Lexus is in the unique position of offering the North American luxury market two premium sedans nearly identical in size and more or less the same shape, within an auto sector that’s shunning four-door…

2019 Lexus ES 300h

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus redesigned its popular ES series luxury sedan for 2019, and we’ve got the ES 300h hybrid in our garage. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lexus is in the unique position of offering the North American luxury market two premium sedans nearly identical in size and more or less the same shape, within an auto sector that’s shunning four-door three-box designs faster than you can say SUV. 

Rather than nix at least one of them like so many of its rivals are doing, the preeminent Japanese luxury brand soldiers into 2019 with the sportier and more upscale GS 350 AWD, unchanged since 2015, and the ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid completely redesigned for its seventh generation, this latter set of models hot on the heels of the all-new fifth-generation Toyota Avalon that shares underpinnings. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES 300h gets much more dramatic styling front to back. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter whether trimmed out as a base ES 350, upgraded with more athletic ES 350 F Sport duds, or delivered in classy as-tested ES 300h guise, Lexus’ front-drive four-door now adds an entirely new level of visual drama to its outward design. Its trademark spindle grille is larger and considerably more expressive, its origami-inspired LED headlight clusters more complex with sharper edges, its side profile longer and sleeker with a more pronounced front overhang and a swoopier sweep to its C pillars that now taper downward over a shorter, taller trunk lid, while its rear end styling is more aggressively penned due to a much bigger crescent-shaped spoiler that hovers above expansive triangular wrap-around LED taillights. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
This is one of the most expansive spindle grilles in Lexus’ lineup, while its standard LED headlamps are razor sharp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The overall design toys with the mind, initially flowing smoothly from the grille rearward, overtop the hood and down each sculpted side, but then it culminates into a clamor of dissonant creases, folds and cutlines at back. Still, it comes together quite well overall, and certainly won’t conjure any of the model’s previous criticisms about yawn-inducing styling. 

Similar can be said of the interior, but instead of sharp edges the cabin combines myriad horizontal planes and softer angles with higher-grade materials than the outgoing ES, not to mention a few design details pulled from the LFA supercar, particularly the black knurled metal pods hanging off each side of the primary instrument hood, the left one for turning off the traction control, and the knob to the right for scrolling between Normal, Eco and Sport modes. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The big rear spoiler looks like it could’ve been inspired by the 2nd-gen E63 2003–2010 BMW 6 Series coupe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Between those unorthodox pods is a standard digital gauge cluster that once again was inspired by the LFA supercar and plenty of lesser Lexus road cars since, while the infotainment display at dash central measures a minimum of 8.0 inches up to a sizeable 12.3 inches, yet both look even larger due to all the extra black glass bordering each side, the left portion hiding a classic LED-backlit analogue clock underneath. 

Better yet, when opting for the as-tested ES 300h hybrid the infotainment interface now comes standard with Apple CarPlay for those who’d rather not integrate their smartphone via Lexus’ proprietary Enform system. This said Enform is arguably more comprehensive and easier to use than Android Auto, which is not included anyway, while standard Enform 2.0 apps include info on fuel prices, traffic incidents, weather, sports, and stocks, plus it’s also bundled with Scout GPS Link, Slacker, Yelp, and more. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus really upped the ES interior, especially when equipped with the Premium package that adds a 12.3-inch infotainment display. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2019 ES 300h also gets an updated Remote Touch Interface trackpad controller on the lower console, which allows gesture controls like tap, pinch and swipe, while other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, 10-speaker audio with satellite radio, a deodorizing, dust and pollen filtered dual-zone automatic climate control system, 10-way powered front seats with both three-way heat and ventilation, NuLuxe breathable leatherette upholstery, all the usual active and passive safety equipment including 10 airbags, plus much more. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
This digital gauge cluster comes standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Safety in mind, the new ES 300h comes standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that features an autonomous emergency braking pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, plus lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, new Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) automated lane guidance, automatic high beams, and full-speed range adaptive cruise control, all for just $47,000 plus freight and fees, which is only $2,000 more than the conventionally powered base ES 350. 

The aforementioned 12.3-inch infotainment display comes as part of an optional $3,800 Premium package that also adds blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse tilting side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a heatable steering wheel, front seat and side mirror memory, navigation with extremely detailed mapping, and Enform Destination Assist that provides 24/7 live assistance for finding destinations or points of interest. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
This left-side LFA-inspired pod controller is for turning off the traction control. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Alternatively you can opt for the even more comprehensive $10,600 Luxury package that combines everything from the Premium package with 18-inch alloy wheels, Tri-LED headlamps, Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, full leather upholstery, and a powered rear window sunshade. 

Instead, the as-tested $14,500 Ultra Luxury package builds on the Luxury package with unique 18-inch noise reduction alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, a 10-inch head-up display, a 360-degree surround parking monitor, 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio, softer semi-aniline leather upholstery, rear door sunshades, and a touch-free gesture control powered trunk lid. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES 300h’ driver’s seat looks comfortable, but are the ergonomics good for all body types? Come back for a full review to find out… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

By the way, to get all 2019 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h pricing details including trims, package and options, plus important rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, be sure to visit CarCostCanada.

Needless to say this $61,500 model is the most luxuriously equipped Lexus ES 300h to date, but you’ll need to wait for our full road test review to find out just how nice it is inside, plus how its upgraded Hybrid Synergy Drive power unit performs compared to the outgoing version, whether its fancy Sport mode does anything worth talking about, if its fully independent suspension is sportier than the old ES 300h’s setup, let alone as comfortable, and if its fuel economy is any thriftier. Of course, we won’t hold back our criticisms, so make sure to come back soon for our full review…

Toyota redesigned the Highlander for the 2014 model year, giving it much more character and impressive refinement inside, while upping the maximum seat count from seven to eight, and then after just three…

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
Except for new LED fog lamps, Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid Limited remains unchanged for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota redesigned the Highlander for the 2014 model year, giving it much more character and impressive refinement inside, while upping the maximum seat count from seven to eight, and then after just three years they replaced the simpler truck-inspired front grille and fascia for a ritzier chromed up look that certainly hasn’t hurt sales. 

Its popularity within its mid-size crossover SUV segment grew from eighth in the 2016 calendar year, when the updated model was introduced, to seventh the following year, while after three quarters of 2018 it’s risen to fifth overall and just third amongst its dedicated three-row peers. 

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
The Highlander is still one of the better looking mid-size crossover SUVs from the rear.

Obviously Toyota sees no reason to change much for 2019, so the full-load Limited model in our garage this week only gets a nice new set of LED fog lamps. This is true for both the conventionally powered model and our Highlander Hybrid tester, the latter being the only mid-size SUV within the mainstream volume sector to be offered with a hybrid-electric powertrain. 

Think about that for a moment. SUVs are taking over the entire automotive market, and electrification is supposedly our future, but only Toyota offers a hybridized mid-size SUV. Like so many things in life, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Kudos to Toyota, mind you, that’s been leading the way for more than a dozen years. 

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
Here’s a slightly closer look at the new LED fog lights, plus the Limited model’s dark chrome five-spoke alloy wheels.

Hybridization means Toyota swaps out its standard 295-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 for the same engine running on a more efficient Atkinson cycle, which when mated to two permanent magnet synchronous electric motors, one for driving the front wheels and the other for those in the rear, plus a sealed nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) traction battery, results in 306 horsepower and an undisclosed amount of torque that’s no doubt more than the 263 lb-ft provided by the gasoline-only variant. 

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
The Highlander Hybrid offers up a nicely finished interior in top-line Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, the regular Highlander’s advanced eight-speed automatic is replaced by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) with stepped ratios to mimic the feel of a traditional gearbox, plus a sequential shift mode for getting sporty or merely downshifting while engine-braking, and as sure as rain (or should I say snow this time of year) its aforementioned all-wheel drivetrain takes care of slippery situations. 

At $50,950 plus freight and fees the 2019 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t come cheap in base XLE trim, while this upgraded full-load Limited model hits the road for a whopping $57,260, but then again a similarly optioned 2019 Chevrolet Traverse High Country comes in at an even loftier $60,100, and the only slightly nicer 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir will set you back a stratospheric $62,100, and they don’t even offer hybrid drivetrains, so maybe the Highlander Hybrid Limited isn’t so pricy after all. 

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
Put yourself in the driver’s seat in our upcoming road test review…

By the way, check out CarCostCanada for detailed pricing of trims, packages and options, plus money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, whether purchasing the new 2019 Highlander, 2019 Chevy Traverse, 2019 Buick Enclave, or any other mid-size crossover SUV. 

I’ll go into much more detail in my upcoming 2019 Highlander Hybrid Limited review, so for now enjoy our comprehensive photo gallery above and be sure to come back soon for my full road test…

Most everyone expected Toyota to enter the subcompact SUV segment at some point, but showing up with a sportier, smaller than average entry, and therefore putting styling ahead of practicality was surprising…

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Toyota has added a new top-line Limited trim to its sporty looking C-HR subcompact crossover SUV for 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Most everyone expected Toyota to enter the subcompact SUV segment at some point, but showing up with a sportier, smaller than average entry, and therefore putting styling ahead of practicality was surprising to all. 

After all, the segment sales leaders make it clear that passenger/cargo roominess and flexibility is king, with models like the Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-3 and Subaru Crosstrek dominating up until this year, and newcomers like the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Kona finding strong sales due to their pragmatic approach and more. It’s as if the new C-HR picked up where the now discontinued Nissan Juke left off (that latter SUV replaced by the new Kicks), albeit without the Juke’s stellar performance. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Rich looking $225 Ruby Flare Pearl paint can only be had with XLE or Limited trims, while the $795 Ruby Flare Pearl / Black Roof option is exclusive to the upgraded XLE Premium and Limited. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

C-HR sales haven’t exactly been abysmal, that dejected title belonging to the Fiat 500X that only managed 69 sales over the first nine months of 2018 (with 548 Canadian sales for the entire brand so far this year, Fiat’s days are likely numbered in the North American markets), while Jeep’s Renegade hasn’t been tearing up the sales charts either with just 1,000 units down the road, but the C-HR’s 5,188 deliveries (placing it eighth out of 13 models that have been available all year) are nowhere near as strong as the new Hyundai Kona’s 10,852 units (and it’s only been available since March), while the aforementioned Qashqai has been killing it with 14,755 sold as of the close of Q3 2018. Crosstrek deliveries remain strong at 11,147 units over the same nine months, while the CX-3 was at 10,207 sales, the Soul at 9,226, and the long-in-tooth HR-V at 8,155 deliveries (a refreshed 2019 HR-V should help matters moving forward). Should we call the C-HR a rare sales dud from Toyota? The Japanese brand certainly appears to have missed the mark, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor choice for those who don’t need as much interior space. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
These stylish 18-inch alloys come standard with XLE Premium and Limited trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact the new C-HR, now in its second model year after arriving on the scene in May of 2017, is quite a nice subcompact SUV. I won’t go into just how nice in this garage segment of this 2019 C-HR Limited version, but suffice to say it combines mostly comfortable cruising with the majority of its peers’ high-level features, reasonably good performance and excellent fuel economy. 

The 2019 C-HR gets some significant changes that should help it find more buyers, starting with a new base LE trim level that chops over a $1,000 from the 2018 model’s base price. Still, $23,675 is hardly as affordable as some of the sales leaders mentioned earlier, the Qashqai still only available in 2018 trim yet its 2019 counterpart shouldn’t sell for much more than its current $19,998 base price despite the new Nissan Kicks arriving as the segment’s best bargain at just $17,998. Another factor against the C-HR’s success is the fact you can get into the much larger and more accommodating Nissan Rogue for about $3k more than the base C-HR, while the all-new 2019 RAV4 starts at just $27,790 (find new vehicle pricing for all makes and models including the C-HR and RAV4 at CarCostCanada, with detailed info on trims, packages and options, plus otherwise hard to get rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Limited trim adds rain-sensing wipers, a windshield de-icer, ambient lighting, and leather upholstery in black or brown. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That base C-HR LE gets Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system, which now utilizes a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and supports Apple CarPlay smartphone integration (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em). Even better, the new display now incorporates the C-HR’s backup camera, which instead was fitted within the rearview mirror in last year’s model and therefore ruddy useless. 

Entune also includes the ability to link a Scout GPS smartphone app to the centre display for navigation purposes, plus Entune App Suite Connect that features separate apps for traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, stocks, fuel and NPR One, although I don’t know how the latter U.S.-specific National Public Radio station will do anyone in Canada much good.  

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
This impressive 8-inch touchscreen is standard, as is Toyota’s superb new Entune 3.0 smartphone integration and Apple CarPlay. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional base features worth noting include automatic high beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, remote access, an acoustic glass windshield, auto up/down powered windows all around, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, dual-zone auto climate control, six-speaker audio, piano black lacquered instrument panel trim, fabric upholstery, front sport seats, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver’s knee airbag and rear side thorax airbags, plus more. 

Last year’s sole XLE trim level is mostly carryover for 2019 other than its higher $25,725 price and new Entune 3.0 Audio Plus that features the larger touchscreen while including automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance SOS button, and enhanced roadside assistance, with additional features including 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, upgraded cloth upholstery, heatable front seats, and two-way powered lumbar support for the driver’s seat. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
These leather-covered front bucket seats look like they’re from a sports car, not an entry-level SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The $27,325 XLE Premium package adds 18-inch alloys, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, heated power-folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. 

Also new for 2019 is as-tested $28,775 top-line Limited trim that adds rain-sensing wipers, a handy windshield wiper de-icer, ambient interior lighting, and leather upholstery in black or brown. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Enough cargo room for you? Come back for our full review to find out what we think… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While two new trim levels and upgraded infotainment are improvements over last year’s C-HR, the sole 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine might leave some potential buyers (especially those coming out of the aforementioned Juke) feeling like its performance doesn’t measure up to its sporty exterior design due to just 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a focus on fuel economy, and no all-wheel drive option, front-drive being the only driveline configuration available. 

Then again, if you’re looking for a sporty looking SUV with good fuel economy the C-HR’s claimed 8.7 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 8.2 combined rating might be just what your inflation deflated personal budget requires. 

I’ll talk more about real-world fuel economy and seat-of-the-pants driving dynamics in my upcoming road test review, and of course ramble on ad nauseum about driver’s seat ergonomics, rear seat spaciousness and comfort, storage space, and new Entune 3.0 infotainment, plus I’ll go on at length regarding the touchy-feely points of this Limited model’s interior quality, so make sure to come back for the full 2019 Toyota C-HR Limited review…

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals.  What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher…

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
With its big illuminated satin-chrome grille, LED headlamps, 20-inch alloys, and elegantly understated good looks, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature could easily come from a pricey luxury brand. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals. 

What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher priced premium brand for owners to gravitate to when they might otherwise feel the inclination to move up to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and therefore they won’t allow their mainstream volume models to wander too far upmarket in design or finishings so as not to interfere with this hierarchal brand strategy, but Mazda has no such constraints, so therefore its cars and SUVs are often a cut above their rivals. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s narrow LED taillights, stylishly understated satin-chrome detailing, and sleek overall shape make it a head-turner from every angle. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take the 2019 CX-9 mid-size crossover SUV I’m driving this week. It looks like it could’ve rolled off the assembly line of a luxury manufacturer thanks to a big, stylish satin-silver grille with special night illumination that wraps around its lower half, full LED headlamps with auto high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-leveling, a beautifully aerodynamic lower front fascia with integrated LED fog lamps, stunning 20-inch light grey high lustre alloy wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 all-season tires, tastefully applied satin-chrome trim all-round, and a great deal more on the outside. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Easier to see at night, the Signature includes thin white LED illumination around the lower half of its grille. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That said it’s the CX-9 Signature’s interior that really makes occupants feel pampered, much thanks to a two-tone brown and black motif that includes soft Nappa leather upholstery with beautifully detailed stitching, genuine Santos Rosewood trim on the centre console and doors, aluminum dash and upper door panel inlays, satin-chrome interior switchgear, loads of soft-touch surfacing throughout, fabric-wrapped front roof pillars, LED overhead and ambient lighting, plus more, while areas not seen are stuffed full of sound-deadening insulation, the windshield and front windows are made from noise-isolating glass, and plenty of additional refinements to the body shell, steering and suspension systems make everything from the way its doors close to the CX-9’s overall driving dynamics feel as if it were a luxury-branded SUV, while providing a much quieter interior. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
A vertical stack of LED fog lamps join special 20-inch alloy wheels in Signature trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver and passengers alike will be comforted in other ways too, for instance in the knowledge that the CX-9 Signature is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road when it comes to advanced driver assistance and safety systems, with all the usual active and passive safety features complemented by adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
In similar fashion to how Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV pulls its taillight design from the beautiful F-Type sports car, the CX-9’s tail lamps are inspired by the lovely little MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The CX-9 Signature offers an impressive assortment of electronics too, such as a head-up display that projects key information onto the windshield ahead of the driver for easy viewing, a 7.0-inch colour TFT display within the primary gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen on the dash top with new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, new SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, a new four-camera 360-degree surround parking camera with a bird’s-eye overhead view, navigation with detailed mapping, 12-speaker Bose audio with Centerpoint surround and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, satellite and HD radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message reading and response capability, plus much more for just $51,500, which is superb value when comparing to luxury branded crossover SUVs with similar equipment (check out all 2019 Mazda CX-9 trims and pricing at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to learn about any available rebates and save even more by getting the 2019 CX-9’s dealer invoice pricing).

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Check out the CX-9 Signature’s fabulous interior! You’ll see a lot more of it in my upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features that provide CX-9 Signature owners with a premium-branded experience are proximity access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding side mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a reworked overhead console with always appreciated sunglasses storage and a better designed LED room lamp control switch, front and rear parking sensors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with premium cross-stitching detailing, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with power lumbar, three-way heated and new cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Move up to the Signature and you’ll get this ultra-helpful split-screen 360-degree overhead parking monitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes to the CX-9’s steering and suspension systems not only provide the higher-quality, more premium-like ride noted earlier, but were also designed to deliver greater linear behavior at high speeds, and I’ll let you know how Mazda succeeded in my full road test review. Likewise, I’ll comment on how the carryover its G-Vectoring Control technology feels while seamlessly shifting more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward upon exit, how i-Activ AWD deals with inclement conditions (although we only had to deal with a rain storm during our weeklong test), how the dynamic pressure turbo-enhanced SkyActiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder engine responded to throttle input at takeoff, when exiting fast-paced corners and while passing on the highway, and whether or not the SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission was still up to snuff in an era of seven-, eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes, not to mention CVTs, despite the inclusion of manual actuation and Drive Selection with a Sport mode. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature even one-ups some of its premium-branded rivals by including real Rosewood trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is very clear in its specifications that the engine makes 250 horsepower with 93 octane gas or higher, but I’m going to correctly guess that the majority of journalists refill it will much cheaper 87 octane, so the engine is probably only making the 227 horsepower claimed with the lower grade gasoline, but this said its extremely robust 310 lb-ft of torque doesn’t change with the budget fuel and only needs 2,000 rpm to release full twist, so I wouldn’t worry too much about thrust. 

As for the rest of the story, make sure to come back for my full review…

Remember the Eclipse? It was a 2+2 sports coupe along the lines of the Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX and Toyota Celica, and like those classics it’s no longer available, having been discontinued in 2012…

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Mitsubishi brings four-door coupe styling to the mainstream compact SUV segment with the eye-catching new 2019 Eclipse Cross. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Remember the Eclipse? It was a 2+2 sports coupe along the lines of the Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX and Toyota Celica, and like those classics it’s no longer available, having been discontinued in 2012 after four generations. 

The list of sporty grand touring hatchback models was as numerous as there were mainstream automakers to build them back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Mitsubishi not only offered the Eclipse, along with multiple badge-engineered models it coproduced with Chrysler group, but the larger and more powerful 3000GT that went up against pricier sports coupes like the Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX and Toyota Supra. Those were the sports car glory days, and while we’ve seen a tepid renaissance in recent years, times ain’t what they used to be. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
A raked rear liftgate provides sporty coupe-like styling to this otherwise practical little SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This is the crossover SUV era after all, so along with small sporty GTs that few are buying, sedans and wagons are yesterday’s news too. Enter the Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi’s answer to a question no one was asking within the mainstream volume sport utility sector, or at least a question no one has asked for a few years. 

The Eclipse Cross marries a crossover SUV with a sports car, or that’s the general idea. Most of us are well aware that such sloped-back five-door concoctions have been running around in the premium class for quite some time, having started with the BMW X6 and more recently followed by the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and now the all-new Audi Q8 that shares underpinnings with Lamborghini’s new Urus, plus we should give a respectful shout out to the now discontinued Acura ZDX that I happen to still love, while that latter defunct model was based on the only five-door sport CUV to attempt such contortions amongst regular mainstream brands up until now, the somewhat ungainly Honda Crosstour. On the smaller side are the BMW X4 and new M-B GLC Coupe, these models closer in size to this new Eclipse Cross, but of course in another price, luxury and performance league altogether. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The Eclipse Cross’ most dramatic design detail might be its unique LED taillight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Premium rides aside, I must admit the new Eclipse Cross is much better looking than the ill-fated Crosstour, but instead of being backed by one of the strongest names in the industry it hails from one of Canada’s least popular brands. This means that its already very slim niche market will be skinnier still, proven by 2,140 sales from February 2018, when it went on sale, to the close of August, compared to 7,265 Outlanders sold during the same seven months. No doubt Mitsubishi didn’t expect it to rocket out of the showroom door in comparison to its most popular model, but it’s a sobering thought when factoring in that 34,055 Honda CR-Vs and 32,947 Toyota RAV4s were sold over the exact same seven months, not to mention the 28,218 Ford Escapes and 26,525 Nissan Rogues. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
LED headlights are standard in top-line GT S-AWC trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just the same, Mitsubishi is trying to do something different and deserves our respect for a worthy effort, while the new model is quite good at what it needs to do for the most part. I’ll elaborate in my upcoming review, and like usual will only give you a few buyers’ guide-like details during this garage piece. 

For starters, behind Mitsubishi’s dramatic new “Dynamic Shield” frontal design that I think works much better with this Eclipse Cross than with any other application it’s been used for, resides a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine good for 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It combines with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s engineered to emulate an eight-speed automatic gearbox via some of the nicest magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters in the industry. All three Eclipse Cross trims come standard with Super All-Wheel Control in Canada, Mitsubishi-speak for all-wheel drive, an advanced torque-vectoring system honed from years of Lancer Evolution rally car breeding. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Come back for the road test review to find out how the new Eclipse Cross compares to its compact SUV competitors. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, it’s hard to stomach the thought that this wannabe performance SUV is now the hottest model in Mitsubishi’s once proud lineup, which previously anted up the fabulous Evo X MR, an all-wheel drive super sedan that easily outmaneuvered the Subaru WRX STI and most every other compact of the era, but Mitsubishi now has its limited funds focused on practical SUVs that more people will potentially purchase, not to mention plug-in electrics that give it a good green name if not many actual buyers, at least when comparing the Outlander PHEV’s sales to the aforementioned conventionally powered compact SUVs. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
No fully digital display here, just some good honest analogue dials and a small colour trip computer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

We can lament the loss of the Evo, but should commend Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’ fuel economy that’s rated at a cool 9.6 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 8.3 combined, which is quite good in comparison to the aforementioned RAV4 that only manages 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, but not quite as thrifty as the CR-V’s 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined rating. 

Hidden behind a slick looking standard set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 all-season tires is a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup featuring stabilizer bars at both ends, which I’ll report on in my upcoming review. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Yes, that’s a powered head-up display unit. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I mentioned earlier there were three trim levels, and as usual Mitsubishi supplied this Eclipse Cross tester in top-line GT guise for $35,998 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for all pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands), which meant came loaded up with LED headlamps, a head-up display, a multi-view backup camera with dynamic guidelines, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio with nine speakers including 10-inch subwoofer, a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way powered driver’s seat, a dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof, and more, not to mention everything from the second-rung SE model’s optional Tech Package that includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, roof rails, and a nice silver painted lower door garnish. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Find out how this tablet-style touchscreen display performs when compared to its main challengers in the upcoming review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard SE items pulled up to GT trim include the previously noted paddle shifters, proximity-sensing keyless access and ignition, an electromechanical parking brake (the base model gets a regular handbrake), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, blindspot warning, and more for $29,998, while features from the $27,998 base ES model that are still used by the top-tier GT include LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, LED taillights, tilt and telescopic steering, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an “ECO” mode, micron filtered automatic climate control, heated front seats, a lower console-mounted touchpad controller for the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, two USB charging/connectivity ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio, and more. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Comfortable seats? Come back for our review to find out answers to this question and more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last but hardly least in this practical class is passenger and cargo space, with the former needed to be expanded on experientially in my review and the latter measuring 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) behind the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) behind the front row, making it more accommodating for cargo than the subcompact RVR and less so than the compact Outlander. 

I’ve said more than enough for a garage story, so make sure to come back to read all of my notes reiterated into some sort of readable road test. I can tell you now the Eclipse Cross suffers from a few issues, or at least this specific tester certainly does, and therefore you won’t want to miss what I have to say. Until then, enjoy our shortened photo gallery (more will accompany the review)…

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy…

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Subaru has redesigned its popular Forester for 2019, and this new Sport model is the one most likely to capture eyeballs. (Photos: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy jacket. I love carrots, pumpkins, persimmons and mangos, and enjoy mandarins, tangerines and other types of oranges even if their highly acidic nature tends to disagree with me. Nevertheless, this 2019 Forester Sport takes orange a bit too far. 

The thick orange striping along the otherwise matte black lower exterior panels doesn’t cause me issue, but the orange painted shifter surround and dash vents are a constant assault on the senses, although I like the orange contrasting thread just fine. In my books the overzealous use of orange slots into the “too much of a good thing” category, and is similar to my criticisms of all the red gone wrong with the latest Honda Civic Type R. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The Forester Sport gets orange trim, a glossy black strip of bodywork between the taillights, and gloss black alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got the new fifth-generation 2019 Subaru Forester in the garage this week, and while Sport trim wouldn’t be my first choice due to orange overload, it’s a major improvement over the crossover SUV it replaces in most every other way. 

Starting at $27,995 for 2019, which is $2,000 more than last year’s base Forester, this latest model comes standard with a set of stylishly safer LED headlamps, an advanced 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 and refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee now does as well. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A glossy black grille adds a sportier look to Forester Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new LED headlamps get automatic on/off too, 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 2018’s Touring trim. 

I like the new electromechanical parking brake that 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, which is now discontinued. In its place, Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is now standard across the line, which means that Subaru’s impressive X-Mode off-road system with Hill Descent Control, and SI-Drive drive mode selector are now standard too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
LED headlamps, LED fog lights in glossy black bezels, black alloys, and more orange trim complete the Forester Sport appearance package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, 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, which is 12-horsepower and 2-lb-ft more than 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, which helps to reduce emissions while improving fuel economy, but it isn’t without fault (more on this in my upcoming review). Just the same the new Forester manages a 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 to 9.0, 7.2 and 8.2 respectively. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Even the standard roof rails get orange posts, while that powered glass sunroof is extra large. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My big disappointment for 2019 isn’t with this very strong base powertrain, but rather is due to the discontinuation of Subaru’s wonderful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine upgrade that previously put out 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and still managed a relatively thrifty 10.2 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.5 combined. 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. 

As far as 2019 trims go, the base model is once again simply called 2.5i in reference to its engine displacement, and along with everything already mentioned 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, etcetera. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
More glossy black trim and an orange “SPORT” badge add pizazz to the rear quarters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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 get 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 trim, 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 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, and more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
If orange is your thing, the Sport is your Forester. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For a reasonable $1,500 you can add Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems that includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, while the upgrade also includes reverse automatic braking, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and a retractable cargo cover. 

EyeSight comes standard with all other trim levels, including the $32,995 Touring model that gets 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
Nothing new here, but the large multi-information display sitting between two analogue dials looks good and provides clear and easy to read info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Above this, the Sport model being tested this week, plus 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, while larger 316 mm front rotors add better braking power over the standard 294 mm discs. 

Additionally, the top three trims include steering responsive headlights and Subaru’s Side/Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system as standard equipment, improving safety, plus a leather shift knob and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen adds an inch to the diameter of last year’s top-line infotainment interface, while once again including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto where there wasn’t such advanced smartphone connectivity last year. These upper trims also include 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
The centre stack gets a large multi-info display up top and an excellent infotainment touchscreen below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As mentioned, the new $34,995 Sport that I’m tested is the visual standout of the 2019 Forester lineup, whether that’s a good 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 out 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. 

An exclusive Sport feature includes an SI-Drive Sport system that provides more immediate throttle response, which I’ll report on in my future review. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Dual-zone automatic climate control is included with Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, the Forester Sport replaces the availability of Crimson Red Pearl, Horizon Blue Pearl, Jasper Green Metallic, and Sepia Bronze Metallic exterior colours with an exclusive Dark Blue Pearl paint finish, which wasn’t included with my Crystal White Pearl painted test model. 

I should probably talk about $37,695 Limited trim in this garage story too, being that I’ve already covered the others. This might be my Forester of choice if the extra $2,700 weren’t an issue, mainly because it loses the Sport’s over-the-top orange-ness, and while I would prefer to keep the latter model’s performance upgrades that are also nixed when choosing Limited trim, they’re not as important in an SUV like this as they’d be in a WRX, per se. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
That’s a lot of orange, but the quality is good and layout well organized. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Limited keeps most of the Sport’s convenience and luxury upgrades mind you, 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
X-Mode AWD comes standard across the Forester line, as does an electromechanical parking brake and heated seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Maybe I should’ve waited to choose a favourite, because for just $1,800 more than the Limited you can opt for near luxury SUV-level $39,495 Premier trim, which is now top-of-the-line for 2019. It 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
The orange stitching is nice, and the orange vent surrounds probably won’t be to everyone’s liking. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, 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. 

I should also mention that 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. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
These two-tone cloth seats with orange highlights are exclusive to Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Continuing on, the 2019 Forester 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. 

It’s difficult to grow inside without growing outside, with the new Forester now measuring 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) more from front to back at 4,625 mm (182.1 inches), with a 30-mm (1.2-inch) longer 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
To find out about rear seat roominess and comfort, check out our upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, 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 a 26 kilograms (57.3 lbs) at 1,569 kilos (3,459 lbs) when compared to the previous model’s optional CVT. 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
A large rear cargo area opens up for longer items via standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with a more spacious passenger compartment, 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 the 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. 

As for the rest of the story, I’ll be back soon with some experiential thoughts, feelings, and yes, some gripes too. And I’m not just talking about my orange overwhelm. Until then, check out my orange glory 2019 Forester Sport tester in the photo gallery above…

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed.  First…

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe takes on an entirely new look for 2019, appearing best in top-line 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed. 

First off, let’s clear up some confusion. The Santa Fe started life as more of a compact SUV than anything truly mid-size, but like so many other vehicles it has grown over the generations to the point that it now leans more towards mid-size than compact. Despite coming close to matching the length, width and height of a five-passenger mainstays like the Ford Edge, some industry insiders still call it compact and therefore muddle the marketplace, so I’m here setting the record straight. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The regular five-occupant Santa Fe is longer than it was before, now unquestionably in the mid-size camp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be even more specific, at 4,770 millimetres (187.8 inches) long and 1,890 mm (74.4 in) wide the 2019 Santa Fe we’re testing here is a considerable 246 mm (9.7 in) longer than the current Ford Escape compact SUV yet only a fractional 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter than the Edge, while it’s 52 mm (2.0 in) wider than the former and only 38 mm (1.5 in) narrower than the latter. To be fair, the new Santa Fe is actually a full 70 mm (2.7 in) longer and 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the outgoing model, this improving interior roominess. So while I’ve long considered the Santa Fe a mid-size crossover SUV, now we can all safely categorize as such and call it a day. This becomes even clearer when factoring the size of the three-row Santa Fe XL, which I’ll cover in a future review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe gets some sophisticated exterior detailing that elevates the look to premium levels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This being a Garage piece, I won’t go into too much detail about the Santa Fe’s interior quality, fit, finish, styling, etcetera, or my experiences behind the wheel. Anyone who has read my reviews of previous Santa Fe Sport models, the vehicle this model replaces, will know I was a fan, so suffice to say this one is better in every respect. I’ll leave it there for now. 

Like the outgoing model this new one uses the same powertrains, although both receive new variable valve timing for improved response and fuel economy. The base engine remains the well-proven 2.4-litre four-cylinder making 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the top-line turbocharged 2.0-litre four increase power to 235 and torque to 260 lb-ft. Astute readers will notice the upgraded engine is down 5 horsepower, and patient readers will come back to find out if that’s noticeable when I cover it in my review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
LED headlights, LED fog lamps, 19-inch alloys… the Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD has the goods. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For now, take solace that the outgoing Santa Fe Sport’s six-speed automatic has been replaced by a much more advanced eight-speed auto with standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to reduce emissions and save fuel. Fuel economy is therefore improved over the outgoing model, with the 2.4 FWD base model now rated at 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.2 on the highway and 9.6 combined compared to the old model’s respective 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined; the same engine with AWD now capable of a claimed 11.2 city, 8.7 highway and 10.1 combined compared to 12.0, 9.1 and 10.7 respectively with last year’s Santa Fe 2.4 AWD; and finally 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined for the 2.0-litre turbo instead of 12.5, 9.6 and 11.2 when compared to the same engine in the previous generation. Yes, a bit surprising that the new eight-speed auto and auto start/stop system resulted in zero combined fuel economy improvement with the turbo, but when factoring in that most mileage is done in the city then it can be seen as a positive. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This two-tone interior theme adds a rich elegance to the Santa Fe interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Like the outgoing Santa Fe, the new one features a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back, plus stabilizer bars at both ends for improved handling. The steering is motor-driven powered rack and pinion, 

Some other changes worth mentioning here in this Garage story include new trim lines, starting with the base Essential, and then upgraded with Preferred, Preferred Turbo, Luxury, and finally the as-tested Ultimate I’m driving this week. First, kudos to Hyundai for ditching the name “Limited” for a trim line they’d sell as many as they could if consumers would buy them, and more praise for not following the status quo and naming their top-line model “Platinum”. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
It’s got style, but is the quality there? Come back for the full review and we’ll let you know what we think of the new Santa Fe’s interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the name Essential for a base model, especially one that includes standard heatable front seats and a standard heated steering wheel, not to mention 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera, dual USB charge ports, Bluetooth, illuminated vanity mirrors, auto on/off projector headlights with LED accents, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome and body-colour exterior detailing, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two-way powered driver’s lumbar support, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks with recline, electromechanical parking brake with auto hold, Drive Mode Select with Comfort, Smart, and Sport modes, and much more for just $28,999 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for detailed pricing, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Luxury and Ultimate trims include this 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Ante up $30,199 and you’ll get Hyundai’s suite of SmartSense advanced driver assistive systems including auto high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision alert and mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and Driver Attention Warning. 

All-wheel drive costs $2,000 with Essential trim or comes standard with Preferred trim, at which point the SmartSense package is included as well, plus blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, a rear occupant alert system that remembers if you opened a rear door prior to driving and then reminds that someone or something may still be in back when exiting, and finally safe exit assist that warns of traffic at your side when opening your door, for a total of $35,099. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Ultimate trim adds this larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation plus traffic flow and incident data via HD radio. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional Preferred features include 18-inch alloy wheels, turn signals added to the side mirror housings, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, a Homelink garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control with a CleanAir Ionizer, Predictive Logic and auto defog, BlueLink smartphone telematics, satellite radio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, rear fore and aft sliding seats, and more. The 2.4-litre base engine is still standard in Preferred trim, but the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine is now a $2,000 option. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
As comfortable as they look? Find out in the upcoming review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to $41,899 Luxury trim adds the turbo engine and AWD as standard, plus dark chrome exterior door handles, door scuff plates, LED interior lighting, a 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster, a powered panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree Surround View parking camera, a deluxe cloth roofliner, leather console moulding, memory, four-way powered lumbar support and an extendable lower cushion for the driver’s seat, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear seats, rear side window sunshades, a proximity actuated smart liftgate, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The rear seats slide back and forth and recline. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My $44,999 Ultimate trimmed tester included most everything from Luxury trim plus 19-inch alloys, satin exterior trim and door handles, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation and traffic flow including incident data via HD radio, 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio with QuantumLogic Surround sound and Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless charging pad, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This longest ever five-passenger Santa Fe makes for the roomiest ever Santa Fe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The five-seat Santa Fe boasts interior volume of 4,151 litres (146.6 cubic feet) and cargo capacity measuring 1,016 litres (35.9 cubic feet) behind the second row and 2,019 litres (71.3 cubic feet) with the rear seatback laid flat, a process that is made easier via powered release buttons on the cargo wall. 

Being that this Garage review has turned into a comprehensive buyer’s guide, let’s cap it off here for now and leave something for the upcoming review. Make sure you come back soon for the good, bad and ugly experiential commentary…

We don’t get many Minis each year, but when we do it’s always a fun week. Especially if that Mini is tuned to “S” trim and its roof is chopped to make way for a retractable soft top.  In our…

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Great looking colour right? Starlight Blue is new for 2019, and it’s exclusive to the Starlight Blue Edition Package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We don’t get many Minis each year, but when we do it’s always a fun week. Especially if that Mini is tuned to “S” trim and its roof is chopped to make way for a retractable soft top. 

In our garage this week is the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible, trimmed out with this year’s special Starlight Blue Edition Package. That means it gets an exclusive and eye-arresting coat of Starlight Blue Metallic paint, unique 17-inch machine-finished Rail Spoke alloy wheels with black painted pockets on 205/45 all-season runflat tires, and Black Line piano black exterior trim replacing much of the chrome, including the grille surround and the headlamp/taillight surrounds, while the side mirror caps are finished in glossy black too. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Mini updated the Cooper line for 2015 and adapted its new platform architecture to the Convertible for 2016, and while larger and roomier it’s still the same fun-loving Cooper that it’s always been. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The upgrade continues with rain-sensing auto on/off LED headlamps featuring dynamic cornering capability, LED fog lights, piano black lacquered interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, Connected Navigation Plus within the infotainment system, Harman Kardon audio, satellite radio, Carbon Black leatherette upholstery, and heatable front seats, while my tester’s only standalone option is its $2,900 automatic transmission, all of which brings the base price of $33,990 up to $38,290, plus freight and fees. 

Just to be clear, you can get into a new 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible for as little as $29,640 plus freight and fees, the higher price just noted due being to my test model’s aforementioned “S” trim. You can actually get into the base 3-Door hardtop for as little as $23,090, while the Mini 5-Door starts at $24,390 and six-door Clubman hits the road for $28,690. There are other Mini models available, but for now I’ll leave it to the car lineup and point you to CarCostCanada for detailed pricing info on every new vehicle available, including otherwise hard to find dealer invoice pricing and manufacturer rebate information that could save you thousands. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Blackened trim, LED headlights and special 17-inch alloy wheels come as part of the Starlight Blue Edition Package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Something else you should be aware of is the premium level of quality that goes into each and every Mini model. This little Cooper S Convertible is extremely well put together, from its exterior fit to its interior finishings. The paintwork is superb and detailing fabulous, from my tester’s intricately designed LED headlamps and Union Jack imprinted taillights to its high-quality leather-wrapped steering wheel and stitched leather shift knob, not to mention the pod of primary instruments hovering over the steering column, the ever-changing ring of colour encircling the high-definition 8.8-inch infotainment display, the row of dazzling chromed toggles (and red ignition switch) on the centre stack and similar set of switches on the overhead console, these latter two eccentricities happily gracing every Mini model. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
We love these Union Jack taillights! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could go on, but rather than turn this simple “Garage” overview into a full road test, which will be coming shortly, know that one of Mini’s most agreeable attributes is on-road character. Again, we won’t even tease our experiential notes, which aren’t even completed being that we’ve only spent a couple of days with the car, but instead fill you with some nuts and bolts details such as 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque from the 16-valve twin scroll turbocharge 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a spirited 7.2 seconds from standstill to 100km/h with the six-speed manual or an even quicker 7.1 seconds with the as-tested six-speed automatic, an independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension, and so much more. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
These heated sport seats come as part of the Cooper S upgrade. Check the gallery for more photos… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The upgrade to Cooper S trim means that a host of performance-oriented features get added, including selectable driving modes including default “MID”, “GREEN” and “SPORT” for enhanced acceleration and steering response, more heavily bolstered heated sport seats, a panoramic sunroof, and more. 

There’s a lot more to the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible than I’ll go into here in this Garage review, including how all of these features work, the quality of workmanship inside and out, how the top operates and seals off the outside world, plus of course the way it drives. So make sure to come back to TheCarMagazine for the full review soon…