Even with inflation and car prices steadily increasing over the years, the sub 1-million Peso price bracket will always be hotly contested, often used as a benchmark for what an “affordable” car should be priced at. With even today’s small B-segment sedans passing the 1-million threshold, it becomes an extremely challenging task for manufacturers to offer cars that can be priced under 1-million while still keeping the cost cutting at a minimum.
GAC Motor Philippines has proven that their products return excellent value for money, with almost half their entire product line priced under the 1-million mark. And while two GAC GS3 variants find themselves over the mark, the base model GS 150N trim slots itself right under. But what did GAC have to sacrifice to get it there? Let’s find out.
Stylistically, the GAC GS3 manages to set itself apart from the rest of the B-segment crossovers with some key design elements such as the front and rear skid plates, split rear shoulders, and the small rear spoiler. The GS3 lends itself quite nicely to the classic crossover silhouette, and would benefit tremendously from sportier rims with larger tires. At the front, the missing foglamps are covered with multi-fin designed plastic covers, and at the rear we see dual exhausts that serve no other purpose than improving aesthetics.
Inside, the GS3 reveals an impressive level of material choice and build quality. Instead of the usual hard black plastics we see adorning the door panels and dash at this price range, GAC has chosen a unique mix of both black and brown hard and soft touch materials. It gives the cabin a premium feeling of sophistication not usually found in this price range, and does a great job of breaking the monotony that an all-black interior usually brings. There are no audio controls on the steering wheel, but the knobs are buttons that control the audio system are within easy reach. The instrument cluster is highly legible, and everything from the air-conditioning controls to the gear selector feel great to the touch. It’s a pity that GAC could only fit their base model GS3 with a simple non-Bluetooth, black and white head unit powering only four speakers, as other manufacturers are starting to equip their entry-level models with large touchscreens.
Seating is comfortable for all passengers, though the rear seats would best serve two passengers instead of three, thanks to a rise in between the two rear seats. Leg room at the rear is adequate for medium-sized passengers, and headroom leaves nothing to complain about. At the back, luggage capacity is slightly impeded by encroaching wheel arches, though the rear seats can be folded down for added space if needed.
The GAC GS3 is a surprisingly nimble handler, with impressive driving dynamics hampered only by its ever-so-slightly underpowered 1.5-liter engine. Handling is direct and precise, and its short wheelbase lends itself nicely to a neutral balance around corners. The 215/65 R16 Maxxis Bravo HP-M3 tires are a step down from the Michelin Primacy tires on higher variants, but still manage to offer a comfortable ride with minimal road noise.
What the GS3 GS 150N lacks in tech features, it makes up for in safety, offering two airbags, electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, traction control, brake assist, hill-start hold control, hill descent control, rear parking sensors, and rear disc brakes, which is uncommon in this price bracket. For the asking price of PhP 966,000, the GS3 proves that you can still buy a well-built vehicle that doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of driving fun, practicality, interior refinement, or safety, making it worth a look.
|Engine||Inline-4, 1495 cc, dohc 16V, Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing, 6-speed AT|
|Max Power (bhp @ rpm)||113 bhp @ 6000 rpm|
|Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)||111 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm|
|Top Speed||182 km/h (114 mph)|
|0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph||12.4 sec.|
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
|Fuel Milage (km/l)||9 km/L overall|
|Price as Tested (PHP)||PhP 966,000.00|
|What's Great||Agile handling characteristics, 5-year worry-free warranty, impressive safety features|
|What's Not So||Modest trim components, space is limited|