A large number of new and updated models were introduced in the Thai market in 2019, and I got to drive many of them.

Last year, as much as 1 million automobiles were sold in Thailand’s automobile market that is made up of both passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles (many pickup trucks and vans are also used as personal vehicles).

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Here’s the list of models that I liked best on a personal basis. Topics for consideration are design, performance, equipment level and pricing.

Audi A1 Sportback 35 TFSI S-line (Bt2.149 million)

Audi A1

Audi is breaking into the small premium car market with the fully-imported A1 subcompact that’s fully-loaded with the latest features such as a 10.25-inch virtual cockpit instrument panel, and comes with a highly competitive pricing compared to locally-assembled rivals. Its turbocharged 1.5-liter engine pumps out 150hp and 250Nm and is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, while the suspension is top-notch for a car this size. Acceleration from 0-100kmh takes 7.7 seconds while the top speed is claimed at 222km/h.

Honda Civic Turbo RS 2019 (Bt1.219 million)

Honda Civic Turbo

The current-gen Civic has been around for some time, but it still proves to be at the top of its segment, offering futuristic design as well as class-leading performance, thanks to a sporty 1.5-liter turbocharged engine developing some 173hp and 220Nm. The punchy engine is mated to a CVT, while the front strut rear multi-link suspension provides sporty character to match. The interior is pretty roomy, but setbacks include mediocre cabin materials, as well as high pricing.

Mazda3 (Bt1.198 million)

Mazda3

It’s an all-new model and the Mazda3 looks better than ever, thanks to the latest-generation Kodo Design. An updated 2.0-liter SKYACTIV gasoline engine with 165hp and 213Nm is offered along with a 6-speed automatic gearbox delivering average performance (more power please!). Nevertheless the new Mazda3 offers a more refined ride quality from its front strut and rear torsion beam setup, as well as best-in-class interior that will appeal to more sophisticated buyers. The top model comes with a full options package that also includes a premium BOSE audio system.

MG HS (Bt1.119 million)

MG HS

If you like BMW and German crossovers but can’t afford the premium pricing, come to the MG HS. MG’s new midsized crossover takes the best German design elements (and Japanese too), combining them in a fashionable manner. Apart from the design excellence (some may question whether it is plagiarism though) the HS also offers acceptable performance from the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and well-tuned chassis that offers a Euro feel. There are plenty of nice features too, such as automatic lane-keeping assistance and huge electric glass roof that makes the HS the best buy in its segment.

MG ZS EV (Bt1.19 million)

MG ZS EV

MG stunned competitors in June last year with the launch of the ZS EV that was priced at just Bt1.19 million. The ZS EV gets its power from a 44.5kWh water-cooled battery with rapid charging capability (0-80 per cent in 43 mins). Normal charging from a 7kWh wall unit takes 6.5 hours (0-100 per cent). Maximum output is claimed at 150 horsepower, and MG claims a range of as much as 428kms (down to 335kms according to the NEDC standard). It’s real quick too, taking just 9 seconds from 0-100km/h, although it reaches a top speed of just 150km/h.

BMW M4 CS (Bt11.399 million)

BMW M4 CS

Forget the standard M4 – the M4 CS is the faster, club race version that is also road legal. The twin-turbo straight-six powerplant pumps out 460hp and as much as 600Nm, and it’s paired up with a 7-speed M DCT twin-clutch transmission. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 3.9 seconds and the top speed is claimed at 280km/h. Apart from M Compound brakes and Active M Differential, there are lots of carbon fiber all around the cockpit as well as deep bucket seats reminding you that it’s indeed a race car in disguise.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe (Bt8.6 million)

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Compared to the regular Cayenne, the Coupe version gets a steeper roofline, shallower front windshield and A-pillar, as well as redesigned rear doors and fenders (that widen the shoulders by 18mm), giving it a much more dynamic look. Just launched in the Thai market is the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 version, capable of producing 340 horsepower and 450Nm. With the Sport Chrono package, it sprints from 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds and has a top speed of 243km/h.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription (Bt4.79 million)

Volvo XC90

This is a full-sized hybrid crossover with 7 seats that offers unbelievable fuel economy as well as superb straight-line acceleration (5.6 secs for 0-100km/h) with its 320hp engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged, plus an 87hp electric motor. In addition to the elegant exterior styling, the XC90 also comes with a long list of advanced and intelligent features plus a very good sounding B&W high-end audio system and comprehensive vehicle systems menu. With the 11.6-kWh lithium-ion battery being offered, you can enjoy as much as 44kms of pure electric drive.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 (Bt4.73 million)

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupe

If you think crossovers are boring, step inside the GLC 43 Coupe and go for a ride. This fire-breathing AMG creation, priced lower now thanks to local assembly, is powered by 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 churning out 367hp and a whopping 520Nm, with all that going through a 9-speed automatic gearbox to all wheels. Acceleration from 0-100km/h is under 5 seconds, and the top speed is claimed at 250km/h. The all-round multi-link suspension, sports tires on 21-inch alloys and large brake discs make the GLC 43 very driveable in the circuit too. Ask the Mercedes-Benz driving instructors.

Suzuki Ertiga (Bt695,000)

Suzuki Ertiga

The Ertiga is a 7-seat mini MPV assembled in Indonesia that comes with sliding second-row seats and as much as 800 liters of cargo space. There are 10 bottle/cupholders, a USB port and two 12V outlets. The 1.5-liter engine pumps out 105hp and provides good driveability and decent fuel economy. There’s not much luxury apart from the wood trim and comfortable ride, but the Ertiga is a practical small MPV that is affordable and gets the job done.