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Top Gear Philippines

'If you like driving, you will love this car.'

Hi, Botchi!

My husband and I find your column very helpful and entertaining. We hope that Top Gear can include at least two Wrong Car, Right Car articles in every issue.

We plan to purchase a vehicle that can stand the test of time--say ten years. Our shortlist consists of two cars: an MPV (Innova J diesel) and a pickup truck (Strada GL).  We are also looking at the facelifted Toyota Altis G with manual transmission that now has the 1.6-liter dual VVT-i engine and the 1.6-liter Ford Fiesta five-door Powershift Trend-variant that was recently released. 

Since we plan to use the vehicle for a long time, the main factors we consider are safety features, maintenance cost and fuel efficiency. We understand that diesel is cheaper than gasoline, however, when it comes to the maintenance cost. We heard that diesel vehicles are more expensive to maintain.

We'd appreciate if you can share your thoughts about these four vehicles. Also, please feel free to recommend others cars that are below P860,000.

Thanks very much and more power to you!

Stephanie

Hi, Stephanie!

Thank you very much for the kind words! While it would be great if we could do two WCRC features in each month, it will unfortunately be the death of me. Getting one done each month already takes quite a bit of herculean effort form the entire team, which is basically spent prodding me to turn in my late assignments and articles!

Now as for your query, a vehicle is unfortunately a wear-and-tear item. While most vehicles, particularly highly-engineered luxury cars are designed to last roughly 25 years, getting one reliably past five years, let alone 10 years, is difficult indeed. It is crucial to follow the preventive maintenance schedule religiously so both you and your husband don't end up PMS-ing many years into the car's service life. Never go cheap on the fluids (engine oil, transmission oil, engine coolant, hydraulic fluid for the brakes and power steering, etc.) plus always use original or high-quality aftermarket filters (air, fuel and oil) and consumables (tires, brake pads and discs, etc.).

Having said that, there are some basics you need to recognize.

1.) The less automated moving parts, the simpler the car will be;
2.) The simpler the car is, the easier it is to repair;
3.) The simpler the car is, the less chance there is of anything in it breaking down; and
4.) The simpler a car is, the more chance you get for having it fixed by almost any half-decent mechanic by the road--and quite cheaply, too.

What are the simplest cars? Most cars in the B-segment are simple, such as the Toyota Vios and Yaris, and Honda Jazz and City. Going upscale, the Altis 1.6. Stick with a manual transmission-equipped car if you can bear with the third pedal everyday and, simple in-car electronics, avoid cars with traction/stability control and ABS-EBD-CBC-equipped brakes.

When a car has more features and options, there is greater chance something will mess up in ten years so go easy on the electronic doodads.

What car comes to mind that suits all of the above aforementioned criteria? A Toyota Vios 1.3-liter variant with manual transmission. But life's boring and we always like to complicate things so scratch that and let's go diesel power.

Aside from following your service schedule with fanatical fervor, be prepared to gas up in a clean, new-ish gas station in a densely populated area with high turnover of customers. When you have these factors, it's hard to beat a diesel. That said, the base model Mitsubishi Strada GL 4x2 with manual tranny is the only car that slots into your budget. It is built like a tank to withstand 10 years of use and abuse, and has the amazing power and efficiency one can expect from a modern CRDi turbocharged diesel engine. With the release of premium diesel fuels such as Petron's Turbo Diesel and Shell's V-Power Diesel, your CRDi equipped-vehicle can breathe easier. These diesel products are designed to keep CRDi engines running cleaner and more efficiently. The Strada is also the roomiest pickup particularly the back seats. It has a tall ride height to brave the nastiest of flash floods. It offers excellent resale value and great pricing on after-sales servicing.

Want a smaller vehicle? My favorite is the Honda Jazz 1.5V with automatic transmission because it has excellent and highly-enjoyable driving dynamics, has a very versatile and roomy interior that can haul very long, tall or bulky objects, and it offers loads and loads of space for big boys like me and my toys (well, car parts and accessories mostly). 

To sum it up and confuse you further (sorry about that) your fanatical following of the service schedule will be based on how complicated the vehicle you plan to buy will be. The more complicated the car you buy, the closer your relationship should be with the service adviser, the local tow truck company and your mobile phone service provider, especially after its fifth year of use or after traveling about 80,000 kilometers.

If you can be more specific in detailing your needs, I'm sure we can help you narrow down your choice further.

Any car can last ten years so long as you have it serviced religiously. Take good care of it, observe proper warm-up and cool-down for the engine, and give it some stick (i.e. drive it hard once in a while) to clear up carbon buildup inside the engine.

Keep us posted, take care and good luck!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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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