Have you heard about the new car brand in town? It’s called Changan (pronounced here as ‘sya-ngan’) automobiles, and they’ve recently launched five products for the Philippine market: a subcompact sedan, three differently-sized SUVs, and an electric vehicle.
Changan is a Chinese car brand that is among the mainland’s most popular in terms of sales volume. Its global sales figure hit 1.3 million units sold in 2019 alone, making it one of China’s ‘Big Four’ automakers. As it is state-owned, it currently operates joint ventures with Ford (Changan Ford) and Mazda (Changan Mazda). In the Philippines, the Changan distributorship is under the helm of the same power-lady leading the Hyundai brand in the Philippines – Ms. Ma Fe Perez-Agudo.
“Trust is essential to engage in lasting relationships,” explained Changan Motors Philippines, Inc. (CMPI) president and CEO, Ma. Fe Perez Agudo. “And that takes conscious effort. We are confident about winning the hearts of customers who have an eye for stylish, tech-driven, value-for-money vehicles. We are also a step ahead in after-sales with our ground-breaking programs, headlined by the Changan five-year or 150,000 km warranty.”
Of course, as with any new product, testing it is key to determining one’s true level of satisfaction. And this is why I grabbed the opportunity to test one of CMPI’s first batch of vehicle models – particularly their entry-level subcompact sedan, the Changan Alsvin MT.
Perhaps what struck me the most in the beginning was its uber-enticing introductory price,set at P539,000 for a 1.4-liter car. Obviously, the initial concern would be whether the car had to cut corners when it came to features and driving dynamics. Though to my surprise, I had quite some fun driving the Alsvin around town and on my way to The Farm at San Benito (in Lipa, Batangas), which is roughly an 88-km drive from my starting point.
At first, I was a little worried about the prospect of having to drive a manual through heavy highway traffic (this has become a common woe, amid the RFID ruckus) as clutch pedals on the harder side tend to make my knee hurt, if over several hours. But to my delight, the clutch pedal was satisfyingly soft and the shifting smooth and precise. I actually savored driving through the narrow and hilly inside-roads leading into The Farm, which is nestled within the greener, less populated parts of Lipa.
I have a thing for testing basic variants of entry-level vehicles because I get to see how manufacturers push the limits of providing value amid keeping the price point as affordable as possible. In most cases in this car segment, price is extremely valuable to the customer — with every increment of Php 10,000 making a significant difference in the decision-making process of the buyer. The Alsvin gets my approval in driving satisfaction for what the car is; and it further pleases me to see that the variant still affords to accommodate a rear parking camera, when some more expensive competitors are not equipped with one.
The Alsvin 5MT also has fuel economy-boosting suggestive gear shifting displayed within the instrument cluster, and a handy tire pressure monitoring system which is also usually seen in more expensive car variants. A seven-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth and USB connectivity is nicely seated on the dash; although unlike the Chinese spec, our local variant will not carry the Navi feature.
While the higher-spec Alsvin Platinum 1.5-liter variant flaunts leather seats and, quite impressively, a sunroof, my basic Alsvin 5MT had fabric seats which were comfortable. The Platinum variant gets four speakers in the vehicle, while the 5MT, which costs approximately P100,000 less, gets two. The Platinum variant also gets other bells and whistles such as cruise control, daytime running lights (DRL), three-eye reverse parking sensors, an electronic stability program (ESP), hill hold control (HHC) and a six-way adjustable driver’s seat (as compared to the 5MT’s four-way adjustment).
I would also like to highlight the amazing fuel frugality that I experienced with this vehicle. While I did not originally set out to compute my fuel consumption, let me tell you this: I started with a full tank fuel reading when I began driving the Alsvin 5MT around Makati CBD to run some errands. I then proceeded to drive towards The Farm, via the SLEX Skyway and eventually through Star Toll, taking the Lipa exit. Unfortunately for me, my navigation app – Google Maps – led me to an unfinished bridge, which caused me a detour of about an additional 30 minutes driving through small country roads. Eventually, switching to Waze led me to the right path, which included hilly roads comprised of steep inclines and sharp turns. With the right manipulation of the gears and sufficient, live planning to carry momentum up the steep inclines, the car’s 100ps of power was more than enough to easily get me through. The electric power steering wheel was also pleasantly light. And after arriving at The Farm and later returning to Manila, I kid you not, but as per the display of the fuel indicator, not a single box had yet been reduced. Let’s assume that the tank was probably fueled up beyond the automatic stop, and that I am an eco-driver by default — but this is still an impressive feat!
At the end of the day, the best way for anyone to form an opinion is to actually drive the car for himself/herself. There are a string of differently-sized SUVs within the local Changan lineup, and I am looking forward to test driving the rest of them!