Sedan under P1M?

What's the best choice?
by Botchi Santos | Dec 16, 2010

Hi, Botchi!

I'm planning to buy a new car and my budget is under a million. I want the Subaru Impreza 2.0R Sport but it's out of my budget. My choices are down to:

Honda Civic 1.8S (MT)
Mitsubishi Lancer EX 2.0 GLX
Chevrolet Cruze 1.8LS (MT)
Ford Focus Trend 1.8 (5-door)

I currently have a 2002 Honda Civic VTi and I'm enjoying it immensely. Also, I can't complain about the after-sales service of Honda Cars Alabang so it's high on my list. The problem is the design is quite old already. If I buy this now and they release an all-new version next year, it will look like a four- or five-year old car and there goes the resale value. But still I'm considering it.

The Lancer EX is very tempting and exciting. A 2.0-liter engine with manual transmission and a price tag at under a million is quite hard to resist. I used to have a 1995 Lancer GLXi and it was a very nice car at the time. However, in my opinion, Mitsubishi has been on the decline after that, except for their marquee brands, until this one. What do you think of its overall package, design, quality, fuel efficiency, price and resale value? This is the most expensive of the bunch.

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The  Cruze is new so it's getting a lot of attention. However, I'm a little bit suspicious of this one. With all its features (six airbags, ABS, rear-park assist, immobilizer, etc.), it's the cheapest of the bunch. The six airbags alone would have pushed the other brands past the one-million mark. Also, I still don't know anybody who has a Cruze so I really don't know how it is.

The Focus is low on my list simply because it has automatic transmission. I'm an MT kind of guy but I'm willing to buy this one for the sake of value for money. It's almost the same price as the Cruze but the design is much bolder. How do you see this one?

I apologize for sending you a long one though I tried to make it as short as possible. I'm looking forward for your advice. Thanks a lot!

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Hi, Kris!

Thanks for the email and sorry if it’s quite late already. There have been tons of emails to answer and yours got buried underneath it all!

Anyways, it's nice to see someone choosing something different from all the B-segment hatches and sedans, or the CRDi SUV selection. Here's my take on the sedans on your list:

Honda Civic 1.8S. The Civic is the standard by which all sedans in the C-segment class are judged: premium-feeling, impressive build quality, sporty looks and suspension, exciting to drive with pin-sharp handling. It’s hard to beat this but for what you pay for, you can get something else. Also, all those LCD displays worry me. In five years they pose a potentially big repair bill should you need to replace any of the displays. Other than that, the Civic is great. It also props for the best driving position, the most supportive (but very firm) seats and the best steering feel.

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Mitsubishi Lancer GLX. The new Lancer is my favorite because it feels the sportiest, the most exciting to drive and the new locally-built ones lose nothing to the imported CBU units which arrived first. What it loses to the Civic is that premium feeling of heft. The Lancer is like a sophisticated digital watch with 24-hour dual-time zone format with atomic clock correction feature, stopwatch, lap counter, GPS, barometer, altimeter, inclinometer: high-tech but doesn't feel as classy or as expensive as a simple automatic movement Swiss made watch made from real precious metals--which is how the Civic feels like. Well, I wear my Suunto sports watch more often than a dress watch so no wonder I prefer the Lancer! A secret? The local Lancers are slightly more powerful compared to the older CKD models according to our good friends at the factory because their ECU calibration files are more aggressive!

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Chevrolet Cruze. This is the junior limousine of the bunch. Smooth, roomy, classy, well-appointed and handles surprisingly well for a car that looks so regal and elegant. The problem is the weight. All the sound deadening and chassis stiffening makes the modestly powered Cruze a bit lazy and wallows and rolls a lot. But no doubt it's fast. The BRE Race Crew are leading the Championship now with a modestly prepped Cruze Touring car so the performance is there, buried deep down all that sound deadening, insulation and refinement. The new outfit bringing in the Cruze, the Covenant Car Company (TCCI), increased its after-sales service level from the previous importer who was a joke. Expect more good things from TCCCI.

Ford Focus Trend. If there's a car that can match the Lancer's aggressive and confident handling, it's the Focus. The problem is that the gearing is just overly long for in-city driving such that the engine is continuously labored. Since you live in the south, you probably do more highway miles so this might fall into your favor but, otherwise, the Focus drinks gas like a German during Oktoberfest! Seating position is a bit awkward as well, but the suspension is the best compromise in feel, handling and comfort, truly Euro-feeling.

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Thanks Kris. I hope this helps you somehow.

Take care, good luck with car shopping and God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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