A reader asks: Which vehicle can I use and keep for at least 8 years?

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by Botchi Santos | Sep 22, 2014

Wrong Car/Right Car Online by Botchi Santos

Hi, Botchi. I'm a senior college student continuing on to medical school. My parents are thinking of buying me a car for use during med school and until I get a job of my own (that's four to eight years from now). So you could say I'm looking for a car that I can rely on in the long run.

I've never tried driving anything else aside from our Suzuki Swift, Mitsubishi Montero Sport and Toyota Camry, but you could say I'm not too picky with what I drive. However, I do value uniqueness, reliability and that assuring kick given only by a capable engine before everything else.

Budget-wise, my parents are willing to spend for the 3.2-liter variant of the Ford Ranger, and we almost bought the Subaru XV so you could say our budget is until P1.5 million. I still want that Wildtrak, but my parents do not like the idea of paying a P100,000 more than the SRP because of Ford's "deals," so that's a point to consider.

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Here are the vehicles we're looking at (notice how they're all fairly unique):

* Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 (but the dealer's incentive is a disincentive for us);

* Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Montero Sport (but they're not that unique for me, and I feel they're a bit expensive for a first car);

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* Suzuki Grand Vitara (looks unique and sounds reliable because of its real SUV base, but my parents need a bit more convincing to go and visit one; plus, it's already an old model);

* Subaru XV 2.0i Premium (looks really good for its value, but we're scared of the AWD trading handling for speed);

* Kia Soul (looks like a very promising upgrade from a Swift);

* Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0 (definitely looks cool in spite of that 2.0-liter engine being slightly weaker than our Camry, and still definitely better than the Swift especially because it's seven-speed--and I thought six-speeds were rare); and

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* Suzuki Kizashi.

The Altis would be a good match for me, as it is a smaller and perhaps faster-accelerating brother of the luxurious and able-engined Camry. However, I project it will not be as unique as the Swift.

If my parents were willing to spend about P1.2 million on a sedan, then I might as well suggest to them the Suzuki Kizashi, which I assume to be a more capable, more luxurious and more interesting drive. However, the Altis's better reputation and the Kizashi's extra P88,000 in price might be a hurdle for them (they're willing to spend more on a bigger vehicle, and surprisingly on that XV).

A pickup is never out of the question because we all agree in the family that we need its utility in some occasions. So what do you think is the right car for me? I really am undecided and my choices are all over the place. I probably should wait a bit more. What do you think?

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Thank you. Sorry for the confusingly long e-mail!

Neil Pecache


Thanks for the e-mail, Neil. If you really want a Ford Ranger 3.2 but can't take the BS the dealership is giving you, get a Mazda BT-50. End of story.

They are identical underneath the skin; they have the same engine, suspension and transmission; and they are made in the same factory in Thailand. The BT-50 has no waiting list and no hidden requirements (i.e. you need to buy insurance, tint, etc. from the dealership), and you can pay in cash. If you really want one right now, e-mail us again. We'll arrange it with Mazda.

(Read: Ford Ranger Wildtrak vs. Mazda BT-50)

The Suzuki Kizashi is a really great drive! I was deeply impressed and amazed with how it drives. It's better, sharper, and more dynamic and powerful than anything else in its class. And that's part of the problem. The Kizashi is a segment-buster: bigger, more powerful, better equipped, but also slightly more expensive than the usual C-segment cars (i.e. Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla Altis). And it's significantly smaller than the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord or the Subaru Legacy, but has similar equipment levels to these bigger cars.

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Hence, the target market for the Kizashi tends to be confused: Is it designed for a younger or for a more mature market? Chauffeur-driven or owner-driven? Stately or sporty? But I love it, and I'd buy it in a heartbeat if I had the cash. Interestingly, Road Race Engineering in the US, a well-known drag race and rally prep shop, has a tuning program for the Kizashi. So, should you end up buying a Kizashi, check it out!

(Watch: The Suzuki Kizashi in all its MTV-worthy glory)

The Toyota Corolla Altis really surprised me. Here is a typical Toyota that has finally shed its neutral, non-aggressive manner and donned a bolder, more exciting demeanor. It drives far better than any modern Corolla of recent times and has prodigious space inside. The Altis has a driving position that feels very sporty, direct and involving--which for me is very, very important. You don't feel like you're sitting on top of a car and simply as a passenger directing things. Now, you feel like you're sitting within, being an integral part of the events happening.

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The 2.0 comes with a CVT, though: It simulates gears and the seven-speed you mentioned isn't real. Instead, a CVT simply simulates seven forward gears when you put the transmission in its "manual" mode. It will be slower than your Camry in absolute terms, but it will be more enjoyable and more involving to drive than the latter. It's a good trade-off, in my opinion.

Subaru's XV is a very capable compact crossover. Don't worry about the AWD system being permanently engaged. It feels light and lively. And it drives very well, too, because the three differentials (front, center and rear) seamlessly work to distribute power and torque to the wheels.

This crossover doesn't feel like a typical pickup-based SUV with AWD engaged, in which the vehicle feels very stiff and heavy to move around. My brother owns one and he's very happy with it. He gets about 7.5-8km/L in fuel consumption considering he works five minutes away from home. I've gotten close to 10km/L in my daily commute in the city.

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The XV is also very well-built and crucially very safe. A friend got into a T-bone accident, toppled over the XV, but walked with just minor cuts and bruises, so I can attest to its solidity. The dealership and the insurance company wrote off the XV completely, but my friend got another unit, being a solid believer in how safe it is. The AWD is a big help when you're driving in the rain or slippery conditions, and adds an extra degree of stability and safety in emergency situations.

(Read: Subaru XV 2.0i Premium review)

The last car you mentioned, the Kia Soul, looks to be a dream. It's not quite an SUV, not quite an MPV and not quite a hatchback. But it's a little of everything. That the new Soul finally has a diesel engine is an answer to a question everyone's been asking. It looks good, cool and funky, although it is an acquired taste.

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The Soul is very unique and rare on the road, offering just a little more useful space, practicality, versatility and ground clearance than your typical sedan and hatchback. It is easier to drive because of its compact dimensions, and easier to maneuver in tight parking spots.

As for the Mitsubishi Montero Sport and the Toyota Fortuner, both are okay, but both are also getting quite old. Replacements for both models should be coming out soon.

In closing, all the cars you listed are all right, but some are old and some are hidden gems out there. Just carefully read through our buyers' guide and you'll see a number of variants of certain car makes and models that have great value! Look closely, ask, visit the dealership, and test-drive the vehicles.

Personally, it's going to be a tough choice picking among these three: the Suzuki Kizashi (really great, highly underrated sports sedan); Mazda BT-50 (having all the good qualities of the Ranger, with none of the hidden dealer tactics and months of being on the waiting list); and the Kia Soul (small outside, surprisingly roomy inside, and with a great diesel engine).

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I hope this helps. Good luck with your studies!


Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

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

Artwork by Trixie Ison


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