The country has seen their two wheeled variants, meant for all walks of life. But amidst cost-cutting and interesting times, Lifan Cars Philippines (LCP or Lifan) recently decided to enter the four-wheeled fray with the introduction of their LF520 subcompact car.

The LF520 is no pushover, as it has recorded encouraging sales numbers in countries - such as Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil and Vietnam - since its August 2007 debut in Russia (after passing European crash test standards). Ditto for Lifan Motors (the parent company), as it began automobile production in 2006 in China, responding to the then global demand for quality but affordable vehicles.

With the LF 520, Lifan hopes to make a mark in a highly competitive subcompact segment. On appearances it seems highly likely that will happen. The exterior was developed by UK-based designer Ricardo Plc, and the look is similar to a number of late 1990s Opel units in the UK. Then again, that's not surprising, since Opel/GM claims the UK as one of its solid markets. Making the LF 520 move is an 87 hp/115 NM 1.3L SOHC 16-valve inline four banger, helped by a five speed stick shift. Making it turn is a rack-and-pinion, hydraulic assisted steering system, while providing a decent ride is a McPherson strut with stabilizers in front and a torsion beam in the rear. What's surprising is the safety features, which include ABS, driver and passenger airbags and side-beam crash protectors normally standard in the other subcompact brands but uncommon in China-made subcompacts.

Aside from the LF 520, Lifan also recently unveiled their first showroom and service center along West Avenue in Quezon City (near the Cabalen restaurant), with 10 distributorships in the works to be opened nationwide. They also plan to introduce three more vehicles after the LF 520, including a multipurpose vehicle, an electric car and a mini-car in the future.

The LF520 is pegged at P488,000 (for the 1.3L DX variant), P528,000 (for the 1.3L LX) and P588,000 (for the 1.6L LX). All vehicles come with a three year or 100,000-kilometer warranty. "We are on strict orders to introduce Lifan vehicles to the local auto market slowly and surely. This means that the cars should be introduced as quality vehicles with lots of amenities and safety features at inexpensive prices. We at Lifan would like to erase the thinking that inexpensive cars are always of low quality, and give our countrymen another good and viable option," said LCP president Nelson Ong.

Lifan is determined to step up the reputation of Chinese automobiles, and the LF520 and its newest dealership is one more step towards making them at par with the Japanese and the Koreans.