Toyota Adds Dual VVT-i Technology To Vios and Yaris

The Toyota Vios and Yaris has had an engine that has been unchanged since the first vehicles rolled off in 2002, and finally, it has now been changed. Now being able to keep up with the times, the Toyota Vios and Yaris have been given new, younger, and more modern hearts, now carrying the NR-Series engines, which are equipped with Dual VVT-i technology.

What this means, to you and me, the consumers, is that, it’s, as always, a more powerful and more fuel efficient engine. Haven’t we all heard these adjectives for too many times already? But of course, these claims are backed by the numbers that Toyota has released.

The 1.3 liter 1NR-FE petrol engine produces 98 hp (+13) @ 6,000 rpm, and 123 Nm (+1) of torque @ 4,200 rpm, while the 1.5 liter 5NR-FE petrol engine produces 107 hp (+1) @ 6,000 rpm, and 140 Nm (-2) of torque @ 4,200 rpm. The engines are mated to a 5-Speed Manual, or, finally, a CVT with 7 false ratios to simulate 7 gears when in manual mode.

Minor changes have been made to the exterior of the Vios, wherein the 1.5 G now gains a chrome garnish around the foglights. The Yaris remains unchanged from the outside. Inside, the beige interior color scheme for the 1.5 G has been ditched, with all variants now having a black interior. The design of the touch screen has been revised as well, now possessing a matte silver finish, for variants with a touch screen infotainment system.

As expected, a modest price increase has been implemented.

Vios

1.3 Base – P599,000
1.3 J MT – P637,000
1.3 E MT – P750,000
1.3 E AT – P800,000
1.5 G MT – P852,000 (White Pearl: P867,000)
1.5 G AT – P902,000 (White Pearl: P917,000)
1.5 TRD – P976,000 (White Pearl: P991,000)

Yaris

1.3 E MT – P743,000
1.3 E AT – P793,000
1.5 G AT – P883,000

DRIVING The 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI: Jack Of All Trades

Words: James Tagle
Photos: James Tagle

In the old days if you wanted a small, fast cheap and reliable car the VW Golf GTI was the grand daddy of hot hatches. It was small, light-weight, and most importantly, very fast. Now, fast forward to 2016, you might think cars today are far off complicated to operate compared to their older models- no traction control, no power steering, just raw driving experience and always puts that idiotic smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel of one. That’s what I’ve been looking for, that sense of excitement and clown around in. Those are the things missing in new cars today. Yes, they are more practical, fuel-efficient, and more technical but what’s the point of all those if you don’t enjoy what you drive?

This is where the new Golf GTI comes along. Finally, a car that feels and sounds like the old days. Immediately when you get inside the Golf, you will be welcomed with those flashy red lights on the doors, the doors sills and those are just the things that makes me have that tingly feeling I will enjoy this car. Then those amazing bucket seats! Oh how they feel so snug and supportive. Plus, it has alcantara bolster inserts. The interior doesn’t have those cheap plastic feels you get in other rivals, everything feels so premium and refined.

The stats, compared to the old mk. 6, it’s got an extra 10 hp, which makes 220 hp. Over 50 lb ft more torque to make 258 lb ft (350 Nm), it uses less fuel (47.1 mpg or around 16.6 km/l on paper), accelerates faster to 100 kph in 6.5 secs and goes faster with a top speed of 152 mph (244 kph). The price? Just a little over P2M. No revolutions so far, but this Golf GTI is stuffed with more driving gadgets than ever. This particular car we’re in is fitted with Adaptive Chassis Control, it allows you to pick your preferred settings for the gear change, steering weight, damper settings and throttle control. But the most impressive option in this car is VW’s Performance package. Now that not only gives you extra 10 hp but perhaps more importantly it provides you with the Golf’s secret weapon. An electronically controlled, mechanical limited slip differential. What this clever differential does is send just the right amount of torque to each of the two front wheels before either if them start losing grip and spinning your power away. It’s a sort of advanced traction control system that means you get the maximum grip from your front wheels all the time. Despite all that, when you’re just actually cruising along, you could be in any Golf to be honest. There’s no real induction sound to excite me, no sudden stiff suspension that feels like I’m in the GTI. But that’s the good thing. People who will buy this car will want to just relax and when the time comes, push that sport button and you’re all set.

So what’s it like to drive fast? Turn in a tight corner at 2nd gear, full throttle and it grips immensely well. No torque steer, no tug of the wheel. You can feel the whole car being pulled towards the apex. I’d never felt anything like it! Plus, the way the Golf changes gear is absolutely brilliant! Change up a gear, you get this lovely pop which sounds like a small explosion in the exhaust what Audi did to it’s RS5, and change down a gear, you get this brutal gargling noise in the over run. What I want to do is disable the Golf’s electronic safety systems. By the way, you can only do that in controlled environments, not in public roads. By turning them off, you can feel much better how the car moves around the limit. But this car is a control freak! Though it has let me disable its traction control, the gadget that stops wheel spin, the stability control cannot be fully disabled which is very frustrating when you’re say, having fun on the track. Turning the traction off allows me to better enjoy this brilliant differential. I can modulate that traction the way that makes the most of the diff working for me. But what I can’t forgive the Golf for is not being able to turn all the ESC off because it’s taken away completely any of that lovely, magical lift off oversteer mid corner. There are 3 driving modes, but the only way to drive this is in Sport mode, that way you could tell you’re driving a very special bit of kit. This is a user friendly car, anyone can drive. You find out a lot about a car’s character when you drive it to the limits, but as soon as I get the limits of the Golf, it’s electronics cut the power and apply the brakes which is pretty annoying when you’re at the track, but very useful on the roads. Many enthusiasts always thought that this car is just too boring to wear the “GTI” badge, but I disagree with that. This car is quite a simple car but it’s one with a complicated history and a complicated set of responsibilities. On the one hand it’s the car that should be everything to all people. Its the classless performance car that does everything in all the time for all people. But on the other hand, its an enthusiasts object. People like me lusted after, and then it became a car people like me, slightly laughed at and more recently again it became the car that we respect. But I think a lot of people who know a lot about cars, quietly respect the Golf GTI and if given to choose to own a car year round, I’m sure they’d think long and hard for one of these. Now the main problem with this car? The Golf GTI is NOT available in the Philippines with a manual transmission.

Yes, the DSG double clutch transmission is flawless and very very convenient, but true enthusiasts would want that raw sense of driving perfection.

What about the rivals? Should you be worried? Well, even though the Golf is brimming with latest innovations and safety measures, it doesn’t quite stack up to the new kids on the block. But Volkswagen reckons they’ve added some abnormal stuff to this car. They’ve bought in people from other projects, lets say within the VW group. A man who was involved with the Porsche GT3RS 3.8L version the 2nd generation that was absolutely lovely. Now that’s one way of bragging this car to your colleagues. Steering is also now electric and doesn’t have any great sense of connection to it but they’re getting good at this. I think we’re goanna be in a point fairly soon where they can replicate the feel of hydraulic steering. It’s a kind if car that you enjoy driving fast but it’s not that kind that makes you want to grow horns and drive too hard, however if you do its competence comes through. You can tell VW has spent so much time to get out all the performance they can out of this car. Overall, the Golf GTI is an absolute beast of a hatchback. Driving one gives you that special feeling and brings back that idiotic smiles in your face thinking you we’re back in the old days. Would I get one over it’s main rivals, say the BMW M135i or the Mercedes A45 AMG? No questions asked, YES!!! This little German machine won me over.

Special thanks to Iconic Dealership, Inc. Volkswagen Alabang for providing us with the lovely test car and most especially their most accommodating team with Mr. Manny Daez who kindly offered their most outstanding services.

For more inquiries and if you wanna check this out in the flesh, come by VW Alabang located at Unit 4, Molito Lifestyle Bldg., Commerce corner, Madrigal Ave., Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

Price: P2,290,000

Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★☆
Practicality:  ★★★★☆
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★★
Handling: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money:★★★☆☆

Overall: 4 out of 5

Today Is A New Dawn For Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Manila (With Video)

Words: Isaac Atienza
Photos: John Carlos

A new Dawn for Rolls-Royce has arrived in Manila, and it’s here to set once again our country in glamour and style that only a Rolls-Royce can deliver.

Called the Dawn, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is seen as a sportier, more athletic convertible Rolls-Royce. While it may look like a Wraith with it’s roof chopped, 80% of the parts are unique to the Dawn. It’s a beautiful machine that follow’s Rolls-Royce’s distinct silhouette, which composes of a long hood, short rear deck, and a wheelbase proportion that is distinct to a Rolls-Royce.

The Dawn looks amazing, even more than the Wraith, due to its slightly more swept back style, and it looks great regardless if the top is up or not. When the top is down, we can’t help but marvel in the Dawn’s beautiful wooden deck that’s beautifully crafted and perfectly blends with the car’s design and color scheme.

What would a Rolls-Royce be without a great interior? The interior is typically very plush, and it’s more pleasant in here than in your house, I bet. There’s not a sight of plastic, and everything is wrapped in leather or is made out of metal. The umbrella is a great piece of art as well, but it’ll set you back P200,000 if you loose it.

Like the Wraith, it is powered by a twin-turbo 6.6 liter V12 engine, producing 563 hp and 820 Nm of torque, enabling this 2.5 tonne elephant to spring from 0-100 kph in 4.9 seconds. What an athletic elephant this is, but it doesn’t deliver the power explosively. As with any Rolls-Royce, power is delivered in creamy smoothness. No head-snapping action needed when in a Rolls, guys.

Want one? Well, the prices are not indicated due to ultra-luxury cars being sensitive to fluctuating exchange rates, so you’d have to be a legitimate customer in order to know the price, but it usually ranges from P42 million, all the way to infinity, because, you know, all Rolls-Royces are custom made, and only those who are impatient to wait for 6 months until their unit finally arrives are willing to acquire a Rolls-Royce inside their Bonifacio Global City dealership.

The New, Semi-Autonomous 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is Your First Taste of Self-Driving Cars in The Philippines

And it begins with the car’s Drive Pilot. Familiar with how adaptive cruise control works? It maintains the speed you set, let’s say, 100 kph, and then the minimum distance to the car in front, let’s say, 10 meters. An adaptive cruise control system will maintain its speed at 100 kph, but once it detects a slower car in front, it will maintain a minimum distance of 10 meters. Once the car in front speeds up, your car will also automatically speed up back to 100 kph if it becomes clear enough. Now, in this E-Class, that adaptive cruise control feature is paired with Steering Pilot and Active Lane Change Assist. Steering Pilot is basically your lane keeping assist system you are pretty much familiar with. It keeps the car in the center of the lane. The innovation here is Active Lane Change Assist. It scans not just the lane your car is in, it also scans the outside lanes, so if the E-Class detects a slower car in your lane, it can automatically change lanes by itself. This is aided by the blind spot monitoring system, so that it is sure that no car is in the vehicle’s blind spot when changing lanes. Even more amazing is the car’s ability to stop on its own, carefully, to the side of the road, if the system does not detect any driver input due to the driver falling asleep, or passing out. Amazing, huh? We’re one step closer to an autonomous driving future.

AMG Sport

2017-Mercedes-E-Class-23

Avantgarde

2017-Mercedes-E-Class-17

Exclusive

2017-Mercedes-E-Class-2

The E-Class is the three-pointed star’s midsize sedan offering, and it’s also one of the brand’s most iconic models. Whereas before it had its unique design, it now carries the brand’s design language, that, to our eyes, seems like truly something in between the sportier C-Class, and the luxurious S-Class. Is that you, Audi? But at least unlike Audi’s, there’s still some distinction between these three cars, and it’s at least a very good looking format at that. There are three trims to choose from. There are two P4,390,000 Exclusive and Avantgarde variants, and the P4,790,000 AMG Sport variant. Both are powered by, for now, a sole engine choice. A 2.0 liter petrol engine that generates 184 hp and 300 Nm, allowing this car to spring from a standstill up to 100 kph in 7.4 seconds, mated to a 9G-Tronic 9-Speed Automatic. There are 5 drive modes to choose from, should you want your premium sedan to change its personality. You can give it a tickle to Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+, and Individual (this is where you set your own parameters).

2017-Mercedes-E-Class-8

2017-Mercedes-E-Class-16

Inside, it once again fills the gap between the sporty C-Class, and the luxurious S-Class. It shares the design cues of both sedans, with the slightly sportier layout of the interior, and the (optional) twin 12-inch displays from the S-Class, and again, it’s no bad thing, because my goodness, the interior is sumptuous as hell. Materials are top notch and the design is well executed with interesting shapes and surfaces that are great to the eyes and the hands. Like we said, the analog gauges come as standard, along with a smaller COMAND infotainment screen, while the twin 12-inch screens are an optional extra. Another option worth considering are the Multibeam LED headlights that adapt to the road ahead, reducing instances of blinding other drivers.

DRIVING The 2016 Mazda MX-5 (6-Speed MT): Fun Doesn’t Need To Be Fast

Words: Isaac Atienza and James Tagle
Photos: Isaac Atienza

Well, the Mazda MX-5 is not exactly slow, but with a 0-100 km/h time of around 7.6 seconds, it’s not exactly the quickest either, and basically, this has been the point of the Mazda MX-5 all along. The Mazda MX-5 is the world’s best selling sportscar, and for a good reason. Apart from being the cheapest sportscar to own, it’s easily one of the most fun to drive cars, period, regardless of price, power, and class, and it’s been like this ever since the MX-5 was conceived in 1989. This review points everything that is wrong with the current trend with sportscars, and perhaps there may be some points where you may or may not agree with me here, even with my buddy James Tagle, so instead of the usual sequence where we explain the exterior, interior, and so on, we’ll just go with the flow with our praises and complaints with this wonderful roadster.

First of all, it’s a great looking thing, though the black paint doesn’t do it justice to be honest. The radio antenna out the back is ghastly, though. It sort of ruins the look of the car. Nevertheless, the MX-5 nails the basic rear wheel drive sportscar proportions. Long hood, short rear deck, and slightly short front overhangs, which makes this car easy to dart in and out of corners due to a lighter front structure that front axle has to deal with. As a matter of fact, this new (ND) MX-5 is lighter and smaller than the third generation model (NC) it replaces, and this is contrary to the current trend that cars are going through these days, and that’s a good thing for us, because the MX-5 goes back to its roots on why it became a car enthusiast’s favorite in the first place. The roof is not electric, however, in order to save weight, but the roof is so easy and light to operate by one hand, why would you beg for a slower, heavier electrical roof anyway? Well, perhaps it’d look even better if we’re talking about the upcoming Mazda MX-5 RF with the metal targa top.

Stepping inside, and we’re greeted to a great looking interior, albeit in a dull color scheme that, again, doesn’t do the interior design justice. It would be better if some of the piano black trim were swapped for brushed aluminum trim, or a two-tone contrast scheme was done in the interior. A large analog gauge for the rev counter greets us proudly, with the speedometer flanked on the right side of the gauge cluster, and an LCD on the left side for all other information we probably wouldn’t care much because we’re all about enjoying this car today. One nifty feature though is it tells you when to shift up in order to save fuel, which is handy in day-to-day driving. It’s a sportscar with eco-friendly credentials. It’s a Mazda with Skyactiv Technology for freak’s sake, what did you expect?

Upon pressing the engine start button, about to make our move for us to start our drive, we were greeted by an annoyance. See the parking brake? There’s something wrong with it. It’s at the right side of the center console. Why would the engineers put it at the right side, which is a far reach even for the both of us with pretty long arms. It must be noted that the MX-5 is designed and developed primarily for Japan, yet in the transition from right to left hand drive, they forgot to move the parking brake to the left side, making hand brake turns feel awkward to accomplish. Then there’s the glove box, or the lack of it. Actually, storage space is pitiful. You dont get a glove box, just some cubby hole at the back of the seats and you have to do a bit of a stretch when you open it. We actually don’t mind the trunk space, you can fit a small goat in, or some kids’ bodies if you’re a murderer.

Within the city, the Mazda MX-5 is a pretty comfortable sportscar. Usually, a sportscar would have a a stiff suspension to counteract body roll, but in this case the MX-5 is so light, and the center of gravity is very low, there’s no need to stiffen the suspension. As a matter of fact, going through some of our nation’s notoriously terrible roads is no problem for this MX-5. As a daily driver, the MX-5 is very liveable, and it starts with the 6-speed manual we’re using today. The transmission is beautifully light to use in the city, plus the steering is light and easy enough for tight manoeuvres when making lock-on-lock turns. Alas, its usability when looking out of the rear of the MX-5 is spoiled by the small rear window provided by the cloth top. Thankfully, you have rear parking sensors to help you out when parking in reverse. Fuel economy in the city is good too, being able to achieve 8.7 km/l at its worst, aided by the engine Stop/Start, which shuts off the engine when, let’s say, you’re at a set of stoplights.

Take it out on the open road, and its practical annoyances suddenly disappear. This car has got a really pointy, natural chassis balance. Due to the car’s light and svelte nature, the MX-5 does not feel lethargic at all, and its 2.0 liter Skyactiv-G engine produces 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm, and 200 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. It likes to slide around, but you can’t do it on power alone. You do need to throw it into a corner to make the back loose. This actually has in our opinion a better front structure compared to the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, which means you dont have to work quite so hard to beat this car’s understeer. This actually weighs 200 kgs less than the Toyota, as it tips the weighing scales at 1,052 kg for this manual model.

They made this car just like how they made the old MX-5. The MX-5’s steering is fast, responsive, and gives enough feedback to tell you what the front wheels are doing. It reminds us of the electric steering of a Porsche Boxster or Cayman, and that’s a very high praise we can give to electric steering nowadays. The 6-speed manual is another thing we have to talk about, because it’s such a wonderful gearbox to use. The short throw nature of the gearbox means it’s easy to row through the gears, and the feel of rowing through the gears is such a pleasure, which reminds us manual gearboxes should be here to stay. As a matter of fact, it’s blasphemous for someone to buy the MX-5 with an automatic transmission, because they’re really missing out. The pedals are nicely positioned, making it easy to do heel-and-toe to rev match the engine when downshifting as well.

You could do trackday after track day in this car without having to replace the consumables. You can even do it for a fraction of a budget of a 911 GT3 or an M3 and you’d probably have as much fun. Yes they will overtake you and feel all smug about it, but then you do a big slide in their rear view mirror and they’d know who’s having more fun! Due to having a typical inline-4 engine over the 86/BRZ’s horizontally opposed boxer engine, it revs more crisp in the redline than the 86.

As good as it is in the corners, we find the MX-5 a bit disconcerting when at high speeds. Past 120 km/h, the MX-5 doesn’t feel as rigid as the Toyota 86, and that’s of course due to the lack of a roof. The chassis has a tendency to flex when hitting small bumps at very high speeds is not very pleasant. Clearly, the MX-5 is not built for straight-line performance and all out speed. Just like the Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ, it’s mainly built for having fun around the corners, and guess what, it’s in the corners where the fun is at isn’t it?

The Mazda MX-5 serves as a reminder of what’s wrong with many of today’s sportscars. Every manufacturer nowadays are after the numbers, figures, who can set the fastest 0-100 km/h times among the competition, and which car can sustain the highest Gs in the skidpad. Sure, it may be fast, and it may be larger than its predecessor, making it more spacious, but the more important question is, are you having fun? Because the essence of having a sportscar is for us to have fun. Thank you Mazda for reminding us what a great sportscar truly is, and we’re certainly going to miss this MX-5. It may suffer from less chassis rigidity compared to the Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ, but the MX-5 has an added bonus of open top driving pleasure, because it’s less likely that you’d be driving the 86/BRZ or the MX-5 at or past 200 km/h anyway.

Price: P1,680,000

Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★☆
Practicality:  ★★☆☆☆
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★☆
Handling: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money:★★★★☆

Overall: 4.1 out of 5

Go Flat Out In Japan: Checking Out The All-New Honda Civic Type R and Honda S660 at the Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama (28 Photos)

Honda Welcome Plaza is located in Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo. The nearest train station is Tokyo Metro (TOEI)’s Aoyama-Itchome station, and Honda Welcome Plaza is just above the station. Three lines pass through Aoyama-Itchome station. The Ginza Line, Ōedo Line, and Hanzōmon Line. If you are coming from Shibuya Station, take the Ginza Line, and if you are coming from Daimon Station, take the Ōedo Line. Another point of interest is the Lexus International Gallery, which is near Gaien-Mae Station, and a few walks from the Honda Welcome Plaza is Tesla Aoyama, which is midway through your walk towards Lexus International Gallery.

Prior to Honda’s current situation, the brand has been lackluster in terms of fun to drive and high performance cars. With the death of the legenday S2000 in 2009, it was the final nail to the coffin of Honda’s fun to drive and smile inducing petrolhead days. Since then, Honda churned out cars that were catered more towards eco-friendliness. The CR-Z hybrid “sports” coupe was a failed attempt at bringing back Honda’s fun to drive image. While it is a good looking hatchback, it was never as fun as the small Honda CR-X it was supposed to spiritually succeed, mainly due to the slow yet not so fuel efficient hybrid powertrain, especially when you consider its European rivals with punchier yet more frugal diesel engines. The global recession didn’t help either. According to Takanobu Ito, the recession was the reason why Honda didn’t make a huge effort in developing the ninth generation of the Honda Civic, and this iteration of the Civic failed to capture the Civic magic that was known to driving enthusiasts around the world. Well, things have changed at the offices of Honda. These are exciting times for a Honda fan such as me. It seems Honda’s got its mojo back, without forgetting about looking towards the future and building environmentally-friendly machines. We’ve got the all-new Honda NSX, which is now an overly-complicated hybrid supercar, the all-new, aggressively designed tenth generation Honda Civic, the JDM-exclusive Honda S660 small sportscar, and the Honda Civic Type R, which is based on the European version of the ninth generation Honda Civic.

The Facade

Upon getting off Aoyama-Itchome station, Honda’s kei cars (the term in Japan for tiny cars with a maximum engine size of 660 cc (0.66 liters), and a maximum length, width, and height, of 3.4, 1.48, and 2 meters, respectively) were on display. Kei cars are spacious inside, and believe it or not, my 172 cm frame fits comfortable inside. This is due to the bento box kind of packaging the Japanese engineers are known for, and just like bento boxes, the panels of kei cars are pretty thin, and this is why kei cars will never be sold in other countries, due to the safety requirements these countries demand. In Japan, kei cars have a different safety standard compared to bigger cars.

The facade also held the local debut of the hybrid version of the Japanese Honda Odyssey (the Honda Odyssey in the US market is completely different from what is sold in Asia). The Honda Jazz (Fit), City (Grace), and Shuttle (the Fit’s wagon version) were also on display, and I’ve been a huge fan of the Honda Shuttle, because of its quirky design.

Honda Civic Type R

In case you are wondering, the Honda Civic is not anymore sold in Japan, citing dwindling compact sedan sales as the main reason. Basically, if you want a Honda Civic in Japan, this is all you’ve got. Being the European version of the Civic, all Civic Type Rs are made in Swindon, UK.

The world’s most powerful front-wheel drive car, it’s powered by a 2.0 liter Earth Dreams VTEC Turbo engine, producing 306 hp @ 6500 rpm, and 400 Nm of torque @ 2500 rpm. Unusual specs? It’s because of the turbocharging and direct injection, which enabled the VTEC engine to have its peak torque available in a substantially lower RPM range compared to past naturally aspirated VTEC engines which had their peak horsepower and torque at very high RPM ranges.

All the power is sent through the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission, the only available and the only proper transmission for a hot hatch. This enables the Civic Type R to sprint from 0-100 km/h in only 5.7 seconds, and have a top speed of 166 mph. It is also now the world’s fastest front-wheel drive car to lap the Nurburgring, achieving the feat in 7 minutes, 50.63 seconds, which is faster than many supercars made in the early 2000s. The Honda Civic Type R, while it may not sing as well as the Type Rs of the past with a naturally aspirated, high revving VTEC engine, the punchier nature of the engine with peak horsepower and torque available already in the lower rev range is a welcome change. The turbos and direct injection are the new norm in high performance motoring that we should welcome, whether we like it or not, due to more stringent emission standards around the world.

Honda S660

Though the pictures don’t do the S660’s size justice, the Honda S660 is actually a pretty tiny sportscar, a kei sportscar to be exact. As we have discussed above, the maximum engine size for a kei car is 660 cc, and like the S2000, which has 2000 cc of displacement, the S660 has 660 cc of displacement.

An Earth Dreams VTC Turbo (no, seriously, it’s VTC because the engine does not have electronic lift control) powers the S660, producing 63 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 104 Nm of torque at 2,600 rpm, good for 0-100 km/h in 11 seconds, but due to the turbo nature of the electric motor, the engine feels punchier than the numbers suggest. The Honda S660 is the perfect representation of Honda’s past, which was known for affordable, nicely styled, and fun to drive cars.

While its dimensions are tiny, the cockpit is actually surprisingly well spaced. I’m 172 centimeters tall, and I’m not exactly the slimmest of people, yet I feel comfortable inside this tiny sportcar. The ergonomics are spot on. The gear lever, handbrake, steering, and pedals are nicely spaced, and they’re even well positioned for heel and toeing. I sure hope I get to drive in the mountains of Japan soon when I come back to this great nation.

Welcome Back, Honda

Gone are the days of the screaming naturally aspirated VTEC engines of the past, but this is the reality we have to deal with if we want to live on this planet and survive as a species. Turbocharged VTEC engines will be the norm in our petrolhead desires, and even sooner, this will become hybrids, and eventually, full electric or full hydrogen vehicles, as already previewed by the Honda Clarity FCEV. Welcome back, Honda. We’ve missed your crazy engineering practices, and we happily welcome you back with open arms. The all-new Civic is a great step forward, and it’s a Civic that I will soon acquire, thanks to its great styling, 1.5 liter VTEC turbo engine, and innovative technologies. The future is bright for Greenpeace, and it’s bright for the petrolheads out there. We wish we could have the opportunity to have the Civic Type R in the Philippines, though.

DRIVING The 2016 Audi A3 2.0 TDI Attraction: Young and Affluent

If you’re a keen observer, you’ll probably notice that in almost every new car that comes out, they promise bigger room and more space, but as a consequence, their exterior dimensions also increase. The Audi A4 has always been Audi’s entry level sedan, but this all changed when the A3, which was once available only as a hatchback, came in a sedan form in 2014. In the USA, and perhaps even in the Philippines, we prefer sedans over hatchbacks, with the reason being that sedans have a slightly more authoritative and grown up presence than hatchbacks, and that added length gives it an impression of being a bigger car than its equivalent hatchbacks. Does having a 2014 World Car of the Year-winning smaller compact sedan slotting below the A4 make sense for Audi? We’re here to find out.

Exterior

As you already know by now, the Audi A3 Sedan has won the 2014 World Car of the Year award, narrowly edging ahead of the Mazda 3. Was it a winner because of its looks? Well, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the A3 sedan for its slightly bigger brother, the A4. Audi’s photocopying machine has done its wonders to this car though. It’s a simple yet sufficiently sporty and elegant looking piece of engineering, and while it may not seem as interesting as Lexus’ recent designs, it’s sure to age well in the years to come. It’s a cool design that seems to perfectly fit young affluent professionals, and I like cars with this kind of youthful presence. The front is of course, ever so highlighted by Audi’s trademark single frame grille, which are complemented by a pair of Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, and in traditional Audi fashion, come with LED daytime running lights as standard across the range. Slick alloy wheels come as standard across all variants, but of course if you desire to add more style, you can change the standard alloy wheels from a wide range of other available rim designs, at an added cost, of course. At the back, LED tail lights come as standard, including the license plate lights, and I particularly am attracted to this A3’s blue paint.

Interior

Whereas the exterior designs of Audis seem to be a result of their photocopying machines, their interiors are a completely different story. Each model in the range has a unique interior, and whichever Audi you go for, in my opinion, you are treated to the best interiors in the segment. I find Audi’s interior more sumptuous than any of its competitors, with top notch materials all over the cabin. The buttons have that trademark reassuring click when being pressed down, and it’s the same case when turning the dials and the rotary controller for the MMI (Multi Media Interface) infotainment system. The whole cabin is solidly built with a reassuring thud on the doors, and there are no squeaks or rattles when driven even to the harshest of road conditions.

Space and Practicality

Launched primarily as a sedan in the Philippines, this generation of the A3 is the first time in the Philippines that it is not being offered as a hatchback, and based on the sales of the A3 Sportback (their marketing term for their 5-door hatchback version), not a lot of people will miss the old folk. The A3 sedan is still thankfully as flexible as the hatchback. 60-40 split folding rear seats come as standard, and with that added flexibility, carrying long items won’t be a problem. The A3 sedan is also dotted with plenty of storage places around the cabin. Large bottles easily fit in the door bins, and the glove box is decently sized.

The trunk is pretty generous for its size. It has a nice square shape, which means the spaces in the side become intelligent spaces to store loose items that would otherwise scatter across the trunk as you drive along. Unlike the hatchback though, the A3 sedan suffers from a smaller opening, but it’s a sedan, so this won’t be an issue for most people.

Features

This Audi A3 Attraction will be the pick of the range, as it offers sufficient levels of equipment for the price. This Audi A3 comes as standard with automatic Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights, Audi’s excellent MMI infotainment system, leather seats, rain sensing wipers, ABS with EBD, stability control, a plethora of airbags, ISOFIX child seat points, and 4-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support for both driver and front passenger seats.

Audi’s MMI is easy to use than ever. In traditional German fashion, the system is controlled by a giant swivel wheel, in which the large wheel also acts as a touchpad for handwriting recognition when let’s say, writing down a number to call someone.

Powertrain

The Audi A3 is powered by the now rather infamous 2.0 TDI diesel engine, which is a diesel engine used in many other Volkswagen Group vehicles. This 2.0 TDI diesel engine is one quiet and refined motor that sound refined, even under hard acceleration. It’s a powerful motor at 148 hp form 3500 to 4000 rpm, but an even torquier one with a meaty 320 Nm of torque available from as early as 1750, all the way to 3000 rpm. This enables the car to sprint from 0-100 kph in 7.8 seconds through the Volkswagen Group’s slick 6-Speed S-Tronic Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission.

How It Drives

Twisting the ignition key (sorry guys, the A3 Sedan does not come as standard with smart entry and push button start) brings, well, not much, inside the cabin. Not a vibration or a rattle comes from the diesel engine as it breathes to life. Dieselgate aside, the whole Volkswagen Group makes the best diesel engines in my opinion. Power delivery is very linear and straightforward. It doesn’t set your pants on fire, nor does it bore you to death. It builds up speed quickly in a relaxed pace that is not found in your typical diesel engines, and with 320 Nm of torque at your disposal, overtaking will be the least of your concerns. Those occasional stoplight drag races should put those ricey cars to shame with your humble looking Audi A3 sedan.

The Audi A3 has been primarily built for sporty driving in mind. Thankfully, here in the Philippines, the softer suspension set up is offered as standard. Potholes and bumps are absorbed really well. If you ever desire a sportier set-up, the S Line package can be selected, which adds a sportier exterior and interior design, bigger wheels, and a stiffer suspension set-up. Be ready to live the compromises, though, of having a firmer suspension set-up. To be honest, the standard suspension set-up is already adequate enough in terms of its sporty handling characteristic, and the only time you’ll desire for a firmer suspension is if you’re out on a racetrack, but let’s be honest, you’re rarely (or even never) going to be on a racetrack, are you? Combined with the steering that is light at low speeds and weights up at higher speeds, the Audi A3 offers a great compromise between comfort and sport, though the steering offers little in terms of actual feel and feedback from what the front tires are doing. A BMW 1 Series, or the bigger 3 Series sedan offers more in terms of true driving pleasure.

At higher speeds, the Audi A3 remains very stable and very solid, with little of wind and tire roar to worry about. Along with the slick 6-Speed S-Tronic Dual Clutch Automatic that offers very quick shifts at higher speeds, which is further made enjoyable with the use of paddle shifters, which can also bring added fun when tackling corners through a mountain pass. Admittedly, it’s not the smoothest off the line, but once it gets going as you speed through the expressway, the S-Tronic gearbox immediately becomes your best friend, both for relaxed and sporty driving.

Being a diesel engine has its benefits in fuel consumption, and in our drive in the city, we’ve achieved a very frugal 14-16 km/l and that’s without even exerting any effort and being conscious about the gas pedal. As I am told by an Audi test driver accompanying me, in the recently concluded fuel economy run by the Department of Energy, this Audi A3 2.0 TDI was able to achieve 28 km/l without even making an effort. The benefits of having a diesel engine is very clear here. Combined with the relatively competitive maintenance costs, as German cars are only serviced once a year, amounting to around P30,000, the Audi A3 2.0 TDI is a relatively affordable car to run.

On The Downside

Unfortunately for you, Mr. World Car of the Year, you still can’t hide your imperfections, because nothing in this world is perfect, isn’t it, but as one song says, “Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections”. The back seats aren’t particularly great for carrying three full size adults. As the A3 comes with Audi’s quattro AWD as an option, there’s a transmission tunnel that eats up legroom for the middle passenger. Meanwhile, on the outer seats, legroom for my 172 cm. height is more than enough, but due to that sloping roofline that the A3 Sportback obviously does not suffer with, headroom is pretty limited, so people taller than me will probably hate you for letting them sit there on hours’ end. The equivalently-sized Mercedes-Benz CLA offers better headroom, but is quite expensive, and the interior is not as premium as the A3’s.

Verdict

Does it make sense for Audi to introduce a sedan smaller than the A4? Yes, it actually does. With every new car growing in size whenever a new generation is released, it becomes inevitable for a company to release a more compact offering when its compact offering almost borders the midsize category nowadays, but perhaps the better solution for me is, why not keep compact cars in the compact category? Because what’s the point of creating the A8 in the first place if the A6 borders to being a full-size sedan, and an A6 if the A4 already borders to being midsize sedan? For now though, we’re dealing with the present, and right now, having an A3 Sedan makes sense, and it can appropriately serve as Audi’s entry level sedan, which looks and feels perfect for young, affluent professionals who deserve a premium sedan in their youthful lives. Why was the Audi A3 Sedan crowned the World Car of the Year? The award looks for what car is as close to being perfect, and the Audi A3 is one of those few cars with the least number of flaws, as it combines a fun and sporty to drive nature in a well designed exterior and interior. It is able to accomplish many tasks in one well engineered car, and it does so with finesse.

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Price: P2,630,000

Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★★
Practicality:  ★★★☆☆
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★★
Handling: ★★★★☆
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money:★★★★☆