Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Used Car Review - Hyundai Tucson (2005-2009)

The Korean car industry was a discussion topic inside comedy bars (operated by car enthusiasts and their talents are Vice Ganda, if this person was a car enthusiast) and beer sessions. Slowly but surely, they have improved when it comes to vehicle quality and they have been now favorites of every motorist around the world. Myk Belmonte asses this popular vehicle.

2005-2009 Hyundai Tucson

Back in 1998, South Korea was severely hit by the East Asian Financial Crisis. Daewoo was bought out by General Motors and Kia was purchased by Hyundai with the three lettered brand declaring bankruptcy. With the marriage of Hyundai and Kia, their union produced high quality models and even shared platforms with each other. If Hyundai had the Sonata, Kia does have their Optima; Kia had their Carnival/Sedona and on its second generation, it produced the Hyundai Entourage which flopped and now out of production. The second generation Kia Sportage was an advantage of Hyundai for developing the Tucson under the Hyundai Elantra's platform.

Introduced in 2004 and marketed worldwide until 2009 (Brazil still has this generation of Tucson until today), the Tucson enjoyed immense success with its affordable pricing, decent standard equipment that undercuts the established competition, and with something that no one had ever wondered, the desirability of the Hyundai badge.

Hyundai Asia Resources Incorporated released the Tucson in 2005 starting with the 2.0 CRDi 4x2 variant, it added a 2.0 gasoline 4x2 model the following year, and completing the Tucson line with the 2.0 CRDi 4x4 variant made available in 2007. It was an entry ticket for motorists desiring a capacity of a SUV with the driving dynamics of a sedan priced under a million bucks. The nameplate was so salable that even its second generation model generated a long line, probably a first from Hyundai in the Philippines.

Value and Costs
Pre-owned first generation Tucson's doed have prices in the range of P440,000-P800,000. Do take note that prices vary from the engines residing under their hood, overall condition of the vehicle, and even the year model (as I scout used car classified ads some are priced as low as P440,000!). There are Tucson's that do have black side bumpers and moldings, so do check them if it comes standard, especially if there are dents and scratches.

One advantage of the popularity of this compact SUV is the abundance of parts, ranging from the original, to the replacement ones. Maintenance is on the easy side but if one is considering a 4x4 variant, check if the 4x4 system functions properly and with the diesel variants, if oil changes are done to prevent the CRDi engine to commit suicide.

Exterior and Interior
The Tucson may not resemble anything similar from the land of Super Junior and Girls Generation. It has design cues straight from European automobiles. Try removing the italicized "H" badge, and you'll now have an SUV from a German sports car brand, although shrunken in size (from L to XS, if there is any such thing). Wide windows are a treat for driver visibility and roof rails come standard.

It may be a compact SUV but it treats the occupants with a roomy cabin. Headroom is one good advantage for those with basketball player like height. The cargo area can adequately store anything (from an LCD TV Monitor to a dismantled coffee table) in that area. The transmission shifter is located upfront, leaving more room in the middle. The glass hatch can be opened separately and making cargo loading easy, unlike the first gen. CRV.

Two engine variants paired to two drivetrain options. Gasoline variants do have the 1,975cc Beta II engine that has 142hp at 6,000rpm and 186Nm at 4,500rpm. On the other hand, diesel powered Tucson's possess the 1,991cc CRDi I4 engine which lurks 112hp at 4,000rpm and 239Nm at 1,800-2,500rpm. The diesel variants may seem to be conservatively powered on paper, but it does the job fine. The lone gasoline option are adequately powered but not as fuel efficient as the diesel ones (obviously).

Driving Impressions
Thanks to the platform shared with the Hyundai Elantra, this SUV is a comfortable one, albeit the ride can get firm sometimes. Short drivers would like to add the first generation Tucson to their shopping lists because it provides a good commanding view (thanks to its high seating position) and excellent all around visibility - which is a pro for those spending most of their time in parking buildings of SM and Ayala Malls.

There are some good but valid reasons for not holding the trait of being picky and having badge snob issues. The first generation Tucson is definitely not for everyone, but those wanting a recent model SUV at a lower price, badging issues be damned, this is a good option and value. And not to forget, one of the fuel efficient choices out there, thanks to the CRDi engine choice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Used Car Review - Nissan Sentra (1995-2001)

Nostalgia strikes Myk Belmonte today as we go back to the 90s. So what do you remember during that time? Watching Doraemon and Bananas in Pajamas every morning. Collecting toys from Jolibee and McDonalds. Or riding in a B14 Sentra that your parents had out of a company car plan (this depends on the company your parents worked for).

1995-2001 Nissan Sentra

Thanks to user GTi of tsikot.com for supplying some data!

The Nissan Sentra was among the nameplates that received mixed success in the Philippines. Generation by generation, public reception ranged from the good to the bad. The 1988 Sentra (aka Series I or B12) was a success at first but after build and reliability problems mushroomed, people went back to the Corolla and Lancer of the same generation. In mid-1989, it received a new face, chiseled several angles, and improved built quality but Nissan Motors Philippines had to think of a new idea. It was 1992 on the calendar and the Sentra Series II (with platform code B13) was launched. It was a trendsetter back then for offering Anti-lock brakes and 4 disc brakes on its top level SE Saloon trim. So successful, that Nissan sold the Sentra B13 until 1999 in 1.3 base flavors. The Series III Sentra (or B14) was a mixed success in different sectors.

Internationally, this generation was released in 1995 selling under the Sentra, Sunny, and Lucino (200SX) nameplates. This model was put into production from 1995-1999 (although some countries had this one until 2002) and even sporty variants such as the SE & SE-R (it's a tuner's favorite).

The Filipino motorist had their hands on the B14 or Series III Sentra in March 1995 and as I mentioned earlier, it was met with mixed success. A facelift (or shall I say body lift, if ever Belo coined this word) was introduced in 1998 that somewhat looked tacky (but this one varies on someone's taste). Variants include the base FE (added in late 1997), EX Saloon, Super Saloon, Super Touring (1996-1997) and the GT-S (1998-2000). A luxury variant called the Exalta was released in 2000 with luxury items for less cash (this variant will be covered on a separate review). On production until 2001, where the N13 Sentra under the badging "Sentra Exalta" was made available.

Value and Costs
Nissan's not-so-stellar resale prices can be an advantage to used car buyers as prices range from P120,000-P170,000 in varying variants and conditions (do take note that the prices do not include the Exalta variant). This likewise presents to find a unit in mint condition and avoiding ex-taxis and modified units, since these can be a potential money pit.

With this vehicle being popular, parts are widely available and affordable. As with 90's vehicles, check out if the carburetor from an FE variant works decently. And variants with carburetors under their hood do not have an automatic transmission to be paired with.

Exterior and Interior
Evolving from its boxy predecessor, the Sentra has a curvaceous rear that resembles the ones in hatchbacks and complements its sporty nature, as is with the taillights and brake lamp. The front is somewhat frumpy looking, however. The facelift looked more conservative than sporty.

The smaller dimensions may fool you but it is spacious inside, roomy for five occupants. Although tall occupants and those aspiring for ala-basketball player height would think twice on sitting on the rear, as is their heads can hit the roof. Location of controls is placed where the driver could easily reach and manipulate it.

A variety of engines are made standard in the Sentra Series III. These include the GA13DS 1,295cc for the FE trim, GA14DE 1,392cc for EX Saloon models, GA16DNE 1,597cc for the Super Saloon, Super Touring, and GTS variants. While the GA13DS with 79hp at 6,000rpm and 104Nm at 3,600rpm and GA14DE which possess 87hp at 6,000rpm and 116Nm at 3,600rpm are nothing home to write about, the GA16DNE possesses 110hp and 138Nm. It may seem conservative on paper but rev it in the 4,500rpm range and it becomes a pseudo sports car and can bring out the race car driver in you. Even at low rpms, it still has decent power.

Driving Impressions
This is one of the best affordable options if one prioritizes affordability and comfort. Yes, the Sentra is one comfortable car, thanks to the McPherson and multilink beam suspension combo. Handling is confident although not as agile as the Civic. While the driver can get his Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton dreams in an ordinary priced car, the passenger can sleep soundly despite being on the rough road or the smooth asphalt.

Despite facing a bad rep, Sentra's are good choices for cash-strapped buyers who are not picky nor badge snobs. They do have abundant features at less prices. Imagine this; you can get a 1.6 liter car as priced same as a 1.3 variant of a competitor! Now, that's a bargain. What could be the loss of a brand new owner can be the gain of a used car buyer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Used Car Review - Honda Jazz (2004-2008)

For this week, let's go in the smallest side of the automotive chain, sub-compact hatchbacks. Myk Belmonte have featured sedans, compact sport utes, and multi purpose vans and people carriers, but hatchbacks? Nada. But for this day, this will change.

2004-2008 Honda Jazz

Hatchbacks are long popular in Europe, Japan, and India in a lesser extent. But in the Philippines, they're not that much popular until the mid-00's. Competitors had been entering and exiting the scene. The People's Car Development Program had the Daihatsu Charade, Fiat Uno, Honda Civic EF/EG Hatchback, and the Kia Pride entering the party. Among the four, only the Kia Pride became a success until its popularity waned after the Asian Financial Crisis. After the PCDP, Volkswagen's local distributor fielded its Golf hatchback but people didn't warm over it. Toyota released the Echo and the larger Echo Verso; the two were not enough to deter buyers since the cash cows are in AUVs and Compact sedans in that period. GM Automobiles Pilipinas brought the Korean car-badge slapped American Chevrolet Aveo in 2004 but the Honda Jazz - released late in the year - became a runaway success for the brand.

It was made available first in Japan in 2001 as the Fit, 2002 in hatchback loving Europe, and the rest of the world in the following year. The Jazz was a product of Honda's rule of "Man Maximum, Machine Minimum". In layman term, the interior must make most of the exterior's size - which is depending on the exterior's dimension. The GD platform also gave way to several vehicles sharing the said platform. These were the Airwave wagon, Fit Atria sedan (locally and in ASEAN market the City), and the Mobilo MPV.

In the Philippines, Honda was not expecting that much with the Jazz back in 2004. But its landslide success paved way to several competitors over the years such as the Hyundai Getz, Kia Picanto, Suzuki Swift, and the Toyota Yaris. It was among the class that got a redesigned version in late 2008, competitors done it years late of it.

Value and Costs
A buyer desiring for a GD Jazz would find these gems from P350,000-P480,000. Of course, this ranges from the low powered 1.3 i-DSI to rice units (which I personally recommend staying away from these). There are second hand "converted" units from Japan that features a conventional automatic transmission and even an all-wheel drive option. Unsuspected potential buyers and even all buyers of different origins should stay away from these units.

Maintaining the Jazz is comparable to its Japanese contemporaries. However, one must be extra careful when it comes to the CVT transmission, especially if the clutch packs were worn out. CVT transmission fluid must be used, not ATF or Automatic Transmission Fluid. The i-DSi engine has eight spark plugs (read, EIGHT!) than the VTEC's ordinary 4 spark plugs, so do take note of that.

Exterior and Interior
Looks can deceive you, as what a popular quote says. It has smaller exterior dimensions that are done cleanly and without fuss. Windows and doors are expansive and blind spots are not there to distract the driver. From the exterior itself, it truly does practice Honda's philosophy of "Man Maximum, Machine Minimum" and does it successfully.

As what the interior contrasts with the exterior, oodles of space treats the occupants inside. The interior has more for the human, thanks to the relocation of the fuel tank located under the passenger's seat. This results to a roomy interior that is friendly to man and their cargo. The placement of controls is typical of Hondas; legible, logical.

Two engine options are made available to the motorist. An L13A i-DSI engine with a displacement of 1,339cc that belches out 82hp at 5,700rpm and 118Nm at 2,800rpm and a 1,496cc L15A1 VTEC engine utilizing 109hp at 5,800rpm and 142Nm at 4,800rpm. The i-DSI focuses on efficiency while the VTEC (obviously) goes with high end torque. As mentioned earlier, the i-DSI has eight spark plugs (which means two per cylinder, simple math dictates it) and thus, not a good choice for cash strapped buyers. Two transmission choices can be paired with either engine, a 5-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission that has 7 gears.

Driving Impressions
The Jazz is a pleasure to drive whether on the vast asphalt of SCTEX, the winding roads of Baguio and Bitukang Manok in Quezon, the tight parking slots in SM or Robinsons Malls, or even in the infamous traffic in EDSA or C5. Comfortable at low speeds but it can get firm and noisy on highway speeds, the Jazz is one good city companion and even an all in one too. It can act as a family car and a van on separate occasions without sacrificing fuel economy, maneuverability, and space.

This car totally started the hatchback craze in the Philippines. Surely, the Echo went first, but people still flocked to Toyota dealers for more Corollas and Revos. This one is surely a versatile car that can lend to a multitude of functions in one clever and tiny package. Do not let the small size fool you, it can cuddle people of various fits inside a Honda Fit (pun unintended) or Jazz. This combines the comfort of a car with the versatility of a van in a hatchback configuration.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Used Car Review - Hyundai Starex CRDi (2004-2007)

Need space? Myk Belmonte has found a solution for you. If the previous vehicle is small for your daily needs (bring the kids to school, family escapades to the malls, running the daily errands, and road trip to the beach), this one is more larger that you can fit the family, plus the dog and some stuff.

2004-2007 Hyundai Starex CRDi

There is this saying goes "Change is imminent, Change is constant". This saying goes to a vehicle, when it is a best seller, why fix something that isn't broken? Whenever a new version of an impressive vehicle goes bold, it's a love it-or-loathe it affair. Examples of market hits are the Second generation Montero Sport and the Sixth gen Honda Civic. Market misses do include the "Love Life" Toyota Corolla (many people bought the EK Civic despite nearing expiration date) and the current but late Nissan X-Trail. From a grey market favorite, the Hyundai Starex evolved and changed in a lot of ways since its "unofficial" introduction. It had introduced accessories such as roof racks, bull bars, rear ladder, and it had been different among its direct competition, by having a "nguso" which its engine is in front, not underneath that can cook eggs under the heat of the sun.

Hyundai Asia Resources Incorporated, the local distributor of Hyundai vehicles from 2001, decided to give the competition a shocker, placing a CRDi engine under the hood. Back in 2004, very few vehicles do have that technology to brag the competition. The intercooled diesel engine is still available for public consumption, which primarily moved the Starex way back before.

It was then Hyundai made the move of having a full CRDi line up from 2005 onwards. Currently, nearly every vehicle is powered by that diesel technology. This Filipino favorite truly evolved and the Philippine Car Market can go by with change, but it can be a smashing success or a doomed failure. Now thank the Starex CRDi and other vehicles in the early 00's for bringing in that type of technology to nearly every vehicle, with that novelty turned out to be mainstream. Variants available back then include the Gold, GRX, Jumbo, and a 4WD variant (this is rare).

Value and Costs
A used unit of this popular van can cost a prospective buyer between P520,000 to as high as P800,000! One good thing about the popularity of the Starex is that a fish of units can be found with an array of locally sold ones to those parallel imports. The Starex commands a premium over its "archaic" competitors, and even luxurious ones. A variant available only in color white is marketed to businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Parts availability is one advantage of this vehicle, from the OEM to the replacement and surplus ones. There is no need to worry if the unit is a parallel import, especially if it has converted from the "wrong side". Do take note that there is no Hyundai Starex sold in Japan. Maintenance costs are comparable to its contemporaries having that type of engine. Do have the oil changed regularly to avoid the engine giving up on you.

Exterior and Interior
What people might or not know that this generation is basically a facelift of the original brethren. Having a flat nose that can be either a good or bad thing. It does not look like an oven toaster, a chest freezer, or worst, karo ng patay. The imposing grill can be gorgeous or ugly, depending on whom you ask.

Being a driver, the Starex is one treat. Why do I say so? You would not look like a family driver with one. The dashboard is similar to a sedan, with the steering wheel titled to near sedan levels. Ample space greets passengers boarding. Unlike the competition, the Starex has easy ingress/egress, which is a good thing for senior citizens and the vertically challenged. And the ride is definitely comfortable, credit the retuned suspension, revised NVH insulation, and equipped with better build materials. Safety is definitely a priority, with majority of variants having Anti-lock brakes and a driver's side airbag.

Propelling this 1,620kg van is a 2,497cc diesel powered engine with CRDi technology that has 145hp at 3,800rpm and 360Nm at 2,000rpm. This van can propel to three digit speeds but not in excess. Two transmission options can be paired with the powerful engine, a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic with overdrive option. This engine bowed out in late 2007, where a monstrous 2.5 engine with VGT technology was placed under the hood. This also commenced its new name to Grand Starex.

Driving Impressions
Remember the time when driving a van would make you feel like driving a truck? Thanks to its engine location, and high levels of insulation; the Starex would let you experience car like driving and comfort, with the added security of the high ground clearance. Just be careful not to scrape the underpinnings, or it will definitely be costly to fix. This is one good prospect for someone wanting a vehicle that can ferry 12 bodies in a low profile way, but without irking the Human Rights Commission - unless your passengers are close but loyal friends.

There is nothing wrong on being "old school", but there are times that we must go with the flow (why am I comparing a car to a person?). The Starex had truly evolved from a wanderer in our country back in the 90s to a vehicle that got loved by the official distributor itself to achieving celebrity status. The Starex is one worthy candidate for a buyer prioritizing space, comfort, performance, and even prestige.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Used Car Review - Toyota Revo (1998-2005)

Myk Belmonte is starting the new year by featuring a vehicle from a different category? If the previous four were two sedans and two sport utes, this week (and most likely next week) we will have Multi-Purpose Vehicles that will grace on the page. The featured vehicle is out of the market but it has a purpose.

1998-2005 Toyota Revo

Question: What does the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam (although not that much) do have in common? Answer: The love for Asian Utility Vehicles. That's right. Filipinos, Indonesians, and Vietnamese love to travel using these types of vehicles, which are the Asian Utility Vehicle and the Multi-Purpose Vehicle. These vehicles usually have the riding capacity for seven to ten people, usually rear wheel drive, and have a wide range of amenities ranging from the basic to the luxury. The Toyota Revo traces its roots from its mid-70's ancestors named the Tamaraw (or Kijang in Indonesia) that had started life as an open-bed pickup and an enclosed version, which is dubbed as the High Side Pickup with Roof or HSPUR. Locally, it was manufactured by Delta Motors Philippines, the assembler and distributor of Toyota vehicles during the 70s to mid 80s. It was basically a ladder-on-frame cab with no doors, wrapped in an interior that is versatile - one of its strong selling points. It was discontinued in the mid-80's, as the local distributor pulled out of the country.

The Tamaraw nameplate reappeared several years ago as the Tamaraw FX. This became the ideal family vehicle due to its riding capability, high ground clearance, and painless maintenance. This vehicle was so successful that you nearly have to wait for months just to have your unit. In late 1998, the Toyota Revo (the fourth gen Kijang) was introduced in the Philippines and it was the best-selling vehicle during its period. After two revisions done in 2000 and 2003, the Revo gave way to its modern sibling, the Innova in 2005.

Variants available to the consumer are the DLX, GL, GLX, LXV (offered in 1999-2000), SR (nickname for Sport Runner), GSX, and VX200. A limited edition J variant was made an option for the Sport Runner and VX200 variants back in 2002. Consumers had a choice of a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission. Diesel variants do not have an automatic tranny option, as opposed to the Isuzu Crosswind, which had one previously (up to now).

Value and Costs
Those wanting a used Toyota Revo would spot a wide variety of units with price ranges from P230,000-P380,000. Gasoline variants do cost less than the ones having a diesel engine under the hood. Do take note despite the discontinuation of the nameplate, 2004-05 diesel models are priced at the upper side of the price range! Among the competition, the Revo has a slight premium over them.

Parts of original (they're still available despite the dead name!), third party, and surplus are cheap. However, do check out especially if you're considering a diesel variant, if black smoke goes out of its tail pipe.

Exterior and Interior
Resembling an American minivan, the Revo does not look boxy compared to its contemporaries. Its design is clearly timeless and you'll be mistaken that you're driving a minivan, without sliding doors. Ground clearance and driver visibility are plus points.

The Revo's interior is definitely roomy, with ample room for the average built people in all three rows. A rare option is the availability of front facing third row seats, which it's main competitors during it's time - the Isuzu Crosswind and the Mitsubishi Adventure - did not have. The VX200 had leather upholstery, and even an entertainment system to boot. Among Toyotas back then, controls are simple to manipulate.

Another advantage of the Revo is the wide range of engine choices. Two gasoline engines and a lone diesel were made available. Gasoline engines were a 1,781cc 7K-E 1.8 liter engine, and a 1,998cc 1RZ-E 2.0 liter engine, with the latter being added in the year 2001. The diesel engine is a 2,446cc 2L 2.4 liter engine, shared with the same period Hilux and Hiace. The 1.8 liter engine has 94hp at 5,000rpm and 155Nm at 3,300rpm, while the 2.0 engine possess 105hp at 4,800rpm and 160Nm at 2,800rpm. The diesel engine carries 86hp and 165Nm. A common trait among Toyota engines are decent power using low end torque. The 1.8 Gasoline paired with the automatic transmission can be somewhat underpowered, with the low horsepower rating. While the 2.0 engine guzzles gas than a comparable V8 engine, no thanks to its engine running on richer than necessary air-fuel mixture.

Driving Impressions
Despite its utilitarian roots, the Revo's ride comfort is comparable to a car, which is a bit contrasting against the competition. With high ground spacing, this is a good thing for its underpinnings not to be scratched and cause further damage. Driver's command is high enough to see the hood, and can be a good candidate for short drivers who needs a versatile vehicle. Handling is car-like but should not be tested and driven like a drift car, since it has a tendency of having some unwanted roll in the rear.

The Revo may be gone, but definitely not forgotten by Filipino motorists. Imagine this, minivan like looks, car-like comfort and handling, and the ruggedness of an SUV in one clever package, it's a good deal. Those wanting a vehicle that seats more but has a limited budget, the Revo is an impressive choice. It was more of a success to different sectors - government, taxicabs, and family men.