New Year, New Rides: Cars we’re excited for in 2023

During the holidays, it’s tradition to look back on the year with fondness and gay aplomb, and part of that tradition is looking forward to the new year, and the potential it brings. It’s always exciting to think about the future, and 2023 looks like it’s going to be an exciting year, at least for car buyers.

Starting our list off will be two of the most popular cars on the road today – the Innova, and the Vios, both from industry leader Toyota.

Toyota Innova and Vios

The Innova and the Vios have both enjoyed long-lasting status in the country thanks to the reputation of Toyota and their own high-quality components and durability. But they’re also, to put it nicely, nearly a decade old each. The Innova was launched in 2015, and the Vios was launched in 2013, both needing a new update sometime soon. Good thing, then, that 2022 saw the launch of new generations for both of these vehicles, with the 2022 Vios launching in mid-2022, and the Innova Hycross being launched in the ASEAN region just one month ago.

The 2023 Toyota Vios

The new Vios shares little with the outgoing one, potentially only sharing engine options, suspension and brakes. Even the platform it sits on shares more in common with the Veloz than it does with the old Vios.

On top of that, though, the new Vios does have a host of new convenience and safety features designed to make driving a dawdle. Toyota Safety Sense gives the Vios Adaptive Cruise Control, pre-collision warning & braking, lane departure warning, pedal misoperation control, automated high beams, and brake assist. Inside, the Vios now gets Android Auto and Apple Carplay as standard, with a reversing cam and 360-degree cameras on the higher trim levels.

The new Innova has even less to do with the old one. First of all, it’s no longer a body-on-frame vehicle, and it’s no longer based on the same chassis as the Hilux/Fortuner/Hiace, ergo, no more diesel engine.

2023 Toyota Innova

Before you seek and gasp, the new Innova is more built for purpose now than it ever was. As a 7-seater MPV, it was never going to see even the lightest gravel trail or dirt road, despite being built on a chassis that could do so. Now, it’s built on a platform that’s designed from the ground up to be used only on the road. Unfortunately, there are some use cases that do have the Innova seeing off-road duty, and the new one simply isn’t cut for it anymore. Still, for those off-road use cases, former Innova buyers can still buy the Fortuner, albeit at a higher price.

Powering the new Innova is also a new engine, this time gasoline-only. A 2.0-liter inline-4 engine will be the only engine option from now on, though a new option will be a hybrid powertrain to go along with the gas engine for better fuel economy. Both options go through a CVT transmission now, with no manual transmission available – another far departure from the Innova we’ve come to know and love.

Still, it’s not all bad. For one, the new Innova is poised to be more comfortable than it ever has been since it is now designed with comfortable independent suspension all around. It’s also a little more powerful now, thanks to the new M20A engine, which makes a healthy 174 PS and 205 Newton-meters in its non-hybrid form, and an even healthier 186 PS when paired with an electric motor.

Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla 

Another car Toyota is planning to release in the ASEAN market is the Toyota GR Corolla, its latest AWD hot hatchback making waves through the enthusiast world. While there’s been no word yet, the likelihood of much sought-after hatch making it to our shores is high, thanks to the success of the GR Yaris in the country and the fact that it was just launched in Bangkok a few weeks ago. If the supply can barely keep up with demand, clearly something went right, right?

With a more powerful 305 PS and 370 Newton-meter version of the 1.6-liter turbo 3-cylinder engine that’s also found in the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla is set to make the same kind of waves in the Philippine enthusiast market. We can only hope, though.

The Chinese haven’t dropped the ball either when it comes to 2023.

Haval Jolion, H6 and Poer

The recent announcement that Great Wall Motors would be coming back has meant that Haval might be making its debut in the country with a bevy of vehicles for the popular categories of the country, like the H6  and Jolion crossover SUVs.

Haval Jolion
Haval H6

As they haven’t been officially announced yet, specs and features are still anyone’s guess. If given a choice, however, we believe Haval should use their hybrid 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, which has a combined output of 190 PS and mated to a Dedicated Hybrid Transmission to give the Jolion and the H6 a fuel consumption of 14 kilometers per liter.

Interior specs have yet to be declared as well, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are a must if these cars are to survive against the others in this segment. Adaptive cruise control, lane depart assist, hill descent control, emergency brake assist, and parking assist are some of the features that, while not necessary, make for a compelling argument to purchase the Haval over the competition. On top of that, they need to be affordable. Otherwise, there’d be no point in them entering the market.

That said, Haval has another product that might have a better chance of hitting it big in this country – the Poer pickup.

Haval Poer pickup

The biggest headline with this pickup is that a version of it comes with an electric motor. Launched in 2020, the Great Wall Pao EV was a single-cab version of the Poer fitted with a 150 kiloWatt electric motor in the back and enough batteries to go 405 kilometers on a single charge.

Other versions have a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine from Great Wall, either a gasoline-fed one that makes 200 PS or a diesel that produces 163 PS – not bad figures for arguably a very small engine for the application. An exciting prospect for business owners and fleet buyers.

Great Wall Pao EV

GAC Empow and GS8

Over in GAC, though, things are starting to heat up in the luxury segment for the brand. Now under a new distributor, Astara, which also handles Peugeot by the way, we have yet to see which direction the Chinese marque will take. 

Recent sightings of the GAC Empow, the very same one that made its debut at the 2022 Manila International Auto Show, was seen at a Petron station somewhere along the Southern Luzon Expressway.

The GAC Empow will make a comeback in January 2023.

Normally, attention like that had automotive media astir, asking their contacts when the launch would be, what the spec sheet looks like, etc. Of course, no official word has been given, but we know that the Empow, if it ever makes it here, will potentially be powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine mated to a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission, producing 177 PS and 270 Newton-meters. For the compact sedan market, that’s plenty enough to excite potential buyers.

Unfortunately, at the Manila International Auto Show, we were unable to see what the interior looked like, but if foreign markets are any indication, it will get voice commands, facial recognition, driver fatigue monitoring, along with a host of safety and convenience features that most buyers demand nowadays.

Another car that seemingly found its way to the GAC booth at MIAS was the all-new GAC GS8, a supposedly full-size SUV intended to replace the outgoing GS8. Finding the design of the old one a tad bit bulbous, the new GS8 was delightfully angular, with crisp, modern design cues found all over the car.

GAC GS8

Once again, GAC remained very tight-lipped on the interior and engine compartment of the GS8, but elsewhere in the world, the new GS8 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine, making 252 PS and 400 Newton-meters of torque, and it mated to an 8-speed automatic. This version of the GS8, however, is reportedly also going to come in hybrid form, featuring an electric motor making a combined 373 PS. No word yet, though on its fuel consumption – understandable since it was only revealed a few months ago.

While it’s still unconfirmed, the GS8 is said to come with a host of safety features, like adaptive cruise control, lane keep and lane change assist, traffic sign recognition, forward-collision warning, rear-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and rear cross-traffic alert, among others.

Mazda CX-60

Mazda, not to be outdone, is looking at bringing the CX-60 SUV to the country in 2023, as well. This SUV brings back something virtually unheard of in the modern world – rear-wheel drive.

Now, before the people in the comments drop their phones and pick up their pitchforks, wait a minute. When was the last time you heard of a midsize crossover SUV featuring rear-wheel drive? Think really long and hard for a minute, and you’ll come to the same conclusion we did – BMW X5. The vast majority of options in this segment – Nissan Murano, Toyota Rav4, Honda Pilot, and even Mazda’s own CX-5 – are based on existing, front-wheel drive platforms. That in itself makes the CX-60 quite a rare sight, design-wise.

Even though the last mid-size, Rear wheel drive SUV we’ve seen was still in the 90s, the CX-60 is definitively in fashion. Coming into 2023 hot with Mazda’s first Plug-in Hybrid system, the CX-60 is poised to become one of Mazda’s most popular vehicles in the Philippines, thanks in no small part to the EVIDA law.

Featuring a 2.5-liter inline-4 Skyactiv engine with an electric motor, the Plug-In Hybrid blasts open the market with 328 PS and 500 Newton-meters of torque, Mazda’s most powerful drivetrain ever, at least on paper.

Features in other markets make the CX-60 quite an attractive proposition. Kinetic Posture Control, G-Vectoring Control, power adjustable seats for the front passengers, adaptive cruise control, wireless and wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bose® sound system, wireless phone charger, and so many more – all exceeding expectations.

Suffice it to say, there are many people waiting for this game-changing electrified SUV, but it’s not the only one coming.

Hyundai and Kia EVs

Hyundai IONIQ5

Hyundai and Kia debuted their IONIQ5, and EV6 electric SUVs at the recently concluded Philippine International Motor Show, and the crowd was utterly shocked – pun very much intended. Because of their global popularity, it’s much easier to find their specs, but the crash course on these fraternal twins is an electric range of 354 kilometers for the Standard, 488 kilometers for the Extended Range, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Remote Smart Parking, along with all the typical creature comforts people expect premium cars to come with.

Kia EV6

Nissan Serena e-Power

If the prospect of an all-electric SUV is scary to those with range anxiety, perhaps a different kind of Hybrid vehicle might make its way here – the Nissan Serena e-POWER. Powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine and an electric motor, the Serena is motivated solely by the electric motor with 163 PS and  a single reduction gearbox. This gives the Serena e-POWER the instantaneous acceleration you get with an electric motor, but unlike a full Battery Electric Vehicle, the batteries are solely charged using the gasoline engine, which gives the Serena quite a long range – hence the term “range extender.”

Inside, the Serena seats 8 normally or 7 comfortably. It comes equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to start with, Nissan’s advanced safety suite for another, and full captain’s chairs for the front and middle row for effortless passenger comfort.

Unfortunately, this too-good-to-be-true van might just be too good to make it here, especially since the only Serena to make it here flopped quite badly in the early 2000s. While not slated for launch in the Philippines, the market to watch would be Malaysia and Indonesia, which do make the previous generation Serena and Serena e-POWER for their local markets.

One of the reasons we get the Kicks e-POWER is because it’s made in Indonesia, after all, so if they start making the new Serena e-POWER in Indonesia, it would only be a short hop to get it here too – potentially by the end of 2023, if we’re lucky.

Honda CR-V

2023 Honda CR-V

One car we’re sure to get in the Philippines, though, is the Honda CR-V. This compact crossover SUV has enjoyed strong sales in the country ever since it launched in 1999. In this most recent generation, the CR-V is powered by either a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine mated to a CVT or a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine used in a mild Hybrid affair. And it’s available in front- or all-wheel drive.

While no full details have been revealed yet, one can only assume that it will come with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, cruise control, and perhaps rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep or lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, and maybe even lane change and smart parking assist. One can dream.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Finally, a premium automobile that’s expected to make it to the country is the 2023 Range Rover Sport, from British marque Land Rover. Even better is that it’s entirely possible it will come into the country featuring a Plug-In Hybrid version with an electric motor.

Unlike other Plug-in Hybrids, which detune engines to run them on the simulated Atkinson Combustion Cycle for increased efficiency, the Range Rover Sport has decided to run the Range Rover Sport with either a 3.0-liter twincharged inline-6 engine making around 360 PS, but if it’s combined with Land Rover’s 143 PS electric motor, the Range Rover Sport Plug-In Hybrid makes 510 PS.

Inside the Range Rover Sport promises to be one of the most luxurious SUVs on the roads of the Philippines, so if you have a feature in mind that you want to see, the Range Rover Sport probably has it. And it better, because a price in the high 7 figures means it’s well out of reach for most buyers.

Still, it’s yet another exciting addition to the landscape of 2023 Metro Manila, as are all of the vehicles that we’ll see launched this coming year. Very exciting indeed.

Source: New Year, New Rides: Cars we’re excited for in 2023

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