Here’s a fun fact – over the course of five years or so, I’ve driven hundreds of cars for testing. That indefinite number (I’ve lost count, sorry) includes quick test drives, company-hosted media drives, and full-on reviews that span from four days to as many as two weeks. From cheap four-wheeled appliances to flagship luxury nameplates, you could say that I’ve driven too many cars in this fun-filled career.
But I’ve learned one important thing: There isn’t one perfect car.
Every car has its flaws – be it in design, pricing, or the lack of some tech features – every car that comes out of showrooms has something to be criticized about, no matter how exorbitant its price tag goes. Yes, even the Lexus LS 500 has something to improve on (hello, wonky touchpad).
However, there are cars that try hard to bring the best value for your hard-earned money. These cars go well over their asking prices, not only through their spec sheets but also with the overall driving experience they can offer.
With people leaning towards buying affordable cars these days because of the impending recession, I’ve thought of listing down eight cars under P800,000 that offer the best value – all based on my experiences with them during testing.
Chery Tiggo 2
The Tiggo 2 may lack greatness in power delivery and handling, but I can’t deny that this small crossover oozes with practicality. It’s a real crossover, with 180mm ground clearance that allows for flexibility in and out of the city.
At just P770,000 (for the automatic variant), you get a crossover that’s already filled with tech toys such as a large touchscreen infotainment, reverse parking camera and sensors, projector halogens with leveler, and cruise control. The Tiggo 2 is powered by a 106hp/135Nm 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.
While Chevrolet cars in the Philippines are usually burly, one that stands out is at the top of its size and price chart – the Spark. Armed with relative niceties that other small hatchbacks don’t have, the Spark is worthy of your consideration, if you’re shopping for a small car.
Much of the Spark’s merits come from its 1.4-liter four-pot gasoline mill that makes 97hp and 128Nm of torque. It’s the most powerful in its class and this is paired with above-average handling. Despite having the biggest engine, the Spark returns incredible fuel efficiency numbers at 24.3 km/l at an average speed of 90 km/h – all in a package priced at P738,888 for the top-spec trim.
Another small hatchback worth checking out is the Honda Brio. The top-spec RS Black Top trim ceilings at P742,000, so it’s well within this story’s budget. However, the Brio’s merits aren’t just about the looks; the build quality is great plus the drive is more than what you’ll expect from such a small car.
Of note, the Brio is next to the Spark in terms of power output and it comes with four cylinders, too, and just like the Chevy, it returns solid fuel economy at 20.3 km/l on the highway.
RELATED: 2020 Honda Brio: Pros & Cons
The Eon may have left Hyundai’s stable recently, but it’s essentially replaced by the Reina as the most affordable vehicle in the range. Despite its cheap price tag (tops out at P783,888 for the top-spec variant with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), the Reina gets its merits from practicality and ease of usage that’s perfect for your daily errands within the city.
Its platform twin, the Kia Soluto, will more likely make it to this list have I had the chance to drive one. Sadly, I haven’t, which brings us to our next entry.
In a beauty contest, it’s a tough call between the Honda Brio and the Kia Picanto. Both are attractive and sporty looking, with the Korean car leveraging on its cuteness and solid build quality rather than its pizzazz.
The esteemed build quality can be observed inside the Picanto as well, with a well-executed design and choice of materials. Also, the top-spec 1.2-liter Picanto EX is one of those small hatchbacks with a four-pot engine, with the automatic variant selling for P745,000.
What’s an affordable car list without Suzuki, right? The Japanese marque has cemented its reputation in making high-quality small cars, and the Celerio is at the forefront of that. The current generation might be aging, but it’s still a serious contender in the sea of small hatchbacks.
Apart from great build quality, updated features, and nimbleness, the Celerio’s reputation comes from its top-brass fuel economy at 24 km/l at an average of 90 km/h on the highway. The Celerio CVT variant comes with a P598,000 sticker price when I tested it.
One of the newer members of this selection, the S-Presso joins my list of best cars under P800,000. And no, it’s not because it’s the most affordable Japanese vehicle today. That P518,000 price tag comes with a lot of character and oozes with value – add that to the fact that it has the quirky appeal of the Jimny.
Plus, it shares its engine with the Celerio but exclusively available with a manual transmission. That said, the four-seat S-Presso offers the basics and beyond – much more than what you’ll look for in a small city car.
No, this isn’t about its ubiquity and bearing a badge that spells reliability, or the fact that it’s the roomiest vehicle on this list. That’s already a given. The facelifted Toyota Vios is included here because of one reason car buyers often overlook: safety features.
With four variants under P800,000, the Vios is the only car on this list that comes with seven airbags. It also comes with Vehicle Stability Control and Hill Start Assist that work together with the standard ABS and EBD, completing the list of “features you ignore until you need them.” That fact, in itself, already makes the Vios worthy of being called the best.
NOTE: This list doesn’t include judgment in terms of after-sales services. The ratings and comments here are based on the car’s value as presented when brand new. I’ve also shed biases against any of these cars’ points of origin because frankly, people should get over that in this day and age.
Also, I would have used my actual photos of these cars when I tested them, but I don’t own the rights to some of those photos since they were taken while I was employed by my previous company.