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Top Gear Philippines

Hi, sir Botchi. I've been looking for a car that would replace my Honda CR-V. I've narrowed my choices down to the following:

1. 2014 Subaru Forester (non-turbo) -  This is because I've been used to driving a crossover, and this one tops my choice compared to the others in the market. The turbo variant is really nice, but it's beyond my budget. Do you think the non-turbo variant will be okay?

2. Ford Focus Sport - I just love its features, and it seems like it's much more loaded compared to my first choice.

I know I'm comparing two very different cars. The Forester is more of my type of car, but it's a little too bare, I would say. The Focus seems to be a smarter choice because of its features.

This next purchase will be my car for five years. Please help me pick something that would last longer. I'll only be using it in the city anyway.

PS: The Subaru XV premium would be my third choice, but I just don't like how it looks! Perhaps you can make me change my mind.

Jaimee Mendoza

 

Jaimee, thank you for your e-mail. I sincerely apologize for the late reply. We've all been very busy of late so we're trying our best to catch up with everything.

The two cars you mentioned are indeed very different, but let's check out what makes them tick (for me, at least) and what I don't like about them.

First up is the Ford Focus Sport. It is a five-door hatchback, and sports a really impressive 2.0-liter direct-injection gasoline engine that pumps out 168hp and 202Nm of torque, driving the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (more on this later). This hatchback is packed with so much safety kit (six airbags, park assist and city-stop technology), but crucially the driving dynamics is very impressive. It is sharp, feels very European, and is well-suited for the track, high-speed highways and winding mountain roads. The looks are also very sharp and very aggressive, plus I just love hatchbacks myself. There's so much good--so much right--about it.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned six-speed dual-clutch transmission almost completely neuters the driving experience. It gets easily confused, is slow and dim-witted, and is an unwilling partner when you need to transition from doodling in traffic to going flat-out. The delay in response and hesitancy to either downshift or upshift when you'd expect a conventional automatic to do so, is just so plain annoying. At times, this is dangerous when you pull out on a two-lane provincial highway to overtake a slow-moving car with an oncoming bus in the opposite lane, or when you're on the track and powering out of a hairpin turn trying to hit the clipping point at your corner exit but the transmission feels like going back to bed and not responding. If you can live with that, the Focus is very impressive indeed.

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The Subaru Forester, on the other hand, seems like there isn't much going for it--until you actually drive one. At its regional launch in Hsin Chu, Taiwan, last year, I was excited to try out the XT turbo variant, but the 2.0i premium non-turbo variant was available first. I wasn't looking forward to trying it out, but when I got in and pinned the throttle to the floor, wow! Although locally the engine is rated at 148hp, that seems to be slightly pessimistic. Gas up with high-octane fuel and you will get a few more ponies for sure as foreign markets rate theirs at roughly 168hp (same as the Ford Focus).

I'd have to say that the difference in performance was greater in the new non-turbo Forester versus the previous model, more so than the new Forester XT turbo versus the old XT Turbo. The CVT lineartronic transmission provides fast, positive, slur-free responsiveness when left in automatic mode. Use the manual mode and the Forester provides an even more aggressive punch to the experience, which dispels negatives over older CVTs.

Indeed, the Forester's interior tends to be bare, but it's the engineering underneath that you are paying for. The Symmetrical AWD system, matched with the X-Mode system, gives you amazing sure-footed grip. Build quality, driving position and driving dynamics have improved immensely. A test drive in the Forester will convert you in no time.

The Subaru XV is also a pretty good choice. It is also more economical because of its smaller size, yet it retains the same impressive driving dynamics, equally impressive build quality, and safety in a smaller, more hip and more stylish package. My only concern is that the XV overlaps with the more accomplished, more versatile Forester.

I hope this helps you out, Jaimee! Good luck and God bless. Be safe driving!

 

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

Do you want Botchi to help you pick the right car? Send your inquiry to topgear@summitmedia.com.ph.

Which vehicle should Jaimee replace his Honda CR-V with?
Ford Focus Sport
Subaru Forester
Subaru XV

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor
Botchi eats, lives and breathes cars (aside from hotdogs). Aside from wanting to drive any car, preferably through some scenic destination, he's always thinking of ways to "improve them" by modifying the (insert any car-related word here).
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