Sub-compact Crossover Wars: The choices from China
Mark Policarpio · Dec 7, 2022 02:30 PM
The fastest-growing segment in the Philippines is arguably the one most confusing – the Subcompact Crossover SUV. What even is it? It’s a minuscule SUV based on an already tiny Hatchback. Think high-riding Toyota Yaris.
So why is it in demand? Simple: It’s an SUV minus the size. It affords people the Adventurer lifestyle without sacrificing practicality, ease of drivability, and fuel consumption.
No surprise, companies that cashed in on the trend mostly come from China, a country that’s effectively built on chasing trends.
One of the most popular options in the segment is the MG ZS.
Despite the British name and connection, the ZS is manufactured by SAIC in China for the Philippine market, and thanks to some clever marketing and market-busting spec sheets, the affordable SUV effectively became the symbol of MG's rise in the Philippines, with the company quickly becoming a common sight on many roads.
Back in 2018, having an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system was a big thing. And the ZS quickly capitalized on this trend. Along with a disarming price of ₱818,888 during its launch, it became a hot item versus other more expensive subcompact crossovers of the time.
The newer MG ZST is available in a 1.3-liter turbo guise with updated looks and features.
It has a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree view camera, electronic parking brake, and a 10-inch high-definition touchscreen infotainment system.
MG's subcompact hero has come of age with 163 PS and 230 Nm on tap and a six-speed automatic that trumps the base-model ZS' four-speed.
Geely Coolray (₱1,073,000 - ₱1,269,000)
Almost a year after the MG ZS's introduction, one of the most popular entries for this segment, the Geely Coolray, arrived to much fanfare.
Effectively kicking off the subcompact craze in the Philippines with its millennial-attracting styling and 179 PS Civic SiR-beating 1.5-liter Turbo-3 and 7-speed Dual Clutch auto, the Coolray became the darling of many young buyers.
It came with all the top-shelf trimmings you couldn’t get at around one million Philippine Pesos. Thanks to all of its features, like a 360-degree camera, cruise control, active park assist, blind spot detection, smart keyless entry, and remote start, people bought them in droves.
With Geely not holding back on harping its access to Volvo engine, transmission, and chassis technology, the Coolray also jumpstarted the Chinese brand's entry into the country.
The subcompact crossover's brisk sales powered the demand to open a surprising number of dealerships nationwide.
Also from China
As a result, every other Chinese manufacturer followed in the footsteps of the ZS and Coolray. Chery with the ₱840,000Tiggo 2 Pro, JAC with the ₱720,000 - ₱770,000 S2, and GAC with the ₱888,000 – ₱1,058,000 GS3 – all subcompact crossovers with all the trimmings of an SUV but without the bulk and damning fuel consumption.
The trend even kicked off the return of Changan under a new distributor to the market with the ₱999,000 – ₱1,169,000 CS35 Plus. All these brands are enjoying a nearly unrivaled market share that would make early China brand distributors from two decades ago envious of the success that eluded them.
Not to say that the Japanese, Americans, and Europeans aren’t joining the trend, but it’s safe to say that the Chinese have this market on lock. There’s no real need to differentiate between them since they’re all similarly equipped, save for maybe a few 360-degree cameras here or there, so it’s your choice whichever one appeals to you aesthetically.
Should you buy one?
If this is your first and only vehicle, yes.
These subcompact crossovers from China make way too much sense not to be considered.
For around ₱1,200,000, you get features like rear cross-traffic monitoring, blind spot monitoring, 360-degree cameras, and even automatic parking.
Power levels hover very close to those you get in heavier SUVs, but they have much better performance off the line and on the highway because they are smaller and lighter.
All you need to consider now is the accessibility of dealerships and service centers in your neck of the woods as well as parts accessibility, as some Chinese brands still struggle with this despite the rapid expansion they have experienced in the last five years.
With a use case as broad as the Pacific Ocean and a price range hovering around the low million peso mark, you can’t lose.
Mark has been into cars since he was in kindergarten, and he carried that into his college life studying as an Engineer. His outlook on life is the same as his outlook on cars - "When in doubt, power out!"