Even though in 2021 the world was still reeling from the devastating effects of COVID-19, the mutation of the Delta and Omicron variants, and the uncertain pandemic economy, we were very fortunate that we were still able to test drive and review several cars, crossovers, MPVs, SUVs, and pickup trucks, as well as join road trips and long drives. For the privilege, we’d like to say “Thank You Very Much” to everyone in the Philippine automotive industry for lending us their vehicles this year and inviting us to participate in long drives and road trips. We’d also like to thank you, our dear readers, for continuing to log into this Power Wheels Magazine website to read our “Driven” reviews, “Journeys” accounts, and other stories.
Before we end 2021 and welcome the new year, we’d like to start a new tradition here at Power Wheels Magazine and list down our Top 10 Drives for 2021. If your favorite car brand or vehicle is not included in our list, it’s simply because we were not able to test drive it this year, which is probably because we were also a bit too occupied working on our own little fleet of Project Cars. So, without further ado, here’s our Top 10 Drives for 2021, arranged in chronological order according to the month we got to drive them:
Number 1: Nissan Navara 4X Pro
Driven March 2021
Any automaker who has the guts to take several motoring journalists on a drive from Metro Manila to the Ilocos Region to introduce the latest iteration of their best-selling pickup truck while promoting tourism, helping the local economy, and following strict health and safety protocols deserves to be numero uno in anyone’s list. That’s what the good people at the revitalized Nissan Philippines (NPI) did when they introduced their 2021 Nissan Navara 2.5 Pro-4X 4×4 A/T. Not only did we find this top-of-the-line P1,746,000 pickup truck incredibly competent, powerful and tough during our drive, it was also comfortable to drive on the highways and it is equipped with one of the most advanced electronic driving safety aids available with its menu of Intelligent Mobility features. If you’re in the market for a new pickup truck, take this Nissan for a test drive before you decide! You’ll see why it’s here in our list.
Number 2: Kia Stonic
Driven March 2021
We called the 2021 Kia Stonic EX A/T a “speedy tonic against the common crossover” because that’s what it is. After all, “Stonic” is a portmanteau or mixture of the words “speedy” and “tonic”. The South Korea car maker took the basic ingredients of a subcompact crossover, infused it with exciting engineering, speed, style and panache, while Kia Philippines marketed it locally as an iconic, fashionable and affordable alternative to the common subcompact vehicles available in the market. We got to drive it quite briskly to Tagaytay City for a short face-to-face gathering and lunch with KiaPH executives at an idyllic resort and then got to enjoy for several days afterwards. The top-of-the-line EX A/T variant that we drove retails for just P925,000 but there are other models that can fit your budget. We found it exciting to drive, practical to own, with a price that’s really affordable. If we sound like we love it, it’s because we do!
Number 3: Chery Tiggo 7 Pro
Driven April 2021
To continue gambling during a pandemic economy is quite risky but that’s what our good friend Rommel Sytin did when he continued to hedge his bets on Chinese automaker Chery Auto. But his calculated risks are beginning to pay off and the 2021 Chery Tiggo 7 Pro is one of the company’s most visible victories. This P1,198,000 mid-size SUV offers luxury features, such as power tailgate, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, 360º panoramic camera, “floating” center console, premium sound system, and much more that can only be found in luxury full-size SUVs that cost three to four times as much. Add the first-in-the-industry 10-year/1,000,000-kilometer engine warranty, a 5-year/150,000-kilometer vehicle warranty, and FREE periodic maintenance service (PMS) and FREE emergency roadside assistance for three years, and you can see why we included the Tiggo 7 Pro in our list. It’s a value-packed Chery that’s simply hard to beat!
Number 4: Suzuki XL7
Driven May 2021
We have admired three-row 7-seat multipurpose vehicles (MPV) ever since we owned a 2015 Suzuki Ertiga. We think MPVs are ideal for our climate, our roads, and our driving habits, especially when we like to travel with our entire family. Thus, with the 2021 Suzuki XL7 GLXi A/T, we felt that Suzuki redefined the MPV genre and improved on all the things that we already liked about the Ertiga. With a suggested retail price (SRP) of P1,073,000, we considered the XL7 as a great “bargain” considering all the safety, performance, comfort, and convenience features that were jammed into this good-looking, roomy and surprisingly economical MPV. We averaged 10.4 kilometers per liter during our weeklong drive and found ourselves praying for the pandemic to end and for businesses to resume so we generate enough funds to buy a brand-new XL7 and face the post-pandemic world with improved mobility.
Number 5: Jaguar XE
Driven June 2021
Borrowing a line from a Bavarian car company, we described the 2021 Jaguar XE D180 SE R-Dynamic as the “ultimate diesel-powered driving machine”. This British 4-door compact sports sedan is powered by an innovative 2.0-liter turbocharged Ingenium 4-cylinder engine with double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and 4 valves per cylinder that produces 340 Newton-meters of torque to catapult it from zero to 100 km/h in 8.1 seconds and makes 197 horsepower (200 PS) to propel this 1,640-kilogram baby Jaguar to a top speed of 228 km/h. That’s real sports sedan performance any other way you look at it. But the XE is more than just that – it is luxurious, comfortable and extremely fun to drive. If somebody told us 26 years ago that a diesel-powered compact Jaguar will rival the premiere 245-hp 1995 Jaguar XJ6 (X300), we could just have saved up and waited for this P4,300,000 XE instead. But, as it is, we now own an X300, albeit a project car, but we’re grateful to have experienced the XE.
Number 6: Honda Accord
Driven October 2021
In 2004, the Honda Accord was given the prestige of being the first recipient of the Philippine Car of the Year award. If we were to give that award today, we feel that the 2021 Honda Accord 1.5 Turbo EL will still be a strong contender. Even though this current Accord generation was introduced before COVID-19, it has proven that powerful premium luxury sedans can still remain relevant during a pandemic economy. Its 1.5-liter turbocharged Earth Dreams Technology drivetrain churns out 188 horsepower and 260 Nm of torque to propel the 1,476-kilogram Accord to extra-legal speeds with authority yet it consumes fuel like an economy car. We covered almost 600 kilometers with our test drive when we drove to Aringay, La Union and back. We were simply amazed with the safety, performance and comfort that Honda engineered into this P2,350,000 Accord. This is one Japanese premium sedan that we’d highly recommend.
Number 7: Maxus D60
Driven November 2021
Like the Honda Accord, the 2021Maxus D60 1.5T Pro is powered by a torquey yet thrifty turbocharged 1.5-liter DOHC16-valve 4-cylinder engine that gives it 167 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. Like the Chery Tiggo 7, it’s a Chinese-made 5-seat mid-size SUV that’s marketed by AC Motors, the automotive arm of the mighty Ayala Corporation. Unlike the Honda and the Chery, our P1,148,000 D60 test drive unit has fabric seats instead of leather, which is reserved for its pricier 3-row 7-seat sibling, the P1,258,000 D60 Elite. However, we like the spacious legroom and larger luggage area that makes the D60 Pro feel a lot larger than it really is. If you have a small family like us and you can all fit in a 5-seat SUV, we highly recommend this Maxus because it’s affordable, stylish, fuel efficient and practical. It’s got an abundance of space and convenience and best of all, it’s fun and easy to drive!
Number 8: GAC GN8
Driven November 2021
Driving a 2021 GAC GN8 2.0 A/T GT Luxury minivan on a long road trip along the highways is like piloting a luxurious executive private jet on a short local flight. It is smooth, utterly comfortable, and supremely luxurious. Its transverse-mounted turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine pumps out 320 Nm of torque to accelerate this 5-door minivan like a plane that’s about to take-off and churns out 199 horsepower to push the GN8 past speed limits without trying. It’s a bit pricy at P2,958,000 but it comes with a pair of captain’s chairs in the middle row than can rival the comfort and features of a La-Z-Boy recliner. It has a sunroof over at the front and a large panoramic glass roof for the middle-row and rear passengers to enjoy a light airy feeling while traveling along the highways. Among all the vehicles we were able to test drive in 2021, it’s this luxurious private jet, err… minivan, that we want to drive over and over again.
Number 9: Isuzu MU-X
Driven November 2021
Our family friend and physician, Dr. Wilson Cua, was contemplating on replacing his 6-year-old Isuzu MU-X SUV and asked us for recommendations. Because we’ve driven the all-new Isuzu 2021 MU-X 3.0 4×2 LS-A AT, albeit for a short weekend, we heartily recommended to Dr. Cua to simply trade-in his old MU-X and get a new one. There’s a lot of technical and aesthetic improvements that Isuzu integrated into the new MU-X including more power and torque (188 hp and 450 Nm, respectively), and improved safety with the Advance Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) electronic driver aids. We were impressed with how Isuzu also tweaked the convenience of folding the middle row and rear seats to make it easier for passengers to enter or for items to be loaded. We actually prefer the fabric seats of our P1,900,000 MU-X LS-A test unit but then, our good doctor might prescribe leather seats as his preference.
Number 10: Nissan 370Z
Driven December 2021
Even though the Nissan 370Z has been around since 2008, it was only formally introduced to local Z-car enthusiasts by the reenergized Nissan Philippines (NPI) in March 2020, right at the onset of the pandemic. Despite the setback, a lot of 370Zs found loving homes and owners around the country because it possessed the looks, the performance and the pedigree of a proper sports car. At P2,799,000, you get a stylish two-seat coupe with around 330 horsepower on tap and 360 Newton-meters of torque to push you into your seat during acceleration. We loved it so much that NPI had to pry our grippy little hands off the steering wheel so they can get their test car back.
Read more here: https://www.nissan.ph/vehicles/new/370Z.html
What do you think of our list? Please send us your comments, suggestions and opinions in the Comments Box below. Once again, thank you for logging in to this website. We wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year as we look forward to more test drives, exciting road adventures, and hopefully, less traffic snarls in 2022! Cheers!