We can never say Infiniti is following the crowd by introducing its new QX55 crossover coupe. After all, the Japanese luxury brand helped define this niche market segment way back in 2002 when they unveiled the mid-size V6- and V8-powered FX35 and FX45. That strong-performing SUV would eventually transform into the even more dramatic QX70, and sadly be discontinued after the 2017 model year. It remains a great used buy for those wanting a true coupe-like “sport” utility featuring elegant finishings inside.
The new QX55 is for those who want something a bit sportier than the QX50, but more practical than the Q50 sedan or Q60 sports coupe. Sure, rear passengers need to give up a little headroom, while its cargo compartment is slightly smaller, but nothing in life is without compromise, and the QX55 delivers big in many other ways.
To be clear, the QX55 loses 134 litres of cargo capacity when compared to the QX50, which leaves 761 litres compared to 895. Sliding the rear seats forward can increase dedicated luggage space, but this versatility is unoptimized by less-than-ideal 60/40-split rear seatbacks, compared to European competitors that provide the more convenient 40/20/40 rear seat split that allows longer items, like skis, to be laid down the middle while two rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable rear window seats.
Those competitors include a few well-proven contenders, such as the BMW X4 that started the entire compact SUV coupe segment off in 2014. It was followed in 2018 by Mercedes’ GLC Coupe, while the Audi Q5 Sportback is entirely new for 2021. Now Infiniti hits the market as the first non-German luxury brand to offer an SUV coupe.
To be fair, some compact luxury rivals look similarly swank, including the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Velar, Porsche Macan and Tesla Model Y, so they could very well vie for SUV coupe-like contention, but being the only compact models offered by their respective luxury brands, and providing similar passenger and cargo volumes to their more conventional category challengers, we’ll leave them off the list. They deserve honourable mentions, however, as does Genesis’ soon-to-arrive GV70.
The new QX55 can arguably be called the most attractive crossover in Infiniti’s shrinking SUV lineup (after they cancelled the QX70 they also nixed the subcompact QX30). It offers up a sizeable interpretation of Infiniti’s stylish double-arched grille, a standard set of slim LED headlamps, which Infiniti says “mimic the human eye,” plus gloss-black fog light bezels that look similar to brake cooling ducts. The look is imposing, yet classy.
Continuing rearward, dwn the QX55’s curvaceous side surfaces and arching roofline flow into a short rear deck lid, the latter said to be a “fresh interpretation of the FX silhouette” by Infiniti. It combines for a neat and tidy hind end, highlighted by “piano key” style tail lamps boasting 45 separate LEDs for quite the dazzling display after hours.
Black cladding trims off the SUV’s lower extremities, of course, running from the front wheel arches backward, sweeping upwards when reaching the rear bumper in order to outline a body-colour diffuser-style panel packed full of chromed rectangular exhaust pipes. It’s a handsome design that should be popular with those wanting something slightly more daring from a brand known to be more dependable than its European competitors.
Behind its elegant grille is the same variable-compression 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the QX50, in which it makes 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It’s conjoined to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with steering wheel paddles, which while efficient and reliable, is rarely a performance fan’s first choice. Canadian examples feature standard AWD, while its fuel economy is slightly lower than the QX50’s at a claimed rating of 10.5 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined.
Like the engine and drivetrain, the QX55’s cabin hardly deviates from its more conventionally shaped sibling, other than the top-tier Sensory model’s lack of quilted leather upholstery. Seeming to be trying for a sportier theme, this model gets optional two-tone Monaco Red and Graphite black detailing, joined by additional red accents on the centre stack and lower console, which truly highlights the unique shape of this technology-filled cabin divider. Additionally, this swath of bright colouring gets offset by dark grey, open-pore wood trim on the dash and door panels, while these pieces butt up against satin-finish aluminum trim that combines with yet more nicely finished metal throughout the cabin.
The Japanese brand’s InTouch 8.0- (upper) and 7.0-inch (lower) dual digital displays are once again front and centre, which is a sharp contrast to most premium rivals that house their main screens like upright fixed tablets on the dash top. This choice allows for touch capacitive use along with most peoples’ preferred smartphone-style tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, while redundant controls are located on the steering wheel spokes. The QX55 will come standard with all expected infotainment functions too, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and 4G LTE wi-fi connectivity for up to seven devices.
The QX55 just went on sale with three available trim levels. The first is Luxe, which at $51,995 plus freight and fees includes standard AWD, 20-inch alloys, leatherette upholstery, dark aluminum interior trim, heated front seats, a powered glass sunroof, active noise cancellation, and a bevy of advanced driver assistive systems like predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic rear braking, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams.
Upgrade to $56,998 Essential ProAssist trim and you’ll get adaptive front LED headlights, an overhead surround parking camera with moving object detection, adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, blind spot intervention, and lane departure prevention, while additional features include InTouch navigation, a Bose audio system with 16 speakers, and leather upholstery.
As mentioned earlier, Sensory is the top-line trim in the QX55 hierarchy, which at $60,998 features plusher semi-aniline leather upholstery, the previously noted open-pore maple wood accents, three-zone auto HVAC, ambient cabin lighting, and a motion-activated liftgate, while this model’s tech systems are further improved with a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, full speed range and hold capabilities for the adaptive cruise control, ProPilot Assist semi-self-driving with steering assist, and finally, Infiniti’s exclusive drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system.
Infiniti’s new crossover luxury coupe faces some serious competitors, mostly because its brand name doesn’t provide the same premium cachet as more established marques like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Nevertheless, the QX55 provides impressive good looks, similar levels of luxury, competitive technology and strong performance, while the new QX55’s value proposition should be a deal-maker for those concerned about their monthly payments.
Saving money in mind, Infiniti is already offering up to $1,500 in additional incentives for the new QX55, as seen on our pricing page, where you can choose one of its three trims and configure it to your liking. Find out how you can save thousands when buying your next vehicle by becoming a CarCostCanada member, and be sure to download our free CarCostCanada app as well, so you can get info on the latest factory rebates, newest manufacturer financing and leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that will make negotiating your best deal ultra-easy.
If you’re considering a performance SUV, I have four words of advice: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Despite being compact in size, or maybe because of it, the feisty Italian is one of the fastest production utilities ever created.
How fast is it? It’s evenly matched against Mercedes-AMG’s similarly sized GLC 63 S off the line, both holding title to quickest in their compact luxury SUV class, while it edges out the segment’s second-fastest BMW X3 M Competition by 3 km/h at 283 km/h (176 mph) compared to 280 (174). Possibly more important from an all-round performance perspective, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio has earned more fastest lap records than any SUV available new today.
It doesn’t hurt that it shares racing pedigree limelight with the aforementioned three-pointed star brand, even if Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN is no Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Afla’s just older, wiser and cooler than Merc, the Italian brand having been formed in 1915 compared to Mercedes’ 1922 (a technicality, but it’s F1 and I’m running with it). Likewise, I’d rather hang out with Alfa’s older, wiser and cooler driver and F1 champion Kimi Räikkönen than seven-times world champ Lewis Hamilton too. Kimi’s chill and hilarious, while Lewis is always so serious, and so political… but I digress.
Or did I? After all, when we buy a premium branded car, especially a performance model with awesome street cred, most of us buy into the company that builds it as much as the vehicle itself. Whether we want to admit it or not, branding sells, and while Alfa Romeo doesn’t reach as many luxury buyers are Mercedes-Benz, I’m willing to wager a bet the majority of those who buy into Alfa do so with more enthusiasm. Maybe it’s an Italian thing. Alfa is all about red-blooded passion.
That Alfa Romeo is infused with more racing pedigree than most of its competitors doesn’t hurt matters either, the brand even fielding a Formula One team, which can’t be said for all of its key competitors except Mercedes-AMG—Aston Martin’s larger and much pricier DBX isn’t a direct competitor. You don’t buy one of these things because you’re being practical. Sure, a Stelvio is easier to stow things inside than a Giulia or any other premium sedan, and it seats four large adults in comfort or five in a pinch, but you can do that in a RAV4, and go pretty quick to boot, if it’s the new plug-in hybrid.
Pretty quick is one thing, but the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s top track speed is only beaten by Aston Martin’s new DBX amongst SUVs, the little Alfa managing 283 km/h (176 mph), as noted earlier, with the Aston whisking past at a heady 291 km/h (181 mph). The Quad is actually quicker from standstill to 100 km/h, leaving the exotic super-SUV behind as if it’s standing still, the two brands’ official 0-100 km/h times claimed to be 3.8 seconds to 4.5. That’s not even in the same ballpark, let alone on the same track (although the DBX looked fabulous pulling up behind the Merc, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, AlphaTauri, Alfa, Alpine, Williams, Haas, and yes, Aston F1 cars as the official medical car at the Bahrain GP last weekend).
Aston will likely follow up the current DBX with a stronger performing version at some point, just like Porsche does with its various Cayenne trims. The German brand’s Turbo S E-Hybrid is monstrous, while Bentley’s massive Bentayga Speed completely defies physics, but at least for now we can’t deny the hard numbers. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is even quicker from zero to 100 km/h than those just-noted uber utes. It’s not the quickest of all, mind you, this honour going to Lamborghini’s phenomenal Urus, which is capable of jettisoning from standstill to 100 km/h in a ferocious 3.4 seconds, while independent testers have claimed even quicker times.
I’ve driven some of the above and each were crazy fun, but all said there’s something extraordinarily special about the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It feels lighter and nimbler than most, and the music made from its snarling sextet of pistons and rambunctious quartet of tailpipes is like nothing else this side of the fabulous Giulia Quadrifoglio. Combined with accompanying G forces bashing my backside into a perfectly formed leather- and Alcantara-covered driver’s seat, not to mention similar forces trying to expel me beyond that seat’s sizeable side bolsters when pushing the envelope through twisting backroads, this SUV is shockingly good.
Trust me, I did my best to drive slowly. I truly did. In fact, I more or less succeeded in maintaining posted limits around the city and along rural highways, especially where joy-sucking regulation enforcers have been known to drink coffee and eat donuts while poking radar guns out windows of less inspirational Ford Explorers, but I failed miserably when beyond my city’s outer perimeter, where ideal strips of perfectly aligned pavement stretched diagonally across farmland to connect minuscule communities with circuitous secondary backroads and even quicker-paced byways. This is where Alfa’s Quadrifoglios were designed to run freely, and where I quickly learned how otherworldly this little utility is to drive.
Spin its DNA drive selector to the “d” position for sportier Dynamic mode, or turn it one position farther for “RACE”, which results in even more intense performance, and prepare for ridiculous levels of speed, not to mention one of the most enticingly exhaustive snap, crackle and pop cacophonies to ever emanate from the rear of a vehicle.
Alfa Romeo wraps a beautiful set of 20-inch alloys in 255/45R20 front and 285/40R20 rear Pirelli P Zero performance rubber, which can cling to most any kind of road surface. The specially-chosen tires combine ideally with a smartly sorted chassis that feels as if it could run rings around any competitor.
My driving position was excellent. Alfa slightly squared-off the Quad’s leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, which was just large enough to feel substantive without being cumbersome. It features nicely formed thumb spats for a good grip, these just ahead of long alloy paddle shifters that are attached to the steering column instead of the wheel. This means they’re always where they’re supposed to be, even when the wheel’s rotated in a given direction multiple times. The steering column’s tilt and reach adjustability is generous as well, with the latter matching excellent seat adjustment. My long-legged, short-torso frame fit in well, not always the case with some rivals, which resulted in good control and much-appreciated comfort.
No wonder Alfa Romeo’s team of professional drivers have had no issue setting global track lap records. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio leads every SUV made at Britain’s famed Silverstone (2:31.6) racetrack, not to mention Donington Park (1:21.1), and the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch (55.9), but to be fair I must admit its record-setting 7:51.7-minute lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife was recently broken by the aforementioned GLC 63 S, the hyper-Merc laying down a wickedly quick lap time of 7.49.369 minutes.
Both are faster in one lap of the 20.832-km mountainside racetrack than the next-best Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, however, which did the deed in 7:59.7 minutes, while the Range Rover Sport SVR could only manage the course in 8:14 minutes. Until one of the previously mentioned super-SUVs chooses to take these two little compacts on at the ‘Ring, they’ll likely remain top of the “Green Hell” podium.
Back to my need for fairness, the Urus nabbed the title from this Stelvio Q at one of my favourite racecourses, California’s Laguna Seca. It makes sense for the 641-horsepower super-ute to beat the little Alfa, especially when factoring in the latter SUV’s comparatively bargain-basement price, but its 1:40.9-minute record lap wasn’t all that much better than the Stelvio’s 1:43.5-minute trip around the ultra-challenging track.
It doesn’t matter which premium branded super SUV you opt for, its interior will come stuffed full of contrast-stitched leather with ultra-suede accents, brushed and polished metals, plus glossy carbon-fibre trim, and more, while high-grade pliable composite surfaces are used where one of the above coverings won’t work. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is no exception. That said, at just under $100k it’s not going to blow away a Bentayga owner, but its interior design is nevertheless alluring, quality of workmanship excellent, and overall sense of luxury impressive.
I was happy to learn of its updated infotainment system too, the interface more user-friendly and graphically inspiring than a four-cylinder Stelvio I drove before. Its drag and drop tile/widget design made it more customizable too, while it can do most anything its competitors can, plus compile performance statistics via various “pages” showing boost, torque, lateral Gs, etcetera.
I was surprised, but not disappointed that a fully-digital gauge cluster wasn’t included, being that the analogue dials and sporty circular shrouds looked fabulous and worked well. A large speedo and tach bookended a big high-definition multi-information display in the middle, this screen complete with the usual functions.
Along with the impeccably finished cabin and outrageous performance, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is plenty practical too. It’s an SUV after all, and therefore came with a comfortable, sizeable second row with three seatbelts across, as well as three-way outboard seat heaters, two USB-A charge ports on the backside of the front console, great rear ventilation, and overall refinement as nicely finished as the front seating area.
The cargo compartment was similarly impressive, and roomy enough for the majority of peoples’ requirements. An especially useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatback expanded on its cargo carrying capacity further, while Alfa also included an smartly engineered aluminum track system for strapping down items that might otherwise fly about (for those moments when you temporarily forget you’re supposed to be carting cargo and start driving like Mario).
Alfa Romeo is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, by the way, so be sure to check out our 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Canada Prices page where you can also configure your Stelvio with every available colour and option. A CarCostCanada membership will also provide information about available manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that can make sure you pay the lowest price possible during negotiations. Learn how the CarCostCanada system saves you money, and remember to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store so you can have all of this critical info immediately available.
To reiterate, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is up against some very worthy premium competitors, but the fact that you’ll need to spend more than $250k in order to get something capable of outrunning it says everything you need to know. Mercedes’ fastest GLC is a more direct match and should be up for consideration, but its twin-turbo V8 doesn’t provide the same kind of high-strung audio track as Alfa’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, making the Italian more like watching (and listening to) classic F1, and the Merc more akin to today’s fast yet dull sounding hybrid machinery.
We also need to consider standard features and options. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes mostly loaded up with features, other than approximately $4k worth of add-ons, whereas the AMG GLC 63 S can be had for slightly less in base form, but the German model needs to be optioned up with more than $26k of extras to come in line with the Italian SUV. This probably makes the Stelvio Quadrifoglio the wiser choice financially, even though you probably won’t care what it costs once behind the wheel.
The 1960s and early ‘70s was the era of cheap, affordable sports cars, with today’s entry-level offerings few and far between. Fortunately for car enthusiasts, our Japanese friends haven’t given up on the sportiest market yet, with Subaru having finally silenced doomsayers projecting the demise of the BRZ and its Toyota 86 clone, by introducing the fully redesigned second-generation coupe.
Currently, every BRZ/86 competitor is Japanese except for Fiat’s 124 Spider that’s based on Mazda MX-5 underpinnings (powertrain excluded), which is like overhearing Japanese spoken with an Italian accent while eating cannelloni flavoured sushi (hmmm… that might actually be good), and while today’s Nissan 370Z can be bought for a song in its most basic form, chances of a $30k 400Z are unlikely. For those not requiring as much forward thrust in order to have a good time, mind you, the upcoming 2022 BRZ could be the ideal answer.
The completely reengineered Subie will arrive with more power, however, bumping engine performance up from 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque to 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, which is an increase of 23 and 28 respectively. That won’t placate grumblers vying for the WRX STI’s 310-hp mill, or even the regular WRX’ 268 hp, but it’s respectable for this class.
The increased power comes from a new naturally aspirated 2.4-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder, which is 400 cubic centimetres larger than the outgoing 2.0-litre powerplant. No turbo is attached, but keep in mind this is the same basic engine as used for the mid-size Legacy, Outback and three-row Ascent SUV, which with turbocharger attached makes of 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Therefore, a more potent performance model is once again possible for Subaru or mechanics with tuning chops.
More important than straight-line power in this category is low mass, and to Subaru’s credit only 7.7 kilograms (17 lbs) were added to this larger and more technologically advanced car, the 2022 BRZ weighing in at 1,277 kg (2,815 lbs) in base trim. Exterior measurements increase by 25 mm (1 in) to 4,265 mm (167.9 in) from nose to tail, while the 2,575-mm (101.4-in) wheelbase has only increased by 5 mm (0.2 in).
The change is the result of its Subaru Global Platform-sourced body structure, which makes the new model 50 percent stiffer than the old BRZ. In a press release, Subaru claims that key areas of strengthening included “a reinforced chassis mounting system, sub-frame architecture and other connection points,” while the car’s front lateral bending rigidity is now 60-percent more rigid, saying to “improve turn-in and response.”
Despite all the upgrades, the BRZ’s general suspension layout stays the same, with front struts and a double-wishbone setup in back, but the new model gets updates aplenty nevertheless, and now rolls on standard 17-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch rims optional, wearing 215/45R17 and 215/40R18 rubber respectively.
As was the case with the outgoing BRZ, a short-throw six-speed manual transmission will come standard with the 2022 model, while the same six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles and downshift rev-matching is part of the 2022 package too. A standard limited-slip differential remains standard issue for the new BRZ too, so hooking up all that power won’t be an issue.
Performance aside, what do you think of the new look? So far, critics have been mostly positive, appreciating the 2022 model’s more aggressive character lines, while the interior has received universal praise. Yes, the current car has aged reasonably well, but it’s been nearly a decade so any modernization would likely be an improvement. Along with a complete instrument panel redesign, a 7.0-inch digital colour display has been integrated within the all-new primary gauge cluster, while over on the centre stack is a new 8.0-inch touchscreen housing Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus the usual assortment of entertainment and information functions.
Only last year we were wondering when Hyundai Motor’s new Genesis luxury division would enter the profitable crossover SUV sector, and now we not only have the GV80 mid-size model, but an all-new GV70 compact is on the way as well.
The GV70, which will be introduced for the 2022 model year, should arrive towards the end of this year, and if any of the brand’s other new models are a sign of things to come, it’ll be worth the wait.
If you were expecting anything other than a shrunken GV80 you’ll be disappointed, because the new GV70 merely takes Genesis’ latest design language to more affordable proportions. Squarely fitting within the compact luxury crossover SUV category, to duke it out with such stalwarts as Mercedes’ GLC, Audi’s Q5, Acura’s RDX, BMW’s X3 and the like, the GV70 proudly wears Genesis’ now trademark twinned horizontal LED headlamp clusters and similarly straked LED taillights at the rear, albeit forgoes the GV80’s front fender garnishes that follow the same pattern (there was likely no room to fit them into the smaller SUV’s design). We think the design looks cleaner without them, but no doubt many will disagree.
While the engine vent-style fender trim is a minor differentiator, the GV70 takes some significant departures from the GV80 inside, where the entire lower portion of the instrument panel appears inspired by surfboarding. The oval interface sits just under the gauge cluster before stretching across to the centre stack area, houses a bevy of controls that would normally be found on separate panels to the left of the driver’s knees and further down the centre console, but instead are placed on this horizontal housing. The design works aesthetically, and appears to follow a traditional layout as far as control placement goes, with the overall appearance being the only departure from the norm.
Up above, a fully digital instrument cluster can be found in the usual spot ahead of the driver, plus a large centre display is placed upright atop the dash, with infotainment and driving controls beautifully integrated within the lower console. The interior succeeds in making everything next to Mercedes’ GLC look outdated, which is a good way to cause newcomers to take notice of the Genesis brand.
Following compact luxury SUV tradition, the new GV70 shares underpinnings with the sporty G70 compact sedan, so it will no doubt be a lot of fun for its driver and require good seat bolstering for any passengers that come along for the ride (the GV70 seats up to five), as Genesis’ entry-level car is one of the better handlers in its highly competitive class.
As far as engines and transmissions go, we expect the base powertrain to be Genesis’ 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 290 horsepower and 310 and lb-ft of torque in G70 trim, while an updated V6 will probably power higher priced GV70 models, the current six-cylinder putting out 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque in the GV80.
Speaking of new, Genesis has promised two new models per year until they fill up their lineup, so we can expect an even smaller subcompact luxury SUV as well as a smaller entry-level car, mostly likely along the lines of Audi’s popular A3 (it is the top seller in its class after all), but no one knows how many market segments (and niches) the brand will attempt to fill.
If you haven’t considered the XC40 before, you’re in for a treat. It’s the smallest Volvo available, fitting into the subcompact luxury SUV segment and therefore going up against BMW’s X1, Mercedes’ GLA and B-Class, Lexus’ UX and others, plus due to the Swedish brand no longer offering a compact hatch (the C30 was discontinued in 2013 and its V40 successor was never imported), this little crossover is now its entry-level model.
I, for one, am a big fan of this little SUV. It’s stylish, fun to drive, thrifty, well made, and as innovative as crossover sport utilities come. In case you didn’t know, the XC40 has been around since the 2020 model year, and full disclosure forces me to let you in on the fact that this test model is actually a 2020. Fortunately, changes to the 2021 XC40 are minimal, with my tester’s Amazon Blue exterior colour choice unfortunately being discontinued this year.
As much as I like it, Amazon Blue won’t be popular with manly men, as it’s a bit on the feminine side. This said, I’ve seen a few around and they’re quite catching. In fact, this metrosexual boomer had no issue being seen in the powdery blue SUV, especially when push came to shove and I was able to scoot away from stoplight oglers as if they were standing still.
Yes, the XC40 is mighty quick thanks to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in as-tested T5 trim, its eight-speed automatic shifting gears quickly yet smoothly, its all-wheel drive completely eliminating tire slip, and its lightweight mass making the most of the available energy output. This is a really fun SUV to drive, the optional 2.0-litre turbo-four always willing to jump off the line or say so long to slower moving highway traffic. This said, my test model’s Momentum trim comes standard with a less potent version of the same engine, the T4 model powering all wheels with 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be good enough for all but the most enthusiastic of speed demons.
The eight-speed auto includes a gas-sipping auto start/stop system that aids the T4 in achieving a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined fuel economy rating, whereas the T5 gets a claimed 10.7 in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.4 combined. I recommend Eco mode for extracting the most efficiency, of course, but default Comfort mode is quite thrifty too. Volvo also includes a Dynamic sport setting when needing to get somewhere quickly, whereas an Individual mode can be set up for your own personal driving style.
While I really like the as-tested Momentum model, especially with its upgraded 235/50 all-season Michelin tires on 19-inch wheels that certainly improve performance over the base model’s 18-inch 235/55s, I’d put my own money on an XC40 R-Design for the paddle shifters alone (although it also comes standard with the T5 all-wheel drivetrain, and is the only trim that can be had in new Recharge P8 eAWD Pure Electric power unit), these helping to make this sporty little SUV a lot more engaging at the limit.
That’s where the so-equipped XC40 really shines, its handling fully capable when pushed hard and overall grip surprisingly steadfast, especially when considering its excellent ride quality. Even when slicing and dicing this little cutie through some local mountain backroads it never caused concern, while in-town point-and-shoot manoeuvres were a breeze made even easier thanks to the SUV’s generous ride height. It’s all due to a fully independent suspension with front aluminium double wishbones and an integral-link rear setup, composed of a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring.
Even better from a luxury standpoint, the XC40 feels like it was honed from a solid block of aluminum alloy, the body’s structural integrity never in doubt. I appreciated the SUV’s quiet, hushed, big SUV experience despite its diminutive size, this cocooning quality complemented by properly insulated doors that thunk closed in an oh-so satisfying way, and refinement that goes a step above most subcompact luxury SUV peers.
For a moment, pull your eyes away from the exterior’s classic crested Volvo grille, stylishly sporty Thor’s hammer LED headlamps, sharply honed front fascia, and uniquely tall “L” shaped LED tail lamps, not to mention the satin-silver accents all-round, and instead focus on this little crossover’s luxuriously appointed interior. Keeping in mind this is the XC40’s most basic of trims, Momentum gets very close to R-Design materials quality, featuring such premium staples as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, a soft, pliable dash-top covering and equally plush door panels, stitched leather armrest pads, and carpeted door pockets (that are big enough to slot in a 15-inch laptop along with a large drink bottle).
Don’t expect such niceties below the waistline, but Volvo uses a soft-painted harder composite that feels nice, while the woven roof liner looks good and surrounds an even more appealing panoramic sunroof featuring a powered translucent fabric sunshade. You’ll find controls for the latter on a nicely sorted overhead console, otherwise filled with LED lights hovering over a frameless rearview mirror.
Following Volvo tradition, the driver’s seats is wonderfully adjustable and wholly comfortable no to mention supportive, with more than adequate side bolstering plus extendable lower cushions that cup under the knees nicely (a favourite feature of mine). The leather used to cover all seats is above par, by the way, and they come with the usual three-way warmers up front, plus a steering wheel rim heater.
Most body types should fit into this little ute without issue, whether positioned front or back, while the rear seats expand the relatively generous cargo hold—from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet)—via the usual 60/40 division. This said a highly useful centre pass-through provides stowage of longer items like skis when two rear passengers want to use the more comfortable window seats.
While all this is very good, Volvo wasn’t merely satisfied to provide the expected luxury, performance and styling elements to their entry-level ute and call it a day, but instead went the extra measure to include a lot of handy innovations that make life easier. Being that I left off in the cargo compartment, I might as well star this section of the review off by noting the useful divider housed within the cargo floor. Once lifted up into place to stand vertically, I found it especially helpful for stopping groceries from escaping their bags, particularly when using the three bag hooks on top to keep them in place.
Moving up front you’ll find another handy hook within the glove box, which can be pivoted into place when wanting to hang a purse, garbage bag or what-have-you, while just to the left of the driver’s knee are two tiny slots for stowing gas cards. The XC40 can be had with all the segment’s best electronic helpers too, like a powered rear hatch that automatically lifts when waving a foot under the rear bumper, automated self-parking, and all the latest driver aids like autonomous emergency braking for the highway and city, lane change alert with automated lane keeping, etcetera, but some might find the XC40’s standard gauge cluster even more compelling.
It’s fully digital right out of the box, measuring 12.3 inches and sporting a graphically animated speedometer and tachometer plus a big centre information display featuring integrated navigation mapping with actual road signs, phone info and the list goes on. Like some competitive clusters, the multi-information display can be set to take over the majority of the driver display, thus shrinking the primary instruments. It’s a superb system that I almost like as much as Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system.
The latter is comprised of a 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen that comes closest to mimicking a tablet than anything else in the auto industry, especially when utilizing Apple CarPlay (not so much for Android Auto). Being that I currently use a Samsung, I keep the Volvo interface in play at all times, and absolutely love the audio “page” that not only shows all SiriusXM stations nicely stacked in sequence, but real-time info on which artist and song is playing. This way you can quickly scan the panel and choose a station, never missing a favourite song.
The base audio system is impressive too, as is the active guideline-infused parking camera, especially if the overhead version is included, and nav directions are always spot on, while the as-tested dual-zone climate control interface is ultra-cool thanks to colourful pop-up menus for each zone’s temperature setting and an easy-to-use pictograph for directing ventilation.
A list of standard Momentum features not yet mention include remote start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sonar with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants’ knees, plus more, all for only $39,750 plus freight and fees.
No matter the price you pay, the XC40 is a compact luxury SUV worth owning. It combines a higher level of refined luxury than most peers and superb performance all-round, with plenty of style and practicality. This is a crossover I could truly live with day in and day out, even painted in my tester’s playful powder blue hue.
The Rogue is without doubt Nissan’s most important vehicle, selling in greater numbers than any other in its lineup.
Last year the Japanese brand’s compact SUV found 37,530 Canadian buyers, compared to 18,526 for the subcompact Qashqai crossover, 16,086 for the even smaller city car-sized subcompact Kicks crossover, 12,000 for the mid-size Murano crossover, 7,719 for the compact Sentra sedan, 6,361 for the now discontinued Micra city car, 5,704 for the mid-size three-row Pathfinder SUV, 3,723 for the mid-size Frontier pickup truck, 3,342 for the mid-size Altima sedan, 2,881 for the compact Leaf EV, 2,807 for the full-size Titan pickup truck (both half-ton and 3/4-ton versions), 2,369 for the now defunct subcompact Versa Note hatchback, 1,783 for the NV200 compact commercial van, 971 for the full-size Maxima flagship sedan, 807 for the NV full-size commercial van (both cargo and passenger versions), 593 for the full-size (and real flagship) Armada SUV, 500 for the iconic 370Z sports car, and finally 53 for the nearly unbeatable GT-R super-coupe.
Interestingly, the only Nissan model to lead its segment in deliveries was the Micra (RIP), with some displaying woefully poor performance on the sales charts compared to their competitors, the Sentra, Altima, Pathfinder, Frontier, Titan and full-size NV van particularly, while doing well yet not at the very top of their respective categories are the Leaf, Kicks, Qashqai and, yes, you guessed it, the Rogue.
Nissan desperately needs a hit, and while the Rogue won’t likely race past the RAV4’s comparatively (to everything else) interstellar numbers last year, selling 65,248 units to Honda’s 55,859 CR-Vs, it could rise to third by overtaking the Ford Escape’s 39,504 deliveries once calendar year 2021 is in the rearview mirror. Of course, 2020 will either be a negative blip on the sales chart radar or the beginning of a downturn, but either way there will be winners and losers throughout this year and in the years that follow, and all the changes made to the new 2021 Rogue appear to be putting it on the right side of the balance sheet.
Like it or not, rugged, blocky styling is in for modern SUVs, and soft, smooth curves are out. All we need to do is look at the aforementioned RAV4 to appreciate how true this appears to be. Fortunately for Nissan, the 2021 Rogue is gone all brazen, with a tougher look that should be very appealing in its small SUV segment.
We shouldn’t go so far as to call it aggressive, but the new Rogue definitely comes across as more assertive than the outgoing model. It gets a bolder version of Nissan’s squared off V-motion grille at the front and new black D pillars at the rear, the latter coming close to the “floating roof” concept initiated by the previously noted Maxima and Murano. This looks even better when opting for new two-tone exterior colour combinations that allow for a fully black roof. Tough looking lower body cladding muscles up its look further, enhanced by new “U-shape” bodyside panels, while the sharp looking LED tail lamps don’t deviate quite as much from those on the old model as the entirely new multi-level LED head lamps.
In an automotive world that almost always grows outwardly it’s refreshing to learn that this new Rogue actually arrives shorter by 1.5 inches than its predecessor, while it also slices 0.2 inches from road to rooftop. This won’t likely be noticeable inside, but the subtle dimensional shrinkage contributes to the updated SUV’s more upright look without causing it appear too chunky.
While Nissan hasn’t announced a specific off-road trim for its new 2021 Rogue, the RAV4 being the only small SUV to do so with its near-4×4-capable 2019-2020 Trail version and the even more robust TRD Off Road Package now available for the 2020 model year, it’s unfair to claim the new Rogue’s rugged image is only surface deep.
With trims featuring the brand’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, a centre console-mounted Drive Mode Selector boasts an “Off-road” setting for overcoming more challenging terrain. Don’t expect it to keep up with the old Xterra or current Armada, but be confident it will be able to make its way over protruding rocks and other moderately sized obstacles emanating from the gravel on the way to the family cabin. Nissan also provides a “Snow” mode that does similarly for slippery road/trail surfaces, while the Drive Mode Selector also features Standard, Eco and Sport settings for normal conditions, these last three being the only settings offered with front-wheel drive models.
Benefiting traction yet more, new Rogue AWD models feature a Vehicle Motion Control System that Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the Nissan Technical Centre North America Chris Reed claims will do “what a human can’t.”
“The all-new Vehicle Motion Control predicts what the driver is trying to do by monitoring steering, acceleration and braking,” says Reed. “It can then step in and help to smooth things out.”
In a nutshell, Vehicle Motion Control (VMC) combines with the new Rogue’s all-wheel drive system and its Drive Mode Selector to provide four-wheel control individually, enhancing line traceability so as to smooth out curves via the braking system’s ABS. It can even apply a single brake pad in order to do so. VMC, that incorporates a chassis control module that continuously “monitors and adjusts engine, transmission, Vehicle Dynamic Control, all-wheel drive and steering functions,” is particularly useful when “driving on snowy slopes, deep snow, snow flat turning and off-road driving (such as beach or dirt trails),” confirmed a press release.
The Rogue’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system now features an electro-hydraulic controlled clutch that disseminates torque more quickly and more precisely due to its ability to predict front-wheel slippage. This improves rear torque distribution as well as greater traction and responsiveness.
Responsiveness in mind, a new faster-ratio rack electric power steering design is said to speed up turn-in, while a rigid six-position front suspension mounting and reworked multi-link rear suspension should go further to benefit handling.
Better road-holding matters because the new 2021 Rogue receives 11 additional horsepower and 6 more lb-ft of torque via a revised direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. This results in 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, with much of the gains coming from a mirror bore coating technique that reduces friction for better efficiency, as well as a new variable displacement oil pump, plus an integrated exhaust manifold, and finally an e-VTC intake valve.
Nissan has long been a technology leader under the hood and within the chassis, not to mention in advanced driver assistive systems (ADAS), the new model carrying forward with its innovative Rear Door Alert system that warns the driver when something or someone may have been left in the rear seating area, while also adding new Intelligent Driver Alertness to monitor steering patterns and recommend a break when detecting drowsiness, plus Easy Fill Tire Alert to maintain ideal tire pressure.
Continuing on the ADAS theme, Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 is a suite of essential systems featuring Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist, while Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking is now standard too, this technology automatically stopping the Rogue before backing into an obstacle or worse, into a child or traffic.
Traffic Sign Recognition, Blind Spot Intervention and Intelligent Cruise Control with improved stop-and-go are available with the new Rogue as well, the latter feature coming as part as an upgraded ProPilot Assist hands-on-wheel partial self-driving system. The new Rogue’s safety kit is improved further with 10 standard airbags instead of just six, plus extended crumple zones to protect occupants during impact. Yet more extras include new four-door Intelligent Key that lets driver and passengers open all four doors, this being part of the updated SUV’s “Family Hub” group of features that also adds tri-zone auto climate control.
Now that we’re inside focused on the centre stack, the standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen display (already sizeable for the segment) is optionally 1.0-inch larger, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard no matter which trim is chosen, with Google Maps and Waze featuring voice recognition also available.
Even more advanced, the new Rogue sports a customizable 12.3-inch “Digital Dashboard” instrument cluster ahead of the driver, which totally replaces the more conventional instruments with a crisp, colourful high-definition TFT display, although take note that the base model still incorporates a 7.0-inch multi-information display between its dials, which not only is 2.0 inch bigger than the outgoing model’s base cluster, but is fully customizable too. What’s more, a massive 10.8-inch head-up display can be projected onto the windshield so all critical info is as easy as possible to see without taking one’s eyes from the road.
All of this impressive gear is housed in an interior that looks much nicer than its predecessor and most rivals, with plenty of premium-level pliable surfaces as well as nicer available Prima-Tex leatherette and quilted semi-aniline leather upholsteries, in no-cost optional Graphite, Grey or Tan. Better wood grains and metallic trims add to the upscale ambiance, while supporting driver and front passenger is a set of NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats that feature standard front heaters.
The steering wheel is also heated in base trim, while rear outboard seat warmers are available, as is two-position driver-side memory. A surround parking camera system dubbed Intelligent Around View Monitor is also available, this useful feature combined with the previously noted rear driver assistance systems.
Also notable, Nissan’s adoption of a fully electronic transmission allows for a smaller, shorter and generally smarter electronic shift lever, while thanks to this there is plenty of space for stowing personal items below the “floating” centre console.
Storage in mind, Nissan still hasn’t given the Rogue a rear centre pass-through or 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats despite some competitors anteing up with this much more convenient option. This allows users to stow longer items, such as skis, down the centre while rear passengers benefit from the more comfortable, optionally heatable rear window positions, but this said Nissan has provided one-touch automated folding with “an available remote fold feature” for added convenience. The Rogue’s innovative Divide-n-Hide cargo system is also available once again, as is a powered opening/closing and Motion Activated Liftgate that allows access merely by kicking one’s foot under the rear bumper.
The 2021 Rogue is once again available in three trims, starting with the base S that’s followed by SV and Platinum models. Deliveries will begin this fall, with pricing expected closer to the model’s launch.
As intriguing as the new 2021 Rogue might appear, some would rather benefit from the steep discounts currently being offered by Nissan Canada and its dealer organization. In fact, a quick check of our 2020 Nissan Rogue Canada Prices page showed up to $5,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing, which is a staggering savings for an SUV in this price class. To learn about all the available manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing opportunities, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on any new model, find out how a CarCostCanada membership will put money back in your wallet, and while you’re at it make sure to download our free mobile app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.
No sooner did Mazda bring its long awaited CX-5 Diesel to market and it’s now gone, or at least it doesn’t appear to be coming back for the 2020 model year or anytime in the near or distant future. As it is, their SkyActiv-D (Diesel) powerplant didn’t catch on with enough CX-5 customers, and despite only being available for 2019 (and still possible to find as a new vehicle from Mazda retailers at the time of writing) can no longer be found on the brand’s retail website.
As for its diesel engine program, it’s remotely possible Mazda may once again offer a compact or mid-size B-Series pickup truck here like it does with its Isuzu-based BT-50 in Asian, Middle Eastern, African, plus Central and South American markets (although that truck uses a 3.0-litre four-cylinder Isuzu diesel), the potential volume of such vehicles sold by Toyota, GM, Ford, and to some extent Nissan (we’ll see if the new Frontier is able to claw back neglected and therefore lost market share when it finally goes on sale) no doubt tempting, although I highly doubt it fits within their near-premium, sport-luxury North American strategy (the interior looks impressive though). Thus, we’ll probably see a greater focus on SkyActiv-G (Gasoline) technology and, who knows, maybe even a hybrid or two now that they’ve unveiled a new EV at the most recent Tokyo motor show.
Right now you have the opportunity to purchase one of the last handful of new 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel (or SkyActiv-D) SUVs available until they’ll only come up once in a while on the pre-owned market (and diesel owners tend to keep their cars for longer than average, so don’t hesitate if you want one sooner than later). Most buyers in this class never knew a turbo-diesel option was even available last year, despite Mazda’s SkyActiv-D being a much-anticipated new option for years amongst the engine-type’s faithful. It took a lot longer to become reality than Mazda originally planned, probably because of the fallout ensuing from Volkswagen’s 2015 Dieselgate scandal, and possibly due to little marketing fanfare only lasted a single model year. Its departure has stunned a number of diesel fans that have made their outrage known on social media, but it hasn’t even caused a buzz from the majority of Mazda owners that, as noted, didn’t even know what they were missing.
If Mazda had asked me, I would have told them not to bother with the diesel, because oil burners are now only appreciated in trucks and sometimes SUVs here in the North American markets, particularly if they’re off-road oriented. For instance, a torque-rich diesel makes sense in Jeep’s 4×4-ready Wrangler and therefore should gain some reasonable traction despite its outrageous $7,395 price tag (and that’s not even including the $1,795 required for the eight-speed automatic), but GM recently tried pulling the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon’s turbo-diesel over to its compact Equinox to little effect (and even tried a diesel within its car lineup). The fact Toyota, possibly the one manufacturer capable of pulling off a successful diesel option in their Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner or Sequoia (not to mention the Land Cruiser in the U.S.), isn’t even trying says a lot, but we should nevertheless give Mazda high marks for bravery.
Unlike VW, which has now abandoned diesel-power altogether, Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine actually met Canada’s strict emissions regulations for the 2019 model year, which shows that it’s cleaner and greener than any oil burner offered by the Germans, all of which killed off their diesels in our market soon after the aforementioned Dieselgate kafuffle. Mazda’s diesel would have no doubt passed 2020 regulations as well, being as they haven’t changed, but now this achievement hardly matters.
Rather than blather on about a diesel-powered 2019 CX-5 you might be able to get your hands on if you’re lucky, I’ll instead give you a quick rundown of both 2019 and 2020 models with the various model year changes. If you can get into a 2019 model, whether diesel or gasoline powered, you’ll benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, incidentally, whereas the 2020 model only has about $1,000 on the hood. You can find out more about such money-saving details on our 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page or 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page, by the way, and after that become a CarCostCanada member to take advantage of all the savings. We inform you about manufacturer rebates, manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could very well save you thousands, plus more, so make sure to find out how it works and then download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.
Looking back at our just-mentioned 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page immediately shows that the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel SkyActiv-D engine is only available with the top-tier Signature trim line for $45,950 (plus freight and fees). Signature trim was entirely new to the CX-5 for the 2019 model year, and uniquely pulled Mazda’s compact crossover SUV closer to the premium brand status than any other mainstream model in this class, other than maybe Buick that’s long spanned the divide between volume and luxury.
Additional 2019 CX-5 trims include the entry-level GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive (FWD) or $29,850 with all-wheel drive (AWD), the second-rung GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the former top-tier GT (Grand Touring in the U.S.) that starts at $37,450 before topping out at $39,450 when upgrading to its 2.5-litre turbocharged SkyActiv-G (gasoline) engine. Of note, GT and Signature trims comes standard with Mazda’s i-Activ AWD.
The CX-5 Signature, standard with the just-mentioned 2.5-litre turbo gasoline powerplant for $40,950, plus available with the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already nicely equipped CX-5 GT by adding features such as LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital primary gauge cluster, a cleaner looking frameless centre mirror, real Abachi hardwood trim on the dash and door panels, as well as dark brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim.
The Signature pulls plenty of features up from the GT too, including front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlights, LED fog lamps, power-folding exterior mirrors, proximity keyless access, traffic sign recognition, two-zone auto climate control, a navigation system, 10-speaker audio with integrated satellite radio, a universal garage door opener, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, and more, while leather upholstery in black or no-cost white makes the GT plenty luxurious all on its own.
Speaking of luxury, the CX-5 comes with a few finishings more likely to only be found in premium offerings, such as cloth-wrapped A pillars, premium-like padded cabin surfaces on the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console edges, door uppers front and back, and armrests all-round, while the CX-5 also boasts a plenty of brushed aluminum trim bits all over the interior, some even upgraded with knurled edging for a particularly impressive look. It’s fairly upscale switchgear from a mainstream brand, making me wonder whether Mazda will eventually try to lift itself up into premium territory in price as well as quality.
To this end, the SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel suits an upwardly mobile brand like Mazda better than some others, being that diesels have long been the stuff of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, plus more recently Jaguar and Land Rover. I’d be remiss not to mention Volkswagen again, because not too long ago oil burners made up more than half of their Canadian sales, but now all of the just-noted German brands are on a different trajectory, embracing plug-in electric mobility at a much greater development cost and no sure promise of profits (even mighty Tesla had never managed more than two sequential quarters of profits as of this review’s publication date).
As for Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine, it only produces 168 horsepower, but then again it puts out a very strong 290 lb-ft of torque. Such low horsepower, high torque ratios are par for the course when it comes to diesels, by the way, but it’s not like the CX-5 Signature’s standard 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G engine is without merits. Count them, 227 gasoline-fed horses and a grand total of 310 lb-ft of torque when said gasoline is 93 octane or higher. When cheaping out at the pump you can expect the same torque yet only 250 horsepower, but that’s still an impressive number for this class. What’s more, the 2020 version of this engine is capable of an even more satisfying 320 horsepower, which will make the upcoming 2021 Mazda3 AWD, just announced to receive this powertrain as an option, a serious sport sedan rivalling true luxury brands.
I’ve now spent at least a week with all second-generation CX-5 engines mated to the model’s all-wheel drivetrain, and can happily say the latter is well worth the extra expense when compared to the compact SUV’s base 2.0-litre four, unless fuel economy is the driving force behind your decision. This is where the twin-turbo SkyActiv-D trumps its stable mates, garnering a Natural Resources Canada rating of 8.9 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 8.4 combined compared to the larger and more potent 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating. Yes, the diesel is better, but is it really $5,000 better? That’s a question you’ll need to ask yourself before plunking down the significant chunk of change needed to buy one.
Another consideration is the well-equipped CX-5 GT noted before, that for $37,450 provides most of the Signature’s premium-like features as well as a more fuel-friendly 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder in base trim. That smaller engine makes a reasonably strong 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, but its expected fuel economy is nearly as good as the diesel at 9.8 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 9.0 combined, whereas the same engine found in lesser trims with front wheel drive can achieve almost identical claimed fuel economy at a respective 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5.
I spent a week in a 2019 CX-5 GT outfitted with the entry-level powerplant and its standard all-wheel drivetrain last year, and walked away very satisfied with its fuel-efficiency/performance compromise, not to mention its luxurious surroundings. Then again, more recently I spent a whopping three months with a newer 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo-equipped 2020 CX-5 Signature and was much happier, at least with its performance and even more upscale interior, while I was also fine with its fuel economy considering the performance at hand (and particularly at foot). You’ll see a detailed review of this model shortly, but being that the review I’m current writing is about a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 Signature, I’ll only say, if it was a case of needing to purge an engine in order to make this compact SUV more profitable, Mazda got rid of the right one.
I should make clear that you could very well save a great deal more than the claimed rating when living with a SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 than at the wheel of the more potent SkyActiv-G model, because most drivers will be tempted to drive the sportier feeling gasoline variant faster. I found myself more relaxed and easy-going when behind the wheel of the non-paddle-shifter-equipped diesel than the top-line gasoline model, a factor that could also prevent potential speeding tickets with some owners. What’s more, diesel pump prices are less volatile than those for gasoline, and more often than not cheaper too.
Don’t get me wrong, as the diesel delivers some significant torque off the line, and it made haste during highway passing too, but it can’t provide the level of sportiness offered by the more formidable gasoline-fed turbo-four, and thanks to the relatively quiet yet still noticeable rattle-and-hum heard ahead of the engine firewall, the diesel sounds more like a truck than the gasoline variant too. Depending on your leanings, this will be a positive or negative, while all should appreciate the added grip through the corners brought about by the Signature’s 19-inch alloy wheels.
The CX-5’s six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging without the aforementioned paddles, and yes six forward speeds doesn’t sound as advanced as the various eight-speed, nine-speed and continuously variable transmissions being offered by others, but along with providing snappy shifts when pushing hard and smooth intervals when driving in a more relaxed state, Mazda’s SkyActiv-Drive gearbox has been very dependable when compared to some of the just-noted challengers.
Together with the second-gen CX-5’s impressive cornering prowess, all examples I’ve driven have delivered a comfortable ride. They’ve been a tad firmer than some of their Asian and domestic competitors, due to Mazda’s performance-focused corporate credo, but this has never interfered with suspension comfort. Then again, the CX-5’s fully independent suspension is more responsive than most rivals, especially when coursing down a winding mountain road, while it also provides a level of high-speed confidence on the freeway that’s not available to the same degree from some compact SUV challengers.
Speaking of best-in-class, the CX-5’s 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks make its cargo compartment more convenient than the majority of competitors too, while release levers mounted near the rear hatch opening allow the seats to lower themselves automatically, thus adding even greater ease to the loading process.
After numerous stints behind the wheel of various CX-5 trims, I can easily recommend Mazda’s compact SUV, but I won’t try to tell you which engine you should purchase. I can say, however, you’d better act fast if you like the sound of the brand’s SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel, because they’re now few and far between, and soon won’t be available at all.
If you look at the 2018–2020 Hyundai Accent, you’ll be hard pressed to see any changes at all. The fifth-generation entry-level subcompact model arrived in sedan and hatchback form during calendar year 2017, and since then only had its trim levels changed from L, LE, GL and GLS to Essential, Preferred and Ultimate for the 2019 model year, and lost its four-door body style for 2020 (in Canada, the U.S. kept the sedan and dropped the hatchback).
Actually, there’s a lot more to the 2020 Accent than meets the eye, particularly a redesigned engine and all-new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) for those wanting an automatic, replacing the 2019’s conventional six-speed auto. Another change is the elimination of the six-speed manual gearbox from top-line Ultimate trim, this version of the car only available with the CVT for 2020.
By the way, Hyundai isn’t the only automaker to kill off its subcompact sedan in Canada. Toyota dropped its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for the 2020 model year too, while Nissan said so long to its Versa Note and won’t be offering the redesigned Versa sedan (that’s available south of the border) in our jurisdiction. Ford also discontinued its Fiesta four- and five-door variants after the 2019 model year, while Chevy dropped its Sonic the year before that, all of which leaves Kia and its Rio as the only choice for sedan buyers in the subcompact class.
The 2020 Accent’s new 1.6-litre Smartstream engine replaces a very dependable four-cylinder of the same displacement, with the new one optimized for fuel economy over performance. The 2020 mill has actually lost 12 horsepower and 6 lb-ft of torque for a rating of 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft compared to 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque in the 2019 car I last tested. In a car so small and light, this should make a significant difference, but it’s possible Hyundai has worked magic in the car’s manual and new CVT transmissions, so I’ll have to test the new one to know for sure.
On the positive the new 2020 Accent is rated at 7.8 L/100km city, 6.1 highway and 7.0 combined with its standard six-speed manual, or 7.3, 6.0 and 6.7 respectively with the more efficient CVT. The outgoing 2019 Accent’s claimed rating of 8.2 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.3 combined for both the manual and auto makes it easy to see Hyundai’s reason for change. In this class their choice of fuel economy over performance makes a lot of sense, being that most buyers are choosing Hyundai’s least expensive model in order to save money. After all, those who want a performance car can opt for the new Elantra N or one of the even sportier Veloster trims.
Then again, the 2019 Accent 5-Door Ultimate I tested is really fun when powering away from stoplights, and it has no difficulty passing long semi-trailers on a two-lane highway. The six-speed manual is a joy to flick through its notchy double-H pattern, the clutch take-up is near effortless to engage and well sorted, making it as good for those wanting to learn how to drive manual as it is for seasoned pros, while the Ultimate model’s four-wheel disc brakes are strong (the two lesser trims get rear drums), and the 17-inch alloys make a difference when pushing it hard through tight corners. I’m not going to pretend this is some sort of hot hatch, but the Accent can hold its own through a set of fast-paced S-turns, while it’s very good on the open highway thanks to a fairly long wheelbase. I had no problem cruising in this car for the better part of a day, whether running errands around town or out on the freeway. After a weeklong test I found it comfortable and more than just capable, it was downright fun to drive.
I know it’s more popular to opt for crossover SUVs than regular cars these days, but those looking to save a couple thousand might want to fall in love with something like this low-slung hatchback instead of its more rugged looking alternative. Yes, Hyundai’s new Venue is tempting at just over $17k, but you can get into an Accent for under $15k and you’ll be getting a larger, more accommodating car with better performance or fuel economy (depending on the year).
Put the two side-by-side and some will be forced to admit the sportier looking Accent has the edge on the Venue when it comes to styling too, but that will come down to personal taste, of course. The 2018 redesign did a lot to improve the Accent’s cool factor, thanks to big, bold grille and plenty of classy chrome elements to on this Ultimate model. The metal brightwork is most noticeable on the front fascia around the fog lights, also exclusive to this trim, while the side window mouldings and exterior door handles are chromed too. A set of LED headlights with LED signature accents also improve the look and functionality of this top-tier model, as does the set of LED turn signals infused into the side mirror caps, while its 17-inch multi-spoke alloys add class as well as some sporty character to the overall design.
As mentioned a moment ago, the 2020 Accent Essential can be had for a mere $14,949 (plus freight and fees), which a lot less expensive than last year’s base price of $17,349. As it was (and still is, being that 2019 models were available at the time of writing), the 2019 Accent came standard with a Comfort Package that’s now extra. The 2020 Essential with Comfort Package starts at $17,699, while the price for the Accent’s second-tier Preferred trim line has jumped up from $17,549 in 2019 to $17,899 in 2020, and the as-tested Ultimate has increased its entry price by $1,250, from $20,049 to $21,649, but remember that it now comes standard with the CVT. Willing to take a guess what the upgrade from six-speed manual to six-speed automatic is in a 2019 Accent? Yup, $1,250.
This is the largest Accent ever, by the way, which translates into a roomier, more accommodating car than most will expect in this class, particularly when it comes to interior width. The Accent’s seats provide a lot of adjustability, as long as you’re not hoping to adjust the driver’s lumbar support as there’s no way to do so, and while I would have like more pressure at my lower back, as well as deeper side bolsters, the Accent is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore not capable of matching everyone’s body type perfectly. The rest of the seat’s adjustments were good, mind you, while the tilt and telescopic steering wheel’s reach was very good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso body had no problem getting both comfortable and in control, which isn’t always the case in this class and some others.
The rear seating area is spacious and comfortable as well, although those that want a centre rear armrest will need to look elsewhere. The seatbacks fold 60/40, however, expanding the already sizeable cargo area when needing to haul longer items. When lowered, the seatbacks sit about four inches above the load floor, so it’s not flat, but I was glad Hyundai chose to maximize available space instead of making it all level. A small spare tire and some tools are stowed underneath, and a hard-shell cargo cover rests above, all expected in this class.
Less normal in this entry-level segment is the Accent Ultimate’s impressive cabin decor, not to mention its bevy of features. Access by proximity keyless entry ahead of starting the engine via button was a nice touch, while the interior is further spiced up with a two-tone red and black colour scheme. Hyundai doesn’t finish any cabin surfaces with soft-touch plastics, but all armrests are padded leatherette, and sharp looking seats are plenty soft of course, these finished with red leatherette bolsters, red stitching and some cool hexagonal embroidery on their cloth seatbacks. The red theme continues over to the door panel inserts, more red thread on the leatherette shifter boot, plus more on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The steering wheel is really nice, incidentally, while its spokes come filled with extremely high-quality switchgear, the toggles on the left adjusting the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and phone use, while the ones on the right are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and the Accent’s cruise control system.
The instruments in front of the driver are simple and straight-forward, with bright backlit dials on either side of the just-mentioned multi-information display. More impressive is the bright, colourful and well-endowed 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, a large backup camera with moving guidelines, and more.
A single-zone automatic climate control system can be adjusted just below, which includes large dials for easy use while wearing winter gloves, while under that is a row of buttons for the three-way heatable front seats and even one for the heated steering wheel rim. Where the centre stack meets the lower console is a big tray for holding your smartphone, plus USB-A and auxiliary connections.
The top-line Accent Ultimate also includes a powered moonroof and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, by the way, while equipment pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering column (the base model only gets a tilting wheel), cruise control, front seat heaters and the larger 7.0-inch centre touchscreen (instead of the 5.0-inch one on the base model) mentioned already, as well as automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (an improvement over four speakers found in the base model), keyless access, and a USB-A charging port in the rear seating area from Preferred trim; the automatic transmission and Bluetooth noted before, plus power-adjustable and heatable side mirrors, air conditioning and powered windows from the Essential Comfort package; and finally variable intermittent front windshield wipers, a manually adjustable six-way driver’s seat, a manually adjustable four-way front passenger’s seat, and power door locks from the base Essential model.
There’s a lot to like about today’s Accent, especially when factoring in value. Add in a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty and it all starts making sense. If you’re not wholly sold on a new subcompact SUV like Hyundai’s Venue or Kona, I recommend you take a closer look at the Accent, and when you do, don’t forget to choose a 2019 model for performance or 2020 to save more on fuel.
I’ve heard the line before. People only buy Mercedes-Benz products to flash its prestigious three-pointed star. That may be true in some cases, but with respect to the new A 220, and many other cars in its extensive lineup, it wins new luxury buyers by being best in class.
It doesn’t hurt that the A 220 looks as good as it does, but take note that at just $37,300 (plus freight and fees) the newest model in Mercedes’ wide and varied 2020 collection isn’t just for the affluent. Yes, that number is a significant $2,310 more than last year’s A 220, but it now comes with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, Canadians probably not buying enough of the 2019 front-wheel drive variants to make a business case viable moving forward. Still, Mercedes’ most affordable new model is well within reach of those not normally capable of buying into the luxury class, with this base model priced very close to fully loaded versions of mainstream volume-branded compacts.
At first sight the A 220 appears too long, low and lean to be a compact four-door sedan, but with a little research I soon found out its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase puts it slightly smaller than some mainstream compacts you likely know better, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3, while it competes directly in size and particularly in price with premium-badged sedans such as the Audi A3, Acura ILX, and new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although the Bimmer more accurately targets Mercedes’ sporty CLA-Class four-door coupe.
The new BMW hasn’t been around long enough to collect usable sales data, and it’s hardly been the best of years for the car industry on the whole anyway, so therefore a look back to calendar year 2019 more accurately shows the A-Class and the rest of Mercedes’ small car lineup cleaning up in Canada’s compact luxury competition. Mercedes sold more than 5,000 subcompact luxury models in 2019, which included the new A 250 hatch as well as this A 220 sedan, plus the CLA-Class and outgoing B-Class (more than 300 of the now cancelled Bs were delivered last year, and another 200-plus over Q1 of 2020).
By comparison, the second-best-selling Mini Cooper, which is also a collection of body styles and mostly lower in price, found more than 3,700 Canadian buyers, whereas the Audi A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 garnered 3,100-plus new customers, the ILX almost 1,900, the 2 Series (ahead of the new four-door coupe arriving) at just over 1,200, and BMW’s unorthodox i3 EV finding 300 new owners. Incidentally, the A-Class, which was the only model in this segment to achieve positive year-over-year sales in 2019 (slightly below 14.5 percent), won over 3,632 new buyers last year alone, placing it just behind the previously noted Mini that saw its Y-o-Y sales fall by 17 percent.
Certainly, the A 220’s attractive styling and approachable pricing contributed to its strong sales last year, but there’s a great deal more to the swoopy four-door sedan than good looks and price competitiveness. For starters is a knockout cabin that wows with style and hardly comes up short on leading-edge features. Most noticeable is Mercedes’ all-in-one digital instrument panel/infotainment display, that combines some of the most vibrantly coloured, creatively penned graphics in the industry with wonderfully functional systems, while housing it all within an ultra-wide fixed tablet-style frame.
These electronic interfaces are important differentiators when comparing an entry-level Mercedes to fully loaded compact sedans from mainstream volume brands like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Truly, the A 220’s lower dash and door panels aren’t necessarily made from better materials than its more common compact counterparts, respectively the Civic, Corolla, Elantra and Mazda3, but most everything above the waste comes close to matching the tactile and materials quality found in more expensive Mercedes models, like the C-Class and even the E-Class. Together with the eye-popping digital interfaces already mentioned are gorgeous stitched leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood along those door panels and across the dash, while satin-finish aluminum trim can be found all over the interior, my personal favourite application being the gorgeous turbine-like instrument panel HVAC vents.
Going back to the all-in-one primary instrument cluster and infotainment widescreen display, dubbed MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, the left-side gauge package provides a number of different display themes including Modern Classic, Sport and Understated, plus the ability to create your own personalized themes, while the layout can be modified to a numeric format speedometer in place of the traditional-looking circular one, with the rest of the display area used for other features like navigation mapping, fuel economy info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting information, etcetera.
Over on the right-side of my test model’s MBUX display were the usual assortment of centre-screen infotainment functions, like navigation (albeit with the ability to opt for an augmented reality feature that shows a front camera view displaying upcoming street names and directional indicators); audio system info including graphical satellite radio station readouts; drive settings that include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (that can also be chosen via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; a calls, contacts and messages interface; a big, clear parking camera with active guidelines; plus more, and on top of all this Mercedes provides more hands-on control of infotainment functions than any competitor.
Adjustments can be made via the touchscreen itself, which is rather uncommon in the luxury class, plus you can use Mercedes’ very smart Linguatronic Voice Control system that’s easily one of the most advanced in the industry (but take note that “Mercedes” is a tad too eager to help out, always responding with a pesky “How can I help you?” when mentioning her name), or alternatively let your thumbs do the talking via a miniscule set of BlackBerry-like optical trackpads on the steering wheel spokes, or finally use the touchpad on the lower console, which is surrounded by big quick entry buttons as well. That touchpad is the best I’ve used this side of my MacBook Pro, providing intuitive responses to tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is as easy to use as dropping your right arm from the steering wheel, and didn’t cause me to divert my eyes from the road more often than necessary.
An attractive row of climate controls stretches across a smartly organized interface just below the centre display, featuring highly legible readouts and lovely knurled aluminum toggle switches, all hovering above a big rubber smartphone tray that boasts wireless charging capability. All around, the A 220 provides most everything you’ll need and a number of things you won’t, but I like the soft purple ambient lighting nonetheless.
The only negative I could find were the small, delicately sized and hollow feeling steering wheel stalks for the turn signals/wipers and selecting gears, but due to how well they’re made I still can’t lambaste them completely. I’m thinking they’re more about reducing mass to save on fuel and improve performance, not that they’d individually make a big difference to either. To be clear, I’ve never tested lighter or less substantive column stalks ever. In fact, the shift paddles feel heftier, but they certainly did what they needed to and won’t likely fall apart, it was just a strange decision for Mercedes to make such important hand/machine interfaces so flimsy feeling.
Even before I shifted the A 220 into gear, I was shocked at how thin the lower door panel composite was. Was this due to weight savings as well? The plastic extrusions were perfect with thin ribs strengthening their upper edges, so it wasn’t a case of cutting corners, but they didn’t feel up to Mercedes’ usual high-quality standards. Fortunately, as noted earlier, the A 220’s more visible surfaces are superb, other than the hard-composite lower centre console that might be somewhat disappointing to those that have recently spent time in one of the upper trims of the volume-branded compacts noted before, which mostly finish such areas in soft padded pleather.
Up above is a particularly nice overhead console featuring controls for a big panoramic glass sunroof, plus LED dome and reading lights, and more. It was strange that the B and C pillars weren’t wrapped in fabric, with only the A pillars done out to premium standards, just like the mainstream cars just mentioned, but of course this isn’t totally uncommon in the luxury segment’s most basic entry-level category. At least all of components fit nicely together, with each lid and every door shutting with firm Teutonic solidity, except for the glove box lid that was particularly light in weight.
My tester’s interior was doused in a light grey and black two-tone motif, much of the grey being leather that covers both rows of seats that are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive, particularly via their side bolstering. They even included manually-adjustable lower thigh extensions that I loved. I’m not only talking about the front seats, by the way, because those in the rear outboard positions provided good comfort as well, thanks to sculpted backrests and more foot and legroom than expected, plus a decent amount of headroom.
After adjusting the driver’s seat for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight, small-build body type, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough space for my feet while wearing a pair of boots, while side-to-side roominess was good too. With three inches of airspace over my head, tall teens and larger adults than me should have no problem fitting in back, while the rear headrests also provided comfortably soft support.
Mercedes provides a fold-down centre armrest in back, but I found it too low for comfort, although it would likely be ideal for smaller sized adults or children. It comes with a duo of pop-out cupholders that clamp onto drinks well, while a set of netted magazine holders are attached to the backside of each front seat too. Each rear outboard passenger gets their own HVAC vent as well, plus just under these is a pull-out compartment complete with a small storage bin and a pair of USB-C chargers. No rear seat warmers were included in my tester, but LED reading lights could be found overhead.
Cargo shouldn’t be a problem being that the A 220’s nicely finished trunk is quite big for this class, and I really appreciated the ability to stow longer items like skis down the middle thanks to ultra-versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Folding the seats down is easy too, because Mercedes offers up a set of trunk-mounted levers.
Together with everything already mentioned, this year’s A 220 comes well equipped with standard features such as LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior inlays, pushbutton start/stop, MBUX infotainment (although the base model’s display size is smaller than my tester’s at 7.0-inches for each of its two screens), a six-speaker audio system (that provided deep resonant bass tones along with nice mids and highs), a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof mentioned earlier, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus a lot more.
You may have noticed more gear in the photos, this because my test model also came with $890 worth of Mountain Grey Metallic exterior paint; $500 of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a $3000 Premium package featuring proximity keyless access, power-folding mirrors, a bigger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and the same sized centre display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice control, induction charging, auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated powered trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package that added multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; plus a $1,000 Navigation package including a GPS/nav system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality function noted before, a Connectivity package, and finally Traffic Sign Assist.
The long list of additions continue with a new (for 2020) $1,900 Intelligent Drive package boasting Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (which uses the nav system info to adjust the A 220’s speed based on road conditions ahead before the driver can even see what’s coming), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; $475 satellite radio; plus black open-pore wood inlays for $250 (walnut inlays are available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s previously noted $37,300 base price, making for an impressively equipped compact Mercedes at just $47,815 (plus freight and fees).
It was missing a lot of additional gear too, by the way, including a $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, $500 optional 19-inch alloys, a $250 heated Nappa leather steering wheel, a $1,500 head-up display unit, a $650 surround parking monitor, a $700 450-watt, 12-speaker Burmester surround audio system (which is quite the deal for this brand), a $300 garage door opener, a $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory (the base model’s is manually operated), and $1,200 worth of cooled front seats (these new for this model year).
As impressive as the new A 220’s styling, cabin design, detailed execution and loads of features are, the brand’s century of heritage really comes through when out on the road. Despite only endowed with 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, straight-line acceleration is quite strong and even more so when set to Sport mode, at which point shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic come quickly and precisely. The car’s now standard 4Matic all-wheel drive allowed all four of the 225/45R18 Michelins below to latch onto pavement simultaneously, resulting in sharp, immediate results when my right foot was pegged to the throttle, while the little sport sedan tracked brilliantly during fast-paced highway and curving byway excursions, even in rain-soaked conditions.
Standard shift paddles add some hands-on engagement that was really appreciated when pushing hard in Sport mode, but I also found them useful for short-shifting to save on fuel. I opted for Eco mode for such situations, which provided even smoother more relaxed shifts as well as fuel economy improvements. The A 220 is rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, and while we’re talking efficiencies, last year’s front-wheel drive version didn’t make that much of a difference due to a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.7, 6.8 and 8.4 respectively, so therefore Mercedes’ choice to offer AWD as standard equipment won’t hamper your fuel budget.
It was during my usual relaxed pace of driving, with a focus on saving fuel, that I really appreciated the A 220’s excellent ride quality, impressively smooth for this class of car, but then again it’s important for me to point out that it’s never soft and wallowy. In Germanic tradition its ride is firmer than rivals from Japan, although I couldn’t imagine anyone complaining about harshness. The A 220’s hushed ambiance makes it feel even more refined and luxurious, making it ideal for isolating noisy, bustling city streets as well as toning down the sound of wind on the open road.
I must say, if my own money was on the line in this entry-level luxury segment, I’d opt for the A 220 over its four-door subcompact premium rivals, as it scores high marks in all key categories. It looks stunning and offers up what I think is the nicest interior in the class, can be had with all the features I want and need, is great fun to drive when called upon yet provides all the pampering luxury I’d ever want, and is a fairly pragmatic choice too, at least with respect to four-door sedans.
This said I have yet to drive the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although its self-proclaimed four-door coupe body style won’t be able to offer up the same amount of rear seat headroom as the A 220, and the only other subcompact luxury competitors are the Audi A3, which has been on the market for seven-plus years with only a subtle mid-cycle makeover, plus the Acura ILX that’s just as long-in-the-tooth, although only last year it had a much more dramatic update. Still, the ILX is merely an old Honda Civic under the skin, albeit with a better powertrain and gearbox.
Whether opting for the new A 220 or one of the other cars mentioned in this review, I’d be sure to check them all out right here at CarCostCanada before heading to the dealership, mind you. Our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while the 2019 model (if still available) was available for up to $2,000 in additional incentives. Members can access information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives, and best of all is dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Find out how CarCostCanada works here, and make sure to download our free app at the Google Android Play Store or Apple App Store so you can access all this valuable info when you’re at the dealership.
After eight long years of the sixth-generationJetta, Volkswagen introduced a ground-up redesign for the 2019 model year and Canadian compact sedan buyers responded by boosting the model’s sales by 14 percent. That’s a good news story for VW Canada, but 17,260 units in 2019 is a far cry from the car’s high of 31,042 deliveries in 2014.
All we need do to understand this scenario more clearly is compare the VW Tiguan’s sales of 10,096 units in 2014 to the 19,250 sold in 2019 (which was actually down 10 percent from the 21,449 examples sold in 2018), and thus we see another example of crossover SUVs encroaching on the conventional car’s traditional territory.
As VW fans will already be well aware, the German brand controls more of the compact segment than the Jetta’s sales indicate on their own. Most rivals, including Honda’s best-selling Civic, Toyota’s second-rung Corolla, Hyundai’s third-place Elantra, and the list goes on, combine multiple body styles under one nameplate. This was true for VW’s fifth-place Golf for the 2019 model year too, and previously when available as a Cabriolet, but with the SportWagen being cancelled for 2020 the little hatchback moves forward with just one profile shape. Speaking of that Golf, if its 2019 calendar year sales of 19,668 units were combined with the Jetta’s aforementioned total, created one collective whole, VW would no longer sit in fifth and sixth places respectively, but instead jump past Mazda’s 21,276 unit-sales with a new compact total of 36,928 deliveries. That puts the Golf/Jetta combo mighty close to the Elantra’s 39,463 deliveries.
OK, I got a little carried away with numbers, as I sometimes do (just be glad I didn’t add the 3,667 Ioniq and 1,420 Veloster sales to Hyundai’s 2019 calendar year mix, or the 2,910 now discontinued VW Beetles), but you should now have a better understanding of the situation. Volkswagen continues to be a serious player in compact arena, and the Jetta is a key component of its mostly two-pronged (so far) approach in this market segment. This said, VW has done compact performance better than most of its rivals for a lot longer, with entries like the iconic Golf GTI and hyper-fast Golf R playing it out in the hot hatch sector, and the Jetta GLI being reviewed here pushing VW’s agenda amongst affordable sport sedans.
Yes, Honda deserves kudos for its long-running Civic Si (now with 205 hp) that arrived in 1985 as the CRX Si and in regular Civic form for 1988, and currently puts out a beastly compact sport hatch dubbed Type R (306 hp), which is a similar combo to Subaru’s legendary WRX (268 hp) and WRX STI (310 hp) twins, while Mazda’s less formidable yet still respectable 3 GT is in the mix (186 hp—how we miss the Mazdaspeed3, but there is recent talk of Mazda’s 250-hp turbo 2.5 with 310 lb-ft of torque improving 3 performance), but the South Koreans have recently been stepping up competition with sporty alternatives of their own, respectively including the Elantra Sport (201 hp) and Kia Forte GT (201 hp) that actually use identical powertrains and ride on the same platform architecture. While this is good news for performance fans, Ford recently nixed its fabulous Focus ST (252 hp) and sensational Focus RS (350 hp) along with their entire car lineup (sacrificed to the crossover SUV), Mustang coupe and convertible aside, showing some come and some go. Yes, there’s something to be said for honest to goodness longstanding performance heritage, and the Jetta’s three-letter GLI acronym beats all rivals excepting the GTI in the test of time, with its 1984 inception resulting in 36 years under its belt.
To its advantage, the new Jetta GLI is one good looking sport sedan. Those who might be turned off by Honda’s boy-racer Civic Si design and Subaru’s rally-ready WRX look should gravitate to the sporty VeeDub thanks to its more discreet appearance. The usual blackened exterior trim is once again joined by tasteful splashes of red accenting key areas, this latest version getting a red horizontal divider across its grille as well as big red brake calipers framed by special red trim circling each of its dark grey 18-inch wheels. Of course, the front and rear “GLI” badges are doused in bright red as well, as is a really attractive set of front fender trim pieces that boast this GLI 35th Edition’s unique designation.
As far as the GLI’s glossy black trim goes, there’s a thick strip along the top portion of the grille, plus more of the inky black treatment surrounding the lower front fascia’s corner vent bezels, painting the side mirror housings, finishing the front portion and rear portions of the roof, and coating the tastefully small rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a real looker from front to rear, and more importantly for people my age (let’s just say above 50), the type of compact sport sedan that won’t make you look like you’re trying to relive your glory days when seen behind the wheel.
As expected in any performance-tuned VW, the GLI includes a well-bolstered, comfortable set of perforated leather front seats. They’re highlighted with sporty red contrast stitching and attractively patterned inserts, for a look that’s simultaneously sporty and luxurious. What’s more, the steering wheel is downright performance perfection, featuring a slightly flat bottom section and ideally formed thumb indentations, plus red baseball-like stitching around the inside of the meaty leather-wrapped rim. VW continues the cabin’s bright red highlights with more crimson coloured thread on the leather gear lever boot, plus the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the model’s “GLI 35” seat tags, as well as the identical logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless-steel sill plates.
There’s also a fair share of satin-silver aluminum trim around the cabin, including the previously noted steering wheel’s spokes, the foot pedals, various switches and accents on the centre stack and lower console, plus more. Additional trim worth noting include a small dose of fake carbon-fibre and larger sampling of piano black lacquer on the dash and upper door panels, whereas the former area is wholly soft-touch due to a premium-like composite that wraps down to the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, before this premium treatment continues to the front door uppers, inserts and armrests.
While all of this luxury-level pampering sounds good, I’m quite certain most would-be buyer’s eyes will be find the standard digital instrument cluster even more appealing, at least at first sight. If you’ve seen Audi’s Virtual Cockpit you’ll know what I’m talking about, although VW calls theirs a Digital Cockpit. Similarly to the fancier German brand, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit includes a “VIEW” button on the left-side steering wheel spoke that transforms the cluster’s look from a traditional two-dial layout with a multi-function display in the middle to a massive MID with tiny conventional gauges below. This is looks especially good when filling the MID with the navigation system’s map, and makes it easier to glance down for directions than when on the centre display. The Digital Cockpit can do likewise with other functions, resulting in one of the more useful electronic components currently available from a mainstream brand.
The Jetta GLI’s centre touchscreen is a big 8.0-inch display boasting high-definition resolution and bright, colourful graphics with rich visual depth and contrast, while just like the primary instrument package it comes well stocked with features such as tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link smartphone integration, audio, navigation, application, driving mode and fuel-saving eco “pages”, plus finally a performance driving interface with a lap timer and more.
Strangely, active guidelines are not included with the backup camera, which is a bit odd for the GLI’s top-level trim, which included an available $995 ($1,005 for 2020) Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) upgrade bundle featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This package also adds Light Assist auto high beam control, dynamic cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Lane Assist lane keeping capability.
An attractive, well-organized and easy to use three-dial dual-zone auto climate control interface sits just below the infotainment display on the centre stack. It includes switches for the GLI’s standard three-way heated and ventilated front seats, the former warm enough for therapeutic lower back pain relief and the latter helpful for reducing sweat during hot summer months, while under this is an extremely large and accommodating rubber-based wireless device charger as well as a USB-A charging port.
A gearshift lever with a sporty looking metallic and composite knob and aforementioned red-stitched leather boot takes up its tradition spot on the lower console between front occupants, surrounding by an electric parking brake, traction control and idle-stop system defeat buttons, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.
Speaking of centre consoles, the overhead one above houses a handy sunglasses holder as well as switchgear for opening the big power glass sunroof that also includes an opaque fabric sunscreen with an upscale aluminum handle.
And so it should, as the GLI, starting at $32,445 plus freight and fees for the manual, or $33,845 for my as-tested DSG dual-clutch automated model, is starting to encroach into low-end premium territory. Fit, finish, materials tactile quality and overall refinement is only so-so, however, not even measuring up to VW’s own Golf GTI. It used to be that a Jetta was merely a Golf (or Rabbit) with a trunk, the latter useful for mitigating inner-city security risks, but now the two cars look totally different other than the badge on their grilles and backsides and a handful of cross-model components.
The base 2019 Golf GTI is available from $30,845 (and when I recently checked plenty were still available in Canada, probably due to the health situation that I don’t want to name due to being negatively flagged by search engines, etcetera) and $850 less than the $31,695 entry-level Jetta GLI, but the sporty VW hatchback boasts fabric-wrapped A pillars, just like its more affordable Golf counterparts, while no Jetta, including this GLI, gets this semi-premium treatment. All of the Jetta’s hard composites below the waist, and some of them above, don’t feel all that substantive either.
Certainly, we need to factor in the Jetta’s compact status, an entry-level model for Volkswagen that doesn’t sell a subcompact car in North America, but such is not the case for its main rivals that are seeing this compact segment as a growing alternative for those who might have otherwise purchase a mid-size sedan or wagon. The fact is, rivals from Japan and Korea are packing more soft-touch luxury and premium features into their smaller cars, and winning over buyers who want to be pampered instead of punished for choosing a more environmentally conscious small car. Just get into a fully loaded Mazda3, Toyota Corolla or Kia Forte and you’ll quickly figure out what I’m talking about. They’re delivering at a high level, and deserve to attract new buyers that aren’t being gobbled up by the Civic, the Corolla and Elantra.
The shame is VW used to lead in small car refinement, to the point that previous Jettas were probably too good for this segment, even starting to be uncomfortably compared against the automaker’s own Audi A4. Therefore, anyone trading in their 2005–2011 fifth-generation Jetta for the current version, whether trimmed out to top-line GLI spec or not, will probably find the cabin’s finish and materials quality less than ideal.
By the way, I tested a new Forte GT recently, and have to say it does a good job of competing against old guard sport compacts like this GLI and Honda’s Civic Si, but unlike this car the Forte’s rear door panels were finished to the same high-quality, soft-touch level as those up front, whereas none of the above can be found on the GLI’s rear door panels. I can’t think of another car in this class that misses the mark so blatantly in this respect, and call for VW to step things up before it completely loses its reputation for tactile quality.
This said, a set of heated outboard rear seats would’ve been much appreciated by rear passengers mid-winter, not that these aren’t offered by competitors, but once again the panel surrounding the three-way buttons was about as primitive as this class provides. The seats were comfortable and supportive, mind you, as well as attractive due to the same red stitching and perforated leather as those in the front, not to mention sculpted backrests in the outer window positions. A decent sized folding rear centre armrest includes cupholders, but unlike Jettas that came before there’s no cargo pass-through door behind for stuffing long items such as skis. This means you’ll have to lower the 40-percent side of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when four people are on board, forcing one rear occupant into the less comfortable middle seat, and making the rear seat warmer on that side redundant when that rear passenger will want it most. On the positive, the trunk is large at 510 litres, and could potentially house shorter skis diagonally as well as snowboards. Of course, the Jetta is not alone in choosing less costly 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the Golf offers the centre pass-through and therefore is the better choice for active owners.
A few minutes behind the wheel and you’ll quickly forget about such shortcomings, however, as the GLI is a blast to drive. Truly, this sport sedan is one of the most enjoyable to drive within its mainstream volume-branded compact sedan class, thanks to a new 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 18 horsepower and 51 lb-ft over the GLI’s predecessor, incidentally, and due to only being available with front-wheel drive the motive wheels/tires have a habit of squealing during quick takeoffs. Certainly, there’s traction control, as noted earlier, but it comes on a bit too late to stop any noisy commotion from down below, so you’ll need to restrain your right foot in order to maintain civility and not engage any police intervention.
The GLI’s new seven-speed dual-clutch automated DSG transmission is as important an upgrade as the engine’s newfound power, and feels even faster between paddle shift-actuated gear intervals than the previous model’s six-speed unit, while gaining a taller final gear to improve fuel economy (it’s rated at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.5 combined with the six-speed manual and a respective 9.3, 7.2 and 8.4 with my tester’s A7 DSG auto).
While the new GLI is nowhere near as fast as the aforementioned Golf R, or some of that model’s equivalently quick super-compact competitors such as Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s awesome EVO X (RIP), it’s more than respectable amongst mid-range sport models like the Civic Si, while making wannabe performance cars like the Mazda3 GT feel as if they’re standing still. Momentary burnouts during takeoff aside, the new Jetta GLI was unflappable when pushed hard through high-speed curving sections of backcountry two-lane roadway, even when pavement was so uneven that the car’s rear end should’ve been hopping and bopping around the road. Fortunately, unlike that top-tier Mazda3 and VW’s more pedestrian Jetta trims below that use a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI includes a multi-link setup in back, which absorbed jarring potholes and other road imperfections with ease, allowing most of the stock 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires’ contact patches to remain fully engaged with the road below. To be fair to the Mazda3, it’s surprisingly stable during such otherwise unsettling circumstances due to available AWD with G-Vectoring Plus.
Back in the city, the GLI’s idle-stop system shut off the engine when the car came to a stop amid parallel parking manoeuvres. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, as it should quickly reignite the engine when lifting off the brake, but while I was purposely parked too close to the vehicle ahead in order to straighten the car out, it wouldn’t restart while in reverse. This necessitated shifting back into park and then pressing on the throttle to wake up the engine, and then shifting back to reverse before aligning the car. This is probably a software glitch, but I’d be complaining to my dealer if it persisted. Fortunately, I experienced no other instances of this happening, but remember I only live with test cars for a week at a time.
The previously noted $32,445 (for the base manual) and $33,845 (for the DSG auto) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with items not yet covered including fog lamps, LED headlights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a potent 8-speaker BeatsAudio system with a subwoofer, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and three-position memory, and the list goes on. The same goes for the 2020 model, by the way, as there haven’t been any changes except for the discontinuation of this model year-specific 35th Edition.
Speaking of model years, VW Canada will give you up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Jetta (which remained available when this review was written), while the new 2020 GLI can be purchased with $1,000 in additional incentives, although keep in mind that CarCostCanada member savings averaged $2,500 for the newer 2020 model. To learn more, see our 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page and/or 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page, where members can find out about manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could add up to even more savings. What’s more, you can now download our free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes/App store so you can have all of our important info in the palms of your hands when negotiating at the dealership, whether purchasing this Jetta GLI or any other new vehicle sold in Canada.
In the end, I can’t help but like the new Jetta GLI, even despite its less than ideal shortcomings. It looks great, takes off like a scared rabbit (GTI) when called upon, and is filled with most of the features premium car buyers are learning to expect. Yes, I’d prefer if Volkswagen improved some of the Jetta’s touchy-feely interior surfaces, but being that most owners will spend all of their time up front in the driver’s seat, it’s shouldn’t be a deal-killing issue.