INTERCHANGEABLY called minicars or bantams, small cars always have a special place in the hearts of true motoring nuts. Whether they are admired for being cute or economical, one thing is for sure—small cars are here to stay, especially with consumers becoming more conscious of how much they spend for fuel, and how emissions from cars are affecting air quality and contributing to global warming.
Small cars have also been part of automotive history, with the Volkswagen Beetle, Mini Cooper, Citroen 2CV, and the Mitsubishi Minica, among the many that have established themselves as reliable movers within the city and even in the countryside, at least during their time.
So, even with large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups becoming more popular among affluent car buyers, vehicles perfect for city driving like small cars will continue to have a big following because of their lower acquisition and maintenance costs and their being easier to maneuver in the city.
Looking at the current line-up being offered by all car firms doing business in the Philippines, it is no longer a surprise that there are more small car models being offered than traditional compact sedans, SUVs, and even vans.
In the stable of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation are the Vios and Wigo, while Mitsubishi Motor Philippines Corporation has the Mirage that was recently given minor upgrades and a facelift. Hyundai Automotive Resources Inc. has a host of city cars in the Accent, I10 and the Eon, while Honda Cars Philippines Inc. has the City, Jazz and Brio Amaze. Suzuki Philippines Inc., known for its expertise on small vehicles, has the Alto, Celerio, the iconic Swift and the newly-unveiled Ciaz. Then there’s the Almera of Nissan Philippines Inc., the Spark and Sonic of Chevrolet Philippines, and the Rio and Picanto of Kia Motor Philippines.
Indian carmaker Tata has four city or small car offerings in the Philippines—Vista, Indica, Manza, and Indigo. Tata offers diesel variants for its vehicles.
So what do all small cars have in common?
For one, they are very economical to drive in the city, with mileage or fuel consumption ranging from 15 kilometers per liter to as much as 20 kpl. There are even claims of 20 to 25 kpl for continuous driving out of town.
Going more technical, the engine displacement of small cars ranges from 600 cubic centimeters to 1.5 liters, and all are equipped with fuel injection. Most engines of these cars also have four valves per cylinder.
Meanwhile, the price range of small city cars is from P398,000 for the Suzuki Alto with a manual transmission to P778,000 for a Toyota Vios with automatic transmission. The trims for city cars also vary, from the very Spartan outfitting of the entry-level Alto, to the richly-appointed trimmings of the top-of-the-line Vios and Ciaz, among others.
Improved interiors, features
Although the interior of the small cars of today pale in comparison to those found in compact and mid-sized sedans, these is actually an improvement from those found in the most popular city cars in the past, particularly the Volkswagen Beetle, Mini Cooper, Citroen 2CV and the Mitsubishi Minica.
The small city cars of today also have crumple zones to increase the safety margin for passengers, and some variants come complete with airbags. Anti-lock brakes are also found in some city or small cars, which can come in handy during hard or challenging braking situations.
Indeed, the evolution of the city or small car over the decades has benefited consumers, and the environment as well. With frugal fuel consumption combined with improved safety features and better styling—and despite the surge in sales of SUVs and other large vehicles—the small car is a mainstay on Philippine roads for the long haul.