AutoIndustriya's Editors' 10 Favorite New Cars for 2012

Now that the year is coming to a close, we take a look at the new cars launched in 2012. Believe us when we say that there were a lot of candidates, but in the end, we can only pick 10 of our favorites; 10 cars, SUVs and trucks that impressed us in many more ways than one. Whether it was in the way they felt to drive, the way they excited us or, more importantly, the value they presented to the consumer.

So, here are our 10 favorite cars that we drove in 2012. Could yours be one of them?


Mitsubishi Mirage

How can we describe in word how much we truly love small cars? It takes true innovation -perhaps even genius- to design and engineer a great car within a restrictive constraint such as the all important MSRP.

The Mirage from Mitsubishi is great example.

Small, inexpensive and packed with features and technology, the Mitsubishi Mirage represents the diamond star's renewed vigor in the passenger car segment; a market that they haven't had as much success in terms of volume in quite a while, given their strength in the commercial vehicle segment with the Montero Sport, Strada and the L300.

Ed-in-chief Brent Co found it to be quite able on the Prince Bira Circuit; the 1.2 liter, 3-cylinder MIVEC engine giving out all 78 horsepower with gusto on the track. Customers can choose either a 5-speed manual or an INVECS-III continuously variable transmission.

It's not perfect given the rather plain and utilitarian design, but Mitsubishi is playing their cards aggressively with the Mirage, targeting young buyers who desire practicality and demand fuel efficiency (MMPC claims it can do up to 21 kilometers per liter).

The price of this funky new car? Well, it starts at just PhP 498,000 for the base model up to PhP 638,000 for the top spec variant.


Porsche 911 (991)

During the Porsche World Road Show last February at the Clark International Speedway, many of us were surprised at what we saw: it was the new 911, called internally as the 991.

We got to max it out on the track, and boy, were we impressed.

To say it looks different might be difficult to understand by the casual observer, but it's actually an entirely new generation for the 911's development. The body retains the iconic shape that Porsche began 50 years ago. The truly noticeable changes are in the rear and in the interior, as Porsche have reworked the cabin so that it feels like the Panamera's, and makes the 997's cabin seem dated.

That's beside the point, however, as we can go on about the many ways that it's different than the 997 that it replaced point by point, but really, the major upgrade was in the way it drove. The 911 Carrera just felt far more composed than the previous model, and more direct in the way it turns in... and how much you can actually let it hang out mid corner.

Simply put, the 911 is part of this list because just when we thought the 911 can't possibly get any better, it really did.


Mazda CX-5

In all honesty, the Mazda 3 disappointed us a bit. However, launched alongside it was an unusual little crossover: the CX-5. And yes, it's worthy of Zoom-Zoom.

While we found the CX-5 to be peculiar looking at first, it did grow on us after a while. The interior was well appointed, feeling spacious despite the overall size and with comparable quality to far more expensive models from German brands.

What truly impressed us was the way the CX-5 drove. The particular version we got to try out was the 6-speed manual, and it was definitely fun to toss around and play with on the road. The 2.0 liter engine in the CX-5 produces a very healthy 165 horsepower, and that, matched with a 6-speed manual or even the 6-speed auto makes it a lot of fun.

The handling of the CX-5 was also impressive, given that it was a significantly larger vehicle than, say, the Mazda3, means that Mazda's engineers have worked very well to tune the suspension and chassis rigidity to handle the weight.

If that's not enough, it was a truly fuel efficient package thanks to SKYACTIV technology. On the highway at a steady cruise of 100 km/h, the CX-5 was returning 15.9 kilometers to the liter. Yes, it's good.


Ford Focus

How can the all new Ford Focus not be here?

We got a chance to sample the top spec models in Thailand, and yes, it's the real deal.

The hotly anticipated Ford Focus can truly change the game in the compact segment. It stops itself in traffic if you've been distracted. It can park itself if you're too afraid to do it yourself. You can talk to it and have it play what you want from your iPod. You can even instruct it to reply a preprogrammed text message by voice if you're too busy driving.

The drive, however, is what counts with the new Focus. The pair of engines, either a 130 horsepower 1.6 liter Ti-VCT engine or a 170 horsepower 2.0 liter Ti-VCT motor. Both can be specified with a Powershift dual clutch transmission and on the open road, the combination is hard to beat in this segment. It's not perfect, especially in town (more of which you'll read about later on when we publish our full review) but it's still a lot of fun out of town.

The Sport hatchback model is definitely the way to go in the segment thanks to a stiffer sport suspension set up, but either way, it's hard to go wrong if you're looking for an exciting drive.


Subaru XV

The XV may be an offshoot of the Impreza, but we reckon it's more special than that.

The XV was designed with a look the gives it a tougher, more rugged overall style. The XV joins the ranks of other Subaru SUVs such as the larger Forester and Tribeca.

Inside, there's room for 5 people with 2 in the front and 3 in the back, all in a cabin with a very modern design language. For features, the XV was launched with an integrated AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, along with advanced safety features such as traction control and stability control.

Powering the XV is a 2.0 liter boxer engine that produces 150 horsepower, while symmetrical all wheel drive and a sporty suspension set up give the car the signature Subaru drive and stability that is hard to match.


BMW 3-Series

We've always liked the BMW 3-Series. This new 6th generation model, however, raises the 3-Series name to a whole new level, though.

Called the F30 internally, the new generation 3-Series is larger than the previous model, and features BMW's unique and signature design elements like the double kidney grille, the hofmeister kink, LEDs, strong character lines and the angel eyes. The 3-Series comes in three distinct lines: Sport, Luxury and Modern. The three lines are differentiated by specific design elements like black trims, chrome, leather and other bits.

What's striking is the range of engines that BMW have put in. Gone are the inline-6 motors we've become accustomed to, replaced instead with a 2.0 liter turbocharged gasoline engine in the 328i or a 2.0 liter turbodieselo in the 320d. All versions come with BMW's EfficientDynamics Technology such as Auto Start/Stop, ECO PRO, and an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The 320d Luxury we got to test before was comfortable and efficient, though I have a feeling that the 328i Sport would be the way to go.


Ford Ranger

The second Ford on our list just about sums up the kind of products they're bringing to the automotive industry.

The Ranger was previously just another truck in a segment dominated by the Toyota Hilux and the Mitsubishi Strada. Something tells us, however, that the new model is going to change that established order.

Where the Ranger excels is in what it offers the car buyer. The new Ranger is larger, more powerful, better styled and more comfortable and composed than before. The design of the Ford Ranger is definitely the way forward, and same goes for the interior, the technology such as voice control, Bluetooth and other bits.

The powerful duo of DuraTorq TDCI diesel engines are more powerful than before, displacing either 2.2 or 3.2 liters total, with a choice of whether to go for the 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains.

The top pick of the Ford Rangers is definitely the Wildtrak variant. Ed-in-chief Brent Co swears by his.

GS350 F Sport

Lexus GS350 F Sport

The Lexus GS was a surprise.

Honestly, many of us never thought of Lexus as the brand that can stir emotions in the way their cars look and the way they drive. Then they proved us wrong with the ISF and their superstar, the LFA, and now, by our opinion, they did it again with the GS350 F Sport.

It's really part boy racer, part business suit. The exterior is aggressively shaped with sharp details and high tech LEDs. Over the course of our drive, someone actually walked up to us and said how much he admired the car.

Inside, it's all business and luxury, as Lexus crafted such a dignified interior. Supremely comfortable, and with a unique human-machine interface for the audio system and other functions.

The drive was the true surprise. The direct injection 3.5 liter V6 produces a hefty 312 horsepower and 375 newton meters of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. At the center console is a knob that adjusts the GS350's driving characteristics such as the stiffness of the suspension or response of the engine.

Around town, the GS F Sport can be supremely refined and comfortable in normal driving mode, but toggle Sport or Sport + and it comes alive, driving with a renewed vigor whenever you prod the throttle. Also, as a kicker, the GS350 F Sport comes with four wheel steering.

It's pricey, but hey, it's in a whole different league.

Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

The Santa Fe has always been a top pick of ours since Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. officially launched it in 2006. Now, they've got the all new model, raising the bar further for the segment.

The all new Santa Fe prominently features the latest design language from Hyundai called Storm Edge. We think it looks quite striking, much in the same way the Explorer impressed us in 2011 with its stunning looks. Same goes for the interior, and it still has the same 7-seat capacity with the 2 back rows able to fold flat.

Thankfully, they've removed the option for the gasoline V6 engine in favor of the powerful 2.2 liter R-eVGT CRDI engine that produces 197 horsepower and a whopping 423 newton meters of torque. We say it's the perfect fit for the Santa Fe, along with the 6-speed automatic.

The top spec Santa Fe is a bit pricey at PhP 2,228,000, but the base models would suit us just fine.


Toyota 86

If we still have to explain why the 86 (or the Subaru BRZ) is here well... you get the point.

Toyota's first true rear wheel drive sportscar in a decade, developed and built together with Subaru, is taking the world by storm; so much so that the Subaru plant in Gunma is working 24 hours shifts to supply global demand.

No numbers such as horsepower figures, torque figures, acceleration figures or anything else can explain the feeling behind the 86... especially the TRD version we got a chance to try out.

If you're in line for your own Toyota 86, let me tell you now that it really is well worth the wait.