2019 Toyota C-HR Limited Road Test Review

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The Toyota C-HR is no wallflower, really living up to Akio Toyoda’s desire for more exciting designs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

During the introduction of the FT-1 concept at the 2014 Detroit auto show, Toyota president Akio Toyoda issued a companywide decree for “no more boring cars,” and this C-HR is a direct result of this type of thinking, at least with respect to styling. Do you think it embodies Toyoda’s hopes for a level of “style that stirs peoples’ emotions and makes them say ‘I want to drive this’?” 

Toyoda obviously does, as he would’ve approved the initial design and given the go-ahead for this production model. Being just 63, he’s still very much in charge of his grandfather’s car company, and I must say the namesake Japanese brand’s newest SUV is just one of many dynamic designs to arrive on the scene in recent years. 

I won’t comment on CH-R styling in detail, first because my taste isn’t your taste, and secondly because I’m a fan of unorthodox designs like Nissan’s Juke and Cube, as long as the proportions are right and there’s some sort of balance to the overall look. The CH-R fits nicely into that category, pushing the limits in some respects, but probably acceptable enough to the masses to maintain reasonable resale values. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR might look even more daring from behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s more important that Toyota finally has something to compete in this subcompact SUV class, and I give them high marks for courage, being that the majority of rivals already enjoying success here did so by focusing more on things practical than eye-catching design. It was as surprise that Toyota showed up with this sportier looking, slightly smaller than average alternative that seems to put style ahead of pragmatism. 

A rundown of class sales leaders shows that passenger and cargo spaciousness and flexibility rules the roost, with long-term top-sellers include the innovative Honda HR-V, funky yet practical Kia Soul, and larger than average Subaru Crosstrek, while a couple of newcomers doing well include the cheap and sizeable Nissan Qashqai, as well as the all-round impressive Hyundai Kona. It’s like this new C-HR said hello to the same type of buyers that were lamenting the loss of the recently cancelled Juke (replaced by the new Kicks), although missing the AWD Juke’s stellar performance. Go-fast goodness may also help propel Canadian sales of the Mazda CX-3, not to mention its arguably stylish design. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR provides plenty of interesting details when seen up close. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This is model-year two for the new C-HR, and all things considered it’s a commendable subcompact crossover SUV. My test model was tarted up in new Limited trim, which reaches higher up the desirability scale than last year’s XLE, which I tested and reviewed last year. Altogether I’ve tested three C-HR’s, and each provided impressive comfort with the same level of features as comparatively priced competitors, plus amply capable performance, and superb fuel efficiency. 

One of the C-HR’s strengths is interior refinement, although I wouldn’t say it’s the segment’s best when compared to the previously noted CX-3 in its top-tier GT trim, which gets very close to the luxury subcompact SUV class, and that’s even when comparing Mazda’s best to this top-level Limited model. I did like the C-HR Limited’s nicely detailed padded, stitched leatherette dash-top, plus the large padded bolster just underneath that stretches from the right side of the instrument panel to the front passenger’s door, while a smaller padded section adorns the left side of the primary gauge package. Each door upper receives the same premium-level soft touch synthetic surface treatment, while all armrests get an even softer, more comfortable covering. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
This interesting door handle provides access to the rear quarters. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those who thrill at the sight of plentiful piano black lacquered plastic will be overjoyed with all of the dark shiny trim strewn around Toyota’s smallest crossover. I’d personally like it if there were less, and not due to its addition to interior design, but instead because it attracts dust something awful and scratches way too easily. I like the diamond-textured hard plastic on door inserts and lower panels, however, which are truly unique, look great and feel durable enough to last the test of time. It certainly doesn’t feel as cheap as the usual hard plastic found in these areas in this segment, plus the diamond pattern complements the unusual assortment of diamond-shaped reliefs stamped into the overhead roofliner. 

Before I take a deep dive into the C-HR’s interior design and quality, I should mention this 2019 model received a few upgrades that should allow it to find more buyers while improving it overall compared to last year’s version, starting with a new base LE trim that eliminates more than $1,000 from the 2018 C-HR’s base window sticker. This said $23,675 isn’t as approachable as some competitors noted earlier in this review, the Qashqai now available from $20,198 (just $200 more than last year’s version despite plenty of new equipment), and the new Nissan Kicks starting at a mere $17,998, thus making it the most affordable SUV in Canada. Nevertheless, the C-HR’s list of standard goodies is hard to beat, so stay tuned in if you’d like to learn more. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Distinctive design elements can be seen all around. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Something else going against this new C-HR’s success is the significantly larger and much more accommodating Nissan Rogue that only costs $3k or so more, while the completely redesigned 2019 RAV4 begins at just $27,790 (check out all the latest pricing details for all makes and models including this C-HR, the Rogue and RAV4 right here at CarCostCanada, with additional info on trims, packages and available options, plus otherwise difficult to get rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

A positive for this 2019 C-HR LE is Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system that now comes standard across the line. It features a much larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and supports Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus Toyota’s superb in-house smartphone integration app. I like this infotainment system a lot, and I like Toyota’s Entune smartphone app even more than Android Auto, no matter whether I’m setting my drive route up in my house via my Samsung S9, or controlling it via the C-HR’s touchscreen. The new display also features a standard backup camera, which might not sound like much of big deal unless you had previously been forced to live with last year’s ultra-small rearview mirror-mounted monitor. Now it’s much easier to use and of course safer thanks to the larger display. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Toyota carries the C-HR’s unorthodox styling characteristics inside too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The route guidance mentioned a moment ago comes via a Scout GPS app downloadable from your smartphone’s online store. Like I said, you can set it up before going out via your phone, and then when hooked up to your C-HR it displays your route on the touchscreen just like a regular navigation system. I found it easy to use and extremely accurate, while Toyota also supplies the Entune App Suite Connect with a bundle of applications for traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, stocks, fuel and NPR One (a U.S.-sourced public radio station). 

The base C-HR LE also receives standard automatic high beam headlamps, adaptive cruise control, remote entry, an acoustic glass windshield, auto up/down power windows all-round, a leather-clad shift knob, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge package, an auto-dimming interior mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, two-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, the aforementioned piano black lacquered trim, fabric seat upholstery, front sport seats, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all the expected active and passive safety features plus a few unexpected ones like a driver’s knee airbag and rear side thorax airbags, etcetera, which is downright generous for the base trim level of a subcompact crossover SUV, and therefore should relieve those concerned about its base price being too high. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR’s sporty gauge cluster is easy to read in any light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Last year the C-HR was only available in XLE trim, so it’s good that Toyota kept this model as a mid-range entry while it expanded the lineup with two more trims. The XLE now starts at $25,725 thanks to the new Entune 3.0 Audio Plus system, plus it also includes automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance SOS button, and enhanced roadside assistance to enhance its safety equipment, plus 17-inch alloys, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, nicer cloth upholstery, heated front seats (which should really be standard in Canada), and two-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat. 

On top of this you can add on an XLE Premium package that increases the price to $27,325 yet includes larger 18-inch rims, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, heated power-retractable outside mirrors with puddle lamps, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. 

Lastly, new top-tier Limited trim starts at $28,775 and adds rain-sensing wipers, a very helpful windshield wiper de-icer (especially considering the frigid winter and spring most of us endured this year and last), ambient interior lighting, and attractive textured leather upholstery in either black or brown. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The larger centre screen now incorporates the rearview parking camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Look under the hood and you’ll something that hasn’t changed for 2019, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that might cause some potential buyers to feel as if the C-HR’s performance doesn’t quite reach up to meet its sporty styling. The engine puts out a reasonable 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t bad on its own, but the only gearbox it comes mated to is the belt-and-pulley-inspired continuously variable type, a.k.a. CVT, which makes a difference at the pump, but isn’t exactly designed to thrill off the line. What’s more, the C-HR is a front-wheel-drive-only offering, making it the type of SUV you’ll be forced to chain up when hitting the slopes if your local mountain(s) have a policy that requires chains on all vehicles without AWD. 

Still, as noted it’s a thrifty little ute, capable of just 8.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.2 combined according to the powers that be at Transport Canada, which thanks to new carbon taxes and other interprovincial and geopolitical issues is critical these days. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
These are comfortable leather-covered seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also important, the C-HR’s wide footprint and low roofline make it reasonably well balanced, which results in handling that nearly adheres to Mr. Toyoda’s “no more boring cars” credo. Nearly is the deciding word, however, as the C-HR is no CX-3 or Kona, but its fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone/trailing arm rear suspension is plenty of fun when quickly slaloming through a twisting backcountry two-laner or hightailing through town, plus I found its ride quality amongst the segment’s best. 

While we’re on the subject of comfort, the C-HR’s front seats are excellent, and its driving position is a considerable improvement over some other Toyota models. To be clear, I have longer legs than torso, which means that I’m required to shove my driver’s seat more towards the rear than most others measuring five-foot-eight, and then adjust the steering column as far rearward as possible. A number of Toyota models simply don’t provide enough steering wheel reach to comfortably allow me a good, safe grip of the wheel with my arms appropriately bent, so I was thrilled the C-HR does. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The rear seats should be roomy enough for most owners’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How about rear roominess and comfort. Even after pushing my driver’s seat as far rearward as necessary for my gangly legs, there was approximately four inches left over ahead of my knees when seated directly behind, plus about three inches over my head, which should be good enough for the majority of tallish passengers. I also had ample side-to-side space, although three abreast might feel a bit crowded. 

Oddly there isn’t flip-down armrest between the two outboard rear positions, and while not quite as comfortable I’m glad Toyota remembered to include a cupholder just ahead of the armrest on each rear door panel. Also good, the rear outboard seats are comfortable and supportive, especially against the lower back. On the negative, rear seat visibility out the side windows is horrible due to the C-HR’s strangely shaped doors that cause rear occupants to look directly into a big black panel when trying to see out. I’m guessing that kids big and small won’t appreciate this, so make sure you bring the young’uns along for the test drive before you buy. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Not the roomiest cargo area in its class, the C-HR should nevertheless satisfy most subcompact SUV buyers’ requirements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Cargo capacity might also be a deal-breaker for those who regularly haul a lot of life’s gear, because the C-HR’s sporty rear roofline slices into its vertical volume. The result is a mere 538 litres (19.0 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space aft of the rear seatbacks, which is a bit tight when put up against the class leaders. Folding the C-HR’s 60/40-split rear seats flat improves on available cargo space with 1,031 litres (36.4 cu ft), although once again this doesn’t come close to the largest in this segment. 

Rather than leave this review on a negative note, I’ll make a point of highlighting the C-HR’s impressive five-star NHTSA safety rating, and should also bring attention to Toyota’s excellent reliability record on the whole. I’m sure such talk isn’t what Toyoda-san would want me relating when wrapping up a review of such a non-boring design exercise, but in truth the C-HR is more about comfort, convenience, economy and dependability than go-fast performance, and while this might seem a bit dull and wholly Toyota-like, it’s also why so many Canadian consumers go back to the world’s most successful Japanese automaker time and time again. For this reason I’d difficult for me to argue against the new C-HR, so if this new subcompact SUV’s styling, size and drivability work for you, by all means take one home. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

All-new Mercedes CLA promises big improvements when it arrives this fall

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Say hello to the fabulous looking new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Since arriving on the subcompact luxury scene six years ago, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been in a constant sparring session with Audi’s A3, but when the challenger from Ingolstadt said so long to its conventionally-powered five-door hatchback and we all said hello to an entirely new four-door sport sedan, the four-ringed brand has enjoyed a slight sales lead over its sporty four-door coupe competitor. 

Of course, M-B and Audi aren’t the only two battling it out for entry-level premium car customers, with Mercedes’ very own B-Class MPV luring in plenty each year from its faithful following, not to mention Acura with its ILX sedan, BMW with its 2 Series coupe and convertible, etcetera, but the problems facing this class aren’t as simple as a handful of rivals doing their best to one-up each other anymore, but rather getting noticed in a luxury market that’s a lot more about SUVs than anything that hugs the pavement so closely. 

For this reason we’ve all got to give Mercedes a round of applause (or maybe a standing ovation) for courageously hitting back with myriad car models in most every luxury segment while others are fleeing. In fact, Mercedes will soon offer more models within the subcompact luxury sector than some competitors have cars, period. Perhaps we can chalk this up to being in the automotive industry longer than any rival, a reality that provided experience through plenty of changes in market sentiment, or possibly it’s just plain stubbornness, but whatever the reason, this German brand not only offers six sedans, two wagons, seven coupes, and six convertibles for a total of 21 different body styles you can purchase right here in Canada, right now, but on top of these the Stuttgart-based marque will be adding the A-Class sedan later this year, bumping its car count up to 22, a mind-blowing pavement-hugging lineup in an auto market that’s supposedly only purchasing high-riding SUVs these days. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With completely new styling from front to back, the new CLA provides a more aggressive new look that’s bound to excite compact luxury buyers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course Mercedes-Benz, Canada’s number one-selling luxury automotive retailer, is capable of filling nearly every niche anyone can conjure up because of its enviable brand equity. Build it and they will come, or so the paraphrased saying goes, and for the most part it’s true. Just look at this subcompact luxury car sector that most brands aren’t even participating in. Mercedes’ B-Class has been attracting entry-level buyers since 2005 when it arrived as a 2006 model, while the same Canadian M-B retailers have been selling the CLA since 2013 (check out pricing and more for the current CLA-Class right here on CarCostCanada now), and the new A-Class hatchback since January. 

Through the first two months of 2019, Mercedes’ collective subcompact luxury sales (including the B-Class) tallied up to 606 units, which dwarfed the 350 Audi A3s sold into the same market, let alone BMW that only managed to sell 139 2 Series and i3 models during the same two months, and as noted we haven’t even seen sales from the lower priced M-B A-Class sedan kick in, or for that matter this entirely new CLA four-door coupe that will hit the streets this fall, building on a success story that’s been pretty impressive so far. 

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
These are by far the most complex LED headlamps in the subcompact luxury sector. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Interestingly, more than two thirds of Canadian CLA buyers were new to Mercedes during that model’s peak sales stint, while it’s also critical to point out that these new M-B owners were seven years younger than the brand’s usual average age of clientele. Later this year Canadians will be given the choice of four recently updated or completely new subcompact models (five if you divide the A-Class into its current hatchback and upcoming sedan body types), with this CLA being the most expressive, and sportiest in the collection, and plenty of these newfound Mercedes owners will more than likely stay with the brand when it comes time to trade in and escalate up to fancier more profitable models within the lineup, as their income increases with age and experience. 

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” continued Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

There’s a very big reason Mercedes chose the Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to debut its new CLA last January, the massive Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment interface that, together with its integrated digital instrument cluster, spans much of the car’s instrument panel, but its attractive new styling caused more of an initial crowd. 

Most should agree the new CLA looks more mature due to its seemingly stern forward-slanting sport grille design, which Mercedes claimed is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose” in its press release. Found in front of a lengthier hood highlighted by sculpted “powerdomes”, the new grille is bookended by a more angular set of LED Multibeam headlights incorporating 18 individually-controllable LED elements, all hovering above a more intricately detailed lower front apron. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Like the headlights, the new CLA’s LED taillights are hardly short on signature lighting elements. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Additionally, the new CLA boasts muscled up side panels with flared fenders, while its entire roofline has been positioned farther toward the rear for a more traditional GT design. The more conventional look continues at the back thanks to a rectangular trunk cutout between totally new LED tail lamps that, like the lenses up front, are narrower and laid out higher and more horizontally for a wider overall appearance. Not only fresher and arguably better looking, the extensively wind tunnel-tested 2020 CLA is now much slicker through the air resulting in a 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

The updated CLA’s interior is obviously focused on a younger customer, the vivid orange highlights of the show car and sizeable conjoined digital displays right out of the iPad, Surface and Galaxy Tab playbooks. The fixed-freestanding widescreen combination includes a gauge cluster to the left, which removes the need for an instrument hood altogether, and an infotainment touchscreen to the right, the latter controlled by Mercedes’ trademark palm-rest and new touchpad (the scrolling wheel is gone) on the lower console. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s dash design makes everything else in the subcompact luxury segment look old. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Do-it-yourself shifting comes via a set of paddles behind the 9 and 3 o’clock positions of the beautifully detailed leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while above the previously noted infotainment controller is an elegantly thin climate control interface. Lastly, if that mammoth display didn’t first tug at your eyeballs, the stunning turbine-style circular HVAC ducts across the dash certainly should have. 

Back to the mother of all in-car electronic interfaces, which was actually introduced in the new A-Class a year ago and E-Class before that, the graphically stimulating multi-information display and surrounding digital dials sits next to Mercedes new high-resolution MBUX infotainment system as noted earlier. Along with fully customizable displays, Augmented Reality navigation that reportedly provides a much more realistic mapping system plus more, the new system’s computing power is greatly enhanced over the CLA’s outgoing system, and even features software that can “learn and respond to natural speech,” said Mercedes-Benz. 

If you’ve ever struggled to get a voice activation system to understand your prompts you may be glad to hear this next bit of news, because M-B’s new voice assistant is said to communicate more closely to Amazon Alexa, with the simple prompt of “Hey Mercedes” leading to more capability than any other in-car voice system offered thus far. What’s more, it’s intelligent enough to recognize the speech patterns of the individual asking the question, even when others are engaged in a different conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The MBUX system’s graphics are so mesmerizing you might just find yourself driving off the road. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

Additionally, Mercedes says their new MBUX voice assistant can even recognize and respond to more complex indirect questions, such as “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops,” for example. It can also manage a greater assortment of subjects, with other press release-cited examples including “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” when referencing sports news, or “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” for its take on business news. If you need a quick calculation, MBUX can do that for you too, with the example given being, “What is the square roof of 9?” while Mercedes provided the questions “How big is Texas?” and “What is the fat content of avocados?” for the general knowledge category. 

While some potential buyers may ante up for the new CLA just to for MBUX alone, plenty of others will appreciate the car’s larger overall size. It now measures 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) longer at 4,688 mm (184.5 in), while its wheelbase has been stretched by 30 mm (1.2 in) at 2,729 mm (107.4 in). Additionally, it spans 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in) without the side mirrors, and finally its roofline is 2 mm (0.1 in) lower at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With infotainment that rivals the best of today’s tablets, the new CLA should appeal to younger buyers and the young at heart. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As you can guess it’s more accommodating inside, but while those up front enjoy 17 mm (0.6 in) of additional headroom, and rear passengers get 3 mm (0.1 in) more space overhead, whereas shoulder room has been improved by 9 mm (0.3 in) up front and 22 mm (0.8 in) in the rear, plus front to rear elbow room grows by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) respectively, front legroom has actually shrunken by one millimetre, while legroom in the back seat lengthens by just a single millimetre as well. 

The cargo compartment is smaller too, but just by 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a still-sizeable 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), while on the positive the new CLA’s squarer trunk lid width increases by a whopping 262 mm (10.3 in), plus the load floor was widened by 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and deepened by 24 mm (0.9 in). 

Lift the opening at the other end and you’ll once again find a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine underneath, and while Mercedes hasn’t shared performance figures for its most affordable CLA 250 variant yet, it will likely measure up to the new A 250 Hatchback, which makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for a 13 horsepower gain and identical twist. Putting power down to the front wheels or 4MATIC all-wheel drive is Mercedes’ in-house 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated gearbox, with a beefed up version of the transmission and standard AWD expected to be included in the (finger’s crossed) AMG variant, the current performance model good for 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly thin HVAC panel floats above the CLA’s minimalist lower console, replete with an all-new touchpad infotainment controller. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An increased dimension not yet mentioned is track width, which is up a healthy 63 mm (2.5 in) at the front wheels and 55 mm (2.1 in) in the rear, while the CLA also benefits from a lower centre of gravity, all of which should combine for a big improvement in overall performance. Additional chassis improvements include a Direct-Steer system and hydromounts up front, while the rear suspension includes a decoupled multi-link axle that reduces NVH, plus bigger stabilizer bars for reducing body roll. Lastly, 18-inch wheels shod in 225/45 tires should come standard, while 19-inch alloys wearing 225/40 rubber will be available. 

And what about advanced driver assistance and safety systems? Standard with the CLA will be Active Brake Assist, while Active Lane Keep Assist, which helps to centre drivers within their lane and prevents them from unexpectedly veering off the road, will be optional by choosing the Intelligent Drive Package that also incorporates Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and an automatic backup braking system. 

Also notable, the Intelligent Drive Package, which debuted in Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, can pilot the CLA autonomously in certain circumstances, but Mercedes is quick to point out that this semi-autonomous system still needs “cooperative driver support,” or at least it will until its many advanced functions are allowed to work on their own. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
M-B adds a lot more width to new CLA’s interior. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Produced in Kecskemét, Hungary, the redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA should help increase Mercedes’ command of the subcompact luxury car market when it joins the new A-Class sedan for autumn 2019 availability (find new A-Class Sedan and Hatchback pricing and more right here on CarCostCanada now), not to mention the A-Class Hatchback, GLA-Class subcompact crossover SUV and who knows what else (but according to Mercedes more are coming), and by so doing secure an entirely new generation of three-pointed star devotees. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

2019 Acura TLX Tech Road Test

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The new TLX looks good in Tech trim, which doesn’t add any exterior upgrades to the base model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura does well in almost every Canadian market segment it competes in. As calendar year 2018 ended the RDX sat within the top three of 15 compact luxury SUV competitors, while the MDX was fifth out of 21 mid-size premium crossovers and number one amongst dedicated three-row rivals. What about cars? The ILX was mid-pack in its entry-level luxury segment, and surprisingly the top-line RLX Sport Hybrid mid-size four-door was just one of two cars to show positive sales growth in a sector that’s been getting hammered by the aforementioned SUVs, although its actual final sales tally placed it second to last out of 17 competitors. Truly, Acura’s best sales success in Canada’s car sector is summed up in the TLX. 

A total of 17 models compete in the compact luxury car D-segment, led by such notable names as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Tesla Model 3 (if you can trust their sales numbers that seem very suspect), BMW 3 Series, and Audi A4, which makes the TLX’ eighth position quite credible, albeit not as good as its previous best-of-the-rest status. Despite a thorough facelift last year, some of the shine has come off this car in recent years, or at least the Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50 have now passed by on the sales charts. The latter Japanese sport-luxury sedan is one of a handful that grew sales last year, the other direct four-door competitor being the C-Class, which means other than the Jaguar XE that slid rearward by 27.8 percent, the TLX’s loss of 25.2 percent made for the worst backward move in its four-door compact luxury segment. Yikes! 

If you remember, I started this review by claiming that Acura does well in almost every Canadian market segment it competes in, not all. And to be honest, I thought this was going to be a positive story that would look good on the car and brand, because in previous years the TLX always held a solid fourth place behind the C-Class or 3 Series (depending on which one came first) and the A4, but to see it slide to sixth amongst its four-door sedan rivals was a shocker. Rather than analyze possible reasons why, I’ll steer away from that rabbit hole and instead talk about my experience with the car at hand, at which point maybe you’ll understand why I’m perplexed at its shaky sales results. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Long and lean, the TLX Tech provides a lot of style for the money. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The TLX has only been with us since 2014 when it arrived as a 2015 model. It came about by combining the smaller TSX with the larger TL, in spirit at least, resulting in a just-right-sized D-segment sedan. What I mean by that is it’s still a bit larger than most competitors, measuring 61 millimetres (2.4 inches) longer than its nearest challenger at 4,844 mm (190.7 in), albeit coming up 74 mm (2.9 in) short in wheelbase length when compared to that Q50, which was the longest next to the fractionally (0.1 mm) longer wheelbase of the C-Class. Its 1,854-mm (73.0-in) width (without mirrors) is widest in its class by 12 mm (0.5 in), while its 1,447 mm (57.0 in) height is tallest by a hair, or rather 4 mm (0.15 in). So if you want more luxury car for similar money, or more precisely quite a bit less money, the TLX should be high on your list. 

The 2019 TLX starts at just $34,890 plus freight and fees, which is closer to the entry-level models of all brands just mentioned than anything sized and equipped like this Acura. Some quick comparisons have the segment’s next most affordable Cadillac ATS starting at $37,845, the Audi A4 at $39,800, the Lexus IS at $41,050, the Volvo S60 at $42,400, the Jaguar XE at $43,900, the Infiniti Q50 at $44,995, the Genesis G70 at $45,500, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class at $46,100, and the BMW 3 Series at $49,000, or in other words the TLX has every competitor beaten on price by a long shot. 

By the way, all pricing was sourced right here at CarCostCanada, which not only provides all trims, packages and standalone options, but also lets you know about available rebates that might help you save money when it comes time to make a deal, plus even better, you can access dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The base 17-inch alloys look good, but you can’t upgrade the TLX tech with larger rims unless opting for A-Spec trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just in case you’re thinking that Acura’s most basic D-segment entry must shortchange its owner something awful for under $35k, the base TLX gets full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, remote engine start, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a colour TFT multi-info display, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an excellent multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way power driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, remote-linked two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and climate control, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch On Demand Multi-use Display (ODMD) above a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, seven-speaker audio, satellite radio, active noise cancellation, a Homelink universal garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and much more. 

On top of that impressive list, all TLX trims boast standard AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Heads Up Warning, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), plus the segment’s usual array of active and passive safety features, including an airbag for the driver’s knees, while Blind Spot Information (BSI) with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor come as part of my tester’s second-rung Tech trim. 

That’s right. We were able to test a less equipped trim this time around, ideal because plenty of buyers choose this well equipped model that still manages to slip under the base price points of most competitors at $38,590. Along with the safety upgrades, Tech trim adds rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping, voice recognition, the AcuraLink connectivity system, great sounding 10-speaker ELS Studio audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, an always welcome heatable steering wheel rim, heated rear outboard seats, and last but hardly least perforated Milano leather upholstery replacing the standard leatherette. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Last year’s mid-cycle refresh didn’t change the interior design, although the two-tier infotainment system was upgraded. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, I was disappointed that TLX buyers are forced to step up to Elite trim, which is only available with a V6 and all-wheel drive, to access a number of fairly basic luxury items such as auto-dimming side mirrors, rear parking sensors (that come packaged with the front sensors included), and a wireless smartphone charger, while LED fog lamps only come standard with the Elite and sportier A-Spec models, the latter made available with the four-cylinder and front-wheel drive for 2019. Offering these optionally would be beneficial to those who prize fuel economy more than performance, and Acura could package in the Elite model’s excellent surround view camera and ventilated front seats too. 

My tester’s interior was finished in classic Ebony black, needless to say a good match to its $500 coat of optional Platinum White Pearl exterior paint, making for an elegantly sporty four-door thanks to tastefully applied bright metal and glossy black detailing outside plus plenty of satin-silver accents and grey woodgrain inlays inside. Take note that Parchment tan interior could have been selected at no extra charge, so if a lighter interior is more to your liking Acura has got you covered. 

Despite its entry-level luxury asking price the TLX Tech interior’s fit, finish and materials quality is fully up to par with its D-segment peers, thanks to a soft-touch dash top that wraps down around the instrument panel, even to the lowest edges of the centre stack. Likewise, front and rear door uppers are finished with the same premium padded material, while the long, curving door inserts are nice stitched leather, as are the armrests side and centre. Acura even finishes the glove box lid off with the same pliable surfacing, only coming up a bit short on the sides of the lower console and each lower door panel, all areas that many rivals also apply harder plastic. Of course, all pillars are fabric-wrapped, and the roofliner is nicely finished in a high-grade woven fabric. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The TLX’ gauge cluster is effective, but looks a bit yesteryear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The primary gauge cluster is a nice straightforward combination of metal-rimmed dials with a colour multi-info display at centre, the latter rather simple by today’s standards, but this more classic driving-focused cockpit is more than made up for in digital display acreage by Acura’s two-tiered infotainment system on the centre stack, the larger top monitor controlled by a big knurled metallic knob and row of surrounding buttons just below the smaller display, which is a touchscreen as noted earlier. 

This second-generation dual-screen system was updated last year and now processes inputs 30-percent faster while also including the aforementioned branded smartphone integration, but be aware that a couple of features that function best with a touchscreen’s tablet-like pinch and swipe gesture capability, notably the navigation system’s map interface as well as both CarPlay and Android Auto, are shown up high on the larger display and therefore controlled more clumsily by the rotating knob and buttons below, while features like the climate control system, heatable front seats, and audio functions are found within the lower hands-on unit. 

Other than the navigation map, the upper display’s graphics are rather drab with a basic grey/blue font and not much else to look at, while the screen resolution isn’t quite as fine as some others in the class, but this made me glad that Acura chose the more colourful map as the default function. The touchscreen’s graphics are certainly more appealing and also benefit from a higher resolution display with richer colours and deeper contrast. 

Of note, you can adjust some of the climate functions via the narrow row of buttons and rocker switches just below the screen, and these are some of the tightest fitting, best damped switchgear in the business. This pretty well sums up most of the controls in the TLX’ cabin, although the buttons for the power windows and locks on the door panels seem like afterthoughts and therefore aren’t quite up to the same standard. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The navigation system’s route guidance works well, but the display is lower in resolution than some rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Adjusting the power side mirror controller on the same panel provided good rearward visibility, which when joined by plenty of glass in every direction, plus the auto-dimming rearview mirror and aforementioned multi-angle rearview camera, results in a car that’s easy to drive through congested city traffic and tight parking lots. 

The multi-adjustable driver’s seat is very comfortable too, although I would have preferred four-way lumbar support to press more accurately against the small of my back, plus extendable thigh supports for cupping under the knees would’ve been nice as well. Still, the tilt and telescopic steering column extended the steering wheel far enough rearward to provide a comfortable seat distance for my legs while leaving my elbows properly bent for maximum control when resting the hands at 9 and 3 o’clock, plus all controls were within easy reach. 

The rear seating area offers plenty of space too, plus excellent lower back comfort in the outboard positions. A large folding armrest provides a nice place for inside elbows when only two are seated abreast, plus the usual twin cupholders and a tiny open bin for holding snacks or what-have-you. Acura adds a couple of vents to the backside of the front console to keep rear passengers aerated, while providing three temperatures for the rear seat heaters is better than the usual two. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The touchscreen is a big improvement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The TLX’ trunk provides a decent amount of space as well, measuring 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet) thanks to the car’s extra length mentioned earlier. Pull tabs release the 60/40 split seatbacks if you want to lower one side or both for longer cargo, but unless you’ve got something strong enough to push them forward with, like a set of skis, you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors to drop them down anyway. Another shortcoming is the 60/40 split itself, which doesn’t include a centre pass-through and therefore limits the use of the seat heaters when transporting said skis or snowboard equipment—cue one whining tweenager now. 

Cranking up the aforementioned ELS stereo might be a good way to drown out rear seat complainants, mind you, but then again you might find the sound of the high-revving base 2.4-litre engine more to your liking. This engine is right out of the previous-generation Civic Si, so that sonorous song and rorty exhaust note ideally complements its ability to rev all the way to 6,800 rpm. I’m not sure whether I like this V-TEC-infused mill more than the aforementioned 3.5-litre V6, and if it weren’t for the larger engine’s advanced SH-AWD, the FWD version might even be the sportier choice. 

Don’t get me wrong as the V6 spits out a naughty growl of its own when getting hard on the throttle, but my nod in the four-cylinder’s direction has more to do with the excellence of its quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated dual-clutch eight-speed automated transmission than its 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. Certainly the extra 84 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque would be had to pass up, but that engine’s nine-speed automatic kills its fun-factor, taking far too long between shifts to feel remotely sporty. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The seats are comfortable and finished in perforated leather, but more adjustment would be helpful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Getting the most out of the TLX drivetrain is Acura’s four-position “Dynamic Mode” driver settings, featuring default Normal, thrifty Econ, Sport and Sport + modes. The latter two really make a difference when pushing the envelope, but I left it in Econ mode when dealing with city traffic, as it was best for eking the most from a tank of fuel. Acura claims 10.0 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.7 combined with the four-cylinder model, while the V6, that gets an engine idle stop-start system, does pretty well at the pump as well with a rating of 11.4, 7.7 and 9.8 respectively. 

Another bonus with the smaller engine is less weight over the front wheels, so it feels nimbler when pressed hard through corners and is less likely to understeer, or push out the front wheels and drive straight when the tires break traction in the middle of a turn. On this note it’s pretty hard to upset the TLX’ nicely sorted front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, despite the car’s smallish standard 17-inch alloy wheels and 225/55 all-season tires, but this brings up another shortcoming with both base and Tech trims, Acura doesn’t offer any wheel and tire upgrades. These lesser tires are easier on the wallet when it comes time to replace, however, and they help the TLX deliver a nice compliant ride. High-speed stability on the freeway is good too, with the car tracking nicely and wind noise kept to a minimum. 

Once again, four-cylinder fans who want more can now opt for the TLX Tech A-Spec, a car I hope to cover in an upcoming review because it combines what I think is this model’s sportiest drivetrain with a sweet looking set of 19-inch rims on stickier 45/40 rubber, plenty of aerodynamic styling upgrades, and other niceties inside. 

As it is, the 2019 TLX Tech is an attractive car thanks to last year’s refresh, highlighted by the brand’s now trademark “diamond pentagon grille,” tidier lower fascia, and sharper looking rear apron. It already included some of the best-looking LED headlamps and an attractive set of LED taillights, the former nicely revised, while its overall profile is long and sleek. Still, those updates were added to a car that was already three years into its lifecycle and now that it’s heading into its fifth will soon require a complete overhaul in order to keep its loyal followers from looking elsewhere. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The rear seating area is spacious and very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That thought in mind, one reason for the TLX’s recent sales decline could be the introduction of Acura’s all-new RDX, which has no doubt lured away more than a few would-be sport sedan buyers. It truly is better than most rivals and therefore worthy of its success, which bodes well for an upcoming redesign to this TLX. A new version should arrive sometime next year, so fingers crossed they build on all that’s good with this current version, mix in much of what makes the new RDX great, and end up with a new TLX that at the very least reclaims best-of-the-rest status. 

Until then, you can do a lot worse than the 2019 TLX, especially when factoring in expected reliability and stronger than average resale values that come from such a competitive value proposition at time of purchase. The TLX Tech is a very good car for a superb price, and even when loaded up with maximum performance and features the TLX Elite SH-AWD A-Spec slips under the $50k affordability barrier and therefore undercuts most competitors by thousands, let alone tens of thousands. You should consider it seriously.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.