2016 Proton Saga driven! Things you need to know about Proton’s new A-segment sedan.


Resident Journalist


Resident Journalist
Jun 7, 2016
Kuala Lumpur
When the Proton Saga was first introduced in 1985, it was the People’s Car of Malaysia. Just like the original Volkswagen Beetle to the Germans. It created a new and wider range of car owners and is believed to have changed the mobility landscape of Malaysia ever since.

Fast forward 31 years later, the market for entry level passenger cars are far more complicated these days. With plenty of competitors from Japanese marques in addition to Malaysia’s second car manufacturer.

Proton has indeed been busy in the past few months putting together quite a number of models, then introducing them in a rather short timeframe as you can read here. The models are also set to be part of Proton’s turnover program. And this includes the new Proton Saga.

Recently, we were given the privilege to get behind the wheel of Proton’s latest A-segment sedan in a closed preview, which means photography were prohibited (thus explaining why we used Proton’s official images here). And let us just state the elephant in the room here, the new Saga will rival directly against Perodua’s first-ever sedan, the Bezza.

With its launching date coming in a few days, join us as we go through these 27 things about the new Proton Saga you need to know, as well as our first impressions of it.

1. It is built based on the outgoing Saga’s platform, but received major revisions in styling, interior design, powertrain and amenities.

2. The car will be Proton’s most affordable car in its current lineup, and it is placed just below the Iriz hatchback and the (newly launched) Persona.

3. 4 variants offered: Standard (MT), Standard (AT), Executive (AT) and Premium (AT).

4. All variants will be powered by a 1.3-litre VVT engine as found on the Iriz, which at the same time replaces IAFM+ unit powering the outgoing Saga. The VVT engine produces 94hp at 5,750rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.

5. The 1.3-litre VVT can be either paired to a 5-speed manual (Standard variant only) or a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) which is available in the rest of the variants.

6. Similar to the Persona, the new Saga also benefits from new 3-point engine mounts for better NVH and a revised ECU for better engine response.

7. The manual-equipped Saga takes 12.2 seconds to complete its Zerotohundred run, while the CVT-equipped variants need 13.1 seconds for the same sprint. These acceleration figures are quicker than the current Saga’s 13.0 seconds (manual) and 14.5 seconds (CVT), despite IAFM+ and VVT engines producing similar outputs.

8. In terms of dimensions, the new Saga is 74mm longer, 9mm wider and 11mm lower than the current Saga.

9. The new Saga boasts an all-new design styling. New front fascia with redesigned headlights, new rear design and sharper 2-piece tail lights. The rear doors are also longer. Seeing the car in flesh, I really like the blade-like effect surrounding the lower area of its front fog lights and the ‘pagoda’-style roof, which is new to Proton cars.

10. A total of 6 colours are offered for the new Saga including 2 new colours. Which are white, silver, red, black, grey (new) and blue (new).

11. According to Proton, the Saga's chassis has been stiffened by 20%. Clues of this claim can be seen via chassis reinforcement items such as the front strut bar in the engine bay.

12. NVH levels have been improved by 3 to 5 decibels (dB) by adding more sound insulation to the Saga’s wheel well, firewall and floor pan.

13. The new Saga has undergone revisions in the interior, too. The steering wheel now adopts similar unit as found on the Preve, the Suprima S and the Exora.

14. The front and rear seats feature new texture. All variants get fabric seats, however, each variant is differentiated by fabric materials; plain black for Standard variant, mesh pattern for the Executive variant and wavy pattern for the Premium variant.

15. Depending on variant, the new Saga will either be equipped with a Single-DIN or a Double-DIN headunit with Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity.

16. Standard on all variants are Ecodrive Assist, tilt-adjustable steering, ISOFIX child seat anchors with top tether, 2 airbags, folding rear bench seat and 4-star ASEAN NCAP rating. Boot space is at 420-litres (improved by 7-litre) with a space saver spare tyre.

17. Sadly, ABS, electronic braking distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) are limited to models other than the Standard variant. The Premium is further added with electronic stability control (ESC) and hill-hold assist.

18. Sitting in the new Saga, the front seats feel more supportive, and the doors require less effort to operate. Seating position is rather upright but comfortable, and all controls are within good reach.

19. Rear legroom is enormous, too. Even with a 6-foot tall driver up front, rear passengers are likely to feel pretty okay, thanks to clever concave indented surface at the back of the front seat.

20. Upon adjourning the Saga from parking onto Proton’s own high speed test track at their Shah Alam manufacturing facility, an immediate sensation that was felt is the rather light steering. Proton engineer pointed out that the steering is now lighter, and retains similar hydraulically-assisted setup as the current Saga.

21. With similar approach like in the new Persona, the new Saga also feature revised steering ratio of 16:1 degree compared to previous 21:1 ratio in the outgoing Saga. In layman’s term, this results in a faster steering turn rate.

22. Although I haven't gotten actual figures to compare the acceleration of the new Saga, I would say the new Saga accelerates acceptably quicker and smoother than before.

23. NVH levels of the car is manageable at speeds above 120km/h. Also, when applying sudden throttle input at low speed will not result in droning noise like before (as found in the CVT-equipped Iriz) not until you see the needle pointing at the higher range of the tachometer.

24. The recalibration of Saga’s CVT gearbox is proven by numbers – even though the IAFM+ and VVT produce similar output figures, what's surprising is although the new Saga is heavier, it still manages to accelerate from Zerotohundred nearly 1 second quicker.

25. At the straights between the two curves of the test track, where smoothly zig-zagging the new Saga at speeds above 100km/h will see a well controlled body-roll without the need of ESC to interfere. The active safety feature only interrupts when I trail-brake while entering the banked curve, as the system senses abrupt weight transfer onto the car’s front right-hand side tyre.

26. Proton’s engineer also stated that the new Saga will receive new ride and handling package, with increased front spring rate, apart from the stiffened chassis.

27. As for the manual transmission unit, I found that the throttle calibration on the Saga is much better than its bigger sibling, the Persona. Its drive-by-wire is less laggy and cuts off fuel much quicker when I lift the throttle during upshifting, which I personally prefer.

Overall, I would say that the Proton Saga has grew to be more modern and matured while keeping in sync with current market needs. It is not perfect, as there definitely are areas where Proton could improve in this new daily-driver, such as even a simple "industry standard" three-blink turn signals or even a left-foot rest (for manual transmission variants).

Nevertheless, the 2016 Proton Saga is undoubtedly attractive priced with multi variants for choice. The A-segment sedan is now open for bookings, with prices ranging from RM37k to RM46k.

Stay tuned for more details when the car makes official launch this coming Sept 28.
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