A Top Gear Philippines reader asks: What's a good compact SUV?

By Botchi Santos

Good day! I'm an avid Top Gear subscriber. I am planning to buy a compact sport-utility vehicle. I'm looking at the Chevrolet Captiva diesel and wondering about its after-sales maintenance costs? I would also like a vehicle that has a car-like feel to it, with enough space for balikbayan boxes. Any other suggestions?

Hope you can help. Thanks and more power!

Rey Benedict Ramos

Hi, Rey!Thank you for your e-mail. I hope things are well with you.

I can't comment on how costly the regular servicing of a Chevrolet Captiva is, as we journalists--though we get to test the cars comprehensively--don't often experience actually owning and servicing most cars. All I can say is that, in terms of support and parts availability, the Chevrolet brand is doing far better than before, thanks to the new distributor, The Covenant Car Company Incorporated.

Just so you know, they are the best in their field. They belong to the same group that handles Volvo and Hyundai in our country, so they have extensive experience in the industry. I particularly like the Captiva diesel myself. I came away impressed after a brief three-day test drive. The vehicle offered excellent power, efficiency and interior room/space. It is the only compact SUV in the market that has seven-seat capability, whereas all the other compact SUVs make do with only five seats.

Should you want something different, I offer two Korean compact SUVs: the Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage. Both cars are excellent compact SUVs that have gone a long way from their humble Korean predecessors. Of the two, the Kia is my favorite as it looks more stylish, more daring and more eye-catching, thanks to new chief designer Peter Schreyer(formerly from Audi) overhauling the Kia brand's design DNA with a more modern and global look. Diesel variants of the Sportage are coming soon, but be prepared to wait as supply is still unfortunately on the low side.

The Tucson was the first Korean SUV that really made me take notice of how far Hyundai had come, especially with its excellent R-eVGT-equipped CRDi engine. It looks great, but compared to the Kia, it doesn't feel as high-quality. It's not that the Hyundai is no good or is inferior; it's just that the Sportage is so much better to look at and sit in.

As with all compact SUVs, drop the seats down and you can load them up with as much as three balikbayan boxes (depending on the size of the box, of course). I did notice that the Tucson's interior tends to scratch far more easily compared to the Captiva and the Sportage.

Want something Japanese? TheNissan X-Trail seems to be a very good but very underrated option. It drives great, has a far better quality compared to the previous model, and is roomier than its predecessor with the same cargo space available if you drop down the rear seats.

The Subaru Forester is actually my favorite in this group because it feels like a sports car on stilts, but I feel your focus is more on cargo space. The Subaru has moderate cargo-space compared to the other SUVs that I just mentioned, focusing more on driving dynamics than real-world practicality. Plus, I always recommend the turbocharged XT variant because the non-turbo models tend to be very slow and thirsty. But if excitement is what you want, nothing--and I mean nothing--can beat the Forester Turbo 2.5 XT!

Hope this helps you in time. Good luck and God bless. Drive carefully!

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

What compact SUV should Rey Benedict purchase?


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  • d.lake Jul 05 2012 @ 12:06am
    Captiva. It will be launch within the year. Newer than the other. Has the advantage of a 7 seater
    • maranello_5775 Jul 05 2012 @ 02:21am
      actually the facelifted captiva is now available in chevy dealers
      • d.lake Jul 05 2012 @ 10:04am
        oh i see. thanks. didnt know that
        • jon1441 Jul 05 2012 @ 10:45am
          my cousin told me that captiva's maintenance is expensive. it cost him 8,000php and up.
  • joab565 Jul 05 2012 @ 12:06am
    CX-5 & CRV not included in the shortlist?
  • RS500 Jul 05 2012 @ 12:19am
    Balikbayan boxes? Crossout Tucson and Sportage. Pwede naman kaso dapat naka fold ung 2nd row seats. X-trail, CRV, Captiva, and Rav4 ang may spacious na cargo area.
  • GotToRead Jul 05 2012 @ 01:32am
    You might wanna consider the CX-5, 155 HP and 150 lb-feet of torque which is pretty descent in its class. Expect 33 mpg for highway and 26 mpg in the city, thanks to Mazda's newest engine technology, Skyactiv
  • markdejesus76 Jul 05 2012 @ 06:14am
    Ang dami pa sanang choices. CR-V, CX-5, ASX. Kung kasama Captiva sa list, pwede din sana Montero Sport, Fortuner, Everest. He worries about after-sales maintenance cost eh ang alam ko medyo mahal maintenance ng Subaru dito? (oh mali ako?). Captiva is a good choice na.
  • kokoykokoy Jul 05 2012 @ 07:53am
    Mr. Ramos may seem to look for a Diesel powered Compact SUV, with 7 seats and an adequate cargo space for balikbayan boxes. Perhaps, we must know first how many passengers do he expect to load his future SUV for the reason that if he normally does six passengers (7 in total passengers including the driver) it may be hard for him to fit balikbayan boxes even if he has a seven seater mid-size SUV. Since he is initially looking for a Captiva, it would be a good choice considering that it has 150hp on its turbocharged engine plus a feature called "active rear suspension leveling" for a bit heavy cargo at tha back of the Captiva. In terms of after market service, I think it would do good whether it is a korean brand or a chevy since they both on the "rise" pace meaning they were said to be on the path of continues improvement over the recent years. But if you want more power without compromising its fuel economy, you are free to check on the koreans but as Sir Botchi said, they were not a seven seater considering the Captiva according to him is the only seven seater in its class.
  • isaac3654 Jul 05 2012 @ 08:15am
    Bakit wala ang Honda CR-V??? :O X-Trail lang ang valid sa list =)) Since its practicality and car-like handling, nothing beats the time tested formula of the Honda CR-V, and the new generation is no exception to that formula of practicality, space, and car-like handling. The CX-5 is another choice because it has a large-ish boot and is fun to drive.
  • mindkinetic Jul 05 2012 @ 08:37am
    hi rey allow me to start my comment by mentioning that i own a chevrolet captiva 4x2 diesel. i purchased this very able suv back in 2009. i took into consideration some features availble in this brand but lacking in the rest such as hydraulic rod that when you open your engine compartment, cooler in your glove compartment , self leveling technology and it has the best damping technology in it's class.. but what i wanted to share is it's ability to take abuse. i often travel in the vismin area. this is where my work is at. on many occassions when time is copious i'd ryher take a road trip to my visit in my network here in vismin. sample of which is cebu to negros to panay then back to arriental then cebu again. or cdo to davao to butuan back to cdo . you see longdrive is my way of relaxing stopping by to smell the roses. believe me since 2009 to 2012 i never had any issue in my captiva. truly its not a perfect suv( btw i likewise own a 2006 tucson, 2010 swift and 2012 bimmer) so i know some weak points of the captiva such as percievable body roll but mind me when i say this is one hell of a reliable suv and can easily negotiate any type of terrain from smooth paved roads to rough and rugged off the road drives. the power is capable at 150 and the torque is more than just enough at 320 . i use to haul heavy stuff and yet i dont feel that the engine is being stress beyond its point of capability. many say chevrolet has
    a relatively low resale value. well as for me qualify your reason of buying. car or any vehicle is a lost cause in investment. but if you intend to keep
    your suv for all the history to you make with it the chevrolet captiva diesel will
    be your dependable partner in writing down indelible stories you encounter down the road. i wish you more abundance rey and a happy pick for whichever suv you choose!
    • DePendot Jul 05 2012 @ 10:25am
      thanks for a very comprehensive feedback sir :-) sana ganito lahat ng review may positive and negative.
    • jvcustodio926 Jul 05 2012 @ 12:32pm
      This is a good comment from mindkinetic. He has described his involvement with the vehicle, thus, his comment is based from experience, not perception and opinion. Nice, indeed.
  • bongski Jul 05 2012 @ 10:03am
    With all these comparison, comments, and suggestion. Hope you can choose the right suv for your needs
    Enjoy and safe driving....
  • jon1441 Jul 05 2012 @ 10:42am
    Hi, I want to post in your website about cars. I would like to know what is the procedure to post to Mr. Botchi Santos. I would like to seek a guidance to him in what car should i buy, Hyundai i10, Suzuki Swift, Kia Picanto, Kia Rio. All Automatic Transmission. Thank you.
  • 17Sphynx17 Jul 05 2012 @ 01:07pm
    If it is CUV, then among what was mentioned it looks like Captiva is the better choice, especially with the diesel trim.

    Wildcard if gasoline fed is the newly launched Mazda Cx5. But I am wondering why he mentioned the hauling capacity for balikbayan boxes? For CUVs, you really can't stack 2 boxes so you are really limited to just 1 level of boxes. This would mean folding down the middle row just to fit in 3 or 4 boxes (unless the balikbayan boxes is of a smaller size/volume.)

    Since he didn't mention his area, I'm not sure whether Korean brands are accessible to him. They are good, but major parts like turbos and suspensions take longer to arrive hence you end up with a bogged down vehicle for about 3 weeks min most of the time. If this is a regular vehicle, I wouldn't really be able to recommend it. But if it is a weekend vehicle, then it is okay.

    Xtrail pretty much drinks gasoline compared to the other marquees, I'm not sure if this is okay with him. They usually range 5-6km/l in city driving if I am not mistaken (so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong). On average, city consumption should be around 7-8 for these vehicles to make it at least a non-gas guzzler for me., Anything above is pretty much a bonus/plus and is great. =)

    good luck in your purchase.
  • sachiel Jul 05 2012 @ 04:38pm
    My Xtrail CVT achieves 5.6km/L pure city driving. Highways can reach 8-9km/L but can go higher if you drive conservatively. My highway FC is aggressive overtaking so it drank more gas. My previous 2L Xtrail got 6.3km/L pure city driving. But never had any major issues so it's still worth it.
  • rpal Jul 05 2012 @ 08:44pm
    Subaru XV!!
  • macpro Jul 06 2012 @ 10:18am
    The tucson and sportage are nice crossovers but they have really small luggage space if you dont fold rear seats. I think these cars defeats the purpose of buying a CUV in the first place. It seems that a honda jazz can even beat these cuvs in terms of luggage space. For me, a suv/cuv must be able to seat at least 5 people and still have reasonable luggage space left. I think the better options would be the crv, captiva, xtrail.
  • carwiki Jul 06 2012 @ 06:25pm
  • Kyoichi Sudo Jul 06 2012 @ 09:02pm
  • rarq23 Jul 06 2012 @ 10:26pm
    There are a lot of video reviews in YouTube that show Subaru Forester can load the largest box against RAV4 or CRV. Sa shape ng Chevrolet Captiva at Nissan X-Trail sa likod mukhang panalo pa rin Forester.

    Car like feel? Panalo pa rin Forester. Mas madali pa nga i-drive ang Forester kesa sa Altis.
  • rarq23 Jul 08 2012 @ 09:12pm
  • gurojam Jul 15 2012 @ 08:59am
    Hi there, what's your email, il email you about my 1 week defective SUV release on July 5, 2012. Such a disappointment and as a Family who recognized that Company for decades, maybe il have to shift to other competitors, i was even eyeing for their Sportscar but not anymore.

    Chow bro.
  • aaalfonso Oct 20 2012 @ 04:08pm
    (Your thoughts on the article...)
  • aaalfonso Oct 20 2012 @ 04:11pm
    Hi Botchi.I need your expert advice with regards to my upcoming purchase of a car/van.which is better in terms of performance,fuel economy and price,an Isuzu Sportivo or a Toyota Innova.Many Thanks in advance.
  • aaalfonso Oct 20 2012 @ 04:13pm
    I prefer the automatic variant for both brands.Many Thanks again.
  • papet_bubba Jan 06 2013 @ 12:32pm
    how do you mail sir botchi? i have a question for him.
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