Proton has been burning the midnight oil refreshing much of its existing line-up since it got in bed with Geely and the launch of the refreshed 2019 Saga brings that circle ever closer to a full coming following a shot in the arms of the Iriz, Persona and Exora this year.
First launched in 2008 as the Saga BLM, the new Saga is a heavily refreshed take since the last facelift exercise in 2016. Although well over a decade now, Proton is still hoping to milk a little more out of the “people’s car” before an all-new model takes its spot.
Cosmetically, there’s no surprises with the Saga. It takes on the “Infinite Weave” grille first featured on the X70. The eagle-eyed might notice the little step notched into the headlights that accommodates a chrome strip at the bottom of the grille. No changes to the headlights, they remain halogen reflectors. Proton’s design language for facelifted model sees the rear binning the badge in place of Proton spelled out on the rear.
Accentuating a bolder façade for the front are larger faux side air intakes that have ditched the round foglights for a horizontal LED DRL strip. The Premium spec gets front parking sensors.
All the trims get the new “Floral Motive” twin five-spoke 15-inch wheels wrapped in 185/55R15 Silverstone Kruizer tyres. Interestingly, the wheel nuts now get individual decorative covers.
Inside, Premium owners will get a new 7.0-inch “floating” touchscreen. The system is Android based but lacks the “Hi Proton” voice controls. Nonetheless, the head unit features Bluetooth connectivity, MirrorLink for pairing with Android smartphones and has 16GB of internal storage. It also serves as the display for the reverse camera (Premium) as opposed to the previous integrated display in the rear-view mirror.
Drivers will appreciate the new instrument cluster that’ll be familiar to the 2019 Exora owners. It retains the multi-info display between the dials that’s easier on the eyes.
There’s a new gear lever for the four-speed automatic, LED map lights and spring-loaded grab handles. Proton even brought over the high-quality headlining from the X70 into the Saga that makes a world of difference in the ambience and overall feel of the cabin. Even the seats take on a more premium feel with a quilt pattern on the dark grey fabric. Lastly, the key fob gets a boot release button.
You won’t find a new engine under the hood. It’s still the familiar 1.3-litre inline-four with 94hp and 120Nm of torque.
Gone however is the dreaded CVT that was the bane of many a Saga owner. A torque-converter four-speed automatic sourced from Hyundai is the transmission of choice. You’ll find this very same transmission in the Kia Picanto sold here. If you desire a manual, the Standard Manual has a five-speed with three pedals with your name on it.
Proton has made ABS, EBD and BA standard across all trims. They’ve also moved the larger brakes from the Iriz and Persona onto the Saga. Stability control and traction control can only be had with the Premium. Airbag count is still just two for the front.
Just to clarify the kit on the three trims, the Standard Manual isn’t that lacking with electric door mirrors + turn signal, remote trunk release, the new instrument cluster, ECO indicator, driver seat height adjustment, tilt adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB port and only 14-inch steelies.
Step up to the Standard Automatic and you’ll get the aforementioned alloy wheels, a total of three USB slots, the LED map light, X70 headliner and spring-loaded grab handles.
Right at the top is the Premium Automatic with the touchscreen, front parking sensors, reverse camera and steering-mounted audio buttons.
Proton has also revised the colour swatch to five shades. You can select from Armoured Silver, Snow White, Jet Grey, Rosewood Maroon and the hero Ruby Red.
Pricing for the 2019 Saga starts at RM32,800 for the Standard Manual, goes up to RM35,800 for the Standard Auto and tops out at RM39,800 for the Premium Auto.
Apart from the reduced prices and increased kit count, Proton has also thrown in some extras such:
- first year/three times free labour for servicing
- low financing from 2.98 per cent per annum
- comprehensive insurance that includes waiver of betterment costs, agreed value coverage, key care cover, flood relief allowance, all driver coverage at no extra cost and Personal Accident coverage