Top 3 affordable picks of 2017


The newly signed Train (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law makes buying a new car more complicated than ever before.

Set to take effect at the start of 2018, Train increases the excise tax rates on vehicles that most consumers who qualify for car financing can afford.

In Bracket 1, vehicles sold at net manufacturer’s price of up to P600,000 will be subjected to a 4 percent excise tax, up from 2 percent.

In Bracket 2, vehicles sold for P600,000 to P1.0 million will be taxed a flat rate of 10 percent.

Bracket 3 (between P1.0 million and P4.0 million) and Bracket 4 (more than P4.0 million) will be taxed 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Since Brackets 3 and 4 are generally out of reach for most consumers, our top three picks will be limited to vehicles sold at net manufacturer’s price ranging between P600,000 to P1.0 million.

Aside from an affordable suggested retail price (SRP), the practicality, fuel efficiency, riding comfort and safety features are given priority rather than top speed, power and stylish design.

Premises considered, here are the top three affordable picks of 2017.

The new Vitara has the longest and widest dimensions in its class.

2018 Suzuki Vitara

Unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show for the 2018 model year, the 5-seat, front wheel drive Suzuki Vitara is offered in the Philippines in GL+ (P938,000) and GLX (P1.048 million) variants.

A lower-priced, entry-level GL is due to arrive next year.

The new Vitara is powered by Suzuki’s M16A 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 115 hp and 156 Nm peak torque at 4,400 with a newly developed 6-speed automatic transmission.

The new Vitara has the longest and widest dimensions in its class with the best turning radius performance, all of which translate into a comfortable and optimum driving experience.

In both GLX and GL+ variants, cargo space increases from 375 to 710 liters when the 60/40 rear seats are folded.

Standard in both variants are disc brakes front and rear, automatic air con, offline navigation, USB socket, Bluetooth, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with active cruise control and speed limiter, paddle shifters and audio controls plus roof rails.

Also standard in terms of safety are dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability program, hill hold control, brake assist, pedal release system, remote control door locks, keyless push start system, Isofix child seat anchorages and parking sensors.

If you pay P65,000 more for the GLX, you get additional side airbags in front, curtain airbags left and right, LED projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers and lights, reverse camera, double sliding panoramic sunroof, Android infotainment with 10-inch touchscreen (the GL+ has Wince infotainment with 7-inch touchscreen), 6 speakers (the GL+ has 4), Wi-Fi, Mirror-Link function, a combination of leather and suede seat fabric, and 17-inch polished aluminum wheels (the GL+ has 16-inch alloy wheels).

Aside from providing more safety features than similarly priced competitors, the GLX is available in three eye-catching two-tone body colors.

Suzuki Philippines claims that the Vitara is an imported CBU from a European country, not Asia, but wouldn’t reveal exactly where.

The Honda BR-V prototype at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan. Aida Sevilla Mendoza

Honda BR-V

After Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) unveiled the front-wheel-drive BR-V (Bold Runabout Vehicle) at the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show, it became an instant success because of its affordable SRP (P989,000 to P1.18 million), 7-seat cabin, and 201-mm ground clearance, the highest among Honda’s crossover/SUVs and one millimeter more than the Ford EcoSport’s.

A 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, SOHC i-VTEC gasoline engine mated to a 7-step CVT delivers 118 hp/6,600 rpm and 146 Nm max torque at 4,600 rpm.

This engine also powers the City and Mobilio.

Driving the BR-V feels light due to electric power steering, with Eco as the default mode and Power mode available as an alternative.

The BR-V shares the same platform with the Mobilio, Honda’s 7-seater MPV, but it is slightly longer, heavier and narrower.

Seating for seven is versatile. Both the front seats and the 60/40 split type second row seats have sliding and reclining functions, while the 50/50 split third row seats can be reclined.

Since the BR-V’s cabin is narrow, the second row cannot seat three passengers abreast in comfort, and only small children can comfortably occupy the third row.

A rear aircon system with independent controls ensures climate comfort for all passengers.

Cargo space can be increased from 223 liters with all the seats up, to 521 liters max with the second and third row seats folded and tumbled.

Along with flexible seating arrangements, numerous cupholders, and door pockets, the BR-V has a 7-inch touchscreen display audio system (with Garmin navigation and HDMI in the 1.5 V Navi variant), Bluetooth functions, hands-free telephone and audio streaming and USB input.

The BR-V scored a five-star Asean NCAP rating due to its dual front airbags, vehicle stability assist, seatbelt reminder, ABS with EBD, hill start assist, and Isofix child seat anchors.

Summing up, the 7-seat BR-V brings a whole new dynamic to the subcompact crossover segment while remaining affordable.

The Suzuki Ciaz has the size and gizmos of a compact sedan, but the SRP of a subcompact. Aida Sevilla Mendoza

Suzuki Ciaz

The Ciaz has caught the attention of savvy first-time car buyers because it has the dimensions and most of the gizmos of a compact sedan, but the SRP of a subcompact—plus exceptional fuel efficiency.

In the Department of Energy-Petron 230-km Euro 4 Fuel Economy Run, the Ciaz GL M/T scored the best fuel rating for a sedan, gasoline category, by getting up to 27.94 km per liter in controlled highway driving conditions.

The three variants of the front-wheel-drive Ciaz are priced at P738,000 for the 5-speed M/T GL; P773,000 for the 4-speed A/T GL; and P888,000 for the 4-speed A/T GLX.

The Ciaz is powered by the same 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve gasoline engine with VVT that drives the Suzuki Ertiga and produces 92 hp with 130 Nm max torque.

The 4-speed A/T’s limitations do not seem to affect the engine’s perky acceleration as it retains some of the frisky, can-do attitude characteristic of all Suzuki cars.

With its electric power steering, it is easy to drive on the open expressway at speeds exceeding 120 kph where it remains steady and composed.

Compared to the Honda City, Toyota Vios and Kia Rio, the Ciaz has the longest wheelbase, overall length and biggest overall width, which translate into spacious rear seat legroom, knee room, headroom and shoulder span, all enhanced by the Ciaz’s bigger door cutting.

The trunk offers a class-leading 495 liters of cargo room.

The Ciaz GLX, which costs less than P900,000, contains all the tech and toys that top-end subcompact rivals have, such as leather seats, proximity smart keyless entry, start/stop pushbutton, power folding side mirrors, Android OS with touchscreen, navi system, six speakers, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, preloaded apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Facebook and Waze, automatic climate control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and mobile controls.

Safety features include dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, keyless remote control entry system, and in the GLX, smart proximity key and pushbutton start/stop system

Summing up, the Ciaz is an affordably priced, extremely comfortable, fuel-sipping, spacious and digitally well-connected family sedan.

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