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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

Nissan gives its best-selling Rogue a ground-up redesign for 2021

2021 Nissan Rogue
Nissan has given its redesigned Rogue a more rugged new look for 2021, and we like what we see.

The Rogue is without doubt Nissan’s most important vehicle, selling in greater numbers than any other in its lineup.

Last year the Japanese brand’s compact SUV found 37,530 Canadian buyers, compared to 18,526 for the subcompact Qashqai crossover, 16,086 for the even smaller city car-sized subcompact Kicks crossover, 12,000 for the mid-size Murano crossover, 7,719 for the compact Sentra sedan, 6,361 for the now discontinued Micra city car, 5,704 for the mid-size three-row Pathfinder SUV, 3,723 for the mid-size Frontier pickup truck, 3,342 for the mid-size Altima sedan, 2,881 for the compact Leaf EV, 2,807 for the full-size Titan pickup truck (both half-ton and 3/4-ton versions), 2,369 for the now defunct subcompact Versa Note hatchback, 1,783 for the NV200 compact commercial van, 971 for the full-size Maxima flagship sedan, 807 for the NV full-size commercial van (both cargo and passenger versions), 593 for the full-size (and real flagship) Armada SUV, 500 for the iconic 370Z sports car, and finally 53 for the nearly unbeatable GT-R super-coupe.

2021 Nissan Rogue
The new Rogue isn’t as boxy as Toyota’s RAV4, but it’s certainly more masculine looking than its predecessor.

Interestingly, the only Nissan model to lead its segment in deliveries was the Micra (RIP), with some displaying woefully poor performance on the sales charts compared to their competitors, the Sentra, Altima, Pathfinder, Frontier, Titan and full-size NV van particularly, while doing well yet not at the very top of their respective categories are the Leaf, Kicks, Qashqai and, yes, you guessed it, the Rogue.

Nissan desperately needs a hit, and while the Rogue won’t likely race past the RAV4’s comparatively (to everything else) interstellar numbers last year, selling 65,248 units to Honda’s 55,859 CR-Vs, it could rise to third by overtaking the Ford Escape’s 39,504 deliveries once calendar year 2021 is in the rearview mirror. Of course, 2020 will either be a negative blip on the sales chart radar or the beginning of a downturn, but either way there will be winners and losers throughout this year and in the years that follow, and all the changes made to the new 2021 Rogue appear to be putting it on the right side of the balance sheet.

2021 Nissan Rogue
A bolder, squarer V-motion grille is the Rogue’s standout feature.

Like it or not, rugged, blocky styling is in for modern SUVs, and soft, smooth curves are out. All we need to do is look at the aforementioned RAV4 to appreciate how true this appears to be. Fortunately for Nissan, the 2021 Rogue is gone all brazen, with a tougher look that should be very appealing in its small SUV segment.

We shouldn’t go so far as to call it aggressive, but the new Rogue definitely comes across as more assertive than the outgoing model. It gets a bolder version of Nissan’s squared off V-motion grille at the front and new black D pillars at the rear, the latter coming close to the “floating roof” concept initiated by the previously noted Maxima and Murano. This looks even better when opting for new two-tone exterior colour combinations that allow for a fully black roof. Tough looking lower body cladding muscles up its look further, enhanced by new “U-shape” bodyside panels, while the sharp looking LED tail lamps don’t deviate quite as much from those on the old model as the entirely new multi-level LED head lamps.

2021 Nissan Rogue
Partially blackened rear pillars form a floating roof effect when the optional black roof is added.

In an automotive world that almost always grows outwardly it’s refreshing to learn that this new Rogue actually arrives shorter by 1.5 inches than its predecessor, while it also slices 0.2 inches from road to rooftop. This won’t likely be noticeable inside, but the subtle dimensional shrinkage contributes to the updated SUV’s more upright look without causing it appear too chunky.

While Nissan hasn’t announced a specific off-road trim for its new 2021 Rogue, the RAV4 being the only small SUV to do so with its near-4×4-capable 2019-2020 Trail version and the even more robust TRD Off Road Package now available for the 2020 model year, it’s unfair to claim the new Rogue’s rugged image is only surface deep.

2021 Nissan Rogue
Nice detailing within the LED taillights looks sharp.

With trims featuring the brand’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, a centre console-mounted Drive Mode Selector boasts an “Off-road” setting for overcoming more challenging terrain. Don’t expect it to keep up with the old Xterra or current Armada, but be confident it will be able to make its way over protruding rocks and other moderately sized obstacles emanating from the gravel on the way to the family cabin. Nissan also provides a “Snow” mode that does similarly for slippery road/trail surfaces, while the Drive Mode Selector also features Standard, Eco and Sport settings for normal conditions, these last three being the only settings offered with front-wheel drive models.

Benefiting traction yet more, new Rogue AWD models feature a Vehicle Motion Control System that Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the Nissan Technical Centre North America Chris Reed claims will do “what a human can’t.”

“The all-new Vehicle Motion Control predicts what the driver is trying to do by monitoring steering, acceleration and braking,” says Reed. “It can then step in and help to smooth things out.”

2021 Nissan Rogue
The new Rogue provides a more upscale experience than its predecessor.

In a nutshell, Vehicle Motion Control (VMC) combines with the new Rogue’s all-wheel drive system and its Drive Mode Selector to provide four-wheel control individually, enhancing line traceability so as to smooth out curves via the braking system’s ABS. It can even apply a single brake pad in order to do so. VMC, that incorporates a chassis control module that continuously “monitors and adjusts engine, transmission, Vehicle Dynamic Control, all-wheel drive and steering functions,” is particularly useful when “driving on snowy slopes, deep snow, snow flat turning and off-road driving (such as beach or dirt trails),” confirmed a press release.

The Rogue’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system now features an electro-hydraulic controlled clutch that disseminates torque more quickly and more precisely due to its ability to predict front-wheel slippage. This improves rear torque distribution as well as greater traction and responsiveness.

2021 Nissan Rogue
A fully digital 12.3-inch gauge cluster is available.

Responsiveness in mind, a new faster-ratio rack electric power steering design is said to speed up turn-in, while a rigid six-position front suspension mounting and reworked multi-link rear suspension should go further to benefit handling.

Better road-holding matters because the new 2021 Rogue receives 11 additional horsepower and 6 more lb-ft of torque via a revised direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. This results in 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, with much of the gains coming from a mirror bore coating technique that reduces friction for better efficiency, as well as a new variable displacement oil pump, plus an integrated exhaust manifold, and finally an e-VTC intake valve.

2021 Nissan Rogue
This is the top-line 9.0-inch infotainment display atop the new tri-zone auto HVAC interface.

Nissan has long been a technology leader under the hood and within the chassis, not to mention in advanced driver assistive systems (ADAS), the new model carrying forward with its innovative Rear Door Alert system that warns the driver when something or someone may have been left in the rear seating area, while also adding new Intelligent Driver Alertness to monitor steering patterns and recommend a break when detecting drowsiness, plus Easy Fill Tire Alert to maintain ideal tire pressure.

Continuing on the ADAS theme, Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 is a suite of essential systems featuring Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist, while Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking is now standard too, this technology automatically stopping the Rogue before backing into an obstacle or worse, into a child or traffic.

2021 Nissan Rogue
Of course, wireless device charging is available.

Traffic Sign Recognition, Blind Spot Intervention and Intelligent Cruise Control with improved stop-and-go are available with the new Rogue as well, the latter feature coming as part as an upgraded ProPilot Assist hands-on-wheel partial self-driving system. The new Rogue’s safety kit is improved further with 10 standard airbags instead of just six, plus extended crumple zones to protect occupants during impact. Yet more extras include new four-door Intelligent Key that lets driver and passengers open all four doors, this being part of the updated SUV’s “Family Hub” group of features that also adds tri-zone auto climate control.

Now that we’re inside focused on the centre stack, the standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen display (already sizeable for the segment) is optionally 1.0-inch larger, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard no matter which trim is chosen, with Google Maps and Waze featuring voice recognition also available.

2021 Nissan Rogue
The stubby little electronic shifter allows for storage space below.

Even more advanced, the new Rogue sports a customizable 12.3-inch “Digital Dashboard” instrument cluster ahead of the driver, which totally replaces the more conventional instruments with a crisp, colourful high-definition TFT display, although take note that the base model still incorporates a 7.0-inch multi-information display between its dials, which not only is 2.0 inch bigger than the outgoing model’s base cluster, but is fully customizable too. What’s more, a massive 10.8-inch head-up display can be projected onto the windshield so all critical info is as easy as possible to see without taking one’s eyes from the road.

All of this impressive gear is housed in an interior that looks much nicer than its predecessor and most rivals, with plenty of premium-level pliable surfaces as well as nicer available Prima-Tex leatherette and quilted semi-aniline leather upholsteries, in no-cost optional Graphite, Grey or Tan. Better wood grains and metallic trims add to the upscale ambiance, while supporting driver and front passenger is a set of NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats that feature standard front heaters.

2021 Nissan Rogue
NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats are designed to be amongst the most comfortable in the compact SUV class.

The steering wheel is also heated in base trim, while rear outboard seat warmers are available, as is two-position driver-side memory. A surround parking camera system dubbed Intelligent Around View Monitor is also available, this useful feature combined with the previously noted rear driver assistance systems.

Also notable, Nissan’s adoption of a fully electronic transmission allows for a smaller, shorter and generally smarter electronic shift lever, while thanks to this there is plenty of space for stowing personal items below the “floating” centre console.

2021 Nissan Rogue
No shortage of premium-level options in the new Rogue.

Storage in mind, Nissan still hasn’t given the Rogue a rear centre pass-through or 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats despite some competitors anteing up with this much more convenient option. This allows users to stow longer items, such as skis, down the centre while rear passengers benefit from the more comfortable, optionally heatable rear window positions, but this said Nissan has provided one-touch automated folding with “an available remote fold feature” for added convenience. The Rogue’s innovative Divide-n-Hide cargo system is also available once again, as is a powered opening/closing and Motion Activated Liftgate that allows access merely by kicking one’s foot under the rear bumper.

The 2021 Rogue is once again available in three trims, starting with the base S that’s followed by SV and Platinum models. Deliveries will begin this fall, with pricing expected closer to the model’s launch.

2021 Nissan Rogue
Cargo capacity has always been a Rogue strongpoint.

As intriguing as the new 2021 Rogue might appear, some would rather benefit from the steep discounts currently being offered by Nissan Canada and its dealer organization. In fact, a quick check of our 2020 Nissan Rogue Canada Prices page showed up to $5,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing, which is a staggering savings for an SUV in this price class. To learn about all the available manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing opportunities, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on any new model, find out how a CarCostCanada membership will put money back in your wallet, and while you’re at it make sure to download our free mobile app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Nissan

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The good looking CX-5 was available with diesel-power in new Signature trim for 2019, but it has since been cancelled for 2020.

No sooner did Mazda bring its long awaited CX-5 Diesel to market and it’s now gone, or at least it doesn’t appear to be coming back for the 2020 model year or anytime in the near or distant future. As it is, their SkyActiv-D (Diesel) powerplant didn’t catch on with enough CX-5 customers, and despite only being available for 2019 (and still possible to find as a new vehicle from Mazda retailers at the time of writing) can no longer be found on the brand’s retail website.

As for its diesel engine program, it’s remotely possible Mazda may once again offer a compact or mid-size B-Series pickup truck here like it does with its Isuzu-based BT-50 in Asian, Middle Eastern, African, plus Central and South American markets (although that truck uses a 3.0-litre four-cylinder Isuzu diesel), the potential volume of such vehicles sold by Toyota, GM, Ford, and to some extent Nissan (we’ll see if the new Frontier is able to claw back neglected and therefore lost market share when it finally goes on sale) no doubt tempting, although I highly doubt it fits within their near-premium, sport-luxury North American strategy (the interior looks impressive though). Thus, we’ll probably see a greater focus on SkyActiv-G (Gasoline) technology and, who knows, maybe even a hybrid or two now that they’ve unveiled a new EV at the most recent Tokyo motor show.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The 2.2L SkyActiv-D engine provides plenty of torque, yet not as much as the $5k less expensive 2.5L turbo SkyActiv-G engine, whereas the latter is much more powerful.

Right now you have the opportunity to purchase one of the last handful of new 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel (or SkyActiv-D) SUVs available until they’ll only come up once in a while on the pre-owned market (and diesel owners tend to keep their cars for longer than average, so don’t hesitate if you want one sooner than later). Most buyers in this class never knew a turbo-diesel option was even available last year, despite Mazda’s SkyActiv-D being a much-anticipated new option for years amongst the engine-type’s faithful. It took a lot longer to become reality than Mazda originally planned, probably because of the fallout ensuing from Volkswagen’s 2015 Dieselgate scandal, and possibly due to little marketing fanfare only lasted a single model year. Its departure has stunned a number of diesel fans that have made their outrage known on social media, but it hasn’t even caused a buzz from the majority of Mazda owners that, as noted, didn’t even know what they were missing.

If Mazda had asked me, I would have told them not to bother with the diesel, because oil burners are now only appreciated in trucks and sometimes SUVs here in the North American markets, particularly if they’re off-road oriented. For instance, a torque-rich diesel makes sense in Jeep’s 4×4-ready Wrangler and therefore should gain some reasonable traction despite its outrageous $7,395 price tag (and that’s not even including the $1,795 required for the eight-speed automatic), but GM recently tried pulling the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon’s turbo-diesel over to its compact Equinox to little effect (and even tried a diesel within its car lineup). The fact Toyota, possibly the one manufacturer capable of pulling off a successful diesel option in their Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner or Sequoia (not to mention the Land Cruiser in the U.S.), isn’t even trying says a lot, but we should nevertheless give Mazda high marks for bravery.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Signature trim provides LED fog lights and unique 19-inch alloy wheels, while all CX-5s get LED headlights.

Unlike VW, which has now abandoned diesel-power altogether, Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine actually met Canada’s strict emissions regulations for the 2019 model year, which shows that it’s cleaner and greener than any oil burner offered by the Germans, all of which killed off their diesels in our market soon after the aforementioned Dieselgate kafuffle. Mazda’s diesel would have no doubt passed 2020 regulations as well, being as they haven’t changed, but now this achievement hardly matters.

Rather than blather on about a diesel-powered 2019 CX-5 you might be able to get your hands on if you’re lucky, I’ll instead give you a quick rundown of both 2019 and 2020 models with the various model year changes. If you can get into a 2019 model, whether diesel or gasoline powered, you’ll benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, incidentally, whereas the 2020 model only has about $1,000 on the hood. You can find out more about such money-saving details on our 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page or 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page, by the way, and after that become a CarCostCanada member to take advantage of all the savings. We inform you about manufacturer rebates, manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could very well save you thousands, plus more, so make sure to find out how it works and then download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Great looking LED taillights are even more enticing at night.

Looking back at our just-mentioned 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page immediately shows that the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel SkyActiv-D engine is only available with the top-tier Signature trim line for $45,950 (plus freight and fees). Signature trim was entirely new to the CX-5 for the 2019 model year, and uniquely pulled Mazda’s compact crossover SUV closer to the premium brand status than any other mainstream model in this class, other than maybe Buick that’s long spanned the divide between volume and luxury.

Additional 2019 CX-5 trims include the entry-level GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive (FWD) or $29,850 with all-wheel drive (AWD), the second-rung GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the former top-tier GT (Grand Touring in the U.S.) that starts at $37,450 before topping out at $39,450 when upgrading to its 2.5-litre turbocharged SkyActiv-G (gasoline) engine. Of note, GT and Signature trims comes standard with Mazda’s i-Activ AWD.

The CX-5 Signature, standard with the just-mentioned 2.5-litre turbo gasoline powerplant for $40,950, plus available with the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already nicely equipped CX-5 GT by adding features such as LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital primary gauge cluster, a cleaner looking frameless centre mirror, real Abachi hardwood trim on the dash and door panels, as well as dark brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Signature trim adds Nappa leather upholstery and real hardwood trim on the dash and door panels.

The Signature pulls plenty of features up from the GT too, including front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlights, LED fog lamps, power-folding exterior mirrors, proximity keyless access, traffic sign recognition, two-zone auto climate control, a navigation system, 10-speaker audio with integrated satellite radio, a universal garage door opener, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, and more, while leather upholstery in black or no-cost white makes the GT plenty luxurious all on its own.

Speaking of luxury, the CX-5 comes with a few finishings more likely to only be found in premium offerings, such as cloth-wrapped A pillars, premium-like padded cabin surfaces on the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console edges, door uppers front and back, and armrests all-round, while the CX-5 also boasts a plenty of brushed aluminum trim bits all over the interior, some even upgraded with knurled edging for a particularly impressive look. It’s fairly upscale switchgear from a mainstream brand, making me wonder whether Mazda will eventually try to lift itself up into premium territory in price as well as quality.

To this end, the SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel suits an upwardly mobile brand like Mazda better than some others, being that diesels have long been the stuff of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, plus more recently Jaguar and Land Rover. I’d be remiss not to mention Volkswagen again, because not too long ago oil burners made up more than half of their Canadian sales, but now all of the just-noted German brands are on a different trajectory, embracing plug-in electric mobility at a much greater development cost and no sure promise of profits (even mighty Tesla had never managed more than two sequential quarters of profits as of this review’s publication date).

As for Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine, it only produces 168 horsepower, but then again it puts out a very strong 290 lb-ft of torque. Such low horsepower, high torque ratios are par for the course when it comes to diesels, by the way, but it’s not like the CX-5 Signature’s standard 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G engine is without merits. Count them, 227 gasoline-fed horses and a grand total of 310 lb-ft of torque when said gasoline is 93 octane or higher. When cheaping out at the pump you can expect the same torque yet only 250 horsepower, but that’s still an impressive number for this class. What’s more, the 2020 version of this engine is capable of an even more satisfying 320 horsepower, which will make the upcoming 2021 Mazda3 AWD, just announced to receive this powertrain as an option, a serious sport sedan rivalling true luxury brands.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The nicely laid out centre stack includes high-quality controls within easy reach.

I’ve now spent at least a week with all second-generation CX-5 engines mated to the model’s all-wheel drivetrain, and can happily say the latter is well worth the extra expense when compared to the compact SUV’s base 2.0-litre four, unless fuel economy is the driving force behind your decision. This is where the twin-turbo SkyActiv-D trumps its stable mates, garnering a Natural Resources Canada rating of 8.9 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 8.4 combined compared to the larger and more potent 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating. Yes, the diesel is better, but is it really $5,000 better? That’s a question you’ll need to ask yourself before plunking down the significant chunk of change needed to buy one.

Another consideration is the well-equipped CX-5 GT noted before, that for $37,450 provides most of the Signature’s premium-like features as well as a more fuel-friendly 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder in base trim. That smaller engine makes a reasonably strong 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, but its expected fuel economy is nearly as good as the diesel at 9.8 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 9.0 combined, whereas the same engine found in lesser trims with front wheel drive can achieve almost identical claimed fuel economy at a respective 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The infotainment system is controlled by this stylish knurled metal knob and surround buttons.

I spent a week in a 2019 CX-5 GT outfitted with the entry-level powerplant and its standard all-wheel drivetrain last year, and walked away very satisfied with its fuel-efficiency/performance compromise, not to mention its luxurious surroundings. Then again, more recently I spent a whopping three months with a newer 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo-equipped 2020 CX-5 Signature and was much happier, at least with its performance and even more upscale interior, while I was also fine with its fuel economy considering the performance at hand (and particularly at foot). You’ll see a detailed review of this model shortly, but being that the review I’m current writing is about a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 Signature, I’ll only say, if it was a case of needing to purge an engine in order to make this compact SUV more profitable, Mazda got rid of the right one.

I should make clear that you could very well save a great deal more than the claimed rating when living with a SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 than at the wheel of the more potent SkyActiv-G model, because most drivers will be tempted to drive the sportier feeling gasoline variant faster. I found myself more relaxed and easy-going when behind the wheel of the non-paddle-shifter-equipped diesel than the top-line gasoline model, a factor that could also prevent potential speeding tickets with some owners. What’s more, diesel pump prices are less volatile than those for gasoline, and more often than not cheaper too.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The driver’s seat is extremely comfortable and driving position very good.

Don’t get me wrong, as the diesel delivers some significant torque off the line, and it made haste during highway passing too, but it can’t provide the level of sportiness offered by the more formidable gasoline-fed turbo-four, and thanks to the relatively quiet yet still noticeable rattle-and-hum heard ahead of the engine firewall, the diesel sounds more like a truck than the gasoline variant too. Depending on your leanings, this will be a positive or negative, while all should appreciate the added grip through the corners brought about by the Signature’s 19-inch alloy wheels.

The CX-5’s six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging without the aforementioned paddles, and yes six forward speeds doesn’t sound as advanced as the various eight-speed, nine-speed and continuously variable transmissions being offered by others, but along with providing snappy shifts when pushing hard and smooth intervals when driving in a more relaxed state, Mazda’s SkyActiv-Drive gearbox has been very dependable when compared to some of the just-noted challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent.

Together with the second-gen CX-5’s impressive cornering prowess, all examples I’ve driven have delivered a comfortable ride. They’ve been a tad firmer than some of their Asian and domestic competitors, due to Mazda’s performance-focused corporate credo, but this has never interfered with suspension comfort. Then again, the CX-5’s fully independent suspension is more responsive than most rivals, especially when coursing down a winding mountain road, while it also provides a level of high-speed confidence on the freeway that’s not available to the same degree from some compact SUV challengers.

Speaking of best-in-class, the CX-5’s 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks make its cargo compartment more convenient than the majority of competitors too, while release levers mounted near the rear hatch opening allow the seats to lower themselves automatically, thus adding even greater ease to the loading process.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
A 20/40/20-split rear seatback and auto-folding levers make the CX-5’s cargo compartment ultra-convenient.

After numerous stints behind the wheel of various CX-5 trims, I can easily recommend Mazda’s compact SUV, but I won’t try to tell you which engine you should purchase. I can say, however, you’d better act fast if you like the sound of the brand’s SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel, because they’re now few and far between, and soon won’t be available at all.

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

Hyundai gives 2021 Santa Fe dramatic new updates

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The refreshed 2021 Santa Fe delivers big on bold, with a wide new grille design that’s bound to stir up conversation.

Hyundai Canada has been a bit confusing with respect to its seven-passenger SUVs over the years, first offering the 2007–2013 Veracruz, then dubbing their 2014–2019 three-row entry as the Santa Fe XL, and finally giving the best of the lot the Palisade nameplate for 2020.

Hyundai’s largest SUV now offers up a distinctive premium-level look for the brand and near luxury levels of refinement, and has therefore received plenty of positive reviews and achieved good traction on Canada’s mid-size SUV sales chart. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to design, execution and pricing, something the smaller two-row mid-size Santa Fe has been doing for a very long time. Still, after two model years of availability, the fourth-generation Santa Fe will receive dramatic a mid-cycle makeover.

It’s difficult to say what might have prompted Hyundai to update its top-selling Santa Fe so thoroughly after just two model years, but a sizeable 21-percent pre-pandemic drop in Canadian sales from 24,040 units during calendar year 2018 to 18,929 deliveries through 2019 wouldn’t have helped the situation, despite an almost 9-percent gain in the U.S. during the same 12 months (the Santa Fe was trending downward toward the end of the year). Some of that negativity could’ve been the Palisade’s introduction, which would have naturally eliminated most three-row Santa Fe XL sales, not to mention a gradual phase-out of the XL as the 2019 calendar year ended, but either way the popular model’s sales have slipped in recent years (it suffered a 15-percent drop the year before). 

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
A sportier looking version with grey lower body cladding and a unique grille insert shows that Hyundai plans to modify the exterior design between trims.

Of course, Canada’s sales wouldn’t have caused a giant multination like Hyundai to completely rethink the design of a model that’s not only manufactured in the U.S., but also Korea and China, and serves myriad markets around the world. Nevertheless, the changes are significant, with a unique new extended grille that reaches right out to each corner of the frontal fascia, the change meant to accentuate the SUV’s width and provide a “well-balanced stance,” said Hyundai in its press release.

“We modernized the New Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” commented SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre. “The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”

Interestingly, the new grille’s “signature geometric patterned inlay” is different depending on the photo shown, but Hyundai’s release didn’t explain why. The version with body-colour painted lower trim included a grille insert with seven rows of isosceles trapezoid shapes, whereas the SUV with darker grey-coloured lower bumpers and rocker panels appeared to provide better aeration to its engine through bigger octagonal vent openings similar to those used on today’s Santa Fe. Is one a sport grille and the other for a top-line luxury model like today’s Ultimate? Or possibly active grille shutters have something to do with the design. We should learn more as updated info becomes available closer to model’s launch.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai has updated much of the new 2021 Santa Fe’s rear design as well.

Unfortunately Hyundai has only provided nine exterior photos to tease our collective imagination, 2021 Santa Fe release, although it’s clear that both receive the brand’s new T-shaped signature LED Daytime Running Lights, found in both the lower grille extensions and headlamp clusters above. Each T’s outer tip visually continues rearward along the new Santa Fe’s beltline before transitioning into a set of redesigned wraparound LED tail lamps, while thicker flat-planed wheel arches add a stronger look. These frame sizeable 20-inch alloy wheels boasting a seven-spoke geometric design on the two Santa Fe trims revealed.

From its backside, the new Santa Fe gets yet more horizontal styling details to highlight its wide stance, such as a narrow light bar that connects the just-noted tail lamps, while down below on the bumper a thin reflector strip does likewise. A larger, wider rear vent cutout can be found under that, plus a new metallic skid plate, all of which is dubbed “a unique three-layer look” by the South Korean brand.

While Hyundai hasn’t provided any photos of the renewed 2021 Santa Fe cabin, it’s shared some details in its press release that helps us understand what we might expect. Let’s keep in mind that today’s 2019-2020 fourth-gen Santa Fe is already one of the most luxurious two-row crossover SUVs on the Canadian market, at least in its mainstream volume-branded sector, but Hyundai says the new version gets even “more space, comfort, and convenience,” while adding “a new level of luxury with every component finished in premium soft-touch materials.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The centre stack and lower console has been totally redesigned for 2021.

In its press release, Hyundai goes into more detail by saying that the Santa Fe’s updated centre console “sits high, giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” while all its buttons, knobs and switches are “centered for intuitive and ergonomic use.” Additionally, like with the aforementioned Palisade, the new Santa Fe’s redesigned lower centre console receives a quad of buttons for shift-by-wire gear selection, replacing the traditional shifter. Although Hyundai didn’t provide a photo, we saw one on the new model’s press page, and figure that it’s probably what we’ll soon see. It looks the same as the Palisade’s instrument panel and console, so we’ve included that image here for you to see.

The new gear interface includes an extension on the right featuring a new Terrain Mode dial selector with premium-like knurled metal sides. This enhances the performance of the Santa Fe’s HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system with modes for overcoming slippery conditions such as Sand, Snow and Mud, plus it also includes Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart modes, the latter for intuitively recognizing and automatically responding to one’s personal driving style. Five additional buttons allow for quick adjustment to various driving and parking camera controls.

These new drive controls are positioned just underneath two rows of nicely organized switches, the silver one on top for modulating the bigger, wider 10.25-inch AVN (audio, video, navigation) high-def centre touchscreen, and the lower one for the dual-zone HVAC system. Both rows feature more knurled metallic knobs for an upscale look that most likely continues throughout the cabin almost everywhere else, or at least this is true for the current Santa Fe.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
2019 and 2020 Santa Fe models are still available, with tempting discounts or zero-percent finance and leasing plans.

Of note, the Santa Fe holds Hyundai Canada’s most enduring SUV nameplate, having originally gone on sale for the 2001 model year. Now, 20 years later it’s one of the most popular models in its class, and regularly searched here at CarCostCanada. While we have no information on the 2021 Santa Fe yet, we do have a 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page that is currently showing up to $3,000 in additional incentives for those wanting to purchase now, while those that find a 2019 model can access zero-percent leasing and financing rates.

Additionally, take note that Hyundai Canada is offering zero-percent leasing and financing rates on their 2020 Venue, the 2020 and 2019 Kona Electric, and the conventionally powered 2019 Kona, 2019 Tucson, 2019 Nexo (a non-plug-in hydrogen-powered electric), while up to $1,000 in additional incentives is available with the 2020 Kona and Palisade SUVs, and just like with the 2020 Santa Fe there’s up to $3,000 in incentives when opting for the 2020 Tucson.

Learn more about getting a CarCostCanada membership by checking out our “How Does It Work” article. Here you’ll find how you can access all of the above and more, including manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that could put thousands back into your wallet, plus make sure to download the new CarCostCanada mobile app in iTunes or Google Play stores.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Hyundai

CarCostCanada

Toyota Venza comes back from six-year hiatus with hybrid electric power

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will bring back its Venza nameplate for 2021, but it will be a taller more SUV-like crossover than the previous version.

Sometimes automakers make choices that don’t seem to make much sense at the time, but for reasons we outsiders will never know, vehicles get cancelled that really should have lived on.

The 2009–2015 Venza was one such vehicle, a five-occupant mid-size crossover SUV that, while a bit more wagon-like than utility, due to Toyota already offering its rugged, truck-based, off-road capable five-passenger 4Runner, nevertheless filled an important void in the brand’s North American lineups.

Thanks to fairly good initial sales, Toyota would’ve arguably found more traction if it had chosen to bring back a redesign after four to five or years or so, rather than cancel it after six. At least the Japanese brand has a recognizable nameplate to fall back on now that it’s ready to reenter one of the more profitable auto segments. The new Toyota Venza will therefore launch in Canada as a 2021 model, starting this summer. 

While standard with all-wheel drive, more unexpectedly is the announcement of a standard hybrid drivetrain. This follows Toyota’s commitment to electrify its entire lineup by 2025, and therefore the new Venza will be joined by a wholly redesigned 2021 Sienna that will only be available with a hybrid electric drivetrain as well.

2009 Toyota Venza
The original 2009-2016 Venza was ahead of its time.

Additional Toyota vehicles sold with the automaker’s full hybrid drive system include the now legendary Prius, also with available with new AWD-e four-season capability, plus the new Corolla Hybrid, the Camry Hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid, and the Highlander Hybrid, while the Prius Prime offers plug-in, 100 percent electric (EV) motive power for short distances at city as well as highway speeds, plus last but not least is the Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell-powered EV.

Since the first-generation Venza was discontinued, Toyota hasn’t offered a two-row, five-passenger crossover SUV in the mid-size class. As noted the iconic 4Runner remains a 4×4-capable off-roader competing more directly with Jeep’s Wrangler and soon Ford’s new Bronco, so it won’t attract the same kind of soft-roader clientele. Ford in mind, its Edge will be one of the Venza’s direct competitors, while the even more popular three-row Explorer will continue to duke it out against Toyota’s recently redesigned Highlander. Of note, the Edge was the best-selling mid-size SUV in calendar year 2019 thanks to 19,965 sales, compared to the Highlander that only found 13,811 new Canadian owners. What’s more, Ford sold 29,632 Edge and Explorer models collectively last year, and that impressive sales lead doesn’t even factor in that 2019 was a terrible year for the Explorer due to Ford’s slow rollout of the all-new 2020 version. Ford claimed that production issues were at fault, but either way year-over-year Explorer sales were down 47 percent plunge in Canada during 2019, so we can expect the disparity in Ford’s mid-size SUV sales lead to grow even more in 2020 (overall sale will be down, however, due to COVID-19).

2021 Toyota Harrier
The 2021 Toyota Harrier looks very similar to the new Venza.

As of December 31, 2019, five two-row mid-size SUVs sold better than the Highlander in the Canadian mid-size SUV segment. The Edge was followed by Hyundai’s Santa Fe (which is now available solely as a five-passenger model due to the new three-row Palisade) that found 18,929 new customers last year, whereas Jeep’s Grand Cherokee attracted 18,659 new owners in 2019. Kia’s Sorento (now also sold with just two rows thanks to Kia’s new Telluride) also beat Highlander sales with 16,054 deliveries down the road during the same 12 months, while Chevy’s all-new Blazer sold 15,210 units last year. Nissan only sold 12,000 Muranos in 2019, but when this model finally gets a redesign it will probably find more takers than the three-row Highlander too, so it’s clear that the new 2021 Venza critically important for Toyota.

Toyota is taking a significant risk by only offering a single hybrid drivetrain, particularly because this choice will undoubtedly make the Venza more expensive to build and sell than rivals’ gasoline-powered counterparts, but it nevertheless should be well received by those wanting to save fuel and reduce pollutants. A recent spike in fuel prices may make some Canadians more open to spending more on a hybrid powertrain, but even with pump prices higher now than in recent months they remain relatively low when compared to the last couple of years.

There should be no fears about Toyota hybrid reliability, mind you, as the brand initiated the entire market segment with its first-generation Prius in 1997 (in 2000 as a 2001 model here in Canada) and garnered an enviable reputation for near bulletproof dependability for all of its various hybrid-electric drivetrains.

1999 Toyota Harrier
The original 1999 Toyota Harrier looks almost identical to the Lexus RX 300 of the same era.

No Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy figures have been announced yet, but Toyota estimates the new 2021 Venza to manage a combined city and highway rating of 5.9 L/100km, which will make it the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. Of note, the brand employs active grille shutters in order to minimize drag, aiding fuel economy at highway speeds.

The original Venza shared its platform architecture with the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Toyota Harrier, amongst other Toyota/Lexus products such as the Camry and Highlander. The Harrier was even more closely aligned with our Lexus RX (particularly the first-generation Harrier that was barely disguised when it debuted as the 1999 Lexus RX 300). Over the five-plus-year period that Toyota didn’t offer the Venza in Canada, covering 2016 until today, a third-gen Harrier came and went in the JDM, but now that we have photos of both the fourth-gen Harrier and the new 2021 Venza it’s easy to see the similarities between these two vehicles.

Toyota will use its well-proven 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid powertrain for the new 2021 Venza and upcoming 2021 Sienna, this drivetrain also powering the Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid (as well as the Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. market). The powertrain’s combined system output is 219 horsepower, making it identical to the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid, although more powerful than the Camry Hybrid that only puts out 208 hp, and not as potent as the new 2020 Highlander Hybrid that makes a total of 240 hp.

2015 Toyota Harrier
A version of this 2015 Toyota Harrier could’ve been our Venza if Toyota had decided to keep the model in the North American markets.

The new Toyota Hybrid System II drivetrain incorporates a lighter lithium-ion battery that improves efficiency as well as performance. Like the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid, the Venza receives two electric motors that provide maximum torque almost immediately at takeoff. The rear motor provides motive power to the rear wheels, which Toyota calls Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. The rear-mounted motor only engages when the back wheels experience slippage, at which point the drive system can appropriate up to 80 percent of system torque to the wheels behind. This said the system defaults to front-wheel drive so as to minimize fuel usage, and only uses its rear wheels when necessary.

Speaking of fuel savings, the Venza includes an Eco mode that “changes the throttle and environmental logic” to enhance overall efficiencies, states Toyota in a press release, while Normal and Sport modes (the former “ideal for everyday driving” and the latter sharpening “throttle response”) also come standard, whereas an EV mode allows limited use of full electric motive power at “low speeds for short distances,” just like Toyota provides with its other non-plug-in hybrid models.

2021 Toyota Venza
The new 2021 Venza offers slick, premium styling.

Toyota claims the new 2021 Venza’s regenerative braking system, which captures otherwise lost electricity caused by kinetic brake friction and then reroutes it to the model’s electrical system, provides better control than in previous hybrid generations, and in fact can be used for “downshifting” via the sequential gear lever’s manual shift mode. Each downshift increases the regenerative system’s braking force in steps, which “fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas,” says Toyota, while the hybrid system also benefits ride comfort by “finely controlling the drive torque to suppress pitch under acceleration and deceleration.” Toyota calls this differential torque pre-load, and it’s particularly useful when taking off from a corner or managing curves on both normal and slippery road surfaces. This feature also aids steering performance at higher speeds, plus it improves straight-line stability and controllability on rougher road surfaces. Additionally, Toyota incorporates new Active Cornering Assist (ACA) electronic brake vectoring into the Venza so as to minimize understeer and thus improve handling yet further.

The new 2021 Venza is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K) platform that also underpins the 2018–present Camry, 2019–present Avalon, 2019–present RAV4, 2020 Highlander, and the redesigned 2021 Sienna, not to mention the 2019–present Lexus ES and upcoming Lexus NX and RX replacements. In a press release Toyota states that the TNGA-K architecture helps the Venza deliver an “intuitive driving experience” with “greater driving refinement,” including “comfortable urban and highway performance” and “predictable handling, plus low noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).” The new Venza features extensive high-strength steel for a more rigid body structure that helps improve its front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s ride quality and handling, plus its overall safety.

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will offer a fully digital gauge cluster in top trims.

The new base Venza LE rides on an 18-inch set of multi-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, whereas XLE and Limited trims arrive standard with a set of 19-inch multi-spoke super chrome finished alloys.

Inside the cabin, the near top-line Venza XLE and the fully-loaded Limited model get advanced touch-sensitive capacitive controls on their centre stack instead of the LE’s physical buttons, although you’ll probably notice the big 12.3-inch centre infotainment touchscreen first. This said even the base model’s 8.0-inch centre display is big for an entry-level model.

The Venza’s larger upgraded infotainment system receives a 1,200-watt, 12-channel, nine-speaker (with sub) JBL audio system that Toyota claims to be “sonically gorgeous,” plus embedded navigation with Destination Assist comes standard too. The new nav system features switchable driver or front passenger operation, while both systems include smartphone integration from Apple CarPlay, which comes complete with its Siri voice control system, as well as Android Auto with its Google Assistant, while Bluetooth wireless connectivity is also included.

2021 Toyota Venza
A large 12.9-inch infotainment touchscreen will make the Venza ultra advanced.

Advanced technologies in mind, the Venza will make a fully digital instrument cluster available in upper trims, not to mention a 10-inch colour head-up display that will project key information, like vehicle speed, the hybrid system’s details, and TSS 2.0 safety and driver assist functions, onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, while an electronic rearview mirror with an auto-dimming function plus a HomeLink garage door opener will provide a clearer rear view, which will be especially helpful when rear passengers and/or luggage is interrupting rearward vision. The electronic rearview mirror only needs the flick of a switch to go from conventional to digital operation.

When moving up to Limited trim, parking lot safety is further improved via a 360-degree bird’s-eye view from a surround camera system that Toyota calls its Panoramic View Monitor. The standard camera gets “projected path” active guidelines as well as an available “rear camera cleaning system [that] sprays washer fluid to clear away water droplets, mud, snow, and snow-melting road treatments from the lens,” says Toyota.

Wireless phone charging is another area Toyota leads most rivals, so it’s no surprise the Venza makes this handy feature available, while additional options include ventilated front seats, proximity Smart Key for all four doors plus the tailgate (the latter also providing hands-free powered operation), plus more.

2021 Toyota Venza
Upper trims receive touch-capacitive controls on the centre stack.

More in mind, new “Star Gaze” is a fixed electrochromic panoramic glass roof that can instantly switch between transparent and frosted modes by flicking a switch on the overhead console. Toyota claims the frosted mode “brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight, giving the cabin an even more open, airy, and inviting feeling.”

What’s more, each Venza trim comes standard with Toyota’s TSS 2.0 suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features such as pre-collision system and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, and full-speed adaptive cruise control.

As for interior roominess, we can expect the Venza’s passenger compartment to be similar in size to the first and second row of the new Highlander that as noted earlier shares underpinnings, which should make it more accommodating than the current RAV4. It’s possible to carry up to 1,027 litres (36.2 cubic feet) of cargo behind the rear seats, which is oddly 32 litres (1.1 cu ft) less than what you’ll find in a compact RAV4, that model good for 1,059 litres (37.4 cu ft) of dedicated cargo space, while the Highlander provides 1,010 litres (35.6 cu ft) more space when its third row laid flat.

Pricing for the 2021 Venza will be announced closer its summer arrival date.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota

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 Mazda CX-3 GT Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Mazda refreshed its CX-3 for 2019, so we tested two versions for this review. This is the late arrival GT with Grand Luxe Suede interior trim and smartphone integration.

Mazda’s CX-3 has been a popular economy car alternative in Canada since arriving on the scene five years ago, even rising to third amongst subcompact SUV entries a couple of years ago.

In order to remain near the top of the charts, Mazda gave it a mild makeover for 2019, and even added some additional updates to the top-tier GT trim partway through the model year. To bring attention to these changes, which have also been included in the 2020 model, I took the opportunity to spend a week with one pre-updated 2019 CX-3 GT as well as another post-updated version, which are both featured here in this review.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
This early 2019 GT gets a similar interior to previous GTs, albeit with nicer Cocoa Nappa leather.

Although the CX-3 has looked mostly the same since inception, Mazda steadily improved it over the years. The 2017 version carried over identically to the original 2016, but 2018 added a manual transmission to base FWD models, plus retuned the suspension for greater comfort, and added G-vectoring control as standard equipment to enhance all-weather cornering capability. Mazda also reduced its interior noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, while revising the steering wheel design and the look of its primary instrument cluster. They added standard Smart City Brake Support too, a low-speed automatic emergency braking system, plus pulled additional standard and optional i-ActivSense advanced driver assistance systems down to lower trims, such as full-speed Smart Brake Support with front obstruction warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, etcetera. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The little CX-3 has all of the attractive design elements of its larger siblings.

The mild updates for 2019 added a slightly reworked grille, taillights and wheels, while the cabin received some materials plus a new seat upholstery design partway through the year (as just noted), while the lower console of all 2019 models was reorganized to accommodate an electromechanical parking brake. Blind spot monitoring was also made standard for 2019, while the top-tier GT trim received real leather in place of leatherette and everything standard from the previous year’s Technology package, which included satellite radio, auto high beams, and lane departure warning.

The 2019 CX-3’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine received a 2-horsepower bump as well, increasing total output to 148 horsepower. While torque has remained at 146 lb-ft for the SUV’s five-year tenure, the power upgrade continues unchanged into the 2020 model year, as does the rest of the CX-3 in its entirety.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Th GT gets LED cornering headlamps with auto high beams, LED fog lights, extra chrome trim and 18-inch alloys.

Just in case you’re wondering, the difference in power from 2018 and 2019 equals 1.35 percent, which is imperceptible without electronic detection. I certainly couldn’t tell the difference from one model year to the other, and have been perfectly happy with the CX-3’s performance since day one, always finding it a fun SUV to drive.

As for fuel economy, the 2019 CX-3 gets a 8.8 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 8.0 combined rating when its sole engine is mated to its base manual transmission and FWD, while the automatic with FWD yields an estimated 8.3 in the city, 6.9 on the highway and 7.7 combined, and the auto with AWD gets a claimed 8.6, 7.4 and 8.1 respectively. 

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
New LED taillights respond quickly and look great at night.

This single engine is included with all trims, incidentally, while the base GX once again comes standard with a manual gearbox and FWD, and is optional with a six-speed automatic in either FWD or the automaker’s i-Activ AWD. The mid-range GS comes standard with the automatic and is optional with AWD, whereas the GT features the automatic and AWD as standard equipment. The CX-3 base price comes in at just over $21k (plus freight and fees), while my fully optioned test model starts at a little more than $31k (see all prices, including trims, packages and standalone options on our 2019 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page). Those prices stay the same for 2020, by the way, although you can save up to $2,000 in additional incentives for the 2019 CX-3, while average member savings have in fact been $2,166 according to the just-noted page. The 2020 Mazda CX-3 gets up to $600 in additional incentives, says its 2020 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page, while average member savings hold steady at $2,166. With savings like this, a CarCostCanada membership will pay for itself quickly.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Early 2019 GTs can be had with the gorgeous two-tone Nappa leather interior.

Steering wheel-mounted paddles get added to the Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission in both GS and GT trims, which certainly increase driver engagement, while the GT also increases its wheel size from 16s 18-inch alloy rims on 215/50R18 all-season rubber, aiding grip when pushed hard. Although the CX-3 only employs a semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension setup, with the usual MacPherson strut up front, handling is very good for the class, while a power assisted rack-and-pinion steering system delivers immediate response and fairly good feedback. Since Mazda softened its ride, the CX-3 is much more comfortable on uneven pavement too, which really helps enhance overall refinement.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The light grey instrument panel bolster and door inserts are made from faux suede in this late 2019 CX-3 GT.

On that note the CX-3 is really nice inside, which of course is expected from Mazda that’s one of the most premium-like brands in the mainstream volume sector. Of course, the little SUV isn’t as upscale as the new CX-30 or CX-5, particularly in the latter model’s Signature trim that gets cloth-wrapped A pillars, real wood trim and other niceties, this smallest model not even applying pliable synthetic to the dash-top and door uppers, but its instrument hood is quite luxurious thanks to stitched leatherette, while the centre section of the instrument panel gets a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette or microsuede bolster across its middle, and leatherette knee protectors are fixed to the insides of the lower console, plus leatherette or suede adorns the door inserts.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
This little transparent panel powers upwards to receive key info projected from below.

Before delving further, I should explain why some CX-3 GTs feature leatherette trim and others get microsuede. Early 2019s received stitched leatherette on the instrument panel bolster and door inserts like previous model years, my Soul Red Crystal painted tester an example of this interior treatment, but Mazda updated these areas to grey Grand Luxe Suede midway through the 2019 model year, which can be seen in my Snowflake White Pearl tester. Now the Alcantara suede-like material is the only treatment on these surfaces for the 2020 CX-3 GT.

So if you’ve been checking out the CX-3 at your local dealer (and there’s no shortage of 2019s thanks to the recent downturn of nearly everything), you’ll now understand why some have the leather look and others are plusher. I like both, but the psuede feels more opulent, and it’s also the newest trim so may help with resale.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
These semi-digital gauges are filled with info and easy to read in all lighting conditions.

The mid-year upgrade changed the GT’s upholstery too, my red tester boasting stunning two-tone brown and cream perforated Cocoa Nappa leather that’s no longer available for the 2020 model year, whereas my white tester featured the same perforated black leather with grey piping as found in the new 2020. Mazda will be happy to sell you a CX-3 GT with Pure White leather instead, this no-cost option available for both years. Try to find this level of variety, let alone luxury in competitive subcompact SUVs and you’ll be stymied, Mazda a cut above when it comes to personalization.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Here’s a close-up of the psuede dash bolster.

Other than upholsteries and trims the early and late arrival CX-3 GTs are mostly identical, other than the circular dash vents that feature black inner bezels in the early model and metallic red in the later one, but the horizontal strip of vents that elegantly underscores the aforementioned instrument panel bolster is the same in both, while all vents are highlighted by a very authentic looking satin-finish aluminum.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Two popular apps as seen while the centre touchscreen is using Android Auto.

There’s a lot more of this premium-look metal throughout the interior, surrounding the analogue and digital primary instruments, embellishing the third steering wheel spoke, ringing the centre dash-mounted infotainment display, as well as the lower console-mounted controls used for inputting data. This features a beautiful knurled metal-edged dial and another smaller one for adjusting audio volume, while additional quick-access switchgear includes buttons for the main menu, audio system, navigation, radio favourites, and the back button. The three-dial auto climate control system features some knurled metal detailing too, once again making the CX-3 look and feel more upscale than its price suggests it should.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
The Cocoa Nappa leather seats from early 2019 GTs is an unusual level of over-the-top luxury for this class.

The infotainment system in mind, Mazda was slow to integrate Apple CarPlay Android and Auto into the CX-3, which means if you’d like to have either you’ll be required to opt for the late 2019 arrival or a 2020. The 7.0-inch centre touchscreen display in my early 2019 is otherwise good, and included navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, a great sounding Bose audio system with seven speakers, satellite and HD radio, text message reading and responding capability, and the list goes on, while the newer version includes all of the above plus the two smartphone applications, and Android Auto worked as well as Android Auto works.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
This is the black interior from the late 2019, and as you can see the CX-3 provides a fairly roomy rear seat.

Speaking of features, 2019 and 2020 CX-3 GTs include auto on/off LED headlamps with adaptive cornering as well, plus auto-levelling and the previously noted automatic high beams, while LED fog lights, LED rear combination tail lamps with signature details, and additional chrome trim improve the exterior, while proximity keyless access let’s you inside, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory provides comfort and support. Atop the gauge cluster is an Active Driving Display that powers a transparent panel up to reflect key information instead of having it projected right onto the windshield like a regular head-up display unit, while some of that info includes traffic sign recognition. Up above, an auto-dimming rearview mirror makes driving at night easier while a powered glass sunroof lets more light in during the day.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
Cargo space is reasonably generous, but only when compared to the smaller competitors in this class.

Features pulled up from lesser trims worth noting include pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a wide-angle backup camera (not including dynamic guidelines), Aha and Stitcher internet radio, dual USB charging ports, three-way heated front seats, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, a folding rear centre armrest with cupholders, a removable cargo cover, tire pressure monitoring, all the expected active and passive safety features, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-3 GT
With the rear seats folded the CX-3 provides ample cargo carrying capacity for most peoples’ needs.

The just-mentioned 10-way power seats plus the CX-3’s tilt and telescoping steering column provided adequate adjustability for good comfort and control without forcing me to cramp my longer than average legs (for my height), while the rear seat was spacious enough even when I had the driver’s seat pushed back farther than some would require. It’s just important to remember that the CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest, and their larger CX-30, CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs offer a lot more space for getting comfortable.

Of course, the CX-3 provides less cargo space than these larger Mazdas too, with just 504 litres available behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and even less at 467 litres in GT trim due to the audio system’s subwoofer, while laying the rear seats flat results in a maximum of 1,209 litres in the two lower trims or 1,147 litres in the GT.

After everything is said and done, I think you’d be satisfied with any Mazda CX-3 trim, being that it’s a good looking, fun to drive, efficient and impressively refined subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it has many opponents, many that add size and roominess like Mazda’s own CX-30, but for those wanting a smaller SUV it’s hard to beat the CX-3.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT FWD and AWD Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 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