Hi, Mr. Botchi. I've been an avid fan of Top Gear Philippines since last year, especially your column, which I like reading a lot. I'm a healthcare provider at a provincial hospital, and my relatives from the States are asking me what vehicle I can suggest for them to buy here. They phoned in their requirements, and these are: comfy, "maluwang," and fuel-efficient. Their budget is around P1.2-1.3 million only. They're opting for a secondhand unit, but I insist on a brand-new one because of the recent flooding in our country (which makes me fearful that there are many flooded vehicles out there).
My bets are the new Chevy Orlando LT, Kia Carens EX and the refreshed Mitsubishi Montero Sport GLX V. Thanks and Godspeed to you and the TGP staff.
Cesar Carl Pacis
Hi there, Carl!
Thanks for the e-mail. We're glad to be of help to you, who in turn are helping out your relatives. I'm glad you mentioned such cars as the Chevrolet Orlando (of which I'm such a big fan) and the Kia Carens, both highly underrated MPVs. The Orlando is newer, has a better-designed interior, is roomier and (crucially) easier to get in and out of, thanks to its tall roof.
The problem, however, is that the Orlando's engine is a tad underpowered. No problem in city driving, but out on the highway, it lacks the power to overtake confidently unless you really pin the throttle to the floor--especially when you've got five adults on-board.
In this sense, the Carens is a better MPV in that it has a more capable CRDi and VGT-equipped diesel powerplant. The problem is that it's old. The flip side is that a replacement is due very soon, so it might be worth waiting another 6-12 months.
However, for flood-conquering ability and confidence, an SUV is indeed tough to beat, and the Montero Sport, with its revised interior features, makes for a solid choice. But the Montero Sport isn't without its foibles: The steering, when I think about it now, is on the heavy side as more and more cars are becoming equipped with even lighter power steering. Out on the highway, this is fine and gives better high-speed stability and confidence. But after a full day of driving, it can be rather tiring. Despite being a tall SUV, the roof is quite low and the ride height is pretty tall, so getting in and out for the elderly can be a bit difficult. Otherwise, this is still my favorite truck-based diesel SUV because the prices and the standard equipment are hard to beat.
The question now is: Do you really need an SUV, or will an MPV suffice? I say go with the smallest vehicle you can get away with, because it's always going to be more cost-effective, easier to drive and live with, and more fun to drive around.
Good luck. I hope this helps, and God bless!