We now live in a time where B-segment sedans are creeping towards one million peso mark for top-spec models. With car prices higher than ever (for the mainstream market at least), it seems like getting a brand new car is becoming out of reach. However, not all hope is lost as there are some cars that promise to deliver sedan practicality for less. Much less.

This year alone, we saw the introduction of two small sedans that won't even cost more than Php 700,000. Suzuki unveiled the all-new Dzire during this year's Manila International Auto Show and, a couple of months later, Volkswagen came out swinging with the Santana. Both are in the B-segment and, crucially, under the Php 700,000 mark.

Then suddenly, the 2019 Toyota Vios arrived. The country's best-selling sedan has been given a significant redesign and it wants to continue its dominance on the segment, no matter what price point. It's safe to say it's going to be a tough one for the other newcomers.

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

Welcome to the cheap seats

So what do the Dzire and Santana have to go up against? Surprisingly, there are four cars they have to fight for customers paychecks. These cars come from Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota.

From Honda, it's the Brio Amaze 1.3E as the City starts at about Php 800,000. Mitsubishi on the other hand has the Mirage in fleet-spec GX form. Nissan meanwhile has the three-cylinder Almera 1.2L, which is somewhat a modern day Sentra LEC (remember those?) and, of course, there's the evergreen Toyota Vios, albeit as the 1.3 Base variant. Yes, the one lower than the J variant.

The Suzuki Dzire wages into battle in GL form while the Volkswagen Santana, which currently only comes in one variant, is the Trendline model. All these cars are the most basic variants possible meaning manual transmissions and, for the most part, steel rims. These are the some of the most affordable sedans in the market today.

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

Three or four cylinders?

Out of this six-car group, two come with three-cylinder engines and, consequentially, bring up the rear in the power stakes. From its 1.2-liter mill, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 GX musters 78 PS and 100 Nm of torque. Barely pipping the Mitsubishi is the Nissan Almera 1.2L, making 79 PS and a bit more torque at 106 Nm.

On to the four-cylinder choices and it starts with the Suzuki Dzire. Despite having an extra cylinder, the Dzire produces just a little bit more power than the Almera 1.2L with 82 PS, but it makes up for that with 113 Nm of torque. With eight horsepower more, the Volkswagen Santana Trendline is the third most powerful car of the bunch but it does have the biggest engine. Its 1.4-liter engine makes 90 PS, putting it mid-pack, but with 132 Nm of torque, it has the most pull thanks to that larger engine.

The Vios has the second-highest horsepower in the group with 98 PS from the 1.3-liter engine, although it doesn't make as much torque as the Santana at 123 Nm. As for the Honda Brio Amaze, it's the only car here that makes triple-digit horsepower figures at exactly 100 PS, an impressive figure from a 1.2-liter engine. Its torque on the other hand is just below the Santana at 127 Nm.

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

Sizing up

The tale of the tape says Honda and Suzuki make the shortest cars of the group, both measuring in at 3,995mm long. At the opposite end of the scale, the Volkswagen is the longest car here at 4,475 mm, about as long as C-segment sedan from the 90's.

Despite being one of the shortest in the group, the Dzire is actually the widest car here at 1,735 mm by quite some margin. The narrowest meanwhile is the Mirage G4 at 1,670 mm. However, just because some cars are smaller than the others, it doesn't necessarily dictate the cargo capacities of the budget B-segment sedans.

Pop the trunk

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the smallest cars here have the smallest trunk capacities. The Dzire has a hatchback-like area of 378 liters, followed by the Brio Amaze at 400 liters.

Even if it's one of the smaller cars in the comparo, the Mirage G4 puts up a good fight at 450 liters. Just a few liters more is the longest car here, the Santana, at 466 liters. As for the popular Vios, it has a sizeable trunk at 478 liters but it's still no match for the Almera.

Even though it wasn't the outright biggest car here, the Almera has a whopping 490 liter trunk capacity, bigger than some cars from a size class higher. To put that into perspective, it's over 100 liters more than Dzire, meaning you can load a lot more in the small Nissan.

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

What's inside?

At this price point, you may expect these cars to be as basic as they come but things are about to change. The previous base model Vios, the one below the 'J' variant didn't come with power windows, nor central locking. Not even intermittent settings on the wipers were part of the package. The new one now even comes with a 2-DIN stereo and bluetooth. Granted, you don't get rear power windows but it's heaps better than the old car.

The biggest plus in the new Vios? Even in its most basic form, it comes standard with dual front airbags, along with side and curtain airbags. There's even a knee airbag for the driver's side, bringing the total to 7. ABS is standard along with stability control and hill start assist; the latter two are practically unheard of in this price point. Needless to say, you will be surprised how well equipped it is for less than Php 700,000.

What about the other cars? When it comes to safety features, the Dzire and Santana come equipped with dual front airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes. While not groundbreaking in any way, these cars get USB connectivity, while the Dzire further benefits from Bluetooth.

In the Nissan Almera, power windows are standard even on the base 1.2L, and it's even a one-touch operation for the driver's side too. The interior is trimmed in what Nissan calls 'Greige', basically a combination of gray and beige. As for the radio, well, that's a dealer option. The Brio Amaze on the other hand gets about the same equipment levels, but gets a radio standard. These two come with dual front airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes

The Mirage G4 GX is a little more basic. You get a 1-DIN stereo and you lose the power windows. At least it comes with air-conditioning, airbags, power steering and a CD player, right?

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

Fill 'em up

With none of these engines exceeding 1.5 liters, you can expect pretty decent fuel economy out of them. However, maximizing fuel doesn't stop there. To make the most out of your fuel stop, one must consider range and, for that, it's best to take a look at each car's fuel tank.

A car may sip fuel but if the tank is small, it wouldn't go very far. In that case, the Volkswagen Santana seems poised to go longer in between stops thanks to its sizable 55 liter tank, easily the largest among the six subcompacts. In fact, the tank size is more for a C-segment sedan than a B-segment contender.

At the opposite end of the scale, the Honda Brio Amaze has the smallest tank here. It's tank is a significant 20 liters less than the class-leading Santana. That gives Honda's smallest sedan a tank capacity of 35 liters. The Suzuki Dzire barely pips the Brio Amaze with its tank size of 37 liters.

As for the rest of the class, the norm seems to be in the 40-liter range. The Vios has 42 liters, and so does the Mirage G4. As for the Almera, that comes with a 41 liter tank.

Not a cent over Php 700,000

At this point, you may be curious just how much you have to shell out for the entry-level B-segment sedans here. You'd expect that the least-equipped cars here would be the most affordable choices here too; and you'd be right. The least expensive car here doesn't even nudge Php 600,000 and that's the Mirage G4 GX at Php 584,000.

The stripped-out Toyota Vios 1.3 Base is the second most affordable car here at Php 659,000, followed by the rather well equipped Suzuki Dzire GL at Php 638,000. It's a close fight between the Almera, Amaze, and Vios which are priced at Php 651,000, Php 657,000, and Php 659,000, respectively. The priciest here is the lone 'European' offering, which is the Volkswagen Santana Trendline. Mind you, at Php 686,000, it's the least expensive German-badged car in the country, that is, if you don't mind the fact that it's made in China.

Spec check: Sub-700k entry-level sedans

Spec analysis

By the looks of it, there are two ways to go about an affordable B-segment sedan. You could go for essentially stripped-out models, or, get a little more features for a bit more peso. If you can live with the bare necessities, by all means, go for the basic Mirage G4 GX and the latter even comes with a tempting base price of under Php 600,000. Last but not least, the Mirage is proudly assembled in Mitsubishi's Santa Rosa, Laguna plant.

In the mid- Php 600,000 range, you do get a lot more features and it's nice to know that the Honda, Nissan, Suzuki and Volkswagen come with a decent amount of safety. If you don't mind it being one of the smaller sedans in the segment it's probably worth considering the Dzire GL.

If power figures matter to you, even in the budget sedan class, then the Honda Brio Amaze E M/T is worth a look. It's one of the lightest in the group and, with 100 PS under the hood, it should deliver peppy performance. Just mind the range-limiting small fuel tank.

Space efficiency on the other hand seems to be the forte of the Nissan Almera 1.2L. It's not the outright largest car here but the trunk is commodious to say the least. Interior room is good too. If you go for the Almera 1.2L, do make sure to get the optional radio installed.

As for the Volkswagen, it seems it aims to deliver C-segment space and equipment for a low price. Should Euro build quality standards be present in the Santana, it's a promising small sedan in the class. Backed up by having the largest fuel tank, it should sound good for range as well.

But the biggest surprise here is the 2019 Vios. With the amount of standard safety features in the new model, the 'Base' Vios isn't bare bones anymore. If anything, the safety package is one that's usually seen in cars nearly double the price, and that makes it even more impressive. Like the Mirage, it is also assembled in the Philippines.