Automotive

Right-Hand Drive: My first experience

It’s never too late to do something new

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It was a Friday, my birthday. I, along with the local media team, flew to Hong Kong for an annual event on electrifying cities to achieve a greener environment.

After the warm welcome of the event’s hosts, they started briefing us of the day’s itinerary. We were to use the company’s electric vehicles and drive them through Hong Kong’s three main regions to get a feel of how they ride and put their features to real-world use.


Exciting, right? Thing is, Hong Kong is a right-hand drive territory and I live and grew up in a country with left-hand vehicles. I’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road. I figured I’d just wing it.

I figured I’d just wing it.

They finally sent us out to the cars in pairs and assigned us an official rep either to make sure everything went well or that we didn’t run away with the car — pretty sure it was more of the former.

My partner for this ride was a fellow journalist in the automotive industry. He would always crack jokes on almost anything he saw which somehow took my mind off the fact that I’d be driving in a foreign country with unfamiliar roads during my first right-hand drive experience.

We agreed that I’d take the wheel for the first half of the trip and switch seats halfway so we both could experience the electric vehicle. I grabbed the door handle on the right side, opened it, and gave my weight to its cushioned driver seat.

I was faced with the cockpit of the vehicle. As a person who likes things neat and in order, the buttons, displays, and icons were neatly laid out. I was not overwhelmed.

I spotted a mounted GoPro on the passenger’s side aimed directly at me. I thought it was cool to have a copy of myself driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time.

I kind of felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.

With everyone inside, I stepped on the brake and pressed the ignition button. The motor of the car whirred with a held-back enthusiasm. “I’m still not used to how quiet it is,” I told my companions, explaining that I was already able to drive the car — only the previous year’s model. The absence of a gas-guzzling engine made the vehicle come to life not with the sound of a heavy breathing dog but more like Wall-E‘s Eva powering up. I kind of felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.

Then we were off to take on the gloomy and chilly weather. The hotel’s lobby is elevated so there was a long spiral-like ramp that led in and out of the driveway. Turning towards the ramp was critical for me as it was my first turn to the opposite lane. “Always enter the left lane. Always enter the left lane.” I kept telling myself this over and over just to rewire my mind and unlearn the driving system that I grew up with and adapt to this new setup.

We drove down the ramp, onto the street, and later on into the highway. “So far so good,” I thought to myself. The idea was to drive through a pre-designated route using Google Maps. But, as with most times, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The app didn’t work properly for the first 15 to 20 minutes of our trip. It had problems with GPS so I had to listen to the company’s representative seated at the back as he pointed when and where to turn.

But, as with most times, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

For a while there, I was like an Uber driver going through the busy streets of Hong Kong.

The vehicle responded very well every time I stepped on the gas pedal. We were discussing that having an electric motor means power is quickly channeled to the wheels so it responds a lot faster compared to internal combustion engines. I also liked how the car didn’t have problems gaining speed whenever I needed to catch up. Basically, exploring the car’s array of features, while driving, helped me eliminate the few anxieties that I had left. Yes, I enjoyed the drive.

It was about 30 to 40 minutes in that I became more confident driving the right-hand vehicle. Entering the left lane every time I turned became more and more natural. Of course, there were times when I’d still forget I was on the opposite side — like that time I was paying at the toll gate and opened the left window instead of the right. Boy, was the teller confused when I did that.

While probably a really simple and obvious solution, one of the things that helped me with the transition was to think of everything in the opposite way. That way, It was easier for me to grasp the entire idea of right-hand driving. If my natural habit was to keep right, I knew that during that moment, I needed to keep left. When it felt natural to flick the turn signal using the left switch, I’d use the right since the left would be for activating the wipers.

If my natural habit was to keep right, I knew that during that moment, I needed to keep left.

That kind of mindset got me through the entire ride right up to the point where I and the other media I was with had to switch for his turn to drive.

I went down, walked around to the other side, and got in the passenger seat. It was weird because since I was back to sitting on the left side, the initial response of my arms was to grab the steering wheel and start the vehicle, forgetting all of a sudden the “brainwashing lessons” I taught myself just half an hour ago.

Seeing the GoPro that was mounted right above me, I reached for it to check if it was still recording. I then noticed there were no blinking red lights. I leaned closer and to my surprise, it wasn’t even turned on. So much for documenting my first right-hand experience, right?

“It wasn’t recording the entire time!” I exclaimed. It was unfortunate but we had a laugh out of it. I figured I’d just write down the events that happened so that I wouldn’t forget it. I powered up the action camera and started recording for my partner’s sake. With dark clouds and light rain still accompanying us, we started driving back to the hotel.

My key takeaway from the experience was to know what works for yourself.

During our trip back, I reflected on what I just did, from the excitement to the feeling of fulfillment of doing something the first time and succeeding. My key takeaway from the experience was to know what works for yourself. For me, I simply had to do the opposite of what I’m comfortable with to make sure I had clear control of what to do for certain situations.

Of course, it would also help a lot if one would closely study and practice for something like this. I just didn’t have much choice and had limited time to prepare for the drive.

We got back to the hotel, thanked the company’s representative who came with us for being an accommodating guide, and I went straight to my hotel room to freshen up for the night’s welcome dinner.

It was a great experience overall and am still thankful for the brand extending an invite to the event. The fact that I did something for the first time on my birthday only made it more special. To more drives!

Automotive

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: A Stylish Speedster

It’s your everyday sports car

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One of the biggest factors when buying a new car, apart from function, is how it looks. The impact of that first glance. Something that would make you look twice. Some of us have that desire to break the norm and it seems like Hyundai took note of this demand — and made it fast.

The grille is flanked with LED headlamps partnered with Daytime Running Lights.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is the second of its generation and now has a more assertive exterior than its predecessor. The most noticeable part? Its redesigned front grille. It now comes in this meshed pattern with sharper edges and, if you ask me, this alone gives the car a more aggressive presence.


Then we go to the rest of the exterior and we see those subtle lines that add to the sporty vibe of this vehicle. From the hood to the wheel arches — these accents make the Veloster look like it’s always moving.

At the back we also have this eye-catching pair of LED tail lamps plus a rear spoiler with the third brake light. Rounding up the whole sporty look is a rear bumper diffuser to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

Other notable details include side mirrors with signal repeaters and sexy 18-inch alloy wheels. If you’re already familiar with the first Veloster, then you’d know that it’s unconventional in a way that it only has one door for the driver’s side while the other has the usual two. Some call it weird. I’d like to call it style.

In terms of features, the 2019 Veloster has the bells-and-whistles for the tech-savvy. There’s keyless entry, a mechanical seat for the driver, telescopic steering wheel, voice commands, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are just some of the things the vehicle assists you with before you start your day. And of course, there’s more for the drive ahead!

Your main hub for music, navigation, calls, and more is an 8-inch floating display. For controls, the steering wheel has buttons for Bluetooth as well as audio and cruise control.

Important driver information and settings can be accessed through the digital dash.

In this day of smartphones, charging on-the-go is of utmost importance and with the Veloster, you get more than one option. There are two USB ports up front plus a special wireless charger just below it. Of course, your phone has to support this feature for it to work, but if it does, it feels good knowing you don’t have to fumble over plugging the cable to your phone — while you’re in the car, at least.

And for when you want more light during the day or when it’s simply colder at night, you can open the moonroof and let the breeze roll in. Added comfort creatures like this make the Veloster a package for those who like having fun on the road.

One of the things I love about its interior is how the black and red color of the exterior continues here. Its bucket seats wrapped in leather offer a premium feel for the driver and passengers alike.

The company is obviously keen to details as one can see in the cabin of the vehicle. From the buttons and knobs that reflect its sporty DNA to the ergonomics and materials used to make each ride as comfortable as possible.

Being a Turbo variant, it’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Power is then transferred to the front wheels through a seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. Although unlike Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, it’s not always “Turbo Time!” for the Veloster. It offers different driving modes depending on what the situation calls for.

There’s Normal, Sport, Eco, and Smart. Eco obviously goes for the most efficient fuel consumption, Smart mode adjusts to your driving habits, Normal is — well, normal. And Sport for when it’s Track Day or simply when you want to show off.

Of course, all that speed has to be kept in check with a couple of safety features. The vehicle comes with dual airbags for the front in plus side and curtain airbags. Adding to those are ABS or Anti-lock braking system and an immobilizer for anti-theft.

Having the Veloster as a daily driver made me realize a couple of things. One is that it’s actually fuel-efficient for a car with this oomph when it’s set to Eco or even Normal mode — averaging about 9-10km to a liter in the city and up to 16km/l outside the Metro. It may have slight delays when not in Sport mode but it had no shortage of power. And together with its stance and vibrant red color, the Veloster is a certified head-turner.

See more of it in this video:

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Automotive

2019 Auto Focus Summer Test Drive Festival kicks off

Making car-hunting easy

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Scouring the market for a new vehicle? One of the things you can do as a responsible buyer is to know and experience what you’re getting before you actually spend your hard-earned cash. Auto Focus (the same guys from STV), once again offers you the chance to test drive that vehicle you’re eyeing at this year’s Summer Test Drive Festival.

Held at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds starting May 2 to 5, the event aims to be a one-stop shop for prospective buyers and showcases a wide range of competing standard and luxury models — all ready for test drives.


“Buying a car and selecting a particular model suited to one’s individual purpose, preference, and budget, can actually be a long-winded process,” said STV Chairman and CEO Ray Butch Gamboa. “This may require multiple visits to various dealerships at varying locations, test driving and comparing varying vehicles, and working out the best financing options. Usually, these couldn’t be done in a day, or even two,” he added.

With the convenience of this event, prospect buyers can just go to one location, see and test drive a wide variety of vehicles, and work out the best financing options depending on your budget. Say goodbye to dealer hopping since all the participating brands are just a few steps from one another.

Brands present at the event include Honda, Kia, Hyundai, MG, Mitsubishi, Nissan, SSangYong, Subaru, Suzuki, GAC Motors, and Toyota.

The festival will be open starting today, May 2, from 11AM to 9PM. Admission to the public is free.

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Automotive

Honda’s 2019 Brio RS variant is a sporty subcompact

Dibs on Carnival Yellow!

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Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. has introduced the second generation of the Brio. This establishes their entry to the A-segment passenger car category in the country while adding a twist of modern sportiness at the same time.

Being a small vehicle, it could be challenging to make it look sporty. But Honda was able to transform what one would usually call “cute” into something that looks like this.


The 1.2 RS variant boasts a Piano Black front grille, 15-inch alloy wheels, side sill garnish, rear bumper garnish, and tailgate spoiler. Inside, there are noticeable orange accents that go with its black fabric seats with the same highlights — all exclusive to this model.

To top that off, its 7-inch audio system is paired to a six-speaker setup including tweeters. This should ensure that you get a high-quality listening experience.

1.2 RS Black Top

Now, if you want something more flashy, you can opt to go for the two-tone 1.2 RS Black Top variant. This Brio comes either in an exclusive Phoenix Orange Pearl or Carnival Yellow — both appealing in their own ways.

Apart from the RS and RS Black Top variants, there are two more models in the lineup: the 1.2 V CVT and 1.2 S MT. They’re the same Brio in essence, although they don’t come with most kits and some bells and whistles of the upper-tier models.

The front grille also has a honeycomb design and multi-reflector halogen headlights which then come with LED parking light guides. At the rear, they now have a redesigned tailgate that allows for better rear visibility and also adds to the rigidity of its body. Meanwhile, its tail and brake lights stretch to the edge of the vehicle and highlight the wide stance of the Brio.

Inside, tech features include manual air conditioning with a digital display, Bluetooth connection, and a 7-inch touch display for the 1.2 V CVT. The 1.2 S MT, on the other hand, comes with a 1-Din audio head unit.

In terms of capacity, packing the vehicle shouldn’t feel too cramped with its 60mm extended wheelbase compared to the first generation, in addition to the 90mm extended cargo area. This simply translates to more legroom for the passengers. And if you need to move numerous items, fold down the back seats and you have space big enough to fit a couple of big boxes.

Under the hood of all variants is a new 1.2-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Like the 2019 Civic, the transmission is based on the company’s Earth Dreams Technology for better acceleration and efficient fuel economy. For drivers who still stick to driving stick, there’s the five-speed 1.2 S MT variant for you to consider.

The available colors are:

  • Taffeta White (all models)
  • Modern Steel Metallic (1.2 RS CVT, 1.2 V CVT, 1.2 S MT)
  • Rallye Red (1.2 V CVT and 1.2 S MT)
  • Carnival Yellow (1.2 RS Black Top CVT and 1.2 V CVT variants)
  • Phoenix Orange (1.2 RS Black Top CVT only)

To further sweeten the deal, Honda is offering a special introductory SRP that will last until the end of June 2019:

  • 1.2 S MT – PhP 585,000
  • 1.2 V CVT – PhP 646,000
  • 1.2 RS Navi CVT – PhP 727,000
  • 1.2 RS Black Top Navi CVT – PhP 732,000

The new Brio also achieved a Four Star ASEAN NCAP safety rating, thanks to the company’s G-CON technology. This should enhance impact absorption in case of collisions. It also has dual SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger, while an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) comes as standard.

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