With the summer vacation season in full swing, no doubt many of the country's highways will be populated with 7-seater MPVs, not surprisingly one of the top-selling car segments these days. With space for families or a mix of passengers and outdoor gear, and a comfortable ride, it's somewhat a default choice for an out of town drive.
Buyers will typically gravitate to options like the Toyota Innova and Mitsubishi Xpander or even vehicles in the 7-seater SUV segment. Yet, we're pleasantly surprised with this new offering from BAIC: the M60.
We've already reviewed the M50S 7-seater, positioned against other small 7-seaters like the Xpander, Mobilio, and Avanza. This M60 is their slightly larger offering. One would think they share the same platform, but this vehicle is distinctly different. It measures 4.8 meters long, and while it's not as large as a Toyota Innova (EDIT: the M60 is longer and nearly as wide), it makes clever use of interior space. In addition, it's also packed with features you won't even find in the Innova.
The M60 clearly has its sights on the Innova, and that's evident in its overall design. The front features a the spindle-like grille. Hawk-eye headlights with DRLs are on either side with its signal lamp and fog light cluster on the bottom. Throughout the body is black cladding with chrome inserts for a more rugged look. It rides on large 17-inch wheels with a chrome lip. It also has impressively high ground clearance. Behind, the cladding continues to the loading lip, while the bottom features a chrome diffuser and intergrated exhausts. Overall, the M60 looks like a kitted-out MPV with all the parts from the Shark Accessories catalog fitted. Believe it or not, all these aesthetics are actually showroom stock.
Inside, it features a plush cabin with a soft-touch dashboard, brushed aluminum accents, leather seats (even the third row) with a black and white motiff, and leather inserts on the door cards. Right ahead of the driver is the fully digital LCD instrument cluster. There's little configuration allowed, but it's certainly better than the typical dials. It's complemented by a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the center, hooked up to 6-speakers.
The most unique feature is the smart touchscreen rearview mirror that integrates a dashcam, rear camera, clock, calendar, WeChat (seriously), and several other special functions (standard in Luxury trim). It's a little overwhelming at first, but can be toggled to just display a clock overlay. Don't worry, customer units will have an English interface.
Over in the driver's side is a 6-way power adjustable seat. He gets a wheel with integrated stereo and cruise controls. In this Luxury trim, the seating configuration is 2-2-3 (The Standard trim has a 2-3-3 configuration).The second row features two captain’s chairs that slide and recline. They also get their own climate control and power ports. The 3rd row features a bench that splits 60:40, folds and tumbles forward. It may be tight for three passengers, but with two, it will be very comfortable with legroom far better than its competitors.
Power and drive
Propelling the M60 is a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. It produces 147 PS and 210 Nm of torque, paired to a CVT transmission. Unlike its little brother, drive goes to the front wheels in this model.
The CVT features a manual mode with simulated gears. There's also a button beside the stickshift for sport mode, and even a winter mode.
On paper, the power output is pretty impressive, but much of it doesn't come until later. Being a CVT, you can expect some hesitation at low speeds. It needs more pressure than expected on the throttle to get moving from a standstill. This can be a bit of a problem on inclines as it tends to slide backward. It direly needs hill start assist.
At higher speeds, and with the turbo spooled, it's a lot more effortless, taking less throttle pressure to maintain speed. The steering weighting is very light and the ratio is pretty quick, making it very agile in tight city streets.
Unfortunately, it remains light even at highway speeds so some restraint is needed to keep it from turning more sharply than intended. Thankfully, its stopping power is very reassuring. The M60 is fitted with disc brakes even at the rear, all governed by ABS.
Other comfort features include push-button start, cruise control, reverse camera with guidelines, auto climate control, illuminated visor mirrors, EBD, Electronic Stability Control and four airbags. Our unit from Bayan Auto even came with custom-fit canvas floor mats.
Over the course of testing the the M60, we managed to achieve 7 km/L in heavy traffic in the city. The only other issue we noticed was the power windows. Pulling the switch up brought the windows down and vice versa. The climate and volume knobs also do not necessarily bring the volume up or down with each notch. It might be just our test unit, but it's something to look out for on your test drive. Still, they're relatively minor.
Overall, the M60 was much better than we expected. It's better equipped than even the leading car in its class, and is impressively comfortable and easy to drive.
With an accessorized look, fancy interior, and impressive legroom, the M60 really dares to challenge what we should expect from this class. Best of all, it's offered at a very tempting PhP 1,068,000 price tag.