Pros and Cons: 2020 Proton Saga – Love the value, but fuel economy is poor

Eric · Dec 31, 2020 09:00 AM

The third-generation Proton Saga was introduced back in 2016 and it received its mid-life update in August 2019.

Perhaps the biggest improvement done to the Saga was the discontinuation of the Punch-sourced CVT-type automatic transmission, which has been replaced by a Hyundai-sourced four-speed torque converter automatic unit.

Previously a B-segment model, Proton has since redesignated the Saga as an A-segment sedan to compete against the Perodua Bezza – the Saga’s primary rival.

The Proton Saga is priced between RM 32,800 (1.3 Standard MT) to RM 39,800 (1.3 Premium AT). These prices are inclusive of 10% SST.

Here’s a quick overview of the 2020 Proton Saga’s pros and cons:

Pros:

  • 4-speed automatic transmission is a much-needed update
  • Infotainment is surprisingly decent
  • Ride and handling

Cons:

  • No ADAS
  • No keyless entry or engine push start button
  • Fuel efficiency isn’t that great

Pros - 4-speed automatic transmission is a much-needed update

The Punch-sourced CVT-type automatic was among the Achilles’ heel of the pre-facelift Proton Saga, as it was everything a CVT wasn’t supposed to be – jerky in traffic, noisy, and unrefined.

But that changed after Geely came onboard.

Out went the jerky Punch-sourced CVT, replaced by a new a Hyundai-sourced 4-speed torque converter automatic transmission. The same automatic transmission is also found in some cheaper Geely models, such as the Vision X1 crossover.

The Hyundai-sourced unit works smoothly and is much quieter than the Punch-sourced CVT. There’s no longer hesitation upon initial input of the throttle and behaves just like a conventional 4-speed automatic that most drives are accustomed to.

Pros – The infotainment system is surprisingly decent

Apart from new Hyundai-sourced torque converter automatic, the 2020 Proton Saga also benefits from the inclusion of a new 7-inch touchscreen head unit, replacing the pre-facelift model’s non-touchscreen head unit.

Audio quality from the four-speaker system is surprisingly impressive with punchy bass and clear treble.

The infotainment’s user interface (UI) may not be as fancy as the one found in the Proton X50, but is miles ahead of the system found in the Perodua Bezza. Graphics are sharp enough and navigating through the menus are smooth.

Unlike its stablemates, the 2020 Saga does not get the “Hi Proton” voice command system. Nor does the system support internet connectivity or Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

Pros – Improved ride and handling

Not like the pre-facelift Proton Saga was uncomfortable to begin with, but considering that the new Hyundai-sourced torque converter automatic is slightly heavier, Proton engineers have retuned the Saga’s dampers, giving it a slightly plusher ride comfort.

Proton also recalibrated the hydraulic power steering in the Saga, giving it a lighter steering feel.

Cons – No ADAS

Despite all the improvements Proton has done to the Saga (new transmission, improved head unit, nicer interior), they did not include any form of ADAS features into its affordable people mover.

But Perodua did just that when they introduced the 2020 Perodua Bezza back in January, fitting the range-topping Bezza 1.3 AV with Perodua’s ASA 2.0 AEB suite.

The ASA 2.0 AEB suite doesn’t come cheap though – the range-topping Bezza 1.3 AV is almost RM 10,000 more than a top-spec Saga – a rather substantial amount for those shopping for cheap and affordable cars.

Cons – No keyless entry or push start button

The 2019 update for the Proton Saga also did not include keyless entry or push start button – it’s just a regular key fob.

Never mind the fact that the upper two variants of the Perodua Bezza offer keyless entry and push start button, even the slightly cheaper Perodua Axia 1.0 Style and 1.0 SE (RM 37k) both offer this feature.

Whether or not the keyless entry and push start button remains as a gimmick or a value-added feature, that’s up to you to decide.

Cons – Fuel efficiency isn’t that great

Proton claims that the new Hyundai-sourced automatic transmission is more fuel efficient than the CVT it replaces, but is that really the case?

After putting it through its paces, the Saga returned an average of 7.2-litre/100 km. While this figure may seem decent, we noticed that fuel consumption deteriorates quickly in stop-go traffic. Low-speed city driving will offset the low fuel consumption of highway cruising and return you poorer combined fuel consumption.

The Perodua Bezza, on the other hand, managed to return an average of 6.34-litre/100 km under similar driving conditions. Note that the figure was achieved with the start-stop system disabled. If you leave it on, you should see even better figures.

Conclusion

Given its sub-RM 40k price tag, it is hard to argue against the Proton Saga’s value preposition. It offers a lot of features for not a lot of money, including superior ride and handling, a better transmission, as well as a surprisingly decent audio system.

That said, a lot of the Saga’s shortcomings are inherited from the ageing platform and powertrain, like the lack of keyless entry and poor fuel consumption. Granted, these issues can be solved if Proton develops a new platform for the Saga, but that won’t be happening any time soon.

If you can overlook and live with the Saga’s shortcomings, then it makes for a rather decent point-A-to-point B car. Just don’t expect too much from it.

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