At the launch of the 2016 Proton Saga, the national carmaker also wheeled out examples of the first two generations of its bread-and-butter model. We took the opportunity to photograph both these cars to show you just how far the latest model has come.

We all know where it started – in 1985, then Malaysian prime minister, now former Proton chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad unveiled the first-generation Saga, based on the front-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer sedan. It was simple in style, interior appointments and mechanicals – power came from a 1.3 litre 4G13 carbureted eight-valve, four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission.

Honest it may be, but the original Saga was long a mainstay in Proton’s lineup, remaining in production for 22 years. In that time it spawned a five-door Aeroback variant, morphed into the Iswara and was offered in numerous special edition variants, including the Saga Knight, fuel-injected Iswara CARES and LMST models.

This particular unit is the Megavalve, introduced in 1990 with 1.3 and 1.5 litre 12-valve engines, larger grille openings, ‘Megavalve’ script imprinted on the rear windscreen and a ‘Saga 12V’ badge. Safety kit was also improved with a third brake light and rear three-point seat belts.

Proton finally replaced the first Saga with a new one in 2008. Based on the Savvy, Malaysia’s most affordable sedan featured a more restrained, pragmatic design compared to its hatchback sibling – no more stepped window line and yellow gauges – along with a silver-on-black logo that was only recently replaced with a new version on the Perdana.

Making its debut on the Saga was the new Intake Air-Fuel Module (IAFM), a variable-length manifold that virtually eliminated the original CamPro engine’s torque dip. A 1.3 litre mill was offered at first, mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic.

The Saga was facelifted in 2010 and given an FL suffix. Both front and rear fascias were revised, including wider reshaped headlights, slimmer LED tail lights and new door mirrors with LED indicators; the range-topping Executive also received a passenger airbag. The following year, a 1.6 Elegance model was added, with a 1.6 litre CamPro IAFM engine, a new alloy wheel design and body stripes.

Soon after, the Saga FLX was launched with a CVT – the first Proton with the stepless drivetrain – along with an updated CamPro IAFM+ engine designed to work with the new transmission. Also included was ABS with EBD on the 1.3 Executive model, while the 1.6 SE model introduced later that year added the new 1.6 litre CamPro IAFM+ mill, a bodykit, smoked taillights and larger 15-inch wheels.

In 2013 came the Saga SV, a value-added base model with standard dual airbags; a reinforced frame was also added across the range which netted the car a three-star ASEAN NCAP safety rating. A runout Saga Plus variant, based on the SV, was introduced last year with a bodykit and 14-inch alloy wheels, although the car seen here oddly does without the latter.

The second-gen Saga bowed out with the introduction of the new car yesterday. Despite being based on the previous model, it has been significantly revised, being longer, wider and lower than before. It also boasts a new, more dynamic exterior design, an entirely revamped cabin and a boot that’s now seven litres bigger at 420 litres.

There’s only one engine option – as part of a range-wide restructuring, you can only have the Saga with the smaller 1.3 litre VVT four-cylinder engine from the Iriz, producing 94 hp at 5,750 rpm and 120 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Despite similar outputs as before, the new car is said to be faster and more fuel efficient than before, both with the five-speed manual and the improved CVT.

Big news is the addition of stability control and hill-start assist on the top Premium variant, making it the cheapest sedan in Malaysia to come with the electronic safety net. Dual airbags are standard across the range, but only the Executive model and above get ABS with EBD and brake assist. All models get a four-star ASEAN NCAP safety rating, up from three stars previously.

So there you have it, all three generations of the Proton Saga side-by-side. For more details of the new 2016 Proton Saga, check out our comprehensive launch report here.

GALLERY: 1990 Proton Saga 12V


GALLERY: 2015 Proton Saga Plus
GALLERY: 2016 Proton Saga 1.3L Premium