In recent years, the Ayala Group, one of the country’s oldest and most respected consortiums, has made a serious push into transportation and mobility. While the conglomerate has interests in banking and finance, real-estate, leisure / tourism, commercial and industrial projects, as well as telco, it has always played second fiddle in the automotive industry despite being stakeholders at Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. and Isuzu Philippines Corporation.
But all that has changed.
First was the Ayala Group’s acquisition of the Volkswagen brand, followed by KIA Motors, and finally, Maxus. On the two-wheeled front, the group has also acquired KTM Motorcycles.
The pandemic hasn’t been kind to the motoring industry, but it continues to grow and flourish despite the odds and thanks to the Ayala Group’s extensive network (and some say deep pockets), their brands continue to thrive. It was during the pandemic where I had a chance to sample three of their vehicles, the D60 cross-over, T60 pick-up and the G50 MPV. Unfortunately, because of the timing of the lend-outs, I wasn’t able to drive them as extensively as I would have preferred. But I am happy to report that the Ayalas did their research well and picked an excellent Chinese brand to bring to the Philippines.
It all seems to make sense: Volkswagen literally translates to ‘The People’s Car,’ while KIAs are known to offer amazing style and value for money in a hip and trendy package, no doubt popularized by the country’s growing obsession for K-Dramas where the cars often play a prominent role, and finally, Maxus, a China-brand but one that traces its roots in the British Auto Industry. Clearly, the Ayala Group wants to provide affordable mass motoring accessible to all Filipinos while avoiding the cookie-cutter ‘me-too’ pattern.
The T60 is interesting, because it copies the ASEAN pick-up truck formula to a T, but falls a bit short on polish, refinement and style. But the substantial savings compared to a Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu or Mitsubishi makes it a very compelling option. There’s a solid 2.8 later turbodiesel engine producing 148hp and 363 Newton-Meters of torque. It’s all mated to a 6-speed manual or automatic in 4X2 or 4X4 guise (I had the 4X4), an 800mm flood wading depth for all variants, and starts at P998,000 for the 4X2 manual, stretching all the way to P1.328 million for the fully-loaded 4X4 automatic. It also comes with dual front airbags, ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control, ISOFIX child seat tethers, and a 10-inch LCD screen with Apple CarPlay. It drives decent, but I noticed that at low speeds, the transmission is clunky / jerky especially when crawling in traffic, and the steering effort is heavy but lacks feel. Nonetheless, the T60 feels solid and secure and with its 5-year/100,000 kilometer warranty, you are confident it will be reliable for many years of faithful service.
If the T60 is the workhorse suited for work / business, the G50 MPV is the perfect family mover. While MPVs are considered to be a French invention at the turn of the millennium, Maxus’ example is an excellent interpretation of the French formula. There’s adequate space inside for seven inside, although the black leather interior with a somewhat garish red stripe is a bit over the top. Thankfully, the 12.3 inch LCD screen is put to good use via a panoramic camera, handy when maneuvering the G50 in tight spots. It rides well, and me and my wife were able to take it down south for some house hunting in the suburbs. The 1.5 liter direct-injected gasoline engine is turbocharged, delivering a surprising 167hp and 250 Newton-Meters of torque, via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels. It is also Euro-6 emissions compliant, as with all of Maxus’ gasoline engine offerings. Whilst ride is good, the transmission is somewhat lost and confused in part-throttle driving; you expect a slow but steady crawl when you slot it into drive, but forward motion is inconsistent. The secret to driving the G50 is with a consistent throttle input as slight nuances of your foot flexing seems to confuse the DCT. Out on the highway, and it rides and drives well. Pricing starts at Php1.179 million all the way to P1.398 million for the top-model variant I had, in a nice stylish shade of purple.
The third Maxus vehicle I tested was actually my favorite: the D60 cross-over. Amongst all of Maxus’ line-up of vehicles, the D60 is the most polished, most refined, and most pleasing to drive. This was actually the first Maxus I drove, and it set a relatively high bar for other Maxus products. The D60 shares its powertrain and general layout with the G50 MPV, but in a more stylish cross-over package. It drives excellently, is super smooth across poorly surfaced roads, and drives well on the highway with a minimum of tire and wind noise at legal speeds. And as with the G50, fuel efficiency is amazing: as I had it during one of the worst periods of 2021’s pandemic lockdowns, where traffic was non-existent, I average 12km/liter in the city, and an easy 19km/liter on the highway, without even making unconscious effort to drive efficiently. ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control, ISOFIX tethers, and four airbags help deliver even more value with the D60’s pricing, starting at P1.240 million all the way to P1.338 million.
In the future, I’d like to be able to spend more time with Maxus’ vehicle line-up because spec-wise, they deliver excellent value-for-money, and are exactly what the general motoring public needs: a safe, reliable and affordable means of transportation, backed up by a legitimate organization that will do the brand justice in terms of long-term after-sales support and ownership experience.
Only then can Maxus truly flourish, based on the positive experience of the brave early adopters of the brand.