The Christmas rush started late last year, but before it did, Changan Motor Philippines Inc. (CMPI) invited us to drive to Batangas to check out their new fleet.

To be honest, I had my apprehensions about joining the activity. This was going to be my first IRL event since the pandemic started, plus I hadn't driven that far, more so alone, in many months. For safety reasons, our assigned cars were delivered to us the night before, and we had to find our way to Lipa City in Batangas for the scheduled 8 am swab test that was required to gain entry to the venue.

For the event, I was assigned the Changan Alsvin 1.5 DCT Platinum, the top of the line variant of Changan's most affordable nameplate. The target market for the subcompact is the first-time car buyer who is looking for more bang for their hard-earned bucks -- and with the entry-level variant only costing a wee bit over half a million Pesos, it is currently one of the most affordable yet complete packages available in the market. Aside from the Alsvin, Changnan Philippines' current lineup also includes three SUVs and a hybrid sedan.

The Alsvin subcompact has no pretensions. While its facade looks similar to that of a popular Japanese brand, it distinctly features the brand's "Butterfly-wing” radiator grille and highly visible V badge. Completing the look are projector headlamps, side mirror repeaters, and for the Platinum variant, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL). All variants are equipped with MacPherson fronts and torsion beam rears, and stopping power is provided by a ventilated disc/drum brake combination. The Platinum variant sits on 185/55 R15 alloys, while the rest of the variants ship with 175/65 R14s.

Inside the cabin, the lay of the land is familiar and everything is where it is supposed to be. Typical of this category, its panels are not soft to the touch but there is also no fake stitching to be found, and everything fits snuggly. The interior has a clean black-on-black color scheme with touches of chrome, and a light-colored roof liner that makes the space appear roomier. Since I had the Platinum variant, my car had a power sunroof that I made full use of during my early morning drive.

The instrument panel is straightforward and easy to read, and its semi D-shaped steering wheel with volume and cruise control nibs is comfortable and easy to maneuver. For the Alsvin line, infotainment is courtesy of a 7-inch touchscreen pop-up display that can play music and videos, as well as connect to mobile devices and control calls via Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Connecting to the system via Bluetooth is super simple, and I had no problems running several apps simultaneously (Waze, Spotify, etc) during my drive. The air-conditioning controls are manual and provided adequate cooling.

In terms of space, the Alsvin offers ample space upfront and in the back. Seating is comfortable enough for four adults, and the front seats offer extra side-bolsters on the seat and backrest for extra comfort. For longer drives, though, I wish it offered better lower back support, too.

For the Platinum variant, powered windows and side mirrors, as well as 6-way manual adjustable seats, and four (4) speakers are standard.

Under the hood is a 1.5-liter engine that is paired with a 5-speed Dual (wet) Clutch Transmission (DCT). The combination produces a maximum output of 105.5HP and maximum torque of 145Nm. My brisk early morning drive was uneventful. The available power allowed me to overtake with confidence and gun the engine to the speed limit with more to spare. Shifting was smooth was predictable and my gas tank indicator hardly moved after traversing almost 200 kilometers of mixed traffic conditions. To be honest, the only problem I encountered during my drive back was my needing more light. We left the venue after dinner and drove through pitch-black areas to get back to the main road. I wish that the headlights provided more illumination at the sides and not just straight ahead if that even makes sense. Luckily, that stretch of darkness wasn't that long.

As for safety and convenience features, the Alsvin is surprisingly loaded. Standard across the board are dual front airbags; ABS with EBD; a reverse camera; Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS); Child Safety Lock; and Seatbelt minders. The higher variants also have Electronic Stability Program (ESP); Hill Hold Control (HHC); and 3-eye reverse sensor. Exclusively for the Platinum tier is the additional auxiliary lines feature for the reverse camera and the Blind Spot View Camera & Monitor that appears on the screen when making a right turn. 

There was a time not long ago when the only China-made cars in the market were low-end, budget-friendly models whose only selling points were their low price tags. Luckily, that is no longer the case. With the exception of Chinese markings on the plastic protectors (and the often outlandish nomenclature), it is now almost impossible to tell whether vehicles are made in the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, or China. And for consumers, more options at different price points is always a good thing. 

The 2021 Changan Alsvin is available in three variants: 1.4L MT (P 579,000); 1.5L 5-speed DCT (P 639,000); and 1.5L 5-speed DCT Platinum (P 679,000). Available colors include Snow White; Silver Gray; Pearl Black; Glory Red; and Deep Blue.

2021 Changan Drive 02

Out in the sun. Four of Changan Philippines' initial offerings: (L to R) Alsvin Subcompact, CS35 Plus subcompact crossover, CS 75 Plus subcompact crossover, and CS 95 7-seater SUV. | Photo by Mika Fernandez-David

Those who have second thoughts about purchasing a "China" car, may find it reassuring that Changan Automobile is one of the top 4 Chinese automakers. The brand boasts of an industrial history that goes back 158 years, as well as many years of experience in building and selling passenger vehicles. Changan also has a strong presence in the Middle East, South America, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. All locally sold units come with a 5-year, 150,000-kilometer warranty and free Preventive Maintenance Services (PMS) for the first year, or up to 20,000 kilometers which is part of the Changan Vital 5 after-sales program.

To know more about Changan in the Philippines, visit www.changanphil.com or fb.com/ChanganPhil.

2021 Changan Drive 01

Media guests with Changan Philippines (CMPI) President and CEO Ma. Fe Perez-AgudoPresident and executives.

2021 Changan Alsvin Brochure