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Proton launched the 2019 Proton Saga facelift last week, and the refreshed entry level sedan managed to generate plenty of buzz thanks to the ever-reliable combo of improved specs and lowered prices. It’s also unanimous that the design team has improved the looks of today’s Saga, which first surfaced in late 2016 as a heavily revised version of the Saga BLM from 2008.

A new grille and bumper at the front, fresh “Floral Motive” 15-inch alloys and a new boot spoiler make the top-spec Saga Premium look sportier than before, but if sporty is the route to be taken, there’s much more that can be done. That’s what Theophilus Chin did here with this “Proton Saga R3 Concept” – fill up the sporty blanks.

With what? Let’s start at the front, which has a blanked out grille with a small R3 logo on one side. Theo previously used this “no grille look” on the Saga homagE, a re-imagination of the original Saga as a modern, full-electric concept. The slim chrome strip underlining the grille has been changed to red here, while the headlamps have a “smoked” appearance thanks to dark housing. Note the contrasting red Proton signature.

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Below that is a new bumper with a single piece of full width intake. The honeycomb meshed area is filled with a black outline insert that turns up at the centre, which reminds me of the Mercedes-AMG C63. The Saga R3 Concept also has a more protruding lip than the standard car.

The much-improved stance is obvious on the sides. Our imagined Saga R3 sits on 16-inch multi-spoke wheels, which are an inch up on the Saga Premium’s. The much-reduced gap between the low-profile tyres and the wheel wells is thanks to lowered R3 suspension – look closely and you’ll find subtle wheelarch extensions that integrate with the chunky side skirts, which have a black accent strip.

Finishing touches are red brake calipers and Shadow Line/Night Package-inspired trim. The latter includes black wing mirror caps, gloss black window outline and B-pillars, and a black-painted roof.

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The 2019 Saga’s rear end is a simpler affair compared to the outgoing car, and we’ve maintained the new look while adding necessary sporty touches. The bridge that houses the Proton script is in black with a red pinstripe (versus body colour) and the tail lamp clusters have the same “smoked” look. A small R3 badge sits under the Saga mark.

Proton introduced a simple but sporty rear bumper for the new Saga, with a “diffuser section” that follows the style of the Persona, and a chrome strip running the width. Also new are thin vertical “vents” at the edges of the bumper, AMG-style.

For our R3 version, you’ll find exaggerated versions of the side vents with some extra fins, and a larger diffuser piece incorporating two exhaust tips and another red pinstripe. The new “bee sting” antenna has been further upgraded to a “shark fin” one.

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Step inside and it’s clear that this isn’t a normal Saga, as there’s no shortage of red bits to denote performance (together, all the cabin red trim should add 30 hp). Scarlet is used on the air con vents, door handles, centre stack, steering wheel, gear area, door cards and seat belts. You’ll also find red on the meter rings, dashboard stitching and striped sports seats.

Just for fun, the stock Saga steering wheel with its XL underwear-sized boss has been swapped out for a flat-bottomed unit from the Geely parts bin. And there’s a six-speed manual gearknob as well, because we’re all fans of the stick and just can’t help it.

By the way, the last time we’ve seen so much red in a Proton cabin, it was the year 2011, and we’ve just had a first drive in the R3 Satria Neo. The three-door hatch looks even sweeter in today’s world of fat hatches, but that interior is way too toy-like. The Saga R3 dashboard depicted here sounds overwhelming in point form, but it looks better than the description, right? Zoom in below and tell us what you think.

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Lastly, Theo came up with a red, blue and green (yellow accents replace red, because green and red just don’t match) versions of the rendering, just like he did for the yummy “Iriz S1000 Concept”. There’s a bonus black colour here – anyone remember the Knight?

You might see this as a flight of fancy, but the Saga is no stranger to the race track – R3 actually races the sedan in local competitions, and there are plenty of budget sedan buyers with sporty appetites; just look around you. If the numbers add up, why not a Saga R3, Proton?


GALLERY: 2019 Proton Saga 1.3 Premium AT