It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra.  Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for…

2019 Nissan Micra S Road Test

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s an easy face to fall for. Nissan’s 2019 Micra even looks good in base S trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra. 

Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for this little city car last year it probably sounds $500 too high, because the Micra was one of Canada’s only new sub-$10k cars for its entire four-year existence (except for the $9,995 Chevy Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage when it went on sale to clear out end-of-year stock), but thanks to a new standard 7.0-inch centre touchscreen featuring an integrated backup camera and some other updates, it’s a bit pricier this year. You can see all of the trims and check out previous years’ pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing. 

Its new list price still beats inflation (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as the Mirage by $510, and now that I think of it the Micra also beats the Mirage by 31 horsepower, 33 lb-ft of torque, 400 cubic centimetres of engine displacement, one cylinder, one rear suspension stabilizer bar, one-inch of standard wheel diameter, 20 millimetres of standard tire width, 32 litres of additional passenger volume, 41 mm of front headroom, 29 mm of rear headroom, 0.5 inches of standard centre touchscreen, six litres of fuel tank volume, and the list goes on. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Its tall hatch profile and retrospectively rounded design adds a classic small car touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All said it would be unfair not to mention that, while the Mirage is about as sporty as a Kenmore dryer on spin cycle, its claimed fuel usage nears hybrid levels of efficiency at 6.5 L/100km combined city/highway in manual form and just 6.2 with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), compared to 7.9 L/100km for the Micra’s five-speed manual and 8.0 for its available four-speed automatic. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Even the Micra’s backside looks good thanks to well proportioned taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Mirage beats the Micra in a number of other notable ways too, such as standard auto off headlamps, LED taillights, body-colour mirror caps, exterior door handles and liftgate handle, a chrome rear garnish, standard power door locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, powered front windows, air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two more standard stereo speakers, a driver’s knee airbag, 79 additional litres of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 511 more litres of cargo space with the seats folded, two more years or 40,000 more kilometres of basic warranty, five more years or 60,000 more km of powertrain warranty, etcetera, while year-over-year sales of the Mirage were off by just six percent compared to 39 percent for the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The Micra’s lower fascia looks quite sporty thanks to a big gaping engine vent and smaller corner ducts. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That last point might make it look as if more people like the Mitsubishi, but just 2,351 Canadians took a Mirage home last year compared to 5,372 that opted for the Micra. It’s easy to see they didn’t make their choice by comparing standard features and fuel economy, because the Mirage clearly comes out on top in these categories, so why all the Micra love? 

2019 Nissan Micra S
They might only be covers over steel wheels, but their 15-inch diameter makes for better performance than some rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Take both cars for a drive and you’ll immediately understand. The Micra is so much fun you’ll be wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss about SUVs, whereas the Mirage feels best when idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the latter describes your commute and you never plan on driving up to Whistler or Kelowna via the Coquihalla for a weekend getaway, by all means go all in on the Mitsu, but if you want a car that has the power to keep up with traffic while climbing steep grades, let alone is sporty enough in stock trim to compete in its own spec racing series, choose the Micra, and while you’re at it watch a few segments of the highly entertaining Micra Cup (see below for Race 1 of the 2018 season). 

2019 Nissan Micra S
A cool detail that normally goes unnoticed are these sculpted curves on the rooftop that may or may not aid aerodynamics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Rather than applying lipstick to a pig and trying to pass it off as the prom queen, Nissan invested its Micra money into a formidable direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine good for 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, compared to 78 and 74 respectively for the Mirage, plus a sporty feeling five-speed manual transmission with nice, progressive clutch take-up, wonderful steering feel, a front strut, rear torsion beam suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, 15-inch wheels on 185/60 all-season tires, and overall driving feel that punches way above its 1,044-kilo welter curb weight. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The taillights’ classic design enhance the Micra’s rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, how a city car takes to the corners may not matter as much to some folks as others, but let me know how you feel about that after you’ve just managed to avoid an accident thanks to the fleet footedness of your much more agile Micra. Due to such well-engineered suspension systems, I’m thankfully able to share a number of near misses that could have been bent metal at best, so handling is as much of a safety issue as braking performance, which I must say is pretty good on both cars despite their front disc, rear drum setups. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
We’re not going to try and pretend the Micra has an upscale interior, but it’s roomy and everything works as advertised. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I know, many buying into this class will likely care more about colour choices and styling than performance and safety, and when it comes to visual appeal I think the Micra has an edge in this respect too. While both are quite seasoned, this generation of Mirage Hatchback having arrived on the scene in 2012 and the current Micra in 2011, albeit in Canada during the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model, the little Nissan looks well proportioned and actually quite sporty from all angles. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Hey kids, this little toggle is for manually adjusting the side mirrors, which is a lot easier to use than what I had to do to adjust the mirrors in my parents car when I was a kid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside my base S trimmed tester, the word spartan comes to mind. Maybe minimalism might be kinder, because it does brighten things up with silver metal-like accents in key areas, and a nice, sizeable 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with a colourful interface, this especially true when placing the shifter in reverse and enjoying the big new backup camera on the display, while Bluetooth audio, Siri Eyes Free, and plenty of other functions provide a fully up-to-date user experience, but the black cloth seats come up a bit short on creativity, and the three-dial HVAC system is, while perfectly functional, easy to use, and adorned with blue and red highlights on the temperature knob and some backlit orange elements elsewhere, hardly exciting. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Here’s another one for the kids: see the hand crank below the door handle? It’s for manually winding the window up and down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering wheel is new, and in its most basic form gets a fresh set of metallic silver audio system and Bluetooth phone switchgear on its leftmost spoke, but the two-dial gauge cluster hasn’t changed for as long as I’ve been testing this car, my first review being a 2015 version of this very Micra S, with its only option being a sparkling coat of Metallic Blue paint. This 2019 tester’s $135 worth of Magnetic Gray paint aside (the price of optional paint hasn’t gone up one cent), the gauge package is large and easy to read in any light, while the little LCD gear selector, odometer, fuel gauge, and trip computer display, capable of showing current and average fuel economy plus distance to empty) is kind of cool in a retro Seiko digital watch sort of way. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base Micra S looks a lot more modern with steering wheel switchgear and a display audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I reviewed 2016 and 2017 examples of the top-line Micra SR too, the former in a beautiful blue-green Caspian Sea hue (that’s still available), and the second in a less playful Gun Metallic grey (that’s been replaced by this car’s aforementioned Magnetic Gray—Metallic Blue is now only available in upper trims, incidentally), but Charcoal Cloth (black) is the only interior colour choice, albeit upper trims get some patterned colour woven into the seat inserts that’s a big move up in visual stimulation. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now you can adjust audio volume, search for stations and answer a call from this new steering wheel switchgear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What else do you get with the base Micra? The new infotainment system and steering wheel switches aside, the Micra S comes with thoughtful little luxuries like rubberized knobs for the manual winding windows, cool little toggles for manually adjusting the side mirrors (although you’ll need to stretch across the car or ask for help to set up the one on the passenger’s side), carpeted floor mats front to back, and did I mention the genuine cloth seats? Of course, I’m poking a little fun at the expectations of our first world life, because very few cars available on the Canadian market have wind-up windows these days, let alone require a key to get into each front door as well as the rear hatch. Seriously there’s not even an interior latch to remotely release it, but once it’s unlocked you have the luxury of opening and closing it at will. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
I happen to have a fondness for ’70s-era LCD watches, so the Micra’s gauge clusters is kind of cool in a retro sort of way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard features of note that have not yet been mentioned include tilt steering, micro-filtered ventilation, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, two-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a USB port and aux-in jack, a four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base model’s centre stack now gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen above a classic three-dial DIY manual HVAC system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want air conditioning and/or cruise control, not to mention an upgraded steering wheel featuring switchgear on its right spoke, simply opt for the Micra S with its available automatic and these features come standard. That upmarket move requires a surprisingly hefty $3,810 resulting in a new total of $14,298 before freight and fees, which, once again to be fair to the Mitsubishi, is $2,100 more than the Mirage CVT that already includes the autobox-infused Micra upgrades as standard. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to get up a steep hill in the Mitsubishi, while you’ll be hard charging in the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Bright and colourful, the new touchscreen is a car cry more advanced than the old Micra’s LCD centre stack readout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The fancier cloth isn’t all you get when moving up from the Micra’s base S trim to its $15,598 mid-range SV or $17,598 top-tier SR grade, with the former trim’s standard features list swelling to include the automatic transmission, body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, power locks with auto-locking, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, air conditioning, four-speaker audio, a six-way manual driver’s seat with a folding armrest, etcetera, while factory options for this trim include a $400 SV Style Package with 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s a decent sized backup camera, providing a nice clear image that really helps when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The top-line Micra SR gets the same rooftop spoiler and its own set of aluminum wheels, although its standard machine-finished rims grow to 16 inches and ride on 185/55 all-season rubber, while the rest of its standard features list includes upgraded sport headlights and taillights, front fog lamps, side sill spoilers, chrome exterior accents, a chrome exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift lever with the manual transmission (which once again comes standard), even nicer Sport cloth upholstery, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
It might be simple, but the MIcra’s HVAC system is perfectly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Paint colours aside there aren’t any factory options for the Micra’s two upper grades, but Nissan provides plenty of dealer-installed accessories no matter the trim, and some really celebrate the car’s sporty nature. For instance, there are Colour Studio packages that include contrasting coloured mirror covers and sport stripes available across the line for $219, or alternatively you can swap out the body-colour door handles on SV and SR models with the same contrasting colour from the aforementioned City Package by choosing the $461 Trend Package, while the $599 Intensity Package ups the ante with a contrasting coloured rear hatch finisher and a custom “Premium Package” emblem. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is the transmission performance drivers will enjoy most, while top-line SR trim includes a leather-wrapped shift knob. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Alternatively you can get all of the above individually, as well as colour centre wheel caps, a rear rooftop spoiler (for S and SV trims), a chrome exhaust tip (ditto), etcetera, plus a whole host of more conventional accessories like all-season floor mats, a cargo mat, bicycle and ski/snowboard/wakeboard carriers, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The driver’s seat is comfortable and headroom impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should mention that the Micra and Mirage aren’t the only hatchbacks vying for your attention in this class. As noted earlier, Chevy’s little Spark is also a credible competitor for about $500 less than the Micra, while it bridges the gap (more like a chasm) when it comes to performance thanks to 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque (still 11 hp and 13 lb-ft less than the Micra), and fuel economy that’s rated at 7.2 L/100km combined, plus it offers an identically sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with standard CarPlay and Android smartphone integration, etcetera. It was redesigned for 2019, which spurred the strongest year-over-year growth within Canada’s entire small car sector (including larger subcompact and compact models) at 24.2 percent, resulting in 4,945 units and second place in the city car segment. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Rear seat roominess is good, and the outboard positions quite comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the other end of the positivity spectrum Fiat’s much pricier $22,495 500 lost even more ground than the Micra at -68 percent and just 269 units down the road during the same 12 months—year-over-year Micra sales were down 39 percent, incidentally. The Smart Fortwo, which doesn’t really face off directly against any of these five-place competitors due to having just two seats, now being solely electric and thus starting at $29,050 and wearing a new EQ badge, saw its sales shrink by 13.9 percent to 317 units last year, while the entire city car segment has been contracting in recent years due to the cancellation of the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year and the Scion iQ the year before. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The 60/40-split rear seatback comes standard, and should provide enough of space for most small car owners’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Glancing back at that list of rivals and it’s not too unreasonable to surmise some future cancellations. Truly, if it weren’t for Daimler’s brilliantly innovative Car2Go sharing program (it was first) it’s highly unlikely the Smart brand would exist anymore, at least in our part of the world, while both Fiat, which is repositioning itself as a boutique premium brand like Mini, and Mitsubishi, that’s only having any notable success with Outlander compact SUV that saw growth of nearly 50-percent last year due to a plug-in hybrid version, may not make it through the next inevitable recession. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
You don’t get a flat loading floor, but I’d rather have more cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I mean, if Fiat only managed to sell 596 vehicles brand-wide up until October of 2018, which is a 73 percent drop from the year prior, and then conveniently forgot to mention the brand in its monthly and yearly totals in November and December, there’s a pretty good chance they’re about to say arrivederci to the North American markets sooner than later. We sourced the information from Automotive News Canada that reported 645 calendar 2018 sales for a 72.4 percent downturn compared to the 2,339 units sold in 2017, but that’s still got to be beyond challenging for the Italian brand’s 55 independent retailers. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is a formidable engine for such a small, lightweight car, and reason enough for the Micra’s straight-line performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve driven all of the above so therefore it’s easy for me to understand why the Micra is Canada’s best-selling city car, not to mention more popular than plenty of other small cars including the Mini Cooper at 4,466 units, the Honda Fit at 3,520 (although a flood at its Mexican assembly plant was the cause of its 29.9 percent downfall), Chevrolet Sonic at 2,836 (which will soon be discontinued), Volkswagen Beetle at 2,077, Ford Fiesta 1,323 (also cancelled), and Hyundai Veloster at 1,077 units (but it’s more of a niche sport model). I’m not saying this final list of cars aren’t more appealing than the Micra overall, but when value is factored into the mix, only the Honda Fit measures up. 

While we most likely won’t see a redesign of our Canadian-exclusive Micra anytime soon (most other markets received an all-new Micra in 2017), because it’s not available in the U.S. and therefore may not warrant the investment, it’s possible that a change in market conditions could see it quickly become even more popular than it already is with price- and interest rate-sensitive first-time and fixed-income buyers. Still, as much as I’d like to get my hands on the more up-to-date version, the current Micra offers so much value for its asking price and provides so much fun at the wheel that it’s impossible to beat, and now that Nissan has given this base model new life with a fresh infotainment touchscreen it’s even better than ever, putting the new 2019 Micra S high on my budget conscious shoppers recommendations list.

Nissan Micra Cup 2018 – RACE #1 (37:56 – Note: race starts at 4:55):

Most will agree that Jaguar’s F-Type is one of the most beautiful sports cars to come along in decades, and this sentiment would be reason enough to make it one of the most popular cars in its class,…

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible Road Test

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Even in its most basic P300 trim, the Jaguar F-Type Convertible is gorgeous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Most will agree that Jaguar’s F-Type is one of the most beautiful sports cars to come along in decades, and this sentiment would be reason enough to make it one of the most popular cars in its class, which it is. Yet there’s a lot more to the F-Type’s success than jaw-dropping bodywork, from its lightweight aluminum construction that aids performance, supported by a wide variety of potent powertrain options, to its high quality luxuriously appointed interior, there are few cars that come close to matching the F-Type’s styling, capability or value. 

Yes, it might seem strange to be talking value with respect to a near-exotic sports car, but the F-Type, already an excellent buy throughout its initial four years of availability, became an even better deal since Jaguar installed its new in-house Ingenium 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under its long, elegant hood for the 2018 model year. While the formidable turbocharged and direct-injected engine makes a very healthy 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, it provides a considerable economical edge over its V6- and V8-powered counterparts and all rivals, while a significantly reduced base price of $68,500 didn’t hurt matters either. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type is almost entirely constructed of lightweight aluminum, making for an ultra-rigid body structure. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year’s starting point represented a $10k advantage over the F-Type’s previous base price, which resulted in a much more attainable point of entry and a whole new opportunity for Jaguar. In fact, the new F-Type P300 Coupe and Convertible instantly became prime 718 Cayman and Boxster competitors, whereas pricier more powerful F-Type trims, which include the 340 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in base form, 380 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with both base and R-Dynamic cars, 550 horsepower supercharged 5.0-litre V8 in R guise, and 575 horsepower version of the latter V8 in top-tier SVR trim for 2019, plus rear or all-wheel drive and six-speed manual or quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated eight-speed automatic transmissions, continue to fight it out with the Porsche 911 and others in the premium sports car segment, including plenty that cost hundreds of thousands more. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
These LED headlamps with LED signature lighting come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The car in question in this review, however, is the 2019 F-Type P300, which starts at $69,500 in Coupe form and $72,500 as a Convertible this year. With close to 300 horsepower of lightweight turbocharged four-cylinder cradled between the front struts it should provide more than enough performance for plenty of sports car enthusiasts, especially when considering that key competitors like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Alfa Romeo don’t offer anywhere near as much output from their entry-level four-cylinder sports models, with 220 horsepower for the TT, 241 for the SLC, 241 for the (2018) Z4, and 237 for the 4C, while F-Type P300 numbers line up right alongside Porsche’s dynamic duo that are good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque apiece. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Jaguar offers a variety of optional alloy wheels, with these 20-inch rims on sticky Pirelli rubber particularly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re wondering whether the F-Type P300’s performance will match your need for speed, it can zip from zero to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds before attaining a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph), and it feels even quicker with Dynamic sport mode engaged and its available active sport exhaust turned on. Jaguar makes its eight-speed Quickshift automatic standard in this rear-wheel driven model, and the steering wheel paddle assisted gearbox delivers super-fast shift intervals that combine with the brilliantly agile chassis to produce a wonderfully engaging seat-of-the-pants driving experience. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The triple-layer cloth roof provides excellent soundproofing, raises and lowers in just 12 seconds, and looks fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The agile chassis just noted refers to a mostly aluminum suspension mounted to the bonded and riveted aluminum body structure noted at the beginning of this review, a lightweight and ultra-rigid construct that certainly isn’t the least expensive way to build a car, but results in satisfyingly capable handling no matter the corner the F-Type is being flung into. The stiffness of the monocoque allows Jaguar to dial out some of the suspension firmness that competitors are stuck with in order to manage similar cornering speeds, which allows this little two-seater to be as comfortable over uneven pavement as it’s enjoyable to drive fast. Specific to the P300, less mass over the front wheels from the mid-mounted four-cylinder aids steering ease and potential understeer, making this one of the best balanced sports cars I’ve driven in a very long time. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Of course the F-Type’s slender taillights are filled with LEDs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester’s $2,550 optional Pirelli P-Zero ZR20s on glossy black split-spoke alloys certainly didn’t hurt matters, hooking up effortlessly after just that little bit of slip only a rear-wheel drivetrain can deliver when pushed hard through hairpins. What an absolute delight this car is. 

I love that it’s so quick when called up yet so effortlessly enjoyable to drive at all other times too. Even around town, where something more exotic can be downright tiresome, the F-Type is totally content to whisk driver and passenger away in quiet comfort. It helps that its interior is finished so nicely, with soft-touch high-grade synthetic or leather surfacing most everywhere that’s not covered in something even nicer, the cabin accented in elegant satin-finish aluminum and sporty red contrast stitching throughout. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Myriad colours are available for upholstery and stitching, but this classic red on black motif is hard to beat. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Windsor leather covered driver’s seat is multi-adjustable and plenty supportive too, while the leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel provided enough rake and reach to ideally fit my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame resulting in an ideal driving position that maximizes comfort and control. I’m sure larger, taller folk would fit in just fine as well, thanks to plenty of fore and aft travel plus ample headroom when the tri-layer Thinsulate filled fabric top is powered into place, a process that takes just 12 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h no matter whether raising or lowering. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type truly deserves the word “cockpit” when describing its driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Doing the latter doesn’t infringe on trunk space, incidentally, which measures 200 litres (7.0 cubic feet) and is a bit awkward in layout. If you want more I’d recommend the F-Type Coupe that has one of the largest cargo compartments in the luxury sports car class at 308 litres (10.9 cu ft) with the cargo cover in place and 408 litres (14.4 cu ft) with it removed. 

Back in the driver’s seat, Jaguar provides a classic dual-dial analogue gauge cluster centered by a sizeable colour TFT multi-information display, which while not as advanced as some fully digital driver displays on the market is probably more appropriate for a sports car that focuses on performance. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Full digital instrumentation can be nice, but these analogue dials suit a traditional sports car like the F-Type best. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The big change for 2019 was the addition of a 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment display, which replaces the 8.0-inch centre touchscreen used previously. Its larger size makes for a more modern look, while it’s certainly easier to make out obstacles on the reverse camera. The larger screen benefits all functions, with the navigation system’s map more appealing and easier to pinch and swipe, and only the home menu’s quadrant of quick-access feature not making use of all the available space (a larger photo of the classic red British phone booth would be nice). 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The multi-info display in the gauge cluster features a full list of useful functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The standard audio system is from Meridian and makes 380 watts for very good sound quality, while additional standard features include pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, automatic climate control, powered seats, and leather upholstery on the inside, plus 18-inch alloys, LED headlights with LED signature lighting, rear parking sensors, a powered retractable rear spoiler, and more on the outside. 

The Windsor leather and contrast stitching noted earlier came as part of a $2,250 interior upgrade package that improves the upholstery overtop special performance seats while finishing the top of the instrument panel, console and door trim in the same Windsor leather for a thoroughly luxurious experience, while my tester’s heated steering wheel and heated seat cushions come as part of a $1,530 Climate pack, with an extra $300 adding ventilated seats to the mix if you prefer, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration was added for an additional $300. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
This sizeable 10-inch touchscreen now comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, proximity-sensing keyless access made entering and exiting more convenient for $620, heatable auto-dimming side mirrors with memory made nighttime travel easier on the eyes for just $210, as did automatic high beams for oncoming traffic at $260, whereas blind spot assist might have definitely proved worthwhile at $500, as would front parking sensors at $290, while the aforementioned switchable active exhaust system was well worth the investment for another $260. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
This nicely decorated switch sets Dynamic sport mode. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, all prices were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you’ll find pricing on trims, packages and individual options down to the minutest detail, plus otherwise hard to find manufacturer rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating your deal.

At the risk of this sports car review becoming terminally practical, the F-Type P300’s fuel economy is so good it deserves mention too, with both Coupe and as-tested Convertible achieving a claimed 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined, which beats all Porsche 718 and 911 variants by a long shot, not to mention hybrid sports cars like Acura’s new NSX. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
These are the comfortable and supportive performance seats that come with the $2,250 interior upgrade package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, F-Type efficiency takes a back seat when moving up through the aforementioned trims, but the more potent V6 is still pretty reasonable at 11.9 L/100km city, 8.5 highway and 10.4 combined, at least when it’s mated to the automatic. This engine allows for a six-speed manual too, which isn’t quite as praiseworthy at 14.9, 9.8 and 12.6 respectively. 

Enough silliness, because we all know buyers in this class don’t care one iota about fuel economy despite all the effort that Jaguar puts into such regulatory concerns. The F-Type is really about titillating the five senses via near overwhelming visual stimulation when parked and endorphin releasing on-road acrobatics when active. Of course, 296 horsepower can’t excite to the same levels as 550 or 575, but this F-Type P300 is the perfect way to make each day more enjoyable without breaking the bank. It’s an affordable exotic that’s as worthy of the “Growler” emblem on its grille and wheel caps as the “Leaper” atop its rear deck lid.

Acura does well in almost every Canadian market segment it competes in. As calendar year 2018 ended the RDX sat within the top three of 15 compact luxury SUV competitors, while the MDX was fifth out of…

2019 Acura TLX Tech Road Test

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Acura’s new “diamond pentagon” grille looks right at home on the front of the updated TLX. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Optional Platinum White Pearl paint really helps the LED taillights and tasteful chrome embellishments of this Tech trimmed model stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Acura’s five-element LEDs are as distinctive as headlamps get. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Tech trim offers a classier chrome-clad front fascia, whereas the A-Spec provides a sportier look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The base 17-inch rims might be a bit small, but the machine-finished rims look really nice. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
These nicely shaped LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
That’s a sporty looking rear valance for such a near-base model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The TLX delivers bing on interior quality and Acura’s choice of materials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Far from the latest design in this segment, the TLX nevertheless provides a well organized layout and loads of features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
If you’re craving a more classic analogue gauge cluster in this age of digital displays, the TLX delivers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The TLX uses Acura’s older two-tier dual-display infotainment setup, but it was updated last year with 30-percent faster processing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The top 8-inch display defaults to the navigation map, but it’s not as high in resolution as some competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The base rearview camera is very clear and provides a variety of angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The slightly smaller 7-inch touchscreen provides a more colourful display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox is superb, but you’ll want to shift with the steering wheel paddles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The Tech’s leather-clad seats are comfortable, but could use more adjustment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The trunk is fairly sizeable and provides the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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

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

If you think the auto industry has given up on cars and is only relying on SUVs to turn a profit, look no further than the thoroughly reinvigorated Volvo brand and its wonderfully renewed lineup of sport…

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD Road Test

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
This is as sporty looking as wagons get, and the new 2019 Volvo V60 delivers even bigger on luxury. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you think the auto industry has given up on cars and is only relying on SUVs to turn a profit, look no further than the thoroughly reinvigorated Volvo brand and its wonderfully renewed lineup of sport wagons and crossover-styled variations on the same five-door theme. 

The first to arrive was the beautiful new V90 and V90 Cross Country duo, both having respectively replaced the old V70 and XC70 for the 2017 model year, albeit the former hasn’t been with us for a decade or so. Fast forward to 2019 and Volvo’s wagon lineup just expanded with all-new 2019 V60 and V60 Cross Country crossover models, and thanks to Volvo’s Canadian PR team leaving the sportier of the two in my driveway for three weeks last month we’ll be starting off closer to the ground. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
A fabulous design from front to back, nothing else looks anything like a new Volvo wagon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I suppose referencing the more conventional V60 as sportier may not sit well with those who consider a trip down a gravel road with a kayak strapped to the top of the V60 Cross Country T5 AWD a more sport-oriented exercise than fast-tracking through a curving two-lane highway at the wheel of our V60 T6 AWD Inscription, not that the former car can’t manage the latter activity quite well, or vise versa. It’s just that the regular V60 is quicker when upgraded with its as-tested turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and as noted a moment ago sits a bit lower to the ground for better pavement-hugging handling, whereas the raised ride height of the Cross Country allows for greater ground clearance when traversing less hospitable backwater roads and trails. Either way, Volvo has you covered. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60 Inscription’s grille is one wonderfully elegant. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk powertrains, being that both V60 models incorporate Volvo’s innovative 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the T5 featuring turbocharging and the T6 adding the just-noted supercharger to the mix. The former makes a laudable 258 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque for thoroughly enjoyable performance from standstill up to highway speeds and beyond via eight quick-shifting automatic gears and standard all-wheel drive, whereas the latter puts 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque down to the road via the same all-wheel drivetrain. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Volvo’s trademark “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights come standard, of course. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

By the numbers, the V60 T5 AWD allows for an energetic zero to 100km/h sprint of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph), whereas the T6 AWD cuts standstill acceleration runs down to 5.7 seconds while upping maximum velocity to 249 km/h (155 mph). 

Volvo’s T6 engine seems to make a more sporting note at full throttle than I last remember, while the zero-to-100 times quoted a moment ago feel as good as they look. The drivetrain is especially engaging when set to Dynamic sport mode via the jeweled switch on the lower console, which heightens the performance of all controls. Bend it into a sharp, fast-pace curve and the V60 immediately takes on the role of unflappable sport wagon, providing an adept level of poise that almost seems too capable when simultaneously taking in its luxurious Inscription-trimmed surroundings. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
These 19-inch multi-spoke alloys are optional, but well worth the extra thousand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The V60’s cabin is absolutely stunning, which caused me to leave the drive mode selector in Comfort more often than not, and Eco when I was paying attention, which together with auto engine start/stop provided best-possible fuel economy at a claimed 10.9 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 9.5 combined with the as-tested T6 AWD, or alternatively 10.2, 6.8 and 8.7 for the less potent T5 FWD, and made the most of the impressively smooth ride and wonderfully quiet cabin, ideal for such resplendent accoutrements. 

As already executed to near perfection in the crossover SUV classes, Volvo once again creates the D-segment leader for interior design and execution thanks to the highest grades of materials and the finest attention to detail. From its myriad soft-touch surfaces above the waistline and below, including plush perforated leathers, to its beautifully executed decorative metal accents and matte hardwood inlays, the V60 Inscription provides a richness and elegance that’s been sorely missing from this more compact five-door luxury category. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
An aerial view of the standard panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then there’s comfort, which has always been Volvo’s strength. The Inscription seats are superb, and that’s even before making the myriad adjustments they allow for. The seat squabs extend forward, cupping below each knee, while the backrest side bolsters power inward or outward to fit most any body type, whether you want a snuggly hug or more relaxing support. Support in mind, four-way powered lumbar means you can position extra lower back pressure just about anywhere you want it, but surprisingly not all models the V60 competes against offer four-way powered lumbar. Then again some offer powered steering columns, which is not available with the V60, so therefore the Inscription’s two-way memory settings don’t affect the steering wheel, but if it were one or the other I’d optimize seat comfort and control. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60’s L-shaped LED taillights are wonderfully original. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Driver setup in mind, the V60’s tilt and telescopic steering column offers ample rake and reach for all bodily forms, my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight medium-build frame fully capable of clasping the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with elbows optimally bent while my legs were easily within reach yet not too crowded by pedals, while plenty of small adjustments remained for tweaking during long road trips. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
If you think the exterior design is classy, wait until you get inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Looking forward, the gauge cluster is digital, which is nothing new for the V60 that along with its S60 sibling was one of the first cars in its class to offer a colour TFT display in place of the usual analogue primary instruments. Still, this 12.3-inch driver display, upsized from the base Momentum trim’s 8.0-inch unit, is a much more advanced bit of kit than the old V60’s. In fact, it takes up all available space below the instrument hood, and even better it defaults to the navigation system’s colour map that features 3D building block graphics that are fabulous fun to watch when tooling amongst the high-rises of any downtown core. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The dash design is linear minimalism from afar, but get up close and the details are amazing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, that map can be shown over on the V60’s standard 9.0-inch vertical centre touchscreen, Volvo’s Sensus interface continuing to be one of the best in the industry. It’s not that it wows with bright colours and exciting graphics, but rather because it’s more tablet-like than any of its rivals and therefore is easier to figure out. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, all of the usual gesture controls, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, responds 50 percent faster than earlier versions, although my tester’s otherwise excellent 360-degree surround parking camera was a bit lethargic at startup resulting in fashionably late appearances after I’d finished reversing out of my driveway when leaving in a rush, and thanks to an upgrade to the $3,750 optional 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system provided sensational sound quality, while the satellite radio colour album cover graphics were wonderful. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade sounds sensational and adds these beautiful aluminum door grills. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, that B&W stereo does more than just sound good, it improves the interior design thanks to a lovely little tweeter at dash central, featuring a stylish aluminum grille, while the similarly drilled aluminum door speakers let you see through to coloured cones within. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The navigation system’s 3D map automatically builds high-rise towers within the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster when driving around downtown. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those speaker grilles are surrounded by some of the only hard composite in the entire car, the rest of each door panel soft touch synthetic from top to bottom, excepting the armrest that’s covered in contrast-stitched leather. Likewise for the centre armrest/bin lid, the front edge of the dash top, and the instrument panel just below, which is why I was a bit miffed that Volvo chose not to finish the glove box lid to the same standard, leaving it hard plastic in a segment that normally softens this surface. Volvo leaves the sides of the centre console hard plastic too, but this is more than made up for by a beautiful set of satin-silver framed matte hardwood scroll-top lids for the connectors, tray and cupholders below. 

Volvo chose not to add the same wood to the doors, but surrounding the steering column and just ahead of the front passenger are lovely sculpted sections next to an equally artistic inlay of flowing satin-silver aluminum, the V60’s interior design coming across much more zen-like than anything from Japan, or Germany for that matter. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The 9-inch Volvo Sensus centre touchscreen provides tablet-like ease-of-use and excellent functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could continue on about cabin styling, the volume dial, vent controls, rotating ignition switch and cylindrical drive mode selector rimmed in a grippy diamond-patterned bright metal that sparkles as jewel-like as in any Bentley, while those aforementioned seats are as eye-arresting as sore back-alleviating, but there are still some as yet unmentioned details to cover. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The Driftwood and metal inlays on the dash and lower console are exquisitely executed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For one, the V60 is spacious. In fact, I think the new V60 is targeting previous V70 customers just as much as those who loved the outgoing V60, thanks to 124 mm (4.9 inches) more length overall, plus a 9.6-mm (3.8-inch) longer wheelbase that results in the most spacious rear seating area in the luxury D-segment. The new model is 51 mm (2.0 inches) lower than its predecessor too, which adds to its long, sleek visual stance, but nevertheless it provides ample headroom and legroom for a six-foot passenger behind a six-foot driver, although I wasn’t able to substantiate this claim due to my previously noted five-foot-eight height. Nevertheless, I can attest to an obvious increase in cargo space, the new V60 boasting 20 percent more than the outgoing car. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Like with other new Volvos, the V60 incorporates jewel-like switchgear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Reason enough for its growth is Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that also underpins the larger V90 sport wagon, not to mention everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover. Everything riding on SPA gets regularly praised by owners and auto pundits alike, with aforementioned ride-quality and quietness given near universal accolades, so it only makes sense the V60 delivers to the same high level. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Incredible comfort and support, the V60 Inscription’s driver’s seat is ultra-adjustable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve touched on features throughout this review, but have yet to go into trim details, so without further adieu the base 2019 V60 Momentum T5 FWD starts at just $43,900 plus freight and fees, which is only $50 above than last year’s base V60 yet includes standard LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with driver’s memory, a powered liftgate, power-folding rear seat headrests, power-folding rear seatbacks with controls in the cargo compartment, a semi-automatic cargo cover that conveniently slides up and out of the way when opening the tailgate, and much more. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The standard panoramic sunroof really opens up the V60’s cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, plenty of safety gear comes standard too, including standard City Safety automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, plus Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and more. 

Of special note, the new V60 introduces an Oncoming Braking system that, if sensing an imminent head-on collision will automatically actuate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. This is said to reduce vehicle speed by 10 km/h before impact, which could potentially save lives and certainly minimize injury. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
There’s more legroom in back compared to the outgoing V60, resulting in much greater comfort for rear passengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into all standard and optional features available with base Momentum or $55,400 Inscription trim, although if interested feel free to check out my previous story that covered everything in detail, so suffice to say the latter as-tested model gets a special chromed waterfall grille, cornering headlights, fog lamps, a really nice leather-wrapped and metal edged key fob, Power Steering Personal Settings with low, medium or high assistance, the gorgeous Driftwood decor inlays, digital gauge cluster and four-way powered lumbar noted earlier, Nappa leather upholstery that’s perforated for allowing through forced ventilation up front, etcetera. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
A centre pass-through makes the otherwise 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks more versatile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Option out a V60 Inscription T6 AWD and you can have the same $1,000 19-inch multi-spoke alloys as seen on my test car, the previously noted audio upgrade, $1,300 massaging front seats and a $1,150 graphical head-up display. Additionally, my tester included a $1,250 Climate Package with heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a much-welcome heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system that uses the Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid and other advanced driver assistance features to keep the V60 within its chosen lane, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass; plus an $1,800 Vision Package with the aforementioned 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
More cargo space is always a bonus, plus the rear seatbacks power down automatically via buttons on the cargo wall. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And by the way, all 2019 Volvo V60 pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new vehicle sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

The only V60 attribute that arguably outshines all of the above is exterior styling, which to my eyes makes it the best-looking sport wagon in the compact luxury D-segment, and possibly the most attractive combination of new Volvo design elements to date. I love the shape of the new grille and the way the headlamps flow rearward over the front fenders, not to mention the motorsport-inspired wing strut design of the lower front fascia. Yet most of all I like this wagon’s profile, culminating at two of the most unorthodox taillights on today’s market, the V60’s sharply cut L-shaped lenses paying obvious tribute to Volvo’s recent past, but all-new and totally unique as well. 

It won’t be hard for you to tell that I really like the look of this car, and I must admit to liking everything else about it too. It made the recent holiday season all the more enjoyable and helped ring in the first week of 2019 with style, comfort and all-round class.

I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it…

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Road Test

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
If looks could kill the Accord would slaughter its competition. Then again it’s doing just that with mid-size sedan segment’s strongest sales growth. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it better looking than a lot of premium-branded sedans, and wouldn’t doubt that some who might have never purchased in this class before will now consider doing so solely because it exists. 

This scenario may have played out on Canada’s sales charts last year, with the Accord being the only mid-size sedan to see growth from January 2018 through December’s end. OK, its archrival Toyota Camry barely escaped the red by growing a scant 0.1 percent over the same 12-month period, but Accord deliveries were up 2.4 percent during an era that’s seen the mid-size sedan decimated by crossover SUV popularity. This last point was evidenced by other Accord competitors seeing their market shares eroded significantly, the next best-selling Chevy Malibu’s sales down 16.3 percent, followed by the Fusion dropping 34.8 percent, the Nissan Altima lower by 21.4 percent, the Hyundai Sonata by 33.6 percent, Kia Optima by 27.5 percent, Volkswagen Passat by 29.5 percent, Mazda6 by 9.8 percent, and Subaru Legacy down by 28.1 percent. That’s an unbelievable level of mid-size sedan carnage, but the new Accord solely rose above it all. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The long, low, lean looking Accord Hybrid offers four-door coupe presence, albeit near limousine levels of rear seat roominess. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, there’s a lot more to the 10th-generation Accord than just good looks. There’s an equally attractive interior filled with premium levels of luxury and leading edge electronics, plus dependable engineering borne from decades of production and non-stop refinements. The first hybrid drivetrain was introduced as an option to the seventh-generation Accord way back in 2005, skipped a generation and then came back as an option with the ninth-gen Accord in 2013, and now it’s here again. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid looks just as appealing from behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As with previous iterations, the latest Accord Hybrid looks much the same as the conventionally powered model, which I appreciate because it’s not trying too hard to stand out and keeps the Accord’s attractive styling intact. Truly, the only noticeable difference is a removal of tailpipe finishers, the Hybrid featuring some discrete chrome trim in their place. Chrome in mind, both no-name Hybrid and Hybrid Touring trims feature the same chrome exterior details as the regular Accord’s EX-L and above trims, Sport model excluded. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
All Accord Hybrids get LED headlamps, but the Touring comes with full LED low and high beams for even better nighttime visibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Touring upgrades that aren’t as noticeable include full LED headlamps that feature light emitting diodes for the high as well as the low beams, plus unique signature LED elements around the outside of the headlamp clusters, chrome-trimmed door handles, and the availability of no-cost as-tested Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior paint instead of standard Crystal Black Pearl or $300 White Orchid Pearl, the only two shades offered with the base model. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
LED fog lamps join sporty lower fascia aerodynamics as part of the standard Accord Hybrid package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now that we’ve got the obvious visual changes from base Hybrid to Hybrid Touring trims out of the way, the top-line model also replaces Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blind spot display system with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system, while adding adaptive dampers to improve handling, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display (HUD), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, passenger side mirror reverse gear tilt-down, a HomeLink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, satellite and HD radio capability, HondaLink subscription services, wireless device charging, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a heatable steering wheel rim, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more for $40,090 plus freight and fees. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
All of the Accord Hybrid’s design elements combine for elegant yet sporty styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, I sourced 2019 Honda Accord Hybrid pricing from CarCostCanada, which not only breaks everything down into trims, packages and standalone options, but also provides information about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
These unique machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels are also standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, items pulled up to the Hybrid Touring from base $33,090 Hybrid trim include unique aerodynamically designed machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlight control with automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, near field communication (NFC), 452-watt audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, two front and two rear USB charging ports, SMS text message and email reading functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, overhead sunglasses storage, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including front knee airbags. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
A closer look at the standard LED taillights shows some nice internal detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Some safety features that might not be expected include the standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems, incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition, this being enough to earn the regular Accord a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped with its upgraded headlights, while all Accord trims get a best-possible five stars from the NHTSA. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Other than the wheels, the only noticeable styling differentiators between the regular Accord and Hybrid are the chrome trim pieces fitted where tailpipes normally go. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The long list of Accord Hybrid Touring features comes in a cabin that exudes quality and refinement, thanks to premium-level soft synthetic surfacing on most surfaces above the waste, authentic looking matte woodgrain inlays spanning the instrument panel and door panels, tastefully applied satin-silver accents throughout, supple leather upholstery on the seats, door inserts and armrests, padded and stitched leatherette trim along the sides of the lower console, the front portion protecting the inside knees of driver and front passenger from chafing, and some of the highest quality digital displays in the class. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid delivers a premium-level interior, especially in top-line Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Immediately impressive is the brightly lit primary instrument package that looks like a giant LCD panel at first glance, but in fact houses a digital display within its left two-thirds while integrating an analogue speedometer to the right. The screen on the left is filled with hybrid-specific info by default, but you can scroll through numerous other functions via steering wheel controls, resulting in a very useful multi-info display. 

Likewise you can project key info onto the windshield via the HUD by using another steering wheel button, the system showing graphical information for route guidance, the adaptive cruise control system and more up high where you can see it without taking your eyes off the road. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The attractively styled cockpit is comfortable, but a lack of steering column reach makes its driving position less than ideal for some body types. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the top portion of the centre stack, Honda’s new infotainment interface has become a personal favourite amongst mainstream volume brands, thanks to high definition displays, wonderful depth of colour and contrast, plus fabulous graphics, the elegantly arranged tile system easy to figure out and plenty attractive to look at. Being a hybrid, a number of cool animated graphic sections are included, while the navigation system’s mapping was excellent and route guidance easy to input and precisely accurate, plus the backup camera was equally clear and dynamic guidelines helpful. Yes, I would’ve appreciated an overhead 360-degree bird’s-eye view, but the ability to see a variety of views thanks to its multi-angle design, no matter the trim, is a bonus that others in the class don’t offer. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
It looks fully digital, but the Accord Hybrid’s primary gauge cluster is 1/3 analogue thanks to a right-side speedometer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The final digital display is Honda’s dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which is attractively designed in a narrow, neatly organized, horizontal row that includes an LCD centre display, three knurled metal-edged rotating knobs, and a variety of high-quality buttons for the HVAC system and heated/ventilated front seats. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
It looks fully digital, but the Accord Hybrid’s primary gauge cluster is 1/3 analogue thanks to a right-side speedometer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should mention that all of the Accord Hybrid Touring’s switchgear was excellent, and much of it beautifully finished with aforementioned satin-silver detailing, while the audio system knobs got the same grippy and stylish knurled metal treatment as those used for the HVAC interface. Much of the design shows an artistically flair too, particularly the recessed speaker grille behind the fixed tablet style display atop the dash, and the 3D effect used to raise the top buttons on the HVAC interface above those below. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The 7-inch multi-info display provides default hybrid info, but plenty of other functions can be found via steering wheel controls. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the very base of the centre stack is a little cubby filled with a 12-volt power outlet, a charged/connected USB port and a wireless charging pad that’s large enough for big smartphones like the Samsung Note series. Interestingly Honda has done away with the classic old auxiliary plug, replacing it with near field communication (NFC) as noted earlier, and three more USBs, the second one found within the centre storage bin under the armrest, which includes another 12-volt charger as well. The bin has a nice removable tray as well, which feels very high in quality and is rubberized so that it doesn’t rattle around like so many others in this class. This is just one of many details that let you know the Accord’s quality is above average. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The centre stack houses one of the best tablet-style touchscreens in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The leather seats are nicely styled with perforations the three-way forced ventilation noted earlier. The driver’s was extremely comfortable, with good side support for this segment and excellent lower back support. On that note I was surprised that Honda not only includes a power-adjustable lumbar support with fore and aft control, but it’s a four-way system that also moves up and down to ideally position itself within the small of your back. That’s unusual in this class, even when compared to some premium models like the Lexus ES 350 and more directly comparative ES 300h hybrid that only include two-way powered lumbar. Likewise for the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, plus a few others in this segment that don’t measure up either. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Cool animated hybrid graphics can be displayed on the high definition 8-inch touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The seating position is good, probably on par with the aforementioned Camry, but I must say neither is excellent when it comes to adjustability. Their steering columns don’t offer enough reach, forcing me to power my seat too close to the pedals in order to achieve optimal comfort and control of the steering wheel. We’re all made differently, and I happen to have longer legs than torso. The compromise was a more upright seatback than I would have otherwise liked, but doing so allowed ample control and decent comfort, so this is how I drove all week. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Touring trim includes navigation with voice recognition. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Controlling the gear selector is a lot easier, although if you’re not familiar with Honda’s new assemblage of buttons and pull levers it’ll take some getting used to. The Accord Hybrid comes standard with the complex selector, and while it might be a bit confusing at first try I recommend giving it a little time before getting flustered. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to use this system in a variety of Honda models, the new Odyssey and Pilot immediately coming to mind, while it’s similar to the system used in new Acura models, so now I don’t swear at it when trying to find reverse in the middle of a U-turn. Other than the pull lever-type electromechanical parking brake found at its rearmost section, it consists of three pushbuttons, for park, neutral and drive, and another pull lever for reverse. I almost never use neutral, simplifying the process further, so it’s a tug on the lever for reverse and a simple press of the large centre button for drive or park, that’s it. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The multi-angle backup camera is excellent for a base model, but I’d like to see an overhead surround parking monitor in Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Next to the parking brake there’s another set of buttons for Sport, Econ and EV modes, plus a brake hold button. I left it in Econ mode most of the time and EV mode whenever it would allow, because this is what hybrids are all about, saving fuel and minimizing emissions and cost. This said the Accord Hybrid is one of the thriftiest vehicles I’ve driven all year, only costing me $24 after a week’s worth of very thorough use, and that’s when gas was priced at an outrageous $1.55 per litre. At today’s slightly more agreeable prices it would allow even more savings, its claimed 5.0 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.0 combined fuel economy rating one of the best in the non-plug-in industry. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The standard dual-zone auto climate control interface is downright artistic. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So what’s all the mechanical and electrically charged wizardry behind its superb fuel economy? A unique two-motor hybrid powertrain joins an efficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine to provide the Accord Hybrid with a class leading total system output of 212 horsepower, while its electric drive motor puts 232 lb-ft of near instantaneous torque down to the front wheels. 

To clarify, one of the electric motors drives the front wheels, while a smaller secondary motor serves mainly as a generator, providing electric current to the drive motor in order to supplement or replace power from the battery during lighter loads, such as cruising. The second motor also starts the engine that in-turn adds torque to the wheels, but it’s never used as the motive driving force for those wheels. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
It might look daunting, but don’t worry as you’ll soon get used to Honda’s pushbutton gear selector. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, the car’s Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission, or E-CVT, removes any need for a conventional automatic transmission, or even a traditional belt/chain-operated continuously variable transmission (CVT), both of which inherently rob performance and efficiencies from the powertrain. Instead, Honda’s E-CVT drives the front wheels directly through four fixed drive ratio gearsets, without the need to shift gears or vary a planetary ratio. This means there is no “rubber-band” effect when accelerating as experienced in regular CVTs, or in other words the engine is never forced to maintain steady high rpms until road speed gradually catches up, this process causing a much-criticized audible “droning” effect with other CVT-equipped cars. Honda claims its direct-drive technology benefits from 46 to 80 percent less friction than a conventional automatic transmission, depending on the drive mode. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Touring model’s leather-clad driver’s seat is comfortable, made even better with 4-way powered lumbar support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, you can choose between three standard propulsion modes as well, including electric-only (providing the 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged sufficiently), gasoline-only, or blended gas and electric (hybrid). 

Despite my favouritism for Econ and EV modes, Sport mode worked very well, making itself immediately known after engaging at a stoplight by bringing the engine back to life from its auto start/stop mode, and then boosting acceleration significantly at takeoff. A set of standard steering wheel paddles improves the driving experience further, although flicking the right-side shifter to upshift while accelerating does nothing perceptible, this because the paddles are primarily for downshifting during deceleration. Therefore, tugging on the left paddle when braking, or pretty much any other time, causes a gear ratio drop that really comes in handy when wanting to engine brake or recharge down a steep hill, or when setting up for a corner. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
This powered glass sunroof is standard with Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And I must say the Accord Hybrid handles brilliantly for a car in this class. Really, the only vehicle in this segment with more agility around curves is the latest Mazda6 and possibly the Ford Fusion Sport, and these by the narrowest of margins, with Accord Hybrid seeming to dance away from its closest competitors, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE that I tested earlier this year, which is the sportiest version of that car. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Rear seat roominess and comfort is superb, but the door panels could have been finished a little nicer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Accord Hybrid handles long, sweeping high-speed corners well too, while its ability to cruise smoothly on the highway is as good as this class gets. It’s underpinned by the same fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension as the conventionally powered Accord, while my tester was once again outfitted with the upgraded adaptive dampers for a little more at-the-limit control and enhanced ride quality. This gives it a wonderfully compliant setup where ever you’re likely to drive, whether soldiering over bumpy back alleys, fast tracking across patchwork pavement, or negotiating wide bridge expansion joints, all of which were experienced during my test week. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Hybrid’s trunk is just as large as the regular Accord. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My only complaint were front parking sensors that continually went off in regular traffic, highlighting an image of the car’s frontal area on the touchscreen when vehicles were merely pulling up beside me in the adjacent lane. I’ve encountered this problem with a few other cars over the past couple of years, and it’s always annoying. I pressed the parking sensor button off and on again, which remedied the problem until it happened again after a couple of days, at which point I rebooted the system the same way and never had to deal with it again. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
A sizeable cargo pass-through via 60/40-split rear seatbacks is impressive for a hybrid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This foible and the aforementioned lack of telescopic steering reach aside, the Accord Hybrid was a dream to live with. The rear seating area, a key reason many buy into this class, is as spacious as the regular Accord and more so than many in this segment. With the driver’s seat set up for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, which as noted was set further back than average due to my longer legs, I was left with nearly a foot from my knees to the backrest ahead, plus so much room for my feet that I was able to completely stretch out my legs and move my shoes around underneath the front seat. Really, its rear legroom comes close to many full-size sedans. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom at about three and a half inches, plus more than enough shoulder and hip space at about four to five inches for the former and five-plus for the latter. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Below the cargo floor is this cargo compartment stocked with an air compressor for fixing flat tires. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This said I was disappointed that Honda finished off the rear door uppers in hard plastic. They’re not alone in this respect, but others do a better job pampering rear occupants. The previously noted Mazda6, for instance, at least in its top-line Signature trim level that I tested last year, which incidentally uses genuine hardwood inlays throughout, finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, making it closer to premium status than anything else in its class. In most other respects the Accord nudges up against premium levels of luxury too, including excellent rear ventilation from a centre panel on the backside of the front console that also houses two USB charge points, while the outboard seats are three-way heatable as noted earlier, and there’s a nice big armrest that flips down from the centre position at exactly the right height for adult elbow comfort, or at least it was perfect for me. Honda fits two big deep cupholders within that armrest, which should do a pretty good job of holding drinks in place. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Don’t try to fix this high-voltage Accord in your backyard, as it’s one extremely complex combination of mechanical and electrified technology. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The trunk is sizeable too at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), which is exactly the same dimensions as the regular Accord, plus it’s also extendable via the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. This said there are still some hybrids that don’t allow much expandable storage due to batteries fitted within the rear bulkhead, so I can’t really complain that Honda doesn’t include a centre pass-through like Volkswagen’s Passat, which would allow rear passengers to enjoy the heated window seats after a day on the slopes. On the positive, a handy styrofoam compartment resides below the trunk’s load floor, ideal for stowing a first aid kit or anything else you’d like to have close at hand. It comes loaded up with an air compressor that could potentially get you to a repair shop if needed, but I’d personally prefer a spare tire so I could make it farther if damage to the tire doesn’t allow it to hold air. 

So is this the best hybrid in the mid-size class? The new Accord Hybrid would certainly get my money. It looks fabulous, delivers big inside, and provides all the luxury-level features most will want, plus it drives brilliantly and delivers superb fuel economy, while Honda’s experience building electrified powertrains should make it plenty reliable.

As you may have noticed, orange is all the rage as far as fashion colours go. This works well for me because I happen to like most mixtures of red and yellow, but sometimes a brand takes their pumpkin,…

2019 Subaru Forester Sport Road Test

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Subaru has redesigned its popular Forester for 2019, and added this new orange-trimmed Sport model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may have noticed, orange is all the rage as far as fashion colours go. This works well for me because I happen to like most mixtures of red and yellow, but sometimes a brand takes their pumpkin, ochre, tangerine, or fire hue too far, resulting in a styling faux pas. 

It’s not the thick orange striping along the otherwise matte black lower exterior panels that puts me off the new 2019 Forester Sport, but rather the metallic orange dash vents and orange painted shifter surround that assault my senses. I wish they’d just left it at orange contrasting thread. 

This said the new fifth-generation Forester is a big step up over its predecessor, and while Sport trim wouldn’t be my first choice due to orange overload, they’ve got plenty of other trims and colour choices to pick from. What’s more, this new 2019 model has been thoroughly redesigned around the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which has resulted in greater refinement, capability and dynamic performance, plus more interior roominess. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new Forester is longer and roomier than the model it replaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new Forester is now 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) longer from front to back at 4,625 mm (182.1 inches), with 30 mm (1.2 inches) more wheelbase at 2,670 mm (105.1 inches), while it’s also 21 mm (0.8 inches) wider including its mirrors at 2,052 mm (80.8 inches), or 20 mm (0.8 inches) wider not including its mirrors at 1,815 mm (71.4 inches). Its front and rear track has widened too, now up 20 and 15 mm (0.8 and 0.6 inches) respectively to 1,565 and 1,570 mm (61.6 and 61.8 inches), which, along with the Forester’s other dimensional and mechanical changes has caused a one-metre (3.3-foot) larger curb to curb turning circle of 5.4 metres (17.7 feet). 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Along with the orange highlights, the Sport gets glossy black accents where chrome would otherwise brighten. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Despite maintaining its minimum ground clearance at 220 mm (8.6 inches), the new Forester is actually 5 mm (0.2 inches) lower in height than its predecessor with its roof rails included at 1,730 mm (68.1 inches), while its base curb weight has increased by just 26 kilograms (57.3 lbs) at 1,569 kilos (3,459 lbs) when compared to the previous model with its optional CVT, which is now standard. Still, the fully loaded 2019 Forester Premier now weighs in at 1,630 kg (3,593 lbs), which actually makes this top-line model a surprising 56 kg (123.4 lbs) lighter than the ritziest version of the 2018 model in spite of its greater size. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The Sport gets a glossy black version of the new Forester’s redesigned grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with a more spacious passenger compartment that can really be felt when seated inside, the new Forester improves cargo capacity by 29 litres (1.0 cubic-foot) behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks in base trim, from 974 to 1,003 litres (34.4 to 35.4 cubic feet), and by 40 litres (1.4 cubic feet) in base trim when those seats are laid flat, from 2,115 to 2,155 litres (74.7 to 76.1 cubic feet). When the optional sunroof is added, which encroaches slightly on overhead space, the difference from old to new grows to 43 litres (1.5 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, from 892 to 935 litres (31.5 to 33.0 cubic feet), and 68 litres (2.4 cubic feet) when those rear seats are lowered, from 1,940 to 2,008 litres (68.5 to 70.9 cubic feet). This is a significant improvement that can really make a difference when faced with a large load of gear. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
All 2019 Forester trims come standard with full LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back up front, the driver’s seat is quite comfortable and included two-way powered lumbar support that matched up well to the small of my back, while the driving position is excellent with plenty of rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. In Sport trim the steering wheel gets a nice leather-wrapped rim with orange stitching, its spokes filled with nicely organized controls that even include an “S#” mode for enhancing performance, or alternatively adaptive cruise control switchgear for a more relaxed highway driving experience. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The Sport gets unique corner vents and a sharp looking set of dark metallic 18-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A whole host of Subaru EyeSight advanced driver assistance systems come standard with the Forester Sport and other top trim levels, these including pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, reverse automatic braking, and just noted adaptive cruise control. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The 2019 Forester starts at $27,995, which while $2,000 more than last year’s base model now includes standard LED headlamps, a stylishly advanced safety technology that previously required a move up to Limited trim in order to partake, and one that’s still optional with most of its rivals including the totally redesigned 2019 RAV4 and recently redesigned Honda CR-V—the Mazda CX-5 already comes standard with LED headlights, as does the refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee. The Forester’s include automatic on/off as well, so you won’t always have to remember to turn them on and off manually, this standard feature part of last year’s Convenience upgrade, while new standard automatic climate control gets pulled up from the 2018 model’s Touring trim. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Black and orange highlights are everywhere on this sporty halloween special. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also positive, a new electromechanical parking brake replaces the old handbrake, freeing up space between the front seats and modernizing the driving experience, while auto vehicle hold now replaces the old hill holder system that previously only came with the manual transmission, the latter now discontinued as noted earlier. Now that Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard across the line, its impressive X-Mode off-road system with Hill Descent Control, and SI-Drive drive mode selector are now standard too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The taillight’s black strikethrough is normally finished in chrome. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Together with the CVT and Subaru’s much praised Symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system that remains standard, all 2019 Foresters get a new direct-injection enhanced 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 12-horsepower and 2-lb-ft gain over last year’s identically sized base engine. 

The upgraded drivetrain now includes an auto start/stop system that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, helping reduce emissions while improving fuel economy, but my tester’s wasn’t without fault. In fact, it was by far the roughest idle-stop system I’ve ever experienced, jerking the steering wheel sideways and even jarring my arm once when doing so. To be clear it didn’t go into fits and spats every time it engaged, but rather shut off and started up smoothly more often than not. Nevertheless, once in awhile it was a demon possessed, so I think Subaru will want to sort it out. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new Forester presents a roomier and more refined interior than its predecessor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the positive, the sometimes spastic auto start/stop system helped the 2019 Forester achieve 0.2 L/100km savings in combined city/highway driving despite the increase in performance, from 9.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 8.4 combined in the old model to 9.0 city, 7.2 highway and 8.2 combined in the new one. 

This said, a major source of disappointment for the 2019 model isn’t with this improved base powertrain, but rather the discontinuation of Subaru’s wonderful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine upgrade that previously put out 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque yet still managed a relatively thrifty 10.2 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.5 combined fuel economy rating. True, few vehicles in this class offer such a formidable optional engine, but it was nevertheless an important differentiator in a market segment that’s highly competitive. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new Sport gets orange interior highlights that might not be to everyone’s tastes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As it is, the 2019 Forester is more about comfort than speed. This philosophy certainly hasn’t hurt market leaders like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 in years past (although recent updates mean they’re both more formidable in a straight line than the Forester), but even with the aforementioned S# sport mode engaged, an exclusive Forester Sport feature that provides more immediate throttle response, there’s nary a hint of WRX in Subie’s little family hauler. Therefore, with performance now of secondary importance the focus is on efficiency, comfort and practicality, all of which are Forester strengths. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The attractive gauge cluster features a large, colour trip computer at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’ve covered efficiency, leaving us with a really smooth ride and even smoother Lineartronic CVT. It’s hard to knock a CVT in this type of vehicle. Its simple, reliable design and creamy power delivery is perfect for tooling around town, whirring down the highway, or trekking across a countryside gravel road, and when combined with the Forester’s fully independent front strut and double-wishbone rear suspension setup it’s comfortable over most any road surface. Handling is plenty capable too, and braking is strong, especially in Sport, Limited and Premier trims that come upgraded with 316 by 30 mm front discs. The new Forester is really a nicely balanced compact SUV.

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A smartly sorted centre stack comes filled with functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Trims in mind, the 2019 Forester is now available in base 2.5i, Convenience, Touring, Sport, Limited and Premier grades. Along with everything already mentioned, the base model includes standard power-adjustable heated side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, steering wheel controls, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, StarLink smartphone integration with Aha radio, HD and satellite radio, two USB ports/iPod interfaces, an aux input, heatable front seats, roof rails, the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, plus more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
This dash-top-mounted multi-information display, controlled via steering wheel switchgear, boasts wonderful graphics and useful features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of note, the standard infotainment touchscreen is now 0.3 inches larger in diameter at 6.5 inches, and also features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity that wasn’t even optional before. 

Standard features are even more generous in second-rung Convenience trim, which for $30,295 includes everything from the base model plus fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler, 17-inch alloys replacing the standard 17-inch steel wheels with covers, a windshield wiper de-icer, silver finish interior accents, chrome interior door handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, a colour TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a 6.3-inch colour multi-function display atop the dash that’s controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear, two more stereo speakers for a total of six, dual-zone automatic climate control (the base model’s auto HVAC is single-zone), sunvisor extensions, illuminated vanity mirrors, premium cloth upholstery, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar support, a flip-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, etcetera. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporates full-colour album artwork within the satellite radio interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For $1,500 more you can add the EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems noted earlier, an upgrade package that also includes proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and a retractable cargo cover. 

Incidentally, EyeSight not only comes standard with my Sport tester, but it’s included as standard in all grades above the two lowest trims. This means the $32,995 Touring model gets EyeSight too, plus everything already mentioned as well as automatic high beam assist, a large power-sliding glass sunroof with a sunshade, and a powered tailgate with memory function. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Just enough orange for you? Or does this Forester Sport model take the passionate colour a bit too far? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Above this, the as-tested Sport model, plus the Limited and Premier trims get a new two-mode X-Mode off-road system that’s capable of even greater go-anywhere prowess thanks to separate settings for snow and dirt, as well as deep snow and mud. Of course, I had to take it to my favourite local off-road play area for a little bushwhacking and it performed extremely well for this class. This said there aren’t many true 4x4s in the compact SUV segment anymore, leaving the new Forester’s off-road capability somewhere between the very capable Jeep Cherokee and everything else. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
These comfortable Forester Sport seats include stylish fabric inserts and attractive orange stitching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to features, the top three trims improve safety further via standard steering responsive headlights and Subaru’s Side/Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system, while each model also includes a leather shift knob plus a new 8.0-inch touchscreen that adds an inch to the diameter of last year’s top-line infotainment display. Once again the interface includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto where there wasn’t such advanced smartphone connectivity last year, while these upper trims also get dual rear USB ports for a new total of four, plus A/C ducts on the backside of the centre console, and reclining rear seats. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
That’s one big powered glass sunroof overhead. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As mentioned earlier, all-new $34,995 Sport trim is the visual standout of the 2019 Forester lineup, whether that’s a positive or negative in your view. Along with all the orange it gets a unique gloss black grille, special front corner grilles, a larger rear spoiler, a blackened trim strip that runs across the rear liftgate before striking through the taillights, and a unique rear under-guard. The Sport also features exclusive dark metallic 18-inch alloys, while LED daytime running lights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps and LED turn signals integrated within the mirror caps add to its upmarket appeal. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The second-row offers more legroom and comfortable, supportive seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should also make mention of $37,695 Limited trim despite this review being mostly about the Sport. The Limited eliminates the Sport’s performance upgrades yet keeps most of its convenience and luxury improvements, while adding unique 18-inch 10-spoke bright-finish machined alloy wheels, a premium grille, chrome detailing around the fog lamp bezels and side windows, auto-dimming side mirrors with approach lighting and reverse tilt (the latter item a Subaru first), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, chrome trimmed primary gauges, a heatable steering wheel rim, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market information, an eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon audio system with an eight-channel amplifier, leather upholstery in black or platinum, silver contrast stitching throughout, driver’s seat memory, heatable rear outboard seats, and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Second-rung Convenience trim with the EyeSight upgrade adds this useful retractable cargo cover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, for just $1,800 more you can opt for $39,495 Premier trim, a new top-of-the-line model that pushes the Forester up into luxury SUV levels of style and refinement. Premier trim once again includes the vertical LED fog lamps from the Sport within unique satin-silver trimmed bezels, as well as special aluminum-look satin-silver trim on the front fascia, side mirror caps, roof rail posts, side sills, and rear bumper. Additionally, exclusive 18-inch five-spoke machined alloy wheels combine with chromed exterior door handles and a stainless steel rear bumper step pad to spiff up the look further. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Lift up the cargo floor and you’ll find storage space, including a handy spot for stowing the cargo cover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside, the Forester Premier features exclusive brown leather upholstery that I really like, plus an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, while Subaru’s brand new DriverFocus driver fatigue and distracted driving mitigation system uses facial recognition to detect drowsiness or distraction. 

By the way, all of the trim details and prices were verified at CarCostCanada, where you can also find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating with your Subaru dealer, plus they have rebate information on any discounts that might be available to you. 

No matter the trim, all of the 2019 Forester’s features come in a cabin that boasts improved style, refinement and attention to detail, from additional soft-touch surfaces to some really nice dark satin metallic accents. Subaru even adds soft padded leatherette sides to the lower centre stack and console, the result being a wonderfully upscale look and feel. The geometric grey fabric used for the Sport’s door panel and seat upholstery is attractive, and I really like the orange contrast stitching throughout the interior. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new 2019 Forester provides more rear cargo space than in previous generations. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The analogue gauge cluster is bright and easily legible, with a large, colourful albeit straightforward multi-information display at centre, the latter complemented by a much larger and more complex MID atop the centre dash, that’s fully functional and filled with great looking high-resolution graphics. It even includes a trio of default meters for water and oil temperatures, plus average speed. Likewise the upgraded infotainment system is the best ever offered in a Forester, with bright, attractive graphics including album artwork when using satellite radio, wonderful depths of contrast and colour, and excellent resolution quality. All of the aforementioned functions worked well too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new one-size-fits-all 2.5-litre boxer engine might be a letdown for those that loved the old 2.0-litre turbo, but it’s a bonus for most Forester buyers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This last comment really sums up the entire 2019 Forester. The Sport may not be as fun to drive as last year’s top-line turbocharged model, but when compared to the previous base powertrain, which sold in much greater numbers, it’s a significant step forward, while the rest of this compact SUV is better in every way. This said it’s up against some formidable challengers, but Subaru’s faithful are as loyal as loyal can be, meaning that it should be able to hold onto most of its regular clientele while also growing its base. 

Early numbers show that it’s off to a good start, with December 2018 sales up 30 percent over the same month in 2017, while year-over-year sales are up 6 percent. Factoring in that Subaru sold the outgoing 2018 Forester for most of last year and it’s clear the new model is bolstering the bottom line, as it should be, so its onward and upward for this much improved model. Yes, the new Forester is easy to recommend, even in Sport trim, but make sure to keep a set of polarized sunglasses nearby for guarding against orange overwhelm.

Nissan’s Altima has long placed mid-pack in popularity amongst the dozen or so mid-size family sedans available to Canadian new car buyers, but the dramatically styled new 2019 model, featuring standard…

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One Road Test

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Nissan has given its 2019 Altima a bold new face, shown here in limited top-line Edition One trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan’s Altima has long placed mid-pack in popularity amongst the dozen or so mid-size family sedans available to Canadian new car buyers, but the dramatically styled new 2019 model, featuring standard all-wheel drive, should help move it closer to the top-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, a target made more achievable due to key rivals Ford and GM cancelling their third- and fifth-place Fusion and Chevy Malibu respectively. 

Certainly the mid-size family sedan segment has taken a beating in recent years, but imported brands are staying the course while domestics are pulling up shop and walking away from the entire car market despite comparatively strong sales. Ok, it’s not as if Ford and Chevy have been selling anywhere near as many Fusions and Malibus as Toyota and Honda delivered Camrys and Accords, the latter models’ numbers reaching 14,574 and 13,504 units respectively during model year 2017 (2018 numbers have yet to be tallied), but the 9,736 Fusions and 8,152 Malibus certainly proved stronger than the 7,827 Hyundai Sonatas or 6,626 Altimas sold during the same 12 months, or for that matter the 4,496 Kia Optimas, 4,145 VW Passats, 2,842 Chrysler 200s (a domestic sedan that has also been cancelled), 2,541 Mazda 6s, 2,451 Subaru Legacys (the only other car on this list with standard AWD), and 695 Buick Regals (strange GM chose to cancel the Malibu instead of this sales laggard). 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The new Altima’s rear design is tastefully sporty, highlighted by distinctive floating C pillars. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Dubbed Intelligent AWD, the Altima’s four-wheel propulsion system utilizes an advanced torque split design that automatically distributes power from 100 percent up front and zero at the rear, all the way to an even division of 50 percent front to rear. The bias depends on road conditions and resulting wheel slippage, with the default system being front-wheel drive to save on fuel and reduce emissions. Additionally, Nissan claims its new Intelligent AWD works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential, as well as its Hill Start Assist system. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Big grilles are all the rage, and this one digs deep in an effort to catch attention. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Powering it all is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, which is 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft stronger than the engine it replaces. Nissan promised smoother and quieter operation, plus better efficiency than the outgoing four-cylinder, and I must say it lived up to such claims during my test. Smooth is probably the best word to describe the updated powertrain, but much of this has to do with the revised Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s ideal for drivers looking for relaxed comfort, ease of use and efficient operation. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The base Altima S uses projector-type halogen headlamps, but all trims above incorporate these full LED lights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In default mode it goes about its duties with near seamless perfection, the CVT’s “seams”, or rather shift points, only added in order to mimic the feel of a conventional automatic transmission, as has been en vogue in continuously variable camps for a number of years. It all results in truly realistic shift intervals that never had me missing an old-school automatic. Driven modestly at legal city and highway speeds the Altima’s CVT is a perfect match for the equally modest powerplant, plus Nissan includes a Sport button on the backside of the shift lever for maximizing performance. It allows revs to climb higher before a more assertive “gear change”, although with no manual mode available driver engagement is minimal. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The lower fascia detailing is sporty, and optional LED fog lamps a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This brings up an important point. Nissan’s U.S. division offers the Altima with steering wheel paddle shifters and a sportier 2.0-litre variable-compression-ratio turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for up to 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, but due to Nissan Canada’s insistence on standard AWD this FWD-only model won’t be heading north of the 49th. 

More importantly in this class, the new CVT features an expanded lock-up area for enhanced fuel economy, this helping the new Altima achieve a claimed 9.1 L/100km city, 6.5 highway and 7.9 combined in S and SV trims, or 9.3 city, 6.7 highway and 8.1 combined in Platinum or as-tested Edition One trims. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Edition One trim is limited to 250 examples in Canada, and includes these exclusive matte grey 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Unfortunately I had no time to head up one of Vancouver’s snowcapped local mountains to test out the all-wheel drive this time around, but the aforementioned system certainly gripped well in wet weather and there was no noticeable slip during takeoff. Adhesion was further aided by standard traction and stability control systems, while Active Understeer Control and Intelligent Trace Control enhanced the Altima’s admirable mechanical cornering capability, plus the car’s comfort quotient was improved upon via Intelligent Ride Control. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
As every limited edition should, the Altima Edition One gets unique branding on the lower front door panels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Balancing ride quality and handling has been an Altima strength for as long as I can remember, memories of which go back to the third-generation model’s Canadian launch program in 2001, and to this end the mid-size segment’s usual fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup takes care of comfort and control, with the expected stabilizer bars at each end and dual-pinion electric powered steering providing direction. The combination works well, no doubt helped along via my tester’s aforementioned 19-inch alloys on 235/40 VR-rated all-season tires. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
A tasteful rear spoiler is part of the Edition One upgrade, but the LED taillights come standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, the 2019 Altima starts at just $27,998 plus freight and fees for base S trim, $31,498 for the SV, $34,998 for Platinum, and $35,998 for the 250-example limited-production launch version dubbed Edition One. I’ll go into some of the standard and optional features available with other trims in a moment, but being that I’m actually covering this special model I should first mention that those just noted 19-inch alloys look really nice thanks to a matte grey finish and large chunky spokes. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
This sporty diffuser-style rear apron incorporates dual chrome tipped exhaust pipes in SV trim and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Edition One also gets a larger than usual body-colour rear spoiler, “EDITION ONE” exterior badges on the lower portion of the front doors, ground lighting that emanates from below each side sill, illuminated “ALTIMA” metal kick plates, and really upscale grey carpeted floor mats with large “ALTIMA EDITION ONE” logos embroidered in a lighter silver/grey tone, along with the Platinum model’s standard feature set. By the way, you can find out all 2019 Altima pricing details at CarCostCanada, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The new Altima gets a nicely styled, impressively finished front passenger compartment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those Platinum features pulled up to Edition One trim include interior accent lighting, wood-tone inlays on the instrument panel, leather upholstery, two-way driver’s memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, an Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation, voice recognition for navigation and audio, SiriusXM-powered NissanConnect Services featuring compatible smartphone and smartwatch access to functions like remote engine start/stop, remote door lock/unlock, valet alert, etcetera, Door to Door Navigation that provides seamless transfer from a personal device using NissanConnect to the car’s infotainment interface, Premium Traffic that improves ETA accuracy, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, nine-speaker Bose premium audio, and Traffic Sign Recognition. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The Altima’s dash design provides an open, airy and uncluttered interior ambiance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Items found on the Platinum and Edition One that get pulled up from SV trim include advanced LED headlamps with signature LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and High Beam Assist (HBA), plus LED fog lights, dual chrome exhaust finishers, acoustic laminated glass, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air conditioning vents, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Pedestrian Detection added to the otherwise standard Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Intelligent Lane Intervention, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, and last but hardly least ProPILOT Assist semi-automated driving capability, an exclusive Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology that can totally take over steering duties for short durations on the highway, and aid steering (if you keep your hands on the wheel) for as long as you want, by helping to keep your Altima centered within its lane. While ProPILOT Assist is engaged, ICC gets used to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles ahead, resulting in one of the more advanced semi-self-driving systems currently available. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
A well laid out cockpit is highlighted by a really sporty flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Advanced driver assistance in mind, the new Altima not only comes standard with Intelligent Emergency Braking, but it also features standard Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW), Intelligent Driver Alertness (I-DA), and Rear Door Alert that reminds you of anything/anybody left in the back seat when exiting your car, while additional base S trim features pulled up to our top-line Altima include the aforementioned automatic Xtronic CVT and AWD, plus remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, auto on/off headlights, LED turn signals within the side mirror housings, LED taillights, active grille shutters, a UV-reducing solar glass windshield, an Advanced Drive-Assist display within the otherwise analogue Fine Vision electroluminescent gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, two illuminated USB ports and two of the smaller USB-C ports, plus more, while the standard menu continues with micro-filtered air conditioning, heated front seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, etcetera. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Bright, attractive Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges are flanked by a large colour multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When climbing inside I was first impressed with the Altima’s clean, contemporary design and better use of higher quality premium materials when compared to the outgoing Altima. When seated up front, most surfaces above the waistline are made from soft-touch synthetic, the dash and instrument panel particularly attractive in their minimalist design, albeit the woodgrain used for the latter feels a lot more genuine than it looks. Fortunately there’s no wood on the door panels, only extensions of the tasteful satin-silver accents used for the instrument panel and centre console, plus some French-stitched leatherette over soft padding found on the inserts and armrests. Nissan uses this treatment for the primary instrument hood too, not to mention down each side of the lower console, providing a premium treatment that’s not unlike its larger, fancier Maxima sedan. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The centre stack is nicely organized, but fake looking faux woodgrain? That’s so 1990s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A personal favourite item is the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel rim that gets a slightly flattened bottom section for a sporty look and feel. It’s enhanced with Nissan’s usual high-quality switchgear, while the aforementioned instrument cluster is bright, clear and filled with a large colour TFT multi-information display at centre. This said it’s up against a couple of rivals that feature fully digital gauges in top trims, but I doubt this will be a deal-breaker for the majority of mid-size sedan buyers. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The available navigation system is accurate, but was surprisingly slow to respond. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The infotainment touchscreen sits high atop the centre stack in the usual fixed tablet design, and as tested comes crammed with all the top-tier features mentioned earlier. Along with the usual tap gesture control, you can pinch and swipe its surface in certain applications, such as the navigation system’s map, but I must say I wasn’t certain of this at first try because it took so long for the system to respond. Some of its dulled reaction seemed to be due to having just started up the car, but even when it allowed me to zoom in and out or move the map around it wasn’t as immediately engaging or as smooth as some other systems in the class. The map graphics are very nice, however, and its route guidance worked flawlessly, while the infotainment system’s interface is well thought out on the whole. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
This split-screen backup and overhead camera made parking easy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the clarity of the display is excellent, as is its depth of colour and contrast, this made especially noticeable in the audio system’s satellite radio panel that provides colourful station branding and album cover artwork, while the Bose system’s sound quality was very good. Also impressive, my tester’s parking monitor was a split-screen design with a regular reverse camera featuring active guidelines to the left and an overhead 360-degree surround camera system to the right, a best of both worlds scenario. This, combined with the previously noted rear sensors, made parking very easy. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Nissan incorporates two sizes of USB ports, the smaller USB-C version expected to be industry standard moving forward. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also positive, the Altima’s “Zero Gravity” seats are wonderfully comfortable, with good lower back support plus the addition of two-way driver’s lumbar support that fit the small of my back almost perfectly. What’s more, I was pleased with the amount of rake and reach found in the tilt and telescopic steering column, allowing me to set up the driving position ideally, which isn’t the case with some rivals. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The little button just below the leather shift knob is for switching on Sport mode, but take note the Canadian-market Altima doesn’t offer manual shifting. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Rear seat roominess is very good too, with 10-plus inches of space between the front seatback to my knees when the former was set up for my five-foot-eight frame, plus I had plenty of room to stretch the legs out with my feet below the front seat. Likewise, the Altima offered about five inches of open air next to my outside hips and shoulders, plus about three inches above my head, which means its rear quarters should be roomy enough for most adults. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Comfort is king in the new Altima, these leather-clad seats particularly supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

An armrest with cupholders folds down at centre, while additional rear seat amenities include reading lights overhead and, as noted earlier, two sizes of USB ports on the backside of the front centre console. Other than a set of air vents on that same console, that’s about it for niceties in back, which means that fans of rear seat heaters need not apply. I was also surprised to find hard plastic rear door uppers, not to mention the same hard plastic used for most of the mid and lower door panels. Not only is this rare for the mid-size sedan segment no matter the trim level, but the outgoing Altima featured soft-touch door uppers in back. Only a small portion of this 2019 model’s door insert comes fitted with padded leatherette, along with the armrest, which results in a lower level of rear seat luxury than most in this segment. In fact, even this full-load Altima Edition One’s rear doors are no nicer than what you’d find in an entry-level compact car, and therefore they’re disappointing. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The Altima’s back seats are comfortable and passenger compartment roomy, but amenities are sparse and finishings below average. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving farther back still, some might be put off by the new Altima’s lack of trunk space. At 436 litres (15.4 cubic feet) it’s larger than most compacts, but it’s smaller than the Camry, Accord and others it’s up against. Release pulls allow 60/40-split rear seatbacks to tumble forward when more space is needed for transporting longer cargo, but this is par for the course in this class. Unusually good, however, is a front passenger’s seatback that can be fully reclined to house extra-long cargo. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Cargo space is less than the class average, but should suffice for most owners. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking of space up front, I could have used more cubbies on or under the centre console, and the glove box isn’t as cavernous as the outgoing model’s, but kudos to Nissan for correcting a constant complaint of mine, the overhead sunglasses holder now fits all types of shades thanks to the removal of a nosepiece holder that was previously ridiculously oversized. 

As for styling, the new 2019 Altima’s exterior design speaks for itself, and most should find its assertive new face to their liking. Its predominant feature is a go-big-or-go-home version of the brand’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, surrounded by those sleek new LED headlamps mentioned earlier, unless choosing the base S model that comes with a set of projector-type halogen headlights that are just as sleek, albeit not as bright, while the rest of the car portrays an athletic stance from front to back. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The usual 60/40 split rear seatbacks allow for longer cargo when needed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All said, the new Altima delivers big on style, interior design and execution up front, comfort and passenger roominess all-round, plus infotainment, handling, fuel economy, and advanced driver assistance systems, while its safety rating should at the very least measure up to its peers. I don’t think Nissan has hit the new Altima out of the park, meaning the Camry and Accord should still reign supreme in the mid-size sedan segment, but it should satisfy most current Altima owners that aren’t already planning to upgrade to a Murano, Pathfinder, or some other crossover SUV like so many of today’s consumers are. Then again, the all-season stability and safety that comes with standard AWD combined with the unmatched security of a lockable trunk should be considered, and the new Altima is one of few vehicles on today’s mainstream volume-branded market providing both.

I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan for as long as I can remember, which made me especially excited to get behind the wheel of a modern-day example. Bright “Alfa Rosso” red livery aside, the Stelvio supplied…

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD Road Test

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio, shown here in Ti Sport AWD trim, is one distinctive looking compact luxury SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan for as long as I can remember, which made me especially excited to get behind the wheel of a modern-day example. Bright “Alfa Rosso” red livery aside, the Stelvio supplied wasn’t anything I would have expected to ever wear the blue-encircled red cross on a white field and green serpent badge before, but luxury marque boardroom bottom lines have been causing crossover SUVs to show up in what we middle-aged car enthusiasts might consider to be the most unlikely places these days. 

This in mind, the last Alfa Romeo I’d driven before this new Stelvio was an almost equally bright red 1991 164 S sport sedan, a car that I borrowed from a pre-owned retailer friend back in the day just so I could appreciate how a front-wheel drive Alfa might feel. It was actually one of the better stock front-drivers I’d experienced up to that point, but it was a completely different experience than the ’86 GTV6 I’d tested prior to that, or any number of mid-to-late ‘60s and early-to-mid ‘70s four-cylinder powered rear-drive 105/115 series GTV coupes, “Duetto” and Spider Veloce roadsters, and last but hardly least, another friend’s ruddy quick 1750-infused ‘67 Giulia Super sedan we lovingly dubbed “The Fridge” due to its boxy shape and stealth white paint. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio isn’t quite as unique looking from the rear, but such is the case for most SUVs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Fondly remembering some of these now classic Alfa models, I perused the online classifieds to see if any of my favourite Italian flames might now be available and how unaffordable they’d become, only to have my initial expectations of potential fulfillment quashed with 1750 and 2000 GT Veloce coupes going for considerably more than new 4Cs, between $60k and $80k, not to mention a dreamy 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale with an even loftier $155,000 asking price. Of course, classic Alfas have been sold for millions, especially those with racing pedigree, which is far from the case for most competitive premium brands these days. 

 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
LEDs adorn the Stelvio’s headlamp clusters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The only Lexus model to regularly fetch six-figure sums is the LFA supercar, a worthy contender that may indeed be worth significantly more one day, but such speculation is hardly bankable. Acura’s NSX enjoys more history and a current six-digit price, yet the Japanese brand has never achieved anything in the sevens, which brings us to Infiniti that is in fact using its design team to conceptualize what its brand may have appeared like if it actually existed back in the glory days ¬of motor racing—and don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but love the Prototype 9 and more recent Prototype 10. 

Infiniti shouldn’t feel bad for its lack of history, especially considering that mighty BMW wasn’t even part of that era. While Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A.) was tearing up the Targa Florio in 1911, ahead of Nicola Romeo & Co taking the reins to win the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925, the German upstart was fixing its blue and white roundel radiator cap ornament to rebranded Austin 7s and dubbing them Dixi. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The iconic Alfa Romeo badge definitely enhances the Ti Sport’s standard 20-inch alloys. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, Mercedes-Benz has a glorious motorsport past and present, as do many of today’s luxury brands from Audi and Porsche to Bentley and Ferrari, but Alfa Romeo is nevertheless rare in today’s somewhat homogenized automotive world. It’s managed to retain a semi-exotic aura despite now competing directly with the more common premium carmakers just noted, which makes the need for superior style, luxury and performance of greater import than average. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio’s blackened roof shows off its large panoramic glass sunroof. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To this end it also makes sense for the new Stelvio to be one of the compact luxury SUV segment’s priciest entries, its $53,345 base MSRP greater than all conventionally-powered competitors except for the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar. The Velar is quite a bit larger, mind you, bordering on mid-size like its Jaguar F-Pace cousin, so its $10k higher base price could be seen as reasonable against bigger two-row rivals like the Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (previously called M/ML-Class), Lincoln Nautilus (née MKX) and Cadillac XT5 (see all 2019 Stelvio pricing at CarCostCanada, as well as important rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

Instead, the Stelvio has been designed to fit snuggly into the compact luxury SUV sweet spot held by such perennial best-sellers as Audi’s Q5 and Acura’s RDX. Actually, at 4,687 millimetres (184.5 inches) long with a 2,818 mm (110.9 in) wheelbase, 1,903 mm (74.9 in) wide (excluding its mirrors), 1,648 mm (64.9 in) tall, and weighing in at 1,660 kilograms (3,660 lbs) in base form, the Stelvio is slightly longer and wider than the Q5 with an almost identical wheelbase, height and curb weight. Interestingly, the new RDX has grown considerably to end up quite a bit longer than either competitor with a notably shorter wheelbase, but to be fair it targets a less affluent buyer despite impressive luxury and performance. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Prestige has much to do with this, and helps the Stelvio command its higher price. The Stelvio AWD base MSRP noted a moment ago is merely the starting point in a range that ventures well into Range Rover and Porsche SUV territory, with the Italian model’s lineup also including the $55,345 Stelvio Ti AWD, $55,845 Sport AWD, as-tested $58,245 Ti Sport AWD, $58,595 Ti Lusso AWD, $95,000 Quadrifoglio AWD. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio features an impressively finished interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Quadrifoglio is Alfa-speak for an M- or AMG-like performance upgrade. The four-leaf clover has long been the sign of special performance models destined for a lucky few, and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio takes SUV performance to unprecedented levels. As you may have surmised by the other trim-line names, AWD is standard and Sport makes reference to performance improvements, albeit not with respect to the standard powertrain. 

Quadrifoglio aside, the Stelvio’s sole engine is a 280 horsepower 2.0-litre direct-injected and twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder with 306 lb-ft of torque, while the world’s second-quickest SUV stuffs a 2.9-litre V6 between its front fender wells that’s good for 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio dash even includes Alfa’s classic double-bubble instrument hoods. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To put this into perspective, the fastest Macan Turbo is only capable of achieving 100km/h in 4.4 seconds yet it’ll cost you more at $99,000 plus options, whereas the Cayenne Turbo can match the Quadrifoglio’s blistering pace when upgraded with its Sport Chrono Package, yet it does so from the seat of a larger, more substantive machine that starts at a near-exotic $140,980 so equipped. VW products in mind, the ultra-fast Alfa even beats Bentley’s quickest 600 horsepower Bentayga to 100km/h, maintaining the brand’s semi-exotic status due to the necessity of performance comparisons against ultra-rich hardware like the $232,000 Lamborghini Urus that’s now the only SUV capable of quicker acceleration off the line thanks to the same naught to 100km/h feat managed in just 3.6 seconds. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
Fans of the Italian brand will be glad they maintained these sporty analogue gauges. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

While being propelled from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds sounds both exciting and daunting from the heights of a compact SUV, I found the base engine wonderfully engaging when the desire for straight-line performance got the better of me, while it proved a pleasant everyday driver as well. 

To be clear, the performance edge added by the upgrade to Sport AWD includes a set of steering column-mounted paddles plus tweaks the suspension with a firmer setting via lowered springs and uprated dampers. Furthermore, Ti trim allows the ability to add a $1,500 Performance Package including a limited slip rear differential and an active and continuous suspension and shock absorber control system that reduces body lean, pitch and dive oscillations no matter the conditions. The system constantly interacts with the standard Chassis Domain Controller (CDC) as well as standard DNA Pro drive modes before calibrating its findings dependent on the selected setting. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These are some awesome paddle shifters, fixed to the steering column and made from aluminum, just like Ferrari. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

DNA Pro can be controlled via a rotating dial next to the electronic shifter atop the lower centre console. The dial points to separate settings that read “d”, “n” and “a”, a witty collective play on acronyms that combines the abbreviation for all living organisms’ source code with the usual driving modes. While I would’ve loved if these letters represented Italian language references, DNT (dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour) doesn’t have the same ring to it as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), so therefore the letter “d” stands for dynamic instead of dinamico, “n” for natural rather than naturale, and “a” for all weather in lieu of tutto il tempo. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The centre stack includes a nice simple layout, minimalist in design and execution. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Before I get ahead of myself (or lose myself in silliness), you start the Stelvio by pressing a button on the steering wheel, a process that I never really got used to throughout my test week due to such buttons normally being somewhere on the dash or centre console. My inability to quickly find it had more to do with habit than location, being that I don’t get enough seat time in Ferraris anymore, which use the same layout. Once up and running I found the Stelvio’s four-cylinder much quieter than any of the aforementioned Alfas driven previously, whether idling or tooling around town at low revs in default Natural mode, and while such aural pleasantries are now muted so are expletives uttered from would-be backyard mechanics attempting to optimize the twin cam timing via strobe on sidedraft Weber and points equipped engines. In other words, modern-day electronics have made our vehicles a lot more reliable.  

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The navigation system’s mapping uses most of the display’s 8.8 inches of area. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In truth, there was no way to look under the hood of my particular tester at all. When I attempted to do so for photo purposes the hood release lever wasn’t working. I pulled it and nothing happened, all before it fell off in my hands. How quickly I was transported back to the roadside mechanical nightmares of my youth and requirement for such expletives just noted, and how perturbed that this Alfa Romeo became the first vehicle in nearly 20 years of reviewing new cars to experience such a problem. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The backup camera image is clear, but it doesn’t use much screen space and is therefore extremely small. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Fortunately the Stelvio redeemed itself when it came time to drive, as its initially docile sounding four-cylinder came alive like an Alfa Romeo should when Dynamic sport mode was activated. It launches from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds and really feels like the sub-six-second car it is, while its standard eight-speed automatic shifts with immediacy and precision via the console shifter or those steering column-mounted paddle shifters noted earlier. The former is finished in what looks and feels like a satin-silver alloy, while the latter are made from hefty chunks of smooth billet aluminum. They’re nice and long and, being fixed to the column, don’t rotate with the steering wheel, so you’ll always know which one to use for upshifts and which for downshifts. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
A nice and tidy assortment of controls makes the Stelvio look and work ideally. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding its quick response to throttle input and helping reduce overall mass to benefit in all other ways is a lightweight carbon fibre driveshaft, while the Stelvio’s rigid high-strength steel constructed body shell is unburdened further via aluminum front and rear vehicle frames, aluminum front shock towers, brakes, suspension components, doors, fenders, roof and hood, plus a composite rear cross member continues to lighten the load. All of this, along with my tester’s 20-inch alloys on 255/45 Continental CrossContact LX Sport all-season tires that come standard with its near top-line Ti Sport trim, plus Alfa’s fully independent aluminum-intensive double wishbone front suspension with semi-virtual steering axis, and unique patented “Alfa Link” design rear setup with vertical rods, made for one of the best handlers in the class and a mighty comfortable one too. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The DNA of performance driving? Alfa would like you to think so. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Much of my Stelvio tester’s comfort quotient was derived from the fabulous “Performance Sport” leather-upholstered seats that come standard with its upgrade to Ti Sport AWD trim, the driver’s form-fitting and superbly supportive, especially when it came to holding backside in place during fast-paced lateral manoeuvres. These seats include side bolster bladders to hug one’s torso more snuggly, plus extendable lower front cushions to cup under the knees, the former powered and the latter manually operated. While ideal for my smallish five-foot-eight frame, I picked up a close friend who is thicker around the middle and he complained they were too tight, even when we widened the bladders as far as they would go. This is definitely something to consider when purchasing, with the base seats potentially better for larger folk. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These leather-upholstered sport seats are wonderfully comfortable and ultra-adjustable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Seating in mind, with the driver’s seat positioned for my height I sat behind and found it very comfortable and quite roomy with approximately eight to 10 inches ahead of my knees, plus more than enough room for my feet even when stretching out my legs, while there was also about three and a half inches above my head, and four to five inches beside my hips and shoulders. Alfa provides a flip-down armrest at centre, complete with dual cupholders. They even provided a slot between the two cupholders for holding a smartphone, very intelligent. There are two large vents on the backside of the front console for feeding air to each rear passenger, plus a duo of USB charging ports under these, while rear outboard seat heaters are available as well. The rear passenger compartment is very well finished too, and the panoramic glass sunroof overhead provides an open, airy ambiance. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
Here’s a look at the dual-pane panoramic sunroof from below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear liftgate is powered if you opt for the $500 Convenience package, and stops at pre-programmed heights, this one preset quite low so I kept bumping my head on it. Yes, I could’ve set it to lift higher, but to its credit I was easily able to push it higher manually. The retractable cargo cover is well made and fits nice and tight within its extended position, while the carpeting and finishing of the cargo area is quite good too. Alfa included a rail system in back, also part of the Convenience package, complete with movable hooks for clamping down gear, while the load floor in between can be lifted and removed, exposing a styrofoam compartment underneath. Levers for automatically lowering the 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks are provided to each side, the centre position needing to be folded manually from a pull-tab on top. I like the flexibility of the cargo area, the centre pass-through ideal for longer items like skis, and while a smidge smaller than the aforementioned Audi Q5 at 525 litres (18.5 cu ft) behind its rear seats and 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) when they’re fully flat, it should suffice for most peoples’ needs. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The rear seating area is roomy and very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not going to try to directly compare the Stelvio to the Q5 when it comes to the quality of materials, fit, finish and design, but only because they’re so different stylistically. Both are excellent, broken hood latch aside. The Stelvio gets the usual cloth roof pillars, an upscale premium soft-touch dash top and door uppers front to rear, as well as some other nice padded and stitched leather and leatherette on most other waist-height-and-above surfaces, but unlike some in the class its quest to pamper gets marred by hard plastic on the insides of the centre console, plus some sections of the upper door panels and the entirety of the lower door panels. Then again the Stelvio improves on some of its rivals with a glove box lid covered in a premium pliable synthetic, plus it adds more soft stuff to the top sides of the centre console and all of the instrument panel down to its midpoint, while the Ti Sport’s standard aluminum inlays look and feel like the genuine metal they’re touted to be—you can get yours with hardwood if more your style. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio offers up a sizeable cargo area, but watch your head on the programmable optionally powered liftgate. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, most of the switchgear was up to snuff thanks to reasonably high-quality, dense composites and nice, tight fitment, although some of the rotating knobs felt a tad sloppy, but only because they can be pushed forward, backward, side to side and turned. 

In a market that’s starting to lean toward standard digital gauge clusters, the Stelvio’s primary instruments are mostly analogue, which I must admit is fine with me, especially when they’re done so nicely and conjure up such wonderful thoughts of past Alfa classics. A large colour multi-information display sits between traditional tachometer and speedometer dials, filled with useful functionality yet most of its panels are black and white monochromatic. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
A cargo rail system is available for tying down gear, while handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks allow stowage of long items like skis. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the centre stack is an 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment display that looks plenty large and modern enough, but it wasn’t particularly inspiring when it comes to graphics. Certainly the navigation mapping was colourful and crystal clear, not to mention very accurate, and its interface clean, uncluttered and nicely laid out with black backgrounds and fittingly red highlights, but the reverse camera is tiny compared to most on today’s market, coming nowhere near to filling the screen space provided, and therefore making it less than ideal for negotiating complicated parking stalls, especially at night. On the positive, the optional Harman/Kardon audio system was superb. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
This is what you’ll find below the cargo floor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard for 2019, while those heated rear seats are standalone options, as is an upgraded alarm. My Ti Sport tester and the top-line Quadrifoglio can be had with a carbon fibre package this year too, while an available Nero Edizione (Black Edition) adds darker wheels and blackened exterior accents, including the badges, to all trim lines. 

Incidentally, that aforementioned Convenience package also includes a cargo net and a 115-volt household style power outlet, while a $1,000 Driver Assistance Static package adds auto-dimming side mirrors and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Those wanting yet more advanced driver assistance can opt for a $1,500 Driver Assistance Dynamic Plus package boasting automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and solar control windshield glass. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These helpful levers let you drop the rear seatbacks automatically while loading from behind. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As for standard equipment, the base model includes 18-inch alloys, HID headlights with LED DRLs, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, leather seat upholstery, eight-speaker audio, and the previously noted TFT driver information display, selectable drive modes, and reverse camera. 

Above that, Ti trim ups wheel size to 19 inches while adding aforementioned navigation to the larger 8.8-inch infotainment display, and also includes the genuine hardwood inlays noted earlier, while Lusso trim is all about heaping on the luxury. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio is an absolute blast to drive, but it’s wonderfully practical too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Regular readers will know I don’t often comment on styling unless a vehicle’s beauty takes me off guard or the opposite occurs, but this is an Alfa Romeo and, partially because of my long love affair with the brand and partly due to being the first I’ve ever reviewed, I feel compelled to say a few words. First, few brands stand out with such distinctive front end styling, its classic V-shaped centre grille plunging deeply past the front bumper like nothing else on the road. A sharp looking set of available LED headlamps bookend each side and big sporty black mesh vents fill in the lower front fascia, while those aforementioned alloy wheels looked particularly attractive in their split five-spoke design, and sportier than the base rims. I love that Alfa adorns each hub with its iconic badge, these placed at each end of the SUV as well, while the LED taillights are nearly as interesting as the headlamps up front, and dual chrome exhaust-tipped lower rear valance nearly as alluring as the front apron. I must say the Stelvio lives up to styling expectations no matter the trim. 

I only wish I saw more of them on the road. Even my exotic sports car and premium SUV filled neighbourhood left me wanting, the Stelvio seemingly as rare as rare can be, while hardly exclusive and therefore comparatively boring Q5s, RDXs, X3s, GLCs and NXs roam rampant. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are very good luxury SUVs worthy of your attention, but the Stelvio delivers a higher level of styling and driving passion that truly deserves more love. That it also provides all the practicality this segment demands is reason enough to seriously consider it. I can’t promise you Lexus levels of reliability, but one quick stint behind the wheel and you won’t care.