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

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

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 250 4Matic Hatch Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

News flash: Mercedes-Benz Canada just revealed an impressive new C-Class and the market responds by purchasing more SUVs. While a redesigned C-Class will certainly increase the model’s sales, it shouldn’t…

Mercedes reveals sleeker, sportier looking 2022 C-Class

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Mercedes-Benz Canada will offer a new C-Class sedan for 2022, but most buyers will opt for one of the brand’s compact SUVs.

News flash: Mercedes-Benz Canada just revealed an impressive new C-Class and the market responds by purchasing more SUVs.

While a redesigned C-Class will certainly increase the model’s sales, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that only 684 C-Class sedans were sold into the Canadian market during the first three months of 2021. This represented a downturn of 26.9 percent compared to Q1 of 2020, although ever-growing interest in SUVs over cars wasn’t the only factor at play in our whacky new car market. Low interest rates have done their job in propping everything up, despite the repeated economic shocks our systems have experienced via the health crisis et al, but the overarching automotive theme remains changing tastes.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
A new frowning grille combines with additional styling upgrades for an all-new 2022 C-Class.

A decade or so ago the C-Class fought for luxury sector dominance with BMW’s 3-Series, but now both cars aren’t even playing second fiddle to their utilities counterparts, they’re deep into the second row of backup string players. Adding a little clarity to this scenario is the C-Class’ third-place standing in Mercedes first-quarter retail hierarchy, with significantly more popular models including the similarly sized GLC compact luxury SUV selling 1,778 units during the same three-month period (1,094 more than the C-Class), and the GLE mid-size luxury SUV finding 1,598 buyers (and outselling the E/CLS-Class’ 341 deliveries by 1,257 units).

This story is nothing new, but instead supports the reasoning behind C-Class’ competitors bowing out of the market. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the end of Jaguar’s XE and Lincoln’s MKZ, while a number of previously popular luxury sedans are the sole remaining body styles in their respective lines, with their coupes, convertibles and wagons having been nixed (more on this in a moment).

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
New character lines on the hood and sides help distinguish current and future C-Class models.

The only Mercedes’ car to challenge the SUV-winning trend is the entry-level A-Class, which together with the CLA-Class (a four-door coupe that rides on the same underpinnings) earned 1,001 new buyers compared to the GLA and GLB subcompact luxury SUVs’ collective 609, but this anomaly likely has more to do with the A’s relatively inexpensive pricing that results in an affordable gateway into revered Mercedes-Benz ownership.

Back to wagons, a diehard niche of Mercedes enthusiasts will be sad to hear their beloved C-Class Wagon will be dearly departing from North American markets for 2022, so grab a new AMG C 43 4Matic while you can. The fifth-generation (W206) C will now soldier on with its Sedan, Coupe and Convertible body styles, leaving enhanced cargo-carrying duties to the aforementioned GLC and GLC Coupe SUV models, within the compact luxury sector at least—the E-Class Wagon soldiers on in three trims, including the sensational AMG E 63 S 4Matic.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Triangular LED taillights are two of the most noticeable changes from the rear.

With this bit of Mercedes spring cleaning out of the way, the new C should please all that lay eyes on it. It wears the luxury brand’s sportier new styling from front to back, including the new frowning oval sport grille now found on the aforementioned A and CLA classes, as opposed to the outgoing smiling one (its ends now point downward instead of upward). Additionally, new more angular Performance LED headlamps wrap farther around the front fenders, plus a revised lower front fascia flows more effortlessly from side-to-side. The hood now features two stylish new character lines, reminiscent of those found on the classic ‘50s-era 300 SL.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Unfortunately, the C-Class Wagon has been discontinued in our market for 2022.

Looking rearward, Mercedes did away with the outgoing model’s graceful beltline crease that previously swept downward through the rear door before disappearing below its handle, the new car’s flanks less curvaceous, but the lower upward crease remains intact.

The new C’s two-piece taillights might be its most noticeable update, as the old car’s less distinct ovoid blobs have been replaced with nice sharp triangular lenses (can you tell which ones we like better?), also similar to those found on the A-Class. Lastly, new 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels round out the design changes, plus new exterior paint colours of course.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
The new C-Class bypasses the dual-display in one MBUX system for two separate screens.

The current C-Class is the last remaining Mercedes-Benz with a conventional dash layout, either incorporating mechanical analogue dials flanked by a centre multi-information display or a fully digital gauge cluster with the same curving metal shrouds all around, this fully separated from a smallish tablet-style infotainment touchscreen perched atop the centre stack. All other models within Mercedes’ lineup received a version of the fancy MBUX two-in-one conjoined digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen setup.

It’s now clear the brand’s second-best-selling sedan will never see that much-praised layout, but instead get something similar to the entirely new S-Class (which initially ushered in the MBUX dash design). Both sedans feature a fresh new approach to the MBUX layout, incorporating digital gauges ahead of the driver in a fixed horizontal tablet-style cluster, plus a massive vertically positioned display on the centre stack, not dissimilar in size to that found in a Tesla, albeit flowing almost seamlessly into a curving lower centre console.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
The C’s fully digital driver display is nicely framed by an all-new steering wheel.

It’s artfully executed, especially when accompanied by high-gloss carbon fibre weave as seen in this story’s accompanying press photos. The centre display should be easier to reach than either the current MBUX or outgoing C-Class designs, plus much more capable of hosting multiple functions simultaneously. This will be important, as it appears Mercedes is saying goodbye to its console-mounted touchpad and surround switchgear, the minimalist look more attractive and elimination of redundancies likely less expensive to produce.

Integrating haptic feedback makes clear that Mercedes wasn’t cutting corners, mind you, or for that matter including over-the-air software updates, not to mention biometric authentication via voice or fingerprint scanning. Touching the scanner makes pre-selected memory adjustments to the driver’s seat, radio station, and more, the latter including the ability to purchase apps (and possibly other items) from the Mercedes Me store. What’s more, the head-up display in front of the driver uses augmented reality to project real-time visuals onto the windshield.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Get ready to be impressed by the C’s new infotainment touchscreen and its myriad features.

The driver isn’t the only benefactor from new C-Class upgrades, however, because everyone should enjoy a bit more comfort from the car’s greater overall length and width. This means front and rear passengers gain legroom and shoulder space, important in a segment that sees some competitors nearing mid-size dimensions.

Offsetting the increased dimensions while parking is a rear-wheel steering system, an unusually welcome addition in this compact luxury category. Likewise, the new C 300 4Matic’s advanced tech extends to the powertrain, which combines a standard 48-volt integrated starter-generator (ISG), or mild hybrid system, with Mercedes’ well-proven 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and mostly carryover nine-speed automatic transmission.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
The new C-Class will ditch Mercedes’ usual console-mounted touchpad and surround switchgear.

The electrified portion of the drivetrain provides 20 additional horsepower and 147 lb-ft more torque in certain situations, totaling 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, but strangely this new 2022 model is a fraction slower than the outgoing 2021 C 300 4Matic—go figure. The drivetrain allows gliding, boosting and kinetic energy recovery, however, so it should be ultra-efficient as far as gasoline-powered mild hybrids with all-wheel drive go.

A plug-in hybrid would be nice for nabbing those special parking spots close to the shopping mall entrance, or whisking down the HOV lane unimpeded during rush hour (depending on your jurisdiction’s regulations), while they provide a bit of pure electric propulsion too, over short distances, but no PHEV will be offered in Canada. One does exist, incidentally, providing a shockingly good 100 kilometres of EV range, but for reasons only those within Mercedes-Benz Canada’s inner circle know, you won’t be able to get your hands on it.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
A longer and wider 2022 C-Class should be more comfortable at all positions.

As for ultra-powerful six- and eight-cylinder AMG variants, no announcements have been made yet. Still, reports have been made that next-gen C-Class AMGs will receive electrically-assisted four-cylinder engines with varying outputs, not unlike Volvo’s T8 and Polestar Engineered models. Their focus will be primarily on performance over fuel efficiency, although meeting regulations will be high on their priority list too.

Now that we’re talking practicalities, the new C-Class will come packed full of advanced driver assistive systems, even as much as the new S-Class, with all the usual features now supplemented by the capability of recognizing stop signs and red lights, plus steering assistance that helps a driver maintain their lane up to 210 km/h (where legally allowed).

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Almost as fast and a lot more efficient, the new C-Class features a mild-hybrid drivetrain.

The new 2022 C 300 4Matic will go on sale later this year, with pricing and trim details available before launch. Until then, Mercedes-Benz Canada is offering up to $5,500 in additional incentives on the 2021 C-Class, with CarCostCanada members saving an average of $2,437. To find out more about saving money with CarCostCanada, which provides information about factory leasing and financing deals (when available), manufacturer rebates (when available), and dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your next new car deal, visit CarCostCanada’s “How it Works” page, and be sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play store or Apple store too.

The C-Class: Rapid-Fire Questions to Dirk Fetzer (1:07):

The New C-Class Sedan: An Intelligent Comfort Zone (0:49):

The New C-Class Sedan: A Connected Comfort Zone (0:56):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz

With the goal of achieving a “Carbon Neutral” model line by 2039, Mercedes continues to expand its all-new EQ electric vehicle lineup with a model that may become its most important overall, if only…

Mercedes introduces all-new GLA-based entry-level EQA crossover EV

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The new EQA 250 will soon be a popular gateway into Mercedes-EQ’s new electrified lineup.

With the goal of achieving a “Carbon Neutral” model line by 2039, Mercedes continues to expand its all-new EQ electric vehicle lineup with a model that may become its most important overall, if only because its entry-level position within the German brand’s EV hierarchy has the potential to usher in an entirely new group of buyers.

The EQA will likely be the least expensive way to own a Mercedes’ EV when it finally arrives in Canada, although we shouldn’t expect it before calendar year 2022, after the larger EQC arrives, which was recently delayed from its initially reported 2021 launch date to 2022 as well.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The EQA doesn’t hide the fact it’s based on the popular GLA-Class subcompact SUV, but the many updates certainly set it apart in a positive way.

The EQC will follow the new EQS mid-size luxury sedan, which was prioritized for North American markets. The large coupe-shaped four-door Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan fighter was moved ahead of the much-anticipated GLC-based EQC compact luxury crossover EV that we reported on at length back in October of 2018.

Brian Fulton, Mercedes-Benz Canada President and CEO, told journalists attending the Montreal International Auto Show in January of 2019, that the EQS, EQC and this EQA will initiate a 10-model EQ line of new EVs, two others including an EQB, based on the new GLB subcompact, and the EQE, riding on modified mid-size GLE SUV architecture.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The EQA gets blue highlights in key areas.

Where the EQC’s twin electric motors will produce 300 kilowatt (402 horsepower) and 564 lb-ft of torque, the smaller SUV’s first available EQA 250 trim will feature a single 140-kW (188-hp) electric motor focused on efficiency first and foremost. Still, a more potent model is said to produce about 200 kW (268 hp) via a second electric motor driving an opposing set of wheels, resulting in AWD. The thin battery is spread out under the floor to maximize interior room, improve weight distribution, and low the SUV’s centre of gravity for optimal handling.

With respect to the all-important range issue, Mercedes is claiming about 500 kilometres on a single charge, based on Europe’s highly optimistic NEDC and WLTP standards, which means this number will certainly shrink when the EQA arrives on our market. Helping users make the most of stored energy, the EQA will use an intelligent navigation system to plot out the most efficient routes possible after considering real-time traffic, terrain, weather conditions, driving style, and charging requirements.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The EQA 250 will be the new model’s less powerful entry-level trim.

Efficiency in mind, Mercedes has integrated a standard heat pump to channel warmth generated from the electric powertrain to the passenger compartment, thus increasing range. An Eco Assist system helps reduce battery usage as well, while a plethora of advanced driver assistance and electronic safety tech has been designed to protect the EQA’s most precious cargo.

Mercedes appears to have used wind tunnel testing to achieve the EQA’s slippery 0.28 drag coefficient, but in fact the little SUV’s impressive aerodynamics were entirely achieved digitally, a first for the German automaker. The result includes a very smooth outer skin, boasting a near flush grille and headlamps, a smooth, arcing coupe-like roofline, wind-cheating alloy wheels, and a mostly enclosed underbelly.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
Mercedes is claiming about 500 km on a single charge, based on Europe’s NEDC and WLTP standards.

This said, the EQA retains the general shape of the recently redesigned gasoline-powered 2021 GLA that it shares architectural hard points with, Mercedes having chosen the appearance of a conventional grille in order to maintain brand identity, and simultaneously avoid the stylistic blandness found on vehicles with no defined grille.

Adding yet more personality, Mercedes has infused the headlamps with blue accents, which should be quite the light show at night. Additionally, an LED light strip visually connects those headlights with a set of daytime running lamps that stretch across the grille, a theme that’s followed in back where organically shaped LED outer lamps connect via a narrowing band across the entire hatch, adding visual width to the otherwise GLA-like rear design.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
Anyone familiar with a modern-day Mercedes interior will immediately recognize the EQA 250’s familial ties.

The EQA’s interior will look familiar to those that have been inside a modern-day Mercedes model, highlighted by the brand’s MBUX two-in-one mono-display incorporating a fully digital primary instrument cluster on the left and infotainment touchscreen to the right, the latter also controllable via a touchpad and switchgear on the lower centre console. Along with the usual functions, the two EQA displays will get a host of EV-specific interfaces, including the upgraded navigation system noted earlier.

The German brand uses ambient lighting to underscore key interior design elements too, while materials quality should be up to par with the already impressive GLA. An available rose gold trim package will be popular with many, the classy colour also featured within the infotainment display for added measure.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
Mercedes’ dual-display MBUX gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen is amongst the industry’s best.

Considering its more approachable expected price point, the EQA could do very well in the Canadian market, which traditionally favours smaller cars and SUVs than its American neighbour. The GLA is already a top-three seller in its subcompact luxury SUV segment, although its 3,566 pre-health crisis sales in calendar year 2019 were less than a third of the GLC’s 10,883 best-in-class deliveries, but that shouldn’t cause Mercedes’ Canadian executive team to hold off on the smaller model. The EV market can respond in untraditional ways, after all, so it’s possible a smaller, more affordable alternative could be what the market actually needs.

As it is, Mercedes’ EQS, EQC, and EQE will respectively target Tesla’s Model S, Model Y and Model 3 directly, which has proven to be a formidable task by other EV makers. The EQA and EQB, on the other hand, will occupy niches Tesla hasn’t filled yet, giving the German brand an advantage in an EV sector dominated by the American tech giant.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The EQA should be plenty comfortable and crafted from premium materials, similarly to today’s GLA.

Currently, Volvo’s XC40 Recharge is the only EV competitor in the subcompact SUV class, with Lexus’ UX merely satisfying Canadian hybrid buyers so far (it’s all-electric UX 300e is not slated for Canada). The electric-gasoline theme continues with the Range Rover Evoque, a mild-hybrid that’s unfortunately not available in Canada, while Mini ups the ante with a plug-in version of its Countryman. Likewise, Audi and BMW will soon offer plug-in hybrids of their own, dubbed Q3 45 TFSI e and X1 xDrive25e respectively, while Audi reportedly has the Q4 e-tron EV coming too, but it’s larger than the Q3, EQA, and other subcompact SUVs.

A fully electrified Mercedes-Benz lineup will certainly add variety to the Canadian EV market, with Mercedes appearing to be leading the charge amongst established luxury brands.

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQA 250
The EQA’s battery will lay low in the floor for optimal interior spaciousness and handling.

Mercedes’ EQA isn’t available to purchase just yet, but for those wanting a subcompact luxury SUV that still offers plenty of efficiency, take note that remaining 2020 versions of the brand’s GLA-Class are now available with up to $5,000 in additional incentives, whereas redesigned 2021 models can be had with up to $750 in incentives. Visit CarCostCanada’s 2020 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Canada Prices pages to learn more, and also remember that a CarCostCanada membership can provide additional savings from manufacturer rebates when available, factory leasing and financing, as well as dealer invoice pricing that can save you even more. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz