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First look: More style and safety for Proton S16

Smoother S16: Malaysia’s Saga FLX heralds Proton’s vital S16 facelift for Australia.

Proton reveals new look and latest safety tech for one of Australia’s cheapest cars

8 Aug 2011

PROTON has released a new-look Saga FLX in Malaysia, previewing the facelifted S16 sedan that will go on sale in Australia by the end of this year, when one of Australia’s cheapest new cars will finally be fitted with electronic stability control.

Known as the S16 in Australia, the Saga is the most popular new car in Malaysia, where it is now on sale with new front and rear-end styling and a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Proton says the CVT auto reduces the fuel consumption of the Saga/S16’s 1.3-litre petrol engine by up to 10 per cent on the highway and up to four per cent in city driving.

The Saga/S16’s new six-speed CVT is supplied by Belgian transmission company, Punch Powertrain, which also supplies Volvo, Mini, Hyundai and Kia.

Set to also become available for the 1.6-litre Saga/S16, the CVT will eventually replace the conventional four-speed automatic in most Proton models, and incorporates a wet clutch instead of a torque converter as in many Japanese CVT designs.

The pint-size S16 sedan is Proton’s top-selling model in Australia, where the entry-level 1.3 G is among the nation’s most affordable new cars with a starting price of just $11,990 drive-away.

While the (70kW/120Nm) 1.3-litre S16 G is currently available here only with a five-speed manual transmission, the more powerful (82kW/148Nm) 1.6-litre S16 GX sedan, which can also be now had for $11,990 drive-away, is also available with a four-speed automatic transmission.

However, the S16 has been roundly criticised for not being available with potentially life-saving safety technologies like electronic stability control (ESC) or even ABS brakes, and all models but the top-shelf GXR variant are fitted only with a single (driver’s) airbag.

ABS brakes have been standard on almost all passenger cars and most light trucks for years, while ESC is mandatory for any vehicle to receive a maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, and is now also compulsory for all vehicles sold in Victoria.

The 4257mm-long S16 – and all other Proton models, except the Satria Neo – has been exempted from that requirement in the southern state this year because an ESC-equipped replacement model is imminent.

Proton Cars Australia (PCA) has confirmed to GoAuto that the upgraded S16 will wear both the revised styling of the Malaysian model seen here, along with ESC and at least two airbags.

43 center imageOf course, PCA is keeping all-important pricing close to its chest, but has confirmed the upgraded S16 will go on sale here in November, when first examples are expected to arrive, before deliveries commence in earnest early next year.

Sales are 43.4 per cent down to July this year, but the S16 remains the top-selling model in a local Proton range that is 16.2 per cent down overall so far in 2011.

The upgraded S16 will face stiff competition from a number of slick new light-car contenders this year, including this week’s new Hyundai Accent hatch and sedan, next week’s new Kia Rio hatch, September’s all-new Fabia hatch range and replacements for Holden’s Barina and Toyota’s top-selling Yaris by October.

Australia’s B-segment will be further bolstered in 2012 by the addition of the new Rio sedan, Nissan’s Micra-based ‘Sunny’ sedan, a new Colt from Mitsubishi and potentially a host of Chinese-built light cars, including the Geely CE.

There are no changes to the 1.3 G’s 1332cc engine, which continues to power the S16 to 100km/h in a lacklustre 13 seconds (manual), with the CVT version a further 1.5 seconds slower.

Similarly, fuel consumption of Australia’s S16 1.3 G manual should remain 6.0L/100km, but in Malaysia the CVT version’s fuel consumption at 90km/h is 0.3L/100km higher than the manual.

All S16s come with drum rear brakes and only the flagship GXR models scores a three-point centre-rear seatbelt and front passenger seatbelt pretentioner.

While the base 1.3 G rides on 13-inch steel wheels, the flagship GXR adds 14-inch alloys, power windows/mirrors, body-coloured mirrors and door-handles, rear parking sensors, four speakers and higher-grade cloth trim.

Expect key new features from Malaysia’s upgraded S16 Executive to be seen in Australia’s top-shelf S16 GXR, including electronic brake-force distribution, USB and AUX audio inputs, wing mirror-integrated LEDs, foglights, a driver’s seat height adjuster and remote audio controls.

“The new Proton Saga FLX is the product of Proton’s continued commitment towards providing better performing cars to our consumers,” said Proton Holdings Berhad group managing director, Dato' Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.

“This is yet another milestone in our quest to continuously improve our range of products to cater to the needs of today’s market.

“The utilisation of CVT technology has a far reaching impact to the consumer. Other than the fuel saving, the smoothness and reliability that CVT provides allows the engine to run at an optimum level, thus resulting in less engine fatigue and improving its long-term durability.

“It is Proton’s intention to provide not only an affordable car to consumers, but also one that possess the technological advancements and safety features that our customers will appreciate. We are committed to providing our consumers with better driving satisfaction and safety confidence.” In addition to the Malaysian Saga’s existing paint colours of Tranquility Black, Genetic Silver, Solid White and Blue Rock, the refreshed Saga FLX is now available in Malaysia in a new hue - Elegant Brown.

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