First Car Review: Steering My Rock Blue Proton Saga FLX 1.3 (Executive CVT)

Proton Saga FLX rock blue, front view.

Allow me to present you a non-professional review of my first car – a Proton Saga FLX 1.3 CVT after driving it for a few months. Proton Saga is the very first Malaysia national car although technically speaking the current Saga is an entirely different car compared to the first Proton Saga. The new Saga, also known as Saga BLM, was launched in year 2008 and has been through two enhancements since then – Saga FL is a major facelift while the current Saga FLX has a brand new CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) gearbox and previously absent ABS with EBD (Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution).

Why Proton Saga

It is affordable, at least in Malaysia (foreign cars are heavily taxed). I have considered its closest competitor – the Perodua Viva but have decided to choose Saga for its bigger size. Many friends asked me why not the Perodua Myvi? My view is that Myvi is in a different price range, which I would probably choose the bigger Proton Persona for that price range for the same reason why I choose Saga over Viva – the larger space. Viva and Myvi are nice choices if space is not a concern as these small cars should offer better fuel consumptions and are easier to drive around in crowded cities.

At the time of purchase, I have considered the Saga FL 1.6 as well but decided to go for the the Saga FLX 1.3 Executive for the CVT and ABS. I would have chosen the recently launched Saga FLX SE 1.6 though if it was available, it combines the best of FL 1.6 and FLX 1.3 plus a more sporty look with only ± RM 4,000 increase in price compared to FLX 1.3 (1.6’s ± RM 49,000 VS 1.3’s ± RM 45,000, these are the price for peninsular Malaysia at time of post and they could be changed thereafter).

The Exterior

Back to my Saga FLX 1.3, it has the modern (although this can be very subjective) external look inherited from Saga FL which pretty much remains unchanged other than the model name at the back, slogan on the plate number holder and a not-so-visible cooler for the CVT gearbox on the front. I find the outlook very acceptable for an entry level model and the LED rear lamp looks good at night. My personal favourites are the exhaust muffler engraved with the word ‘SAGA’ and the side mirrors with LED turn signal indicator. I got a rock blue coloured unit but I really liked the plum red of the FLX SE 1.6.

The Interior

Comfortable room for back passengers and good boot space of Saga are the main reasons why I choose it over the similarly priced Viva. The boot comes with a lamp which is really useful at night. Also, the fabric seat finishing gives a high quality feel despite not it is not leather and it has a powerful air conditioner that is suitable for the tropical weather of Malaysia. However, unlike many other models, the air conditioner cannot be directed to leg room. The windows come tinted and there are four power windows just like the Saga FL but the back windows cannot be fully opened. As for entertainment, there is Clarion audio system that supports audio CD, MP3 CD, USB flash drive and aux in. The USB can charge and recognize the mass storage mode of my Android-running Samsung Galaxy S but there is a trick though – you must switch back USB mode after activating the USB mass storage mode on the phone. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel are real handy, it would be better if the repeat and random buttons are there too. All in all, it is a comfortable car for average Asians to sit in but the interior design feels a little outdated (again, this can be very subjective).

The Driving Experience

The main selling point of FLX is the CVT gearbox that promises smooth driving experience. It does, but not on low speed. The change of speed feels quite abrupt on acceleration from complete stop to start and on the release of petal during low speed although these can be avoided as you get use to the CVT behaviour. Also, I find the reverse gear is slightly less responsive compared to automatic transmission. It is another story for medium to high speed driving though, the acceleration feels real smooth, completely free from the power loss feeling of automatic transmission during gear shift as CVT uses a belt instead of gears. The belt ensures the right ratio all the time like there are infinite number of gear ratios. There is a SAT mode which could simulate a 6-speed automatic transmission by providing the over rev feeling. Power steering comes as standard and handling has been one of Proton’s strength, Saga FLX is no exception, it performs quite well in this regard.

I notice the car accelerates much smoother and brakes better after the first service (first 1000 KM mileage). So, to all the new Saga owners out there, quickly get pass the first 1000 KM or do your first service sooner.

I have been driving the car on a daily basis since day one. Occasionally, it is used to drive my family around while most of the time it is my daily commute to work. While fuel consumption of a car can vary greatly on different traffic condition and driving habits, I get around 12 KM/L (around RM 0.16 per kilometer with RON 95 priced at RM 1.90 per liter) with frequent heavy traffic jam. I am not sure how does that fare for a 1300 cc (1332 cc to be exact according to the official web site) engine with a CVT gearbox but I could tell that it is not astonishing.


Overall, I am quite satisfied with what I get but not too impressed. Feature wise it is good enough but the quality control is not quite there as I have a few minor issues with the finishings and whatnots, nothing critical but still a let down. The CVT gearbox has its own pros and cons too when compared to traditional automatic transmission and might need some time to get use to. Personally, I never miss automatic transmission except when reversing. As for the car as a whole package, it does pack with standard features that you can expect from a modern car such as dual SRS airbag, ABS and EBD. Perhaps added with a nice seat finishing, good space and air conditioner at the cost of higher fuel consumption and subject to the what seems like hit-miss quality control of Proton.

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  • Ady Syam

    Saga FLX 1.3 Standard Auto(CVT) is my 1st car too!!! I just drive this car for 3 days and looks awesome!!! will see after 3 month later ^_^

    • LongYC

      Glad to hear that you liked the car. Wishing you a smooth journey with CVT!

  • S_cutegurlz

    i just bought a new sga flx executive 1.3 last 3 weeks…. and its awesome
    never knew that my car its powerful and im proud to drive it!!!!

  • Dr.Ameer

    I bought my car SAGA FLX 1.3 Automatic, full option on October 2011…
    When drive for a few so smooth and not much noise, breaks good…but after that I hear some noise while applying pedal breaks….After a few month 2 or 3 rd service onward break sound dissapear, but some occation sound appear….

    pluse point is i get mileage 13 to 14 KM per litre petrol with aircond use

    Some time( 2or 3 time) I use octane booster……..

  • chow

    Intend to buy Saga FLX SV .How ur usage & condition -esp fuel consumption /engine noise/vibration….
    appreciate ur quick feedback.

    How cost of maintenance
    If CVT/6speed auto- lack power, intend to buy Manual.


    • LongYC

      Hi Chow,

      I did mention the fuel consumption in the post, which seems to be average for me but this varies with driving style. The CVT does seem to be a little bit more noisy, I highly recommend you to test drive one to see if you like the noise/power/vibration.

      Maintenance cost is fine as the car hasn’t gave me any major problems so far (touch wood!). Hope that helps.

  • Ashley

    Hi YC,

    I just owned a SV 1.3 CVT for over a week, yeah there is more engine noise than BLM, but a smoother drive, but I am bit confused as which model is equipped with ABS, EBD, BA and ESC. Can you share some light here?

    • LongYC

      Hi Ashley,

      Yeah the CVT gearbox does produce more noise than automatic. I am not sure about the current SV version but at the time of purchase, only executive versions come with ABS with EBD. Not sure about BA and ESC though, I don’t think they are included in any versions.

      • Ashley

        Yeah thought so they only have ABS with EBD; but I saw they did mentioned something on BA and ESC in manual.

  • theconfusedgirl

    Hi guys,

    I just bought saga flx 1.3 auto exe last month and i must say, im pretty much disappointed with it. Why? because, whenever i drives for like 10km the engine start to shakes and lost 50% power of its performance. No matter how hard i hit the race pedal, the car just moving very slow.

    Usually, at traffic light. When my engine start to shake, i just knew it’ll be slow starts. Sometimes, i got honked my the car behind be and give me the look. Please advice me, whats wrong with it? why does it shakes and lost power?

    For your info. the car will start shaking when i reach more than 8-9km. I guest it start when it hot? btw, im a lady and i dont have brothers or boyfriend to help me with this.. :(

    • http://none BLM_boy

      Maybe a problem with the CVT gearbox cooler, or CVT in general. Did the engine check light blink in your dashboard (yellow with engine logo)? Your condition is known as “limp home mode”, where the car only allows you drive home or bring it to the nearest service centre for repairs (thus the minimum speed no matter how much you press your pedal to protect the components). The car shakes because the engine load increases suddenly (presumably CVT pulley slipping), causing the almost stalling motion (shaking). Best advice: You should really bring the car for a diagnose at your nearest service centre and remember to service your car periodically.

    • nizam

      ur problem is weird.. its very rare.. i think u should check with sc.

  • paanz

    excuse me, hehe. between saga FLX exc1.3 and saga sv which one better? and its advantages

  • Wallace

    i juz bought saga flx 1.6 se for around three weeks & i found that when the car is in reverse gear~an irritating sound is come from the front bonnet~izit normal for cvt gearbox??

  • vee

    Hello, what kind of adapter did u use for the AUX in? And were you able to play music using the USB adapter?

    Appreciate your reply. So frustrating to know that it doesnt come with USB port!

    • LongYC

      Hi, although I have never used the aux in, I believe it uses standard 3.5mm audio jack. The audio player does come with a USB port and has no problem playing MP3 files from USB drives. It seems like only the recently launched SV version has a USB-less audio player.

  • Harry Singh

    Thanks for your informative post.
    I wish to buy a budget car, saga 1.3 SV seems to be in range. Read many blogs, but not so much postive responses on saga 1.3 SV.
    I am a foreigner, working here, wana car for local travelling only (popular city car Myvi cannot afford), around 100 KM per week.
    Worried about the SAGA 1.3 SV performances of car and their fuel. Can you please give some light on it ?

    • LongYC

      Hi, welcome to Malaysia! If you are not considering used cars, Proton Saga and Perodua Viva are probably the most affordable cars around. Viva is probably the better choice for city drive due to its small size but if you require a bigger space, Saga is probably the way to go. It simply boils down to your needs. Hope it helps.

  • Muhammad Amirul

    How about the quality of the Saga and handling?

  • Retired

    I have just purchased a proton sv 1.3 just a week ago and putting it through its paces..So far so good. The delivery is pretty smooth and no jerks..i have a couple of experiences with cvt in the form of a Nissan xtrail and a sym maxiscooter- both using cvt as their drivetrain..with cvt u have to take it easy at first and not ram yr throttle. For your info however my scooter is always leaving everybody smoking from standing point.thats the main reason i chose cvt drivetrain..well, as for the sv, its cheap but i’d think its worth it.tq

  • wulf

    Great review. Looking foward to buy this car ^^

  • CY

    I am interested to buy one. But scare of the reliability issue.
    After 2 years of driving, does it gives u any big problems, problem that need lots of money to fix?

    • LongYC

      So far so good, nothing major other than those expected required maintenance, if there is anything annoying, it’s the rubber buttons on the car key which get worn out easily. The tyres are cheap due to their small sizes; you can get better ones to improve stability on high speed – the stock tyres are relatively more noisy and offer less grip.