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Top Gear Philippines

Hi, Botchi. I would like to seek your help with selecting an SUV that we want to keep for the long term. We are now ready to purchase a 4x4 AT SUV as our second vehicle. We currently own a Mitsubishi Strada. We are satisfied with its powerful engine and soft ride, except for its weak suspension.

We are looking at the Mitsubishi Montero Sport GTV, the Toyota Fortuner 3.0 and the Chevrolet Trailblazer LTZ. We are waiting for the all-new Fortuner, but we do not know if safety features like EBD will be added and if there will be a transmission upgrade. We're leaning toward the Montero Sport GTV, but I read online that the automatic variant still has sudden acceleration issues. The Trailblazer, on the other hand, has a five-year warranty that is not convenient for us. Moreover, aftermarket parts may not be available.

I would appreciate your advice on which SUV to get since we might buy one soon. Please update us if the Montero Sport's issue of sudden unintended acceleration has already been cleared. MMPC's statement in 2011 said that the issue had been cleared, but there persisted reports to the contrary until June 2012.

Regards,
Bat2say


Hello, Bat2say! (Or should I say Battosai? I'm a huge fan of Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X as well.)

First off, I honestly don't think the rumors of "sudden unintended acceleration" with the Mitsubishi Montero Sport are true, and I have a very logical basis. I don't want to get into that discussion as there are still legal proceedings ongoing with Mitsubishi and the claimants. Suffice to say, the day the news broke out, I took my mother's GLS 3.2 Montero Sport and proceeded to do every conceivable stupid thing to test the claims, but nothing happened at all.

My mom was very happy with her Montero Sport 3.2 GLS that she decided to upgrade to the newer 2.5 GTV and has been very happy with it. I've had the opportunity to test it myself many times and can say with almost 100% confidence (how's 99.9%?) that the "sudden unintended acceleration" bit is simply not true.

We're a family of nine and we regularly load up my mother's Montero Sport--both the older 3.2 and the newer 2.5 GTV--with five adults plus cargo and luggage, and have had no problems with it. I've taken it off-road as well with no problems, and I've loaded it up with so much car parts (a straight-six cast-iron block 2JZ Toyota engine--very heavy, weighing more than most modern all-aluminum V8 engines), a set of five 18-inch wheels and tires, and a couple of 50kg sacks of rice. I never once had a problem with the suspension, in case you're wondering since you said you find your Strada to have "weak suspension."

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So, as you can see, I am very happy with the Montero Sport--no complaints about it.

But that's not to say it automatically stands out as the very best. The Chevrolet Trailblazer is indeed impressive. The driving position is actually better and more car-like than the Montero Sport's. The Trailblazer's suspension is indeed firm, but not bouncy (the Montero Sport has a softer, albeit bouncier, suspension). The power is amazing and burnouts are really easy: engage Drive, step on both brakes and throttle, rev the throttle to 1,800rpm, then release the brakes and floor the throttle! Peeling out has never been so much fun!

The Trailblazer's interior space is good, but my two complaints about it are that the engine is really noisy even on the inside compared to the Montero Sport and the Fortuner, and the interior plastics are still not at the level of Japanese cars. But overall performance and build quality are amazing. With 180hp and 470Nm of torque, it's tough not to like one tough truck such as the Trailblazer.

As for the Toyota Fortuner, it is a good SUV, but it is getting old. Even with GPS/satnav and a VNT turbocharger, it's still old. Rumor has it that there will be a full-model change in 2015. You can get much more interesting and newer SUVs for the same money or even less.

Left-field choice? It's got to be the Kia Sorento. Check it out. My good buddy, who owns a couple of sports cars, found the Sorento's driving habits to be very good, and is very good value for money. Moreover, since it is a true crossover SUV, it is very car-like to drive. As for reliability, believe me, Kia--along with Hyundai--has made huge strides in improving overall reliability and durability.

Speaking of Hyundai, the Santa Fe is also amazingly good: It is very fast, very easy to drive, looks very good, has lots of small details that make it really special. You can really be a complete hooligan driving the Santa Fe on the road, thanks to 194hp and 422Nm of torque. But all this Hyundai goodness comes at a price. The base model starts at P1.7 million, which is the price of a top-model Montero Sport and Fortuner. Move up to the top-model variant with huge wheels and panoramic sunroof, and you're looking at a P2.2-million Santa Fe.

If money were no object, I'd pick the Santa Fe because it is really a cut above the rest. The Sorento is the budget-conscious choice, with the Montero Sport the safe and happy medium, while the Trailblazer is the adventurous choice. I hope this helps you decide which to get.

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Take care, good luck, and God bless!

 

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

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

Which SUV would you recommend to Bat2say?
Chevrolet Trailblazer
Hyundai Santa Fe
Kia Sorento
Mitsubishi Montero Sport
Toyota Fortuner

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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SUV Chevrolet Trailblazer Hyundai Santa Fe Kia Sorento Mitsubishi Montero Sport Toyota Fortuner
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