Saturday, December 29, 2012

Most Read Articles of 2012

2012 is nearing its end, and let's go back to memory lane on what articles you read the most. So, shall we start?

1. 1993-1997 Toyota Corolla review
- It may be old, but a lot of cash strapped used car buyers look at this sedan as their top choice.

2. 1999-2008 Mitsubishi Pajero review
- The one SUV that started the craze in the Philippines is the second most read review.

3. 2001-2007 Toyota Corolla Altis review
- Another popular choice in the second hand market.

4. Cars of the 2012 Philippine International Motor Show feature
- Covering the Motor Show independently was heaps of fun for me.

5. 1995-2001 Nissan Sentra review
- Apart from the Corolla Big Body, this is one common pick in the market.

6. 2004-2006 Ford Everest TCDi review
- Long before the Fortuner, the Everest arrived first.

7. 1996-2000 Honda Civic review
- Our third Ramos era sub-compact that entered the list.

8. 1998-2005 Isuzu Fuego review
- My first pick-up truck review garnered the most views among other rivals (as of now)

9. 1997-2000 Nissan Cefiro review
- The first premium sedan to be featured on this website, and it was a success.

10. 1998-2005 Toyota Revo review
- Despite the dead name, a lot of buyers in the used car planet are eyeing for this.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Car Features: The Three Pops and Flops of 2012

Before we leave 2012, The Ultimate Used Car Guide goes back to 12 months of new automotive releases and among the new cars available in the market, there are some that fled off car dealerships like wild while some remained glued and unloved. With some of my friends in Tropang TopGear Ph, we had listed the pops and flops of 2012.

In this case, only new releases in the form of a new nameplate, redesign, engine upgrade, or a new trim level are counted.

Many thanks to Dominic Sobreo, Mark Lester, and Carl Pacis for contributing!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Popular Cars of Puerto Princesa, Palawan: Hiace and Urvan dominate

Ok, I know this is a little late to post this. But they say its better late than never to narrate my trip to Puerto Princesa Palawan back in March 2012. Pardon for not having any photos (although there are some, they are shot at near dark), but videos will be shown at the end of the article. Since I had just stayed in the downtown area (read: hotel-restaurant), I can get a bigger picture of what do Palawenos drive.

With a limited number of car dealerships which includes Hyundai, Kia, Nissan (Universal Motors), Suzuki, Toyota (a sales outlet of Toyota Iloilo), and by the time you read this, Mitsubishi; there are a smattering pieces of vehicles wearing the license plates that are assigned in Metro Manila, South Luzon (mainland), Western Visayas, and Central Visayas. Either the vehicles are purchased locally or bought from the above mentioned places via freight.

If there is the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry in the basketball world, there is the Toyota Hiace-Nissan Urvan battle in the roads of Palawan. The two vans are the top choices among tour operators and hotels in the province, since they are fuel efficient, reliable, and can carry dozens of people at one piece. Majority of them are used as tourist vans and hotel shuttles. There was never a sight of a Hyundai Starex in the island, although I have not seen one in my four day trip.

Private consumers are limited in several category segments in the province (wearing the "V" plate) and there is a two way battle between some vehicles. The pick-up truck rivalry is between the Toyota Hilux and the Nissan Navara, sub-compact buyers mostly pick either the Toyota Vios or the Kia Rio (second generation), mid-size SUV choices are between the Toyota Fortuner or the Kia Sorento, compact SUV's that captured the hearts and wallets of locals are the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage twins, and the hatchback party is composed of the Suzuki Celerio and Swift and the Hyundai i10. Strangely, there is the abundance of the Toyota Avanza and Innova but the direct competitors, namely the Isuzu Crosswind and Mitsubishi Adventure, are not that wide spread.

Among old vehicles, there are numerous Kia Prides, Mazda 323s, and Kia Sportages (first generation) still plying the streets. Partly because a Kia-Mazda dealer used to operate in the 90s but the former brand was relocated and currently operates under a new management.

Here are some Youtube videos of street scenes:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Pick-Up Trucks

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
To conclude our Bargains of Christmas series, we will be dealing with Pick-up trucks for the end of the saga. Back then they used to be the farmer's choice but now they are equipped with the city-cruiser image even though people who do not have trailers drive them. So, if you plan to use them for business or personal lakad, here are some of my top picks.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Used Car Review Compilation (12/24/2012 Update)



I've started creating used car reviews since December 2011 in a weekly basis and it would be very hard for several of my blog visitors to wade around my blogsite. So, to simplify your life, I would be compiling all used car reviews done by me and this list would be updated once a month and you'll see the possible vehicles that I would be making a used car review in the future, and the existing ones. You may also suggest a car that you want to see in this page by commenting. All existing models are not included.

Since this is the last compilation update for this year, this is my Christmas gift for you my dear readers. Some vehicles that would be replaced next year are already listed here.

So, here are the cars. Links are provided for available articles. Happy holidays!

Used Car Review - BMW X3 (2005-2010) + The Hunt for Santa's Sleigh Verdict!

Santa has 24 hours left and Myk Belmonte saves the day by offering a last choice for the ride that could make kids around the world happy. An SUV? Santa asked. But, you'll love the utility and space that it provides. Then again, there is more than that, and you'll be surprised with what would Santa pick.

2005-2010 BMW X3

See the verdict after the X3 picture at the end of this article!

If the formula of creating compact SUVs with sedans as their base is successful when it comes to mainstream brands such as Honda, Subaru, and Toyota, what more if luxury brands have one on their line up? Lexus started this trend back in 1998 (a year earlier for the twin named Toyota Harrier) with their RX300 that is based on the Lexus ES sedan, basically a glorified and more expensive Toyota Camry. It may cause some stir on this statement, while the Land Rover Freelander arrived a year earlier (and sold at the same time with the Harrier), the Lexus sparked the market and had German brands develop theirs.

Among the Germany luxury brands sold locally, it was BMW who entered first in the market with the X3 (with platform code E83) in 2003. With that in mind, Audi and Mercedes Benz followed suit in 2009, which meant the X3 is nearing its swan song while these two are just new. Based from the 3 Series sedan, it was a sales success but with some demerits (these will be pointed out later in this article). It bowed out in 2010 to make way to the F25 X3. As usual, this was marketed as a SAV or Sports Activity Vehicle.

Filipino Bimmer fans had to wait until late 2004 for the arrival of the X3 in our shores. Initially, it was offered with a gasoline engine but a mid cycle refresh in 2007 had the 2.0 diesel engine paired with a stick (it was only in its category to offer one) than an automatic box. Finally in 2008, the 2.0 can be ordered with an AT transmission as well the 3.0 diesel is available. Enough of engine stories, this waved goodbye in 2011 for the F25 chassis.

Value and Costs
Fancy a 3 Series but worry that it cannot survive floods nor the dirt roads to your hacienda? Then a second hand X3 is the prudent choice in this case, with units costing between P1,200,000-P2,500,000 which ranges from different engines to vehicle amenities. A wiser decision would be checking out your nearest BMW dealer and ask if they have pre-owned X3's, since they do have a limited warranty and these units went through a thorough inspection.

Owning a German vehicle could be a pleasurable experience but have its components break down it would be a huge hassle. Have the engine overheat regularly, electronic gadgets fail on you, and the dashboard crack due to our tropical climate,  prepare to shell out a huge sum for these problems. So from the start, inspect the unit well and have them repaired before taking possession. Do not forget to fill up with fuel from reputable gasoline stations with premium gasoline as the preference.

Exterior and Interior
The X3 is definitely not a shrunken X5 nor a raised 3 Series Touring, but rather it carries styling cues that do not come together. The black bumpers and lower body cladding do not go in harmony, especially if you are considering an earlier model in light colors. A facelift rectified this problem which had the bumpers colored. If you are style conscious, go for the 2007 and later models.

Going inside, you'll notice that the dashboard layout and the gauges are inspired from the Z4 convertible, which dictates to you "let's go out and have some serious driving fun". Trim materials are expensive feeling, which should be. However, the X3 can be nominated as one of the nominees for the less human friendly interior especially the E90 3 Series is more hospitable, to say is that five people is a snug fit. The cargo bay is more than enough for the monthly trips to the airport (just make sure you'll be fetching one or two relatives plus their luggage).

A huge advantage over the X3's rivals are the numerous engine choices. For its first year in the market is a M54B25 2,494cc I6 gasoline engine which possess 192hp at 6,000rpm and 245Nm at 3,500rpm. Come year 2007, an upgrade on the gasoline power plant that seen a N52B25 engine with 218hp at 6,500rpm and 250Nm at 2,750-4,250rpm under the hood but having the same displacement, and a M47TU2D20 1,995cc  I4 diesel which is paired with a manual transmission that has 150hp at 4,000rpm and 330Nm at 2,000rpm. The last wave of engines arrived in 2008 with a M47TU2D20 and automatic transmission tandem carrying 177hp at 4,400rpm and 350Nm at 2,000rpm and a N52B30 2,993 I6 diesel engine with 218hp at 6,500rpm and an earth shaking 500Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm. Evaluating each of the engines, the gasoline ones have a soundtrack from idle to red line and does its job with gusto and in BMW flavor. The diesels are no slouch, since you won't go wrong with the two diesel burners and they satisfy your need for speed.

Driving Impressions
If you are seeking for a smooth ride, click that back button on your browser since this SUV (or shall I say SAV) is not for you. The X3 loves to attack corners and does such with confidence, handling is excellent and this can be attributed with the much criticized harsh ride. It drives similarly to the 3 Series but it is less prone to road bumps thanks to the increased suspension travel. If you aim for a less jarring ride, go for the 2007 and later models since this problem has been rectified.  Off road capabilities are poor since this is car based. You can pit in this car in slalom tournaments without the fear of rolling over and stops in a dime, thanks to the standard large disc brakes.

There are two types of drivers, the one who wants it nice and slow and the one who is fast and adrenalin filled.  If you belong to the latter category, the X3 is the one for you. You may forgive the lack of interior space and the spine crashing ride (especially on the earlier models) but you don't buy a BMW for a comfortable ride right? Attacking corners is now attainable since the mercy of depreciation hit the X3.

Santa Says
If there is the chance I could buy a car for my personal use, it would be the BMW X3. I like driving fast on sharp corners (much to the horror of my aides and whenever time permits me) but never mind the harsh ride since my figure does absorb it. Hafta save for fuel since I would be getting the diesel. Enough of dreaming, in reality, this won't make the cut as a sleigh no thanks to the limited cargo area. But then, it would be a feast to see a fast sleigh making a tight corner in the hills of Japan or Switzerland.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Car Features - Brands That Filipinos Bought in 1994

They said that in September 7, 1994 the world would end. Who was that guy who made a big embarrassing failure of predicting? Harold Camping. Yes, he would make a prediction that in May 21, 2011 the world will end but still, your Ultimate Used Car Guide is still alive and kicking. But today, with a rapture that was supposedly to occur, we'll go back 18 years ago to the failed doomsday.

In the year 1994, the economy was booming under the administration of Fidel Ramos and with that in mind, for the first time the formal car industry sold 103,471 vehicles, and the first year to accomplish the six digit figure sales. I do not have any per model sales but rather, a pdf file from the Philippine Institute of Development Studies would show us what car brands sold well in 1994. With just barely 11-13 brands available, we would be presenting the top five best selling brands.

The top selling brand of 1994 is Toyota, which sold 31,803 vehicles wearing that badge with a 24% increase. Shown above is probably the bestseller of Toyota, which is the Corolla.

Second place goes to Mitsubishi with 28,999 three diamond star vehicles leaving its showrooms, up 15%. Majority of the sales come from the Lancer (shown here) and the L300 vans.

Occupying the third spot is Nissan (with two different distributors namely Nissan Motors Philippines and Universal Motors Corporation) which sold 15,786 cars and trucks with a 7% increase.

With the bulk of sales coming from the Pride, Kia was fourth best selling brand with 9,989 sales and posting a huge sales increase at 160%. Very impressive figures to say, especially that Columbian Autocar Corporation made hay with this people's car.

With just two models available during that year (Civic and Accord), Honda was at the fifth position by selling 9,000 flat vehicles, an increase of 29%. This was the last time the Japanese H brand sold in four digits with the following year achieving 10,000 plus sales.

Other brands that sold well during that time included Mazda (2,399 sales, but this lacked the passenger car sales but still, they stay in the sixth spot), Daewoo (selling 2,239 units with majority of them are Racers), Hino (1,541 trucks and buses are driven off), and Isuzu (1,233 cars found an owner).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Mid-size and Large SUVs

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
Everyone desires to have an SUV in their garages right? The power of depreciation makes them great buys and since the holiday season is coming, your family might have a new ride by then. A good gift to yourself and make more memories with the new SUV you are going to buy. What should you pick? Here are some recommendations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Compact SUVs

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
Compact SUVs are great alternatives to sedans since you can reach some places without scraping the under chassis, can wade in floods, and reach your stuff at the back without going outside of the car. With a great number of models being introduced now and then, chances are, you can get one that simply fits your needs. Finding one for the holidays is never a difficult task since the Ultimate Used Car Guide will give out the cream of the crop of compacts.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Used Car Review - Chrysler Town and Country (2004-2008)

Eight days to go and Myk Belmonte hunts the steed that Santa needs for the big day. He spots a certain minivan popular in the streets of America and Canada, and asks if its a good choice. It is a good thing that the guy who brings the joys to kids asked your ultimate used car guide for advice.

2004-2008 Chrysler Town and Country

If there was to be the Santa Claus of the automobile industry in America, it would be Lee Iaccoca of Chrysler. Why do I say so? Chrysler had been in debt when asked for a bailout during the 80's, the company was able to pay their utang earlier due to the sales success of their minivans, named the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager. So to conclude, these minivans are the gifts to the American and Canadian motorist since their Christmas wish is to have one parked at their garages.

Chrysler had the Town and Country in 1989, five years later than the Dodge and the Plymouth versions. It was positioned as the luxurious one among the three (with the Plymouth relegating at the budget conscious buyer while the Dodge fits smack in the middle). Three generations after, the Town and Country you see in this page is the fourth generation, introduced in 2001. Interestingly enough, the long wheel base version is named as such while the short wheel base variant is named Voyager (Plymouth was put to rest in 2000) but after 2003, it ditched the name in favor of its bigger brother. A refresh in 2004 had the addition of what could be an innovation, the Stow'n Go seat folding system. It was sold worldwide until 2008, with the fifth generation replacing it.

There are two distributors of the Town and Country in the Philippines, first it was Norkis Automotive (they used to distribute Chrysler vehicles before) for a brief period then in 2005, CATS Motors went in and provided better service. It was a hit among the affluent people and you'll see them being driven by diplomats in upscale residential areas. Sales stopped in the middle of 2008 to make way for the fifth generation model. Those who had the money can choose between the cheaper Touring or the upper end Limited.

Value and Costs
With the perception that American vehicles consume more fuel, you can acquire a Town and Country for between P500,000-P750,000. As the usual rule, high mileage units would be priced lower while those taken care of but having low clicks commands a higher price. It would be a wise decision to pick-up an example at the certified pre-owned section of CATS Motors since a limited warranty is available on their units.

It is nice to have electronic gadgets such as the power-adjustable front seats, any of the power sliding doors, and the power rear liftgate; but have them broken and expect a hefty bill for repairs since more electronics means more expenses and more worries. Before driving that van home, better check these electronic items if they perform well if not, have the previous owner fix it.

Exterior and Interior
At first glance, there is no mistaking that this minivan is American, since this type of vehicle originated in that country, particularly in Detroit. Let's not delve more about the exterior.

Honestly speaking, while the interior is functional (it does not defeat its primary purpose) it does look dated since it this generation was introduced way back in 2001, so 90's era bits are evident. While the leather seats , dashboard layout, and the transmission stick behind the steering wheel scream Clinton era; the Stow'n Go feature which allows the second and third rows be folded deeply with the result a wide, open, and flat area useful for placing anything on it. Santa's gifts for the children around the world would perfectly fit in there. If the jolly good old fellow isn't busy he can tag along six more people for a hop to the bar.

For the US Market, two engines can be configured to their Town and Country's, a 3.3 EGA and a 3.8 EGH. But for the Philippine domestic market, we get the latter engine that is a EGH 3,778cc V6 with 215hp at 5,000rpm and 332Nm at 4,000rpm. One fact, this engine had powered the previous generation minivans at produced in 1990 until it bowed out in 2011. The engine has a sufficient amount of power to move this vehicle around. You say it is not American if fuel economy is poor and that is true with the Chrysler, so drive prudently if possible to avoid your child's daily allowance to be spent for fuel.

Driving Impressions
The 3.8 engine sounds American and it encourages you to stomp on it that yields poor fuel figures, not good in the prices of unleaded gasoline that is equivalent to a bar of Magnum ice cream. But if there is one thing to praise this minivan is the comfort afforded by it, since you can sleep soundly on long trips. However, the suspension can get at its worst point when driven on bad objects that the road can offer. Except for the nibble, your spines would want to thank this van.

12 million units sold worldwide since launch is not a huge joke, since Chrysler's Lee Iaccoca did his job well. Santa Claus granted the American family's wish of having a minivan on their homes but do you think it would do well as a temporary sleigh? Would it capture the hearts of second hand car buyers wallets? If you drive in the city most of the time, this is not for you. Having out-of-town excursions? Consider this one since it fuel economy won't suffer.

Santa Says
This vehicle is a dream! I might want to have one as my sleigh since the space is good, especially when I put down the seats. Whenever I want to go around, comfort is the word and it fits the description. But fuel consumption is a concern since I wouldn't want to spend more on gasoline. If this minivan has a diesel version, I could have bought one instantly but there's none, its time to reconsider.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Mini and Full Size Vans

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
Yeah they are different in many ways: seating capacity, platform that was built, features, and engines; but they are united in two ways: the responsibility of ferrying people to their destination and possess sliding doors. So, in time for the Christmas season, let your Ultimate Used Car Guide pick the best choices in this category.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Asian Utility and Multi Purpose Vehicles

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
Asian Utility and Multi Purpose Vehicles are popular in the country for several reasons. They have a high degree of flexibility, maintenance costs do not eat up the kids tuition fees, tough like nails, and importantly, affordable to buy. Seeking for a new family ride without breaking the bank for the holidays? Let your Ultimate Used Car Guide lead you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Sports Cars and Convertibles

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
Want the cool breeze to hit your face while cruising this holiday season? Or desiring the adrenalin rush and craving the three digit speed diet on the empty tarmac? Well, this article helps you find the great bargains when it comes to sports cars and convertibles that you can purchase.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Used Car Review - Mitsubishi L200 Strada (1999-2006)

What if Myk Belmonte recommended a pick-up truck to Santa for his sleigh? The red suit guy may jump for joy when he reads this article. But, this is the second week and the search still goes on, since its 13 days before Christmas.

1998-2006 Mitsubishi L200 Strada

The Mitsubishi pickup truck that is reviewed in this article used a lot of names for its selling duty worldwide. And these names include the L200, Triton, Strada, Forte, Mighty Max, Rodeo, Colt, Storm, Magnum, and Sportero just for the three diamond brand alone. In fact, this pick-up truck have been American citizens for a while wearing the names of Dodge and Plymouth but both had returned to Japan after the discontinuation of the Dodge Ram 50 in 1993. Santa got confused with these names, so do I.

Enough of name calling, the generation of this Mitsubishi pick-up is on its third generation which was introduced in 1996. It saw the usage of round angles and while the engine is still the same, power had been increased to the hundred territory. Unlike other trucks, this one participated in the Dakar Rally in 2005, and this competition proved its durability and reliability. After 10 long years, production was discontinued in favor of the fourth generation designed by Akinori Nakanishi.

Filipinos have a soft spot for tough pick-up trucks, and the Mitsubishi is one of them. The third generation L200 Strada was launched in 1999 despite the competition from the newly introduced Nissan Frontier and Isuzu Fuego, both best sellers. Several improvements such as the addition of more creature comforts and the bump in power of the 4D56 engine. It stayed for a long six years (which is the norm among trucks) and bowed out to give way for the fourth generation model. Variants include the basic GLX and GLS and the upper tier LE.

Value and Costs
Planning to own a basic truck for the price of a brand new base model sedan? You can see second hand L200 Strada's priced between P320,000-P480,000. Basically, Mitsubishi vehicles with diesel engines do possess a high resale value due to the perception they have received. There exist the Endeavor nameplate, which is essentially an L200 pickup without 4WD option and has a lower height. So, if you want the real thing pay attention to the height.

The surprise here is that, maintaining this beast is easy since you wont encounter any dilemmas that vehicles with common rail diesel engines have, which is they are picky when it comes to their fuel type. The 4D56 (sounds familiar to you then? You can see this engine residing in the L300 and Adventure) power plant can be fixed by any mechanic and related parts for it can be procured in any auto shop. Do check out for any black smoke coming out of the tail pipe and for the suspension system if it got abused by the previous owner. Other than these nibbles, the L200 Strada is one solid truck.

Exterior and Interior
One good thing about this truck is it does not possess styling cues from a car. With earlier models having fender flares and other automatic buluroy, with these two deleted in 2006. Either bulky or stripped, you can't deny that the L200 Strada is macho looking with its squarish frame, large multi-reflector frame, and the famed hood scoop for the turbo engine. Two tone exterior paint is available on the top of the line LE model while low variants get a single color scheme.

Inside, the interior could be described as dated but then, hauling and off-roading is the L200's forte. Driving position is somewhat awkward due to the angle of the steering wheel and the seating positions is limited to four directions. The seats are actually comfortable with the support, that is if you do not have the larger than average frame, so hit the gym first and ask your doctor for a diet plan before buying this truck. Controls and switches are easy to operate except for the slide type for the ventilation, which is very clumsy to use.

As mentioned earlier, the sole choice of engine for L200 Strada buyers is the popular 4D56 engine with intercooler. If the L300 and the Adventure carries 74 ponies, the intercooler had more, with 100hp at 4,200rpm and 245Nm at 2,000rpm. Despite modest figures, it can keep up with the other cars and can reach 100km/h. But a deficiency for vehicles built for hauling than top speed, reaching beyond 120km/h can keep the truck lifeless. Please be reminded that this is no sports car.

Driving Impressions
Fire up the engine and while on motion even on cemented roads, you and your other passengers would bounce around since the truck is hauling biased. The rear seat occupants will find the spot having the harsh ride and the b-pillar is not covered (bare metal than the plastic covered norm), which can cause head lumps and make the ride experience a bad one. Maneuvering through the unpredictably changing U-turn slots can be a chore despite the manageable size. For the positives, handling is manageable with the usual understeer and body roll, the narrow body is a perfect city companion since maneuvering is easy, the Easy Select 4WD System is a cinch to use, and outside visibility is excellent.

You buy pickup trucks because you need to haul, not because to carry your family or to participate in drag racing. If you carry construction materials or furniture, items for the farm, or towing a trailer which contains motor bikes the L200 Strada is for you. Choosing this vehicle as your family car? I won't recommend this no thanks to the harsh ride and funds for band aids is needed. I suggest to look elsewhere for a comfortable family car.

Santa Says
This is what I want! A pickup truck for my gift giving duty thanks to the huge bed. I can store my toys there and at the same time, place some little inside the cabin since I'm driving alone most of the time. If I were to consider this, let my bargaining powers have me a camper shell for the bed to cover the toys from rain and snow. Let me see the other options before making a decision, until next week!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Premium and Luxury Sedans

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
This Friday, we'll have premium and luxury sedans on the spotlight since the power of depreciation hit them which translates as great bargains. What used to be the playthings of the rich can be your daily driver and intimidate the brand new car which your office mate has been driving. So, what these executive picks can your money buy?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Compacts, Wagons, and Hatchbacks

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
This Thursday, let's focus on compact sedans and the not-so small hatchbacks and wagons. But remember, what do buyers look at compacts may be different from those seeking in hatchbacks and wagons. So, parameters and requirements would differ, shall we list them down?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Bargains of Christmas - Sub-Compact Sedans and Hatchbacks

Christmas is just around the corner, and you're asking what car would you want to gift to yourself (if you are good this year) or to your loved ones. Your Ultimate Used Car Guide is here to solve the problem by giving you some recommendations.

So, how are these bargain picks are chosen? Here are some criteria that were followed:
  • A vehicle must be available between 2002-2011
  • Reported problems from owners are minimal, they are based from local forums and several of my reviews
  • Vehicle value must be excellent, since they are good bargains. 
  • Must offer a competitive advantage over its rivals and must fit the buyers needs in a category
  • Availability in the second hand market must be widespread
For this day, let's delve more in the sub-compact sedan and hatchback category since most car buyers start here. Seeking a fuel efficient steed that is easy to maneuver, practical to own, and could carry you plus three passengers; start with this list.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Used Car Review - Hyundai Accent (2006-2010)

Santa to Myk Belmonte: Give me your first pick, preferably a sedan that meets my criteria. So, jolly old fellow, this is the first car that your ultimate used car guide would give to you. Read this one first and you still have 22 days to go before deciding.

2006-2010 Hyundai Accent

Let's go back to history with a big question. Who could remember the Hyundai Excel? If I were to answer it, I don't since they are becoming rare in the roads with the remaining units transporting lower income souls or students who are contented with cheap wheels. Neither Santa from years of giving toys to children from one to 92 can spot this vehicle while on duty in Uzbekistan and the inner provinces of Russia. Many of them are ending their lives in vehicle junk yards in South Korea, Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom. It was good riddance when it was discontinued in 1994 while the Philippines had to stick with it until 1998.

So, let's jump to the year 1995 in which a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit Japan, Windows 95 was released, and Hyundai launched the Accent to get rid of the bad memories from the Excel. The vehicle, as always, is one of the popular Hyundai vehicles around since it is marketed around the world under the current name (except in South Korea which uses the Verna name). So, the third generation Accent with the platform code MC was sold between 2006-2011 was a step up in terms of quality, refinement, and styling.

Hyundai Asia Resources Incorporated needed a budget sedan in the line-up sometime in 2005 (we can't consider the Matrix and Getz since they are hatchbacks) so they decided to add the Accent in the range in 2006. If the direct competitors had been popular among private consumers, the Accent found a niche market, the taxi and fleet buyers. Taxi and fleet operators had the chance to buy them brand new up to 2010, with the RB Accent replacing it the following year and didn't have the salable diesel engine. Variants available include the fleet favorite GL and the top end GLS.

Value and Costs
Seeking a fuel efficient and durable car for your daily grind to work? Place the Accent on your shopping list especially that under P500,000 you can get a car that consumes less gas and has more space than a brand new hatchback. If possible, scrutinize the unit well if it performed taxi duties especially that the turbo in the engine got abused.

Maintaining one does not result to a hole in your wallet or give you the need to skip meals for a month. However, keep an eye with the engine if problems abound it and a weakness among Korean vehicles, the suspension system. The latter, based on my interview with taxi drivers before, is not an expensive fix but given the road conditions here, it would be wise to replace them after signing the dotted line. By the way, fill the Accent up at gasoline stations with new stocks of diesel fuel to avoid contamination.

Exterior and Interior
Soft is the word to describe the Accent's styling, with numerous smooth lines abound. Let's shall review the front portion with the expansive headlights going with the flow in a smooth manner into the hood line, which is surrounded by a grille that is attractive. It goes well until the rear portion, with the designers made it a hybrid of a sedan and a hatchback. But still, it does not look polarizing nor offensive.

The interior debunks the vehicle's price, in which the materials used are of high quality and you can mistaken it for something made in Europe. Notice the dashboard, which is covered in matte that covers the lighter lower half. Buttons and controls are easier to manipulate and within the reach of the driver. While most people are accustomed with manual transmission shifters with the reverse gear on the lower right portion, the Accent's is located in the upper left, beside the first gear. Before buying the Accent, take time to practice reversing by pulling the ring and place it in reverse. In this case, Santa would love the fold down seats (present in the GLS trim) to stuff his toys while in ordinary days he can tag three more friends for a trip, since five people is a tight fit.

Worldwide, three engines are available for the Accent but only one managed to reach Philippine shores. That engine is a 1,493cc D diesel engine which produces 110hp at 4,000rpm and 244Nm at 1,900-2,750rpm. Don't worry, this is a common rail diesel engine with a variable geometry turbocharger (which you can see in the Mitsubishi Montero Sport). Drive it prudently (shift at 1,500rpm) and it will give you decent fuel efficiency, but unleash the Tasmanian devil in you (go beyond 2,000rpm) and you can beat those V6 powered Camrys and Accords at nighttime thanks to the lighter weight.

Driving Impressions
If you dream of a sports car at affordable prices with the practicality of a sedan, the Accent is for you. Let's deal with the positives, the driving experience  starts with a smooth off-the-line response with the ability to drive a gear higher than its gasoline counterparts. However, there are some spoilers. The suspension is more comfort biased, steering does not provide any feedback at all, and the while braking is excellent, it does not get any confidence from the engine. Still, a fun to drive and an efficient car your money can purchase.

They say that if you want to sell, you must be different. And different from the competition it is, the Accent proved to be a reliable partner for taxi drivers and fleet managers for its diesel engine, the selling point. However, there are flaws that the Accent exhibits such as the numb steering, the absence of ABS brakes and airbags, and the awkward transmission; but learn to live with it and you'll love it more.

Santa Says
Hey! I like the diesel engine and the fold down seats since if i'm driving in tight places such as the numerous cities in Europe and Asia. The diesel mover is great since I can save on money for fuel which I can feed on my seven reindeer. The lifeless steering is a turnoff since I'm a sporty but naughty guy (in the streets) since I love to toy around. For the price, it is a steal and a nice gift to me but as a sleigh, I'll pass this offer, I find this car small.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Feature Story - A Hunt For Santa's Sleigh

Dear Myk.

This is Santa, I've been impressed with your used car reviews since they are informative and entertaining. In fact, I can access your site anytime without the usage of paper or waiting for months.

But for this month, may I ask you a favor? My seven reindeer have been taking a vacation for months, which I encourage them to do. So, now I need a beast of burden that could bring the goodies and toys to the millions of children around the world. These are my criteria for the sleigh:

- Must be spacious enough to carry the toys and goodies
- Should have a durable engine and chassis
- Very very fuel efficient
- Parts must be accessible and cheap, since I'm travelling around the world
- Should access a multitude of roads (i.e rough, smooth, unpaved)
- Costing one must not be similar to taking care of the reindeer
- And not to forget, comfortable to be in and basic driver features are enough

I would like to see several sedans, pick-up trucks, minivans, and sport utility vehicles in my choices.

So, can you help me pick the very best beast of burden among the cars you have reviewed? I know you could and it would be such an honor. Suggestions from you are very welcome!

Hohoho Happy Holidays!
Santa Claus

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Ultimate Used Car Guide Surprise

Yeah, Christmas is coming so, so as the year 2013. As a giveaway gift to you, my readers, I would be giving you a surprise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Used Car Review Compilation (11/27/2012 Update)



I've started creating used car reviews since December 2011 in a weekly basis and it would be very hard for several of my blog visitors to wade around my blogsite. So, to simplify your life, I would be compiling all used car reviews done by me and this list would be updated once a month and you'll see the possible vehicles that I would be making a used car review in the future, and the existing ones. You may also suggest a car that you want to see in this page by commenting. All existing models are not included.

So, here are the cars. Links are provided for available articles.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Used Car Review - Mazda 323 Familia (1996-2000)

Before we end the year, among all the compact sedans sold in the 90s, Myk Belmonte reviews this rather forgotten compact before that delivers all the goods and equipment which most popular choices lack. So, are you ready to review this car?

1996-2000 Mazda 323 Familia

Thanks to user basti08 of for supply some data!

What is the main similarity of the Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra/Sunny, and the Mazda Familia? These four models were launched in during the 60s and since then, all but the Mazda remained in the market with the Mazda Familia was replaced by the Mazda 3. And a fact, the Ford Laser was basically a twin of the Familia due to the ownership stake that Mazda gained with Ford back then.

The seventh generation model with the platform code BH was introduced first in the Japan Domestic Market  in 1994, together with a Van version (which is essentially a rebadged Nissan Sunny California). Various model styles include a three door hatchback named as the Neo, a four door hardtop known as the Lantis, and a five door hatchback using the Lantis/Astina names. While it ceased production in 1998, other nations had it for a little bit longer.

Interestingly enough, the 323 Familia nameplate used in the Philippines is very wide and in fact, a number of them are sold side by side. Which included the Lantis, Astina, 323 (a popular choice among taxi drivers back then), and the 323 Familia. Family lineage aside, the Seventh generation model was introduced to the market by Columbian Autocar Corporation in 1996. Initially it was offered in GLX trim at launch, then 1997 saw the releases of the base GLi and the limited MazdaSpeed variant. An update in late 1997 had the top line model being renamed as the GLXi, and the addition of a base model named as the GL, which used a 1.3 engine. The GLi was retained with minimal updates, which will be elaborated more in the Exterior and Interior section of this article. You could buy one until the year 2000, which are basically leftover units.

Value and Costs
Due to the perception that Mazda gained (it was active in motor sports back then but relegated to the taxi market during its time) when it pulled out, prices of a second hand Mazda 323 Familia would set you P110,000-P160,000. To be honest, if you are looking for a bang-for-the-buck car, I advise to check this vehicle out apart from the Nissan Sentra B14. It does have a complete set of standard equipment back then, so you get more for less. Even power amenities and other niceties are never scrimped even in the lowest models.

Say you will buy a 323 Familia and they will discourage you due to the popular reason of "konti lang piyesa yan", but, there are numerous parts stores that cater to Mazda vehicles and some components are switchable with the Ford Lynx. If you plan to get one, have your foot be friendly to the pedal since reaching 100kph with the tach be on the 3,500rpm range would result to less-than-stellar fuel consumption. One common problem with this vehicle would be the rear suspension bushings and other related parts, especially if the owner doesn't care placing tons of stuff at the trunk.

Exterior and Interior
Among the sedans offered in the mid-Nineties, this looks sexy and curvy among the boxes and edges that is prevalent back then. You my say that that Aeolus sculpted it, but thank God that it does not have that sharply sloped rear windshield which causes reduction of rear headroom that afflicted other sedans back then. If you are a Mazda enthusiast, you could point out the 1996 and the late 1997 models by their lights. 1996 units had their headlights and bumper-mounted signal lights while the update had them relocated in the corners. Fluted lenses are standard in 1996 models while late 1997 models do carry the clear headlamp and foglamp lenses. There exists a Mazda Speed variant with a different set of alloys, body kits, and other accessories.

The dashboard won't win any best dashboard awards if there is one, it is built on the function side and done in grey to avoid glare, that's if the previous owner wasn't crazy about Armor All. Controls are appropriately sized but the switchgear is flimsy feeling. The driver's seat has adjustments for different sizes, while the shotgun passenger has decent seating support. Rear passengers are treated to a leg stretching ride, credit the long wheelbase of the 323 Familia. A first in the industry is the additional glovebox on top of the main one in the pre-facelifted models (the glovebox was redesigned in the update), this concept was done by other manufacturers recently which includes the Toyota Innova. The 1996-1997 GLX had ABS Brakes, 60/40 seats, rear center armrest, center console, rear defogger, and its air conditioning is the push type one. GLi models do have power amenities at least, but blacked out bumpers are standard, as opposed to the GLX's body colored. The late 1997 update had the addition of the base GL model; it had power amenities except that it had vinyl upholstery, black bumpers and side mirrors and a decontented interior. The GLi had cloth seats, body color panels which the previous one had it blacked. The GLXi gained a driver's airbag, fog lamps, and four wheel disc brakes while retaining the same kit.

A standard fare among 90s sedans is a choice of a carbureted engine and one with fuel injection system. The GL trim utilizes a B3 1,324cc carburetor that has 75hp at 6,000rpm and 104Nm at 5,200rpm. While the rest of the variants get to have a B6 1,597cc with 115hp at 6,000rpm and 139Nm at 3,500rpm under their hoods. Let's leave out the B3 since you'll be mostly encountering models with the B6 engine. The 1.6 liter engine does have that flexibility on different speeds at low revs, but drive prudently since the throttle can get twitchy.

Driving Impressions
Place the ignition and the 323 Familia starts without drama. Shift to first gear and you'll be rewarded with a peppy acceleration that tempts you to speed up, and notice that it has more than the indicated 115hp. Shifts are fluid once you are used to the fairly torques power band of the engine. Whenever you extract maximum acceleration in a little amount of time, accelerating to the peak is not that smooth but not that rough. Rev up to the redline and you'll hear a boomy noise that could get annoying but drive smoothly and no engine noise would be heard. Steering can get lifeless in road imperfections which is common with vehicles that use the McPherson suspension and slightly high profile tires. Braking is excellent, since ABS come standard and the all disc combo.

Shopping for a well equipped car in the price range of P150,000 (not including repairs) is a hard task, but knowing the secret about this vehicle would make you want to check this beauty out. Nightmares of the past such as lack of parts availability are now banished. If you desire sports car driving characteristics for less but with more equipment, the time for hunting one is now.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Used Car Review - Ford Explorer (2007-2011)

If you say SUV, it should be American. You want one right? But Myk Belmonte says that it must be practical since fuel money is limited, space is trouble, and less is more. But what American SUV would be it? There is one outstanding choice in a sea of them.

2007-2011 Ford Explorer

If there is one vehicle that ignited the SUV craze, this would be the one. The Explorer replaced the Ford Bronco in 1990 and thus became a runaway success which caused other manufacturers (particularly the Americans) to join the party. There are numerous Explorer history tidbits which include the introduction of the Explorer Sport Trac pick-up truck in 2001 and who could forget the rollover controversy that tarnished the relationship with a tire brand? Very notable SUV in Ford's history indeed.

The fourth generation model was sold from 2006-2010 (our market had it a year late) which was an update rather than a redesign. If you notice the size, it is more upsized than the previous model due to the Ford Freestyle slotting between it and the Escape. And a piece of trivia, this version of the Explorer was sold in Japan as original LHD since vehicles whose steering wheel is on the left are considered prestigious there.

As what I said earlier, the 4th generation Explorer arrived with a one year delay. As for this reason, this is because the third generation model was introduced in 2005 and stayed until 2006, which is the cause of this delay. This stayed in Ford dealers until 2011, with the much hyped 5th generation model launched late that year.

Value and Costs
Not a fan of the crossover Explorer sold now? You can obtain the previous generation model for just less, with prices between P850,000-P1,600,000 for various year models. Better focus on the condition than a particular year model since changes are minimal.

Common problems with the Explorer involves (mostly) the electrical functions such as the liftgate, and the power folding seats. It would be a pain for you if the previous owner was very negligent about this, but a well maintained unit is a good way to go.

Exterior and Interior
Remove the badges and you'll say that the Explorer is basically a shrunken Expedition. This is true since the exterior cues are visible even from afar. The grille which is surrounded by the cleanly placed integrated aerodynamic lights is displayed prominently. Accessories that are there when needed the most are the roof rack stands, and a tow hitch that can carry at least three tons of cargo.

Tons of leather surfaces would greet you inside the Explorer from the seats to some interior bits. The dashboard is neatly done with controls placed where they should be and truly American. Five people is a comfortable fit but the third row is best left empty. But if cargo hauling is the order what the doctor ordered, you can have the seats folded by a flick of a button.

As usual with American SUV's, a V6 engine and one with eight cylinders are standard. But in the Philippine setting, a V6 engine was offered. A Cologne 4,009cc gasoline with 210hp at 5,100rpm and 344Nm at 3,700rpm comes standard and it is the lone option. Why is it named Cologne? This particular type of engine is made in Germany but for USDM Fords only, weird isn't it. Power is ready at any revs, credit the variable-length intake manifold for this.

Driving Impressions
If you are decided to purchase an Explorer, take time to learn the placement of controls, especially if you are used to Japanese layouts. Driving this SUV is fun since the V6 engine provides enough power to weave through traffic. Handling debunks the stereotypes for SUV's, this one is very nimble and braking is excellent. This injects the sport factor in the Sport Utility Vehicle.

Undecided on what pre-owned SUV to buy? Add the Ford Explorer to your shopping list since you may be impressed with the levels of equipment for its price. If you are that type of person who thinks green (environmentally ok?) this is not the car for you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wildcard Pick of the Month - Nissan Murano (2006-2009)

Our third wildcard pick would be a topic of interest since Myk Belmonte is also intrigued with this vehicle. Who knew this vehicle would put this manufacturer on the track because it looks so darn beautiful. Enough with the cheesy start, let's evaluate this car shall we?

2006-2009 Nissan Murano

In a sport utility vehicle, there is a trade-off between the sporty aspect and the utility portion. If the SUV emphasizes sporty driving and looks, you don't get to have two extra people to sit at the back and rear visibility is suckish. If we deal with the utility portion of the SUV, comfort is not in the vocabulary as well as refinement, but they are tops when it comes to maintenance costs.

The Nissan Murano is marketed as a sporty crossover than the utility aspect. Besides, if you are hunting a utility SUV in Nissan's lineup, you'll go with the Pathfinder right? It was designed in California and the Murano name came from a place in Italy, where hand blown glass is produced. If there was one car that steered Nissan in the right direction, this is the one. A VQ engine also utilized by the Maxima and Altima is kitted under the hood, style cues for both outside and some interior bits taken from the 350z, and styling that spectators never seen from any Nissan. It was sold from 2003 to 2007 internationally.

2006 saw the arrival of the Murano in the Philippines courtesy of Nissan Motors Philippines and along with the 350z, this Nissan brought new light to the carmaker. While 2008 saw the sales of the new generation Murano, we had this (albeit in limited quantities) until 2009, with the second gen's introduction in 2010.

Value and Costs
You may say that the Murano is overpriced at P2.6M during its time, but a closer inspection reveals that it was money well spent, with unrivaled levels of luxury and power for those shopping at this segment. And for second hand prices of P800,000-P1,200,000, you can get sports car driving with the added advantage of a high ground clearance at less price.

Maintaining this SUV would cost a bit higher than a Fortuner or Montero Sport, heck even more than a Patrol. Just remember to fill up the oil fluid levels, use a CVT fluid than a ATF, replace all wheels at the same time, and feed it with premium fuel than regular unleaded.

Exterior and Interior
Designers at Nissan believed in the "think out of the box" philosophy with using a design cue reserved for expensive sports cars. And Nissan succeeded in merging form and functionality in one package without having the final product different from what they wanted. You'll even say to yourself that the stylish shell was made in the Italian town known for hand blown glass, since it so damn beautiful.

Going inside, the interior is a cross between the 350z and the X-Trail. A fact, the Murano's wide and expansive dashboard has to be the automobile kingdom's deepest dashboard (if there is any claim to begin with). With that in mind, you could use it as a parcel tray and it looks similar as well, but remember not to place heavy items and extra buluroy on the car. To review the other parts, controls are logically located and within reach, plus other features that emphasize driver convenience include a one-touch backseat folding mechanism and a Bose audio system tops this off. Space for human beings are adequate in both quarters.

There is only one engine standard on all Muranos, and it is a VQ35DE 3,498cc V6 with 234hp at 6,000rpm and 318Nm at 3,600rpm. If this power and torque figures is too much power in some sedans, in the Murano it is just right to carry the two ton vehicle. And while we're at it, this particular engine also powers the 350z and the VQ engine family is usually included in the Ward's 10 Best Engines awards.

Driving Impressions
It may be heavy, but the engine does the job of hauling this SUV with that weight. The CVT transmission extracts every power available at any given time, but one must take time to learn the tricks on maximizing power available. Acceleration and handling are very similar to the sports car where it is based on, thanks to the rear suspension derived from the 350z. However, rear visibility is not a strong suit because of the chunky C-pillars.

You can buy a sports car, but forgo with the practicality and the other four passengers. But with the Murano, you and four other people can hop in and enjoy the 350z's driving characteristics. Just make sure you do have reserved funds for fueling this baby up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Used Car Review - Jaguar S-Type (1999-2007)

If Myk belmonte had featured a Land Rover months ago, this time, another British brand would be gracing these pages. If you are the type of person who dares to be different, so my friend, read this post and make a wise decision.

1999-2007 Jaguar S-Type

History dictates that Jaguar was formed way back in 1922 by two friends in Blackpool, England. First called the Swallow Sidecar Company, then renamed as the Swallow Coachbuilding Company in 1927. The early thirties had their name change to SS Cars, that was the time the first Jaguars are born, but, they are not called Jaguars during that time. Production stopped in 1940 due to the war and resumed in 1945, with the SS Cars being reborn as Jaguar Cars.

To branch out to the mass market somehow, the S-Type was introduced in 1998 with design credits from Geoff Lawson. With that time Ford owning the leaping cat brand, the platform is shared with various Ford vehicles which includes the Lincoln LS and the revived Ford Thunderbird. This car aims to ignite interest for the brand to attract newer buyers. Come 2007, it was axed in favor of the XF and thus, the Jaguar brand was sold to Tata Motors based in India.

The Jaguar S-Type was made to the select few buyers (or in short, the high income market since they do have the money) in 1999. With the local distributor following the international market, the S-Type was discontinued to be replaced by the XF.

Value and Costs
From P800,000-P1,600,000, your British dreams could be achieved for less. This price range ranges models that are in good condition to the spotty ones. Be cautious of second hand units from other countries, and units with questionable odometer readings. They can cause problems in the future, and this is a bad thing for luxury cars. Going with a second hand unit that has been certified is a wise proposition.

Cost of maintaining these felines is at par with other European brands, so there is no need to cut back on meals for a year. Let me debunk on the impression that has been widespread during the old days according to the old school thinking of Joseph Lucas, these are not applicable in this decade. And to worry you less, electrical components come from the Land of Nippon, so if there is any sensor or two that fail, you can find an equivalent from the parts bin of a different brand. If problems persist regarding funny noises, unusual driving characteristics, or liquids entering from nowhere, don't make the problem big and go to the nearest service center to fix them.

Exterior and Interior
Car nut or not, you'll say that the S-Type is a beautiful car. Inspect closer and you will see small details that other makes cannot imitate (some imitate it but end up as fails). Squint hard at the grille mesh, you will say that it is stamped but actually, it is a woven mesh, with threads and fabric collide. The lines would remind you of Jaguar's coachbuilding background, with complex curves and shapes that are nice to look at.

The interior trim is a throwback to Jaguar's past, with wood trims (this is real, not fake that most use) and soft leather. Hold the steering wheel where the logo is proudly displayed, it would guarantee you hours of fun. A unique touch is the J-gate automatic shifter, which provides distinct positions for each gear. There was never a time Jaguar scrimped in audio portion, comfort, and safety; with a reasonable amount of kit being standard. If you plan to bring four people with you, better not since the rear is very cramped.

Two engines with two engine cylinders and a turbo option are the choices for the moneyed crowd. The most popular variant (and you will encounter this one) is an AJ30 2,967cc V6 which has 240hp at 6,800rpm and 300Nm 4,100rpm. If you have tons of money for maintenance and gas, you get two V8 options starting with the AJ34 2,967cc that possess 300hp at 6,000rpm and 420Nm at 4,100rpm. Opting for the turbo version would get you the same engine but 400hp at 6,100rpm and 541Nm at 3,500rpm. The V6 is more than enough to satisfy your power needs and ends out purrific since it uses a wide range of revs. Going for the V8 gives you more power and same goes with the turbo.

Driving Impressions
Say bye bye to the lack of power since the S-Type provides you a lot, yes, a lot of ready power. Handling is decent enough, but don't expect sports car-like. But if there is one thing where the S-Type would shine, it would be isolation. Couple this with the leather seats, and you'll enjoy the scenery. Just remember to be patient with the brakes, since it takes time getting used to than your ordinary car.

Going with the S-Type is not a choice done by a fool. You will be rewarded with the elegance it provides, and also the performance you could get even in stock form. It may not be as plenty as the Germans, but you can say to yourself that you have arrived. And there is the feeling of owning a British car, which should be experienced, not read in reviews. So, go out and buy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Used Car Buying Tips - Identifying The Origin Of The Plate Of The Car

This article is dedicated to those used car buyers who are paranoid. Especially if the one is a "hot car", which meant stolen or the owner relocated. So, let's start the article without much ado.

Arranged alphabetically:
"A" - Ilocos provinces, La Union, Pangasinan, Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Apayao, Kalinga.
"B" - Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batanes.
"C" - Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Aurora. 2002 and below year models.
"D" - Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan. 1998 and below year models.
"E" - Camarines provinces, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Masbate.
"F" - Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras.
"G" - Cebu, Negros Oriental, Bohol, Siquijor. 2003 and below year models
"H" - Leyte, provinces, Samar provinces, Biliran.
"I" - Not assigned.
"J" - Zamboanga provinces, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao.
"K" - Misamis provinces, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, Augusan provinces, Surigao provinces, Camiguin, Dinagat Islands.
"L" - Davao provinces, Compostela Valley.
"M" - North and South Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat.
"N" - Metro Manila. 1981-1982 and 2009-2010 year models.
"O" - Not assigned.
"P" - Metro Manila. 1982-1991 and 2010-2011 year models.
"Q" - Not assigned.
"R" - Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Aurora. 2003 and above year models.
"S" - Government vehicles.
"T" - Metro Manila. 1991-1995 and 2011-2012 year models.
"U" - Metro Manila. 1995-1997 and 2012-2013 year models (estimated).
"V" - Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan. 1999 and above year models.
"W" - Metro Manila. 1998-2001 year models.
"X" - Metro Manila. 2001-2005 year models.
"Y" - Cebu, Negros Oriental, Bohol, Siquijor. 2004 and above year models.
"Z" - Metro Manila. 2005-2009 year models.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Used Car Review - Volvo XC70 (2000-2007)

They said that wagons would never go off road and should not have all wheel drive. But Myk Belmonte is impressed with this wagon that can take the roads that lead to nowhere and at the same time, can do your grocery and baby sitting jobs. San ka pa? 

2000-2007 Volvo XC70

This Sweden based carmaker loves to build wagons and have them on their line-up. In fact, more than 15 wagon models had been made by Volvo since 1966. There are wagons that are aimed for small families and as a city duty driver. Volvo made wagons that substituted SUV's for vacation trips and long drives. But the carmaker didn't play it safe when they released the XC70 in the year 2000. They tried to use a wagon body, add all wheel drive, raise it up, and add some plastic cladding.

Peter Horbury - the master designer behind several Volvo vehicles - crafted and designed the second generation model of the V70 series. While the ordinary V70 had no all-wheel drive and a raised suspension, the XC70 is blessed with them. To differentiate them, the V70 looks ordinary while the XC70 is a little bit higher. Production ended for both the V70 and XC70 in 2007 to make way for the third generation model that is launched in the following year.

Viking Motors Inc. (the one who distributes Volvo vehicles in the Philippines) brought in this vehicle to the Philippine market as niche vehicle. Yes, whenever you go to a Volvo dealer you're going to acquire a S60, S40, or on the very least the V40/V50? But, there are adventurous buyers who didn't want the bulk and consumption of an SUV, which meant there is a following for this car. 2008 saw the release of the third gen V70/XC70 and thus, the previous one got the ax the year before that.

Value and Costs
If your wallet and bank account said that you can't afford the newer XC70 that is gleaming on a Volvo dealership, you can have one via the used car market - or better yet, from Volvo's pre-owned section - for just P550,000-P700,000. Your priority is something all around that doesn't have the bulk yet efficient all around, this is one of the few sensible choices if that is the criteria.

Among all the items that should be inspected in the car before driving it off in the lot, is the suspension system. Why that? It is a raised vehicle and you'll need it at all times. Have it abused by the previous owner, you'll get the trouble of replacing it with brand new ones. Another area of concern is the turbo especially if the one whom your buying your unit drives like crazy.

Exterior and Interior
For the outside looks, you may say that it is the end result when the V70 and an American SUV mated. The increased height mean't protection against stones and floods, not going hard core off roading. In the end, do not take this one to Mount Pinatubo or you'll end up stuck.

As with all Volvos, controls are placed near the driver's reach. Pressing or pushing the buttons would let you say that money is well spent, since they are made of high quality materials. Aluminum is a welcome feature than wood that is fake and prevalent among vehicles that are priced more. There are not much cubby holes but there are numerous pockets spread across the passenger cabin. A strong suit of this vehicle is that you can nearly fit anything in the cargo area (even a corpse! But don't attempt it ok?) thanks to the boxy exterior. If you plan to use it as a family vehicle, they will thank you for that since it can fit five people in comfort.
Only one engine is available for PHDM XC70's, and this is a 2.5 I5 gasoline engine that has 210hp at 6,000rpm and 285Nm at 1,800-5,000rpm. This engine can be driven at any range thanks to a wide range of revs. You can drive it fast, and you can drive it slow, but be ready to pay the price at the pump.

Driving Impressions
Driving this beast at highway maximum speeds would show a different behavior when handled in a graceful manner. It would be better to let the computer work the gears for you than using the manu-matic mode, since it is not smooth. It accelerates in an impressive manner and stops in a dime, which defies its extra weight. Have it treated with a corner and it would show some understeer and having some wheelspin. Don't compare the driving characteristics of the XC70 to a BMW X5, but this alone is decent enough for everyday living.

Question to Myk: If there is one car you want to own it during your lifetime (which means no purchases or trades until death), what would it be? Answer: Among all the cars available, it would be the Volvo XC70. It has the capabilities of a wagon, the flood-wading skills of an SUV, the riding comfort of a sedan, and not awkwardly looking like a van.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Car Features - Cars That Filipinos Bought in 1998

While waiting for the next used car feature this monday, let's go back to memory lane and explore the year 1998. We could all remember the financial crisis struck the country, Erap was elected to stay in Malacanang, and the country celebrated 100 years of independence. Let's check what did the Filipinos purchased during that year, with figures courtesy of Top Gear Philippines and Best Selling Cars Blog.

From 160,000 plus units driving off showroom floors in 1996, only a half were driven off with 80,193 vehicles found an owner. Out of the ten, seven faced double digit decreases in sales while three vehicles are making their mark in the market.

Still at the top, the Toyota Corolla is the sales leader but selling 7,629 units and having a decline of 45%. The new generation sold in that year was called the "Love Life" but it didn't manage to capture the hearts of buyers in the following year, unlike the one which leads us to the second bestseller below.

6,352 Honda Civics are driven off Honda dealers with a decrease of 40%. This was less than the Corolla's 45% and surprisingly, it managed to sell well despite being older than the Corolla and Lancer, the two main competitors.

New to the country and to this list is the Mitsubishi Adventure with 6,319 units found an owner to an otherwise new nameplate. It managed to boot out the Toyota Tamaraw FX as the best selling AUV and the only one throughout the nameplate's history.

Next to the bigger Adventure is the Mitsubishi Lancer with 4,451 sales and 60% decrease. Among the sedans present here, it posted a huge decline.

At fifth spot is the Nissan Sentra which was treated to a minor model change in that year. Despite cosmetic changes and the addition of the base FE model, Sentra sales had fallen 57% with 3,879 units sold.

The second AUV not wearing a Toyota badge in this list is the Isuzu Hilander, with 3,617 sales and posting a 35% decrease. In fact, there are more Crosswinds sold than this one.

The only Korean vehicle in this list is the Kia Besta which saw 3,401 sales and posted a 31% decrease. For the record, this was the best selling full sized van from 1996-1998 which bested the veteran Mitsubishi L300.

An innovator for the compact SUV craze in the Philippines is the Honda CR-V, and despite the new name it managed to sell 3,181 pieces and thus, became the best selling compact until the arrival of the second generation Hyundai Tucson in 2010.

Two Toyotas of the same category occupied the last two slots and first is the Toyota Revo, despite being launched in the last part of 1998 found 3,118 owners. This dethroned the Corolla the following year and saved Toyota some sales.

The other one is the aging Toyota Tamaraw FX that saw a 75% decrease and selling 3,045 units. The following year or so, the brand axed this popular but old name.

While the mainstays experienced a slump in their sales, three models managed to make a splash in the Philippine automotive culture with the two stayed in production while the other one evolved as the Innova.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Used Car Review Compilation (10/29/2012 Update)



I've started creating used car reviews since December 2011 in a weekly basis and it would be very hard for several of my blog visitors to wade around my blogsite. So, to simplify your life, I would be compiling all used car reviews done by me and this list would be updated once a month and you'll see the possible vehicles that I would be making a used car review in the future, and the existing ones. You may also suggest a car that you want to see in this page by commenting. Do take note I would not be reviewing all used vehicles locally, only those that are desirable as a used car purchase, or cars that demand as collectors items. All existing models are not included.

So, here are the cars. Links are provided for available articles.

Car Features - Best Selling Car Nameplates in the Philippines from 1995-2011

Curious on what nameplates were popular in the Philippines in the last 16 years? Well, your Ultimate Used Car Guide reveals the 20 most successful nameplates in the country.

Top 20 most successful nameplates in the Philippines from 1995-2011

Pos. Model Volume Year
1 Toyota Corolla 17,686 1996
2 Honda Civic 15,899 1996
3 Toyota Tamaraw FX 15,661 1995
4 Toyota Vios 15,391 2010
5 Mitsubishi Lancer 13,119 1996
6 Nissan Sentra 12,658 1995
7 Toyota Innova 12,608 2010
8 Mitsubishi Montero Sport 12,247 2010
9 Toyota Revo 12,001 2003
10 Honda CR-V 9,708 2003
11 Mitsubishi L300 CC/FB 9,078 1996
12 Honda City 8,914 2010
13 Isuzu Crosswind 8,901 2003
14 Mitsubishi Adventure 7,778 2002
15 Toyota Fortuner 7,548 2010
16 Kia Pride 6,490 1995
17 Toyota Avanza 6,257 2007
18 Isuzu Hilander 5,526 1997
19 Kia Besta 4,947 1997
20 Mitsubishi L300 Versa Van 4,647 1995


Used Car Review - Opel Astra (2000-2004)

Desiring an affordable German car without draining your wallet? Myk Belmonte finds this vehicle that suits your needs. And this car would fit our last wave to the month of October.

2000-2004 Opel Astra

Who can recall the Opel Kadett from their childhood days? Nostalgia aside, but why am I writing about the Kadett? The Astra replaced the Kadett since the former is the topic of this used car review. But, the Astra name itself came from GM's subsidiary who built the car that the Astra replaced.

Called the Astra G when it was introduced in 1998 (care to guess what the previous model was called?) for the European markets. A long line of body styles and engines are available to the public since launch. You'll be shocked if I said that the Astra had a V8 engine offered. But, that particular engine was utilized in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series throughout production days. While most markets gave way to the Astra H in 2005, this old body called as the Astra Classic II was offered in 2004-2009 and until 2011 in Brazil.

GM Automobiles Philippines brought in the Opel marque in 1997 and three years later, the Astra was made available to the general public. The good thing was, it competed with its Japanese and American competitors price and feature wise. And another advantage is that the wagon version is offered since the only competing model during that time was Suzuki Esteem (that's if you consider prices as a main factor). With the expansion of the Chevrolet brand in the mid-2000's and the poor after-sales service that the distributor faced, the Opel Astra (and the whole brand) was put out to pasture in 2005. There is no direct successor to the vehicle locally up to now.

Value and Costs
Desiring an affordable but true German car? The good news is that, second hand Astra prices fall in the range of P120,000-P200,000. A true bargain since the low resale value is because of the reputation that the local distributor gave. Just make sure the unit you are getting is decently maintained.

How many times that people discourage you not to buy an Opel due to parts scarcity? Fear not anymore, there are numerous parts stores as well as the support of several clubs and online buying sites which you can procure parts abroad. There are no general problems on the Astra, but these include various issues surrounding the steering system, brake discs, and the twist-beam axle. Just make sure you have the patience and know where to buy parts and waiting for them.

Exterior and Interior
Kids, listen to me. Whenever you see the Opel Astra infront of you, don't get scared. It possess a friendly face and a tightly screwed body, which explains why this car is very solid and possess no gaps. Have a side view and you'll say that it looks distinctive and clean. Suffice to say, this vehicle carries clutter free angles and you won't laugh with this styling so elegant.

Hold the steering wheel and notice something silver, yes, the top and bottom parts have silver plastic trims, but a disadvantage if you have clammy hands since it could get hard to hold and non-absorbent. Placing your abubot in the glovebox? Sorry no chance, since the space that should be for the glove box was hogged by the CD player. A tacky mix of silver, beige, and black plastics is what the Astra's dashboard is about. Good for four occupants, but five is a tight squeeze

Among the eight engine choices for public consumption offered in various parts of the world, only an Ecotec 1,598cc engine which has 110hp at 6,000rpm and 150Nm at 3,600rpm. To tell the truth, this engine is nothing special to write about. If you are doing city duties, this is adequate but plan to take it on the highways, you'll complain for the lack of power which I will explain further in the next paragraph.

Driving Impressions
As I expound more of the slow part of the vehicle, I have to tell this especially that the slushbox is very slow from a standstill. The sport mode isn't much of a help, so better leave it on D then. If you attempt to do your 0-100km/h speed runs, it would take you an eternity to achieve that. In that case, get a manual transmission Astra if possible. The driving experience would be a mixed bag, unwanted road thingos would be transmitted to the occupants, and tire noise is very evident.

You wouldn't mind the deficiencies that the Astra has, but if you are after owning a German car (the other car that I'm referring to is the Volkswagen Polo Classic sold previously and it is a Spanish car - a SEAT to be particular - so it's German in the badge) the Astra would be a left choice. Make sure you are patient and accept the flaws, just like in a relationship.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Used Car Review - Porsche Cayenne (2004-2009)

The German experience wouldn't be complete if a drive in Autobahn is lacking. Myk Belmonte invites you to speed up in this super car dominated road with a SUV. But what should we pick? The answer, an icon of the rich and from the man who built the people's car.

2004-2009 Porsche Cayenne

Risking or gambling for something good is not a bad thing, unless violence or blood is involved. There are numerous risks that ended up in triumph. An example is Sony introducing the Walkman to much phenomenal success while there are risks or attempts that should never be done, just like what the Catwoman film that starred Halle Berry. It flopped and thus, a risk not worth dying for. But, the story for Porsche (known for legendary sports cars and cabriolets) to introduce a sport utility vehicle was a commercial success for the company.

Sharing the platform with the Volkswagen Touareg and the Audi Q7, the Cayenne was Porsche's first entry to the then booming SUV market. The first generation model had mixed reviews in the beginning but proved that it was the performance oriented vehicle among the SUV's available for sale and applauded for its impressive handling and monstrous engines. Just like other Porsches, 10 engine configurations are available. Production and marketing ended in 2010, with the second generation model introduced in that year.

PGA Cars - the distributor of Porsche, Audi, and Lamborghini vehicles in the Philippines - brought in the Cayenne in 2004 after the engine displacement taxation basis was abolished. It was a success for the company, having several prominent celebrities, business people, and some filthy rich politicians (assuming that their pork barrel money went to). The first generation model had seen roads until 2010, with the second generation model launched in the same year.

Value and Costs
A second hand Porsche Cayenne would cost half of the brand new price, which ranges from P2,500,000-P5,000,000. It includes various engine models of V6, V8, turbocharged, and naturally aspired. A word of warning, you would encounter imported units from countries that do used car exporting as a source of income. With that in mind, better avoid these units if possible. Pick up a certified pre-owned unit from PGA Cars is the call of the day.

There are numerous issues to remember if you are considering a pre-loved Cayenne. First are numerous build issues since Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi vehicles are notorious when it comes to quality reports published by JD Power, Consumer Reports, and others. Issues that surround the Cayenne include the functionality of the air-controlled suspension, if the turbo gets shot by the previous owner, and various electronic niggles. Remember, do have a keen eye before purchasing since problems in a luxury vehicle is a nightmare.

Exterior and Interior
If I were to sum up the Cayenne's exterior, it won't win any Ms. Universe awards for car designs or any prestigious car exterior looks awards. The exterior shape resembles a turtle shell and thus, looks fierce especially on the open tarmac. You won't be buying the Cayenne for the looks right?

The interior is made up of high quality materials and the LCD screen serves as the main projector that shows the music tracks, radio stations, a GPS navigation, the call function, and other related media. You can link your phone via bluetooth function or insert your SIM card and vola, hands free driving! You can bring along four of your friends for a road trip with the Cayenne, with adequate room for everyone.

Two different sets of engines had been offered throughout the years. From 2004-2006, a 4.5 V8 engine in both natural and turbo flavors are made options. The naturally aspired 4.5 liter engine has 340hp and 420Nm while the turbo one carries 450hp and 620Nm. An update in 2007 added the following engines: A 3,598cc V6 that possess 290hp at 6,200rpm and 385Nm at 3,000rpm; the 4,806cc V8 is offered in different trims and in different horsepower and torque figures which includes a 385hp at 6,500rpm and 500Nm at 3,500rpm for the S line, GTS models get a 405hp at 6,500rpm and 500Nm at 3,500rpm, and lastly, Turbo S variants have 550hp at 6,000rpm and 750Nm at 2,250-4,500rpm. The V8 (whether turbo or not) has fast acceleration that leaves you breathless, honestly. The V6, although decent, does not do justice with the Cayenne's prestige and performance.

Driving Impressions
A clear and clutter free road is the order of the day for a Cayenne. Start the ignition, shift to drive (or push the clutch and go to first gear if you bought a manual transmission version), and give the accelerator a push and enjoy the ride. The ride is not bouncy as what sports cars are guilty of, so the speed junkie father can take the missus and their children for a adrenaline rush road trip. Just remember to buckle up and drive safely.

Any car enthusiast would love to dream to own a Porsche someday right? The Panamera would be a better choice but you want something big, a pre-owned Cayenne is a wiser pick. Besides, anything old but that is good is good right? And there is the support of the certified market, which alleviates fears of owning a luxury car.