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Editors’ picks

By: Aris Ilagan, Chris Van Hoven, Inigo Roces, and Eric Tipan

 

The past year was peppered with an exceptional assortment of new vehicles. Drive editors enumerate their favorites of the year.

Ducati Scrambler

Ducati Scrambler

ARIS ILAGAN: DUCATI SCRAMBLER

The numbers will speak for it. Its huge sales volume alone is more than enough to convince biker boys that the retro style Ducati Scrambler emerged as the favorite motorbike in its class. Try joining bike meets and you will see that the Scrambler has grown in numbers, tremendously in the past months.

Drive editor, Aris Ilagan, on the Scrambler.

Drive editor, Aris Ilagan, on the Scrambler.

Is it with the styling, performance or pricing? Honestly, I would tell you that it’s a mixture of these three. While others deem it impossible to bring home a European-made motorbike, the Ducati Scrambler has proven otherwise.

No need to drain your account, just a little over P500,000 and you have an iconic Italian badge on its red or yellow gas tank. It’s the cheapest in the Ducati brood but not exactly coming from the lowest breed.

Simple yet functional, that’s the way nakeds should be. Even the chrome laced, off-set speedometer cluster is bare but goes well with the overall styling. The handle bar controls are also on their simplest form yet easy to operate.

There are no fairings, no fake carbon fiber trimmings, only honest-to-goodness high grade metals that were bolted together to form a nostalgic ride. Always in a relaxed, upright riding position, it felt like I could ride the Scrambler twice, back and forth the 150-kilometer distance between Manila and Batangas and still have the energy for a full boxing workout. Thanks to its wide, well-padded seat that pampered me on that long solo trip. Primarily designed for the American market, surprisingly, the Scrambler fits well for my 5′”6 frame.

Everything can be smoothly operated, from clutch and brake levers to throttle squeeze, less effort is needed to make the Scrambler roll. But don’t let the nice-looking features of the Scrambler fool you. Remember that in between your legs is a powerful 800cc Desmodromic two-valve, L-twin power plant that will make it gallop even with just a small flick of the throttle.

The bad-boy engine is derived from the Ducati Monster 796 with 75 claimed peak  horsepower and 50.2 pound-feet of torque rating. However, the Scrambler is lighter with a broader power band.

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

CHRIS VAN HOVEN: MAZDA MX-5

While every motoring writer is faced with the temptation to name the hottest new coupe or convertible as Car of the Year, an automobile doesn’t earn the “car of the year” award just because it’s a flashy, fun to drive sports car. One would have to consider how well it’s built, how it’s priced, how it performs, and of course, how well it does its job. Every time we test a car, we put it through a rigorous testing procedure, with every inch of the car evaluated against strict guidelines and benchmarks.Having said all that, my personal pick for the best new car of 2015 is a flashy, fun-to-drive sports car.

Praises for the 2015 Mazda MX-5 have been sung far and wide, both locally and internationally. And while 2015 saw some excellent releases in every segment, only the MX-5 answers the question “what would I change or add to this car?” with “nothing”.

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Its 160 horsepower, 200Nm, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Skyactiv engine is capable of knocking your head back on second and third gear, thanks to its linear power curve and lightweight chassis. The MX-5’s balance of comfort and suspension rigidity is pretty much spot on. It maintains excellent handling and steering response through corners with a perfectly weighted steering wheel, while keeping a comfortable, non-fatiguing ride even on long drives.

Even the base model variant is equipped with Mazda’s Human Machine Interface (HMI) system, with a seven inch touchscreen LCD that controls its six-speaker audio system and mobile connectivity. It also comes with the full SKYACTIV suite of technologies, including i-ELOOP and i-STOP, and a bonus feature not mentioned in the brochure: Hill Assist, which greatly helps driving with a manual transmission on inclines.

The six-speed automatic variant is even better-equipped, with leather seats, a nine-speaker BOSE sound system and climate control. From the leather-wrapped steering wheel to every switch, button and knob, the MX-5’s interior never feels cheap, with high-quality materials used around every inch of the cabin.

The MX-5 is priced between P1,680,000 (6MT) to P1,860,000 (6AT), making it quite affordable for a rear-wheel drive, drop-top sports car. The MX-5 will never be a practical car, and it will never be ashamed to admit that. What it is, is an embodiment of driving fun. That’s what it was built for; and it does its job perfectly.

 

Ford Everest 4x4 Titanium

Ford Everest 4×4 Titanium

INIGO ROCES: FORD EVEREST

From an obscure choice against competitors like the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, and Isuzu Mu-X, the Everest has seemingly taken over the pickup-based passenger vehicle (PPV) segment overnight. It’s not surprising that the Everest is slowly becoming a favorite in this segment, as the company has bided its time engineering a truly worthy successor. The current generation was announced as far back as three years ago, when the new Ranger was just launched. All this time under development can certainly build up a lot of hype, yet a quick drive in the new vehicle will prove it’s well worth the wait, with features rivaling even that of SUVs from a higher class.

The Everest is upgrading buyers expectations for this class of vehicle, with features like a customizable instrument cluster, SYNC in-car entertainment, off-road driving modes, full-time 4WD and car-like driving dynamics from a vehicle that is essentially a truck underneath. Opt for the premium package and the vehicle will practically park itself.

One can’t go wront with either of the two engines choices, being well matched to the vehicle’s mass and returning quite a lot of torque while still being efficient.

Yet the real treat to the Everest is its incredible value, regardless of the variant. Buyers can expect a rugged, attractive, practical, and easy to drive SUV whether they opt for the entry-level 4×2 or the bells and whistles Titanium Premium Package.

Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V

ERIC TIPAN: HONDA HR-V

The Honda HR-V is my pick for 2015 because of three major factors – style, versatility and efficiency. Looks-wise, what is not to love about the HR-V? It is compact and packed with style from any angle. The lines are perfectly laid out giving it sexy curves from front to back.

As a crossover, it’s got height which makes it perfect in Manila’s more than imperfect roads. Even when loaded and going over a hump or negotiating a sudden sharp and steep decline, drive with no worries.

The interior is as appealing despite being a model slotted under its big brother, the CR-V. Honda didn’t scrimp on making the dashboard, gauges and surfaces pretty and nice to the touch. It comes with all the contemporary connections like USB and Bluetooth, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen that also double as the backup monitor.

Using the Jazz platform, the HR-V certainly has the capacity to take on a good amount of load without looking or feeling bogged down thanks to a capable 1.8L engine that puts out 141 PS and 172 Nm of torque.

The HondaEarth Dreams Technology Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is seamless and smooth but rather pedestrian on Eco mode. With Eco mode off, revs go higher and there’s more responsefrom the vehicle, which makes the overall ride more fun and exciting.

All those benefits and yet it still doesn’t come with a pricey fuel cost. Even in Metro Manila’s legendary traffic conditions, you’ll easily get 7 kilometers per liter without even trying.

You may not see a lot of HR-V’s on the road yet but with all these factors, the HR-V may not be Honda’s best-kept secret for far too long.