All posts by J. Angelo Racoma

J. Angelo is a technology journalist writing for a CIO-oriented online magazine and a popular tech blog. He is also an auto enthusiast, but admits he still has a lot to learn about cars.

Review: Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LT – Confident Highway Cruising With the Chevy Cruze

When you move to a home in the suburbs and away from the city, you would usually experience a few advantages, in terms of environment. First, there won’t be the usual weekday traffic that can be very time-consuming and tiring to a driver. Then, you can enjoy driving along highways and hilly winding roads.

When you move your family to the suburbs, though, you might find yourself outgrowing your usual subcompact, B-segment sedan. Not only do you need to haul stuff in case of emergencies (such as extra clothes in the trunk). You would also want to have a more confident driver, especially when passing big trucks and smoke-belching jeepneys and avoiding jaywalkers running across four-lane highways.

The Chevy Cruze LT was lent to us for review at just the right time. We came right from reviewing a bigger family car (an SUV, actually) and we kind of missed the space and luxury. Though not exactly in the leagues of luxury marques and competitively-priced full-size sedans like the Nissan Teana and Honda Accord, which we were likewise able to review these past weeks, the Chevy Cruze holds its own, especially compared with other models in its class, such as the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic.

Continue reading Review: Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LT – Confident Highway Cruising With the Chevy Cruze

Mazda 2 Review – Sporty Ride, But Not for the Fussy

The Mazda 2 straddles two worlds — on one end of the spectrum is a sporty pocket rocket, while the other, a practical starter car. We were able to review two variants of the Mazda 2, taking both for a spin through hills, pockmarked city streets and there’s one thing Mazda owners and I would agree on: zoom zoom, indeed!

Continue reading Mazda 2 Review – Sporty Ride, But Not for the Fussy

Hybrid Cars Just Got More Affordable with the Toyota Prius C

Toyota Philippines has unveiled the Prius C in the market. And with prices starting at PhP 1.475 million, going green won’t necessarily meaning breaking the bank.

The larger, 3rd-generation Prius costs more than PhP 2 million, which has probably turned off green-minded individuals in the country to go for cheaper alternatives. As such, sub 1-million subcompacts have proliferated, and city streets are teeming with the Toyota Vios, Honda City and Hyundai Accent, along with a host of other ultra-compact cars.

But with the new Toyota Prius C boasting of a 40 Km/L mileage, it’s probably the best choice for green-enthusiasts, considering rising fuel prices and worsening metro traffic.

Powered by a 1.5 L 1NZ-FXE VVT-i engine (similar to the Vios), the Prius C is likewise powered by a Hybrid Synergy Drive electric motor, which accurately adjusts output from the gas-fed engine and electric motor, depending on driving conditions, while minimizing consumption. The car’s regenerative braking system and exhaust gas recirculation system adds to efficiency, charging the batteries while the car is running.

It’s not as cheap as other subcompacts would be. The Prius C starts at PhP 1.475 million for the Standard and PhP 1.540 for the Full variant. For this price, you could buy a pickup-based SUV like the Montero Sport or Fortuner. But if you want fuel savings, and if you want to contribute to saving the Earth, then the Prius C would be a smart choice.

Nissan 2nd Top Asian Car Brand in the Americas in 2011

Nissan has announced that the brand is now the second most popular brand in the Americas, which includes North, Central and South America. Nissan gained a 0.6% increase in market share over its 2010 figure, advancing the automaker as the #2 Asian automotive brand in the region.

Nissan America has totaled 1.56 million units sold in 2011, while the brand sold 1.33 million in 2010. Nissan trails behind Toyota, which sold 1.85 million units in 2011. Honda, Hyundai and Kia follows, with 1.29 million, 1.03 million and 659,000, respectively.

“2011 was a breakthrough year for Nissan in the Americas in a multitude of ways,” said Colin Dodge, chairman, Nissan Americas.  “We outperformed our key Japanese competitors in every market throughout the Americas while the Nissan brand became one of the fastest-growing Asian automotive brands in the region.”

Other highlights:

  • In the U.S., Nissan gained market share for the sixth consecutive year, ending 2011 with 8.2 percent of the U.S. market, up from 6 percent just a few years ago;
  • In Mexico, Nissan has been the market leader for three consecutive years and ended 2011 with a record market share of 24.8 percent, up 1.7 points from the prior year;
  • In Brazil, Nissan’s business has been rapidly expanding with sales that nearly doubled in 2011.  Nissan was Brazil’s fastest-growing automotive brand in 2011 and is now the 7th best-selling car brand in the country;
  • In Latin America, Nissan finished 2011 with 10 percent market share for the first time, up 0.4 points from the prior year.

Reviews to Watch Out For: Ford Fiesta S, Mazda2, Hyundai Tucson Re-VGT, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevy Spark

I’ve been busy these past few weeks, but we’ve been fortunate enough to have test-driven a handful of cars during that time. So far, we’ve been through the usual review rounds with a Ford Fiesta S, Mazda2 and Hyundai Tucson. These next weekends, we have the Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevy Spark.

Checking out fuel efficiency, carrying capacity, proper inflation of car tires, different engine displacements, trims, features and models does take some time, especially for writers like us with deadlines and assignments. Reviews are coming soon, so watch this space.

Have You Joined the Chevy Spark Virtual Carpool Club Yet?

Chevy has just launched its latest model Spark, and is inviting everyone to join the virtual carpool. Simply mosy over to the Chevy Spark Virtual Carpool Club Facebook application and you get the chance to win five iPad 2s.

All you have to do is “like” the Chevy Philippines Facebook fan page and register in the Spark Carpool Club application. Upon registering, you will automatically be designated as the virtual carpool driver of the account. The objective of the game is to add as much Facebook friends to be your carpool buddy.

Of course, aside from just Liking the page, you will need to have friends join your carpool club, as well. The more friends you invite, the more entries you get to the raffle. A winning “car” with five members will be picked each week, with the members receiving movie tickets and Chevy merchandise. Meanwhile, the winners of the final draw get an iPad 2 each.

Chevy’s latest Spark comes in two new variants, particularly the 1.0 liter 4-speed automatic and 5speed manual, which have the same design as the 1.2L MT. According to tests, these new models can give you as much as 22 km/L for the manual 1.2L and 1.0L variants, and 19 km/L for the 1.0 automatic. How’s that for a fuel-efficient pocket rocket?

Nissan Offers Low DP Promos & Extra Features on Sentra 200 & X-Trail CVT

Nissan Motor Philippines is currently running a low-downpayment promo for various models, which also include upgraded features for the same price, like leather seats, parking assist camera and multimedia system. Check it out.

  • Nissan Sentra 200 6MT – PhP 99,999 d/p
  • Nissan Sentra 200 CVT (now with leather seats) – PhP 118,000 d/p
  • X-TRAIL 2.0 AT 4×2 – PhP 160,000 d/p
  • X-TRAIL CVT 2.5 AT 4×2 – PhP 220,000 d/p
  • X-TRAIL CVT 2.5 AT 4×4 – PhP 260,000 d/p

Low monthly offers are also available for 30% and 50% downpayment options.

Check out the press release after the jump. Continue reading Nissan Offers Low DP Promos & Extra Features on Sentra 200 & X-Trail CVT

Review: Honda CR-V 2.4 S-X 4WD AT – Drive With Confidence and Comfort With This Versatile Crossover SUV

A growing family has growing needs. And that’s just what my family and I are experiencing these days. This includes the need for growing space in the family car. Kids are in grade school. Baby is now a toddler. Strollers have given way to big school bags. Moving to the city’s outskirts has necessitated bringing more stuff in the car than before.

And so it’s just the right timing that Honda has decided to lend us the new CR-V to take out for a weekend spin. It was short-notice, but I didn’t say no when Honda’s marketing manager called me to say the car was ready for pickup within a few hours’ time, even if it meant an hour’s drive in bad weather.

Continue reading Review: Honda CR-V 2.4 S-X 4WD AT – Drive With Confidence and Comfort With This Versatile Crossover SUV

Hyundai Optimistic With 2011 Sales Outlook

Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc., the official Hyundai distributor in the Philippines maintains a positive sales outlook for the year, with a 6% growth in May compared with the same period last year. This growth has been mostly fueled by commercial vehicles and SUV sales.

Hyundai sustains its momentum, as it posted total sales of 1,643 units in May this year or 6% growth from the same month last year. By category, sales of light commercial vehicles rose by 16% while that of passenger cars declined slightly by 3%. By models, the boost came largely from Tucson which expanded by 52% and the new models, Sonata and Elantra, which sold 75 units and 291 units, respectively. This brings sales performance for the first five months of 2011 to 3% growth or 8,062 units.

Hyundai is focusing on channel partners for fleet purchases, and this includes banks, projects and other commercial operations. Meanwhile, the company is confident that 2011 sales outlook will further improve, due to economic growth in the country.

Review: 2011 Honda City 1.3S AT – No-Frills Sporty Comfort With This Big Subcompact With an Aggressive Look

Let me begin this review of the Honda City 1.3S AT with the disclaimer that prior to picking up the review unit at Honda’s Ortigas office, I came fresh out of my weekend-long test drive of the Nissan Teana 250XV V6. Big car to small car. That’s just like my Honda Jazz experience, which came right after reviewing the Nissan Sentra 200 CVT.

With this in mind, I guess I should resist comparing the two review units, as these are on opposite sides of the size spectrum (not extreme, but still opposite). The 2011 Honda City sits smack at the bigger end of the subcompact class and almost nearing the compact class with its dimensions (it measures largest among its contemporaries). And while the City is meant to be a small, fuel-efficient car, it delivers just the right level of performance that you would expect from a car this size. With the City, you won’t be afraid to weave in and out of Metro Manila traffic. But you won’t feel out of place with bigger and more expensive cars on the street, either, with its sporty arrow-inspired look and clean lines.

Continue reading Review: 2011 Honda City 1.3S AT – No-Frills Sporty Comfort With This Big Subcompact With an Aggressive Look