Into the hills & back on 1 tank of fuel with a Proton Saga 1.3 CVT

When we received the invitation to the Proton 1 Tank Adventure Challenge, we were presented with the option to join the Northern, Southern, East Coast and East Malaysia legs. The East Malaysia leg which will see participants covering from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang and back in one single tank of fuel piqued my interest.

Kundasang is the closest town to Mount Kinabalu, situated at almost 1,900 meters above sea level. The two-way roads leading up to the highest settlement in Malaysia will immerse your eyeballs in some of the most beautiful sceneries Sabah has to offer. But therein lies the challenge – hill climb.

Instead of hypermiling on a long highway stretch in Peninsular Malaysia, I opted to join Proton in Sabah to put their Saga, Iriz and Persona to the ultimate challenge – can it complete the 420 km journey through twisty mountainous roads on one single tank of petrol, if so, how realistic is it to achieve those figures.

My co-driver, Sep Irran from, and I were given the keys to a Proton Saga 1.3 Premium CVT, packing a modest 94 hp and 120 Nm of torque. On paper, the quoted fuel consumption figures for this model is 5.6 litres per 100 km and in theory, we should be good for the entire journey with some fuel left to spare.

Setting off from Proton Edar Inanam located in the city centre of Kota Kinabalu, we made our first stop at the nearest Petronas station to fuel our respective cars to the brim. Adopting a “three click” method, we fuelled up till the nozzle clicks three times, signalling our Saga’s 40-litre tank holds as much fuel as it possibly can.

Before driving off to our first checkpoint of the day, we took an extra 10 minutes to inspect our tyre pressure. Having properly inflated tyres not only have the car perform more efficiently but it also ensures that we have optimal grip levels from the tyres. That 10-minute stop proved to be worthwhile as the tyres were underinflated at 18 to 20 psi, way lower than its factory recommended 30 to 32 psi. Beep goes the tyre pump and we were on our way.

All three models on the Proton 1 Tank Adventure Challenge are equipped with the company’s latest VVT (Variable Valve Timing) engines (Saga & Iriz 1.3L, Persona 1.6L), Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and Eco Drive Assist Indicator.

Proton engineers present at the event explained that the Eco Drive Assist Indicator only lights up when the driver is driving economically. However, the engineers also stressed that this function is just an indicator and does not interfere with the car’s performance in any way. Meaning if you drive an older Iriz without Eco Drive Assist Indicator, you can still achieve the same fuel consumption as a newer model with the indicator equipped.

The Eco Drive Assist indicator was helpful in guiding us to approach the throttle pedal in an economical fashion. When the green leaf comes on, we know we are doing good. The moment it went away, we know we have to back off the throttle by a bit. The Eco Drive Assist indicator does not mean that we have to drive below the speed limit, because even at 90 km/h, maintaining at just over 2,000 rpm, we are still driving economical by the computer’s standards.

Throughout the journey, we drove the Saga as how we normally would on a day to day basis albeit a little more economically than usual. Just by accelerating smoothly, letting the car glide on the downhill and keeping a safe distance to minimise braking, we made it to our first stopover of the day 327.5 km away consuming only three bars of fuel on the fuel gauge.

Our windows were up, and air conditioning was in a comfortable setting throughout the entire journey. We travelled at a reasonable pace and even made some overtaking manoeuvres on our way here. Although other participants who drove without air conditioning and crawled to the destination had more indicated fuel than we did, we were not concerned as it does not necessarily reflect real-world driving conditions.

We were confident to complete day two with half a tank of indicated fuel as our journey today are on the downhill stretch. With gravity on our side, we were able to make swift progress back to Kota Kinabalu town while consuming lesser fuel than our journey here.

Again, we cannot stress this enough, we drove the Saga exactly how you and I would drive every other day – air conditioning on, windows up, overtake when necessarily and Spotify blasting through the speakers via Bluetooth.

At the end of the Proton 1 Tank Adventure, we covered 413.9 km with just 25.13 litres of fuel. That works out to 6.07 litres/100 km. Quite an impressive feat considering the challenging and twisty route that we took throughout the two days. It is worth noting that our Saga would have just under 15 litres left at our disposal and based on our fuel consumption figures we should be able to cover another 250 km give or take!

All 16 cars have successfully completed the 420 km journey and here are the breakdown of best fuel consumption figures:

  • Proton Saga 1.3 CVT – 5.46L/100km (Average 6.17L/100km)
  • Proton Iriz 1.3 CVT – 5.76L/100km (Average 6.57L/100km)
  • Proton Persona 1.6 CVT – 5.83 litres/100km (Average 6.33L/100km)

Having experienced this first hand, we can conclude that Proton’s claimed fuel consumption figures are very achievable in the real world. All that it takes is a little bit of effort from the driver to adopt a more economical driving style and the Eco Drive Assist makes it all that easier.



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