When Proton revealed on social media a month ago that a ‘new’ Proton Saga was coming, many Malaysians were eager to see what it would look like and whether it would be as exciting as the X50 and X70. Since partnering with Geely Auto, Proton Cars has benefited from Geely’s engineering know-how as well as a global design team. That’s why to this day the old Proton X70 is still selling well and the newer X50 is still a hot topic for car buyers looking for a car under RM100,000.
When the latest Saga model was launched in 2016, it was designed to revive the image and sales of Proton Cars in the Malaysian market (before Geely Auto). It’s a rather unusual design but has all the essentials for a compact family sedan. High ceilings, wide trunk and economical 1.3L engine with minimal technology for greater reliability and lower selling price. It is designed to continue its legacy as a simple commuter car, as well as a taxi and/or ride-hailing machine.
Then its direct rival Perodua had the Bezza in showrooms. Yes, it’s smaller and less versatile, but it has Perodua’s track record of reliability and resale value, so sales skyrocketed, giving the Saga a good response from the market. Then in 2019, after Geely Auto bought a stake in Proton Cars, a modified Proton Saga hit the showrooms and the decision was made to get rid of the CVT problem and use a conventional 4-speed transmission that was show.
In addition, it has a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, improved design features and improved noise, vibration and noise levels. This boosted sales and gave Bezza an “uphill fight”.
With more than 123,000 units sold to date and a 33.1% market share in the A-segment, the Proton Saga has sold well and brought a lot of profit to Proton and Geely.
Now for 2022, Proton will release an upgrade instead of a brand new Saga. This is a disappointment for the ‘eager’ Malaysians who have been attracted by the previously mentioned hype on social media.
On the outside, there are only new alloys and a new grille, while inside, only the right materials, colors and some infotainment upgrades. Oh yes, automatic entry and exit, remote trunk opening, N95 cabin filter, electronic stability control and ignition button are included. That’s not what economy-class car buyers in Malaysia expect.
They wanted an all-NEW Proton Saga, which many assumed was an improved Geely Auto model for Malaysia, just like the X50 and X70. They wanted a completely new design and why not. Successful automakers plan to make a complete model change every four to six years. This Saga is already 6 years old.
In early 2018, Geely Auto introduced the Geely SL small sedan (pictured above). It’s bigger than the Saga and has all the new tech features of the X50. It will be a new Proton Saga suitable for Malaysians.
In the meantime, it’s clear that Proton management sees a cost issue with an all-new model and with the Saga facelift, profit margins will be better and customers will continue to buy Saga, simply because of the options. Very limited selection in this budget range in Malaysia.