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Top Gear Philippines

Hi, sir Botchi. I read your February 15, 2012, column enlightening a reader on which fuel-efficient car to get. We share similar requirements, but our only difference is budget. From my understanding, there is a big disparity between the prices of variants.

We are a family of four, and this will be my first time to purchase a brand-new car. I am willing to spend P800,000+ for an automatic or manual sedan with an engine displacement of 1.4 to 1.6 liters. I currently own a secondhand 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer that I don't want to dispose of. My options are the Honda City 1.5E AT, the Toyota Altis 1.6E MT, the Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GL MT, and the Hyundai Accent 1.6 GLS Gas AT.

I know that there is no perfect car that would suit everyone, and that it usually boils down to the car buyer's needs. In assessing my choices, please consider the same in terms of space, driving comfort, value for money/resale value rolled into one as the main criteria.

Your opinion will be highly appreciated. More power!

Regards,
Jun Masil


Hi, Jun. Thank you for your e-mail. That's a good list of cars you have there. Here's my experience behind the wheel on the cars you listed:

Honda City 1.5E AT - The missus drives one, and she's very happy with it. It drives smoothly, and it has decent handling and good fuel economy (averaging just under 9km/L on very short drives every day through heavy traffic). The Jazz is dynamically sharper, better to drive and roomier (cargo-wise) than the City. But if you need a traditional three-box sedan, then the City is indeed a very good choice. I initially wasn't a fan of the City but have come to respect (if not necessarily like) its driving dynamics. Seating position is excellent, and the new ones come with better MP3-device connectivity (via USB and auxiliary ports) and sleeker looking taillights. The most refined sedan in its class, without a doubt.

Toyota Altis 1.6E MT - I'm not a big fan of the Altis, more so of this segment. In my opinion, you're better off getting a sedan in the City/Fiesta/Accent class. There's more engineering ingenuity and more advancements in that segment. And the larger exterior space of the Altis doesn't translate to an equally larger interior space. Sure, it's bigger, but not by much.

By virtue of being smaller and lighter, the subcompact cars are more fuel-efficient and cheaper to maintain in the long run. Tire wear, brake pad wear and battery replacement costs, for example, will be lower with smaller cars than bigger cars. Moreover, subcompact cars are more responsive to driver input (sudden emergency lane changes to avoid accidents, for example, and shorter emergency braking distances). Ultimately, if you're like me who is always seesawing across the metro on a daily basis, subcompact cars are more convenient to zip around in traffic and shoot into the smallest, tightest parking spaces. That is the real genius of the small car.

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There's nothing wrong with the Altis. It's a good car, but it lacks a bit of imagination. The smaller cars have it outgunned and outclassed. You'll only miss the bigger car if you do a lot--and I mean a lot--of highway driving, wherein the bigger car's longer wheelbase and track width (plus heavier weight) give it better refinement and highway-speed stability.

Hyundai Elantra 1.6GL MT - I love the Elantra in all its variants. Even the 1.6, which initially felt slow, is actually very decent. It is roomy inside and has decent driving dynamics. The short front and rear overhangs make it actually easy to slot into tight spaces. Though the suspension rolls around a lot, you can trust it enough to lean on the suspension and find reserves of grip to power out of corners confidently. Seating and driving position is excellent, and the six-speed manual transmission makes for a very efficient highway cruiser when slotted into top gear (pun intended), while the closely stacked first five gears make for responsive acceleration in cut-and-thrust traffic driving. Hard to fault. It is the thinking man's choice in this segment.

Hyundai Accent GLS 1.6 AT - The 1.6-liter Accent is a rare breed. I heard through the grapevine that only five to 10 units of this particular variant arrive on our shores every month! It's something of a hot-rodder's dream, too: Slot in a big (big being relative here, of course) engine into a small body and you have one really torquey and responsive small car. I've never actually driven an Accent 1.6, but I was very happy with the driving dynamics afforded by the 1.4 variants (both stick and AT). The only complaint I can lodge against it is that, well, all my backseat passengers complained that it was tight. It is tighter than the Jazz, the Yaris, the Vios and the City, with perhaps the Mazda 2 (which is significantly smaller) being the only exception.

If I were to give a dark-horse recommendation, it would be the Mitsubishi Lancer EX 1.6 MX. It is really smooth, and it has a very torquey and responsive engine. I was so impressed with it that I loved it! It does everything an Altis does but much better, and I prefer the seating position for the driver as well as the handling characteristics. That's one car worth checking out, and since it's highly underrated and doesn't sell as well as it should, you might be able to wiggle out a nice hefty discount, too.

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I hope this helps. Good luck, God bless, and keep it safe!

 

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

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

 

Which fuel-efficient car should Jun get?
Honda City
Honda Jazz
Hyundai Accent
Hyundai Elantra
Mitsubishi Lancer
Toyota Altis

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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