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01 February 2013

Car of the Year 2012 - 2013 Day 9: The Last Hurrah

Words by Jade Lu | Photos by Hans Gerald Chua
 
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Last Saturday, January 26, 2013, was the final day of the qualitative testing for the 2012 - 2013 Car of the Year Philippines (COTY-P). It was a day for big brutes once again, as Hyundai sent the Santa Fe R-2.2 GLS 6AT 2WD and Premium 4WD, which were matched by Toyota’s Fortuner 4x2 G DSL AT and Hilux 4x2 G MT and Mazda’s CX-5 and BT-50. The Honda CR-V made its reprise with the 2.0 S and 2.4 SX variant, this time made in Thailand with local specs (Honda sent the Japan-made CR-V last time).
 
It was the fitting ending for this chapter. The cars weren’t too exciting to leave us done and fulfilled at the end of the day; they were mellowed down to leave us wanting more. Of course, “more” would come to us during the technical testing at the Clark International Speedway on February 25 to 27, when the cars will once again converge for the acceleration, braking, and handling tests. But until that comes, we were satisfied enough with the cars we’ve driven to keep us at ease until the end of February. Hopefully, the sky will stay clear of rain clouds and strong winds until then.
 
With that last hurrah, here are some final words from our writers about the cars of Day 9:
 
Jose Carlo R. Sapera, Kotse.com Assistant Editor: 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS Premium 6AT 4WD
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The all-new Hyundai Santa Fe has exceeded all my expectations of what an SUV should be. It looks absolutely huge on the outside, but surprisingly cozy on the inside. There's lots of soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard and door inserts covered in beautifully stitched leather. Even small details like the power window switches and door grab handles have been beautifully sculpted. There’s plenty of leg and head room on the front and middle seats, but the third row is quite cramped. Nevertheless, it can be folded flat for more luggage space. With all the amenities, plus the plush ride and low floor, the Santa Fe feels more like a luxury midsize sedan on the driver's seat, which is a good thing.
 
On the road, the 2.2 liter common rail diesel mil purrs silently as it provides ample power even with five people on board. Likewise, the six-speed automatic responds quite well and shifts ever so smoothly. The electronic parking brake, on the other hand, takes a bit of getting used to and can get quite annoying to engage or disengage at times. And even with the Santa Fe's size, we found it quite easy to maneuver around traffic. Parking was also a breeze in this variant, as it came with a reverse camera.
 
For P2,228,000, you get plenty of kit including a panoramic sunroof, reverse camera, electronic parking brake, and Bluetooth connectivity. If you want to get something at par with the European brands at a fraction of a cost, then the Santa Fe should meet or even exceed your standards.
 
Leslie Sy, Kotse.com Online Expert: 2012 Mazda BT-50 3.2L 4x4
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I would like to confess that I am not a fan of big SUVs and pickups for the simple fact that almost all of them have the same bone jarring ride quality - great for hauling heavy loads, but tiring and uncomfortable as a daily ride. The 2012 Mazda BT-50, on the other hand, which shares the same underpinnings as the Ford Ranger, was surprisingly an exception.
 
As expected, ride was “truck hard” when driven slowly within the parking lot, but astoundingly became rather comfortable at higher speeds. Despite of this pickup's handling manners, which constantly reminded me that I was in a large truck, I was actually having a bit of fun driving it. The five-cylinder 3.2L turbo-diesel engine producing 197 hp and 470 Nm of torque was definitely zippy for such a big truck. The six-speed automatic transmission shifted like silk without a single jerk during my test drive.
 
Overall, the interior is nothing to write home about, but I would consider it as “pleasant,” especially if I have to spend hours behind the wheel of this rig. The dashboard was nicely done in a textured hard plastic with a few touches of silver trims to break the overall black monotone of the cabin. The steering wheel was lovingly wrapped in leather for that touch of luxury. Basic-looking black leather-covered front and rear seats would accommodate five people in relative comfort. One big surprise is that the BT-50 features dual-zone auto-climate control - something normally more associated in luxury SUVs than in pickup trucks.
 
The BT-50 is a good pickup to own IF you happen to like the somewhat-polarizing Mazda-styled front and rear end. For me, it looks less of a working tool and more family SUV. Priced at P1.49 million, it just might be affordable enough to give pickup truck buyers a step-up from the usual choices.
 
Hans Gerald Chua, Kotse.com Contributor: 2012 Toyota Fortuner 4x2 G DSL AT
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The Fortuner has been one the country's top SUVs, primarily because of its outstanding features and affordability, not to mention that it's a Toyota. This updated model has a new 2.5L diesel engine under the hood with a new Variable Nozzle Turbo (VNT) and top-mount intercooler. As suggested, it's a lot more responsive and livelier than the previous 2.5L powerplant and is now comparable to the bigger 3.0L version. We also estimate that the upgrade should make it more fuel efficient since you no longer have to jam the accelerator so often to get it going.
 
This model still wears the updated exterior package we first saw in 2011, which features a Land Cruiser-inspired front end and clear tail lights that we're a bit skeptical about. There are, however, several new upgrades inside; the most important of which is the 2DIN touch-screen infotainment system which has GPS navigation and bluetooth connectivity. This should give you more enjoyable driving experience than the usual radio.
 
Like before, the leather front and rear seats are comfortable and deliver a subtle snug fit for its driver and passengers. The third row seats though can only fit small children. And despite the updates under the body, the suspension still needs a bit of work, as it's not as comfortable as I’d hope.
 
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