As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and…

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier Road Test

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Now in its fifth year of availability, albeit not without updates, the Bolt EV still looks fresh for its subcompact class.

As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and handling, or Honda’s Fit as far as cargo carrying capability, but those two, like so many others in this class, are gone, leaving a shrinking subcompact market segment that’s now a mere shadow of what it once was only a few short years ago.

Fortunately, the current 2021 Bolt includes a few crossover-like styling cues, such as roof rails plus some thick black cladding around its wheel cutouts and rocker panels, as well as an ever-so-slightly raised stance, so it kind of qualifies for subcompact SUV status. Either way, the tiny rocket would probably beat the aforementioned Fiesta ST off the line, let alone a Mini Cooper JCW, while the impressive load of features in my top-level Premier model comes close to promoting it to premium status.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt features a long wheelbase that improves legroom as well as high-speed stability and ride comfort.

By all accounts it’s a rather unassuming looking hatchback, not unlike the Spark and Sonic that came before. It’s sized more like the latter car, but provides a sleeker, more windswept look than the now discontinued Chevy subcompact, and certainly more road presence than the tiny little Spark, which has now taken over the mantle of Canada’s most affordable new car from Nissan’s cancelled Micra and Mitsubishi’s slightly pricier Mirage.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt gets plenty of crossover SUV-like styling details, such as roof rails, black lower body cladding, and Chevy’s floating rear roof pillar design.

Having only arrived in 2017, the Bolt has quickly taken over sales chart superiority in the subcompact segment, with last year’s 4,026 Canadian deliveries clearly outpacing the category’s second-best-selling Kia Rio that only managed to find 3,868 buyers, a far cry from the 15,601 new owners it earned in 2013, a year that saw Hyundai’s Accent in first with 18,884 sales. Interestingly, 2013 wasn’t even the Accent’s most successful year, with 2008 notching up 29,751 unit-sales, this being the highest number of sales that a vehicle in this class has ever managed over a calendar year in Canada. The entire segment didn’t even break 16,000 deliveries in 2020, incidentally, and if it wasn’t for the Bolt, it probably wouldn’t have come close to that number. Looking back now, it’s bizarre to fathom that Canada’s subcompact category almost hit 100,000 units in 2014.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt’s standard auto on/off HID headlamps can be had with available automatic high-beams.

Of course, the Bolt has about as much in common with today’s Kia Rio or Nissan Versa (the only two mainstream volume-branded subcompact models left) as a BMW 3 Series. Sure, it might be sized like the little Korean and Japanese models, but it’s plug-in battery-powered and therefore priced more like the Bavarian luxury sedan. In fact, you can buy the Bimmer for $48 less (not factoring in dealer discounts or government subsidies); the 330e plug-in hybrid starting at $44,950, compared to the base Bolt LT’s starting price of $44,998.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Sporty machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with painted pockets come standard across the line.

My Bolt Premier tester will set you back $50,298, including its vibrant Oasis Blue paint, this standout hue of blue being one of two standard colours including Summit White, while Silver Ice Metallic (exclusive to this trim), Nightfall Grey Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic, Kinetic Blue Metallic, Cayenne Orange Metallic, and Slate Grey Metallic cost $495 extra, and Cajun Red Tintcoat is slightly more at $595.

You’ll need to pay $750 more for a Driver Confidence II package if you want to get following distance indicator, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and IntelliBeam automatic high beams, items normally standard in this price range, thus pushing the base price up over $51,000, while Chevy also offers a 120-volt charging cord for $850, plus aluminum sill plates for $155, a number of carpeted and all-weather floor and cargo mats, an interior protection package, a cargo net, and the list goes on.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt’s charging port is up front next to the driver’s door where it’s easy to access.

Notably, Chevy is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while the average discount achieved by CarCostCanada members is $2,125, thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiations. Find out how an affordable CarCostCanada membership can help you save thousands too, plus remember to download their free smartphone app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Standard LED taillights make a nice visual statement at night.

While the price of entry is staggeringly high for the Bolt’s subcompact class, its base sticker costing more than twice as much as the most expensive 2021 Kia Rio 5-Door EX Premium, keep in mind that base models qualify for the federal government’s $5,000 rebate, while BC offers another $5,000 rebate (my total rebate was shown as $8,000 after configuring) and residents of Quebec a maximum of $8,000 (check with each jurisdiction for eligibility), so other than the fact that these incentives are paid by regular Canadian taxpayers (many of which are poor folk barely managing to keep making payments on their Sparks, Micras and Mirages, let alone bus passes), it can significantly reduce the cost of EV ownership.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt Premier’s interior is nicely designed with impressive digital displays, but it’s materials quality can’t measure up to conventionally-powered cars costing tens of thousands less.

The totally redesigned 2022 Bolt starts at just $38,198, by the way, or $40,198 for the slightly larger Bolt EUV (see my full news coverage here), so even well-optioned variants should slide under the government’s $45,000 maximum for rebate qualification.

With or without the just-noted extras, the Bolt Premier’s cabin is very inviting, with a lot of light and medium grey colour tones combined with orange stitching on the perforated two-tone leather seats. It’s a sporty look that nicely matches the little electric car’s spunky character.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The driver’s position is excellent, and dash layout a real treat for digital savvy drivers.

Most eye-catching is the digital gauge cluster and large infotainment touchscreen, the former bright, colourful and filled mostly with primary driving information, albeit featuring a useful multi-information display at centre. The main touchscreen on the centre stack was bright and colourful too, plus extremely well-organized with most of the features new car buyers expect these days, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as all the usual audio features like SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming. Redundant controls are included for the single-zone auto climate system too, plus in-depth pages for powertrain efficiencies.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The Bolt’s fully-digital gauge cluster is stunning and highly utile.

Considering the lofty price, I found it odd that no navigation system was included, especially now that some electric cars provide sophisticated navigation equipment that effectively maps out range and finds the nearest public charging location. Of course, you’ll be able to use your smartphone’s navigation via the aforementioned Google and Apple apps for directions, even if these don’t include the types of EV-specific functions $50k should provide. Fortunately, the just-noted audio system is a good enough distraction to lessen any range anxiety that might develop by not knowing where to hook up, while the moving guideline-enhanced backup camera with its separate overhead view will make slotting into the EV charger’s parking spot a near effortless experience when you’ve finally located one.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The centre stack is well laid out and easy to use.

Charging is almost a non-issue, by the way, thanks to so much range that you might find yourself blasting up and down the highway just to see if you can drain it, like I did for part of my test. In fact, I drove it most of the week without the need to charge, but take note that larger batteries need longer to top up. Chevy claims about 40 km of range per hour of charging on a 240-volt system, which you can purchase for your home or find elsewhere in shopping mall parking lots, public building parking, or private charging resellers like ChargePoint or Flo, while a public-access DC fast charger only needs 30 minutes on the plug to generate up to 145 km of range.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The large centre display is filled with useful features.

Max range on a full charge is 417 km, although this is an estimate that depends on plenty of factors, from the load you’re carrying (including bodies and cargo), exterior temperature (colder weather means less range), driving style (if you’re stomping on the throttle all the time, or putting on a lot of highway miles, you’ll dramatically reduce distance to empty), plus more.

Yes, the “tiny rocket” descriptor I used at the beginning of this review says it all, the Bolt lives up to its name and then some. Jabbing right foot to the floor results in seriously neck-snapping straight-line acceleration, the direct result of all the big battery’s 66-kWh capacity and the immediacy of an electric motor’s power delivery, especially one putting out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. With Sport mode engaged (which really does make a difference), it’s 0.2 seconds quicker off the line than the long-gone Fiesta ST, by the way, the Bolt launching from standstill to 100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds, but its 1,616-kilo (3,563-lb) curb weight is just too much to make it as agile through the corners as the 1,234 kg (2,721 lb) blue-oval hatchback.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The split-screen parking monitor, complete with an overhead bird’s-eye view, makes parking ultra-easy.

It holds its own nonetheless, and provides a more comfortable ride, which no doubt matters more to the majority of EV buyers. On that note, I left it in one-pedal mode most of the time, what you get by pulling the gear lever rearward to its L position. This allows you to drive by just using the throttle; what might otherwise be called the gas pedal in a conventional vehicle, or we could call it the go-pedal if you prefer. So set, braking is mostly automatic via electric motor drag when lifting the right foot. It’s an incredibly smooth operator, much better, in fact, than any previous system like this I’ve used. Normally there’s too much braking power, causing everyone’s heads to bob back and forth uncomfortably when pressing and lifting off the go-pedal, but the Bolt was really smooth and easy to modulate.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Simply pull the electronic shift lever rearward to “L” in order to engage one-pedal drive mode, which will do most of the braking for you automatically.

Chevy also provides a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that effectively does the same when it comes to braking, so if you prefer to have less rolling resistance for a more traditional feel when driving around, you can just leave it in drive and use the steering wheel paddle to brake when needed. Of course, there’s a big brake pedal in the usual spot, just in case you need to stop quickly.

The steering wheel rim next to braking paddle is heatable, incidentally, while the Bolt Premier’s three-way heated front seats were capable of therapeutic levels of warmth. Additionally, a wireless device charger was integrated within the lower centre console, purposely tucked away so drivers won’t be tempted to glance down at an incoming message when on the road. Chevy made sure that texts can be viewed and responded to (via stock answers) on the centre display, so there’s less need to touch it while driving. Two USB-A connectors and a powered auxiliary port can be found right beside the wireless charging pad, while another two USB-A charging points are located on the backside of the front console for rear passengers.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Chevy didn’t include a power-adjustable driver’s seat, but it was very comfortable just the same.

In case you were wondering if the Bolt Premier’s $50k-plus retail price buys you lavish levels of luxurious finishings, Chevy wasn’t feeling generous when applying the types of soft-touch synthetic surfaces found in cars costing upwards of $30,000. Instead, it gets a small rubber armrest on each door panel, plus a more comfortable padded leatherette one in the middle. I found the seats excellent, offering good support all around, but surprisingly they’re not powered. Should we chalk that up to environmentally conscious weight savings?

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The rear passenger area has impressive legroom and headroom, plus heated outboard seats.

Along with the manual seats and lack of navigation, my top-line Bolt was also missing a sunroof, and just in case you didn’t notice me mention it above, the automatic HVAC system only has one single zone. Some of these items can be found in similarly sized subcompact hatchbacks sold in the low $20,000s, so when it comes to these creature comforts, at least, be prepared to pay more for less.

Of course, the majority the money goes towards the big battery pack and electrical drive system that makes driving it so much fun, and so ultimately efficient. It’s also roomy, especially for legroom and headroom. Chevy designed it with a long wheelbase to accommodate the battery, which spans the entire floor, from the front foot well to rearmost portion of the back seat. The end result is a noticeable improvement in legroom over its subcompact peers, while head space in this class is almost always open and airy. This said it’s narrower than compacts like Chevy’s old Cruze and Volt, but not by much, while it’s a lot wider than the little Spark, so there’s more room for elbows and knees.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
The rear hatch lifts up high out of the way, and the dedicated storage are is quite large for the class.

The driver’s position fit my long-legged, short-torso body ideally, with excellent reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, while most rear passengers should be able to stretch their legs out to some extent, due to feet slotting easily underneath the front seat. A nice large folding armrest can be found at the centre of the rear row, while heated seats are included in back too. There’s decent storage as well, with 1,603 litres (56.6 cu ft) available when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, making this a very practical little electric. Chevy even includes a removable cargo floor for fitting in taller cargo or stowing belongings below, one item of which was the aforementioned 120-volt household-style charge cord that can be used at home while waiting for a 240-volt system to be installed.

2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
A 60/40-split rear seatback increases cargo carrying capacity to 1,603 litres, while the floor is removable for hiding valuables or fitting in tall items.

So that’s the 2021 Chevy Bolt from front to back, with a little sales info and road testing to spice things up in between. If you’re looking for the best deal on a subcompact hatchback it’s probably not the car for you, but if you want the most advanced small hatch on the market, not to mention one of the more affordable new electric cars available, it’s a very good choice that I can’t help but recommend. Its overall performance is strong, range superb, infotainment technology impressive, overall livability great for the small car sector, and overall design appealing for a car in its class.

The all-new 2022 model will remedy a significant portion of my pricing complaint, so if you’re considering one of these outgoing 2021 models, make sure to aggressively push for a final price that comes closer to matching the much more affordable new version. If your Chevy dealer can’t do that, you should probably choose a 2022.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV. It arrived…

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i Road Test

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
BMW’s X3 still looks good after all these years, even in base xDrive30i trim.

There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV.

It arrived for 2018 and hasn’t changed much since, only adding automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and parking sensors as standard equipment for 2019, plus LED headlamps with cornering lights and navigation standard for 2020 (along with the option of a new plug-in hybrid xDrive30e variant), and finally SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto smartphone connectivity (which was never offered previously), lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring as standard for 2021. There have been a few other small details changed along the way, such as paint colours and some minor interior trim bits, but it’s mostly been the exact same SUV for the past five years.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Although the X3 looks sleek compared to some of its rivals, BMW also makes the even sportier X4.

This said, 2022 will bring some significant styling updates as part of a mid-cycle refresh, including a squarer grille to align it more cohesively with BMW’s latest design philosophy, plus new LED headlamps, updated taillights, revised front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, and massaged exhaust tips. All mechanicals remain the same, other than the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e that will be discontinued.

Changes inside will include an updated centre stack and lower console, now featuring a standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as an identically sized infotainment display at centre, with a 12.3-inch option for each. A number of secondary controls have been moved around and modified, making it almost seem like an all-new model, but make no mistake, the crossover you see here is basically the same SUV you’ll be buying next year, other than styling and electronics.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
These 20-inch alloys are optional, but the LED headlights and LED fogs are standard.

Then again, it may have better interior quality. This will take a personal deep-dive in order to verify, but then again, the current X3 is so well finished inside and out that I’d question BMW’s ability to make it much better. Certainly, they could spend Rolls-Royce dollars and blow us all away, but so far not many competitors can touch BMW’s interior quality in the X3’s $50k price point.

To be clear, the X3 xDrive30i starts at $52,550 plus freight and fees, which is a bit more than most of its peers. In fact, the only competitive luxury SUVs priced higher than the X3 are Tesla’s Model Y at $55,000, Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio at $55,190, Porsche’s Macan at $57,800, Jaguar’s F-Pace at $60,350, and Land Rover’s Range Rover Velar at $63,500, plus some of the coupe-like compact utes including BMW’s own X4, as well as a number of all-electric rivals.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
BMW provides some very nice exterior details.

Pricing in this class is all over the map, incidentally, with the cheapest entry being Buick’s Envision at $35,998, if it really does qualify as a true compact luxury SUV competitor. But Cadillac’s XT4 does, of course, and it’s priced a mere $100 higher at $36,098, making the price gap between most affordable and priciest a shocking $27,400. The X3’s more popular competitors’ window stickers come closer to the $50k mid-point, mind you, with the segment’s best-selling rival in 2020 being the $44,505 Acura RDX, followed by the $46,550 Audi Q5 (that includes sales of the sportier $55,400 Q5 Sportback), plus the $49,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC (its sales totals also including the $53,900 GLC Coupe), and finally the $47,100 Lexus NX, putting the X3 in fifth place last year.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The X3 incorporates one of the best quality interiors in its compact luxury SUV class.

The X3 has dropped down to sixth so far in 2021 (it stays fifth when including X4 sales), thanks to Q2 sales of 3,120 units, and Tesla’s Model Y managing 3,200 deliveries, although with perfectly even totals of 1,600 sales per quarter it’s difficult to believe the U.S. tech firm’s numbers. There’s been some shuffling on top too, with 2021 Q2 totals placing the Q5 well into the lead with 5,702 deliveries, followed by the GLC with 3,806, NX with 3,619, and finally last year’s top-selling RDX with just 3,456, but these standings could very well change before the year is out, plus this by no means speaks to each model’s popularity, being that many automakers are having problems producing at full capacity due to chip shortages.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Most surfaces are soft to the touch, including the lower dash and glove box lid.

In the US, incidentally, the X3 was number one in 2020 with 59,777 deliveries, followed by the NX with 55,784, RDX with 52,785, GLC with 52,626, and Q5 with 50,435, while the Q5 has jumped right up behind the X3 so far this year thanks to 33,566 unit-sales compared to 36,273 respectively. This said, the Model Y had more than doubled X3 sales as of June’s end, with a total of 76,429 units (and the U.S. division’s numbers appear legit).

Maintaining best-selling status amongst gasoline-powered internal combustion engine offerings (including a PHEV) in the U.S., and top-five in Canada (or fourth including the X4) is impressive no matter what factors have been at play, and this despite a higher-than-average base price. Model Y aside, the Stelvio (at 487 units), Macan (at 2,283), F-Pace (at 1,446), and Velar (at 1,339) sell in much smaller numbers, so the X3 may just be one of the more profitable models in the class.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
A digital gauge cluster with plenty of preconfigured layouts comes standard.

I, for one, would be willing to pay significantly more for its superb interior, which includes one of the best driving positions and driver’s seats in the category, plus the X3’s impressive driving dynamics. The latter has always been a BMW hallmark, but it’s not necessarily because of engine performance in xDrive30i trim. The 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out a reasonable 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in this base model, which makes it good for spirited 6.3-second sprints from standstill to 100 km/h, and a top track speed of 210 km/h (130 mph), but it’s by no means class-leading when it comes to straight-line performance.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The centre stack is well organized, and all the switchgear is top-notch.

I’ve long known BMW to be conservative with all performance specs, however, and can honestly say it felt quicker off the line than its official claimed time, but either way its eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly overall, plenty quick in Sport mode, was even more engaging when using its steering wheel-mounted paddles, and certainly couldn’t achieve the model’s 10.2 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined fuel economy rating when driving so aggressively.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The top-line Ultimate package includes this very handy overhead parking camera.

Driven moderately in its most economical mode the X3 xDrive30i actually ties the Q5 45 TFSI Quattro for thriftiest base all-wheel drive model in the segment, with both models’ key GLC rival second-to-last due to a rather thirsty 10.0 L/100km combined rating. Buick’s more powerful Envision AWD comes in second at 9.5 combined, followed by AWD versions of the Stelvio at 9.6, NX, new Genesis GV70, and XT4 at 9.7, F-Pace and Lincoln Corsair at 9.8, RDX and Volvo XC60 at 9.9, Velar at 10.5, Infiniti QX50 at 10.8, Macan at 11.3, and Land Rover Discovery Sport at 11.5 combined. Yes, the competition is tight, but bragging rights are bragging rights, and BMW deserves credit for making such a great driver so easy on fuel.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Wireless charging is always appreciated, optional as part of the $4,500 Premium Package Essential and also included in the as-tested Ultimate package.

Now that we’re talking practicalities, I’ve only mentioned how well the X3 handles, without commenting on its excellent ride quality. It truly is a comfortable city conveyance, even with my tester’s uprated 20-inch alloys on 245/45 Pirellis. Likewise, it can eat up highway miles easier than most in this size class, its adaptive cruise control flawless at maintaining a desired speed no matter the weather or topography.

the $4,500 Premium Package Essential
All of the 8-speed automatic’s drive modes are easily selectable from buttons to the left of the gear lever.

It’s just such moments that the aforementioned near-best-in-class driver’s seat and overall top-notch driving position proved this SUV worthy of its increased price, the tilt and telescopic steering wheel reaching rearward enough to provide ideal comfort and control, despite my long-legged, short-torso body type. The rim of that wheel is wrapped in a very high-grade leather, plus is heatable for keeping fingers warm mid-winter, while the seat leather feels higher in grade than some competitive hides, despite being the most basic in BMW’s line.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
This is one of the most comfortable and supportive driver’s seats in the compact luxury SUV segment.

The Bavarian automaker provided an attractive leather-like soft-touch synthetic across the entire dash top too, which was beautifully stitched together with contrasting thread. My X3 received the same surfacing for the door uppers, inserts and armrests, albeit these last items were even more padded for added comfort, while the door inlays were finished in a nicely textured aluminum. There was no shortage of aluminized trim elsewhere, not to mention piano black lacquered composite across the lower console, of all places, where it will be more likely to attract dust and scratches (this is not one of my favourite trends), but nonetheless the workmanship is as good as this class gets, and overall solidity and refinement bar none.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
All of the X3’s upgrade packages include this stunning panoramic sunroof.

All the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, with the only weakness being hard plastic used for the lower door panels, but this is par for the course in the X3’s compact luxury SUV segment. Then again, the entire lower dash is soft synthetic, which is unusually good for this segment, even including the sides of the centre console, making it nicer for larger folk whose knees might otherwise chafe.

The rear compartment is almost as comfortable as up front, with ample room in all directions, plus the same level of fit, finish and materials quality. My well-equipped model provided plenty of back seat toys too, some for warming derrieres, others shading eyes from sunlight, and yet one more for providing additional sun if desired, the latter two achieved via side window sunshades and a big panoramic glass sunroof.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and can be filled with top-tier luxury features.

On that note, my tester was upgraded with the $12,100 Ultimate Package, which includes the extra-large sunroof as well as a proximity-sensing entry system, ambient lighting, universal remote, and wireless device charging, these otherwise found in the $4,500 Premium Package Essential upgrade; plus the head-up display, wonderful sounding Harman/Kardon surround audio system, four-way powered lumbar support, heated rear outboard seats, rear sunshades, storage compartment package, and more from the $6,500 Premium Package Enhanced; while ultimately adding adaptive full LED headlights with High Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus with a 360-degree overhead surround monitor, Driving Assistant Plus, BMW Gesture Control, adjustable rear seats, and more.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The X3’s dedicated cargo area is large and accommodating, but the retractable cargo cover is heavy and difficult to remove.

This package pushed the price of my X3 xDrive30i over $65k, with a few items not mentioned included as well, but take note that BMW is providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives right now, with CarCostCanada members saving an average of $2,181 thanks to learning about the X3’s dealer invoice pricing before negotiation. Find out how the CarCostCanada system can work for you, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store before you start shopping, so you can have all of their critical info at your fingertips when you need it most.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The cargo cover can be locked into place under the floor, while a large hidden compartment provides storage of valuables.

BMW electronics are some of the best available, by the way, with my X3 featuring high-definition displays and bright, colourful graphics that never ceased to delight. As expected, the primary gauges were digital and fully configurable, while the centre display is a nice widescreen tablet-style design featuring a convenient, easy-to-use tile layout.

At the opposite end of the SUV, you may have noticed me mention a storage compartment package when previously listing out options. The upgrade, amongst other items, includes really useful aluminum rails in the cargo compartment for lashing down large items. Of course, the usual tie-down latches can be found in the rearmost cargo compartment’s four corners, plus a small netted stowage area to the left, and best of all, an extremely deep hidden compartment below the rigid cargo floor, along with a spot to lock down the retractable cargo cover when not in use. This is a hefty piece of German handiwork, by the way, and takes a fair bit of strong-armed finesse to remove.

2021 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Ideally configured 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks can be laid flat via levers on the cargo area sidewalls, while an optional storage compartment package adds aluminum rails for lashing down larger items.

The X3’s dedicated stowage area is reasonably generous for the class, measuring 813 litres (29 cu ft), but keep in mind that it grows to 1,775 litres (62.7 cu ft) when lowering the rear seatbacks via convenient release levers on each sidewall. I’m an even bigger fan of the large centre pass-through provided by the rear seat’s 40/20/40-split configuration, which allows for longer belongings like skis to be stuffed down the middle while both rear passengers enjoy the benefit of those previously mentioned butt warmers.

If an over-engineered cargo cover is all I can find to complain about, it’s obvious that BMW has done a very good job engineering this much-loved SUV. The X3’s overall build quality is excellent, finishing impressive, feature set right up at the top of this category, and overall drivability in a class of few. No wonder it still sells so well after all these years.

Review by Trevor Hofmann

Photos by Karen Tuggay

Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking…

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited Road Test

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Kia’s new Telluride is one great looking mid-size SUV, especially in its top-line SX Limited trim.

Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking Chevy’s subtler grille design more than GMC’s bolder iteration, or vice versa. I hear this type of talk a lot in chats about the two South Korean SUVs, and more often than not the Telluride gets two thumbs up when it comes to styling.

To be clear, I talk more often to gents about such things than ladies, and we should all know by now how important a women’s decision is in the buying process, especially in the family-friendly three-row crossover category. This might have something to do with the Palisade outselling the Telluride by more than two to one in Canada last year, Hyundai’s numbers reaching 7,279 units compared to just 3,474 deliveries for Kia. The divide is narrowing for 2021, with Hyundai growing Palisade sales to 4,037 examples during the first two quarters, and Kia stepping up with 2,531 Telluride deliveries.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s profile is squarer and more upright than most competitors, which gives it a more traditional SUV look that many like.

Looking at these numbers, we can’t underestimate the power of the Hyundai brand in Canada, compared to Kia which got a much later start. While Hyundai arrived here in 1984, it only took two years to enter the U.S. market. Kia, on the other hand, didn’t travel north of the 49th until 1999, a full six years after a solid head start in the U.S. Kia has certainly been gaining ground over the past 20 years, but it’s always been a case of playing catchup in both markets.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Breaking up the blocky shape is a set of stylishly curving taillights.

Interestingly, despite only being on the market for a bit over two years, the Telluride is already outselling the Acadia, its three-row competitor from aforementioned GMC. To clarify how significant this is, the Acadia has been on the market since 2006, giving it a 13-year advantage, while 2021 saw a bolder new face thanks to a mid-cycle refresh. To be fair to the General, the second-generation Acadia is now in its fifth year of availability, although it should also be noted that the Telluride is currently on track to beat the newest Acadia’s best year of sales. As it is right now, Kia’s largest offering is outselling a whole host of similarly sized three-row rivals, from Nissan’s Pathfinder to Subaru’s Ascent.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited and 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate
It’s easy to see the difference between the top-tier Telluride and my Hyundai Palisade Ultimate tester.

Like the two classic General Motors SUVs, the Telluride and Palisade are basically the same crossover with different styling details. Clearly this is nothing new in the industry, continuing today with the just-noted Acadia plus its Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave and Cadillac XT6 cousins, as well as Ford’s Explorer and its Lincoln Aviator partner, plus the previously mentioned Pathfinder and Infiniti’s QX60.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited and 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate
The two SUV’s rear stying differences are subtler.

This said, the two Korean automakers took a different styling direction with the Telluride and Palisade than those just mentioned. They’re designs are more upright and squared off, making them appear more like traditional body-on-frame SUVs than sleek, car-like crossovers. This is even truer for the Telluride, which completes its chunky design with a rectangular front grille, squarish stacked LED headlamps, and a sharply angled lower front fascia, while its blocky side profile culminates in a similarly rectangular-shaped liftgate that’s bookended by two vertical taillights curving inward elegantly as they rise up from the rear bumper. It’s at once rugged and refined, providing a best of both worlds image that’s not unlike something from Range Rover, and just like that British icon the Telluride only gets better upon closer inspection.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
SX and SX Limited trims get a unique grille treatment.

Its side window trim, for instance, feels as if it’s made from highly polished billet nickel, similar in fact to Lexus’ application of its bright metal window dressing. Kia just calls it “satin chrome,” so it’s probably not made from nickel, but either way these are some of the nicest window surrounds in the industry.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
LED headlamps come standard across the Telluride line.

Inside, the A and B pillars are fabric-wrapped with the same high-quality woven material used for my SX Limited trim’s headliner, which itself is hollowed out from dual glass sunroofs, these including a regular moonroof up front and a large panoramic one in back. The look and feel of everything above the shoulders is premium, including the overhead console that houses switchgear to open the just-noted sunroofs and their powered fabric shades, plus the LED reading lights and buttons for activating the standard UVO Intelligence connected car services and emergency assistance system. A second overhead console can be found in between the two sunroofs, this one housing larger LED dome lights as well as controls for the automatic climate system’s third zone.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These 20-inch alloys are standard with the SX and SX Limited.

Moving downward, the dash top is finished in a nice rubberized soft-touch synthetic, with what feels like real stitching, while the same pliable composite is used for the front and rear door uppers. Below these is the closest reproduction of matte finish hardwood I’ve ever seen, with a substantive density that really had me questioning whether it was real or not (I checked, it isn’t).

No shortage of satin silver trim brightens up much of the rest of the cabin, plus a reasonable amount of piano black lacquered plastic, although this inky surface treatment was only kept to the lower console. This, however, is strange, because the lower console is the most likely place to get scratched, so it would be much better for Kia to come up with a less scratch-prone surface treatment for this high-use area.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Two large sunroofs combine with anodized roof rails on both SX trims.

At least this central divider is bordered by stitched leatherette-wrapped grab handles for the driver and front passenger, these also housing switchgear for the three-way heated and ventilated front seats. The console itself is filled with a wireless charging pad, two USB-A ports and a 12-volt charger hidden below a pop-up door, while a leather-wrapped and skirted shift lever rests ahead of a purposeful looking metal-edged rotating Drive/Terrain mode selector, complete with Comfort, Eco, Sport, Smart, Snow, Mud and Sand modes that are capable of tackling all sorts of driving situations, while a bunch of quick-access driving function buttons surround the electromechanical parking brake lever just behind.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These boomerang taillights are infused with LEDs in SX Limited trim.

The rest of the Telluride’s instruments are well organized, with my SX Limited tester’s primary gauge cluster comprised of two conventional analogue dials surrounding temperature and fuel sub-dials, centered by a large comprehensive multi-information display in full colour. This MID’s most unique feature is the live projection of two rear-facing cameras that completely eliminate blind spots upon applying the turn signals. Honda and Acura have long offered a right-side camera that displays on the larger centre infotainment screen, but only in models that don’t include their lane-change warning system. Kia, on the other hand, provides both technologies simultaneously to make double sure the adjacent lane is clear from traffic. On top of this, literally, is a head-up display, exclusive to SX Limited trim.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The top-line Telluride SX Limited provides a truly upscale interior that could easily be compared to SUVs from premium brands.

The Telluride’s centre infotainment display is a touch-sensitive widescreen that’s wonderfully easy to use and filled with attractive graphics in a tile-style layout. You can swipe it back and forth for additional features, plus use smartphone and tablet-style pinch gestures for specific functions including the navigation map, which just happens to be the default selection on the menu’s left-side tile. Audio system info can be found on the menu’s centre tile, while Hyundai’s proprietary “Driver Talk” rear passenger communication system is set to the right, while owners can customize the tiles in system setup if this default assortment doesn’t suit their personal requirements, and believe me there’s a lot of options to choose from.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s well organized cockpit includes loads of features and an excellent driving position.

Infotainment features not yet mentioned include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a voice memo, driving info, media, and more, while just below the touchscreen is a row of satin-metallic finished quick access buttons for the navigation system’s map, route guidance setup, the radio, media functions like satellite radio and Bluetooth audio, seek and track functions, favourites, and vehicle setup. Just under this is a dual-zone automatic HVAC interface that includes some switchgear for the third rear zone, plus a button for the heatable steering wheel that would no doubt keep its leather-wrapped rim toasty warm in winter, but being that I tested this SUV mid-summer, the top of the wheel already felt as if it was on fire after being parked.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The upgraded gauge cluster’s 7.0-inch display includes live projection of two rear-facing cameras that completely eliminate blind spots upon applying the turn signals.

That steering wheel spokes are filled with high-quality satin-finish metal and piano black switchgear, some of which include knurled-metal rocker switches for performing functions like adjusting the audio volume to answering the phone, or applying the adaptive cruise control and using the multi-information display. Likewise, the door panel-mounted power window and mirror controls are made from high-quality materials, with good fitment and nice damping, a theme that carries through the entire cabin. The doors’ lower panels, which are made from a harder composite, feature attractive metal-rimmed Harman Kardon speaker grilles, while the sound emanating from within is even more impressive.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s large 10.25-inch touchscreen is filled with features and easy to use.

My SX Limited’s six-way powered driver’s seat was comfortable and its positioning superb, with plenty of rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, which oddly is not powered despite Kia having provided memory in this near top-tier trim (only an all-black Nightsky edition costs more, and includes all of the same features as the SX Limited). I thought maybe the top-line Hyundai Palisade would provide a powered steering column, but not so for that SUV either.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Navigation comes standard across the Telluride line.

Nevertheless, the driver’s seat includes a powered lower cushion extension for comfortably cupping under the knees, plus two-way powered lumbar support that met the small of my back nicely, while the driving position is excellent as noted, this not always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame, but I felt comfortable and fully in control at all times. The seats provide excellent lower back support and plenty of comforting padding all-round, with reasonable side bolstering too. I believe they’ll be good for most body types, plus the Telluride should be roomy enough for almost anyone.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s 8-speed automatic performs seamlessly, and its drive mode selector widely varied.

Like most Kia models, the Telluride’s rear passengers are treated just as nicely as those up front. The finishings are much the same, with near identical door panels, other than manual window shades in back, plus other niceties are added such as leather and mesh pockets in the backsides of the front seats, hooks for a garbage bag or what-have-you, and USB-A charging ports for each rear passenger on the sides of each front seat. The rear outboard seats cool and heat in SX Limited trim too, while the backside of the front centre console provides a 12-volt charger along with a household-style 110-volt power outlet.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The 6-way powered driver seat features power-extendable lower cushions and 2-way powered lumbar for good comfort.

Look upward and you’ll see an HVAC vent directly in front of each outboard passenger, while the aforementioned overhead lights and auto climate controls are within easy reach in the middle of the ceiling.

A large, comfortable armrest, complete with dual cupholders, splits the two outboard passengers when the centre position is unoccupied, this made from the same supple Nappa leather as used for the seat surfaces throughout the interior. Making it easier to slide onto those soft leather seats is a large grab handle on the B-pillar, something not always included with competitors.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
This two-pane panoramic sunroof provides plenty of light overhead, yet maintains the SUV’s structural rigidity due to a thick body panel in between.

To access the third row, simply push an electronic release button on the top side of the second-row seatback, after which the entire seat automatically slides forward with plenty of room to climb inside with ease. The third row is very comfortable, with seats that wrap around one’s back and good support in the lower regions, plus this compartment is truly roomy, even when second-row passengers are given more than enough space to move around ahead. In fact, I could easily sit in the very back with room for my feet underneath the second-row seats, plus about three inches above my head and more than enough room from side-to-side, complemented by nice views through the side quarter windows, along with a separate USB-A plug and two cupholders on each side. The rearmost driver-side passenger even has an extra spot for storage, while there are separate overhead vents for each third-row occupant too, as well as some ambient lights so no one feels lost in the dark.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Second row roominess and comfort is impressive, while fit, finish and materials quality is as good as up front.

Additionally, the dedicated cargo area behind the rear seats is spacious at 601 litres (21.2 cu ft), and includes a section below the rigid cargo floor for stowing more items out of sight. The 60/40-split third row is easy to fold down, first by automatically dropping the headrests with pull-tabs, and then by a set of buttons on the left side of the cargo wall, just above another 12-volt charger. This opens up 1,304 litres (46 cu ft) of nearly flat cargo space, while lowering the second row provides a maximum cargo volume of 2,455 litres (86.7 cu ft). Of course, the liftgate is powered, opening quickly enough, plus Kia has even gone so far as to finish off the cargo door sill with a polished stainless-steel guard.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Access to the third row is generous, and only requires the press of an electronic button.

As you might expect, the Telluride is more about comfort than speed, and therefore all occupants will appreciate the superb ride that complements those comfortable seats I just spoke about. It’s relatively hefty at 1,970 to 2,018 kilos (4,343 to 4,449 lbs), depending on trim, but nevertheless it’s fairly quick off the line thanks to a strong 3.8-litre V6 that’s good for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, plus a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that’s quick to respond to input.

Fuel economy is not great at 12.6 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.3 combined, especially when compared to the non-hybrid Toyota Highlander’s 11.8 city, 8.6 highway and 10.3 combined rating, but it’s not as thirsty as some in this class either.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These are two of the most comfortable rear seats in the three-row SUV sector.

On more of a positive, the Telluride handles corners well, within reason of course. Again, it’s primarily built for comfort, but can manage sharp curves with confidence and is especially poised over rough pavement and gravel, my SX Limited tester including a self-leveling rear suspension along with 20-inch alloys encircled by 245/50R20 all-season tires. Its 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) towing capacity means it’s also good for small boats and campers, always important in this family SUV sector.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Cargo space is very generous, and the luggage compartment nicely finished.

Additional standard SX Limited features not yet mentioned include rain-sensing wipers and LED taillights, while items pulled up from second-rung SX trim include the just-noted 20-inch wheels, the rear portion of the aforementioned dual-pane sunroof, and the rear sunshades, plus a hot-stamped satin chrome grille, satin chrome door handles, satin chrome beltline trim, a set of high-gloss side mirror caps, anodized roof rails, silver-painted skid plates, single-to-twin exhaust tips, metal door scuff plates, metal-finished foot pedals, ambient mood lighting, the 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster with blind-spot view monitor noted earlier (which replaces a 3.5-inch cluster display), a 360-degree surround parking monitor, front parking sensors, and the fabulous sounding Harman Kardon audio system noted before.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Switches on the cargo area sidewall lower the rear seats.

Lastly, some standard Telluride EX features pulled up to SX Limited trim include LED headlamps with high beam assist, LED daytime running lights and positioning lamps, LED fog lights, a solar glass windshield and solar front side windows, the aforementioned front moonroof, automatic power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, plus the leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob noted earlier, as well as the superb faux woodgrain trim, tri-zone auto climate control with automatic defog, the 10.25-inch centre touchscreen with navigation, HD and satellite radio, the wireless charger and all of the other phone connectivity features mentioned before, a smart key with pushbutton start/stop, smart cruise control, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, express up/down powered windows, and a powered liftgate.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Need to pick up building supplies? No problem.

Kia also includes a whole host of advanced safety and convenience features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance assist (FCA), Lane Follow Assist (LFA), Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCTCAA), and Highway Drive Assist (HDA), plus a Driver Attention Alert system (DAA), safe exit assist system, rear occupant alert, rear parking sensors, and seven airbags including one for the driver’s knees.

All of these standard features don’t come cheap, causing the base Telluride EX to start at a fairly lofty $46,195 plus freight and fees, but keep in mind that competitors with similar features are priced in this range, and sometimes higher. On that note, the Telluride SX can be had from $51,195, while my SX Limited tester starts at $54,695, with the blackened Nightsky edition just $1,000 more at $55,695.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Valuables can be hidden below the cargo floor.

Kia is currently offering up to $750 in additional incentives, by the way, which you can find out about by becoming a CarCostCanada member. Check out how the CarCostCanada system works now, and learn how Telluride buyers saved an average of $2,111 by researching dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best deal. To make the most of these CarCostCanada features, be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all this important information on your phone when you need it most.

Summing up the 2021 Kia Telluride, it’s not only a great looking mid-size SUV, but a good choice for those who want a premium-level experience without spending luxury brand pricing. It drives very well, delivers supreme comfort, and comes as well equipped as anything in its segment, while Kia backs up all of its new models with a class-leading five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. For these reasons and more, the new Telluride has earned its place amongst my favourite three-row SUVs, making it 100-percent worthy of your attention.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.…

2021 Honda HR-V Sport Road Test

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The 2021 Honda HR-V, tested in mid-range Sport trim, still looks good after all these years.

Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.

Those of us that like small, useful crossovers owe thanks to early adopters, such as Honda Element that blazed the trail in 2003. Others followed, like Jeep’s Compass and Patriot in 2006, Nissan’s Cube and Juke in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and the Scion (Toyota) xB that arrived here in 2011, albeit joined the element in the U.S. for 2003. Suzuki’s Samurai actually dates all the way back to 1985, but it (and the Vitara that followed) was a true 4×4 and therefore doesn’t really fit into this crossover segment that often doesn’t even offer all-wheel drive.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The HR-V Sport’s styling benefits from plenty of glossy black trim and sportier alloy wheels.

Being that AWD is optional and standard on my tester’s Sport trim line, the HR-V isn’t relegated amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s FWD-only alternatives, which are quickly replacing subcompact hatchbacks, but just the same it effectively ousted the once-popular Fit as Honda’s subcompact ride of choice.

The two, in fact, have a lot in common. Both share platform architectures and other unseen components, plus most noticeably their innovative 60/40-split “Magic Seats” system in back, that’s long provided class-leading storage in their respective categories. This last attribute, along with their overall comfort, reasonable performance, impressive fuel economy, and expected reliability, are why I’ve probably recommended them more than any other two cars in their classes.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The Sport receives a gloss-black grille insert, lower lip spoiler, wheel cut-out flairs, sill extensions, wheel pockets, and rear bumper, plus fog lamps up front.

Honda isn’t alone in discontinuing its subcompact car, by the way. In fact, this once dozen-or-so-strong segment has been whittled down to just three cars, or five when including 2020 models still loitering around unsold on dealer lots. A smattering of new Fits are probably on that list, so for those wanting to save big on a similarly sized car with near identical functionality, may want to take advantage of a $16,390 (plus freight and fees) starting price, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent according to CarCostCanada (whose members having been saving an average of $1,000 when purchasing a new Fit due to their access of dealer invoice pricing info and more).

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
Unique fabric wrapped door uppers can be found on the inside of the rear doors as well.

The HR-V, incidentally, starts at $25,200, although Honda is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives no questions asked, while CarCostCanada members have been saving an average of $2,571. You really should check out how easy and affordable it is to save so much money, plus access all their other information about manufacturer rebates, pricing, options, etcetera. It’s a great service, and now available from a free smartphone app that’s downloadable at Google’s Play Store or the Apple Store.

Honda provides the HR-V in three trims for 2021, including LX, which is available in both FWD or AWD, the latter starting at $27,500, plus as-tested Sport, which as noted earlier comes standard with AWD for $30,500, and finally Touring that starts at $33,700 and also features standard AWD.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The HR-V’s instrument panels is well organized and quite upscale thanks to a padded soft-touch bolster ahead of the front passenger.

With the only available options for each trim being dealer-added accessories and $300 metallic paint colours, my tester finished in eye-catching Orange Burst Metallic, I might as well get such extras out of the way before delving into standard features. With respect to the latter, base LX trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/55 all-season tires, a front wiper de-icer, heated and powered side mirrors, remote access, heatable front seats, single-zone automatic climate control, a multi-angle rearview parking camera, a centre display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a 160-watt four-speaker stereo, and more, including those fabulous Magic Seats mentioned earlier.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
This is a very sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel for this subcompact SUV class.

All HR-Vs come with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and convenience technologies too, such as Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and automatic high beams, plus of course all the usual active and passive safety gear.

Adding AWD to the LX brings nothing more to the trim line, but moving up to the HR-V Sport makes a big difference visually thanks to much sportier looking machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets, plus a glossy black surface treatment added to the grille insert, revised front lip spoiler, wheel cut-out and rocker panel extensions, rear bumper and more. Front fog lamps continue the performance theme, as does a chrome exhaust tip in back, while the mirror caps receive integrated LED turn indicators, and the roof becomes more useful due to silver rails at each side and a black glass moonroof in the middle.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The big gauge cluster is highly legible in all lighting conditions.

That powered glass sunroof is a lot more enjoyable from the inside, where it sheds light on a special leather-wrapped steering wheel with attached paddle shifters above, and chrome-accented sport pedals below, not to mention another zone for the auto HVAC system, two more speakers and 20 additional watts of power for the audio system, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to help maintain a hushed sense of serenity from the outside world, and possible best of all, proximity-sensing entry for easier access.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The centre display’s rearview camera is made even more helpful with multiple viewing angles.

Touring trim replaces the wheels’ black paint with a shade of medium grey, swaps out the halogen projector-beam headlights with LEDs and simple auto-off system with auto-on/off, reverts the grille insert to the base LX’ dark chrome hue, paints the Sport’s gloss-black exterior trim elements in body-colour, and adds rain-sensing wipers, leather for the shift knob and seating surfaces, ups the infotainment system with navigation plus HD and satellite radio, and tops everything off with an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

All HR-Vs come standard with Honda’s i-VTEC-enhanced 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, resulting in amply spirited performance off the line and a cruising speed that’s considerably faster than the posted limits. The aforementioned paddle shifters are good for downshifting to hold a “gear” when coursing through corners, something the HR-V does quite well despite its torsion-beam rear suspension, although I must admit to being more comfortable recommending this little ute for buyers who rate practicality over performance.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
Touch-sensitive controls make this dual-zone auto HVAC interface feel pretty upscale.

To that end it provides one of the more compliant suspension setups in the class, capable of absorbing any city’s or countryside’s pavement irregularities with grace and composure thanks in part to amplitude reactive dampers, while eking out a pretty decent fuel economy rating of 9.1 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 8.5 combined. You’ll need to engage the HR-V’s standard Eco Assist system and drive modestly if you want to attain such numbers, but thanks in part to an efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) it’s easily doable.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The HR-V’s standard CVT results in smooth, linear operation, while paddle shifters on the steering wheel make the entire driving experience more engaging.

If those numbers seem a bit high, the LX FWD is stingier at 8.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 7.8 combined, while the same base trim with AWD gets a respective rating of 8.8, 7.5 and 8.2. Some in this class do better, but then again others aren’t quite as miserly. You should also keep in mind that most manufacturers provide more than one model in this burgeoning subcompact SUV category, with many that are smaller than the HR-V, while a few brands include hybrid-electric and full-EV variants as well, which, while initially more expensive, are much thriftier to drive.

Of course, now that this rapidly growing segment includes more than two dozen entries, compared to just 14 when the HR-V arrived in June of 2015, choosing the exact one to serve your needs has become more complicated. This said, despite the HR-V being three years into its fairly comprehensive mid-cycle refresh, and seven years into this second-generation body style (we never saw the first-gen model), its strong fifth-place position on 2020’s subcompact SUV sales chart should help you understand what a superb little runabout it truly is.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
Sport trim’s fabric-upholstered seats are very comfortable and totally supportive.

The interior has always been finished well, with a premium-like soft composite surrounding the centre display and bolster ahead of the front passenger, plus unique woven black fabric one-piece door uppers and inserts with comfortable padding underneath. The material almost looks like a black denim, but it’s softer and appears more like the cloth used for the roof-liner above. I like the look and the feel, as its plush and easy on arms and elbows. The door panels’ armrests are large and covered in a stitched leatherette, these mirroring the centre armrest and looking much like the sides of lower centre console, which while more rubber-like in feel, protect the inside knees of both front occupants.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The powered moonroof is a bit small compared to some of the panoramic sunroofs offered these days.

Unlike most vehicles in this class, Honda finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, including the same high-quality fabric for the door uppers. This is a big deal, because most competitors downgrade the rear seating areas. This said, don’t expect to find outboard seat warmers in back, or any other luxury touches, but you won’t care as soon as you start playing with the magical seats that I keep going on and on about.

Need to stow a bike (without its front wheel) upright inside? Simply flip the rear cushions upward, pickup truck style, and an otherwise difficult challenge becomes as easy as walking it in. So configured, the second-row floor is ideal for transporting tall potted plants as well, or any other unwieldy cargo, while the dedicated luggage compartment benefits from a lower load floor than most rivals as well, even with the rear seatbacks are folded flat. Combined with its tall roofline, the HR-V’s maximum cargo capacity is cavernous at 1,583 litres in Sport trim, while this model measures 657 litres behind the rear seats.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
Rear comfort and roominess is very good.

Back up front, the primary gauge cluster consists of a large centre speedometer, a digital tachometer to the left, and a multi-information display to the right, although the latter is more of a digital display providing oil, fuel, and odometer info. Its legibility is excellent in all lighting conditions, and adding a bit of fun to the functionality, a ring around the

Being that the gauge cluster’s multi-info display is simple, the switchgear on the steering wheel spokes is for controlling the audio system, changing settings on the centre display, engaging and modulating the adaptive cruise control system, and more, while Honda includes some extra switches below those spokes for additional cruise control adjustments, plus answering calls and using the voice command system.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The lower cushions fold up and out of the way, allowing taller cargo to be stored on the floor.

The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is large, bright and colourful, with attractive graphics and a totally up-to-date look. Honda updated this for the HR-V’s 2019 remake, and made sure to include a physical dial for adjusting audio volume and turning the system on and off. The backup camera is large and clear, while its multi-angle view really assists when trying to get close to the curb without scratching the wheels. I had no issue connecting my phone via Bluetooth or listening to favourite podcasts through streaming audio, while setting up Android Auto was easy and worked well.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
Check check out all the room for gear on the rear floor when the seats are lifted up.

As for the dual-zone auto HVAC system noted earlier, you won’t be able to miss its large interface resting just below on the centre stack. It includes nice big digital readouts and its buttons are touch-sensitive for a truly upscale feel. Controls for the two-way heated front seats are included on this panel as well, while its high-gloss black finish seems to flow downwards onto the lower centre console where inky piano black lacquer covers most of the top surface and much of the shifter knob and electromechanical parking brake pull-tab, just like it does on the lower steering wheel spokes and each paddle shifter. It’s a nice look, but this type of surface treatment often scratches too easily and collects dust something awful. On the positive, Honda provides plenty of bright metallic accenting around the cabin too, which should wear well.

2021 Honda HR-V Sport
The HR-V’s dedicated cargo area is ultra-large, and 60/40-split rear seatbacks become class-leading when folded flat.

The small overhead console isn’t much to write home about, but its two incandescent reading lights brighten the interior well when needed, and power sunroof switch works as required. Much better is the fabric used for the seat upholstery, which covers its bolsters with a similar cloth to the door panels, plus adds an attractively textured and dappled darker black material to the seat inserts.

The HR-V’s driving position is excellent, with good adjustability from the seat and even better reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The backrest provides excellent lower back support and the bolsters are even good for keeping body in place during hard cornering. Likewise, rear seats are comfortable, while as you might expect given the HR-V’s cargo capacity, rear passenger roominess is superb for this class.

All summed up, I can’t help but recommend the HR-V once again, because it does everything a small SUV should, plus is more practical than anything else in the class. That’s probably why the Canadian Black Book ranks the HR-V highest for retained value in its Sub-Compact Crossover category, this possibly the single most important reason you should consider purchasing one. All in all, it’s hard to wrong with an HR-V.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on…

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech Road Test

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX A-Spec still looks good, even if this photo seems a bit out of place in the heat of summer.

Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on top of the list.

The ILX’ MSRP ranges from a base of $30,805, plus freight and fees, to $36,205 for the top-line A-Spec Tech shown here, which is a seriously competitive starting point. This said, the ability to obtain a significant discount has never been better. In fact, Acura Canada is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives with no questions asked, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $7,500! With discounts like that, Civic buyers should even be taking a look at the good old ILX.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX’ sharp styling was part of a 2019 update.

To be clear, the ILX isn’t just a Civic with a body kit, as some like to refer to it. Way back in the early days of Acura, the ILX’ predecessor only provided a few mild styling modifications, a leather-trimmed interior, some other cabin enhancements, a slightly stiffer suspension, and Civic Si engine-tuning in its top trim in order to earn its Acura badge. Nevertheless, the long forgotten 1.6EL (1997–2000), which was based on the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Honda Domani and optionally used the same 127-horsepower engine as the Si here in Canada, plus the 1.7EL (2001–2005), which still made 127 horses despite getting a 100-cc bump in displacement, sold quite well, paving the way for the much-improved CSX (2006-2011), a model that was only sold in Canada, and actually inspired the JDM Civic’s styling (not the other way around, like so many critics have wrongly stated).

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille now graces all of its models.

The ILX entered the import scene in 2012 as a 2013 model, and believe it or not is still based on the ninth-generation Civic that first appeared in 2011 (2022 will see an all-new 11th-gen Civic, to put that into perspective). That’s an antiquated platform architecture, to be sure, but this oldie was a goodie. It looked like it was designed from the ground up to be an Acura too, as did the interior, while performance from its optional 201-hp Si-derived powerplant was strong, albeit this engine’s sole six-speed manual transmission kept it from being as popular as the 150-hp 1.5-litre variant. A Civic-sourced hybrid drivetrain was also offered.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura’s “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps are unique in the industry.

Acura provided a stiffer steering shaft for sharper turn-in, plus special “Amplitude Reactive” dampers to further improve handling as well as ride quality, and voila, its new compact competitor found serious traction on the sales charts, achieving a height of 3,192 Canadian deliveries in 2013, which put it fourth behind Buick’s now defunct Verano (with 5,573 units sold that year), Mini’s Cooper (3,946), and Mercedes’ discontinued B-Class (3,207).

Mercedes dominates this segment these days, its second-generation CLA-Class now joined by a new A-Class Sedan and Hatch for a total of 3,440-unit sales in 2020, while the ILX slipped from fourth to fifth in popularity due to just 774 deliveries last year. Being that the entire premium C-segment (and B-segment) includes a mere six models, that’s nothing to write home about, but then again managing to still sell anything after being around so long is a feat in itself.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
These black-painted 18-inch alloys are part of the A-Spec upgrade.

To be fair, Acura has made some big changes to the ILX throughout its nine-year tenure, the most significant in 2016 when an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddles was mated to the potent 2.4-litre four-cylinder, which became the standard engine that year. It received a 10 lb-ft bump in max torque as well, the new mill putting out 180 lb-ft in total, while Acura also gave this upgraded ILX its distinctive “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps and a slightly revised “shield” grille for 2016, along with standard LED taillights. Sportier A-Spec trim was added too, the test car shown here finished off top-tier A-Spec Tech trim.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura updated the LED taillights for its 2019 update, and they still look sharp.

This one wears the much more visually dramatic “Diamond Pentagon” grille, however, which was added for the 2019 model. That car also received more aggressive headlights along with more sharply angled tail lamps, plus updates to most every other exterior panel, while the cabin incorporated new seats, with optional red leather upholstery in the microsuede-enhanced A-Spec. Finally, the infotainment system responded to inputs 30 percent faster than its predecessor, and Acura’s suite of advanced AcuraWatch safety features became standard. The car on these pages hasn’t changed since, which is probably why sales have steadily dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The fit, finish and materials quality of the ILX’ interior is on par with others in this class.

Today’s 2.4-litre four still makes 201 horsepower, which while not as strong as some in this class, remains naturally aspirated and therefore a joy to rev well past its 7,000 rpm redline. It sounds fabulous when doing so too, while the fully-automated eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts that are ideally matched to the powerplant, its front-wheel drive layout the only negative in an otherwise wholly positive experience. Even then, the 225/40R18 Continentals hooked up well, with very little pull on the steering wheel at full throttle, even when taking off from a corner, with the overall driving feel coming across like a particularly well-finished Civic Si Sedan.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The look might come across a bit dated, but it’s a mostly premium interior with features that function well.

Yes, I know the 10th-generation Civic Si Sedan’s interior is much more modern than this ILX, especially when it comes to the primary gauge cluster and steering wheel controls. The former is made up of analogue dials bookending a simple two-colour multi-information display (MID), with the otherwise grey screen highlighted by some nice bright greens when using adaptive cruise control, but Acura’s dual-stack of infotainment displays was pretty high-tech when introduced, and still works well. The lower touchscreen is especially easy to operate, and while the graphics are a bit dated and display quality not quite up to today’s high-definition standards, I’m not going to rag on this system or any of Acura’s infotainment foibles right now, other than to say their unnecessary complexity isn’t as appealing to me as Honda’s excellent touchscreen systems. To that tend, the ILX offers a bit of both worlds, resulting in a system I certainly like better than some of the brand’s more recent concoctions.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The gauge cluster is almost retro, thanks to a small, mostly monochromatic MID at centre.

Just the same, purchasing a car as well-seasoned as the ILX means you’ll need to forgo some of the industry’s latest features and design elements. I didn’t mind the aforementioned MID, as all info was crisply and clearly displayed, plus a fair bit of info was available, from audio stations, to phone and voice prompt controls, plus the aforementioned cruise control. Likewise, the analogue dials were bright and easy to read in all conditions. The steering wheel controls, while not including the outgoing Civic’s ergonomically-designed volume switch and four-way rockers on both sides for most other functions, are made from high quality composites with good fit and decent damping.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The A-Spec’s aluminum pedals look great.

The infotainment’s system’s upper display is controlled by rotating a big knob and pressing surrounding buttons found just below the lower centre touchscreen, this top monitor being dedicated to navigation info, smartphone connectivity, car settings, and a few other functions. The touch capacitive screen just below, on the other hand, allows comprehensive control of the audio system. Both displays are full-colour, albeit only various blue hues are used for the latter. Again, it’s dated look will only matter to those enamoured with more modern systems, because the screen is reasonably high in resolution and the interface is nicely laid out with decent enough graphics. It all works well too, while the navigation system was especially accurate. What’s more, my tester’s ELS Studio sound system pumped out tunes brilliantly, plus its satellite radio signal came in nice and clear most of the time.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Two infotainment displays provide a lot of information at all times.

The ILX’ dual-zone automatic climate control interface is pretty straightforward, with big dials to each side and buttons in between. Again, the quality of the switchgear is pretty good, with nice, tightly fitted buttons, but Acura hasn’t even included a digital display to accompany the controls, so it all looks fairly basic. Likewise, the lower console-mounted two-way rocker switches for the heatable front seats are throwbacks to simpler times, as are the classic Honda-sourced power window and mirror controls on the driver’s door, while the fuel and trunk release levers attached to the driver’s inside rocker panel next to the floor are so old school they’re cool.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The upper display houses the navigation system and some other features.

A classic handbrake is another sign this is an older model, and I suppose, being that Acura now uses push-buttons and pull-tabs for gear selection on most of its vehicles these days, the conventional gear lever and its time-tested PRND layout is just one more reminder of yesterday. There’s no way to shift manually by the lever itself, but that hardly matters being that, as noted earlier, the ILX comes complete with paddles. Therefore, simply slot it into “D” to eke the most from a tank of fuel or “S” for Sport mode, and drive like a miser or, alternatively, shift to your heart’s content.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The lower display is a touchscreen for the audio system, while the large rotating knob just below is for controlling the screen above.

Sport mode allows for higher revs between gear changes, the engine freely spinning past 7,000 revs per minute when wrung out for all its worth, resulting in motive force that’s as wonderfully engaging and every bit as capable as when found in the old Si. Yes, I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but I absolutely love this 2.4-litre four, so allow me some fanboy leeway. I’ll also reiterate that the dual-clutch automated manual is superbly matched to this peaky engine, allowing some playful fun when called upon, yet shifting early enough to save on fuel when in normal default mode.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX’ dual-zone auto HVAC interface is a bit rudimentary looking, but it all works well.

On that note, claimed fuel economy is thrifty considering the available performance, at 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, incidentally beating BMW’s 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that’s only good for 8.8 L/100km combined city/highway, but take note the Bimmer comes standard with AWD, while Mercedes’ A220 4Matic Sedan is even stingier at 8.4 L/100km combined (4Matic means AWD in Mercedes-speak, incidentally), while Audi’s FWD A3 is good for a near hybrid-like 7.8 L/100km combined.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
That’s a real gear lever in an Acura, and if you think that’s retro, check out the two-way rocker switches just ahead for controlling the heated front seats.

Now that we’ve slowed down, some finely crafted detailing worth noting includes a soft leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with nicely carved thumb spats and contrast-stitched baseball-style stitching around the inside, plus the same treatment applied to the shift knob and the handbrake lever’s grip. That handbrake feels incredibly well-made too, with a level of solidity not normally found with such devices, and this said, I must attest to preferring a hand-applied parking brake to an electromechanical one when driving a performance car. In fact, as good as the eight-speed auto is, the very inclusion of a handbrake made me long for the Si’s phenomenal six-speed manual, although I can understand why Acura didn’t bother bringing one to market, being that the take-rate would probably be less than 10 percent.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The dash top and facing is made from premium-quality soft composite, while all plastics below the waste are of a less appealing hard variety.

Driver’s position is important for any performance car, and to that end Acura has done a fine job with this ILX. The beautifully finished front seats, complete with contrast-stitched leather bolsters and insets, the latter adorned with an hourglass-shaped strip of ultra-suede down the middle, hug the backside nicely for optimal control through tight, twisting curves. The driver seat’s adjustability was excellent, with enough fore and aft movement for most body types, which when combined with ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column made for adequate comfort and control.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The leather and psuede seats are fabulous.

When seated behind the driver’s seat, which was set up for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had plenty of space for my knees and feet, plus about three inches over my head. Likewise, Acura provides good side-to-side spaciousness, although I wouldn’t have been as comfortable if three were abreast in back. The usual flip-down centre armrest was wide enough for two arms resting, but the dual cupholders infused within were substandard for this class, particularly compared to the innovative drink-holding contraptions offered by the Germans. A magazine pouch on the backside of the front passenger seat sums up everything else provided for rear passenger pampering, while no centre pass-through or divided rear seatback means that skiers are forced to strap boards to a rooftop rack when more than two occupants are aboard.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The glass sunroof is a bit smaller than some others in this category, but it powers open with one touch.

At least those rear outboard seats are comfortable and covered with the same high-grade leather and suede upholstery as those up front, while the aft compartment’s door panels are finished off just as nicely as the one ahead as well. This means high-quality soft padded synthetic covers the door uppers, while a nicer stitched leatherette with even softer padding is applied to the inserts and armrests, plus this segment’s usual hard composite for the lower third of each door.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The rear seating area is comfortable and roomy enough for two adults.

Some less significant areas of weakness include a lack of fabric wrapping for the roof pillars, which is kind of a premium brand status staple, plus the ILX only gets a simple moonroof overhead, when others in the class offer larger panoramic glass openings. Also, where the soft-touch synthetic dash top is finished all the way down to its midpoint, and the dark grey inlays are up to par, the plastic used for the lower half of the dash, including the glove box lid, as well as that on the lower centre console, is less than ideal.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The trunk is certainly large enough when compared to others in this class.

Of course, this reflects in the ILX’ aforementioned pricing, and becomes an absolute nonissue when factoring in available discounts. Adding to this car’s list of accolades is Acura’s seventh out of 17 premium brand ranking (Buick, Mini and Tesla were included as premium brands) in J.D. Power’s latest 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, in which it was only beaten by Lexus, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, Genesis and Lincoln, none of which compete in the ILX’ entry-level B category. Hopefully, now knowing this, plus the ILX’ many additional attributes, might leave you seriously considering a car that might not have caused you much deliberation before reading this review.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Not having split-folding rear seats was never good enough for this premium category.

All said, be sure to visit CarCostCanada’s 2021 Acura ILX Canada Prices page to find out more, including detailed trim pricing and available options, and while you’re at it find out how accessing dealer invoice pricing can help out when negotiating your best deal on a new vehicle, not to mention how having all this information on a smartphone app will turn you into a car buying pro the next time you’re visiting any retail dealership. Download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store now.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Choices, choices, choices. Should you choose the refreshed 2022 G70 that’s now starting to arrive at Genesis retailers across Canada, a car that boasts the premium brand’s stylish new diamond-shaped…

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige and Sport Road Test

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
Soon to be updated by the renewed 2022 G70, this 2021 model still looks great in all trims, including Prestige (shown) and Sport (above).

Choices, choices, choices. Should you choose the refreshed 2022 G70 that’s now starting to arrive at Genesis retailers across Canada, a car that boasts the premium brand’s stylish new diamond-shaped grille, dual-slit LED headlights and tail lamps, and the list goes on? Or should you snag a 2021 G70 while you can still finance a new one?

Styling will be the key factor, and to be clear the outgoing model is still a great looking car that hasn’t been with us for very long. What’s more, 2021 G70s can be had for bigger discounts than you’ll likely get with the new car, but techies might submit to the updated model due to its bigger infotainment display alone.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
Sport trim blackens out key trim details that would otherwise be bright metal, including the wheels.

The base 2022 G70 2.0T Select starts at $45,000, which is $2,500 more than the 2021 G70 base model, which started in Advanced trim. Select trim wasn’t on the menu in 2021, the G70 available in Advanced, Sport, Elite and Prestige trims since becoming available for 2019, with Dynamic trim dropped after the first year. Equipment levels look very close from when compared the 2022 Select to the 2021 Advanced, except for the new 8.0-inch driver display (up an inch) and redesigned 10.25-inch centre touchscreen (increased by 2.25 inches), plus standard navigation and new Genesis Connected Services on the revised car.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
The new 2022 G70’s diamond-shaped grille isn’t necessarily better than this 2021 version, but it looks good while offering more distinctiveness.

In total I spent three weeks with the G70, the first being a 2019 G70 3.3T Sport AWD tested a few of years back, and since then a G70 3.3T Prestige AWD and another G70 3.3T Sport AWD, the two cars used for this review. As tested, the metallic Himalayan Grey-coloured 3.3T Prestige AWD with the Caramel Brown Nappa leather interior can be had for $56,000 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Uyuni White-painted 3.3T Sport AWD with its Black and Sport Red Nappa leather cabin is $2,000 more at $58,000.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
The G70 Sport really looks sharp with its blacked out grille, fascia trim and five-spoke wheels, while its red-painted Brembo brake calipers provide better bite.

That’s full-load, by the way, which means this well-equipped G70 is much more affordable than a similarly outfitted Mercedes or BMW, either of which can easily creep up into the mid-$70k range. It can be made even more affordable by taking advantage of factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent, this information coming from CarCostCanada, whose members are currently saving an average of $2,062 when purchasing a new G70 thanks to accessing dealer invoice pricing information, a critical resource for paying less for your new car. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works now, and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store as well.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
The biggest visual transformation from 2021 to 2022 is in the headlamps and taillights, which get a much more unique dual-slat look in the updated model.

The twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 tested is one formidable power unit, making 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and would be my choice if purchasing Genesis’ smallest model. This said I’ve only ever tested the car’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four in Kia’s Stinger, yet another credible sport sedan from the South Korean parent company’s namesake brand that rides on the same underpinnings. That engine makes 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, while both come mated to an in-house eight-speed automatic transmission.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
Tasteful yes, but the current G70’s taillights aren’t very distinctive.

Genesis provides a rear-wheel drive variant exclusively for the G70’s Sport 2.0T trim, but take note that this disappears for 2022. Either way, steering wheel paddle shifters make sure the driving experience is engaging, while Sport mode can be actuated from a lower console-mounted rotating knob adorned with ritzy knurled metal edging. When selected it delivers swift yet smooth shifts that ideally match the engine’s strong output, resulting in standstill to 100 km/h sprints around the mid fours and an eye-popping top track speed of 273 km/h (170 mph). I never even attempted such lofty goals (honestly, officer), but can attest to the G70 quickly transforming from comfortably quiet cruising companion when tooling around town and whiling down the highway, to one of the more intensely satisfying cars to drive in its category.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
Both Prestige (shown) and Sport trims come with a richly finished interior, complete with quilted Nappa leather upholstery, wood or metal inlays, and much more.

Behind the Sport’s 19-inch five-spoke alloys and the Prestige model’s classier 19-inch, 10-spoke rims, all G70s incorporate a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension layout that’s more or less the same design type as used by BMW for its 3 Series, as well as most others in this class, which is a very good thing. The Genesis chassis tuning team worked the design to perfection, resulting in one very lively handler that’s equally stable at high speeds on the freeway as it is coursing through tight, twisting two-laners.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
Some Sport interior details include black quilted Nappa leather with red stitching, plus more red thread used to highlight other key areas in the cabin too.

To claim that it’s better than (or even as capable as) a 3 Series through corners might be seen as heresy by blue and white roundel zealots, but the once untouchable Bimmer has lost some steering feel since going with an electric rack, leaving the motor-assist powered rack-and-pinion steering setup in the G70 in the same league at least, and feeling much more connected than some others in this segment, while the car’s overall grip when pushed quickly through hard-charging curves is tenacious.

When equipped like any of my testers, I’m comfortable classifying the G70 as a true sport sedan, despite its luxurious accoutrements. Steering input requires constant attention, but such regular redirection is what I like about this car. It doesn’t just drive itself along at high speeds, only needing the odd nudge here and there to keep it in a chosen lane, but instead demands regular hands-on focus, and responding with more positive excitement on the road or track.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
The cabin is well laid out with everything close at hand.

Still, the G70’s ride was never uncomfortable, even when its big wheels and sizeable tires were pounding over less than ideal tarmac. Likewise, the Sport’s Brembo brakes are worth the extra couple of grand needed for this model alone, while both cars’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system maintained the feel of a rear-wheel drive car yet provided superb traction at all times.

In fact, the G70 feels a lot lighter and nimbler than it actually is. Hitting the scale at 1,760 kilos (3,880 lbs), it’s not the heaviest in its class, yet hardly the lightest either. I was surprised to find out the G70 actually weighs a couple of kilograms more than the Lexus IS 350 AWD, a car I’d always considered hefty for its size, but BMW’s 3 has gained plenty around the middle as it’s grown older too, the comparable M340i xDrive, weighing in at 1,800 kg (3,968 lbs), is a surprising 40 kg (88 lbs) pudgier than my 3.3T Sport AWD test car.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
The mostly analogue gauge cluster, which will be updated for 2022, features a large, colourful multi-info display at centre.

The Japanese are the true Sumos of the industry, with the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD weighing 1,811 kg (3,993 lbs) and Acura TLX SH-AWD porkiest of all at 1,827 kg (4,028 lbs), which leaves the Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic seeming like a pencil-neck at just 1,740 kg (3,836 lbs). Lighter still, a fully-equipped Audi A4 S Line 45 TFSI is just 1,690 kg (3,726 lbs), while the Cadillac CT4 V-Series is a sprite 1,640 kg (3,616 lbs). So as not to leave Volvo out of the equation, its S60 Recharge T8 eAWD is by far the fattest at 2,017 kg (4,447 lbs), but let’s be reasonable as it’s carrying a plug-in hybrid power unit and battery, as well as an extra supercharger to go along with its turbo.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
Even Prestige models get sporty paddles to shift gears.

All of that technology results in a shocking 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque, by the way, while the segment’s ultimate lightweight, the 1,647-kg (3,632-lb) Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport AWD, doesn’t need as much to get it going, although 280-horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque hardly competes with the G70’s V6 or most of the others mentioned, that is until the Italian outfit drops its 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio powerplant under the hood. Too Jaguar’s discontinued its XE, as the 380-horsepower V6 in its 1,721 kg (3,795-lb) S AWD model is a close match to this compact Genesis.

Speaking of the compact luxury segment, fallout like Jaguar’s XE is partially due to newcomers such as the G70. Canadian-market XE sales peaked at 858 units in 2017, and tapered off to 157 in 2019 and just 77 last year, whereas the G70 found 1,119 new owners in its first full year (2019), and grew that into 1,173 buyers throughout 2020.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
The only things that change in the 2022 G70’s interior are the driver display and this centre touchscreen, which grows wider with more functionality.

These numbers are much lower than the segment leaders, mind you, with BMW’s best-selling 3 and 4 Series earned a combined 4,836 deliveries last year (3,873 and 963 units respectively), and that was a very bad 12 months for the model, while Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class sedan, coupe and convertible combined for 3,970 total deliveries. Still, the G70 ranking eighth in a 12-car category is impressive for a newbie, its popularity even passing Infiniti’s Q50. Interestingly, the real segment-leader is Tesla’s Model 3, which pulled in 6,151 buyers for 2020, but being that it’s an EV, it’s not exactly a direct competitor. Having now seen the 2022 G70 in the metal, I’m guessing the refresh will give it a boost further up the sales chart.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
The overhead camera, standard in Prestige and Sport trims, really helps when parking.

If you’re looking for as dramatic a makeover inside, you’ll probably be disappointed. Still, it’s surprising how much visual change occurs just by swapping out centre touchscreens, the new larger display appearing much more modern. Both are laid out horizontally, but the current model’s is just smaller and squarer, with less cohesiveness to the dashboard’s overall design. It’s not ugly or ill-suited to the car, but it is outdated. The current infotainment system works well, however, and includes most of the features buyers will want in my two tester’s upper trims, just like the primary gauge cluster incorporates all of the necessary dials and meters as the newer version, just in analogue form instead of purely digital. Everything else about the 2021 and 2022 interiors remains unchanged, including the diamond-pattern, contrast-stitched and perforated Nappa leather upholstery found in both of my test cars, plus their plentiful metallic accents, and every other high-grade surface treatment.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
All of the current model’s infotainment features work well, but the new 2022 model will be better yet.

Some notable features included tilt and telescopic steering that powered far enough rearward for ample comfort and control, which was matched by a very comfortable and supportive set of front seats with four-way power lumbar and powered side bolsters, but unfortunately lower cushions that couldn’t be extended. A two-way heated steering wheel will keep hands at the ideal temperature year-round, while three-way heatable and coolable front seats do likewise to one’s derriere, not to mention three-way butt warmers in the rear. These join a dual-zone automatic climate control system, which is par for the course in this class, yet always appreciated.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
A simple three-dial dual-zone automatic HVAC system provides a comfortable cabin year-round.

Overhead surround parking cameras are standard fare in upper trims too, and the G70’s works well, while the aforementioned infotainment system’s navigation system proved accurate. Genesis remembered to include a wireless device charger too, while a sunglasses holder was integrated into the overhead console next to LED reading lights and controls for the large panoramic sunroof, a feature that helps the rear compartment feel more open and airier.

Access to the trunk was provided by a powered lid, but at just 297 litres (10.5 cu ft) it’s smallest in the class, and made even less practical by splitting the folding rear seatbacks into a simple 60/40 configuration, instead of the much more utile 40/20/40 divide used by all the category leaders.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
Most everything inside this 2021 will carry forward into 2022, including these impressive sport seats.

Another negative is fuel economy, the G70 3.3T AWD only managing 14.1 L/100km in the city, 9.5 on the highway and 12.0 combined, which makes it the thirstiest amongst similarly powered competitors. Model 3 aside, Volvo’s hyper-potent plug-in hybrid tops the charts at 7.8 mpg combined (or 3.2 Le/100km), with the next best to worst including aforementioned trims of the A4 (at 8.8 L/100km combined), Giulia (9.2), 340i (9.2), TLX (9.8), CT4 (10.2), IS (10.8), Q50 (11.1), and C43 (11.3). Heck, even the 505-hp Giulia Quadrifoglio provides better combined fuel economy than this Genesis at 11.6 L/100km.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Prestige AWD
The rear seating area is comfortable and should be roomy enough for the class.

Of course, fuel economy is hardly the first priority for shoppers in this segment, particularly amongst higher performing options, but for those wincing at higher-than-ever gas prices, consider an entry-level G70 2.0T AWD that’s rated a bit better at 11.4 city, 8.5 highway and 10.1 combined, but then again, while this is considerably better than the rear-drive base turbo-four Q50’s 12.5, 8.7 and 10.8 rating, it doesn’t come close to matching Mercedes’ least expensive C300 at 8.7 combined, or Audi’s base A4 and BMW’s miserly 330i that eke out 8.3 L/100km combined apiece.

2021 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
The G70’s trunk is a bit small.

Sorry for the fuel economy yawn-fest, because Genesis’ G70 is hardly the kind of car I want to lull you to sleep about. For the most part, the upstart Korean brand got its first sport sedan right, with superb straight-line performance, a nice balanced feel through curves, rock-solid highway stability, and enjoyable comfort around town, while its plenty attractive inside and out. Instead of being best at any given attribute, the G70 is an excellent all-rounder, which is exactly what a car in this four-door segment should be. That it can be acquired for thousands less than most rivals despite a slightly longer five years or 100,000 km warranty, not to mention free maintenance, valet service, and more, makes it a sport sedan you should take seriously.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

With five-passenger crossovers regularly at the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts in North America, Honda simply had to be in on the game. Therefore, in another attempt to replicate its small utility…

2021 Honda Passport Touring Road Test

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Honda gave the Passport a slightly more rugged look than its larger Pilot, plus standard black trim and wheels on base Sport and Touring trims.

With five-passenger crossovers regularly at the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts in North America, Honda simply had to be in on the game. Therefore, in another attempt to replicate its small utility success in the large SUV categories, the two-row, five-passenger Passport joined up with the three-row Pilot for 2019.

Most automotive industry followers saw the initial news stories along with the usual follow-up pieces about pricing, trims, standard and optional features, etcetera, and then plumb forgot about the new SUV soon after. A smattering of ads that accompanied the SUV when introduced might have initially put it on some consumers’ radars, but it could’ve just as likely flown under yours, as they’re not exactly easy to spot on the road.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
A shorter wheelbase and overall length make the Passport seem more upright and traditionally SUV-like than today’s Pilot.

Honda delivered just 3,017 Passports in Canada throughout 2020, its first year of availability, and a mere 559 during Q1 of this year, which incidentally makes it the slowest selling mid-size SUV in Canada, other than Toyota’s new Venza that only arrived in September last year, yet still found 1,403 buyers (and at the end of March 2021 another 798 new owners), and Dodge’s 150-year-old Journey (ok, in reality it’s just 13 years old) that’s been discontinued for two years, yet still managed to lure in 420 bargain shoppers. This means by Q1 2021’s close, the Venza was already outselling the Passport by 143 percent, while by May’s end its lead had grown to 175 percent.

The larger Pilot, on the other hand, has enjoyed a fairly steady rise in sales over the past decade, with 2020 being its best year yet thanks to 9,340 new owners. This has allowed it to move up through the ranks, now sitting fifth amongst three-row SUVs, with 11 contenders trailing behind, which once again has me wondering why the Passport hasn’t caught on.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Deep Scarlet Pearl is just one of four $300 optional colours available in Touring trim.

After all, being dead last in any SUV category makes absolutely no sense for a brand that, until recently, had been swapping the lead baton back and forth in the compact SUV segment as if the CR-V and Toyota RAV4 were part of the same relay team. The RAV4 has since rode off into the sunset with 67,977 units down the road last year, much thanks to conventional gasoline, plus hybrid and plug-in Prime variants, but the single-engine-powered CR-V still held an extremely strong second place with 50,135 deliveries in 2020, the next brightest star being Mazda’s CX-5 with 30,583 down the road during the same 12 months. Just why Honda hasn’t been able to graduate a reasonable number of these CR-V owners into its mid-size Passport is hard to fathom, but, amongst other issues, it may come down to the larger SUV targeting an intrinsically different type of buyer.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
All Passport trims come standard with a blackened mesh sport grille and blacked-out trim, which is otherwise chrome on most Pilot models.

The CR-V does well because it’s reasonably priced and fuel-efficient, plus nice enough looking, comfortable, amply spacious, technically advanced, historically dependable, capable of holding its resale/residual value, etcetera. I can say much the same about the Passport (the Canadian Black Book shows its larger Pilot sibling tied as runners-up with the Toyota 4Runner in mid-size SUV retained value, so one would think the Passport would fair similarly), although few people have even heard of this newcomer, plus its entry price is higher than the majority of its five-seat rivals, and it’s hardly as fuel-efficient as most of those too.

The CR-V occupies this same position on CCB’s compact SUV retained value list, incidentally, right beside the now defunct Nissan Xterra (a BIG mistake for Nissan to have dropped this model) and just below Jeep’s Wrangler, which makes me feel all the better about the countless times I’ve recommended Honda’s little runabout to new and pre-owned buyers, both here in reviews and personally to friends and colleagues.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
LED low-beam headlights are standard with Sport and EX-L trims, while Honda adds LED high beams for Touring trim.

The Passport (and its larger Pilot sibling) on the other hand, never came to mind when offering up my sage wisdom (ahem), but considering the CCB’s rating of the latter, I should probably start adding it to my list of large SUV recommendations. I’ll need to see whether or not the Passport catches on before it gets a full thumbs up, however, because a vehicle needs to have garnered a large enough group of waiting pre-owned buyers in order to maintain its value.

As happenstance is, halfway through writing this review I received a call from a friend who was surprisingly considering a lease takeover of a Honda Passport. He’s waiting for the next-generation Toyota 4Runner to launch, which he’ll probably buy far in advance, but until then he needs something to drive, because the lease of his previous 4Runner came due and he chose not to buy it out. Being that he’s already ok with driving a relatively thirsty V6, and that he won’t actually be purchasing, but effectively renting instead, I couldn’t argue against it, but I didn’t get behind the decision like I would’ve done so for a CR-V.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Honda has removed the Pilot’s blade-shaped taillight extensions fixed to the rear liftgate, leaving smaller LED taillights.

Instead, I recommended he check out LeaseBusters, a service that specializes in lease takeovers (and in full disclosure is affiliated with this site), in order to see what else might be available for $600 per month, the charge being asked for that specific 2019 Passport. It’s not that a Passport wouldn’t work for him, as it probably would, but I’d rather he suss out all available options before making what will probably be a two-year commitment.

To be fair, the Passport is much more fuel-efficient than any V6-powered 4Runner to date. While the next-gen 4Runner will probably ship with a hybrid, the current long-in-tooth model is rated at a dismal 14.8 L/100km city, 12.5 highway and 13.8 combined, compared to a relative 12.5, 9.8 and 11.3 for the Passport. The Pilot, incidentally, is good for a claimed 12.4, 9.3 and 11.0. Yes, you read that right. The larger, heavier three-row Honda gets better fuel economy than the shorter, lighter two-row variant. Go figure. It must come down to aerodynamics on the highway.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Honda delivers a fairly refined interior, but was careful not to let the Passport come across as too premium, probably not to conflict with Acura MDX sales.

How does the Passport fare against immediate competitors? Toyota’s Venza comes standard with a hybrid power unit and therefore walks away with the mid-size two-row efficiency prize, its rating being 5.9 L/100km in the city, 6.4 on the highway and 6.1 combined. Ouch! No wonder it’s selling better. The Toyota’s $38,490 starting sticker doesn’t hurt either, especially next to this Honda’s near premium-level $43,670 entry price. That’s a $5,000-plus deterrent, combined with nearly twice the ongoing fuel costs. I’m not a big fan of the Venza’s styling, and I quite like the Passport’s looks front to back, but it’s hard to argue against such night and day savings.

As a useful comparo, let’s see how the Passport rates against all five-seat competitors when it comes to pricing and fuel economy with AWD (city/highway/combined) in the order of sales numbers:

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: $49,565; 12.7/9.6/11.3; 3,073 sold in Q1 2021; 16,967 sold in 2020)
  • Hyundai Santa Fe: $31,399; 11.0/8.5/9.9 base or 7.1/7.9/7.4 hybrid; 3,103 sold in Q1 2021; 15,721 sold in 2020
  • Ford Edge: $38,399; 11.5/8.3/10.0; 2,525 in Q1 2021; 13,213 in 2020
  • Subaru Outback: $31,195; 10.1/7.9/9.1; 2,355 in Q1 2021; 12,556 in 2020
  • Kia Sorento (no two-row mid-size Kia alternative): $33,995; 11.1/8.4/9.9; 2,030 in Q1 2021; 11,821 in 2020
  • Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport (VW combines sales of its two- and three-row crossovers): $40,095; 11.7/10.0/10.9; 2,625 in Q1 2021; 9,370 in 2020
  • Nissan Murano: $34,098; 12.0/8.5/10.4; 1,641 in Q1 2021; 8,091 in 2020
  • Toyota 4Runner: $48,910; 14.8/12.5/13.8; 2,154 in Q1 2021; 7,821 in 2020
  • Mazda CX-9 (no two-row mid-size Mazda alternative): $40,000; 11.6/9.1/10.5; 1,296 in Q1 2021; 4,887 in 2020
  • Chevrolet Blazer: $37,498; 10.6/8.7/9.7; 1,000 in Q1 2021; 3,861 in 2020
  • GMC Acadia (no mid-size two-row GMC alternative): $37,498; 10.6/8.7/9.7; 1,031 in 2021; 3,109 in 2020
  • Honda Passport: $43,670; 12.5/9.8/11.3; 559 in Q1 2021; 3,017 in 2020
  • Toyota Venza: $38,490; 5.9/6.4/6.1; 798 in Q1 2021; 1,403 from Sep-Dec 2020
2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport cockpit is well laid out and comfortable.

While price and fuel economy doesn’t seem to affect the sales of cult-like 4x4s, such as Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner, it really does appear to impact car-based family haulers, such as Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Subaru’s Outback, the latter of which enjoys some built-in cult status of its own. Ford’s Edge has long been at or near the top of this pack, so it has earned its fair share of repeat buyers, even if it doesn’t quite measure up empirically, while Kia’s Sorento does well by delivering a whole host of positives including value. Chevy’s new Blazer should be doing well, but its lofty price no doubt causes pause from savvy shoppers, whereas the Passport’s highest starting price amongst car-based crossovers is no doubt pushing it down the pecking order.

Of course, what this interesting data dump doesn’t tell us is how these vehicles drive or how easy they are to live with. That’s where I come in, and while it would be outrageous to try and squeeze a segment-wide comparison into one review, I’ve covered many of these models earlier, or at least have driven most and will review as quickly as possible.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport falls short of delivering a fully digital primary gauge cluster, but the 7.0-inch display at centre comes close.

I commented earlier that you may not have even seen a new Passport on the road, but it’s more likely that you have and just didn’t realize you weren’t looking at a Pilot. While the Passport is a bit tougher looking, thanks to a blackened grille that appears bigger due to a deeper mesh insert, plus some additional matte-black lower body cladding, a revised liftgate that doesn’t include the Pilot’s additional blade-shaped taillight reflectors, and gloss-black wheels, it’s basically a shortened Pilot from the outside in. That’s not a bad thing since Honda toughened up the look of the Pilot for 2019, with both models now appearing rugged and SUV-like.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s centre stack is well organized, and its infotainment system superb.

My tester wore a gorgeous Deep Scarlet Pearl paint job, one of four $300 optional colours available in Touring trim, including Obsidian Blue Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, and Platinum White Pearl, with the only standard colour being Modern Steel Metallic. Once again, I admit to liking the way the Passport looks, especially in this rich colour. Due to its abbreviated length, the Passport appears more upright than its longer sibling too, resulting in even more of a traditional SUV stance, which is not unlike the original Pilot.

Classic SUV in mind, when Honda launched the Passport back in 2019, they made a point of showing photos of it doing some pretty severe off-roading manoeuvres, not to mention hauling camping gear such as canoes, kayaks and even a sizeable trailer, while a complementary video combined some energetic music with clips of it hustling up a mountainside dirt road, plus one close-up of a wheel in the air as part of a staged articulation exercise (check out my previous news story with photos and video). It was all in an effort to give the Passport a more rough and ready image than the Pilot, something its shorter wheelbase would allow for inherently, but there’s more to Honda’s two-row alternative than that.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s multi-angle parking camera is excellent.

Most notably, the Passport adds 28 mm (1.1 inches) of ground clearance over its Pilot sibling (with its standard all-wheel drive layout, or 13 mm/0.5 inches with US-exclusive FWD), allowing greater ease over obstacles such as rocks and roots or through deep potholes and ruts that can be found on any ungraded road or trail. What’s more, Honda’s enhanced i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system, which uses active torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle and 100 percent to either the left or right rear wheels, provides good traction when things get slippery, whether the surface below is cold and snowy or hot and sandy.

Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) system adds another element to the Passport’s off-road capabilities, due to four driving modes that work together with its all-wheel drive system, including normal, snow, mud and sand selections.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Honda’s advanced 9-speed automatic is actuated through this equally forward-thinking interface.

Of course, most owners will never venture off pavement, which to be fair is true for ultra-capable 4x4s made by Land Rover and Mercedes too, so the fact that Honda’s AWD system also overdrives the Passport’s outside rear wheels while cornering in order to maintain grip is probably even more important to would-be buyers.

I can’t say that I’d be willing to torture a new Passport in “the world’s harshest environments” such as “the sands of Dubai, muddy country roads of Russia, and snowbound trails in Minnesota,” as Honda claimed was done during the Passport’s development, but I’d certainly be comfortable taking on the types of dirt roads shown in its launch video. I’d also be more than happy to test its mettle on the rougher sections shown in the photos, as long as it was part of a launch event and Honda’s PR team had ok’d it. I’ve done so previously with the brand during such programs, with especially good memories of getting down and dirty with the original Ridgeline.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s passenger compartment is large and spacious, while its driver’s seat is very comfortable.

As for towing, the Passport’s standard 2,268-kg (5,000-lb) rating (1,588 kg or 3,500 lbs for U.S.-spec front-wheel drive models) should be good enough for mid-size camp trailers and average-sized fishing and ski boats, while an “overhead” feature found in the standard multi-view camera makes connecting a hitch and trailer easier than ever before.

One of the reasons it provides such impressive trailering capability is the 3.5-litre V6 that so negatively impacts fuel economy. With 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, it’s the most potent base engine in its two-row class, which will either be a boon or a bane depending on your priorities. Honda has equipped it with an i-VTEC valvetrain and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) in order to enhance power while minimizing consumption, while its nine-speed automatic transmission with standard idle-stop that shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, tries to maintain the fewest revs possible in its normal driving mode. Still, step into the throttle and the Pilot moves off the line quite nicely, while providing strong passing power on the highway.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport does not offer the option of a panoramic sunroof, leaving this conventionally sized glass sunroof as standard equipment.

Thanks to weight savings of 16 to 55 kilograms (35 to 121 lbs) depending on trim, the 1,890- to 1,914-kg (4,167- to 4,219-lb) Passport feels a bit more energetic off the line than the Pilot, with the just-noted transmission providing ultra-smooth, yet positively shifting performance throughout its range, via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters no less, this needed for manual mode, being that the gear selector is Honda’s array of electronic buttons and pull-tabs on the lower console (it gets easier to use with familiarity).

Likewise, for the suspension, which combines an excellent ride with more engagement through the curves than the larger Pilot, despite using the same fully independent front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link setup, featuring amplitude reactive dampers and Agile Handle Assist.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s rear doors don’t include soft-touch door uppers, a surprising omission for a vehicle in this class.

Combine its better handling and more capable off-road chops, with stronger straight-line acceleration and fractionally worse fuel economy, and the only negative left is cost. Of course, its near $44k starting point (which in fact is pricier than the larger Pilot’s $42,605 MSRP) is a big hurdle to overcome when compared to most rivals. Granted the Passport comes standard with AWD, which compares well to the majority of competitors that make it optional, but adding AWD to the aforementioned Santa Fe will only set you back $2,000 more at $33,399, although doing so with a V6-powered Murano pushes its price up by $6,000 to $40,098, because that model automatically includes mid-grade SV trim, featuring navigation, an overhead 360-degree surround parking monitor, a panoramic glass sunroof, and more.

The Passport comes in three trims, including Sport, EX-L and Touring, the latter two starting at $47,270 and $50,670 respectively. Colours and dealer-added accessories aside, none of the trims offer any options, with the only new feature since its inaugural year being a 2021 upgrade from a rather sad little 5.0-inch infotainment display in its most basic trim, to the much more respectable 8.0-inch display found in second- and third-tier trims last year, which incidentally comes complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, the aforementioned Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot display that provides a rear visual of your blind spot when flicking the turn signal, Siri Eyes Free, wi-fi tethering, control of a six-speaker 115-watt seven-speaker audio with a subwoofer, and more.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
Rear seat roominess and comfort is at the top of the mid-size five-passenger class.

Some additional standard Sport features worth noting include 20-inch alloy wheels, LED (low beam) headlights with auto high-beam assist, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, LED side mirror repeaters, and LED taillights, a front wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless Smart Entry and Smart Start, remote engine start, a configurable 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster that features audio, trip and phone info (plus turn-by-turn route guidance on models with navigation), adaptive cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, two USB device connectors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal remote, a powered moonroof, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar support (that nicely met up with the small of my back), and more.

On the “more” list is the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistive and safety systems, which include Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) including Lane Departure Warning (LDW), plus Lane Keeping Assistance System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). These are joined by the industry’s usual assortment of active and passive safety items, plus Honda’s proprietary Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which unfortunately isn’t enough to even warrant a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, let alone revered Plus status.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s dedicated cargo space is sizeable, but not that much larger than the CR-V’s.

The Passport does appear safe, however, thanks to best-possible “G” (for good) ratings in its “Small overlap front: driver-side”, “Moderate overlap front”, “Side”, “Roof strength”, and “Head restraints & seats” crash tests, but only an “A” (acceptable) rating for its important “Small overlap front: passenger-side” and “Headlights” tests, not to mention merely an acceptable rating for the its child seat LATCH system’s “ease of use” test (the latter item having nothing to do with safety).

It’s certainly easy to fold those rear seats down, however, which, by pressing electronic release buttons on the cargo wall, expands the dedicated cargo area behind the second row from 1,166 litres (41.2 cu ft) to 2,206 litres (77.9 cu ft). Interestingly, the first number is only 56 litres (2.0 cu ft) more accommodating than a CR-V, which might be another reason that owners of the smaller and more efficient Honda aren’t moving up.

Just like the CR-V, the Passport’s second-row seats split in the usual 60/40 configuration, which while not optimally divided in my favourite 40/20/40 split, which allows for longer items like skis to be placed down the middle, is the norm in this mainstream volume-branded class, while a reversible cargo floor swaps out carpeting for a washable hard plastic surface when needing to haul dirtier loads. Underfloor storage is segment-leading, by the way, measuring 71 litres (2.5 cu ft).

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s underfloor storage is best-in-class.

While cargo capacity might not be enough of a differentiator for CR-V owners to move up to the Passport, the larger SUV’s roomy passenger compartment might cause some to reconsider their allegiance. It gains 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) over the smaller Honda, thanks to 3,282 litres (115.9 cu ft) ahead of the rear seatbacks for segment-leading spaciousness, while the Passport’s 4,448 litres (157.1 cu ft) of overall interior volume is best-in-class as well.

As importantly, the Passport is finished well inside, or at least my Touring trimmed example was. Before I get ahead of myself, some notable EX-L features include a quieter acoustic windshield to enhance refinement, a memory-linked driver’s seat and side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down, rear parking sensors, HD and satellite radio, two more USB charging ports, leather upholstery for the seating surfaces, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated rear outboard seats, and a powered liftgate.

Lastly, my Touring model came with some special gloss black bumper skid garnishes, auto-levelling LED (low and high beam) headlamps, auto-dimming power-folding side mirrors, quieter front door acoustic glass, Blind Spot Information (BSI) with Rear Cross Traffic monitoring, additional ambient lighting in the cupholders, door panels and footwells, ventilated front seats, a superb sounding 550-watt 10-speaker audio upgrade, accurate navigation, a navi-based compass, 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi that can support up to seven devices, wireless device charging, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, and hands-free access for the powered liftgate.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s underfloor storage is best-in-class.

As I mentioned a moment ago, my tester’s cabin was finished nicely, but Honda was careful that it wouldn’t compete with Acura’s MDX. The front door uppers and dash top receive a soft composite surface treatment, the latter down to the midpoint of the instrument panel, around the gauge cluster and surrounding the centre display, while the lower dash and door uppers are hard shell plastic. Likewise, for the glove box lid, while the rear door panels, save for the door inserts and armrests, are entirely made from hard plastic too. Hard plastic rear door uppers are unusually substandard for the mid-size class, with some compact SUVs, like Mazda’s CX-5, offering soft-touch door uppers and even real hardwood trim to go along with supple Nappa-leather upholstery. Like I said, the Passport isn’t trying to be premium in execution.

More impressive is the decently sized high-resolution touchscreen atop the mid-stack, this being one of the more attractive and easier infotainment system interfaces to use in the industry, and I’m not just saying this to leave on a positive note. The nicely coloured tiles are easy to navigate through, the graphics are large and clear, and the parking camera is superb.

So, after this epic, novel-length review is done, what’s the final verdict? I think the most important takeaway is the Passport’s overall goodness as an accommodating mid-size SUV that’s ideal for five adults and plenty of gear. Its on-road handling and off-road prowess should make for a good compromise when comparing it to less well-rounded alternatives, while its good forecasted reliability, and strong expected retained value might make up for its higher initial price.

2021 Honda Passport Touring
The Passport’s standard 3.5-litre V6 is both a boon and a bane, depending whether you prioritize performance or fuel-economy.

This said, the Passport’s base price includes a lot of standard goodies, which if tacked onto some rivals would pull their dollar-for-dollar evaluations much closer this Honda. Still, it lacks some options mid-size SUV buyers like, such as the panoramic sunroof included in the much more affordable Murano. In the end, you’ll need to weigh each SUV’s advantages once getting closer to your final choice.

Those opting for the Passport will be happy to learn that Honda is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for 2021 models, so be sure to check the 2021 Honda Passport Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada for details, plus learn how members can save even more from accessing important manufacturer rebate information when available, plus info about factory leasing and financing rates, as well as dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands during negotiation. This all comes as part of a CarCostCanada membership, so be sure to learn how their system works, and also remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all of their money-saving info where and when you need it most.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

I’ve rarely heard anyone say anything negative about Buick’s styling, at least not during the most recent decade. The brand combines a conservatively classy look with some elegantly sporty elements,…

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD Road Test

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
Even though today’s Enclave has been in production for more than four years, and the model shown is just in base Essence trim, it still looks elegant and attractive.

I’ve rarely heard anyone say anything negative about Buick’s styling, at least not during the most recent decade. The brand combines a conservatively classy look with some elegantly sporty elements, resulting in clean, classic and mature design that mostly stands the test of time.

The recently discontinued Regal, a car I covered in its sportiest GS trim in 2019, is a good case in point. Few four-door sedans in its mid-size segment looked anywhere near as good, not to mention drove as well, but alas it’s gone the way of the dodo due to cars in this class falling out of favour with consumers. Ditto for the arguably better looking Regal TourX that was never offered in Canada, yet made five-door fanboys like me a tad jealous of my American friends. I should probably mention the 2016-2019 Cascada as well, a sharp looking Opel-designed four-seat convertible that remained south of the 49th as well.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The Enclave is a long mid-size three-row crossover SUV, which means there’s ample space for 7 to 8 occupants, plus their gear.

The Regal ended its official tour of duty last year, although anyone interested can probably still find new 2020 models kicking around. That won’t be so easy if you’re looking to buy a new full-size Lacrosse, which ended production the same year as the just-noted Cascada, in 2019. It was another great looking four-door that drove well, especially on the wide-open highway, while the 2012–2017 Verano was Buick’s quiet, comfortable and reasonably quick answer to an entry-level compact luxury conundrum nobody had asked anything about since its forgettable Skylark predecessor drove off into the sunset back in last century.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The Enclave breaks no design rules, but its classic lines make it agreeable to many owners.

Buick partially filled this multi-car void with the introduction of its Encore (2013-present), Encore GX (2020-present), and Envision (2016-present). The first model on this list is a subcompact crossover SUV that’s done very well in its burgeoning entry-level segment, while the GX is a slightly longer variation on the small crossover theme. Finally, the Envision is a larger compact luxury crossover SUV that was nicely updated for this 2021 model year.

I just finished a weeklong test of that model today, and it left such an impression that I came straight back to write a news story about the refreshed 2022 Enclave that will soon replace the very model you’re looking at here. Don’t worry, as plenty of 2021 Enclaves are still available, and without doubt Buick will tempt you with a deal that’s too good to pass up if you like what the current model has to offer.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
A $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package adds this sporty black mesh grille.

When the Lacrosse left the scene back in 2019, the Enclave became Buick’s de facto flagship. I know, the thought of a large family hauler as a luxury brand’s most coveted model probably sounds a bit strange to those of us that have followed the automotive industry for decades, but we might as well get used to the idea, because big luxury sedans aren’t exactly flying off showroom floors these days.

Joining Buick, Cadillac also said goodbye to its largest CT6 sedan last year, while Lincoln dropped its near full-size Continental as well as its mid-size MKZ in 2020. Acura also dumped its mid-size RLX at the end of the same year, while Infiniti finally halted Q70 and Q70L production at the close of 2019, and Jaguar sadly said so long to its beloved XJ during last decade’s penultimate year too, and followed that up by discontinuing its compact XE last year.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
LED headlamps come standard across the Enclave line.

Sorry to stir the tears, but most readers of this review won’t likely be crying about a shortage of low-slung sedans anyway. Today’s low interest rates are certainly keeping the wolves from entering through the front door, but be certain that automakers around the globe are preparing for survival of the fittest when those same rates are hiked upward to stave off inflation. Therefore, they might as well kill off the slow sellers and make better bets on more popular SUVs ahead of what would otherwise be certain carnage.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The optional 20-inch alloy wheels on this test model came from the optional Sport Touring package.

Until Buick arrives with a two-row mid-size crossover to fight it out against the regular-sized Lexus RX, as well as Lincoln’s two-row mid-size Nautilus, base versions of the new Genesis GV80, and the list goes on (such a model that should really be in their lineup to take the brand to the next level), the three-row Enclave is where sizeable enough profits can be found to keep Buick in the black.

At a starting point of $48,398 (plus freight and fees), the Enclave is clearly not going solely up against mainstream volume brands, especially when considering Infiniti’s QX60 is right alongside with a base price of $48,995. These numbers are only slightly less than where a conventionally-powered Highlander ends up when everything Toyota has to offer gets added on, or for that matter a Hyundai Palisade in its top-tier Ultimate Calligraphy trim. Honestly, those two would provide serious competition for this Enclave and others in its entry-level luxury class, if consumers chose to shop them against each other, but sometimes luxury is a mindset, and to that end Buick owns a bit more real estate in Banbury-Don Mills than Pickering, albeit certainly not much if any in Bridle Path.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
A stylish set of LED taillights are joined by a small “ST” badge that signifies this model’s Sport Touring upgrade.

The photos of this Enclave were fittingly taken in North Delta, by the way, a nicer suburb just west of Surrey, which for those not from the area is Vancouver’s version of Scarborough. Before getting lambasted for mentioning the latter two cities in what could be imagined as derogatory, there’s much good on offer from both, and a lot of visible wealth in nicely developed clusters. Still, everyone knows Surrey isn’t West Van or Southwest Marine Drive, just like Scarborough isn’t Rosedale or Forest Hill. Likewise, most everyone can appreciate that your new Enclave Avenir has more in common with the just-noted Toyota and Hyundai SUVs than a Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 or a Range Rover SV Autobiography.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The cockpit is well organized, making the most of a sportier than expected driving experience.

Back to the here and now, changes to the 2022 Enclave only impact the front and rear fascias, wheels, and trim, with Buick combining design cues from the arguably more attractive Chinese version with the best of this 2021 model in order to arrive at another classically conservative luxury SUV option. To be clear, Buick has only shown photos of the top-tier 2022 Enclave Avenir so far, while the 2021 Enclave shown in this review wears the brand’s humblest Essence trim line. To be clearer still, this one is priced $3,000 dearer at $51,398 due to having all-wheel drive, and it also shows off a particularly attractive $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package that adds a sportier black mesh grille, glossy Pitch Dark Night lower accent colouring, and upgraded 20-inch alloys.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The primary gauge cluster is pretty old school for a vehicle in this class, and will no doubt be updated for the Enclave’s 2022 refresh.

Just the addition of AWD means a similarly equipped Enclave costs more than its Infiniti equivalent that comes standard with four-wheel propulsion, but I’m not going to even poke my head down any sort of comparison rabbit hole in this highly competitive class. Suffice to say the Enclave Essence is equipped with most features an entry-level luxury buyer should need, albeit not everything they’d want, hence the minimalist name, with key items including 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off LED headlights, heatable power-folding side mirrors, and more.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The Enclave’s standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and easy-to-use interface is top-notch.

The more is found inside, where proximity-sensing entry will allow you to closer inspect its pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 4.2-inch colour multi-information display, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 10-speaker Bose audio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, universal home remote, power tilt and telescopic steering column, heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, Safety Alert driver’s seat that vibrates as a warning, perforated leather upholstery, three-way heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, two-way driver memory, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, heated second-row captain’s chairs for seven-person occupancy (a second-row bench for eight is available), power-folding 60/40-split third row, hands-free powered liftgate, 120-volt power outlet, remote start, and much more.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The Enclave’s new 9-speed automatic is ultra-smooth yet quick shifting when called upon.

Standard as well, all Enclaves boast the Buick Driver Confidence Plus package of advanced driver assistive and safety tech that includes a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and Front Pedestrian Braking, plus Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, front and rear Park Assist, and IntelliBeam auto high beam assist headlamps.

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For standard upholstery, the Enclave Essence’ perforated leather is soft and supple, but the seats don’t provide much lateral support.

As the Enclave’s long list of base features should let on, you won’t feel like you’re slumming it in this Buick. In fact, even this entry-level model provides fabric-wrapped A, B and C pillars, plus a higher quality of soft-touch synthetic on the dash top and front-to-rear door uppers than I can remember in previous iterations. It’s even nicer across the instrument panel facing, plus the lower section of the IP ahead of the front passenger that continues underneath the infotainment touchscreen and along the right side of the lower centre console. This surface treatment is beautifully stitched and finished in a supple leatherette up and down, while the left side of the centre console is padded nicely to protect one’s inner knee from chafing, plus it also extends down to the armrest. These areas were finished in a lovely caramel brown in my tester, in order to match the seats and door inserts that were also nicely stitched, with the former featuring perforated leather inserts.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
The second-row captain’s chairs get standard heated cushions.

The seat leather is softer than many at this price point too, while those previously noted warming front cushions heat to near therapeutic levels. Speaking of warmth, the climate control interface, while appearing somewhat rudimentary, did its job well, and besides, your eyes will more likely gravitate to the colour touchscreen overtop, which is one of the easiest to use in the industry.

I’ve been a big fan of General Motors’ infotainment systems for some time, and while I like Chevy’s more Apple-inspired jelly-drop interface even more than the classier Buick design, they both make ample use of a full colour palette and work identically. This version responded quickly to inputs, which was especially notable when moving the navigation map around with my fingertips (it didn’t skip a beat). GM navigation has never let me down either, so kudos to the tech department, while the backup camera was clear and complete with moving guidelines, plus the standard Bose audio system was excellent.

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Access to the third row is easy thanks to second-row seats that pull up and out of the way easily.

The Enclave’s primary gauges, on the other hand, are about as basic as such clusters get, and a bit of a letdown visually. Sure, the chrome trimmed analogue dials are nice, these to each side of chrome-edged gas and engine temp meters above, but the smallish multi-info display is housed in a square shape that makes it appear like an aftermarket add-on, while competitors have made things worse by showing up with entirely digital primary clusters that show virtual dials one minute, and then transform into giant maps when using the navigation system, or alternatively integrate rear-facing camera monitors that automatically show the SUV’s blind spot when flicking the turn signal. At least the Enclave’s steering wheel that frames it all is superb, with soft leather and a nice sporty feel, while the switchgear on each spoke is high in quality and works well.

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The Enclave provides more third-row room than most in this class.

The overhead console just above looks a bit like yesteryear too, but it’s functional and includes a sunglasses holder, plus LED reading lights and switches for the garage door opener, OnStar, SOS, and more. There’s no power sunroof button, because this base model doesn’t have a sunroof, and I must admit it’s a strange omission in any new car these days, and especially odd looking when the roof is this long.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, the manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel offers plenty of reach, which worked well for my long-legged, short-torso body type, while the seats were quite comfortable, albeit with hardly any lateral side support, so if you’re planning to push hard through the corners, you’ll need to find something other than the steering wheel to hang on to. I only mention this because the Enclave handles very well, especially with the 20-inch wheel and 255/55 tire upgrade from the package mentioned earlier, so I recommend looking further up the trim line to find something with sportier, more sculpted seat bolsters.

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Dedicated cargo space is generous.

Likewise, the backrests on the Enclave Essence model’s second-row captain’s chairs are nearly flat too, but if rear passengers fold down their centre armrests they should be just fine when you’re having some fun on the way to the cottage. They’re generally comfortable seats, with ample legroom when slid all the way back. Second-row amenities include the aforementioned rear climate control panel and seat warming switchgear on the backside of the front console, where you’ll also find a set of USB chargers, albeit no air vents. Those are smartly integrated within the roof, which is the case for third-row passengers as well, and likewise for the LED reading lights.

Those in the very back get USB charging points to each side as well, while reasonably large rear quarter windows provide good outward visibility for rear passengers. The rearmost seats are comfortable enough too, while the aft compartment is generously roomy overall. There’s reasonable space for legs and feet, at least if those sitting in the second-row seats pull them forward a bit, while it’s also easy to flip those seats up and out of the way for third-row ingress and egress, only requiring a simple tug on a handle atop the backrest, while another lever below flips them down for storage.

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Storage below the load floor is ideal for valuables.

They fold fairly flat too, as does the third row, providing loads of cargo space for almost anything you could want to haul. I was able to carry a double-wide Ikea Pax wardrobe system for a friend, along with its glass sliding doors, and there was room to spare thanks to 2,764 available litres when both rows are lowered, 1,642 litres behind the second row, or 668 litres of dedicated cargo volume behind the third row.

Even fully loaded, the Enclave should be strong off the line, thanks to a potent 3.6-litre V6 good for 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. It comes mated to a nine-speed automatic that not only helps to cheat the pump with a commendable fuel economy rating of 13.0 L/100km in the city,  9.1 on the highway and 11.2 combined with FWD, or 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 respectively as tested with AWD thanks in part to standard idle start/stop, but it provides absolutely seamless, smooth shifts, but then again if you engage manual mode, which requires a shift into the “L” position (that really makes no sense at all), its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters help transform this calm and sedate traveling companion into a much sportier SUV than initially expected. In fact, BMW doesn’t even go so far as to hold its utility’s engines at redline before upshifting, so kudos to Buick for giving the Enclave such enjoyable performance. The V6 makes a notable growl too, although don’t take that to mean it sounds particularly sporty.

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The 60/40-split third row folds nice and flat, making the Enclave ideal for hockey bags, golf clubs, and other types of gear.

Of course, being a Buick the Enclave’s ride is extremely good. The driver and passengers are also well isolated from the elements outside when traveling at slower city speeds, with very little notable road noise. This is why I was a bit surprised by all the wind buffeting at highway speeds, the auditory kerfuffle so evident that I even made sure to check if all the windows were closed tight. This was an unexpected sensation from a brand that prides itself in providing vehicles with tomblike silent interiors, making me guess that upper trims are given an extra dose of Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” technologies.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence AWD
With both rows lowered, the Enclave provides more cargo space than most of its rivals.

This brings us back to the Enclave’s sub-$50k starting price, which is very affordable for a three-row luxury crossover SUV. It actually measures up pretty well to many that cost thousands more, but simultaneously might find itself a bit lacking when put side-by-side with some of the top trims produced by more common volume brands (for more competitive pricing information, be sure to check out my news story on the 2022 Enclave, which links to information about all luxury competitors as well).

If the current 2021 Enclave suits your personal style and overall needs, take note that Buick is currently providing up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are reporting average savings of $2,625. To learn how you can save thousands when buying your next new vehicle too, check out how the CarCostCanada system works. You’ll be provided dealer invoice pricing to make negotiating your best deal easier than you ever thought possible, while downloading the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store before visiting your local dealer makes sure that you have all the info required exactly when you need it.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann