Which vehicles stood out in different purposes for year 2023?

The automotive industry went full speed ahead in the year 2023. New and established automakers in the country were out in full swing, bringing new models to the market, updating existing products, and held numerous international and local brand events.

2023 will also be remembered as the first full year where manufacturers have fully utilized the benefits brought by the new EVIDA law, which was further supplemented early in the year with the signing of an executive order that cuts electric vehicle (EV) import duties to zero. As a result, the auto industry saw the influx of all kinds of hybrid vehicles, as well as new EVs with far more attainable price tags from both established and upcoming brands.

For us here at AutoIndustriya.com, that meant 2023 was a very busy year overall. There were a lot more vehicles to check out that are currently being offered in the market, and a lot of them were actually hitting their marks very well in their own respective segments. This gave us a much more challenging task of delivering our Editors’ Picks and Car of the Year awards.

Still, the rules remain the same: the candidates and winners for Editors’ Picks and Car of the Year include vehicles launched in the country in 2023, and that we should have reviewed, or at least driven the models that are part of the list. Much like last year, we award our Car of the Year to the vehicle that we think has made the most significant impact on the automotive industry in general.

So, without further ado, we’d like to present to you the winners of the 2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks and Car of the Year awards.

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks – Electrified Drive & Premium Electrified Drive

From mild hybrids to vehicles that run purely on electric power, the majority of the number of vehicles that populated our list of this year’s Editors’ Picks came with all forms of electrification that you could think of, and at a very broad range of price points – so much so that for this year, we decide to give the Electrified Drive award for two outstanding vehicles; one that’s under the PHP 3 million peso range, and the other from the premium electrified vehicle segment.

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Electrified Drive Category Winner: Honda CR-V e:HEV

Finalists: GWM Haval H6 HEV, MG4 Hatchback EV

The CR-V e:HEV is a very important vehicle for Honda, as it very much sets the standard for what we can expect when it comes to the electrified models they plan to bring in the country. We liked the MG4 Hatchback EV with the value it gives for an electric vehicle, and we also considered the GWM Haval H6 HEV with its powerful hybrid powertrain.

But in the end, the CR-V e:HEV is the one that left a very good impression to us, which is why we picked it as our winner for the Electrified Drive category in 2023.

The driving dynamics and mechanical refinement will still feel like your typical Honda, which is good when it comes to familiarity. The hybrid system itself also posts good fuel efficiency numbers considering the CR-V’s not known for being frugal. And lastly, it’s one of the few models we’ve tested where the electrified model feels more fun to drive than its standard ICE counterpart.

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Premium Electrified Drive Category Winner: BMW iX3

Finalists: Hyundai IONIQ 5, Lexus RZ450e

Familiarity is also the name of the game when it comes to picking our Electrified Drive winner for the premium segment, as it’s something we consider an important factor when it comes to switching to EVs.

The Hyundai IONIQ 5 is being recognized the world over for a lot of good reasons, especially with how Hyundai utilized the open floor concept of what an EV should be. Meanwhile, the Lexus RZ450e is the Toyota premium brand’s first foray into making an all-electric vehicle, but we felt like the RZ450e is yet to be the model that represents Lexus into fully embracing the potential of electrification.

The BMW iX3, on the other hand, is an example of BMW fully utilizing the X3 platform where the all-electric does not, in any way, feel too different. The iX3 delivers the same convenience, the same driving manners of a normal ICE-powered X3, but with an electric motor powering it. That is why we think the BMW iX3 deserves the Premium Electrified Drive award.

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks - Family Mover

From 2022’s For The Family, we thought we’d change it up a bit into the Family Mover award for 2023. Much like our previous edition, the mechanics for this award covers compact MPVs, minivans, pickup passenger vehicles (PPVs), crossover SUVs, minivans, basically, any four-wheeled vehicle that comes with 7 or more seats inside.

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Family Mover Category Winner: GAC GS8

Finalists: Toyota Zenix, Changan X7 Plus

Customers are spoiled with the number of family vehicles available in the market today, but the vehicles that really stood out for us in 2023 were the Changan X7 Plus, the Toyota Zenix and the GAC GS8.

The Changan X7 Plus is the newest one in this category, but it has the tools to impress with its potent 1.5-liter turbo engine, refined DCT transmission and its comfortable ride. However, there are things we still wish the X7 Plus had which would have given it better value for money.

Meanwhile, we like to view the Toyota Zenix as the spin-off to the Innova. With a new platform geared towards better on-road refinement, better fuel economy with the hybrid and better features over the diesel Innova, Toyota has stepped it up with the Zenix. But then again, so did its pricing.

But for our winner, it was GAC who got the job done in creating a comfortable, refined, and well-thought-out SUV for the family with the GS8. Most even compare it to the likes of the Explorer, and to much bigger vehicles like the Land Cruiser and the Patrol with its luxurious appointments and curb appeal. For the GS8 to be spoken in almost the same manner as those vehicles mentioned while having half the price tag, speaks volumes about how well GAC has executed the GS8. This is why the GAC GS8 is our Family Mover winner for 2023.  

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks - Adventure Vehicle

As with last year, our Editors’ Pick for Adventure Vehicle of the year has to be four-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive, and is something you can take out for overlanding trips, camping, or quite simply in places where power on all four wheels will come in very handy. We look for functionality, 4x4 capability, ground clearance, user-friendliness and customizability to take on the beaten path.

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Adventure Vehicle Category Winner: Ford Ranger Raptor

Finalists: Toyota Hilux GR-S, GWM Tank 300

Our finalists for this year consists of two 4x4 pickup trucks, and one SUV. We begin with the GWM Tank 300, which is one very good example of what an adventure vehicle should be. It has great ground clearance, a rugged design, and plenty of 4x4 capabilities to boot such as a locking front and rear differential.

However, the Tank 300, at least in the Philippine market, is still a very new model. Meaning, aftermarket parts may not be as plenty as its much more established rivals, and especially when compared to the two other finalists, the Hilux GR-S and the Ranger Raptor.

Speaking of which, it’s a tight battle between the two pickup trucks, as they both offer great aftermarket support and are fairly matched in terms of the spec sheet and performance. But in the end, the Ranger Raptor edges out the Hilux GR-S as we think it has more to offer in terms of the suspension, and it has provisions all over the vehicle that makes it ready to receive upgrades and 4x4 accessories. It's also no surprise that the things we liked about our last year’s winner, the Ranger Wildtrak, are still very much present in the Raptor. Thus, our Editors’ Pick for Adventure Vehicle of the Year goes to the Ford Ranger Raptor.

 

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks - Smiles Per Gallon

Our Smiles Per Gallon award is plain and simple. It goes to the vehicle that gave us the best overall experience behind the wheel. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Smiles Per Gallon Category Winner: Nissan Z

Finalists: Honda Civic Type R, Subaru WRX Wagon

We start out with the more practical ones – the Subaru WRX Wagon. Basically, it’s the turbocharged all-wheel-drive wagon that you can use to drop off your kids to school, then go to the mountain pass and attack the twisties after. It’s the kind of vehicle that serves its purpose very well.

On the other hand, it’s the new Honda Civic Type R. We like how it became more of a complete package, as you have better interior materials, toned-down styling that caters to a broader audience, and basically improving on the strengths while working on the weaknesses of its predecessor, the FK8.

However, our Smiles Per Gallon award goes to the more uncompromising one – the Nissan Z. Quite simply, the Nissan Z impresses with its new turbocharged V6 engine, while retaining the sharpness and the organic feel of the older 370Z. It has the makings of a proper Japanese grand tourer, but it also possesses a solid chassis that communicates to the driver. That is the reason why we picked the Nissan Z as the winner of this year’s Smiles Per Gallon award.

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks – Best Value for PHP 999k Max

Nowadays, it’s becoming harder to find vehicles with great value for money under the 1 million peso range. When you do, sometimes you don’t get much features that’s relative to the price point. Which is why we at AutoIndustriya.com would want to make your hard-earned money’s worth, and give you our top picks with the Best Value for PHP 999k Max award.

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Best Value for PHP 999k Max Category Winner: Toyota Wigo

Finalists: Geely GX3 Pro, Jetour Ice Cream EV

For this award, we came up with three finalists – the Toyota Wigo, the Geely GX3 Pro, and the Jetour Ice Cream EV.

Let’s start with the latter – the Ice Cream EV. For less than PHP 700k, you can get a zero emissions vehicle that could take you and three other occupants around the tightest streets of the metro. However, its limited range can be a factor for those working in the metro and will need to come home to the provinces on a daily basis.

On the other hand, the Geely GX3 Pro does not have that limited range, as long as you can fill up its gas tank. While it’s no Coolray in terms of speed and power, the GX3 Pro’s got good driving manners, enough ground clearance to clear pockmarked roads, and respectable fuel economy for a crossover with a 1.5-liter, naturally aspirated engine.

But our winner for this category goes to the Toyota Wigo. Basically, car for car, the all-new Wigo has improved in so many aspects. It’s bigger and much more spacious inside. It has a bit more refinement versus its predecessor, and is much more fuel-efficient than before. In typical Wigo fashion, the pricing is still good even after inflation. This is important as every bit of peso counts in this price point.

With the Wigo, Toyota has maximized the most of what it has, and that's why it wins the Best Value for PHP 999k Max award... and well under PHP 999k.

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks - Best Value for PHP 1.599M Max

From maximum value, we go to the price range that we think is the sweet spot in terms of features, build quality, and affordability – the PHP 1.599-million range.

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Best Value for PHP 1.599M Max Category Winner – Ford Territory

Finalists – Toyota Yaris Cross, MG4 Hatchback EV

Making the cut on this list is the MG4 Hatchback EV. And much like why it qualified for the Electrified Drive, there’s not much full EVs out there that’s big enough to cover long distances, offer a generous list of standard features, and have a price tag as competitive as the MG4 Hatchback EV.

The Toyota Yaris Cross, meanwhile, is one of the surprising models of 2023. At first we all thought we were getting the TNGA version, but the DNGA version simply offers more in terms of features. The Yaris Cross in its hybrid version also qualifies on this price point, but we do notice that Toyota could still work on giving the Yaris Cross the road and NVH refinement that we’ve become accustomed to with TNGA models like the Corolla Cross.

But on the other hand, Ford has made the most out of the all-new Territory, which is our pick for Best Value for PHP 1.599M max. New platform, bigger in size, even more features, more refinement and not to mention, a Ford design from the ground up is just what the doctor ordered in keeping the Territory as one of the Blue Oval’s best-selling models in the Philippines.

2023 AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks – Car of the Year

Now we’ve come down to this: Car of the Year. We considered every type of four-wheeled vehicle launched in 2023 and narrowed it down to which cars have moved the goalpost in their respective classes. In other words, we look for vehicles that have changed the landscape, and set a new standard on the segment that it belongs to.

Last year, we picked the Nissan Kicks e-Power as it basically brought the bridge that fills the gap between ICE and electric motoring, and it did so at far more reachable prices than many other car manufacturers have attempted to do in the past.

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Car of the Year: GAC GS3 Emzoom

Finalists: Honda CR-V, Ford Territory

For this year, we think the Honda CR-V and Ford Territory have managed to raise the bar in their respective segments. The CR-V in its sixth generation is packed to the brim with features even in its lowest variant, and the addition of the RS e:HEV made the new model a more efficient, and more exciting crossover SUV to drive. However, all of those improvements came with a big price increase, with the CR-V beginning at above the PHP 2 million range.

Likewise, the Ford Territory in its second generation in the Philippine market leveled up in many of the aspects that made the first generation a very popular crossover. The park assists, power features, the wireless smartphone connectivity functions, and the ADAS have been further improved, making the Territory a much more attractive product for Ford in the Philippine market.

But really, much of those were to be expected when manufacturers come up with an all-new model. When it comes to offering something different to the table at far more reachable prices, well that’s where the GAC GS3 Emzoom edged out the CR-V and the Territory for this edition of the AutoIndustriya.com Editors’ Picks Car of the Year.

The GS3 Emzoom was basically GAC’s answer to the Geely Coolray, but took things up a notch with some new features we never truly expected from a vehicle of this class. Crossovers with turbo engines, DCTs, panoramic sunroofs, smartphone connectivity and posh interiors are a dime a dozen in the market, but things like variable exhausts, hidden door handles, low profile, high-performance tires, and a dedicated Sport mode complete with digital gauge clusters are things you can only find in the GAC GS3 Emzoom depending on the variant.

But more importantly, the cherry on top is the PHP 1.198 million price tag. Yes, the top-of-the-line GS3 Emzoom in the R-Style variant comes with those unique features at such an attractive price point, changing the standard for what customers can expect from a value standpoint.

With that said, the GAC GS3 Emzoom is AutoIndustriya.com's Car of the Year for 2023.