The Fit is the least expensive way to put a Honda car in your garage, but it just might be the smartest choice no matter how much you’d be willing to spend. Ok, the same Japanese brand’s HR-V subcompact…
The Fit is the least expensive way to put a Honda car in your garage, but it just might be the smartest choice no matter how much you’d be willing to spend.
Ok, the same Japanese brand’s HR-V subcompact crossover SUV incorporates the same ultimately innovative rear seating system, illusively dubbed Magic Seat, with even more cargo room, so either model might do the trick, but being that this Fit starts at just $15,590 compared to the HR-V’s $23,300 price tag, it’s the perfect choice for active lifestyle folks on more of a budget.
To be clear, my 2019 Fit tester was in second-rung LX trim, upgraded yet further with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), to its asking price moved up from $18,990 for the six-speed manual to $20,290, but the LX CVT with Honda Sensing not only provides the LX trim’s body-colour rear roofline spoiler, an auto-up/down driver’s window, illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, larger infotainment touchscreen incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Siri Eyes Free compatibility, text message function, Wi-Fi tethering, extra USB device connector (for a total of two), filtered air conditioning, heatable front seats, centre console with armrest and storage bin, HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, cargo cover and more, but also includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, an ECON mode button, and the list goes on.
The LX gets everything from the base model too, a shortlist including auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlamps, LED brake lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors in body-coloured housings, body-colour door handles, remote entry, powered locks and windows, intermittent front and rear wipers, a tilt and telescopic steering column, 160-watt four-speaker AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, etcetera.
The Fit has always been a bit polarizing visually, but what subcompact hatchback is a style leader? Maybe Kia’s Rio could be called good looking, but most entry-level buyers likely agree this third generation Fit is a lot more eye-catching than the bland original and slightly less bland second generation, or at least it was for me, while the most recent 2018 refresh that adds yet more of Honda’s edgy new design language makes it look even better.
This upgrade came with an even edgier new Sport trim that I covered last year, this model’s $19,990 price placed right in the middle of four additional trims including base DX, my tester’s LX designation, $22,290 EX, and the $24,390 top-line EX-L NAVI. If you ask me, as much as I like the glossy black alloys and additional black and red exterior trim of the Sport, plus the performance-oriented black and red interior upgrades, the LX is probably the smartest option from a purely pragmatic point of view.
It’s an “everything you need, nothing you don’t” argument as verified by the features list above, the only upgrade I’d like being proximity-sensing access and pushbutton ignition, while once inside any Fit, old or new, or better yet having lived with one for enough time to experience how brilliantly practical it is, you’ll appreciate that styling matters a lot less than choosing the right car to accomplish the things you want to do. It’s the pragmatic minivan argument shrunken down to genuinely small proportions, yet play around awhile with its Magic Seat configurations and you’ll quickly understand that size really doesn’t matter when innovative engineering is factored in.
It’s long been one of the roomiest cars in its class, and the most versatile by far. People thinking they need to go full-size for more headroom had best expand their vision, as most will be cranking the Fit’s height-adjustable driver’s seat upward in order to take advantage of all the space overhead, thus providing a near SUV-like downward view at adjacent traffic below. The same can be said for legroom, which is more plentiful than most four-door sedans, while the Fit’s cargo space superiority certainly lives up to its name.
For those not familiar with the Fit’s rear Magic Seats, at first glance they seem to provide the same 60/40 split-folding second row as every competitor, not even including a centre pass-through, or my favourite 40/20/40 rear seat divide, but upon closer inspection it’s easy to see those rear seats sitting upon folding metal legs that allow the lower cushions to be lifted up against the seatbacks like those in the rear compartments of some pickup trucks. This provides a large 139-litre (4.9 cubic-foot) area for loading in tall cargo, like potted plants or bicycles (with front wheels removed), while still leaving all 470 litres (16.6 cubic feet) of available cargo space behind the second row. Drop those cushions back in place before pushing the rear seats into the floor exposes 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) of maximum gear-toting capacity. That’s a lot for this class, and even the larger compact class. Yes, even Honda’s own Civic Hatchback is short some 184 litres (6.5 cubic feet) of maximum cargo volume when compared to the Fit.
It’s good for people too, the Fit’s front seats providing wonderful comfort with excellent support, firm but not overly so. The steering column’s reach is ample for the majority of body types, making for an ideal driving position. Likewise, the rear outboard positions offer good comfort, having left my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso frame about five inches ahead of my knees and more than enough room to stretch out my legs when the driver’s seat was positioned for my height, plus about three and a half inches above my head and four or so next to my shoulders and hips.
Parked in that driver’s seat, a mostly digital gauge cluster gets a large three-dimensional speedometer at centre, this being the only analogue component, that’s surrounded by brilliant blues, greens and reds on a deeply contrasted black background, these highlighting various functions of the multi-information display mounted within the just-noted speedometer. The steering wheel switchgear that controls it, and other features, are excellent, and there are plenty of them.
Move over to the centre stack you’ll find one of the best infotainment displays in the segment, filled with smartly organized digital buttons leading to simply laid out function interfaces, with the audio panel augmented by a throwback analogue power/volume knob that I appreciated for its easy adjustment while driving. Just below is a compact manual HVAC panel nicely detailed with large dials featuring knurled metal-like grips.
As you might expect in this needs-driven class, the upper dash top is made from harder plastic, but Honda goes a step further than most subcompact rivals by finishing off the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger in a nicely sculpted soft-touch synthetic, while over on the other side is a handy feature not offered by any challenger, a pop-out cupholder just to the left of the steering wheel, where it’s easier to reach. It’s positioned directly in front of the corner vent, so will either heat up or cool down your drink depending whether you have the heat or air conditioning on. This can be a pleasant bonus, but take note it can also warm up a bottle of water.
Believe it or not, the aforementioned Sport model and two trims above actually get a set of paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel next to that cupholder, which says a lot about this car’s drivability. Ahead of the firewall is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out a surprisingly strong 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, or 128 and 113 respectively when hooked up to its optional CVT. Those numbers lift it into rare territory for this class, with only one base competitor making more. This provides a bit of fun off the line, more so for the manual, yet still plenty of straight-line speed for the CVT as well, plus decent highway passing performance and enough on tap to power out of corners when tackling the twisties.
And yes, despite its front strut and rear torsion beam suspension, the latter allowing for all that cargo space mentioned before, it carves a fairly quick corner, only becoming unsettled when pushed too hard through winding, bumpy pavement. This said the Fit was really designed more for urban commuting than blasts down rural mountainside two-laners, its ride set up for comfort first and foremost, and therefore providing good compliance over rough patches of inner-city tarmac.
Commuting in mind, the Fit’s claimed 8.1 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.4 combined rating for the manual is very good, although the CVT is even easier on the wallet at only 7.0 city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined. Some rivals offer slightly better efficiency, but not together with the Fit’s performance, especially when comparing automatic transmissions.
Summing up, the Fit is one of the better subcompacts to drive while providing superb fuel economy and unparalleled practicality, all together with good comfort, plenty of leading convenience features and safety technologies, plus Honda’s good name to keep it reliable and prop up its resale value. The Fit gets a pretty dramatic facelift for 2020, so make sure to visit CarCostCanada for all the latest rebate info on 2019s, as Honda retailers will be motivated to discount them. Also, before you try to negotiate, find out about the dealer invoice price so you know exactly what the retailer is paying in order to get the best deal possible. CarCostCanada is currently showing up to $1,000 off in additional incentives, so make sure you check out all the details before visiting your local retailer, and also learn about the 2019 Fit’s additional trims, packages and individual options.
I love it when an automaker makes my job easy. For 2019, which has actually been a stopgap model year for Volkswagen’s Passat before the current version gives way to the second-generation of this special…
I love it when an automaker makes my job easy. For 2019, which has actually been a stopgap model year for Volkswagen’s Passat before the current version gives way to the second-generation of this special North American-built car, it only comes in one fully loaded Wolfsburg Edition trim line, which certainly reduces my need for research. Now I can focus more on the fun stuff, like styling, interior design and quality, how comfortable it is, what it’s like to drive, and so on.
It’s been around since 1972 in some form or another, arriving to North American markets a year later. Named Passat in Europe since inception, the initial Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Audi-esque four-door fastback and wagon were dubbed Dasher here, and then Quantum for its similarly four-ring inspired second generation. The B3 finally took on the Passat nameplate, but as much as I liked that car, especially in 2.8-litre VR6 form, and the B4 that followed, the 270 horsepower 4.0-litre W8-motivated B5 with all-wheel drive was my personal favourite, and amongst the first Passats I got to know as a fledgling automotive scribe back in the early aughts.
That’s when VW rivalled Audi for performance and interior refinement, the unabashedly bold Phaeton luxury sedan showing up the following year with 335-horsepower V8 and 420-horsepower W12 powerplants plus $96,500 and $126,790 base prices respectively, and soon after that the 309-horsepower Touareg V10 TDI delivering a mind-blowing (for the time) 553 lb-ft of torque. Back then Volkswagen came closer to premium status than any other mainstream volume brand, and while today’s VW-badged vehicles still provide some upscale features not often offered amongst rivals, such as minimalist design, fabric-wrapped roof pillars (but only the A-pillars now), fully digital high-definition primary instrument clusters, and rear seat centre pass-throughs (or even better 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks), soft-touch surfaces are unfortunately less common, plus key switchgear is often hollow and cheap feeling, and chassis’ aren’t always fully independent (the new Jetta once again uses a torsion beam rear suspension, unlike the mostly IRS-equipped cars it competes against).
It certainly looks nice in this lovely Tourmaline Blue Metallic paint, one of six standard exterior colours available this year, including the usual white, black, grey and silver shades plus gorgeous Fortana Red Metallic, while the sportier R-Line exterior trim package comes standard this year, as do auto on/off LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and a stylish set of silver-painted twin-five-spoke 19-inch Salvador alloy rims wrapped in 235/40 all-season tires, and that’s just what we can see on the outside.
It looks downright rich inside, thanks to my tester’s beautiful cream-like Cornsilk Beige cabin motif (the interior comes in black and grey too, depending on exterior colours), with the dash top, door uppers and carpets done out in black for contrast. The horizontally ribbed leather seats look completely high-end, while splashes of textured metal, brushed aluminum and chrome are tastefully applied, as is de rigueur piano black lacquered plastic surface treatments on the superbly crafted steering wheel’s spokes, on the centre stack surrounding the infotainment and HVAC interfaces (albeit the latter not quite as impressive due to loose, wiggly knobs), continuing down to the lower console, and glitzing up the rear seating area vent panel on the backside of the front console, which also houses a USB-A charge port and three-way rear outboard seat warming buttons.
Heatable rear seats and all of the high-end features already mentioned in a $32,995 mid-size sedan? That’s right, it’s a pretty decent deal made even better thanks to a $2,000 no-questions-asked discount right off the top, which is an end of the model year, goodbye, so-long, don’t let the door hit you on your way out kind of send-off to a model that’s served its purposes relatively well over the past nine or so years. You can learn all about this rebate and any other available savings by visiting CarCostCanada, and while you’re there make sure to read up on dealer invoice pricing that makes it easier than ever to get the best deal possible.
Additional standard features include proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters, a colour multi-information display with a trip computer, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, brushed stainless steel pedals, rain-sensing wipers, heated washer nozzles, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a powered glass sunroof, front sport seats, three-way heatable front seats to go along with those in back, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, LED reading lights in the front and rear, an Easy Open trunk lid, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre armrest and pass-through down the middle, and much more.
A smallish albeit proximity-sensing (yes, a row of digital controls pops up when your hand gets near) 6.33-inch centre touchscreen provides quick response times and clean, simple, high-resolution (albeit unimaginative) graphics, plus the usual tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls that work ideally with the standard navigation system’s map, while additional infotainment features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration, plus Bluetooth, voice control, an SD card slot, and a pretty poor rearview camera image with the top portion of the display actually cut off by what seems like an hallucinogenic psilocybin-induced semicircle that might be more distracting than helpful, plus there aren’t any dynamic guidelines let alone an overhead 360-degree view.
The Fender premium audio system was fairly good, and included six speakers and a subwoofer, plus satellite radio, a CD player, USB audio input/charging (but only one in this big car), and more. While the Passat’s infotainment system has most of the right ingredients, swapping my keys for a new 2020 GTI at the end of the week made its much larger touchscreen an obvious improvement, its incredible resolution, plus its superior depth of contrast and colour, having me looking forward to the new 2020 Passat’s system.
A lid at the base of the centre stack lifts to expose a rubber tray for storing your personal device, but it wasn’t large enough for my average-sized smartphone, so I suppose I was happy no wireless charging pad was connected to it either. Instead, the aforementioned USB and an aux port sit beside a 12-volt charger, while the row of switches next to the shift lever just behind included a button for front and rear parking sensors and another for the semi-autonomous self parking system, plus four dummy buttons that made me feel like this particular model was missing a lot of equipment. For instance, there was no heated steering wheel, a shame considering how impressive the flat-bottom leather-wrapped rim and its array of high-quality switchgear was, plus the leather front seats weren’t ventilated.
Then again, the Passat’s list of standard safety features is impressive, with autonomous emergency braking, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, driver assistance, park distance control and park assist leaving little to be desired, but it’s the way all of these systems worked that I liked more. Sometimes advanced driver assistive systems can be overly sensitive, engaging too early or misreading a given situation and then reacting when they shouldn’t, all of which could potentially cause a driver to turn them off, but after hardly noticing they were there during my weeklong drive, the Passat’s lane keeping assist system kept me locked next to the white lane when I tried veering off the highway without my turn signal on. While a bit annoying, I immediately became grateful that the system only came into play when needed, and it worked very well.
I noted earlier that Volkswagen’s interior materials quality isn’t quite as good as it used to be, but I’d best explain this in detail with respect to this Passat. It’s mostly on par with key rivals, although from a brand that previously was way above average when it comes to soft-touch padded surface treatments and other refinements, it’s now below average. This said the quality of pliable composites used on the dash top and door uppers is above par, but before sounding too positive, the lower dash and glove box lid, the sides of the centre stack, and the lower door panels are a lower than average grade of hard plastic. And there’s the rub. Some areas are finished so well that the Passat’s in a class of one, yet other details seem more suited to an entry-level subcompact.
The powertrain poses an equal dichotomy, in that it measures up to most competitors’ base engines, yet finds itself stuffed into the bay of a near-premium offering. It makes sense that VW chose the car’s more fuel-efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder as its sole offering instead of last year’s optional 3.6-litre V6, being that the latter engine wasn’t a popular upgrade, but in a market segment that often provides engine options with well over 200 horsepower the Passat’s 174 ponies and 184 lb-ft of torque aren’t exactly going to excite the masses, on paper at least.
In reality, all that torque arrives at just 1,500 rpm, so it feels a lot sportier off the line than the numbers suggest. The front wheels are fed power through a tried and tested six-speed automatic transmission, with the aforementioned paddle-shifters providing plenty of hands-on engagement, important because the mid-size four-door manages fast-paced curves a bit better than most family sedans. A fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup with stabilizer bars at both ends makes sure it grips tarmac decisively, but despite better than average handling its ride is still plenty compliant, providing a bit more firmness than most Japanese, Korean and domestic mid-size sedans, but never unpleasantly rough or jarring.
All this and it gets reasonably good fuel economy at 9.3 L/100km in the city, 6.5 on the highway and 8.1 combined, another reason VW opted for the four instead of the six. Add to this a near comprehensive four-year or 80,000 km warranty, and the Passat starts looking like a very intelligent buy.
Practical issues in mind, the Passat’s front seating area is sizeable enough for large occupants, and the driver’s seat is comfortable albeit slightly firmer than average. It gets fore and aft two-way lumbar support that just happened to meet the small of my back perfectly, while the lower cushion reached far enough forward to almost completely cup under my knees. Rear seat roominess is even more generous and dutifully comfortable in the outboard positions, while the trunk is larger than average at 450 litres (15.9 cubic feet), plus its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are made even more agreeable to passengers and long cargo by including the aforementioned pass-through right down the centre. This could be a dealmaker for skiers preferring to keep their boards securely locked inside when not strapped onto their boots.
As for whether the 2019 Passat Wolfsburg Edition’s many attributes cause it to be a dealmaker for you or not, you’ll never know unless you try one on for size. The fact so few are on the road compared to Camrys, Accords and literally every other mainstream mid-size sedan currently available (Volkswagen sold just 570 Passats YTD as of Q3 2019, compared to 11,579 Camrys and 9,089 Accords, with the only car in the class selling fewer units being VW’s own Arteon with just 288 deliveries so far this year), will set you completely apart from the crowd as you’re arriving in style, and some may even mistake it for something premium, like an Audi. I begrudgingly continue to like it, not because it’s particularly better than anything else, but more so because I’m a sucker for European-badged exclusivity and contrarily root for the underdog more often than not.
Here’s hoping the new 2020 Passat improves on this outgoing model’s weaknesses while keeping its many attributes, so it can truly be hoisted above all others the way its predecessors could. This said if VW chose cut corners in order to bring pricing down, and by so doing didn’t make the upcoming redesign more refined and premium-like inside than this passing generation, the Passat will unfortunately continue on as an also-ran, garnering very little interest and eventually disappearing from our continent. That would be a shame.
With an all-new 2020 Escape already showing up at Canada’s blue-oval dealerships, it’s time to say goodbye to a third-generation Escape that’s been with us since 2013. The version seen here was…
With an all-new 2020 Escape already showing up at Canada’s blue-oval dealerships, it’s time to say goodbye to a third-generation Escape that’s been with us since 2013. The version seen here was dramatically refreshed to look more like its larger Edge sibling for 2017, and it’s served its many owners well since then.
Of course, with a redesign arriving there’s opportunity to save money on the outgoing 2019 model, and being that it’s still so very good, and that plenty of Ford retailers still have various trims new in stock, you may want to consider your options. At the time of writing, CarCostCanada was reporting $1,200 in additional incentives over and above any personal discount you can work out with your friendly local sales manager, which is a great conversation starter you can back up further by knowing the 2019 Escape’s actual dealer invoice price before arriving at the dealership. The best way to do this is by going to CarCostCanada where you can also discover the various features and prices of each trim, options package and individual upgrade. You can also check out pricing and features for the new 2020 Escape and even last year’s 2018 model, making CarCostCanada a vital resource when buying a new vehicle.
The top-line 2019 Escape Titanium you’re looking at has changed one iota since introduced in 2016, as witnessed by my 2017 Ford Escape Titanium AWD Road Test, a compact crossover SUV that was virtually identical to this new one, even down to its Ingot Silver exterior colour. Don’t worry, as smart as silver or white is for resale values (more people buy these shades than any other), Ford offers this 2019 model in seven additional colours, with some of the standard no-cost hues even quite vibrant such as Sedona Orange and Lightning Blue, while $450 Ruby Red and $550 White Platinum look downright rich.
I can’t say I liked this 2017-2019 grille design as much as its 2013-2016 predecessor, which was totally unique and even futuristic looking when it debuted. I remember how taken aback I was, not sure what to think initially yet warming up to it quickly enough, so that it quickly became my favourite small SUV. I understand why Ford changed up the look, both from a prospective customer’s need for something new and a requirement to visually align its SUV lineup, but for reasons not necessarily related to styling the Escape has lost a little ground to the now top-selling Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in recent years.
Only four years ago the Escape was number one in this class, a position it had held for years. In fact, look back a bit further and the Escape nearly doubled annual sales of the RAV4 and CR-V, but it’s been on a steady slide downhill since this refresh, from a high of 52,198 units in 2014 to 47,726 in 2015, the last time it topped the category, falling to 46,661 deliveries in 2016 when the RAV4 leapt to number one, and then 47,880 sales in 2017 when both the RAV4 and CR-V passed the 50,000 threshold. The two Japanese branded SUVs kept luring in more and more new customers in 2018 when each models’ sales neared 55k, but the Escape only managed 43,587 deliveries that year, while at the close of September 2019 the Escape only pulled in 30,817 new buyers to the CR-V’s 43,464 and RAV4’s 49,473, the redesigned Toyota on target for another record year.
While this 2019 Escape is starting to show its age, especially when put beside that new RAV4 and the entirely new 2020 Escape that Ford hopes will inspire its once loyal customer base to come back to the domestic brand, it’s still a very good compact SUV that can be had for considerable savings. You won’t have your choice of colours, while available trims will come down to what’s left in stock, but with such a wide variety to choose from there’s bound to be something you’ll like.
At the start of this 2019 model year the Escape was available in base $26,399 S trim, as a $29,349 SE and $30,849 SEL, the latter designation added this year, and finally top-line $37,699 Titanium. The Titanium comes standard with all-wheel drive, while the SE and SEL can be had with AWD for an extra $1,500, and the S is only available in front-wheel drive.
If this wasn’t confusing enough, the Escape offers the choice of three gasoline-fueled four-cylinder engines, and strangely not one of them is electrified despite this model being first to market an SUV hybrid. The base model labours forward with Ford’s dozen-year-old 2.5-litre mill making 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, which are respectable numbers for a base model, but most Escape buyers will pay a bit more for one of the brand’s turbocharged Ecoboost engines, the 1.5-litre making 179 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque and standard in SE and SEL trims, and the 2.0-litre version good for a very spirited 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, this one standard with as-tested Titanium trim and available with the SE and SEL. So as you can likely imagine, just what you’ll find at your local Ford retailer will be anyone’s guess, although if you’ve got your heart set on a particular trim powered by a specific engine they can phone around to other dealers on your behalf.
At least the Escape’s sole six-speed SelectShift automatic makes your choice of transmission easier, which is two speeds less impressive than the new 2020 model’s eight-speed automatic, but the outgoing gearbox is proven reliable and certainly capable enough when fitted to either Ecoboost engine. The 2020 Escape will get the 1.5-litre turbo-four as standard equipment, with auto start-stop technology no less, which shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, while the 2.0-litre continues to provide a performance option in a compact SUV class that’s in dire need of some excitement.
Speaking of drivetrain options, the long lost Escape Hybrid I previously complained about not being available is finally back for 2020, which is great news for those willing and able to spend more for better air quality, let alone saving some money on fuel.
While Ford isn’t providing fuel economy numbers for the new 2020 Escape just yet, the 2019 model does quite well in all trims. The 1.5-litre is the best choice for those on a budget, with the FWD version achieving a claimed 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.1 combined rating, and that engine with AWD good for an estimated 11.2 city, 8.4 highway and 9.9 combined. The FWD-only base S, on the other hand, does pretty well despite its age with a rating of 11.0 city, 8.0 highway and 9.6 combined, and finally the top-tier AWD-only Titanium is extremely thrifty considering all the performance available, with a claimed rating of 11.5 city, 8.7 highway and 10.2 combined.
Looking past the 2019 model’s aging body style and just as classic interior design, its quality of materials, fit and finish, and general goodness is hard to argue against. Even its electronic interfaces are better than a number of more recently redesigned competitors, its primarily analogue gauge cluster filled with a very crisp, clear and colourful high-resolution multi-information display at centre, and its centre stack-mounted Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen soldiering on as one of the more graphically attractive and easy to use, not to mention wholly functional. It’s incorporated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration longer than most rival systems, while its navigation/route guidance is amongst the sector’s more accurate, the system’s tap, pinch, and swipe gesture controls working ideally with the nicely detailed map, and dynamic guideline-equipped backup camera easy on the eyes. There’s much more to it, such as Bluetooth streaming audio, mobile apps, voice control, a WiFi hotspot, 911 assist, etcetera, so only those looking for premium-level options like overhead surround cameras and Near Field Communication (NFC) short-range wireless connectivity will find themselves wanting.
The centre display provides all the expected audio functions too, like AM/FM/satellite radio plus MP3 and WMA compatibility, but no HD radio, although the 10-speaker Sony system it all plays through is very good for this class. Some quick access controls sit on an angled interface just below the touchscreen, this just above a large user-friendly dual-zone automatic climate control panel, all the kind of premium equipment expected in a luxury brand, and the Escape’s top-tier Titanium trim line. Still, compared to some competitors that have digitized these controls under touch sensitive interfaces, the Escape’s look pretty dated, but a tiny pull switch for engaging the electromechanical parking brake makes it clear that Ford did everything it could to keep this model current.
Advancements in mind, my tester featured a $2,500 optional Safe and Smart + Roof Package including a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic brake support, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus lane departure warning with lane keeping assist. A number of these features are also available as part of a separate package in the two mid-range trims, so you don’t need to go full tilt with a Titanium model in order to benefit from these advanced driver assistive systems.
I’m not going to bother going into each and every standard and optional feature with this SUV, because as explained earlier it’s now a WYSIWYG affair, but over and above everything already mentioned this Titanium includes 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights with LED signature lighting, a heatable steering wheel, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming centre mirror, front parking sensors, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, a foot gesture-controlled hands-free liftgate and plenty more, while highlights pulled up from lesser trims include extra chrome exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered liftgate, rear parking sensors and more from the SEL; fog lamps, body-colour exterior details, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Ford’s exclusive keyless entry keypad, one-touch up/down power windows all around, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone auto HVAC, heated front seats plus more from the SE; and finally auto on/off headlamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, remote engine start, keyless remote entry, MyKey, variable intermittent wipers, powered windows, air conditioning, an overhead console with sunglasses holder, SOS Post-Crash Alert System, all the usual airbags including one for the driver’s knees, and much more from the base S model.
Some Escape Titanium materials quality highlights include a mostly soft-touch dash top that nicely wraps all the way around the infotainment controls before crossing over to the front door uppers. The door inserts and armrests are nicely padded too, as is the centre armrest/bin lid, while at least the mid-door panel niceties extend into the rear seating area as well, but that’s about it for soft synthetic pampering. Ford spiffs up the instrument panel with some piano black lacquered trim that extends across the dash and down each side of the centre stack, while a tasteful assortment of aluminized accents added a bit of brightness to my tester’s mostly black cabin, but other than a touch of blue and red for the temperature controls, the lovely aqua blue needles within the gauge cluster, the dark blue and sky blue backgrounds used for the multi-info display and centre touchscreen respectively, this Escape won’t exactly stimulate one’s colour-craved senses.
The leather upholstery is nice, and features what looks like cream-coloured contrast stitching, while the driver’s seat is plenty comfortable and the SUV’s driving position much better than some others in this class. In fact, I’d call its ergonomics excellent thanks to a tilt and telescopic steering column with enough rearward reach to make my long-legged, short-torso frame feel right at home. This isn’t always the case, as anyone who reads my reviews regularly will know, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a competitor with as much driver adjustment as this Escape. Visibility is excellent all-round too.
The rear seating area is spacious and reasonably comfortable too, especially if positioned in the outboard window seats, but take note you don’t exactly sit in the seats, but rather on top of them, and there’s not much lateral support at all. Fortunately, taller teens will have no problem fitting in thanks to reclining seatbacks, while the folding armrest at centre improves comfort and provides a place for drinks. Rear ventilation can be found on the backside of the front console, where the aforementioned 110-volt outlet features a more useful three-pronged socket. I was surprised not to see heatable seats in back, especially in this top-of-the-line model, but those wanting such luxuries can ante up for Lincoln’s MKC, soon to be renamed Corsair, which is basically a 2019 Escape Titanium with more glitz and glamour.
The rear hatch powers up out of the way via foot-activated gesture control as noted earlier, revealing a sizeable 964 litres (34.0 cubic feet) of cargo space behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks, or 1,925 litres (68.0 cu ft) when these are lowered. I’d prefer a 40/20/40-split, or even a centre pass-through to provide room for longer items like skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable and scenic window seats, but such configurations are rare outside of the premium sector, so this can hardly be seen as a deal-breaker. Ford doesn’t include any mechanisms for automatically folding the rear seats down while loading in cargo either, unlike some rivals, but on the positive a flap drops down to cover the gap between seatbacks and cargo floor so smaller items don’t slip between the cracks, so to speak, and the expanded cargo area does provide a fairly flat load floor.
Before it starts sounding like I’m beating up on this poor old Escape, the fact of the matter is it remains a very good compact crossover SUV with the best performance in its class by far. Its arguably old school transmission might be short a couple of gears compared to some competitors (and its own replacement), but it goes about its business with a level of smooth refinement that would make a JATCO engineer proud, although my tester’s steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters combined with a manual mode affecting real gears makes it a lot more enjoyable to drive than most competitors that are now using continuously variable transmissions (hence the JATCO reference, which is one of the world’s largest suppliers of CVTs). The Escape’s shifts are comparatively crisp and quick, resulting in a much more engaging experience than any of its top challengers, all of which use CVTs.
On this sportiness theme, a slightly firmer suspension means the Escape Titanium isn’t the smoothest riding model in its compact SUV class. It’s hardly rough or uncomfortable, but you’ll notice each bump and road imperfection in a fairly pronounced manner, unlike a RAV4 or CR-V that better isolate driver and passengers, but keep in mind the Escape Titanium’s more capable driving dynamics will have you smiling at speed on a winding back road. Of note, all Escapes incorporate torque-vectoring control and Curve Control that senses if you’re going to fast when entering a corner and, if so, automatically slows you down via throttle reduction and anti-lock braking.
That pretty well sums up the 2019 Escape, particularly in Titanium trim. It remains a solid competitor that’s stood the test of time because it was well conceived in the first place, and would be a good choice for someone who’d rather save money than be seen in the most modern compact SUV currently available. I can’t say whether or not its replacement will be worth paying more for as I haven’t even sat in it, but it make gains mechanically and now offers a hybrid, plus its infotainment systems appear to have made a step upward as well. This is important, because it will need to last for six years as well if Ford plans to follow its past upgrade schedule, which is one year longer than its main rivals. Now we’ll have to see how well it does against the RAV4, CR-V and an ever-improving crop of compact SUVs.
Porsche introduced two production versions of its fabulous Taycan EV last month, but some would-be buyers might have found the $173,900 and $213,900 prices of the respective Turbo and Turbo S prohibitively…
Porsche introduced two production versions of its fabulous Taycan EV last month, but some would-be buyers might have found the $173,900 and $213,900 prices of the respective Turbo and Turbo S prohibitively out of reach. Fortunately there’s a more affordable version of the much celebrated new Porsche on the way, with a base price that’s much closer to the $108,990 needed for an entry-level Tesla Model S, the Taycan 4S shown here merely costing $119,400 plus destination.
The new 4S gets the Taycan’s stylish four-door coupe design and appears to provide the same high-end interior, the reason for its near $100k discount from the top-line Taycan Turbo S being performance. Instead of a maximum of 750 horsepower, 774 lb-ft of torque, and a launch control-assisted 2.8-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h for the Turbo S, or the still incredible 671 horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, and 3.2-second run to 100 km/h for the Turbo, the new Taycan 4S uses a 522 horsepower motor/battery combination with 472 lb-ft of torque to reach 100 km/h in 4.0 seconds flat.
What’s more, an available Performance Battery Plus package boosts output to 562 horsepower and torque to 479 lb-ft for a fractionally faster zero to 100 km/h time, but Porsche only shows how this upgrade improves the Taycan 4S’ standing start to 160 km/h, upping an already impressive 8.7-second run to 8.5 seconds. Top speed of both variants is limited to 250 km/h, 30 km/h down on Turbo and Turbo S terminal velocities.
Embedded within the floor of new Taycan 4S is a 79.2-kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery with enough stored energy for 407 km (253 miles) of range on the European WLTP rating system, whereas the upgraded 93.4-kWh Performance Plus battery allows for 463 km (288 miles) of estimated range. This compares well with the Taycan Turbo’s claimed 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) range and the Turbo S model’s estimated 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) range.
All Taycan trims use an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture that makes recharging faster, thanks to a charge rate of 225 kW for the Performance Battery or 270 kW for the Performance Battery Plus, which makes it possible to refill from five to 80 percent in only 22.5 minutes no matter the trim. Standard 400-volt high-speed DC charging occurs at 50 kW, while an available booster increases the charge rate to 150 kW. You can use the standard AC charger for topping the Taycan up at any J1772 compatible charge station, or simply plug it in at home, but you’ll be waiting a very long time to accomplish the task.
Porsche makes charging even easier with the Taycan’s new Charging Planner, which can plot a given course by factoring in the best places to recharge along the way. For instance, it can choose a faster 270-kW charge station that can save you time over a regular 50-kW DC charger, even if the quicker charger requires a slight detour from the otherwise shortest route. Additionally, the Charging Planner preconditions the battery to 20°C, optimal for faster charging.
The Taycan 4S utilizes the same all-wheel drive layout as its more potent trim lines, including front and rear axle-mounted permanently excited synchronous motors and a two-speed transmission in back, while Porsche’s centrally-networked 4D Chassis Control system provides real-time analysis and synchronization for the Taycan’s standard electronic damper control Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) enhanced three-chamber adaptive air suspension, which promises superb handling.
Porsche also hopes to achieve better reliability than its main rival Tesla, by incorporating a special hairpin winding technique to the stators’ copper solenoid coils, thus providing a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when wound the traditional way, all resulting in improved performance and cooler running.
You can keep tabs on its mechanical status via a fully digital primary gauge cluster packed full of colourful high-definition graphics yet housed in a free-standing, curved design that pulls plenty of stylistic cues from Porsche’s storied 911 past, while the Taycan 4S’ 10.9-inch standard capacitive touchscreen, integrated within the top portion of the centre stack, is at the cutting edge of in-car infotainment. Most buyers will likely ante up for the available front passenger display that continues the digital experience right across the instrument panel, this feature first shown when the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S debuted.
Standard Taycan 4S features include White or Black exterior paint, a unique front fascia, black painted side skirts and rear diffuser, LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus), 19-inch five-spoke Taycan S Aero alloy wheels, red-painted six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers (instead of the yellow ones used for the Turbo and Turbo S) clamping down on 360-mm front and 358-mm rear rotors, regenerative brakes (with a maximum regenerative force of 0.39 g and recuperation of up to 265 kWh), proximity-sensing keyless access, ambient interior lighting, partial leather upholstery, front comfort seats with eight-way powered adjustment and driver’s memory, plus more, but take note this base car won’t be produced until June of 2020. Until then, the $1,690 panoramic glass sunroof replaces the standard aluminum roof. The Porsche Mobile Charger Plus option won’t be available initially either, leaving the standard Porsche Mobile Charger Connect system for early adopters.
Taycan 4S options include a host of $910 metallic colours (including the Frozen Blue launch colour shown in the photos, plus vibrant Mamba Green and stunning Gentian Blue) and one $3,590 special colour (Carmine Red), plus two sets of 20-inch alloy wheels and three 21-inch rims ranging from $2,710 to $10,010, while its black partial leather cabin can be upgraded to $4,710 black or multiple $5,360 two-tone leather interiors, $7,490 solid or $8,150 two-tone Club leather motifs, or alternatively a Porsche-first $4,710 solid or $5,360 two-tone leather-free Race-Tex interior upgrade, that latter duo including innovative recycled materials for less environmental impact.
The new Taycan should be whispery quiet on the highway thanks to a 0.22 coefficient of drag, while its slippery aerodynamics should minimize high-speed energy use as well.
Those wishing Porsche had created a taller more crossover-styled model instead of the low-slung four-door coupe they actually built will be happy to learn the SUV coupe-styled Cross Turismo is scheduled to arrive next year. It’s designed to go head to head with the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace and any others that dare compete, so stay tuned.
Back to the here and now, the new 2020 Taycan 4S can currently be ordered through your local Porsche retailer, with its Canadian arrival date set for the summer of 2020.
Subaru has just introduced a redesigned 2020 Legacy mid-size sedan with new styling, updated engines, and a revised interior, but outward changes are so subtle you’d be forgiven for mixing up the new…
Subaru has just introduced a redesigned 2020 Legacy mid-size sedan with new styling, updated engines, and a revised interior, but outward changes are so subtle you’d be forgiven for mixing up the new 2020 with this 2019 model. So why write about a 2019 Legacy when the 2020 is already on the way? Subaru retailers still have new 2019 models available, and these can be had for very good deals.
According to CarCostCanada at the time of writing, you can save up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Legacy, and that’s over and above any further discount you manage to personally procure. A first step would be to visit CarCostCanada where you can learn about pricing details, including trims, packages and individual options, while you can also find out about rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Subaru refreshed its Legacy mid-size sedan for the 2018 model year, and therefore this 2019 version remains unchanged. The model tested for this review was in mid-range $31,695 Sport trim, which sits above the base $24,995 2.5i CVT, $28,295 Touring, and $29,795 Touring with Subaru’s EyeSight package of advanced driver assistive systems, which includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, rear proximity warning with reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, but Sport trim (that comes standard with EyeSight) is still more affordable than the $33,795 Limited 2.5i and $36,795 Limited 3.6R (also standard with the EyeSight package).
The “2.5i” and “3.6R” designations refer to standard and optional engines respectively, with the latter having been discontinued for the 2020 Legacy and Outback crossover wagon, incidentally, replaced by the more potent 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder introduced in last year’s Ascent mid-size SUV. Compared to this year’s 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder, which is good for 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, the new four makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, while the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder found in this Legacy Sport and all other Legacy trims, which produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, gets 90 percent of its components replaced for 2020 resulting in an additional 6 horsepower (for 182) and 2 lb-ft of torque (for 176), a nominal difference off the line yet noticeable at the pump.
The 2019 Legacy 2.5i achieves a claimed 9.3 L/100km on the highway, 7.0 in the city and 8.2 combined compared to 8.8 city, 6.7 highway and 7.7 combined for the new 2020 base engine. Comparing 2019 Legacy 3.6R fuel economy to the new 2020 2.4i is even more dramatic, with the outgoing engine managing an estimated 11.9 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 10.3 combined rating and the new version achieving 9.9 city, 7.3 highway and 8.5 combined. The Legacy’s standard all-wheel drive means its base powertrain isn’t quite as thrifty as its mostly front-wheel drive competitors, but the differences are nominal, while both its old 3.6R and new 2.4i are much more efficient than the Camry’s available V6, for example.
Rather than delve too deeply into the differences between the new 2020 Legacy and this current 2019 model, I’ll touch on a few key issues as part of this road test review and keep some of the other details for a future review of the redesigned car. As noted in the beginning of this review, styling updates are so minor I’d hesitate calling it a refresh. In fact, Subaru Canada doesn’t mention anything about styling in its 2020 Legacy press release, an unusual tack, but I imagine this is good news for those who liked the previous design, and should help this current sixth-generation model maintain its resale/residual values. I find both models handsome enough and sportier looking than some rivals, while Subaru clearly isn’t trying to woo would-be buyers with anything too extroverted, like Toyota is with its new Camry XSE.
The Legacy’s wallflower appearance may be one reason its sales are so low, the 1,298 units Subaru sold after Q3 2019 just a hair over 11-percent of the 11,579 Camrys delivered during the same nine months. Still, it’s not last, the Legacy outselling Kia’s Stinger, Mazda’s 6, Honda’s Clarity plug-in, Buick’s Regal, Volkswagen’s Passat, and the same German brand’s new Arteon four-door coupe, while coming very close to Kia’s Optima. This leaves it eighth out of 14 challengers, which really isn’t too shabby. Then again, the Legacy’s numbers pale in comparison to Subaru’s own Outback that sold 7,756 units over the same three quarters, the tall crossover wagon basically the same car under the skin.
Fortunately, sales success doesn’t necessarily reflect how good or bad a given vehicle is, and other than being slightly smaller than most of its mid-size sedan rivals, it shows no disadvantages. Subaru has an enviable record, achieving “Best Overall” brand status in Consumer Reports’ latest 2019 Annual Report on Car Performance, Reliability, Satisfaction and Safety, not to mention tied in the “Best Road Test Score Mainstream” category with Chrysler. Subaru was above average in J.D. Power’s latest 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study too, albeit below average in the same organization’s 2019 Initial Quality Study. This said the 2019 Legacy was rated best for “Mid-Size” sedan consumers in Vincentric’s latest “Best Value In Canada” awards, as did the Outback in its segment.
No doubt interior quality gave the Legacy a leg up with the various third-party analytical firms’ rating programs, its premium-like padded composite dash top and instrument panel stitched across its lower edge with a classic Subaru blue thread, while that blue stitching also trims the inside rim of the leather-clad sport steering wheel, all the armrests, and the leather-like bolsters of the otherwise light grey textured fabric seats. Additionally, some very authentic-looking glossy carbon-fibre inlays accent the instrument panel and door uppers, butting up against some attractive satin-silver metallic trim, while gloss-black and matte-finish black composites join yet more satin-finish and chromed metal accents. Subaru details out both front and rear door uppers in the same luxurious padded composite as the dash, and wraps each A-pillar in fabric for an extra level of pampering and sound deadening.
Despite the new 2020 model providing a fresh new interior highlighted by a massive 11.6-inch vertical display that looks like it’s been pulled right out of a Tesla (other than the new base model that makes do with a 7.0-inch touchscreen), this 2019 version still looks up to date. In fact, its 8.0-inch touchscreen (uprated from the 6.5-inch screen in the 2019 base model) looks pretty state of the art when compared to most competitors thanks to a large glossy black surrounding panel that juts out of the central dash as if it’s one big screen. The display itself provides a rich blue background complete with graphical stars, overlaid by colourful tablet-style tiles for each function. The backup camera is excellent, and includes dynamic guidelines, while on top of standard infotainment features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Subaru’s proprietary StarLink smartphone integration, other features include AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA plus satellite and Aha radio, a USB and aux port, SiriusXM advanced audio services, SiriusXM Travel Link, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and four-speaker audio, while Touring and above trims include the larger display plus another USB port and two more speakers.
If you want navigation, a better 576-watt, 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, as well as a heatable steering wheel rim, heated rear seats, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels and more you’ll need to move up to the aforementioned Limited model, while features pulled up to my Sport tester from lesser trims include a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support (that did a pretty good job of lining up with the small of my back), cruise control, and heated front seats from the base model, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power glass sunroof, and fog lights from Touring trim, plus proximity-sensing keyless entry with pushbutton ignition and a 5.0-inch LCD multi-information display (within the gauge cluster) from the Touring model with EyeSight.
Special Legacy Sport features include 18-inch machine-finish alloys with black-painted pockets, steering-responsive LED headlights, a glossy black grille surround, satin-silver side mirror housings, side sill extensions with chrome mouldings, and a diffuser-style rear bumper cap with big chrome-tipped tailpipes at each corner, but take note this value priced Sport model won’t be available with the 2020 redesign. The new car’s sportiest trim pulls its GT designation from the past, and suitably comes standard with the quicker 2.4i engine in a new Premier trim as well as a renewed Limited model.
Once again Subaru’s renowned symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring comes standard, and makes a big difference to how this car drives in slippery and even dry conditions. Let’s not forget Subaru honed its symmetrical AWD system through decades of World Rally Championship contention and still produces the legendary WRX that brought home so many titles. The Legacy was rallied too, by the way, in Group A from 1989 through 1993, although its single race win during its final year was nowhere near as glorious as the Impreza’s three championships, yet how many other mid-size sedan nameplates even have one WRC win to their credit? To save you time looking it up, exactly none.
As you might expect, the Legacy Sport is amongst the mid-size sedan segment’s more enjoyable cars to drive, not specifically for its straight-line speed, which would really benefit from the WRX STI’s 310-horsepower mill, but it gets up and goes quickly enough for most peoples’ needs and similarly to other base drivetrains in this class, while its Lineartronic CVT makes for smooth sailing all the way from standstill to highway speeds and beyond. Subaru includes a set of paddle shifters to enhance the process, and while allowing for hands-on engagement via six preset ratios that feel fairly close to the stepped gears in a conventional automatic when not pushing too hard, the transmission doesn’t provide the type of snappy gear changes found in most conventional automatics. I used them more for downshifting, the process giving this CVT a sportier feel and the benefit of engine braking, while upshifting early can save fuel in a regular automatic, but I doubt it makes much if any difference with a continuously variable transmission.
A CVT’s design can help smooth out a vehicle’s ride as well, and it may very well do so for the Legacy Sport that provides comfort first and foremost. Its ride quality is truly superb, yet the car holds its own through the corners as well thanks to a well-sorted fully independent MacPherson strut front and unequal length (short/long arm) double wishbone rear suspension setup, not to mention 225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS all-seasons connecting car to pavement. It really feels confidence inspiring when pushed through tight, fast-paced curves, while it’s just as adept at darting in and out of congested traffic or widening its gait on an open freeway.
The comfortable driver’s seat should provide ample adjustability for most body types, my short-torso five-foot-eight frame having no problem reaching the top of steering wheel when its tilt and telescopic column was extended all the way rearward. This means my seat was set farther back than most people my height would, but this didn’t hamper rear seat legroom enough to cause any problem.
Sitting directly behind, I had nearly 12 inches between my knees and the backside of the front seat, plus room enough to completely stretch out my legs when my winter boot-shod feet were positioned underneath. Likewise, I had plenty of space to each side, allowing a comfortably wide armrest with dual integrated cupholders to be folded down in between, while about three inches was left over above my head, which means a six-foot-plus rear passenger should fit quite comfortably in back. As far as rear seat amenities go, two USB charging points are offered, but only the centre dome lamp provided light for those wanting to read a conventional book.
The trunk is quite spacious at 425 litres (15 cu ft), and features the usual 60/40-split rear seatbacks that can be released by pull-handles under the bulkhead. I’ll make my usual plea for a centre pass-through or better yet, a three-way 40/20/40 rear seatback split, so skis can be placed down the middle while both (potentially heated) rear window seats can be put into use, because this would make the Legacy an even better snow shuttle than it already is. This said, not many challengers in this class offer the rear-row flexibility I’m looking for, so it will hardly be a deal-breaker, other than causing yet more buyers to look to the mid-size crossover SUV sector for their next ride.
So there you have it. Even the outgoing 2019 Legacy is well worth your attention, especially for those needing or wanting four-wheel traction as winter approaches, the only other cars in this class to offer standard all-wheel drive being the new Altima, Stinger and Arteon, but the latter two are actually four-door coupes targeting a near-luxury demographic, with the Optima and Passat serving the convention mid-size sedan buyer. Buick’s Regal makes AWD optional, but it’s a much pricier alternative too. There’s a good argument for Subaru’s rally-proven Symmetrical AWD over any others, and many of its additional attributes, including all the industry accolades noted earlier, make the Legacy an intelligent alternative in a Canadian market that’s preparing for a snowier than normal 2019/2020 winter, or so says The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Not being forced to chain up mid-winter is reason enough to choose AWD, and the Legacy is a smart choice.
The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have…
The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have done better with the latter.
Looking back, the 1998–2004 fourth and 2009–2014 sixth generations were especially daring, while the comparatively conservative 2004–2009 fifth-gen model was nevertheless so modestly attractive it sold well too. I tested all of the above and was impressed with each, plus I had the latter car in V6-powered top-line trim as a long-term tester for more than a year, experiencing zero problems and thoroughly enjoying its comfort and performance, as my weekly blog-style updates attested. It’s no wonder I’ve been a proponent of the car ever since.
The current 2014–2019 seventh-generation Sonata is, of course, the best one yet, but up until a rather thorough 2018 mid-cycle refresh it was one of the least inspiring visually. Don’t get me wrong, the 2014–2017 version was still a reasonably attractive mid-size four-door family sedan, but calling its update a facelift doesn’t do the level of cosmetic reconstruction justice.
The identical 2018 and 2019 Sonata models featured a completely modified grille that left the previous sharply edged six-sided design behind, replaced by a much more fluid shape that has helped move Hyundai away from the new Genesis luxury brand, the latter having kept much of the old grille design up until the new 2020 G90’s diamond-shaped look. The Sonata’s stylish new grille gets flanked by attractive headlights filled with ovoid projector beams (or as-tested LEDs) and LED daytime running lights, all of which hover over an eye-catching six-pack of vertical LED fog lights.
The Sonata’s sportiest Ultimate trim (shown here in the photos) boasts cool dark chrome edging around an otherwise black gloss mesh grille insert, plus more darkened chrome on the lower fascia and the headlamp bezels, which uniquely flow rearward along the front fenders and the car’s entire shoulder line before curving up and around the rear quarter windows ahead of meeting up at the base of the A pillars. This signature detail was first used with the sixth-generation Sonata back in 2009, and will once again help make the upcoming 2020 model look special. That 2020 Sonata incorporates many of the design elements shown on this attractive 2019 model, but adds drama and size, while its rear styling is completely reworked.
Hyundai continues with the darkened chrome trim while adding its fair share of gloss-black accents to this Sonata Ultimate, its front fog lamp surrounds ideally matching the sporty diffuser-style rear bumper, all topped off by the panoramic sunroof’s deep, inky glass and the high-gloss black roof that combine into one all-black mass. I must admit, the 2018 refresh turned a rather boring Sonata into a superb looking mid-size family hauler.
It needs to be good looking in order to survive, of course. It’s up against some very strong competitors such as the new Toyota Camry, a car that could even be called seductive in its edgiest XSE trim, not to mention the newest Honda Accord that antes up with its most premium-level design yet, plus the new Nissan Altima improves styling while providing standard all-wheel drive, as well as a whole host of other brands trying to lure in mid-size sedan buyers with performance models and/or economical hybrid/plug-in alternatives, while Hyundai’s sister-brand Kia and Germany’s Volkswagen are complementing their more traditional Optima (the Sonata’s platform-mate) and Passat offerings with sportier four-door coupe variants called Stinger and Arteon respectively, and despite all these interesting and impressive choices most new car consumers are looking to the crossover SUV segment for their next ride.
How is this SUV enthusiasm affecting mid-size sedan sales? Of the 14 currently available in Canada, just four found more year-over-year buyers through the first nine months of 2019, and this Sonata wasn’t amongst them. The category-leading Camry’s 11,579 unit sales were up 4.18 percent since the third quarter of 2019 ended, but this market growth is hardly notable next to the third-place Ford Fusion’s 33.43-percent increase, but it only managed 7,280 total deliveries. The other two bright lights are actually nominal players when it comes to overall numbers, with Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid showing a 12.37-percent gain to 890 sales, and Buick’s Regal experiencing an amazing 48.71-percent uptick to 635 units down the road.
Ultimate losers include VW’s aforementioned Passat that’s decreased its year-over-year unit sales by 78.24 percent, resulting in only 570 sold, while Kia’s Optima didn’t do much better thanks to delivering just 1,363 examples for a 52.09-percent decline. Others, such as the Altima, fell 43.34 percent for a 2,568-unit downturn, and that’s despite its all-new design, while the Mazda6 plunged 42.76 percent to 1,130 units. Comparing some of these numbers shouldn’t leave Hyundai feeling too bad about its Sonata that only managed 3,346 deliveries for a 14.18-percent reversal, this actually leaving the car in fifth place behind the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Malibu, albeit still more popular than the Altima, Optima, Subaru Legacy, Stinger, Mazda6, Clarity, Regal, Passat, and Arteon. Some brands might’ve let out a collective sigh of relief upon Ford’s announcement that its Fusion would soon be discontinued without replacement, but the thought of why they’re ditching the segment altogether may be too sobering to provide any hope of market gains.
Everything said so far in mind, this road test review is more of an adieu to the outgoing 2019 Sonata ahead of the entirely new 2020 model arriving, which will allow some of us to pay tribute to the car that helped define Hyundai’s new design direction, while more serious folk decide whether or not they’ll take one home. I’ve got a great deal of good to say about this specific Sonata Ultimate, with the styling and sales portion of my review now moving inside, where this particular four-door gets an impressive cabin filled up with premium-like finishings and more standard features than you’ll likely find in the majority of rivals noted above.
No shortage of premium-quality, soft-touch synthetics can be found throughout the interior, joined by beautifully textured metallic inlays and brushed aluminized accents, not to mention glossy piano black detailing to match all the exterior trim mentioned earlier. A medium-grey cabin motif boasts stylish perforated leather seat upholstery in an identical medium-grey shade, with light-grey piping highlighting each bolster to match the same colour of contrast stitching found along those bolsters as well as the door panel inserts, shifter boot, and baseball-stitched, black leather-wrapped, flat-bottom sport steering wheel.
The steering wheel looks sporty enough, and thanks to a thick padded rim, ergonomically shaped thumb spats, and an overall substantive weightiness makes its driver feel as if piloting a now classic Genesis Coupe than anything family oriented, not that you couldn’t stuff a fairly sizeable kid or two into the back of that four-seat liftback. The placement of the shift paddles is near perfect, truly enhancing the driving experience overall. It’s all combined with more than enough steering column rake and reach to, together with the eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (with two-way powered lumbar), provide my long-legged and short-torso five-foot-eight body with complete comfortable and total control, unlike some in this class that don’t fit me in as ideally.
This in mind, Toyota’s new Camry XSE was sharing commuting and errand duties with the Sonata Ultimate during the same week, which by looks alone seems to be the sportiest mid-size four-door on today’s market. It’s a big improvement over the outgoing Camry in every way, including steering column reach, but nevertheless it doesn’t fit my frame as well. Additionally, the Camry XSE’s steering wheel doesn’t look or feel as sporty, or allow as much control as this Sonata Ultimate. I’m not griping, because Toyota has done a very good job with the new Camry’s cabin, with finishing that’s more refined and an overall design that’s slightly more premium-like than this top-line Sonata, but when talking real performance, the Japanese brand’s mid-sizer couldn’t hold a candle to this Korean. What’s more, the steering wheel in the Sonata is heated from the mid-range trim upward, while the Camry doesn’t even make a heatable steering wheel available.
One of the most notable differences between the Camry XSE and Sonata Ultimate are the front seats. The latter model offers up two of the best sport seats in the mid-size sedan class, that aren’t only embossed with slick “Turbo” lettering on their backrests and finished with all the attractive upgrades noted earlier, but were designed with deep side bolstering that holds buttocks and backside firmly in place during aggressive manoeuvring. If you want to stay planted in the Camry’s driver’s seat while attempting the same lateral Gs you’ll need to hang onto something other than the steering wheel, as Toyota’s driver’s seat leaves you perched on top rather than within. The Camry’s seats weren’t very comfortable either, not even in the luxuriously appointed XLE model, but the Sonata Ultimate’s seats are fabulously supportive. The Sonata’s three-temperature front seat warmers heat up faster and more potently than the Camry’s too, plus Hyundai provides three-position front seat ventilation as well, this not available in any 2019 Camry (Toyota will add optional ventilated front seats for 2020).
The Sonata’s rear outboard seats offer two-way seat heaters too, in mid-range Preferred trim and above, plus their seatbacks are similarly carved for comfort and support, but not so much as to render the centre position unfit for a third passenger. My tester’s retractable side window sunshades, standard in Luxury and Ultimate trims, are also not available with the Camry, while the Sonata’s rear occupants benefit from a bevy of additional features such as LED overhead reading lights, dual air vents, a big folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, large bottle holders in the door pockets, plus more. A panoramic sunroof, standard on Luxury and Ultimate trims, adds more light to the rear passenger compartment too, although even less equipped trims are hardly dark inside thanks to good side window visibility.
Rear seat roominess is a Sonata strongpoint too, thanks to a lot of knee space, ample legroom that allowed me to stretch my legs out almost completely while shod in winter boots, and about four to five inches from hips and shoulders to the door panels, while approximately three and a half inches remained over my head, so therefore taller passengers should fit in back without issue.
The trunk is quite big at 462 litres (16.3 cubic feet), while you can open its lid by pressing a button on the dash or automatically by standing aft of the Sonata with the ignition off and proximity-sensing key in pocket. The trunk is nicely detailed out with carpeting all the way up each sidewall, including the inner lid, plus each side of the 60/40-split seatbacks fold down via pull-tabs.
All of the items noted thus far came standard in my top-tier Ultimate tester, including its sporty looking 18-inch double-five-spoke alloys encircled by 235/45R18 Michelin all-season rubber (replacing 16- or 17-inch Kumho tires), the front two directed by a special rack-mounted motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) system featuring a dual-pinion steering rack, while a trim-exclusive twin-scroll turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and two-stage variable induction produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (this engine replaces the base 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), and an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles (instead of a six-speed automatic with no paddles on lesser trims) enhance performance. Additionally, Ultimate trim includes the upgraded leather sport seats mentioned before, and the eye-catching textured metallic inlays, the construction of which Hyundai refers to as the 3D Three-dimensional Overlay Method (T.O.M).
I decided to make a more detailed list of key features than usual because Hyundai’s value proposition has always been a good way to judge its cars against rivals, and when factoring in that the 2019 Sonata Ultimate retails for only $37,199 (plus destination and fees), it becomes hard to argue against. A similarly powered Camry with less features, incidentally, tops $41,000, about $4,000 or 10 percent more than this top-line Sonata, while its base price is also a couple of thousand higher. The base Sonata Essential starts at $24,899, while Hyundai has up to $2,000 in additional incentives available at the time of writing, according to CarCostCanada, where you can also find pricing details for almost every car sold in Canada, including trims, packages and individual features, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Additional features pulled up to Ultimate trim from the $34,899 Luxury model include the previously noted LED headlights with adaptive cornering and automatic high beams, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades and powered panoramic sunroof, plus aluminum scuff plates, chrome inner door handles, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, a six-way powered front passenger seat, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, an 8.0-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen with navigation, great sounding 400-watt nine-speaker Infinity audio, always appreciated wireless charging, rear seat HVAC ducts, reverse park distance warning, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist.
Items pulled up to Unlimited trim from the mid-range $28,799 Preferred model include the stitched pleather door inserts, heatable steering wheel, rear seat warmers, and proximity-sensing trunk release noted earlier, plus dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio (including the rooftop shark antenna), remote engine start, and BlueLink connectivity, while the second-rung $27,699 Essential Sport donates its sport grille, dark chrome and sportier exterior trim, sport suspension, LED taillights, front door handle welcome lighting, proximity keyless entry, sport-type Supervision instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-function display (within the otherwise analogue primary gauge cluster), paddle shifters, eight-way powered driver’s seat, and aluminum pedals.
Finally, standard items pulled up to Ultimate trim from the base Essential model include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth with audio streaming, filtered air conditioning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, the usual active and passive safety features, and much more. It really is a lot of car for thousands less than most competitors.
Being that I’ve been comparing to the Sonata to Toyota’s Camry, the Japanese mid-sizer offers up a more advanced gauge cluster-mounted multi-information display, featuring a larger, more organically shaped screen that wraps around the outside of each analogue dial, plus it’s filled with more features. Nevertheless, the Sonata’s is bright, clear and not short on many functions. The Sonata’s centre stack comes across a bit more vertical and therefore more traditional than the Camry’s as well, but this has more to do with end of lifecycle issues than any lack of technical prowess at Hyundai (the 2020 Sonata’s 12.3-inch display will be a big step above the Camry’s, by the way, plus my upcoming Nexo and Palisade stories will provide even more proof of Hyundai’s infotainment leadership). The Sonata’s touchscreen sits high on the centre stack between two vents, and it’s a very clear, high-resolution display with excellent depth of colour and good graphics. It boasts a quick operating system too, and it’s generally easy to figure out, no matter the function.
The quality of Sonata switchgear is also excellent, especially those on the steering wheel and centre stack, the latter finished with a nice aluminized treatment on two tiers of interfaces. The top tier is for audio and infotainment systems, whereas the bottom one is for the HVAC system and its various functions, plus the heated/cooled seats and heatable steering wheel. Below this is a rubberized tray for your phone that doubles as a wireless charger, while additional connectivity can be found just above on a panel featuring two 12-volt chargers, a USB port and aux plug (expect more USBs and less of the others in the 2020 redesign).
Back to the thick paddle-infused flat-bottom steering wheel and well-bolstered driver’s seat, the Sonata Ultimate feels a lot sportier than the Camry XSE I tested, even without having a V6 under the hood. The top-line Camry is about a second and a half quicker off the line (the 6.0 seconds compared to 7.3, give or take a tenth or two), as long as you can stop the front wheels from spinning, but straight-line acceleration is hardly the only performance criterion, or for that matter the most important one in my books. The 2.0-litre turbo moved the Sonata off the line quickly enough, while its eight-speed auto shifted with much snappier increments than the Camry’s eight-speed, especially when its Drive Mode Select system was switched from Comfort, past Eco, into Sport mode, these adjusting steering, engine, and transmission responses. The free-revving top-line Sonata powertrain is a lot more fun when pushed hard, and its lighter weight over the front wheels results in easier, quicker turn-in with less understeer.
This is probably why the Sonata Ultimate takes to corners more aggressively than the Camry XSE. Truly, Sonata Ultimate handling is a black and white differentiator, the Hyundai feeling crisp and reacting sharply, with the Toyota pushing its front end past the edge of its lane when driven at similar high speeds through the same stretch of tarmac, not to mention becoming much more unsettled at its back end. The one felt confidence inspiring and the other out of its league, and this was despite having one-inch larger 19-inch alloys on 235/40 all seasons on the Camry. Mix in driver’s seat superiority and it’s really no contest, the Sonata Ultimate so much more engaging we might as well be comparing a BMW 5 Series to a Lexus ES 350.
The Sonata Ultimate also gets high marks for fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100 km in the city, 7.4 on the highway and 9.1 combined compared to the Camry XSE’s 10.7 city, 7.4 highway and 9.2 combined rating, but to be fair I need to point out that Toyota’s use of an eight-speed automatic throughout the range helps its less potent four-cylinder models eke out as little as 8.1 city, 5.7 highway and 6.9 combined, compared to the Sonata 2.4’s best rating of 9.2, 6.8 and 8.1 respectively.
More negatives? It wanting to use the auto trunk opening function when the Sonata is already unlocked it won’t open, and being that there’s no button in back you’ll need to walk around to the driver’s door, open it, and push the button on the dash. The Camry provides a button on the trunk that works by proximity sensing whether the doors are unlocked or not. Another Camry bonus includes heated front seats that come on automatically upon startup, or not, depending on how you left them. You’ll need to set the Sonata’s heated seats each time you restart.
Plenty of other qualities help keep the Camry atop the mid-size sedan segment’s hierarchy, and I’ll cover these in an upcoming full-line road test review, while there are a number of other credible contenders in this class, as noted earlier, but you shouldn’t buy any of the Sonata’s competitors without spending time behind its wheel, especially if performance is high on your list of new car attributes.
Porsche gave its Macan compact luxury utility such an extensive update last year that most in the industry consider it a completely new generation. The Stuttgart brand even went so far as to rejig its…
Porsche gave its Macan compact luxury utility such an extensive update last year that most in the industry consider it a completely new generation. The Stuttgart brand even went so far as to rejig its suspension, along with doing the normal upgrades like refreshing its front and rear clips with new styling, including standard LED headlights and tail lamps, those in back circling all the way around the SUV’s rear quarters, not unlike other vehicles in the lineup such as the 718 Cayman and Boxster, Panamera, Cayenne, 911, and all-new Taycan. Its cabin has also been improved significantly, with a new high-definition 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) centre touchscreen display as standard equipment.
This revised Macan Turbo follows the new base 2020 Macan and upgraded Macan S that showed up earlier this year, with a price of $94,200, compared to $56,100 for the entry-level Macan and $63,600 for the Macan S.
The former features a 2.0-litre turbo-four good for 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, which hightails it from standstill to 100km/h in just 6.7 seconds, or 6.5 seconds with its available Sport Chrono Package, while its terminal velocity is much more than any Canadian road allows at 227 km/h.
All Macan trims come with an advanced seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automated transmission featuring paddle shifters on the steering wheel, plus standard Porsche Traction Management (PTM) active all-wheel drive that includes an electronically- and map-controlled multi-plate clutch, as well as an automatic brake differential (ABD) and anti-slip regulation (ASR).
The mid-range Macan S gets a major bump in engine output thanks to a completely different mill under the hood, its 3.0-litre V6 turbo capable of 348 horsepower and 352 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a zero to 100km/h time of only 5.3 seconds, or 5.1 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, plus a new top speed of 254 km/h.
The just-noted Macan S performance figures are improved for 2020, so it made sense for Porsche to upgrade its newest Turbo trim too, but adding a whopping 34 horsepower was probably unexpected by those outside of Porsche’s inner circle. The modified 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 now puts out a highly potent 434 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, which lops 0.3 seconds off of its acceleration time, resulting in 4.5 seconds from zero to 100km/h, or 4.3 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, while its top speed gains 5 km/h at 270 km/h.
Some standard Macan Turbo performance items include a one-inch larger set of 20-inch Macan Turbo alloy wheels, Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) that stop quicker than the model’s outgoing standard brakes, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers, a sport exhaust, plus more, while some available performance options include a height-adjustable air suspension with rolling pistons and new shock absorber hydraulics, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV +), and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB).
As with last year’s Macan Turbo, the new 2020 version also adds to its standard equipment list inside, with luxurious suede-like Alcantara roof pillars and headliner, 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats with memory, 665 watts of Bose Surround Sound audio featuring 14 speakers, and more.
Convenience and luxury options are numerous, and include a multifunction GT Sport steering wheel, a wireless charging pad that comes together with a Smartphone Compartment, semi-autonomous parking and traffic assistance systems, etcetera.
The 2020 Macan Turbo can now be ordered through your local Porsche retailer, and will arrive in Canada toward the end of 2019. As for the new 2020 Macan and Macan S, they’re already available for test drives.
I’m not sure how I feel about the name that Mitsubishi chose for its new compact crossover SUV. I mean, Eclipse Cross makes me think way back to better times when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the…
I’m not sure how I feel about the name that Mitsubishi chose for its new compact crossover SUV. I mean, Eclipse Cross makes me think way back to better times when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the Japanese brand’s own Eclipse, Honda’s Prelude and Toyota’s Celica, amongst others, roamed city streets, highways and winding byways in wild abandon, but now all of these low-slung two-door fastbacks are gone and we’re left with a gaggle of two-box SUVs.
Fortunately some of these car-based crossovers are oddly contorted, making this practical sector a bit more interesting than it might otherwise be, with the sporty new Eclipse Cross high on the list of unusual newcomers. It’s an especially good choice for those not needing all of the Outlander’s cargo space and wanting more performance than an RVR can muster, plus its edgy SUV-coupe styling pulls some of the premium flair down from luxury mega-brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz that offer similarly sized upper-crust variants in their respective X4 and GLC Coupe models. I’m not pretending for a minute the lowly Mitsu measures up to these pricey Germans, but it’s got a swagger all its own and therefore deserves a certain amount of respect for being boldly different in a compact SUV segment that all too often plays it safe.
Most automakers choosing to get funky gravitate to the smaller subcompact SUV segment, where Mitsubishi offers its comparatively straightforward RVR against oddities like Kia’s Soul and Toyota’s C-HR (Nissan’s Juke, the strangest of them all, having finally departed a couple of years ago, replaced by the much more conservative Kicks), while (size aside) Mazda’s CX-3 is probably closest to the Eclipse Cross as far as mainstream acceptability combined with sportier than average styling and performance goes, but alas this considerably larger model is the lone coupe-like SUV in its larger compact class.
The Eclipse Cross measures 4,405 mm (173.4 in) end to end with a 2,670 mm (105.1 in) long wheelbase, while it spans 1,805 mm (71.1 in) in width and sits 1,685 mm (66.3 in) tall, making its wheelbase identical to its 290 mm (11.4 in) longer Outlander sibling, yet its width just 5 mm (0.2 in) narrower and height 25 mm (1.0 in) shorter. In other words, it’s much the same size as the Outlander excepting length, which together with its sloped rear roofline makes for a much sportier looking ride.
As far as the Eclipse Cross design goes, Mitsubishi’s dramatic new “Dynamic Shield” frontal styling works much better on this new utility than with any other application it’s been used for, other than the latest 2020 RVR that I find quite attractive. The drama continues around each side where a deeply sculpted cutline emerges about a third of the way through the front door panels before slashing through each handle and meeting up with the bottom edge of an even more intriguing set of LED taillights, these tied together by a thin strip of lighting that divides two panes of rear glass a la Honda’s second-generation 1988-1991 CRX or more recent 2011–2016 CR-Z, not to mention the automaker’s also defunct Accord-based mid-size 2010–2015 Crosstour, although those three sporty coupes never incorporated the Eclipse Cross’ extra lighting element. More rocker panel body sculpting tapers upward before wrapping around the rear fenders, these mimicking the front fenders as they pay some subtle homage to the sporty 2004–2011 Endeavor (a previous long-term tester that I thoroughly enjoyed back in the day – RIP).
Hidden behind a slick looking standard set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 all-season tires is a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup featuring stabilizer bars at both ends, which all combines for more than enough grip to keep its turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine in control. The little mill makes just 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and puts that output through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s engineered to emulate an eight-speed automatic gearbox via some of the nicest magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters in the industry.
Unlike most vehicles in the industry, these elongated paddles are actually fixed to the steering column instead of attached to the steering wheel, just like with the fabulous Evo X MR (RIP once again), making it easy to locate the correct paddle no matter how many times you’ve rotated the steering wheel.
My Eclipse Cross GT tester really moved along nicely when pushed, feeling much more potent than its claimed horsepower rating, no doubt because of its substantive torque. Its steering was a bit firmer than most others I’ve tested in this class, albeit light enough for easy control, while its ride was slightly stiffer, but never uncomfortable or harsh. That firmness helped it handle well in corners, feeling really planted when pushed hard (Mitsubishi’s renowned chassis expertise pays off once again), but I wouldn’t have guessed it to be so good when tooling around town or otherwise driving normally, because the powertrain feels as if it’s in Eco Mode even when it’s not, meaning there’s plenty of Eco Mode still available by pressing the big green button on the centre stack.
This said there is no Sport button, your right foot being the only way to coax more out of the powertrain, and despite those lovely paddle shifters just noted, the CVT is not very sporty (I’m being kind). It’s smooth and linear, exactly how most compact SUV buyers like it, and it’s highly efficient, not only saving fuel, but also allowing more of the engine’s power to get down to the road.
Some of its straight-line performance and handling prowess comes down to standard Super All-Wheel Control, this being Mitsubishi-speak for all-wheel drive, an advanced torque-vectoring system honed from years of Lancer Evolution rally car breeding. Yes, it’s hard to stomach the thought that this wannabe performance SUV is now the hottest model in Mitsubishi’s once proud lineup, which previously anted up the aforementioned Evo X, an all-wheel drive super sedan that easily outmaneuvered the Subaru WRX STI and most every other compact of the era, but Mitsubishi now has its limited funds (despite being part of Mitsubishi Group, which also owns a top-10 banking institution and so much more) focused on practical SUVs that more people will potentially purchase, not to mention plug-in electrics that give it a good green name if not many actual buyers, at least when comparing the Outlander PHEV’s sales to those of the conventionally powered and milder hybrid compact SUV rivals it’s up against.
We can get glossy eyed over the loss of the Evo, but should commend Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’ fuel economy that’s rated at just 9.6 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 8.3 combined, which is quite good in comparison to the segment-sales-leading RAV4 that only manages 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, but then again it’s not quite as thrifty as the CR-V’s 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined rating.
The aforementioned powertrain is the same no matter which of its three trim levels is chosen. As usual, Mitsubishi supplied this Eclipse Cross tester in top-line form, this GT model going for $35,998 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for all pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands). This meant it came loaded up with LED headlamps, a head-up display, a multi-view backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a superb 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio system with nine speakers including a 10-inch subwoofer, a heatable steering wheel rim, two-way heated rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way powered driver’s seat, a dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof, and more.
The top-tier GT also features everything from the second-rung SE model’s optional Tech Package that includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, roof rails, and a nice silver painted lower door garnish.
Mid-range SE features pulled up to GT trim include the previously noted paddle shifters, proximity-sensing keyless access and ignition, an electromechanical parking brake (the base model gets a regular handbrake), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control (an upgrade from the base model’s single-zone auto HVAC system), blindspot warning, and more for $29,998, while features from the $27,998 base ES model that are still incorporated into the GT include LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, LED taillights, tilt and telescopic steering, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an “ECO” mode, micron filtered automatic climate control, two-way heated front seats, and more.
I like the quality inside, thanks to a full soft-touch dash top that curves all the way down to the mid portion of the instrument panel, plus nice pliable synthetic front door uppers, even nicer door inserts, and contrast-stitched armrests side and centre. These match the seat bolsters that also boast contrast stitching in the same orange hue, and unlike the near overwhelming orange overload found in a Subaru Forester Sport I previously tested, Mitsubishi’s subtler colour treatment should appeal to more people.
The primary instrument cluster is nicely organized and well laid out, with a decent size colour trip computer at centre, while the 7.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen display is especially good, sitting up high atop the centre stack and controlled by the usual tap, pinch and swipe finger prompts. Even better for those who don’t like reaching so far to input commands, Mitsubishi also included a brilliantly designed touchpad on the lower console. That this is all standard kit is most impressive, rivaling some premium brands and outdoing others, such as Lexus that only offers a joystick-like controller or similar touchpad depending on model, not the convenience of both.
The infotainment system also includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an excellent rearview camera with dynamic guidelines (although the multi-view one on my tester was even better), Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio (that I listened to most often), and control of devices hooked up to two USB charging/connectivity ports, located right on the centre stack above a rubberized phone tray below. With all of this included as standard, it makes me wonder why Mitsubishi didn’t bother making the electromechanical parking brake standard as well.
The driver’s seat is very comfortable, featuring ample powered adjustability for what I found to be an ideal driving position, thanks to enough rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, but unfortunately the seatback offered no lumbar support adjustment at all. Again, its good inherent design makes additional lower back support less critical, but as learned from many long road trips it’s always nice to make periodic adjustments in order to appease pressure pain points.
Back to that steering wheel, it’s nicely shaped with a fairly thick leather rim and heatable, which came in handy as summer’s warmth dissipated and evening temperatures delved into single digits. The front seat heaters warmed up nicely too, but with only two temperatures my driver’s seat was often too hot or too cool.
The rear passenger compartment is very roomy and comfortable too, with a folding centre armrest that includes the usual dual cupholders within. The seat heaters are easy to reach on the backside of the front console, and my tester’s rear sunroof complemented the Eclipse Cross’ good rear window visibility for an open and airy passenger experience.
There’s no powered liftgate for accessing the cargo compartment, which would be fine by me, and it’s finished as nicely in back as most any other vehicle in this class too. I would’ve preferred more accommodating 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks than the 60/40 divide Mitsubishi provides, or at least a centre pass-through so I could load skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoyed those aforementioned derriere warmers on the way back from the hill, but as it is only a few mainstream volume-branded competitors offer such premium-like convenience anyway, so it’s not like the Eclipse Cross breaks rank with any compact SUV practicality norms.
Pragmatism in mind, even this sportier SUV needs to measure up when it comes to load hauling capability in order to achieve market acceptance, so it’s good the Eclipse Cross delivers a reasonable amount of cargo space to go along with its generously proportioned passenger compartment. The hard numbers reveal 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) behind the rear seatbacks, and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) aft of the front row when the rear seats are folded down, making it a mere 26 litres (0.9 cubic feet) more accommodating for cargo than the subcompact RVR with both SUVs’ seats upright and 17 litres (0.6 cubic feet) less so when said seats are laid flat.
Comparing it to the larger Outlander that it comes closer to measuring up to externally, the Eclipse Cross loses 328 litres (11.6 cubic feet) behind its rear row and 407 litres (14.4 cubic feet) when both models lower their rear seatbacks. Mitsubishi also includes a heavy-duty removable cargo floor with a hidden compartment below, which is handy for storing dirty items you may not want the nice carpeting above coming in contact with, or for keeping pricier belongings away from prying eyes.
What’s more, when putting those rear seats back into use, their headrests were almost impossible to pull up from their lowered positions. It took all the strength I had, and while I’m no Ben Weider, the level of effort required was ridiculous. I’m guessing these would loosen over time, but that presupposes the owner has ample strength to muscle them up and down enough in order to ease the process. I recommend prospective buyers check this issue before signing on the dotted line, and also that dealers have their service departments add this test to each model’s pre-delivery inspection regimen.
Now that I’m complaining, I heard a disconcerting number of creaks, groans and annoying squeaking sounds emanating from the rear seating area while driving. This might have something to do with the previously mentioned removable cargo floor, but it’s more likely fitment of the second sunroof in back or the rear seats themselves, because some of the creaking noises sounded like leather (or something similar) rubbing together. This said I’d like to test this SUV with cloth seats to find out if that sound disappears.
On the positive, I appreciated having separate power-sliding sunshade controls for the front and rear portions of the panoramic moonroof. This can provide rear passengers with a more fully lit experience, while those up front can have shade drawn if wanted.
Another positive is a rear window wiper that turns on automatically when backing up if the wipers are on up front, and the aforementioned head-up display system was a nice touch too, providing vital information right in front of the driver where it can be seen easily. This is just like the head-up display used by Mazda, in that it powers up a small transparent plastic screen atop the instrument cowl instead of projecting images directly on the windshield, with the only problem in this case being that it’s a bit distracting in some ways, not really blocking the view, but certainly interrupting the mind’s eye. I eventually got used to it to the point that it didn’t bother me one bit, but I’d understand if some complained about it getting in the way.
To leave this review on a more uplifting note, I need to point out one of Mitsubishi’s best attributes, its industry-best five-year or 100,000-km basic (mostly bumper-to-bumper) warranty and 10-year or 160,000-km powertrain warranty. Nothing comes close to this, with most competitors coming up two years or 40,000 km short in their basic warranties, and five years or 60,000 km less generous for their powertrain coverage. Considering Mitsubishi is one of the most well respected brands in other markets around the world, thanks to exceptionally good engineering and better than average reliability, this impressive warranty is a major selling point that any new car buyer should factor in when making a decision.
Overall, Mitsubishi should be commended for establishing the compact SUV-coupe niche within the mainstream volume-branded sector, and while year-to-date 2019 sales numbers of 4,159 units put the Eclipse Cross dead last in its class, when it’s combined with second-to-last Outlander deliveries of 8,568 units, the brand’s 12,727-unit compact SUV total puts it ahead of Subaru, GMC and Kia, which is quite a feat for one of the newest automotive brands in Canada (Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, Inc. was established in 2002). This, together with the Outlander PHEV, the only plug-in hybrid in the segment, shows that innovation remains key to the company’s continued progress, and while some of us might lament the loss of sportier models like the Evo, as well as the Eclipse this SUV was named after, times have changed and only those that adapt survive.