If you want to know where the future lies in the automotive industry, just look where automakers are putting their money. Obviously, major investment is going into electric and other alternative fuels…

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate Road Test

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue is ideal for those who love cute, fuel-efficient, practical little hatchbacks, but want SUV style along with a taller driving position.

If you want to know where the future lies in the automotive industry, just look where automakers are putting their money. Obviously, major investment is going into electric and other alternative fuels with minimal returns so far, but amongst more conventionally-powered segments, the subcompact crossover SUV category is growing faster than any other.

In fact, the subcompact SUV segment has more than tripled from just eight competitors in 2010 to a shocking 25 this year, while the subcompact car category has simultaneously contracted from nine rivals in 2010, and an even more significant total of 18 in 2014 (mostly due to boat loads of fuel-friendly imported city cars taking a stab at our market before mostly saying sayonara, auf wiedersehen, and arrivederci, not to mention annyeong for the South Korean-sourced Chevy Spark EV), to just six now, one of which (Chevy’s Bolt EV) is purely electric. The result is this affordable SUV class becoming the majority of brands’ market entry point; hence the importance automakers are placing on these smallest of small SUVs.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue’s 2,520-mm wheelbase and 4,040-mm overall length makes it second shortest in its micro-SUV class.

Speaking of size, the segment has not only grown in numbers, but also in diversity. So far, eight brands offer two or more models within this category, with Kia providing three. Even Buick, General Motors’ near-luxury division, which only has four models to its name, includes two in this segment alone, a tally that grows 2.5 times under GM’s umbrella when factoring in Chevy’s threesome (they added the all-electric Bolt EUV this year).

Similar to how the mid-size SUV segment is divided into two- and three-row alternatives, subcompact SUVs can be had as micro-sized city car replacements or slightly larger alternatives to yesteryear’s subcompact hatchbacks. A good example of the latter is Honda’s HR-V, which was formed off the back of the now defunct Fit. Similarly, Hyundai’s class-leading Kona (which gets updated for 2022) rides on an all-new B-SUV platform only shared with Kia’s Seltos, but the Venue being reviewed here was built on the back of the old Accent and current Rio 5 (kind of… keep reading).

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Its tall stance makes for a roomy cabin with decent cargo space.

In an attempt to add some clarity to this vast market segment, the current crop of SUVs bridging the gap between “micro-utes” (as I like to call them) and conventional compacts, like Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s CR-V and Hyundai’s Tucson, include (sorted by popularity) the just-noted Kona, Seltos, and HR-V, plus the Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX-30, Jeep Compass, Buick Encore GX, Mitsubishi RVR, Kia Soul, Soul EV, Niro, Niro Plug-in Hybrid, and Niro EV, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Chevrolet Bolt EUV, VW Taos, and upcoming Toyota Corolla Cross.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue Ultimate comes with standard LED driving lights as well as auto on/off LED headlamps with cornering capability.

The Venue, on the other hand, which is one of the smaller micro-utes available, is based on the Hyundai-Kia K2 platform that, in regular “K” instead of “K2” form, previously underpinned Accent as noted a moment ago. Yes, I know the Accent was a full subcompact and not a city car, but it’s related to the K1 platform used for smaller hatchbacks not sold here. Either way, it’s tiny for an SUV, and follows a trend initiated by the aforementioned Encore and Trax, which have done very well over the past decade, not to mention others that have long departed, such as Nissan’s Juke and Cube, and the Scion xB (a slightly larger and much more conventional looking second-gen Juke remains available in other markets).

In today’s entry-level crossover SUV segment, the Venue is joined by the Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, Mini Countryman, Jeep Renegade, and Fiat 500X, plus the Encore and Trax, although Mazda will buck the downsizing trend by dropping its CX-3 after the 2021 model year, and therefore solely rely on its larger CX-30 for pulling in new buyers.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
A brighter grille insert and these 17-inch alloy wheels come standard with the Venue Ultimate.

To be fair to Mazda, they’re a smaller independent automaker with nowhere near the deep pockets of Hyundai, so a complete redesign of the smaller utility may not have been in the cards due to budgetary constraints. Hyundai is therefore more capable of gaining market share in a sub-segment that probably won’t achieve the same level of sales as its larger subcompact, the Kona, which is currently the overall subcompact sales leader.

Its lead is so significant, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine any rival catching up. Maybe a redesigned Qashqai could close the gap, being that Nissan’s oddly named utility previously owned top-spot in the subcompact category, but now the Kona outsells the Qashqai by almost three to one, with 31,733 deliveries in 2020 compared to just 11,074. The difference has shrunk to about 2.5 to one over the first six months of 2021, however, with 15,715 Konas down Canadian roads compared to 6,384 Qashqais, but it’s still a massive lead.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
All trims above the base model receive roof rails.

The Venue is newer to the market than its key Kicks rival, so it still has some catching up to do. Last year it found 10,740 entry-level SUV buyers compared to 14,149 for the Kicks, the latter being number one in the smaller micro-ute group, yet the Venue’s success was still impressive for its first full year on the job, not to mention the fact that Hyundai didn’t have anything to sell into the subcompact SUV class before the Kona that arrived partway through 2018, compared to Nissan that’s been selling Cubes and Jukes in Canada since 2009 and 2010 respectively, many of these models’ customers naturally gravitating to the Qashqai and Kicks.

In case you’re wondering where the Venue stacks up in sales compared to all the others it directly competes against, its near 11k 2020 tally landed it in second place behind the Kicks, followed by the C-HR with 7,135 deliveries last year, the Encore with 6,650, CX-3 with 6,445, Trax with 3,887, Countryman with 1,637, Renegade with 362, and 500X with 35 (that’s not a typo).

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The cool “Z” pattern on the Venue’s taillights comes standard.

As of Q2 2021’s close, the Venue was still in second, although the refreshed Kicks’ numbers grew to 9,628 units compared to just 2,021 for the littlest Hyundai (that’s not a typo either), with the C-HR only managing 1,553 deliveries, the Encore a mere 534, which therefore caused it to be jumped by the CX-3’s 1,510 unit-sales and Trax’ 891, while Mini’s SUV found just 310 new owners (it is more of a luxury ute, however, and therefore much higher in price), the smallest Jeep coaxed in an insignificant 15, and the spicy Italian an infinitesimal 6.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The tall ride height and high roof makes it easy to access the Venue’s cabin.

So why is the Venue so successful in a market segment it only just entered in the latter months of 2019? It’s cute, well-appointed, comfortable, roomy for its outward dimensions, drives well, and is easy on fuel, while, based on Hyundai’s overall brand reliability, it should also be dependable. Hyundai ranked third (or fourth) amongst mainstream volume brands in the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (whether or not we choose to include Buick in the mainstream sector or premium), while its sister company, Kia, placed first.

Toyota, incidentally, was second, while Hyundai’s Tucson tied for runner-up in the same study’s “Small SUV” category, beaten by Kia’s Sportage, which was basically the same vehicle under the skin before its recent redesign (and will be once again after Kia updates the Sportage for 2023). Now that these two utilities have grown in size to match the RAV4, CR-V and Nissan Rogue, I expect them to compete in the “Compact SUV” class, leaving room for the Venue, Kicks and others to vie for the Small SUV award.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Better than expected materials quality was a welcome surprise, while the Venue Ultimate’s features are impressive.

Kudos in mind, the Kona Electric was top of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” class in the consumer section of Vincentric’s 2021 Best Value in Canada Awards, while the most recent J.D. Power 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards placed the conventionally-powered Kona highest in its “Micro Utility Vehicle” category. Hyundai won other awards in different categories, but for the sake of relevance I thought it best to leave such reporting to its small SUV sector.

It will be interesting to see how the Venue will fare, or for that matter if those at the helm of the various third-party analytical firms choose to further divide their SUV categories in order to allow a more even playing field for this new class of smaller, less expensive utility. Let’s see what happens.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The driving environment is well laid out for comfort and control, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel has a nice, sporty feel.

If I were on one of these organizations’ panels, I’m pretty sure of how I’d vote after spending a week with the Venue. Or at least I was sure after a week behind its wheel, when I made it clear in my notes by saying, “Hyundai has created another hit! The Venue is my new favourite sub-subcompact SUV!” Just the same, while writing this review now, I’ve been driving a refreshed 2021 Kicks SR for the better part of a week, which has been very impressive as well, so I should probably temper my enthusiasm for the Venue, just a bit.

From a styling perspective, the Venue can only be described as cute. Much the same could’ve been said about the Kicks before its update, but Nissan gave the refreshed 2021 model a larger, bolder new grille and sleeker headlamps, resulting in a micro-SUV that just may now appeal to more everyday guys. Despite having a fairly large grille of its own, the Venue presents a softer, kinder look, complete with a tiny set of narrow driving lights/turn signals up on top of the front fenders (à la Jeep Cherokee in its current fifth-generation, albeit pre-mid-cycle makeover), plus larger headlamps underneath, which are surrounded by cool circular LED signature lighting, and finally a classy light satin-grey apron underscoring everything.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The gauge cluster is mostly analogue, but easy to read and smartly organized, although the monochromatic multi-info display at centre was a bit disappointing for a top-line model.

The latter stays the same across the Venue’s four-trim range, but the otherwise halogen driving lights and automatic on/off headlamps become LEDs when adding the Urban Edition Package to Trend trim, or when upgrading to top-line as-tested Ultimate trim; the headlights being bifunctional and even including adaptive cornering capability. My tester also had its normally blackened grille insert swapped out for a bright metal one, standard with Ultimate trim, while its sharp looking 17-inch alloys, shod with 205/55R17 all-season tires, are shared with the just-noted Trend.

The $500 Urban Edition Package will be a must-have for artistic types that want splashes of exclusive two-tone colour decorating key exterior components, such as the unique lower front and rear fascias, mirror caps, rocker panel garnish, and roof, some of these colours adding a bit more to the bottom line, but well worth it for those who want it. This said, Ultimate trim targets a more conservative crowd that clearly want to keep things classy, my tester finished in $200 Fiery Red exterior paint, which is clearly the most eye-catching colour from a somewhat more subdued palette of blues and shades.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Most should be right at home with the Venue’s centre stack.

Despite the Urban Edition Package making the Venue look sportier, it’s devoid of the Ultimate’s rear disc brakes, utilizing the base model’s rear drums instead. Both upper trims receive great looking premium cloth upholstery with leatherette bolsters inside, however, with the Ultimate also getting an exclusive driver’s sliding armrest with a hidden storage box below.

The gauges are analogue, expected in this class, with a large monochromatic display at centre. While black and white displays might’ve been ok a number of years ago, I found this multi-information display a bit disappointing, considering I was driving a top-line model. Ultimate trim also gets a clearer high-definition 8.0-inch centre touchscreen, which looked fabulous, but unusually, this upgrade includes a downgrade from wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration to a less convenient wired system.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue Ultimate’s upgraded high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is a real treat.

It’s the only trim to get navigation, however, not that it’s as necessary after integrating your smartphone, but HD and satellite radio upgrades are always a big bonus to this music buff, and while it sounds quite good for the class, it doesn’t include the cool driver’s seat headrest-mounted speakers found in the top-tier Kicks. Many will appreciate Hyundai’s Bluelink smartphone connectivity service, mind you, which is available in Ultimate trim, while I would never complain about the extra front USB-A port found in Trend trims and above either.

I should mention the centre infotainment system’s processor is extremely fast when reacting to inputs. For instance, you can move the map around with your finger in real-time without any delay or image degradation. I even flicked it around extremely fast for testing purposes, and it never missed a beat.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue’s backup camera fills the entire 8.0-inch display and provides moving guidelines, but it pales in comparison to the top-line Nissan Kicks’ split-screen overhead parking camera.

What is missing? Most 2021 Nissan Kicks trims swap out one of the USB-A ports for a USB-C, not available in the Venue, while my top-tier Kicks SR Premium tester included a split-screen backup/overhead parking camera within its 8.0-inch display, instead of a simpler rear-view only setup. On the Venue’s side, the base Kicks only comes with a 7.0-inch centre display, one inch smaller than Hyundai’s entry-level monitor. This said, neither offer a wireless charging pad, which is something that would benefit all owners no matter the trim level.

Both top-level micro-SUVs include single-zone automatic climate control, the Venue’s laid out in an attractive and space-efficient three-dial design including buttons and digital readouts integrated within, although the Venue provides three-way heatable front seats in all trims, which heat up to near therapeutic levels, while the Kicks makes buyers move up to its second-rung SV trim for warmers that don’t get quite as hot. Heated steering wheels that warm up all the way around the rim are also on the menu for both micro-crossovers, with each requiring a buyer to move up one notch in their respective trim hierarchies.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The single-zone automatic climate control system is a nice upgrade and easy to operate, while Hyundai provides plenty of USB-A ports, but no USB-C port like the Nissan Kicks.

Trims in mind, the Venue is available in four, including Essential, Preferred, Trend and Ultimate, priced at $17,599, $21,599, $22,699, and $24,999 (plus freight and fees) respectively. Hyundai is currently offering the 2021 model with up to $1,500 in additional incentives according to CarCostCanada, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,250 at the time of writing. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store, so you can access all of their important info when you need it most, some of which includes factory financing/leasing rates, rebates, and dealer invoice pricing that can save thousands upon purchasing any new vehicle.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue’s advanced iVT transmission includes eight stepped “gears” and a Sport mode that’s really engaging, while getting very close to the fuel economy of the Kicks’ less enjoyable CVT.

The only model available with a six-speed manual is base Essential trim, with all others making Hyundai’s Smartstream iVT standard. iVT stands for Intelligent Variable Transmission, incidentally, which when translated into simple English means it’s a chain belt-based continuously variable transmission that’s been designed to reproduce the shift pattern of a manual transmission in order to provide a more natural feel, plus respond quicker to driver input, while still delivering better efficiency than a regular automatic gearbox. What’s more, the iVT’s chain belt utilizes the belt’s tension in order to adjust the pulley’s diameter, therefore eliminating belt slippage and reducing drag. The chain belt is also maintenance-free, thus adding to transmission lifespan, which should improve long-term reliability.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a regular continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is what you’d be getting in the Kicks (not that I felt particularly put out by Nissan’s gearless box), with the Venue’s providing snappier shifts via eight “steps” that make it worthy of steering wheel-mounted paddles, let alone its gear lever-actuated manual mode.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The seats are comfortable and supportive, while providing a good driving position and really attractive upholstery pattern.

Additionally, the Venue’s Sport mode really made a difference when pushing hard, impacting engine response and allowing slightly higher revs between shifts, plus it affects shift speed as well, with the result being a more entertaining Sport mode than found in the Kicks, but then again, it’s not as dramatic as the Mazda CX-3’s (an SUV that’s being discontinued in North America, by the way).

So set, the Venue sprinted away from standstill at a fairly quick pace, or at least quicker than expected from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder that only makes 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. That efficient autobox, which needs to take some credit for the Venue’s impressive 7.9 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.5 combined fuel economy with the iVT autobox or 8.6, 6.8 and 7.8 respectively with the manual (the CVT-only Kicks is rated slightly better at 7.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.2 combined), has something to do with the engine’s power delivery, no doubt, but take note that despite its SUV styling the Venue is not available with all-wheel drive.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The overhead console is simple, but it’s well organized and includes controls for safety alerts and the powered sunroof.

Just like the Kicks the Venue is front-drive only, notable from the initial front-wheel spin experienced at full throttle from a standing start, which I might add was quickly followed by traction control intervention and the just-noted straight-line performance. It therefore had no trouble getting ahead of most stop light dawdlers, and was acceptably fast for those moments when I wanted to dart in and out of congested city traffic.

Steering is direct enough, and it’s turning circle very small, allowing dreamy manoeuvrability in parking lots and laneways. Get it on a winding back road and the Venue performs quite well too, albeit within reason. It’s no Mini Countryman after all, and at about half the price when loaded with features, we shouldn’t expect it to be.

On the highway, however, it was a complete joy. I bet you didn’t expect me to say that, because top-speed isn’t anything to write home about. It maintains illegal highway speeds easily, however, so no issue there (unless you’re not paying attention and get caught), but more importantly, the little Hyundai offers great tracking ability and a wonderfully smooth ride for such a short wheelbase.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
A sunroof is always a welcome addition.

As noted earlier, the Venue is one of the truest of micro-SUVs, with its 2,520-millimetre span from front to rear axles even short for the subcompact class. It’s actually second smallest, behind Ford’s EcoSport, with a wheelbase of 2,519 mm, while even the rather small interior of Toyota’s C-HR rides on a much lengthier wheelbase measuring 2,640 mm.

Fortunately, the comparatively upright Venue feels larger inside than its external dimensions suggest. To clarify, it measures 4,040 mm from nose to tail, 1,770 mm from side-to-side, and 1,565 mm tall (or 1,590 mm with roof rails), while its front and rear track stretches 1,555 and 1565 mm respectively, which once again makes it shorter than anything else in the class save the EcoSport, but its 1,770-mm of width makes it exactly the same as the H-RV from side-to-side, while wider than the CX-3, the base Trax, and once again the EcoSport. Vertically, however, its 1,590-mm height makes it nowhere near as tall as the 1,650-mm high EcoSport or many of its other rivals, but it’s still taller than the CX-3, C-HR, and Kona, making its headroom quite expansive.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Rear seat comfort and roominess is very good for the class, but like the subcompact cars that came before, amenities are nominal.

The Venue’s cargo capacity is good at 902 litres when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, while dedicated luggage space is 528 litres, just 16 litres short of the Kona’s 544 litres behind the rear seats. The Kicks offers 915 litres of maximum cargo space, incidentally, but the gain is so nominal it’s more or less a wash, yet its dedicated storage volume measures 716 litres, which is a significant bonus in this tiny SUV class.

Back up front, the driving position is excellent, with the tilt and telescopic steering column’s rake and reach capable of being moved far enough rearward to provide my long-legged, short-torso frame ample comfort and control over the lovely leather-clad steering wheel, which allowed for a relaxed seatback while a wrist could easily hang over the top of the steering wheel rim; the ideal check for driver seat positioning. I also found plenty of space from side-to-side, although folks used to a larger utility might find themselves sitting a bit closer to their front passenger than in compact or mid-size SUVs.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue’s 528 litres of dedicated cargo space is almost as generous as the Kona’s 544, but the Kicks has them both beat with 716 litres.

The rear passenger compartment is spacious and the seats comfortable too, plus despite being a bit tight for three adults there’s a seatbelt in the middle for a third passenger, better left for smaller folk or children. There’s no foldable centre armrest, which is common for this class, but it would’ve been a nice addition. Likewise, there aren’t a lot of rear-seat creature comforts, unusual for a top-line Hyundai, but once again very normal for an entry-level vehicle. This means there are no rear seat warmers, no rear air vents, and not even a port to plug in and charge a personal device. The Kicks, on the other hand, provides two USB-A chargers on the backside of the front centre console.

It’s a nicely finished, relatively refined cabin too, but don’t expect a lot of soft-touch surfaces. The dash-top is made from a nicely textured composite, but it’s hard, and each door upper is hard-shell plastic as well. Even the door inserts offer no cushioning, the only area to get some slightly padded leatherette, stitched with contrasting thread no less, are the door armrests.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue includes 60/40-split rear seatbacks for passenger/cargo convenience.

This, unfortunately for Hyundai, is a big downgrade from the latest Kicks SR Premium that pampers with pliable, padded, premium-level pleather, also with contrast-stitching, from the very left to the very right of the dash facing, plus the centre armrest, instead of being a firm yet pliable rubber in the case of the Venue, is just as comfortable as the cushy door armrests that flow down in one single piece from the equally comforting door inserts. What’s more, Nissan even wraps each side of the lower front console in stitched, padded leatherette, protecting the inside knees from chafing while looking downright sensational at the same time, so Hyundai might want to give its ultimate Venue a bit more luxe when it comes up for a refresh.

The Venue’s aforementioned leather-wrapped steering wheel is very nice, however, but once again I think you’ll be more impressed by the top-line Kick’s more padded and sportier shaped flat-bottom leather-clad rim, while both models’ leather-enhanced shift knobs will probably be more of a personal taste issue—although the leatherette boot shrouding the Venue’s gear lever wears a more pronounced contrast stitching that adds a bit more style.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
Lowering the Venue’s seatbacks opens its cargo capacity up to 902 litres, which is nearly on par with the Kicks.

The Venue’s fabric seats are really attractive, and finished in leatherette with light grey stitching and similarly coloured piping on the bolsters. The textured inserts feature a swoopy light grey “J” pattern (or reverse-J on the driver’s side) that matches a similar black-stitched pattern on the lower cushions, which I have to say is not only really nice, but totally unique and much more creative than most automakers offer. Hyundai even repeats the pattern on the back seats, something not always seen in the lower classes.

Some other details include metallic white trim around the vent bezels and under the tablet-style infotainment touchscreen, although the latter looks more like a free Alcatel giveaway tablet from five years ago than anything from Samsung or Apple. The shifter surround gets the same metallic white treatment, while the door handles are in a dark grey metallic finish. All of the switchgear is impressive for the class too, featuring nice dense composites, extremely tight fitment, and high-quality damping. I have to say, whoever came up with this interior design should get some sort of award, at least from Hyundai, because it’s really well done.

2021 Hyundai Venue Ultimate
The Venue’s 122-hp four-cylinder isn’t a powerhouse, but it’s enough to provide spirited acceleration, and more importantly its fuel economy is excellent.

Not surprisingly these days, but still a treat in such a small, inexpensive vehicle, my Venue came well-stocked with advanced driver assistive systems in a suite dubbed Hyundai SmartSense. Of course, this list includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection (a.k.a. automatic emergency braking), plus Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist (that’s so good it can nearly drive itself on the highway, and even on city streets, almost like the Hyundai Driving Assist semi-autonomous feature), Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and Driver Attention Warning, while automatic High Beam Assist adds convenience.

A feature I really like is a subtle audible notification that lets you know when the car in front leaves after being stationary at a stoplight. This is useful if you happen to be looking down to change the radio station, setting some other function in the infotainment system, or operating the HVAC system, or for that matter talking to someone in the car.

It’s these types of thoughtful features that raise Hyundai above most peers, and have made it a success story in Canada. The Venue is now the most affordable way to get into the Korean brand when buying new (albeit only a few hundred less than the base Elantra), and the least expensive crossover SUV in the country, by a long shot. Factor in their five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty, and this cute little utility becomes difficult to argue against.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s…

These 5 Compact Crossover SUVs sell better than all of the others combined

2021 Toyota RAV4
It’s easy to see why Toyota’s latest RAV4 has become so popular, but its rugged, truck-like styling is only part of the story.

There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.

To be clear, in this top-five overview we’re focusing on the best-selling compact crossovers, not including off-road-oriented 4x4s such as Jeep’s Wrangler or Ford’s new Bronco (the smaller Bronco Sport, which is based on the Escape, does qualify however), and also excluding smaller subcompact SUVs like Hyundai’s Kona and Subaru’s Crosstrek.

Toyota RAV4 dominated with 67,977 sales in 2020

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid
The 2021 Honda CR-V, shown here in Hybrid trim that’s not offered in Canada, is the next-best-selling compact crossover SUV.

Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.

With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.

Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.

2021 Toyota RAV4
The sharp looking RAV4 is actually one of the more practical inside, thanks to a lot of rear seat room and cargo capacity.

Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).

Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.

2021 Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 mixes 4×4-like interior design with plenty of tech.

This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.

The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.

Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid
Thanks to decades of better-than-average reliability and impressive longevity, the CR-V has a deep pool of loyal fans.

Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.

This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.

Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid
The CR-V’s interior is very well put together, and filled with impressive tech and other refinements.

Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.

The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.

The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.

Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment

2021.5 Mazda CX-5
Mazda’s CX-5 comes closer to premium refinement than any SUV in this class when upgraded to Signature trim.

With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.

Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.

2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature
The CX-5 Signature provides soft Nappa leather upholstery and real rosewood trim for a truly luxurious experience.

Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.

At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.

The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.

Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn

2022 Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai completely overhauled the Tucson for 2022, making it one of the more appealing SUVs in the compact class.

With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.

Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.

2022 Hyundai Tucson
The top-tier Tucson’s cabin is truly impressive, especially if you like leading-edge tech.

This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.

Another positive shows the new 2022 Tucson receiving a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the NHTSA, as does the fifth-place 2021 Nissan Rogue, incidentally, plus Subaru’s Forester, and Ford’s new Bronco Sport. Now that we’re on the subject, lesser Top Safety Pick winners that have not yet been mentioned include the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, the outgoing 2021 Tucson, and Kia’s Sportage.

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.

Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020

2021 Nissan Rogue
Nissan hit the new 2021 Rogue’s design right out of the park, with recent sales numbers showing that buyers like what they see.

While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.

The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.

2021 Nissan Rogue
The new Rogue moves Nissan buyers into a much higher level of luxury.

Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.

The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue is available from $28,798 (plus freight and fees) in base S FWD trim, while both 2021 and 2021.5 Platinum AWD trims start at $40,798. To learn more about all trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, and more, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Nissan Rogue Canada Prices page, plus make sure to find out how the CarCostCanada system helps Canadians save thousands off their new vehicle purchases, and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can have all of their valuable information at your fingertips when you need it most.

How the rest fared during a challenging 2020

2021 Ford Escape
Ford’s latest Escape hasn’t found as much purchase as previous iterations, despite being offered in conventional, hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms.

For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan
Volkswagen adds a sporty “R” trim to its Tiguan line for 2022, which it hopes will increase compact SUV buyer interest.

And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.

All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.

2021 Jeep Cherokee Limited
Jeep’s Cherokee is one of the only off-road capable SUVs in this compact class, but sales have been slipping despite its many attributes.

Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.

Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains

2021 Ford Bronco Sport
Ford’s Bronco Sport is the new darling of the compact SUV class, not to mention the Cherokee’s new arch-nemesis.

The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.

The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).

2022 GMC Terrain
General Motors does reasonably well in this class when both Chevrolet and GMC sales are combined, managing a collective eighth place.

The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the HyundaiKia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.

Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

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

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz…

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Road Test

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
It’s easy to see how the Nexo’s grille design inspired the new Tucson’s front fascia. Of course, the Nexo is about as advanced as SUVs get, so other than width and height, that’s where similarities to the 2022 Tucson end.

Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz and Ballard Engineering, the latter bringing the hydrogen fuel-cell tech to the table. After driving that car, and realizing it felt totally normal other than its relatively silent electric propulsion (electrics weren’t very common back then), I believed hydrogen was the way of the future. How wrong was I? At least for the short-term.

It took a decade and a half for me to experience another hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, mostly because of the incredible challenges of installing any sort of hydrogen infrastructure to facilitate refuelling. That car was the outgoing Toyota Mirai, which was followed soon after by a week in this Hyundai Nexo. Fortunately, Vancouver’s Lower Mainland has three new H2-capable public stations where owners of these vehicles can fill up. This now allows for sales, leases and rentals (Greater Vancouver Lyft drivers can now rent a Mirai for weeks at a time) of Toyota’s mid-size sedan and Hyundai’s slightly larger than compact crossover SUV.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo is significantly longer than the compact Tucson.

So, what happened to Ford and Mercedes? Considering they were two of the first manufacturers to dabble in hydrogen-powered vehicles, it seems strange they’ve mostly left the technology behind. Other producers have come and gone too, while some are still developing hydrogen fuel-cell cars, but haven’t brought them to market (or at least, our market). Honda, for instance, offers an H2 version of its Clarity sedan in the US (we just got the plug-in hybrid), and it’s only $379 USD per month (about $475 CAD at the time of writing) after a small down-payment.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Offering up a clean, attractive design, no one should be offended by Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered SUV.

If the Clarity was a pure EV it would be a steal, considering how much you can save by not having to fill the tank (recharging off peak hours is significantly less than pumping gas or H2), but hydrogen doesn’t come cheap, so (without attempting any calculations, which would be near impossible with the information available) buying into the technology is not going to save you any money at the pump.

Living with a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicle is more about the convenience of not having to wait for hours to recharge its electric drive motor (it took me about five minutes to refill), plus the environmental benefits of the just-noted (local) zero-emissions powertrain. Only water vapour leaves the tailpipe, so it’s no more polluting during its use than an electric vehicle.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The slender LED headlamps are enhanced by a thin strip of connecting light, plus powerful lamps below.

Just for some fun history, I should point out that Mazda was actually the first major player to take part in the hydrogen game. Not afraid of investing in alternative powertrains, the Japanese brand’s 1991 HR-X Hydrogen Wankel Rotary didn’t use a fuel-cell, but certainly burned H2. Others on the H2 history list include boutique (Morgan) as well as household name brands, from both mainstream and luxury carmakers all across the world, with Hyundai’s initial hydrogen foray being the 2001 Santa Fe FCEV, which was quickly followed up with the 2004 Tucson FCEV. The two SUVs received generational updates, which makes Hyundai one of only a small assortment of brands keeping the hydrogen dream alive.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
All in all, the Nexo’s 19-inch five-spoke alloys are quite normal for a dedicated hydrogen-fuelled vehicle.

The majority of early adapters turned to gasoline-electric hybrids and full plug-in EVs instead, with Hyundai also producing its Ioniq Electric compact hatchback, Kona Electric subcompact crossover, and soon, its Ionic 5 compact crossover, plus a number of hybrids as well.

Respect needs to go out to Hyundai for shaping most of its alternative fuel vehicles in the more popular SUV body style, making them much more likely to find buyers than Toyota and Honda, which have also invested millions into H2 tech, yet house such advancements in a waning automotive commodity. No doubt it made sense for Toyota and Honda to stuff their H2 powerplants in four-door, three-box bodies, especially when considering the popularity of their mid-size Camry and Accord sedans when the respective Mirai and Clarity were in their development stages, but doubling down on this for the second-gen Mirai, arriving this year, seems odd, while alternatively Hyundai’s market insight to have stuck with SUVs appears very forward thinking.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The door handles power out when needing to get inside, after which they lock away flush into the door panels to aid aerodynamics.

Hyundai went further by targeting compact buyers, which are more plentiful globally, plus extending the Nexo’s wheelbase to mid-size lengths in order to make sure its second-row legroom and cargo capacity allowed for optimal space. To that end, the Nexo is 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the outgoing Tucson, albeit the same width and height. It’s not only more practical, but the extra length provides a better ride, improves high-speed tracking, and looks leaner and therefore arguably better than it would have if shorter.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo’s clear taillight lenses and matte grey paint scheme make this photo look as if it was taken in black and white.

I’m not going to say it looks better than the much more sharply angled 2022 Tucson that was recently introduced, mind you, which is a particularly eye-catching crossover SUV, but I like the Nexo’s flowing grille and LED headlamp combination, plus its extremely smooth lines front to back, and cool matte grey paint. Some interesting details include Land Rover-inspired pop-out door handles that help keep the body lines flush to improve its coefficient of drag, as well as a thin accent strip between grille and hood that lights up at night. The 19-inch five-spoke alloys look pretty good too, maybe because they aren’t as aerodynamically-flush as some grotesquely wind-cheating wheels of the past.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Hyundai’s Nexo offers up a roomy, comfortable, well-made cabin.

Inside, the Nexo lives up to its (partial) name, by transitioning Hyundai’s SUV lineup into the future, or at least it did when this model debuted two years ago. It features a similar dual-display instrument cluster/infotainment system as Mercedes’ MBUX (which it has just left behind with the introduction of its new S- and C-Class models). It includes a digital gauge package to the left and touchscreen on the right, the former monitor’s multi-information display controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear. Comparison to Merc’s MBUX is difficult to avoid, and while I’m not going to say Hyundai’s is better, I can’t help but laud the South Korean brand for integrating left and right rear-facing cameras within, these projecting live images onto the cluster when applying the turn signals (now becoming common in Hyundai and Kia vehicles).

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Ahead of the driver is an advanced dual-display gauge cluster/infotainment touchscreen, plus myriad buttons on the sloped lower console.

Unexpectedly, the pewter-coloured centre stack is as much of a look back to yesteryear as all the digital screens are modernistic, albeit in a quaint, busy for the sake of being busy kind of way, as if Hyundai was attempting to fill my mind with memories of the mid-1980s, when I made mixed tapes on my old Nakamichi tape deck from LPs on my B&O Beogram 4000 turntable. Those that appreciate quick access to functions will like the Nexo console setup, while the SUV’s audio system sound quality wasn’t as potent as my old home system, which was powered by a ‘70s-era Luxman L-504 amp and finished off with a set of Boston Acoustics A400 speakers, but it easily overcame Hyundai’s quiet electric powertrain.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Anyone who’s driving a modern-day Mercedes-Benz will appreciate where Hyundai was going with this dual-display setup.

Selecting P, N, D or R is as easy as pushing a button, which engages the Nexo’s 120-kW (161 hp) electric motor, complemented by 291 lb-ft of ever-willing torque. The motive motor pulls power from a 40-kWh battery, but only twists the front wheels, as no all-wheel drive option is available despite its SUV profile.

As noted earlier, the 95-kW fuel-cell stack allows electricity production on the fly, resulting in mobile electrical powerplant, of sorts. Recharging is therefore continuous, as long as there’s hydrogen in the tank, and the EPA claims you’ll be able to extract about 570 to 610 km (355 to 380 miles) after refilling, depending on conditions.

Other than the quick refuelling process, the rest of the Nexo driving experience is just like an electric vehicle, although the usual silence is interrupted by a slight vacuum sucking sound when pressing hard on the go-pedal. I only did this for testing purposes, however, so most of the time it was blissfully quiet, aforementioned tunes aside.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The gauge cluster is purely digital, and filled with functions.

Still, when I needed a fast getaway the Nexo delivered, and likewise when passing laggards on the highway. Even better, it was ultra-smooth doing so, Hyundai’s engineers obviously prizing refinement ahead of excitement. By my own completely unscientific Seiko quartz chronograph calculations, I managed to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a wee bit over eight and a half seconds, which is about half a second quicker than Hyundai achieved, although I imagine the difference has more to do with my unscientific methods combined with their usual conservative estimates. This won’t impress any Tesla owners either way (or Chevy Bolt owners for that matter), but it certainly doesn’t hold up traffic when merging onto the highway.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Hyundai uses a convenient tile layout for sorting through infotainment features, one of which provides fuel-cell drive system info.

A more pleasant surprise occurred when veering off of a local four-lane freeway onto a curving two-lane backroad that snakes along a winding river near my home. This is where Hyundai’s engineering team appears to have taken advantage of the Nexo’s low centre of gravity, this provided by installing all the heavy equipment (battery included) under the floorboards. It feels truly hooked up around fast-paced corners, and its electrically assisted rack and pinion steering setup was surprisingly responsive for this class of vehicle.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
This overhead parking camera certainly improved visibility.

Better yet was the Nexo’s ride quality, much thanks to a traditional Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension design, along with good tuning. Despite its ability to hustle around corners at a brisk rate, potholes, frost-heaves, bridge expansion joints and other intrusive road imperfections did little to impact driver or occupants, resulting in one of the best ride/handling compromises in the compact crossover SUV segment, and this while rolling on sizeable 245/45HR19 all-season tires.

The Nexo comes across as solid and well-made too, with zero body groans despite having a glass sunroof overhead, and nominal wind or road noise to mar the peaceful experience within. Once again, it was surprisingly refined for its compact SUV segment.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The lower console is a busy affair, but once acclimatized you should have no problem finding what you need.

This focus on refinement is probably why Hyundai didn’t provide a sport selection amongst its driving modes. Alternatively, the Normal setting becomes the default for performance, while Eco mode smooths out the edges even more, and by doing so maximizes all the tiny droplets of compressed hydrogen from its trio of 52-litre H2 tanks. The Nexo’s drive mode selector can be found on the lower console next to the infotainment system’s quick access switchgear, by the way, all of which butt up against the previously noted quad of transmission buttons, so finding it should be easy enough after getting acclimatized.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The driver’s seat provides good comfort and support, plus an excellent view out all windows.

This said, the steering wheel paddles aren’t for shifting gears. Instead, the left one is for simultaneously applying the brakes and sending regenerative kinetic braking energy to the battery. You can bring the Nexo to a full stop just by applying this paddle, as long as the SUV isn’t rolling too quickly, plus the strongest of its three settings needs to be chosen first. That’s the job of the paddle on the right, plus eliminating any rolling resistance by easing off the regenerative brakes. Similar systems are included in most electric cars, so anyone familiar with this EV technology will feel right at home in the hydrogen-powered Hyundai.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Rear seat occupants get outboard seat heaters and a folding centre armrest.

Something else similar to EVs is the impressive load of features found in each Nexo, these helping to offset the rather high prices EV and H2 buyers need to pay in order go green. Along with the excellent digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen mentioned a while ago, my Nexo tester included a 360-surround overhead camera system, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, wireless charging, and more.

What about luxury finishings? Now that Hyundai has expanded to include its premium Genesis brand, we shouldn’t expect cloth-wrapped roof pillars and soft-touch synthetics below the belt-line, but the entire dash top is made from a nice pliable plastic, as are the front and even the rear door uppers, along with the door inserts and armrests.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Dedicated cargo space is good considering all the hydrogen technology housed below.

I appreciated the heated steering wheel rim as well, while the inherently comfortable power-adjustable driver’s seat was not only three-way heatable, but provided three-way cooling too, not to mention two-way lumbar support that managed to press against my lower spine in just the right spot to alleviate stress.

Additionally, those in back should be comfortable thanks to generous legroom and reasonable width for the class. I think three could sit across the rear bench in a pinch, but I’d rather be back there with just one more passenger so I could enjoy an outboard seat heater and the folding centre armrest with dual integrated cupholders. There’s only one three-prong household-style power outlet on the backside of the front console, however (not that I’ve ever seen more), and no USB ports in the rear, so it’s possible that aft passengers will end up squabbling about device charging.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
A shallow compartment is good for stowing valuables.

Fortunately, the Nexo’s dedicated cargo volume is pretty good at 850 litres (30 cu ft), while it’s expandable to 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. This said, a 40/20/40 division would’ve been better, as owners could lay longer items like skis down the middle, while rear passengers enjoy the aforementioned heatable window seats. A mostly level load floor aids usefulness, plus Hyundai includes a bit more storage underneath a carpeted lid.

If you’re used to the high prices of EVs, you’d better sit down and buckle up before I mention the Nexo’s sticker shocker. This mainstream brand-badged compact SUV starts at a whopping $71,000 plus freight and fees, which will certainly be a deal-killer for anyone that hasn’t already priced out a $52,000 Tesla Model Y, or for that matter Hyundai’s own $41,599 Ioniq Electric. Truly, the Nexo is purely for early adopters who want to own something completely unique, and are willing to put up with very few places to fill up.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo’s 60/40-split rear seatback provides additional cargo space when needed.

You may already be aware that Vancouver is an anomaly when it comes to retail hydrogen refuelling stations. It’s been a hotbed of H2 development for decades (more specifically the suburb of Burnaby), so having an unfair share of H2 stations per capita makes sense. One is in North Vancouver, close to where Toyota houses its local press fleet. I’m quite sure this is just a coincidence, the real reason for the location more likely being its relative proximity to Whistler, BC, a popular destination spot that’s well within the Nexo or Mirai’s round-trip range. It’s also found in the same city as the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation, HTEC being the developer, manufacturer and installer of hydrogen refuelling pump/station hardware, and responsible for setting up the H2 islands around the city, including a Shell station in Vancouver, close to the airport (YVR) and my home.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Under the hood, Hyundai’s fuel-cell stack looks a lot like a regular combustion engine thanks to a conventional shroud overtop.

As for the rest of Canada, a fourth station is currently being built on Vancouver Island, with a fifth set to open in Kelowna, BC. After that you’ll need to put your H2-powered vehicle on a train if you want to fill up in Quebec City (about 4,800 km away). More are planned, but for the time being it appears that hydrogen is more of a west coast thing.

Speaking of the left, there are 43 hydrogen refuelling stations in California, with the only other two available in the US found in Connecticut and Hawaii (forget the train trip for that final location). Again, there are plans to expand the H2 network in the US, with a supposed “hydrogen highway” eventually connecting California and BC’s H2 infrastructure along the US I-5. Being that this has been bantered about for decades, its ETA is anyone’s guess, but with powerhouses like Hyundai and Toyota behind the technology, some form of a hydrogen-powered future is probable.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Ready to be the first on your block (or your city) to own a hydrogen-powered SUV?

To find out about Nexo trim levels, including the $73,500 Ultimate version tested, plus all the standard and optional features, check out the 2021 Hyundai NEXO Canada Prices page on CarCostCanada, while you can compare this one to the 2020 version that didn’t offer a base Preferred trim line (strange name as I’d prefer to have the Ultimate), and was priced $500 lower. Also, you can research the other models mentioned in this story by following the links connected to their names. Learn more about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you money when purchasing your next new vehicle, by keeping you up to date on manufacturer rebates, factory leasing and financing deals, and most importantly, by providing dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating. Also, remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you’ll have all this vital info when you need it most.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.…

Hyundai and Ford clean up at 2021 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards

2021 Hyundai Elantra Car of the Year
Hyundai’s 2021 Elantra (also shown above) just won the North American Car of the Year.

Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.

Yes, it appears as if 2021 is the blue-oval brand’s year to shine as two of its vehicles drove away with class wins, the always best-selling F-150 earning 2021 Truck of the Year honours, and the controversially named Mustang Mach-E silently accepting 2021’s Utility of the Year.

Car of the Year went to Hyundai with its new 2021 Elantra, the reality of which might cause some in Dearborn to wonder what might have happened if the much-lauded (in Europe and other markets) new Focus had been made available in our market.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
Ford’s 2021 Mustang Mach-E took top honours as this year’s North American Utility of the Year.

Runner up in the Car sector is Genesis’ redesigned G80 mid-size luxury sedan (FYI: Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury division), while Nissan’s revised Sentra took a respectable third place in the annual awards program. Of note, the Chevrolet Corvette won the Car of the Year Class in 2020, but no GM products earned awards this year.

Just behind the Mustang Mach-E crossover EV, Genesis once again placed well in the Utility of the Year category with its new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover SUV, while Land Rover’s rugged new Defender 4×4 earned third. Last year it was Kia’s turn to impress, incidentally, with its stellar Telluride three-row, mid-size crossover SUV.

2021 Ford F-150
Ford’s 2021 F-150, the only fully redesigned model entered in the North American Truck of the Year contest, earned top spot.

Lastly, but hardly least when it comes to sales, NACTOY judges chose the “Desert Rated” Jeep Gladiator Mojave for second place in the Truck of the Year category (the entire Gladiator line won this class last year), while the off-road “race replica” Ram 1500 TRX showed up in third.

Notably, the just-noted Truck of the Year finalists are merely significantly upgraded trims of models already available in 2020, leaving the winning F-150 as the only entirely redesigned model entered into this year’s North American Truck of the Year class. How this may have impacted the Truck of the Year results is not known.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of the above-mentioned vehicles, make sure to click on the associated link to find out about available manufacturer leasing and financing rates, possible manufacturer rebates, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. CarCostCanada is our nation’s top source for money-saving automotive info, so be sure to download their free app on the Apple Store or Google Play Store and save money now.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Ford, Hyundai