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Hatchback or sedan?

Hatchback or sedan?

Botchi Santos

We take a quick look at two very popular, very accomplished cars with very different aesthetics and body styles

After what COVID has done to our lives, cars have truly become an essential means of safe, personal and convenient transportation, especially for people with co-morbidities, people who travel far distances regularly, and people who have far less regular schedules as well. Indeed, a car is often right there among our top purchases in life.

Thanks to the widespread availability of cars, a huge range of choices, and a banking and finance industry that supports the automotive industry, owning a car has never been easier. All that’s left is to actually go into a dealership and test drive the cars in your list. Cars are after all, experiential: you need to experience the sensation of being in one, and driving in one.

There is no one single right or wrong car. It should answer your rational, as well as your emotional preferences. The aesthetics play an important role in our initial preference of cars, and we take a quick look at two very popular, very accomplished cars with very different aesthetics and body styles as interesting examples.

Honda City Hatchback RS

The Honda City Hatchback RS replaces the now discontinued Honda Jazz in our local market. It’s a shame indeed, but the City is definitely not without its charms. The City has a lower roofline which makes it more aerodynamic and less mini MPV-like compared to the Jazz, but trades some playful youthfulness from its predecessor with a more subdued, restrained and sophisticated styling cues and interior ambiance.

Power comes from a twin-cam L15FZ i-vtec engine that delivers 120ps and 140 Newton-Meters of torque driving the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission. It’s one peppy performer, and feels far better built and more solid than the last Honda Jazz that was offered. It retains of course Honda’s ULT+ seating (utility, long and tall seating plus rest positions, the last if which transform the interior to one comfy big bed). And it’s pretty safe as subcompact or not: six airbags are standard on the sole RS variant, plus ABS-EBD brakes and ISOFIX tethers for child seats. A reverse camera along with Apple CarPlay / Android Auto is included too, and the seats are covered in a side-like grippy fabric with small perforations in a contrasting red and black hue.

And as with any Honda sedan or hatch, driving is divine: the seats are perfectly supportive, the steering wheel and column can be adjusted to shoulder height with the column also adjusting for reach, a sensitive and progressive throttle to command that responsive 4-cylinder i-vtec engine, and brakes that are firm and easy to modulate. Ride is sporty, but more than complaint enough thanks to Honda’s suspension boffins spending the time to hone the ride and handling compromise.

The interior is a pleasant space to slog through a long drive, and is easy to see out of. The back seats are surprisingly very generous for my 5-foot-10 inches height while sitting behind the driver’s seat with a driver of my equal size in it. Honda definitely knows how to build generous interior spaces. You also get a vast 841 liters with the rear seats down, and a highly useable 289 liters in the hatch area with the rear seats up.

The only downside is the somewhat steep price of P1.138 million (plus an additional 20,000 for the pearl white exterior). Ultimately, it’s a hatchback and is quirkier than a traditional 3-box sedan, but it’s slightly shorter length versus it’s sedan sibling might just give it the added spunk to make a lasting impression and bring home to our garage.

Mitsubishi Mirage G4 GLS Sport 1.2 CVT

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The Mirage was long overdue for the brand, having focused on LCV based vehicles like the Strada, Montero Sport, Outlander PHEV and even the now discontinued Pajero plus the immortal L300 LCV. In fact, the Mirage G4 and its hatchback sibling the Mirage hatchback, which came a year prior are the only ‘cars’ in their line-up. No doubt, it’s a very capable car, making it a very popular choice for beginner drivers and first-time car owners thanks to its wide model range offering and low price which starts at P769,000 all the way to P962,000 for this fully loaded Sport model.

A sole engine is offered, the 3A9 all alloy 3-cylinder engine with MIVEC variable valve timing and cam phasing that’s mated to continuously variable automatic transmission that offers surprisingly good low-end grunt despite the modest 77ps and 100 Newton-meters of torque. Ride is oriented towards the soft side which may turn-off driving enthusiasts, but is actually perfect for our poorly surfaced roads. It’s got a fairly decent infotainment system as well headlined by a 7-inch screen equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus wireless connectivity, and has dual airbags, with ABS equipped brakes and ISOFIX child seat tethers. A single-zone climate control system keeps you cool, and the seats are covered in a grippy fabric that also manages to keep your backside cool and comfy. It’s basic but truthfully, has everything you will need for daily driving duties. The seating position is more upright, to allow for increased legroom in the back which surprisingly fits me decently, enough for moderately long drives.

The front fascia has been updated with Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield Design Theme, and the 15-inch wheels with 185/55R15 tires do add a hint of sportiness to the Mirage. On the open road, the Mirage’s small size more than makes up for its modest output. With its peppy engine and a CVT with revised algorithm (it felt a lot more ‘eager’ to rev and hold the RPM rather than ‘upshift’ immediately and constantly thus lowering the RPM and putting it out of its meaty powerband compared to the previous Mirages I have driven), it allows you to squeeze through gaps most cars wouldn’t even bother to try, and of course parking this cutey is a breeze in tight urban spots. And to answer the perennially asked question of whether it can reach Tagaytay or Baguio, yes it can as I have personally proven it in the past, with three passengers / four aboard with luggage from Manila to Baguio.

The trick is maintaining its momentum. Mitsubishi claims the Mirage consumes only 4.6 liters per 100 kilometers on the highway, verified by the DOE. That’s a shade under 22 kilometers per liter. With my drive, I averaged a decent 12.8km / liter in the city full of traffic and short drives. Still a welcome relief with high fuel prices at the pumps! As a first car that is easy to handle and affordable to maintain, the Mirage offers honest-to-goodness motoring mobility at an affordable price with more than decent features. And being a sedan, it’s far more appreciated than its quirky hatchback sibling. The Mirage’s sum, is truly greater than all of its parts combined.

What should you get? A sedan or a hatchback? A test drive will answer that!