Last Thursday, the 9th of July 2020 marked the 35th birthday of the first National car, the pride of our nation – the legendary Proton Saga, and what better way to commemorate the occasion than having a glimpse at the model’s journey thus far?
First Generation Saga
So, it all began back in 1985 when HICOM and Mitsubishi joined forces to develop an affordable, reliable, and practical model for the rakyat, based on the 1983 Mitsubishi Lancer Fiore Sedan.
Called the Saga, which is an acronym for 'Safety, Achievement, Greatness, and Ability', the car was initially offered in both sedan and “aeroback” guises, with power coming from a 1.3-litre 4G13 Orion II engine, followed by the 1.5-litre 4G15 engine that was introduced in 1987 in the updated Proton Saga “Magma”.
Two years later, the Saga achieved another milestone – it made it to the shores of the United Kingdom where the car actually set the record for the 'Fastest selling make of new car ever to enter the United Kingdom', exceeding their 12-month sales target in just 6 months.
In August 1990, the Proton Saga Megavalve was launched in Malaysia with a more powerful 12-valve engine, and the exterior design was altered slightly with a new grille, trim and rims along with the inclusion of rear seat belts and a third brake light as standard.
Proton Saga Iswara
1992 saw the birth of the Proton Saga Iswara, named after the great Helen butterfly (Papilio Iswara) of Sarawak. It shared the platform found in the previous iteration but received major exterior and interior changes.
The Iswara was also available in 4-door saloon and 5-door hatchback guises and was equipped with the same Mitsubishi Orion 1.3L and 1.5L engines. It continued to be imported to Europe until 1996, having been sold alongside the Persona (Wira) there since 1993.
In 2001, Proton introduced the Iswara Aeroback Special Edition. It was based on the Saga Iswara hatchback but included large exterior cosmetic changes and minor interior alterations. It was only available in silver, with a manual transmission and the 1.3 litre 4G13 engine.
Proton Saga LMST
After a successful 10 years, the Saga LMST hatchback was launched in 2003.
Based on the same platform as the previous-gen models, the Saga LMST featured a more modern interior and exterior, and a 1.3-litre Mitsubishi 4G13 carburettor engine that was tuned to produce 83 hp. It was only available in two trim lines, limited to the 5-speed manual transmission.
In late 2006, Proton updated the Saga LMST with some cosmetic updates. It was available in two colours - black and orange, and was limited to the 4G13 1.3L engine, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.
On 4 March 2007, Proton launched the final facelift model of the first generation Proton Saga, the Proton Saga LMST 50th Merdeka Anniversary Edition. It was largely identical to the 2006 Saga LMST, but was sold at a discount price of RM26,999 as opposed to the former RM33,240 price.
Proton Saga BLM
After two decades of seeing the same shape, Malaysians were once again excited when Proton unveiled the fresh, second-gen Saga BLM (Base Line Model) in 2008.
It was offered with 3 variants which were priced between RM31,498 and RM39,998 respectively. All variants were powered by Proton's 1.3 litre CamPro IAFM engine.
The new Saga was a great sales success for Proton, having received over 23,000 bookings in less than two weeks from its launch.
Proton Saga FL
On 30 November 2010, the Saga BLM was updated, and out came the Saga FL. First unveiled at the 2010 Thai International Motor Expo, the Saga FL received large exterior updates, but the technical specifications and interior was carried-over from the pre-facelift Saga.
The Saga FL was launched in Malaysia two weeks after its debut in Thailand, and was sold in two trim lines with 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmissions.
Later in May 2011, a more powerful model called the Proton Saga FL 1.6 Executive was launched.
Proton Saga FLX
8 months after the launch of the Saga FL, Proton added to its line-up the Saga FLX in which 'X' stands for extra. The FLX was available in two trim lines which could be mated to a choice of either manual or CVT drivetrains.
The fine-tuned CamPro IAFM+ engine was utilized and there were options for dual airbags and ABS with EBD. The handling was also vastly improved with a new suspension setup which struck a balance between ride comfort and handling performance.
The Proton Saga FLX SE was then launched on the 30th of November 2011, with power coming from a relatively more powerful 108 hp CamPro IAFM+ 1.6 litre engine, paired to a CVT.
Driver and passenger airbags as well as ABS with EBD were standard. The FLX SE was also equipped with the sportier kit and was only available in two colours, white and red.
Third Generation Proton Saga (Current)
The third generation Proton Saga, codenamed P2-13A was launched on 28 September 2016 as the successor to the second generation Proton Saga.
The third generation Saga is based on the outgoing Saga FLX platform, and is powered by the Iriz's 1.3-litre VVT engine producing 94 hp. Proton has completely re-engineered the exterior design of the new Saga. Its interior has been revamped and refined with an emphasis on NVH reduction.
The third generation Saga is positioned as Proton's entry-level sedan, below the larger B-segment Persona. Safety standards have been improved with the introduction of electronic stability control (ESC) and a 20% stronger body structure. ASEAN NCAP has awarded a 4-star safety rating for the new Saga.
On 6 August 2019, an updated Proton Saga was launched at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's considered as a minor change internally but as a facelift to the general public. The car now includes design cues from the Proton X70, Proton Iriz and the Proton Persona which includes the new "infinite weave," a pattern inspired by batik and Malaysian wood carvings.
The naturally aspirated DOHC VVT engine is no longer paired to a CVT made by Punch Powertrain, but a four-speed torque converter automatic gearbox sourced from Hyundai. The Executive variant was dropped with the range consisting of Standard MT, Standard AT and Premium AT.
The 2019 Saga also saw the air conditioning vents moved down to allow space for 'floating' head units which included a head unit that runs a modified version of Android for the Premium variant. The Saga now starts at a lowered price of RM32,800 for the manual transmission variant and up to RM39,800 which is almost RM2,000 lower than the pre-facelift version.
That being said, the most recent addition to the legacy is the Saga 35th Anniversary Edition which was launched last week to commemorate the birthday of the model.
Based on the Premium variant, the Anniversary Edition is offered exclusively in Black and features contrasting yellow accents both on the exterior and interior, and is limited to 1,100 units.