Mercedes was a forerunner in the subcompact luxury class with its B-Class MPV back in 2005. The practical little runabout provided a higher level of interior quality and better overall solidity than more…

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch Road Test

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Mercedes’ A 250 4Matic Hatch is one of the sportiest cars in its subcompact luxury class, at least before AMG gets their hands on it.

Mercedes was a forerunner in the subcompact luxury class with its B-Class MPV back in 2005. The practical little runabout provided a higher level of interior quality and better overall solidity than more mainstream volume-branded small cars of the era, and therefore quickly became a hit here in Canada. No doubt many miss that intelligently designed people mover, but this said far fewer seem saddened by its loss than are now buying into its replacement, the much more universally appealing A-Class.

Mercedes brought its stylish four-door A 220 sedan and A 250 Hatch to market three years ago for the 2019 model year, and it quickly became the entry-level luxury sector’s most popular model, unless we’re including Mini’s Cooper (that edged the A out by 67 units in 2019) as a true premium-level car. Nevertheless, the A-Class, together with its sportier CLA sibling, dominate the subcompact luxury car segment, and believe me it’s not difficult to understand why.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Featuring classic five-door hatchback lines, the A 250 combines a sporty look with plenty of practicality.

I’ve driven all of the above, and therefore can attest to the many improvements Mercedes has brought to the fledgeling entry-level luxury sector. I say fledgeling because most premium brands continue to ignore it completely, instead focusing on entry-level crossover SUVs. Including the upright Mini hatchback and comparatively long, low and sleek CLA, only seven models occupy this smaller subcompact arena, the Cooper and A-Class followed by Audi’s A3 (and derivatives), BMW’s 2 Series, Acura’s ILX, and BMW’s i3, the latter of which probably fits more ideally into a separate entry-level electric luxury car category that doesn’t really exist yet.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
An available Sport Package upgrades the grille, lower front fascia and while, plus plenty of interior features.

The latter list is based on their sales volume in calendar year 2020, by the way, and on that note, I expected the much less expensive four-door Gran Coupé body-style would give BMW’s 2 Series line a solid leg up the segment’s sales chart order last year, but it didn’t even manage to outpace the aging Audi A3, which never even received a 2021 version to boost sales at the end of last year, due to soon being replaced for 2022.

That last car in mind makes me wonder why Audi doesn’t believe it can sell the hatchback version of its A3 in North America, while Mercedes obviously can. Sedans have long done better in the U.S. market, but there’s a place for arguably sportier looking and definitely more practical liftbacks, that is unless trunk security is a big issue in your city. Property crime is rampant in my town, especially from cars, but I’d still prefer a hatch over a sedan for general convenience’ sake, especially when loading it full of gear.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The sharper more aggressive front fascia and corner vents are part of an optional Sport Package, as are the 18-inch AMG alloys.

Fortunately, I was able to test the A 220 4Matic late last year, plus this slightly quicker A 250 4Matic Hatch, and AMG versions of both (those two reviews are shortly forthcoming), and while I might find it difficult to choose from the four, opting for Mercedes over the others wouldn’t be as difficult a decision. After all, along with their good looks, fabulous interior design, and impressive all-round performance, they scored highest amongst their Compact Luxury Car classmates in AutoPacific’s latest 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA), after doing the same in that third-party analytical firm’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA) study.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Gotta love these twinned five-spoke alloy rims wrapped in 225/45R18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season rubber.

Likewise, Vincentric (another third-party analytical firm) awarded the A 220 4Matic with the Best Fleet Value in Canada in its Luxury Compact segment, and they even include larger compacts within this category, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class and BMW’s 3 Series. Speaking of holding value, the Canadian Black Book gave similar accolades to the just-noted C-Class in their 2020 “Best Retained Value” Award (2021 hasn’t been revealed yet) that, like Vincentric, includes subcompacts as well, so that honour should rub off a bit on its little A-Class brother’s shoulders, but then again BMW’s 2 Series is said to have held onto most of its “investment” in the Premium Compact Car category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, while that firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) puts the most affordable Bimmer on top of its Small Premium Car segment too.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The A-Class’ interior is a cut above all competitors when it comes to style.

I obviously need to call BMW in order to book a test drive, hopefully in the newish Gran Coupé, which I must admit is one great looking sport sedan, plus if it drives anywhere near as well as the M2 I tested previously, it has to be a serious contender in this class. Of course, BMW has yet to offer anything so practical in the entry-level sector with its sportiest M badge, something Mercedes has been doing with its AMG division for as long as its CLA has been in existence (model year 2014), so kudos to the F1-inspired mega-luxury brand for bestowing power on the masses so early. Audi followed shortly thereafter with its S3 for 2015 and RS 3 for 2018, while it took BMW until model year 2016 to arrive with its M2, which to this day remains available in two-door Coupe form only.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The A 250’s cockpit is just like the A 220’s, although this example features the optional dual-display MBUX driver’s display and infotainment touchscreen that come as part of the Premium Package.

Just how I fell down this subcompact luxury/performance car rabbit hole and remained trapped inside for so long, says a lot about my undisciplined personality, but suffice to say Mercedes’ go-fast attitude trickles down to its more fuel-conscious trim lines. Before delving into the exact A 250 Hatch shown on this page, it might interest you to know about the various trims and how they all fit together to form the most diverse lineup in the subcompact luxury car segment.

For starters, the A 220 sedan receives a 188-horsepower version of Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s good for 221 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through a quick-shifting yet smooth-operating seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. The A 250 Hatch ups the ante with a much more potent spin on the same engine, enhanced with 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which just happens to be the same output as found in the base CLA 250 4Matic.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Just look at the crisp high-definition graphics and beautifully deep colours the MBUX system provides, in a driver’s display that’s very configurable.

While all this sounds great, take note of the AMG A 35’s claimed output of 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, regardless of sedan or hatchback body styles, while the AMG CLA 45 puts out a staggering 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. That one I must drive, as it comes mighty close to the M2’s 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, yet as already noted does so in a much more livable four-door package.

Coming back to earth, the A 250 Hatch is a very spirited daily driver, that not only puts fun back into the weekly commute, but combines that with a bit of thrifty pragmatism at the pump thanks to an estimated fuel economy rating of 9.4 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway, and 8.2 combined when driving modestly in Eco mode. Surprisingly, that rating makes it more efficient than the less powerful A 220, which nevertheless sips fuel at the fairly easy rate of 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined, which either means the A 250 Hatch provides a best-of-all-world’s performance/efficiency scenario, or Canada’s five-cycle testing method is somehow out of whack.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The centre stack is highlighted by the other half of the colourful MBUX display, although the gorgeous aluminum air vents are definitely vying for attention.

The two AMG-powered A-Class models are pretty stingy on fuel too, by the way, with identical ratings of 9.5 combined, while the quickest CLA isn’t much thirstier at 10.3 combined, that latter giving some buyers reason enough to choose the Merc over the comparatively gluttonous M2, which slurps up 12.6 L/100km of pricey premium. Don’t get me wrong, because I absolutely love the M2, but something more practical as a daily driver would be a necessity in my life.

Enter the A 250 4Matic Hatch, what I think is the ideal balance of luxury, spaciousness, and performance in this class, all for a reasonable price. It sneaks under the $40k threshold at $39,900, albeit before adding freight and fees (plus options you’ll definitely want), yet after subtracting up to $1,000 in additional factory incentives, according to CarCostCanada’s 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
It’s difficult to imagine anyone feeling let down by Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, making it easily worth the $2,950 price hike for the Premium Package alone, although it comes with much more.

The A 220 4Matic sedan, incidentally, is available for $2,100 less at a price of $37,800, plus identical fees and minus the same discounts, although an affordable CarCostCanada membership will provide you with dealer invoice pricing that you can use to negotiate a better price, as proven by its members’ A-Class savings that currently average $3,350. Check out how membership benefits work, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store so you can have all their info on your device when needed.

While we’re talking pricing, both AMG A 35 models start at $49,800, also fair for all the added performance, features and styling upgrades, so don’t count this one out before doing the requires maths to see if you can fit one into your budget. This said, I would totally understand if someone chose an A 250 hatch instead, being that its straight-line performance is more than adequate, handling prowess excellent, and overall refinement easily up to premium standards.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The infotainment display is a touchscreen, at least until the backup camera takes over. It features active guidelines, proximity warnings, and an available overhead view.

I’ll let you decide how you feel about its exterior styling, as it’s a personal taste issue, but for what it’s worth I love the way this car, and the rest of the A-Class lineup looks. Its sport grille pulls on classic Mercedes design cues going all the way back to “Silver Arrows” race cars of the 1950s, the W196 Streamliner a personal favourite, which, along with an open-wheel variant, helped the three-pointed star brand sweep the Formula One World Championships in 1954 and ’55 by claiming victory at the old high-speed Monza, Italy track (with its fabulous high-banked curves) in Streamlined Type Monza bodywork (they had more flexible regulations back then), with two legends, Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, at the wheel.

I love Mercedes’ storied history, something you really can’t put a price on. Sure, Asian luxury brands provide some nice premium alternatives, but few marques come close to offering up what Mercedes has in store, no matter the premium segment they’re competing in. For an example, Porsche’s brilliant 911 GT2 RS (991.2) only recently unseated the phenomenal AMG GT Black Series’ fastest production car lap record on the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife race track, and I’m willing to bet Mercedes will be back to once again contest single-lap bragging rights at some point in the near future, while it should also be noted the German automaker (with help from Brackley) has owned the top spot in F1 for seven consecutive years running.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
This lower console-mounted touchpad with surrounding switchgear allows for redundant control of the infotainment system.

Back at the Nürburgring, a current A 45 S 4Matic+ (W177) was piloted around the 20.8-km course in October of 2019, managing a respectable time of 7:48.80 minutes, which while not quite as quick as the GT Black Series that ran the ‘Ring in just 6:43.616 in order to earn fastest production car status back in November of 2020, makes me ponder how much fun this A 250 4Matic would be on a closed course.

Alas, no opportunity arose for me to take this little liftback to my local raceway, not that the 2-km, nine-turn road course is anything to get particularly excited about, especially when considering all the circuitous mountainside roads located throughout my area. Thus, my weeklong test of this A 250 4Matic Hatch, which included a dedicated day-trip, was most enjoyable, which of course included a few stints that hovered slightly over posted speeds for short durations.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
These sport seats provide superb comfort and good support, plus plenty of adjustability for an excellent driving position.

The engine’s aforementioned output gives the A 250 good power off the line, resulting in a claimed zero to 100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds (which is 1.5 seconds slower than the A 35 Hatch, in case you were wondering), while its dual-clutch gearbox, complete with steering wheel paddles and a very engaging Dynamic Sport mode, shortens input reaction times to make the most of the drivetrain and nicely sorted chassis setup.

To be clear, Sport mode doesn’t make any changes to the front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s pre-set characteristics, which is already lowered slightly from the A 220 sedan. My tester, which rode on 225/45R18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season rubber encircling four gorgeous AMG-branded five-spoke alloys, was noticeably sharper in most every other way, which certainly seemed to enhance its overall performance through corners. Braking is strong too, and totally controllable, even when clamping down hard from high speeds, something I was able to do repeatedly with very little fade.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Kudos to Mercedes for the extendable driver’s seat cushion that nicely cups below the knees for additional comfort.

The other three modes are Eco, Comfort, and Individual, the first one being where I left it more often than not in order to minimize fuel consumption, the second a default mode it automatically reverted to at start up, and the final fourth setting allowing some personal choice between performance parameters. Eco and Comfort modes transform the compact hatch into a fairly refined city commuter and highway cruiser, although to be frank this isn’t the most cosseting of suspensions in the class. You will feel the road below, something Mercedes drivers openly appreciate, but I didn’t find it as firm as a similarly optioned 2 Series.

Driving more casually gives opportunity to appreciate the A 250’s beautiful interior. I know BMW does a good job with quality, as does Audi, all the Germans being leaps and bounds ahead of the sole Japanese contender in this class, but Mercedes is the absolute king of bling inside. The A-Class has a drop-dead gorgeous cabin, starting with its two-in-one MBUX digital gauge cluster/infotainment touchscreen that provides such brilliantly crisp and sensationally colourful graphics it’ll take your breath away.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Overhead is a very large powered glass sunroof, shedding light on the A 250’s impressive interior.

The driver’s display allows each user to choose a design that suits their personal style, all of which are more vibrant than anything I’ve seen from the competition. The integrated multi-information display is as full of functions as anything in this class too, providing loads of discoverable options to keep the love alive long after the initial excitement of purchase might otherwise subside.

The attached infotainment display is a touchscreen, as noted, and therefore fully capable of tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, depending on the function being used. I should also note that Mercedes provides a redundant infotainment controller on the lower console that’s easier to reach when sitting back in the driver’s seat. It includes a touchpad that works identically to the touchscreen, other than providing haptic feedback, plus is surrounded by a number of quick-access switchgear for immediate access to regularly used functions. Yet more infotainment redundancy can be found on the steering wheel spokes, so Mercedes has you covered no matter how you want to integrate with the MBUX system.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The rear seating area is spacious and accommodating for the subcompact luxury class, plus can be filled with premium features.

The infotainment monitor is just as high in definition as the driver’s display, by the way, and includes all the expected features when moving up through Mercedes’ checklist of options. What this means is you’ll need to spend more to get features that might come standard in cars from the Asian brands, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration which, believe it or not, come as part of the $2,950 Premium Package.

There’s a lot more in that package that you’ll most likely want, including a wireless device charger, proximity-sensing keyless access, ambient lighting, an auto-dimming centre mirror and driver’s side mirror, power-folding exterior mirrors, blind spot assist, vehicle exit warning, live traffic info, a Connect 20 Mid audio upgrade, and get this, a digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch central media display, and MBUX extended functions, such as an automatic front camera that warns of stationary obstacles (even cars ahead when pulling up to a stoplight), or a similar feature that does the same thing when a pedestrian is walking across a crosswalk. This said, the ultra-wide combined displays I made such a fuss about earlier, are not standard.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Dedicated cargo capacity is very accommodating and nicely finished.

This I didn’t know before writing this review, because I’ve never seen the alternative. In fact, just try to look through online images for a photo of a base model with analogue gauges and a separate display screen and you probably won’t be able to locate anything, something I did at length in multiple search tools. Even Mercedes doesn’t show this interior when configuring an A 250 on their retail website, this base car always showing the upgraded instrument panel photo in its interior gallery. It’s as if it didn’t exist at all. I’m guessing the Premium Package is chosen by each and every dealer, because who’d want an A-Class without it? It’s a smart way to get the advertised retail price below $40k, but probably not reflective of anything you’re going to find on the lot. I suppose you could order one if you really wanted to remain analogue.

Navigation is optional too, which is normal for this class. The $1,000 augmented reality-enhanced upgrade provides live traffic information as well, plus traffic sign assist, while a $1,600 Technology Package adds active Multibeam LED headlights with adaptive high beams, and Distronic active distance assist.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
The 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks allow for plenty of storage configurations, a personal favourite being the ability to stow longer items, like skis, down the middle while two rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats.

Advanced driver aids and safety equipment in mind, a $1,900 Intelligent Drive Package adds Distronic active distance assist separately, plus active speed limit assist, map-based speed adaptation, enhanced automated stop-and-go, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active emergency stop assist, active blind spot assist, active steering assist, evasive steering assist, active lane change assist, and active lane keeping assist.

Should I go on? Maybe it’s better if you go to Mercedes’ retail site to build this car yourself, or for that matter over to the CarCostCanada page I mentioned earlier, where you can configure it similarly, right down to the wide array of $890 to $2,500 optional paint colours.

Before departing completely from the options menu, I should probably point out that the AMG-style wheels noted before are in fact part of a $1,500 Sport Package that also changes up the grille with a chromed diamond-block insert, plus it modifies the lower front fascia with a more aggressive AMG design featuring attractive metallic accents. Inside, your feet will rest upon special AMG floor mats when they’re not pressing down on a set of AMG brushed stainless steel sport pedals, while your backside settles in to upgraded sport front seats and your hands grip a much nicer sport steering wheel wrapped in fine Nappa leather, the aluminum shift paddles on its backside part of this package as well. A bit more ($2,000) will swap the Sport Package out for an all-black Night Package, if a more menacing look is your thing.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
Below the cargo floor, are items for fixing a flat and a shallow area for hiding valuables from prying eyes.

The steering wheel rim can be heatable for an additional $250, or for $1,200 more the just-noted front seats can be climate cooled to reduce perspiration during hot summer months. Other extras include a $450 powered front passenger seat with memory, a $300 universal remote, a $650 overhead parking camera, a $1,500 head-up display, a $900 active parking assist system, a $700 Burmester audio upgrade with 12 speakers and 450 watts of power (that would be high on my list, despite the regular audio system sounding just fine), $450 for satellite radio, and more. A car with all of these options and a simple metallic paint will add about $17,000 to the base model’s list price, resulting in about $57k before any discount, which is more or less the level of top-tier pricing you’ll find with most of the A 250 Hatch’s rivals.

What you won’t find with any of these are the interior details hinted at earlier, the dual-display MBUX system only part of the car’s wow factor. The stunning five circular HVAC vents on the dash are eye-arresting enough, their brushed aluminum finish looking like a quintet of retro jet engines. Likewise, knurled metal trim bits adorn some of the key buttons, knobs and toggles, while plenty of other interior accents are finished in aluminum or aluminized composite. If the little A 250’s interior doesn’t titillate your senses, I’m afraid you’ve lost your love for cars, or at least modern, tech-filled conveyances.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch
An engine worth celebrating, particularly if you’re moving up from the 188-hp A 220, thanks to a much more energizing 221-hp.

If you’re more into taller SUVs than classically shaped cars, most everything that makes the A 250 4Matic great can be had in the GLA 250 4Matic, so keep that in mind while shopping. Likewise, the A-Class’ general styling, on the outside and inside, is much like its larger brethren, although the C-Class never received Mercedes’ dual MBUX display, and will soon skip right past that infotainment era for the 2022 model year, which introduces a new version of the system featuring individual driving and media interfaces, the latter a lot larger and closer to the driver, thus negating the redundant lower console-mounted touchpad and controls that come as part of an upgraded A-Class and so many other models in Mercedes’ lineup.

Eventually we’ll see how this next chapter in interior design plays out in future A-Class models, but until then, today’s A remains the most advanced subcompact luxury car on the planet (when so equipped). So, if you’re in the market for an entry-level premium car, you’ve really got to check the A-Class out in person.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada,…

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate Road Test

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
Hyundai’s Kona is one sweet looking ride, especially as-tested in top-line 1.6T AWD Ultimate trim.

In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada, placing third in its class, and even then, it was a mere 42 units behind the next most popular Subaru Crosstrek.

Nissan’s Qashqai was number one that year, but it would quickly lose this status during the following 12 months when the Kona’s sales increased by a staggering 78-percent to 25,817 examples, dwarfing the next-best-selling Qashqai’s 18,526-unit total. Calendar year 2020 saw another bump up the sales charts to 31,733 deliveries, with the best-of-the-rest Crosstrek managing a very respectable 22,161 units, albeit still about a third, or 9,572 deliveries behind, while today, the impressive little Kona is on its way to approximately the same sales results for 2021, once again leading the pack in popularity with 15,715 examples down the road after six months.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
Funky, fun and forward-looking, the Kona is fortunately not too whacky and weird, like some small SUVs that have come before.

Why such dominance? One look should immediately give it away. This little ute is a knockout, combining plenty of unorthodox styling cues, but doing so in a way that’s appealing to most buyers in the entry-level SUV marketplace. Up front and centre it features Hyundai’s unique hexagonal grille, although its bold, assertive design is surrounded by some rather fun styling features, including a narrow slat just above, two slim bi-functional LED headlamps with active cornering lights positioned high above the front fenders to each side (projectors are standard below Ultimate trim), some beefy blocks of matte grey/black composite just under those, which are integrated with squarish metallic bezels that look like sporty brake vents, and house LED driving lights inside.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The Kona has plenty of interesting design elements arounds its big, open grille.

A sporty lower lip spoiler filled with fog lamps sits below everything, the blackened matte material joining up with thick, meaty grey/black fender extensions that circle each wheel cut-out, while more of the darkened trim spans the rocker panels, other than a thin strip of metal-look trim that sits on top.

Hyundai continues a similar look at back, where a thin trip of black trim on the fourth pillar forms a floating roof design that follows the rear window down to an elegant set of horizontally-positioned LED taillights, all of which sit above another blocky cluster of black-cladding that frames backup and reflector lamps before forming into a big black and grey diffuser-style rear bumper.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
Slim bi-functional LED headlamps with active cornering lights, exclusive to Ultimate trim, are positioned high above the front fenders.

It might sound to some as if I’m describing a mix of the more controversially styled fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee, available from 2014 to 2018, and Nissan’s ultimately whacky Juke (that I honestly kind of like), but it all works so well that it’s sparked zero controversy at all.

My top-line Kona Ultimate AWD tester added a set of 18-inch machine-finished alloy rims with gray-painted pockets (shared with lesser Trend trim), wrapped around 235/45 Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season rubber. Its Blue Lagoon paintwork borders on radical, but somehow still comes across as tasteful with the Kona, while all the just-noted dark matte grey body cladding across the bottom actually features a slightly glossed up metallic look in Ultimate trim. Some of the metallic bits mentioned a moment ago are partially exclusive to top-line trim too, while the metallic brightwork edging the front grille can also be found on the Trend model.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
Along with the LED headlights, the silver trim and the larger 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels come standard on Ultimate trim.

Climb inside, and the Kona continues its expressive attitude, albeit with a dose of upscale refinement. Hyundai mixes dark greys on most surfaces with light grey tones that almost border on white, for the mid-section of the dash and door uppers, while the seats are surfaced in more of a medium grey.

The light grey is dimpled for a nice textured effect, and finished in soft-touch synthetic along the dash facing, while Hyundai utilizes a nice soft paint to make the door uppers a bit more appealing, if not more comfortable for those that rest their elbows on the side window sills. The rest of the interior plastics are harder, although they’re comprised of good, solid-feeling composites and seem as if they’re designed to put up with abuse over the long haul, while the cabin’s overall design is very appealing.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
These LED taillights are standard across the entire Kona range.

This is especially true of its details, such as the nice leather-wrapped sport steering wheel that includes comfortable thumb spats and elegantly thin spokes dotted with high-quality switchgear, some of the toggles even aluminized. The stalks behind the steering wheel are very high in quality too, while all of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the interior are tightly fitted and well damped, despite not being always made from particularly dense composites.

The primary instrument cluster is mostly a backlit analogue design (for now… keep reading), although a narrow, vertical 4.2-inch TFT Supervision multi-information display sits in the middle of the tachometer and speedometer, adding a bit of colour for highlighting key functions. Better yet, a useful head-up display system sits overtop on the dash, projecting key info in the driver’s line of sight where it’s safer to pay attention to.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The Kona Ultimate provides a two-tone grey interior that’s quite upscale for the subcompact SUV class.

Over to the right, the centre stack is nicely laid out, with the usual fixed tablet-style infotainment display on top, seeming to stick up and out of the dash. The 8.0-inch touchscreen (up an inch from lesser trims) is flanked by two rows of buttons and dials, nothing new here, but I like the way Hyundai has design the pod-like controls, which are all backlit for easy use at night.

The user interface itself is not up to Hyundai’s newer standards, with older graphics and a matte screen, but it’s still easy to use and filled with functions. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration come standard, as does an accurate navigation system in Ultimate trim, while the backup camera includes helpful active guidelines. The Infinity audio system offers good sound quality, ideally suited to my favourite SiriusXM satellite radio stations, or alternatively one of the many podcasts I regularly listen too, the latter streamed via Bluetooth (which incidentally includes voice command).

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The Kona boasts a well laid out cockpit that’s stock full of features in Ultimate trim.

USB ports for smartphone integration and/or charging can be found at the base of the centre stack, along with dual 12-volt chargers, although you might find the Ultimate’s exclusive wireless charging pad more to your liking, a real bonus in this entry-level segment.

Separating the two-shelf phone storage/charging area from the infotainment display is a simple, straightforward single-zone automatic climate control interface comprised of two dials and a digital display, the left knob for temperature settings and the right one for fan speeds, this non-manual system only found on the Kona’s Ultimate trim, while a row of quick-access HVAC buttons sits just below.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The mostly analogue gauge cluster is bright and attractive for the class.

The three-way front seat heater controls are located on the lower console, right in front of a separate button for turning the heatable steering wheel rim on and off, and not far away from two separate buttons for hill descent control and rear parking sensors (this last item exclusive to Ultimate trim), not to mention the gear lever at centre, complete with a leather-clad knob and boot.

Now that we’re talking mechanicals, the shifter sends commands down to a sporty seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), standard in all AWD models. Right next to the shifter in these three trims, that include Trend, Luxury and as-tested Ultimate, is another button for four-wheel drive lock, which really helps when trying to get unstuck from the snow, mud or out of any other type of slippery situation, while a Drive Mode button on the opposite side of the console lets you swap between default, Eco and Sport settings, the latter really increasing the fun factor.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
A bit old school yet still totally functional and filled with all the most important features, the Kona’s top-line 8.0-inch display does the job.

To that end, Hyundai gives its AWD models a little more oomph from a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, this engine making 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque compared to the base 2.0-litre mill’s 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft. The former powerplant is sporty for this tiny tyke class, but I won’t go so far to say that it sounds sporty, at least not all the time due to a slightly anemic exhaust note when driven slowly, but put your foot into the throttle and a nice growly tone accompanies its brisk acceleration.

In this way, the Kona 1.6T AWD kind of fills the shoes of the aforementioned Juke, which in Nismo AWD-form, or better yet the even more potent Nismo RS, was one seriously zippy performer thanks to 215 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque driving a reasonably sophisticated AWD system via a six-speed manual gearbox. That little screamer was killed off five years ago, however, leaving this top-line Kona as one of the segment’s most aggressive performers.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
A wireless device charger was a pleasant surprise, Hyundai having long been ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new technologies.

It moves off the line with plenty of chutzpa, although strangely Hyundai forgot to fit a set of paddles to the sporty steering wheel in order to provide any hands-on entertainment. It’s certainly shiftable via the gear lever, which merely takes a leftward flick of the wrist to actuate, but folks these days, myself included, would rather flick away in the upper regions of the cockpit. We’ll see if Hyundai addresses this in the model’s forthcoming refresh, or for that matter updates this model’s handbrake with an electromechanical one, although this last point isn’t an issue for me.

At least the gearbox allows the engine to rev right up to redline before it automatically shifts, this working best in Sport mode, of course, but shifts are truly quicker than most in this class no matter the mode you’re in, due to its dual-clutch design. It’s smooth when doing so too, thus a best-of-both-worlds scenario, while its claimed fuel economy rating is about the same as the less powerful engine when optimized with AWD, at 9.0 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, compared to 9.2, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively for the 2.0 AWD. The base 2.0 FWD Kona, incidentally, gets an estimated 8.6 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.9 combined rating.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The leather-wrapped shift knob controls a very advanced 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox.

Possibly most important in this class is ride quality and overall comfort, which the Kona provides in spades. Of course, this is a small SUV, so don’t expect Palisade levels of poshness or quietude, but within this class it’s a refinement superstar, and therefore ideal for everything from inner-city commutes to fast-paced highway road trips, with a little serpentine action thrown in the middle just for fun. Yes, this little ute provides good grip around such circuitous corners for an overall fun experience, which made it my go-to vehicle during its test week.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The Kona Ultimate’s seats are excellent, and driving position very good too.

Another reason the Kona sells well is overall practicality, this a critical factor that even mighty Toyota is only starting to figure out with its upcoming Corolla Sport Cross (the CH-R’s cargo capacity is miniscule). Settling into the Kona Ultimate’s perforated leather-covered eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, which includes two-way powered lumbar and hides that have a particularly upscale feel, I couldn’t help but be impressed by its substantive bolsters that ideally enveloped my backside. All around, it provided the ideal amount of comfort, plus good, firm support, almost Germanic in its design. The tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach and rake was superb too, easily finding a good driving position for my short-torso, long-legged frame, which is not always possible in this class or others.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
A powered glass sunroof is always nice.

No one should feel claustrophobic up front either, thanks to lofty headroom and plenty of shoulder space, while the same can also be said for rear occupants that offer no shortage of room for legs and feet. The Kona seats three abreast, although two adults in back is best, with the centre armrest folded down to maximize comfort and provide a place for drinks. The outboard seatbacks offer decent lower back support, but other than that, rear creature comforts are nowhere near up to the levels of Ultimate trims in Hyundai’s larger SUV lineup—although the netted magazine holders on the backsides of the front seats are nice.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The rear seating area is roomy and the outboard seatbacks very comfortable with good lower support.

Features in mind, Ultimate trim does come well-equipped for this class, with items like solar front glass, rear privacy glass, rain-sensing wipers, powered and timer-heated exterior mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, a multifunctional auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver, an overhead console integrating a nice padded sunglasses holder and reading lights, plus controls for the powered glass sunroof, lidded and lit vanity mirrors in the front sun visors, plus more.

Advanced safety technologies found in top-tier Ultimate trim include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and Driver Attention Warning, while High Beam Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control make the Kona much easier to live with on long commutes and trips.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
The Kona’s dedicated cargo area measures a generous 544 litres.

My tester included a handy cargo net attached to all four chromed tie-down hooks at each corner, while the substantive cargo floor is both removable and capable of being raised to match the same level as the seatbacks when folded. Hyundai provides a shallow divided container just below, made from a solid-feeling foam, which is also removable, and when lifted exposes the spare tire below. Likewise, the hard-shell tonneau cover can be removed easily. Expanding on the 544-litre dedicated luggage area are rear seatbacks that fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, which when laid flat via latches on the seat tops makes a sizeable 1,296 litres.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
This shallow tray sits atop the spare tire under the cargo floor.

To be honest, due to styling alone the Kona has long been a personal favourite in this class, but after a week behind the wheel I can truly say the rest of the package attests to its popularity. It does everything a subcompact SUV should and more, so it will likely remain on top until some other manufacturer comes up with something that checks off more boxes for similar pricing.

Money in mind, the most basic Kona in Essential trim starts at $21,299 plus freight and fees, while Preferred trim can be had for $23,049, and AWD adds $2,000 to either. The Kona Trend, which comes standard with AWD, starts at $26,899, while Luxury trim does likewise for $27,999. The special Urban Edition, which gets upgraded to the 1.6-litre turbo-four AWD powertrain, is available from $28,049, while the Limited Edition also features the upgraded engine for $28,049. Finally, the as-tested Ultimate can be had from $32,299. On a side note, Hyundai makes the FWD-only Kona Electric, which ranges from $43,699 in Preferred trim to $49,199 for the Ultimate, less government rebates, depending where you live. I’ll be covering this one in a separate review soon.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate
With a sizeable 1,296 litres to its credit when both 60/40-split rear seatbacks are lowered, the Kona is quite accommodating for gear.

Of note, Hyundai is currently offering up to $5,000 in additional incentives for the 2021 Kona Electric, or up to $1,000 in incentives for conventionally-powered 2021 Kona models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,157 when purchasing the latter SUV. To find out how you can access dealer invoice pricing and learn about other CarCostCanada benefits, such as factory leasing and financing rates, check out how their affordable membership works, plus be sure to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can have all of their valuable info and features at your fingertips when you’re ready to negotiate.

Before signing off, it’s important for you to know the 2022 Kona will see a fairly dramatic styling refresh from the outside in, including a wider, shallower grille, new headlamps and driving lights, a deeper front fascia, plus changes to the rear lighting elements, bumper, and more. Inside, a new dash design offers an optional digital gauge cluster, while available heated rear seats will give rear passengers more to celebrate on cold mornings. Atop the centre stack, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen will be standard, with the upgraded version stretching to 10.3 inches. Lastly, a sportier N Line trim will soon vie for most entertaining subcompact performance SUV credentials, thanks to a 195-horsepower version of the same 1.6-litre turbo-four used in today’s top-line Kona. Details on this last upgrade are not yet available, so we’ll keep you posted.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Is there a meaner looking sports car available anywhere? OK, an argument can be made for some multiple-six-figure sports and supercars, but within the more affordable mainstream volume-branded sector,…

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody Road Test

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392’s Widebody design and beefier wheel and tire package makes this sensational super coupe look better than ever.

Is there a meaner looking sports car available anywhere? OK, an argument can be made for some multiple-six-figure sports and supercars, but within the more affordable mainstream volume-branded sector, the Challenger is one tough looking customer.

Of course, Dodge follows up the Challenger’s menacing appearance with a range of powertrains that borders on the otherworldly. There’s nothing particularly exciting about its base 3.6-litre V6, except for the ability of a budget-conscious buyer being able to get into this fabulous looking car for just $36,265 (plus freight and fees), the SXT and GT models’ 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque just barely capable of making their respective 1,750-kilo (3,858-lb) and 1,772-kg (3,907-lb) curb weights feel sporty. It gets even more challenging to do so when all-wheel drive is added to the mix, due to the just-noted models’ curb weights bumped up to 1,840 kg (4,057 lbs) and 1,847 kg (4,072 lbs) apiece, but muscle car fans wanting more get-up-and-go can always opt for a V8.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Long, lean, and, well, not that low, the reincarnated Challenger combines a sleek coupe shape with a very roomy interior.

RT trim is the most affordable way to get into Dodge’s 5.7-litre Hemi, which is good for a healthy 372 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels, while only adding 117 kg (258 lbs) to the rear-wheel drive GT. The mind-blowing SRT Hellcat, on the other hand, and downright insane Hellcat Redeye make concerns about mass less of an issue, at least in a straight line. The former makes a sensational 717 horsepower and 656 lb-ft of torque from a 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi V8, while the latter puts out an absolutely outrageous 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque from a higher output version of the same engine, both of which are available in either the Challenger’s regular body style or the Widebody design introduced for 2018.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The Challenger is the Harley-Davidson of road cars, especially in R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody form.

The R/T Scat Pack 392, also available in both body styles, splits the difference between the regular R/T and Hellcat with a 6.4-litre supercharged Hemi V8 making 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque, an engine that adequately compensates for the car’s 1,924 kg (4,242 lb) curb weight by launching it from standstill to 100 km/h in about four seconds before attaining a top track speed of 273 km/h (170 mph). My Scat Pack 392 Widebody tester adds a bit more mass, 33 kg (73 lbs) to be exact, resulting in 1,957 kg (4,314 lb), but once again this additional weight more than makes up for itself in handling performance, thanks to meatier 305/35 ZR-rated Pirelli P Zero rubber on 20×11-inch Devil’s Rim forged aluminum wheels, which compare well against the regular Scat Pack 392’s 245/45ZR20 performance tires.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392s feature an upgraded performance hood with dual heat extractors.

To be clear, Widebody Challengers only add a competition suspension with active damping, plus fender flares to allow for beefier tires, which means the track of both body styles maintains a sizeable 1,610 mm (63 in) up front and 1,621 mm (64 in) in back. All that extra rubber combines ideally with the 392’s well-sorted independent short/long arm front and multi-link rear suspension setup, making for mostly confidence-inspiring stability through fast-paced corners.

Mostly? I won’t lie, this isn’t a car for the faint of heart. What I mean is, you’ll be able to feel the Challenger’s transitional weight when flinging it through sharp curves, and while much of that mass is up front, therefore causing a tendency for the car to understeer, or push out at the front, unless getting too hard on the throttle mid-corner and breaking rear grip, it’s the exact opposite of the performance spectrum than something extremely lightweight, like the Alfa Romeo 4C (also under the Stellantis group umbrella).

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The standard automatic halogen headlamps do a decent job lighting up the road at night.

This said, I pushed my Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody tester hard around some very tight sets of mountainside curbs and never had an issue. It actually feels pretty well balanced, with that just-mentioned slight tendency to push out at the front wheels in fact confidence-inspiring, as it informs a driver of its breaking point before it’s too late, and due to this feedback, much attributed to the car’s electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering system, I was able to instantly compensate by applying a bit of input at the wheel to make the rear step out ever so slightly. So, it’s not that this car can’t perform with the best in this pony car crowd, but instead it comes down to the sensation of its mass transitioning from side-to-side so obviously, that might make some drivers feel a bit uneasy.

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Just in case you’ve never seen these up close, each centre halo LED accent light surrounds a gaping air duct.

Of course, Dodge provides all of the latest traction and stability control functions, which help to keep the rear end in check if it were to suddenly let go, while the big fat Brembos at each corner provide plenty of stopping power with very little fade, so my only advice to new owners would be to keep the traction and stability control systems on as you gradually get familiar with those breaking points, and then when finally ready to test its boundaries, make sure it’s not on a circuitous canyon road with a rock wall on one side and cliff on the other. A local autocross course in a parking lot, where you’ll only be destroying orange cones might be a better idea, but I digress.

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The Widebody boasts 20×11-inch Devil’s Rim forged aluminum wheels wrapped in 305/35 ZR-rated Pirelli P Zero performance tires.

I’ve delved pretty deep into this review without mentioning anything about the Challenger’s transmission choices, so here goes: all V6-powered Challengers are only available with an eight-speed automatic dubbed TorqueFlite, a name that’s been used for branding all of Chrysler group’s in-house autoboxes since 1956 (when it replaced the two-speed PowerFlite), but this unit, and all eight-speeds currently available from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, or Ram, are in fact rebranded versions of the ZF 8HP, albeit built under licence at Chrysler’s Kokomo, Indiana casting plant since 2013.

Incidentally, the first vehicle in the four-brand lineup to receive ZF’s 8HP was the 2011 Chrysler 300, but it soon expanded to the 2012 Dodge Charger, 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2013 Ram 1500, and now encompasses all vehicles in the four brands’ ranges using longitudinally-mounted V6 or V8 engines in RWD and AWD applications (hybrid transmissions included).

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Classic racing stripes and a subtle rear deck lid spoiler seem as if they’re pulled directly off of a ’70s Challenger.

To say this was a good decision would be a massive understatement, as most familiar with the multitude of multi-speed automatic gearboxes on the market would claim ZF’s 8HP as the best compromise between quick-shifting performance and overall smooth-operating civility, not to mention superb reliability. The aforementioned four brands have sold well over one million vehicles equipped with the TorqueFlite eight-speed, and thanks to said dependability and just how thoroughly engaging it is use, especially when employing its Sport mode along with manual mode and its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, I can attest that it’s a key reason you should consider the Challenger over its competitors. Then again, you might want to opt for the available six-speed manual, a gearbox I thoroughly enjoyed in a 2015 Challenger R/T 392 Scat Pack Shaker, way back in the day.

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
These retrospective looking taillights are actually modern LEDs.

As yet one more side-note, I can’t just mention Sport mode without adding that it turns off the traction control (and includes a warning in the gauge cluster), so those who aren’t accredited professional drivers may want to put some track or autocross time into learning the car’s boundaries before doing so (as noted a few minutes ago). This said, you can modify Sport mode from the infotainment system, by entering the Apps page, then the Drive Mode Set-Up button, then Sport-Mode Set-Up, at which point you can reconfigure Sport mode to include traction control. This means you can use most of the power without constantly lighting up the rear tires at takeoff, or overcooking them when applying too much throttle in tight corners.

Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Allowing a wide berth for these extra-long doors, the Challenger stays true to its original form.

You can do the same to decrease engine response and the transmission’s high-performance shifting mode, but I can’t think of many applications I’d want to do that, or for that matter disengage the paddles, which is also possible. Likewise, you can make Sport mode’s more direct steering-feel less engaging via either Normal or Comfort modes, which hardly makes sense either, but I suppose it’s nice to have the option. These features are helpful in default mode, however, where you can leave engine/transmission in normal mode while making sure the paddles are still working, plus leave traction control on, and steering in mid-range Normal mode.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Up close and comfortable, the Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody provides excellent driver positioning.

You can quickly review your personalized setup on the Performance Control page within the infotainment system’s Performance Pages section, the latter being a real bonus as it’s filled with active graphical info designed to get the most out of your driving experience, including digital coolant temp, oil temp, and oil pressure gauges on page one, boost pressure, air fuel ratio, intercooler coolant temp, and intake air temp gauges (plus battery voltage and trans temperature for the automatic) on page two, a timer page for keeping track of your reaction time off the line, as well as lap times and more (you can save this info to a USB to review on another device later), a g-force page for graphically displaying the amount of lateral and longitudinal force (current and best) your car is experiencing through curves, and an engine page for horsepower, torque and engine related info.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
A flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel frames a gorgeous gauge cluster filled with a 7.0-inch configurable multi-info display.

Right next to the Drive Mode button is one for “LAUNCH” control, a feature that’ll make sure driver error doesn’t impede any future drag races. After setting it up in the infotainment system by going to the same Performance Control page used for reviewing your personalized driving mode setup, go to the Launch RPM Set-Up page, set your launch revs between 1,500 and 3,500 rpm (you can also set the Shift Light rpm on this page), and then activate the Launch mode. Next, press your left foot hard on the brake to hold the car in place, floor the throttle with your right foot, and then release the brake, after which Launch control takes care of the rest, automatically optimizing traction and wheel spin balance along the way.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
All Challengers above the base model provide an 8.4-inch centre touchscreen filled with useful functions.

Just be smart about launching your Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 on public roads. It’s a sure-fire way to get a ticket or worse, and remember, if the steering wheel isn’t straight, or you don’t completely floor the throttle, it’ll automatically kick out of launch mode and you’ll be on your own. If you want to deactivate the program manually, you can do so within the same performance page, and it goes without saying you should be in Sport mode to get the most out of Launch mode. Just in case you’re sitting in a six-speed manual-equipped car while reading this review, launch mode works the same, but instead of releasing the brake pedal you’ll be releasing the clutch. The only difference is in setup, where you’ll be setting your engine revs between 2,000 and 4,500 rpm.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic is an especially well-engineered piece of machinery, and reason enough to choose the Challenger over its rivals.

As far as non-performance equipment goes, all Challengers come well-equipped with items like automatic halogen headlamps featuring halo LED accent lighting, LED taillights, proximity access and pushbutton ignition, a 7.0-inch full-colour customizable in-cluster driving display (set between two gorgeous analog dials), a tire pressure monitoring display, a centre touchscreen (7.0 inches for the base model and 8.4 inches for all other trims), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two USB ports, six-speaker audio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (flat-bottomed in the Widebody) and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjust, and much more.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
The Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody’s seats are fabulous, especially upgraded with faux suede.

Moving up through the trims will provide exterior upgrades like larger wheels and tires, an SRT front splitter, fog lamps, a functional hood scoop (or performance hood with dual heat extractors for the 392), active exhaust (V8 only), remote start (with the automatic), paddle shifters, bright metal foot pedals, heated front seats and steering wheel rim (that get quite toasty), cooled seats, navigation, a 276-watt amplifier (in the 392), satellite radio, and more, while options include a powered glass sunroof, Harman Kardon or Alpine audio, etcetera, plus loads of packages.

My Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 tester reached near-premium levels of interior finishing too, with soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere. Even the front roof pillars are wrapped in plush Alcantara-like pseudo-suede, the same as used for the perforated seat inserts. This came as part of the Carbon & Suede Interior Package, the psuede also covering the roof liner, while the carbon fibre trim looks fabulous.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Rear roominess and comfort is very good as far as sport coupes go.

Those seats are wonderfully comfortable, with excellent side bolstering. The driver’s seat has superb adjustability, including the four-way power lumbar support noted above, which is highly unusual in this class, and not even available in some entry-level luxury models from brands like Lexus. The driver’s position is excellent too, with generous reach from the upgraded powered tilt and telescopic steering wheel, plus there’s plenty of room for larger drivers.

Rear spaciousness isn’t quite as good as the four-door Charger sedan, but there’s not all that much difference between the two cars. Headroom is actually better than you might expect, despite the narrow side windows, although rear passengers might feel a bit claustrophobic due to small rear quarter windows, but they won’t be uncomfortable. Dodge includes a flip-down centre armrest with dual cupholders, standard across the line, while the trunk is fairly large, but access is not all that easy due to a high lift-over. The rear seats fold down in the usual 60/40 configuration, making the near full-size coupe quite practical.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
A high lift-over might make trunk access a bit challenging for shorter folks.

Yes, there are a lot of reasons to love the Challenger, especially when putting out the kind of power my tester came with. It might be big, bold, brash and some might say brutish looking, but it’s wonderfully refined inside and surprisingly easy to live with.

Sure, it’s a glutton on fuel, although its eight-speed auto helps reduce its claimed 15.9-L/100km city rating to a pretty decent 9.6 on the highway, leaving its combined rating at an estimated 13.1 L/100km. With fuel prices rising that might matter to some, but most buyers nevertheless love their Challengers. In fact, the Challenger won its “Sports/Sporty Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, which recognize vehicles that best meet owners’ expectations. It also achieved runner-up status alongside the Mustang in the Canadian Black Book’s 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, so you’ll be able to hold on to more of your money when it’s time to sell.

2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody
Now that’s one fabulous looking, sounding and driving supercharged V8.

Of note, Dodge is providing 2021 Challenger buyers factory leasing and financing rates from 3.49 percent, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,250 upon purchase, thanks to acquiring dealer invoice pricing information before negotiating their deal. Check out CarCostCanada to find out how their system works, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all their valuable info on hand when visiting your Dodge dealer, or when checking out any other brand.

While the base model starts at just over $36k, as noted earlier in this review, the Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 will set you back $54,465 (plus freight and fees), a very reasonable price considering all the performance and refinement included. My R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody pushed the price up to $62,465, still a good deal for such an impressive car, and significantly less than the $79,215 Hellcat. The top-line Hellcat Redeye Widebody costs a cool $105,215, incidentally, but once again, for a muscle car that’ll take off like a supercar, it’s hard to beat both literally and from a value perspective.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

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