Comfort, safety, and performance. These are our picks for the budget conscious.

So you’re ready to purchase your first new vehicle, and you’ve saved up enough for a downpayment or maybe you want to just buy it outright with your hard-earned cash. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re looking at your first ever vehicle. It’s a hard decision, as you want a vehicle that will not only be dependable and transport you from point A to point B, but will also keep you comfortable and safe, leaving you to enjoy car ownership.

For this article, we narrowed down a selection of vehicles that won’t break the P700,000 mark. We’ve also decided that a vehicle that is cheap or easy on the wallet isn’t the main factor; it’s value for money, and various considerations of creature comforts, conveniences, and safety. Cheap is good, but being smart about it is even better. You honestly will get your money’s worth with this selection of compacts and subcompact cars, and all that’s left is for you to test drive one of them and sign on the dotted line.

This is the first of two Toyotas on this list, and the Wigo happens to also be the cheapest on this list. Cheap doesn’t mean it lacks some essential features, however, as the Wigo, even at its base manual transmission variant doesn’t miss out on a pair of airbags, ABS, centralized door locks, power windows, and even a USB port for charging and playing your tunes. Its 66 hp and 89 Nm 1.0L gasoline engine is perfect for urban environments, and you can expect good fuel economy from the 3 cylinder mill. You’ll also find that legroom is surprisingly good despite its city car dimensions.

Suzuki’s entry into the subcompact car category comes in the form of the Celerio. Available in two trims with only the transmission being different (you pay an extra P40,000 for CVT convenience), the Celerio packs dual airbags, ABS, rear parking sensors, a touchscreen interface, and power windows and mirrors. It’s a neatly packaged vehicle that strongly matches the Wigo in terms of features, so it’ll all come down to which one appeals to you the most. An added bonus is that it has great cargo capacity thanks to split folding rear seats. The Celerio is powered by a 1.0L 3 cylinder gasoline engine that makes 67 hp and 90 Nm of torque.

The Mirage G4 builds on the Mirage hatchback and adds a trunk. The space of the Mirage G4 is impressive at this price point, and it certainly provides ample legroom for all passengers. Dual airbags and a touchscreen interface with bluetooth and USB are standard, and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) with ABS is there to keep you safe. The Mirage G4 is powered by a peppy 1.2L gasoline engine that’s good for 76 hp and 100 Nm of torque.

Surprise, surprise. The JAC S1 is the only crossover at this low a price point, and if the S2 that we drove is any indication of the ride quality and features, we assumed that the S1 would also deliver. And it does. The single variant of the S1 is a manual transmission 1.3L engine that makes 99 hp and 126 Nm of torque. The feature list is one of the most comprehensive at this price point, with rear parking sensors, ISOFIX mounting points for child seats, a floating touchscreen interface, speed sensing door locks, ABS with EBD, keyless entry, an alarm system, bluetooth connectivity, and steering wheel audio controls. It pretty much ticks all the boxes on paper, and we like that. 

On its third generation, the Kia Picanto has definitely grown into its European styling extremely well. Despite its small size, the Picanto sports aggressive exterior lines and new interior touches. There’s a choice between a single 1.0L and two 1.2L variants (P61,000 more for the SL AT), each generating 67 hp and 96 Nm of torque and 84 hp and 121 Nm of torque respectively. You get a single airbag on the driver’s side with the base model, plus an immobilizer and centralized door locks.

One of the newest entries in the subcompact car category, the Suzuki Dzire drops the Swift in its name. Completely redesigned for 2018, the Suzuki Dzire offers a 1.2L gasoline engine that makes 82 hp and 113 Nm of torque. It’s a handsome looking sedan with chrome accents and sportier exterior touches. Two airbags are standard, as is ABS with EBD. You also have steering wheel mounted audio controls and a rear aircon vent for passengers. Shell out an extra P50,000 and get fog lights, a touchscreen interface, and the auto gear shift transmission system, all while keeping the budget below P700,000.

The Honda Brio is an entry-level hatchback from the well-known Japanese manufacturer, delivering versatility and better driving feel when compared to its rivals. The 1.3L engine that makes 100 hp and 127 Nm of torque is quick, especially since the Brio is light, just shy of 1,000kg. Two airbags with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution keeps things on check, and an immobilizer for extra peace of mind.

A contender for subcompact sedan of choice in the country, the Nissan Almera offers up good cabin space and trunk space. Standard features include front airbags, keyless system, brake assist, immobilizer, child protection lock plus ISOFIX anchors, and speed sensing door locks. There’s also two airbags and ABS with EBD. The base model Nissan Almera is powered by a 1.2L gasoline engine that generates 79 hp and 106 Nm of torque, with a 1.5L made available for higher variants at 99 hp and 134 Nm of torque.

One of Toyota Motor Philippines' most treasured nameplates, apart from its bigger MPV and SUV brothers, the Toyota Vios recently received a significant update for 2018. Major redesigns in exterior and interior design help keep the Vios at the top of its game. While the engine is still the same 1.3L gasoline at 98 hp and 123 Nm of torque, you’ll find that every variant comes with seven airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control, and hill start assist. Definitely a game changer in safety standards for this category.

The Chevrolet Spark is a very compelling choice in the subcompact hatchback market thanks to its refreshing design and thoughtfully appointed features. A key point is a powerful 1.4L gasoline engine, creating 99 hp and 128 Nm of torque. There’s also the inclusion of a 7-inch touchscreen system that effortlessly connects mobile devices. Two airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat mounts, and power folding mirrors are standard across the board. Added extras like traction control, fog lamps, and LED DRLs are reserved for the top trim, but even the base model provides the essentials and then some.

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