SUVs, economy cars taking the streets by storm
When the car industry started its revival from the late 1990s, the streets of Metro Manila suddenly became filled with various types of passenger cars or sedans. And before the year 2000, Asian utility vehicles became common sight in the streets of major cities in the Philippines, while the compact sedan continued to enjoy patronage.
But times have changed. Today, mid-sized sport utility vehicles and economy cars that had very little appeal many decades ago, are currently the best sellers of car companies.
The mid-sized SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle), also known as the pick-up platform vehicle or PPV, has now become the choice of more moneyed motorists and those who simply want a vehicle that can take on rugged conditions.
The first mid-sized SUVs that hit the Philippines were the Ford Everest and the Toyota Fortuner way back in the early 2000s. Isuzu followed suit with its Alterra and Mitsubishi with its Montero Sport.
Not to be confused as being in the class of the Mitsubishi Pajero or the Toyota Land Cruiser that are classified as premium or full-sized SUVs, the mid-sized SUVs have evolved into vehicles that are also coveted as status symbols.
This is because today’s batch of mid-sized SUVs are loaded with features that were once exclusive to high-end vehicles like leather seats, high-end audio systems, and a host of safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes. However, their most prominent selling points are their high ground clearance that enables them to wade through floods and traverse road imperfections without losing poise; seating for seven people that means tagging along some members of an extended family won’t be a problem; and turbo-charged diesel engines of the latest designs that assure both adequate power and optimum fuel economy.
Today’s batch of mid-sized SUVs include the all-new Fortuner, Montero Sport, and Everest, and the Isuzu mu-X, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Foton Toplander, so far the only Chinese entry into the segment. The Koreans also have two entries: Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
With prices ranging from slightly below P1 million for the Toplander to almost P2 million for the top-of-the-line Japanese contenders, the mid-sized SUVs do not come cheap. But their host of features, and even vehicle size, make them value-for-money buys.
Ironically, while large vehicles like the mid-sized SUVs have become very popular, car makers have introduced a big number of economy cars that are selling like hot cakes. One of the reasons why more people are buying economy cars is because of their fuel economy and their being easy to maneuver in city traffic. Then their prices are affordable.
Here are almost all the economy car entries of car makers: Vios and Wigo from Toyota; City and Brio Amaze from Honda; Almera from Nissan; Alto 800, Celerio, Swift, Swift Dzire, and Ciaz from Suzuki; Mirage from Mitsubishi; Accent, i10 and Eon from Hyundai; Rio and Picanto from Kia; the new Sail, Sonic, and Spark from Chevrolet; Fiesta from Ford; and the Manza, Vista, and Indigo from Tata of India.
Although the choices of economy cars are quite dizzying, they are actually divided into two segments: subcompact or B-segment; and the A-segment. The A-segment can also be called the bantam class, but this term is no longer used by carmakers.
Among the selling points of the economy cars are their frugal engines that have displacements ranging from 800 cubic centimeters to 1.6 liters, mostly fed by gasoline.
With prices ranging from slightly above P500,000 to almost P1 million, the economy car segment has attracted a wide segment of car buyers, ranging from those who simply want a small car to those on a tight budget.
Although they are called economy cars, the segment has more expensive or top-of-the-line models that have features like anti-lock brakes, airbags, and premium interiors.
So the economy car class is not all about economy, after all.