Another busy week for the motoring pressBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There’s much to celebrate about these past few days. STV-Autofocus recently concluded their highly successful motor show and People’s Choice Award at the SM Mall of Asia Grounds. Various car manufacturers came out in full support of the said event and the public had access to unlimited test drives of almost all brands. Led by industry pillar and veteran broadcast journalist and columnist Butch Gamboa, the event was indeed a resounding success.
Another industry pillar, or more precisely, two of them, were also present. Felix Mabilog, who was supposedly retired and living peacefully but was in fact quietly working behind the scenes to bring in Peugeot back to the country under a new company which forms part of the Columbian Group (Asian Carmakers Corp. or ACC, distributor of BMW and Columbian Motors Corp. or CMC, distributors of Kia) called Eurobrands Distributors Inc. (wherein Mabilog is the president), was there. Also present were Peugeot Asean countries general director Lionel Faugeres and regional sales director Vincent Comyn; EDI chair Johnny Hernandez (of the Hernandez clan which owns Victory Liner and FiveStar Bus), who gave a sober speech of welcome and thanks; delegates from the French Embassy; the Department of Trade and Industry, bank and financing agency officials. EDI hair emeritus Jose Ch. Alvarez was unfortunately not present during the event—he was working hard abroad to attract more foreign direct investments to our country.
A few weeks back, select members of the media had the opportunity to test drive their four model offerings, the RCZ sports car, the 3008 crossover SUV, 5008 MPV and 508 executive sedan, which made everyone impressed.
The Peugeot brand is special to me; the 307 hatchback was the first car that I ever tested for Top Gear Philippines back in 2004. Its gutless engine (a 1.6-liter 4-pot which would sometimes hit three-fourths temp when flogged hard, but in fairness never overheated) was overshadowed by its brilliant chassis.
No wonder Peugeots dominated the WRC when the Subarishis were struggling. The 307’s chassis and suspension shone bright and laughed off everything I threw at it: overloaded interior, treacherous, slick and muddy roads of Tanay in Rizal, the moon crater potholes of Edsa (back then, Edsa was a POS stretch of road, which has remarkably improved today despite its still-sordid condition). I loved it, but was wary of the engine and electronics. Plus it was quite expensive back then.
Now, EDI’s focus on the new Peugeot lineup are the diesels. Their hi-tech HDI technology means super clean and efficient CRDi turbocharged diesel engines that deliver astounding power, efficiency, response and far lower emissions, especially when compared to the current crop of Japanese and Korean CRDi diesel technology.
Unfortunately, no hatchback was in sight. I asked EDI marketing chief Dong Magsajo, a former motoring editor who had switched sides to the manufacturer’s side, as to why there was no hatchback. He simply smiled—which hopefully means that hatchbacks are in the pipeline, because the 3- and 5-door hatchbacks are the soul of Peugeots worldwide. I’d love to get my hands on a modern 308 GTI hatchback, take it back to Tanay and flog it for all it’s worth. Just for fun, for s***s and giggles. Because the Peugeot is that kind of car: passionate, fun and romantic.
Finally, we come to Top Gear magazine’s eighth anniversary. I remember back in 2004, Top Gear was the new kid on the block. Manufacturers almost did not want to lend us test units, wary of our credibility despite being under the Summit Group of John Gokongwei, one of the country’s leading industrialists. Much has changed since then, especially under Vernon Sarne’s stewardship of the brand, Top Gear has become, without question, the country’s foremost authority on all things automotive, driving and industry-related news. The most features, the most exclusives and first drives devoid of hanky pankies which allows Top Gear to be fully honest, truthful, transparent, and very much relevant to the times and trends. Of the original lineup, only a handful remain: aside from myself there was Dinzo Tabamo, lawyer Robby Consunji, Beeboy Bargas and JV Colayco, who writes sparingly but always seems to get the supercar exclusives!
Of course, Top Gear would not be where it is now were it not for the manufacturers who always lends us their nice, fancy expensive cars, the advertisers who stood by us, the aftermarket parts and accessories suppliers who would always show us their fancy gear which we could never afford, various government agencies and LGU’s who would gladly accommodate Top Gear’s often-weird requests, and most of all, our dear readers. Here’s to another eight years of fun-filled, exciting and ground-breaking stories of Top Gear Philippines!