So we took the newly launched Proton Saga to Ipoh, Perak for a full review. It is Proton's latest, affordable practical and cheap-to-maintain car that is targeted (mainly) to the needs of Malaysian buyers.
For full specifications, read our launch report here. You can also read our first impressions, its design philosophy and a few other details here.
Proton was committed to make the new Saga better, in which they collected and evaluated feedback and complaints received from their previous car. Although the new Saga shares platform with its predecessors, the BLM and FLX – this new car incorporates significant improvements in the aspect of refinement, build quality and performance.
Having returned from our drive, we've compiled a series of Saga Hot and Nots for easy reading. This will be our full test review of the new Saga
- Mature design – The new Proton Saga showcases maturity in Saga’s design as well as Proton’s design philosophy. The Saga gets proportioned overall shape, clean lines across the bonnet, roof and doors, and fine design details on certain other parts.
- Family face – Not talking about the face of family car here. But in the bigger picture, it’s the sense of connection or design DNA of the Saga and the rest of Proton’s model lineup.
- Supportive front seats – The front seats and bolsters are supportive, reducing fatigue during long drives, especially on twisty roads.
- Premium dashboard feel – The Saga gets stitching-like design across the dashboard which gives the car a premium feel and more perceived value. As opposed to the 11-layering process for the Iriz, Proton managed to reduce production cost for the dashboard design with its 8-layering method for the Saga.
- Longer rear doors and larger opening – Compared to the previous Saga, the rear doors of the new Saga is now longer and opens at a larger degree to improve the ease of getting in and out of the car.
- Enormous rear legroom – Thanks to concave indented surface at the back of the front seats, the rear passengers can now benefit from a larger legroom, even with a 6-foot tall driver up front.
- Ample boot space – At 420-litre, the boot space is sufficient for most families.
- Decent audio quality – I did not explore the audio settings, but the Saga gets decent audio quality at first encounter. Listening to Green Day during our drive was pleasant even at highway speed, which brings us to the next point…
- Refined cabin – As previously tested during the media preview at Proton’s own test track, NVH levels from the cabin has noticeably been reduced. And during the trip to Ipoh, I sped up to 160km/h and I would say the improvement done to the new Saga has managed to bring wind noise down to a controlled level, at par to much more expensive rivals.
- Strong and smooth engine – The 1.3-litre VVT engine feels smoother than the one on the previous Saga. Less vibration is felt on the steering wheel and power feels sufficient for a car of its size.
- Seamless transmission – The CVT is not super-quick, but ‘gearchanges’ are seamless. The transmission feels more direct, no more ‘rubber band’ effect, and this makes the Saga feel more responsive.
- Nicely-weighted steering – The steering on the new Saga is nicely-weighted, not too light for high speed cruising and not too heavy for city driving. Steering feedback is not sacrificed for comfort and everyday usability.
- Excellent body control – The new Saga benefits from Proton’s expertise in ride and handling. The suspension on the new Saga feels firmer than most of its competitors and doesn’t feel ‘floaty’ at high speeds. At corners, there’s slight body roll to indicate its entry speed, but its chassis feels solid, thus making the Saga engaging to drive.
- Only Manually-adjustable side mirrors on Standard variant – The power-adjustable side mirrors are only made available to the Executive and Premium variants.
- No telescopic adjustable steering – The steering on the Saga can only be adjusted from its tilt angle. Most drivers can easily get their comfortable driving position as it is, but adding telescopic adjustability would surely add an advantage.
- The lack of ABS and EBD on Standard variant – I know that cost is a sensitive aspect in developing an affordable car for the people, and I know that the Saga had already obtained 4-star NCAP rating and comes with dual airbags for front occupants. But fitting basic safety features like ABS and EBD wouldn’t hurt much. Instead, it will set the car’s standard higher.
- No manual shifting mode – Asking for paddle-shifters might be too much, but maybe Proton could have added a gear lever-operated manual mode for the CVT. You know, too add some fun when the road gets twisty…
- No fuel cap indicator – Most cars now have an arrow near the fuel gauge to indicate which side of the car the fuel cap is located.
- No external boot opener – When approaching the Saga after getting your groceries, you must open the driver’s door every time to reach the boot opener.
- No illumination on the central lock button – The central lock button for the Saga is located at the centre console (in the row of 7 buttons in total), which is a good thing; easier for front passenger to lock the car when its driver is absent. However, it is not illuminated for night use.
In conclusion, the 2016 Proton Saga is a big step forward over the previous Saga. I would say that Proton has done a good job in making the Saga a better car. During my drive around Ipoh and Gopeng town, I can see people nearby taking a second look at the new Saga, at least for the time being while the car is still new.
With its elegant design, enhanced performance, refinement and safety, the Saga has proven that an affordable car does not necessarily feels cheap. It’s just the tiny little details that need to be looked into for future improvement.