Lovers of small hatchbacks like Nissan’s Micra and Versa Note will have noticed a disturbing trend in recent years, their cancellations.
The same has happened with most manufacturers, with Toyota having dropped its Yaris, Honda having nixed its Fit, Ford having axed its Fiesta (and Focus), and the list going on. All of the above have increased their allotment of small crossover SUVs, however, which on the surface seems as if we’re not all that concerned about fuel economy after all.
Fortunately, most of these new crossover SUVs are merely front-wheel drive economy cars on steroids. The various brands have slightly raised their suspensions and rooflines, sometimes making them more accommodating inside, but all come standard with front-wheel drivetrains and equally efficient powerplants, some not even offering all-wheel drive at all.
For that extra $500, Nissan has grafted a big, imposing grille on the front of its smallest crossover, and for the most part we feel it looks quite good. Its chromed surround flows elegantly upwards and outward toward sharply chiselled headlamps, while a fresh set of LED fog lights are located just beneath, at least when viewing the Kicks’ sportiest top-line SR trim. Updates aren’t as noticeable at each side or hind end, the former featuring a new set of LED turn signals within revised side mirror housings, and the latter adding a reworked bumper cap.
The slight price increase also includes new standard features such as auto on/off headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, and a rear wiper/washer, while changes to the cabin include a new standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When moving up to mid-range SV and top-line SR trims, the display gets upsized to 8.0 inches in diameter, with additional features including a leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob, a single-zone auto HVAC system, and a Bose audio upgrade.
The Kicks’ 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine makes a reasonably peppy 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, which means it wasn’t changed as part of the refresh. Likewise, its continuously variable transmission (CVT) remains standard too, resulting in the identical a fuel economy rating to last year: 7.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.2 combined with its sole front-wheel drivetrain.
The 2021 Kicks also comes well equipped with advanced standard safety and convenience features such as automatic emergency braking, rear auto braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and auto high-beam assistance. The move up to SV or SR trims includes driver alert monitoring plus a rear door alert system that warns the driver when something (or someone) may still be in the rear seating area after parking, while top-tier SR Premium trim adds an overhead camera system.
Most auto industry pundits lauded the second-generation Ridgeline’s driveability, refinement and creature comforts when it arrived on the scene in 2017, but not many praised its outward styling. It wasn’t offensive, unless you’re negatively triggered by soft, conservative, blandness, but it wasn’t about to sway Toyota Tacoma owners away from their trusted steeds, or for that matter buyers of Chevy’s Colorado, GMC’s Canyon, Ford’s Ranger or even Nissan’s Frontier (which will soon be updated). Now for 2021, fortunately, Honda has seen the light and made this otherwise impressive mid-size pickup truck a serious looker.
Replacing the outgoing Ridgeline’s aerodynamically effective albeit aesthetically displeasing grille and hood, is a bolder, brasher, more upright grille ahead of a broader, flatter hood featuring a domed centre section for added visual muscle. This is joined by a tougher, more rugged looking lower front fascia and a fresh set of front fenders, all resulting in a much more attractive Ridgeline.
Updates to the 2021 Ridgeline’s side and rear styling are less noticeable, with the former painting the cab’s rearmost extension in black instead of body-colour, and the rear bumper forgoing any metal brightwork trim.
The refreshed 2021 Ridgeline is now available at Honda retailers across Canada from $44,355 plus freight and fees. That base Ridgeline Sport trim features standard all-wheel drive, while a fancier Ridgeline EX-L can be had for $47,355, a Ridgeline Touring for $51,555, and a Ridgeline Black Edition for $53,055.
Pricing in mind, our 2021 Honda Ridgeline Canada Prices page is showing factory leasing and financing rates from 2.49 percent, while CarCostCanada members are averaging savings of $2,050. Those wanting most of the Ridgeline’s goodness without the new styling upgrades can also opt for a 2020 version, which benefited from up to $2,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing. Make sure to download the free CarCostCanada mobile app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store to have access to all the most critical information you’ll need when negotiating your next new vehicle purchase, including otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Learn more about how CarCostCanada works here.
Before opting for a 2020 model to save money, keep in mind that Honda made yet more updates to the new 2021 Ridgeline, including new standard LED low beam headlamps with reflector beam halogen high beams, plus arguably more attractive 18-inch alloy wheels encircled by more capable looking rubber. These should provide better high-speed stability thanks to 20 mm of extra track width, improving the truck’s visual stance as well.
Despite the second-gen Ridgeline’s cabin being impressive already, Honda updated the instrument panel’s centre stack with a new infotainment touchscreen that adds back a rotating volume knob for quickly adjusting the sound. All 2021 Ridgeline trims receive contrast stitching for the seats as well, while Sport trim gets updated cloth seat inserts, and Sport, EX-L and Touring models feature new dash, steering wheel and centre console accents. The rest of the interior remains unchanged, including its accommodating rear passenger area that boasts a completely flat floor and foldaway 60/40-split rear lower seat cushions.
The 2021 Ridgeline’s 3.5-litre V6 is carryover too. It continues to output 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, while connecting through to a standard nine-speed automatic transmission. This allows for an impressive claimed fuel economy rating of 12.8 L/100km city, 9.9 highway and 11.5 combined.
As noted earlier in this story, Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring AWD comes standard. The sophisticated design can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels when required, while continuously apportioning up to 100 percent of that twist between left and right rear tires when slippage occurs. A standard Intelligent Traction Dynamics System aids power delivery further by attributing engine torque to the wheel with the most grip, whether dealing with wet, snowy, muddy, or sandy conditions.
Optimizing traction benefits safety, of course, as does the new Ridgeline’s standard Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive features such as Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
The Ridgeline does well in U.S. collision safety ratings too, with strong National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings. The truck gets “GOOD” marks for all IIHS collision tests, plus a “SUPERIOR” IIHS rating for frontal crash prevention, while its 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in the European NCAP system is impressive as well.
When Honda initially launched the Ridgeline, it made a big deal out of its 5,000 lb (2,267 kg) rating, but most auto journalists in attendance were more surprised at how nimble it handled while towing a fully loaded trailer. Likewise, the unibody truck hauls a heavy load, capable of up to 1,571 lbs (713 kg) on its bed, which still houses a lockable trunk below the load floor. What’s more, the trunk and bed can be accessed via a regular folding tailgate or hinges on the side of the same panel that allow the door to swing sideways.
Now, with its bolder, more appealing styling and other improvements, the 2021 Ridgeline might give some of its rivals a serious run for their money.
If you remember the Scion brand and its superb little iM compact hatch, which was transformed into the Corolla iM when the youth-oriented brand was unceremoniously discontinued a few years back, the new Corolla Hatchback is a direct descendant of both, and therefore should be high on the shopping lists of those who like practical, fun-to-drive, well-made five-door compacts.
For a bit of background, the 2016–2018 iM was much more refined than most of its competitors, mostly because it was in fact a renamed second-generation Toyota Auris from Europe, where the majority of automakers finish their compact cars nicer than the versions we can purchase here. On the other side of the globe in Australasian markets, this five-door Toyota had long been given the Corolla Hatchback name, so it made perfect sense to drop the iM moniker in place of a simpler, more familiar nameplate when this all-new hatch arrived here for the 2019 model year.
Although not as popular as its four-door sibling, the Corolla Hatchback’s well-proportioned face, including eye-catching standard LED headlamps, should be familiar now that the 2020 Corolla sedan is proliferating like its predecessor. I like both cars’ new look, but the sportier Hatchback gets a slightly more assertive nod of approval from yours truly, mostly due to my personal penchant for five-door compacts.
Interestingly, I’d take Honda’s Civic sedan over the same trim in the hatchback model any day of the week, because the Corolla’s arch-nemesis arguably looks good as the former and awkward as the latter, but most would probably agree that Toyota currently has the styling lead for all body styles in the compact segment.
While the Corolla has no shortage of razor sharp angles its overall shape is more organic, causing me to claim it’ll probably hold up better over the test of time. I’ll also hazard to guess the Corolla’s styling plays heavily into its impressive resale value, the Hatchback’s second-place ranking in the 2019 Canadian Black Book’s Best Retained Value Awards only improved upon in its compact car category by Toyota’s own Prius hybrid. Then again, this superb result should also be attributed to this car’s excellent value proposition, Vincentric also honouring the model with its 2019 Best Value In Canada Award in the Compact Hatchback class.
Model 2019 Corolla Hatchback pricing starts at only $20,980 plus freight and fees, which makes the new car $1,770 less expensive than its 2018 Corolla iM predecessor, and trust me that this latest version is almost wholly better. Its standard auto on/off headlights are full LEDs compared to halogen projector lamps in the old car, while the old iM’s remote access has been upgraded with standard proximity keyless entry plus pushbutton start/stop in the Corolla Hatchback, this convenient feature not even on the menu before. Additionally, the outgoing car’s old-school handbrake lever was replaced with an electromechanical parking brake.
What’s more, the compact five-door’s advanced driver assistance systems have been enhanced from just providing auto-dimming high beam headlamps, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning to now boasting front pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane and road departure steering mitigation, as well as adaptive cruise control.
Features such as LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, LED taillights, a rear spoiler, cloth-wrapped A-pillars (another sign the iM/Corolla Hatchback came from Europe), glossy black and metal-like interior accents, a tilt and telescoping multifunction steering wheel, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, power windows with auto up/down all-round, and fabric sport seats continue forward.
Having touchscreen infotainment on top of the centre stack is retained as well, with a reverse camera, Bluetooth connectivity with phone and audio streaming, voice activation, plus a six-speaker AM/FM/USB/AUX audio system, but the all-new 8.0-inch display is an inch larger and integrates Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Toyota’s proprietary Entune smartphone integration, which includes Entune App Suite Connect incorporating traffic, weather, sports, stocks, a fuel station locator, Slacker, Yelp, and NPR One, completely modernizing the new Corolla Hatchback.
On the contrary, the previous iM’s standard 17-inch alloy rims have been replaced with a comparatively lacklustre set of 15-inch steel wheels with full covers in base trim, while its leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are now urethane, two-zone auto climate control now single-zone (but still automatic), heatable front seats now optional, and the list goes on and on. All of these downgrades remind us that Scion was a single-trim, no options (just accessories) brand, meaning its cars were always well equipped in their “base” trims, but their starting prices weren’t always the most affordable in their segments, and prospective buyers couldn’t add fancier features like factory wheels, fog lights, a nicer gauge cluster, embedded navigation, leather upholstery, and more.
The new Corolla Hatchback has no such problems, which can easily be seen by eyeing up its front fog lights and sharp looking machine finished 18-inch alloys. These are standard in my test car’s top-tier XSE trim, but ahead of delving into all its details I should give you a breakdown of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback’s lesser trim packages.
If a rev-matching six-speed manual isn’t on your priority list, just add a modest $1,000 to the bottom line for Toyota’s impressive Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) boasting sequential shift mode, while this upgrade also includes full-speed adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assist at no additional charge.
No matter the transmission, Toyota offers three Corolla Hatchback packages above the base car, including the $1,600 SE, $3,000 SE Upgrade, and $6,000 XSE, all of which can be verified right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also find the latest rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands (CarCostCanada was also showing factory leasing and financing rates from 0.49 percent at the time of writing).
The SE, that increases the Corolla Hatchback’s price to $22,580 for the manual or $23,160 with the CVT, adds 16-inch alloys, some chrome trim on the rear bumper, a leather-clad steering wheel rim, a powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, a theft deterrent system, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddle with the CVT, while the SE Upgrade package, which pushes the price up to $23,980 for the manual or $24,160 with the CVT, includes heat for the steering wheel rim, plus a wireless device charger, blind spot monitoring, and the aforementioned 18-inch alloy wheels.
Top-line XSE trim starts at $26,980 for the manual and $27,980 with the CVT, includes those LED fog lamps noted earlier, a much larger 7.0-inch TFT digital driver’s display, Sport fabric upholstery with leatherette trim, the dual-zone auto climate control system, Entune 3.0 Premium Audio that includes embedded navigation (with map updates for three years), traffic and weather info, Entune Destination Assist (with a six-month subscription), satellite radio, and Entune Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance.
A shortlist of dealer-added accessories worthy of your attention include a $650 dash camera, a $155 cargo liner, an $80 cargo net, and $250 doorsill plates, while you can dress up the Corolla Hatchback’s exterior a super sporty extended rear rooftop spoiler for $535.
The Corolla Hatchback is as good looking and well constructed inside as outside, with no shortage of soft, pliable composites covering the dash, the inside section of the lower console, the front door uppers, plus the side and centre armrests. The mostly dark grey interior gets stylish light grey contrast stitching highlights in all the right places, while the sport seats noted earlier receive identical coloured contrasting thread as well as special medium grey cloth inserts. The two-tone seats’ two-temperature heaters warm quickly, and can be set to do so automatically every time the car is restarted, as can the heated steering wheel rim that made my Corolla Hatchback tester a lot more enjoyable to live with.
Unfortunately Toyota doesn’t add the light-grey contrast stitching to that steering wheel rim, but its thick leather wrapping is ideally shaped for performance driving, and therefore feels good in the palms and fingers whether hot or cold, while the telescopic steering column offers ample reach, allowing me to position the driver’s seat perfectly for my long-legged, short torso body, which wasn’t possible with the iM. Keeping comfortable and supported, the Hatchback’s two-way powered lumbar found the small of my back reasonably well, although it would’ve been even better if slightly lower. Obviously taller fellas will disagree, but such is the challenge with two-way lumbar support.
With the steering wheel and seat set exactly as required, the bright primary gauge cluster is easy to see. It gets the usual assortment of dials, including a tachometer, speedometer, fuel and temperature meters, the first formed from a semicircle at the very left, the second arcing over the largest middle display, and the latter two combining into another semicircle at the right. The digital speedometer wraps around a multi-info display, complete with trip, fuel economy, cruise info and more, all prompted by a well-organized set of high-quality steering wheel switchgear.
The new infotainment touchscreen is fixed upright above the centre stack like so many others these days, and includes a row of analogue buttons down the sides, plus a power/volume and tune/scroll knob at the base of each. The display responds to tap, swipe and pinch gestures quickly, this particularly useful for the navigation map that’s otherwise beautifully clear and easy to read, this because of a high-resolution screen that also aids the rearview camera’s clarity. The system’s colours are nice and contrast good, but the graphics are more functional than artistic.
If you’ll grant me some creative license, I’d say the Corolla Hatchback’s wonderfully agile suspension borders on artistry, or at least makes a decent driver feel like an artist. Unlike some in the compact class, including the old Corolla sedan, the new Corolla Hatchback (and new 2020 sedan) incorporates a fully independent suspension with a multi-link setup in the rear, this also true of the Corolla iM. The independent rear suspension (IRS) is part of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform architecture that underpins both new Corollas, making them two of the more engaging performers in the category. Also important to handling and safety, the TNGA platform’s torsional rigidity is 60-percent stiffer. This added rigidity is immediately noticeable on a twisting road, the increased structural strength allowing Toyota’s engineers to dial in more suspension compliance resulting in better adherence to the road over imperfect pavement, plus much improved ride quality even with its larger 225/40R18 Bridgestone tires.
While I never complained about the previously Corolla iM’s 16-valve, DOHC, 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, as its free-revving 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque was ample for my needs and met my expectations in this class, the new Corolla Hatchback has made big gains in straight-line performance. Output is up by 31 horsepower and 25 lb-ft of torque to 168 horsepower and 151 foot pounds, and the direct-injection 2.0-litre mill is still plenty of fun to wind out. It’s easily enough power to offset the new Hatchback’s 1,388-kilogram (3,060-lb) curb weight, which is 118 kilos (260 lbs) more than the iM.
I had good things to say about the iM’s six-speed manual when first driving it, so I imagine Toyota has done a good job with the base transmission in the Corolla Hatchback too, while I was impressed with the old model’s CVT-S automatic, the “S” implying Sport, and for the most part living up to it. This said the new Corolla Hatchback’s Direct-Shift CVT is downright amazing, with truly fast, snappy shifts when set to Sport mode. It features 10 pseudo gear ratios that feel much more realistic than any CVT previously tested, and those aforementioned paddles are truly worth flicking (unlike with most other CVTs), while it’s ultra-smooth when allowed to do its own thing, and improves fuel economy too.
Even though it puts out more power and moves a car that weighs more, the new Corolla Hatchback delivers better fuel economy than the old iM, with a claimed 7.5 L/100km in the city, 5.8 on the highway and 6.7 combined compared to 8.3 city, 6.5 highway and 7.5 combined. The new Toyota’s manual gearbox is easier on the budget too, with a rating of 8.4 L/100km city, 6.3 highway and 7.5 combined compared to 8.8, 6.8 and 7.9 respectively.
So I mentioned the Corolla Hatchback is heavier than the iM, right? That’s at least partially due to being larger in almost every outward dimension, the Corolla Hatchback stretching 100 millimetres (3.9 inches) farther from nose to tail than the iM, with a 40-mm (1.6-in) longer wheelbase, and 30 mm (1.2 in) wider, while it’s just 25 mm (1.0 in) lower overall, but strangely its increased footprint doesn’t mean its bigger inside. On the contrary, while the Corolla Hatchback’s front legroom, rear headroom and rear shoulder room were fractionally increased by 7 mm (0.3 in), 2 mm (0.1 in) and 10 mm (0.4 in) apiece, the car’s front headroom is lower by 33 mm (1.3 in), its front shoulder room narrower by 10 mm (0.4 in), and its rear legroom shorter by 71 mm (2.8 in), while cargo area behind the rear seats is a shocking 14-percent less generous, shrinking from 588 litres (20.8 cubic feet) to a mere 504 litres (17.8 cubic feet).
Just the same I found it plenty roomy and wholly comfortable in every outboard position, but consider for a moment that I’m only five-foot-eight, so bigger people might want to thoroughly check out each seat before signing on the dotted line. Like the iM the Corolla Hatchback’s carpeted cargo floor is removable, exposing some added stowage and a compact spare tire underneath, while a 60/40-split divides the rear seatbacks when the need to add more cargo arises. Oddly, Toyota continues to make the Corolla Hatchback’s ultimate cargo capacity unknown, just like it did with the iM.
On the positive, the Corolla Hatchback gets the IIHS’ a best-possible “Good” rating in every category except “Crash avoidance & mitigation,” which only shows its headlamps managing “Acceptable” or “Marginal” capability, depending on trim or option, but keep in mind the IIHS is a U.S. agency testing the U.S.-spec Corolla Hatchback, which isn’t necessarily the same as ours in every way. Interestingly, the new Corolla Hatchback gets a rare “G+” rating in the NHTSA’s “LATCH ease of use” category, which means it should be easy for parents to strap in child safety seats, while this U.S. agency also gives the car a five-star safety rating.
How do I rate the 2019 Corolla Hatchback? How about four stars? After all, while it’s a great looking, well-built, nicely outfitted, fun to drive compact car, I was disappointed to find out it’s up in weight and simultaneously down on usable space when compared to its predecessor. It would certainly meet my mostly city driving needs, as my kids are grown and gone and I’m not toting around kayaks or towing dirt bikes anymore. I’m still young enough to have fun behind the wheel, however, and the new Corolla Hatchback is certainly up for that.
The subcompact Fit is Honda’s most affordable new car, but despite its inexpensive price tag it may possibly be your best option even if you were willing to spend more.
Ok, I’d understand if someone would rather own an HR-V, being that crossovers are all the rage these days, and the little Honda SUV boasts an identically innovative second row. This rear Magic Seat provides even more cargo space in the HR-V, but the Fit can be had for only $15,590 compared to the base HR-V’s $23,300 window sticker, so it’s a smarter choice for entry-level active-lifestyle buyers trying to pinch their nickels and dimes.
The 2019 Fit used for this review was in LX trim, upgraded yet further with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), causing its retail window sticker to move up from $18,990 for the six-speed manual to $20,290. Upgrades to the LX CVT include all the LX manual’s features, such as a body-coloured rear rooftop spoiler, an auto-up/down driver-side window, illuminated steering wheel audio and cruise controls, a larger infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines (the base camera doesn’t include the moving guidelines), Siri Eyes Free, text message reading/responding, Wi-Fi tethering, an extra USB device connector (resulting in two), filtered air conditioning, heated front seats, a centre console with an armrest and storage bin, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, a cargo cover plus more, while it also includes standard Honda Sensing technologies, such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, an ECON mode button, etcetera.
I should point out the LX includes the majority of base DX features as well, an abbreviated list including auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlights, LED brake lamps, heatable powered door mirrors with body-colour caps, body-coloured door handles, remote access, power locks and windows, intermittent front windshield wipers, a rear window wiper, tilt and telescopic steering, a four-speaker 160-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio system, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, and more.
The Fit hasn’t always met everyone’s design criteria, but tell me what subcompact hatchback pushes all the buttons? Possibly the Kia Rio? Nevertheless, this third-generation Fit is certainly more appealing visually than the yawn-inducing original and slightly better looking second version, or at least that’s how I see it, while this most recent version, refreshed just last year, includes more of Honda’s new sharp-edged design language for an even better look.
The 2018 mid-cycle makeover also came with even sharper looking new Sport trim that I reviewed last year, this model’s $19,990 price point placed directly in the middle of four additional trim lines including the base DX, my tester’s LX designation, a $22,290 EX model, and finally the top-tier EX-L NAVI, which starts at $24,390. As much as I prefer the Sport to the others visually, thanks to gloss-black alloys and yet more inky black trim with red highlights around its body, plus its sporty red on black interior motif, the LX might be the smarter choice for those on a budget.
The features list above proves my point, as few necessary items have been left off the menu (although I would’ve like to have also had proximity access and pushbutton start/stop). Even more important in this class are low running costs, general comfort and overall practicality, and time spent with any Fit trim line will quickly have you appreciating that it performs well in each and every category.
Once inside any Fit, old or new, or better yet having lived with one for enough time to experience how brilliantly practical it is, you’ll appreciate that styling matters a lot less than choosing the right car to accomplish the things you want to do. It’s the pragmatic minivan argument shrunken down to genuinely small proportions, yet play around awhile with its Magic Seat configurations and you’ll quickly understand that size really doesn’t matter when innovative engineering is factored in.
Those unfamiliar with the Fit’s second-row Magic Seats should pay close attention, as nothing in this class even comes close. The rear cushions rest atop hooped metal legs that can be folded upward and locked into place against the backrests, similar to those in some pickup trucks. This results in 139 litres (4.9 cubic feet) of cargo space for taller items such as bicycles or potted plants, while the 470-litre (16.6 cubic-foot) rear luggage compartment is still available for additional gear. Lay the rear seats into the floor and you’ll have 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) of luggage space available, which is plenty for this class. In fact, the Fit’s total cargo capacity is 184 litres (6.5 cubic feet) more accommodating than Honda’s larger compact Civic Hatchback. Not bad for a subcompact.
It’s all about overall height and a low loading floor, which makes it ideal for driver and passengers too. The Fit’s two front seats are a bit firmer than the class average, but still very comfortable and supportive, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s rake and reach worked very well for my long-legged and short-torso body type, and should do likewise for all sizes. Similarly the rear outboard seats provide good comfort too, plus roominess in back is excellent. Sitting directly behind the driver’s seat when set up for me, I had about five inches left over in front of my knees, ample room for my legs and feet, almost four inches over my head, and four-plus next to my hips and shoulders.
Back behind the wheel, the primary instrument cluster features a big circular speedometer at centre, its analogue outer ring filled in the middle with a useful multi-information display, while TFT displays bookended each side of the cluster with colourful graphics that made it appear more upscale than the Fit’s price point would suggest. High quality switches on the steering wheel spokes control the multi-info display and more.
Look over to the Fit’s centre stack and one of the better infotainment touchscreens will be staring back. It’s complete with intelligently organized digital tile buttons that open up well designed function panels, with the audio system interface complemented by a classic rotating power/volume knob that certainly appreciated when driving. Underneath the touchscreen is a small cluster of manually operated heating and ventilation controls featuring big dials with nice grippy knurled metal-look edges, the asymmetrical design quite attractive.
While nice on the eyes, I’m not going to try and pretend the Fit is attempting to portray anything but an entry-level car. As you might expect, the dash top is comprised of hard composite as are many other cabin surfaces, but Honda surprisingly went further than most subcompact competitors when finishing off the lower instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, which gets a lovely sculpted soft-touch bolster. Also unexpected, the opposite side of the dash includes a pop-out cupholder level to the steering wheel, perfectly placed for easy access while driving. It sits just behind the corner air vent too, which means it warms up whatever is inside when the heat is on, or cools it off when the A/C is blasting, ideal unless you want something kept at room temperature.
Another oddity in this class, previously noted Sport trim and the two models above actually include a paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which says a fair bit about the Fit’s fun-to-drive character. Behind its edgy new grille is a perky 1.5-litre four-cylinder that delivers a robust 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque when mated up to the manual transmission, or 128 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque when upgraded with the CVT. These numbers make it one of the most potent base subcompact models available, with just one rival making more in its entry-level trim. It results in more zip off the line than you might have guessed, particularly when at the wheel of the manual, although the CVT provides decent get-up-and-go too, along with good passing performance on the highway and even enough to power away from corners when slaloming through tight serpentine stretches.
Yes, I know this is a subcompact commuter car and not remotely close to a hot hatch, but its front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension holds its lane with ease even when pushing hard, only getting a bit unruly when asking too much from its narrow, tall design and 15-inch steel wheels on 185/60 all-seasons. The ride is good mind you, the Fit having been designed more for bushwhacking through the urban jungle than fast-paced mountainside passes.
Now that we’re talking about putting on daily miles, the 2019 Fit is estimated to get 8.1 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.4 combined with its manual, and an even thriftier 7.0 city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined with the CVT. A few competitors provide slightly better efficiency, but nothing that offers the Fit’s superior performance, particularly when comparing automatic transmission equipped cars.
In the end, Honda’s Fit is one of the subcompact segment’s best driving cars, while it’s also extremely efficient and hands-down the most practical people/cargo hauler in its class, let alone all car categories. Factoring in its all-round comfort, impressive list of convenience and safety features, plus Honda’s excellent reputation for dependability and strong residual values, and it’s hard to argue against it. In fact, I’ve probably recommended the Fit to more new car buyers than any other model, and will likely continue to do so when the next model arrives later this year.
That’s right, the 2020 Fit will be dramatically redesigned, which means Honda will be discounting this 2019 model. So make sure to check out all the latest rebate info for this 2019 model right there on CarCostCanada. Fortunately for you, we have all the available rebates, including dealer invoice pricing, so you can prepare yourself before negotiating with your local retailer. You can save up to $1,000 in additional incentives on this 2019 model, so be sure to click here to learn more about these savings, as well as all the other trims Honda has on offer, plus available packages and individual options.
What’s in a name? So much. I’m actually a tiny bit put off by Eclipse Cross, the name Mitsubishi is using for its new compact crossover SUV. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the two words chosen, unlike when Buick named one of their mid-size sedans after Canada’s national game that actually had another somewhat raunchy colloquial meaning in French, but it sends my mind back to a better (automotive) time when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the Japanese brand’s own Eclipse, Honda’s Prelude, Nissan’s 240SX, and Toyota’s Celica, amongst myriad others, were what many of us longed to cruise the strip in on Friday and Saturday nights before autocrossing on Sundays, but now all of these low-riding, two-door hardtops are gone, leaving us with a glut of two-box sport utilities.
A few of these car-based crossovers are slightly more unusual, however, making this mostly practical market sector more intriguing than it might otherwise be, with the edgy new Eclipse Cross top of this category’s list of orthodox heretics. It’s a particularly good choice for buyers not requiring all of the Outlander’s cargo capacity yet wanting more get-up-and-go than an RVR, plus its sporty SUV-coupe design pulls some of the premium pizazz down from luxury juggernauts like BMW and Mercedes-Benz that offer similarly sized variants in their X4 and GLC Coupe models respectively. I’m not trying to say this commoner’s shuttle somehow measures up to such lofty Europeans, but it’s got a strut all its own and therefore deserves a level of respect for going its own way in a compact SUV class that’s more often than not safer than safe.
Most brands that choose to get their funk on turn to the smallest subcompact SUV category to do so, where Mitsubishi pits its comparatively conservative RVR against more unusual entries such as the Kia Soul and Toyota C-HR (Nissan’s Juke, and before that the Cube, which was the oddest of them all, laid to rest a number of years ago, the latter replaced by the more mainstream Kicks), while, size aside, the Mazda CX-3 is closer to the Eclipse Cross as far as consumer acceptability and sporty driving dynamics go, but the larger Mitsu is the only SUV-coupe in its bigger compact segment.
The Eclipse Cross reaches 4,405 mm (173.4 in) from nose to tail, with a 2,670 mm (105.1 in) wheelbase, while it stretches 1,805 mm (71.1 in) wide and stands 1,685 mm (66.3 in) tall. This makes its wheelbase identical to the brand’s Outlander that in fact measures 290 mm (11.4 in) longer overall, while its width is a mere 5 mm (0.2 in) thinner and height 25 mm (1.0 in) lower to the ground. This means it’s about the same size as the Outlander other than length, which combined with its sloped rear roof section, makes for a much more exciting looking SUV.
As for styling, the Eclipse Cross wears Mitsubishi’s bold new “Dynamic Shield” design language rather well, better in my opinion than any other model in the lineup, other than the new 2020 RVR that takes this look to new heights. The drama continues around both sides where sculpted cutlines emerge about a third of the way through the front doors before slicing through the handles and meeting up with the lower edge of an even more enticing combination of LED tail lamps, these visually tied together by a narrow strip of lighting that separates two panes of back glass in similitude to Honda’s 2nd-generation (1988-1991) CRX or more recent (2011–2016) CR-Z, plus the Japanese brand’s defunct mid-size (2010–2015) Crosstour, although these three Hondas never included the Eclipse Cross’s light strip. Additional body sculpting along the rocker panels bends upward before rounding the rear fenders, these matching the Eclipse Cross’s muscular front fender design with a slight nod to the past (2004–2011) Endeavor mid-size crossover SUV, a long-term tester I had the pleasure of living with for more than a few months way back when.
Framed behind a sharp looking set of standard 18-inch alloy rims on 225/55 all-season rubber is a fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear setup incorporating stabilizer bars at each end, all of which combines for ample grip to keep its 1.5-litre turbo-four in control. The diminutive engine, good for 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, sends its output through an innovative continuously variable transmission (CVT) complete with eight forward gears, or should I say simulated gears, shiftable via two of the best magnesium column-mounted paddles in the business.
Why the best? Unlike most anything else in the entire industry, these longer than average paddle shifters are fixed to the steering column rather than the steering wheel, exactly like with the fabulous Evo X MR (RIP) and plenty of other Mitsubishi models, allowing accurate upshifts and downshifts even when the wheel is being turned.
This Eclipse Cross GT moved along well when pushed hard, feeling more energetic than its horsepower rating led on, without doubt due to its sizeable torque figure. Steering effort was firmer than most other compact SUVs I’ve driven, although light enough for easy daily use, while its ride quality was a bit more rigid, yet never uncomfortable. Its firm stance helped amid tight twisting curves, the Eclipse Cross feeling rock solid when getting aggressive, but this said I wouldn’t have thought it would be as good as it is when running errands around town or otherwise driving normally, as the powertrain responds like it’s in eco mode even when it’s not. Yes, you can still press the green “Eco Mode” button on the centre console if you want an even more relaxed experience, plus the fuel savings to go with it.
Unfortunately there’s no Sport mode, my right foot on the go-pedal the only way to extract all of the engine’s energy, and even with those aforementioned shift paddles the CVT isn’t the sportiest of transmissions (I’m being nice). It’s smooth, however, and therefore just what most buyers in this compact SUV class want, plus it’s very effective at moving this little utility down the road quickly while using as little gas as possible.
In the wet, much of the Eclipse Cross’s straight-line speed and cornering capability is directly due to its standard Super All-Wheel Control, those four words collectively designated to Mitsubishi’s all-wheel drive system, which is an advanced torque-vectoring AWD honed from decades of rally car racing. True, it’s difficult to accept that this “performance” SUV is now the sportiest model in Mitsubishi’s once very racy lineup that previously offered the superb Evo X noted earlier, an all-wheel drive super compact that easily out-handled the Subaru WRX STI of the era, but Mitsubishi’s focus has changed now, with practical SUVs front and centre, one of which is a plug-in electric that’s giving it a good green image if not much in the way of profits.
Rather than cry over the Evo’s demise, it’s probably best to praise Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’s fuel-efficiency. It’s rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 8.9 highway and 8.3 combined, which is good when compared to the segment-sales-leading Toyota RAV4 that can only manage 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, although it’s not quite as stingy on gas as the Honda CR-V’s estimated rating of 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined.
The previously noted turbocharged four-cylinder and CVT combination is identical no matter which of its three trim lines gets chosen (not including special editions), but like usual in this business Mitsubishi provided my Eclipse Cross tester in top-tier GT trim so I could experience all of its available goodies. This model hits the road for $35,998 plus freight and fees (check right here on CarCostCanada for all the pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands), and came well equipped with LED headlights, a head-up display unit, a multi-view rearview camera with active guidelines, an excellent 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio system featuring nine speakers including a 10-inch sub, a heated steering wheel, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver’s seat, a two-pane panoramic glass sunroof, plus more.
This top-line GT also boasts everything from the mid-range SE trim’s available Tech Package, including auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated universal garage door remote, roof rails, and a stylish silver-painted lower door garnish.
Items grandfathered up to GT trim from the just-noted SE include those paddle shifters mentioned earlier, plus proximity keyless entry and pushbutton start/stop, an electric parking brake (the base model uses a classic handbrake), a leather-clad steering wheel rim and shift knob, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, two-zone auto HVAC (an upgrade from base trim’s single-zone automatic climate control), blind spot warning, etcetera for just $29,998, while items pulled up from $27,998 base ES trim include LED daytime running lights, fog lights, LED side mirror turn signals, LED tail lamps, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a colour multi-information display in the primary gauge package, the “ECO” mode mentioned a moment ago, micron-filtered auto climate control, two-way heatable front seats, plus more.
Eclipse Cross interior quality is good, including a dash completely made from a premium-like pliable composite that bends all the way down to the middle portion of the instrument panel, while nice soft synthetic front door uppers add to the luxury feel, along with even plusher door inserts just below, and a comfortable set of armrests with contrast stitching. Their orange contrasting thread matches with the seat bolster stitching nicely, while all added colour is applied tastefully (unlike some in the compact SUV category).
Mitsubishi has organized the primary instruments well, with an amply sized colour trip computer between its two conventional dials, while over on the centre stack its 7.0-inch centre display offers an upscale look. Tap, pinch and swipe finger prompts can be used in the usual smartphone/tablet-style touchscreen way, but that’s not all as Mitsubishi provides an impressive touchpad on the lower console for those who’d rather not reach all the way to the dash when entering commands. I’m impressed at this entry-level brand incorporating such a sophisticated infotainment system as standard equipment, its features and layout comparable to a number of premium SUVs on offer.
Within the bright, graphical interface is standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a big backup camera with active guidelines (my tester including an upgraded multi-view version), Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite radio, two USB charging/connectivity ports, and more.
The Eclipse Cross’s driver’s seat is comfortable, thanks to good powered adjustability. I was able to set up an ideal driving position due to ample rake and reach via the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, but alas the seatback didn’t include any adjustable lumbar support. Still, its ergonomically shaped design provided good lower back comfort anyway, although as I’ve experienced during countless road trips, the ability to make periodic seat adjustments so as to ease acquired pain is important.
The steering wheel mentioned a moment ago is nicely designed with a reasonably thick leather rim, while the ability to heat it up was appreciated. The front seat heaters cooked up a storm too, but with just two temperature settings available I found my driver’s seat was either too hot or too cold, never just right.
The second row of seats offers up a lot of space and comfort, plus it includes a flip-down armrest in the middle that integrates the usual set of cupholders. The rear seat heaters on the backside of the front console are an easy reach, while my test model’s rear glass sunroof joined up with this SUV’s ample visibility out the rear windows for a really open and airy experience in back.
The Eclipse Cross doesn’t offer a powered tailgate, which wouldn’t matter to me personally, but something that would truly sway my vote would be more accommodating 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks than the 60/40 division provided, or at the very least a centre pass-through so I’d be able to load skis down the middle while my rear passengers enjoyed those previously mentioned seat warmers on our way back from the mountain, but for reasoning that can only come down to cost savings, only a couple of mainstream volume-branded rivals offer this premium-level convenience. Then again, it’s not like this new Mitsubishi breaks rank when it comes to cargo flexibility, yet the automaker may want to reconsider this because it could be a leader and therefore garner sales it hasn’t been able to thus far.
Continuing on this practical train of thought, even this segment’s sportiest SUV has to measure up when it comes to hauling gear, so it’s good the Eclipse Cross provides plenty of luggage capacity to go along with its sizeable passenger compartment. By the numbers, the Eclipse Cross offers 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) aft of the rear seats, and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) behind the front seats when the rear seatbacks are lowered, making it 26 litres (0.9 cubic feet) more voluminous for cargo than the subcompact RVR when both model’s rear seats are in use, albeit 17 litres (0.6 cubic feet) less so when those seatbacks are dropped down. Hence, the compromise of a sporty SUV-coupe compared to a more conventional crossover SUV.
When comparing the Eclipse Cross to its bigger Outlander brother, which is closer in most external dimensions, it’s a full 328 litres (11.6 cubic feet) less accommodating behind its back row, and a whopping 407 litres (14.4 cubic feet) less so when both SUVs’ have their rear seatbacks lowered. Mitsubishi helpfully includes a removable cargo floor to expand on cargo space by unveiling a fairly large stowage compartment underneath.
On the negative, when I pulled those rear seatbacks up so they could be used again, I found their headrests almost impossible to yank up from their deep-set lowered positions. It really took all of my strength, and while I’m no Charles Atlas, the level of effort needed bordered on the outrageous. I’m sure the headrest mounts would free up in time, but this presupposes that an owner is capable of pulling them up in the first place. I recommend you find out if you can do so even before going on a test drive, and also that Mitsubishi dealers make sure their service departments check this as part of their pre-delivery inspection regimen.
Now that I’m griping, I experienced way too many annoying creaks and squeaks from the rear when underway. It’s possible this has something to do with the removable cargo floor noted earlier, but I doubt it. It’s more likely due to the fitment of the rear sunroof, or even more likely the rear seats, as some of the squeaking sounds seemed more like leather rubbing together. Therefore I’d really like to test the Eclipse Cross with its fabric seats, and find out just where all the noise is coming from.
On a more positive note, I liked having separate power sunshade controls for both front and rear sunroofs, as it allowed rear passengers more overhead light while front occupants were shaded, or vice versa.
Another thumbs up goes to the rear wiper that engages automatically when reversing if the windshield wipers are on, while the previously noted head-up display (HUD) was a helpful tool being that it provides key info directly in front of the driver where it can be seen easily without taking eyes off the road. Rather than projecting images directly on the windshield, which is the usual way an HUD works, Mitsubishi’s design is near identical to the HUD used by Mazda, in that a small transparent plastic reflector screen powers up atop the instrument hood, but the only problem with the Eclipse Cross version is that it’s somewhat distracting. It doesn’t really block the view ahead, but it kind of interrupts the mind’s eye. I did get used to it after a few days, to the point that it didn’t bother me at all, but I could understand if some others didn’t like it.
After pointing out the various Eclipse Cross positives and negatives that you may or may not agree with, I think we can all commend Mitsubishi for its industry-leading 5-year or 100,000-km basic (almost bumper-to-bumper) warranty and 10-year or 160,000-km powertrain coverage. No other manufacturer comes close to providing as much peace of mind, with the majority providing 2 years or 40,000 km less basic coverage, and 5 years or 60,000 km less powertrain warranty. This, and the fact that Mitsubishi is one of the more well respected automakers in global markets due to superb engineering and better than average dependability, makes its excellent warranty a top selling point that every consumer should factor in when purchasing a new vehicle.
Mitsubishi should also be commended for creating the Eclipse Cross’s compact SUV-coupe niche within its mainstream volume-branded class. True, the model’s year-to-date 2019 sales figure of 4,159 units (as of Sept 2019) leave it dead last in its segment, but when combining that number with Mitsubishi’s second-to-last Outlander sales of 8,568 units, its 12,727-unit overall brand impact on the compact SUV segment positions it above Subaru, GMC and Kia; an impressive accomplishment for one of Canada’s newest automotive brands (Mitsubishi Motor Sales was established here in 2002).
This, combined with the Outlander PHEV, the only plug-in hybrid in the volume-branded compact SUV segment, shows that innovation remains a key component to Mitsubishi’s continued market presence and future growth, and despite some of us lamenting the loss of performance-first models like that Evo mentioned earlier, or the Eclipse sports coupe this crossover SUV pays tribute to, we need to acknowledge Bob Dylan’s famous line, the times they are a changin, and appreciate that only those willing to adapt will survive when times get tough.
It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra.
Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for this little city car last year it probably sounds $500 too high, because the Micra was one of Canada’s only new sub-$10k cars for its entire four-year existence (except for the $9,995 Chevy Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage when it went on sale to clear out end-of-year stock), but thanks to a new standard 7.0-inch centre touchscreen featuring an integrated backup camera and some other updates, it’s a bit pricier this year. You can see all of the trims and check out previous years’ pricing right here at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing.
Its new list price still beats inflation (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as the Mirage by $510, and now that I think of it the Micra also beats the Mirage by 31 horsepower, 33 lb-ft of torque, 400 cubic centimetres of engine displacement, one cylinder, one rear suspension stabilizer bar, one-inch of standard wheel diameter, 20 millimetres of standard tire width, 32 litres of additional passenger volume, 41 mm of front headroom, 29 mm of rear headroom, 0.5 inches of standard centre touchscreen, six litres of fuel tank volume, and the list goes on.
All said it would be unfair not to mention that, while the Mirage is about as sporty as a Kenmore dryer on spin cycle, its claimed fuel usage nears hybrid levels of efficiency at 6.5 L/100km combined city/highway in manual form and just 6.2 with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), compared to 7.9 L/100km for the Micra’s five-speed manual and 8.0 for its available four-speed automatic.
The Mirage beats the Micra in a number of other notable ways too, such as standard auto off headlamps, LED taillights, body-colour mirror caps, exterior door handles and liftgate handle, a chrome rear garnish, standard power door locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, powered front windows, air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two more standard stereo speakers, a driver’s knee airbag, 79 additional litres of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 511 more litres of cargo space with the seats folded, two more years or 40,000 more kilometres of basic warranty, five more years or 60,000 more km of powertrain warranty, etcetera, while year-over-year sales of the Mirage were off by just six percent compared to 39 percent for the Micra.
That last point might make it look as if more people like the Mitsubishi, but just 2,351 Canadians took a Mirage home last year compared to 5,372 that opted for the Micra. It’s easy to see they didn’t make their choice by comparing standard features and fuel economy, because the Mirage clearly comes out on top in these categories, so why all the Micra love?
Take both cars for a drive and you’ll immediately understand. The Micra is so much fun you’ll be wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss about SUVs, whereas the Mirage feels best when idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the latter describes your commute and you never plan on driving up to Whistler or Kelowna via the Coquihalla for a weekend getaway, by all means go all in on the Mitsu, but if you want a car that has the power to keep up with traffic while climbing steep grades, let alone is sporty enough in stock trim to compete in its own spec racing series, choose the Micra, and while you’re at it watch a few segments of the highly entertaining Micra Cup (see below for Race 1 of the 2018 season).
Rather than applying lipstick to a pig and trying to pass it off as the prom queen, Nissan invested its Micra money into a formidable direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine good for 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, compared to 78 and 74 respectively for the Mirage, plus a sporty feeling five-speed manual transmission with nice, progressive clutch take-up, wonderful steering feel, a front strut, rear torsion beam suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, 15-inch wheels on 185/60 all-season tires, and overall driving feel that punches way above its 1,044-kilo welter curb weight.
Of course, how a city car takes to the corners may not matter as much to some folks as others, but let me know how you feel about that after you’ve just managed to avoid an accident thanks to the fleet footedness of your much more agile Micra. Due to such well-engineered suspension systems, I’m thankfully able to share a number of near misses that could have been bent metal at best, so handling is as much of a safety issue as braking performance, which I must say is pretty good on both cars despite their front disc, rear drum setups.
I know, many buying into this class will likely care more about colour choices and styling than performance and safety, and when it comes to visual appeal I think the Micra has an edge in this respect too. While both are quite seasoned, this generation of Mirage Hatchback having arrived on the scene in 2012 and the current Micra in 2011, albeit in Canada during the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model, the little Nissan looks well proportioned and actually quite sporty from all angles.
Inside my base S trimmed tester, the word spartan comes to mind. Maybe minimalism might be kinder, because it does brighten things up with silver metal-like accents in key areas, and a nice, sizeable 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with a colourful interface, this especially true when placing the shifter in reverse and enjoying the big new backup camera on the display, while Bluetooth audio, Siri Eyes Free, and plenty of other functions provide a fully up-to-date user experience, but the black cloth seats come up a bit short on creativity, and the three-dial HVAC system is, while perfectly functional, easy to use, and adorned with blue and red highlights on the temperature knob and some backlit orange elements elsewhere, hardly exciting.
The steering wheel is new, and in its most basic form gets a fresh set of metallic silver audio system and Bluetooth phone switchgear on its leftmost spoke, but the two-dial gauge cluster hasn’t changed for as long as I’ve been testing this car, my first review being a 2015 version of this very Micra S, with its only option being a sparkling coat of Metallic Blue paint. This 2019 tester’s $135 worth of Magnetic Gray paint aside (the price of optional paint hasn’t gone up one cent), the gauge package is large and easy to read in any light, while the little LCD gear selector, odometer, fuel gauge, and trip computer display, capable of showing current and average fuel economy plus distance to empty) is kind of cool in a retro Seiko digital watch sort of way.
I reviewed 2016 and 2017 examples of the top-line Micra SR too, the former in a beautiful blue-green Caspian Sea hue (that’s still available), and the second in a less playful Gun Metallic grey (that’s been replaced by this car’s aforementioned Magnetic Gray—Metallic Blue is now only available in upper trims, incidentally), but Charcoal Cloth (black) is the only interior colour choice, albeit upper trims get some patterned colour woven into the seat inserts that’s a big move up in visual stimulation.
What else do you get with the base Micra? The new infotainment system and steering wheel switches aside, the Micra S comes with thoughtful little luxuries like rubberized knobs for the manual winding windows, cool little toggles for manually adjusting the side mirrors (although you’ll need to stretch across the car or ask for help to set up the one on the passenger’s side), carpeted floor mats front to back, and did I mention the genuine cloth seats? Of course, I’m poking a little fun at the expectations of our first world life, because very few cars available on the Canadian market have wind-up windows these days, let alone require a key to get into each front door as well as the rear hatch. Seriously there’s not even an interior latch to remotely release it, but once it’s unlocked you have the luxury of opening and closing it at will.
Standard features of note that have not yet been mentioned include tilt steering, micro-filtered ventilation, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, two-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a USB port and aux-in jack, a four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and more.
If you want air conditioning and/or cruise control, not to mention an upgraded steering wheel featuring switchgear on its right spoke, simply opt for the Micra S with its available automatic and these features come standard. That upmarket move requires a surprisingly hefty $3,810 resulting in a new total of $14,298 before freight and fees, which, once again to be fair to the Mitsubishi, is $2,100 more than the Mirage CVT that already includes the autobox-infused Micra upgrades as standard. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to get up a steep hill in the Mitsubishi, while you’ll be hard charging in the Micra.
The fancier cloth isn’t all you get when moving up from the Micra’s base S trim to its $15,598 mid-range SV or $17,598 top-tier SR grade, with the former trim’s standard features list swelling to include the automatic transmission, body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, power locks with auto-locking, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, air conditioning, four-speaker audio, a six-way manual driver’s seat with a folding armrest, etcetera, while factory options for this trim include a $400 SV Style Package with 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.
The top-line Micra SR gets the same rooftop spoiler and its own set of aluminum wheels, although its standard machine-finished rims grow to 16 inches and ride on 185/55 all-season rubber, while the rest of its standard features list includes upgraded sport headlights and taillights, front fog lamps, side sill spoilers, chrome exterior accents, a chrome exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift lever with the manual transmission (which once again comes standard), even nicer Sport cloth upholstery, and more.
Paint colours aside there aren’t any factory options for the Micra’s two upper grades, but Nissan provides plenty of dealer-installed accessories no matter the trim, and some really celebrate the car’s sporty nature. For instance, there are Colour Studio packages that include contrasting coloured mirror covers and sport stripes available across the line for $219, or alternatively you can swap out the body-colour door handles on SV and SR models with the same contrasting colour from the aforementioned City Package by choosing the $461 Trend Package, while the $599 Intensity Package ups the ante with a contrasting coloured rear hatch finisher and a custom “Premium Package” emblem.
Alternatively you can get all of the above individually, as well as colour centre wheel caps, a rear rooftop spoiler (for S and SV trims), a chrome exhaust tip (ditto), etcetera, plus a whole host of more conventional accessories like all-season floor mats, a cargo mat, bicycle and ski/snowboard/wakeboard carriers, and more.
I should mention that the Micra and Mirage aren’t the only hatchbacks vying for your attention in this class. As noted earlier, Chevy’s little Spark is also a credible competitor for about $500 less than the Micra, while it bridges the gap (more like a chasm) when it comes to performance thanks to 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque (still 11 hp and 13 lb-ft less than the Micra), and fuel economy that’s rated at 7.2 L/100km combined, plus it offers an identically sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with standard CarPlay and Android smartphone integration, etcetera. It was redesigned for 2019, which spurred the strongest year-over-year growth within Canada’s entire small car sector (including larger subcompact and compact models) at 24.2 percent, resulting in 4,945 units and second place in the city car segment.
At the other end of the positivity spectrum Fiat’s much pricier $22,495 500 lost even more ground than the Micra at -68 percent and just 269 units down the road during the same 12 months—year-over-year Micra sales were down 39 percent, incidentally. The Smart Fortwo, which doesn’t really face off directly against any of these five-place competitors due to having just two seats, now being solely electric and thus starting at $29,050 and wearing a new EQ badge, saw its sales shrink by 13.9 percent to 317 units last year, while the entire city car segment has been contracting in recent years due to the cancellation of the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year and the Scion iQ the year before.
Glancing back at that list of rivals and it’s not too unreasonable to surmise some future cancellations. Truly, if it weren’t for Daimler’s brilliantly innovative Car2Go sharing program (it was first) it’s highly unlikely the Smart brand would exist anymore, at least in our part of the world, while both Fiat, which is repositioning itself as a boutique premium brand like Mini, and Mitsubishi, that’s only having any notable success with Outlander compact SUV that saw growth of nearly 50-percent last year due to a plug-in hybrid version, may not make it through the next inevitable recession.
I mean, if Fiat only managed to sell 596 vehicles brand-wide up until October of 2018, which is a 73 percent drop from the year prior, and then conveniently forgot to mention the brand in its monthly and yearly totals in November and December, there’s a pretty good chance they’re about to say arrivederci to the North American markets sooner than later. We sourced the information from Automotive News Canada that reported 645 calendar 2018 sales for a 72.4 percent downturn compared to the 2,339 units sold in 2017, but that’s still got to be beyond challenging for the Italian brand’s 55 independent retailers.
I’ve driven all of the above so therefore it’s easy for me to understand why the Micra is Canada’s best-selling city car, not to mention more popular than plenty of other small cars including the Mini Cooper at 4,466 units, the Honda Fit at 3,520 (although a flood at its Mexican assembly plant was the cause of its 29.9 percent downfall), Chevrolet Sonic at 2,836 (which will soon be discontinued), Volkswagen Beetle at 2,077, Ford Fiesta 1,323 (also cancelled), and Hyundai Veloster at 1,077 units (but it’s more of a niche sport model). I’m not saying this final list of cars aren’t more appealing than the Micra overall, but when value is factored into the mix, only the Honda Fit measures up.
While we most likely won’t see a redesign of our Canadian-exclusive Micra anytime soon (most other markets received an all-new Micra in 2017), because it’s not available in the U.S. and therefore may not warrant the investment, it’s possible that a change in market conditions could see it quickly become even more popular than it already is with price- and interest rate-sensitive first-time and fixed-income buyers. Still, as much as I’d like to get my hands on the more up-to-date version, the current Micra offers so much value for its asking price and provides so much fun at the wheel that it’s impossible to beat, and now that Nissan has given this base model new life with a fresh infotainment touchscreen it’s even better than ever, putting the new 2019 Micra S high on my budget conscious shoppers recommendations list.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press