Hi Top Gear Philippines,
I need advice. Which manual MPV should I buy?
You never mentioned what your budget is so I’ll give you a broad spectrum of cars to choose from.
The first obvious choice is the Honda Mobilio and its quasi-SUV sibling, the BR-V (although the BR-V only comes with a CVT). Then we have the Toyota Rush, and finally the Mitsubishi Xpander. Stretching your budget further, you also get to the Toyota Innova, and a surprisingly great alternative, the SsangYong Tivoli XLV (which also unfortunately comes in only automatic trim).
The Mobilio and BR-V twins are arguably what started the subcompact SUV/MPV/ SUV segment. Both are based off of the Honda Brio's platform, and thus possess very good road manners: Fun, enjoyable, easy and engaging to drive. Both are also surprisingly roomy inside despite being seven-seaters—although the third-row seats are best left for small children. The CVTs are surprisingly well-matched to the 1.5-liter iVTEC engine's output, which remains to be the best in its class.
The Toyota Rush brands itself as the Japanese carmaker's smallest SUV, and thanks to its chunky tires and slightly raised ride height, it does look the part. In practice though, it doesn't feel much taller getting in and out than a regular MPV. I have yet to drive one, but based on its popularity on the road, it sure looks to be a winner.
Pretty much the same can be said for the Mitsubishi Xpander. It looks like Toyota and Mitsubishi copied each other when designing their respective MPV/SUV vehicles. Looks-wise, I prefer the Xpander's more futuristic exterior.
Both are powered by similar 1.5-liter engines usually found in subcompact sedans, but Toyota and Mitsubishi promise that despite their modest powerplants, there's more than enough grunt to keep these vehicles moving merrily along the way even with a full load of passengers and gear.
Next up is the Toyota Innova. It's much bigger than the MPVs I mentioned above, but pick the right variant and the prices will overlap with each other. I love the Innova, and I feel it's highly underrated, relegated often to PUV use when it is in fact a very capable vehicle that's easy to drive in the city and during long highway trips. Smart money goes to the diesel engine variants, of course. You can also check out the Avanza, but I feel you will get more of your money's worth with the newer Rush even if it does cost more.
Lastly, we have the SsangYong Tivoli XLV. While this carmaker is slowly making its return to Philippine soil under Malaysian giant Berjaya (same company as Mazda Philippines), its reinvigorated product lineup is quite impressive. I really enjoyed driving the XLV and there's even a 4WD variant. Both the 2WD and 4WD options sport responsive and punchy diesel engines and automatic transmissions.
Manual transmission variants are slowly becoming less available and more people are opting for automatics these days due to the mad traffic. Manufacturers have taken notice of this and usually the manual transmission variants are base models relegated to fleet use and PUVs. Keep that in mind when buying your next car as your choices may be limited if you plan to stick to manuals.
Hope this helps as you never gave any preferences, short list, or budget. Remember to try and test-drive every single vehicle you have in mind. Don't just take what I or other people say. In the end, it's your money used in buying your car! Thanks and take care!