More for less


Audi A1 Q3 driveOne of the most relaxing drives I ever had was in a relatively small car. I had an earlier Prius for testing, and I used it to bring my kids to school and pick them up for a week.

Sitting in traffic, I was suddenly aware of how noisy all the cars around me were, and to be honest, something like a windshield wiper becomes noisy when you have no engine noise at all.

I found that little car to be a much more relaxing experience than some cars a level or more up and considered luxury vehicles.

So my appreciation for hybrids isn’t necessarily just about their efficiency or their environmental advantages, but also about what other offerings they provide us.

A month or so later, I brought my family to an island resort where only golf carts were allowed. They asked me why all cars aren’t like this or the Prius. Why don’t they just make that the law?

Let’s leave out the discussion on whether hybrids are truly as earth-friendly or efficient as claimed, because we cannot really consistently quantify the volumes of waste that comes from electrical plants, and it is very true that some hybrids are looking for things other than hyper-mileage numbers.

Instead, let’s look at the fact that in some form, they are a step into the future and a step into a more pleasant world.

I would love to buy a Prius, or have a hybrid of some sort. However, as the Philippines does not yet have the sort of support other countries have for these programs, these cars remain relatively pricey. Which is quite a pity.

Anyway, the Prius got me thinking about how much I actually haul around every day. I generally have one person in my car: me.

I usually bring one child to school a day and back, and another car handles another child. Yet, I have more cars than I actually need.

There is an SUV (Asian, not American) which is great for family trips but an overkill otherwise.

There is a Subaru wagon that I thoroughly enjoy, but which, again, is a bit of an overkill.

There’s also a first generation Miata which, because of what I have done to it and how I drive, gets about the same mileage as the 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer in the wagon and the much heavier SUV.

The Miata (1st gen, the only gen that matters) is great but very taxing to drive in Edsa traffic for hours especially when you disappear behind most hoods. Plus one of the modifications in it is a clutch that isn’t exactly built for standard urban traffic.

We are now blessed with having a bunch of modern cars that combine the efficiency of machinery with creature comforts in sizes that are honestly more intelligent for most applications.

One of my favorite examples is the Mitsubishi Mirage, which I remember as this technological-forward but very buzzy econobox from decades ago.

It is now a more refined vehicle that doesn’t punish you when you choose it as a daily driver. You can even choose the non-hatch version that has more of the good stuff like improved levels of noise, vibration and harshness, and even thicker glass.

Plus, a recent crash-test in Japan of the Mirage (flattened up to the wheels by a wall, but leaving the cabin space intact more or less) has thoroughly convinced me that the much-touted safety-oriented designs of smaller cars are well and truly with us.

So these smaller cars are now serious options, and not just for new buyers or as first cars for the kids.

I recently asked the Audi guys who their buyer was for the Q3, expecting that it would be stereotypical young executives, new families.

But no, the car has a wider draw. People who want and appreciate the premium car experience (driving experience, handling, fit and finish and such) also want a more realistic level of consumption and environmental impact.

It’s now actually possible to have your cake and eat it too.

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