Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically…
Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically important ingredient for overall success.
To put this in perspective, Nissan sold 16.7 percent more Altima mid-size sedans than Sentra compact four-doors in the U.S. last year, with 254,996 examples of the former and 218,451 of the latter delivered. Here in Canada the numbers are reversed at 6,626 for the Altima and 13,883 for the Sentra, but the larger, pricier car is more profitable, so it nevertheless remains an important model in the lineup.
Like many in this segment, Altima numbers have taken a hit in recent years. In fact, they’ve been steadily sliding for decades, the mid-size Nissan having lost 64.2 percent in sales volume over the past decade and a half, 36.8 percent of which was only in the last five years.
That’s almost as long as the current fifth-generation Altima has been with us, its production starting in May of 2012. The mid-size four-door received a dramatic facelift for the 2016 model year, adapting the brand’s new Vmotion grille and other stylish improvements, but three more years of availability means the time for change has come once again.
Enter the 2019 Nissan Altima, a much bolder looking mid-size four-door sedan that should please fans of the nameplate that have been looking forward to an update. It now wears Nissan’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, which is a reshaped version of the now trademark Nissan grille design. Basically the “V” shape of the new Altima’s grille has been flattened on the bottom to form more of a “U”, just like other recent Nissan redesigns. Also, following current trends that grille has grown to epic proportions, giving the car a grander, more premium look.
Additionally, new LED headlamps and taillights look sharper and more sophisticated, while the rear C-pillars feature a narrow glossy black strip for a floating roof effect, similar to that on the brand’s flagship Maxima luxury sedan. From front to back the new look is hardly subtle, but it was tastefully penned so should be widely accepted by Altima owners and newcomers alike.
The updated model is 25 mm (1.0 in) longer, 23 mm (0.9 in) wider and 28 mm (1.1 in) lower than the car it replaces, giving it a sportier stance all-round, while its wheelbase has grown by 48 mm (1.9 in). The sleek sheetmetal helps Nissan achieve a slippery 0.26 coefficient of drag, improving highway fuel economy while reducing wind noise, plus its larger dimensions provide more interior room all-round. Additionally, the wheels have been pushed farther to each corner, adding to its athletic appearance while theoretically providing more stability at high speed and a better ride, but we’ll have to wait for a test drive before confirmation.
That should happen shortly after the updated Altima arrives this fall, at which point we’ll also be able to advise on its reportedly quieter, smoother and more efficient 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, now 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger than the outgoing engine at 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft; its revised Xtronic CVT that gets an expanded lock-up area for improved fuel economy, plus available paddle shifters; and its standard all-wheel drive.
Yes, for the first time ever the 2019 Altima won’t be available with front-wheel drive, at least not in Canada. This is a bold move for the brand’s Canadian division, but it certainly separates it from most competitors that don’t offer AWD at all.
Dubbed Intelligent AWD, it features an advanced torque split design that automatically distributes power from 100 percent up front and zero at the rear, all the way to an even division of 50 percent front to rear. The bias depends on road conditions and resulting wheel slippage, with the default being front-wheel drive to save fuel. Nissan says the new AWD system works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential too, plus its Hill Start Assist system.
Currently, Ford offers AWD with its 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine, found optionally in its near-premium trimmed Titanium and Platinum non-hybrid models, plus standard on its performance-oriented Fusion Sport, a 325 horsepower beast that’s a bit of an anomaly in this mostly fuel-efficiency focused segment, while the Subaru Legacy is the only mid-size sedan entrant to provide standard AWD, and it’s a minor player in Canada’s market with last year’s volume sitting at just 2,451 units compared to the Altima’s 6,626, let alone the Honda Accord’s 13,504 deliveries and the Toyota Camry’s 14,574.
The Subie actually brings up the rear in this 10 model strong segment, but Nissan no doubt isn’t feeling too proud about besting its fellow countryman, because it only sits sixth in sales, with the (soon to be cancelled) Ford Fusion in third with 9,736 deliveries in 2017, the Chevrolet Malibu in fourth with 8,152, and the Hyundai Sonata in fifth with 7,827. Amongst the stragglers is the Kia Optima with 4,496 down the road last year, Volkswagen Passat (and CC) with 4,145, Chrysler 200 (no longer available) with 2,842, and Mazda 6 with 2,541. Time will tell if all the changes made to the new Altima will push it further up the sales chart, but a quick tour of the interior makes its prospects look promising.
Nissan promises a sporty yet sophisticated cabin that replaces traditional chrome embellishment with matte chrome accents and satin finishes, while there’s a bit less of each than with previous Altima models for a more modern look. This said it’s not a breakthrough design, but instead features a lower dash top resulting in an airier, more open ambience, the entire instrument panel tastefully minimalist, seeming to naturally flow from one element to the next.
Likewise it’s almost completely devoid of clutter, with most centre stack controls housed in a large 8.0-inch fixed tablet-style infotainment touchscreen protruding upward from the dash top, this complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, and more. A nicely sorted dual-zone automatic climate control interface sits on its own just below, while the driver gets a dedicated full-colour 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster.
Nissan says it put special emphasis on giving all of the Altima’s switches and controls “an intuitive, effortless feel and natural operation,” so we’re looking forward to experiencing the result of this concentrated effort, while the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats have our curiosity piqued as well. Nissan claims these are especially good at providing long driving range comfort thanks to dual-density foam, plus some extra bolstering is said to improve support while driving around town.
Something else that sets the Altima apart from key rivals is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving technology. To be clear, ProPilot Assist doesn’t turn your Altima into a self-driving autonomous vehicle, but instead helps to keep drivers in the middle of a chosen lane by adjusting the steering automatically, has the ability to navigate stop-and-go traffic, and maintains set speeds and distances to vehicles ahead, simply by pressing two buttons. Basically, all you need to do is activate the system and then set the adaptive cruise control, at which point the Altima will steer itself as long as your hands are still touching the wheel.
Of note, Canadian Altima buyers won’t yet have the option of Nissan’s new variable compression turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, or VC-Turbo that can vary its compression ratio from 8:1 to 14:1 through an innovative system that can alter the piston throw inside the cylinder, resulting in 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque when fuel with premium unleaded. Why the negative news? Because this highly advanced engine is only mated to the model’s front-wheel drivetrain, and so far no AWD option is available outside of Infiniti’s new QX50. As you may have guessed it’s available as an Altima option south of the 49th, as is AWD, their base model being our 2.5-litre four mated to FWD.
Both markets will receive the same standard front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, plus identical electric power steering systems, featuring new dual steering pinions for improved precision, while an upscale set of monotube rear shocks improves damping.
We won’t know about standard features, trims and pricing until closer to launch, or for that matter anything to do with options and packages, but we can expect the same eight-way powered driver’s seat as offered to our American friends, plus standard fabric and optional leather upholstery, heated front seats, LED headlights, a Bose audio upgrade, available navigation, a powered moonroof, and more, while a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems will likely include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and more.
Stay tuned for a more detailed report as the fall of 2018 draws near.
For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long. The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much…
For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long.
The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much more distinctive bodywork all-round including unique bumpers, fenders, aero, and trim details when compared to its Impreza sedan donor model, plus a new, more potent direct-injected 2.0-litre turbo-four replacing the aged sequential multiport injected 2.5 in the regular WRX, this new engine adding three horsepower and 14 more lb-ft of torque resulting in 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, a six-speed manual in place of that model’s old five-speed, and the option of a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddles where no automatic was ever offered before. The STI continued forward with its 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four making 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque.
Model year 2016 added one-touch turn signals, revised steering wheel controls, and a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen with StarLink smartphone integration, plus the Hyper Blue-painted STI Hikari limited edition; 2017 added automatic reverse-tilt to the passenger’s side power mirror, a more premium-like woven fabric headliner, and improved the six-speed manual transmission’s feel, while Sport-tech trims also received Siri Eyes-Free, Mirror Link, Travel Link and SiriusXM Traffic integration; and now for 2018 this dynamic duo get a few styling updates, some chassis mods, a bevy of additional refinements, as well as new safety features, while the STI gets one redesigned drivetrain component. Subaru has made changes to the 2019 version too, but I’ll leave those until later.
The 2018 styling updates affect both models and include a new front grille and bumper design and reworked interior door trim, while other updates include a new primary gauge cluster with a 5.9-inch colour multi-information display (MID), a fold-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reduced interior noise, new suspension tuning, and bigger batteries.
Specific to the base WRX, manual models get a new shift lever and yet better shift and clutch take-up feel, plus improved steering feel, whereas the STI now includes standard LED headlights, standard cross-drilled Brembo brakes that are 24 mm larger and 6 mm thicker up front than those on the regular WRX, at 340 by 30 mm, plus 40 mm larger and twice as thick in back at 326 by 20 mm, with six-piston front calipers (two more than the previous STI and four more than the regular WRX) and two-piston rear calipers (double what the WRX offers) plus four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor equipped Super Sport ABS, a revised Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system that’s no longer hybrid mechanical with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but rather an electric design that provides quicker, smoother operation, while inside it gets red seatbelts.
As for new 2018 options, Sport trim with the base WRX is updated to include steering-responsive LED headlights, LED fog lights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the Sport-tech package adds new StarLink connectivity apps including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse. Additionally, Sport-tech models with the manual now get the option of an RS package featuring eight-way powered front seats, leather and ultrasuede upholstery, uprated brake pads, and red calipers, while Sport-tech cars with the Sport Lineartronic CVT become the first WRX models to ever include Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems.
As for the STI, an upgrade to Sport trim now adds 19-inch wheels, wiper-activated automatic headlights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the fog lamps were deleted to allow for larger air intakes. Additionally, STI models upgraded with the Sport-tech package can be had with either a massive rear wing or much smaller lip spoiler, the latter more appealing to those who don’t want to draw as much attention from passersby, while a set of Recaro sport seats are added in both leather and ultrasuede upholstery, with the driver’s receiving eight-way powered adjustment. Subaru also includes the aforementioned StarLink apps with the Sport-tech upgrade. Like I said, Subaru doesn’t exactly remain idle with the WRX and STI, despite its relative niche model status.
Then again, if Subaru has a flagship model it would have to be its WRX STI. Certainly the new Ascent crossover SUV is larger and more luxurious, as is the mid-size Outback crossover and the Legacy sedan it’s based upon, such attributes normally befitting of flagship status, but the WRX STI has become legendary for being one of the best performing sport compacts available since inception, and as noted earlier, is derived from the brand’s motorsport heritage.
Added to this, the 4,616 examples sold into Canada last year, and the 2,308 delivered up to the close of Q2 2018 (which bizarrely is precisely half of the entire 2017 total number despite having zero months with the same figure—Subaru only totaled 2,303 WRX/STI sales at the halfway mark of 2017), made up a significant 8.5 percent of Subaru’s total volume in 2017 and 8.3 percent so far this year, not to mention a third of the Japanese brand’s overall Impreza sales over the same six months if you combine the two models’ Q2 figures (Subaru sold almost half as many WRX/STI models as Imprezas over the first half of 2018). What’s more, the WRX/STI earned more than twice as many invested fans than VW’s GTI/Golf R combo. So much for being a niche model.
I like the styling updates, as they give the front end a more aggressive appearance that strengthens the entire design. I also lean more toward subtlety than flash, so therefore I was glad Subaru chose the smaller lip spoiler for my ride. Of course I appreciate the downforce benefits of a gargantuan rear wing when attempting to breach the sound barrier, or at least reach the STI’s top track speed of 251 km/h, but there’s no race course anywhere near my home that would allow for such a test, and it goes without saying that I’d rather not have my car impounded before being forced to pay the towing and storage fees, plus the fines that would be due after being caught doing speed trials on public roads, and then have to explain to Subaru why they couldn’t access their car for a week or more. Nah, I’d go for clean lines over radical aero any day of the week, and this upgraded STI looks much more appealing from front to back.
Subaru follows the usual red on black performance car interior theme, and while I won’t go so far to call this approach creative, the overall look is well executed, meaning that it’s not as gauche as some others, such as Honda’s Civic Type-R (that goes for exterior styling too). My tester’s Sport-tech trim meant that psuede covered the door panel insets, armrests, and centre seat panels front to back, while the ones up front had the “STI” initials embossed into the leather headrests and white “RECARO” lettering embroidered into the top portion of the seat panel. The side bolsters are covered in mostly black leather other than their top portions finished in a thick stripe of red, while the outer sections receive a thin line of red contrast stitching. Subaru decorates the seatbacks further with red piping up top, but really what matters most is how wonderfully comfortable and incredibly supportive they are.
The rear seats aren’t quite as fancy, but they’re surprisingly dressed up with the same red and black, partial-psuede and leather upholstery, plus the outboard positions are cut out like buckets so even those in back have some lateral support to keep them in place if you plan on having some fun.
On that note, adjustability is critical in a performance car, because along with the lateral support factor you need to maintain as much control as possible. To this end the upgraded seats include the aforementioned power adjustments, while all STI trims provide plenty of telescopic reach from the steering column resulting in a rally-ready driving position, or at least the ability to get the seatback upright and steering wheel as close to the driver as possible.
The STI steering wheel is thick, padded, flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped and ideally formed for comfort and, once again, control, with red baseball stitching along the inside of the rim, while the shift knob is black leather as well, with a bright red translucent candy drop top. The leather boot below gets red stitching to match the same thread used on both sides of the padded leatherette trimmed centre console, the new STI a lot more luxe than any previous WRX model.
The hood shielding the dash-top MID gets the same red-stitched leatherette treatment, while the fiery colour illuminates the primary gauges, the infotainment interface background and some of the cabin’s switchgear before continuing onto each door panel and elsewhere throughout the interior. And as overdone as this might sound in words, it’s actually quite tasteful when viewed.
That gauge cluster is 100-percent purposeful performance, with bright, clear dials that are easy to read in any light, while the multi-info display at centre isn’t as graphically stimulating as some others in the segment, yet still displays an eco-gauge, driving time info, a digital speedometer, a gear display, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and something no other brand’s vehicles have, a graphic showing front and real power bias from the aforementioned DCCD system, actuated via a rocker switch on the centre console.
Just in case you’re feeling shortchanged for not getting as much digitized imagery in the gauge cluster display, check out the big dash-top MID mentioned a moment ago. Controlled via a rocker switch just above the infotainment display, it comes filled with a high-resolution TFT screen and loads of functions like average fuel economy, graphics for the configurable centre differential, a digital PSI boost gauge, etcetera, making it a helpful sidekick to the much larger StarLink infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack below, this such a massive improvement over previous WRX systems that it’s a night and day experience.
Thanks to its Sport-tech upgrade, my tester’s touchscreen was a half-inch larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, while its ultra high-resolution glossy display also gets navigation with detailed mapping, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with all the functionality of the lesser 6.5-inch system, such as a backup camera with guidelines, and all of the aforementioned features and apps. They’re all accessible from an interface with superb graphics and a really nice layout, featuring big digital buttons for the map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings interfaces.
A high-quality dual-zone auto climate control system sits below, with really well made knobs that don’t wiggle when rotated, plus nice, tight fitting buttons. I also like that the HVAC system’s temperature readouts are displayed up on the dash-top multi-info system for easy visibility when on the move, just another way Subaru keeps things convenient and safe.
Over and above features already mentioned, $47,295 Sport-tech trim includes proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, and a great sounding 320-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, while additional items pulled from $42,495 Sport trim include 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance rubber to go with those aforementioned uprated rims, welcome lighting, a powered moonroof, the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert, plus more.
Lastly, on top of features that come standard with the regular $29,995 WRX and other previously noted features, all STI’s include a glossy black grille, brushed aluminum doorsills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with a red embroidered STI logo, a leather-wrapped handbrake lever, front and rear seats upholstered in black and red leather with black ultrasuede inserts, dual-zone auto climate control, and a bevy of performance upgrades including a quick-ratio rack and pinion steering system, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential and a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, plus more for $40,195.
I should also point out that Subaru finishes the interior off with a higher level of soft-touch synthetic surface treatments than ever before, getting the car closer and closer to premium territory with each passing generation. And it’s plenty roomy for a compact too, both up front and in back where the seats are nicely sculpted out to keep your rear passengers in place when pushing the envelope. Now that we’re contemplating such practical matters, the STI’s trunk is plenty large for a sports car at 340 litres, and it benefits from expansion for longer items via 60/40-split rear seatbacks.
Along that vein, the fact that you’re driving a turbocharged four-cylinder powered compact car won’t benefit your pocketbook all that much in the STI, thanks to 14.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and 12.5 combined. If that’s an issue for you the regular WRX is good for a claimed 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined, while the same model with its CVT can eke out 12.6, 9.6 and 11.2 respectively.
By the way, the SI-Drive system noted earlier lets you choose between the default Intelligent driving mode, Sport mode and Sport-sharp mode, which is Subaru-speak for the usual comfort, sport and sport-plus modes. They work wonders, especially the latter “S#” mode, which sharpens up the STI’s responses to the point of racetrack readiness, ideal for those moments when you want to get the most out of a very potent package.
This is where the STI’s 2.5-litre EJ257 H4 comes in, an engine that hasn’t changed one iota since before this car’s full redesign. Therefore its output remains 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, while its six-speed gearbox is truly smoother to operate since its multiple refinements. Lastly, the WRX STI’s torque-vectoring Symmetrical-AWD system is still amongst the best in the business, designed for all surface traction, meaning it can easily manage wet or dry pavement, snow, gravel, dirt, or almost anything else you throw in its way.
I kept it to dry tarmac during my test, and no I didn’t have a track at my beck and call so I obeyed all posted speed limits and… ha ha yeah right. Of course, I found opportunity to open it up when the road cleared and it was safe to do so, and let it be known the STI’s feisty turbo-four craftily providing 305 great ways to get past anything blocking the lane ahead. It launches from standstill with ferocious immediacy and a brilliantly snarling engine note, adding a resonant auditory track to particularly fast-paced visuals. Clutch take-up is ideally weighted with travel short and to the point, while its metal pedals are ideally placed for a little heal, toe action, those uprated brakes fabulously responsive no matter how many times I deep dove into them.
Likewise, the STI’s hydraulic power steering is wonderfully reactive and great at communicating feedback, while its suspension setup is ideally balanced, giving way ever so slightly at both ends when push came to shove, and doing so with a confidence inspiring level of predictability.
This balance is configurable from front to rear via the previously noted DCCD, which lets you lock in an alternative AWD torque split to the otherwise default 41:59 bias, allowing for the characteristics of a rear-wheel drive sports sedan or vice versa, this complemented by a double wishbone rear suspension design as capable of absorbing pavement irregularities as the previously noted struts up front, while always keeping the car horizontal to the road.
This is a car you can comfortably drive fast, plus feel safe, secure and always in control of, but take note it won’t take long before you’ve gone so far past those aforementioned limits that you might be walking home, or at the very least be served up a hefty fine, so keep eyes peeled for party poopers.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a racetrack or have a friend that owns hectares of ranchland interconnected with drivable dirt roads, or even if there’s a large parking lot (preferably covered in snow) somewhere nearby, Subaru has your ride, and despite all of the sport compacts that have come and gone since the WRX started wooing us from afar way back in the early ‘90s and finally got real for us here in North America in 2002, or 2004 for the STI, it’s still the all-wheel drive compact to beat.
As I write this review the model year changeover from 2018 to 2019 has occurred, which now gives you an option that might be worth your undivided attention. A near identical version of the STI’s turbocharged 2.5-litre four now includes stronger pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming and a high-flow exhaust system, resulting in the same torque yet five more horsepower totaling 310, while the gearbox gets a new third gear for quicker acceleration. Lastly, the entry and top-line infotainment systems get some tweaks, but like the new powertrain I’ll need to experience these firsthand before making comment.
Those wanting a bargain can try their luck on a remaining 2018 model, although don’t expect to get too much off as the WRX STI, and all Subarus for that matter, hold their resale values well. Of course, this will be a bonus when it comes time for you to resell, but believe me, handing over the keys to this super-sedan might take more willpower than you can muster.
Yes, if you’re longing for an outrageously competent sports car with the added convenience of four doors and a sizeable trunk, look no further than the Subaru WRX STI. Even if you don’t need the back seat and storage, it’s one of the better performance cars available for less than $50k, and thanks to its ever-improving refinements its now a viable alternative for anyone otherwise interested in a premium-branded sport sedan.
Infiniti had more reasons to celebrate than just Canada Day on July 1, 2018, because extremely strong June sales resulted in the best month it has ever recorded. The Japanese luxury brand increased…
Infiniti had more reasons to celebrate than just Canada Day on July 1, 2018, because extremely strong June sales resulted in the best month it has ever recorded.
The Japanese luxury brand increased nationwide deliveries to 1,398 units last month, which represents a 16.3-percent year-over-year increase as well as an all-time monthly sales record.
As you might expect, sport utility vehicles were key to its success, with the brand’s largest QX80 growing its sales by 13.7 percent in June.
Additionally, Infiniti’s most popular QX60 mid-size luxury crossover achieved 567 sales, this resulting in a new monthly record as well as 14.5 percent growth when compared to June 2017.
June was also a big month for the QX50 compact luxury crossover, which arrived as a completely redesigned 2019 model halfway through the month and therefore benefited from 335 Canadian deliveries for its best June ever, not to mention 119 percent year-over-year growth.
Even the discontinued QX70 crossover found traction in June, its sales rising by 19.1 percent, while the ever-popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan also received a bump in popularity, finding 2.3 percent more buyers than it did a year ago.
The Q50 helped keep Infiniti’s car sales from sliding farther backward than the -2.5 percent slip they experienced in June, whereas SUV sales grew by a substantive 23.3 percent.
That said Infiniti cars are the big winners so far this year, with 2018 year-to-date deliveries at the close of Q2 resulting in +9.2 percent compared to -8.5 for SUVs.
Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new…
Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, and while I have yet to test the latter I can tell you right now it’ll need to be very good to even match the iM.
The Corolla Hatchback certainly appears like a worthy replacement, while to be honest the iM is probably starting to look a bit dated. And let’s be fair. It started out as the second-generation Auris in 2012, a Euro-spec Toyota that came to North America as the Scion iM in 2015 as a 2016 model. I drove that car in a bright day-glow yellow dubbed Spring Green, and was duly impressed by its performance, interior design, fit, finish and materials quality, standard feature set, and general goodness all-round, so therefore it was easy to accept the 2017 Corolla iM that surfaced the following year, which after just two model years is being sent to pasture.
As a send off, Toyota gave me two to play with one final time. While Spring Green is still shown as available on the brand’s retail website, my testers included a Barcelona Red Metallic painted version with the base six-speed manual, and an Electric Storm Blue example with the optional automatic, or rather continuously variable transmission (CVT). Alternatively, black, silver or white can be had, the latter being the only optional paint due to a pearlescent finish, but truthfully we’re getting to the end of the line so you may have to take what your dealer has on offer if you’ve got your heart set on a Corolla iM.
Why not wait for the Corolla Hatchback instead? I can’t recommend the new model or criticize it, but I’d be surprised if it comes finished to the same impressive levels as the iM. This said the new Corolla Hatchback is also the third-generation Auris in Europe, so it should also be above average when compared to similar North American offerings, unless they dumb our version down by cutting corners on interior quality—we already know the fully independent suspension is up to snuff. Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed, or alternatively take what we can get while the gettin’s good.
Let’s start with the mechanicals. Behind the iM’s sloping snout is a 16-valve, DOHC, 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with Valvetronic, which puts out 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque for plenty of zoot off the line and no shortage of passing power. Of course, it feels a lot more energetic when mated to its six-speed manual, but that said the aforementioned CVT is actually Toyota’s CVT-S autobox, the “S” standing for Sport. Basically it features a shift lever-actuated manual mode that swaps “cogs” quite quickly and effectively, mimicking the real deal to the point of enjoyment, which makes it quite the rarity amongst CVTs that are normally the antithesis of sporty. The CVT-S also provides a Sport mode, accessible from a button on the lower console. Again, it adds some zest to the iM experience when wanting to let your hair down, but it’s nothing to get too excited about.
Another reason to choose the CVT-S over the manual is fuel economy, the six-speed quite efficient yet not as thrifty as the autobox at 8.8 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.9 combined compared to 8.3 city, 6.5 highway and 7.5 combined. Whether or not the fuel savings are enough to make up for the automatic’s $835 hit to your wallet will come down to how you drive and the distances covered, but it’s possible the expense will even itself out after a few years. Of course, it’ll be well worth the extra charge if you don’t drive stick or would rather not, plus if you’re paying monthly the difference between $22,750 and $23,585 is nominal.
Incidentally, I sourced the Corolla iM’s retail pricing at CarCostCanada.com, which is the most comprehensive new vehicle pricing resource in Canada, not only supplying every available trim and option plus the cost of each, but also showing otherwise hard-to-find dealer invoice pricing and up-to-the-moment rebate info so you can get the best possible deal when showing up at the retailer. And considering the Corolla iM is about to be replaced for good, you should be able to work out a very good deal if you’re well armed with information.
Those capable of more hand, foot coordination, or willing to learn, will benefit from a slick six-speed manual gearbox and a nicely weighted clutch, the base model a lot sportier and more enjoyable to drive due to the DIY gearbox alone, and while modulating the pedals can provide greater control through sharp, fast-paced corners, the iM’s adept suspension does most of the work.
As hinted about earlier, behind the scenes is a fully independent suspension that flies in the face of the regular Corolla sedan’s rear twist-beam setup, the iM’s much more sophisticated and considerably more expensive independent rear suspension (IRS) capable of providing near unflappable high speed cornering on smooth or even bumpy road surfaces, its multi-link rear design ideal for keeping rear end planted on the road no matter the pavement irregularities encountered. The ride quality is plenty smooth too, making this particular Corolla perfect for long, high-speed trips on the open freeway.
If the Corolla iM could get any better, I’d be inclined to place its aforementioned interior attributes at an even higher level than its ride and handling prowess. When I say the cabin gets close to premium, I’m not merely copping an overused term in order to imply that it includes a number of luxury sector features that give it a wannabe-premium flair, but rather it really does have an impressively finished passenger compartment. First off, the A-pillars come wrapped in the same high-quality woven fabric as the roofliner, while a better than average soft-touch synthetic covers the entire dash top, the upper half of the instrument panel, and the tops each front door panel.
Even better, Toyota added a contrast-stitched pad to both sides of the lower console for resting front occupant inside knees, this complementing an attractive and comfortable set of contrast-stitched padded fabric armrests and door inserts. Lastly, contrast-stitched leather surrounds the steering wheel, shift knob, boot, and handbrake lever, while Toyota turned to piano black lacquer and metallic trim for spiffing up some of the hard surfaces, plus a sporty motorcycle-inspired circular gauge cluster, very good quality switchgear, a touchscreen infotainment system that’s still better than what a lot of newer cars have on offer, and two stylishly upholstered, heavily bolstered, truly comfortable cloth sport seats.
If you’re not quite convinced, the iM’s standard features list might drive its value proposition home more effectively, thanks to auto on/off halogen projector headlamps with LED DRLs, LED side mirror turn signals, LED taillights, machine-finished 17-inch alloys with grey painted pockets, remote access, heatable, power-folding, power-adjustable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, an overhead console with a nicely lined sunglasses holder, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, a large high-resolution 7.0-inch Pioneer infotainment/display audio system with very nice graphics, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, voice recognition, and a six-speaker AM/FM/USB/AUX stereo featuring Aha, internet radio, POI search, Gracenote, and more.
The move to Toyota last year meant this Corolla-badged iM now gets even more safety gear, so along with the usual four-wheel discs with ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction and stability control, plus Smart Stop Technology that stops the car when both throttle and brake pedals are pressed simultaneously, all being part of the Japanese brand’s Star Safety System, as well as the usual assortment of airbags, including one for the driver’s knees and another for the front passenger’s seat cushion, the Corolla iM includes the entry version of the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system, dubbed TSS-C, the “C” short for Collision. TSS-C includes auto-dimming high beams, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure alert, while the higher end TSS-P adds autonomous braking with Pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
On this note, the Corolla iM doesn’t make the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick Plus or even Top Safety Pick list, the latter of which includes the regular Corolla, but perhaps this is more to do with not having its autonomous braking system tested. After all, the IIHS gives it best-possible “Good” ratings for its moderate front overlap and side crash tests, so if its small overlap front, roof strength, plus head restraint and seat tests were done it could very well get the same Top Safety Pick score as its four-door sibling. Also, the NHTSA has never tested the iM, whether in its earlier Scion incarnation or under its new Toyota Corolla nameplate.
While this generous load of standard features is impressive, the Corolla iM’s one-trim-fits-all strategy shows the weakness of the original Scion business model. On one hand it doesn’t allow for a stripped down base model capable of going head-to-head against competitors’ lower price points, which are often used just for marketing purposes, getting would-be buyers down to the dealership so they can be upsold into something with the iM’s level of features, but it’s an effective approach just the same, while on the other hand it doesn’t allow for the types of high end features that might make the iM more appealing to those willing to spend more for a premium-like experience. For instance, the iM can’t be had with proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, parking sensors, leather upholstery, cooled front and heatable rear seats, a regular moonroof let alone a panoramic glass roof, navigation, a surround camera, etcetera.
Toyota does offer dealer-installed accessories, mind you, including a larger rear rooftop spoiler, an infotainment upgrade with navigation, a Bongiovi Acoustics DPS audio upgrade, and interior ambient lighting with interchangeable blue, turquoise, green, yellow, red, purple and white colour choices.
I know, the ability to choose between ambient colours might sound a bit frivolous to those merely looking for a good quality car with a modicum of performance at a great price, so don’t bring it up and your local Toyota salesperson probably won’t either. After all, interior roominess and comfort is a much more important subject matter, neither of which should cause you concern unless you’re much taller than average. I’m only five-foot-eight, which is about average for a Canadian guy, so I had room galore up front, although take note the steering column’s telescopic reach doesn’t extend far enough rearward to make up for body types with longer legs than torsos/arms. This is true for most Toyotas, forcing me to position the driver’s seatback at an unnaturally upright angle in order to grasp the top portion of steering wheel rim, and even then it’s not comfortable and doesn’t provide optimal control. Certainly I could drive it, but for this reason alone I wouldn’t buy it. This will affect everyone differently, so make sure you test it out before singing on the bottom line.
As for rear seat roominess, I left the driver’s seat positioned for my height and sat behind to find about five inches of space ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my shoes below, plus there was almost as much space above my head. Toyota provides a flip-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders, which honestly was a bit low for my arm to rest comfortably, but it’s probably perfect for kids, while I’m guessing a smallish third passenger would be more than comfortable in the middle seat.
Toyota finishes off the cargo compartment nicely, by wrapping the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls in quality carpeting, while just below the load floor is a shallow storage bin above the spare tire. Additionally, four chromed tie-down rings are helpful for attaching a cargo net or strapping something down that might otherwise fall over during the drive. The rear seatbacks fold in the usual 60/40-split configuration, expanding the already sizeable 588-litre (20.8 cubic-foot) cargo area to a much more accommodating albeit undisclosed maximum capacity.
If the Corolla iM fits your size and style, I can certainly recommend it for all the other reasons just mentioned. It’s a great little five-door hatchback that moves the entire compact car sector up a notch or two in materials quality and refinement, while delivering a sporty driving experience in an all-round efficient package. Get it while you can, or check out the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback that could’ve just as easily been given the iM moniker.
When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which…
When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which represents a 2.0-percent year-over-year increase as well as an all-time monthly sales record.
Breaking that total down by brand, the automaker’s namesake Nissan division sold 14,932 units, providing a 0.9-percent increase, which left the Infiniti luxury brand with 1,398 new model sales, this being a 16.3-percent improvement over June of 2017.
The top-selling Nissan model remains the ever-popular Rogue compact crossover SUV, which found 4,342 new owners in June, whereas the smaller Qashqai crossover achieved a new all-time record of 2,150 sales during the same 30 days, helping it continue forward as the second best-selling model in Nissan’s Canadian lineup.
Also impressive, the all-new, all-electric Leaf EV set a June sales record as well, with 492 units down the road. Additionally, Nissan has found 2,408 new Leaf buyers during the 2018 calendar year-to-date, building on one of the Japanese brand’s most significant success stories.
A newcomer to the Nissan family got off to a good start in June as well, with the 2018 Kicks subcompact crossover SUV selling a total of 609 units during its first full month, while at the other end of the size spectrum the Titan full-size pickup truck recorded its best June ever at 684 units, a gain of 61.3 percent when compared to June of 2017.
Continuing on the XXL theme, the Armada full-size SUV had a solid month of sales too, achieving its best June ever thanks to 156 deliveries, which represents an increase of 16.4 percent from the same month last year.
In other positive June news, the 370Z and GT-R sports cars grew their sales by 14.3 and 20.0 percent respectively, while the NV200 and NV commercial vans experienced 13.0 and 13.6 percent growth.
All in all, cars have seen stronger year-over-year growth since the beginning of 2018, with year-to-date Nissan car sales having increased by 16.3 percent, and YTD SUV and truck deliveries decreasing by 5.9 percent.
As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been…
As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been with us on and off since 1993, and the recently reincarnated Hatchback, which represents the spiritual return to the model’s 1972 roots.
The first Si was based on the now very collectable two-seat 1985 CRX, but just a year later a third-generation two-door Civic Hatchback became the first-gen Civic Si. The 91 horsepower sport compact quickly earned a devoted following thanks to quick acceleration, a superb five-speed manual gearbox, and excellent handling, all mixed with loads of passenger, cargo and economical practicality.
Now, oddly enough, no Civic Hatchback Si is offered, although Civic Type R fans are hardly complaining. The 306 horsepower super-compact has earned instant legend status on both roads and tracks like the Nürburgring Nordschleife, where it currently holds the fastest front-wheel drive production car title, leaving the Si for sport compact enthusiasts wanting a little more day-to-day livability.
Maybe livability isn’t the right word, because the Type R’s hatchback layout makes it easily suited to family and cargo hauling, but its massive non-carbon rear wing makes that hatch a hefty weight to lift, its radical front seat bolsters are a tad uncomfortable to negotiate after a four-course meal, the centre console-dividing rear seat is limiting to passenger capacity, and the car’s generally edgier driving dynamics might be a bit overzealous for some regular commuters.
While a future Hatchback Si might be the best passenger/cargo compromise, and the currently available Sedan Si an obvious choice for those looking to maximize performance and pragmatism, you might be surprised at how much room the Coupe Si has inside. Of course, climbing into the rear seating area is hardly as easy as stepping through a back door, but Honda has fixed three seatbelts across the rear bench, and the middle position isn’t so high that it would be uncomfortable for a fifth passenger, plus kids would probably like its slight elevation.
Just to find out for myself, I set the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height, climbed through a fairly wide opening into a comfortable outboard seat, and was once again reminded that this two-door sport coupe is sized more like a sedan than most rivals in this segment. I had three inches of space remaining above my head, at least six inches ahead of my knees, and plenty of room from side to side. The rear seats provided good back support too, but take note there’s no centre armrest and the ones to each side are made from uncomfortable hard plastic.
At least the seatbacks are split 60/40 for expanding the usability of the slightly reduced 289-litre trunk, plus they’re equipped with convenient release pulls under the lid. So I think we can agree that the Civic Coupe Si is plenty practical.
I like the way the Coupe Si looks too, especially when finished in Rallye Red, one of five colours available. A high contrast colour really helps the gloss and matte black details across the grille stand out, not to mention the blackened trim surrounding the LED headlamps, along the lower fascia, around the side windows, highlighting the wheels, edging the LED taillights, and darkening the rear diffuser, although you might like the ominously inky look of the Crystal Black Pearl painted version better. No matter the colour, the Coupe Si looks menacing from up front, and makes a sharply wedged profile from the side, capped off with a large yet still tasteful rear spoiler that adds style and downforce.
And yes, the Coupe Si can reach track speeds of up to 220 km/h, which is certainly fast enough to require the extra stability provided by an aero-tuned spoiler. That high-speed performance comes via a recalibrated six-speed manual transmission fed by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with dual variable cam timing, which makes the same 205 horsepower as the previous model’s 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four, yet 18 lb-ft of additional torque resulting in a 192 lb-ft maximum.
The new power unit is more tractable too, thanks to full power arriving 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range at 5,700 rpm instead of 7,000, whereas the aforementioned max torque comes on 2,300 rpm earlier at 2,100 rpm compared to 4,400 in the old model, plus that twist is sustained over 70 percent of the engine’s rev range.
With Sport mode engaged the Coupe Si’s straight-line acceleration feels a lot more spirited than the numbers show, standstill to 100km/h requiring 7.2 seconds. Like I said, by the seat of the pants the Si feels much quicker, and it was never designed to be a drag racer anyway.
Find an open stretch of curving back road and the Coupe Si immediately shows its key strength, adeptly managing corners. It’s always been one of my favourite cars to drive fast, and the new chassis setup is easily the most stable in Si history. You can fling it into the sharpest of corners at almost any reasonable speed, and the worst you’ll get is mild understeer. It’s wonderfully balanced, totally predictable, and ruddy fast when pushed hard. An off camber curve? No problem, even if you hit a bump or pothole halfway through.
The Civic’s already better than average fully independent front strut, rear multi-link suspension has been tweaked for even greater capability, with beefier 27 mm front and 18 mm rear stabilizer bars plus adaptive dampers, so the Coupe Si is totally up to the task. The steering is ideally weighted for optimal control too, providing positive, quick response to input and decent feedback, while a helical limited slip differential makes the most of available traction. Likewise, braking is strong with very little fade, even after repeated stomps. Truly, the Si remains one of the best cars available for embarrassing Mustang GT owners, as long as you’re on a tight twisting two-laner.
If a pit stop is required that Mustang owner will also need a lot more time to fill up at the pump, the Coupe Si’s 46.9-litre tank capable of going a lot farther thanks to claimed fuel economy of 8.4 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 7.4 combined, which incidentally is a massive improvement over the previously model’s 10.8 city, 7.6 highway and 9.4 combined.
The rubber responsible for reducing rolling resistance while simultaneously providing all that aforementioned grip is a set of 235/40R18 91W Goodyear Eagle Sport performance tires, wrapped around stylish 18-inch, 10-spoke, machine-finished alloys with glossy black painted pockets, while additional standard features include proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio, phone and Driver Information Interface (DII) controls, dual-zone auto climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blindspot display, navigation, voice activation, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with streaming audio, wireless device charging, 452-watt 10-speaker premium audio with satellite and HD radio, heatable front seats, and much more for just $29,090 plus freight and fees, as verified on CarCostCanada.com along with dealer invoice pricing and the latest rebate information, while its rigid body structure design and full assortment of standard safety kit help it achieve a 5-star rating from the NHTSA.
While Honda provides plenty of dealer-added accessories, such as an Illumination Package and Protection Package, different alloy wheels, aero add-ons, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an ambient lighting kit, an illuminated console, plus cargo protection and organization gear, it doesn’t offer any factory options with the Coupe Si. This said you can now move up to the new Coupe Si HFP (Honda Factory Performance) trim level that features a special lip spoiler and side sills, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension with modified active dampers that reportedly improve handling and ride quality, plus a handful of interior upgrades for $34,790.
Whether choosing a regular Coupe Si or the new HFP model, all of the aforementioned features come housed in one of the more impressive cabins in the compact class, starting with all that makes the regular Civic Coupe good, such as ergonomically friendly and artistically innovative interior design, premium-level soft-touch synthetics on key surfaces, attractive metal accents, superb switchgear throughout, and one of the best semi-digital gauge clusters in the class, complemented by an equally impressive infotainment touchscreen, all upgraded to Si standards.
This means the interior theme is red on black, although only with tasteful splashes of the former so as to spice up, rather than overwhelm the look. The steering wheel, featuring red baseball stitching around the inside, is ideally shaped for comfort and control, while red stitching adorns the leather and metal shift knob and leather boot just below. The Si cabin’s go-fast appeal is further enhanced with aluminum sport pedals, while the engine ignition button glows in a soft red, mirroring the red highlighted electronic interfaces to each side.
Furthermore, the red “Si” embroidered sport seats are heavily bolstered and covered in black woven upholstery that’s highlighted with a thick grey patterned stripe to each side of the inset, plus two lines of red stitching on the bolsters. They look fabulous and feel even better, and by that I mean they’re not as radically shaped as the Type R’s, allowing easier ingress and egress, yet they’re still supportive enough for most peoples’ performance needs.
That last point sums up any Si. It’s a car that can be driven daily in absolute comfort without sacrificing practical needs including fuel economy, while it’s still fully capable of tearing up a stretch of tarmac, whether that be on a lonely back country road or at your local parking lot autocross. It’ll even do you proud on the racetrack, and no doubt surprise a few V8-powered pony car owners as they try to keep up in the curves at the next “Run What Ya Brung” event. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and the jaw-dropping looks on their faces are priceless.
Of course, they should really know better. A lot of sport compact competitors have come and gone over the past 30 years, but the Honda Civic Si has continued to thrill its owners with superb performance on and off the track for three decades strong. It’s a legendary name, and the latest 2018 Civic Coupe Si, along with its four-door Sedan Si sibling, is totally worthy of carrying the mantle forward.
I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice…
I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice I didn’t say Trump… oops), but rather how the Nissan Rogue managed to speed into the compact SUV segment’s top sales position.
Tops in the U.S. means it’s also the best-selling compact SUV in North America, its U.S. and Canadian combined sales reaching 237,606 units over the first six months of 2018 compared to 224,996 for last year’s sales leading Toyota RAV4. While many factors can play into market success, another week with a Rogue SL Platinum AWD reminded me of a number of very likely reasons it’s doing so well.
First of all, the Rogue remains a great looking crossover SUV despite this second-gen model having been with us since 2013. Of course, it had a stylish mid-cycle update just last year, which saw Nissan’s broader more “U” shaped “Vmotion 2.0” grille add a bit more masculine ruggedness to the otherwise sleek design, while its headlights received more sophisticated inner complexity thanks to quad beams and standard signature LED daytime running lamps. Additionally, full LEDs were made available to the previously tested and currently reviewed SL Platinum, while a reworked lower front fascia was included with all trims, receiving a narrow strip of LED fog lights with both SV and SL Platinum models. Less dramatic modifications were made down each side and at the rear, yet the result is a much more assertive looking compact SUV.
This said the 2017 update did more than just refresh Rogue styling, it also improved interior refinement, modernized some technologies, and made a bevy of advanced driver assistance features available. Safety has even been strengthened further for 2018, with Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert now standard across the entire Rogue line, while you’ll still need to step up to SL Platinum trim to have Pedestrian Detection added to the Forward Emergency Braking system, plus Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Moving Object Detection, automatic high beam headlights, and adaptive Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range and hold.
Last year this gear earned the Rogue a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS when the SL Platinum trim’s standard LED headlamps with Smartbeam were factored in, but being that the U.S. government organization keeps moving the goalposts further away in order to raise safety standards it now only garners Top Safety Pick status.
Even bigger news this year is the addition of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system to SL Platinum trim. The top-tier model is actually called SL Platinum ProPilot Assist on Nissan Canada’s retail website, and it’s a good thing it’s not a pricey option as buyers might feel shortchanged once the initial wow factor wears off.
Yes it will certainly impress the uninitiated, thanks to its ability to almost completely take over driving functions on the highway, even coming to a full stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic or changing lanes after you signal a desire to do so, but imagine for a moment the need to place both hands back on the steering wheel every eight seconds in order to prevent a warning chime from sounding off and red dash light from flashing, which gets a lot more annoying if you don’t, and it soon becomes evident this future technology is not ready for prime time.
To be fair (and not rile the Nissan PR reps that are very clear about what ProPilot “Assist” can and cannot do), this is a hands-on system, not designed to work while your hands are on your lap, behind your head with the driver’s seatback reclined, and certainly not holding a smartphone, tablet or book. That’s the stuff of a fully autonomous driving future (or brave Tesla owners), the Nissan system alternatively providing steering assistance that some find helps to reduce fatigue over a long distance.
And don’t worry about falling asleep, as the constant beeping that occurs when veering too close to a lane marking will keep you fully awake and alert, and possibly annoyed. I’m not one for incessant beeping, sometimes causing me to turn off overly sensitive parking sensor systems, so therefore this ProPilot setup wouldn’t work for me, but I can appreciate why some drivers would like it.
So go ahead and have some fun with it, because it’s really cool to watch the steering wheel turn on its own while your Rogue remains safely within its lane, and it only needs you to turn on the adaptive cruise control, set a given top speed, and press a blue button on the steering wheel to initiate.
Also notable, ProPilot Assist will change lanes automatically just by flicking the turn signal. After analyzing the adjacent lane and finding a safe entry point it quickly moves to the right or left as per your signal indication. I could really see this feature assisting new drivers that are sometimes intimidated to change lanes at highway speeds. This said make sure to check your mirrors, as this technology is in its infancy and therefore can’t yet be relied upon 100 percent.
What’s more, don’t attempt to use its change lane feature to exit a highway, because once in the exit lane ProPilot Assist won’t slow down or turn to follow the off ramp. In fact, if I hadn’t taken over the controls it would’ve driven straight off the exit lane into the ditch. Granted, Nissan says only to use this system on a limited access highway, but being a curious journalist I just had to find out where that highway ends with respect to ProPilot Assist. Now I know, it ends in the exit lane, or before, if you really want to be cautious.
So kudos to Nissan for being the first mainstream volume brand to bring semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving to market. I’m sure it will improve with each new application, something Nissan has promised as it rolls out more autonomous capability in the future, including its ability to be used in city traffic.
Additional standard SL Platinum features not yet mentioned include 225/55R19 all-season tires on 19-inch alloys, an electromechanical parking brake (lesser trims get a foot-operated one), memory for the side mirrors and front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather shift knob, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, an Around View parking monitor, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, NissanConnect with mobile apps, a really good Bose audio system with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, and a motion-activated powered liftgate, plus it’s the only trim in the line that comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Take note the four-way powered front passenger’s seat has been deleted from SL Platinum trim for 2018, and I would’ve liked to see ventilated front seats and heatable rear seats added to the top-line features list, but nevertheless this top-line model still provides a significant load of high-end features for $37,098 plus freight and dealer fees, that number representing an $800 increase over last year’s non-ProPilot Assist equipped version, or so I found out at CarCostCanada.com, your best source for new vehicle pricing, dealer invoice pricing, and important rebate information.
There’s just one factory upgrade available with the SL, but the Platinum Reserve Interior package appears worth the extra $500 if you like rich appearances. It adds unique Tan leather-appointed seats with special quilted leather inserts. Alternatively, my tester’s Pearl White exterior paint makes no-cost Almond leather available, an interior treatment that would no doubt look good with Magnetic Black or Caspian Blue too if it were made available (it’s not, despite being offered south of the 49th along with a host of other exterior colours), although probably not with Gun Metallic grey.
Just so you know, you’ll only need to have the proximity-sensing key fob in your pocket or purse to access either front door or rear liftgate, which is also power operated. Nissan’s Intelligent Key comes with pushbutton ignition in $28,598 SV trim, with other features from this mid-range model including fog lamps, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, roof rails, rear privacy glass, remote engine start, an eight-way power driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar, a retractable cargo cover, and more.
Notably, you can also choose a special blacked-out Midnight Edition, a nice upgrade for those wanting a sportier looking Rogue. While based on the SV, it also includes that trim’s otherwise $2,600 Technology package, which adds the dual-zone auto HVAC, Around View monitor, navigation, leather, powered liftgate, Moving Object Detection, and more from other trims, all for $34,198.
Features pulled up to my top-line SL Platinum model from $26,298 base S trim include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, LED map lights, mood lighting, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Quick Comfort heated front seats (they heat up really fast), four cargo tie-down hooks, a rear seat pass-through, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
Once inside I’m sure you’ll appreciate the care and attention Nissan has given to the cabin. It actually comes close to matching some premium brands, and while it’s missing upper crust compact luxury segment accoutrements like fabric-wrapped roof pillars, fully configurable digital gauges, and soft-touch rear door uppers, the entire dash-top and front door uppers are made from a nice soft padded synthetic.
What’s more, Nissan also finished the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger with padded and French-stitched leatherette, while the driver gets a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with aluminized spokes, plus a leather metal and glossy black shift knob, a leatherette shift boot, and plenty of piano black lacquered surfacing around that shifter and across the centre stack. The door panel trim looks more like carbon fibre, but it matches nicely and dresses up the look well, while the armrests at each side and at centre feature stitched padded leatherette to match the instrument panel bolster and the same treatment on each side of lower console, this last feature not only looking good, but also preventing chafing of the driver and front passenger’s inside knees.
Analogue gauges with excellent backlighting are joined by a large colour multi-information display directly in front of the driver, providing easily accessible information on key functions, including the aforementioned ProPilot Assist system.
Over on the centre stack, a 7.0-inch touchscreen provides most everything someone buying into a premium-level compact SUV could want. Its resolution is good, albeit not the clearest or crispest in the industry, and being a matte finish the depth of colour and contrast isn’t quite as rich, but fewer fingerprints will be a positive for many, while the infotainment interface is very good. It includes easy connectivity for your smartphone and streaming audio, plus the audio section gets bright and colourful thanks to album graphics when using satellite radio, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the line.
The navigation system is also impressive, with accurate directions via clear, detailed mapping. It even took us via the quickest route, and by so doing reminded me of alternative choices I hadn’t used for a long time. The upgraded parking camera was equally impressive, as it features a split screen that shows the usual rear view with active guidelines, as well as a top view with 360-degree surround visuals.
Just below the touchscreen is a nicely sorted dual-zone automatic HVAC interface, with large well-made chrome-trimmed knobs and tight fitting buttons, plus a sizeable display screen.
The driver’s seat controls provide plenty of adjustment, but I could have used a bit more reach from the telescopic steering column in order to set myself up for better comfort and control, a common problem due to having longer legs than torso. The seat itself is very supportive, cupping the small of the back nicely and providing ample side bolstering for this class of vehicle, while headroom and side-to-side spaciousness won’t likely be a problem for most body types.
It certainly wasn’t for my regular sized five-foot-eight, medium-build frame, and with the driver’s seat positioned as ideally as possible I climbed into the back to check rear roominess, only to find that I still had loads of space to move around, with about eight inches ahead of my knees, plus plenty of space under the seats for the big boots I was wearing, allowing my legs to almost fully stretch out. Likewise, there was about three and a half inches left over above my head and three next to my shoulder and the window, plus about the same from my hips to the door panel.
Other than the hard plastic door upper, that rear door panel is finished just as nicely as the one up front, while incandescent reading lamps for each outboard passenger, and large vents on the backside of the front console was about it for extras. And no I’m not forgetting to mention the rear centre armrest because there isn’t one in the traditional sense, the Rogue instead giving rear passengers the option of folding down the centre pass-through that includes dual cupholders and enough room to each side for resting arms, but its hard plastic surfacing isn’t very comfortable. Most competitors that offer both an armrest and pass-through provide a separate door for the latter, but I’d take a pass-through over a rear armrest any day, so I can hardly complain.
Another positive is the panoramic sunroof that really opens up the rear compartment from a visual perspective, while I should also point out that back seat visibility is excellent, as the side windows are tall and extend quite far toward the rear.
As accommodating as the Rogue is for passengers, it’s a cargo hauler’s dream thanks to 60/40 split seatbacks that open up the rear storage area from 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) to 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet), making it one of the more capacious compact SUVs available. The rearmost portion is also quite flexible, its standard two-piece adjustable Divide-N-Hide shelving system starting off down on the floor, capable of being moved up in tandem to make a flat loading area when the seats are lowered, or alternatively set up higher for a shelf above a larger load below. It’s a smart, innovative cargo system that really sets the Rogue apart. This said, when the need to lower the rear seats presents itself you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors, as Nissan doesn’t provide levers on the cargo walls to do this automatically like some others in the compact SUV segment.
Back in the driver’s seat, the Rogue gets positive marks for its excellent ride quality, overall comfort and impressive quietness. This is just another way it feels like a premium compact SUV, while its drivetrain is one of the smoothest operators in the category too. On that note, it’s probably not the ideal compact SUV for performance enthusiasts, as its sole 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes just 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while the continuously variable transmission (CVT) it comes mated to was primarily designed for smooth, silky operation over snap-to-it get-up-and-go. Nissan does include a manual mode via the shift lever, but I only used it for testing and wasn’t amused.
Just the same, the Rogue moves away smartly from stoplights, has no problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway and is a relative miser with fuel, its Transport Canada rating an estimated 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.4 in the city and 8.7 combined with as-tested AWD, or an even thriftier 9.2 city, 7.0 highway and 8.2 combined with FWD models.
Similar to the Rogue’s straight-line performance, its comfortable suspension setup isn’t optimized towards sport, so it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t get me wrong as it can snake through a set of fast-paced corners quickly enough, holding on commendably, but it just doesn’t feel as secure doing so as some others in the compact SUV segment. I don’t believe this will be much of an issue for most buyers, as all the big sellers in this class are similarly biased toward comfort.
And to tell you the truth, that’s exactly how I like my family haulers. It’s a very rare moment that I get to put a vehicle through its paces when not searching out a suitable road or track for testing purposes, as life behind the wheel is more often than not experienced amid thick, congested traffic, or at best a cruise up the highway for a weekend getaway. Therefore comfort takes priority over sport in this category, hence why the Nissan Rogue is finding so much success.
To that end the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum is a wonderful all-round people pleaser, providing performance that’s more than adequate, impressive economy, a comfortable, fully featured, spacious interior that’s big on luxury, and some pretty cool new tech. It should definitely be on your shortlist.
How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact…
How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact performance, Honda has decided there’s room for improvement.
Enter the new Civic Si HFP. Yes, Civic Nation will already be well aware of the Honda Factory Performance moniker, because the Japanese automaker offered “HFP” branded aerodynamic body kits, performance-tuned suspension components, and larger, lighter alloy wheels for the eighth- and ninth-generation Civics, and likewise for the subcompact Fit hatchback.
With respect to the current 10th-generation Civic, a recent Honda Canada press release says the Honda Factory Performance package adds a bevy of “aesthetic and dynamic enhancements.” The former includes a new bright red front lip spoiler for “a subtle, yet fierce look,” which is “complemented by side skirts designed to improve downforce.”
The new Si HFP also gets unique 19-inch HFP matte black alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot 4S maximum-performance category rubber, these an inch larger than those on the standard Si and specified for both daily use and racetrack capability. Lastly, red and black Civic Si HFP badging gets added to the sides and rear of the car, warning regular Civic Si owners to back off.
Why? No doubt those sportier wheels and tires make enough of improvement on their own, but nevertheless, behind their matte black goodness and below all that sharp looking bodywork is an upgraded HFP sport suspension with modified active dampers that not only improves ultimate performance on road and track, but also enhances the Si HFP’s ride quality over its conventionally sprung sibling.
The Honda Factory Performance package also benefits the interior by adding a new leather-wrapped shifter with red stitching, as well as an eye-catching set of red and black HFP branded floor mats.
The rest of the Civic Si HFP is stock Si, which means the interior is wholly more impressive than any previous Si, with two of the most comfortable and supportive sport seats in the class, plus refinement levels amongst the compact segment’s most impressive, not to mention some of its best digital interfaces.
While Honda refers to the Civic Si HFP upgrades as a “Honda Factory Performance package” in its press release, it’s more accurately an entirely new trim level, as it’s delivered complete from the factory and shown on the brand’s retail website “Build” configuration tool. What’s more, this track-ready model is exclusive to Canada.
Like the regular Si, the new Si HFP is available in both Sedan and Coupe body styles, while behind its glossy black grille is the same turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine as in the standard Si, which is once again good for 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, while one of the industry’s best six-speed manual transmissions continues to take care of shifting duties and a limited slip differential makes sure all that power gets down to the road.
Civic Si HFP pricing starts at $34,390 for the Sedan and $34,790 for the Coupe, adding $5,700 on top of regular Si suggested prices, with colour choices being White Orchid Pearl and Crystal Black Pearl for the four-door and White Orchid Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl and Rallye Red for the two-door.