CarCostCanada

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Updated just last year, the Golf Alltrack is going away too early.

As part of collecting data for this review I searched through every Ontario, BC and Alberta Volkswagen dealer site I could find, at which point I realized they were stuck with a much higher number of 2019 models than other brands (I’ve been doing this a lot for most brands lately). This, of course, should be beneficial to anyone purchasing a VW right now, as they would’ve already had a lot of stock they’d want to get rid of before the virus arrived, and must be seriously motived now.

One of the cars on VW’s list of leftovers is the 2019 Golf Alltrack, which was also discontinued last year, so they’re even more motivated to sell their remaining inventory. I’m guessing the dealers are more motivated than Volkswagen Canada, however, as the manufacturer has only put $1,500 in additional incentives on the hood, so to speak, this according to the 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Canada Prices page right here on CarCostCanada.

When you sign up for a CarCostCanada membership you have access to the 2019 Golf Alltrack’s dealer invoice price, which means you’ll know exactly what your local VW retailer paid for it and potentially how far he or she is willing to discount it. You’ll also know about any manufacturer rebates and financing/lease rate deals currently available.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Wholly practical yet still fun to drive, the Alltrack takes Golf traditions to new heights.

Getting the best deal on a car is important, but getting the best car for your lifestyle is even more so. To that end the Golf Alltrack is a car I’d actually consider owning, as it suits me to a tee. To my eyes it’s attractive, even more so than the Golf SportWagen it’s based on. That model gets discontinued after the 2019 model year too, incidentally. The Golf Alltrack’s one-inch taller ride height and beefier body cladding work ideally with its long, angular body, while all of its aluminum-look trim, including stylish silver side mirror housings, give it a near-premium persona.

As with all new Golf-based models, the Alltrack’s interior is arguably its most impressive attribute. Luxury details abound, like cloth-wrapped A pillars, a pliable composite dash top that extends down to the midpoint of the instrument panel, the same soft-touch synthetic used for the front door uppers, an beautifully detailed leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel with wonderfully thin spokes filled with high-quality switchgear, stylish grey carbon-fibre-like dash and door trim, gloss-black highlights in key areas, and a nice assortment of satin-finish metallic accents elsewhere.

The monochromatic multi-information display (MID) positioned between the otherwise legible gauge cluster wasn’t very advanced when testing this car in 2017 and still isn’t, especially from a brand that makes an ultra-impressive fully digital primary display in some of its other models, while the majority of its compact crossover competitors provide full-colour TFT MIDs stock full of features in their most basic trims.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Full LED headlights, LED fog lamps, 18-inch alloys and cool aluminum-look trim, the Alltrack Execline is an impressive near-luxury crossover.

On a much more positive note, the Alltrack’s standard infotainment system is excellent, this Execline model and the base Highline trim replacing the old outdated 6.5-inch centre touchscreen with a much more up-to-date 8.0-inch display for 2019, once again complete with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration, and a larger more useful reverse camera (but oddly with static guidelines), while the Execline gets exclusive navigation with nice map graphics and accurate route guidance.

Yet more infotainment features include voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a great sounding nine-speaker Fender audio system replacing the standard six-speaker unit, satellite radio, various apps, car system features, and more, while the display’s cool factor is proximity-sensing tech that causes hidden digital buttons to pop up when your hand gets near.

Being that I mentioned updates from the 2017 model I reviewed back in the day, I should provide some history as well as a few additional changes made over the past two model years. The Alltrack arrived on the scene in 2016 for the 2017 model year, and was actually refreshed for 2018 with LED signature lights in both its base halogen headlights and upgraded full LEDs, while new LED tail lamps also featured their own signature style and VW updated the front and rear fascias so subtly I couldn’t tell the difference (but the press release said it so it must be true).

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Interior refinement is excellent for the class, and its feature set in Execline trim is very generous.

There were no changes from the 2018 to 2019 model, including the previous year’s available six-speed manual gearbox that wasn’t part of the 2017 lineup in Canada, while Execline trim now included paddles for shifting the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

The unique Peacock Green Metallic colour seen on my tester was new for 2018 too, pulled up to 2019 as well, as was White Silver Metallic that increased the total colour count to nine. My tester’s interior was done out in no-cost optional Shetland beige, always a good combination with green, although this colour can also be had with standard Titan Black.

VW makes every colour available in either Highline or Execline trim, the base model available from $31,200 plus freight and fees when suited up with the manual transmission or $1,400 more for the autobox, whereas Execline trim starts at $35,270 for the manual and $36,670 with the automated transmission, less the previously noted incentives and any additional discounts you’re able to negotiate after getting up to speed on dealer invoice pricing right here at CarCostCanada.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
From a brand that offers some of its models with fully digital gauge clusters, these old-school instruments seem a bit dated.

Execline trim adds an inch to the alloy wheels for an exclusive set of 18-inch rims wrapped in 225/40 all-season tires, while additional standard equipment includes LED headlamps with dynamic cornering, those paddle shifters with automatic I mentioned earlier, a navigation system, an SD card slot, the already praised Fender audio system (with a subwoofer), front sport seats, a 12-way power driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar (that are truly excellent), and leather upholstery.

My test model also included the Golf Alltrack Execline’s only available upgrade package dubbed Driver Assistance Plus for $1,750. It features autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and park assist with park distance control.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Both Golf Alltrack trims get a new 8.0-inch touchscreen with loads of features, while top-tier Execline trim also includes navigation.

Items pulled up to the Execline from base Highline trim include 4Motion all-wheel drive, auto on/off headlamps with coming and leaving capability, fog lights, silver finished side mirror housings, silver roof rails, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, power windows, the previously noted leather-rimmed multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake lever, simulated carbon fibre decorative trim, brushed stainless steel pedals, two-zone auto HVAC, a USB port, three-way heated front seats, a two-way powered front passenger seat (that’s also eight-way manually adjustable), an auto-dimming centre mirror, ambient lighting, LED reading lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, a large power panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade made from an opaque cloth, a scrolling rear cargo cover, 12- and 115-volt power outlets in the cargo area, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through, etcetera.

The Golf Alltrack is identical to past models mechanically, with the 2019 once again getting VW’s 1.8-litre turbo-four capable of 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. It produces robust yet smooth, linear power that results in a fairly fast sprint from standstill to highway speeds, and once on the freeway potent passing power, while its all-wheel drive system is ideal for rain, snow, and light-duty dirt and gravel roads.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
The hip-hugging 12-way powered leather-surfaced driver’s seat is ultra-comfortable and plenty supportive.

The Alltrack is rated at 11.1 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 9.6 combined when mated to its base manual transmission, or 10.7 city, 8.0 highway and 9.4 combined with its automated gearbox, which are both reasonably good results for a compact crossover.

The Golf Alltrack rides on the compact segment’s usual front MacPherson strut and rear independent multi-link suspension design, and thanks to VW’s expertise this results in a comfortable ride and even better handling. Its one-inch taller ride height that comes from a special set of springs and shocks, helps the former attribute to make sense, because increased suspension travel normally aids ride comfort, and while the regular Golf SportWagen will likely outshine the Alltrack through the slalom the taller wagon is certainly more capable through such cones than an equivalently sized crossover SUV. The Alltrack’s speed-sensitive power steering provides good response and better than average feel, while a set of 286 mm vented front and 272 mm solid rear brake discs brings all the fun to a stop quickly.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Let there be light! The Alltrack’s panoramic sunroof provides a lot of airy openness.

Ride and handling praise will be nothing new to those who read VW Golf reviews, but the big difference between the regular five-door hatchback and this Alltrack, or for that matter its SportWagen donor model, is cargo volume. Specifically, the two longer Golfs receive 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) of extra capacity behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks, and 362 (12.8 cu ft) more when lowered, the bigger two cars’ max cargo volume a respective measuring 861 and 1,883 litres (30.4 and 66.5 cu ft).

All Golfs include the convenience of a rear centre pass-through as well, making it easy to load in longer items like skis, poles, snowboards, 2x4s or what-have-you. This leaves the two more comfortable rear window seats available for passengers to enjoy. Also good, VW has added levers to each cargo wall for lowering those seatbacks automatically, but before doing you’ll want to remove the cargo cover within its ultimately over-engineered cross-member. Seriously, this part metal, part composite component weighs a lot more than you’re probably expecting, which is good if you want it to last for time and all eternity, yet maybe not so much if your muscles aren’t as toned as Patrik Baboumian’s (strongest man in Germany, just in case you were wondering).

Hopefully you won’t have any problem lifting the manual rear hatch because VW doesn’t offer a powered liftgate, but there is some extra stowage area below the load floor atop the space saver spare tire. Loads in mind, the Alltrack can manage 14 more kilos (31 lbs) of payload than the regular Golf, resulting in 459 kg (1,012 lbs) max.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
The rear seats are comfortable and there’s a lot of space in back to stretch out.

Just in case you’re considering the Alltrack instead of VW’s own Tiguan compact SUV, the Golf Alltrack is about 73 litres (2.6 cu ft) less spacious behind its rear seatbacks, however it can haul an extra 23 litres (0.8 litres) when those seats are folded down, which is pretty impressive when considering the Tiguan is one of the compact segment’s only three-row SUVs.

While the Tiguan is one of the more enjoyable compact SUVs to drive, I must admit to preferring the Golf Alltrack on the road. It’s cabin is finished to a higher standard as well, but all of that hardly matters now that this impressive German wagon is being phased out and the Tiguan will likely replace all collective Golf models as Canada’s top seller soon.

The recently redesigned Tiguan became 42.7 percent more popular year-over-year in calendar year 2018, growing to 21,449 unit sales, coming close to upstaging the Golf that edged it out by just 28 units. It took six different Golf models to achieve that tally, mind you, including the regular Golf hatchback, Golf GTI, Golf R, e-Golf, Golf SportWagen, and this Golf Alltrack. Calendar year 2019 saw Tiguan deliveries drop by 10.2 percent to 19,250 units from a previous high mark, whereas the Golf lost 8.4 percent to 19,668 examples through 2019. With the Golf Alltrack and SportWagen soon gone from the lineup, the Tiguan may potentially outsell the Golf range, although the way sales are looking right now due to the COVID-19 outbreak, 2020 won’t be a stellar year either way.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
The long Golf Alltrack provides loads of cargo space, while a centre pass-through means rear passengers get window seats even when loading in long items like skis.

Still, it’s a good year to purchase a Golf Alltrack, and probably the only year you’ll be able to get a new one (unless a straggler or two manages to remain unsold until 2021). While I happen to believe it’s one of the best compact crossovers on the market, before you call your local VW retailer or connect with someone online, please do your homework at CarCostCanada first. Remember, a CarCostCanada membership will provide you a full 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack report with information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus best of all, dealer invoice pricing that could literally save you thousands when negotiating your best deal.

As for spending time behind the wheel, most dealers will bring the car you’re interested in to your home so you can take it for a drive, after fully disinfecting it of course. If you ask them to bring you the latest Golf Alltrack, I feel fairly confident you’ll like it.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
With the 2019 Mazda CX-5 GT, style comes standard.

There have always been automotive brands that bridge the gap between mainstream and luxury, Buick quickly coming to mind. It fills a niche between Chevrolet and Cadillac in General Motors’ car brand hierarchy, but it doesn’t rise up to meet newer luxury marques like Acura and Infiniti in most buyers’ minds. Lately, Mazda has been playing to this audience too, and is arguably doing an even better job of delivering premium cachet in its highest GT and Signature trim lines.

Where brands like Buick, and even the two Japanese upstarts just mentioned, along with Lincoln, Genesis (speaking of upstarts), Lexus, Audi (and all of the VW group luxury brands including Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley), plus BMW and Alfa Romeo (to a lesser extent) share platform architectures with lesser brands, Mazda is one of the auto industry’s very rare independent automakers, with no ties to any other global group. Amongst volume-production premium brands only Tesla stands independent, while none other than Mazda are independent within the mainstream volume sector.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5 provides a sporty profile for this utilitarian class.

Yes, even little Subaru is partially owned by Toyota, and Mitsubishi is part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance. Whether or not Mazda will be able to stay independent through the uncertain economic climate we find ourselves in now, and is likely before us, is anyone’s guess, but then again it could be the brand’s saving grace if things get ugly out there, and marginally successful brands like Mitsubishi, Infiniti, Chrysler, Buick and who knows what else get axed from our market. Mazda’s unique position in the market gives it a lot of room to grow, while their good design, the quality of their products, and their credible performance DNA give them a certain street cred that other brands can’t match.

Mazda’s move up to premium status starts with really attractive exterior styling that translates well into all segments and body styles, the sporty CX-3 subcompact SUV sharing some of its design cues with the all-new, slightly bigger CX-30 and the even larger compact CX-5 shown in this review, not to mention the biggest crossover SUV of the Mazda bunch, the mid-size three-row CX-9, while all share visual ties with the compact Mazda3 sedan/hatchback and mid-size Mazda6 sedan, plus the brilliant little MX-5 sports car.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
LED headlamps are standard, but the signature elements within are part of GT trim and above, as are the tiny LED fog lamps.

Mazda has long dubbed its design language KODO for “art of the car”, but its latest models are inspired by KODO 2.0, which is the second-generation of its clean, elegant design philosophy. W saw a glimpse of KODO 2.0 in the stunning Vision Coupe and Kai concepts from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the latter of the two more or less morphing into the newest Mazda3 Sport. KODO 2.0 has also made its impact on the brand’s SUV lineup, the CX-5 showing obvious signs of influence.

Mazda replaced the Ford Escape-based Tribute with the first-generation CX-5 in January of 2012; the Mazda3-based design a much more modern offering that elevated the Japanese automaker’s prestige and sales. The second-generation CX-5 arrived in 2017, and thanks to greater use of the KODO 2.0 design language it transformed into a much ritzier looking compact crossover.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
GT trim provides leather seats and trim, in black or this classy Pure White colour.

The CX-5’s truly upscale atmosphere is best experienced inside, mind you, with premium features like cloth-wrapped A-pillars and a plush, padded dash top, upper and lower instrument panels, and door uppers front to back, plus they’ve trimmed out the interior with a tasteful dose of anodized aluminum accents, this nicely brushed treatment even highlighting some of the buttons, switches and knobs, some of the latter even getting knurled metal edging. Last but hardly least Mazda includes genuine Abachi hardwood inlays in its top-line Signature trim, but being that my tester was just a GT its inlays were fairly real look faux woodgrain, plus it didn’t include the Signature’s dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather and trim, the latter covering the door inserts and armrests as well as the seat surfaces, but the GT’s no cost Pure White leather was impressive enough.

Yes, the CX-5’s GT trim is actually nicer than most rivals’ top-tier models, but just to clarify the Signature goes way over the top with features like a satin chrome-plated glove box lever, satin chrome power seat switches, nicer cross-stitching on the steering wheel, richer Nappa leather upholstery, a black roof liner, a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror in place of the GT’s framed version, LED illumination for the overhead console lighting, the vanity mirrors, the front and rear dome lamps and the cargo area light.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The sporty CX-5 cockpit is comfortable and nicely organized for optimal usability.

Additionally, Signature trim provides a nice bright 7.0-inch LCD multi-information display at centre, a 1.0-inch bigger 8.0-inch colour centre touchscreen display, an overhead surround parking camera system, front and back parking sonar, gunmetal grey 19-inch alloy wheels instead of the GT’s silver 19s, off-road traction assist, and the fastest Skyactiv-G 2.5 T four-cylinder as standard, this engine getting a Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT) resulting in 250 horsepower (with 93 octane premium fuel or 227 with 87 octane regular) and 310 lb-ft of torque (for 2020 it gains 10 lb-ft to 320 when fuelled with 93 octane), plus paddle-shifters on the steering wheel for the standard six-speed automatic gearbox.

That’s a strong engine for this class and optionally available for $2,000 in my as-tested GT (for 2020 the GT with the turbocharged engine also gets paddles, off-road traction assist, and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display), but my test model came with the base sans-turbo Skyactiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder mill featuring fuel-sipping cylinder deactivation and zero paddles behind the steering wheel. The entry-level engine makes a total of 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, which might seem a lot less than the turbocharged upgrade, but is still about the same as provided in top trims by some of the segment sales leaders. Also good, the CX-5 uses a regular automatic with six actual gears rather than most competitors’ CVTs, and I must say that a traditional autobox is much more engaging.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The 2019 GT still uses Mazda’s classic three-dial gauge design, but the 7.0-inch semi-digital display from this year’s Signature trim is standard in the 2020 GT.

I should also mention that Mazda offers a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine in the CX-5’s Signature trim that makes 168 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. The Signature starts at $40,950 plus freight and fees, incidentally, and tops out at $45,950 with the diesel upgrade, so you might want to figure out how much you’re going to be driving over the lifetime of your car before anteing up $5k extra for the oil burner. This said, make sure to look around for any available CX-5 Signature Diesels, being that this upgrade was part of the 2019 model year (before writing this review there were quite a few available in each province, but nowhere near as many as those powered by good old gasoline).

I’ve driven the diesel, by the way, and liked it a lot, but its 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy rating doesn’t improve enough over the quicker turbo-four that manages a reasonably thrifty 10.8, 8.7 and 9.8 respectively, so the only thing that could possibly make more sense than discontinuing it would’ve been not bringing it to market at such a high price at all. My less powerful GT test model, which features standard i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) and can be had from $37,450, is capable of a claimed 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, while the same engine with FWD (standard with the $30,750 GS model) is the most efficient trim of all at just 9.3 city, 7.6 highway and 8.5 combined.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The regular 7.0-inch infotainment system is good, but I suspect it will grow in size for the CX-5’s next redesign.

There’s actually a fourth engine available too, another 2.5-litre four-cylinder found in the $27,850 base GX model, albeit this one comes without cylinder deactivation. It offers up the same performance specs, but is good for only 9.7 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 8.8 combined with FWD, and a respective 10.2, 8.2 and 9.3 with AWD. Power from both axles requires a $2,000 investment in both base GX and mid-range GS trims, incidentally, while AWD comes standard with GT and Signature trims.

The 2019 CX-5’s list of standard and available features is extremely long, but I should itemize the GT model’s standard equipment being that it’s the one I tested. Therefore, items standard to both the GT and Signature (not found in lower trims) include the previously noted 19-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 all-seasons (less models include 17-inch alloys on 225/65s), adaptive cornering headlamps, LED signature elements in the headlamps and tail lamps, LED fog lights, LED combination taillights, power-folding side mirrors, plus piano black B- and C-pillar garnishes, and that’s only on the outside.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The infotainment system’s console-mounted controller is a real piece of art.

Proximity entry gets you inside and pushbutton start/stop brings it to live (the latter item is actually standard across the line), while the gauge cluster is Mazda’s trademark three-dial design with a smallish multi-information display at the right (the 7.0-inch LCD multi-information display comes standard in GT trim for 2020), and just above is a really useful head-up display unit that projects key info right onto the windshield, complete with traffic sign recognition. What’s more, the driver gets a comfortable 10-way powered seat with power lumbar support as well as two-way memory, while the front passenger gets six-way power adjustability. Both front seats are three-way ventilated too, while the two rear outboard window seats get three-way warmers.

A few pampering GT trim details need to be mentioned too, such as its satin-chrome front console knee pad, fabric-lined glove box, and upscale premium stitching on the front centre console, while Mazda also adds a power moonroof, a Homelink garage door opener, a good navigation system that took me where I needed to go (not always the case with some), and a great sounding premium audio system with 10 Bose speakers, an AM/FM/HD radio, a customizable seven-channel equalizer, SurroundStage Signal Processing, Centerpoint 2 surround sound tech, AudioPilot 2 Noise Compensation, and SiriusXM satellite radio with three months of complimentary service. CX-5 GT and Signature buyers also receive SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services with a five-year complimentary service contract, plus they get two-zone auto climate control, HVAC vents on the backside of the front console, etcetera.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Fabric-wrapped A-pillars are a nice touch, as are these metal-rimmed Bose tweeters.

Features pulled up to GT trim from lesser models include auto headlight levelling, a windshield wiper de-icer, dynamic cruise control with stop and go, a heated steering wheel rim, two additional USB ports within the folding rear centre armrest, plus a host of advanced driver assistance systems like Smart Brake Support (SBS) with forward sensing Pedestrian Detection, Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS) and High Beam Control System (HBC) from second-rung GS trim, as well as auto on/off LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signal indicators in the door mirror housings, rain-sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, two USB ports and an aux input, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Stitcher and Aha internet radio, SMS text message reading and responding capability, and all the usual active and passive safety features from the base GX. There’s a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that.

The CX-5 is room and plenty comfortable no matter the trim you choose or where you’re seated, while the back row is wide enough for three across in reasonable comfort. Most should find legroom and headroom generous enough, but I need to criticize Mazda for stowing the rear seat heater controls within the folding centre armrest, because they can’t be accessed when someone is seated in the middle. And now that I’m complaining, I’d love it if Mazda offered a panoramic sunroof in its two top-line trims too.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
You’ll need to stock up on blue jean stain remover if you opt for the white leather.

Rather than gripe about what’s not offered, I’d rather sing praises to Mazda for the CX-5’s awesome 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. This allows longer cargo like skis to be placed down the middle, and by so doing frees the rear window seats for your passengers. As good, Mazda provides helpful release levers on the cargo sidewalls, even including a separate one for the 20-percent centre pass-through. This said, setting off to the ski hill, or even more so, returning when already cold and potentially wet, will make those rear seat heaters all the more welcome, but you’ll need to make sure to turn them on before loading in the skis as the centre pass-through will make that impossible. What’s more, if you stop for gas or a meal along the way, they won’t turn on again without removing the ski gear and lifting the armrest. Mazda should solve this problem for the CX-5’s redesign by positioning the buttons on the door panel instead.

Back to positives, behind the rear seatbacks the CX-5 can be loaded up with 875 litres (30.9 cubic feet) of gear, while it can pack in up to 1,687 litres (59.6 cu ft) when all are lowered, making it one of the more accommodating compact SUVs in its mainstream category.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The rear seats are roomy and comfortable.

All this spacious luxury gets topped off with performance that comes very close to premium as well, although as far as my base GT test model goes, it’s more about ride and handling than straight-line power. The CX-5’s feeling of quality begins with well-insulated doors and body panels, making everything feel solid upon closure and nice and quiet when underway, while the ride is firm in a Germanic way, but not harsh. It therefore manoeuvres well around the city and provides good agility when pushed hard on a curving road, but even though it manages corners better than most rivals it uses the same type of independent suspension as the others, consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends.

As I mentioned before, the CX-5’s base powerplant is equal to some of the segment leaders’ best engines as far as straight-line performance goes, but more importantly it is very smooth and quite efficient, while the six-speed automatic was so smooth, in fact, that it had me wondering whether or not Mazda had swapped the old gearbox out for a CVT. It shifts like a regular automatic when revs climb, however, which is a good thing for enthusiasts, but it’s still smooth when doing so. To be clear, the regular GT doesn’t include paddle shifters, but you can shift it manually via the console-mounted gear lever, and also note that Mazda provides a Sport mode that gives it the powertrain a great deal more performance at takeoff and when passing, but no comfort or eco settings are included.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
What initially seems like a clever idea, doesn’t work well when you want warm window seats but someone’s sitting in the middle position.

After a weeklong test, I found the 2019 Mazda CX-5 one of the best compact SUVs in its class, and wholly worthy of anyone’s consideration. Of note, that category is filled with some big-time players, including the Canadian segment leading Toyota RAV4 (with 65,248 sales in calendar year 2019), the Honda CR-V (with 55,859 deliveries during the same 12 months), the Ford Escape (which is totally redesigned for 2020 and sold 39,504 units last year), the Nissan Rogue (at 37,530 units), the Hyundai Tucson (at 30,075), and this CX-5 (at 27,696).

I know, the CX-5 should probably do better than it does, but we need to keep in mind that 14 compact SUV competitors are vying for attention, and none of the other get anywhere near close to the CX-5’s sales numbers. In fact, the next best-selling VW Tiguan only achieved 19,250 deliveries last year, while Chevrolet’s Equinox only found 18,503 new owners. As for Jeep’s Cherokee, just 13,687 buyers took one home during calendar year 2019, while a mere 13,059 bought the Subaru Forester, 12,637 purchased a Kia Sportage, 12,023 drove home in a GMC Terrain, 10,701 chose the Mitsubishi Outlander, and 5,101 decided to buy the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Additionally, the CX-5 was one of only six compact crossovers to increase its sales numbers from calendar year 2018 to 2019, the remaining eight having lost ground.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Cargo space is generous, and the 40/20/40-split seatback is best-in-class.

It’s actually a good time to purchase a CX-5, as Mazda is offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on this 2019 model, while those who’d rather have a 2020 CX-5 can get up to $1,000 off from incentives. Make sure to check the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page or the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page right here on CarCostCanada for details. You’ll find itemized pricing of trims, packages and individual options, the latest manufacturer financing and leasing deals, manufacturer rebate information, and dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands. The majority of new car retailers will be available by phone or online even during the COVID-19 crisis, and as you might have guessed they’re seriously motivated to make you a deal.

Everything said, I recommend the CX-5 highly, especially in GT or Signature trims, as it gives you a premium experience at a much more affordable price.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay (exterior) and Trevor Hofmann (interior)

CarCostCanada

2019 Nissan Versa Note Road Test

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The 2019 Versa Note might now be discontinued, but it’s still a good little economy car worth your attention.

Does the idea of purchasing an inexpensive, economical yet very comfortable, roomy and practical hatchback at zero-percent financing sound like a good idea right now? If so, I recommend taking a closer look at the new 2019 Versa Note.

Of course, a 2019 model is hardly “new” this far into 2020, but it nevertheless is a new car that’s never been licensed and therefore qualifies for new car financing and leasing rates, plus it comes with a full warranty.

As it is there are too many Versa Notes still available on Nissan Canada’s dealer lots, so the automaker has created an incentive program to sell them off as quickly as possible. This benefits you of course, so it might be a really good idea to find out if this little car suits your wants and needs, because the price is right.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note’s tall roofline and long wheelbase provide a lot of interior room.

The Versa Note was discontinued last year, but cancelling a car doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. In actual fact, Nissan’s second-smallest model is an excellent city car that’s also better than most on the highway, plus it offers more passenger and cargo room than the majority of its subcompact rivals. It just happens to be past its stale date, having already been replaced by two trendier subcompact crossover sport utilities dubbed Kicks and Qashqai.

Those wanting Nissan’s latest styling will be happy to find out the Versa Note received an update for its 2017 model year, incorporating most of the brand’s latest frontal styling cues for much more attractive styling than the previous incarnation. The Note doesn’t include a floating roof design, like the Leaf EV and most other new Nissan models, while its taillights are also unique to the model, but its hind end is nevertheless attractive and overall shape easy on the eyes.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note SV comes with these attractive 15-inch alloy wheels.

At least as important, the Versa Note provides a taller driver and passengers a lot of headroom due to its overall height, making the car feel more like a small SUV than a subcompact city car. The seats are particularly comfortable as well, due to memory foam that truly cushions and supports one’s backside, plus the upholstery in my top-line SV model was very good looking, with an attractive blue fleck pattern on black fabric. The driver’s seat even includes a comfortable minivan-style fold-down armrest on its right side.

Additional niceties include a leather-clad steering wheel rim, stylish satin-silver spokes, and a tilt steering column. Nissan adorns each dash vent with the same silver surface treatment, not to mention both edges of the centre stack and the entire shift lever surround panel.

Also impressive, my tester’s upgraded instrument cluster features backlit dials and really attractive digital displays. It’s so stylish that it makes the centre touchscreen seem dowdy by comparison. Truth be told, the main infotainment display is graphically challenged, particularly when put beside some of Nissan’s more recently improved models, but it more than does the job and is user-friendly enough, while at 7.0 inches it’s reasonably bit for this class, which provides good rear visibility through the reverse camera.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Note is a comfortable well designed car that’s perfect for those not needing all the latest technologies.

While there isn’t much to criticize the Versa Note about, no telescoping steering means it might not fit your body ideally. I have longer legs than torso and therefore had to crank the seatback farther forward than I normally would so as not crowd my legs and feet around the pedals, which worked but would’ve caused me to think twice about purchasing one.

On a much better note, those in back will find a lot more legroom than most subcompact contemporaries (the Versa Note is actually classified as a mid-size model), this thanks to a very long wheelbase, which makes the Versa Note perfect for taller than average folks. Rear passengers will find a comfortable folding armrest in the centre position, with the usual twin cupholders integrated within, another duo of cupholders can be found on the backside of the front console. Lastly, a magazine pouch is included on the backside of the front passenger’s seat.

The Note is also great for hauling loads of gear. It gets the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but its innovative Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor doesn’t follow the subcompact herd. It can be moved up or down as required, meaning you can stow taller items in the latter position or otherwise awkward cargo on a flat load floor when slotted into the former. You can fit up to 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seats, incidentally, or 1,084 litres (38.3 cu ft) of what-have-you by lowering both rear seatbacks. That’s very good, by the way.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The SV gets an upgraded gauge cluster that’s really attractive.

For its price range the spacious Versa Note gets its fair share of equipment, but like all new cars this depends on which trim is chosen. Of note, the sportiest SR mode was discontinued for 2019 and the more luxurious SL was dropped for 2018, but Nissan brought in a $700 SV Special Edition package for this final year, which includes a set of fog lights, a rear rooftop spoiler, and Special Edition badges on the outside, plus proximity keyless entry for access to the cabin along with pushbutton start/stop to get things going once strapped inside, while other goodies include an enhanced NissanConnect infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus satellite radio.

A quick look at my test model’s photos will show no fog lights or rear spoiler, so I won’t be directly reporting on the 2019 SV Special Edition, but its 15-inch alloys make it clear that this isn’t a base model either (the entry-level Note S gets 15-inch steel wheels with covers). The regular SV starts at $18,398 and includes the aforementioned gauge cluster upgrade as well as the leather-clad steering wheel also noted before, along with powered door locks with remote access, power windows, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), cruise control, a six-way manual driver’s seat (featuring height adjustment), heated front seats, a cargo cover, plus more.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
Nissan includes a large 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen as standard equipment, but even when upgraded in SV trim its graphics look a bit dated.

Base S trim, which starts at $14,698 plus freight and fees, is the only 2019 Versa Note trim that can be had with a five-speed manual gearbox (you could get a manual with the SV for the 2018 model year), but base buyers should know the CVT can be added for a mere $1,300 extra. Transmission aside, base S trim also gets a set of powered and heated exterior mirrors, a four-way manual driver’s seat, air conditioning, a less comprehensively equipped 7.0-inch infotainment system, Bluetooth hands-free with streaming audio, phone and audio switchgear on the steering wheel, a hands-free text message assistant, Siri Eyes Free, auxiliary and USB ports, four-speaker audio, etcetera.

All the usual active and passive safety gear is included as well, of course, but those wanting the newest advanced driver assistance systems like collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blindspot monitoring with lane departure warning, or active cruise control with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPILOT assist self-driving tech had better choose one of the automaker’s more recently introduced subcompact crossovers.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note’s front seats are extremely comfortable, although not all body types will fit ideally due to no telescopic steering.

Let’s be nice and call the Versa Note traditional instead of antiquated, because at the end of the day it goes about its business very well and therefore delivers what many consumers require from a daily commuter. While hardly as technologically advanced or trendy in design, the Note nevertheless provides comfortable seating and a very good ride for its entry-level price range, plus decent get-up-and-go when pushing off from standstill or while passing, plus its CVT is ultra smooth.

The Versa Note uses the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder as the smaller Micra, making an identical 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. That means the bigger, heftier model doesn’t feel quite as quick off the line. The Note’s purpose is more about fuel economy anyway, and with that in mind it manages a claimed five-cycle rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.7 combined with its manual, or 7.6 city, 6.2 highway and 7.0 combined with the CVT. That doesn’t seem all that great until comparing it to the Micra that has the same 1,092-kilogram curb weight when fully loaded as the Note’s base trim (the Note SV as-tested hits the scales at 1,124 kg), but still only can manage 7.9 L/100km combined with its manual and 8.0 combined with its four-speed auto. I think the similarly roomy Honda Fit is a better comparison, the innovative subcompact capable of 7.0 L/100km combined with its six-speed manual or just 6.5 with its most economical CVT.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The rear seating area is very spacious with excellent headroom and legroom.

As for handling, the Micra has the Versa Note beat any day of the week. In fact, Nissan Canada uses the Micra in a spec racing series, something that would be laughable in the more comfort-oriented Note. The larger hatchback is particularly tall as noted, so therefore its high centre of gravity works counter to performance when attempting to take corners quickly, but then again if you don’t mind a bit of body roll it manages just fine. Better yet is the Versa’s roomy comfort, whether tooling through town or hustling down a four-lane freeway where it’s long wheelbase aids high-speed stability, it’s a good choice.

If you think this little Nissan might suit your lifestyle and budget and therefore would like to take advantage of the zero-percent financing mentioned before, I’d recommend checking out our 2019 Nissan Versa Note Canada Prices page where you can browse through all trims and packages in detail, plus quickly scan colour choices within each trim, while also searching for the latest manufacturer rebates that could save you even more.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note is big on cargo room and load versatility.

Better yet, a CarCostCanada membership provides access to dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when making a purchase. Everything just mentioned can be accessed at the CarCostCanada website or via a new downloadable CarCostCanada app, so make sure to check your phone’s app store. This said, ahead of calling your local Nissan retailer to purchase a new Versa Note, or connecting with them online (and it’s a good idea to deal with them remotely right now), be sure to do your homework here at CarCostCanada so you can claim the best possible deal.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6 Road Test

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The 2019 Ford Flex is the last of a breed, yet all trims are still available.

If you’ve been reading my latest reviews here, you’ll know that I scour Canada’s retail auto network before putting fingers to the keyboard, as it wouldn’t make much sense to write about a new vehicle that’s no longer available. As it is, plenty of 2019 Ford Flex examples are still very much available despite being a discontinued model, so for those enamoured with its unusual good looks I recommend paying attention.

I’m guessing your local Ford dealer will be happy to give you a great deal on a Flex if he happens to have one still available, while CarCostCanada is claiming up to $5,500 in additional incentives for this final 2019 model.

The Flex has been in production for more than 10 years, and while it initially got off to a pretty good start in Canada with 6,047 units sold in calendar year 2009, 2010 quickly saw annual deliveries slide to 4,803 examples, followed by a plunge to 2,862 units in 2011, a climb up to 3,268 in 2012, and then another drop to 2,302 in 2013, 2,365 in 2014, a low of 1,789 in 2015, a boost to 2,587 in 2016, and 2,005 in 2017. Oddly, year-over-year sales grew by 13.4 percent to 2,273 units in 2018 to and by 9.6 percent to 2,492 deliveries in 2019, which means three-row crossover SUV buyers are still interested in this brilliantly unorthodox family mover, but it obviously wasn’t enough to make Dearborn commit to a redesign, and in hindsight this makes perfect sense because three-row blue-oval buyers have made their choice clear by gobbling up the big Explorer in to the point that it’s one of the best selling SUVs in its class.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The boxy three-row mid-size crossover SUV has a lot of room inside.

The Flex and the outgoing 2011–2019 Explorer share a unibody structure that’s based on Ford’s D4 platform, and that architecture is a modified version of the original Volvo S80/XC90-sourced D3 platform. Going back further, the first D3 to wear a blue oval badge was Ford’s rather nondescript Five Hundred sedan, which was quickly redesigned into the sixth-generation 2010–2019 Taurus and only cancelled recently, thus you can save you up to $5,500 in additional incentives on a Taurus as well (see our 2019 Ford Taurus Canada Prices page to find out more). If you want to trace the Flex back to its roots, check out the 2005–2007 Freestyle that was renamed Taurus X for 2008–2009.

Those older Ford crossovers never got the respect they deserved, because they were comfortable, well proportioned, good performers for their time, and impressively innovative during that era too. The Freestyle was the first domestic SUV to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), at least as far as I can remember, and it was one of the biggest vehicles to do so up that point (Nissan edged Ford out with its Murano by a couple of years). Interestingly, Ford soon stopped using CVTs in its large vehicles, instead choosing a six-speed automatic for the Flex and the fifth-generation Explorer, which is a good thing as it has been a very dependable gearbox.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
All the black trim comes as part of a $900 Appearance package.

Mechanicals in mind, the Flex continues to use the same two versions of Ford’s popular 3.5-litre V6 that were offered in the original model. To be clear, the base Duratec engine, which produced 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque before 2013, after which output increased to 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. The base engine pushes the three-row seven-passenger crossover along at a reasonably good pace, but the turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that became optional in 2010 turned it into a veritable flyer thanks to 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while an additional 10 horsepower to 365 has kept it far ahead of the mainstream volume branded pack right up to this day.

That’s the version to acquire and once again the configuration I recently spent a week with, and it performed as brilliantly as it did when I first tested a similarly equipped Flex in 2016. I noticed a bit of front wheel twist when pushed hard off the line at full throttle, otherwise called torque steer, particularly when taking off from a corner, which is strange for an all-wheel drive vehicle, but it moved along quickly and was wonderfully stable on the highway, not to mention long sweeping corners and even when flung through sharp fast-paced curves thanks to its fully independent suspension setup and big, meaty 255/45R20 all-season rubber. I wouldn’t say it’s as tight as a premium SUV like Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7 or BMW’s X7, but we really can’t compare those three from a price perspective. Such was the original goal of the now defunct Lincoln MKT, but its styling never took off and therefore it was really only used for airport shuttle and limousine liveries.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The headlamps are only HIDs, but these taillights use LED technology.

Like the MKT and the many three-row Japanese and European crossover utilities available, the Flex is a very large vehicle, so no one should be expecting sports car-like performance. Combined with its turbo-six powerplant is the dependable SelectShift six-speed automatic mentioned earlier, and while not as advanced as the 7-, 8-, 9- and now even 10-speed automatics coming from the latest blue-oval, Lincoln and competitive products, it shifts quickly enough and is certainly smooth, plus it doesn’t hamper fuel economy as terribly as various brands’ marketing departments would have you believe. I love that Ford included paddle shifters with this big ute, something even some premium-branded three-row crossovers are devoid of yet standard with the more powerful engine (they replace the lesser engine’s “Shifter Button Activation” on the gear knob), yet the Flex is hardly short on features, especially in its top-tier Limited model.

The transmission is probably best left to its own devices if you want to get the most out of a tank of fuel no matter which engine you choose, and to that end the Ecoboost V6 is the least efficient at 15.7 L/100km in the city, 11.2 on the highway and 13.7 combined, but this said it’s not that much thirstier than the base engine and its all-wheel drivetrain that uses a claimed 14.7 city, 10.7 highway or 12.9 combined, which itself is only slightly less efficient than the base FWD model that gets a rating of 14.7, 10.2 and 12.7 respectively.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex cabin is a bit dated, but it’s quality is good and technology mostly up-to-date.

The 2019 Flex comes in base SE, mid-range SEL and top-tier Limited trims, according to the 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada. This is where you can see all the pricing and feature information available for the Flex and most other vehicles sold in Canada. The 2019 Flex is available from $32,649 plus freight and fees for the SE with FWD, $39,649 for the SEL with FWD, $41,649 for the SEL with AWD, and $46,449 for the Limited that comes standard with AWD. All trims come standard with the base engine, but the Limited can be upgraded with the more powerful turbocharged V6 for an extra $6,800 (it includes other upgrades too).

Before adding additional options the retail price of a 2019 Flex Limited Ecoboost AWD is $53,249, and along with its aforementioned performance enhancements it gets everything standard with the regular Limited model, such as 19-inch silver-painted alloy wheels wrapped with 235/55 all-season tires, HID headlamps, fog lights, LED tail lamps, a satin-aluminum grille, chrome door handles, bright stainless steel beltline mouldings, a satin aluminum liftgate appliqué, a powered liftgate, bright dual exhaust tips, power-folding heated side mirrors with memory and security approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sonar, and I’ve only talked about the exterior.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The driving environment is spacious, comfortable and nicely organized.

Ford provides remote start to warm it up in winter or cool it down in summer, all ahead of even getting inside, while access comes via a keyless proximity system or the automaker’s exclusive SecuriCode keypad. Likewise, pushbutton start/stop keeps the engine purring, Ford MyKey maintains a level of security when a valet or one of your children is behind the wheel, while additional interior features include illuminated entry with theatre dimming lighting, a perforated leather-clad steering wheel rim with real hardwood inlays, Yoho maple wood grain inlays, power-adjustable pedals with memory, perforated leather upholstery for the first- and second-row seat upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, a six-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, ambient interior lighting with seven colours that include (default) Ice Blue, as well as soft blue, blue, green, purple, orange and red, plus Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, excellent sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, satellite radio, two USB charging ports in the front console bin, two-zone auto climate control, rear manual HVAC controls, four 12-volt power points, a 110-volt household-style three-prong power outlet, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The dual-screen colour TFT gauge cluster was way ahead of its time when introduced a decade ago.

For a ten year old design, the Flex looks fairly up to date as far as electronics go, thanks to its Cockpit Integrated Display that incorporates two high-resolution displays within the primary instrument cluster (it was far ahead of its time back in 2009), while the just-mentioned Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen is still impressive too, due to updates through the years. It incorporates a big, graphically attractive and well-equipped display with quick-reacting functionality plus good overall usability, its features including accurate available navigation as well as a very good standard backup camera with active guidelines, albeit no overhead camera even in its topmost trim. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard, however, plus the ability to download more apps, etcetera.

On top of the Limited trim’s standard features a $3,200 301A package can be added with features such as a heated steering wheel, truly comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats with three-way cooling, dynamic cruise control, Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, and Active Park Assist semi-autonomous parking capability, but note that all of the 301A features come standard already when choosing the more powerful engine, as does a special set of 20-inch polished alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a one-touch 50/50-split power-folding third row with tailgate seating, and an engine block heater.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Ford’s Sync3 infotainment interface is very attractive and intelligently designed.

As you may already noticed, my tester’s wheels are gloss-black 20-inch alloys that come as part of a $900 Appearance package which also includes additional inky exterior treatments to the centre grille bar, side mirror housings, and rear liftgate appliqué, plus it adds Agate Black paint to the roof and pillars, while the cabin receives a special leather-clad steering wheel featuring Meteorite Black bezels, plus an unique graphic design on the instrument panel and door-trim appliqués, special leather seat upholstery with Light Earth Gray inserts and Dark Earth Gray bolsters, as well as floor mats with a unique logo.

My test model’s Vista panoramic multi-panel glass roof has always been an individual option, adding $1,750 to this 2019 model, but I found it a bit odd that voice-activated navigation (with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link) as a standalone add-on (navigation systems usually bundled as part of a high-level trim line), while the gloss-black roof rails can also be individually added for just $130, but the roof rails, which are also available in silver, come as part of a $600 Cargo Versatility package too, which combines the otherwise $500 Class III Trailer Tow package (capable of up to 4,500 lbs or 2,041 kg of trailer weight) with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats (otherwise a $150 option), resulting in more four-season practicality.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The two-zone auto HVAC interface uses state-of-the-art touch-sensitive controls.

Over and above items included in my test model, it’s also possible to add a refrigerated centre console for $650, second-row captain’s chairs with a centre console for just $150 (but I prefer the regular bench seat as the smaller portion of its 60/40-split configuration can be auto-folded from the rear), inflatable second-row seatbelts for $250 (which enhance rear passenger safety), and two-screen (on the backs of the front headrests) rear entertainment for $2,100.

Of course, many of the Limited trim’s features get pulled up from base SE and mid-range SEL trims, both being well equipped for their price ranges too, I should also mention that the Flex’s interior isn’t quite as refined as what you’d find in a new 2020 Explorer with the same options, per say. Then again I remember how impressed I was with the Flex’s refinement when it arrived 10 or so year ago, which really goes to show how far Ford has come in a decade, not to mention all of the other mainstream brands. The latest Edge, for example, which I tested in its top-tier trim recently, is likely better than the old Lincoln MKX, now replaced by the much-improved Nautilus, whereas the Flex’s cabin is more like the old Edge inside.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
This Flex boasts 10-way powered front seats with heated and cooled cushions for supreme comfort.

Therefore you’ll have to be ok with good quality albeit somewhat dated details, such as its large, clunky, hollow plastic power lock switches instead of Ford’s newer models’ more upscale electronic buttons, while there’s a lower grade of hard plastic surfaces throughout the interior too. This said its dash-top receives a fairly plush composite covering, as does each door upper from front to back, whereas the door inserts have always been given a nifty graphic appliqué, just above big padded armrests.

As you might imagine, the Flex is roomy inside. In fact, its predecessor was designed to replace the Freestar minivan back in 2007, so it had to have minivan-like seating and cargo functionality. This said the Flex’s maximum cargo volume of 2,355 litres (83.1 cubic feet) when both all rear seats are tumbled down doesn’t come close to the brand’s once-popular minivan that managed a total of 3,885 litres (137.2 cu ft) of luggage volume in its day, but it’s generously proportioned for a mid-size crossover. In fact, the Flex can manage 42 additional litres (1.5 cu ft) of total storage space than the outgoing 2019 Explorer, which was one of the biggest SUVs in its three-row segment. That said the new 2020 Explorer offers up to 2,486 litres (87.8 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity, which improves on both of Ford’s past SUVs (Flex included).

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The second row is ultra-comfortable and limousine-like for legroom, while the third row is large enough for adults.

The rear liftgate powers upward to reveal 426 litres (15.0 cu ft) of dedicated luggage space aft of the rearmost seats, which is in fact 169 litres (6.0 cu ft) less than in the old Explorer, but if you lower the second row the Flex nearly matches the past Explorer’s cargo capacity with 1,224 litres (43.2 cu ft) compared to 1,240 litres (43.8 cu ft). A nifty feature noted before allows the final row to be powered in the opposite direction for tailgate parties, incidentally, but make sure to extend the headrests for optimal comfort.

Total Flex passenger volume is 4,412 litres (155.8 cu ft), which results in a lot of room in all seating positions, plus plenty of comfort. Truly, even third row legroom is pretty decent, while headroom is lofty everywhere inside thanks to a high roofline. Ford made sure there was enough space from side-to-side too, this due to a vehicle that’ quite wide. The aforementioned panoramic sunroof adds to the feeling of openness as well, and its three-pane construction is pretty intelligent as it allows for better structural rigidity than one large opening, which is particularly important for a vehicle with such a large, flat roof. Additional thoughtful features include large bottle holders within the rear door panels, these wholly helpful at drive-thrus.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The innovative multi-pane panoramic Vista sunroof provides loads of light while maintaining the big Flex’s structural rigidity.

I’m guessing you can tell I like this unusual box on wheels, and must admit to appreciating Ford for its initial courage when bringing the Flex to market and its willingness to keep it around so long. I know it’s outdated, particularly inside, plus it’s missing a few features that I’d like to see, such as outboard rear seat warmers and USB charging ports in the second row, but it’s difficult to criticize its value proposition after factoring in the potential savings Ford has on the table. I’m sure that opting for this somewhat antiquated crossover might be questionable after seeing it parked beside Ford’s latest 2020 Explorer, but keep in mind that a similarly equipped version of the latter utility will cost you another $10,000 or so before any discounts, while the domestic manufacturer is only providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives for this newer SUV. That’s a price difference of more than $13,000, so therefore a fully loaded Flex might make a lot of sense for someone looking for a budget-minded luxury utility.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
There’s no shortage of storage space in a Flex.

A month or so ago, before we all became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak, I would’ve probably recommended for those interested in buying a new Flex to rush over to their local dealer and scoop one up before they all disappeared forever, and while they certainly will be gone at some point this year I recommend you find one online like I did, and contact the respective dealership directly via phone or email. Still, doing your homework before making the call or sending the message is a good idea, so make sure to visit our 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page first, where you can learn about every trim and price, plus find out if any new manufacturer discounts, rebates and/or financing/leasing packages have been created, while don’t forget that a membership to CarCostCanada provides otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing (which is the price the retailer actually pays the manufacturer for the vehicle). This will provide you the opportunity to score the best-possible deal during negotiation. After that, your Ford dealer will ready your new Flex for delivery.

So therefore if this unorthodox crossover utility is as appealing to you as to me, I recommend you take advantage of the tempting model-ending deal mentioned earlier. The Flex might be an aging SUV amongst the plethora of more advanced offerings, but don’t forget that this aging crossover still comes across as fresh thanks to its moderate popularity (you won’t see a lot of them driving around your city), while its long well-proven tenure means that it should be more dependable than some of its newer competitors.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Toyota Prius Prime Road Test

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota has given all of its Prius models more style, with the Prime getting its most dramatic design.

As usual I’ve scanned the many Toyota Canada retail websites and found plenty new 2019 Prius Prime examples to purchase, no matter which province I searched. What this means is a good discount when talking to your local dealer, combined with Toyota’s zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates for 2019 models, compared to a best-possible 2.99-percent for the 2020 version.

As always I searched this information out right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also learn about most brands and models available, including the car on this page, which is found on our 2019 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page. The newer version is found on our 2020 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page, by the way, or you can search out a key competitor such as the Hyundai Ioniq, found on the 2019 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page or 2020 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page (the former offers a zero-percent factory leasing and financing deal, while the latter isn’t quite as good a deal at 3.49 percent). CarCostCanada also provides info about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing, which arm you before arriving at the dealership so you can get the best possible deal.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Nothing looks like a Prius Prime from behind.

While these pages weren’t created with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in mind, and really nothing was including the dealerships we use to test cars and purchase them, some who are reading this review may have their lease expiring soon, while others merely require a newer, more reliable vehicle (on warranty). At the time of writing, most dealerships were running with full or partial staff, although the focus seems to be more about servicing current clientele than selling cars. After all, it’s highly unlikely we can simply go test drive a new vehicle, let alone sit in one right now, but buyers wanting to take advantage of just-noted deals can purchase online, after which a local dealer would prep the vehicle before handing over the keys (no doubt while wearing gloves).

Back to the car in question, we’re very far into the 2020 calendar year, not to mention the 2020 model year, but this said let’s go over all the upgrades made to the 2020 Prius Prime so that you can decide whether to save a bit on a 2019 model or pay a little extra for the 2020 version. First, a little background info is in order. Toyota redesigned the regular Prius into its current fourth-generation iteration for the 2016 model year, and then added this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Prime for the 2017 model year. The standard hybrid Prius received many upgrades for 2019, cleaning up styling for more of a mainstream look (that didn’t impact the version being reviewed now, by the way), but the latest 2020 Prius Prime was given a number of major updates that I’ll go over now.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
LED headlamps, driving lights and fog lamps look distinctive.

Interestingly (in other words, what were they thinking?), pre-refreshed Prius Prime models came with glossy white interior trim on the steering wheel spokes and shift lever panel, which dramatically contrasted the glossy piano black composite found on most other surfaces. Additionally, Toyota’s Prius Prime design team separated the rear outboard seats with a big fixed centre console, reduced a potential five seats to just four for the 2019 model year. Now, for 2020, the trim is all black shiny plastic and the rear seat separator has been removed, making the Prime much more family friendly. What’s more, the 2020 improves also include standard Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, a sunvisor extender, plus new more easily accessible seat heater buttons, while two new standard USB-A charging ports have been added in back.

Moving into the 2020 model year the Prime’s trim lineup doesn’t change one iota, which means Upgrade trim sits above the base model once again, while the former can be enhanced with a Technology package. The base price for both 2019 and 2020 model years is $32,990 (plus freight and fees) as per the aforementioned CarCostCanada pricing pages, but on the positive Toyota now gives you cargo cover at no charge (it was previously part of the Technology package). This reduces the Technology package price from $3,125 to $3,000, a $125 savings, and also note that this isn’t the only price drop for 2020. The Upgrade trim’s price tag is $455 lower in fact, from $35,445 to $34,990, but Toyota doesn’t explain why. Either way, paying less is a good thing.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prime gets a unique concave roof, rear window and rear spoiler.

As for the Prius Prime’s Upgrade package, it includes a 4.6-inch bigger 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen that integrates a navigation system (and it also replaces the Scout GPS Link service along with its 3-year subscription), a wireless phone charger, Softex breathable leatherette upholstery, an 8-way powered driver seat (which replaces the 6-way manual seat from the base car), illuminated entry (with step lights), a smart charging lid, and proximity keyless entry for the front passenger’s door and rear liftgate handle (it’s standard on the driver’s door), but interestingly Upgrade trim removes the Safety Connect system along with its Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance program (three-year subscription).

My tester’s Technology package includes fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a helpful head-up display unit, an always appreciated auto-dimming centre mirror, a Homelink remote garage door opener, impressive 10-speaker JBL audio, useful front parking sensors, semi-self-parking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius interior is much improved over previous generations, especially in top-tier Upgrade trim with the Technology package.

You might think an appropriate joke would be to specify the need for blind spot monitoring (not to mention paying close attention to your mirrors) in a car that only makes 121 net horsepower plus an unspecified amount of torque from its hybrid power unit, plus comes with an electronic continuously variable automatic (CVT) that’s not exactly performance-oriented (to be kind), all of which could cause the majority of upcoming cars to blast past as if it was only standing still, but as with most hybrids the Prime is not as lethargic as its engine specs suggest. The truth is that electric torque comes on immediately, and although AWD is not available with the plug-in Prius Prime, its front wheels hooked up nicely at launch resulting in acceleration that was much more than needed, whether sprinting away from a stoplight, merging onto a highway, or passing big, slower moving trucks and buses.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
All Prius trims include a wide, narrow digital instrument cluster, but the 11.6-inch centre display comes with Upgrade trim.

The Prius Prime is also handy through curves, but then again, just like it’s non-plug-in Prius compatriot, it was designed more for comfort than all-out speed, with excellent ride quality despite its fuel-efficient low rolling resistance all-season tires. Additionally, its ultra-tight turning radius made it easy to manoeuvre in small spaces. Of course, this is how the majority of Prius buyers want their cars to behave, because getting the best possible fuel economy is prime goal. Fortunately the 2019 Prius Prime is ultra-efficient, with a claimed rating of 4.3 L/100km city, 4.4 highway and 4.3 combined, compared to 4.4 in the city, 4.6 on the highway and 4.4 combined for the regular Prius, and 4.5 city, 4.9 highway and 4.7 for the AWD variant. This said the Prime is a plug-in hybrid that’s theoretically capable of driving on electric power alone, so if you have the patience and trim to recharge it every 40 km or so (its claimed EV-only range), you could actually pay nothing at all for fuel.

I might even consider buying a plug-in just to get the best parking spots at the mall and other popular stores, being that most retailers put their charging stations closest to their front doors. Even better, when appropriate stickers are attached to the Prime’s rear bumper it’s possible to use the much more convenient (and faster) high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane when driving alone during rush hour traffic.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
A closer look shows how massive the navigation system’s map looks.

The Prime’s comfort-oriented driving experience combines with an interior that’s actually quite luxurious too. Resting below and in between cloth-wrapped A-pillars, the Prime receives luxuriously padded dash and instrument panel surfacing, including sound-absorbing soft-painted plastic under the windshield and comfortably soft front door uppers, plus padded door inserts front and back, as well as nicely finished door and centre armrests. Toyota also includes stylish metal-look accents and shiny black composite trim on the instrument panel, the latter melding perfectly into the super-sized 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment display, which as previously mentioned replaces the base Prime’s 7.0-inch touchscreen when moving up to Upgrade trim.

Ahead of delving into the infotainment system’s details, all Prius Primes receive a wide, narrow digital gauge package at dash central, although it is slanted toward the driver with the majority of functions closer to the driver than the front passenger. I found it easy enough to look at without the need to remove my eyes from the road, and appreciated its stylish graphics with bright colours, deep and rich contrasts, plus high resolution. When you upgrade to the previously noted Technology package, you’ll benefit from a head-up display as well, which can positioned for a driver’s height, thus placing important information exactly where it’s needed on the windscreen.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius driver’s seat is very comfortable, and is covered with Toyota’s exclusive Softex breathable leatherette.

The aforementioned vertical centre touchscreen truly makes a big impression when climbing inside, coming close to Tesla’s ultra-sized tablets. I found it easy enough to use, and appreciated its near full-screen navigation map. The bottom half of the screen transforms into a pop-up interface for making commands, that automatically hides away when not in use.

Always impressive is Toyota’s proprietary Softex leatherette upholstery, which actually breathes like genuine hides (appreciated during hot summer months). Also nice, the driver’s seat was ultra comfortable with excellent lower back support that gets improved upon by two-way power lumbar support, while its side bolsters held my backside in place during hard cornering as well. The Prime’s tilt and telescopic steering column gave me ample reach too, allowing me to get totally comfortable while feeling in control of the car. To be clear, this isn’t always possible with Toyota models.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The rear seats are comfortable and roomy, while a fixed centre console remains part of the 2019 offering.

I should mention that the steering wheel rim is not wrapped in leather, but rather more of Toyota’s breathable Softex. It’s impressively soft, while also featuring a heated rim that was so nice during my winter test week. High quality switchgear could be found on its 9 and 3 o’clock spokes, while all other Prius Prime buttons, knobs and controls were well made too. I particularly liked the touch-sensitive quick access buttons surrounding the infotainment display, while the cool blue digital-patterned shift knob, which has always been part of the Prius experience, still looks awesome. All said the new Prius Prime is very high in quality.

Take note that Toyota doesn’t finish the rear door uppers in a plush padded material, but at least everything else in rear passenger compartment is detailed out as nicely as the driver’s and front passenger’s area. Even that previously note rear centre console is a premium-like addition, including stylish piano black lacquered trim around the cupholders and a nicely padded centre armrest atop a storage bin. While many will celebrate its removal for 2020, those who don’t have children or grandkids might appreciate its luxury car appeal. Likewise, I found its individual rear bucket seats really comfortable, making the most of all the Prime’s rear real estate. Yes, there’s a lot of room to stretch out one’s legs, plus adequate headroom for taller rear passengers, while Toyota also adds vent to the sides of each rear seat, aiding cooling in back.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The rear cargo floor sits very high due to the battery below.

Most should find the Prius Prime’s cargo hold adequately sized, as it’s quite wide, but take note that it’s quite shallow because of the large battery below the load floor. It includes a small stowage area under the rearmost portion of that floor, filled with a portable charging cord, but the 60/40-split rear seats are actually lower than the cargo floor when dropped down, making for an unusually configured cargo compartment. Of course, we expect to make some compromises when choosing a plug-in hybrid, but Hyundai’s Ioniq PHEV doesn’t suffer from this issue, with a cargo floor that rests slightly lower than its folded seatbacks.

If you think I was just complaining, let me get a bit ornery about the Prius’ backup beeping signal. To be clear, a beeping signal would be a good idea if audible from outside the car, being that it has the ability to reverse in EV mode and can therefore be very quiet when doing so, but the Prius’ beeping sound is only audible from inside, making it totally useless. In fact, it’s actually a hindrance because the sound interferes with the parking sensor system’s beeping noise, which goes off simultaneously. I hope Toyota eventually rights this wrong, because it’s the silliest automotive feature I’ve ever experienced.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The battery causes an uneven load floor when the rear seats are folded.

This said the Prius’ ridiculous reverse beeper doesn’t seem to slow down its sales, this model having long been the globe’s best-selling hybrid-electric car. It truly is an excellent vehicle that totally deserves to don the well-respected blue and silver badge, whether choosing this PHEV Prime model or its standard trim.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT FWD and AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The Mazda3 Sport looks fabulous in GT trim, this one featuring a 6-speed manual and FWD.

Mazda redesigned its compact 3 for the 2019 model year, and of course I spent a week with one, causing me to declare it as the best car in its compact segment by a long shot. Since then the completely redesigned 2020 Toyota Corolla came on the scene, and while the Mazda3 might still outmuscle the Corolla into the top spot as far as I’m concerned, it’s no longer so far ahead.

As it is, the car I like most and the model, or models the majority of consumers choose to purchase don’t always agree. The current compact sales leader is Honda’s Civic, an excellent car that deserves its success. This said the Civic not only outpaces everything else in the compact segment by a wide margin, but as a matter of fact is also the top-selling car in Canada. Still, it lost 12.8 percent year-over-year in 2019, one of its worst showings in a long time, yet it nevertheless managed to exceed 60,000 units for a total of 60,139. The Corolla came in second after a 2.5-percent YoY downturn that ended with 47,596 units sold, whereas the Hyundai Elantra came in third after dropping 5.5 percent that resulted in 39,463 sales. Where does the Mazda3 fit in? It managed fourth after a shocking 20.4-percent plunge to 21,276 deliveries.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The new Mazda3 Sport is one of the most attractive cars in its class, this one boasting GT trim and new AWD.

The list of competitors in this class is long and varied, with most backpedalling throughout the previous year, including VW’s Golf that came close to ousting the Mazda3 from fourth place with 19,668 sales after an 8.4-percent downturn, although to be fair to Volkswagen I should probably be pulling its 17,260 Jetta deliveries into the equation after that model’s 14.1 percent growth, resulting in 36,928 compact peoples’ cars (or, in fact, fourth place), while the Kia Forte also grew by 8.0 percent for a reasonably strong 15,549 units. I won’t itemize out the category’s sub-10,000 unit challengers, but will say that some, including Chevy’s Cruze and Ford’s Focus, have now been discontinued.

As for why I’m reviewing a 2019 model so far into this 2020 calendar year? Last year’s supply is still plentiful throughout the country in most trims. I can’t say exactly why this is so, but it’s highly likely that Mazda Canada didn’t fully plan for last year’s slowdown in take-rate. Either way you now have the opportunity of some savings when purchasing a 2019, this being a worthwhile endeavour being that the new 2020 model hasn’t changed much at all, whether we’re talking about the base four-door sedan or sportier hatchback model. As you can clearly see I’m now writing about the five-door Sport in this review, but take note I’ll cover the four-door sedan soon. I’ve tested two top-tier GT trims in both front- and all-wheel drive (FWD and AWD) for this review, so I’ll make sure to go over most important issues, particularly my driving experience with Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system in this low-slung sporty car.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The new 3 has clean, minimalist lines that should appeal to most compact car shoppers.

With respect to any 2019 Mazda3 Sport discounts, our 2019 Mazda Mazda3 Sport Canada Prices page shows up to $1,000 in additional incentives in comparison to $750 if opting for the newer model shown on our 2020 Mazda Mazda3 Sport Canada Prices page. There isn’t much difference from year to year, but you’ll likely be able to negotiate a bigger discount if you have maximum information, so therefore keep in mind that a CarCostCanada membership provides dealer invoice pricing that gives you the edge when haggling with your local retailer. Of course, this knowledge could leave thousands in your wallet whether trading up or just trying to get a simple deal, plus CarCostCanada also gives access to the latest manufacturer rebates and more. Be sure to check it out before visiting your local dealer.

Before heading to your dealer it’s also good to know that five-door Sport trims are the same mechanically to the four-door Mazda3 sedan, which means that both 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre SkyActiv four-cylinder engines are available. The base mill makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, whereas the larger displacement engine is good for 186 horsepower and an identical 186 lb-ft of torque, while a six-speed manual is standard across the entire line, even top-tier GT trim, and a six-speed automatic is optional. The manual offers a fairly sporty short throw and easy, evenly weighted clutch take-up, whereas the auto provides manual shifting capability plus a set of steering wheel-mounted paddles when upgrading to GT trim. Both gearboxes come standard with a drive mode selector that includes a particularly responsive Sport setting, while the new i-Activ AWD system can only be had with the automatic transmission.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
LED headlights are standard across the line, and 18-inch alloys are standard with GT trim.

The Mazda3 Sport GT comes standard with proximity-sensing keyless entry for 2020, which was part of the optional Premium package that my 2019 tester included. The upgrade adds a nicer looking frameless centre mirror for 2020 too, plus satin chrome interior trim, but then again the 2019 version shown in the gallery was hardly short of nicely finished metals.

Model year 2019 Mazda3 Sport trims include the GX ($21,300), the mid-range GS ($24,000) and the top-tier GT ($25,900). The base 2.0-litre engine is only in the GX model, whereas the 2.5-litre mill is exclusive to both GS and GT trim lines. The automatic gearbox adds $1,300 across the line, while i-Activ AWD increases each automatic-equipped trims’ bottom line by $1,700.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
LED taillights are standard with every 2019 or 2020 Mazda3.

Both engines include direct injection, 16 valves and dual-overhead cams, plus various SkyActiv features that minimize fuel usage, the bigger 2.5-litre motor featuring segment-exclusive cylinder-deactivation. Both engines utilize less expensive regular unleaded gasoline too, the 2.0-litre achieving a claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 8.7 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.8 combined when mated to the base manual gearbox, or 8.6 in the city, 6.7 on the highway and 7.7 combined when conjoined to the auto. The 2.5-litre, on the other hand, is said to be capable of 9.2 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 8.1 combined with its manual transmission, 9.0, 6.8 and 8.0 respectively with the autobox, or 9.8, 7.4 and 8.7 with AWD.

The top-line engine doesn’t use much more fuel when considering its power advantage. Of course, the minor difference in fuel economy would widen if one were to drive the quicker car more aggressively, which is tempting, but I only pushed my two weeklong test cars for short durations, and merely to test what they could do. I was grateful the red FWD car with the black cabin was fitted with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, and the grey AWD model with the red interior was upgraded to the six-speed automatic with paddles, thus providing very different driving experiences.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
This Mazda3 Sport GT AWD came with a gorgeous red and black interior.

Before I get into that, the Mazda3 GT offers a superb driving position, which isn’t always true in this economically targeted compact class. The GT Premium’s 10-way powered driver’s seat, which includes powered lumbar support and is also part of the GS trims’ feature set when upgraded to its Luxury package, is wonderfully comfortable with good lateral support and excellent lower back support. Even better, the car’s tilt and telescoping steering column offers very long reach, which is important as I have a longer set of legs than torso. I was therefore able to pull the Mazda3 Sport’s steering wheel further rearward than I needed, allowing for an ideal driver’s position that maximized comfort and control.

There’s plenty of space and comfortable seating in back as well, with good headroom that measured approximately three and a half inches over my crown, plus I had about four inches in front of my knees, more than enough space for my feet below the driver’s seat when it was set up for my five-foot-eight body. Also, there were four inches from my outer hip and shoulder to the rear door panel, which was ample, and speaking of breadth I imagine there’d be more than enough space to seat three regular-sized adults on the rear bench, although I’d rather not have anyone bigger than a small child in between rear passengers.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The GT’s Premium package adds some very upscale features, like these drilled aluminum speaker grates that come with the Bose audio system.

Mazda provides a wide folding armrest with two integrated cupholders in the middle, but the 3 Sport doesn’t get a lot of fancy features in back, like overhead reading lamps, air vents, heatable outboard seats, and USB charge points (or for that matter any other kind of device charger).

I found the dedicated cargo area large enough for my requirements, plus it was carpeted up the sidewalls and on the backsides of each 60/40 split folding seat. Unfortunately Mazda doesn’t include any type of pass-through down the middle, which is the same for most rivals, but the hard-shell carpeted cargo cover feels like a premium bit of kit and was easily removable, although take note that it must either be reversed and placed on the cargo floor to be stowed away, or slotted behind the front seats. Altogether, the 3 Sport allows for 569 litres behind those rear seats, or 1,334 litres when they’re laid flat, which is pretty good for this class.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
It’s hard to go wrong with a classic black interior, especially one as well designed and fully featured as the Mazda3.

The Mazda3 impresses even more when it comes to interior quality and refinement. Its styling is more minimalist than opulent, but this said few volume-branded compacts come anywhere as close to providing such a premium-level car. For instance, its entire dash top and each door upper gets covered in a higher grade of padded composite material than the class average, while the instrument panel facing and door inserts are treated to an even more luxurious faux leather with stitching. One of my testers’ cabins was even partially dyed in a gorgeous dark red, really setting it apart from more mainstream alternatives.

I’ve been fond of the latest Mazda3 since first testing it in the previously noted sedan body style, particularly the horizontal dash design theme that’s visually strengthened by a bright metal strip of trim spanning the entire instrument panel from door to door. It cuts right through the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, and provides a clean and tidy lower framing of the vents both left and right. This top-line model adds more brushed metal, including beautifully drilled aluminum speaker grilles plus plenty of satin-aluminized trim elsewhere. Mazda continues its near-premium look and feel by wrapping the front door uppers in the same high-quality cloth as the roofliner.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Two analogue gauges are surrounded by a 7.0-inch digital display at centre.

Visually encircled by an attractive leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, its rim held in place by stylish thin spokes adorned with premium-quality metal and composite switchgear, the 3’s gauge cluster is a mix of analogue dials to the outside and pure digital functionality within, organized into Mazda’s classic three-gauge design. The speedometer sides in the middle, and thus is part of the 7.0-inch display that also includes a variety of other functions. It’s not as comprehensively featured as some others, but all the important functions are included.

The 8.8-inch main display is sits upright like a wide, narrow tablet, yet due to its low profile the screen is smaller than average. Some will like it and some won’t, particularly when backing up, as the rearview camera needed extra attention. The camera is clear with good resolution, while its dynamic guidelines are a helpful aid, but I’m used to larger displays.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The infotainment system is good, but the display is not the largest in the industry.

All other infotainment features work well, with Mazda providing a minimalist’s dream interface that’s merely white writing on a black background for most interface panels, except navigation mapping, of course, which is as bright and colourful as most automakers in this class, as was for the satellite radio display that provided cool station graphics. Unfortunately there’s no touchscreen for tapping, swiping and pinching features, the system only controlled by a rotating dial and surrounding buttons on the lower console, which while giving the 3 a more premium look and feel than most rivals, isn’t always as easy to use. I was able to do most things easily enough, however, such as pairing my smartphone via Android Auto (Apple CarPlay is standard as well).

Being that so many 2019 Mazda3 trims are still available, I’ll give you a full rundown of the aforementioned upgrade packages, with the GS trim’s Luxury package adding the 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory noted before, as well as leatherette upholstery, an auto-dimming centre mirror, and a power glass sunroof with a manual-sliding sunshade. Incidentally, GT trim comes standard with the auto-dimming rearview mirror and moonroof and offers an optional Premium package that swaps out the faux leather upholstery for the real deal and also adds the power/memory driver’s seat, plus it links the exterior mirrors to the memory seat while adding auto-dimming to the driver’s side.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
All trims offer manual or automatic transmissions.

Additionally, the GT Premium package adds 18-inch alloys in a black metallic finish, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity keyless access, a windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display (ADD) (or in other words a head-up display/HUD), rear parking sonar, a HomeLink garage door opener, satellite radio (with a three-month trial subscription), SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (with a five-year trial subscription), the previously noted navigation system, and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), a host of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including Smart Brake Support Rear (SBS-R) that automatically stops the car if it detects something in the way (like a curb, wall or lighting standard), and Smart Brake Support Rear Crossing (SBS-RC) that does the same albeit after detecting a car or (hopefully) a pedestrian, these last two features complementing the Smart Brake Support (SBS) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) automatic emergency braking from the GS, plus that mid-range model’s Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), forward-sensing Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), High Beam Control System (HBC), and last but hardly least, Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. Incidentally, the base GX model features standard Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), which means those inside a Mazda3 GT with its Premium package are well protected against any possible accident.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
How do you like his deep red upholstery? Thumbs up or down?

Now that we’re talking features, the base GX includes standard LED headlights, LED tail lamps, front and rear LED interior lighting, pushbutton start/stop, an electromechanical parking brake, three-way heated front seats, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, SMS text message reading/responding capability, plus more, while I also appreciated the sunglasses holder in the overhead console that’s standard with the GS, which protects lenses well thanks to a soft felt lining, not to mention the GS model’s auto on/off headlamps (the GX only shuts them off automatically), rain-sensing wipers, heatable side mirrors, dual-zone auto HVAC, and heated leather-clad steering wheel rim.

As for the GT, its standard Adaptive (cornering) Front-lighting System (AFS) with automatic levelling and signature highlights front and back make night vision very clear, while its 12-speaker Bose audio system delivered good audio quality, and the 18-inch rims on 215/45 all-season tires would have without doubt been better through the corners compared to the GX and GS models’ 205/60R16 all-season rubber on 16-inch alloys.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The rear seating area is spacious and comfortable.

Sportiest GT trim makes do with a slightly firmer ride than the lower trims, but it was never harsh. Better yet is its impressive road-holding skill, the 3 GT always providing stable, controlled cornering and strong, linear braking even though it only uses a simple front strut, rear torsion beam suspension configuration. Take note the 2020 Corolla and Civic mentioned earlier come with fully independent suspension designs.

As you might imagine, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder has a lot more fire in the belly than the 2.0-litre mill, while its Sport mode made a big difference off the line and during passing procedures. The automatic transmission’s manual mode only needs you to pull the shift lever to engage, while the aforementioned steering wheel shift paddles work best when choosing manual mode, but don’t need it in order to change gears. This said the DIY manual shifts so well you may want to pocket the $1,300 needed for the automatic and shift on your own.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Cargo space is more than adequate for the compact class.

Thanks to the grippy new optional AWD system, takeoff is immediate with no noticeable front wheel spin, which of course isn’t the case with the FWD car, especially in inclement weather. It also felt easier to control through curves at high speeds in both wet and dry weather, but I must admit that my manual-equipped FWD tester had its own level of control that simply couldn’t be matched with an automatic when pushed hard. As much as I liked the manual, I’d probably choose AWD so I wouldn’t be forced to put on chains when heading up the ski hill or while traveling through the mountains during winter.

Everything said, the Mazda3 is a great choice for those who love to drive, plus it’s as well made as many premium-branded compact models, generously outfitted with popular features, a strong enough seller so that its resale value stays high, impressively dependable, and impressively safe as per the IIHS that honoured the U.S. version with a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. That it’s also one of the better looking cars in the compact class is just a bonus, although one that continues to deliver on that near-premium promise Mazda has been providing to mainstream consumers in recent years.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L V6 AWD Road Test

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
This classy looking four-door luxury sedan is a great performer in as-tested 3.0L V6 form.

It’s not every day that a really great car gets discontinued, but Lincoln is eliminating its entire lineup of cars (two in total), just like its parent company Ford is doing (Mustang aside), which means the impressive MKZ mid-size luxury sedan will soon be merely a memory, and the automotive world will have lost a car well worth owning.

Lincoln updated the MKZ with its latest design language for 2017, including its ritzier more premium chrome grille up front, which was mixed in with rear styling that was already very unique and expressive for a very handsome mid-size luxury sedan. My tester’s optional dark grey matte-metallic 19-inch alloys encircled by 245/40 Michelin all-seasons give it a more aggressive appearance than it would otherwise have, the rest of the car more artfully elegant than many rivals.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ has long been one of the most distinctive cars in its class when seen from the rear.

Although luxury cars are temporarily loosing their savour in today’s SUV-enamoured auto market, Lincoln makes a pretty good argument for sticking with the time-tested body style in its MKZ. Ford’s luxury brand has actually done reasonably well with this model over the years, achieving a sales high of 1,732 deliveries in calendar year 2006, but after a slowdown to accommodate the 2007/2008 financial crisis and additional stagnation in 2012, it’s been a slippery albeit steady slope downhill from 1,625 units in 2013 to 1,445 in 2014, 1,130 in 2015, 1,120 in 2016, 994 in 2017, 833 in 2018, and lastly 367 examples delivered last year, the latter sum representing a 55.9-percent year-over-year nosedive. Of course other factors played into the MKZ’s most recent downturn, with parent company Ford’s announcement of the car’s cancellation last year probably most destructive, but none of this takes away from the model’s overall goodness.

The very same 3.0-litre turbo-V6 that impressed me in the larger, heavier Continental was new for 2018 in the MKZ Reserve, which means the velvety smooth 400-horsepower beast of an engine, pushing out an equally robust 400 lb-ft of torque, scoots down the highway even faster. With so much thrust and twist available, an eight-, nine- or 10-speed automatic isn’t necessary, so Lincoln left its smooth and dependable six-speed autobox in place, together with a set of paddle-shifters on the steering wheel to make the most of the available power.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
Lincoln provides plenty of stylish details including LED headlamps and sporty 19-inch alloy wheels.

Getting things started is an ignition button atop the otherwise unique pushbutton gear selector, which lines up to the left of the centre touchscreen on the main stack of controls. This vertical row of switches integrates the usual PRND buttons within the start/stop button just noted and an “S” or sport mode button at the bottom. Once accustomed to the setup it’s as easy as any other gear selector to use.

The smooth transmission is certainly more engaging in its sport mode, especially when those steering wheel-mounted paddles just mentioned are put into use, but just the same I found upshifts took at least two seconds to complete, with downshifts occurring about a half-second quicker, which is hardly fast enough to be deemed a sport sedan. Still, this well-proven gearbox provided reliable, refined service. This in mind, the MKZ was never designed to be a sports sedan. It’s capable of moving down the road quickly when coaxed, with tons of get-up-and-go off the line, plus a true automatic feel when pulling on its paddles, and stable control around fast-paced curves, but let’s be clear, the MKZ was designed for comfort first and foremost.

This means that it’s a wholly quiet and impressively smooth riding car. Nevertheless, when I was pushing some serious speed down a winding rural road near my home, the mid-size four-door clung to pavement well. Granted, I didn’t temporarily lose my sense of reality by forgetting it wasn’t a Mercedes-AMG, BMW M or Audi RS. The MKZ’s advanced electronics and as-tested torque-vectoring AWD make it rock steady on slippery surfaces just the same, while it comes well stocked with yet more safety items.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
Get ready for a richer cabin than you may have experienced in a Lexus ES or some other luxury brand.

As good as it handles, and as stylish as its exterior design is, the MKZ’s best asset is its cabin. Yes, the MKZ interior can hardly be faulted, other than sharing a few design elements, some of its switchgear, and a number of underlying components with the Ford Fusion that rides on the same underpinnings. This is most obvious with the steering wheel, IP/dash and centre stack designs plus overall layout, not to mention the door panels regarding their handles and switches. Then again Lincoln takes the MKZ’s finishings up a major notch when compared to the blue-oval car, with a totally pliable composite instrument hood and dash-top, which even extends down to the lower knee area, plus soft-touch surfaces on each side of the centre stack and the lower console, even including the side portions of the floating bottom section.

I’m hardly finished praising this interior, but this is where I should probably interject that storage space is another MKZ strong point. The floating centre console just mentioned provides a large area for stowing smartphones, tablets, etcetera, while Lincoln also includes a big glove box, a sizeable storage compartment below the centre armrest, another smaller one within the folding rear armrest, most of which are lined with a plush velvety fabric, plus bottle holders in each lower door panel, and finally an amply sized 436-litre trunk that expands via 60/40-split rear seatbacks, or a helpful centre pass-through.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ’s dash design might look familiar to those knowledgeable of the Ford Fusion, but the materials are superb.

Incidentally, the MKZ Hybrid’s trunk only measures 314 litres, and this electrified car is all that’s available for the 2020 model year. Sad, but the brilliantly quick V6 is now history, or at least you can’t get a 2020 MKZ with this ultra-strong powerplant, yet you should have no problem locating a 2019, albeit don’t hesitate to contact your local Lincoln dealer if you want bonafide performance along with your mid-size Lincoln luxury sedan experience.

Also on the positive, you can save up to $7,500 in additional incentives with the 2019 MKZ, as per our 2019 Lincoln MKZ Canada Prices page. Lincoln provides up to $1,500 in additional incentives for the 2020 MKZ, by the way, plus you can theoretically save up to $13,000 in additional incentives if you can find a new 2018 model (there’s likely some still available).

Now that we’re talking model year changes, the transition from 2018 to 2019 left mid-range Select trim off the menu in the conventionally powered car, leaving only Reserve trim with the entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, this mill capable of a motivating 245 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, while the as-tested Reserve 3.0-litre V6 was (is) also available. The hybrid’s combustion engine produces 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, by the way, although its net output is stronger at 188 horsepower, whereas the electric motor makes 118 horsepower (88 kW) and 177 lb-ft of torque (I wouldn’t both trying to add them up, as quantifying hybrid output numbers is far from simple math).

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ’s mostly digital gauge cluster is attractive and feature filled.

Fuel economy is easier to calibrate, and considering the regularly fluctuating Canadian pump prices, which may very well get impacted by our national government’s lack of will to enforce the rule of law against a much more radical set of blockading protestors, the price of a litre of fuel could increase dramatically anytime, thus choosing a fuel-efficient car is probably smart. As it is, the MKZ Hybrid’s 5.7 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 5.9 combined results are twice as efficient as the 3.0 V6 version I’m reviewing now, the hybrid model’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) no doubt helping out, but nowhere near as much as the electrified portion of its drivetrain. By comparison the MKZ’s V6 AWD setup is rated at 14.0 L/100km in the city, 9.2 on the highway and 11.8 combined, while the same car powered by the non-hybrid 2.0-litre four-cylinder does reasonably well with a 12.1 city, 8.4 highway and 10.4 combined rating.

Earlier I claimed to not being finished praising the MKZ’s interior, and it truly is impressive for a modest entry price of $47,000 to $53,150 for the Hybrid. A Reserve AWD can be had for $52,500, incidentally, while my 3.0-litre V6 tester caused the price of the latter model to jump by $6,500. Just like the dash-top and instrument panel, the MKZ Reserve’s inside door panels feature nicely stitched composite door uppers, inserts and armrests, plus the doors’ lower panels are also made from a pliable composite. While most wouldn’t do so, it’s reasonable to compare the MKZ Reserve to the much pricier compact-to-midsize German luxury cars rivals, as they won’t wholly improve on the domestic luxury model’s fine detailing and refinement. This Lincoln includes genuine hardwood inlays as well, plus exquisite drilled aluminum speaker grilles featuring a elegant spiralling pattern, while the quality of the MKZ’s various buttons, knobs and switches can match many in the premium sector.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The centre stack is well organized, and includes gear selectors at the top left.

The same holds true for its electronic interfaces, particularly the stunning new mostly-digital instrument cluster. At first glance it seems conventional, with a duo of circular primary dials with a large colour multi-information display in the middle, but instead all of the gauges are digital graphics, with Lincoln housing the TFT screens within round dial-like frames, the left one featuring an analogue-like tachometer around the outer edge and a multi-info display within, or alternatively a much bigger MID. The speedometer on the right boasts a digital needle and dial markers, plus other gauges within. It all gives the MKZ a fully up-to-date look, which is complemented by an infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack that was already impressive.

Lincoln’s infotainment system builds on Ford’s Sync 3 system, albeit with earthy brown and gold tones on black instead of the mainstream namesake brand’s various shades of light blues on white. No matter the overlying design, it’s a very good interface that needs no updating in this MKZ. Features include complete audio controls, two-zone front auto HVAC functions with three-way heatable/coolable front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an easy-to-use navigation system with good accuracy, an app menu that comes stock with Sirius Travel Link and lets you download additional mobile apps too, plus a car settings menu with two full panels of features as well as a third panel offering ambient lighting colour choices and multi-contour seat controls.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
These multi-contour front seats are fabulously comfortable, especially when their massage function is selected.

The MKZ Reserve’s seats in mind, those up front are extremely comfortable thanks to good support all over. Yes, even their side bolstering is good, helping this luxury car live up to its high-horsepower performance. They include four-way lumbar support, this being a very good reason to choose this Lincoln over the directly competitive Lexus ES that only offered two-way powered lumbar in the 2019 model I tested recently. A button in the middle of the lumbar controller immediately triggers a panel within the centre display to customize the multi-contour seat controls, including a massage function that does a great job of relaxing sore muscles.

As good as the front seats are, your passengers should be comfortable in the back too. The second row is detailed out just as nicely as the front seating area, with the same high quality, pliable composite and leather door panels, including the gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles. The folding centre armrest is infused with the usual twin cupholders, of course, while Lincoln provides rear vents on the backside of the front centre console too, as well as buttons for a set of two-way seat warmers in the outboard positions, plus two USB-A charging points and a three-prong 110-volt household-style socket for plugging in laptops.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The rear seating area is comfortable, spacious and nicely finished.

A powered trunk lid provides access the previously noted cargo area, and it’s a nicely finished compartment too, with high-quality carpeting on the floor, the sidewalls, and under the bulkhead, plus the backsides of the rear folding seatbacks of course. It’s too back Lincoln only split them with a less convenient 60/40-split, the Euro-style 40/20/40 configuration much better for slotting longer items like skis down the middle, but at least Lincoln included a small centre pass-through that’s good for a single pair of downhill boards or two narrower sets for cross-county skiing.

As for features, the multi-contour front seats noted earlier were made standard in the MKZ Reserve for 2019, as were a set of rear window sunshades, plus active motion and adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, and 19-inch satin-finish alloys. Additionally, Lincoln included a windshield wiper de-icer on all trims, plus rain-sensing wipers, blindspot monitoring and lane keeping assist, while the options menu included a new package with premium LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and 20-speaker audio.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
A small pass-through can accommodate long cargo down the middle.

After everything is said and done, the only issue reason a person might choose to purchase a Lexus ES, or another big family sedan from a non-premium maker like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, or Chrysler 300 instead of the Lincoln MKZ comes down to its imminent discontinuation. This said the MKZ’s scenario is not an anomaly thanks to plenty of large sedans getting the axe, including Lincoln’s own Continental (I’m saddened a lot more by that news as it’s a superb car for excellent value) and Ford’s Taurus, plus some Buicks and Chevy sedans, so therefore it’s quite possible any new four-door model you happen to choose might get killed off if Canadian consumers don’t step up and start buying them in volume, so it’s probably best to take one home while you can.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport Road Test

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The WRX STI’s rally car styling never gets old.

Do you prefer wing spoilers or lip spoilers? You’ll need to contemplate this before purchasing a new Subaru WRX STI. It might be an age thing, or the highest speed you plan on attaining. If you’ve got a racetrack nearby, I recommend the wing.

Being that my slow-paced home of Vancouver no longer has a decent racecourse within a day’s drive my thoughts are divided, because the massive aerodynamic appendage attached to this high-performance Subaru’s trunk adds a lot of rear downforce at high speeds, which it can easily achieve. Speed comes naturally to the STI. It’s rally-bred predecessor won the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC) three years in a row, after all, from 1995 to 1997, amassing 16 race wins and 33 podiums in total. That was a long time ago, of course, and Subaru has not contested a factory WRC team for more than ten years, but nevertheless the rally-inspired road car before you is much better than the production version tested in 2008.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The WRX STI’s rear design is even more aggressive than up front.

Rivals have come and gone over the years, the most disappointing loss being the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (EVO) that was discontinued at the close of 2015, while sport compact enthusiasts are no doubt lamenting the more recent cancellation of Ford’s Focus RS too, that car going away at the end of 2018 due to the death of the model’s less formidable trims. This said, the super compact category isn’t dead. Volkswagen revived its Golf R for 2016 and it’s still going strong, while Honda’s superb Civic Type R arrived on the scene for 2018, while Hyundai is getting frisky with its new Veloster N for 2020, although the last two mentioned don’t offer four-wheel drive so therefore don’t face off directly against their all-weather, multiple-terrain competitors.

The WRX STI seen here is a 2019 model, which means it hasn’t been updated with the new styling enhancements included for the 2020, but both get the 5-horsepower bump in performance introduced for 2018. To clarify, the regular WRX looks the same for 2020, at least from the outside, although its cabin gets some extra red stitching on the door trim plus its engine bay comes filled with a retuned 2.0-litre four, while the differential receives some revisions as well. This means only the STI receives styling tweaks, which include a new lower front fascia and new 19-inch aluminum machined alloy wheels for Sport and Sport-tech trims. The 2020 WRX STI Sport also receives proximity keyless access with pushbutton start/stop.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
LED headlamps add sophistication, while all the scoops and vents are there by functional design.

My 2019 WRX STI tester was in Sport trim, which fits between the base and top-line Sport-tech models. The base STI starts at $40,195 plus freight and fees, with the Sport starting at $42,495 and the more luxury-trimmed Sport-tech at $47,295. And by the way, the wing spoiler is standard with the Sport and Sport-tech, but can be swapped out for the previously noted lip spoiler when moving up to the Sport-tech at no extra charge.

Pickings are slim for a 2019 model, but I poured over Canada’s Subaru dealer websites and found a number of them still available. Just the same, don’t expect to find the exact trim, option and/or colour you want. At least you’ll get a deal if choosing a 2019, with our 2019 Subaru WRX Canada Prices page showing up to $2,500 in additional incentives available at the time of writing. Check it out, plus peruse a full list of trim, package and option pricing for both WRX and WRX STI models, as well as information about special financing and leasing offers, notices about manufacturer rebates, and most important of all, dealer invoice pricing could help you save thousands. This said if you can’t locate the 2019 model you want, take a look at our 2020 Subaru WRX Canada Prices page that’s showing up to $750 in additional incentives.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
Sport and Sport-tech trim get these gorgeous 19-inch alloys on Yokohama rubber.

While the 2019 WRX STI looks no different than the 2018, it remains an aggressively attractive sport sedan. The 2018 STI added a fresh set of LED headlamps for a more sophistication appearance along with better nighttime visibility, while a standard set of cross-drilled Brembo brakes feature yellow-green-painted six-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers aided via four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor-equipped Super Sport ABS.

Subaru also revised the STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD) so that it’s no longer a hybrid mechanical design with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but instead an electric design for quicker, smoother operation, while the car’s cabin now included red seatbelts that, like everything else, move directly into the 2019 model year.

The STI’s interior also features a fabulous looking set of red on black partial-leather and ultrasuede Sport seats, with the same plush suede-like material applied to each door insert, along with stylish red stitching that extends to the armrests as well, while that red thread also rings the inside of the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, the padded leather-like centre console edges, and the sides of the front seat bolsters. Recaro is responsible for the front seats, thus they are as close to racecar-specification as most would want from a car that will likely get regular daily use. The driver’s is 10-way power-adjustable, including two-way lumbar support, and superbly comfortable.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The WRX STI’s interior is nicely finished with upscale materials, good quality and plenty of upscale features.

The rear passenger area is roomy and supportive as well, and impressively is finished to the same standards as the front, even including soft-touch door uppers. Additionally, Subaru added a folding armrest in the middle for the 2018 model year, with the usual dual cupholders integrated within. 

If you want a reason why both WRX models sell a lot better than the arguably more attractive BRZ (at least the latter is sleeker and more ground-hugging), it’s that just-noted rear passenger compartment. The BRZ seats four, in a literal 2+2 pinch, but the WRX does so in roomy comfort. It has the rare pedigree of being a legendary sports car, yet provides the everyday usability of a practical sedan. Its 340-litre trunk is fairly roomy too, while the car’s rear seat folds down 60/40 via pull-tab latches on the tops of the seatbacks.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
This is one of the better driver’s positions in the class.

Additionally, all passengers continue to benefit from less interior noise, plus a retuned suspension with a more comfortable ride, while the WRX was given a heavier duty battery last year as well, plus revised interior door trim. What’s more, a new electroluminescent primary instrument cluster integrated a high-resolution colour TFT Multi-mode Vehicle Dynamics Control display, providing an eco-gauge, driving time information, a digital speedo, a gear selection readout, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and the Driver Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system’s front and rear power bias graphic, whereas the 5.9-inch colour multi-information display atop the dash was also updated last year, showing average fuel economy, DCCD graphics, a digital PSI boost gauge, etcetera.

Subaru’s electronic interfaces have been getting steady updates in recent years, to the point they’re now some of the more impressive in the industry. The STI’s two touchscreens are as good as they’ve ever been, but compared to the gigantic vertical touchscreen in the new 2020 Outback and Legacy they look small and outdated. The base 6.5-inch screen in this 2019, in fact, which carries over to the 2020, shouldn’t even be available anymore, at least in a car that starts above $40k. In its place, the top-tier Sport-tech’s 7.0-inch touchscreen should be standard at the very least. Navigation doesn’t need to be included at the entry price, but one would think that one good centre display would make better sense economically than building two for such a niche model. Either way, both feature bright, glossy touchscreens with deep contrasts and rich colours.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The primary gauge cluster features a comprehensive colour display at centre.

The standard infotainment system found in my tester came with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Subaru’s own StarLink smartphone integration, which also includes Aha radio and the capability of downloading yet more apps. I like the look and functionality of the current interface too, which features colourful smartphone/tablet-style graphics on a night sky-like blue 3D tiled background, while additional features for 2019 include near-field communication (NFC) phone connectivity, a Micro SD card slot, HD radio, new gloss-black topped audio knobs, plus more. My Sport tester can only be had with the base six-speaker audio system too, which had me missing the Sport-tech’s nine-speaker 320-watt Harman/Kardon upgrade, but I have say I would’ve been content with the entry sound system if I’d never tried the H/K unit.

Together with everything mentioned already, all three STI trims include a gloss black front grille insert, brushed aluminum door sills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with red embroidered STI logos, aluminum sport pedals, a leather-clad handbrake lever, black and red leather/ultrasuede upholstery, two-zone auto HVAC, a reverse camera with active guidelines, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, vehicle-speed-sensitive volume control, Radio Data System, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary plugs, etcetera.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The centre stack features a large multi-information display atop the dash, a 6.5-inch touchscreen below that, and dual-zone auto HVAC.

The STI gets a number of standard performance upgrades as well, like quick-ratio rack and pinion steering, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential, a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, and more.

Additional Sport trim features include 19-inch dark gunmetal alloy wheels wrapped in 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance tires, the aforementioned high-profile rear spoiler, light- and wiper-activated automatic on/off headlights with welcome lighting, a power moonroof, Subaru’s Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, etcetera.

Finally, top-line Sport-tech features that have yet to be mentioned include proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, navigation, as well as SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stocks information, while the Sport-tech’s Recaro sport seats only get eight power adjustments.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The WRX STI’s shifter is sublime.

As is the case with all Subaru models, except the rear-drive BRZ sports car, the WRX STI comes standard with Symmetrical-AWD, the torque-vectoring system considered one of the best in the business. You can fling it sideways on dry or wet pavement, or for that matter on gravel, dirt, snow, or most any other road/trail surface, and remain confident it will pull you through, as long as it’s shod with the right tires for the occasion and your driving capability is at the level needed to correctly apply the steering, throttle and braking inputs as necessary.

As far as performance goes, the WRX STI is a car that is much more capable than most drivers will ever know, unless its deft poise saves them from an otherwise unavoidable accident. Its sporting prowess is legendary, and thanks to changes made a couple of years ago to the shifter and suspension, which made it much more enjoyable to drive in town as well as at the limit, it’s now an excellent daily driver. The manual transmission shifts smoother and easier, clicking into place with a more precise feel than in previous iterations.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
These are two of the best sport seats in the compact segment.

The upgraded six-speed manual takes power from a 2.5-litre turbo-four that received beefier pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming, and a higher-flow exhaust system than the previous generation, resulting in an identical 290 lb-ft of torque and the 5 additional horsepower mentioned earlier, the STI now putting out 310. Additionally, the just-mentioned transmission gets a reworked third gear for a faster takeoff. Translated, the latest STI feels even more enthusiastic during acceleration than pre-2018 models, which were already very quick.

As always, the 2019 STI’s road-holding capability is fabulously good. It feels light and nimble, yet kept the rear wheels locked mostly in place through high-speed curves, whether the tarmac was smooth or strewn with dips and bumps. I only used the word “mostly” because it oversteers nicely when coaxed through particularly tight corners, like those often found on an autocross course. At such events braking is critical, so it’s good that the STI’s big binders noted earlier scrub off speed quickly, no doubt helped in equal measures by the Sport’s standard 245/35R19 Yokohama performance tires.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
This practical sports car seats four to five comfortably.

I can’t see fuel economy mattering much to the majority of STI buyers, but Transport Canada’s 2019 rating is reasonably efficient for a performance sedan just the same, at 14.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and 12.5 combined. Notably, these numbers haven’t change one bit from last year, while Subaru doesn’t show any advancements in the STI’s naught to 100km/h time either, once again claiming a sprint time that’s just 0.5 seconds faster than the regular WRX at 4.9 seconds. With only small adjustments made to its 1,550- to 1,600-kilogram curb weight (depending on trims), plus 5 additional horsepower now combined with a stronger third gear, both standstill and mid-range acceleration should be faster, which leaves me wondering whether Subaru is being conservative or if their marketing department merely hasn’t got around to updated the specs in their website.

So is the WRX STI for you? If you’re a driving enthusiast that still needs to stay real and practical, you should consider Subaru’s performance flagship. It’s well priced within the low- to mid-$40k range, and it’s an easy car to live with. Of course I can’t help but recommend it. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The Hyundai Accent Sedan is dead in Canada, with only a handful available across the country.

The car you’re looking at has given up on Canada and moved to the States. Yup, it’s true. Call it a traitor if you want, but Hyundai’s subcompact Accent Sedan won’t be available north of the 49th after this 2019 model year, so if you’ve always wanted to own a new one you’d better act quickly.

Fortunately for us, the more practical hatchback version is staying, complete with a new engine and new optional continuously variable transmission, the latter replacing the conventional six-speed automatic found in the 2019 Accent Sedan being reviewed here. The U.S., incidentally, loses the hatchback variant that we prefer. How different our markets are, despite (mostly) speaking the same language and being so close.

So why is this subcompact carnage occurring? It comes down to sales, or a lack thereof. Hyundai Canada only sold 202 Accents last month, but it’s brand new Venue crossover SUV, which is more or less the same size as the Accent hatch, yet an SUV so it’s going to be much more popular, sold 456 units in its first-ever month of January 2020. I think the Venue is going to sell big time, as I’ve been driving one in between writing this review of the Accent, and am thoroughly impressed. It’s also the least expensive SUV in Canada, which won’t hurt its popularity either.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The Accent will continue in its hatchback body style for 2020, its trunk now only available in the U.S. market.

I’m not sure if the Venue will surpass Kona sales, the larger utility finding 1,651 buyers last month and an amazing 25,817 during its first full year of 2019, which incidentally saw it first in its subcompact class (the same segment the Venue is entering now), resulting in a shocking 7,000-plus units ahead of the Nissan Qashqai. So car fans should be happy Hyundai kept its Accent here at all, especially considering how many of its peers have departed over the past couple of years for the same reasons (like the Nissan Versa Note, Toyota Prius C and Yaris Sedan, Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, etc).

At least the Accent remains near the top of its class, only outsold by its Kia Rio cousin last month, 243 deliveries to the Accent’s aforementioned 202, but beating the Yaris’ 190 sales, a car that took the top spot away from the Accent last year, a position Hyundai has held for as long as I can remember. Who knows which subcompact car will be in the lead when the final tally gets sorted out once December 31, 2020 has passed?

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
LEDs enhance the headlamps while chrome-trimmed fogs and sharp looking alloy wheels dress up this Ultimate trim.

Most of us should be able to agree that this 2019 Accent Sedan won’t do much to increase the Accent’s overall numbers this year. Certainly Hyundai will appreciate your buying one of the handful remaining, and yes I checked and there are plenty of retailers with new ones in stock across the country, but more dealers have sold out and are therefore saying hello to the updated 2020 Accent Hatchback, which looks identical yet gets the revised engine I mentioned earlier in this review, plus a totally new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter in place of the now departed six-speed automatic gearbox integrated into my 2019 tester.

I must admit to having divided feelings about these mechanical upgrades, because the changes seem to be only benefiting fuel economy at the expense of performance. This 2019 Accent boasts a reasonably strong 132 horsepower from its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, plus 119 lb-ft of torque, whereas the fresh new 2020 model’s 1.6-litre four features some cool new “Smartstream” tech, but nevertheless loses 12 horsepower and six lb-ft of torque, the new ratings only 120 and 113 respectively.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
Attract LED taillights grace the Accent Sedan’s hind quarters.

To clarify, the Accent’s Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine has little in common with the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi engine found in the new Sonata. The Accent’s engine is naturally aspirated with four inline cylinders, dual-port injection (DPI), continuously variable valve timing, and a new thermal management module that warms the engine up faster to optimize performance and efficiency, whereas the Sonata’s four-cylinder is downright radical in comparison.

That turbo-four is configured into a V, which will be fabulous for packaging into smaller engine bays of the future and ideal for mating to hybrid drivetrains that could potentially fit into the engine bays of current models. It puts out 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque due, in part, to an industry-first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) system that improves straight-line performance by four percent while improving fuel economy by five percent and reducing emissions by 12 percent. A Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (LP EGR) system helps Hyundai to achieve the last number, but I’ll get into more detail about its advanced tech when I review the new 2020 Sonata Turbo.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The Accent’s interior is put together well and big on features, but it’s missing soft-touch composite surfaces.

Respect should be paid to the technology behind the Accent’s new Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine, but clearly it’s more of an upgrade to an existing powerplant than anything revolutionary. Still, the new model’s improvement in fuel economy needs to be commended, with the 2019 Accent being reviewed here good for just 8.2 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 7.3 combined whether employing its standard six-speed manual or available as-tested six-speed automatic, and the new 2020 Accent managing an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 6.9 combined with its six-speed manual gearbox or 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.6 combined with its new CVT—the latter number representing 12-percent better economy. 

As for the six-speed automatic in the outgoing Accent I’m reviewing here, it shifts smoothly, delivers a nice mechanical feel and even gets sporty when the shift lever is slotted into its manual position and operated by hand, so traditionalists should like it. Still, the 2020 Accent’s available CVT, called ITV by Hyundai for “Intelligent Variable Transmission,” should be thought of as an upgrade. Hyundai claims it simulates shifts so well you won’t be able to tell the difference (we’ll see about that), and don’t worry I’ll say how I really feel in a future road test review. Fortunately, CVTs are usually smoother than regular automatic transmissions, unless the simulated shifts are a bit off. Again, I won’t explain all the details that make Hyundai’s new CVT better than the rest, saving this for that model’s review, but for now will say that it features a wide-ratio pulley system Hyundai claims to provide a broader operation ratio than older CVTs, which improves fuel economy when higher gear ratios are being used and enhances performance when lower ratios are employed.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
Everything is well organized from a driver’s perspective.

The 2019 Accent Sedan delivers sportier performance than most in this class, thanks to the powerful little engine noted earlier, plus the engaging manual mode-enhanced gearbox, while its ride quality is comforting due to a well-sorted front strut and rear torsion beam suspension system, and should continue being good in the new 2020 as Hyundai doesn’t make any noted changes. Handling is also good, or at least good enough, the Accent’s electric power steering system delivering good directional response and overall chassis quite capable through the corners if kept at reasonable speeds. Hyundai incorporates standard four-wheel disc brakes, which do a good job of bringing the Accent down to a stop quickly, making the car feel safe and stable at all times.

Changing course, the Accent’s cabin is quite roomy for such a small car, particular when it comes to headroom. Legroom up front is pretty good too, and it should amply sized from side-to-side for most body types, plus I found the driver’s seat and steering wheel easy to position for comfort and control due to good tilt and telescopic steering column rake and reach. While all of the usual seat adjustments are included, there was no way to adjust the lumbar, but the seat is inherently good so I felt supported in all the right places.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The Accent’s mostly analogue gauge cluster is clear and readable in almost any light.

Most cars in this class are tight in the back seat, and the Accent Sedan is no exception. Still, but two average-sized adults or three slender passengers, kids included, should fit in with no issue. I positioned the front seat for my longer legged, shorter torso five-foot-eight frame and had approximately two inches remaining between the front seatback and my knees, plus ample room for my feet while wearing winter boots. The seatbacks are finished in a nice cloth, which would be more comfortable if they touched my knees, but I doubt anyone wants to experience such a confining space either way. My small-to-medium torso felt comfortable enough as far as interior width goes, with about three to four inches at the hips and slightly more next to my left shoulder to the door panel, while about two and a half inches of nothingness could be found over above my head (not in my head… I can hear the jokes coming).

Hyundai doesn’t provide a folding armrest in the middle, however, so it lacks the comfort of a larger car like the Elantra or aforementioned Sonata, plus no vents provide air to rear passengers, but Hyundai does include a USB charger for powering passengers’ devices on the backside of the front console.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
A large infotainment touchscreen is filled with features in top-line Ultimate trim, while single-zone auto climate control sits below.

What about refinement? Strangely, Hyundai isn’t following the latest subcompact trend to pliable composite surfaces in key areas, which means others in this class are doing a better job of pampering occupants, at least in the touchy-feeling department. The dash top, for instance, and the instrument panel, door panels and most everywhere else is hard plastic, other than the leather-wrapped steering wheel of this top-line Ultimate model, plus the fabric door inserts, centre armrest, and cloth upholstered seats, of course. Unforgivable in the Canadian market, however, are hard shell plastic door armrests, which are downright uncomfortable.

Cutting such corners is a shame in a vehicle that does most everything else so well, although I should also criticize Hyundai for including an antiquated monochromatic trip computer in this top-line trim. It should be a full-colour TFT multi-information display this day and age, and on that note I don’t have a problem with its analogue gauges, even though some competitors are now beginning to digitize more of their clusters.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The Accent’s rearview camera has active guidelines, not always included in its subcompact segment.

I’m guessing that Hyundai is hoping such shortcomings get forgotten quickly when the Accent’s potential buyers start adding up all the other standard and optional features before comparing its low pricing to competitors. On top of everything already mentioned my top line Accent Sedan came with proximity access with pushbutton start/stop, a fairly large centre touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a host of downloadable apps, a rearview camera with active guidelines, plus much more. A single-zone automatic climate control makes sure the cabin is always at the right temperature, while my tester included three-way heatable front seats plus a heated steering wheel rim, the former capable getting downright therapeutic for the lower back.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel rim just mentioned is beautifully finished and nicely padded for comfort, while its spokes’ switchgear is very well done and complete with voice activation, audio controls, plus phone prompts to the left, and multi-information display plus cruise controls to the right. The turn signal/headlamp and wiper stalks are pretty premium-level as well. In fact, most of the interior buttons, knobs and switches make the Accent feel more expensive than its modest price range suggests. The same goes for the overhead console, which integrates yesteryear’s incandescent lamps yet boasts one of the most luxe lined sunglass holders I’ve ever felt, as well as a controller for the power moonroof.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The front seats are comfortable, but no adjustable lumbar support.

The Accent Sedan’s rear seats fold individually in the usual 60/40-split configuration, adding more usability to the reasonably sized 388-litre (13.7 cu-ft) trunk, but this said the trunk lid is quite short which limited how much I could angle inside. Of course, a hatchback would solve this problem, so we should be glad Hyundai Canada chose to keep the more versatile of the two body styles for 2020. Hyundai provides a fairly large compartment underneath the load floor no matter which model is chosen, my tester’s mostly filled with a compact spare and the tools to change it, but there’s some space around its perimeter for smaller cargo.

So that’s the 2019 (and some of the 2020) Accent in a nutshell. If you really want a new Accent Sedan, you’d best begin to call all the Hyundai retailers in your city. I’ve checked, and some were available at the time of writing, but I’d recommend acting quickly. According to our 2019 Hyundai Accent Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada, the most basic Accent Sedan in Essential trim with the Comfort Package starts at $17,349 (plus freight and fees), whereas this top-tier Ultimate Sedan can be had for $21,299, less discount of course. Retailers are motivated to sell, after all, so make sure to get a CarCostCanada membership to access info about manufacturer rebates, plus factory leasing and financing rate deals, which were available from zero percent at the time of writing (plus 0.99 percent for the new 2020 Accent), and as always your membership will give you access to dealer invoice pricing that could potentially save you thousands on a new car.

2019 Hyundai Accent Ultimate
The rear seats are comfortable, but legroom is limited and there’s not centre armrest.

As far as Accent Sedan alternatives go, Kia is keeping its Rio Sedan for 2020 (its basically the same as the U.S.-market Accent Sedan below the surface), and it also includes all the 2020 drivetrain improvements mentioned earlier in this review. As of the 2020 model year the Rio has become the only new subcompact sedan available in Canada, so South Korea’s alternative automotive brand has a good opportunity to lure in some new buyers it might not have been able to previously, while they’re still selling a 2020 Rio Hatchback.

Therefore you’ve got the option of snapping up this 2019 Hyundai Accent Sedan while some are still available, choosing the new 2020 Accent Hatchback with all of its mechanical updates, or opting for the same improvements in the Kia Rio Sedan or Hatchback. This said, maybe a new Hyundai Venue or Kona suits your style, as these two are superb subcompact crossovers only slightly more money. All in all it seems like Hyundai Motor Group has you covered no matter what you want in an entry-level vehicle, so the automaker’s future certainly looks promising.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology Road Test

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C remains a good looking subcompact hatch thanks to its 2018 refresh.

Toyota Canada stopped providing individual sales figures for its smallest hybrid back in 2017, even though the numbers weren’t much lower than in previous years. The car had been available for over five years without many updates after all, so deliveries probably should’ve slowed even more, but those of us outside of Toyota’s inner circle will never know how far they fell.

I have to admit to being curious about how the 2018 model year refresh impacted those sales results when it arrived during the same year, but unfortunately a “Prius Family” category was created for monthly Prius, Prius plug-in, Prius V and Prius C sales statistics in Canada, which meant learning how far sales had fallen through 2017, 2018 and the C’s final year of 2019, in order to question why Toyota discontinued it, became difficult.

Its cancellation may have nothing to do with sales, mind you. The Prius C shared underpinnings with the 2019 (and previous) Toyota Yaris subcompact hatchback, both having ridden on the Toyota B platform, and with the Toyota-built Vitz-based Yaris no longer available in North American markets at the close of 2019, this model now replaced by a Mazda2-based Yaris hatchback in Canada and the U.S. for 2020 (and as a Yaris sedan exclusively south of the 49th), it was probably a good idea to say sayonara to the Prius C as well.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
Large LED taillights, a narrow rear window, a sporty bumper and sharp alloy wheels make the 2019 Prius C Technology stand out.

Yes, I know about the new 2020 Yaris Hybrid offered in Japan and other world markets, and I’m well aware of the even more compelling 250-plus horsepower 2020 Yaris GR (Gazoo Racing), which could’ve completely taken over from Ford’s fabulous little Fiesta ST (RIP) if Toyota had chosen to go bold, so let’s hope the new 2020 Yaris Hatchback is more enticing than the Mazda2 was when it couldn’t gain much sales traction during its mostly forgettable summer of 2010 through winter of 2016 run.

As for the outgoing 2019 Prius C, it’s a very good car now in short supply. New 2019 models are still around, plus plenty of low mileage demos and pre-owned examples. I know this because I searched across most of Canada to find the majority of new C’s in the Greater Toronto Area and in Greater Montreal (there were no new ones left in Vancouver, as they were probably scooped up by the British Columbia Automobile Association’s Evo Car Share program that primarily uses the Prius C), while the model’s highly efficient hybrid electric drivetrain will continue being produced in the aforementioned (JDM) 2020 Yaris Hybrid and upcoming (for Asia and Europe) C-HR Hybrid.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
LED headlamps, fog lights, and 15-inch alloys come standard with Technology trim.

Back to the here and now, Toyota Canada is currently trying to lure in prospective 2019 Prius C buyers with zero-percent factory lease and financing rates, while all of the examples I found online were seriously discounted. These are two good reasons to consider a Prius C, but I should also point out (this being a road test review) that the little hybrid is a great little subcompact car too, all of which makes a fresh new review of this 2019 model relevant, even though we’re already so far into the 2020 calendar year (what happened to the new year?). On this note I’d like to say so long to a car that I actually enjoy spending time in, and consider its demise saddening for those of us who enjoy the fun-to-drive nature, easy manoeuvrability, and excellent efficiency of small cars.

The Yaris is a fun car to drive too, which makes sense being that both models ride on Toyota’s B platform architecture. It also makes sense for their exterior measurements not to be all that different, with the Prius C’s wheelbase stretching 40 mm (1.6 in) more than the Yaris’ to 2,550 millimetres (100.4 inches), and its overall length a significant 114 mm (4.5 in) longer from nose to tail at 4,059 mm (159.8 in). Additionally, the Prius C’s 1,715-mm (67.5-in) width makes it 20 mm (0.8 in) wider, while its 1,491-mm (58.7-in) height is actually 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter from the road surface to the topmost point of its roof.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s cockpit places the primary instruments atop the centre dash.

Thanks the Prius C’s renowned Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which consists of a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine, or ICE, incorporating variable valve timing plus an exhaust heat recovery system, a 19-kWh nickel metal-hydride battery, a 45kW (60 hp) electric motor, and auto start/stop that automatically turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, before restarting it upon brake pedal left-off. While the C’s ICE likely weighs similarly to the 1.5-litre four in the Yaris, all of the other gear adds a quite a bit of mass to this subcompact car. In fact, a similarly equipped 2019 Yaris SE 5-Door Hatchback with its antiquated four-speed automatic hitting the scales at just 1,050 kilos (2,335 lbs) compared to 1,147 kg (2,529 lbs) resulting in 97 kg (214 lbs), while its 99 net horsepower rating (the combination of a 73 horsepower ICE and the aforementioned electric motor) is slightly down on the regular Yaris’ 106 horses, but the electric motor’s 125 lb-ft of instant torque, combined with the ICE’s 82 lb-ft, plus the lack of mechanical drag from the Prius C’s continuously variable transmission, more than makes up for its increased mass.

Remember way back at the beginning of this review when I mentioned the Prius C is fun to drive? It’s plenty quick off the line and quite agile through fast-paced curves, feeling much the same as the sporty Yaris hatchback, but this hybrid’s ride quality might even be better. It’s actually quite refined, with a reasonably quiet cabin, even at high speeds, and good comfort over rougher pavement like inner-city laneways and bridge expansion joints.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The update centre touchscreen is a big improvement, and includes navigation in Technology trim.

As you might expect the Prius C is ultra-respectful at the pump too. Transport Canada rates it at 5.1 L/100km for both city and highway driving (and therefore combined too), which compares well to all rivals including Toyota’s own Yaris Hatchback that manages 7.9 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.4 combined. 

The car in front of you is in its second model year since a major refresh, and I particularly like the changes made to a car that was already pretty decent looking. When compared to the outrageous styling of its bigger, elder brother, the regular Prius, this refreshed C is more conservative. It features new front and rear fascias including revised LED headlights and reworked LED tail lamps, plus renewed wheel covers and available alloys, while the cabin was updated with a new steering wheel, revised primary instrument cluster, and a renewed centre stack. The new infotainment touchscreen includes a standard rearview camera, this necessary to comply with then-new regulations that mandate backup cameras for safety’s sake.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C incorporates the Prius’ trademark blue shift knob.

Speaking of staying safe, 2018 and 2019 Prius Cs incorporate Toyota’s Safety Sense C suite of advanced driver assistive systems as standard equipment, including automatic high beams, pre-collision warning, and lane departure alert. Additionally, the Prius C has nine airbags instead of the usual six, while direct tire pressure monitoring is now part of the base package.

As far as features go, Toyota eliminated the Prius C’s base model for 2019, which pushed the price up from $21,990 to $22,260 (plus freight and fees), but for only $270 they added everything from the previous year’s $900 Upgrade package including soft synthetic leather to the instrument panel, premium fabric upholstery, additional driver seat adjustments, cruise control, two more stereo speakers (totalling six), a rear centre console box, and a cargo cover to an ample assortment of standard equipment such as power-adjustable heated side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, steering wheel audio and HVAC controls, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, single-zone auto climate control, 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth, an exterior temperature gauge, etcetera.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive, plus covered in Toyota’s leather-like SoftTex upholstery in Technology trim.

During my search for new Prius Cs still available for sale I noticed a good mix of both trim levels, the Technology model shown on this page replacing the base car’s 15-inch steel wheels with covers for an attractive set of 15-inch alloy wheels, and the fabric upholstery swapped out for Toyota’s Softex breathable leatherette. Additionally, Technology trim enhancements include LED fog lights, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, more sophisticated Touch Tracer controls on the much nicer synthetic leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, voice recognition, Gracenote connectivity, satellite radio, heated front seats, a power glass sunroof, plus more.

The 2019 Prius C Technology can be had for $27,090, which is an increase of just $140 from last year, representing great value when compared to any new hybrid. This becomes even more of deal when factoring in all the discounts I saw while searching online, not to mention the zero-percent financing Toyota is currently offering, and any other manufacturer rebates that may be available, so seriously consider snapping up a new Prius C before they’re all gone.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s roomy rear quarters provide comfortable accommodations for most body types.

Incidentally, I sourced the financing rate and pricing right here on CarCostCanada’s 2019 Toyota Prius c Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada provides trim, package and individual option pricing on every mainstream car, SUV and truck sold in Canada, plus manufacturer rebate info, details about financing, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that will give you an advantage when it comes time to negotiate your deal.

Interestingly, the Toyota model that probably put the final nail in the Prius C’s coffin is the entirely new 2020 Corolla Hybrid, which can be had for a reasonable $24,790 (plus destination and fees). It’s arguably a better car, but this said if you truly want or need a hatchback I can only imagine Toyota would be happy to put you into its bigger 2020 Prius, its entry price arriving at $28,550, and now optional with eAWD. The 2020 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is available from $32,990 (take note that the Prime qualifies for some government rebates), while additional electrified Toyotas include the 2020 Camry Hybrid at $31,550, 2020 RAV4 Hybrid from $32,350, and the completely redesigned 2020 Highlander Hybrid from $45,490.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C doesn’t give up much to Toyota’s own Yaris when it comes to cargo space.

Even without the Prius C, Toyota has a lot of hybrids on offer, but take note that a new RAV4 Prime plug-in will hit the Canadian market later this year, while the awkwardly styled Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle that ended production last year is set to arrive later this year in renewed form as well, and the photos I’ve seen were much easier on the eyes.

With respect to Toyota’s plans for plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV), such as the Nissan Leaf, in June of 2019 Toyota announced a plan to add 10 new BEV models to its worldwide fleet during the first half of this current decade, all based on a single e-TNGA platform. By 2025 the Japanese company says that each of its models will include an electrified variant, so even something like the new Supra sports car will offer a hybrid drivetrain. This is bound to become very interesting. 

Until all of these innovative new models hit the market, you might want to take advantage of the great deals to be had on this 2019 Prius C, however, as it’s a very good little car that provides superb fuel economy, decent levels of refinement, a fairly spacious cabin, plus Toyota’s impressive reputation for producing durable electrified vehicles.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann