As a resident of both Metro Manila and Las Vegas, it frustrates me knowing that some of these coolest sporty cars might never touch both the Philippines (or the majority of the ASEAN market) and in the United States (or North America in general). Both countries share a passion for cars, although with very slight differences in taste and cultures. But we do share the same love and passion!
In the United States, all vehicles have to comply with the EPA, NHTSA, IIHS, DOT, CAFE, and the evilest of them all, CARB. Plus gray-market imports are almost non-existent due to their 25-year import restriction to non-federalized vehicles. That does not include the chicken tax for truck/pickup fans, but that’s another top 10 list for another time. Plus all the rage of boring crossovers, autonomous vehicles, and EVs are killing sports cars, roadsters, and the mainstream strongman, the sedans!
In the Philippines on the other hand, all vehicles have to be converted into left-hand-drive (steering on the left side of the dashboard) or else it will not be street-legal. Sure, gray-market imports may have full reign and all, but every imported vehicle are subject to 100-200% vehicle import tax (unless you’re an Overseas Foreign Worker)!!! But unlike in the United States; even with the gray-markets efforts, the selection of vehicles in the Philippines are way more limited.
Here a list of 10 cool sporty cars that are not ridiculously expensive, not impractical, and it defies a common stereotype. These vehicles may not be a dedicated sports cars per se, but they’re more fun than your usual typical crossover and pretend sporty car with body-kits and fancy badges. Also, these cars are in no particular order and as of April 2019.
Honda Civic Si Sedan or Coupe (Philippines) – The Civic RS Turbo is a lame excuse as Honda’s flagship sedan for the Civic. To add insult to injury, when it debuted, the car sat next to an Asian icon, the 1999 Civic SiR. The Civic Si is a perfect complement to the extreme Type-R hatchback.
Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE (Philippines) – The Corolla Altis is already part of the Philippine culture, what more perfect model to rival the Focus S, Mazda3, and Civic RS. Call it the Corolla Levin for all I care, the Corolla needs an exciting variant since the ultra-rare Corolla Tom’s Turbo!
Citroen’s DS Automobiles DS3 Racing (US & RP) – This French B-segment fighter is a more unique version of its cousin, the Peugeot 208. Unfortunately, the DS brand is still too new for both countries to be accustomed to. Actually, I still prefer the DS3 when it was still under Citroen.
BMW M140i (US) – It’s little too late for the only rear-wheel-drive hatchback in the globe for the United States market. It was a missed opportunity, but with the CUV craze in the US, its sad to see it go. But luckily in the Philippines, you can special order either of its 3 or 5 door models straight from Europe while supplies last!
Renault Sandero R.S. 2.0 (US & RP) – Good News! There is a performance model for the Dacia Sandero! Actually, it’s not good news because this specific Sandero is only available in Brazil. But if Renault needs a more affordable Renault model, they can just ring up Dacia in Romania and build this wonderful gem in both countries, if ever Renault touches down on either countries.
10. Toyota Yaris GRMN
While the Yaris in the U.S. of A. is basically a Mazda 2 in Scion’s clothes (the car started as a Scion iA after all), which is not much of a bad thing aside of its ‘catfish’ looks. Then in the Philippines and most of South America and Asia are stuck on the ‘smiley mouse’ treatment, affectionately called the Vios in sedan form. That form of the Yaris (XP150) would make driving a hearse more exciting. What Europe and Japan have is the Vitz (XP130) version, its Toyota’s expression of a European hatchback: quirky, versatile, affordable, and in GRMN form, fun-to-drive! GRMN stands for Gazoo Racing, Masters of Nurburgring, so this Vitz version is specifically tuned for fun! It’s just a shame that Toyota didn’t spread the hot-hatch love globally.
9. Ford Fiesta ST
Ah, the Fiesta. I’ve driven the Sixth Generation (Seventh if you live in the majority of Europe) in the States. Not just the hot ST hatch, the mainstream SE hatch (1.6L Duratec, 120hp, AT) and the simple fun SFE sedan (1.0L Ecoboost, 125hp, MT)! Unfortunately, the upcoming Seventh (or Eighth) generation will not arrive in the US because of the Ford USA’s Car Purge meaning the Taurus, Fusion (Mondeo), Focus, and of course the Fiesta are gone for the 2020 model year. Many European journo’s calls this Fiesta ST to be the best yet, sad to see that this fun little hatch will be a European-exclusive only (please correct me if I’m wrong). Sure, the Philippines will get the Fiesta eventually soon in both sedan and hatch forms. But knowing Ford Philippines will bring the blandest and cheapest models they could find (and still no Diesel models). Ford PH will keep the Mustang as their only sports car choice in the lineup, sad.
8. Volkswagen Up GTI
Vee-Dub fans and journo’s clamor the fun nature of the Up. The Up is a small, cheeky, practical, and cool for an A-segment hatch that offers both 3 and 5 door body styles, and a simple selection of 5 1-liter engines! Tune it up to GTI-spec and you will be greeted one of the best modern interpretations of the Mk.1 Golf GTI! Unfortunately, this car was never offered in both the US and RP. In the USA’s defense, the super slow sales of both the Fiat 500 and Smart ForTwo scared VW to its bones! Plus, by not offering the Polo (a B-segment fighter) in North America sealed its fate. You might say that the Up would’ve been perfect in Metro Manila’s narrow streets, but no. The previous distributor of VW Philippines didn’t even bother to import the Up, now with a new distributor (Ayala Corp.) in cahoots with Shanghai-VW bombarding the RP with mediocre, boring, and cheap models. Too bad, the Up is nearly at the end of its lifecycle by now.
7. Kia Ceed GT
Ever wish that some of the in-your-face design of the awesome Stinger GT trickle down to a more affordable package? But the Forte hatchback (Forte5/Cinco/K3) feel like somethings missing. I don’t get it why Kia keeps on separating these two C-segment hatchbacks!? But here we are, the Ceed is a Euro-only gem that is constantly evolving to punch Golfs, Astras, and Focus in their faces! Just look at it, and its wagon (SW) version is to die for! But back to the Ceed GT, since its a European-centric model the handling would be a scale-up compared to its Forte5 cousin, plus its design has a cleaner flow than the CUV-inspired looks of the Forte. While the US will get the Forte GTs in both sedan and hatch, while the Philippines will only get the sedan with no manual transmission option, boo.
6. Ford Focus ST (and I can include the RS too.)
Like the Fiesta I mentioned earlier, the Focus is part of the Ford USA’s Car Purge, so after 2020, the Focus is no more. Ford USA might be bringing a variant of the Focus called Focus Active, a Subaru XV/Crosstrek wannabe. But it will not be the same, that’s sucks. Ford USA might also offer an ST version of its newly debuted Ford Escape/Kuga CUV, what!? No thanks. The Philippines will have the Focus eventually in the future in both sedan and hatch versions. But like the Fiesta, it will be the blandest Focus version with a sprinkle of appearance trimmings here and there. Come on Ford PH, bring something to compete with Kia’s new 200hp Forte GT! And if the ST has a very slim chance of arriving in the Philippines, what more of the WRX STI killer, the RS? That might be close to impossible in my honest opinion.
5. Hyundai i30 N / Elantra GT N
Yes, the US has the Elantra GT N-Line (i30 N-Line, with 200hp) now. And yes, both the US and the Philippines (as a special order) have the Veloster N. But what about for individuals who want Hyundai’s sportiest hatch with a little bit more practicality? Enter the i30 N, also known (if ever) as the Elantra GT N. Ever since the underrated Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec (US) has the big Korean brand delivered such a competent and remarkable machine! Personally, I prefer the look of the i30 N over the Veloster N. The Veloster version looks as it tries a bit too hard and it’s a very niche car: with its asymmetrical door layout and tedious rear visibility. I’m not bagging on the Veloster N, but the i30 N is so much better in my opinion. While the US may have a very slim chance of bringing the i30 N; the Philippines on the other hand, given by their current lineup, it’s next to none.
4. Volkswagen Polo GTI
If the Up GTI is a long shot, then what about the bigger sibling? The Polo. Understandably, its B-segment size might not work in the US simply because America wants “MOAR CUVs!” And the mere fact that the notion of VW being a premium-ish brand, the Polo will be a bit too expensive and too close to the Golfs price bracket. A GTI version of the Polo would spice things up for people who can’t afford the premium of the Golf GTI, and it could’ve been a good rival compared to the Fiesta ST in the US. Plus, given with its price bracket, it would’ve been the most affordable German car in the US (the Smart ForTwo is French, despite it’s being sold at Mercedes-Benz dealerships). Meanwhile in the Philippines, Shanghai-VW’s golden child, the Santana is their B-segment core fighter there. So that’s goodbye to all hopes of the Polo GTI in the Philippines.
3. Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport
When it comes to hot hatches in general, Peugeot is no stranger here. The 308 GTi has that unique French flavor that most cars fail to deliver. It may look understated from afar, but remember, Peugeot is known for designing the sickest concept cars in automotive history! And unlike Subaru, their concept cars translates to their production cars very well. I may have limited knowledge about the 308 GTi in general, but according to Euro-journo’s, it’s lightweight, distinct styling and upscale looks separate itself from this list. The good thing is that Peugeot is available in the Philippines, but the question is will they ship the 308 and its GTI variant to the Philippines? Hard to say, because Peugeot RP only offers the 3008 CUV, 5008 CUV, and the multi-rebadge special, the Traveller van, ugh. In the US on the other hand, Peugeot has a very ambitious goal of returning to North America in 3-4 years indicate that this current 308 won’t be able to make it to the US, but the next-generation 309 will. Let’s hope for the best for the PSA Group (Peugeot-Citroen-DS-Opel/Vauxhall)
2. Renault Megane R.S. (Renault Sport) Series
Many people both the US and RP are not familiar to the French juggernaut, Renault. This brand has delivered so many storied sporty cars at realistic prices for decades! Many Americans and Filipinos may not understand how epic Renault Sport models are. Sure, Renault explored both markets (the US in the ’70s & ’80s, while the RP in the ’90s) but ended up face-down on a concrete floor. The Renault Sport models wrote the definition of hot hatches way before Honda’s Type-R, Hyundai’s N series, Mazdaspeed, Nissan’s SE-R/SZ-R/etc., and Toyota’s TRD/Gazoo Racing. This Megane is no different, sure it’s wacky styling of its predecessors have toned down massively, but its core philosophy has not diminished. With its new strength allying with Nissan and now Mitsubishi, it’s just a matter of time for Renault to shine outside its European borders!
1. Suzuki Swift Sport
It’s just a shame that Suzuki pulled out of the North American market in November 2012. American Suzuki just didn’t try hard enough, sure the Kizashi was a great car, but it was too late. Also AS could’ve imported a fun B-segment hatchback or sedan, the 3rd-generation Swift to complement the C-segment SX4. Now on its 4th-generation, the Swift Sport is as lovable as ever in both Europe and in Japan clamored of its affordability, fuel economy, and very playful nature! I can see the success of the Swift and Swift Sport in the US if only AS imported it back in 2004. But what about the Philippines you might ask, Suzuki Philippines has a very strong presence there! But unfortunately, with the exclusion of the awesome Jimny (Jimny Sierra), most Suzuki’s being marketed in RP are basically mostly by Maruti-Suzuki of India. Although the Swift is assembled in Thailand, their sole model is a 1.2L model with 87hp, its a well-equipped model for its class. But it’s not enough to fend off with likes of Jazz/Fit, Yaris, Accent, Rio, and Sonic/Aveo. Suzuki PH needs a car that is a polar opposite to the Jimny and the Swift Sport is the perfect flagship for the brand!