ONE OF the quirks of last year’s Southeast Asian Games was the distance between the venues.
To cherry-pick some examples: You had track and field in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. Surfing in San Juan, La Union. Dance sports in Clark, Pampanga. Polo in Calatagan, Batangas. Gymnastics in Manila. The opening and closing ceremonies themselves were around 90 kilometers apart. And then you had to factor in hotel accommodations and the airport. For an athlete in town for the SEA Games, getting around was definitely an issue.
A fledgling motor company — relatively fresh-faced in a sea of established players — saw it as an opportunity.
As the SEA Games’ official mobility partner, MG Motor Philippines donated 80 brand-new units to the organizers: a mix of MG ZS crossover SUVs, RX5 SUVs, MG6 Fastback sedans, and MG 5 subcompact sedans.
“These vehicles were used to ferry organizers, coaches, and athletes between the numerous SEA Games venues nationwide,” said Chino Subido, public relations manager of MG Philippines.
For most of the athletes, it was their first time to ride this marque. “We had a few athletes driving them for extended periods over long distances, too,” said Subido. The hero car turned out to be the RX5, the brand’s hefty sport-ute, “because of its spacious interior and luggage compartment.”
Some distinguished SEA Games VIPs who took a ride in the RX5 included women’s volleyball star Mika Reyes, as well as esports gold medalist Caviar “EnDerr” Acampado. Even Gilas guard Matthew Wright got the RX5 experience.
“Transporting tall basketball players wasn’t a problem since cabin legroom isn’t an issue,” said Subido.
On a recent road trip back to New Clark City to check out how the sports facilities were holding up after the SEA Games, the SPIN Life team was able to borrow an actual RX5 used during the Games.
It was the real deal, an honest-to-goodness legit SEA Games car — a gate pass for the Philippine Arena opening ceremonies was still inside the glove compartment.
The three of us — myself, our features editor, and our road trip-happy photographer — were the farthest thing from athletes you can imagine. But while we didn’t lug around giant sports bags, we appreciated the spacious and sophisticated exteriors... especially when we splayed ourselves out on the backseat, looking up at the panoramic sunroof. If you’re an Apple user, the infotainment system as CarPlay built right in.
Behind the wheel, the RX5 showed off its sporty pedigree. While its smallish 1.5-liter engine is more suited for city speeds, it more than acquitted itself on our drive from Manila to the sports hub at New Clark City. On the deserted access road that led from the SCTEX into the complex, it handled like a much smaller vehicle, even if it’s one of the largest and widest in its segment. And when you get past the twitchy transmission on the low end, it turns into a true track star on the road.
In other words, it’s exactly the kind of car you’d give a sportsman for a drive out to the stadium — especially if you know you’ll have to get through some tough traffic on the way.
Engine Size: 1.5L
Output: 167 hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 250 Nm @ 1,700rpm
Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
Transmission: 7-speed DCT with manual tiptronic
Core (5-speed manual), P1.06 million
Style (7-speed automatic), P1.23 million