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December 26, 2018

Top 5 Picks for 2018

This year is almost coming to a close and while the automotive industry dipped because of the implementation of TRAIN, that didn’t stop carmakers from coming up with some great new offerings for the Philippine market. Before revealing this year’s best, now is a great time to look at the previous winners (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011).

Regular readers know that our Top 5 Picks is done differently from anyone else. Instead of categorizing and sub-categorizing them (sometimes conveniently to make a brand win), they’re simply lump together to get the 5 outstanding cars of the year.

In addition, there are only three criteria for judging: first, it was extensively driven. No around the block test drives, no “first drives”, no ride and drive junkets (this eliminates the Nissan Terra, Mitsubishi Xpander, and Ford Ranger Raptor in case you’re wondering). They had to be driven on roads the team traverses on a regular basis to give an apples-to-apples comparison. Second, it should be fairly mainstream. For that, the list is capped with a maximum MSRP of P 4 million. And finally, it should have been a standout. And when we mean “standout”, it’s a car we think is worthy to actually spend our own money on.

This year, there were 46 eligible cars which was whittled down to our Top 5 Picks of 2018.

#5. Honda Civic Type R

It’s not the most powerful car out there nor the most exotic, but there’s something special about the Honda Civic Type R. The wilder, be-winged sibling to the already capable Civic, the Type R dials up the driving excitement level to 100 while still keeping itself usable for the daily drive. Not only does it offer practical space, but thanks to trick dampers, the ride is actually pliant and the engine, surprisingly frugal. Push it though, and it’s simply magical. It only made it to Number 5 because even if you wanted one so badly, you won’t be able to get one—they’re all sold out.

Full review here.

#4. Hyundai Santa Fe

Say what you want about Hyundai’s decision to re-position the Santa Fe upmarket, but one thing’s for sure: this is a more luxurious, more convincing mid-sized SUV now. The standout exterior design and airy, well-appointed cabin already make it good, but add the wealth of interior appointments and ample space for 5 (7 is, admittedly, a squeeze) make it a worthwhile alternative to the likes of the Ford Explorer. The diesel engine may not be the most refined, but delivers power even on short notice and fuel economy is pretty good. The Santa Fe would have been even higher on this list if only it handled better (it’s too cushy) and had even more standard equipment.

Full review here.

#3. Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport D

This year marks the first time a car made it into the Top 5 Picks list for two straight years. Last year, the CX-5 missed out the top spot because of the non-availability of its diesel engine. Now with the Skyactiv-D engine more readily in supply, Mazda’s compact crossover makes a return but only good enough for second runner-up on this list (that’s how competitive the market has become). Some may offer a counterargument that the hefty premium of the diesel over the Skyactiv-G variant is unnecessary and to some, that’s true. However, this is the CX-5 fully realized. A year on, it remains the compact crossover benchmark with its sexy styling, stellar driving dynamics, great NVH, and best-in-class refinement.

Full review here.

#2. Hyundai Kona

The Kona is the shot in the arm that Hyundai needed. Competing in the ultra-competitive sub-compact crossover segment, the Kona brings excitement back to the Hyundai brand and is a standout for all the right reasons. For one, there’s the head-turning good looks. After that, there’s the plenty of space (except for luggage) despite its small footprint. Then, there’s the way it drives—refined and responsive. It’s also outfitted with the segment’s most powerful engine which, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to affect its fuel economy (it’s up to 25 percent better than its boosted 3-cylinder competitor). It’s also well-kitted for safety too. If only Hyundai increased the creature comfort features, the Kona would have easily been the year’s top choice.

Full review here.

#1. Suzuki Swift

Budget cars are rarely exciting; they’re normally seen as painless Point A to Point B commuters. However, leave it to the small car specialist, Suzuki, to come up with something special: the all-new Swift. This year’s Top Pick is a surprising one given it doesn’t have the power or maybe even the panache of the 45 other cars tested this year. Yet, it’s the one that uplifts the driving experience a notch higher. It proves that having a lightweight, well-balanced chassis can do wonders to extract the maximum out of a modestly-powered motor. On top of that, it also has sporty good looks, a well-packaged interior, and with a starting price south of P 800,000, excellent value-for-money proposition.

Full review here.


  1. The Swift is pretty good car in the city but take it to the highway and its gasping especially the auto. Better buy the manual version instead of the auto

  2. I have the new automatic CVT version. Driven to SLEX and its surprisingly nimble and not that bad when you want to pickup speed specially with the 100 kph limit on our expressways. It drives better than Mirage, Picanto, Wigo. More safe to drive than the similarly priced Hyundai Accent GL CVT, the new Swift has ABS, EBD, BA and SC. ABS, EBD and BA is available across the entire segment.
    Check out the moose test of the all new swift in Youtube and its truly an amazing car. No wonder I left the Ford Ranger behind when we were driving to the narrow winding roads of Sinagtala in Bataan.

    1. Hehe, baka matanda lang ang driver ng Ranger na iniwan mo. It may drive better than the Mirage Picanto and Wigo but those are hundreds of thousands cheaper. Its nearly the same price a much larger crdi accent which has 136hp and 260lbft of torque and you save a lot of money on fuel for diesel engines. At 900k for a small car with small engine, you're looking at the equally excellent Jazz or Mazda2 already.

    2. I got mine for a final price of 759k after discount in Pampanga. That's a 40k discount for the GL CVT variant. Though I agree that the 899k GLX is too expensive for what it is, but it is still cheaper than the base variant Jazz and Mazda 2, both Honda and Mazda rarely give discounts, 10k is already a rare. The Accent HB CRDi AT is also not cheap starting at 928k. 300kg more heavier than the Swift(dry weight) and I suppose will perform less in moose and slalom test than the new Swift. If your budget is around 800k then I guess Accent Crdi and base variant Jazz/City is the best buy but if you have 700k on hand the Swift GL CVT or Manual is a perfect buy. If you have 900k on hand then just get the new Xpander :)

      Btw The accent HB Crdi Manual has ZERO safety features. No front airbags, even on the drivers side, No ABS (can't believe this is even allowed by law in PH). There's a big discussion about it in Tsikot forums. Too bad only Kia is being taken over by Ayala.

    3. So everyone will just ignore the fact that the Fiesta with manual is priced the same as the Swift and that has a better 1.5L engine and its more fun to drive. People.

  3. I had the previous version of the swift, 1.4L, which for me was a great car if you did not mind the small space at the back. Power was well balanced and handling was terrific. I was happy with the car but I just didn't like the service Suzuki gave me. Terrible experience at the dealership. Transmission didn't want to shift to the last gear took months to fix only to find a bad solenoid. Also I had a problem with my steering wheel and noise problems at the front but they said the car was completely fine, then after the warranty period they told me I needed a whole new rack and pinion set and steering wheel parts. The dealership charged me for top up of fluids such as coolant, brake and washer fluids which they never really do. They even claim they did wheel balancing and alignment but they never did even when I told them my problems! Since then I did the maintenance and repairs on my own which wasn't bad because the oem maintenance parts are fairly cheap and I buy them at the dealership. I'd have the wheels aligned and balanced at a shop with all the necessary computers and it runs great. I've been in the newer swift and it drives better than before, absolutely love it (but I miss the leather steering wheel). If you like the car then I suggest getting it in the right dealership.


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