The flashy one, and the working armyBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Less than three months before the local and national elections, and the campaign sorties are just heating up.
From now to that doorstep to the voting precincts, it’s going to be a long road for aspiring political candidates. For the past couple of weeks, Inquirer Motoring has been presenting possible rides to suit candidates’ personalities or campaign platforms.
This time, we feature a luxury sedan for the flashy politico who wants to go “Gangnam” on his or her voting public.
Though the phenomenally popular K-pop music from Psy has been officially declared off-limits to politicos and their spin doctors in their campaign sorties, any vehicle with Seoul under the hood is surely most welcome. And for the flashy public-service wannabe who firmly believes that first glamorous impressions do last, there is the Hyundai Sonata to seriously ponder on.
Hyundai has built a global reputation for rolling out game-changing designs, and the midsize luxury sedan Sonata stays faithful to that—its fluidic sculpture unraveled by an elegantly sloping roof and sweeping character lines—plus a sizable sunroof perfect even for a hefty candidate to literally raise the roof and stick his or her head out to an adoring public. The Sonata does not come with sunblock, though. So, heads up, candidates, add at least an SPF 90 lotion to your campaign shopping list. The lady candidate also needs to be ready with a dependable hairspray, but a toupe needs a more radical way to stick to the scalp, lest the driver wants to hurry the proceedings a bit.
It’s not difficult to get up to speed with the Sonata. This car is built not only for second glances, but for speed, too. Its shape facilitates impressive aerodynamic features and agility. A drive in the Sonata communicates the experience of “cutting through air,” as its design engineers describe. And less drag means greater fuel efficiency, which means more funds to fuel the campaign. The Inquirer Motoring test run from Manila to Zambales and back yielded an average of 9 to 13 km/liter (combined city and highway).
A trip to an airstrip in Zambales shows just how easy the Sonata is to drive, with its cruise control features and easy-on-the-eyes dashboard instrument panel. The 2.4-liter Theta II MPI engine can deliver up to a maximum power output of 178 hp at 6,000 rpm and a torque of 23.3 Nm at 4,000 rpm. In shifting gears, it employs a gate-type 6-speed H-Matic automatic transmission system, which offers an easy, unobstructed command over acceleration for that fluid yet powerful expression on the road. Two sets of 17-inch (or 18-inch for the premium model) alloy wheels provide optimum road-handling capabilities, which deliver adequate rolling resistance.
Inspired by nature
For Sonata, Hyundai’s research and engineering team drew inspiration from the orchid flower. The design also has a direct resemblance to yet another element of nature—water—free-flowing and dynamic. Just like the science of biomimetics, the redesigned Hyundai Sonata inspires efficiency in movement, a trait that the political aspirant can do well to imbibe, and not just drive.
Comprehensive security features are integrated into this sedan, such as advanced airbag technology, seatbelts with pretensioner (for both driver and passenger seats), and an auto-impact and speed-sensing auto door lock. The Antilock Braking System (ABS) is standard to keep the wheels from locking instantaneously, thereby preventing skids during sudden application of the brakes at high speeds. Coupled with an Electronic Stability Control or ESC, traction is greatly enhanced on its wheel base even under heavy stopping. But be advised, though, that at high speeds, it’s always better to avoid sticking your body out of the sunroof, unless you want to lose more than your wig.
At the other end of the scale is the low-profile candidate who wants nothing to do with all the glitz and glamor of campaigning, and goes straight down to business, long-sleeved polo folded, and with a suitcase full of fact sheets in his or her hand. For the no-nonsense candidate, there’s the subcompact Nissan Almera.
It’s not a looker. It blends in well with all the other entry-level cars in its category. But it does its job, efficiently at that. It’s perfect for the politician—a party-lister, perhaps—who believes the issues he or she is campaigning for will propel the party to victory.
And the Almera is just that, a locally assembled vehicle made to go through its first paces at the Nissan Technopark in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. The candidate who stands on the shoulders of the silent but serious proletariat knows that he or she is there to lend a face and a voice to the greater cause. The vote goes to the party, not to him or her. The Almera is assembled by hands who may have held the same taxi doors, fast-food plates, lavatory door knobs, and MRT support bars as millions of other Pinoy working class members. The Almera speaks of home-grown labor, and its simplicity is its best feature.
The Almera 1.5L started assembly in the Philippines September last year, and was officially introduced locally this January. Nissan Motor Philippines Inc.’s Nissan Technopark, which has been operating since 1997 with an overall assembly capacity of 3,000 units per month (one of the largest in the industry), has placed this sedan to go head-to-head with the Toyota Vios, Honda City and Hyundai Accent.
The party-lister candidate would certainly welcome enough space for four other party mates, and a big boot space that can log 490 liters of campaign paraphernalia. Interior amenities do have room for improvement, but there is, at least, equal distribution of the air conditioning, with cooling vents (with controls, at that) found at the back passenger area.
Economy and efficiency
The Almera echoes the economy and efficiency of movement the working class is known for. It’s easy to maneuver, specially on tight lanes, corners and parking spaces. Compared to other subcompact cars in the market, the engine feels more responsive. It’s a great choice for a young family that may need more space in the immediate future.
Taken as an individual, the Almera hardly makes any ripples in the automotive industry. But fill a huge parking lot of them, then even supercars would be humbled to submission. There is strength in numbers, and that’s what elections really come down to.