Kuala Lumpur, Friday 18 January 2008 – 1731 hours – At exactly 5.31 pm today, we are free of the embargo imposed by Proton on the media with regards to the new ‘BLM’ model, which should have been launched a minute ago.
We have had this story sitting in our holding tank since a couple of days ago, when we were invited to attend a media preview of the all-new BLM, now officially known as the SAGA, a more than worthy replacement for the outgoing, 22 year old, first ever Proton model to be produced in this country.
According to Dato’ Syed Zainal Abidin, CEO of Proton, the new SAGA is a ‘people’s car’, stating that the product strategy was for Proton to come out with a car that is modern, serves the needs of the rakyat, and be competitively priced.
Well, with prices starting from RM29,999 for the cheapest and most basic model, and many variants of 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual versions with various levels of trim, there is a Saga to suit anybody and any pocketbook size.
The Saga comes with a 1.3 litre Campro engine with IAFM (read as variable intake), giving much improved response to throttle, and puts the ‘meat’ where it counts, between 2,500 rpm and 4,000 rpm, the range in which most people drive in.
Being 1.3 litre, the 4-cylinder engine is economical, and of course the manual transmission will be the most fuel efficient of the two versions. The car weighs just over a ton, but those of you who have seen the ‘teaser’ parts of the car put on display will note that the platform on which the Saga is built is pretty solid, which means you have a very rigid and strong car that will last you a long time.
The Saga took 17 months to develop, and many parts are carried over from the Savvy, except for the engine, which is now a Proton Campro, and the gearbox is now a Mitsubishi unit. The Savvy platform has been extended, and from what I saw, the rear legroom is excellent. According to Proton, they actually put in guys of up to six foot two inches into the Saga without any problem.
Looking closely at the Saga, you will note that the interior space is very generous for a car in this size. Five adults can fit into the Saga, although to be really comfortable, four would be about right. Head room is excellent, and visibility is great too.
We had the chance to check out the car in Cyberjaya, and first impressions are good. All the media are generally agreed that this is car that provides excellent value for money, and the build quality is good. On the road, the Saga feels ‘solid’ to drive, and handles quite decently, thanks to input from Lotus Engineering on the suspension and settings.
With immediate effect, the Saga is available for viewing at all Proton showrooms, and already, there are 5,000 units booked.
Congratulations, Proton, on the launch of the Saga. You have come a long way!