Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa

FILIPINOS are used to having women lead the way. We’ve already had two female presidents, two vice-presidents, and two chief justices. And then there are the countless other female civic leaders and corporate captains of industries.
Women do bring to the table a hands-on type of forward-thinking leadership not unlike that of the multi-tasking mother or the big sister in a typical Filipino family. In other words, no detail escapes them when it comes to looking after their wards. They know what we need and what we want even before we utter anything.
And maybe this is what the effeminately named Hyundai Reina subcompact sedan wishes to convey to its public.
Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, herself among the most prominent women leaders in the local and regional automotive scene, did express that message on Feb. 12 during a daylong ride-and-drive activity of the new Reina. The trip to the wind farm in Pililla, at the top of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Rizal province, started from the Hyundai Cainta dealership.
“We understood what the customer wanted, and we had a game changer in the A segment of the passenger car category, the one with the right drive and the right amount of space,” she said regarding the Reina.
Ms Perez-Agudo added that the Reina also comes with that pampering TLC in its after-sales service as it is covered by a five-year unlimited warranty, and is backed by an accessible network of 42 dealerships across the country.
The Reina’s introduction to the public via print ads published in broadsheets on Feb. 1 was somewhat a naughty, yet surprising “Queen’s Gambit” for HARI, allowing itself to make the second move immediately after the re-launched Kia brand in the Philippines opened up with the Kia Soluto subcompact sedan launch the day before.
Thus, the race to woo the hearts of a growing number of car buyers on the lookout for that sub-P700,000 family, office or transport network vehicle service car has just been sweetened immensely, as literally overnight two new worthy options have been added.
Hats off, however, to this Hyundai entry, which has been named for that stature of women we Filipinos can readily look up and relate to.
The Reina’s starting price of P598,000 (for the 1.4 GL 5M/T variant) does make one stand up in attention, but when we put the Reina to its paces in the Sierra Madre passes, I thought this one was a keeper. The China-made Reina is built solidly and is refined, with suspension components and an interior space that are as kind to our bodies as its price is to the pocket.
The exterior design, fashioned with Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language, certainly goes well above its pay grade. The five-speed manual transmission variant we drove offered that satisfying roar and oomph generated by the 1.4-liter gasoline engine, which produces 95hp and 132Nm.
The sub-P600,000 price tag for the manual transmission variant (the 1.4 GL 4AT sells for P648,000) also comes with safety enticements, such as dual airbags and ABS. And since space becomes ever more valuable in compacts, the Reina’s generous trunk space of 475 liters could seal the deal.
By early indications, HARI’s gambit seems to be paying off handsomely. Ms Perez-Agudo announced at the conclusion of the ride-and-drive activity that, in the two-week span between the public introduction and this event, 600 Reina cars have already been turned over to their new owners.
Forget Federalism. In the local automotive kingdom, the monarchy is rising.