CarCostCanada

2020 BMW M5 Road Test

2020 BMW M5
The 2020 BMW M5 is one sweet looking ride.

If someone were to ask you to name a serious sport sedan a few will probably come to mind in an instant. At the lower end of the four-door performance spectrum the VW GLI and Subaru WRX might immediately come to mind, but within premium circles BMW has been the go-to, go-fast brand for longer than any competitor this side of Maserati, and ‘60s era Quattroportes were astronomically priced. It was BMW that brought super-sedan performance to the masses, with the M5 initiating the entire category.

2020 BMW M5
The M5 looks good from all angles.

Sadly I’ve never owned an M5, although I came mighty close to purchasing a mid-‘90s E34 back in ’96. It was beautiful, brilliantly quick, and garnered near-exotic levels of respect amongst those who knew. These days the M5 is legend, with no one questioning why you’d want sports car performance in mid-size five-seater. Now that I’m thinking of it, the world we live in now seems to revere high-end sport sedans as if they were supercars, with most buyers in this class gravitating to taller super-SUVs like BMW’s own X5 M and X6 M.

2020 BMW M5
The grille, headlights, lower front fascia and wheels will change for 2021.

As fabulous as BMW’s sportiest crossovers may be, I’ll take an M5 any day of the week. As it is, I’ve owned everything from a mid-‘70s Bavaria to a late-‘80s E34 525i and plenty of roundel-badged models in between, with none as entertaining as any M5, but fortunately I’ve been able to spend weeks at a time in BMW’s best sport sedan since the fabulous V8-powered E39 arrived on the scene, and must admit the Bavarians certainly know how to make a big four-door sedan move down the road quickly.

2020 BMW M5
The standard carbon-fibre roof lowers the M5’s weight up high where it’s most critical, reducing the car’s centre of gravity to aid handling.

Looking back, the M5 first mentioned made a mere 340 horsepower, which seemed unfathomable when compared to the first M5’s 256 hp, but if lined up beside the comparatively otherworldly 600-plus horsepower M5 available now, it might as well have been a Camry (said with respect to Toyota’s impressive new Camry TRD). The 2020 M5 hits 100 km/h from standstill in a blisteringly quick 3.4 seconds, although if that’s not quite fast enough a Competition model will knock another 0.1 second off the clock for a 3.3-second sprint to the same speed. Either time makes it fastest amongst every direct competitor.

2020 BMW M5
Performance fans will love the rear diffuser and quad of tailpipes.

It takes more than mere straight-line speed to make a full-fledged sport sedan, of course, but fortunately the M5 earned its legendary status by managing corners with adroit agility, and the new model is no exception to the accepted rule. In fact, it feels easier than the previous F10-bodied M5 to fling through corners, albeit not quite as light and tossable as the now classic E39 referred to earlier. The now standard carbon fibre roof panel slices about 45 kilos (100 lbs) from the very top of the car, helping to lower its centre of gravity, while the car’s rear-biased all-wheel drive does more than just help out on slippery road conditions, making even drying pavement more controllable.

2020 BMW M5
This gorgeous, impressively finished interior comes standard.

Likewise, the new F90 M5’s eight-speed gearbox shifts a helluvalot faster than you might expect from a conventional automatic, but if you want it to perform its duties even quicker, bright red “M1” and “M2” buttons on the steering wheel spokes can instantly trigger pre-set sport modes as well as personalized settings for your specific driving style. For instance, I was able to combine a more compliant suspension setup mixed with quicker shifts and higher engine revs for the M1 position, ideal for zipping down bumpy backroads that would cause a stiffer setup to be airborne more often than optimal, while I set the M2 switch for a more firmly sprung suspension with even faster D3 shifting speed, not to mention the DSC system turned off, perfect for smooth stretches of asphalt. The two buttons allowed me to immediately switch between settings as smoother or rougher sections of pavement approached, necessary for making time on the patchwork quilt of backcountry roads in my area.

2020 BMW M5
M1 and M2 steering wheel buttons allow instant access to personalized performance settings.

During my various performance tests, I never attempted to prove the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) top speed, as you may have guessed, this more of a bragging right than anything potentially possible on Canadian roads or even any publicly available tracks I know of, but suffice to say it’s more than capable of shredding your license if you try anything so silly. I’m more about straightening ribbons of circuitous two-laners anyway, something the M5 executed with greater ease than anything so luxuriously appointed, accommodatingly sized, and accordingly hefty should be capable of. Fortunately, along with the speed this Bimmer delivers a wonderfully comfortable ride and superb refinement, especially when it came to blocking out wind and road noise.

2020 BMW M5
BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is very good, but gets a 2-inch larger touchscreen for 2021.

Don’t worry, plenty of delectable sound emanated from ahead of the firewall (as well as the audio system’s speakers, artificially), the turbo-V8 never letting my ears mistake it for one of the car’s less potent sixes, yet when not pushing it for all it was worth the serene cabin allowed for full enjoyment of the just-noted 16-speaker, 1,400-watt, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system, even more impressive when turned down for calmer, ambient pieces as when cranked up.

2020 BMW M5
The lower console is filled with switchgear, the tallest one controlling the brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission.

Speaking of a fully engaged experience, the new M5 features a fully digital gauge cluster, albeit wrapped up in an analogue design. To achieve this, BMW encircles the tachometer and speedometer displays with beautiful aluminum rings, and while this doesn’t allow navigation map, per se, to completely cover the screen, does provide a unique look with an amply large multi-info display at centre. The MID is filled with utile functions, all controllable via steering wheel switchgear, while the cluster’s graphics and resolution quality is superb.

2020 BMW M5
The Bowers & Wilkins audio system feature these classy aluminum grilles.

Looking to the right, the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is excellent, although be forewarned it gets better for the new 2021 model, increasing in size by more than two inches for a new diameter of 12.3 inches. And yes, it’s a touchscreen, thus providing the usual smartphone- and tablet-like finger gesture controls. Still, BMW lets those who’d rather control its iDrive system with easier-to-reach lower console-mounted switchgear do so, a spin of a rotating dial or the press of nearby quick-access buttons often preferable to tapping, swiping or pinching.

2020 BMW M5
These are two of the best seats in the industry.

Also important, the BMW delivers one of the best quality cabins in the M5’s super-sedan class too, thanks to high-end materials and impressive attention to detail. The aforementioned Bowers and Wilkins audio system featured gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles, these combined with no shortage of beautiful metalwork elsewhere in the interior. Some accents were finished in brushed aluminum while others glistened like chrome, although my favourite upgrades were the high-gloss carbon-fibre surface treatments and stunning stitched leatherwork.

2020 BMW M5
Rear seat room is expansive and comfortable.

Much of that leather can be found on the M5’s sensational front seats, which were two-tone light grey and charcoal in my tester, with perforated inserts and solid tops on the lower bolsters. Brightly coloured M5 appliques enhance each headrest, a fitting garnish for these comfortable, supportive and fully adjustable buckets, the lower cushions even extendable. Gone are the days that BMW limited rear seating to just two, the accommodating 2020 M5 sporting a wide bench seat with a folding centre armrest housing pop-out cupholders, while detailing in back is as good as that up front. The rear seats can be folded in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration too, allowing long cargo such as skis to fit down the middle while two rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable, heated window seats.

2020 BMW M5
The trunk is roomy and can be expanded via a 40/20/40-split rear seatback for longer cargo.

The current M5 has been quite popular over its three-year tenure, much thanks to its eye-catching styling. This said the 2021 will get a refresh that may turn off some lovers of this version, due to a larger more rectangular grille, updated headlamps and taillights, and a few other design tweaks. Those not impressed with the updates should snap a 2020 up while they can, although take note there’s currently no penalty for choosing the 2021. In fact, our 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page shows up to $1,500 in additional incentives for both model years. Additionally, make sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, and while you’re at it visit the Apple Store or Google Play Store to download our free app, where you can learn about any available financing and leasing deals, manufacturer rebates, and dealer invoice pricing for any car you’re interested in, even while perusing your local dealer’s lot.

2020 BMW M5
Look at this awe-inspiring 600-hp engine!

You can get into the 2020 M5 for $115,300 (plus freight and fees) and the more powerful 617 horsepower Competition version for $123,000, whereas the 2021 M5 will only be available in Competition trim, albeit with a slightly less expensive $121,000 listed price. Performance remains the same, which means the M5 blasts into 2021 as one of the quickest four-door sedans available anywhere. That it’s so well built, nicely equipped and easy to live with is just a bonus.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The Genesis G80 still provides a lot of style despite its years.

A perfect storm? Two issues are causing mayhem in the automotive sector this year, the first being a Canadian economy that started slowing last year, and the second more obvious problem being the current health crisis that has put so many out of work, resulting in plenty of 2019 model year vehicles still available more than halfway into 2020. Such is the case for the 2019 G80, which fortunately for you didn’t change much when moving into the newer model year.

In fact, the G80 didn’t change a heck of a lot from its previous Hyundai Genesis Sedan days, back in model years 2015 and 2016, to the four-door mid-size luxury sedan that came for the 2017 model year and the one we have now, other than some very minor styling tweaks and the addition of the mid-range turbocharged V6 being tested here. The new powerplant gives the G80 a three-engine lineup, which is exactly one for each of its three trims. Base Technology trim gets a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre V6 good for 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque, this Sport model receives a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 capable of 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and the top-line G80 Ultimate goes quickest thanks to a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 that puts out 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. All utilize an eight-speed automatic and each comes standard with all-wheel drive, so finding traction off the line is no problem at all.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s rear styling is reminiscent of some Hyundai models, particularly the previous generation Sonata.

Specs aside, the G80 is an excellent example of modern engineering done well, as are all Genesis models. It can easily keep up with its German, domestic and Japanese rivals, while it’s also attractive, impressively refined with nicely finished materials inside, filled with tech, convenience and luxury features, and wholly deserving of being slotted alongside the Mercedes E-Class/CLS-Class, BMW 5/6 Series, Audi A6/A7, Lexus GS, and other luxury-branded mid-size E-segment sedans. The only negatives worth interjecting include a lack of heritage, which was also true of entries from Lexus, Acura and Infiniti in their early days, and the model’s age. As it is, the G80 is well into six model years, which is a slightly lengthier stint than average in this class or any, but being that there aren’t too many on the road it still appears fairly fresh, plus it doesn’t hurt that its design was great looking from onset.

Model year 2021 will see an all-new G80, which looks fabulous thanks to an even more eye-catching version of the G90’s brilliant-cut diamond-shaped grille and plenty of styling cues from the intriguing new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover, so therefore mid-size luxury sedan buyers wanting to take advantage of any deals available on 2019 or 2020 models should act quickly.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A big, bold grille, sporty lower fascia, LED headlamps, 19-inch alloys… all the trappings of a mid-size luxury sport sedan.

The only changes from 2019 to 2020 was to the centre stack, the CD player being removed for some reason. It’s an odd update for a car that will only be around for one year, but it is what it is, and thus the newer model will be more appealing to those who consider CDs antiquated, and less so for those who still appreciate this format’s better sound quality (than mp3s).

This means the rest of the 2020 G80 is exactly the same as the outgoing 2019 model, which as noted is hardly a bad situation. Making either model better are factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. You can find out all about it on our 2019 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page or our 2020 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page, and while you’re there check out our configuration tool that allows you to build either car out in detail. A CarCostCanada membership will provide you with leasing and financing deal information for other models as well, plus manufacturer incentives including rebates, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands. Learn how it works now, and also enjoy the convenience of our free CarCostCanada app, downloadable from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
LED taillights come standard.

Google and Apple in mind, Android Auto and CarPlay smartphone integration comes with every 2019 and 2020 G80, that aforementioned Technology model starting at $58,000 and including LED DRLs and taillights, 18-inch alloys, proximity keyless access with a hands-free power-opening/closing trunk, genuine open-pore hardwood interior trim, a heatable steering wheel, power-adjustable tilt/telescopic steering, a 7.0-inch colour multi-info display/digital gauge package, a head-up display, a large 9.2-inch centre touchscreen, navigation, 17-speaker audio, an auto-dimming centre mirror, LED interior lighting, a big panoramic moonroof, a 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 12-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, cooled front seats, and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane change assist, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80 Sport’s two-tone interior is really eye-catching.

Both $62,000 Sport and $65,000 Ultimate trims replace the base model’s bi-xenon headlamps with full LEDs, while also adding 19-inch alloys, a microsuede headliner, and a credit card-style remote key fob, while exclusive to the Sport is a unique set of 16-way powered front Sport seats that were especially comfortable and wonderfully supportive to the lower back as well as under the knees, the former benefiting from four-way powered lumbar support adjustment, and the latter getting a power-extendable bottom cushion.

My tester featured a duo-tone light grey and charcoal black interior colour combo that was really nice looking, the two shades divided by stunning carbon-fibre glossy trim across the instrument panel and on the upper door sections, while a tasteful supply of brushed aluminum highlights added bling to key surfaces throughout the interior. Genesis even drilled out the aluminum Lexicon speaker grilles with a cool geometric design, while all of the various buttons, knobs and switches give the G80 a sense of occasion. There’s no shortage of soft-touch composites and leathers either, the Nappa leather seat upholstery particularly plush, resulting in a very refined, upscale environment.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The carbon-fibre trim really suits this sportier trim line.

While it might be hard to find hard plastics in the new G80, it’s not exactly the most advanced when it comes to digital displays. It was certainly up to speed six or so years ago, but massive advancements in high-definition, fully digital gauge clusters and widescreen centre displays have made this otherwise beautiful cabin seem a bit dated compared to most rivals. The new 2021 G80 will take care of this problem, so tech fans may want to wait, but those who don’t care about the latest gadgets will likely be fine with the current model’s mostly analogue gauge package, which is highly visible in all lighting conditions, plenty colourful at centre, and fully functional, while the previously noted head-up display was wonderfully useful and plenty advanced.

The centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is up to task too, providing an attractive graphical display for the superb Lexicon stereo noted before, not to mention the advanced parking camera with active guidelines, 360 degrees of overhead views, and various closeup angles. While the climate control system needs to be actuated via a separate interface below, when choosing a given setting, a simulated cabin graphic shows individual temperatures on the main screen, which is pretty cool.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Maybe not the most electronically advanced car in its class, but the G80 is certainly comfortable.

Amid the various knobs and buttons on the just-noted HVAC interface, an attractive square analogue clock provides a level of elegance that Genesis won’t be carrying over to the 2021 G80, unfortunately, while the CD changer in the similarly styled audio panel just below has already been deleted as mentioned earlier. Genesis provides USB and aux connectors in a lidded compartment below these as part of the lower console, right next to a wireless device charger that ideally tilts towards both front occupants.

An overhead console hovers above with handy felt-lined sunglasses storage, plus LED reading and dome lamps, powered panoramic sunroof controls, the glass of which can be shaded by pushing forward on a secondary switch. That shade is wrapped in a super soft microsuede, just like the roof liner, both sun visors, and each of the G80’s roof pillars.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s gauge package isn’t quite as advanced as some rivals.

The mid-size Genesis’ driving position is inherently good, and made even better thanks to those previously noted sport seats, while those in back get an equally spacious compartment. After setting the driver’s seat up for my long-legged, short-torso, five-foot-eight body, I had approximately eight inches ahead of my knees, plenty of legroom, about four inches from the door panel to my shoulders and hips, plus three or so inches of headroom left over, which means the majority of folks should fit in back with room to spare.

As yet unmentioned rear seat goodies include LED reading lights overhead, separate HVAC vents with separate controls housed on the back of the front console, and a pair of particularly well-made magazine pockets on backsides of the front seats, which incidentally are very nicely finished with leather (or at least it looked like leather) from top to bottom. The rear door panels are just as nicely made as those in front, by the way, while the flip-down centre armrest gets dual cupholders, as is almost always the case, plus an unusual set of three-way seat heater controls. A metal clothes hook can be found on the backside of each B-pillar too, which I find very helpful when wanting to arrive at an event without creases in my jacket.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Press a button on the climate control interface below the centre screen and individual temperature settings pop into view.

At 433 litres the G80’s trunk is quite sizeable too, but the back seats don’t fold down to accommodate longer cargo like most rivals. Still, you can stuff skis and the like into a centre pass-through, which almost makes up for the rear seats’ static status.

While the rear of the G80 is pretty well unchanged since inception, some trim details aside, the model received new headlights for 2018, plus a reworked lower front grille, slightly refreshed front and rear facias, new standard 18-inch alloys, new primary instruments, the gorgeous analogue clock and front speaker grilles mentioned before, and a new leather-wrapped, metal-clad shifter knob topping an even more impressive electronic eight-speed automatic transmission that replaced the older-tech mechanical eight-speed autobox.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A new gearshift lever tops off an entirely new eight-speed electronic transmission.

A mere tap rearward puts it into Drive and equally light push forward engages Reverse, with the centre position reserved for neutral as one might expect. The unexpected was an electronic gearbox that’s as easy to slot into gear (or out of gear) as the old-school tranny was, which is not always the case for some (I’m talking to you, Chrysler 300). Like all electronic automatics you don’t need to select Park when shutting off the ignition, as pressing the dash-mounted Engine Start Stop button will do the same thing.

A drive mode selector can be found just aft of the shift lever, with Normal, Eco and Sport selections. Eco mode really retards throttle response, which went a long way to helping the hefty sedan achieve its as-tested Transport Canada fuel economy ratings of 13.8 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.9 combined. The entry-level V6 achieves a 13.4, 9.6 and 11.7 rating respectively, whereas the V8 is thirstiest at a claimed 15.6 city, 10.4 highway and 13.2 combined.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
These 16-way sport seats are superb.

Sport mode makes a dramatic difference over the default Normal setting too, with even more satisfying results. The 3.3-litre twin-turbo’s 365 horsepower feels strong when pushed hard from takeoff, much due to each of the G80 Sport’s four 245/40R19 Continental all-season tires biting into pavement simultaneously via Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system, the car’s brilliantly quick sprints only improved upon by relentless highway passing performance.

The V6-powered G80 Sport benefits from a little less weight over the front wheels than the Ultimate with its Tau V8, which certainly benefits quickness through fast, tightly spaced curves. The G80 Sport manages these with ease, even with 2,120 kilograms pulling in the opposite directions, making the big sedan feel lighter and more agile than it should. Then again, the G80 provides one of the nicer rides in its class too, Genesis managing to be a best-of-both-worlds alternative to its European peers when it comes to quickly riding in comfort.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and nicely finished.

While most of the G80’s rivals offer more advanced features, especially in the tech department, Genesis’s mid-size offering will probably be more reliable over the long haul. Even better, it’s backed up by a five-year or 100,000-km warranty if something goes awry, covering almost every component that comes with the car. Scheduled maintenance is complimentary too, while your car will be picked up by their valet service at your home or office, saving you time and therefore money. If the G80 didn’t already have you sold at hello, some of these latter factors combine to make any new Genesis a very practical luxury choice, and worthy of your consideration.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new Mercedes-Benz A 220 looks too sleek to be a regular four-door sedan.

I’ve heard the line before. People only buy Mercedes-Benz products to flash its prestigious three-pointed star. That may be true in some cases, but with respect to the new A 220, and many other cars in its extensive lineup, it wins new luxury buyers by being best in class.

It doesn’t hurt that the A 220 looks as good as it does, but take note that at just $37,300 (plus freight and fees) the newest model in Mercedes’ wide and varied 2020 collection isn’t just for the affluent. Yes, that number is a significant $2,310 more than last year’s A 220, but it now comes with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, Canadians probably not buying enough of the 2019 front-wheel drive variants to make a business case viable moving forward. Still, Mercedes’ most affordable new model is well within reach of those not normally capable of buying into the luxury class, with this base model priced very close to fully loaded versions of mainstream volume-branded compacts.

At first sight the A 220 appears too long, low and lean to be a compact four-door sedan, but with a little research I soon found out its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase puts it slightly smaller than some mainstream compacts you likely know better, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3, while it competes directly in size and particularly in price with premium-badged sedans such as the Audi A3, Acura ILX, and new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although the Bimmer more accurately targets Mercedes’ sporty CLA-Class four-door coupe.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The subcompact luxury sedan provides a roomy interior with practical cargo carrying capacity.

The new BMW hasn’t been around long enough to collect usable sales data, and it’s hardly been the best of years for the car industry on the whole anyway, so therefore a look back to calendar year 2019 more accurately shows the A-Class and the rest of Mercedes’ small car lineup cleaning up in Canada’s compact luxury competition. Mercedes sold more than 5,000 subcompact luxury models in 2019, which included the new A 250 hatch as well as this A 220 sedan, plus the CLA-Class and outgoing B-Class (more than 300 of the now cancelled Bs were delivered last year, and another 200-plus over Q1 of 2020).

By comparison, the second-best-selling Mini Cooper, which is also a collection of body styles and mostly lower in price, found more than 3,700 Canadian buyers, whereas the Audi A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 garnered 3,100-plus new customers, the ILX almost 1,900, the 2 Series (ahead of the new four-door coupe arriving) at just over 1,200, and BMW’s unorthodox i3 EV finding 300 new owners. Incidentally, the A-Class, which was the only model in this segment to achieve positive year-over-year sales in 2019 (slightly below 14.5 percent), won over 3,632 new buyers last year alone, placing it just behind the previously noted Mini that saw its Y-o-Y sales fall by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Its sporty styling, LED headlamps and attractive detailing sets the new A 220 apart.

Certainly, the A 220’s attractive styling and approachable pricing contributed to its strong sales last year, but there’s a great deal more to the swoopy four-door sedan than good looks and price competitiveness. For starters is a knockout cabin that wows with style and hardly comes up short on leading-edge features. Most noticeable is Mercedes’ all-in-one digital instrument panel/infotainment display, that combines some of the most vibrantly coloured, creatively penned graphics in the industry with wonderfully functional systems, while housing it all within an ultra-wide fixed tablet-style frame.

These electronic interfaces are important differentiators when comparing an entry-level Mercedes to fully loaded compact sedans from mainstream volume brands like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Truly, the A 220’s lower dash and door panels aren’t necessarily made from better materials than its more common compact counterparts, respectively the Civic, Corolla, Elantra and Mazda3, but most everything above the waste comes close to matching the tactile and materials quality found in more expensive Mercedes models, like the C-Class and even the E-Class. Together with the eye-popping digital interfaces already mentioned are gorgeous stitched leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood along those door panels and across the dash, while satin-finish aluminum trim can be found all over the interior, my personal favourite application being the gorgeous turbine-like instrument panel HVAC vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s luxurious cabin is sensational.

Going back to the all-in-one primary instrument cluster and infotainment widescreen display, dubbed MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, the left-side gauge package provides a number of different display themes including Modern Classic, Sport and Understated, plus the ability to create your own personalized themes, while the layout can be modified to a numeric format speedometer in place of the traditional-looking circular one, with the rest of the display area used for other features like navigation mapping, fuel economy info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting information, etcetera.

Over on the right-side of my test model’s MBUX display were the usual assortment of centre-screen infotainment functions, like navigation (albeit with the ability to opt for an augmented reality feature that shows a front camera view displaying upcoming street names and directional indicators); audio system info including graphical satellite radio station readouts; drive settings that include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (that can also be chosen via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; a calls, contacts and messages interface; a big, clear parking camera with active guidelines; plus more, and on top of all this Mercedes provides more hands-on control of infotainment functions than any competitor.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The entry-level A 220 provides all of the style and most of the features found in pricier Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Adjustments can be made via the touchscreen itself, which is rather uncommon in the luxury class, plus you can use Mercedes’ very smart Linguatronic Voice Control system that’s easily one of the most advanced in the industry (but take note that “Mercedes” is a tad too eager to help out, always responding with a pesky “How can I help you?” when mentioning her name), or alternatively let your thumbs do the talking via a miniscule set of BlackBerry-like optical trackpads on the steering wheel spokes, or finally use the touchpad on the lower console, which is surrounded by big quick entry buttons as well. That touchpad is the best I’ve used this side of my MacBook Pro, providing intuitive responses to tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is as easy to use as dropping your right arm from the steering wheel, and didn’t cause me to divert my eyes from the road more often than necessary.

An attractive row of climate controls stretches across a smartly organized interface just below the centre display, featuring highly legible readouts and lovely knurled aluminum toggle switches, all hovering above a big rubber smartphone tray that boasts wireless charging capability. All around, the A 220 provides most everything you’ll need and a number of things you won’t, but I like the soft purple ambient lighting nonetheless.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
A fully digital gauge cluster comes as part of the new MBUX infotainment system.

The only negative I could find were the small, delicately sized and hollow feeling steering wheel stalks for the turn signals/wipers and selecting gears, but due to how well they’re made I still can’t lambaste them completely. I’m thinking they’re more about reducing mass to save on fuel and improve performance, not that they’d individually make a big difference to either. To be clear, I’ve never tested lighter or less substantive column stalks ever. In fact, the shift paddles feel heftier, but they certainly did what they needed to and won’t likely fall apart, it was just a strange decision for Mercedes to make such important hand/machine interfaces so flimsy feeling.

Even before I shifted the A 220 into gear, I was shocked at how thin the lower door panel composite was. Was this due to weight savings as well? The plastic extrusions were perfect with thin ribs strengthening their upper edges, so it wasn’t a case of cutting corners, but they didn’t feel up to Mercedes’ usual high-quality standards. Fortunately, as noted earlier, the A 220’s more visible surfaces are superb, other than the hard-composite lower centre console that might be somewhat disappointing to those that have recently spent time in one of the upper trims of the volume-branded compacts noted before, which mostly finish such areas in soft padded pleather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes does away with a traditional centre stack, but what’s left is a much more convenient dash design.

Up above is a particularly nice overhead console featuring controls for a big panoramic glass sunroof, plus LED dome and reading lights, and more. It was strange that the B and C pillars weren’t wrapped in fabric, with only the A pillars done out to premium standards, just like the mainstream cars just mentioned, but of course this isn’t totally uncommon in the luxury segment’s most basic entry-level category. At least all of components fit nicely together, with each lid and every door shutting with firm Teutonic solidity, except for the glove box lid that was particularly light in weight.

My tester’s interior was doused in a light grey and black two-tone motif, much of the grey being leather that covers both rows of seats that are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive, particularly via their side bolstering. They even included manually-adjustable lower thigh extensions that I loved. I’m not only talking about the front seats, by the way, because those in the rear outboard positions provided good comfort as well, thanks to sculpted backrests and more foot and legroom than expected, plus a decent amount of headroom.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new MBUX infotainment system is truly best in the industry.

After adjusting the driver’s seat for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight, small-build body type, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough space for my feet while wearing a pair of boots, while side-to-side roominess was good too. With three inches of airspace over my head, tall teens and larger adults than me should have no problem fitting in back, while the rear headrests also provided comfortably soft support.

Mercedes provides a fold-down centre armrest in back, but I found it too low for comfort, although it would likely be ideal for smaller sized adults or children. It comes with a duo of pop-out cupholders that clamp onto drinks well, while a set of netted magazine holders are attached to the backside of each front seat too. Each rear outboard passenger gets their own HVAC vent as well, plus just under these is a pull-out compartment complete with a small storage bin and a pair of USB-C chargers. No rear seat warmers were included in my tester, but LED reading lights could be found overhead.

Cargo shouldn’t be a problem being that the A 220’s nicely finished trunk is quite big for this class, and I really appreciated the ability to stow longer items like skis down the middle thanks to ultra-versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Folding the seats down is easy too, because Mercedes offers up a set of trunk-mounted levers.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes provides four different ways to access the MBUX infotainment system, including this well designed trackpad.

Together with everything already mentioned, this year’s A 220 comes well equipped with standard features such as LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior inlays, pushbutton start/stop, MBUX infotainment (although the base model’s display size is smaller than my tester’s at 7.0-inches for each of its two screens), a six-speaker audio system (that provided deep resonant bass tones along with nice mids and highs), a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof mentioned earlier, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus a lot more.

You may have noticed more gear in the photos, this because my test model also came with $890 worth of Mountain Grey Metallic exterior paint; $500 of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a $3000 Premium package featuring proximity keyless access, power-folding mirrors, a bigger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and the same sized centre display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice control, induction charging, auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated powered trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package that added multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; plus a $1,000 Navigation package including a GPS/nav system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality function noted before, a Connectivity package, and finally Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Comfortable, supportive and fabulous looking, the A 220’s seats are superb.

The long list of additions continue with a new (for 2020) $1,900 Intelligent Drive package boasting Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (which uses the nav system info to adjust the A 220’s speed based on road conditions ahead before the driver can even see what’s coming), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; $475 satellite radio; plus black open-pore wood inlays for $250 (walnut inlays are available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s previously noted $37,300 base price, making for an impressively equipped compact Mercedes at just $47,815 (plus freight and fees).

It was missing a lot of additional gear too, by the way, including a $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, $500 optional 19-inch alloys, a $250 heated Nappa leather steering wheel, a $1,500 head-up display unit, a $650 surround parking monitor, a $700 450-watt, 12-speaker Burmester surround audio system (which is quite the deal for this brand), a $300 garage door opener, a $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory (the base model’s is manually operated), and $1,200 worth of cooled front seats (these new for this model year).

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This big panoramic powered glass sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as the new A 220’s styling, cabin design, detailed execution and loads of features are, the brand’s century of heritage really comes through when out on the road. Despite only endowed with 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, straight-line acceleration is quite strong and even more so when set to Sport mode, at which point shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic come quickly and precisely. The car’s now standard 4Matic all-wheel drive allowed all four of the 225/45R18 Michelins below to latch onto pavement simultaneously, resulting in sharp, immediate results when my right foot was pegged to the throttle, while the little sport sedan tracked brilliantly during fast-paced highway and curving byway excursions, even in rain-soaked conditions.

Standard shift paddles add some hands-on engagement that was really appreciated when pushing hard in Sport mode, but I also found them useful for short-shifting to save on fuel. I opted for Eco mode for such situations, which provided even smoother more relaxed shifts as well as fuel economy improvements. The A 220 is rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, and while we’re talking efficiencies, last year’s front-wheel drive version didn’t make that much of a difference due to a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.7, 6.8 and 8.4 respectively, so therefore Mercedes’ choice to offer AWD as standard equipment won’t hamper your fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and refined.

It was during my usual relaxed pace of driving, with a focus on saving fuel, that I really appreciated the A 220’s excellent ride quality, impressively smooth for this class of car, but then again it’s important for me to point out that it’s never soft and wallowy. In Germanic tradition its ride is firmer than rivals from Japan, although I couldn’t imagine anyone complaining about harshness. The A 220’s hushed ambiance makes it feel even more refined and luxurious, making it ideal for isolating noisy, bustling city streets as well as toning down the sound of wind on the open road.

I must say, if my own money was on the line in this entry-level luxury segment, I’d opt for the A 220 over its four-door subcompact premium rivals, as it scores high marks in all key categories. It looks stunning and offers up what I think is the nicest interior in the class, can be had with all the features I want and need, is great fun to drive when called upon yet provides all the pampering luxury I’d ever want, and is a fairly pragmatic choice too, at least with respect to four-door sedans.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The spacious trunk benefits from a large centre pass-through for loading in longer cargo like skis.

This said I have yet to drive the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although its self-proclaimed four-door coupe body style won’t be able to offer up the same amount of rear seat headroom as the A 220, and the only other subcompact luxury competitors are the Audi A3, which has been on the market for seven-plus years with only a subtle mid-cycle makeover, plus the Acura ILX that’s just as long-in-the-tooth, although only last year it had a much more dramatic update. Still, the ILX is merely an old Honda Civic under the skin, albeit with a better powertrain and gearbox.

Whether opting for the new A 220 or one of the other cars mentioned in this review, I’d be sure to check them all out right here at CarCostCanada before heading to the dealership, mind you. Our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while the 2019 model (if still available) was available for up to $2,000 in additional incentives. Members can access information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives, and best of all is dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Find out how CarCostCanada works here, and make sure to download our free app at the Google Android Play Store or Apple App Store so you can access all this valuable info when you’re at the dealership.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI offers up a discreet, stylish look that’s as appealing to younger performance fans as it is to those that have been around awhile.

After eight long years of the sixth-generation Jetta, Volkswagen introduced a ground-up redesign for the 2019 model year and Canadian compact sedan buyers responded by boosting the model’s sales by 14 percent. That’s a good news story for VW Canada, but 17,260 units in 2019 is a far cry from the car’s high of 31,042 deliveries in 2014.

All we need do to understand this scenario more clearly is compare the VW Tiguan’s sales of 10,096 units in 2014 to the 19,250 sold in 2019 (which was actually down 10 percent from the 21,449 examples sold in 2018), and thus we see another example of crossover SUVs encroaching on the conventional car’s traditional territory.

As VW fans will already be well aware, the German brand controls more of the compact segment than the Jetta’s sales indicate on their own. Most rivals, including Honda’s best-selling Civic, Toyota’s second-rung Corolla, Hyundai’s third-place Elantra, and the list goes on, combine multiple body styles under one nameplate. This was true for VW’s fifth-place Golf for the 2019 model year too, and previously when available as a Cabriolet, but with the SportWagen being cancelled for 2020 the little hatchback moves forward with just one profile shape. Speaking of that Golf, if its 2019 calendar year sales of 19,668 units were combined with the Jetta’s aforementioned total, created one collective whole, VW would no longer sit in fifth and sixth places respectively, but instead jump past Mazda’s 21,276 unit-sales with a new compact total of 36,928 deliveries. That puts the Golf/Jetta combo mighty close to the Elantra’s 39,463 deliveries.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
LED headlamps come standard, as do “GLI” badges and unique red trim accents.

OK, I got a little carried away with numbers, as I sometimes do (just be glad I didn’t add the 3,667 Ioniq and 1,420 Veloster sales to Hyundai’s 2019 calendar year mix, or the 2,910 now discontinued VW Beetles), but you should now have a better understanding of the situation. Volkswagen continues to be a serious player in compact arena, and the Jetta is a key component of its mostly two-pronged (so far) approach in this market segment. This said, VW has done compact performance better than most of its rivals for a lot longer, with entries like the iconic Golf GTI and hyper-fast Golf R playing it out in the hot hatch sector, and the Jetta GLI being reviewed here pushing VW’s agenda amongst affordable sport sedans.

Yes, Honda deserves kudos for its long-running Civic Si (now with 205 hp) that arrived in 1985 as the CRX Si and in regular Civic form for 1988, and currently puts out a beastly compact sport hatch dubbed Type R (306 hp), which is a similar combo to Subaru’s legendary WRX (268 hp) and WRX STI (310 hp) twins, while Mazda’s less formidable yet still respectable 3 GT is in the mix (186 hp—how we miss the Mazdaspeed3, but there is recent talk of Mazda’s 250-hp turbo 2.5 with 310 lb-ft of torque improving 3 performance), but the South Koreans have recently been stepping up competition with sporty alternatives of their own, respectively including the Elantra Sport (201 hp) and Kia Forte GT (201 hp) that actually use identical powertrains and ride on the same platform architecture. While this is good news for performance fans, Ford recently nixed its fabulous Focus ST (252 hp) and sensational Focus RS (350 hp) along with their entire car lineup (sacrificed to the crossover SUV), Mustang coupe and convertible aside, showing some come and some go. Yes, there’s something to be said for honest to goodness longstanding performance heritage, and the Jetta’s three-letter GLI acronym beats all rivals excepting the GTI in the test of time, with its 1984 inception resulting in 36 years under its belt.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Special aerodynamic aids visually separate the GLI’s styling from regular Jetta models.

To its advantage, the new Jetta GLI is one good looking sport sedan. Those who might be turned off by Honda’s boy-racer Civic Si design and Subaru’s rally-ready WRX look should gravitate to the sporty VeeDub thanks to its more discreet appearance. The usual blackened exterior trim is once again joined by tasteful splashes of red accenting key areas, this latest version getting a red horizontal divider across its grille as well as big red brake calipers framed by special red trim circling each of its dark grey 18-inch wheels. Of course, the front and rear “GLI” badges are doused in bright red as well, as is a really attractive set of front fender trim pieces that boast this GLI 35th Edition’s unique designation.

As far as the GLI’s glossy black trim goes, there’s a thick strip along the top portion of the grille, plus more of the inky black treatment surrounding the lower front fascia’s corner vent bezels, painting the side mirror housings, finishing the front portion and rear portions of the roof, and coating the tastefully small rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a real looker from front to rear, and more importantly for people my age (let’s just say above 50), the type of compact sport sedan that won’t make you look like you’re trying to relive your glory days when seen behind the wheel.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Exclusive grey-painted 18-inch alloys are encircled by red pin stripes, while red callipers promise stronger standard braking power.

As expected in any performance-tuned VW, the GLI includes a well-bolstered, comfortable set of perforated leather front seats. They’re highlighted with sporty red contrast stitching and attractively patterned inserts, for a look that’s simultaneously sporty and luxurious. What’s more, the steering wheel is downright performance perfection, featuring a slightly flat bottom section and ideally formed thumb indentations, plus red baseball-like stitching around the inside of the meaty leather-wrapped rim. VW continues the cabin’s bright red highlights with more crimson coloured thread on the leather gear lever boot, plus the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the model’s “GLI 35” seat tags, as well as the identical logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless-steel sill plates.

There’s also a fair share of satin-silver aluminum trim around the cabin, including the previously noted steering wheel’s spokes, the foot pedals, various switches and accents on the centre stack and lower console, plus more. Additional trim worth noting include a small dose of fake carbon-fibre and larger sampling of piano black lacquer on the dash and upper door panels, whereas the former area is wholly soft-touch due to a premium-like composite that wraps down to the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, before this premium treatment continues to the front door uppers, inserts and armrests.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Special front fender garnishes include “GLI 35” badging.

While all of this luxury-level pampering sounds good, I’m quite certain most would-be buyer’s eyes will be find the standard digital instrument cluster even more appealing, at least at first sight. If you’ve seen Audi’s Virtual Cockpit you’ll know what I’m talking about, although VW calls theirs a Digital Cockpit. Similarly to the fancier German brand, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit includes a “VIEW” button on the left-side steering wheel spoke that transforms the cluster’s look from a traditional two-dial layout with a multi-function display in the middle to a massive MID with tiny conventional gauges below. This is looks especially good when filling the MID with the navigation system’s map, and makes it easier to glance down for directions than when on the centre display. The Digital Cockpit can do likewise with other functions, resulting in one of the more useful electronic components currently available from a mainstream brand.

The Jetta GLI’s centre touchscreen is a big 8.0-inch display boasting high-definition resolution and bright, colourful graphics with rich visual depth and contrast, while just like the primary instrument package it comes well stocked with features such as tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link smartphone integration, audio, navigation, application, driving mode and fuel-saving eco “pages”, plus finally a performance driving interface with a lap timer and more.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
LED taillights provide a bright warning to following vehicles, plus tasteful good looks.

Strangely, active guidelines are not included with the backup camera, which is a bit odd for the GLI’s top-level trim, which included an available $995 ($1,005 for 2020) Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) upgrade bundle featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This package also adds Light Assist auto high beam control, dynamic cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Lane Assist lane keeping capability.

An attractive, well-organized and easy to use three-dial dual-zone auto climate control interface sits just below the infotainment display on the centre stack. It includes switches for the GLI’s standard three-way heated and ventilated front seats, the former warm enough for therapeutic lower back pain relief and the latter helpful for reducing sweat during hot summer months, while under this is an extremely large and accommodating rubber-based wireless device charger as well as a USB-A charging port.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI’s interior combines premium-like features with some sub-mainstream materials quality.

A gearshift lever with a sporty looking metallic and composite knob and aforementioned red-stitched leather boot takes up its tradition spot on the lower console between front occupants, surrounding by an electric parking brake, traction control and idle-stop system defeat buttons, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.

Speaking of centre consoles, the overhead one above houses a handy sunglasses holder as well as switchgear for opening the big power glass sunroof that also includes an opaque fabric sunscreen with an upscale aluminum handle.

And so it should, as the GLI, starting at $32,445 plus freight and fees for the manual, or $33,845 for my as-tested DSG dual-clutch automated model, is starting to encroach into low-end premium territory. Fit, finish, materials tactile quality and overall refinement is only so-so, however, not even measuring up to VW’s own Golf GTI. It used to be that a Jetta was merely a Golf (or Rabbit) with a trunk, the latter useful for mitigating inner-city security risks, but now the two cars look totally different other than the badge on their grilles and backsides and a handful of cross-model components.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI’s instruments and infotainment are a step above most rivals.

The base 2019 Golf GTI is available from $30,845 (and when I recently checked plenty were still available in Canada, probably due to the health situation that I don’t want to name due to being negatively flagged by search engines, etcetera) and $850 less than the $31,695 entry-level Jetta GLI, but the sporty VW hatchback boasts fabric-wrapped A pillars, just like its more affordable Golf counterparts, while no Jetta, including this GLI, gets this semi-premium treatment. All of the Jetta’s hard composites below the waist, and some of them above, don’t feel all that substantive either.

Certainly, we need to factor in the Jetta’s compact status, an entry-level model for Volkswagen that doesn’t sell a subcompact car in North America, but such is not the case for its main rivals that are seeing this compact segment as a growing alternative for those who might have otherwise purchase a mid-size sedan or wagon. The fact is, rivals from Japan and Korea are packing more soft-touch luxury and premium features into their smaller cars, and winning over buyers who want to be pampered instead of punished for choosing a more environmentally conscious small car. Just get into a fully loaded Mazda3, Toyota Corolla or Kia Forte and you’ll quickly figure out what I’m talking about. They’re delivering at a high level, and deserve to attract new buyers that aren’t being gobbled up by the Civic, the Corolla and Elantra.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
This is as good as digital instrument clusters get in the mainstream volume-branded sector.

The shame is VW used to lead in small car refinement, to the point that previous Jettas were probably too good for this segment, even starting to be uncomfortably compared against the automaker’s own Audi A4. Therefore, anyone trading in their 2005–2011 fifth-generation Jetta for the current version, whether trimmed out to top-line GLI spec or not, will probably find the cabin’s finish and materials quality less than ideal.

By the way, I tested a new Forte GT recently, and have to say it does a good job of competing against old guard sport compacts like this GLI and Honda’s Civic Si, but unlike this car the Forte’s rear door panels were finished to the same high-quality, soft-touch level as those up front, whereas none of the above can be found on the GLI’s rear door panels. I can’t think of another car in this class that misses the mark so blatantly in this respect, and call for VW to step things up before it completely loses its reputation for tactile quality.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI’s 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is packed full of convenience and performance features.

This said, a set of heated outboard rear seats would’ve been much appreciated by rear passengers mid-winter, not that these aren’t offered by competitors, but once again the panel surrounding the three-way buttons was about as primitive as this class provides. The seats were comfortable and supportive, mind you, as well as attractive due to the same red stitching and perforated leather as those in the front, not to mention sculpted backrests in the outer window positions. A decent sized folding rear centre armrest includes cupholders, but unlike Jettas that came before there’s no cargo pass-through door behind for stuffing long items such as skis. This means you’ll have to lower the 40-percent side of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when four people are on board, forcing one rear occupant into the less comfortable middle seat, and making the rear seat warmer on that side redundant when that rear passenger will want it most. On the positive, the trunk is large at 510 litres, and could potentially house shorter skis diagonally as well as snowboards. Of course, the Jetta is not alone in choosing less costly 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the Golf offers the centre pass-through and therefore is the better choice for active owners.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Every new car should come with a wireless charger, and VW makes this large one standard in the GLI.

A few minutes behind the wheel and you’ll quickly forget about such shortcomings, however, as the GLI is a blast to drive. Truly, this sport sedan is one of the most enjoyable to drive within its mainstream volume-branded compact sedan class, thanks to a new 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 18 horsepower and 51 lb-ft over the GLI’s predecessor, incidentally, and due to only being available with front-wheel drive the motive wheels/tires have a habit of squealing during quick takeoffs. Certainly, there’s traction control, as noted earlier, but it comes on a bit too late to stop any noisy commotion from down below, so you’ll need to restrain your right foot in order to maintain civility and not engage any police intervention.

The GLI’s new seven-speed dual-clutch automated DSG transmission is as important an upgrade as the engine’s newfound power, and feels even faster between paddle shift-actuated gear intervals than the previous model’s six-speed unit, while gaining a taller final gear to improve fuel economy (it’s rated at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.5 combined with the six-speed manual and a respective 9.3, 7.2 and 8.4 with my tester’s A7 DSG auto).

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI’s standard power-adjustable sport seats are comfortable and supportive.

While the new GLI is nowhere near as fast as the aforementioned Golf R, or some of that model’s equivalently quick super-compact competitors such as Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s awesome EVO X (RIP), it’s more than respectable amongst mid-range sport models like the Civic Si, while making wannabe performance cars like the Mazda3 GT feel as if they’re standing still. Momentary burnouts during takeoff aside, the new Jetta GLI was unflappable when pushed hard through high-speed curving sections of backcountry two-lane roadway, even when pavement was so uneven that the car’s rear end should’ve been hopping and bopping around the road. Fortunately, unlike that top-tier Mazda3 and VW’s more pedestrian Jetta trims below that use a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI includes a multi-link setup in back, which absorbed jarring potholes and other road imperfections with ease, allowing most of the stock 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires’ contact patches to remain fully engaged with the road below. To be fair to the Mazda3, it’s surprisingly stable during such otherwise unsettling circumstances due to available AWD with G-Vectoring Plus.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Volkswagen provides a comfortable, roomy rear passenger compartment, but the tactile quality of the rear door panels is not up to par.

Back in the city, the GLI’s idle-stop system shut off the engine when the car came to a stop amid parallel parking manoeuvres. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, as it should quickly reignite the engine when lifting off the brake, but while I was purposely parked too close to the vehicle ahead in order to straighten the car out, it wouldn’t restart while in reverse. This necessitated shifting back into park and then pressing on the throttle to wake up the engine, and then shifting back to reverse before aligning the car. This is probably a software glitch, but I’d be complaining to my dealer if it persisted. Fortunately, I experienced no other instances of this happening, but remember I only live with test cars for a week at a time.

The previously noted $32,445 (for the base manual) and $33,845 (for the DSG auto) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with items not yet covered including fog lamps, LED headlights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a potent 8-speaker BeatsAudio system with a subwoofer, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and three-position memory, and the list goes on. The same goes for the 2020 model, by the way, as there haven’t been any changes except for the discontinuation of this model year-specific 35th Edition.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
At 510 litres, the Jetta’s trunk is large, but no centre pass-through means it’s not as useful as the Golf’s cargo compartment.

Speaking of model years, VW Canada will give you up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Jetta (which remained available when this review was written), while the new 2020 GLI can be purchased with $1,000 in additional incentives, although keep in mind that CarCostCanada member savings averaged $2,500 for the newer 2020 model. To learn more, see our 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page and/or 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page, where members can find out about manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could add up to even more savings. What’s more, you can now download our free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes/App store so you can have all of our important info in the palms of your hands when negotiating at the dealership, whether purchasing this Jetta GLI or any other new vehicle sold in Canada.

In the end, I can’t help but like the new Jetta GLI, even despite its less than ideal shortcomings. It looks great, takes off like a scared rabbit (GTI) when called upon, and is filled with most of the features premium car buyers are learning to expect. Yes, I’d prefer if Volkswagen improved some of the Jetta’s touchy-feely interior surfaces, but being that most owners will spend all of their time up front in the driver’s seat, it’s shouldn’t be a deal-killing issue.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

VW shows off rendering of 2021 Arteon four-door coupe update

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
While this rendering makes the refreshed 2021 Arteon appear longer, lower and wider than the existing model, we should only expect mild updates.

With the release of these swoopy artist’s renderings Volkswagen has announced the virtual world première of its updated 2021 Arteon four-door coupe will occur on June 24th, and along with scant information about the new car is the revelation of a new body style.

The blue car on the left is indeed a sport wagon, although despite having four doors plus a rear liftgate, and therefore being similar in concept to the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Volkswagen has dubbed it a Shooting Brake, which is normally a term given to a two-door wagon with a rear hatch like Ferrari’s 2011–2016 FF or the classic 1972–1973 Volvo P1800ES (although Mercedes-Benz called its four-door CLS sport wagon a Shooting Brake when it debuted for 2012, which was followed up with a 2015 CLA Shooting Brake).

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Today’s Arteon is already one of the sleekest four-door sedans in the mid-size volume-branded sector (2019 model shown).

Just like those elongated Mercs, however, the five-door VW won’t be coming to Canada or the U.S., leaving we North American with only getting the four-door fastback variant, but selling such a niche vehicle in our markets is already a risky business proposition as clearly shown in the car’s sales figures.

Despite the Arteon’s stylish sheet metal and nicely sorted interior, the slick VeeDub only found 456 buyers throughout all of calendar year 2019 (albeit deliveries only started in March), which put it in last place within the mainstream mid-size sedan class. VW’s Passat, the Arteon’s more upright, practical and affordable four-door counterpart managed to stay one position ahead with 672 deliveries last year, but bringing up the rear was nothing for Volkswagen’s Canadian division to be excited about.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
We can expect subtle changes to the 2021 Arteon’s backside as well (2019 Arteon shown).

Yes, it was the ninth year of the outgoing eighth-generation model, and therefore as long in the tooth as anything in this segment has ever been, but that not updating this important model was Volkswagen’s fault to begin with, so being last amongst conventional mid-size sedans was inevitable. Also notable, VW’s poor Passat and Arteon sales occurred well before we were facing all of the current health, social and economic problems.

It’s difficult to say whether a slowdown in Q1 2020 Arteon sales had much to do with the just-mentioned issues or was instead a self-imposed reduction of inventory ahead of the refreshed 2021 model, but either way VW only managed to sell 81 units in Canada for the first three months of this year, but the automaker’s Ajax, Ontario office would have been happy to see deliveries of the all-new Passat increase during the same quarter, the model’s 523 unit-sales nearly as strong as the entire year before.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
The current Arteon already provides one of the more impressive interiors in its class.

While it might at first appear like the Passat’s stronger Q1 sales results could be a good sign for the new Arteon, at least when not factoring in the aforementioned health, social and especially economic problems, nobody’s complaining about the 2019-2020 Arteon’s styling. In fact, it already shares many of the design cues of the new Passat. Of course, the artist’s rendering looks longer, lower, wider and leaner than today’s car, which is normal for these types of cartoon-like creations, so before getting all excited it’s probably best to visually squish the eye-popping drawing back into more reasonable proportions, and while you’re at it reduce the size of the gargantuan wheels. Once this is done the 2021 model will probably appear a lot like today’s version, other than its updated front grille and reshaped front fascia, not to mention similarly minor changes provided at the back.

The current Arteon cabin is the nicest available in the 2020 Volkswagen fleet, or at least the one offered here, and although we shouldn’t expect any radical changes VW does promise its newest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for quicker app processing, enhanced connectivity, better functionality, and improved entertainment overall.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Changes to the new Arteon’s infotainment system and other electronic interfaces should count amongst its most dramatic updates.

VW will also make its “highly assisted” Travel Assist system available, which is similar to the hands-on-the-steering-wheel, self-corrective, semi-autonomous driver assist technologies already on offer by other brands. Likewise, Travel Assist was designed for highway use, and to that effect so-equipped 2021 Arteon models will be able to apply steering, accelerating and braking inputs autonomously at speeds up to 210 km/h (130 mph), as long as the driver remains in control.

Of course, such advanced technologies could very likely add considerable sums to the price of this already expensive sport sedan, which at $49,960 isn’t exactly entry-level. This said, the Arteon’s key four-door coupe rival, the Kia Stinger, comes close to $45k in base trim and nearly $50k when loaded up, but Canadian buyers obviously believe it delivers better value as they purchased 1,569 examples last year. It’s approximate $5k discount and stronger base and optional engines, not to mention fuller load of features in all trims, would’ve likely been important differentiators, plus the South Korean model handles well, includes near-premium interior quality, and isn’t hard on the eyes.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
While the 2021 Arteon Shooting Brake would no doubt be welcomed by ardent VW loyalists, it probably doesn’t make for a good business case.

In case the current Arteon has caught your eye, you can get your hands on a 2019 example for quite a bit less than the manufacturer suggested retail price right now. In fact, a quick glance at our 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Canada Prices page shows up to $5,000 in additional incentives available, while the 2020 Arteon is being offered with zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates. Then again, a quick check of our 2019 Kia Stinger Canada Prices page will inform of additional incentives up to $5,000, while four-door coupe buyers interested in the latest 2020 Stinger can get up to $4,000 in incentives. To learn more about these savings and gain access to manufacturer rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing, read this short article about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you thousands on your next purchase of any vehicle. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out our mobile app at Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iTunes store, which is ideal for accessing all the info above while shopping. 

As for more on the 2021 Arteon, check this spot later this month and we’ll have all the most important details.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Volkswagen

CarCostCanada

Stay at home and make an Infiniti ‘Carigami’ model with your kids

Infiniti Q50 S Carigami
Infiniti has created a fun origami-style Q50 S dubbed “Carigami” that you can download and build yourself.

While the majority of Canadian provinces are starting to talk about opening up their economies, most families are still in voluntary lockdown mode. This means we’re spending a lot more time at home than ever before, which often necessitates creative parenting skills, or at least the ability to download good games and activities from the interweb.

Nissan’s luxury division Infiniti obvious understands this need, as it’s created a very cool 1:27 scale model of its Q50 S luxuriously appointed sport sedan for download. No, this activity isn’t only for those lucky enough to own a 3D printer, but rather it merely requires a regular printer (best if it’s colour, or you’d better add crayons to the list), seven sheets of paper (two for the templates and five more for instructions), a craft knife, and glue.

Infiniti Q50 S Carigami
Print off the 7-page template and instructions on the PDF file, and this 1:27th scale model of a Q50 S can be yours.

As the “Carigami” name implies, this craft combines many kids’ (and big kids’) love of all things automotive with origami, Japan’s traditional paper-folding art form. This said, its need for glue means that Carigami doesn’t follow tradition to the nth degree, with the only folded elements being the model Q50 S sedan’s tail section, its four separate wheels and tires, plus all the tabs used for gluing. Once underway, however, no one should complain about Infiniti taking creative license with origami tradition, as the Carigami model is a lot of fun to build.

For those more interested in SUVs, and most people are these days, Infiniti will follow up the Carigami Q50 S with a paper version of its much-loved first-generation FX crossover, which just goes to show the kinds of automotive enthusiasts behind this performance-oriented brand. The QX80, another fan favourite, won’t be far behind, this full-size 4×4-capable luxury utility based on the legendary Nissan Patrol (Armada here in Canada).

Infiniti Q50 S Carigami
The wheels and tires are made and attached separately.

Although the Carigami Q50 S is a first for the Infiniti brand, parent automaker Nissan previously commissioned a full-scale origami version of its unorthodox Juke subcompact crossover five years ago for that model’s fifth anniversary.

To find out more, watch a high-speed video of the Q50 S Carigami model being built, and/or download the templates and instructions to build one go to Infiniti.com, or you can download the Carigami Q50 directly here, but take note these pages are on the brand’s U.S. website, so therefore don’t use the rest of the site for pricing out into real Infiniti models for purchase in Canada should be done at Infiniti’s Canadian website. 

Infiniti Q50 S Carigami
When you’re finished with the instructions, you can give them to your kids to colour.

Then again you can also check out the latest Infiniti Q50, Q60 and Q70 cars or QX50, QX60 and QX80 SUVs right here on CarCostCanada. Here you’ll find identical pricing info as on manufacturer websites, with the same ability to configure each and every model from any brand in one familiar layout. On top of this, members have access to manufacturer rebate info, details about current financing and lease rates, plus otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating at your local retailer.

With respect to Infiniti, our 2020 INFINITI Q50 Canada Prices page shows you can save up to $5,550 in additional incentives, while buyers hoping to get a deal on a 2019 Q50 can opt for zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates. If you need or want a larger four-door luxury sedan Infiniti is still offering its Q70 and long-wheelbase Q70L as a 2019 (this will be its last year) with up to $8,000 in additional incentives. Or maybe something sportier is in the cards. Infiniti has that covered too, with its sleek Q60 personal luxury coupe. The 2020 INFINITI Q60 Canada Prices page is currently showing up to $5,350 in additional incentives, or $9,000 off of 2019s!

Infiniti Q50 S Carigami
We’ve got to say, the finished Infiniti Q50 S Carigami is pretty cool.

Infiniti’s most popular model is its recently redesigned QX50 compact crossover SUV, which is now being offered with incentives up to $5,250 for the 2019 model, $2,000 for the 2020 model, and zero-percent factory leasing or financing for the 2021. Alternatively, the larger more family-oriented three-row Q60 is providing up to $5,400 in additional incentives for the 2020 or zero-percent factory leasing or financing on 2019s. Finally, the mega QX80 is available with zero-percent leasing or financing on the 2021, up to $5,050 in additional incentives for the 2020 model, and $10,000 in incentives for 2019s.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo and video credits: Infiniti

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 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