It’s official: The innovative Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle will arrive in production trim during the second half of 2018, ushering in an entirely new era for the iconic British luxury brand. The I-Pace…

Jaguar’s I-Pace EV to arrive during second half of 2018

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace Concept, introduced at the LA auto show in 2016, will arrive in production trim during the second half of 2018. (Photo: Jaguar)

It’s official: The innovative Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle will arrive in production trim during the second half of 2018, ushering in an entirely new era for the iconic British luxury brand.

The I-Pace Concept wowed onlookers to such a degree when unveiled at auto shows across North America, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and New York, that it received the rarified honour of being named Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2017 at the 16th North American Concept Vehicle Awards.

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
Most expect the production I-Pace to look very close to this concept. (Photo: Jaguar)

Additionally, the I-Pace won the Production Preview Concept of the Year category at the annual Concours d’Elegance of America, where it was also on display.

Uniquely designed as an “all-electric performance SUV,” the I-Pace will expand on a burgeoning Jaguar sport utility lineup that already offers the brand’s bestselling F-Pace compact SUV and will soon include the smaller entry-level E-Pace subcompact SUV. The I-Pace, however, rides on a totally unique EV architecture that slots in between Jaguar’s two conventionally powered SUVs in outward dimensions, yet is altogether different in approach.

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
The concept’s interior looks ultra-plush, which is right on the mark for a production Jaguar. (Photo: Jaguar)

Unlike most EVs currently available, including those made by Tesla that purposely look like conventional cars, the I-Pace takes complete advantage of an electric vehicle’s nonconventional packaging requirements. For instance, instead of building an EV on the back of a vehicle initially designed to house the motor and transmission up front with a driveshaft down the middle, the I-Pace places a Jaguar-designed electric motor at each axle for all-wheel drive traction and a 90-kWh liquid-cooled battery within an aluminum housing as part of the floor’s structure in between. This allows for a cab-forward design featuring a windshield that reaches far over the front wheels, as well as a shorter more steeply raked hood, plus shorter front and rear overhangs, with each wheel pushed out as far to its corner as possible, resulting in much greater interior volume.

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
Pedestal style seats may not make the final build, but many of the concept’s interior design cues will remain intact. (Photo: Jaguar)

Overall the I-Pace is approximately 50 mm (2.0 inches) shorter than the F-Pace, which is already a large compact SUV, but its wheelbase is 117 mm (4.6 inches) longer for much greater legroom front and rear. What’s more, the I-Pace Concept’s roof is nearly 100 mm (4.0 inches) lower than the F-Pace’s, for sleeker, sportier lines.

While the I-Pace shown here is a conceptual design and not production ready, the finished model to arrive in showrooms next year is expected to be sized similarly and look much the same, which follows Jaguar’s recent concept to production protocol. Of course, the prototype’s 23-inch alloys will be downsized somewhat, but generally what you see is what you’ll get.

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
The I-Pace EV’s rear quarters look to be roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Jaguar)

Production I-Pace performance should be similar to the concept’s claimed capability, with the sprint from standstill to 100km/h taking about four seconds thanks to 200 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque from each of its two engines and a lightweight aluminum-intensive monocoque body shell, while its projected EV range should be greater than 355 km (220 miles) from a single charge.

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept
Cargo capacity should be good for a sport coupe style compact SUV. (Photo: Jaguar)

Having much of its weight down low, thus reducing its centre of gravity, handling should be an I-Pace strongpoint too. The suspension will be comprised of unequal-length control arms up front and a multilink setup in the rear, which should also result in excellent ride quality.

We won’t know exact pricing until closer to launch, but Jaguar’s U.S. division says it’s targeting an MSRP below $100,000 USD. It will be built by Magna Steyr in Austria, at least until Jaguar adds more EV models to the lineup. To that end Jaguar has promised that half of its vehicles will incorporate some sort of electrified drivetrain by 2025, so it appears the impressive new I-Pace is just the beginning.

Let’s face it. The majority of today’s consumers hook up to the digital world through an Apple or Android smartphone, and the ability to use either technology within our vehicles makes life a lot…

Acura adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to 2018 MDX

2018 Acura MDX
Apple CarPlay (upper display) has been lauded for making auto infotainment more user-friendly, while the 2018 MDX will also feature standard Android Auto (lower display). (Photo: Acura)

Let’s face it. The majority of today’s consumers hook up to the digital world through an Apple or Android smartphone, and the ability to use either technology within our vehicles makes life a lot easier.

That’s the premise behind Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the former noted for providing the Cupertino, California firm’s easy usability and trademark graphics within various cars’ central infotainment displays, while the latter more widely popular Seattle-sourced operating system does likewise, albeit without proprietary visual and functional designs.

2018 Acura MDX
Google’s Android operating system is now more popular than Apple’s iPhone system. (Photo: Acura)

While Honda’s namesake models have had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto incorporated within their single-screen infotainment systems for some time, Acura has been patiently waiting to receive them for its unique dual-display setup. The recently updated 2018 TLX received the two technologies earlier this year, so now the 2018 MDX, which was refreshed last year, will benefit from both smartphone-mirroring interfaces.

The TLX and MDX incorporate the Apple and Android interfaces within their larger top displays and leave the lower touchscreen, plus the rotating dial and buttons below, for control.

2018 Acura MDX
Amongst other features, the two smartphone-mirroring systems let you plot out navigation coordinates at home before traveling, which are then incorporated within the car’s infotainment display. (Photo: Acura)

Along with adding the Apple and Android upgrades to the TLX infotainment system it also received improvements to the stock display, with more logically organized functions and quicker response times. These changes will improve the MDX infotainment user experience whether linking your smartphone up to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto or not, plus the smartphone-mirroring technologies will be standard across the 2018 MDX line.

2018 Acura MDX
Red is the new colour theme for the 2018 MDX. (Photo: Acura)

Acura’s U.S. division has also shown new colours for the 2018 MDX, which will likely be available here in Canada as well, although the automaker’s Canadian division has made no announcements. This said, Basque Red and San Marino Red would be vivid additions to a lineup that only had Dark Cherry Pearl available for red fans last year, the only other colours being Obsidian Blue Pearl and Black Copper Pearl. This is why we mostly see the MDX in shades of Crystal Black Pearl, Modern Steel Metallic (a medium grey), Lunar Silver Metallic, and White Diamond Pearl.

No pricing or other modifications have been announced for the 2018 MDX, but it is expected to move into the new model year unchanged, other than the revisions just noted.

Fiat recently announced some updates to two of its most practical models, the most extensive being an exterior and interior mid-cycle refresh for the 500L subcompact hatchback, and the other a rather…

Fiat refreshes 2018 500L and adds Urbana Edition to 2017 500X

2018 Fiat 500L
Fiat’s 500L has been refreshed for 2018, with more acceptable styling front and rear. (Photo: Fiat)

Fiat recently announced some updates to two of its most practical models, the most extensive being an exterior and interior mid-cycle refresh for the 500L subcompact hatchback, and the other a rather late in the year yet particularly attractive new Urbana Edition styling package for the brand’s most popular 500X subcompact SUV.

The 500L already has one of the more appealing interiors in the subcompact sector, but unfortunately the outgoing model’s unorthodox exterior design never found much favour with Canadian consumers. Therefore Fiat has given it a refresh including new front and rear fascias. Most noticeable is the simplified upper grille and reworked lower bumper cap, the latter featuring additional black trim with more chrome and a sportier air intake just below. Reshaped door panel sculpting with new body side mouldings continues the revisionist theme rearward, ending in a modernized rear bumper cap with chrome edged horizontal reflectors at each corner.

2018 Fiat 500L
The big change at the back includes a revised bumper cap, that gets new corner reflectors. (Photo: Fiat)

Inside, a renewed primary gauge cluster is framed by a sportier steering wheel that incorporates a smaller and therefore more visually appealing airbag enclosure, while the centre stack benefits from FCA’s updated Uconnect 4 infotainment system boasting standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus just below a new climate control interface improves aesthetics and functionality. Lastly, Fiat has played musical chairs with its shift lever and cupholders for better ergonomics.

No doubt the Italian brand hopes these changes will increase 500L sales, which ended Q3 2017 amongst the slowest for any vehicle in Canada at just 40 units. In comparison, the 500X’ 846 deliveries over the same nine months make it a runaway success, despite dropping behind the Mini Countryman for lowest Canadian subcompact SUV volume.

2018 Fiat 500L
Plenty of interior upgrades improve the 500L experience. (Photo: Fiat)

To help boost its popularity Fiat now offers a 500X Urbana Edition, which spiffs up the design with new Miron (Metallic Iron) black and copper colour accents.

“The Fiat 500X combines iconic Italian style with functionality, performance and all-wheel-drive confidence,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. “The new Fiat 500X Urbana Edition takes our top-selling Trekking trim, best known for its rugged exterior and interior appearance, and adds unique content with black and copper accents to create a fresh new personality option for our customers.”

2017 Fiat 500X Urbana Edition
The 500X Urbana Edition is a late 2017 arrival, but the black and copper colour treatment was worth the wait. (Photo: Fiat)

Available in four exterior colours including Grigio Graphite (graphite grey), Blue Sky Metallic, Bianco Gelato (white clear coat), and Nero Cinema (black clear coat), the sporty Miron gloss black paint adds contrast to the front and rear fascias, 18-inch alloys, mirror caps, door handles, side sill mouldings, liftgate bezel, and taillight surrounds, while the backend 500X badge and wheel centre caps are finished in the copper colour. Lastly, Fiat blackens the headlamp surrounds before topping off the little SUV with matte black side roof rails.

The classy theme continues inside, with the radio and vent bezels finished in the glossy Miron black, plus a black textured instrument panel highlighted by a copper 500 logo ahead of the front passenger, as well as copper thread used for a set of embroidered 500 logos on the otherwise black Castiglio chevron-patterned fabric seats.

2017 Fiat 500X Urbana Edition
The copper exterior trim is a classy touch. (Photo: Fiat)

The Urbana Edition adds $795 to 500X Trekking trims in both FWD and AWD, resulting in $29,540 for the former and $33,235 for the latter, plus freight and fees.

Incidentally, the base 500X is competitively priced from $23,245 in base Pop trim, while addition 500X trims include Sport and Lounge.

Fiat has yet to update its retail website with information about the new Urbana Edition package or include it within their “Build & Price” configuration tool, so contact your dealer to see if they have any available. As for the 2018 500L, Fiat is still showing 2016 and 2017 models on their site, but they will likely offer 2018 information soon.

 

Toyota’s Prius may be the world’s most notable hybrid and Tesla’s Model 3 currently hottest on the news cycle, but with nearly 300,000 units delivered, Nissan’s Leaf is easily the world’s bestselling…

All new 2018 Nissan Leaf balances more EV range with affordable pricing

2018 Nissan Leaf
The stylish new 2018 Leaf will arrive in Canada early next year. (Photo: Nissan)

Toyota’s Prius may be the world’s most notable hybrid and Tesla’s Model 3 currently hottest on the news cycle, but with nearly 300,000 units delivered, Nissan’s Leaf is easily the world’s bestselling electric car.

This is especially important considering most global jurisdictions are now eschewing internal combustion engines, especially diesels, and embracing electric vehicles. To be clear, EV adoption remains miniscule at far less than a single percent of global production, and the Leaf hasn’t been able to hold onto the top EV sales position in North American markets, but it can honestly claim first mass production status as part of its legacy, and enjoys a multitude of Leaf loyalists to draw upon when the completely redesigned model launches worldwide next year.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The new Leaf is about the same size as the old one, with similar interior room. (Photo: Nissan)

The 2018 Nissan Leaf says goodbye to the original car’s funky styling and instead adopts a more mainstream approach that should appeal to a larger portion of the market. This tact only makes sense being that EVs appear to be entering a new phase of acceptability, even if their upcoming popularity is being forced upon many consumers through government mandate. China and some other markets aside, we the people vote such governments into power, so depending on ones point of view we can either take credit or accept blame for the new green agenda, and there are certainly worse ways to spend taxpayer money than on electric car rebates, a comprehensive supercharging infrastructure, massive hydroelectric dams, fields of solar panels, new wind and tidal farms, etcetera to create the required power.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The new Leaf offers a dramatically styled rear end design. (Photo: Nissan)

Most should like the 2018 Leaf’s sporty hatchback lines, with highlights being a frontal design incorporating Nissan’s now trademark V-motion grille, a floating rear D-pillar inspired by the brand’s Maxima flagship and Murano mid-size SUV (which bears a resemblance to a similar design used for BMW’s i3), and unique taillights that look like they could’ve been pulled from a slightly softened next-generation Juke (which will never be). Where the outgoing Leaf was upright, roundish and somewhat unusual in shape, the new model appears long, low, lean and much more in keeping with Nissan’s overall brand identity. The new car’s profile is not only aesthetically appealing, but no doubt its 0.28-coefficient of drag gave Nissan’s aerodynamicists reason to smile too.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The Leaf continues to provide a refuelling door up front where it’s easily accessible. (Photo: Nissan)

The original Leaf made news for its 160-kilometre range when introduced in 2010, and while the outgoing 2017 model is now capable of 172 kilometres from a single charge, even that improved number has been overshadowed by newer entries like Chevy’s Bolt that can achieve 383 kilometres between charges, and the Tesla Model 3, which, depending on trim, will reportedly allow for 350 to 540 kilometres of ultimate range when it arrives here sometime next year.

What about the new 2018 Leaf? The U.S. EPA is estimating the equivalent of 241 kilometers of range, which isn’t as headline grabbing as the original for its time or its most formidable peers now, but with an MSRP of $35,998 plus freight and fees the Leaf makes up for that with much lower pricing than both the $43,195 Bolt and $45k-plus Tesla 3.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Nissan promises greater interior refinement thanks to higher-grade materials. (Photo: Nissan)

The Leaf also provides more useable passenger and cargo space than either, the former remaining “essentially unchanged” and therefore comfortable for “five people”, stated Nissan in a press release, and the latter measuring 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet).

The Leaf’s toughest competitor may be Volkswagen’s new $35,995 e-Golf, although its 201-kilometre range is less appealing unless compared to BMW’s $50,965 i3 that can only manage 183 kilometres per charge, or for that matter Ford’s $31,498 Focus Electric with just 172 kilometres of total range at its disposal, or Kia’s $35,395 Soul EV that can only muster 150 kilometres. At least the blue oval badged hatchback delivers good pragmatic value and the red and white oval crossover (or in the case black) offers fun-loving styling and even more practicality, but sales of the blue and white roundel badged i Series cars have driven off the proverbial cliff in recent years. Speaking of living life on the edge, there’s always the $27,998 Mitsubishi i-MiEV with a range of 160 kilometres.

2018 Nissan Leaf
A standard 7.0-inch colour TFT display replaces traditional analogue gauges. (Photo: Nissan)

At least we need to give Mitsubishi credit for having the courage to publish its i-MiEV sales numbers, these resulting in 61 down Canadian roads as of August 31, 2017 and 86 last year, whereas Ford, Kia and Volkswagen hide their EV deliveries behind total Focus, Soul and Golf nameplate volume respectively. I’m sure if their electrics were outselling the Bolt or Leaf we’d hear about it, so for now we will report the Bolt as first amongst pure electrics with 1,065 deliveries during the same eight months of 2017, and the Leaf a very close second with 909. Contemplate for a moment, the Bolt is a brand new car introduced for the 2017 model year, and in comparison today’s Leaf has only been mildly updated over its seven-year lifecycle. It’s easy to guess which car may soon assume the lead.

2018 Nissan Leaf
A 7.0-inch touchscreen display fills the centre stack of all trims. (Photo: Nissan)

In the 2018 Leaf’s corner is a new 40-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, which is a gain of 10 kWh over the outgoing version, but thanks to 67-percent greater density it occupies the same physical space within a vehicle that’s about the same size as the outgoing model. Also notable, despite benefiting from 25 percent more capacity the battery only takes 10 minutes longer to replenish from “alert” mode to 80-percent when hooked up to a quick charger, the total process now requiring 40 minutes. Those charging from home or another conventional 120-volt socket will need 16 hours to replenish from totally empty to completely full, whereas a 240-volt Level2 charger requires eight hours. Of note, Nissan Canada will provide a Level 1/Level 2 (120v/240v) charging cable as standard equipment.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is part of the package when upgraded with navigation. (Photo: Nissan)

Motive power comes from a new 110-kW AC synchronous motor making 147 horsepower from 3,283 to 9,795 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque from zero to 3,283 rpm. That’s a gain of 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque over the old motor, by the way, so the new Leaf, which at 1,557 to 1,591 kilograms (3,433 to 3,508 lbs) depending on trim is actually lighter than the 1,624-kg (3,580-lb) Bolt and 1,610- to 1,723-kg (3,550- to 3,800-lb) Model 3, should scoot along quickly.

As good as all this sounds, Nissan has already announced a more potent 60-kWh Leaf for next year, but hasn’t estimated its range and also isn’t saying whether it will be an option, a la Tesla, or the new standard power unit.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The toggle switch at centre is for engaging the new e-Pedal. (Photo: Nissan)

Right from day one the new Leaf will include a standard “e-Pedal” that provides both traditional acceleration and automatic braking. In other words, you’ll be able to ease into the pedal (or put your foot to the floor) to get going and then simply let go to slow down and eventually come to a stop, the system said to be good for 90-percent of driving requirements, with the traditional brakes only needed for the other 10 percent. That won’t only reduce driver effort, but it should minimize brake wear as well. If you’d rather apply more personal control you can defeat the e-Pedal by pressing a button.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Top-tier SL trim will provide a luxurious interior. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan’s ProPilot Assist single-lane driving assistance technology will make its North American debut in the new Leaf too, the system offering a higher level of semi-autonomous driving than previously available. Along with dynamic cruise control at speeds ranging from 29 and 100 km/h, ProPilot Assist will automatically steer and even centre the car within its lane, while it will also automatically brake all the way down to a full stop when prompted by forward traffic. Additionally, it holds the car in place without requiring the driver to press the brake pedal when stopped, and then restarts with the flow of traffic, as long as first prompted by the driver via a switch or lightly pressing the throttle. Nissan has purposely incorporated such driver involvement for safety’s sake, but the technology for full autonomous driving is embedded within.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Blue is the Leaf’s recurring interior theme, this SL model featuring solid and perforated leather upholstery with rich microsuede detailing. (Photo: Nissan)

Additional advanced safety systems available with the new Leaf will include Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and an Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.

Like most other Nissan products, the 2018 Leaf will be available in three trim levels including S, SV and SL, all of which are said to feature higher-grade cabins with better materials quality than the outgoing model. In the same aforementioned press release the brand promised its “signature vibrant blue stitching” for the seats, door trim, armrests and steering wheel, the latter wrapped in “genuine leather”, plus more blue used for the illuminated ignition button and shift knob finisher, while matte chrome along with matte and glossy black surfacing treatments will be added elsewhere.

2018 Nissan Leaf
The new Leaf will continue to provide spacious seating for five and a lot of cargo capacity. (Photo: Nissan)

Instead of tradition analogue gauges the 2018 Leaf will get a 7.0-inch colour TFT primary cluster overtop the steering wheel, while Nissan will replace the outgoing model’s 5.0-inch infotainment display and dated graphics with a bright, colourful, contrast-rich centre dash-mounted 7.0-inch touchscreen across the line. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity will be on the menu, albeit only when the system is upgraded to also include navigation.

2018 Nissan Leaf
Available in three trim levels, there will be a 2018 Leaf for most peoples’ budgets. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan has not announced the availability of the unique Leaf-to-Home power system available in other markets, however, which reportedly lets you use the car’s stored energy to power your home, cabin, trailer, or most anything else. Leaf-to-Home would be an ideal backup battery for an emergency outage, but nonetheless it likely isn’t part of the Leaf’s Canadian specification.

The new 2018 Nissan Leaf went on sale in Japan on October 2, and is forecast to arrive in Europe and North American markets in early 2018. It will be sold into more than 60 global markets when fully available, which should bode well for maintaining its leading EV sales status for the foreseeable future.

Toyota might be falling behind in the Canadian PHEV and EV arena, with its lone Prius Prime plug-in hybrid only available in Quebec and not a hint of anything fully electric on the foreseeable horizon…

Toyota’s Prius C hybrid gets styling updates and advanced safety kit for 2018

2018 Toyota Prius C
The Toyota Prius C gets styling updates for 2018, helping keep it fresh. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota might be falling behind in the Canadian PHEV and EV arena, with its lone Prius Prime plug-in hybrid only available in Quebec and not a hint of anything fully electric on the foreseeable horizon despite the recent announcement of an EV partnership with Mazda, but its Prius lineup still holds title to the world’s bestselling electrified vehicle.

The compact Prius was redesigned for the 2016 model year, but Toyota Canada’s slightly stronger selling subcompact Prius C has been patiently waiting since the year prior for its update, and now a refreshed 2018 model is upon us.

2018 Toyota Prius C
It might not be a plug-in, but the Prius C’s strong value proposition makes it a popular option in Canada. (Photo: Toyota)

“Prius is the world’s most recognized name for advanced and efficient motoring, and the Prius c combines Toyota’s proven hybrid technology with a small footprint to produce a nimble compact hatch, perfect for life in a modern city,” said Cyril Dimitris, Vice President, Toyota Canada Inc. “For 2018, we’ve made Prius c even more stylish and safe – giving Canadians even more reasons to welcome this forward-thinking hybrid into their lives.”

2018 Toyota Prius C
The 2018 Prius C’s attractive styling certainly helps its cause. (Photo: Toyota)

Compared to the radical styling departure that its elder, bigger sibling adopted two years ago, the reworked 2018 Prius C should appeal to those with more conservative leanings, just like the outgoing one did. In fact, the smaller car shows a polar shift in design that hardly seems as if it came from the same company. Where the larger Prius went from safe and arguably bland wind tunnel-inspired curves to outrageous origami folds and creases, truly pushing Toyota’s new modern-edge design envelope, the 2018 Prius C actually smooths over some of last year’s sharper edges.

2018 Toyota Prius C
Toyota has updated the 2018 model’s wheels too. (Photo: Toyota)

Specifically, the exterior changes include redesigned front and rear fascias plus new LED headlamps, LED taillights, as well as updated wheel covers and optional alloys, while the cabin gets changed up a bit too, with a new steering wheel, gauge cluster, and centre stack. Additionally, the updated infotainment system features a new standard backup camera, but that’s hardly the end of the 2018 Prius C’s standard safety advantages.

2018 Toyota Prius C
A renewed interior sports nicer materials in Technology trim. (Photo: Toyota)

Just like the Yaris that shares the Prius C’s platform architecture, this refreshed hybrid now includes the Toyota Safety Sense C suite of advanced driver-assistance systems as standard equipment, including automatic high beams, pre-collision warning, and lane departure alert. What’s more, the standard Prius C airbag count is nine instead of the usual six, whereas a direct tire pressure monitoring system is also part of the base package.

2018 Toyota Prius C
A new steering wheel boasts updated switchgear. (Photo: Toyota)

Additional 2018 Prius C standard features include 15-inch steel wheels with covers, power-adjustable heatable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering column, steering wheel controls for the audio and HVAC systems, a 4.2-inch in-cluster multi-information display, single-zone automatic climate control, a 6.1-inch colour touchscreen infotainment interface, four-speaker audio, Bluetooth connectivity, an outside temperature gauge, and more for just $21,990 plus freight and dealer fees.

2018 Toyota Prius C
The Prius C’s digital gauge cluster gets improvements for 2018 too. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota also offers a $900 Upgrade package for the base model featuring a synthetic leather instrument panel, premium upholstery, additional driver seat adjustments, cruise control, two more stereo speakers, a rear centre console box, and a cargo cover, pushing the price up to $22,890.

2018 Toyota Prius C
A backup camera is now standard. (Photo: Toyota)

Lastly, the Prius C Technology starts at $26,950 and adds everything from the Upgrade package except the premium cloth seats, as these are replaced by Toyota’s Softex breathable leatherette upholstery, while other Technology features include 15-inch alloys, LED fog lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Touch Tracer controls on the upgraded synthetic leather-clad steering wheel, a navigation system with detailed mapping, advanced voice recognition, Gracenote connectivity, satellite radio, heatable front seats, a powered moonroof, and more.

2018 Toyota Prius C
A $900 Upgrade package adds these attractive cloth seats amongst other items. (Photo: Toyota)

The 2018 Prius C carries forward with Toyota’s well-proven Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain consisting of a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) with variable valve timing and an exhaust heat recovery system, mated up to a 19-kWh nickel metal-hydride battery, 45kW electric motor, continuously variable transmission, and auto start/stop system, resulting in 99 net horsepower and estimated 5.1 L/100km city/highway combined fuel economy, which, along with its very attractive pricing, is the key reason it sells so well.

While plug-in hybrids and EVs are currently the industry rage, the Prius C’s strong value proposition makes it very popular in Canada and these new 2018 updates should help keep it that way.

Will tomorrow’s consumers be matching their next car purchase to their smartphones? It’s entirely possible. Some automakers have already drawn their respective lines in the sand, with Porsche choosing…

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo is partnering with Google to build Android into its next-gen connected cars, taking its award-winning Sensus infotainment system to new levels. (Photo: Volvo)

Will tomorrow’s consumers be matching their next car purchase to their smartphones?

It’s entirely possible. Some automakers have already drawn their respective lines in the sand, with Porsche choosing Apple CarPlay over Android Auto due to their own market research that reportedly shows a better brand alignment with the Cupertino company, whereas Toyota and its Lexus division are opting to go their own route entirely, which might make their proprietary infotainment systems the modern-day automotive equivalent of Sony’s Beta VCR, which was a better format than VHS but not backed by the industry.

It’s a fact that many more smartphones are now sold with Google’s Android operating system than Apple’s iOS, let alone Microsoft’s Windows Phone and, ahem, RIM’s Blackberry, and in certain markets, like China and the rest of Asia, the smartphone market is skewed even more towards the larger Seattle-based tech firm’s OS technology.

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo’s latest models, like the new 2018 XC60, already feature one of the industry’s best infotainment interfaces, but Google’s Android OS will make it faster, more flexible, plus fill it with more apps and services. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo’s latest award-winning tablet-style Sensus infotainment and connectivity system already incorporates Google’s Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, and has been praised for the slick way the two interfaces integrate within, but it appears the Chinese-owned Swedish brand has chosen to delve deeper into Pacific Northwest waters by contracting Google to develop the entire backend of its future Sensus system.

According to Volvo, its next-generation infotainment and connectivity systems will arrive within two years, and offer access to a wide selection of apps plus connected and predictive services developed by Google, Volvo, and third parties, for use in and around the vehicle.

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo uses a vertical tablet-style touchscreen that’s ideal for the Android OS integration. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are making an important strategic step with the Google partnership,” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo Car Group. “Google’s platform and services will enhance the user experience by enabling more personalization possibilities, while Android will offer increased flexibility from a development perspective.”

This is just another sign that the automotive and tech worlds are converging, something we’ve all been witnessing via newscasts of Google’s odd little self-driving prototype car tooling around city streets, plus the plethora of new ride hailing and sharing startups. Some of these newcomers have been founded by or snapped up by major automakers, so it only makes sense that Volvo also believes “smart partnerships are the future for the car industry.”

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Before the full Android OS arrives two years from now, Volvo will update current customers’ navigation systems with Google Local Search, shown here. (Photo: Volvo)

So how will Volvo and its legions of loyal customers benefit? The Android OS promises faster speeds and greater development flexibility, plus the ability for customer personalization.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Volvo to bring Android into their next generation connected cars,” said Patrick Brady, Vice President of Android Engineering at Google. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to deliver a more seamless experience to Volvo drivers through a full-featured infotainment platform and rich ecosystem of Android applications and Google services.”

“With the advent of Android we will embrace a rich ecosystem while keeping our iconic Volvo user interface,” added Green. “We will offer hundreds of popular apps and the best integrated experience in this broad, connected environment.”

Rather than wait until the fully integrated system is available, Volvo and Google are already collaborating on a location based service app dubbed Google Local Search, which will be installed through a regular update to current Volvo customers who anted up for the Sensus Navigation system.

To see more, check out the following video:

The ultra-practical Honda Fit subcompact hatchback gets a thorough mid-cycle refresh for 2018, with edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance…

2018 Fit gets sportier styling and Honda Sensing safety

2018 Honda Fit
The 2018 Fit is available in new Sport trim featuring exclusive Orange Fury paint. (Photo: Honda)

The ultra-practical Honda Fit subcompact hatchback gets a thorough mid-cycle refresh for 2018, with edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance systems.

In a press release, Honda claims this 2018 update adds “youthful, sporty and emotional character” to a model already moving into the fourth year of its third generation, the new 2018 Fit’s styling enhancements including “a horizontally layered, two-piece chrome and piano black grille with a larger, more prominent “H” mark,” plus “more integrated and sophisticated” headlamp clusters that “blend into the side edges of the upper fascia’s wing creating a unified yet more aggressive design.” Additionally, Honda has added new chrome accents to the front bumper plus a full-width splitter below, as well as “more angular fog lights pods” to the frontal design.

2018 Honda Fit
All 2018 Fit trim levels get sportier styling including this top-line EX-L Navi. (Photo: Honda)

The 2018 Fit gets updated combination taillights in the rear and a reworked back bumper too, the latter feature now incorporating a “full-width character line in piano black” plus a “splitter-shaped” lower apron. Lastly, new Orange Fury paint is kept exclusively for an entirely new Sport trim level.

The 2018 Honda Fit is available in the same DX, LX, EX and EX-L Navi trims as last year’s version, now priced at $15,190, $18,590, 21,890 and $23,990 respectively, but new this year is a $19,590 Sport trim that slots in between LX and EX models.

2018 Honda Fit
Changes are most noticeable up front. (Photo: Honda)

A standard aero kit adds muscle to the new Fit Sport’s front, side and rear body panels for a more aggressive look, with bright orange pin-striping highlighting the deeper front splitter and tri-strake rear diffuser, no matter the exterior colour chosen. Additionally, gloss-black painted 16-inch alloys fill out each corner while a chromed exhaust finisher and “SPORT” liftgate badge complete the Fit Sport’s exterior design enhancements. Finally, the Fit Sport boasts an all-black cabin with unique orange contrast stitching.

New 2018 Fit Sport trim may get the exclusive option of Orange Fury paint, but the rest of its colour palette is limited to Crystal Black Pearl and White Orchid Pearl, with Modern Steel Metallic (medium grey), available with the base DX and other trims, taken off the menu. Likewise, Milano Red, available on LX trims and above, plus Aegean Blue Metallic, optional on the EX and EX-L Navi, are unavailable with the Sport.

2018 Honda Fit
Nicely detailed projector headlamps give the Fit a more upscale look. (Photo: Honda)

“With sporty new styling and additional feature content, the 2018 Honda Fit ups the ante with new styling and sophistication not typically found in the subcompact segment,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice-President Sales and Marketing, Honda Canada Inc. “Fit has always represented a great value for subcompact customers and the addition of available Honda Sensing to its fun-to-drive performance and unmatched versatility will keep the Honda Fit as the industry’s benchmark subcompact.”

2018 Honda Fit
Honda has revised the Fit’s rear bumper with a more aggressive design. (Photo: Honda)

Benchmarks in mind, archrival Toyota was first to offer advanced driver-assistance systems to the subcompact category with its 2017 Yaris hatchback, its Safety Sense C suite of driver-assistance systems adding automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking capability, and lane departure alert to its $15,475 base trim level, but the 2018 Fit’s available Honda Sensing system is a more technologically advanced package thanks to autonomous emergency braking joining lane/road departure warning with mitigating assist, as well as adaptive cruise control, although it doesn’t include auto high beams.

Nevertheless, Honda is confident enough to rightly claim the new 2018 Fit with Honda Sensing offers, “the most robust suite of available advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies in its class in Canada.” Choosing Honda Sensing adds $1,300 to the Fit LX and Sport trims, while it comes standard with the Fit EX and EX-L Navi.

2018 Honda Fit
This new “SPORT” badge gets attached to the back of the sportiest Fit. (Photo: Honda)

The 2018 Fit’s direct-injection 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-enhanced 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine is carryover albeit slightly downgraded from 130 to 128 horsepower and 114 to 113 lb-ft of torque, although the car’s claimed curb weight has now been reduced from 1,177 to 1,133 kilos (2,595 to 2,498 lbs) in base form, which should allow for similar if not better performance. Of note, Sport trim with the CVT, plus EX and EX-L Navi models receive standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to improve performance and driver engagement.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit EX-L Navi comes nicely loaded up. (Photo: Honda)

Honda claims an impressive five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.1 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.4 combined with the base six-speed manual, 7.0 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined with the CVT in LX trim, or alternatively 7.6 L/100km city, 6.5 highway and 7.0 combined in EX trim and above, which only come with the CVT. This represents a marginal improvement when compared to last year’s claimed fuel economy.

The Fit has always delivered excellent driving dynamics for its class, but nevertheless Honda has added retuned suspension dampers to the 2018 model, while also making its electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system more rigid, and providing a stiffer structure overall thanks to more body reinforcements. This helps to improve crash resistance, ride quality and handling prowess, as well as interior refinement, the new Fit said to be quieter than the outgoing model. Along with the stiffer structure, Honda achieved the 2018 Fit’s refinement goals by revising its transmission and steering system mounting hardware, while acoustic-laminated glass and more insulation has been added throughout.

2018 Honda Fit
A mostly digital dash adds colour and functionality to the little Fit. (Photo: Honda)

Standard features for the base 2018 Fit DX include auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlights, heatable powered side mirrors, LED brake lights, power locks with remote access, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, an intermittent rear wiper/washer, tilt and telescopic steering, a 5.0-inch colour LCD infotainment display, a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with streaming audio, four-speaker 160-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, a USB port, a 12-volt power outlet, the Fit’s unique 60/40-split second-row Magic Seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, cargo area tie-down hooks, 15-inch steel wheels with covers on 185/6 all-season tires, front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction and stability control, hill start assist, and the usual assortment of advanced airbags.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit EX-L Navi gets navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and more. (Photo: Honda)

Additionally, the LX adds a rear rooftop spoiler, illuminated steering wheel-mounted switchgear including cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a new 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, text message functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, a second USB port, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, a front centre console with an armrest and storage bin, heatable front seats, another 12-volt power outlet, a cargo cover, and more.

On top of everything already mentioned, new Sport trim adds auto-on/off headlights, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two more stereo speakers and 20 additional watts of power to the audio system, plus more.

2018 Honda Fit
The 2018 Fit Sport comes standard with a six-speed manual and orange stitching. (Photo: Honda)

EX trim builds on these features with proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Honda’s impressive LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a rearward view of the passenger’s side lane, a powered moonroof, extendable sunvisors, etcetera.

Lastly, top-line EX-L Navi trim includes LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, automatic climate control, navigation with detailed mapping and voice recognition, satellite and HD radio, leather upholstery, and more.

2018 Honda Fit
Sport trim gets more orange stitching for the seats. (Photo: Honda)

All of this equipment comes in a subcompact hatchback renowned for offering the most accommodating interior in its class. In fact, with its rear seats laid flat a total of 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) is available. Even better, when the backrests of the Fit’s rear Magic Seats are upright it’s possible to flip their lower cushions upwards for yet more cargo capacity, especially helpful for loading in taller items like bicycles or plants, this combining for a collective 609 litres (21.5 cubic feet) of available cargo space when including the Fit’s dedicated luggage area in back. What’s more, the front passenger’s seat can be folded forward to allow ultra-long cargo inside, while both front seats can be laid completely flat when their headrests are removed, providing a large safe place for impromptu camping. No competitor comes close to the Fit when it comes to passenger and cargo flexibility.

2018 Honda Fit
EX-L Navi trim gets leather upholstery, but all Fits feature rear Magic Seats. (Photo: Honda)

Still, the question remains whether all of the Fit’s ongoing attributes, together with the 2018 improvements, will boost its sagging sales numbers, or more precisely whether Honda will be able to keep up to customer demand. To be clear, the roller coaster ride Honda’s smallest car has endured since being available in North America is unusual to say the least. For some background, the first-generation Honda Fit came in with a bang after arriving on Canadian soil in April of 2006 with 10,634 sales, which quickly escalated to 13,507 deliveries in 2007 and then an all-time high of 14,836 down the road in 2008, but since then it’s experienced sales chart mayhem.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit’s Magic Seats lift completely out of the way for second-row storage. (Photo: Honda)

With more in common with the highly volatile Bitcoin cryptocurrency than anything automotive, Fit sales ebbed to 9,553 units in 2009 despite seeing an all-new second-generation model arrive partway through the year, after which it dropped to 7,900 deliveries the following year, and then plummeted to just 2,835 in 2011. Calendar year 2012 saw improvement to 4,736 units before a strong 2013 with 9,512 buyers, whereas the advent of the current third-generation Fit in 2014 provided 11,732 deliveries for its best sales results so far this decade.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit’s “Refresh Mode” lets you and some friends relax in side out of the rain or heat. (Photo: Honda)

Since then it’s been on another downward spiral claimed to be due to production issues caused by the immensely popular HR-V subcompact SUV that’s built at the same plant in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, the result being 9,088 Fit deliveries in 2015, 8,622 in 2016, and after six months of 2017 a meager 2,191 units leaving Canadian dealerships. To ease pressure on its Mexican facility and support the car’s many North American advocates Honda started importing additional Fit models from its production facility in Japan, but evidently not enough.

2018 Honda Fit
Something long to carry? You can configure the Fit’s seats to fit in just about anything. (Photo: Honda)

To appreciate how much ground the Fit has lost since last year came to an end, its 8,622 unit total made it second most popular in the subcompact class when compared to the Accent’s 19,198 sales, but by the close of Q2 2017 it stood sixth out of 11 competitors, with two of the segment’s five slowest sellers including a dedicated hybrid and a full electric model. These would be the Toyota Prius C and new Chevrolet Bolt, with the competitors having past it for second, third, fourth and fifth place in the sales race being the Nissan Versa Note with 4,436 deliveries, the new Yaris Family (including the Yaris hatchback and Mazda-sourced Yaris iA sedan) with 3,053, the Mini Cooper with 2,762, and the Chevrolet Sonic with 2,712. Only the Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta, which also experienced dramatic declines in popularity this year, did worse with 2,122 and 1,052 sales respectively, other than also-ran Fiat 500L that only managed a paltry 32 sales during the same six months.

Along with the usual production issues, some of the Fit’s most recent difficulties can likely be blamed on a purposeful slowdown of production ahead of this 2018 model’s launch so that dealers don’t end up with excess stock, but not all. Either way, if you’re hoping to get your hands on a new 2018 Fit it’s probably a good idea to do so sooner than later.

Honda has been at the forefront of production car electrification since the first modern-day hybrids hit Canadian roads way back at the turn of the millennia, but the Japanese automaker has been cautious…

152 Honda Canada dealerships to add electric charging stations

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
Clarity PHEV to ride “safe” ground between pure EV and non-plug-in hybrid, but the full electric will arrive later in 2018. (Photo: Honda)

Honda has been at the forefront of production car electrification since the first modern-day hybrids hit Canadian roads way back at the turn of the millennia, but the Japanese automaker has been cautious to add plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) or pure electric vehicles (EVs) to our smaller market despite previously offering the Accord Plug-in Hybrid and Fit EV south of the border.

This will soon change thanks to the new Clarity Plug-In Electric Hybrid that will go on sale across Canada starting mid-winter 2018 and the Clarity Electric expected next spring, so in preparation for the arrival of these two models a total of 152 Honda dealerships will have outfitted their facilities with electric charging stations before 2017 comes to a close.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
152 Honda Canada dealerships will soon have EV recharging capability in preparation to their new Clarity Plug-in PHEV and EV. (Photo: Honda)

“The investment by our dealer network is an indication of our commitment to supporting Honda’s Global 2030 Vision of electrifying two thirds of our fleet,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. “This electrification project is essential to our future business as we begin to introduce more electrified vehicles in Canada starting with the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid sedan later this winter.”

The commitment represents close to two thirds of Honda Canada’s entire dealer network, with each getting two 240-volt charging stations apiece. Either charger will be capable of replenishing the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s 17-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery pack in about two and half hours.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
Despite being a forerunner in the hybrid sector, Honda has been slow to adapt to plug-in technology. (Photo: Honda)

Honda’s first dedicated PHEV is said to have an overall driving range exceeding 530 km (329 miles) and a pure EV range of 68 km (42 miles), which should be enough for many would-be owners who live in urban environments to travel to and from work on electricity alone, although they will need to utilize the car’s electrically-assisted hybrid mode for extended trips.

According to a Honda Canada press release, “… the Clarity Plug-In Electric Hybrid aims to ease Canadian’s concerns about driving range with a no-compromise alternative fuel vehicle that meets the needs of Honda’s customers today while building the foundation of an electrified future.”

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Honda first offered a fuel cell powered Clarity in the U.S. (Photo: Honda)

The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid’s electric motor is capable of 181-horsepower and 232 lb-ft of instant torque, while the internal combustion engine (ICE) portion of the power unit is a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder.

With plenty of plug-in contenders already vying for early adopters, plus no shortage of alternatives arriving each year as well as new additions announced regularly, Canadian PHEV and EV markets are already very competitive, so therefore aggressive pricing, financing and leasing options, along with Honda’s reputation for quality, will determine the new Clarity’s success.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
The new 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid offers an upscale interior filled with premium features. (Photo: Honda)

This said, despite being one of the original innovators in the HEV sector and producing a wide variety of hybrid models since that initial two-seat Insight, Honda hasn’t had much success with its electrification program to date, the now discontinued Civic Hybrid and the recently introduced second-generation Accord Hybrid aside.

Honda’s U.S. division has already launched the Clarity at select dealerships in Oregon and California with pricing approximately equivalent to $42,500 CAD, while the Clarity Fuel Cell car, which is more representative of the automaker’s long-term alternative fuel plan, went on sale in December of last year, followed up by the aforementioned Clarity Electric, a full EV capable of up to 130 kilometres of range on a single charge.