Comparo December 27, 2014 By C! Magazine Staff
Battle of the 8 Compacts
Words and photos by the C! Team
Through The Gauntlet and Back
As there are no two people that are alike, the needs, wants, and desires of individuals do vary immensely. Car manufacturers try to address this by making various models and variants as well as providing as much data as possible in each of their respective spec sheets. So we hope our “Comparo” helps you make good sense of this information providing a useful perspective.
When we did the comparison test, we divided our criteria into two basic parts. The objective tests, which were conducted in as controlled and sanitized conditions as possible; and the subjective, which reflected the various tastes, preferences and priorities of the editors that took part in the tests, much like those of our motoring public.
Objective test are also split into two. Firstly was performance — braking, acceleration, lapping, stability control; and secondly, the utilitarian type items — cargo, gadgets and/or equipment, and of course price. Though as objective tests were done in perfect or optimum conditions, the results may often have come out similar to those on any “throttle response delay” a car may have and added that real world element to an objective test. So, the better a system performs, the better the result, which would be the case if you had to stomp on the throttle on the road.
Even our subjective tests had a criteria or have been categorized to provide a bit of clarity. Detailed forms were made and were then filled out by the various editors. The questions were geared to make the respondent think and then describe the many elements that make up a car which may not only be of interest but also helped add other perspectives to their analyses. For instance, recording the engine’s RPM at different speeds and situations to understand a car’s fuel efficiency reading, describing cool elements or undesirable ones, and the list goes on.
We have also added a new one that’s called the “Stability Control Test”, which as the name implies, tests the performance of a car’s stability control system. This system evolved from the Anti-locking Brake System (ABS), and just like this feature, would only be found in the top premium brand cars. But today these systems can be found in most carseven the more humble of brands or the smallest of sizes.
Essentially, each of the four brakes can activate independently and even the intensity or brake force can vary independently. The car’s computer system and its many sensors use this ability to help keep the car stable and easier to control when it gets out of line. It may not sound like much but it is the kind of thing that you hope you’d never need. But, when it does get activated, it can make the crucial difference a manufacturer’s spec sheet, and this may not necessarily reflect its performance on actual road use. So we have set a criteria that would infuse some real-world input into the tests: all performance tests were done with two passengers, air conditioning on, and fuel laden. Acceleration tests were done without torque braking starts, which means we didn’t step on the brakes and throttle, then release the brakes on “take off ”— we simply floored the throttle. This way, the results included between just getting a big scare or getting seriously hurt… or worse.
Naturally, such a complex system will vary in sophistication and effectiveness, and this is why we came up with this new test. For this test we get the car to basically do a high speed lane change. Each car was driven at 80km/h down a single lane and is made to swerve into the left lane through a six meter gap without stepping on the brake pedal. As it commences, you can actually hear the brakes engaging and transferring from one side to the other by itself. The better systems can do this without the body oscillating or swaying as it exits to the left lane, thus keeping the car stable and within the left side of the lane. A poor system would cause the car to make three big sways and would be unable to keep it within the left side of the lane. The intensity and number of sways will vary depending on the sophistication of the system, so suffice to say, less or no sways and less intense sways are better.
Of course, these tests were complemented by the editors’ combined years of immersed experience on the field, having thoroughly driven and tested a vast variety of cars in virtually every make and model. Though undeniably, we totally enjoy what we do and so we do it as best we can, but mainly to provide you with the most comprehensive and reliable automotive information for your absolute benefit, for when you decide to take on the wheel yourself. Enjoy the C! Compact Comparo.
– Georges B. Ramirez, Senior Editor
The Report Cards Are In
It’s tricky business testing and comparing cars, for it takes a long time to learn to sweep personal preferences aside, to achieve and maintain a point of view with a high degree of objectivity especially if you’re practically bombarded by multimedia- print, radio, and TV ads, huge billboards, online reviews and even viral videos. Then of course you see them on the road, when they’re just freshly released and you’re not accustomed to seeing the variations in the lines and contours of the body, the gleaming paint job, the unconventional headlamps and grille, and the novelty of it standing out in traffic… you just gotta ignore all that. If you’re a motoring journalist that is.
They come with spec sheets, with data posted by its manufacturers that are as clinical as they can get, with acronyms you’ve got to be able to decipher- PS, HP, Nm, Lb/ft, ABS, DSC, TDCi, VVTi, and the list goes on. They’re combined with a special write-up about the car, usually filled with superlatives, and totally devoid of negatives; they serve as the cars’ bio data and curriculum vitae rolled into one, that you can and should only refer to, to a certain degree.
Cars, when ignited to life by a driver, become animate things, and being literally made up of thousands of parts put together in varying ways by different manufacturers with plants situated in different parts of the world, you can expect countless variations, however tiny or huge, in terms of how they finally operate under your control. No matter if the specifications are identical on paper with regard to their engine displacement, drivetrain configuration, etc., they will always vary surprisingly, in many ways to a significant degree, especially if you drive all of them in one category, one after the other, in continuous succession.
We’ve known that for a while, but the exciting fact is, the differences and results will never cease to amaze us even if we’ve been doing this for years. Welcome to the C! Magazine Compact Car Comparo. Despite what we’ve come to know based on the brochures, product briefings press releases and professional opinions of our peers, we took it upon ourselves to conduct a battery of rigorous tests on eight of the latest compact cars available. Though we respect the information fed to us by the manufacturers, the data coming from that information is based on testing that’s usually conducted within the most ideal conditions, i.e. far-fetched from real-world everyday conditions the average schmoe encounters on a daily basis, that are affected by nuances brought about by varying road conditions, weather changes, additional passengers and such. Still, we tried our very best to bring about consistency in our testing, with the most precision-crucial procedures executed by our Senior Editor Georges Ramirez of the renowned Ramirez family of professional racers and advanced driving instructors. Yes, with serious emphasis on consistency.
Combined with our own extensive seat time with each car, we submitted our measured findings, and carefully assessed opinions with regard to both the objective and subjective aspects of the tests. We discussed and deliberated, and deliberated some more, to make certain that we arrived at the most reliably conclusive results to share to you. You may find that your opinions may vary from ours, but we’re confident that you’ll find our final testing results quite useful. For by supplying you with our findings, we’re equipping you with valuable information that’d help you make a final purchasing decision or recommendation with confidence. And knowing we’ve done you that service is what’ll make us sleep better at night, and wake up with a little more enthusiasm for the work we do. Cheers, and enjoy the C! Compact Car Comparo!
– Ardie O. Lopez
Toyota Altis 1.6V
- Maynard M. Marcelo – It’s got a roomy interior and boot space, surprisingly good level of refinement and performance. The most well rounded of the bunch, made evident by being the best seller in the category, which is why we have both the 1.6 and the 2.0 here. Clunky door sound when shut though, but that’s just me nitpicking.
- Ardie O. Lopez – Not only that, I wish they’d included the 2-lamp LED with auto leveling like the one on the 2.0. I’m glad though that it has dual airbags, ABS and EBD for safety. The efficiency you get with the CVT from a 4-speed automatic is so much better that it clocked over 18 kilometers per liter.
- Georges B. Ramirez – It passed most tests with flying colors, and has uncompromising resale value. It also out-performed other rivals, both with equal and larger displacements.
Ford Focus 2.0 Sport
- Nicolas A. Calanoc – Easy to achieve a good level of fuel efficiency when you need it even in usual stop and go traffic in the city, really fun to drive hard when you want to. This is one of the two cars in this field that has a dual clutch.
- Maynard M. Marcelo – But you can’t torque brake it. No fun.
- Nicolas A. Calanoc – Yeah but it’s a compromise for fuel efficiency and everyday driveability. Buttons were a bit cluttered.
- Angel S. Rivero – Yeah it was a bit. I get how it tends to look busy, but all that translates to technology like its Active Park Assist and Active City Stop, which is unique to its class.
Hyundai Elantra 1.6S
- Francis G. Pallarco – Even without a body kit, rear spoiler and such, the Elantra is quite pleasing to look at and drive.
- Angel S. Rivero – I wish we had the one with the bigger engine at the time of testing. The 1.6L is ample, but you know you can get more out of the 1.8L.
- Georges B. Ramirez – This one felt a little heavy and was a bit sluggish to drive, plus it lacked stability control.
- Gelzon F. de la Cruz – True, but despite its age, it keeps up with recent times. It’s still a looker, and it now comes with HID headlamps and LEDs around it. Plus, it’s good value for its price tag that’s just a tad over P1M.
- Ardie O. Lopez – Too bad the 1.8L variant was unavailable at the time of testing, we would’ve had a different set of feedback.
Mazda3 Speed with Bose
- Maynard M. Marcelo – I’m digging the bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling, but I just know I’ll get tired of the body graphics in a short time.
- Nicolas A. Calanoc – The unit we tested was actually flown in from Thailand. Though the body kit and the wheels will be available here, the stickers stay in Thailand. Besides, what do you have against racing stripes?!
- Ardie O. Lopez – Stripes or not, it trumps the competition in generally every spec sheet aspect, add to that great handling wrapped in such a handsome exterior, what’s not to like?
- Georges B. Ramirez – Not a big fan of the immovable 7-inch touch screen that doesn’t double as a rear camera viewer, but it does work well as a DVD player with Bluetooth capability
- Ardie O. Lopez – It’s hard not to be biased but as a sound guy, it’s the only one of the group with a whopping 9-speaker BOSE system
Honda Civic 2.0 EL Mugen
- Ardie O. Lopez It’s like an honor student who made it as captain of the football varsity team — almost annoying from acing every good quality you’d look for in a compact sedan — responsive and precise handling, smooth comfortable ride, and it’s quite a looker too.
- Francis G. Pallarco – But it’s a MUGEN Civic! Along with the HID headlights with auto leveling, it was the best performer in the stability control test. That’s got to count for something.
- Angel S. Rivero – I love the way the instruments in the cockpit are oriented towards the driver. It’s extremely ergonomic, superb cabin architecture is a plus, and also extremely comfortable. It’s got great suspension, very responsive in stop-and-go and fuel-efficient. Mugen price is a tad painful.
Nissan Sylphy 1.8L
- Nicolas A. Calanoc – If you’re looking for the most limousine-like experience in this group, it has to be this car. It’s so swathed with comfort that people who like fun drives may feel detached from the road.
- Georges B. Ramirez – Yeah, so soft that it leaves a noisy and stressful experience around the track.
- Angel S. Rivero – Well of course it will, it wasn’t meant for the track. But it’s no pushover either. It’s a comfortable automobile that has a premium cabin experience. It’s a Nissan, so the air conditioning is already cooler by reputation. Great low-end grunt for stop and go driving, and the Xtronic CVT offers good traction at low revs.
Toyota Altis 2.0V
- Angel S Rivero – Over the 1.6 sibling, it’s got paddle shifters, upgraded headlights, and an 8-way driver side power seat, similar to that of the Camry.
- Ardie O. Lopez – But that’s comparing it to the 1.6. I was surprised that Toyota delivered an average infotainment system; it was just a one bar LCD display, even for the highest trim. It’s a much better Altis, but it doesn’t have anything that really makes it stand out from all the other compacts in the market.
- Nicolas A. Calanoc – For a car that was made for everyday practicality, it can sure drive hard in a sporty way. I like the styling as well, from the body the body flares to the stock alloy rims in comes with. I can only imagine if they had a TRD variant for this.
BYD GS-i 1.5L Ti
- Maynard M. Marcelo – So far it’s the best Chinese-branded automobile I’ve test-driven. It’s a leap closer to the prevailing benchmark in the compact class.
- Ardie O. Lopez – It has some handling quirks that signify it’s “not quite there yet”. For example, on stop and go traffic it tends to make you rubberneck when you bring it to a full stop. There also seems to be a throttle lag that gives you an acceleration surge the moment you let go of the brakes in some situations.
- Georges B. Ramirez – Just to be fair, let it be known it’s got the most airbags at 6, the most speakers at 10, and has two cameras: one on its rear, and the other on the front right corner. And stability wise, it did pretty well.
Comparo Field Data
Here at a glance, in no particular order, are the “set cards” of the 8 Compact cars we’ve thoroughly tested on this special Comparo that provide you with each car’s engine specs, power rating, top speed, and sticker price. If only it were as easy as flitting through these to fairly judge a car and make sound decisions as to which one trumps all the others, identify that in proper order, and confidently point out which one merits your hard-earned money. But that would be leaving out the best part.
You see, if we evaluate and judge any one of these cars by standards from, say, just ten years ago, the results would simply go through the roof, and some of us would probably say we’re dealing with wizardry or alien technology. But we know that these cars are the products of billions of Dollars in research and development, the results of the collaboration between the sharpest minds in the industry and decades of combined expert manufacturing experience, so our ranking of the cars here are done with respect to those facts, and were not in any way taken lightly. We’ve put in the time, to make decisions worthy of your trust. It’s been an amazing experience conducting the Comparo and coming up with the results for you as it’s been for several years already, and we’re so looking forward to get started with the next. We hope you had a blast.