Pointers for review: What to look for in a first ‘college car’By Jason K. Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In time-honored tradition, “college car” usually means a family hand-me-down. That may be entirely appropriate and practical, but there will be some very lucky students who will be buying-or more likely receiving-their very first car to drive to school. And what a time to buy one: the entry-level car has advanced quite a lot in recent years. From cars that were literally bare inside and out, many of the carmakers’ cheaper offerings now include features like power windows and keyless entry, previously limited to the luxury class. The list of convenience features aside, here are some qualities that one should look for, to ensure that one’s first car is a treasured possession and an experience worth remembering:
This is the area where a new car should outshine any second-hand vehicle, no matter how well the older one is maintained. Many new cars will run reliably for years, just by feeding them air and fuel (although regular maintenance is of course necessary, too). While it’s less true that a new model will need a few months to work out the bugs, the more reliable models tend to be those that have been in production for a few years.
Consider: Toyota Yaris. Simple and with solid build quality, the Yaris should last for many years before needing anything other than routine maintenance.
The car may be COD (care of dad), but the fuel may be for Junior (or Juniorette’s) account. Thus, every extra kilometer per liter counts. Entry-level cars usually have small engines, but even then not all small engines are created equal. Look for a car with abundant torque, which means you will not have to spin the engine to high revs to accelerate.
Consider: Honda City. Its iVTEC engine provides ample torque and even the 1.3 liter is quite sufficient for city and highway use.
Flood-prone campus areas used to mean places like the University of Sto. Tomas or the University Belt, but nowadays, many parts of Metro Manila are predisposed to filling up quickly with water. With flash floods a reality, a car that is capable of safely traversing a mini-river that suddenly forms on EDSA will be the difference between getting bogged down and making it home.
Consider: Toyota Innova. It’s built on the same platform as the Hilux and Fortuner, giving the MPV a rated wading depth of 20 inches.
With mobile phones a necessity, cars that make their use easier and safer make life easier. Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free operation enable quicker access to the phone’s function (when the car is safely stopped, of course).
Consider: Ford Fiesta Sport. Its voice command feature allows hands-free control of the audio system. Captain Kirk never had it this easy.
One area where new-car buyers are very fortunate is that a long, long time ago, the only choices for entry-level cars were (literally) econoboxes. Now, the entry-level vehicle comes in all shapes and sizes. Picking one that looks cheeky and attractive gives some pleasure of ownership.
Consider: Chevrolet Spark and Hyundai Eon. The Spark features hidden rear doors for a “coupe” look, while the Eon shares some of its bigger sisters’ curves. The Kia Rio has a Euro-flavored sophistication to its design.
Entry-level cars are by necessity small, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t carry a lot within their small footprint. While hauling passengers is the primary objective of a car, interior fitments such as seats that can fold and tumble are quite useful.
Consider: Honda Jazz. From the first to the current generation, its design allowed for a cavernous interior space within a small shell. Its rear seats easily fold upward, or flat to the floor to allow easy transport of objects-or pets-of various sizes.
Fun to drive
Basic doesn’t necessarily mean boring anymore. Many entry-level cars are actually making the effort to be actually enjoyable to drive. Although their small size may mean that long-distance driving is not their strong suit, for zipping around the city, few can beat subcompacts for fun at a reasonable speed. This is why a test drive is most imperative before making your choice.
Consider: Who says that an inexpensive car has to be tedious to drive? Certainly not Mazda, which has trickled down its spirited handling to the Mazda2.
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