The time has once again arrived for us to pick our best in the automotive industry in the last 12 months.
2016 may be a mixed bag in terms of global events, but for the Philippine auto industry, the growth really was unstoppable after we entered the phase of motorization. In 2015, the World Bank recorded our GDP per capita at $2,899.775; well past the motorization threshold of $2,000.000.
What that means is many more people have the purchasing power to buy automobiles, and the projected total industry volume prove that fact. The industry is set to close 2016 at an all-time record 400,000 unit mark; a figure that's more than double of 2011's 165,056 units and almost four times 2006's 99,451 units. No wonder we're feeling the traffic.
And so here are our picks of the year that was, a list that encompasses the most significant automobiles, the most memorable drives, and the most important events.
AutoIndustriya.com Editors' Choice 2016 - Motoring Event
THE 6th PHILIPPINE INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW
If there's one event that showed how far our auto industry has come, it has to be the Philippine International Motor Show at the World Trade Center Manila. 6th PIMS, as it is known, is the premiere event of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI), showcased the past, present of future of automobiles in the country.
This year's edition featured elaborate display booths highlighting the latest cars such as the Nissan GT-R, the Mazda CX-3, the Lexus LC500h, the Honda BR-V, the Toyota Prius and many more. Concept cars such as the Toyota FT-1 and Mitsubishi XM, vintage automobiles like a Mercedes-Benz W123 and a Ben Cab art car based on a VW Beetle, and a McLaren-Honda F1 car were also on display for visitors to feast their eyes on.
AutoIndustriya.com Editors' Choice 2016 - Destination Drive
ASCENDING MT. BALAGBAG WITH FORD
In our profession, we have the opportunity to try out vehicles in challenging -perhaps even extreme- environments to see just how they perform. And one drive that embodies that was the one with Ford; a drive that took us up to Mount Balagbag.
Normally, off-road events by manufacturers are held on some kind of closed course and usually involves conditions and surfaces of moderate difficulty. But the Balagbag drive was different and involved rain, tricky mud trails, challenging ascents and many more, all aboard showroom stock Ranger pick-ups and brand-new Everests. It sounds easy, but the highway tires gave the drivers and Ford's advanced 4x4 systems a run for their money.
The end of the drive was capped off with a unique view from a mountain top campsite; given the difficulty it took to get up there, that vista will stay with us for a long, long time.
AutoIndustriya.com Editors' Choice 2016 – Automobile
2016 TOYOTA INNOVA
Our country is one that is all about family. Big ones. Extended ones. And so here, a seven seater does not only make sense, it's a necessity. Though often, we go beyond the seven; for us, it's more of a recommendation.
And with that in mind, it really a surprise that the Innova is on our list?
The new Innova is the second generation of the nameplate; a model line that took over the venerable mantle once occupied by the Toyota Tamaraw, the Tamaraw FX and the Tamaraw FX Revo. It's a family automobile, one that seats two in front, three in the middle, and another two in the back.
What we truly liked about the Innova was the way Toyota leveled up the design several notches, as well as the significant upgrade to the interior, the amenities, the space, and the versatility over its predecessor; the model that was the best selling LCV for the better part of the last decade, if not outright.
The new generation Innova gets the excellent 2.8-liter diesel with a variable turbo and a 6-speed automatic, though oddly enough, the 2.0-liter VVT-i gasoline engine was also carried over.
Really, our favorite was the diesel. The best part? They're all proudly made at Toyota's plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
AutoIndustriya.com Editors' Choice 2016 – Automobile
2016 MITSUBISHI MONTERO SPORT
Great as the Innova is, the Montero Sport was a true standout of 2016.
To say that Mitsubishi's third generation Montero Sport had an uphill climb ahead of it is an understatement, especially given all the troubles dealt out by customer claims of sudden unintended acceleration. Such claims, however, were put to rest, and the all-new Montero Sport's sales truly ramped up when they launched it early this year.
We're a fan of three-quarters of the design, particularly that Dynamic Shield that Mitsubishi has out front, but the jury is still out on the backside. Nevertheless, we liked how they did the interior, as it's a cabin that truly shows how far the Montero has transcended its pick-up origins to emerge as a sport ute with truly executive ambitions.
New, more advanced engines also made the Montero a great SUV, and tech such as MIVEC allowed them to go for a smaller displacement yet make more power and torque. Also, if you take it to the limit off-road, it will deliver. Just ask Masuoka.
AutoIndustriya.com Editors' Choice 2016 – Automobile – Top Pick
2016 HONDA CIVIC
After gathering all the votes from the AutoIndustriya.com editorial team, however, the clear winner, the clear top pick, was the 2016 Honda Civic.
When AutoIndustriya.com started 16 years ago, the Civic was our car of choice, particularly the SIR. Every year since we've been seeking that same spirit in every Civic that followed, but we were disappointed with the looks, the handling, as well as the lack of exhilaration when we squeezed the throttle. The reason? Emissions regulations squashed the excitement that the old cam-changing VTEC had when the needle crossed the 5500 rpm threshold in favor of more environmentally-friendly cam-phasing i-VTEC.
But with the new Civic, all that is back thanks to turbocharging. The 1.5-liter VTEC turbo in the Civic RS is a hoot to drive, even though it's an automatic. Even the 1.8-liter model is sprightly to drive, and surprisingly well balanced all throughout.
The chassis, the suspension, and the tires all work very well together, providing the driving exhilaration that we have so missed in the past 16 years. And it looks great too whether you're looking at it from the outside or admiring the way they did the cabin and the dashboard.
At our core, we still enjoy driving hard, driving fast, and driving for pure fun. And in that respect, the Civic wins us over. Hands down.