There are many messages on our AutoIndustriya social media pages sent by readers asking for advice on what vehicle they should get. Sometimes they give us a few options to choose from. Sometimes they just give us the class of vehicle they're looking at. Sometimes they give us a fixed budget. Sometimes, they even just ask if they should get the one we just reviewed.
Our answers to these kinds of questions are actually quite simple. It's not about what we as reviewers think is best for you, but about which vehicle you think is best for you.
While we can review or test a group of vehicles to find out the best one, do remember that the best is relative. What is good for us may not be as good for you. Each car buyer has different preferences, different requirements, different circumstances, and all these should play a part in the decision.
I actually had to go through the same process just a few months ago. Yes, I had to make a choice for a vehicle that fits my needs, and given that I'm exposed to pretty much all the new models in the market, it wasn't really that easy. The first decision I had to make wasn't so flexible: the budget. In this case, I set a price cap of PhP 1.5 million. As you know, there are already a lot of choices at that price as the auto market has never been more saturated with options. There are a lot of sedans and crossovers; I could have picked one and be done with it. There are also a lot of bigger SUVs, MPVs, and pick-ups on the market at my budget too.
But in the end, I had set myself on one type of vehicle: a pick-up truck. For me, a truck was really the only way to go for thanks to a very logical process of elimination. The first is the ride height and the water wading capability. Where I live, floods happen. That's a fact of my life. I didn't need all-conquering 800mm of water wading; just the knowledge that I have a fighting chance of getting home if I drive through a reasonably flooded road. That also means a low riding saloon car, a crossover, and an MPV weren't going to make the cut. It's that simple.
So I narrowed it down to either an SUV (specifically, pick-up passenger vehicles) or a pick-up truck. Now I evaluated whether I needed a third row. The back seat of any car I'm behind the wheel of is rarely used, much less the third row of seats. Eventually, I was also able to eliminate a 7-seater PPV/SUV because I didn't need the seating capacity. Some would argue that it's good to have a third row and not need it versus need it and not have it, but not for me.
What I did need though was the bed for cargo because in my free time I do a bit of woodworking. Picking up some tools up to and including a table saw may be easier in an SUV, but getting 8-foot long 2x4-inch boards into an SUV is difficult at best. I'd end up scuffing the leather upholstery, one way or another. In a truck, there's no such problem; all you have to do is tie it down. Even loading up 4x8 foot 1/2-inch sheet goods like plywood or MDF is easier.
So yes, a pick-up truck was the way to go for me. And in this field, we're lucky; we've got a lot of great options in the market, and all are very attractively priced. The reason is that in 2018, the TRAIN law came into effect, removing excise taxes on pick-up trucks. Together with the stipulations of the free trade area within ASEAN, Thai-made trucks became even more affordable.
Now it was a matter of narrowing down to just a few models and eventually to just one. And for that, I have to lay down what I want, and what I need.
I wanted something that drove well, and in that regard, I was just splitting hairs. A good majority of the trucks in our market are powered by good turbodiesels, and everyone is trying to outdo each other in terms of performance and with advanced transmissions. Honestly, having the highest horsepower or torque didn't matter much to me; so long as the engine has good performance, has decent fuel economy, and a reputation for reliability, it was a contender. A 4x4 system wasn't a priority. I'd be perfectly happy with a rear-wheel-drive truck, but if the price was right I'd go for a 4x4. I've driven all the midsize trucks in the market, so I have an idea which ones are good, and which ones feel a bit too heavy or sluggish.
I also wanted one with a functional interior; my intention is to use the truck as a multipurpose work vehicle. I need it to have versatility with the way the interior is configured with a variety of storage options like trays, compartments, and pockets that I can make full use of because I intend to. Along with the usual everyday items like an umbrella or accessories like a dashcam or USB charger, I always carry things like a tape measure, a small combination square, and a ratchet screwdriver set with me, so having pockets and trays will be useful.
I also like to have a cup of drive-thru coffee now and then, so a cupholder in front of an A/C vent that can cool down an extremely hot cup quickly will also be very useful. This is actually a feature I've liked since I first drove a 2008 Jazz, and has become a staple on many vehicles since then.
I was also looking for a vehicle with a good connectivity package. I mostly use Bluetooth and rarely use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but I wouldn't mind using those functions if I feel like it. There are a lot of pick-ups that have those features, but some are better than others. What I preferred was a fully integrated one that came that way from the factory when the vehicle was actually being built; not a head unit that really looks like it was installed by a local supplier. Honestly, I'm not a fan of those.
For safety, I wanted the basics covered like anti-lock brakes, airbags, and stability control. I've always been a fan of smart keyless systems, so that was something I was looking at for security and convenience. But one feature I figured would be really useful for my needs was either a rear sonar system or even a rearview camera.
What was important to me was that the truck has to have a measure of comfort even when the bed isn't loaded. This was to be my everyday vehicle in the city, and everyday comfort is a priority; that was also the reason why I eliminated the manual gearbox early on. But what I needed was a good ride or at the very least a manageable one.
You're probably thinking that pick-up trucks aren't supposed to be comfortable, and that's true. Classic pick-ups are bouncy machines when unloaded, and that's because the suspension in the rear is beefed up to the point that it can take a heavy load without dropping too much. These vehicles are usually relegated to farm duties or construction-related work. The trucks of today are evolving though, and eventually, the subclass of the “lifestyle” truck really became a major thing in the last decade or so.
That's really how I made my decision. Of course, I tossed in the proximity of service centers to my home and to a certain degree the ability to customize it down the line. That brought me to the pick-up that I -uh- picked up: the Navara VL 4WD.
This one fits all of my requirements, and then some. While many trucks in its class have evolved with enhanced ride comfort, features, and the like, I still like the way the Navara fits me. The ride is great. The features list fits all my needs, up to and including a 360-degree camera system. I like how the interior is versatile and functional for my needs. The bed is plenty for my requirements and came with a bedliner as standard. And having driven one on many occasions here and abroad (up to and including dune bashing in Morocco), I know how it drives, how comfortable it is, and know the capabilities of its 4x4 system. Actually, I wasn't looking for a 4x4, but the price was just right for this model.
Some would argue that the Navara isn't right for them and that's fine. Drivers and owners have different preferences, a different set of requirements, different driving and road conditions, among many other factors. Heck, it could even boil down to something as simple as whether the vehicle will actually fit in your garage. I'll go out on a limb and say there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model. If there is, we have yet to drive it.
The truck isn't perfect by any means (the blank spaces in front of the cupholders do bug me) but for what I need and want, this one fits the bill just right. I've been researching on owner's groups about the issues I may encounter down the line, but I figured such issues weren't major enough to be dealbreakers. Some would also say that there's already a new model coming next year but I couldn't really wait any more, and there was a good offer available at the dealer.
How you pick what vehicle to get is your decision. The key is not PM; it's about being honest with what you need and truly want because buyer's remorse is real, especially for something you'll be paying for over the next few years.