Taking the limitations of its aged platform in context, Proton has done a fine job polishing the Saga to this level of refinement. This car has its flaws, but none dealbreakers for the price. Proton road to redemption still has a long way to go, but this Saga pushes them another step in the right direction.

These shortcomings of the Saga in actual fact highlight how fast and far the automotive industry has progressed in recent times. Technology is being introduced so fast that new cars quickly become outdated. In our line of work, we’ve come across a few examples whereby cars launched in Malaysia more than a year after their global debut simply feel dated by the time they reach our market.

But just as the X70 has been instrumental in sparking change, it boils down to the foot soldier models lower down the range to carry the momentum. And Proton knew this. As consumers were snapping up the X70 like hotcakes, Proton sent all its cars back to the drawing board, and within the space of a year, all of the brand’s core models were refreshed.


In a radical move to optimize the line-up, the Perdana, Preve, Suprima S, and Ertiga have all been dropped. Those that survived the chop, namely the Persona, Iriz, Exora, and Saga, have all been whipped into shape to keep them going a while longer before newer more competitive models come in the future.

The year 2019 closed on a triumphant note for Proton. Annual sales total crossed six figures for the first time in four years, with the brand capturing its highest market share since 2014.


It does not take a genius to piece together the fact that the newfound spring in Proton’s step was first ignited by the X70 that facilitated an impressively successful transformation of Proton’s image. Although some hardcore anti-Proton keyboard warriors remain, it is now difficult to argue against the notion that consumer acceptance of the Proton brand is now back to far healthier levels.

Less talked about are the upgraded brakes, taken whole sale from the Iriz, which sees the front discs and rear drums both enlarged. Besides bringing about improved stopping power, mounting of the new brakes have also changed the wheel lug PCDs from 100 to 114.3, which means rims of the facelift and pre-facelift Saga are not interchangeable.


Perhaps the most important change implemented on the Saga facelift is the re-introduction of a 4-speed torque converter automatic transmission to replace the venerable Punch CVT. This, together with a much-improved sound deadening package, has made the updated Saga significantly more pleasant to drive than before.

The Saga was the last of what Proton deems to be its core models to be refreshed and was the one that seemed to receive the most comprehensive rework. There are the cosmetic changes with new details that seemed to copy Mercedes-AMG styling cues, which is ironic, given that the tail end design was inspired by the BMW E90.


Inside, a revised centre stack welcomes a free-standing touchscreen and driving information presented through a neater, more upmarket-looking instrument cluster. The jeans-inspired fabric upholstery is of good quality, and the overall cabin build simply feels more solid than the pre-facelift version.

Where the Saga compares unfavourably against its competitor is on the spec sheet, and this is where Proton’s decision back in 2016 to re-engineer the second-generation Saga’s platform returns to haunt them. There is no better way of putting this, but the Saga just feels aged as a product, and this is evident from the way the dashboard is laid out.


In its highest grade, the Bezza boasts technology such as engine auto start/stop, keyless entry, push-start button, and auto braking, all of which are features that Proton don’t offer in the Saga not for a lack of want, but simply because the twelve-year old platform is unable to support without pouring in significantly higher development costs.

The 1.3-litre Campro VVT powertrain remains unchanged, but the Hyundai-sourced 4-speeder enables a more natural-feeling delivery of its power. It’s not barn-storming fast, but you have enough to get by. Amongst sub-RM50k cars, you certainly won’t be left standing.


Also unchanged, thankfully, is the Saga’s finely-tuned dynamics. Despite our tester sitting on badly-worn tyres, overall handling remains confident, being reassuringly stable at speed and grippy around bends too. Against its closest rival, the Perodua Bezza, the Saga is streets ahead where driving talent is concerned.

1.3 Standard - 185/60 R14

1.3 Premium - 185/55 R15

Front - Ventilated Discs

Rear - Drums

Front - MacPherson Strut

Rear - Double Torsion Beam

1.3L, Inline-4, Transverse


5-speed manual / 4-speed auto

40L, Petrol

1,055 – 1,080kg




Interest Rate





Saga – 95 / 5,750


Bezza – 1,620mm (-69mm)


Bezza – 1,510mm (+19mm)



Bezza – 2,455mm (-10mm)

Bezza 1.0 – 68 / 6,000

Bezza 1.3 – 95 / 6,000

Saga – 120 / 4,000

Bezza 1.0 – 91 / 4,400

Bezza 1.3 – 121 / 6,000


Bezza – 4,150mm (-181mm)

Perodua Bezza

1.3 Advance

RM529 / month

1.0 MT

RM365 / month

Perodua Myvi

1.5 G Advance

RM586 / month

1.3 G MT

RM453 / month

Proton Saga

1.3 Premium AT


RM421.22 / month

1.3 Standard AT


RM378.88 / month

1.3 Standard MT


RM347.13 / month

Proton Iriz

1.6 Premium CVT

RM536.57 / month

1.3 Standard MT

RM388.41 / month

Proton Persona

1.6 Premium CVT

RM577.85 / month

1.6 Standard MT

RM450.85 / month


Whilst the X70 was responsible for catalyzing Proton’s remarkable turnaround, it now falls on the Saga to carry on the brand’s resurgent momentum.

Words Kon • Pics Chi Yang