Why the Maxus G50 is changing the MPV game

Compared to the crossover category which seems to be rolling out new models every week, the compact eight-seater MPV segment has practically stood still — surprising considering that one of the country’s most popular models, the Toyota Innova, is an MPV. The demand is there, yet the number of brands meeting that demand is surprisingly small.

An affordable eight-seater MPV is the logical choice for a family that has outgrown any of the many compact seven-seaters on the million-peso segment now. Mid-sized pickup-based seven-seat SUVs would be the next step up from a seven-seat compact crossover, but the half-million-peso price jump is too large.

Which means that a family that can no longer fit in their Ertiga, BR-V, Rush, or Xpander would have only two affordable options: the eight-seat Suzuki APV or Toyota Innova—not exactly a wealth of choices. The crème de la crème of people movers like the Toyota Alphard and Honda Odyssey are way too expensive. And the full-size vans like the Toyota Hiace and Nissan Urvan would be too big and unwieldy to drive for a mom or dad used to driving an Ertiga or Rush.

Which is why I feel that the new MPV contender from Ayala Corporation’s automotive arm, Automobile Central Enterprises, is heaven-sent for parents who are seeing growth spurts in their children—especially if they love going on road trips and take on a lot of stuff.

This new MPV is the Maxus G50, and it looks nothing like any MPV in its price range (which starts at a surprisingly low P1,088,000). For starters, it looks head-turning in its own way, channeling the snob appeal of the nearly four-times-more-expensive Toyota Alphard with its huge grille, wedge-shaped nose, and slab sides. A white or black G50 is something that would look at home with the rows of Alphards lining the driveways and parking lots of hotel-casinos.  

It starts with a chrome-embellished grille so big it looks like it could grace an Audi or Lexus. Modern looking LED headlamps, DRLs and distinctive chrome-lined side air intake openings complete the luxury van projection.

The sides are smooth and seamless, with just the right amount of subtle lines, contouring, and sculpting to give the MPV’s side view character and keep it from looking too plain. The windows (with tasteful glass black window frames with wraparound D pillars that give a floating roof effect) are large, giving occupants a panoramic view out, while the rear doors are so large, you would think the vehicle has sliding doors (it has conventional hinged doors).

The normally boring rear end of MPVs is rendered in a very upscale manner thanks to LED taillights that wrap around to the sides and an elegant chrome strip that spans the width of the rear and connects the left and right taillamps. Nice detail touches are seen on the sculpting on tailgate license plate recess and the rear bumper. A rear spoiler mounted on top of the tailgate finish off the very upmarket overall look.     

Complementing the stylish exterior are a palette of fashionable colors — the entry-level G50 Pro (P1,088,000) comes in Warm White, Warm Argent, Metal Black and Water Blue. The midrange G50 Elite (P1,168,000) comes in Roland Purple, Polar Ash, and Warm White, plus a Deep Golden exclusive to the variant. The top-of-the-line G50 Premium (P1,288,000) comes in Roland Purple, Polar Ash, and Warm White.

That pricing puts the already-top-of-the-line G50 Premium a mere P40,000 more than the lowest priced automatic-equipped Innova, the Innova 2.0 E. That’s tremendous value.

The G50 ticks off all the boxes that define a compact MPV, then adds even more: a modern turbocharged direct-injected 1.5-liter Euro 6-compliant gasoline engine, a spacious eight-seater cabin, reverse camera, Park Distance Control, keyless entry, push-start button, Electronic Stabilization Program, tire pressure monitoring system, and Electronic Parking Brake with Auto Hold for all variants.

A huge six-speaker 12” infotainment system, 360-degree view camera, and leather seats are added for the Premium and Elite variants, while a panoramic sunroof, mobile wireless charging, LED headlights, side airbags, and power tailgate come with the top-of-the-line Premium variant. Those are features you’d expect in an Alphard, not an Innova-priced MPV. 

A 1.5-liter engine displacement may be small for an MPV, but turbocharging endows it with enough output (169hp and 250Nm of torque) for reasonable performance in everyday driving. The impressively smooth motor even manages to deliver peak torque at a very low 1,700 rpm (and maintaining it all the way top 4,300 rpm), much like a diesel engine, making it feel extra responsive. Just don’t expect a fully loaded G50 to effortlessly overtake a speeding bus on the expressway—even if it will do it better than a likewise fully loaded crossover with a 1.5-liter non-turbo engine.

Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (which fortunately didn’t exhibit the occasional annoying characteristics endemic to DCTs), the turbo motor averaged 6-7 km/l in city driving, with highway mileage figures hovering 10-12 km/l. Really fuel-efficient driving should yield better figures than my heavy-footed style. The G50 is covered by Maxus’s warranty coverage of 5 years/100,000 kms.

Ride quality is best described as comfortable, which is what an MPV buyer would want more than responsive handling. That said, the G50’s electric power steering, MacPherson strut/torsion beam suspension, and comfort-oriented 205-60R-16 tires (the Elite and Premium variants have bigger 215/55R-17 rubber) work together to endow this front-wheel drive van carlike maneuverability.

The G50’s squarish overall shape endows the 2-3-3 seating configuration with generous head-, elbow-, and legroom for all passengers. Needless to say, the G50’s rearmost occupants will still feel that they’re in Economy class while the front and middle row passengers are in Business class. But they’re still better off than the really cramped passengers in third-row seats of even the midsize SUVs. Cargo space is generous; more so if you fold down the rearmost seats.       

Fit and finish (and the overall interior design) is above average as MPVs go, as long as you don’t expect Alphard-class leather, carpeting and soft-touch plastics. But it’s decidedly more premium than an Innova’s, even the higher end ones. There are storage areas galore and steering wheel buttons for audio and cruise control. The dashboard and door panels look like they were borrowed from a luxury sedan. The leather seats (fabric in the Pro variant) are supportive and have nice stitching (although the red trim in the Premium is a bit much).       

All things considered, the spacious and generously equipped Maxus G50 is a more-than-welcome addition to the stagnant MPV segment. With Innova pricing and Alphard style and features, it’s nothing less than a gamechanger.

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