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7 Hottest Cars for 2011

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Hyundai Tucson

While China is all about luxury cars these days, the Philippine market clamors for something else. Our motoring correspondent predicts the following cars to be the hottest of 2011. And, yes, a Chinese brand made it to the list.

The past decade has had its ups and downs. For the most part, we disliked our country’s executive branch. Although the elections let in a little light, recent events have left us flabbergasted, disgusted, frustrated.

In the automobile world, we were devastated after news broke that American car manufacturers GM, Ford, and Chrysler were imploding. We also witnessed how mass-market favorite Toyota experienced operational malfunctions, which sullied its sterling reputation.

On the better side of things, more infrastructure, especially roads, were built or were slated to be built to make us gear-heads rejoice. With bated breath, we await the completion of SCTEX and other future road projects that aim to decongest Metro Manila, such as the connection of NLEX and SLEX over PNR, Coastal Highway/C-5 Extension, and a C-6 passing through Antipolo.

Now it remains for the new government to complete these projects. Could our Porsche-loving, bachelor President be the answer?

What to Expect
Car sales keep climbing with each passing year despite the skyrocketing prices of daily commodities and fuel. This may mean that we’re getting richer; or we’re spending more recklessly. So we can expect even more car models and trims to be sold locally. Volkswagen and Peugeot may even decide to come back.

Given increasing car sales volumes, many hope the government will slash automotive taxes. After all, with the screwed up mass transport system in Metro Manila, cars are no longer a luxury but a necessity for urbanites who want a fighting chance of making it to their meetings on time—with limbs intact, that is, and without murdering anyone from among the sweaty throng crammed into the rush hour train.

In many other countries, hybrid vehicles are common. As in most worldwide trends, the Philippines will not be far behind. Well, maybe a decent mass transport system is the exception.

By 2018, if it isn’t you driving a hybrid, you will likely encounter one on either side of you on the road. Before long, you will want to purchase one yourself. That’s the way things should happen in the natural progression of things. Of course, vested interests and sundry lobbyist may thwart this course. It has happened before, in politics and in business.

In the meantime, here is our rundown of cars that are poised to create the biggest buzz—and sales numbers—in the Philippine market.

1. Hyundai Tucson
You should no longer be surprised to see this Compact SUV on any top-cars list, and be named first at that. With its awesomely modern exterior design, combined with a good price—the lowest variant at just 988,000 pesos (US$22,525)—plus a now superior mother brand, car buyers will be drooling to grab one of these babies.

Hyundai offers us a choice between Gas and Diesel 2.0L displacement engines and a slightly more powerful variant equipped with a 2.4L Gas engine. It is, for all intents, “Living the life!” The only setback? Waiting in line. Just like the most popular amusement park ride, you’ll have to muster all your patience to wait for your turn. This kind of downside was once experienced by Toyota when it first launched the Fortuner six years ago.

Like the Fortuner, you will be unable to choose the color and trims you originally wished for since you want to acquire the vehicle as soon as possible. The dealership will try to offer you whatever is available until you finally give in.

2. Kia Sorento
It is the 2010 Car of the Year according to the Auto Focus People’s Choice Awards. [Auto Focus is a Philippine TV show produced by automotive guru Butch Gamboa—Ed.] That kind of success has to carry into this year.

The Sorento’s sales performance is expected to improve even more, mainly because Columbian Autocar Corp. (Kia’s local distributor) has decided to sell an incredible total of 10 variants/trims of the car, each catering to a different lifestyle.

The most inexpensive variant is 2WD 2.4L Gas at 1.49 million pesos (US$33,970). The priciest, an AWD 2.2L Diesel at 1.89 million pesos (US$43,089), which claims to seat seven people, is packed with technology such as a modern sunroof and a built-in GPS navigator. We’ve given this baby a whirl and, although it can accelerate real fast, it is still fuel efficient.

Kia’s master creator hailed from Volkswagen— which explains why Kia’s interior/exterior designs have now gone from bland to brand. Is the Sorento the rightful heir to the mid-size SUV throne after the Fortuner and the Montero? Only time (and sales performance) will tell.

3. Chevrolet Cruze
This is the anti-Civic! We all know how common a household name the Honda Civic has become since the current body was launched back in 2006. It had a sleek, modern design and unique technology, especially in the digital speedometer. Not even the head-turning Mitsubishi Lancer, introduced in 2008, could stop the Civic’s ascent to fame.

Now, a new challenger awaits in the Chevrolet Cruze.

Despite General Motors declaring bankruptcy on the first day of June 2009, their iconic brand Chevrolet seems determined to tell the world that GM is still in the game. Chevrolet launched the electric-powered Volt, which is now doing well in the US. And, along the way, the Chevrolet Cruze.

GM wanted the Cruze to really make an impact all over the world, so everyone could forget their short stint in limbo. They describe the Cruze as having the fuel economy of a compact car with the amenities of a midsize sedan. Wow.

In the Philippines, all the models feature a 1.8L Gas engine. Prices start at 808,888 pesos (US$18,441), which is way below the first basic models of the Civic and the Lancer. The highest priced variant is just under 1.05 million pesos (US$23,938), which should contain all the amenities very desirable to those who could afford more.

Soon enough, we’ll probably see some car junkies on the road with a modified Cruze, complete with a body kit, a booming muffler, and designer rims— exactly the way the Civic has been treated. It isn’t hard to understand why. What gear-head can resist the Cruze’s sporty look coupled with the Chevy’s racing history?

Volvo S604. Volvo S60
If there has to be a representative from the luxury segment, this would be it. It is already a given that luxury cars are hot. Only question is, will they sell well? In this case, we predict yes.

Some luxury cars sell well on their own terms. The new S60 should definitely be included among them. Ah, the new generation S60! Just by virtue of its being a Volvo, it’s already awesome.

The first thing you will notice is the designers’ modification of the headlamps. They may have gotten the idea from the Benz’s E-Class, but the way it curves is still so Volvo.

Pop the hood and you’ll see one of its best assets; a new, powerful engine called the T6. The T6 is said to contain the torque of a Volvo V8 engine yet, at the same time, keeping the gas consumption very economical.

Now because this is a luxury sedan, we can expect more from it. Sticking to its reputation as the safest car, the S60 boasts a world first: Pedestrian Detection Technology with fully automatic brake system. Safe, impressive, and futuristic!

There are two variants of the S60 sold locally. At just under 2.8 million pesos (US$63,836), the car is equipped with a 2.0 Gas-type displacement. The higher variant, which features even more exaggerated features, will set you back by some 3.6 million pesos (US$82,075).

The only caveat is Volvo’s reputation for creating cars that are difficult to maintain. One reason is that the company has just a single Manila office. But maybe the difficulty is part of the prestige—and those who plunk down millions on a Volvo couldn’t care less about the things mere mortals worry about.

5. Hyundai Accent
We predict that this particular vehicle will top the list in terms of sales volume. Equipped with a totally different body and interiors, the Accent is positioned to overtake the Toyota Vios.

Yes, it will be our basic car; the one that brings us from point A to point B. And for that purpose, what a good price! Backed by the much-progressed brand of Hyundai at that.

The M/T base model costs 588,000 pesos (US$13,405), a little less than the base price of the Vios yet slightly more powerful due to the 1.4L displacement. The higher option is powered by a 1.6L engine and should have more safety and technology features. However, it will be a high jump to 808,000 pesos (US$18,421).

Count 12 months, then expect to see a multitude of Accents cruising our roads (or being stuck in traffic). It will be the first car of many college students and young professionals. It will be the go-to company car for many organizations. Soon after, cab companies thinking of increasing their equipment assets will place bulk orders for this car. Mark our words.

6. Ford Fiesta
This is already hot and will continue to be so because of its recent accomplishment. Ford proudly announced that although the Fiesta had just been launched, it beat its market-leading, 5-door hatchback competition in the Honda Jazz in terms of sales for the month of December 2010.

That’s pretty big, given that the Fiesta was not as heavily advertised as the Jazz. It’s a plus that the car is small because some people like their cars cute. Besides, small cars are generally more affordable. And easier to maneuver through congested city streets.

Filipinos nowadays are looking into more detail, considering more factors, and inspecting their car purchases more thoroughly rather than just trusting the brands they have been used to.

Ford offers us six variants of the Fiesta; three are 4-door and the rest are 5-door (hatchback). Depending on your preference, you can choose between manual and automatic transmission, between a 1.4L and a 1.6L engine.

Its price range is from 670,000 to 816,000 pesos (US$15,275 to 18,603). It comes in several candy colors, which young women would be sure to appreciate: Ice Blue, Aurora Blue, True Red, Sparkling Gold, and Chili Orange.

If December’s performance continues, the future looks bright for Ford. It’s been quite a while since Ford rolled out a car that sells like hotcakes. It’s Fiesta time!

Great Wall Hover7. Great Wall
Above are two Hyundai cars and a Kia. There’s no question that these brands have already risen from their humble beginnings back in the 1990s.

We still recall several jokes about these two brands, many racist, revolving around how its makers used to produce plain wagons with an engine attached and nothing else.

But look at them now. These mighty Korean brands stand tall and proud, producing excellent quality in every vehicle class.

This brings us to the handful of Chinese brands we see on our streets, trying to gain an inch of the lucrative Philippine market. Right now, they have no choice other than to make price their unique selling point. But that’s where it all begins.

A certain Chinese brand called Great Wall is leading the race on the road to mass market success.

Great Wall maintains a very low price despite their claim that they already offer the same car quality as a Japanese or Korean car. The brand is currently experiencing what Hyundai and Kia did some 10 or 15 years ago.

Get this: The Hover, a 4x2 midsize SUV, costs less than a million pesos (US$22,800)!

Normally, vehicles in that price range are compact SUVs and compact sedans. But the Hover is as big as the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento! It is also powered by a 2.8 Diesel engine.

Meanwhile, the brand’s other models will look to eat up the market share across different classes once Statemotor Corp. (Great Wall distributor) resorts to more aggressive marketing. Watch for the rise of Great Wall in 2011–2012.

print ed: 03/11


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