Pakistan’s B-Segment of the automobile industry has been in dire need of refreshment since the last decade. For the longest time, there have been but a few automakers that have ruled this segment with offerings that do not measure up when it comes to comfort, quality, and modernity.
The last year had introduced new cars — the Toyota Yaris and the Changan Alsvin sedan — to the B-Segment against the decade-old Honda City and Suzuki Swift. Both the cars received a fairly warm response, with the former outselling both the Honda Civic and the City for several consecutive months, while the latter sold out all of its available units within a couple of days of a sale. Despite these successes, the public is still not exactly happy with the current situation.
The reason is that Pakistani car buyers are still looking for a better value in the market, which is why the upcoming Proton Saga is currently the talk of the town as it offers hope to car buyers on a budget.
The Saga is set to be launched on 2 April, but a fair amount of information has already been revealed about it. Let us see if it has what it takes to become as big a success in the Pakistani market as it currently is in the Malaysian market.
The Saga is said to be offered in three main variants — the Standard Manual, the Standard Auto, and the Premium Auto. All the variants will be offered with only one engine option — a 1299 cc, naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engine that makes 94 hp and 120 Nm of torque. The engine will be paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission, depending on the variant.
The is also going to be a ‘limited edition’ R3 variant, which is a special trim-level inspired by Proton’s ‘R3’ motorsports division that will feature additional styling cues and a slightly larger 1332 cc engine that is offered as the standard in Malaysia. The engine makes the same power but slightly more low-end torque than the Pakistani 1299cc engine.
The car’s suspension setup consists of MacPherson struts in the front and a Torsion Bar Coil-Spring suspension at the back, allowing for a soft and smooth ride. It also has ventilated disc brakes with an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) technology in the front and conventional drum-brakes in the back.
The Saga has only one engine option while its competitors (with the exception of the Suzuki Swift) offer a choice of two engines. This is where the Saga loses a few points as the buyer would have to settle for its performance.
As per reports, the Proton Saga could be a fairly strong contender among the local B-Segment vehicles, and will have the following features:
- Immobilizer System
- Adjustable Steering with Infotainment Controls
- Remote Trunk Opener
- Dual front airbags
- ISO Fix Child Seat Anchors
- 7-inch Smart Infotainment System
- Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
- DRLs (Top Trim)
- Stability control (Top Trim)
- Traction control (Top Trim)
- Front parking sensors (Top Trim)
- Reverse camera (Top Trim)
The specs lend the car some points as traction control, stability control, parking sensors, ABS technology, etc. are smart features that offer good value.
Looks and Interior
This is where the Saga arguably falls short again because the design of both the interior and the exterior look at least a generation old, even when compared to the Honda City and the Suzuki Swift which are actually a decade old each.
Apart from the front grille and cosmetic aspects like the decorative vents on the rear bumper, the alloy rims, and a modern front bumper with DRLs, the car is fairly plain looking, and not in a good sense.
The interior looks at least two generations old, and although the Saga’s competition is known to have a few quality control issues, their interior designs are more modern and attractive. What is worse is that the interior is made almost completely out of cheap, hard, and shiny plastic, which does not do the Saga any favors.
Pakistan has an automotive market where cosmetics are more important than the actual practicality and reliability of a car, which is why the looks and design of the Proton Saga leave a lot to be desired.
Ultimate Deciding Factor — Price
The only reason that the public is eagerly awaiting the Proton Saga is that it is hopeful that it will be the cheapest car in the entire B-Segment by a significant margin, and one wouldn’t have to sell a kidney to acquire it.
The reputation of the Saga may be its only saving grace. The Saga is to the Malaysian market what the Mehran once was to the Pakistani market — a ‘people’s car’. It is the first choice of car for most Malaysians and is seen by the hundreds on the road, in parking lots, and in neighborhoods all across the country.
The Saga owes its popularity in Malaysia to being known as a pocket-friendly and reliable car that offers all the basic features at a low price, making for fantastic value.
In Malaysia, the price of the Saga Sedan starts from just 33,000 Malaysian Ringgit (Rs. 1.2 million) and goes up to 40,000 Malaysian Ringgit (almost Rs. 1.5 million). At the said price point, the Saga Sedan has a bullet-proof value proposition in the Malaysian market.
While the Saga can never be this cheap in the Pakistani market, it should be offered between Rs. 1.8 million and Rs. 2.2 million at the most to be seen as a credible threat. Otherwise, at a larger price point, there would arguably be better alternatives out there to the humble little Proton Saga.