Friday, February 28, 2014

Car Profiles - Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (1996-2003)

1996-2003 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

The Good: Practical, off-road prowess, reliable

The Bad: Still expensive at second hand prices

The Say: Has the skills of its bigger brother at a smaller scale.

Go For: 3.0 GX diesel
Avoid: Any gasoline engine

Price Range: P370,000-P770,000
Our Rating: ***

Related Review: None as of the Moment
Latest vehicle profile: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Car Profiles - Mercedes Benz M Class (2000-2005)

2000-2005 Mercedes Benz M Class

The Good: Car like driving characteristics, comfortable, Mercedes for all seasons

The Bad: Terrible and questionable build quality

The Say: The BMW X5 of the same period is much better.

Go For: ML270 CDI
Avoid: ML320

Price Range: Data Not Available
Our Rating: ***

Related Review: None as of the Moment

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Car Profiles - Jeep Grand Cherokee (2000-2004)

2000-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Good: Off-road ready, spacious cabin

The Bad: Thirsty and unrefined V8, some reliability problems

The Say: Buy one if you want a true blooded American SUV, but rivals are better purchases which are more practical.

Go For: 4.7 V8

Price Range: P300,000-P400,000
Our Rating: ***

Related Review: None as of the Moment
Latest vehicle profile: Jeep Grand Cherokee

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Car Profiles - Ssangyong Rexton (2003-2012)

2003-2012 Ssangyong Rexton

The Good: Cheap to buy and can fit seven people

The Bad: Cheap in terms of ride quality and refinement

The Say: Good value but you have to live with some compromises.

Go For: 270xdi
Avoid: Any gasoline grey import

Price Range: P230,000-P475,000
Our Rating: **

Related Review: None as of the Moment

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Used Car Review - Mazda CX-9 (2007-Current)

How about buying an SUV before summer starts? Myk Belmonte gives you a suggestion.

2007-Current Mazda CX-9 

Ford and Mazda made vehicles which shared platforms during the latter's tenure with the American brand. Examples of the models produced under their marriage are the Ford Escape-Mazda Tribute-Mercury Mariner triplets, Ford Focus-Mazda 3-Volvo S40 platformates, Ford Fusion-Mazda 6, and the featured vehicle, Mazda CX-9 and its Ford Edge derivative.

While it utilizes Ford's platform and engine, the Mazda CX-9 is longer when it comes to length. This replaces a minivan creatively called MPV for the American market, which is logically enough due to the fact people there are shunning the minivan for crossover SUVs. All CX-9's around the world are built in Mazda's Hiroshima Prefecture plant.

November 2007 saw the arrival of the CX-9 to the Philippine market, especially with the influx of high end crossovers suited for the tastes of the Yanks. Since our market is LHD and some want the comfort of a sedan in a high rise package, it made sense. First made available in AWD with a 2WD version made available in 2011.

Value and Costs
What used to be a P2M SUV back then is a sub-P1M bargain nowadays. It carried a price of P2.799M when it was first launched, then jumped to P2.899M in November 2009 due to an update then finally pegged between P2.099M-P2.299M in 2011 due to some JPEPA revisions in which the CX-9's engine (anything above 3 liters) qualified for the tax breaks. Hunt for a unit sold from May 2011 and later to get the remaining chunk of the warranty.

Compared to Americanized Japanese SUVs, maintenance costs are similar to them. Of course, maintenance costs is on the pricey side and it does not include the fuel expenses caused by the V6 engine. If you are complaining about gasoline consumption, then the Hyundai Santa Fe of the same period is a logical choice.

Exterior and Interior
First of all, the exterior shouts SUV than sports car. Is it a bad thing? Nope. While competitors are ashamed to show their car origins, the CX-9 is proud to flaunt it. Not a huge piece of bulky moving object, especially that Mazda injected their cues which comes out right.

Sports cars only limit two people inside with four a pinch, this SUV allows you and six other passengers to enjoy the ride. The cabin is composed of high quality materials with a LCD screen added in the 2009 update. Another plus is the upright seating position which sports cars are afflicted with.

No diesel propulsion here, my friend. Instead, a Ford based MZ1 Duratec 3,721cc having 277hp at 2,750rpm and 367Nm at 4,250rpm is the standard engine. If you can afford this car at the first place, you can afford the fuel expenses due to the V6 engine. This is one lively engine, mind you. To the next paragraph for the driving feel.

Driving Impressions
It may have a 2,000kg body, the suspension settings keep up to the task of steering this beast on any condition, straight or twisted. Even though this has 20 inch wheels, no choppy ride is present. We surely think this is a vehicle the driver must enjoy, not something for the driven crowd.

An SUV behaving like a sports car? Impossible! A blasphemy! Mazda, despite all odds, continued to build one to critical success. We all know this is no RX-7, but you can carry seven people inside and save all the money for something else. Trust us, this is one purchase you would not regret perhaps if you have no funds for krudo.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Car Profiles - Porsche Panamera


The Good: Handles like a dream, impressive engines, high levels of interior quality
The Bad: Odd ball looks, busy looking center console, expensive to buy

Price Range: P7,600,000-P12,900,000
Our Rating: ****


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Car Profiles - Mercedes Benz E Class (2009-2016)

2009-2016 Mercedes Benz E Class

The Good: Balance between comfort and performance, powerful engines, spacious cabin

The Bad: Less sporty to drive, styling not for all

The Say: A classy daily driver which can be boring for some.

Go For: E250 CDI/CGI
Avoid: Anything with missing records

Price Range: P3,380,000-P4,380,000
Our Rating: ****

Related Review: None as of the Moment

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Car Profiles - BMW 5 Series (2010-2017)

2010-2017 BMW 5 SERIES

The Good: Capable handling, available diesel engines, technology laden

The Bad: Small trunk, heavy and bulky than the old models

The Say: Matured but has lost its mojo.

Price Range: P1,800,000-P3,000,000
Our Rating: ****

Related Review: Used Car Review - BMW 5 Series (2010-2017)
Latest vehicle profile: BMW 5 Series

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Car Features - Best Selling Car Nameplates in the Philippines from 1995-2013 [UPDATE]

We are updating this segment since there are new records that happened on 2013, which also coincided with car sales breaching the 200,000 mark. So, what were the new entries for this year?

Top 20 most successful nameplates in the Philippines from 1995-2013

Car Profiles - Audi A6


If the previous generation model was good, this one is much better while retaining top levels of quality and refinement. Diesels are still the pick of the range, but a dull steering comes standard though

The GoodTop levels of quality and technology
The Bad: Steering ain't fun as before

Price Range: P4,200,000-P5,650,000
Our Rating: ****


Monday, February 17, 2014

Used Car Review - Audi A6 (1998-2005)

Love a luxury car? Myk Belmonte has one recommendation for you.

1998-2005 Audi A6

Replacing the 100 (or 5000 in the US) line of vehicles in the Audi stable is the A6. When it was replaced in 1994, it continued the platform succession starting with the C4 for the first generation model. It was renamed (basically a heavily revised C3 100) in accordance to Audi's naming policy.

Based on the Volkswagen Group C5 platform (which is also utilized by the S6, RS6, and Allroad Quattro models, incidentally based from the A6), the C5 A6 was launched to the general public in February 1997 with a Geneva Motor Show introduction the following month. New engines, top notch quality, and new body styling which resulted to a coefficient drag of 0.28 were its hallmarks. From a basic 1.8 4-cylinder to high performance V8 gasoline to a manual to an automatic with manual mode, one gets an array of choices.

While this one is noticed around the world, it was a limited sight locally no thanks to the disservice of the previous distributor. Then again, competitors from Munich and Stuttgart are much more visible. It was dropped and replaced by the C6 A6 in 2005; that year also saw the transition the distribution rights between Auto Prominence to PGA Cars, with the latter doing a better job.

Value and Costs
With competitors having their prices flirting above the P500,000 mark, the A6 is a steal for less than that. If you desire a luxury sedan from Deutschland without the worries of an older car, this is it. It will provide you the luxurious aspects of a BMW or Benz at a low price.

European cars have expensive maintenance costs, that's if you go with a rarer model. Since Audis are popular, parts are available in specialist shops. There are numerous shops catering to the European car owner that are widespread and charges low in labor. PGA Cars is more than welcome to accommodate your older A6 for them to service.

Exterior and Interior
Timeless and clean, these are the words to describe the C5 A6. You'll stare at it anytime without getting tired which is a good thing. Let's leave the paragraph short since the design speaks for itself with any drama (I'm talking to you, Bangle Butt).

Oodles of space awaits driver and passenger alike inside the A6's leather clad interior. The gadget freak in you will love this car, since it has tons of buttons and switches leading you to different functions. We love them, but make sure to read the owner's manual. When it comes to back seat space, it holds a candle especially the 5 Series is tight.

Both V6 engines in the form of the BDV 2,393cc with 170hp at 6,00rpm and 230Nm at 3,200rpm and BKH 3,123cc carrying 220hp at 6,300rpm and 300Nm at 3,200rpm are no sloutch when it comes to driving performance. With the engine offering tons of grunt, acceleration is no slouch and it comes with a relaxed personality.

Driving Impressions
Poor or smooth roads, the A6 does not fear them. When it comes to driving excitement, do not expect too much. While it is accurate in a way, this is no Bimmer since steering is dull. It may be a front wheel drive vehicle but comfort is tops.

Unlike the 5 Series or E Class, the A6 will not shout to the world "I AM RICH!". Subtle driving and comfort is the main objective without the flash and the fear of being kidnapped. You wouldn't go wrong with an A6, especially when you compare the prices.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chevrolet Camaro - Generation 5 (2010-2015)


Resurrected from death due to customer demand, the Camaro has some cues from the 60s wrapped in a modern package. Two engines are available, a 3.6 V6 and a higher powered 6.2 V8. This vehicle can be had via indent order.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Car Profiles - Hyundai Genesis Coupe (2009-2016)

2009-2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The Good: Potent engines coupled with a well equipped interior

The Bad: Either transmission is bulky or less enjoyable to drive

The Say: Power and driving excitement now made affordable.

Go For: 3.8 V6

Price Range: P850,000-P1,320,000
Our Rating: ****

Related Review: Used Car Review - Hyundai Genesis Coupe (2009-2016)

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Car Profiles - Dodge Challenger


The Good: Strong engines, tolerable ride, spacious cabin
The Bad: A bit heavy, limited rear visibility, not much of a fun handler

Price Range: P3,450,000
Our Rating: ***


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Car Profiles - Mitsubishi Eclipse (2007-2011)

2007-2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse

The Good: Swoopy looks, personal space for two

The Bad: More larger meant more weight added

The Say: Not anymore the Eclipse the 20 something crowd used to know.

Go For: 3.8 V6
Avoid: Having higher expectations with this car

Price Range: P750,000-P1,700,000
Our Rating: **

Related Review: Used Car Review - Mitsubishi Eclipse (2006-2011)

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Used Car Review - Nissan 350z (2003-2008)

Speeding to the love of cars is what Myk Belmonte aims for this review.

2003-2008 Nissan 350z

Japanese car nuts and every automobile enthusiast around the world know this: the Nissan Z-car line is one of the most acclaimed and recognized around the world. Just like the Skyline, it gained cult status for its performance and design while retaining Japanese levels of prices and reliability. While others fade, the Z stays strong.

Lets us quote Carlos Ghosn: that "they will build the Z and will make it profitable". The 300ZX (or the fourth generation model) was killed at the turn of the millennium due to the ever increasing prices. As they said, build it and they will come. First released in late 2002 as a coupe, with a convertible debuting in 2004. Did Nissan made a winner here? Absolutely, especially it shed away from their bland but capable image. The Z dynasty continued on with the 370z that was launched in 2009.

With the removal of the ridiculous tax rates which caused high engine displacements to be taxed higher, Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. introduced the 350z to the Philippines in late 2003. Their last sports car offering is the 200SX (or Silvia to JDM fans) which didn't last due to its limited quantities. While the package was right, the price is a killer. Since no one didn't want it, it was dropped at the end of 2008 with the 370z available at your suking grey dealer.

Value and Costs
Nissans are known for their low residuals. In the case of the Z, it is the opposite with prices still lingering in the million peso price range. Since local releases may be few, looking at US models may be the prudent option while those from Japan are best avoided due to their questionable conversion process.

Since this is a Japanese car, maintenance costs are lower when compared to the Audi TT and even the Mazda RX-8 due to its rotary engine. There are limited problems concerning with its noisy rear suspension but this case is rare.

Exterior and Interior
This vehicle is based from the 240Z concept car showcased in 1999. The trademark long-hood short-deck design cues of the Z family retains while a sloping roof line, brushed aluminum handles, and bulging fenders pushed to the sides are added. Coupe or topless, this is one good looking vehicle.

Interior space is something of a weakness for these types of vehicles; two can join the fun with a limited space for cargoes. Otherwise, inside is an aluminum accent party with lots of them that brighten up the interior. Another quirky feature is the gauges that are mounted directly to the steering column which moves together with the tiller's adjustment. There is a six-disc changer standard and there are multiple storage compartments hidden behind or between the front seats which makes losing items easy since there is no glove box standard.

From the VQ engine family is the VQ35DE 3,498cc carrying 280hp at 6,200rpm and 363Nm at 4,800rpm. This is one mean machine which is fast and delivers the grunt in the low to mid range, making it a practical daily driver. This can be paired with either a six speed stick (which we recommend) or a five speed auto.

Driving Impressions
Bringing in the unadulterated joys in driving comes standard. Grip is present, tons of it but it does not feel that much nimble on the bends. Steering fun weighs in as you push the pedal to the metal that gives you feedback. Ride is tolerable, which makes it an appealing choice.

Ghosn made a right decision to revive the Z series and the risk was worth it. Good looks, exhilarating performance, attainable price, driving characteristics similar to an athlete, and the vaunted Japanese reliability is what makes the 350z appealing. If you want one, go get especially it can stand on its own against modern rivals.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Car Profiles - Volkswagen Lupo (2000-2003)

2000-2003 Volkswagen Lupo

The Good: Tons of standard equipment, great built quality

The Bad: Limited space at the rear, very expensive to maintain

The Say: The hard to find vehicle is much better left off.

Go For: 1.4 AT
Avoid: There is none

Price Range: Data Not Available
Our Rating: **

Related Review: None as of the Moment

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Car Profiles - Kia Rio Hatchback (2006-2007)

2006-2007 Kia Rio Hatchback

The Good: Cheap to maintain and buy

The Bad: Basic interior and rare in the market

The Say: Go get one, if you can find one in the first place.

Go For: 1.4 EX

Price Range: Data Not Available
Our Rating: ***

Related Review: Used Car Review - Kia Rio (2006-2011)
Latest vehicle profile: Kia Rio Hatchback

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Car Profiles - Mercedes Benz A Class (2000-2003)

2000-2003 Mercedes Benz A Class

The Good: The most affordable and practical way to buy a Mercedes Benz

The Bad: Irritating ride and the cabin is very small

The Say: The appeal is very limited for most.

Go For: A160 Elegance
Avoid: Other engines

Price Range: P280,000-P600,000
Our Rating: **

Related Review: None as of the Moment
Latest vehicle profile: Mercedes Benz A Class

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Car Profiles - Hyundai Atoz (2001-2003)

2001-2003 Hyundai Atoz

The Good: Smallish size means easy city driving and tall appearance gives you more headroom and visibility

The Bad: This will give you a jarring ride and its engine screams at high speeds

The Say: Good try but buy something else instead.

Go For: 1.0 Venture
Avoid: Any else

Price Range: P110,000-P140,000
Our Rating: **

Related Review: None as of the Moment

See the different versions of this vehicle:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Used Car Review - Toyota Echo Verso (2000-2004)

This unloved hatchback gets under the scrutiny of Myk Belmonte for today.

2000-2004 Toyota Echo Verso

The Japanese have a love affair with hatchbacks, similar to their Wasabi filled dishes and novelty shows. We can't blame them since Kei Cars are priced lower so even the motorcycle riding public can afford them and they have narrow streets so width is important. However, being small does not guarantee them instant success since some hatchbacks do not sell well.

Together with the Echo (or Yaris for some folks), this mini MPV was released in 2000. While the shell is larger both inside and out, the platform and engines are shared together with its smaller brethren. It was replaced by the Ractis in Japan, Verso-S in Europe, and Space Verson in Israel.

July 2000 saw the introduction of the Echo Verso together with the second generation RAV4 and Echo. While this represented a breath of fresh air, the Made-in-Japan status limited its appeal that made it costlier than a Corolla Altis 1.8 back then. Too bad, together with the Echo it was dropped in the line-up in 2004 and that was the time the hatchback market was on full force.

Value and Costs
Nearly 14 years after its launch, you can now call this vehicle "affordable" especially one can get it for below P300,000. This is one practical vehicle, since this can accommodate several long and tall items on a small package. Vehicles with the Fun Cargo badge are no-nos, since they were imports from Japan with questionable conversion process and some possessing a 1.3 engine paired with an automatic, making the vehicle struggle at high speeds.

If you think parts acquisition is hard due to its low seller status, think again. Components are shared with the Vios especially in the engine parts, which makes it easy. Exterior parts can be swapped with Japanese surplus units, just in case you have been bumped. If you are buying a unit assembled from March to June 2000, check if the brake master were fixed under a recall since rust can form that can lead to braking failure.

Exterior and Interior
Short in length, big in size; that's what the Echo Verso is all about. With its compact size, slotting in smaller roads is an easy task. In fact, you can take four people to the requisite trips to the palengke or to Divisoria with the back space reserved for the pinamili (purchased items) and without complaining about vendor infested roads. This is an ugly duckling but who cares? Before leaving, the rear door opens sideways which makes placing cargo easy.

Apart from the wonders of space mentioned above, the interior is a cubbyhole party with lots of them. Place any small item, expect to never see it again. Driving position is on the decent side, with the gauges being located on the center that one needs time to take used to it. Due to its tall headroom, no more messy hair and no more scratches in the roofline unless you are Imelda Marcos.

While the diminutive Echo has a small 85hp 1.3 engine, the Verso has a larger 1NZ-FE 1,497cc gasoline that carries 106hp at 6,600rpm and 145Nm at 4,400rpm. Even with its weight rated at 1,000kg, acceleration is effortless thanks to a standard 5-speed manual transmission. Fill it to the brim (five people plus one large baggage or two people and a box of washing machine at the back) it can chug along.

Driving Impressions
Call it small, but the driving position is similar to a van: a high commanding road position is a treat. It drives decently but check on the brakes more frequently since this does not have any ABS brakes.

Apart from the Honda Jazz and a Multicab, name me any vehicle that is small in size yet offers a big interior. The Echo Verso is one unappreciated due to its high price but that time, Filipinos aren't ready yet to appreciate hatchbacks. Nowadays, the concept of being trunkless is an acceptable norm.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Car Features - Car of the Year Japan Winners

Every year, the Car of the Year Japan acknowledges the best new or redesigned vehicles (both local and imported) available in the home market. This Saturday, let us revisit the winners of the award for both Japan and imported car categories from 1980 and 1994 respectively.