Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up. Take Lexus for example, or…

Top 5 Subcompact Luxury cars: Mini Cooper still crushing the competition

2016 Lexus CT 200h
Lexus’ CT 200h was discontinued from the compact luxury B-segment four years ago, the brand now targeting entry-level premium buyers with its UX subcompact luxury SUV.

Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up.

Take Lexus for example, or for that matter Volvo. The former was selling its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback into North American markets as recently as 2017 (check out our road test), but after seven years of production, plus a couple of down years with nothing in an entry-level segment at all, it was effectively replaced with the UX subcompact crossover SUV. As for Volvo, we need to go all the back to 2013 for the final 300-plus (new) C30s that found Canadian buyers, and then had to wait five additional years for its XC40 subcompact SUV replacement. Likewise, a new C40 electric crossover is expected from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand later this year or early 2022.

2010 Volvo C30
Volvo’s C30 provided a lot of upscale luxury to the small car sector when last available eight years ago.

See the trend? It wasn’t like the compact B-segment (subcompact luxury) was ever a big deal here in Canada, at least not like it’s been in Europe where Audi’s A1 has been pulling in premium buyers for almost a dozen years, plus its similarly sized A2 before that, and larger A3 even longer, as have BMW’s 1 and 2 Series, not to mention Mercedes’ A-Class, but amongst the few small luxury-branded cars we’ve enjoyed, some are leaving for good, never likely to return.

Still, premium brands need gateway products to entice new customers into the fold, and while small sedans and hatchbacks still attract such buyers to well-established German automakers, luxury buyers are more likely to opt for a subcompact crossover SUV instead. So therefore, while the entry luxury car category won’t likely grow much larger in the coming years, it still has a faithful following that’s passionate about their stylish, low-slung little rides, so let’s see which models are pulling in the most Canadian customers.

Mini Cooper dominates the small luxury car sector

2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door
Mini (Cooper S 5 Door shown), might not be considered a luxury brand by everyone’s standards, but based on interior materials quality, available features, performance and the pricing of most models, it fully measures up.

When the words “luxury” and “car” get combined, most probably don’t immediately conjure up images of the cute little Mini hatchback. After all, it was initially Britain’s answer to Germany’s peoples’ car (and the “Suez Crisis” fuel shortage) way back in 1959, a micro hatchback that was as inexpensive to buy as it was efficient to operate. BMW purchased the Mini nameplate as part of its Rover group takeover from British Aerospace and Honda (20-percent) in 1994, and since 2001 has sold a variety of body styles and models, including a compact luxury SUV, dubbed Countryman.

Clubman aside, Mini’s car model line gets a refresh for 2022, with notable changes made to the front fascia and important updates inside (see our full 2022 Mini Cooper overview here). Body styles include the 3 Door, 5 Door, Clubman, and Convertible, while its trims range from the base Cooper with 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, to the fully-loaded John Cooper Works (JCW) Convertible with 228 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque (the 231-horsepower John Cooper Works GP is no longer available), the latter a super-mini drop-top that’s one of the most enjoyable performance cars in the entire class.

2022 Mini John Cooper Works family
The 2022 John Cooper Works Convertible bypasses $60k with all options added.

And just in case you don’t understand the logic behind including a brand with pricing that begins where a fully-loaded Kia Rio ends, at $23,490 for a base Cooper 3-Door, consider that most Mini owners don’t purchase stripped-down examples. To that end, a JCW Convertible will set you back more than $60k after all of its extras are tallied up. So, if 60-grand for a subcompact hatchback doesn’t qualify Mini’s Cooper for luxury car status, not to mention sharing underpinnings with some of BMW’s smaller models, it’s difficult to surmise what will.

Mini’s car lineup is powered by three-cylinder and four-cylinder turbocharged engines displacing 1.5 and 2.0 litres respectively. As noted, the 1.5 makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and when installed in the base Cooper 3-Door, hits 100 km/h from standstill in 8.1 seconds with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and manages 8.8 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined with the former if driven more modestly, or 8.4, 6.5 and 7.5 with the latter. Obviously, performance and fuel economy won’t be quite as good in either the 5 Door, Clubman, or Convertible due to weight gains, a reality that affects the other engines in the lineup too.

2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door
Minis have grown considerably over the generations, with the new five-door being quite roomy inside.

On that note, the 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in the second-tier Cooper S, and once again comes with both six- and seven-speed transmissions, while the quickest and thriftiest Cooper S 3-Door manages a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds with either gearbox, plus fuel economy ratings of 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.8 combined with the manual, or a respective 8.9, 6.6 and 7.9 with the auto.

The best fuel economy of all, however, comes from Mini’s Cooper SE, which uses a 181 horsepower electric motor (with 199 lb-ft of torque) and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery to drive the front wheels, resulting in “fuel economy” of about 16.9 to 14.9 kWh/ 100 km (according to NEDC). Its 177-km range, makes it only suitable for urban use, however, which means you’ll need to leave it at home for longer road trips… a shame.

2022 Mini Cooper SE
The 2022 Mini Cooper SE is driven by its front wheels via a 181-hp electric motor and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery.

The Mini Cooper 3 Door and Convertible only have four seatbelts, which is probably all you’d ever want to try and fit in anyway (especially in the latter), while 5 Door and Clubman models feature seating for five, the latter housing five adults (kind of) being that it’s not only 454 mm (17.9 in) lengthier than the 3 Door and 293 mm (11.5 in) longer than the 5 Door, with a wheelbase that spans an extra 175 mm (6.9 in) and 103 mm (4.0 in) respectively, but also 74 mm (2.9 in) wider, which of course matters even more when stuffing three abreast. At 1,801 mm (70.9 in), the Clubman is also wider than anything in this class save Audi’s A3, while its wheelbase is identical to Acura’s ILX and BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, plus longer than the A3’s and BMW’s diminutive i3, the latter of which is still longer than both 3 and 5 Door Minis.

As you might have imagined, dedicated cargo capacity is most generous in the Clubman too, growing from just 160 litres (6.0 cubic feet) in the Convertible, 211 litres (7.0 cu ft) in the 3 Door, and 278 litres (10 cu ft) in the 5 Door, to 495 litres (17.5 cu ft) in the Clubman, which, in fact, is the same as the Countryman SUV.

2022 Mini John Cooper Works
Minis have long been a wonderfully fun to drive, the JCW slotting in right at the top of the amusement category.

As far as sales go, Mini delivered 2,739 examples of its four-model car lineup to Canadians in 2020 (not including the Countryman crossover), and also saw another 2,111 low-slung units leave its dealerships over the first nine months of this year, which makes it look like the brand will surpass last year’s rather poor showing when 2021 comes to an end, but it probably won’t realize as many car sales as in decades past. Prior to 2020, Mini’s worst calendar year on record for car deliveries was 2004 when it only sold 2,800 Cooper hatchbacks, but most other years the brand’s cars ranged between 3,500 and 5,500 Canadian sales.

So far, there’s no serious challenger to Mini’s collective Cooper car line when it comes to sales success in this class, but as mentioned earlier in this report, the real growth in the entry-level luxury sector is happening in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV category, in which Mini’s Countryman sits ninth out of 12 competitors (see the “Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now” story). Mini will likely need to achieve much greater success in that burgeoning category in order to keep funding the niche models in its car lineup, so as not to continue eroding what is currently a diverse offering.

2022 Mini Clubman JCW
The Clubman, which uses dutch-oven doors to access its larger cargo area, remains unchanged from 2021.

Notably, Mini both expanded and contracted this car line dramatically from 2012 through 2017, with the introductions and then cancellations of the 2012–2015 Cooper Coupe and Cooper Roadster models. The 2013–2016 Cooper Paceman (a three-door crossover coupe based on the Countryman) was its attempt to widen its small SUV offering, a la BMW X2, but slow take-rates for all of these creative offerings have now turned them into modern-day collectables. To be clear, like all Minis these were brilliantly fun niche models that we were admittedly excited about initially, and while all three might now be seen as mistakes that negatively impacted the brand’s bottom line, having eaten up significant R&D money that could’ve gone elsewhere, it’s hard to criticize the brand for thinking outside of the box, or rather two-box design layout, and trying something completely different.

Still, it’s hard to keep a brand that’s as enjoyable to drive as Mini down (even its perennially low Consumer Reports reliability rating can’t do that), and while parent company BMW’s 2 Series is on a roll that could possibly see it pass by the Cooper for overall sales leadership in Canada (read about that below), diehard Mini enthusiasts (and there are many) continue to love what makes these little sprites segment best-sellers.

Mercedes’ A-Class leads sales of traditionally desirable subcompact luxury cars

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
Mercedes’ A-Class is the best-selling model in the entry-level compact B-segment from a traditionally desirable premium brand.

Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most premium of luxury brands overall, this side of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, the Stuttgart-based automaker’s own Maybach marque, and a bunch of supercar makes like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, and of course Ferrari, so therefore, acquiring a sleek sport sedan or hot hatch bearing the famed three-pointed star will be seen by many as quite the accomplishment. This said, the most affordable way to do so comes by way of the A-Class, made available to Canadian new car buyers as of the 2019 model year.

The A-Class, available in both A 220 4Matic four-door sedan (see our review of the A 220 4Matic here) and A 250 4Matic five-door hatchback (see our review of the A 250 4Matic Hatch here) trims and body styles, plus sportier AMG A 35 versions of each, quickly earned the top-spot in the compact B-segment amongst traditionally desirable brands, thanks to managing 2,355 deliveries amidst a difficult 2020, which saw sales of most models in this category slide south, although 2021 already looks stronger for the entry-level Mercedes model thanks to 1,517 units sold throughout the first three quarters of the year, even though this positive growth now leaves it in the negative when compared to BMW’s increasingly popular 2 Series, which was made available with four doors as of model year 2020 (more on that in a minute).

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Hatch
Unlike the U.S. market, Canada gets Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch in both A 250 and A35 (shown) varieties.
2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Hatch

To be totally fair, CLA-Class numbers should really be included in Mercedes’ overall segment sales, because it’s really the same car as the A-Class under its sleeker, more coupe-like skin, while most three-pointed star competitors, such as the just-covered Mini Cooper and BMW’s 2 Series, lump all of their subcompact body styles under one model name. This said, combining all the 2020 A-Class deliveries with the 1,085 CLAs sold in the same year results in a total of 3,440 B-segment sales for Mercedes, along the number-one position overall. Then again, if we’re looking at total automaker sales, BMW AG’s namesake brand and Mini combined for 3,881 deliveries in 2020 (including 168 i3 EVs), which puts the Bavarian marque on top. Likewise, the German and British brands’ combined Q3 sales of 4,033 units give it an even stronger lead so far in 2021, so Mercedes has some catching up to do.

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
Mercedes knows how to create a sense of occasion.

This shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to a diverse A-Class engine lineup. The base A 220 sedan comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the same engine in the A 250 hatch makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the A 35 in either model, and the little 2.0-litre powerplant puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, making them two of the most exciting cars in their class to drive. What’s more, all A-Class models are some of the easiest to keep in their respective lanes, no matter the weather condition, due to standard 4Matic all-wheel drive.

Paddle-shifters enhance control of a standard 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also includes a standard ECO Start/Stop system to save on fuel, resulting in a 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined rating for the A 220 sedan; a 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined rating for the A 250 hatch; or a respective 10.7, 8.2 and 9.5 for both AMG A 35 models.

2022 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Hatch
The A-Class’ MBUX system combines a configurable high-definition driver’s display on the left and infotainment touchscreen on the right.

The A-Class’ near-longest 2,729 mm (107.4 in) wheelbase means both front and rear seating is comfortable for this small car category, while its fractionally narrower than average 1,796 mm (70.5 in) width (not including mirrors) shouldn’t make much of a difference from side-to-side.

At 243 litres (8.6 cu-ft), the sedan’s trunk is the smallest in the class, however, other than the two aforementioned Mini 3 Door models, but the hatchback’s cargo compartment is larger than average at 370 litres (13.0 cu ft), plus both provide more space when the rear seat is folded forward, made even more convenient with a 40/20/40-divided split.

Due to very few negatives, most A-Class customers are very satisfied with their purchases, as evidenced by the model’s top ranking in the “Compact Luxury Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, while J.D. Power named it runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” segment of its latest 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study (the sportier CLA-Class earned the top position). Last but hardly least, Vincentric placed it on top of the “Luxury Compact” class of its Best Fleet Value in Canada Awards, something it also achieved in the U.S.

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
A-Class rear seat room (sedan shown) is generous.

Interestingly, none of the cars in this top five list even rated in the “Entry-Luxury-Car” category’s top three for Canadian Black Book’s latest 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, but this is (at least partially) because CBB includes pricier C-segment models, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class that claimed the highest accolades, as entry-level models. Likewise, Lexus’ mid-size ES, which was one of the runners-up, is considered entry-level by CBB too.

Ironically, being that residual values are all about pre-owned cars, with CBB’s awards going to three-year old vehicles, the ES was tied with Lexus’ now discontinued CT 200h. Obviously, Lexus models hold their value very well amongst small luxury cars, but then again, Mercedes does too, so it’s possible we’ll see the A-Class replace the CT for top-three residual value leadership when it’s been on the market long enough to qualify.

Notably, Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,350 on the purchase of a new A-Class.

Expect major upsurge in Audi A3 sales when redesigned model arrives for 2022

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi’s A3 Sedan is all new for 2022.

Audi deserves credit for being the first German luxury carmaker to offer a four-door sedan in this compact B-Segment, with the advent of the redesigned 2015 A3 that was also available in higher performance S3 tune, plus as an A3 Cabriolet (Acura’s EL was the first entry-luxury sedan when it arrived in 1997, while the A3 was a five-door hatch from model years 2006 to 2014). An even more potent RS 3 sedan made this class of subcompacts shine in 2018, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Moving into the 2022 model year after technically not providing a 2021 car, the Cabriolet has been discontinued and all-new redesigned A3, S3 and RS 3 sedans are on the way. These should help boost the Ingolstadt-based brand’s future prospects in this waning segment, thanks to sharper styling, a modernized interior, and upgraded performance.

Now in its fourth generation, the new A3 rides on the same MQB platform used for the eighth-generation 2022 Volkswagen Golf (which kind of qualifies for entry-level luxury status on its own, at least in GTI and R trims), making it slightly longer, a bit wider and fractionally taller than the outgoing model, but the sedan’s 2,636 mm (103.8 in) wheelbase doesn’t change, so the extra 40 mm (1.6 in) of length has mostly gone to cargo capacity that’s up 64 litres (2.2 cu ft) to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft), from just 284 litres (10.0 cu ft) in previous years.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi was one of the first in the B-segment to offer an entry-level luxury sedan.

Just like its predecessor, the Canadian-spec A4 and S4 will receive one S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox shared between them, plus two different versions of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, although staying true with the times means that a 48-volt mild hybrid system has been added to the mix. While fuel economy will no doubt improve, aided further by coasting capability the shuts the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain off when not needed to maintain speed (i.e. going downhill), the hybrid system will also boost base performance from 184 horsepower to 201, although torque actually inches downward from 222 lb-ft to 221. This should result in a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time than the current car, which is rated at 6.2 seconds, but so far Audi hasn’t announced such numbers for the new model.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
An all-new interior provides all the expected luxury features.

The 2022 S3, on the other hand, can dash from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, shaving a tenth from the old car’s sprint time thanks to a move up from 288 horsepower to 306, whereas its electronically-limited top track speed of 250 km/h is identical to the outgoing model.

Lastly, a new RS 3 is on the way, with a reported 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. It catapults from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 290 km/h (180 mph), while the new car’s handling will be improved with a torque-vectoring rear axle dubbed Torque Splitter, which was designed to reduce understeer while maintaining the Quattro AWD system’s legendary high-speed grip.

Identically to the outgoing A3, 2022 Canadian-spec trim levels include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, but the new car now comes standard with Quattro AWD, which has caused base pricing to increase substantially from $34,500 in 2020, to $38,900 (plus freight and fees) this coming year. The S3, which already included Quattro as standard, will now start $47,900. This is actually a decrease of $500 due to base Komfort trim now becoming available (Progressiv was the S3’s previous base trim). Of note, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 A3.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi has ditched the old A3’s powered centre display, instead opting for a much larger touchscreen fitted within the centre stack.

Improvements inside the 2022 A3 include a 10.3-inch version of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard equipment, plus a new 10.1-inch fixed infotainment display at centre, or a 12.3-inch upgrade, instead of the old pop-up unit that, while kind of awesome in its own way, is about as useful as pop-up headlights now that most jurisdictions require us to run with our front lamps on during the day. Therefore, as much as we might miss the main monitor powering up out of the dash during startup, or better yet, disappearing altogether on a night drive, the new larger display is more in keeping with today’s technology-first world, while it also integrates much more advanced high-definition capability along with updated graphics.

AS far as awards go, the outgoing A3 earned runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which was won by BMW’s 2 Series.

Gran Coupe has given BMW’s 2 Series line the shot in the arm it’s always needed

2021 BMW 235i xDrive Gran Coupe
The four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (235i xDrive trim shown) is responsible for the model’s strong surge in sales.

BMW’s 2 Series made the greatest B-segment gains in sales over the past year, mostly due to the aforementioned Gran Coupe. While year-over-year 2 Series deliveries only grew by 13 percent in 2020, up from 1,202 to 1,358 units, sales have already increased by more than 33 percent over the first nine months of 2021, now totaling 1,811 units for a current ranking of third in class. Of course, we need to factor Audi’s lack of 2021 A3, S3 and RS 3 models into any future prognostications, which, as noted earlier, caused their deliveries to almost completely disappear, thus we’ll need to see how well the new A3, and the completely redesigned 2 Series Coupe, fare in the coming year.

Yes, while the four-door variant of this model only gets minor package and standalone options changes for 2022, the two-door coupe has undergone a ground-up redesign, and most should like what they see. For starters, BMW chose a more conventional twin-kidney frontal grille compared to its larger 4 Series counterpart, which can best be described (in the kindest way possible) as controversial.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
BMW has an all-new 2 Series Coupe for 2022 (M240i xDrive shown).

The “G42”, as it’s known internally, will once again feature rear- and all-wheel drive layouts in the U.S. and other markets, albeit so far only the latter has been announced for Canada. Additionally, no 255-horsepower 230i variant is expected in the land of the almost free either, but instead we’ll only get the 382-horsepower inline-six engine mated to a standard paddle shifter-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission—yes, no six-speed manual is available in either market, at least until we see a new M2 (which, fingers crossed, will hopefully have a DIY gearbox). That’s 47 additional horsepower than the outgoing M240i, incidentally, so despite its torque figure dropping down to 369 lb-ft, it still manages a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, while its top track speed remains limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).

2022 BMW 220i Coupe
The more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series Coupe may not be coming to Canada.

An available adaptive M suspension will make the most of a 51-mm (2-in) longer wheelbase, its track also growing by 54 mm (2.1 in) up front and 31 mm (1.2 in) at the back, with near 50:50 weight distribution for almost ideal balance, so handling should be just as crisp. Overall, the 19-kg (42-lb) heavier, 1,755-kg (3,869-lb) 2 Series coupe grows 88 mm (3.4 in) longer and 66 mm (2.6 in) wider than its predecessor, although its 2.5-mm (1.0-in) height reduction makes for slipperier styling.

The longer wheelbase should aid cabin comfort, particularly in the rear, while those up front will benefit from deeper bolsters when upgrading the seats. Some standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, showing BMW really does have plans to market this 2 Series to folks with more than one friend, while an upgraded iDrive infotainment system boasts up to 10.3 inches of screen space, with new functions including an upgraded voice control system that can distinguish between driver and passenger commands, plus Connected Parking that notifies the driver of a given destination’s parking issues.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
Most BMW fans will be happy the new 2 Series takes a more conservative approach to styling than the latest 4 Series.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is also standard, with the latter providing full Google Maps integration, but iPhone users shouldn’t feel left out, because they can use NFC connectivity for up to five devices. Additionally, a mobile app makes the new 2’s LTE wi-fi function available from further away, providing the ability to check the car’s location or status, lock or unlock its doors as needed, and even access its external cameras for security’s sake.

The 2 Coupe’s new standard audio system provides 10 speakers and 205 watts of power, but audiophiles will want to upgrade to the Harman Kardon Surround Sound system thanks to its 14-speaker, 464-watt output. Additionally, a colour head-up display system has been added to the options list, projecting current speed, speed limit, and even passing restrictions onto the windshield ahead of the driver.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
The M240i’s interior looks very high end.

The new 2022 M240i xDrive is expected to show up at Canadian dealers in November, with pricing starting at $56,950, but as noted earlier there hasn’t been any announcement about the rear-wheel drive 230i. In fact, only the all-wheel version is currently offered on BMW Canada’s retail website, and CarCostCanada’s 2022 BMW 2 Series Canada Prices page isn’t showing a RWD version for 2022 either. This may mean the much-loved and considerably more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe won’t be coming north of the 49th.

Likewise, only the M235i xDrive version of the four-door Gran Coupe can currently be seen at CarCostCanada, while the 2022 version of this car isn’t showing up at BMW’s website at all. Instead, the automaker’s new car configurator just allows the 2021 model to be built, with two engine options, the other being the lesser 228i Gran Coupe, which at $38,990 remains the most affordable car in BMW’s Canadian lineup for the time being. If BMW has chosen not to bring its least expensive sedan to Canada, and instead price the most affordable 2 Series at $51,400, expect to see 2 Series sales drop off dramatically moving into the new year.

2021 BMW 235i xDrive Gran Coupe
The 2 Series’ four-door Gran Coupe body style provides a lot more practicality than the regular Coupe and outgoing convertible.

At least the 2021 2 Series represents good initial value, while all 2 Series trims do well when it comes time to trade in. As noted earlier, it earned the top spot in the “Premium Compact Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and making it an even better bet, the 2 Series took best-in-class honours in the same third-part analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), within its “Small Premium Car” segment. Additionally, it earned a best-in-class score in the same category of the coveted 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) too. That’s a lot of metal in the trophy cabinet, and reason enough to consider a new 2 Series if your budget allows, or a 2021 model while new ones remain available.

Of importance, BMW is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 2 Series, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 thanks to dealer invoice pricing and other membership privileges.

Mercedes takes fifth in sales with its sporty CLA four-door coupe

2022 Mercedes-AMG CLA
Mercedes’ CLA-Class is a basically stretched and widened A-Class, its four-door body more couple-like in its rear quarters.

The previously mentioned Mercedes CLA-Class earned a solid fifth place in the compact B-segment, with 1,085 deliveries last year and 1,031 more over three quarters of 2021. Longer, wider and lower than the A-Class sedan, the CLA makes up for its size increase by being powered by the 221-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is also used in the A 250 Hatch. It boasts an identical 258 lb-ft of torque too, but its 75 kg (165lbs) of extra mass means that it’s slightly slower off the line than the hatchback, but its wider track should make up time in the corners.

The gap in off-the-line acceleration narrows to an unnoticeable 0.1 seconds in AMG CLA 35 trim, however, this model using the same 302 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four as found in both AMG-tuned A-Class models, but the even more formidable AMG CLA 45 leaves all of its lesser siblings far behind with a sprint from zero to 100 km/h of only 4.1 seconds, thanks to 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a heavily massaged version of the same 2.0-litre engine. The CLA 45 gets another cog in its dual-clutch gearbox too, totaling eight, aiding its higher top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph), while 4Matic all-wheel drive is once again standard.

2022 Mercedes-AMG CLA
The top-line AMG CLA 45 puts out 382 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.

Otherwise, the CLA-Class is very similar in look and feel to the A-Class, particularly inside where it’s dash design and MBUX digital driving display and infotainment interface combination is identical. The current model is moving into the third year of its second generation (see the “Mercedes improves 2020 CLA in every way” news story for more details).

For 2022, the CLA 250 4Matic starts at $43,600, while the AMG CLA 35 4Matic can be had from $52,100, and AMG CLA 45 4Matic from $62,900. Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2022 CLA models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,000.

How the rest of the subcompact luxury car field stacks up

Acura’s ILX remains a very competent offering in this class, despite its age (see a recent review of the ILX here). It received the brand’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille as part of a refresh for 2019, and received a boost in sales that year because of it. Deliveries dropped by 58.6 percent in calendar year 2020, with just 774 new buyers compared to 1,871 the year before, but 2021 has seen some strength with 729 down the road as of September 30th, and now with a new 2023 Integra expected to debut soon, Acura’s future in this class is brightening, as is the future of the entire segment that’s soon bolstering its ranks with another new entry. Moving into 2022 it will be last in the class, however, being that BMW’s i3 EV is being discontinued.

2022 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura gave its ILX a major refresh for 2019, and it still looks striking today.

On the positive, the ILX achieved runner-up status in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which means the new 2022 ILX, which moves into the new model year without any notable changes, should be just as well built. It continues forward with one, single, high-revving, naturally aspirated 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard paddle-shifters, front-wheel drive, standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps, a twin-display infotainment system inside, and a full assortment of AcuraWatch safety and convenience features including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, much like the rest of the cars in this class.

ILX prices start at $31,400 in base trim for 2022, and move up to $33,900 for the Premium model, plus $35,400 for the Premium A-Spec, and finally $36,800 for the top-line Tech A-Spec. All ILX trims represent very good value in this segment, especially considering the model’s size and performance, while 2021 models are an even better deal, not only because they’re priced slightly lower, but also due to Acura currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are averaging big savings of $6,375.

2021 BMW i3
BMW’s i3 won’t be produced after 2021, but it remains a great alternative amongst urban EVs.

Finally, a special mention should be given to BMW’s all-electric, or optionally range-extender-enhanced (REx) i3, which despite being an elder statesman in this class, and on its way to pasture, provides one of the most inviting interiors in any class, plus supercar-like carbon-fibre composite construction, all for a 2021 base price of $44,950, or $53,600 with the REx. BMW is also offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 from that list price, plus government rebates are available due to its battery plug-in powertrain. As noted previously in this article, the little Bimmer only sold 168 units last year, while just 111 examples have found home in 2021 so far.

There probably won’t be many if any new compact B-segment cars added to this category in the near future, unless Tesla or one of its EV rivals decides to offer an even smaller four-door sedan than the Model 3, or if Mazda’s 3 sedan and hatch move even further upmarket than their near-luxury top-tier GT has already gone, with higher pricing to match, but we may see alternative body styles of current models remerge, such as an A3 Sportback to counter Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch (see our review of the A 250 4Matic here), being that such layouts very popular in Quebec where European tastes remain dominant. Audi may also want to consider its A1 Sportback, especially if fuel costs keep rising and target entry customers’ expendable incomes are impacted by market instability, while BMW might be wise to consider its five-door 1 Series for the same reasons.

Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury car mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use all the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each car. Also, be sure to find out how CarCostCanada can save you thousands off your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting…

Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now

2022 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic
Subcompact luxury cars, like this Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan, are quickly being overshadowed by entry-level crossover SUVs, such as the same brand’s GLA- and GLB-Class.

Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting new luxury buyers.

Let’s face it, small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they used to. Certainly, Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed recent success with its affordable new A-Class sedan and hatchback thanks to 2,355 buyers in Canada throughout 2020, plus a reasonable take-rate for its updated CLA four-door coupe at 1,085 units over the same 12 months, while BMW’s new four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (redesigned for 2022) helped that three-model line stay relevant with 1,358 deliveries last year (the 2 Series Cabriolet will be discontinued for 2022), although Audi’s A3 (plus the S3 and RS3), that was doing decently with 1,720 sales in 2020, saw its numbers fall off a cliff over the first six months of this year with just 131 down Canadian roads, but this was more than likely due to an all-new 2022 model arriving in four-ringed dealers as “pen” goes to “paper” (the A3 Cabriolet was just cancelled, but an all-new 400+hp RS 3 Sedan is expected soon).

2022 Audi S3 Sedan
Audi’s A3 and S3 (shown) sport sedans remain popular options in the small luxury car segment, but its Q3 crossover SUV found nearly three-and-a-half times the buyers last year.

That’s a good sign for small sedan lovers, but the return of this now niche model is only possible because Audi does so well in the crossover SUV sector. The same goes for its German counterparts, plus Japan’s lone small sedan contester, Acura, that only sold 774 ILX sedans in Canada last year. They’d better get a move on with their long rumoured CDX subcompact luxury SUV, because as noted a moment ago, they’re missing out on an important gateway for Honda HR-V fans (and there are plenty of them) that want something a bit more upscale (will it happen when the soon-to-be nine-year-old HR-V gets a redesign for 2023?).

2022 BMW M240i xDrive_Coupe
BMW just came out with an all-new 2 Series coupe, with the updated four-door Gran Coupe expected to follow soon, but the X1/X2 pairing sold 2.3 times more examples in 2020.

To put things into perspective, last year’s best-selling subcompact luxury car was Mini’s Cooper with 2,739 units down Canadian roads (thanks to 3-Door, 5-Door, extended Clubman, and Convertible variants), while the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment’s chart-topping Buick Encore found 6,650 new buyers last year, plus that model’s stretched and modernized Encore GX sibling pulled in another 5,045 for a total of 11,695 units. Granted, some will find it another stretch to consider Buick a premium brand at all, this especially true in the smallest of SUV categories where the Encore is priced tens of thousands lower than most “rivals” at under $25k (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $10,000), but it does go to show how important this burgeoning segment is to luxury carmakers (and entry-level luxury brands).

Audi Q3 tops the subcompact luxury SUV list amongst desirable premium brands

2022 Audi Q3
Audi’s Q3 is once again the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment sales leader, with 4,224 deliveries as of Q2 2021, compared to the next-best Volvo XC40 with 1,829 new buyers.

No doubt, some of the dwindling Audi A3 buyers mentioned a minute ago have gravitated to the taller, more utile Q3 in recent years, noted by sales that have steadily grown from 1,566 units in 2014, when it first arrived, to 5,949 deliveries throughout 2020, making the Q3 the true best-selling model in the subcompact “luxury” crossover SUV class (sorry Buick). Even better, Audi sold 4,224 Q3s over the first half of 2021, once again showing every competitor how critically important this new category is to securing future growth.

Moving into the 2022 model year, Canadian-spec Q3s are available in three trims including Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, all standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic, and the brand’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. The base “40” engine makes 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 9.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, while a more potent version of the same powerplant, dubbed “45”, is good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a much more satisfying 7.4 seconds from zero to 100 km/h.

2022 Audi Q3
Most buying into the entry-level luxury sector believe a small SUV will take care of their needs more than a small car, and the Q3 fulfills this objective ideally.

Fuel economy is a Q3 strongpoint, with a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.2 combined for the more economical 40 engine tuning, or 11.7, 8.4 and 10.2 respectively when moving up to the 45. A fully independent MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension setup makes sure handling is nimble too.

The base 2022 Q3 40 TFSI Quattro starts at $38,400 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Technik 45 TFSI Quattro is available from $47,200, plus nearly $5,000 in options are available. What’s more, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for 2022 Q3 buyers, although average CarCostCanada membership savings are currently $2,200, so therefore, make sure you find out how dealer invoice pricing can save you thousands too.

2022 Audi Q3
The Q3 interior provides a lot of luxury for its reasonable price.

Those buying a new Q3 have the confidence that it’ll hold its value better than some competitors, thanks to its runner-up status in the latest Canadian Black Book 2020 Best Retained Value Awards in the “Sub-Compact Luxury Crossover” category, where the Győr, Hungary-made crossover matched BMW’s X1, and was beaten by Mercedes’ GLA.

The Q3 also tied for runner-up in the “Small Premium SUV” segment of the latest 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), matching the Volvo XC40, but both Europeans were edged out by Lexus’ new UX. Additionally, the same third-party analytical firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) has it solely owning the runner-up position in the same category, once again behind the GLA.

Lexus UX second in sales after just two years on the market

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
in less than two years, Lexus new UX (shown here in 250h F Sport trim) has charged into second place in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Lexus smartly said goodbye to its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback in 2017, and hello to the new UX soon after in 2019, thus helping to pave the way for other automakers to do likewise once realizing the Japanese luxury brand’s ability to earn second place on the sales charts in less than two years of availability.

A total of 2,520 UX models rolled out of Lexus dealerships in 2020, beating a best-ever total of 1,640 CT 200h deliveries in 2012, which is a gain of more than 50 percent, while at the close of Q2 2021 the UX had found 1,525 new buyers, showing that it’s on target for an even stronger third year.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
For 2022, all UX models sold in Canada will be powered by a fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain.

For 2022, the UX is only available with one drivetrain in Canada, having dropped its entry-level front-wheel drive UX 200 designation north of the 49th parallel (and we’re guessing Alaska, Hawaii, etcetera, too). This means last year’s base window sticker of $38,450 gets a $2,250 bump up to $40,700 for 2022, but that’s a small price to pay for all-wheel drive, via an electric motor driving the rear wheels, plus a more potent hybrid drivetrain that’s better on fuel. Before segueing into the UX 250h model’s performance and fuel-efficiency advantages, it should be said that Lexus is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from 2.9 percent, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,964 at the time of writing.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
F Sport trim adds a lot of performance-oriented style to Lexus entry-level model.

Where the outgoing UX 200 only put 169 horsepower down to the front wheels, the UX 250h once again makes 181 net horsepower, which gets close to base Q3 performance on paper, and actually matches it on asphalt as well, evidenced by its 9.1-second 0-100 km/h acceleration in a straight line (the discontinued UX 200 managed 9.2 seconds).

The UX 250h also delivers much better fuel economy that’s estimated at 5.7 L/100 city, 6.2 highway and 6.0 combined, a feat that’s no doubt assisted by a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), albeit expensing some performance. More engaging F Sport trim adds paddle shifters, however, making the most of the equipment on hand, which includes standard Sport mode that, together with the UX’ well balanced front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup, improves fast-paced handling.

2022 Lexus UX 250h
Shown here with the Luxury package, the regular UX 250h provides a comfortable and roomy rear seating for such a small crossover.

As noted earlier, the UX claimed top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while it also tied for runner-up with the GLA in the same company’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, only beaten by the XC40, while the entire Lexus brand topped J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study overall, and is also the most reliable luxury brand according to Consumer Reports.

Additional reasons to consider the new UX include J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards that ranked it number one in its Premium Subcompact Utility Vehicle” category, while the UX also achieved a best-in-class score in the “Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover” segment of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards (be sure to check out our 2021 Lexus UX Road Test).

BMW X1 slipping in popularity yet still a top-three contender

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
BMW’s X1 xDrive28i is the the largest and most accommodating entry in the subcompact luxury SUV segment, and one of the most enjoyable to drive.

Talk to anyone considering a step up from a mainstream volume brand into the luxury sector and the names BMW and Mercedes-Benz will inevitably be included in the conversation, and for good reason. With almost and more than a century respectively behind them, the two German brands have earned most consumers’ respect, and the prestige that followed plays an important part in premium brand decision making.

While priced near the bottom of BMW’s lineup, at $42,425 (the aforementioned 2 Series Gran Coupe is $1,000 less), the base 2022 X1 xDrive28i is hardly the least expensive SUV in the subcompact class (although up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,000 might help). Still, 2,384 new buyers didn’t mind paying close to that much in calendar year 2020.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
It might look solely like a BMW, but the X1 actually shares underpinnings with Mini’s Countryman.

What’s more, after six months of 2021, the X1 had managed to sneak past Lexus’ UX with 1,616 deliveries to its credit, but these numbers are a far cry from sales in 2017, 2018 and 2019, that saw the X1’s popularity steadily slipping downward from its once grand heights of 6,120, 5,308, and 4,420 units respectively.

This negative trajectory might have something to do with the sportier X2 stealing 1,856 buyers after arriving in 2018, although the sleeker SUV’s sales have been sliding too, with 1,383 delivered in 2019 and just 790 in 2020. As of Q2 2021’s close, a 495-unit midterm tally looks like it might be improving on last year’s total, so we’ll need to see how things shake out after the rest of the year gets added up.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s cabin is very upscale for the class, and easily worthy of the good BMW name.

The X1’s performance wouldn’t be the issue holding buyers back from signing on the dotted line, however, as its sole 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a blistering (compared to most competitors) 6.2-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h, thanks in part to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive, while the latter aids the front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension make BMW’s usual magic through the corners (although take note, the first-generation X1 was a sharper handler, with this one increasing the comfort quotient).

The X1 also performs well when it comes to utility, offering the most dedicated cargo volume available in the entire class at 767 litres (27.1 cu ft). Additionally, folding its conveniently-divided 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks forward results in a grand total of 1,775 litres (58.7 cu ft) of gear-toting space, also the most in the segment.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s spacious rear seating area can be made to feel even roomier with a panoramic glass sunroof.

The next best is Mercedes’ new GLB-Class, incidentally, with 700 and 1,680 litres (24.0 and 62.0 cu ft) respectively, while the worst when it comes to dedicated cargo room is the same automaker’s GLA-Class with a token 435 litres (15.0 cu ft) to its name, which it mostly makes up for when dropping its rear seats down, resulting 1,430 litres (50.5 cu ft) of load-hauling capacity. In case you were wondering, Infiniti’s decommissioned QX30, which was developed alongside the GLA-Class, offered more space behind the rear seats at 543 litres (19.2 cu ft), but it suffered from the least amount ever offered in this class when laid flat, at 963 litres (34.0 cu ft). This may have been one of the key reasons for its slow sales, as the great-looking QX30 was a wonderful little SUV other than that.

Volvo XC40 earns a well-deserved fourth place on the sales charts

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo XC40 Recharge is fully electric, giving the Swedish brand a serious edge in this burgeoning entry-level luxury segment.

Speaking of cargo shortcomings, Volvo’s XC40 can’t attribute its top-five success to luggage carrying prowess, being that it only manages a scant 586 litres (20.7 cu ft) of volume behind the rear seats, and 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) when folded, making it the third smallest in the segment (not including the Encore) with respect to the former, and second smallest (including the Encore) for the latter, but it does most everything else so well that its consumer take-rate truly deserves to be above average.

Like the majority in this subcompact luxury SUV class, the XC40 is the most affordable way to own a new Volvo, not to mention that it’s one of just five contenders in this 10-model segment priced below $40k. Specifically, the base XC40 Momentum T4 AWD starts at $39,950 for 2022 (plus Volvo is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,250), and packs a lot of style, quality, performance and versatility for its small package.

2022 Volvo XC40
Volvo’s XC40, shown here with its conventional powertrain, rides on a long wheelbase for such a diminutive SUV, providing a comfortable ride and handling prowess that matches its strong straight-line performance.

At 4,425 mm (174.2 in), it’s actually the shortest from nose to tail amongst the top five, yet its 2,702-mm (106.4-in) wheelbase is longer than all of the above (although not the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class below), which gives it an athletic visual stance while making as much of the available interior space as possible.

Another bonus is the XC40’s multiplicity of powertrains, starting with the T4 designated engine only available in base Mlomentum trim. With 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, it’s nowhere near the least potent in the category, and at just over 8 seconds from a standing start to 100 km/h, it’s hardly the slowest base model either. Much of its energetic takeoff can be attributed to its precise-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and just-noted standard AWD, while the fuel economy tradeoff is reasonable at 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40 provides a lot of interior room for its small dimensions, plus a lot of innovative features.

Moving up to the T5, a stronger version of the same engine doesn’t impact efficiency much either, with a claimed rating of 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined, especially considering output increases to 248 horsepower, torque to 258 lb-ft, and its zero to 100 km/h time comes down to just 7.2 seconds.

So far so good, but speed demons will want to move up yet another notch on the ladder to the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, an EV version of the little SUV that’ll blast from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.9 seconds, making it one of the fastest subcompact luxury SUVs currently available. The Recharge incorporates a 75-kWh battery and two electric motors for a resultant 402-horsepower, plus the grip of AWD. What’s more, it can travel up to 335 km (208 miles) on a single charge.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40’s headroom is very generous.

The XC40 Recharge is already gaining respect in the industry too, with highest marks in the “Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards for consumers. The regular XC40 has also done well, with a top-tier result in the “Compact Luxury Crossover SUV” class of AutoPacific’s most recent 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, plus as noted earlier, it tied with the Q3 in the “Small Premium SUV” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while also receiving best-possible honours in the same firm’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. That’s quite the trophy case!

As for sales numbers, both conventional and electric versions accounted for 2,254 Canadian deliveries in 2020, its best year yet (out of two full years), while it already achieved sales of 1,829 units by this year’s halfway mark, putting it on target for second in the class if momentum (sorry for the pun) continues. Again, the XC40 deserves its success.

Mercedes GLB newcomer edges ahead of GLA for top-5 honours

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic
The smart looking new GLB, shown here in potent AMG 35 4Matic trim, is the second roomiest vehicle in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Mercedes believes so much in the entry-level luxury SUV sector that it introduced a second entry for 2020, and despite being the new GLB’s first full year on the scene it still managed to edge out the smaller GLA with 1,775 units to 1,759. Any question about which model will dominate moving forward is being answered this year, with the first six months of 2021 resulting in 1,474 deliveries for the GLB and 1,291 for the GLA.

To be totally fair to Mercedes, like BMW and its X1/X2 combo, the GLA/GLB duo actually compete with each other as much as they battle against rival brands, so therefore when combining the sales of both SUVs into one, the three-pointed star brand ended up second in the class with 3,534 units rolling out of its Canadian dealerships last year, while even better, it found 2,765 new subcompact crossover SUV buyers over the first two quarters of 2021.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB provides a more traditional, upright design, which aids cargo space.

While the two models offer very different takes on styling, size and utility, the fact you can get into the larger GLB for only slightly more than the diminutive GLA might have more to do with its success than its more traditional, upright, SUV-like design. Size in mind, the new GLB-Class is 224 mm (8,8 in) longer than the GLA-Class, at 4,634 mm (182.4 in) from front to back, while its wheelbase spans 100 mm (3.9 in) more. That makes it just 22 mm (0.9 in) shorter than the compact luxury GLC-Class, although true to its subcompact classification, the GLB’s 1,834-mm (72.2-in) width is 56 mm (2.2 in) narrower than the GLC, while identical to the GLA’s width. Its height, however, is 20 mm (0.8 in) taller than the larger GLC, and 47 mm (1.8 in) higher than the GLA, making it the clear winner for headroom.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB, and its GLA sibling, arguably provide the most luxurious experience inside, thanks in part to the most advanced electronics in the industry.

The GLB’s second-best-in-class cargo capacity was already noted (in the X1 overview), but differences between the GLB and GLA weren’t covered, those being 265 litres (9.3 cu ft) of extra space behind the larger SUV’s rear seats, and 250 litres (8.8 cu ft) more when both second-row backrests are laid flat.

Pricing for the GLA starts at $42,400 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,750), whereas the most affordable GLB begins at $46,500 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,450), while AMG 35 variants of both models are priced at $52,900 and $57,500 respectively.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB can even be had with three rows, the only vehicle in the category to do so.

AMG? That’s right. Mercedes hasn’t forgotten to include performance variants, even in this more affordable market segment. Both M-B models offer a fuel economy-focused variant and at least one that makes daily commutes and weekend getaways a lot more fun, with the GLA and GLB 250 4Matic duo utilizing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, plus the AMG GLA and GLB 35 4Matic models make a sizeable 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S 4MATIC+
The tiny little GLA can be had in 382 hp AMG 45 S 4MATIC+ trim, which makes it the fastest SUV in the class by far.

Straight-line acceleration equals 6.7 seconds to 100 km/h for the base GLA and 6.9 for the GLB, while the AMG versions scoot away to the same speed from a stoplight at 4.9 and 5.2 seconds apiece. Shifts are lightning quick too, thanks to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, while economy is decent considering their go-fast capability, with the GLB rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined in its most efficient form, or a respective 11.1, 8.9 and 10.1 with its formidable AMG badging. Similarly, the GLA is good for a claimed 9.8 city, 7.2 highway and 8.7 combined rating in base form, or 10.4, 8.1 and 9.4 with its mid-range AMG-lite upgrade.

AMG-lite? Yes, there’s more. Mercedes’ GLA can also be had in brilliantly fun AMG GLA 45 4Matic trim, which means for $60,500 its 2.0-litre turbo four puts out a whopping 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, resulting in the segment’s fastest acceleration at just 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h.

How the rest of the subcompact luxury crossover SUV field stacks up

2022 Mini Cooper Countryman ALL4
Mini’s Cooper Countryman easily qualifies for premium status, plus is one of the sportiest in the class in top-tier trim.

Enough has already been said about the sixth-place GLA-Class throughout this top-5 review, particularly when it comes to its many awards, which left the Mini Countryman (available from $32,990, less up to $3,000 in additional incentives) in the luxury crossover SUV segment’s seventh sales spot last year with 1,637 deliveries, although 2021 might lower its ranking significantly, as the BMW-owned British brand had only sold 310 examples as of Q2 2021’s end (a chip shortage issue?).

2022 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is one classy little contender.

The Countryman’s lacklustre 2021 sales performance is just a bit more than half as much of the ninth-place Land Rover Range Rover Evoque’s January-through-June year-to-date tally of 609 deliveries ($49,950 for the P250 AWD, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,000), after selling 1,410 units last year, while BMW’s X2 ($44,950, plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $3,000) once again found 790 customers in 2020 and 495 over the first six months of this year.

Last, but nowhere near least when it comes to premium-level accoutrements, features and performance, is Jaguar’s somewhat pricier E-Pace ($51,500, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,250) that earned just 265 sales last year and a nominal 80 as of June 30, 2021. The E-Pace, which initially hit our market in 2017, was stylishly refreshed from the outside in for 2021, and truly deserves more love than it gets.

2022 BMW X2 M35i
BMW’s X2, shown here in M35i trim, is one of the sportiest designs in the category.

That covers everything in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment, so far at least, but stay tuned for Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale, which should provide a lot of performance in a small package, and who knows, maybe Acura’s CDX, or whatever they’ll eventually call it, will arrive alongside the upcoming HR-V. We should also expect an entry-level Genesis crossover in this class, because the South Korean premium upstart is working feverishly to fill holes in its new lineup, evidenced by their new 2022 GV70 compact luxury SUV, and the just-announced all-electric GV60. Being that we all now know how important this smallest of SUV categories is, could a Cadillac XT3 be in the works? Lincoln needs to attract new entry-level buyers too, so due to their naval naming scheme theme we think a new Patrol is in order (although Nissan may own the global name for its Armada in our market too, so maybe the tiny ship’s “Cyclone” class designation would be more fitting. We don’t think a new Infiniti QX30 is in the works, however, being how terribly Nissan’s luxury brand is struggling to survive right now.

2022 Jaguar E-Pace
It’s hard not to like Jaguar’s impressive E-Pace, but it’s base price is the highest in the class.

Likelier, expect larger, more profitable luxury brands such as Audi and Lexus to double down on their efforts by supplementing their existing models with roomier alternatives, just like Mercedes has done with the GLB, or sportier variants like BMW’s X2.

Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview (even the Buicks), plus use the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each SUV.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

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

After doing an exhaustive preview of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan and G82 M4 Coupe that introduced the brand’s polarizing new bucktooth grille design, which BMW quickly followed up by revealing their near…

2020 BMW 440i Coupe and Cabriolet Road Test

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Some might think the outgoing 4 Series looks old compared to the radically styled new one, but we consider it a modern-day classic.

After doing an exhaustive preview of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan and G82 M4 Coupe that introduced the brand’s polarizing new bucktooth grille design, which BMW quickly followed up by revealing their near equally maligned regular 4 Series G22, G23 and G26 Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe five-door liftback, I thought it would be fitting to say so-long to the lovely 2013-2020 F32, F33 and F36 Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe 4 Series trio that most BMW fans have now grown even fonder of.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a 2020 Gran Coupe available for this review, so instead I’ll point you back to a 2015 BMW 428i xDrive I previously reviewed, and on that note the two cars featured in this road test are actually 2019 models that fell between the cracks, so allow me some creative license as these two were not fundamentally changed from model years 2019 to 2020, and reviewing them now allows the opportunity to point out where aesthetic updates and trim modifications were made.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Coupe and this Cabriolet take on different personas, the hard-top being sportier and the drop-top oh-so classy.

This last point is fairly easy, with the only changes made from 2019 to 2020 being colour options, the Coupe losing Glacier Silver and Melbourne Red metallics and thus reducing its exterior colour count to two standard solid shades and three metallic options. The same seven interior motifs are available, and there are no changes with its myriad option packages. The Cabriolet loses its alternative black mirror caps in base trim (at least from the factory) and drops the same two hues as the Coupe, but adds a new metallic called Sunset Orange, while swapping Tanzanite Blue for Tanzanite Blue II. Lastly, the Gran Coupe eliminates Glacier Silver too (it didn’t have Melbourne Red), while adding Aventurine Red II Metallic, plus it trades the same two Tanzanite hues while swapping Frozen Silver for Frozen Dark Grey. And that’s it.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Unfortunately, classic Glacier Silver is no longer available.

My two testers were painted in $895 optional Glacier Silver and Estoril Blue metallics, by the way, the latter getting plenty of looks with the top down thanks to beautifully contrasting Ivory White leather clad interior. It’s hard to believe that BMW no longer offers three of its sportiest models in Germany’s official racing livery, but the brand was never part of the silver arrows era anyway, its chosen colour in motorsport always being white with mostly blue accents. It nevertheless looks good in classic silver, especially with the blackened trim and wheels.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Cabriolet’s retractable hard-top looks just as nice as the Coupe’s fixed roof, but it does take on a look of its own.

Both testers were near fully loaded, being 440i powered and xDrive controlled. Base 4 Series models come with the 430i powerplant, which denotes BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo-four with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in lively performance albeit par for the course in this class, whereas 440i models receive the automaker’s turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six good for a much more spirited 326 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The only model available without all-wheel drive is the 440i Coupe, but a quick glance at the back of my tester reveals the BMW’s “xDrive” emblem, which meant mine was not one of these rare rear-drive beasts.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Full LED headlamps come standard, and look fabulous.

Much to my chagrin, BMW didn’t include its wonderful six-speed manual in either car, although it is (was) available in the 440i Coupe (only). Was? Yes, this time of year you’ll need to take whatever you can get, meaning snap up a rear- or all-wheel drive 440i Coupe with a manual if you can find one, because there are obviously no more factory orders for this now updated car, and only M4s will offer manuals hereafter.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The 4 Series’ sporty front fascia still looks sharp after all these years.

Alas, BMW has abandoned both the manual transmission and silver, no less at a time when we should all be considering investing in precious metals. What could be next? I’ll point you to my exhaustive overview of the new M3 and M4 for some of those details, at which point you’ll clearly appreciate that the German brand’s twin-kidney grille remains at large for 2021, or rather larger than life, which, I reiterate, is a good reason any available 2020 models will be hot commodities right about now. Let’s face it, while BMW deserves kudos for bravery, its significant stretch from conservatism hasn’t been universally praised to say the least.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
These optional alloys look sensational, contrasting nicely with the silver paint.

I, for one, happen to love these two cars’ styling, and might even appreciate the outgoing Gran Coupe more. They’re all elegantly balanced designs with classic BMW cues as well as more visual muscle than any predecessors, plus they combine the most impressively crafted interiors, highest levels of technology, and best overall performance offered in any non-M-branded compact BMW ahead of the new 2021 models.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The 4 Series’ LED taillights are an attractive design, as are the new 2021 cars’ rear lamps.

The 440i’s cabin is at a level of quality and refinement above most everything in this class. Along with the expected soft-touch synthetic surfaces normally found in this segment, BMW covered the entire dash-top and door uppers of the Cabriolet in rich, high-quality French-stitched leather, while the door panels received gorgeous white diamond-pattern leather inserts. The Coupe was less opulently attired, preferring a sportier black on black interior with a regular pliable composite dash and a tighter diamond pattern for its leather door inserts. Either way, both 4 Series doors wore premium soft-touch surfaces right to their very bottoms.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The 440i Coupe’s interior is traditional black, the only way many BMW faithful want their car’s cabin.

Both cars’ seats were exquisitely detailed in perforated hides, the Coupe’s even sporting contrasting light grey piping and stitching, whereas the Cabriolet’s creamy leather was sewn together with black thread. Plenty of satin-finished aluminum and piano black lacquered trim highlighted key areas in both models, while the instrument panel, lower console and doors were enhanced with a tasteful array of glossy dark hardwood in the Cabriolet and ideally suited patterned aluminum inlays for the Coupe. The switchgear in both cabins was once again of the highest quality, BMW cutting zero corners in this respect.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
This Cabriolet’s interior is anything but conventional as far as BMWs go, but it certainly turned smiling heads.

Moving up to 2021 4 Series models will allow for a fully digital primary gauge cluster, which for some will be a worthwhile expense, and while I’ve enjoyed playing around with such devices from other brands, I’d have no issue staying put with the outgoing 4’s mostly analogue dials. They’re classic BMW kit after all, with a small full-colour, high resolution multi-information display at centre, but all infotainment features, such as navigation mapping, audio details, phone queries, car setup functions, parking camera, etcetera are best done from the widescreen display atop the centre stack.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The 4 Series dash layout is ideally organized and made from the best materials.

Again, there are more advanced infotainment systems in the industry, particularly in the new 4 Series, but this setup is easy on the eyes, fully featured and responds to inputs more than fast enough. I like BMW’s tile layout that allows finger swiping from function to function or modulation from the console-mounted rotating iDrive controller and surround quick-access buttons. This is well sorted and should be easy for anyone to learn how to use, given some time and practice.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
A closer look shows a cockpit where everything falls precisely to hand.

Tooling around town is a wholly different experience depending on which model you purchase. The 440i Cab made for a wonderful winter reprieve, almost causing me to feel as if summer was back and the good times of evening drinks on patio bistros were around the corner. Yes, that thought might seem masochistic to contemplate amid our current health crisis, but personal luxury cars like this 4 Series Coupe and Convertible are ideal for getting away from all the madness, whether during your daily commute or on a weekend retreat. The well-insulated retractable hard-top made it feel coupe-like as well, and it takes barely a moment to lower, plus can be done while on the move.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
All 2020 4 Series receive this mostly analogue gauge cluster, which works well and looks classically BMW.

Getting off the line and ahead of packed traffic is no issue when the “440i” emblem is stamped on the rear deck lid, each car’s ability to shoot forward from standstill smile inducing to say the least. Then again, the 430i Coupe doesn’t give up much forward momentum, scooting from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds compared to the all-wheel drive Coupe’s 4.9 and rear-drive version’s 5.1 seconds. Yes, four-wheel traction matters more than the extra 39 kilos of curb weight, but mass does cut into the 200-kilogram heavier Cabriolet’s performance with less energetic times of 6.4 and 5.4 seconds for the 430i and 440i variants respectively. The Gran Coupe merely adds 0.1 seconds to each all-wheel drive Coupe sprint, resulting in 5.9 and 5.0 seconds from 430i to 440i. All 4 Series models are limited to a 210-km/h (130-mph) top speed.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The infotainment display is extremely well designed and easy to use.

Likewise, I could feel the Cabriolet’s heft in the corners, but not so much that it became unwieldy. In fact, if I had never driven the Coupe before I’d be wholly satisfied, as its handling is wonderfully predictable and oh-so capable when coursing through serpentine stretches at high speeds. The Coupe is just that much better, its lighter curb weight and stiffer body structure providing a more playful attitude that seems to always want to please.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Both cars’ front seats were wonderfully supportive and wholly comfortable.

This side of an M4, the only way to make the 440i Coupe better would’ve been the six-speed manual, but the eight-speed auto was impressive as far as commuter transmissions go, shifting quickly in its sportiest mode, when the steering wheel-mounted paddles came into play, yet smooth all the time.

Likewise, both cars’ suspensions soaked up road imperfections well, and never unsettled my forward trajectory, even when pushing hard over some poorly paved sections of curving backroad. They were a pleasure to drive around town too, their comfortable seats, both featuring extendable lower cushions, wonderfully supportive.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Cabriolet’s rear seats aren’t as roomy as the Coupe’s or Gran Coupes, but will do the job in a pinch.

The Cabriolet is about as practical as this class gets in back, which isn’t all that much, but the Coupe offers room enough for two adults and the Gran Coupe more so. The same goes for cargo space that ranges from 220 litres in the Cab to 445 litres in either hard-top car, while all cars get a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a particularly wide and accommodating centre pass-through.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The Coupe’s trunk is more spacious than the Cabriolet’s.

Now that I’m being pragmatic, fuel economy is actually quite good in all of the 4 Series models, the best being the base 430i Coupe and Grand Coupe that share a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.8 combined rating, whereas the 430i Cab is good for a claimed 10.6 city, 7.3 highway and 9.1 combined. The thriftiest six-cylinder 4 Series is the rear-drive automatic 440i Coupe at 11.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 9.4 combined, followed by the both the 440i xDrive auto Coupe and Gran Coupe with ratings of 11.4 city, 7.6 highway and 9.7 combined. The 440i Cab achieves a respective 11.8, 7.9 and 10.0, and lastly the two manually-driven Coupes come in at 12.8, 8.8 and 11.0 for the rear-drive model and 13.0, 8.5 and 11.0 for the xDrive version. All require pricier premium fuel, but that’s par for the course with German luxury vehicles.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
You can lift the divider up and out of the way to make the Cabriolet’s trunk roomier when the top is up.

Now that I’ve lulled you to sleep, I should wake you up by mentioning that BMW is currently offering up to $10,500 in additional incentives for 2020 4 Series models, one of the most aggressive discounts I’ve ever seen offered by any manufacturer on any car, so you might want to head over to the CarCostCanada 2020 BMW 4 Series Canada Prices page to learn more. You can build each model right down to their 20-plus options and aforementioned colours, plus you can learn about any manufacturer leasing and financing deals, available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that will give you a major edge when negotiating your deal. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download their free app so you can have all of this critical info with you when you’re at the dealership.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
All 4 Series get a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a massive centre pass-through for loading long cargo.

I can’t look into the future to guess whether or not the new 2021 4 Series models will eventually be accepted by pre-owned BMW buyers in order to predict their future resale values, because it really will take some time for fans of the brand to make up their collective minds. I don’t even want to think too far ahead regarding my own future tastes, but I can say for sure this most recent 4 Series design has weathered the test of time well. I see it as a future classic, and would be more inclined to pick one of these sure bets up instead of risking my investment on its unorthodox replacement. All I can say is, get one while you can.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer…

2020 BMW M5 Road Test

2020 BMW M5
The 2020 M5 is a tad more subdued than the refreshed 2021 model replacing it, so if you like subtler styling snap one of these ones up while you can.

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer back in ’96 (that eventually became Canada’s top seller) was selling his pre-owned E34 M5. The car was gorgeous, wickedly fast and semi-exotic, or at least as exotic as a four-door sport sedan could get.

I ended up working for that BMW dealership almost every day during the slow months in my seasonal business, because I was already a customer. I’d previously owned a wonderful ’74 Bavaria 3.0S and a bulletproof ‘82 528e, and was driving a little 325e while working there, so appreciated taking home whatever they’d give me on the pre-owned lot; a little green E36 325is being a regular that summer. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered my then-wife a brand new ‘96 325i Cabriolet with the factory aluminum hardtop. After missing out on the E34 M5 that went for silly money (or so I thought at the time), I settled for a similarly sleek ’89 E34 525i that was at least a step up in performance from my old, boxy Eta engine-powered 3 and 5 (albeit nowhere near as reliable).

2020 BMW M5
Muscular yet still discreet, the M5 is an ideal performance-oriented commuter.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to unfulfilled dreams, particularly with respect to the cars we enthusiasts initially wanted and the ones we settled for, that list a lot longer and more painful than I want to delve into right now, but at least after becoming an automotive pundit I earned the opportunity to drive some of the best cars ever made, some of which wore BMW roundels. Certainly, the various weeks spent with numerous M5s or an even better four days in Bavaria’s fabulous Z8 don’t quite measure up to the Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Ford GT, Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti, etcetera I’ve driven over the years (although the Z8 was one of the prettiest of them all), but truth be told I’d choose the M5 to drive every day.

2020 BMW M5
The 2020 M5’s design is even more alluring when viewed close up.

BMW’s quintessential sport sedan has been a go-to conveyance for well-heeled commuters for three dozen years, with engine output having increased from 256 horsepower in the North American-spec E28 version to a stellar 617 in this year’s Competition model. The regular 2020 M5 makes do with “just” 600, which is good for a 3.4-second blast from standstill to 100 km/h, while the Competition knocks another 0.1 seconds off the clock.

Of course, if all that any of us wanted were straight-line performance we’d buy an old Fox-bodied Mustang, stuff a 5.2-litre crate engine into it and hit the strip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The M5 has become legendary for how it bends its sizeable four-door body through curves, initially for being first this side of a Maserati Quattroporte and a few other exotics to do so, and second for being comparably affordable.

2020 BMW M5
Sizeable performance brakes mean the M5 stops much faster than its obvious mass suggests.

Times have changed and you can now get into a four-door Maserati for less than an M5, but I’ll delve into such minutia in a moment or two. For now, after noting the base M5’s 176 horsepower and 1.3-second to 100 km/h advantage, while admitting Maserati will soon ante up with a more potent Ghibli Trofeo that’s 20 hp shy of the entry-level M5 before even getting out of the gates, and without getting thrust into the deep comparison void that obviously includes AMG-Mercedes’ E63 S, Audi’s RS 6 (oddly only available as an Avant wagon), Cadillac’s CT6-V and Lexus’ GS F (although the American and Japanese entrants will soon be ranked alongside other discontinued super sedans such as Jaguar’s XF RS), I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Bimmer is the most capable of its class members in the corners too.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s front fender engine vents are stylishly discreet.

It feels lighter and more agile when pushed hard, more E39-like than the F10’s somewhat cumbersome road manners, the carbon fibre roof and other nips and tucks slicing a critical 45 kilos (100 lbs) or so from its predecessor’s curb weight. All-wheel drive keeps all the aforementioned power at bay, and the eight-speed transmitting torque to the wheels shifts much quicker than any conventional automatic should.

A bright red “M2” button on the right-side steering wheel spoke triggers Sport+ mode, which eliminates a bevy of safety features in its default setting, resulting in lickety-split launches and even some power-induced oversteer when the car’s rear drive-biased underpinnings are coaxed beyond containment. Of course, such shenanigans should only be attempted on a track, particularly when having designs to attain the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) terminal velocity.

2020 BMW M5
This carbon fibre roof combined with other weight reduction efforts to drop the current M5’s curb weight by 45 kilos.

Out on the road, preferably a rural one that winds and undulates like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, get ready to dust off slower moving traffic as if it’s floating in stasis. Passing power borders on the ridiculous, with braking force so strong you’ll hardly need to worry about fast-approaching curves. The rate this car can gobble up tarmac is hard to fathom until experiencing it first hand, and that it does so comfortably is even more amazing. Of course, it hardly rides on BMW’s most cosseting suspension setup, yet while firm it’s far from unpleasant.

2020 BMW M5
This working rear diffuser looks aggressive, as does the M5’s quad of exhaust pipes.

The cabin is a cocoon silent too, other than the ideal amount of combined engine and exhaust note, a critical ingredient for petrolheads buying into this high-powered class. This quiet demeanor will be especially appreciated during everyday driving when you’re more likely to leave its sport modes off and turn the 1,400-watt, 16-speaker, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround audio system up, and believe me the sound quality is almost as awe-inspiring as the driving experience.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s interior quality is second to none.

More on that just-noted M2 button, it’s combined with an M1 button on the left-side spoke, both featuring pre-set sport settings with the option of personalizing them for your specific driving taste. I tend to like a combination of suspension compliance and engine/transmission eagerness, so to speak, the latter for obvious reasons and the former to overcome the poorly kept country backroads that allow me to test a car like this to its maximum (ok, for the record I was nowhere near the M5’s maximum, but out in the boonies I was able to experience much of its capability when safe to do so). I chose to set my M1 button up like that, and added firmer suspension setting to the M2 button, so when the road smoothed out, I could quickly switch over to maximize Gs. I increased shifting speed from D2 to D3 in M2 mode too, turned off the DSC, and more.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s cockpit is very well sorted out for optimal comfort, control and ease of use.

The M5’s gauge cluster is perfect for those who want a full digital experience while still maintaining some semblance of analogue design, this due to a set of aluminum rings wrapping the tachometer and speedometer screens. This doesn’t allow the complete takeover of a navigation map, for instance, which is a cool feature offered by other manufacturers, but most should find the large multi-info display at centre large enough for such purposes. No shortage of functions can fill the MID, all scrollable via steering wheel controls, while the system’s graphics and display quality is top notch.

2020 BMW M5
M1 and M2 buttons allow immediate access to personalized performance settings.

As for the main infotainment touchscreen on top of the centre stack, it was good enough for my needs, although gets better for 2021, growing by more than two inches for a new total of 12.3 inches. And you heard me right, by the way, it is a touchscreen and therefore is as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone, but BMW continues to provide its rotating iDrive controller on the lower console, so spin the dial if you prefer or alternatively tap, swipe and pinch to your heart’s content.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s widescreen infotainment touchscreen will grow by more than two inches for 2021.

I did my fair share of tapping and pinching elsewhere around the cabin too, my incessant quality checks annoying enough to drive a previous significant other nuts (hence, previous). Suffice to say the M5 offers up one of the nicest interiors in the super sedan segment, with some of the best quality materials available and workmanship that should make anyone proud. I mentioned the Bowers and Wilkins stereo already, so I might as well laud the system’s beautiful drilled aluminum speaker grilles first, as they’re lovely. The plenty of other metalwork throughout the interior, some accents made from brushed aluminum and others from bright, while glossy carbon fibre could be found in key locations, as could exquisitely stitched leathers.

2020 BMW M5
These are some of the best sport seats in this super sedan class.

The front seats are gorgeous and wholly comfortable, with more support than any other BMW product I’ve tested, and at least as much as its competitors. They boast complete adjustability including extendable lower cushions, while the driving position was superb thanks to a generous supply of steering column reach. Those in back should be comfortable enough, as long as they’re seated next to the windows, with the entire rear compartment finished to the same high quality as the front compartment. Lastly, the M5’s trunk is large and accommodating, plus best of all its usefulness can be expanded via 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.

2020 BMW M5
The rear seating area is generous for the class.

If you like the 2020 M5’s styling you’re not alone, as the car has been a relative hit. This said the 2021 M5 will undergo some visual surgery, squaring off a slightly enlarged grille, modifying the headlights and tail lamps, plus tweaking some other design details as well. Most should be ok with the changes, but those happy with the 2020 might want to snap one up while they can. This said, BMW isn’t offering any greater deal with the 2020 model, at least not yet, with both 2020 and 2021 models available with up to $1,500 in additional incentives, according to CarCostCanada. Check out the 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page and 2021 BMW M5 Canada Prices page for more info, plus find out how you can access all the available incentives on the M5 and most other cars available on the Canadian market, including rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can access all of this critical decision-making info on the fly.

2020 BMW M5
BMW’s M division does engine beautification well.

The 2020 M5 starts at $115,300 plus freight and fees for the base car and $123,000 for the Competition model, while the 2021 M5 only comes in Competition trim, but has surprisingly gone down in price to just $121,000. Performance is unchanged, which means the 2021 M5 continues forward as one of the fastest four-door sedans on the planet, as well as one of the nicest to live with.

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay