A Top Gear PH reader asks: Which SUV should I get as graduation gift?

By Botchi Santos

Hi, Botchi! I'm a recent graduate with dreams of going around the Philippines by road one day. I am in the market for a graduation gift, hopefully an SUV that can take me to the ends of the Philippines and back, and be with me for at least 10 years. I'm choosing between a Toyota Fortuner and a Mitsubishi Montero Sport mainly because of their diesel engines, ground clearance and reliability. But I don't know which variant to look at specifically. Of course, I want as much off-road capability as possible. That probably means getting a 4x4, but do I really need it to pursue my dream of exploring the Philippines?

Right now, I am really interested in the Montero Sport GLS-V AT, but because it isn't a 4x4, I'm not yet 100% sure. I'm also considering the GLS-V 4x4 MT, but I think I'd like the comfort and convenience that an AT can provide. As for the GTV, I'm not a fan of its tacky go-fast accessories and the price tag, of course. So again, I'm not fully sure what to get.

For the Fortuner, I heard that the 2.5G is grossly underpowered. Is there any truth to this? The 3.0V would be perfect, if it weren't for its price tag as well. Please help.

Thanks in advance and more power!

Bryan Aldrich Chua

Aldrich, I hope this e-mail isn't too late yet. I apologize for that, and here's hoping you still haven't started your adventure yet.

Between the Toyota Fortunerand the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, I really prefer the latter because it has much better power. The revised Fortuner now also boasts a VGT, although peak power and torque figures remain the same. At least, however, the Fortuner's power curve has been improved and now gives better pick-up and response.

But if you'll be going as far north as Aparri and as far down south as Jolo (avoiding insurgency hot spots, of course), the Montero Sport might be your better bet. Here's why:

The Montero Sport's CRDi and VGT-equipped 4D56 lends itself better to poor fuel quality as opposed to Toyota's D-4D system, according to someone who has owned and driven both extensively. The Montero Sport also feels better to drive at really fast highway speeds (better for avoiding and running away from insurgency hot spots if you do find them down south), and its standard limited-slip differential offers better traction and stability. Driving on mixed surfaces (switching from tarmac to dirt and mud), the Montero Sport's Super Select 4WD system transitions between surfaces much better, and there's adequate stroke from the suspension to absorb most fast and high-speed bumps and ruts on the road.

Lastly, the brake system of the Montero Sport is phenomenal, and is very effective on tarmac, dirt and gravel surfaces--more so than the Fortuner's. This is a testament to Mitsubishi's strong rallying heritage in WRC and Paris-Dakar, where the Diamond Star brand is the most succesful of all the manufacturers. Find a typical farm-to-market dirt road and the Montero Sport will be in its element.

Perhaps the Fortuner's single ace against the Montero Sport is its hardcore, trail-driving off-road capability, which the Montero Sport does only fairly well. Equipped with a winch and proper off-road tires, the Fortuner makes light work of steep uphill, grassy and muddy terrain where the Montero Sport might have difficulty with. So, the questions you should be asking yourself are: How much off-roading will you be doing, and what kind of off-road driving will it be?

A wild-card alternative is the Hyundai Santa Fe. It has loads of power and loads of refinement (thanks to its car-based crossover architecture), but offers limited off-road capability. But on the highway, both the Toyota and the Mitsubishi will never know which way the Santa Fe went.

Another choice to consider is the Isuzu Alterra. It's old and relatively slow, but has arguably the best off-road capability in this class. And its bigger size means you can load up more supplies when you go cross-country. I'm not a fan of the Alterra, but I can't deny its off-road talents.

I hope this reaches you in time. Good luck and God bless. Tell us about your cross-country adventures. Take lots of pictures and post them on social-media sites!

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

Do you want Botchi to help you pick the right car? Send your inquiry to [email protected]

Which SUV should Bryan Aldrich get as his graduation gift?


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  • VR40DETT Mar 25 2013 @ 11:37am
    san ang trailblazer?? hmmm
    • mhikk Mar 25 2013 @ 11:58am
      LS is planning to keep it for at least 10years. So he is choosing between the two proven/reliable SUVs. Alterra is proven as well. Sta Fe 2.2 tuned for high power? .... Hmmmmm.... gudluck na lang sa end-users who will no longer avail the casa's strict maintenance scheme and pampering schedules after their warranty expires.
      • gvm0116 Mar 25 2013 @ 06:30pm
        What's wrong with the trailblazer, then? Are you saying it won't last that long? I've read somewhere that the TB's components around the engine is designed to last at least 240,000kms (though to be honest, can't say whether or not it is true). But for sure, the TB is durable and reliable as it shares quite a lot with the upcoming Isuzu SUV.
      • mhikk Mar 26 2013 @ 11:57am
        See? you even doubt if the design can hold its promise because there is no proof yet.
        It takes considerable amount of time and quantity to be called proven.
        • gvm0116 Mar 27 2013 @ 05:32pm
          The 5 years warranty should be good enough to win me over. I said, I've read. On the other hand, I haven't read anything pertaining to the design of the components of the montero sport or fortuner that should last for even 200,000kms.
        • mhikk Mar 28 2013 @ 09:50pm
          Letter sender is planning to keep it "at least" 10 years.
          He wants something reliable.

          Trailblazer is promising but its track record is still a work in progress with unknown results yet.

          So reliability wise and longevity wise, we cant blame the letter sender if his choices is only between the two he mentioned.
          • gvm0116 Mar 29 2013 @ 06:35pm
            The thing is... neither of the two mentioned (fort and monty) is yet to reach 10 years since its introduction. The only basis for reliability, based on your arguement, is "brand reputation", and I can't blame you for that. However, other Toyota models are quite fragile now as well. The Vios can't quite cope with too much heat if driven on extended hours in slow moving traffic. And lest we forget, the fort, together with its siblings, have encountered several problems with its injectors (though there are claims that it has been fixed already) in the past due to poor fuel quality. Regardless, it all boils down on how the owner maintains his or her car. I, for one, drive an 18yr. old SUV and I'm proud to say the damn oldtimer still runs like clock work. Furthermore, there are Kia prides that are still in good condition as well. If the buyer wants his new ride to last that long, all he needs to do, regardless of the brand, is take good care of it.
            • mhikk Mar 30 2013 @ 08:53am
              We are just talking about and comparing specific models here. My basis is not your so called "brand reputation".

              On the prodect development side, the main purpose of making gen1, gen2, gen3 (we also call it mk1, mk2, mk3) is to better predict the reliability by retaining some certain percentage of parts and components from previous model that has been proven effective and reliable as time goes by.

              You may see new body but most of the components subjected to wear and tear are retained if proven effective and reliable.

              You maybe not aware that once the supply chain has been mobilized, the "design freeze" will take effect for a a year or 2. So what ever defect in the first batches has to be correct at the assembly factory causing order backlogs
              just ignore the design defects if production pressure is too much then just correct the issue at the dealership in a case-by-case basis. It means if somebody complain repair/replace it with no question ask. If no complain then wala.... heheheh

              Any pro-active design change or enhancement will just take effect after churning out the first bulk orders. It usually happens at the third year. Then every year thereafter because budget are allotted on a yearly basis.

              Can you picture it out now? Why specific model track record is important (in the past) for longevity and if someone is planning to keep it up to the next decade?

              Anyway if you have much money and capable of buying new car after 5years, then warranty and how the dealership manage the claims is enough.
            • mhikk Mar 30 2013 @ 09:03am
              By the way, no amount of taken care effort can correct the design defects. It will just last a little longer but not long enough.

              If that is your thinking then all brand is okay. You can buy any Chinese brand then...:)
              • gvm0116 Mar 30 2013 @ 07:23pm
                Well, I think I got your point, but nonetheless, I still am convinced the trailblazer is the better choice. I am likewise convinced that it will be as tough as nails as its engine is similar to that of the upcoming alterra/d-max. And by the way, you may not know, VMMOTORI is known for its diesel engines worldwide.
              • mhikk Mar 30 2013 @ 11:09pm
                For bragging rights, TB is the best choice. Simply because it is new and promising.

                But for the requirements of the letter sender, its not. Not for the time being.

                Maybe 3 years from now and if there is not much trouble, it is already safe to say. So for now, we can't blame someone for being conservative with his advice especially if he attach his complete name and photo in his public statement. someone like Botchi Santos?

                Again,when it comes to reliability and longevity. Its all about time, the test of time and the evolution of the design and subsequent products.

                Mga manufacturer nga mismo ay mas gugustuhin pa ang bibili na lang ng mga proven well tested (for number of years) na drivetrain components and control system from other allied manufacturer.

                Kasi kung from scratch na design and manufacturing, mapapakamot talaga.

                Kung walang makuha, they usually do soft start (like beta test) by:
                Implementing changes/verifications sa out going models/generation (marketing people calls it "limited edition")
                Producing only a limited number of units in the first year or 2 (marketing guys calls it "mahaba ang pila"... hahaha)

                By the way, the VMMotori of Italy in the Trailblazer is the Machine (technology). That is 1 of the at least 6Ms needed.

                The other 5Ms are:
                Method (process, new engine manufacturing plant in Thailand)
                Material (especially bearings, gears, castings, electronics, etc),
                Man Power (newly hires locals of Thailand?),
                Measurement (Inspection),
                Mother Nature (Environment previously engine is for colder Europe now hotter Asia and Latin Americas)

                Let see then how the engine Machine (technology) originally designed and well known in colder Europe behave in hotter regions for some years from now.

                Let see also if the probably from nearby foundries can match the casting quality of the Europeans.

                Subaybayan na rin natin kung bakit nanliligaw na naman ang GM sa Isuzu.
    • VR40DETT Mar 25 2013 @ 12:22pm
      TB and alterra has similarities though...
    • d0nmiguel Aug 26 2013 @ 06:50am
      yes bakit wala traillazer!
  • GotToRead Mar 25 2013 @ 11:39am
  • lord_cykb24 Mar 25 2013 @ 11:45am
    like his statement here....
    A wild-card alternative is the Hyundai Santa Fe. It has loads of power and loads of refinement (thanks to its car-based crossover architecture), but offers limited off-road capability. But on the highway, both the Toyota and the Mitsubishi will never know which way the Santa Fe went.
  • barry Mar 25 2013 @ 12:01pm
    a kia sorento will be a dark-horse between the latter...
  • JoHunter Mar 25 2013 @ 12:04pm
    Botchi asked the right question: how much off-roading do you actually plan to do? If you're envisioning extensive treks over sand, rocks and shallow rivers, then go for the one with the better off-road capabilities. In this list that would be the Fortuner. Personally I'd recommend the Range Rover (best SUV in the world), but it's way too expensive.

    But yeah, I echo the "Where's the Trailblazer?" question.
  • 17Sphynx17 Mar 25 2013 @ 12:11pm
    Space doesn't even seem to be a consideration. I'm more in line then with the Sta Fe. Given that the letter sender doesn't appear to be a hard core off-roader anyway. Maybe he just means to take it to dirt/gravel roads to get to a certain destination, but not steep rocky hill climbs.

    For me then. Sta Fe/Sorento (with the 5 year warranty at least) are at the top, then the TB 4x4, the the Fort 4x4, then the Monty 4x4.
  • Mr. McMahon Mar 25 2013 @ 12:17pm
    The Best sakin ung Toyota Fortuner & Mitsubishi Montero Sport ksi Matatag sila sa Daan at Malakas sa Akyatan. =)
    • John Rigor Apr 06 2013 @ 10:34am
      hahaha! :)) If you have driven the Korean SUV's you'll truly know what matatag and malakas sa akyatan means.
  • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 25 2013 @ 12:47pm
    Among the given choices, Montero Sport GLS-V 4WD will best suit your needs. This isn't surpirsing since the Montero Sport has the off-road rally-genes of the Pajero despite of having fancy advantages, it still comes w/ a very affordable pricetag of P1,550M.

    Also, dahil graduate ka na malaya ka nang pumorma, the Montero Sport has the modern looks that is surprisingly not new already unlike other SUVs that will make you look like a grandfather because of its looks that is very native to its home country. Among the midsize SUVs today, the Montero Sport is the most stylish SUV among its class that even makes people 40 look even younger like muly uncle(peace uncle joe if you ever see this ^_^)

    Don't also believe people that it has a very weak off-roading capability, as if their off-road vehicles are in stock form when they use it off-road...

    Surely, the Montero Sport is the one that will suit you needs, and wants ;)
    • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 25 2013 @ 01:02pm
      my* uncle
    • carwiki Mar 29 2013 @ 03:09pm
      I'm sorry Kyoichi. I disagree with your line that the letter sender shouldn't believe people that the Montero has weak off-roading capability. I think Montero shares its platform with the Strada pick-up counterpart (which has also weak off-roading capability). My dad's friend previously owns a Strada 3.2 GLS Sport and currently replaced a 2.5 GLS Sport V. When we docked off his trailer (Jet Ski trailer to be exact), of course, he should climb the rocky trails in the shore, then the Strada's 4WD can't do it for the truck to climb. Still stuck in, as I say. He needs a back-up to pull him up.
      • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 29 2013 @ 10:28pm
        Kasing bigat ba ng bahay jetski ng tito mo? NEVER nagkaproblema ninong ko sa Strada nya kpag hinihila ung trailer nya kpag kelangan nya ung jetski nya...

        Don't worry dude, kpag napasyal kmi sa bahay ng ninong ko picturan ko pa ung Strada nya w/ the trailer kpag nagkataon na nakakabit tpos post ko sa TTGPh...
        • macmaba Apr 06 2013 @ 04:56pm
          I own a strada and it never failed me on my mountain trips and river crossings, fully laden or not. There are a lot of factors that can affect a pickups' ability to climb like correct tire pressure. I can attest the Strada is not a weak off- roader even in stock form. The weak link most probably in your friend's case was himself if he was the driver of the strada pulling that jetski.

          All pickups and suv equivalents are capable off-roaders. The only question is how tough the components and parts of each vehicle brand in stock form.
    • carwiki Mar 29 2013 @ 03:10pm
      By the way, sorry for the off-topic because Montero's platform shares with the Strada.
    • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 29 2013 @ 10:31pm
      Hate me more, Mitsu-haters. Tingnan lang natin ano mangyari sa inyo paglabas ng next-gen Montero Sport & Strada hehehehehe...
  • 16bab16 Mar 25 2013 @ 12:49pm
    Toyota fortuner improves by mitsubishi and they called MONTERO. Both fortuner and montero improves by chevrolet called TRAILBLAZER. Means as of now all the specs and performance will be goes to trailblazer. Waiting for the improvement of trailblazer, hope it is came from ford called as everest? ? ? ? Good day everybody
    • bruce Mar 25 2013 @ 02:35pm
      nalito ako.. ???
    • bruce Mar 25 2013 @ 02:36pm
      got it na! i do hope also that Ford will release the Everest very soon!
      • focusjohann Mar 25 2013 @ 11:14pm
        I think what he's trying to say is TRAILBLAZER > MONTERO > FORTUNER.
  • 16bab16 Mar 25 2013 @ 12:49pm
    Toyota fortuner improves by mitsubishi and they called MONTERO. Both fortuner and montero improves by chevrolet called TRAILBLAZER. Means as of now all the specs and performance will be goes to trailblazer. Waiting for the improvement of trailblazer, hope it is came from ford called as everest? ? ? ? Good day everybody
  • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 25 2013 @ 12:57pm
    I'd also like to commend Sir Botchi's more impressive writing, your expressive opinions and ideas have improved helping people to choose the right vehicle for them people who always gets Sir Botchi's ideas and expressions...
  • Machspeed Mar 25 2013 @ 01:41pm
    Montero is newer and has better toys compared to the Fortuner (I previously owned the 1st-gen 2.7 VVTi model).
  • meloster Mar 25 2013 @ 02:40pm
    wag ka na mag SUV mag RANGER wildtrakk ka na lang para mas pogi, pang off road talaga yun
    • lord_cykb24 Mar 25 2013 @ 04:14pm
      I'll wait for the GR-HEV
  • raphnext21 Mar 25 2013 @ 04:48pm
    vios na lang
  • myas110 Mar 25 2013 @ 04:59pm
    pansin ko lang...mejo bias si sir Botchi sa Montero....
    • gvm0116 Mar 25 2013 @ 06:32pm
      Versus the fortuner? I agree with him.
      • Brentot_22 Mar 25 2013 @ 11:52pm
        kaya nga medyo bias nga!!!!
  • rjca Mar 25 2013 @ 07:16pm
    Does it necessarily have to be a 7 seater? You could save a big chunk of change by foregoing the SUV and getting a 4x4 pickup instead. You might even have spare change to go for a lift and all terrain tires. Off the top of my head, the Ranger (value for money), Hilux (will last the test of time), Strada will be good options. Just let the other 2 people you were planning to bring find another ride.
  • markdejesus76 Mar 25 2013 @ 07:45pm
    Fortuner ako dito. Base sa choices lang. Montero can do as much off-roading as the Fortuner IMHO. The difference between Fortuner and Montero is the Torque pick-up. Mas mabilis kumagat yung Torque ng Fortuner sa Montero kaya mas madali sa off-roading yung Fortuner. Pero if may momentum na, kaya naman ng Montero. Pero kung AT lang, Fortuner lang talaga sa choice. But madami pang iba, Trailblazer looks good pero base sa dimensions ng choices mo, TB is just too long. (also, I don't like their 3rd row window) pero good pick din sya. Everest din actually. Automatic? One of the most simple yet delivering Automatic in the group at tungkol sa comfort ng 19" wheels nya? okay naman. Halos walang pinagkaiba sa ibang SUV. Okay din yung Santa Fe. Pero kung Santa Fe lang din, Sorento na lang ako. Better looking IMO.
  • yokam888 Mar 25 2013 @ 09:42pm
    "...avoiding insurgency hot spots, of course"

    plus 1 to this... don't let your dream become a nightmare XD

    good idea ang exploration, but the philippine islands are so fragmented, you and your vehicle will spend most of your time at sea on a barge/boat. from luzon you need to travel by boat to reach the visayas, and the visayas region being the most fragmented, you need to travel by boat again to explore each major island like cebu, bohol etc. then after visayas, you need to travel by boat again to reach mindanao. medyo malaki laki na ang road time sa mindanao but like botchi said, you will surely avoid areas prone to danger, so you will likely explore only the eastern part of mindanao.

    can 1.7million buy a yacht? i think it suits the letter sender better XD
  • mindkinetic Mar 25 2013 @ 11:28pm
    bryan chua if you truly intend to test the mettle of your SUV and you wanted to hear from a guy that clocked 5000 km going cross country and traversing dirt road from medium to a more serious off road then i'd say the TB is your best bet. Best in damping technology vs all of its contemporaries, maneuverability even in meander roads, good sound set up to spice up your road trip and superb power and torque the TrailBlazer outshines the competition .
  • crispinbasilio86 Mar 26 2013 @ 05:11am
    Kung interasado ka sa Montero kunin mo na para no regrets. Na drive ko na ang montero 2.5 and 3.2 both vgt ok ang hataw sa superhighway at di matagtag. Ok ang comments ni Sir Botchi.
    • Kyoichi Sudo Mar 26 2013 @ 08:26pm

      correction: wla pang VGT version ang 3.2L MS, baka sa next-gen na lumabas ang version nito...
  • FortunerRocks Mar 26 2013 @ 10:21pm
    For me Kung Kaya Mo Naman Ang 3.0V Vnt Ng Fortuner Buy it na Pero Kung gusto mo medyo mura Montero ka na GLS-V ka na... pero for me Fortuner...
    • murcielago Apr 14 2013 @ 07:23pm
      Kaya Fortuner ang pangalan mo? :D haha, Pero True POGI din naman ang fortuner eh :]
  • carwiki Mar 27 2013 @ 03:47pm
    Go for the Trailblazer! Taste the power and the design of the new kid-on-the-block... It's acceleration is very responsive and it's really an off-roader. With 800mm of flood wading capability, you can traverse floods that is up to chest level. And it brags out 180hp and 470Nm of torque. Unlike Montero Sport and Fortuner that has ONLY 500mm wading capability.

    Trailblazer: 180hp and 470Nm of torque
    Montero Sport (4x4 2.5 liter): 177hp and 350Nm of torque
    Fortuner 3.0 V D-4D: 161hp and 343Nm of torque

    Still, the Trailblazer is the best among midsize SUVs.
    • gvm0116 Mar 28 2013 @ 11:43am
      Chest level, really? How tall are you? I'm 5'9" and with my height, chest level means the engine is already submerged in water. That is 1,295mm deep already. Consider this, to put it into persspective, 800mm is equivalent to 31 and a half inches. On average Pinoys, that is JUST roughly waistline level and in my case, just below it. Eventhough, I agree that currently, the TB is my pick.
      • carwiki Mar 28 2013 @ 12:56pm
        I just only think it's on chest level. Well, my height is 5 feet and a half to 5'6".
    • markdejesus76 Mar 29 2013 @ 08:47pm
      As far as my (and others'0 experience goes, wading capability ? Konti lang halos effect eh. 1998, Mazda pick-up, very low, pero kaya na isubmerge sa 500mm flood ng walang kahirap hirap. Montero sport? May video nga sa Youtube na sumuong sa flood na abot hanggang wind shield yung baha ee. ahaha. 500mm wading capability lang ba yun?
  • iandits21 Mar 28 2013 @ 11:28pm
    for me, still a good choice is between the two of monty and fort..comparison of engine power is not really needed. ndi naman pang karera mga suv's na yan e..trapik pa lagi sa mga daanan, and lastly it depends on the driver..hehe
  • drpjan Mar 29 2013 @ 05:50pm
    why don't you get both para di ka na maguluhan pa. Pang color coding din naman eh. :-)
  • reyjason Mar 31 2013 @ 09:10am
    Get the Everest or Trail Blazer
  • dencio Mar 31 2013 @ 06:49pm
    yes where is trailblazer, the freshest SUV in the market toda
    • The Stig Apr 06 2013 @ 12:40am
      Thats the thing...its fresh...di pa alam ang mga magiging problems and the sender is thinking of an suv that would last about 10 years...but nasa paggamit and pamaintain lng din naman nyan...
  • torquebender Apr 01 2013 @ 03:17pm
  • The Stig Apr 06 2013 @ 12:52am
    Others are saying na di kailangan na mabilis...the sender plans to travel all over the philippines...I tell u go get the more ps one cause u will have that need for speed pagdating sa maguindanao...just saying...halos naikot ko na kase ang mindanao...and if u wanna get dirty, y not get a pickup like the ranger(wildtrak or not)?.power, off road capabilities and the price is good...lots to load pa sa likod for very long trips...
  • John Rigor Apr 06 2013 @ 10:31am
    If you really plan to explore the Philippines, I think its a must to have 4x4's. Just imagine the joy of bringing your own car up Pinatubo, or having fun in the sand dunes of Paoay using your own car. Plus, there are many backroads in the country that are slippery and steep, especially during the rainy season.

    1 to whoever suggested pickups! :) It would be great for those out of town excursions since you could put a lot of load at the back. If it's pickups, then I suggest the new Ranger.

    But if you really need the extra seats in the back or you really want an SUV that is capable off roads, then I guess get a manual (so it'd last longer and is easier to maintain) Montero GLS-V 4x4. The Santa Fe is not really as serious off roader, so I really think you shouldn't consider it much.
  • kingjess Apr 09 2013 @ 08:07pm
    sir botchi, i wanna know more about the FC of suzuki celerio and other significant information regarding this car, im planning to buy one because i heard that during the DOE test it runs 34.XX km/liter, i was not able to read from the real user about these claim, i hope you could enlighten me regarding this matter sir, thank you very much and more power.
  • murcielago Apr 14 2013 @ 07:22pm
    Why Not try Trailblazer?
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