Proton Saga FL

Posted on December 15, 2010 at 12:00 am
QUICK FACTS
? All-new front end with modern design
? Price increases from RM1,000 to RM1,300
? No mechanical changes or upgrades
? New interior trim + rear power windows
? Upgraded audio system for Executive version

? 1.6-litre engine only available for taxis

 
Three years in the life of a car model is quite a long time by today’s standards, especially when competition is intense and there are always new models being introduced by different companies. In order to sustain customer interest for at least five years – the usual period for a model cycle – updates must been made periodically to freshen up the looks and enhance value.
Proton did this with the original rakyatmobile – the first Saga – over its 23-year life in the market. From time to time, cosmetic changes were made and sales volumes continued to be high – though factors like cheap price were more the reason for its remaining the nation’s most popular car for years in spite of no model change.

With the current Saga, Proton has no intention of producing it as it is today for another 20 years. It knows that sort of approach was partly the reason its sales went into decline as people tired of a model that should have been in the museum rather than in showrooms. Proton Group MD, Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir has promised that Proton models will have a 5-year life cycle and then a new generation will be introduced. So after 3 years, the Saga gets new looks which should not only sustain interest but also create interest among younger buyers.

According to the Proton Group MD, the new look, while being one interpretation of the new Proton design language which will be used for coming models, was influenced by feedback from customers. Typical of this MD, there is an open-minded approach when it comes to considering customers’ views and he does not regard himself as being the only one who knows best. He constantly asks for feedback and opinions from others and it’s not just for show either because he makes sure his R&D people take note.
He also said that the new design language evolved from the EMAS project which was done in collaboration with ItalDesign Giugiaro a year ago and shown at motorshows since then. However, for the Saga FL (Face Lift), all the styling was done in-house since the designers have acquired sufficient skills to handle the work themselves.
And they’ve certainly done a good job as the new ‘face’ of the Saga looks smarter and more modern. In fact, Dato’ Syed Zainal said that it was clear from surveys that many customers felt the looks before were rather dated and that turned them off. The new front end with those sharp headlight units (which look a bit like the ones on the VW Golf GTI) and the reprofiled fender should draw attention from the younger crowd.
“The Saga FL represents the new way of doing things at Proton. Instead of resting on the popularity and success of the existing Saga, the overwhelming public acceptance motivated us even more to make an already good model even better,” he said.
Also new is the introduction of side mirrors incorporating LEDs on the rear lighting units and a muffler trim piece. The Executive version has front foglights, newly-designed alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and side protector mouldings.
 
Inside, the Saga FL has an all-new seat and door trim fabric, a radio CD/mp3 player, and now gets rear power windows. For improved driver and passenger safety, the  Executive version has an additional airbag for the front passenger. It also comes with an audio head unit with USB, and AUX ports, and steering wheel-mounted audio switches.
 
Saga’s doors open exceptionally wide for easier
entry and exit from the cabin
Rear doors now have power windows and the hole for the mechanical winder is covered by the circular tab
 
 
No mechanical changes and same 1.3-litre engine is used with 1.6-litre variant only available to taxi operators who have to convert it to run on NGV. Bigger engine may be available at a later stage, though.  
 
 
Upgraded audio system with steering wheel switches Goodyear supplies tyres for the new Saga FL
There are no mechanical changes at all and the Saga continues with a 1.3-litre CAMPRO engine for general sale. There has been a 1.6-litre variant but Proton only sells it to taxi operators. Dato’ Syed Zainal said there are no immediate plans to offer this variant for general sale though with powertrain enhancements coming in future, the bigger engine might become an option for the Saga. The reason why Proton has been offering it to taxi operators is because they need the extra power for heavier loads and furthermore, urban taxis must be converted to run on NGV so they also carry a heavy gas tank in the boot. Also, the price of the Saga 1.6 is attractive when it is duty-free – which is possible for taxi operators – but with duty added in, the pricing might be not be so attractive against the competition.
 
Six colour choices are offered with Blue Rock and Cafe Latte being new and joining the existing; Tranquility Black, Solid White, Genetic Silver and Granite Grey. A 3-year/100,000 km manufacturing warranty (whichever comes first) is standard.
 
Customers can view the car today onwards at all Proton showrooms nationwide (in Labuan, from December 17). Customers who have already booked the Saga earlier can opt to top up the difference in price to acquire the new model.
 
The new prices (for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia)
 
Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal Abidin said Proton expects to sell 6,500 units of the Saga FL per month. Since its introduction in January 2008, the Saga has quickly risen to the rank of the second top-selling model in Malaysia with a monthly average of 6,200 units and as of October 2010, 204,150 units have been delivered and 245,030 bookings received.
 
“The Saga FL is again a manifestation of Proton’s commitment to provide Malaysianswith exceptional value for money mobility in terms of affordability in ownership, practicality, style, level of features, and safety,” he said. He acknowledged that it is a challenge to offer the model at the low price the Malaysian public expects, having regarded the Saga as an affordable model for over two decades. While models like the Toyota Corolla and VW Golf – entry-level models when they were first introduced – had their pricing positions evolve upwards over time and customers accepted such a change, Proton cannot do this easily with the Saga in the Malaysian market because of the status the company has.
 
As to whether the Saga can regain its position as the bestseller in Malaysia, he said it would be nice if it could but preferred to focus on a broader range of targets which encompass not just having a best-selling model but also the best services.

Get more information on the new Saga FL or locate a Proton dealer at the Proton Edar website

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By Motor Trader Editorial Team

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