Cars that made our holiday season bright

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    The number of vehicles we had was simply amazing and made our holidays bright. My son, Ronald who also writes for another business daily and for our own Auto Review TV, also had his set of test vehicles. Our problem is we only have space for four cars in the garage and two slots on the street across our house which can be occupied by anybody as the road space is not ours. So some detailed coordination is needed.Before the Christmas season, we already had the Toyota Fortuner booked a bit early and we certainly enjoyed driving it in Metro Manila and Batangas. The Fortuner, one of the top-selling SUVs in the market, was simply elegant, powerful and spacious. It’s a vehicle you always feel at home with.

    Then Ronald had the Nissan Navara pick-up which I last drove during a media 4×4 event in Paoay, La Union in early 2015. Driving the Navara reminded me of its off-road prowess in the Sand Dunes of Paoay but driving it to Malvar in Batangas with some construction materials and a used big door carried securely in the rear made me appreciate the value of having a workhorse of a vehicle especially when we’re renovating a house in the province.

    Ssangyong delivered an all-wheel drive Korando for our use as participant in the Autofocus Corporate Rally Challenge or ARCC at Subic. Of course, I’m already familiar with the Korando’s (sometimes I pronounce it as KoRONdo) performance having driven it in Korea in August and another time here. But the compact SUV simply amazes me with its ease of operation, fuel economy and gadgetry. Fortunately, our team won Best Special Stage and Perfect Time awards in the ARCC. Perhaps as a bonus, Ssangyong lent us a Tivoli XLV, the extended variant of the “I Lov IT” crossover and the nine-seater Rodius in succession. The XLV which runs on diesel had it share of delivering some heavy stuff to Batangas with an exceptional smooth drive on the highways. The spacious Rodius had the honor of transporting some champion tennis players to their competition venue and for family recreation.

    The Mazda Skyactiv1.5L Sedan came next. The multi-awarded car did not escape a trip out of the city. It’s a subcompact but has plenty of legroom for four persons and a modest trunk. It displayed power and fuel efficiency (an average of 16- 17kms per liter on SLEX and STAR tollways) on the 100-km drive to the South. My daughter Rona also enjoyed driving it and drove all the way going back to Quezon City.

    Then came the Isuzu Mu-X 4×2 MT just before the holiday break. It came at a time when all the previous test drives have been returned. It was the same unit we drove in Palawan in February and scenic views from rough roads and images of Coron and Busuanga flashed in the mind. The ever-reliable Mu-X is an ideal family SUV, Ronald, swapped it with his Honda H-RV test drive for a few days as he had to travel with his family and in-laws to Pampanga on Christmas Eve.

    Left with the H-RV, I drove to the CCP area in Pasay City on a rainy morning after Christmas with my nephews Kim and Cedric who are budding basketball players and my brother-in-law, Roel Bonsol. This was to fulfill a promise that we would jog, rain or shine. The versatile H-RV did not disappoint as it was a game vehicle on any weather condition. It further proved its versatility and excellent road worthiness as we drove it outside Metro Manila.

    We were running out of test drives before the New Year but Mitsubishi Motors Philippines made available one of their new top-of-the line Montero Sport which we have also driven in Japan, Cebu and Pampanga in previous media test events. The Montero Sport is always fun to drive with all its convenience features like its 8-speed AT, keyless entry and push button start, auto retractable side mirrors, rear view cameras and built-in wi-fi. It is also good for a family trip as everyone could fit in.

    We capped our holiday test drives with a four-day lend-out of a Porsche Makan by PGA Cars. Too bad, we did not schedule a family road trip which we have done many times in the past as one member of the family is still abroad. But perhaps the Porsche Makan is best driven in Metro Manila during the holidays as traffic is very light. My Makan SUV date was highlighted by a record drive time from Banawe St. in Quezon City to Bonifacio Global City in Taguig at 10:30 on New Year’s Eve. Waze recommended a route via EDSA instead of our usual Osmena Highway and estimated arrival time at BGC in 31 minutes. I tried to beat the time by driving smoothly although faster than usual and in some open sections of EDSA I reached 100kph. We arrived at BGC in 24 minutes. I had two records, beating Waze by seven minutes and driving on EDSA at 100 kph for the first time in decades. I did not even use the Makan’s Sport mode. Before returning the Makan, I tried its Sport mode after finishing my radio program at Radyo Singko, TV 5 on New Year’s Day. And again, it was on EDSA. I should have tried it in the early days as the Sport mode offered a more exhilarating Porsche feel and performance. But next time, I’d know better, haha.

    Thanks to our friends in the industry who helped make our holiday drives much brighter- Jade Sison, Joseph Bautista, Nora Liquido, Yvonne Linchangco, Hermes “Chairman” Canon, SJ Huh, Dax Avenido, Therese Sarmiento, Dave Macasadia, Cherrey Lou Marin Villaester, Steven Tan, Maricar Villaroel-de la Cruz, Mikko David, Lyka Mae de la Cruz, Abby Granada, Froy Dytianquin, Arlan Reyes, Rosemary Cruz, Anne Abay, Amado del Rosario, Joy Villaflor and Toby Dy-Liaco.

    A peaceful, prosperous, blessed and safe New Year to everyone!

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