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Top Gear Philippines

Ensure wet-road safety with these practical tips
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Hi, Botchi!

I am a big fan of Top Gear Philippines magazine. I bought my very first copy at a school book fair. If I had more baon, I'd have bought every single issue there.

Anyway, I'm kind of lost in a sea of cars and I don't know which one to buy. I'm 21 years and fresh out of college. My parents are thinking of buying a car as a graduation gift for me. I'm looking at hot hatches since they really bring out my status as a single bachelor.

My choices are the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, Mazda 3, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai i30. I don't care about cargo space nor comfort. I just want a car that's sporty, fast, easy to park and drive, durable, and reliable. It should grip corners and it shouldn't rust over time. My budget is P900,000 and I can't go over that.

Now, even if these hatchbacks are what I have in mind, I'm still open to other options, which may be compact and subcompact cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer EX, Honda Civic, Hyundai Accent, Honda City and the Toyota Vios. I'm also willing to consider any car you'd recommend as long as it's within my budget.

Thank you so much and more power.

JV

Hi, JV!

Thanks for your email. It's very refreshing to find a query from someone looking for a fast car to drive hard just for the heck of it, without consideration for mundane everyday requirements and limitations we all have to live with!

Since you've carefully qualified and identified your requirements in a car, I'd recommend you take a closer look at these cars:

Ford Fiesta. This is easily the best performer in its class, thanks to its 1.6-liter engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Handling of the Fiesta is truly on the sporty side, and it corners like it's on rails. The six-speed twin-clutch transmission, however, shifts pretty slowly--almost comparable to a regular automatic transmission. I can't understand why Ford did something like this. But the Fiesta is really sharp and it’s very enjoyable to drive--very fast, and very able on both road and track. No wonder Ken Block drives it now.

Honda Jazz. This is almost as good as the Fiesta, dynamically speaking, but it comes in a better package overall because of the space and versatility of its interior. Since you don't care about interior space, then this makes a very, very close second to the Ford hatchback. When you consider the aftermarket industry's support for this car, however, it has the ability to outdo the Fiesta, which currently has a very limited aftermarket support.

Toyota Yaris. This is not as sharp as the Ford Fiesta but it handles and drives quite well. There's a Vitz (the Yaris's name in Japan) Netz Cup One-Make Race Series, a proof that the Yaris has a fine starting base for performance. There's also immense aftermarket support for this hatchback. Too bad though that its transmission is overly long-geared and the engine doesn't make as much power as the Fiesta and the Jazz even if they all match when it comes to fuel efficiency. I'd say it's down a step or two compared to the Fiesta and the Jazz. A new one is rumored to come out in the second half of the year so watch for that as well.

Suzuki Swift. This is a really fine-handling car. No wonder it does well as a starting point for Super 1600 Rally Car Formula. It's also a popular track car in Japan and Europe. My problem with this is it's fairly old, and it really feels old. The space, interior layout and dash architecture traces its roots back to the 1990s. And it's also very tight--the tightest among this bunch of cars. But right now, there's already a huge aftermarket support for the Swift. Suzuki is also selling the stylish and aggressive bodykits from its Suzuki Sport model range. The Suzuki Swift deserves a second look if performance is all you're after. It does have the least powerful engine but it comes with the option of a proper five-speed manual transmission like the Yaris.

Among the cars listed above, the Yaris will probably be the cheapest and the Jazz, the most expensive. The Swift may potentially be the most difficult to maintain due to Suzuki's limited dealership network. The Fiesta, if you consider a typical Ford car's performance in the used-car market three to five years from now, will probably be the worst. Nothing is perfect but it's important for you to be happy with your decision. I myself bought a Yaris a few years ago because there was a huge discount from Toyota. I used the money I saved on performance mods: wheels, big brakes, coil-over suspension, copious amounts of chassis braces and basic engine bolt-on bits plus an RS bodykit. I'm happy with it! I saw the Yaris's potential for a good tuning platform despite its being the second-best out of the showroom floor because performance is also important to me. Not everyone shares my views on car and tuning though, and some people prefer to leave a car stock right out of the box.

There are two adages car enthusiasts adhere to: "If it's stock, it don't rock!" and "If you wanna rock it, stock it!" The decision is all up to you.

Given your budget, looking at bigger cars may disappoint as you'd only be able to get entry-level variants that are no fun to drive.

Good luck and I hope this helps. Take care and God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle!

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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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