again just for a little bit. That is because while the Proton perhaps has more room inside than the CX-3 owing to its larger exterior dimensions. Interestingly however, despite its smaller size, the Mazda actually has the larger capacity boot of the two cars here at 350 litres compared to 330 litres of the X50.
On the topic of things that are larger in the Mazda, the CX-3 also features a larger capacity engine than the Proton, with a 2.0 litre SkyActiv-G naturally aspirated four-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission to be found under the hood of this Japanese compact crossover. Outputting a reasonable 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 206 Nm of torque @ 2,800 rpm, it manages the respectable century sprint time of 9.7 seconds and sips fuel at a claimed rate of 6.3 l/100 km.
Unfortunately for the Mazda however, its performance figures from this larger engine of the two are actually handily bested by the 175 hp and 255 Nm of torque developed by the smaller 1.5 litre TGDi turbocharged three-cylinder to be found in the top-tier X50. Mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Proton also claims to manages the 0-100 km/h sprint in just 7.9 seconds.
All this performance though for the X50 does come at a cost, as the smaller-engined Proton drinks marginally more fuel than the larger-engined Mazda at 6.4 l/100 km. It is however worth attributing some of the credit to the CX-3’s fuel economy to the Mazda I-Stop Idling Technology start-stop feature fitted as standard.
Moreover, despite being the slower car, the CX-3 should possibly still be the preferred choice of the keener driver as it is the only car of the two here to have Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system and paddle shifters. Both cars though do have driving mode selectors with sports mode available.
As for the (lack of the better word) more accident-prone driver on the other hand, the Proton is perhaps the better bet as the top-spec X50 comes with an impressive suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that is hard to be topped by even cars that cost twice the price. The extensive list of active driver aids to be found here includes Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Intelligent High Beam Control (IHB), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with stop-and-go capability, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning and for those who can’t park, Auto Park Assist.
Additionally, the ASEAN NCAP 5-star rated top-tier X50 comes as standard with a slew of passive safety aids, 6 airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers as well as four reverse sensors for the front and the rear respectively. All of of which (excluding the TPMS) are incidentally to also be found CX-3. Furthermore, in terms of active safety, while the CX-3 lacks adaptive cruise control, the Mazda i-Activsense safety suite instead features Driver Attention Alert (DAA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RTCA) in its similarly extensive arsenal of active driver aids.
With the ongoing sales tax exemption in place, the Proton X50 range currently starts from a shade under RM 80k, before rising to RM 103,300 for the top-spec variant discussed here. The Japanese-made Mazda CX-3 meanwhile is expectedly dearer than its Malaysian counterpart, retailing at RM 130,729.
Both compact crossovers come with 5-year warranties, but while the Mazda has a 100,000 km milage cap, the X50 has an unlimited milage package. The CX-3 however comes with a 5-year free maintenance package, while only the first 3 services for the Proton are complimentary.
In summary, to give an answer to the question posed way up top regarding which of these two cars here is the better premium-per-value proposition, the spec-sheet comparison at least tells the story that the X50 is objectively a better value proposition than the CX-3. This is seeing as the Proton has all the kit (and sometimes a bit more) Mazda, while at the same time undercutting the latter’s retail price by some RM 30k.
However, it is nevertheless rather more difficult to quantify the premium-ness of a car solely based on the amount of kit alone. So it therefore still is dependent on the individual buyer to make the final decision in regards to whether the qualitative criteria such as the Japanese build quality and that (realistically more desirable) Mazda badge that is available only on the CX-3 is worth the extra outlay against the Proton X50.
There are however two other things to take note of from this comparison here. The first of which being that it is rather astounding to now be able to reasonably compare a Proton against a Mazda. The other thing meanwhile is that despite this updated version of the CX-3 only arriving over here some time in July, it will undoubtedly still a quicker option to a new car at this point in time as opposed to waiting till December for one’s X50 to arrive if an order was placed at the Proton dealership right now.