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December 26, 2019

Top 5 Picks for 2019

Marked by the introduction of several new brands, 2019 marks a period of change for the more established carmakers. With competition heating up, most stepped up to the challenge—offering new and/or improved offerings which have appealed not just to the regular consumer, but to enthusiasts as well.

Truth be told, compared to previous years, there’s no bad car anymore—there are plenty of mediocre ones for sure, but not a single one that spews vitriol or hate. With that, it’s become increasingly difficult to find five cars that stand out during the course of the past 365 days. This is especially true since this Top 5 Picks is done differently from everyone else. Instead of categorizing and sub-categorizing cars, here they’re simply lumped together to get the 5 outstanding cars of the year (check out the previous list of winners here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011).

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. 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 50 eligible cars, and from that comes our Top 5 Picks of 2019.

#5. Kia Stinger GT

For years under their former distributor, Kia was content on being mediocre, on offering dull and unimaginative commuter cars. But as the brand found itself under a new distributor, they’ve finally shown Filipinos what “The Power to Surprise” really means with the Stinger GT. Beautifully designed, well-crafted, and most importantly, fun to drive, it’s a fresh, devil-may-care attitude amidst an automotive world driven by bean counters and spread sheets. It’s an attractive, performance-oriented grand tourer that can truly compete with the world’s best. The only disappointing thing is its P 3-million-plus price tag, but at the end of the day, it opens up a conversation of what Kia, and in turn, its new distributor can do. For that, it’s done its job.

Full review here.

#4. Subaru Levorg 2.0 GT-S

A perfect example of how the demise of a long-time favorite (in this case, the Forester XT) can give rise to something that once was overlooked, it’s time for the Subaru Levorg to enjoy the spotlight. Finally coming out of the shadow of its more popular sibling, the WRX, it’s every bit as fast without compromising on practicality. It doesn’t have the same rally-bred heritage, and that’s all for the better. Unburdened by tradition, it’s easier to drive (be it bumper-to-bumper traffic or through mountain passes), but more importantly, easier to live with. It’s mighty safe too thanks to the equipment of the EyeSight driver assist system. On weekdays, it can take in the baby stroller, a week’s worth of grocery, and perhaps even a golf set all at the same time, while on the weekends, it can be a formidable track weapon, too.

Full review here.

#3. Mazda6 Skyactiv-D Signature

In the nine years of choosing our annual Top 5 Picks, the Mazda6 has found itself in three of them. It’s a surprise given the evanescence of the automotive industry, but it also shows how Mazda has come up with a sedan that’s managed to remain a gold standard, not just in its segment but overall as well. For 2019, it gets its biggest makeover and with that, brings an even higher sense of premium. This is the only car at this price point to offer exotic materials such as Nappa leather, Japanese Sen Wood, and even Ultrasuede in its interior—shaming cars from so-called “premium brands.” Moreover, it’s the only one to offer a truly remarkable powertrain: a turbo diesel engine that shames all others. Not only does it offer 190 horsepower and 450 Nm of torque, but it can achieve double-digit fuel economy too—truly, it’s the executive sedan that does it all.

Full review here.

#2. Honda Brio RS

With the breadth of cars tested throughout the year, small (read: sub-P 800k) cars rarely get enough attention; yet, the Honda Brio does so because it’s well-engineered, well-made, and perhaps the most surprising part, actually pretty fun to drive. The previous-generation model may have laid down the foundation, but it’s this one that truly reaps all the engineering rewards. It’s proof that if carmakers listen to their customers, they can come up with a winner. Honda is known for putting engineering excellent above all else, and the Brio feels like a return to those roots. Truly, it’s a car that’s more than just the sum of its parts—it’s a standout because it proves that cheap can also be cheerful, and that horsepower isn’t (and shouldn’t) be the sold measure of driving enjoyment. Soichiro Honda must be proud.

Full review here.

#1. Mazda3 2.0 Sportback

When Mazda declared that the all-new Mazda3 was the start of a new era for them, they weren’t kidding. While other automakers now see cars as a necessity—a means of mobility and nothing more, this Japanese automaker refuses to take that approach. Instead, it turns that thinking on its head, and has come out with something that’s emotional and individual. Design fads fade and technology can become outdated, thus Mazda designed and engineered this car to form a bond with its driver. It does so with its head-turning design, an interior that looks and feels above class, and a drivetrain that unlocks the human potential. Truly, it takes no shortcuts. The Mazda3 tugs at the heart, and perhaps even into the very soul of those who drive it.

Full review here.


  1. No Mazda3 emergency brake system issue here in the Philippines?

    1. We're keeping a close tabs on this one...but so far, no issue yet.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Mazda 3 2020 owner here, had one instance wherein a jeepney suddenly stopped 2 cars away and the car's emergency braking system activated. I changed the setting to late and that apparently resolved the issue. Haven't experienced the US issue(suddenly stopping in the highway with no car in front) yet.

    4. hey sir, hows the fc now since its been a while since you got the 3 na? thanks happy new year

    5. I got 2019 mazda3 and everytime my wife on my passenger seat, her heart beat like faster my zoom zoom!


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