Some 13 years ago Proton, the Malaysian automobile manufacturer entered Pakistani market with a range of vehicles. Launch ceremony which was held on Friday 15th September 2006 was honored by the then Chief Minister of Sindh Mr. Arbab Ghulam Raheem. Four models were introduced namely the 1.6L Impian, 1.3 & 1.6L Gen-2, 1.5L Wira and 1.3L Saga.
Most of the vehicles were based on old Mitsubishi’s technology as Proton had a technical collaboration agreement with the Japanese manufacturer. Although the vehicles were priced quite competitively and CNG equipped versions were also available, Proton cars were unable to do well and the company within just a few years packed up & left.
The Proton Saga
The least expensive model among the lineup was Proton Saga, the 1.3 liter car based on the 2nd generation Lancer of mid 80s. Back in 2006 with a 3 years/ 60,000km warranty the Saga was priced at PKR 6.49 lac while the CNG fitted version was available for PKR 6.79 lac. Just for the sake of comparison the Cultus VXR by Pak Suzuki was available for PKR 5.9 lac back then, while the power packed Cultus VXL was available for PKR 6.1 lac.
Equipped with a powerful 90hp 1300cc engine, power steering, power windows, central locking, security alarm system, reverse parking sensors, CD player etc the Saga was indeed a good value for money but majority never went for it probably due to its conservative looks.
Saga, Then & Now..
However since their exit from Pakistan, Proton’s lineup during the previous decade has improved a lot and the old Mitsubishi cladded vehicles were replaced with the self-designed models.
The Saga that appeared in our market was phased out in 2008 and was replaced by the 2nd generation BT3/BT6 model. In 2010 the 2nd generation Saga received a facelift (FL/FLX) while Proton officially unveiled the 3rd generation Saga in September 2016.
Al-Haj Join Hands with Proton
On the 29th of August 2018, Al-Haj signed an agreement with Malaysian carmaker Proton (now owned by Geely of China) as the exclusive authorized distributor and assemblers of Proton vehicles in Pakistan. As per the agreement, Al-Haj will introduce modern and technologically advanced vehicles including hatchbacks, sedans, crossovers, SUVs and MPVs in Pakistan.
The ground breaking ceremony of Proton’s assembly plant in Pakistan took place on the 22nd of March 2019, in presence of the founding father of Proton & the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahatir Mohammad and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan. The plant in Karachi will be Proton’s first factory in the South Asian region. Being built with an initial investment of US$30 million and a targeted capacity of 25,000 units a year, the plant is expected to commence operations by June 2020.
With Proton aiming to sell 400,000 units a year by 2027 as part of its “Seven Stars” strategy, export sales and the establishment of CKD assembly plants in Pakistan represent an important step to achieve that figure. According to Proton Chairman Syed Faisal Albar, Pakistan will be Proton’s gateway to penetrate other markets.
Proton Saga.. Again
This time again, the first vehicle to mark the comeback of Proton in Pakistan will be the 1.3L Saga sedan. However compared to the Saga we experienced during the previous decade, the third generation Saga is a huge improvement. Proton has completely re-engineered the design of the Saga, while its interior has been revamped and refined with a special emphasis on NVH reduction. It has a better suspension, better equipment on offer, will be available in manual as well as CVT option, and will have a more powerful engine under its hood.
While the Saga that landed here in 2006 had a Mitsubishi sourced carburetor engine under its hood, this time around there will be a 1.3-liter DOHC VVT engine that punches out 94 hp and a peak torque of 120 Nm. The claimed fuel economy is 18.5 km per liter, thanks to an approximately 100 kg lighter body weight than that of 5th gen Honda City.
Safety standards in the third generation Saga have improved considerably over its predecessors. The Saga boasts a 4-star ASEAN NCAP safety rating. In addition, the 3rd gen Saga has won quite a few automotive awards since its introduction in 2016. These awards include:
- Rising Star Award Car – Asean NCAP Grand Prix Award 2016
- Value-For-Money Car – Malaysia Car of the Year 2016
- Compact Sedan of the Year – DSF.my Allianz Vehicle of the Year (VOTY) 2017)
- Best 3 City Cars of Malaysia – Aurizn Awards 2018 ‘Cars of Malaysia’
- Budget Car (Bronze Winner) – Carlist.my People’s Choice Awards 2018
Saga, known as the very first car by Proton, also happens to be the brand’s longest running nameplate. It has a proven legacy in Malaysia and is considered as the most popular car in Malaysian market. Over all these years, the Saga has proven itself as a reliable, cost effective, fuel efficient and well built vehicle that is deemed as the national symbol of Malaysia.
Proton Saga will probably be the only quality option by a new brand in Pakistan that will come within the range of the masses. Reportedly it will be priced around Cultus VXL AGS and will be available in both manual as well as automatic transmission options. Click here to read more about the upcoming Proton Saga.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com