We’ve already tested the Maxus G50 before (though my teammate was lent the top-of-the-line Premium variant then). That version had all the toys that would make it stand out from the rest of the competition at a very attractive price.
But I wondered if the lower variants were as good as the more expensive trims. I got a chance to do that as Maxus Philippines invited us to try the entire G50 line for a drive.
The test vehicles usually came with automatic transmissions. For someone who drives a manual almost daily, getting to use an automatic for a few days is most welcome. But before we left Maxus Makati, my colleagues were assigned the more opulent Pro, Elite and Premium variants. I was given the Comfort (the base variant). This is the lone variant with a manual transmission. Sucks, I know.
And so we set off early in the morning as we headed for Subic.
The car I drove also had the smallest engine in the range. From the bigger, more powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged four-pot, I had to make do with a three-cylinder 1.3-liter turbocharged engine. But all my doubts disappeared as soon as we hit the road. The smaller mill ‘just’ makes 163hp and 230Nm.
Despite the size, the power difference isn’t that much. This smaller engine loves to rev, with plenty of twist available across the rev range, too. Plus, with the short ratios of the gears, setting the MPV in motion is quite easy. The clutch pedal was kind to my left leg, and the shifter can be easily slotted into all six forward gears.
But these short ratios were somewhat a downside for the manual transmission. Since the ratios are short and far too close, I found myself constantly shifting just to keep the engine spinning at its sweet spot. There were no problems cruising at 60km/h on the Skyway Stage 3. But as soon as we hit NLEX, things got a bit more challenging.
Make no mistake about it: The engine is very peppy. But the hypermiler in me just felt sad that the engine-transmission combo needed to spin at 2,500rpm so you could cruise at 100km/h in sixth gear. Imagine how much more gas could have been saved if the top gear was a tad longer.
The basic radio unit sounds tinny, and it only plays FM, AM and MP3. While I get that this is the base model, throwing in Bluetooth connectivity certainly would’ve been great. But to be fair, this is something that your friendly neighborhood accessories shop in Banawe can easily remedy.
The interior has nice soft-touch materials on some of the common touchpoints. The light-hued interior has a nice spacious feel. There is plenty of room for all seven passengers should you wish to load it up.
Luckily for me, we switched cars along the way, allowing me to try the variants with more features. They were expectedly good, offering much more comfort and toys for both the driver and the passengers to enjoy.
But during the driving exercises, the Comfort didn’t feel so bare. With its traction control and antilock brakes at work, maneuvering during emergency situations was easier. In fact, I think that the Comfort trim had the most engaging driving experience of them all.
At P948,000, the G50 Comfort offers great value for the buck. And it only gets better should you desire the higher model grades. But during these tough times, having the basic means to go around is a must. This is proof that you don’t really have to break the bank just to have access to a good and reliable MPV.