Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Used Car Review Compilation (5/30/2012 Update)


UPDATE AS OF MAY 30, 2012.

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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Used Car Review - Kia Picanto (2004-2011)

Now wave goodbye to the summer season and you'll head back to school in a few week's time. You are in the hunt for the car to take on your daily grind to school or to school related events (which your parents must and should know). And this car must be something easy to squeeze in tight parking spots and has minimal dent to your wallet, plus it must be reliable at all times. Myk Belmonte finds the perfect college car.

2004-2011 Kia Picanto

With the acquisition of Kia Motors by Hyundai Motor Company, the two had vehicles that are co-developed or have counterparts with one another in the later years. Previous to 1998, Ford Motor Company had an interest stake with Kia back in 1986, which resulted for the latter to build the Kia Pride and Kia Avella (these are the Ford Festiva and Ford Aspire in North America respectively). But with the union of Hyundai and Kia, their vehicles shared mechanical parts and even some interior bits.

And one solid example of the sharing done by Hyundai and Kia is the Kia Picanto, which is based on a shortened platform of the Hyundai Getz (now you know). The Picanto was introduced in 2004 as a replacement model for the Kia Visto/Hyundai Atoz city cars. It also indirectly succeeded the Kia Pride in several markets (somewhat, this included the Philippine market). Engine variations include gasoline (in either Epsilon or Kappa flavors), diesel, and even LPG (Liquefied petroleum gasoline). It is sold as the Kia Morning (or New Morning in Vietnam), Kia Euro Star, and Naza Suria or Picanto in Malaysia.

Columbian Autocar Corporation brought in this city car under the Picanto name back in 2004. This vehicle started the mini hatchback craze (more smaller in size than the Honda Jazz) that led to the introduction of the Chevrolet Spark, Suzuki Alto, platform mate Hyundai i10, and even the Chery QQ. Some minor nips were done in late 2007 and 2010. Variants include a basic one and a spec'd one (with hubcaps) either mated to a manual or automatic transmission. This version stayed long until it was treated to a redesign in 2011.

Value and Costs
This car would set you back between P290,000-P595,000, with earlier models taking the lower spot while recent ones take the upper side. And a good thing for later models, they do have the remainder of their basic warranties. No need to pay particular attention with a certain year model, since no major changes had been done with the engine or any drivetrain components.

Maintaining a Picanto does not drain your resources or requiring trips to the ATM machine. With a fuel efficient engine and excellent parts availability, this is one good proposition. With these types of cars seeing more travel, best to check out replacement parts related to the mechanicals. These include the suspension bushings, braking system, power steering fluid, and other related components.

Exterior and Interior
You can either comment that the Picanto is cute looking or worse, over styled. And you can guess the design was conceived at the millennium year. It does not look old, its just you can guess the release date. With the first facelift, you can't help but to smile whenever you stare at it, especially with the rounded headlamps, and the diminutive grille. If you can, get this one in brighter color shades to reflect its cheerful personality.

The interior is bigger than you really think, especially with modern technology and ergonomics is infused that hatchbacks and sardines won't be mentioned in one breath, let alone a sentence (you know what I mean). Space is provided for four adults to sit comfortably, but five is a squeeze. The split folding rear seats has the capacity to bring the cargo capacity to double its size, which can be good for a month's worth of groceries, a mountain bike, or one balikbayan box.

A diminutive but capable G4H6 1,086cc having 64hp at 5,500rpm and 94Nm at 2,800rpm motivates the Philippine-spec Picanto. The G4H6 uses the Epsilon technology shared with the discontinued Hyundai Atoz. While the lower displacement and horsepower rating would mean slow, this engine can chug along all day without complaining.

Driving Impressions
Go inside a Kia Picanto, and you'll be surprised with the abundance of interior room and the countless standard features available. Climate controls are located strategically within driver's reach, while the audio system (a 1-DIN comes standard) - depending on the brand - can be confusing or easy to operate. Changing lanes is more fun, with a communicative chassis and dampened suspensions, just be mindful of the road debris and potholes.

Who said small is not fun? The Picanto debunks this notion with a go-kart like chassis, and a roomy cabin. Not to forget, maintaining one will dent a bit (except if that problem would cost more than a semester's worth of tuition) on your daily allowance and fuel expenses won't cost you an arm and a leg, plus parking is a breeze. The perfect college car, indeed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Used Car Review - Nissan 200SX Silvia (1997-1998)

With the "huling hirit sa tag-init" phenomenon, you want to do things before the summer season ends. And you want to try something new.  How about drifting? The ones that you see in Initial D and Wangan Midnight? Wanna give it a try? Myk Belmonte tells you to know this popular drift machine first.

1997-1998 Nissan 200SX Silvia

Plus with bonus Lady Gaga music video on the end of this article!

Did you know that the original Silvia - introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964 - had 554 units produced from 1965-1968? The introductory model was a hand-built coupe based from the Fairlady convertible and with styling inputs by Count Albrecht Goertz. The low production numbers and the slow method of construction assured each unit rolled out is unique and valuable. The Silvia nameplate would reappear until 1974.

Five generations later saw the launch of the Silvia S14 in 1995. And with the rounded styling, this contributed to the increase in size than actually occurred. Wheelbase and track were both increased, which lead to slightly improved handling. Various names were used worldwide, with the Silvia name saw usage in Japan; 200SX in other markets; 240SX in North America; and (prepare to drool) as the AREX Elite 901 in Taiwan. Despite falling sales worldwide, the S14 would hang on until 2000.

Filipinos had mixed reactions with the 200SX Silvia's arrival in early 1997. With ordinary motorists - those who are not car enthusiasts - got shocked with the P1.15M price. Why do I say so? A two door coupe, which does not have the capacity of ferrying four people in comfort would cost that much (P1.15M is not unusual today). It comes out as a CBU or completely built unit which was a factor for the unheard price. And the bummer? Only an automatic transmission was the sole choice, given the car's potential. With the last example being sold in 1998 (200 were brought in), the 200SX Silvia is a rarity in the used car market.

Value and Costs
With its rarity, a 200SX Silvia would cost in the range of P490,000-P700,000 - locally sold unit or used import from Japan. The price range houses various units with varying state of condition, from the stock ones to units that are abused the most. If you want a Silvia, better find a stock unit (no engine modifications, and not raced) since problems won't mushroom. If you are checking out a Japan import, go all stock and stick to a unit that seen daily driver usage.

Thanks to the influx of used imported units from Japan, replacement parts - such as the water pumps, ignition coils, suspension bushings, and engine rebuild kits - are easier to obtain but sometimes hard to find. Waiting for weeks for original parts upon ordering is the only choice for most. Engine oil, oil filter, and air filter prices are similar to any Japanese sedan and they should be available. Maintaining one should be done regularly and monitored religiously.

Exterior and Interior
With the Silvia's round profile, couple it with the long hood line, short trunk, and impressive street credibility, it makes people stare at it, even those who don't know the make and model of the car. The sporty grille with projector headlights, factory driving lights, chin spoiler, wraparound rear tail lights, garnish, and sleek rear wing screams "I'm ready to go", even when it's stopped. Colors offered back then were blue, black, red, green, and violet.

Open the doors and there reveals a civilized driving position, that its closest rival - the front wheel drive Mitsubishi Eclipse - cannot match. Interior space between the steering wheel and the driver is balanced, with the space built for humans, not for some mutated specie, which is a deficiency of some front-wheel-drive cars. Dashboard layout is good, with controls for the climate and audio are placed within driver reach. It can fit four passengers, short trips only; while long ones can cause the two in the rear would experience cramps and have a hard time walking.

Powering this beast is a SR20DET 1,998cc 4-cylinder producing 200hp at 6,400rpm and 272Nm at 4,800 in stock form. Adding modifications, such as a boost controller, front-mounted intercooler, and a free-flow exhaust will haul this car through the quarter mile in a hair less than 14 seconds. You'll be shocked to know that with extensive engine modifications, this has the potential to reach 400hp on tap! But modifying one is an exercise since the automatic transmission won't last long. But with this, watch out for engine temperatures, since it can kill the engine.

Driving Impressions
The Silvia is one fun car, and that's for sure. Drive it on the open road, and it feels right at home. Be careful with high speed cornering, with the automatic tranny would downshift (common when tackling corners) you will encounter a phenomenon called power over steer that can put your rear somewhere it shouldn't belong. It could be a good companion in the city, but with some compromises. The automatic transmission with an engine with turbo can result to a sluggish off-the-line response with any throttle input short of pedal to the floor.

There are vehicles that are not for everyone, and the 200SX Silvia is one of them. You can currently enjoy this rare beauty at less than a million grand. Now, with you already considering one and holding the wheel, why not drive it on the open roads (road trip time!)? A caveat, pick your passengers accordingly and drive prudently. Now, set some budget for some engine mods and drifting lessons and you can now enjoy summer.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Used Car Review - Mitsubishi Grandis (2005-2011)

Now, all road trips must have a minivan in the picture. It must seat seven people, must have good hauling capability, car-like driving dynamics, and sliding doors. The first three qualities are possessed in this featured vehicle, but how about the sliding doors? Forget about it, but this minivan is stylish for sure, and heads would surely turn around when you arrive. Myk Belmonte assures you that.

2005-2011 Mitsubishi Grandis

The Japanese and Europeans love and appreciate MPVs and Minivans. And what is not to love them? More room for their toes and legs, the easy ingress/egress (almost similar to an airplane cabin), and sliding doors for easier access anywhere. So bad that these types of vehicles receive a bad name, which they have good flexibility and practicality than an SUV.

Aiming to replace the Chariot/Space Wagon/Nimbus line of MPVs, the Grandis was introduced in 2003 and sold in various Asian, European, Oceania, Central American, and Southern American markets. This vehicle signaled the usage of Mitsubishi's new corporate face which can be described as "triangled shape". The corporate face was designed by Oliver Boulay (he is no longer connected with Mitsubishi nowadays). This vehicle was the basis of the Mitsubishi FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle). 2009 saw the cancellation in its home market and 2011 for the rest of the world.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation released this stylish-yet-functional vehicle to the Philippine market in 2005. This also gave way (although a bit earlier) for the Adventure, Lancer, and Outlander wearing the corporate face (the USDM Lancer had one also but complaints are mostly regarding to be similarly looking to Pontiac's grille). Despite accolades and awards from media and award-giving bodies, the Grandis was not a sales success, despite having a price drop in 2008. Together with the international market, MMPC also dropped this vehicle from their lineup in 2011, leaving a void for such type of vehicle.

Value and Costs
With this vehicle being discontinued recently, you can get a second hand Grandis for P500,000-P900,000. Some of them (especially the 2009-2011 models) have remaining basic warranties on it. Better pay attention on the vehicle condition rather than the year model, since changes are not limited than cosmetic changes. There also exist a Grandis nameplate - wherein fact these are named as the "Chariot Grandis" in Japan and they are priced lower, and they are not related with the Grandis in this article.

Thinking that the Grandis has expensive maintenance costs? It's just a myth. Costs of maintaining this MPV is similar to minivans and similar vehicles of the same time period. Although no major problems are being reported, minor things to check include the common wear-and-tear pieces (such as the suspension, interior bits, and mechanical parts). And since a DVD player slash TV Tuner with radio comes standard, best to have it checked for any deficiencies so kids won't complain.

Exterior and Interior
You can agree with me that this MPV is stylish and its exterior resembles an egg. The corporate grille blends well with the rest of the body; this part brightens up the huge, but dull looking slab-sided scallop doors. Notice the long, low snout? This part gives out a dash of modernity and looks clean. Compared to the 1992-1999 Spacewagon sold locally, this one is classy looking and executed.

Minivan interior styling cues are present inside. The automatic shifter is located in the dashboard which frees up knee space in the front rows. Some good news, there are tons of cubbyholes for the stuff the driver and the occupants stash in: such as sunglasses, cellphones, music players, and coins for emergency purposes. If you are a Mitsubishi owner, you'll comment that the aircon controls and buttons are similar to present day ones.

Only a gasoline engine is the standard powertrain for the Philippine market Grandis. We do have the 4G69 2,378cc which carries 165hp at 6,000rpm and 217Nm at 4,000rpm backed-up with the MIVEC technology. The 4G69 is a member of the Sirius engine family, with production dating back in the 1970s. Although this one has good pull, the 4-speed automatic tranny does not feel connected to the engine, but this one has good power for the highway, thanks to an abundance of high end torque. A diesel variant (which uses the TDI diesel engine of Volkswagen) is sold in European markets, but has not landed ever since here.

Driving Impressions
With the low ground clearance, and driving it at high speeds, you almost forget that you are driving an MPV. Space is good for five persons but reserve the last two seats for the kids. Fold the rear seats, and you'll get oodles of space for the stuff you can imagine to place. The ride is smooth and the suspension absorbs road imperfections but let it pass unnecessary road debris and suspension is damaged big time. You can drive something stylish without the added heft and bulk.

Who says Minivans or MPVs are boring daily drivers? The Grandis can prove that carrying people and sports car driving dynamics can be mentioned in one breath. It is such a shame that its prohibitive price and a lack of diesel engine didn't make an appeal to most consumers. But with the discontinuation, you can enjoy this beauty for half the price and makes it a good buy for the family.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Used Car Review - Mercedes Benz SLK-Class (1997-2002)

As the summer season continues on, Myk Belmonte invites you to have the fun by going top down. You can't do it inside the city because the truck in front of you would belch out black smoke which ruins the experience and include the heat - which can cause skin cancer and dehydration. Bring that experience in Baguio or Tagaytay without the requisite trips to the hospital for treatments.

1997-2002 Mercedes Benz SLK-Class 

Convertibles come in different top styles and materials; these are the foldable ones that use cloth, and the retractable type that does not utilize a cloth top. Cloth tops are popular in the early ages of motoring, seeing usage from mass-market brands to the ones only seen in history books and museums. Folding textile roofs are easy to use and flexible, however, safety issues arise with this type (and you'll know why during a rollover). The retractable type ones are becoming the norm, with many a convertible having this one on top. These are usually made of steel, plastic, or aluminum.

The Benz SLK was launched in 1996 utilizing the R170 platform (the Chrysler Crossfire also shared the platform) and capture the hearts and wallets of young affluent buyers who wanted more roadster with the capability of its Japanese counterpart. The SLK is an acronym which meant what Mercedes wanted the car to be: Sportlich (sporty), Leicht (light), and Kurz (short). It followed the trend started by the Mitsubishi 300GT Spyder and other vehicles - such as the Peugeot 206cc, Lexus SC, Pontiac G6, and Chrysler Sebring - followed suit.

Commercial Motors Corporation offered the SLK-Class in a by-order basis from 1997-2002. Two engines were brought in by the local assembler/distributor: a 2.0 pot and 2.3 liter engines which are both supercharged. It served as an alternative to the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster in the local context.

Value and Costs
Despite its age, used SLK's (that are locally sold) sell above a million pesos. This is because of the fact convertibles are such rarities in the Philippines. There exist SLK's below a million bucks but these are second-hand grey imports from Cagayan and Subic. Without saying and reminder, stay away from these units, this could be potential disasters.

Save some funds for the maintenance of this beauty, and use some specific types of oils to keep it running. During oil changes, M111 series engine would require 5.5 liters of either 10W/40, 20W/40 synthetic or alternatively 20W/50 semi-synthetic motor oil that has an API oil rating of SG. Also check the cabin charcoal/pollen filter, which is better to replace them during intervals; and other inexpensive replacement parts such as the rubber elements, radiator hoses, bypass hoses, and the drive belts.

Exterior and Interior
You will see classic Benz cues even without the emblems. Notice the front punched grille, this one looks clean and up-to-date among competitors, with the fluted headlight lenses being a bummer - which does not look modern. The lines and edges are not awkward looking, it goes with the flow of the vehicle lines. With the famed retractable hardtop, it looks damn gorgeous whether with the top up or down. But prepare to lose some trunk space with the top placed down.

The Benz feeling and style continues inside - with the stitching's, chrome accents, and presentable carbon fiber inserts. If you are a Chedeng-lover or a loyal owner, you will notice that the gated shifter is still found on modern day Benzes. And the magic button present on the SLK would lead to the activation of the powered hardtop. Situated behind the transmission shifter, just one flick and let the top down fun begin - but plan your trips accordingly and avoid trucks and buses in front of you (you know what I mean).

Two supercharged engines from the M111 engine family are the engine options. These include an M111.958 1,998cc which has 163hp at 5,300rpm and 230Nm at 2,500-4,800rpm and an M111.970 2,295cc with 197hp at 5,500rpm and 280Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm on tap. Both engines have the pull and purr of a Benz but refinement is not in its dictionary. With both supercharged, you'll be having no problems overtaking smoke belching trucks and buses (did I overuse this line in this article?)

Driving Impressions
It may not possess sports car handling but handling is agile and the ride is smooth - which befits it's no top nature. Drive this one at Baguio's Kennon Road or in the Bitukang Manok in Quezon (top down, of course), and you get a supple chassis and a stable ride thanks to the suspension settings. Noise is non-existent even at high speeds unless road debris gets your way. Braking distances are decent but be careful with frequent-braking, with the vehicle having the largest brake rotors that comes standard.

Summer comes only once a year, and riding on a convertible (better yet if driving one) is an experience not to be missed. If you don't want to miss this thing (as what Steve Tyler would say) with a luxurious feeling, the SLK is a good choice. It comes balanced especially its competitors had a crashy ride, or too much flash. Have patience when finding one, since the efforts are worth it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Used Car Review - Ford Everest (2004-2006)

What time is it? Summertime! And you plan your excursions and escapes to Ilocos, Subic, or Bicol. One wants a mid-size SUV to have decent cargo space, power and efficiency from that standard diesel engine, and roomy for his four other occupants. The clearance between ground and body is a must, and so, the price. If these are the considerations, Myk Belmonte finds this SUV would surely fit the bill.

2004-2006 Ford Everest

Pickup truck derived mid-sized SUVs are in the rage in Asian markets (particularly in pickup truck crazy Thailand), and Ford was the first one to make a vehicle out of this idea. Based on the Ranger chassis (the Asian market Ranger to be exact), it resulted to a tough chassis, cheaper construction of assembly, sharing of parts (from mechanicals to interior bits), and the good one is - lower pricing. Ford started this craze with the Everest with other manufacturers following suit for developing markets. Examples are the Toyota Fortuner (based from the Hilux), Mitsubishi Montero Sport (derived from the Strada), and the Isuzu Alterra/MU-7 (conceived from the D-MAX).

The Asian market witnessed the launch of the Everest in 2003 (Central America and Bahamas have this one) and the dream of owning an SUV at an attainable cost is now a reality for most. If other SUVs are allergic going off-road or wading through floods (more on the former case), the Everest - with its pick-up truck chassis - can go with the going gets tough and the durability of their bed counterparts is there. The recipe? Pick-up underpinnings plus Mazda derived engines (WLT Diesel and G63 Gasoline) which results to the Everest.

Keeping the Asian market (and most of developing countries) in mind, the Philippines had dibs with this SUV in late 2003. The Everest started a category unheard of, pickup trucks converted to ferry people in style and with the usage of a roof (not a bed cover). It initially competed with AUVs such as the Isuzu Crosswind, Mitsubishi Adventure, and Toyota Revo; but competitors (genuine ones) had come to the scene. It became Ford's cash cow and utilized the WLT diesel engine until 2006, with the WLT being ditched for a more modern CRDi engine. The CRDi had the power, and pulling power advantage, but let's not leave behind the original one.

Value and Costs
Fords of any kind - whether diesel powered or the gasoline ones - suffer low resale values, and the Everest can be had for a bargain. With most 2004-2006 Everest units having prices in the P580,000-P700,000 range. You will encounter a mix of 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains and manual and automatic transmissions, which is definitely a good thing as long as the desired engine is a diesel. With that in mind, the Everest is a good choice for those wanting an SUV which can seat seven members of their family.

Having a rudimentary diesel engine (non-CRDi) as standard, you won't encounter problems common to Common Rail Diesel engines such as engine chocking, fuel contamination, and non-replacement of oils by the previous owner. Maintenance costs are nearly similar to AUVs of the same time period albeit priced higher due to some engine and chassis components that are reserved for SUVs. And as usual for diesel engines, check if black smoke goes out of the tailpipe or ASBU's would love you to be their target.

Exterior and Interior
With the boxy exterior that the same period Asian Ranger had, expect the same with the Everest. It does look like a box but it is indeed designed simply and free of laughable angles that its rivals have. Keeping the pickup truck's body in mind, the designers did a good job integrating the Ranger's A and B pillars onto the extended cabin (which is the cabin bed, and they've placed seats on it - is a feat on their part). The design screams "let me go off-roading!" with the styling echoes that of a Land Rover Defender.

The interior trims and bits seen in the same period Ranger are not all used, just the switch gear and dashboard pieces. The bad news for those who are fashionistas and picky peeps, the interior can be described as dated. But the good news is ergonomics and driving position is livable and does not violate human rights laws. Interior trims are cheap looking, but they are meant to last long. The first two rows are roomy to be in, but the third row - which is raised - is best left for children.

Remember my Mazda MPV used car feature? This utilized the 2,499cc WLT-31 diesel engine and this is also shared with the same time Ranger sold in Asian countries. With 110hp at 3,500rpm and 268Nm at 2,000rpm on tap, the Everest has the motivation to be moved decently but not race car fast. Refinement is not the strongest suit, with the engine - especially with the automatic transmission - taking sometime to reach more than 100km/H. For old school people, there are levers and RFW switch to engage the four wheels.

Driving Impressions
With its roots originating from a pickup truck, the Everest is contrast to its origins. The ride is well sorted and you will feel fresh when you arrive at your destination. Those seated in the second row won't need Bonamine but just prepare the barf bags (the ones you see in airplanes). Handling is not that inspired and vague but you will feel secure and easy to use. The good news is driving this SUV won't give you memories that you're driving a basic AUV.

We know everyone desires an SUV in their garages, and Ford granted every Asians wish. It may be crude and prehistoric but it puts a smile in the faces of off-road aficionados and those who value practicality and people carrying ability. You can have this SUV for the summer season without the fuzzy electronic doodads, just the simple yet basic goods.