10. Chevrolet Spark (PHP 694,888 – PHP 734,888)
The Chevrolet Spark has been an enigma for car buyers in the Philippines.
Not popular enough to survive, yet still not dead in the market yet, this pint-sized family car does offer quite a bit for not a lot of money, at least in a manner of speaking.
The Spark may be the most expensive car on our list, but the reasoning behind it is that they can offer a lot more kit to the average buyer, but again, this is where the Spark becomes an enigma.
Unlike some of the other cars on this list, the Spark offers projector headlights, speed-sensing door locks, six speakers, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, even in its base trim. But weirdly, no trip computer to show valuable data like range, fuel economy, and distance traveled.
Under the hood, the Spark follows the primary trend on this list of 1.5 and below. With a 1.4-Liter inline-four pumping out 99 PS and 128 Nm of torque, the Spark is no slouch, and entirely on par with everyone else, it is paired to a 5-speed manual. What makes it weird, though, is that it only gets a paltry 12 kilometers per liter on the highway.
Still, it's quite a lot of car for the money. And because not many people buy it, the Spark is quite the standout in local parking lots. Indeed, finding it in a crowded multi-story will not be difficult.
9. Toyota Vios (PHP 686,000 – PHP 985,000)
One of the most popular sedans in the Philippines, the Toyota Vios barely scratches its way into our Top 10.
Of course, being the darling of the sedan market, the range goes from basic to bling, with prices reaching as high as 1,100,000 Philippine Pesos. At that point, you get the GR-S body kit, some sweet exclusive wheels, and every feature save for the kitchen sink – which will probably cost you extra. Eight extra airbags, touchscreen infotainment, Android Auto and Apple Carplay are all readily available to the discerning buyer, should they be willing to part with the right amount of money.
Under the hood of the Vios is either a 1.3-Liter inline-four that makes 99 horsepower and 123 Nm or a 1.5-Liter inline-four that produces 107 PS and 140 Nm of torque. Those are not bad figures for one of the cheapest cars in the country. The downside of these engines is that great they may be; they are reigned in by either a five-speed manual (huzzah!) or a CVT. Before the enthusiasts deflate, the CVT comes with selectable gear simulations, but that's like ordering a vegan tofu steak – it just feels wrong to claim it tastes precisely like a porterhouse.
The variant on our list is the Base spec Vios, commonly used to make up taxi fleets and company vehicles. While it may be cheap, it's pretty bare, which makes our suggested model the slightly more expensive Vios J 1.3 Manual, priced at 712,000 Philippine Pesos.
8. Volkswagen Santana (PHP 686,000 – PHP 948,000)
Quite a left-field choice for most buyers, the Volkswagen Santana was offered by Volkswagen Philippines for one reason: to take on the Toyota Vios. Did it succeed? Not entirely – the Vios is still the King in the segment, but the Santana is quite an attractive alternative.
First, the Santana is a bit longer than the Vios, measuring out at 4,475mm compared to the Vios' 4,425mm. That 50 mm difference may not sound like much, but it pays dividends in the rear seat, where passengers are treated to much more legroom. The downside of that length is that the Santana weighs slightly more, tipping the scales at 1,100 kilograms, while the Vios weighs in at 1,075 kilograms.
Does the Santana have the power to motivate it faster, then? No, not really. The 1.4-Liter MPI Inline-four only makes 90 PS and 132 Nm of torque. The 1.5-Liter engine in higher trim levels makes more, at 111 PS and 145 Nm of torque, but for more money, of course.
Still, the People's car of Germany does stand for build quality and a level of refinement not typically found at this price point. Is it for everyone? No, but that doesn't mean it can't try.
7. MG 5 Sedan (PHP 658,000 - PHP 848,888)
MG's cheapest offering may well be one of the best in this list, thanks to how well-rounded a package it offers to the Filipino buyer. It may not have the foothold of the likes of Toyota or Honda, but MG's market share has steadily grown since its introduction all those years ago. Now, it's only a matter of time before MG becomes a household name.
The cheapest version of the MG 5 Sedan, the MG 5 MT Style, is powered by a 1.5-Liter inline-four engine making 114 PS and 150 Nm of torque, making it the most powerful car on this list.
It is also pretty well equipped, coming standard with variable Electronic power steering, Automatic projector headlights with auto-leveling, Cornering brake control, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, Touchscreen infotainment, and even a reversing camera. Sadly, no Android Auto or Apple Carplay, but one can make do with Bluetooth connectivity. Still, one will not look at the features list and think, "Too bare for my taste."
Overall, the MG 5 does pose an interesting question: Will I buy a relatively new and unknown brand to get great features at an even greater price, or do I go the safe route and buy a Toyota Vios?
6. Honda Brio (PHP 650,000 – PHP 808,000)
Quite a surprising entry into the list is the Honda Brio. Honda is not a cheap brand by any means. Honda does not skimp on quality, nor do they skimp on performance, so how they made one of the most affordable cars in the Philippines is already quite a feat.
Powered by a 1.2-Liter i-VTEC inline-four mated to a five-speed manual, the Brio is one of the lowest-powered vehicles, making 90 PS and 110 Nm of torque. Is that a lot? No. Is it enough? Yes, since the car only weighs 954 kilograms, the lightest car in this lineup.
Inside the Brio, it's typical bargain Japanese city car – plastic everywhere, but that's not bad. Plastic is easy to clean, if a little scratchy, and hard to destroy. It's also quite spacious inside, and with the second row down, the cargo room is positively cavernous.
So, where did Honda cheap out on? It certainly wasn't on the features list because the only actual differences between the base model Brio and the mid-range one are the steel wheels, the power folding side mirror with signal repeaters, speed sensing door locks, the vanity mirrors, and the single DIN radio. They aren't absolute must-haves, so buyers only lose out on that bit of convenience. It must be magic.
5. Changan Alsvin (PHP 629,000 – PHP 739,000)
One of the newest contenders in the Philippine market is the Changan Alsvin. Hard-to-pronounce name aside, the Alsvin is quite a smart-looking car, and for 629,000 Philippine Pesos, not a bad value to the discerning buyer. To be sure, though, discern we shall.
Powered by a 1.4-Liter inline-four engine and mated to a five-speed manual, the Alsvin packs a hefty 100 PS and 135 Nm of torque under the hood. Pretty standard fare for the list, but nothing to scoff at, for sure.
Fun fact, the higher trim Alsvins also get a five-speed transmission, but of the Dual Clutch variety. Five-speed DCTs are quite odd, but pairing a small, slightly anemic engine with a smooth-shifting transmission is like putting butter on toast – we don't know who thought of it, but we're thankful they did.
One of the great things about the Alsvin is that even in the base trim level, you don't lose out on the things that matter. You get a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a reversing camera, and steering wheel audio controls. You miss out on lumbar support for the driver, a center armrest, a sunroof, and cruise control. You also don't get traction control, hill descent assist, blind spot monitoring, or parking sensors.
Still, the Alsvin is a welcome addition to the market, if only to make the other players rethink their equipment strategies.
4. Suzuki Swift DZire (PHP 609,000 - PHP 819,000)
Suzuki is a brand that has languished behind its bigger Japanese brothers. Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi have dominated the market, but Suzuki's like the quirky little brother trying to keep up. Not for not trying, though, as Suzuki has some very good, yet sometimes bizarre, offerings.
The Swift DZire is one of these excellent yet weird offerings. Powered by a 1.2-Liter inline-four engine making 83 PS and 113 Newton-meters of torque, the Swift DZire is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. But weirdly enough, the same transmission is found in the automatic, or as Suzuki calls it, the "Automated Gear Selector" or AGS. The AGS is an electronic controller that engages and disengages the clutch and changes gears for you or allows you control should you desire it.
Inside, the Swift DZire is about as well-appointed as you'd expect for a car that's this cheap. Plastic fantastic with swathes of fabric. This makes the interior hardy and easy to wipe down if it gets dirty. No fancy features here, just a simple single DIN radio. Manually operated windows, though Power windows would be nice. But again, weirdly, the DZire gets rear air conditioning vents, a feature usually not found in small cars like this.
Overall, for a hair over 600,000 Philippine Pesos, you can't go wrong with the Swift DZire.
3. Toyota Wigo (PHP 573,000 – PHP 705,000)
While nothing in Toyota's stable can match the Vios in market share, the Wigo certainly comes close.
As Toyota's smallest vehicle, the Wigo isn't powerful or spacious. Powered by a 1.0-Liter inline three-cylinder engine and mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, there's only 66 PS and 89 Nm of torque to motivate the Wigo. Good thing it's not a heavy vehicle, weighing only 880 kilograms; it is the lightest among all those on the list.
While some would call the interior of the Wigo cramped, it is unpretentious in size, being quite agile on city streets. That comes in handy when dealing with Manila's horrendous traffic, where the frugal engine effortlessly reaches an in-city fuel consumption figure of around 10 kilometers per liter, hitting 22 on the highway.
Features? The Wigo doesn't know the meaning of the word. An essential interior comes with a basic radio and air conditioning system. Higher trim levels are better equipped, though, with a touchscreen radio and digital air conditioning controls.
Spartan? Perhaps, though charming in its way. No distractions are still a good thing, though your passengers may disagree, and that's where the Wigo's charm lies – its simplicity.
2. Kaicene Honor S (PHP 515,000* - PHP 585,000)
Kaience's lineup has very little to complicate it. There's a minivan, an MPV, and a delivery truck. Some may consider it comedic, but for a Filipino who may be running a small business, that's all you need.
Kaicene's cheapest practical offering (we'll circle back to the practical part) is the Honor S, a 7-seater minivan that they sell for as little as 515,000 Philippine Pesos. Although it's the only seven-seater on the list, the variant that sells for that much is only the cargo variant – useful for the small business owner but not so much for the family.
The cheapest version of Kaicene's Honor S with rear seats is around 585,000 Philippine Pesos, and for that, you get four individual seats for the driver and three other passengers and a bench seat for three more in the very back. All models get dual sliding doors and a 1.5-Liter inline-four engine pumping out 105 PS and 145 Nm of torque.
These cargo-van-turned-people-haulers are usually pretty spartan with a simple radio and roll-down windows. Strangely enough, the Honor S comes equipped with a touchscreen radio, reversing sensors, and a camera, putting it right at odds with every other semi-premium product on this list.
As such, the Kaicene Honor S deserves its position as our first runner-up.
1. Suzuki S-Presso (PHP 563,000 – PHP 588,000)
At the number one spot on this list, we have yet another Suzuki; only this one is potentially the smallest car on sale in the Philippines today.
The Suzuki S-Presso is billed as a supermini SUV, taking on the likes of, well, nothing else really.
Powered by a 1.0-Liter inline-three engine and mated to a five-speed manual, the S-Presso packs 68 PS and 90 Nm of torque under its petit hood. While that may sound lacking, the lightweight body does mean it can still get up and go – whether or not it will like it is a different issue.
When it first launched, the S-Presso barely had a radio. However, Suzuki has fitted it with a touchscreen radio and Bluetooth, so Spotify is only a click and tap away. Other features? Not many, but they were never things you needed when driving anyway.
And with that, we've outlined 10 of the cheapest cars you can buy in the Philippines. Going through it, you realize now that cheap doesn't necessarily mean horrible anymore. Now, you get interesting features, impressive fuel economy, and comfort beyond anything from the '90s or '80s. Who knows, maybe in the near future, even the most budget-conscious Filipinos will be able to enjoy something as commonplace as autonomous driving.
BONUS: Wuling Mini EV (650,000 – 850,000)
Something that may have escaped your mind would be Electric vehicles, and with good reason. The only genuinely available EVs in the Philippines are prohibitively expensive, with possibly the exception of the Nissan Kicks Hybrid.
The Wuling Mini EV, however, is a full EV that is available, ish, for just 650,000 Philippine pesos. The ish is because, at the moment, Wuling Philippines has yet to consolidate its assets and organize its dealership network.
You can, technically, buy it, but only at their warehouse, and it's anyone's guess who will service it. Buying one right now might be a slight gamble, but that's how it goes with new technology. While the official representatives do claim they can handle all maintenance services, those services are limited to Metro Manila residents. Buy at your own risk if you live anywhere outside that radius.
What you get for the money, though, is an electric vehicle that is fully road-legal, with about 30 horsepower on tap and a maximum realistic range of 100 kilometers from a 13.9 kWh battery pack.
Benefits? Your average fill-up cost is about 200 per full charge, and there are virtually no moving parts in the motor to worry about. It's also pretty agile, thanks to its narrow body and low weight. Pitfalls? You'd be limited to the city and can't take it on journeys outside Metro Manila's limits. As a two-door vehicle, it's not very spacious, and though they claim it to be a four seater, you're better off keeping those rear seats folded away for the extra cargo space - or just cargo space since with the seats up, there is no trunk anyway.
Should you buy one now? Probably not, but who knows? Maybe all it needs is a chance.