Published on September 18th, 2017 | by Subhash Nair0
Proton Saga 1.3 CVT Premium Review: Bold on a Budget
The Saga is Proton’s smallest and most affordable entry. It comes in a number of variants. The manual transmission base model was one of our favourite entries of 2016, earning a Vehicle of the Year Award in the Compact Sedan category.
The Saga initially impressed us with Proton’s exceptional ride & handling. For a budget car to feel so planted at high speeds is rare, it felt like a true Proton – affordable yet uncompromising in its driving qualities.
Compared to older Saga, it gets a 1.3 VVT engine instead of the IAFM+ engine. The tweaks that have been put in make for a hugely refined experience. The inclusion of a new ECU on the Continuously Variable Transmission makes for large performance and economy gains too. The tuning of the powertrain is on par with many Japanese makes out there.
Overall the new Saga performs smoothly and is nothing like the car it replaces. This CVT model isn’t quite as sporty as the Iriz despite sharing powertrain components, but the Proton DNA is still there. If it’s a sporty drive you want, either the Iriz or the Saga with a manual gearbox will leave you smiling. This CVT is for those who frequently get stuck in traffic or who prefer the convenience of an automatic.
There are other major improvements over the last Saga. The engine gets a new 3-point mounting system which reduces the amount of vibration and harshness that can be felt in the cabin. Torsional stiffness has also been improved by 20%. The hydraulic power steering in here offers good feedback and is just resistant enough for ease of driving.
On the High-spec CVT Premium that we drove last month, we noted that there were many additional convenience features too. An ‘ECO Drive Assist’ feature has a little green leaf light up on the instrument cluster to encourage efficient driving.
A reverse camera integrated into the rear view mirror was also really handy. The camera and display used were very well suited even in low light. However, the brightness of this display can be a little harsh at night. Linking this to the car’s internal clock may have been difficult at this price point though.
Since everyone uses mobile devices nowadays, Proton includes three USB ports in the Saga, two of which can be found at the rear of the centre console. The driver, on the other hand, gets media controls mounted on the steering wheel. There’s also hill-hold assist, making driving even easier.
In terms of aesthetics, we think the Saga is beautiful for a car of its class. Proportions follow a daring ‘Sportback’ silhouette without compromising headroom or bootspace. A lot of affordable cars tend not to give their owners much to look at but the Saga is without a doubt stunning inside and out.
And on the Premium model the look is further enhanced by blacked-out B-pillars, a rear bootlid spoiler, 15” turbine-style alloy wheels. There’s also a chrome strip on the rear. Overall, this version of the Saga looks like a car at least twice what it costs.
On the interior, you get a double DIN head unit with Bluetooth, USB, AUX and FM playback, some snazzy looking fabric seats and glossy grey trim pieces. Just like the exterior, the interior feels very well proportioned in terms of design. Take a step back and you’ll notice that the air vents and many knobs, switches and buttons were intentionally made a little smaller than usual.
This allowed the designers to make a scaled-down version of a really nice looking cabin without worrying about it looking cluttered. Material choice is on par with Proton’s other offers, and the build quality is really impressive for the price.
The Saga comes with 2 airbags, front and rear parking sensors as standard. On this premium variant, safety is further strengthened with ABS, EBD, BA and ESC. Front and rear foglamps are present as well and the Saga Premium’s rims come wrapped in Silverstone Kruizer1 NS800 tyres. It’s rated at 4 Stars by ASEAN NCAP too.
And if you really want the best deal you can get, you can get 5 years free service (inclusive parts, lubricants and labour) and a 5 year warranty if you buy one before the end of September 2017. At just over RM44,000 it’s definitely good value for money.
Proton Saga 1.3 CVT Premium Specifications
Engine: Inline 4 VVT petrol
Gearbox: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT Automatic)
Max power: 94hp @ 5750rpm
Max torque: 120Nm @ 4000Nm
Top Speed: 155km/h
0-100 km/h: 13.1 secs