As the current-generation Proton Saga enters its second facelift (called MC2), we examine its a continuing lack of active safety features and what could be done to make the sting less painful.
I know it kinda sucks to realise that Perodua has been offering features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (Pre-Collision Braking) and Pedestrian Detection in the Bezza since early 2020 and the smaller Axia in latter 2019.
Seemingly unfazed, the Saga continues to soldier on and is enjoying pretty steady success as one of Malaysia’s favourite small sedans, ‘making do with the tried and true' - as this writer puts it.
That theme runs deeper still; its 1.3-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder is essentially an evolution of the CamPro, an engine that debuted in production form nearly 20 years ago. Even architecturally, the MC2’s roots remain planted in the second-generation Saga BLM from 2008, which itself used an altered version of the Savvy’s underpinnings.
We all know the X70 and X50 have these ADAS features and more such as Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Blind Spot Monitoring, and a 360-degree camera, but these are, along with the rest of those models, the result of a technology transfer from Geely.
Retrofitting these advanced systems along with all their required sensors, processing units, and auxiliary electronic components is not something easily done, which is the primary reason behind its continued absence in cars such as the Saga, Exora, and Persona. It also costs a lot of money in research and development, which can’t help but trickle down into its showroom sticker price - an unforgivable sin.
Still, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that they could still sweeten the deal in other ways. By this point, Malaysians are plenty familiar with - even expecting - Proton cars to be a little lacking on paper and willing to be forgiving. So, let’s take a look at some ideas that could increase the Saga’s appeal without involving ADAS.
For this little thought experiment, we’ll use the car in its range-topping Premium S form for 2022, which is on sale for RM44,300. It’s worth mentioning that its fiercest rival is the Perodua Bezza 1.3 X, a car that’s nearly an exact spec-twin of 1.3 AV, but without the active safety additions, but is on sale now for RM42,551. Here we go:
1 - Auto Down/Up Power Windows
Let's start small. This might seem like a trivial feature but if you’re the type to still use Touch n’ Go cards for toll and/or parking, having to keep your finger on the button to fully open or close the window is downright irritating.
As Proton’s cars have been doing for a very long time, the 2022 Saga Premium S only sports automatic retraction, not closing, for its driver side power window. As a bonus, they could also give the front passenger an auto down-only window.
2 - Tyre Pressure Monitoring
This one is another easy addition that’ll gain it some brochure brownie points. The everyday utility of TPMS is up for debate but being able to actively monitor tyre pressures can be invaluable in certain situations, alerting you of a slow puncture before you’re left stranded with a completely flat tyre.
Aftermarket solutions are full of affordable and easy to use TPMS systems and, ironically, we’re pretty sure we’ve even received a kit as a door gift for a Proton event some time ago. Saving a customer the hassle of having to purchase a 3rd party solution while presenting the feature in a more integrated manner (via the infotainment screen) could do wonders in endearing buyers further into the brand.
3 - Built-In Digital Video Recorder (Dashcam)
Here is one more feature-add from the aftermarket and a very popular first ‘upgrade’ for any car owner. Unlike TPMS, the real world usefulness of having a dashcam is very well known.
A casual search online reveals an almost overwhelming selection of front-mounted video recorders that could be a (figurative) lifesaver when it comes to proving your innocence in the event of a collision.
It sure beats arguing for it with the insurance company, so why not have Proton (even as a cost option) fit a proper DVR solution at the factory or dealership level and have it neatly installed and integrated into - again - the onboard infotainment system.
4 - Android Auto, Apple CarPlay
This one might be a little too pricey and asking a little too much but it sure would be a power move to leave Perodua with a bloody nose. Proton does tout some level of smartphone connectivity with the Saga’s 7-inch touchscreen head unit, but that’s a band-aid solution compared to full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support.
It would make Proton the first Malaysian automaker to support the feature but would likely require some additional cooperation from their infotainment hardware and software supplier. To our knowledge, the Saga uses an interface built on an older version of Android, possibly making it even easier to implement given how easily off-the-shelf Android head units can ‘unlock’ tethered smartphone connectivity with an aftermarket USB dongle add-on.
5 - Kenwood Speakers?
Budget B-segment sedans aren’t exactly expected to have anything but basic audio quality but the Saga could be the exception, especially since this is likely to be the final iteration before a full-on Geely replacement.
The Premium S arrives with a generic array of ‘4-speakers’ that may or may not be decent. However, even as a cost option, it would be appreciated if Proton offered our ears some better treatment. Granted, Kenwood’s ‘premium’ speakers in the X70 facelift were pretty disappointing, all things considered.
If that’s too much of a name brand, even Edifier or Sonic Gear will do (if they do car audio). A little extra effort will go a long way here given the track record of audio quality at this price range, but contributes so much to the in-car experience.
Proton is stuck between a rock and hard place whenever asked about this product disparity, their sales associates are forced to insist that its combination of anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, and few airbags are as sufficient as they have been for….well, 20 years.
It’s clear these far newer features will not be coming from Proton so far as their legacy vehicles are concerned. To get cars like the Saga and Persona over this line, they need a total reinvention, and/or just a big kick in the back. Only (truly) all-new models or named replacements of Geely origin.
As the Saga fights the good fight, as these proposed feature additions can only strengthen its arsenal, we can look forward to the possibility that all-new Proton models are, by the automaker’s own admission, just on the horizon.