Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra?

Help our letter sender decide
by Botchi Santos | Oct 19, 2011
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Hi. Botchi!

I'd like to seek your expert advice on a decision I'm about to make in buying a new car that costs less than P1 million. I’ve narrowed down my choices to the following: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.

I'll be using the car for my daily trips to work in Pasig and back home to my family in Angeles City, Pampanga. I need a reliable car that has a lot of safety features, and is fun to drive and least expensive to maintain since I'll be going to the casa more often than usual due to my long trips every day. These are my primary concerns in choosing from the three models I've mentioned.

The Cruze looks big and heavy so stability on the road is expected but the engine may be underpowered for its size. Besides, I have heard that Chevrolet used to have a bad after-sales service and spare parts are hard to find. That was when Chevy was under the old management. I don't know the situation now that the brand is under the Covenant Car Company.

The Ford Focus hatchback looks sporty and fun to drive even though it's the oldest among my options. I'm not sure about its reliability. Do its engine and under-chassis components last long?

The Elantra, being a relatively new model, has a modern look. I heard it is very spacious and that it has nice interior trimmings. But will it perform well in long trips everyday?

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Please help me decide. Thank you so much in advance.

Warm regards,

Karll

Hi, Karll!

I apologize for the delay in response as we've been flooded with emails lately. We appreciate your email of course and hope you'd still find this reply useful.

Among the three cars you've listed, the Chevrolet Cruze will have the best refinement. It's relatively big and heavy, and while the 1.8-liter engine doesn't give neck-snapping acceleration, it delivers a surprisingly high cruising speed where the car feels comfortable. I easily hit 180kph to 190kph in this sedan while testing it and braking was also impressive. Driving position and the lay-out of the controls in the Cruze is excellent. You can really keep driving the Cruze all day without worrying about aching back, thighs and arms with its anatomically correct driving position. No wonder the Cruze has won so many WTCC races and continuous to be the champ! The race cars were built upon very fine foundations. 

The suspension of the road-going Cruze, however, is soft and very comfort-oriented, and this is where the Ford Focus really shines.

The suspension is Euro-firm--compliant enough for our poor roads, but gives tremendous stability at high speeds. You'll love carving mountain passes and less-than-perfect B-roads with the Focus, and you won't mind the lack of outright power because the suspension will just carry you through the corners. The Focus is almost as refined as the Cruze, but you're right, it is showing its age. The new Focus has already been released in other markets, so the new one should be coming out pretty soon locally. The driving position of the Focus is a bit awkward. You need to get used to it as it is very different from typical Japanese cars. I could never get used to it until one day I was able to borrow a Focus for a week. By the time my stint ended, I had begun to appreciate the seating position. Still a good car, but its hard to buy one knowing that the new-generation Focus is coming out soon, and it should be even better than its predecessor. 

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Both Western-bred, Asian-built cars have a rather disappointing tall gearing; driving in-city means responsiveness can be sluggish. Out on the highway, however, the tall gears yield very good fuel efficiency as you can cruise at high speeds while keeping engine revs very low; hence, gas consumption pretty miserly. 

Unfortunately, I have yet to drive the new Elantra so I can't comment on how well it drives. But if the current lineup of Hyundais that I've driven (Accent, Genesis Coupe, Tucson, Santa Fe and Starex) is any indication of how well the Elantra feels to drives, then it should be very good--potentially better than the two American-branded cars.

I'd say if you had to pick between the two American cars, figure out what's higher on your priority list: comfort or driving enjoyment? If it's the former, go with the Cruze; if it's the latter, go with the Ford.

About Chevrolet's reputed poor after-sales service, that was true in the past. The new importer of Chevrolet, The Covenant Car Company, is working hard to improve the brand’s after-sales-service image. This is the same group that also handles the Volvo and Hyundai brands locally. 

I hope this helps, good luck finding the right car 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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