Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect…

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Did you know Mazda was offering a twin-turbo diesel-powered CX-5 last year? Some were still available at the time of writing.

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect match your idealistic imagination conjured them up to be. As we age, most of us become a little more cautious in our approach to everything, including our next best ride.

Enter the Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel or SkyActiv-D, a compact crossover SUV that most buyers in this class never realized was even on the radar, let alone available for the 2019 model year. Amongst the auto industry media, Mazda’s upcoming turbo-diesel was a highly anticipated new powertrain in a model that’s long earned high marks, but it took longer to arrive than expected and only lasted one single model year, a shocker that’s caused some disappointment within a small following of diesel engine fans, and as I just noted, not even a whimper from most Mazda buyers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
It’s just as attractive and beautifully finished inside as the regular CX-5 thanks to top-tier Signature trim, but Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine is more fuel efficient.

Of course, the latter group matters much more in the grand scheme of things than a tiny handful of oil-burner zealots and enthusiastic auto journalists, and to be fair to Mazda that’s now looking as if it made a major product planning error, Volkswagen’s Diesel-gate fiasco wasn’t a thing when the 100-year-old independent Japanese brand first decided to bring its SkyActiv-D to market (yes, Mazda is 17 years older than VW). As it is, the very fact the new turbo-diesel engine met Canadian regulations for the 2019 model year shows that it was cleaner than anything offered by the Germans, all of which dropped their diesel powerplants soon after the Diesel-gate scandal.

I’m speaking in past-tense because this review is coming out after the fact, although being that 2020 is one of the most unusual years we’ve ever experienced in the car industry, or any other sector for that matter, I was still able to find some of these unique 2019 CX-5s available to purchase new when perusing online.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature Diesel’s stylish design with narrow LED headlamps, tiny fog lights and attractive 19-inch alloys, truly makes a visual statement.

In this review I’m going to cover the 2019 model shown, as well as the 2020, particularly the changes moving up to the latest model year, being that there are many more 2020s available to purchase than 2019s, with or without the SkyActiv-D powertrain with respect to the latter. If you can find a 2019 model that suits your needs, you’ll be able to benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, while 2020 models are only being offered with incentives up to $1,000, as per CarCostCanada’s comprehensive 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page and 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership provides plenty, by the way, including manufacturer rebate information, details about any available manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could save you thousands, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s distinctive LED taillights are similar to its LED headlight design.

A quick look at the just-noted 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page will immediately show the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel only being available in top-line Signature trim at a price of $45,950 plus freight and fees. Signature trim is a new for 2019 premium brand-like level that’s never previously been offered to CX-5 clientele. Other CX-5 trims include the base GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive or $29,850 with all-wheel drive, the mid-grade GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the previous top-line GT that starts at $37,450 and tops out at $39,450 with its 2.5-litre turbocharged gasoline with engine upgrade. GT and Signature trims include Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard equipment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature is a step above all mainstream branded competitors when it comes to luxury, thanks to soft Nappa leather and real hardwood trim.

The CX-5 Signature, available with the just-noted 2.5-litre turbo gas engine for $40,950 and the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already impressive CX-5 GT with features like LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, a slick looking frameless rearview mirror, genuine Abachi hardwood inlays on the dash and door panels (yes, real wood, folks), plus dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim, while items pulled up from the GT include front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlamps, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless entry, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 10-speaker audio system including satellite radio, a garage door opener, leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Soft-touch surfaces abound, as do beautifully finished metal accents.

Details like fabric-wrapped A pillars and luxuriously padded interior surfaces including the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console side edges, door uppers front to back and armrests side to centre go further to make the CX-5 a near-luxury experience, while Mazda also adds a tasteful assortment of anodized aluminum accents throughout the compact SUV’s cabin, with some of the brushed metal switchgear receiving rich knurled metal edging for an extremely upscale appearance. It’s pretty fancy stuff from a mainstream volume-brand, leaving some in the industry to wonder (including yours truly) whether or not Mazda is making a long play for luxury brand status.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s centre dial is purely digital, despite looking as if it’s merely another analogue instrument.

The diesel option fits the premium sector well too, being this engine type has mostly been sold through luxury brands (Volkswagen aside) such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and the like, with Jaguar offering a bevy of diesel-powered models up until last year (so there are probably plenty of these around if you’re interested too) and Land Rover having only dropped the oil-burner in its Velar, yet not offering diesel-power in the one vehicle 4×4 enthusiasts would most likely want it in, the all-new 2021 Defender.

Back to Mazda’s diesel, it makes a rather meagre 168 horsepower yet a very healthy 290 lb-ft of torque; the low horsepower, high torque ratio normal for diesel powertrains. This said the same CX-5 Signature’s base gasoline-fed powerplant is good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (take note, this engine has just been announced for the AWD Mazda3, and should be a real screamer in such a lightweight car), as long as you fill it with 93 octane premium fuel. If you don’t, and I can’t see most owners throwing that much cash into the ether, it puts out a commendable 250 horsepower and the same 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 2020 model gains an additional 10 lb-ft of torque to 320 lb-ft when fuelled with high-octane gas.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The centre display can be modulated via a dial and set of buttons on the lower centre console, just like with premium brands.

Drive both CX-5 powertrains back-to-back, as I’m sure many would-be CX-5 Diesel buyers would have done, and the benefits of the gasoline-powered version are immediately clear, at least from a performance perspective. Of course, opting for the diesel is more about fuel economy, and to that end it’s thriftier than its gasoline-powered counterpart, but probably not enough to cause a large volume of CX-5 buyers to choose it over the more conventional powertrain. The diesel’s claimed 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy is certainly better than the gasoline engine’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating, but the extra $5,000 needed to upgrade makes any savings less reasonable.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
An attractive dual-zone automatic climate control system is easy to use.

Something else to consider is the nicely equipped CX-5 GT mentioned earlier, which for $37,450 offers a lot of luxury along with an even thriftier 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder good for 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, plus a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, while the same engine with front wheel drive gets 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5 respectively.

Last year I reviewed a GT with its base engine and was very pleased with its fuel economy, performance and level of luxury after my usual weeklong test, but this said I more recently spent three months with a 2020 CX-5 Signature 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo and was even more enamoured, particularly with its performance and premium fittings. I’ll be sure to review it in full detail soon, although for the sake of this review I’ll only say that Mazda made the right choice in keeping its top-line gasoline engine over its even more exclusive diesel.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Knurled metal edging makes many of the CX-5 Signature’s controls look and feel very upscale.

Don’t get me wrong as the two models’ fuel economy disparity was even more pronounced during real life duty than on National Resources Canada’s downloadable Fuel Consumption Ratings spreadsheet. This was made even more obvious thanks to diesel fuel pump prices that are normally much lower than regular gasoline (let alone premium), but the biggest reason for the two models’ fuel economy disparity came down to the sportier 2.5-litre turbo-gasoline engine making the paddle-shift actuated 2020 CX-5 Signature way too much fun to merely coast along in comfortable bliss. With the knurled-metal, console-mounted rocker switch pulled rearward for Sport mode, the most potent CX-5 is a rarified dynamo amongst mostly dawdling compact crossover competitors, while the turbo-diesel version is much more sedate after its initial launch from standstill.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature’s Nappa leather covered driver’s seat is very comfortable and supportive.

Yes, the diesel-powered CX-5 provides a lot of twist from lower speeds, and I certainly never had any problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway. It just doesn’t provide the level of sporty performance as the conventionally-fuelled turbo-four, and due to the subtle yet still evident rat-a-tat-tat sound emanating from ahead of the engine firewall, it makes the CX-5 sound a bit more truck-like than the gasoline version. This will either be good or not so good depending on your preferences. I happen to like the sound of a diesel engine, so it was kind of comforting, while its standard 19-inch Gunmetal grey Signature wheels and equally large tires provided plenty of pavement adhesion when hustling it through corners.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The rear seats are comfortable and the surrounding area spacious.

Unlike the gasoline-powered Signature, the diesel doesn’t provide steering wheel paddles, so its six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging as the gearbox I more recently tested. Yes, you heard me right, like Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage, the CX-5 uses a conventional six-speed automatic instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has become more commonplace in this small SUV market segment, while more complex eight-speed autoboxes are now incorporated into VW’s Tiguan and Ford’s latest Escape, and even fancier nine-speed automatics can be found in the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Jeep Cherokee. More gears can add problems, however, with most of the eight- and nine-speed automatics just noted commonly cited for reliability issues, making Mazda’s well-proven six-speed SkyActiv-Drive transmission a good choice for those wanting something they can rely on.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Loads of cargo space make the CX-5 a winner in its compact SUV class, but its 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, featuring a full pass-through down the middle, are amongst the segment’s most useful.

Along with commendable handling, all second-generation CX-5 models I’ve driven so far have provided a comfortable ride, albeit firmer in the more performance-oriented Germanic sense than most competitors. This said, the SUV’s fully independent suspension was never harsh in any way, but instead felt wholly confidence-inspiring when pushed hard through circuitous two-lane roadways, and wonderfully controllable at higher speeds on the freeway. This is a crossover SUV I was able to spend many hours in at a time without discomfort, while its roominess from front to rear is very generous and therefore competitive with compact SUV challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Say hello and goodbye to Mazda’s SkyActiv-D twin-turbo diesel engine, which provided good fuel economy in real world conditions.

Feel free to check out my 2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test for even more detail, particularly about its best-in-class 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers, cargo measurements and more, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app to your smartphone from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can get the best deal possible on this impressive compact SUV.

I won’t try to claim that I know which engine will best suit your needs, because those who already like diesels will love the short-lived SkyActiv-D, and performance fans will no doubt want the much quicker SkyActiv-G turbo, while some will prefer to save as much as possible by purchasing a more affordable trim and therefore be happy with the naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G powerplant, as I was. Either way Mazda has you covered, at least for a little while longer, unless you’re looking for a hybrid. If that’s the case, you may want to wait for Mazda’s sporty looking electric crossover just unveiled at the Tokyo auto show.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019…

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s big, bold grille gives it a lot of presence, while this model’s top-line Ultimate trim adds chrome detailing, fog lights and 17-inch alloys.

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019 version probably threw a few diehard Hyundai buyers for a loop, with the previous L, LE, GL and GLS lines being creatively redubbed Essential, Preferred and Ultimate.

The car before you would’ve been named the Accent GLS 5-Door Manual back in 2017 when the 2018 model debuted, but for 2019 was renamed the Accent Ultimate 5-Door Manual. The manual in this top-line trim won’t exist for 2020, incidentally, so being that this exact model in 2019 form was still available at the time of writing, I thought I’d tell you about it along with changes made to the new 2020 Accent, plus let you know about any potential savings on either car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
That’s a very aggressive rear bumper design for the subcompact commuter class.

For starters, the Accent Sedan is gone. Yes, those who love subcompact four-door sedans can no longer look to Hyundai to satiate their desires. Hyundai isn’t alone, with Toyota dropping its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for 2020 as well, Nissan saying goodbye to its Versa Note and not bringing its redesigned Versa sedan north of the 49th, Ford killing off its entire Fiesta line that included a sedan and hatchback last year, and Chevy having done likewise with its Sonic the year before, leaving Kia’s Rio as the sole option for three-box city car buyers.

Also new, the Accent gets a fully redesigned engine for 2020, plus a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gone is this car’s very reliable 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s good for a commendable 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, replaced by the South Korean brand’s all-new 1.6-litre Smartstream four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Along with these larger 17-inch alloy wheels, the extra chrome trim, fog lamps and LED headlights are classy additions exclusive to Ultimate trim.

The new powertrain is obviously more about fuel economy than performance, having said goodbye to 12 horsepower plus 6 lb-ft of torque, and to this end it achieves an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.0 combined with its base six-speed manual, or an even better 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.7 combined with its most fuel-efficient CVT. It really shines when compared to the outgoing model shown here, which could only achieve a claimed rating of 8.2 city, 6.3 highway and 7.3 combined no matter whether using its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

Of course, the 2019 example before you really shines when taking off from a standing start or passing on the highway. True, I haven’t driven the new 2020 model yet, so Hyundai may have made up for its engine output disadvantage with shortened initial gear ratios, but I’m guessing those trading up from old to new will still find it difficult not to notice a sizeable difference in performance. Hyundai is no doubt hoping the car’s fuel economy improvements will more than make up for any accelerative shortcomings.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s finer details are very nice.

This said, fewer and fewer new vehicle buyers are trading up from subcompact cars to the same type of vehicle, but instead are opting for a small SUV. Hyundai has the subcompact SUV category fully covered with its new city car-sized 2020 Venue and slightly larger Kona, the latter model introduced for 2018. The sales of these two have grown exponentially, whereas the Accent’s numbers are dropping at a relatively rapid rate. From a high of 29,751 units in 2018, and still strong Canadian sales of 23,173 in 2014, the Accent’s deliveries have steadily slumped downward from 19,371 in 2015, 19,198 in 2016, 13,073 in 2017, 9,021 in 2018 and just 5,989 in 2019.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Here’s a closer look at the sporty rear bumper.

As noted, small SUV sales have been the benefactors, with the Kona finding 14,497 new buyers in its first partial year (it arrived in March) of 2018 and a whopping 25,817 units throughout 2019, making it number one in its class last year, and the same over the first three months of 2020 too. The Venue is too new and the 2020 calendar year too wonky to make any sense of how it will do overall when things normalize, but if it sells anywhere near as well as the similarly sized Nissan Kicks it should rank somewhere amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s top three or four (the Venue outsold the Kicks in March and had its best sales in May, but Nissan Canada only reports its sales quarterly so we’ll need to wait a little longer to find out—I’ll tell you in my upcoming 2020 Venue and Kicks reviews). Of more importance to this review, in Q1 of 2020 the Venue outsold the Accent by about 1.6 to 1, making it easier to appreciate why Hyundai dropped the slower selling sedan variant.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Check out the sharp looking two-tone red and black interior.

This said there are a lot of reasons to choose the Accent over one of its taller more SUV-like brethren. I say SUV-like because most modern SUVs are little more than raised hatchbacks or wagons with chunkier, beefier styling. Some, like the Venue, don’t even offer all-wheel drive, so their buyers are opting for a more rugged go-anywhere design and a taller ride-height for better outward visibility. They give up some handing chops and oftentimes fuel economy too, but that’s ok in today’s oh-so image conscious society.

The Accent’s 2018 redesign was a major improvement over its more sheepish predecessor, its much bolder wide mouth grille adding a little Audi-like presence to this entry-level commuter. In Ultimate trim there’s more chrome bits to brighten the exterior, particularly on the front fascia that incorporates a set of fog lamps with metal brightwork bezels on each corner, while the side window belt mouldings and each of its four door handles are chromed as well. The LED headlamps with LED signature accents help spiff up this top-line trim too, as do the LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, while a sporty set of 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels round out the look nicely, these framing a set of four-wheel disc brakes in Ultimate trim (lesser versions use rear drums).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s driver cockpit is nicely organized and filled with high-quality controls.

I have to say, the Accent’s exterior styling never left me feeling as if I was living at the entry level of the market. Along with the big, bold grille is a wonderfully detailed front fascia worthy of hot hatch respect, albeit the car’s dramatically sculpted rear valance is even more eye-catching thanks to a large, body-wide black mesh grille insert resulting in a particularly aggressive look. A rear roof top spoiler gives the Accent’s profile a longer, leaner appearance, although it’s not as if they need to visually stretch this car in order to make it look longer than it actually is.

This is the largest Accent in its 18-year tenure, or at least it’s been on the Canadian market for 18 years. The Accent nameplate has been in existence longer, but here in Canada it was previously dubbed Excel, and before that Pony. I’ve driven every generation since the mid-‘80s rear-wheel drive Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed original took our market by storm, and believe me it’s come a long way (as has everything else).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The primary gauge cluster is nothing special, but it’s clear and easily legible.

The current 4,190-mm long Accent hatchback is 90 mm lengthier than its 18-year-old predecessor, with a 2,580-mm long wheelbase that now spans 180 mm more, while the new car’s 1,729-mm width shows its greatest growth at 109 mm from side-to-side, its 1,450 mm in height only 55 mm taller. Of course, this makes today’s subcompact more like the compacts of yesteryear, which actually means they’re better value than ever when factoring in that the Accent’s price hasn’t really gone up when compared to inflation.

The base Essential starts at just $14,949 plus freight and fees for 2020, by the way, which is quite a bit cheaper than last year’s $17,349 base price. Unusual I know, especially when factoring in the thrifty new engine, but the 2019 model came standard with a Comfort Package that’s extra with the 2020 model, the new 2020 Essential with Comfort Package now starting at $17,699. The price for the Accent’s second-rung Preferred trim has increased too, from $17,549 last year to $17,899 this year, while the as-tested Ultimate has added $1,250 from $20,049 to $21,649, but take note the new CVT auto is now standard whereas last year’s six-speed automatic was an extra (what do ya know?) $1,250 across the line.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The centre stack is well laid out with all the essentials, even including automatic climate control.

Another interesting point about small car value that most Canadians don’t realize is the great deal we’re getting here compared to the U.S. The base 2020 Accent south of the 49th (that just happens to be a sedan as no hatchback is offered there) is $15,295 USD, which was $20,735 CAD after calculating the exchange rate at the time of writing. Likewise, their top-line 2020 Accent Limited is $19,400 USD or $26,300 CAD, while our full-load Ultimate is once again just $21,649. We’re getting a stellar deal.

On top of this, Hyundai Canada is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2019 models or up to $750 in additional incentives for 2020 models according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about available rebates, financing rates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new car purchase. They’ve even got a free mobile app to make your car shopping experience easier, so make sure to find out how their smart system can save you big time before you purchase your next car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The backup camera is large, providing a good view to the back, plus it includes active guidelines.

The Accent’s larger exterior dimensions translate into a much roomier subcompact hatchback than you might have been expecting, especially when it comes to width. The seats offer plenty of adjustability as long as you’re not looking to modulate the driver’s lumbar area, which is static as is usually the case in this class. I could’ve used a more pronounced lower backrest and better side bolstering, but I can understand this is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore it’s not going to match everyone’s body type ideally. The rest of its adjustments are more than adequate, however, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach was particularly good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to feel right at home with excellent control of the wheel and pedals, not always the case in this category.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The six-speed manual really adds driving enjoyment, but take note that it’s gone in Ultimate trim for 2020.

Rear seat spaciousness was very good too, but take note that even in this top-line trim there’s no folding centre armrest in back. Instead, the seatbacks fold 60/40 to expand the already generous dedicated cargo area when the need to load in longer items arises. When folded the seatbacks are about four inches above the load floor, which therefore isn’t flat, but most will probably prefer that Hyundai chose to maximize available volume instead of creating a level load area when the rear seats are lowered. A spare-saver tire and some tools can be found below the load floor, while a hard-shell cargo cover hovers above, all par for the course in this segment.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
These sport seats are really attractive and quite comfortable.

More out of the norm for this subcompact segment is the Accent 5-Door Ultimate’s tastefully sporty interior design, plus its impressive load of features. The fact you can leave its key fob in your pocket or purse when opening the door via proximity-sensing access before starting the engine with a button just goes to show how far Hyundai has gone to lift up this lower class into a more sophisticated crowd. The cabin is further enhanced with a sharp-looking two-tone red and black motif. Hyundai doesn’t go so far as to finish any surfaces with soft-touch synthetics, other than the padded leatherette armrests and of course the nicely upholstered seats, these complete with red leatherette side bolsters, red stitching and a stack of six hexagonal shapes embroidered onto their cloth backrests, all of which match the door panel inserts, the red stitching on the shifter boot, and the red baseball stitching on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Once again everything mentioned impresses more than most shopping in this category will expect.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
A powered moonroof comes standard in Ultimate trim.

The steering wheel spokes include very high-quality switchgear left and right, the toggles on the former for the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and connecting to the phone, whereas the latter spoke’s switches are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and cruise controls.

The gauges ahead of the driver are a simple fare, with backlit dials surrounding the just-noted multi-info display, so if you want to be impressed by a digital interface as you’ll need to look to the right at the centre stack which gets a large touchscreen infotainment display complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, plus more.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Rear seat roominess and comfort is impressive.

Just below is a single-zone automatic climate control interface that’s made easy to use thanks to large dials that accept winter gloves, while below that is a row of buttons for three-way heated front seats and even a heatable steering wheel rim. At the base of the centre stack is a large bin for storing your smartphone, with connections for a USB-A charge port and an auxiliary plug.

Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is included in the top-line Accent, as is a powered glass sunroof, while features pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering (an improvement over the tilt steering wheel in base trim), cruise control, front seat warmers and the 7.0-inch infotainment display noted earlier (the base model gets a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen), plus automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (up from four speakers in base trim), keyless entry, and a rear seating area USB-A charging port from Preferred trim, the automatic transmission and Bluetooth mentioned before, plus power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, air conditioning and power windows from the Essential Comfort package, and lastly variable intermittent front wipers, six-way driver and four-way front passenger manually adjustable seats, plus power door locks from base Essential trim.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
There’s plenty of cargo space, making the Accent very practical.

As noted earlier my test car came with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s no longer available in top-line Ultimate trim, this a shame to those of us who appreciate the sportier nature of a DIY transmission. The little car really comes alive with the manual, which makes the most of its aforementioned 138 horsepower. Takeoff from standstill is quick, the shifts are smooth and clutch take-up good, while braking is strong too. High-speed handling is more than adequate for the class, the Accent’s previously noted width and lower ride height (than an SUV) allowing for less body roll than you might expect. Likewise, it feels nice and stable at highway speeds, making this a car I could cruise in all day. Truly, it’s a comfortable and confidence inspiring little ride, which is no doubt a key reason it remains such a strong seller in this class.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Hyundai has replaced this sporty little engine with a more fuel-efficient one for 2020.

Yes, the Accent’s entry-level car category might seem like a dying breed, but all it would take to reignite interest in small, cheap commuters like this is an extended downturn in the economy, and that could very well be just around the next corner. Combined with rising fuel prices (we’re once again experiencing that too), the Accent makes a good case for itself, with the icing on its cake being a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. I recommend you check this little car out, and remember to opt for the 2019 if your prime focus is performance, or 2020 if you’re looking to save a bit more at the pump.

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

The Cayenne GTS is back, and much has changed since the model was last offered for 2018. First, the Cayenne was totally redesigned the following year in 2019, while in addition to that completely rejuvenated…

Porsche Cayenne GTS gets twin-turbo V8 power for 2021

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
The new 2021 Cayenne GTS can be had in the regular body style or as this new Cayenne Coupe.

The Cayenne GTS is back, and much has changed since the model was last offered for 2018.

First, the Cayenne was totally redesigned the following year in 2019, while in addition to that completely rejuvenated third-generation SUV arriving on the scene, the outgoing Cayenne GTS was only offered in one single body style, whereas this new 2021 version can now be purchased in Porsche’s sportier fastback Cayenne GTS Coupe design.

What’s more, the old Cayenne GTS made its power from a twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 good for 440 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, but the new version boasts a much more enticing twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 capable of 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS
The more upright Cayenne GTS still looks very sporty when compared to most premium competitors.

The addition of 13 horsepower and 14 lb-ft of torque, combined with the new Cayenne design, makes for a quicker 4.5-second run from standstill to 100 km/h when the Sport Chrono Package is included, which is a 0.6-second improvement when compared to the outgoing model, while the base Cayenne GTS is good for a 4.8-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h. On top of this, the new Cayenne GTS can achieve a top track speed of 270 km/h, which is an increase of 8 km/h over its predecessor.

The revised direct-injection V8 incorporates a new intelligently designed thermal management system plus adaptive cylinder control to meet its performance requirements, while the Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic transmission is once again employed for shifting gears. Standard Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive is also carried over into the new model.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
The Cayenne GTS Coupe can be had with a special high-frequency sport exhaust upgrade featuring two tailpipes centred in the middle of its more aggressive rear diffuser.

The new Cayenne GTS’ rear bumper features a standard sports exhaust system with two circular tailpipes per side, which Porsche claims to make “a rich, sporty sound with a unique character” in a press release. What’s more, when the Cayenne GTS Coupe is upgraded with the optional Lightweight Sports Package it can also be had with a special high frequency-tuned sports exhaust system. This model is easy to point out thanks to two large oval tailpipes at the centre of its more aggressively shaped rear diffuser.

Together with the new V8 powertrain, the updated Cayenne GTS incorporates some suspension improvements as well, including redesigned Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers that, combined with the standard three-chamber Air Suspension, drop the SUV’s ride height by 30 mm compared to the Cayenne S. Additionally, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) is included as standard.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
The new GTS gets all of the upgrades seen since the 2019 Cayenne arrived, plus Alcantara and dark aluminum trim.

Both Cayenne GTS models roll on unique black-silk gloss 21-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels that encircle grey cast iron 390 by 38 mm front and 358 by 28 mm rear brake discs, clamped down upon via red-painted calipers. The GTS can also be enhanced with the tungsten carbide-coated Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) system, or even better, the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system, while additional upgrades can include rear-axle steering and the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilization system.

The new 2021 Cayenne GTS and Cayenne GTS Coupe would hardly be complete without a host of styling updates from the outside in, of course, so therefore together with the previously noted alloys the SUV’s exterior design features a standard Sport Design package including the usual black accents on the front air intakes, side window surrounds, tailpipes and rear Porsche logos plus model designation. Even the LED headlamps, which include the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), are tinted in black, as is the new LED taillight bar in back.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
Suede-like Alcantara seat inserts make for a soft, luxurious finish as well as a grippy surface that holds backside in place during hard cornering.

Porsche wraps the interior door and centre console armrests in plush suede-like Alcantara too, as well as the seat centre panels, the roof liner and more, plus dark-brushed aluminum cabin accents add to the SUV’s sporty yet premium ambiance. On this note, the front sport seats get more robust side bolstering and eight-way power as standard features, not to mention “GTS” embroidery on the headrests, while the GTS insignia is also found on the primary instrument cluster’s rev counter dial, the door entry sills, and the front outer door panels. Optionally, a GTS interior package comes with Carmine Red or Chalk colour accents, including decorative stitching.

The all-new 2021 Cayenne GTS and 2021 Cayenne GTS Coupe can now be ordered from your local Porsche retailer before arriving in the fourth quarter of 2020, with pricing starting at $120,400 and $126,500 respectively.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it…

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Long, low and lean, the new A 220 looks more like a four-door coupe than a traditional luxury sedan.

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it shows you’re either well on the way up society’s hierarchal ladder or have fully arrived. Only an affluent person can own a Mercedes-Benz after all, right? While that may have mostly been true in the past (2002-2008 C-Class 230/320 Sport Coupe aside—codenamed CL203), once you see the price of this A 220 you might start questioning that premise.

The 2020 A 220 4Matic starts at just $37,300 plus freight and fees, which is a bit of a jump from last year’s all-new model that wowed all comers at a mere $34,990, due to standard all-wheel drive in today’s version, but it’s still well within the majority of middle-class earners’ income brackets. After all, a number of similarly sized mainstream volume-branded compact models top out where the entry-level Mercedes begins, so as long as you don’t mind going without a few highfalutin features available with the A 220’s various packages, you’ll get an inherently better car.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Despite the A 220’s sleek profile, it provides plenty of headroom front to back.

Just one look had me hooked. Yes, the A 220 is gorgeous. It looks too long, lean and low to the ground to be a compact, but indeed its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase means that it fits within the shadow of mainstream compacts you might know better, such as Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra and Mazda’s 3 to name a handful (it’s actually shorter and taller than all of the above), while competing head-to-head more accurately in size and especially price with premium-branded sedans like Audi’s A3 and BMW’s new 2 Series Gran Coupe (although the latter model more directly targets Mercedes’ even lower, longer and wider CLA-Class), not to mention Acura’s considerably longer (than the A 220) ILX.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
It might cast a small shadow, but the A 220 is big on style.

Mercedes slaughters the premium competition on Canada’s subcompact luxury sales charts, with more than 5,000 collective A-Class (which includes the A 250 hatch as well), CLA-Class and B-Class (yes more than 300 of the now discontinued models sold last year, and another 200-plus during the first quarter of 2020) deliveries in Canada throughout calendar year 2019, compared to the next-best-selling Mini Cooper (which is a collection of body styles as well, and mostly lower priced) at just over 3,700 unit sales, the A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 at 3,100-plus examples, the ILX at nearly 1,900 units, the 2 Series (before the new four-door model arrived) with a hair over 1,200 down the road, and BMW’s long-in-tooth i3 EV pulling in 300 new buyers. By the way, the A-Class, which was the only model in its class to see positive growth last year at just under 14.5 percent, pulled in 3,632 customers alone last year, putting it just behind the aforementioned Mini that saw its year-over-year sales slide by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Hard to believe, but this classy looking three-pointed star can be yours for less than $40k.

While the A 220’s good looks and attractive pricing have no doubt helped lure in its high volume of Canadian luxury buyers, there’s a lot more to the sleek four-door sport sedan than a pretty face and affordability. First and foremost is an interior that’s oozing with style and generous with cutting edge features, some of which hit high on both marks. For instance, Mercedes’ new all-in-one instrument panel and infotainment display is digital art, not only with respect to the colourful, creatively designed and wholly functional graphics within, but also with the fixed tablet-style frame that surrounds it.

This last point highlights an important differentiator between this entry-level Mercedes and compact models from mainstream volume brands. While the A 220’s lower dash and door panel surfaces aren’t much more upscale than what you’d find in a common compact sedan like Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra or Mazda’s 3, most everything above is as good as being offered in pricier three-pointed star models, such as the C-Class and even the E-Class. Along with the eye-arresting electronic interfaces are beautifully crafted leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood on those doors and dash, while brushed aluminum accents can be found everywhere, my favourite application being the stunning jet turbine-like dash vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Sharp looking LED headlamps join plenty of other distinctive design elements.

Back to that all-in-one MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) instrument cluster/infotainment display, the former integrates various screen themes such as Modern Classic, Sport, Understated and the ability to create your own themes, plus an alternative gauge cluster that changes the traditional-looking speedometer into a numeric format while using the rest of the screen for other functions such as navigation mapping, fuel consumption info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting info and more, while the latter allows for at least as much personalization.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
These 18-inch five-spoke alloys are available for just $500.

The usual infotainment features were included in my tester, such as navigation, albeit with the ability to choose an augmented reality function that shows a front camera with upcoming street names and directional indicators; an audio interface with satellite radio; the just-noted drive settings that also include Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (also adjustable via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; calls, contacts and messages; a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines; and more, while controlling the centre display is the most versatile in the industry.

You can simply use it like a tablet thanks to full touchscreen capability, or alternatively talk to it via Linguatronic Voice Control, one of the best voice command systems in the industry (although “Mercedes” is a bit too willing, inquisitively responding with “How can I help you?” anytime you mention her name), or provide inputs with the tiny BlackBerry-style optical trackpads on each steering wheel side spoke, or lastly utilize the lower console touchpad surrounded by large easy-to-use quick access buttons. The touchpad itself, which is the best of its kind I’ve ever tested, is ideally sensitive to the usual tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is easily within reach, and never caused me the need to divert too much attention away from the primary role of driving.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
LED taillights come standard.

This in mind, intuitively organized climate controls can be found on a slender interface just underneath the centre display screen, designed with nice readouts and a gorgeous row of knurled aluminum toggles, all sitting above a large rubberized tray for storing your smartphone, complete with inductive charging. All-round the A 220 provides a well-organized cabin that’s filled with most everything you’ll need and some things you probably won’t, but I loved the purple ambient lighting anyway.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The available two-tone interior colour scheme looks rich.

All said I was a bit shocked with the small, delicate size and lack of density of the A 220’s steering wheel stalks, and am wondering if they’re part of the brand’s weight-saving, and therefore fuel economy and performance benefiting philosophy. To be clear, their quality is actually quite good in their detailing wonderful, but they’re so light and hollow feeling that someone who prizes substantive solidity over lightweight efficiency might think Mercedes was cutting quality corners. Truly, these are the lightest and least substantive feelings column stalks I’ve ever tested in any car. That the one on the right-side is needed for putting the transmission in drive, neutral, reverse or park makes its minimalist approach even more obvious, which is why I believe the lightweight design was about reducing mass. Even the paddle shifters feel meatier in the fingers, and then when looking around the cabin at all the ritzy aluminum detailing makes it pretty obvious there was something else at play when deciding to make its column stalks so delicate.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Nothing in this class is as dramatically styled as the A-Class interior.

Even before touching the stalks, I was surprised at how thin the plastic was on the lower door panels, thinking at the time it must be due to weight savings as well. Their construction is excellent, and the detail that went into making them lightweight yet still strong impressive, but they don’t exactly exude a feel of premium quality. Thankfully everything above the waist is top-tier luxury kit as noted earlier, but the hard-plastic centre console could be a bit disappointing for those stepping out some of those volume-branded models mentioned earlier, which cover such areas in padded soft composites.

Overhead is a lovely console with controls for the large glass sunroof, jewel-like LED dome and reading lights, plus more. I was a bit surprised to find only the A pillars were fabric wrapped, with the B and C pillars finished in a hard-shell composite, but again this is not too uncommon in this smallest class of luxury car. What matters is that all of the components fit together well, with the various lids and doors closing with a nice firm German solidity, except for the glove box lid that’s very lightweight as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes’ new MBUX digital gauge and infotainment system is in a class of one.

The light grey and black two-tone leather-covered seats are wholly comfortable with excellent side bolstering and include manually-operated lower thigh extensions, a wonderful addition. My tester also used the light grey for the door inserts, making the cabin look decidedly upmarket. Like those up front, the rear outboard seats provide good comfort thanks to nicely sculpted backrests and fairly good room for legs and feet, not to mention headroom. With the front seat set up for my long-legged, short torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my feet while wearing boots, plus ample space from side-to-side. About three inches remained above my head, so taller teens and adults (just above six-feet) should fit in just fine, while the rear headrests provide excellent support and are blissfully soft as well. The folding centre armrest was slightly low for my height, but would no doubt be perfect for smaller adults or kids, and includes two pop-out cupholders that secure drinks nicely. Mercedes includes netted magazine holders behind each front seatback, plus individual vents can be found on the backside of the front console, and under that a pull-out compartment with a small bin for what-have-you as well as two USB-C charging ports. There were no rear seat heaters in this particular model, but a small panel over each side window includes LED reading lights and a tiny yet strong hook for hanging a jacket or shirt.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s centre stack is ideally laid out for easy use while driving.

The trunk is fairly large for a sedan of the A 220’s compact dimensions, and I love the fact that it can be expanded by a 40/20/40-split rear seatback that allows longer items such as skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the window seats. This is super helpful in a small car like this, because the rear centre position is a bit small compared to what you’d find in a larger car, so you want to save it for storage rather than force one of your rear passengers into the middle. Mercedes provides trunk-mounted levers for folding those seats down, while the finishing is very nice inside.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Four driving modes come standard.

Along with all the niceties mentioned, the 2020 A 220 is packed full of standard goodies like LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior trim, pushbutton ignition, MBUX infotainment including a 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster and 7.0-inch infotainment display, six-speaker audio with nice deep resonant bass plus good highs and mids, a powered driver’s seat with memory, heatable front seats, a large panoramic sunroof, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and much more.

Just to be clear, my tester also included $890 Mountain Grey Metallic paint; $500 worth of 18-inch twinned five-spoke alloys; a $3000 Premium package that adds proximity entry, power folding mirrors, larger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and centre displays with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, voice control, wireless charging, auto dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package adding multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; and a $1,000 Navigation package with a navigation system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality feature mentioned earlier, a Connectivity package, and Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes offers four ways to connect to its new MBUX infotainment system, this trackpad being amongst the best in the biz.

The extras continued with a $1,900 Intelligent Drive package (new for 2020) featuring Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (that uses navigation system info to modulate the car’s speed based on upcoming road conditions before even being visible to the driver), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; satellite radio for $475; and black open-pore wood trim for $250 (walnut is available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s aforementioned $37,300 base price, making for a pretty ritzy little Mercedes for just $47,815 plus freight and fees.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s driver’s seat is superbly crafted, wholly comfortable and seriously supportive.

Believe it or not it was missing a fair bit of extra kit like the $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, available $500 19-inch alloy wheels, $250 heatable Nappa leather steering wheel, $1,500 head-up display, $650 surround parking camera, $700 12-speaker, 450-watt Burmester surround audio upgrade, $300 universal garage door opener, $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory, and $1,200 ventilated front seats (this last feature new for 2020).

As good as the A 220’s exterior styling, interior design, execution and feature set is, its Mercedes heritage shines through even more when out on the road. Performance off the line is strong and gets even stronger in Sport mode, where shifts from its seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox are quick and precise, and strength from the engine is plenty enjoyable despite only offering up 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. The 4Matic in the name means all-wheel drive is standard as noted earlier, so therefore all four of my tester’s 225/45R18 Michelins were able to bite into the tarmac simultaneously for very quick immediate response, while it held to the road wonderfully at speed, even in wet weather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This large panoramic sunroof comes standard.

The standard paddle shifters enhance the A 220’s performance edge when pushed hard in Sport mode, but they can also be for short shifting to save fuel. I selected Eco mode for that, where shifts are smooth and relaxed, resulting in a favourable fuel economy rating of 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway or 8.5 combined. By the way, last year’s front-wheel drive model didn’t save that much more fuel with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 6.8 highway and 8.4 combined, so the move to standard AWD hardly hurts anyone’s ongoing fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Rear seat roominess is excellent for this class, and refinement in back is just like up front.

Traveling slower with an eye on saving fuel is when I really appreciated the A 220’s comfortable ride, although keep in mind it’s set up with traditional German tautness, so it’s firmer than what you might find in most Japanese luxury cars, but the majority of premium buyers should find it plush enough. So driven, the A 220’s overall quietness adds its luxurious ambiance, making it the ideal compact for hushing inner-city noise and limiting buffeting wind on the highway.

If my personal money were on the line in this class, I’d choose the A 220 over its four-door subcompact luxury peers, as it delivers high marks in every way. It’s fabulous looking both outside and within, provides good tactile quality for the category, is packed full of all the features I want, is really enjoyable to drive no matter the situation, and is wholly practical as far as four-door sedans go.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s sizeable trunk provides a centre pass-through for optimal passenger/cargo flexibility.

Notably, I haven’t driven BMW’s new 2 Series sedan entry yet, but its four-door coupe profile won’t likely provide the same level of rear seat roominess as the A 220, and the only other two subcompact luxury competitors are Audi’s A3, that’s been with us for over seven years with only a minor facelift, and Acura’s ILX, that’s just as old, albeit with a more dramatic refresh just last year, but the Japanese entry is really a previous-generation Honda Civic with an upgraded powertrain under the heavily modified skin.

No matter which car I decided upon, however, I’d first check for any manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about detailed pricing, build your vehicle, and even access otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. At the time of writing the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 was available with up to $750 in additional incentives, whereas any 2019 models still available could be had for up to $2,000 in incentives. Make sure to visit CarCostCanada to learn more, plus download the new CarCostCanada Mobile App at Google’s Android Play Store or Apple’s App Store so you can access this valuable information while at the dealership, where you’ll need it most.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do…

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI 35th Edition, exclusive to the 2019 model year, is one sharp looking sport sedan.

Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do a double take. It’s attractive in an inoffensive way, the new grille a bit more daring than the previous model’s horizontal slats, but compared to the initial artist’s renderings that came out ahead of the real deal in 2017, and photos that followed, it comes across a bit watered down in the metal. The new Jetta GLI, however, is a different story. In fact, I find this car quite attractive, and I’m willing to guess it might even pull eyeballs toward less expensive trims.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
GLI styling truly improves the conservatively styled Jetta’s overall look.

As with all GLI models thus far, the Jetta’s chrome exterior detailing has been blacked out and splashes of red added across the grille and uniquely around the outer edges of the wheels that frame big red brake calipers, plus of course the discreet GLI badges front and back, while now it now gets a set of thin, blade-like garnishes on each front fender that also feature a “35” designation as part of this 35th anniversary edition. Those otherwise grey-painted twinned-five-spoke 18-inch wheels were shod in 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires, not the even sportier 19s found on a Golf R, but they were still sticky enough when pushed hard.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
LED headlamps are standard on all GLI trims.

Before delving into performance, other notable GLI trim pieces include a strip of glossy black edging along the top portion of the grille, plus more shiny black detailing around the lower fascia’s corner vent bezels, overtop the mirror caps, on the front portion of the roof as well as the rear third section, connecting the larger sunroof panel in the middle so it all looked like one clean sheet of dark glass, and lastly for the tastefully discreet rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a really attractive car from front to back, and more importantly for me, the type of compact sport model that a mature driver doesn’t feel out of place driving.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
All the red GLI details are the stuff of sport compact legend.

Inside, nicely bolstered, inherently comfortable perforated leather seats with red stitching and nicely patterned inserts simultaneously look sporty and luxurious, and therefore exactly what Volkswagen fans should expect, while the steering wheel is performance perfection. It features a slightly flat bottom and ideally shaped thumb spats, plus red baseball-style stitching around the inside of the leather-wrapped rim. Volkswagen continues the car’s red performance theme with more red thread on the leather shifter boot, the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the “GLI 35” seat tags, plus the same logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless steel treadplates.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI 35 Edition’s 18-inch alloys are particularly handsome.

Of course, there’s plenty of satin-silver aluminum around the cabin too, the aforementioned steering wheel featuring more than its share, foot pedals aside, plus plenty on the centre stack and lower console as well. Some faux carbon-fibre trim and inky piano black surfacing adorns the dash and upper door panels, the former completely soft to the touch thanks to a premium-level rubberized composite along the entire top and ahead of the front passenger, with the latter finished similarly to the front door uppers, as are the door inserts and armrests.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
These front fender garnishes really spiff up the GLI 35’s exterior design.

All of this sounds great, but I’m going to guess most eyes will be pulled more quickly towards the fully digital gauge cluster, which boasts an Audi-like Virtual Cockpit design dubbed Digital Cockpit in VW-speak. Like in the pricier German brand’s cars, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit features a “VIEW” button on the steering wheel that turns the gauge package into a multi-function display, even capable of placing the centre-mounted infotainment system’s navigation map directly in front of the driver where it’s most needed. It can do the same with most functions, making it one of the most impressive electronic features available in the mainstream volume-branded sector.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The roof looks all glass, but it’s painted gloss-black front and back.

The just-noted centre display is a large eight-inch touchscreen featuring premium-like high-definition resolution, plus brilliant graphics with rich colours and contrasts, and like the gauge cluster it comes loaded with functions like tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe features, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link for integrating your smartphone, audio, navigation, app, driving mode and fuel-saving eco interfaces, plus a performance driving component with a lap timer and more.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Sharp looking LED taillights complete the rear design.

I was surprised, however, that active guidelines weren’t included as part of the rear parking monitor, especially in this top-tier trim, and my tester even included the $995 ($1,005 for 2020) optional Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) package featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This bundle also includes Light Assist automatic high beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the Lane Assist lane keeping system.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Dual chrome-tipped exhaust bookend a black rear diffuser.

Just below is a three-dial dual-zone automatic climate control interface that looks good, is easy to use and functions well, plus along with three-way heatable front seats that can be controlled from this panel as well, are three-way ventilated cushions for making summer months more bearable. Just one powered and infotainment-connected USB-A port hangs above a rubber-based wireless device charger, which is big enough for the largest of smartphones, all of which tucks in behind the gearlever and its U-shaped collection of switches, including an electromechanical parking brake, buttons for turning off the traction control and auto stop/start system, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI cabin is a mix of Mamma Mia and meh.

Just above, a sunglass holder sits in the overhead console, the latter also housing switchgear to open the large powered moonroof that includes an attractive opaque fabric sunscreen with an aluminum front section that looks especially upscale.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The cockpit is the GLI interior’s best asset.

This said the GLI, which at $32,445 for the manual-shift model or $33,845 for this DSG-equipped version, doesn’t exactly come cheap, so much is expected as far as fit, finish, materials quality and general refinement goes, but if you were to spend some time in any Golf GTI, for instance, and then decide you needed a trunk instead of a hatch to mitigate security risks, per se, you just might be disappointed. To be clear, the entry-level Golf GTI starts at $30,845, which is $850 less than the $31,695 base Jetta GLI, but the Mexican-built hatch pulls the fabric-wrapped A pillars already standard in less expensive Golfs up to the sportier variant, unlike the any Jetta, which are built alongside the Golf at VW’s Puebla, Mexico assembly plant as well, while all the plastic below the waist, and some of the chest-height surfaces are pretty basic hard composites.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Much like with Audi, the GLI’s digital gauge cluster allows the multi-info display to take over the entire screen.

Yes, I know the Jetta is a compact model, but now that competitors from Japan and Korea are delivering much higher materials quality, particularly top-line versions of the new Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and even Kia’s Forte that I drove just before this GLI, and factoring in that VW used to offer the most premium-like cabins in the mainstream volume-branded sector, this Jetta GLI was a bit of letdown. The new Forte comes in a sporty GT trim now, by the way, which competes directly with this GLI, yet unlike its rival from VW, the Kia’s inside rear door panels are finished with the same high-quality soft-touch detailing as those up front, while the German brand didn’t even bother including a padded insert at all, and instead formed its door panel solely from hard plastic, making its rear compartment one of the least appealing to look at or touch in this class or any.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The 8-inch infotainment touchscreen includes some performance apps.

Heatable outboard seats were a nice feature, but the interface surrounding the buttons used to turn them on was as low-rent as you’re likely to see in this segment. The seats themselves were nice, thanks to the same red-stitched perforated leather as those up front, and nicely carved out bucket-style outer positions that should hold rear passengers in place during spirited driving. A fairly large flip-down rear armrest gets a pair of cupholders integrated within (or is that a trio?), but unlike previous Jettas there’s no centre pass-through for stowing skis or other long cargo. Instead, when needing to expand on the dedicated cargo area’s already generous 510 litres, the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks will force one of the rear passengers into the less comfortable centre position. This is mostly par for the course in this class, however, it’s just that VW stood out before, and still does when opting for a Golf.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The dual-zone auto HVAC interface is VW’s usual good design.

Volkswagen more than makes up for such shortcomings with the GLI’s on-road experience, however, this sport sedan being one of, if not the most engaging entry within its mainstream volume compact four-door segment. The 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out plenty of torque at 258 lb-ft (up 18 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque over its predecessor), resulting in some difficulty keeping the front wheels from spinning during spirited takeoff (if it was only available, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive would help in this respect), while the new seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox feels even quicker through the paddle-actuated gears than the old six-speed DSG, albeit with the added benefit of a taller final gear for improved fuel economy (9.3 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.4 combined for the as-tested auto or 9.6, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively for the manual) and (theoretically) a higher top speed.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Now that’s one massive phone charging pad.

Ripping off zero to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds it’s one quick Jetta, while Sport mode really adds to the experience. It’s nothing like the Golf R or equivalent super sport compacts such as Subie’s WRX STI or (RIP) Mitsu’s EVO, but it respectably puts otherwise sporty alternatives like Mazda’s 3 GT to shame in a straight line, and even makes the once-mighty Civic Si seem as if it’s dawdling off the line. Wheel slip during takeoff aside, the Jetta GLI proved unflappable through high-speed corners, even when broken tarmac threatened to upset the rear end, but thanks to a fully independent suspension with a multilink setup in the rear, a move up from the regular Jetta’s comparatively remedial torsion-beam rear suspension. Instead, the inside rear suspension absorbed the jarring pothole and ensuing thump with ease, allowing the tire’s sizeable contact patch to maintain full traction and hook up as I exited the corner. Try that in a regular Jetta and things might get very out of shape, not to mention the Mazda3 I noter earlier (although I must say the Japanese compact manages such situations surprisingly well and combines AWD with its own G-Vectoring Plus to make up for some of its torsion-beam shortcomings).

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The new 7-speed DSG is superbly quick shifting and very smooth.

This said, back more pedestrian speeds (or rather while stopped during parking manoeuvres), I experienced something that’s never happened to me before. When I came to a stop to park the auto start/stop system automatically cut off the engine, which is not unusual in itself, but when I quickly decided to reverse so as not to be park too close to the car in front of me the engine wouldn’t restart when in reverse. I had to shift it back into “P” and then dab the throttle in order to reignite the engine, at which point I could shift back into reverse to back up. Very strange. It worked perfectly through the rest of the week, mind you, as did the entire car.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI 35’s comfortable leather-clad seats are wonderfully supportive.

The aforementioned $32,445 (manual) and $33,845 (DSG) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with features not yet mentioned including fog lights, LED headlamps, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a formidable eight-speaker BeatsAudio system with a sub, a powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar and three-position memory, plus more. This feature set and all previously noted equipment remains intact for 2020, by the way, so therefore those that find a new 2019 are basically buying the same car for less.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The rear seats are great and outboard seat heaters nice, but the cheap hard plastic door panels don’t measure up.

This in mind, take note that VW Canada is offering up to $3,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models that were still available at the time of writing, while the new 2020 GLI, which as just-noted is unchanged other than for the loss of this 35th Edition (for obvious reasons), can be had with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, although average CarCostCanada (where the following information was found) member savings were $2,500 for the 2020. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 and 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices pages to learn about available manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing specials, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you even more, plus make sure download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes store.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The trunk is generously proportioned at 510 litres.

Although the latest Jetta doesn’t exactly light my fire in lesser trims, this new Jetta GLI is a step ahead in many respects, particularly when it comes to styling, straight-line performance and interior electronics. I’d like to see VW improve some of the materials used inside for a more refined cabin, but this probably won’t bother you too much while driving anyway, unless you’re trying to impress someone riding in back. Then again, at least your father-in-law will appreciate the comfort of the GLI’s independent rear suspension, excellent seats and decent legroom while he’s complaining about all the cheap plastic.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly…

Volkswagen reveals rendering of refreshed 2021 Arteon four-door coupe

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
Volkswagen will update the Arteon for model year 2021, but if we were to bring this artist’s rendering back to reality would it look a lot like the already sleek 2020 model?

Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly shows an elongated wagon-like body style similar in concept to Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo (see a full road test review of all Panamera models here).

While exciting news for five-door sport wagon fans in Europe, take note the new Arteon Shooting Brake, as it’s called, won’t be available in North American markets. Instead, Canada and the U.S. will only get the refreshed first-generation Arteon in its four-door fastback body style, which means the German automaker will have less opportunity to pull this model up from its sales doldrums.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
It would be hard to imagine that 2021 Arteon getting any lower, longer or wider than the already slick 2019-2020 model.

Yes, as attractive as today’s Arteon is, the sleek sport sedan has been relegated to niche status in Canada. Sales during calendar year 2019 totalled just 456 units (although deliveries started partway through the year in March), which left it dead last in the volume-branded mainstream mid-size sedan segment. The Passat, its more conventional and much less expensive four-door sedan stable mate, finished one step ahead with 672 examples sold, and take note this happened well before 2020’s tumultuous health, economic and social woes shook up the market.

This last point in mind, over the first three months of 2020 (all that’s been reported so far, and mostly before we were hit by hard times) the Arteon’s numbers were even worse with just 81 Canadian buyers (which if extrapolated over four quarters would equal 324 sales), although the new 2020 Passat found 523 new owners during the first three months of the year (theoretically equaling 2,092 unit sales over four quarters), a clear sign that Canadians like the new 2020 model’s ground up redesign.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
The current Arteon’s rear design is almost as alluring as its dramatic front fascia.

At first glance, the Passat’s positive initial 2020 sales results could bode well for the upcoming Arteon mid-cycle makeover, health, social and especially economic issues aside, but the current 2020 Arteon is already a stunner, and while the artist’s rendering appears longer, lower and wider with much larger wheels, typical of such cartoonish drawings, if one were to squeeze it back into reality the update should actually look much like the current car other than a slightly modified grille and lower front fascia, plus similarly mild modifications most likely applied to the rear.

The Arteon’s interior is currently the best Volkswagen has on offer, and while we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes, VW is promising to integrate its latest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for faster application processing, improved connectivity, greater overall functionality, and better entertainment.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Today’s Arteon offers the most luxurious cabin in VW’s current lineup, but nevertheless the German automaker promises improvements inside.

Volkswagen will also introduce more intelligent assist systems, such as “Travel Assist” semi-autonomous or “highly assisted driving.” Like other hands-on-the-wheel self-correcting driver assist systems currently offered by other manufacturers, Travel Assist has been designed specifically for long-distance highway use, with the Arteon capable of “steering, acceleration and braking up to speeds of 130 mph [210 km/h],” said Volkswagen in a press release, albeit “under the control of the driver.”

All of this could push the cost of the already pricey Arteon higher, however, the current version of this low-slung sport sedan hitting the road just a hair’s breadth under $50k ($49,960 plus fees to be exact), which is without doubt a key reason its sales are slow.

Kia’s Stinger, the only other four-door coupe in the mainstream volume-branded mid-size sedan segment, found 1,569 Canadian buyers last year, however, while walking away with 2019 Canadian Car of the Year honours, but this similarly sleek alternative is a considerable $5,000 less expensive and comes equipped with stronger base and optional performance as well as more features.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
We shouldn’t expect this sweptback 2021 Arteon Shooting Brake here in Canada.

Right now it’s possible to lower a new 2019 Arteon’s base price to match the Stinger’s window sticker, mind you, with up to $5,000 in additional incentives available from Volkswagen, while the German automaker is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent for the 2020 Arteon. Not to be outdone, Kia is offering the same $5,000 in additional incentives on any 2019 Stingers still in stock or up to $4,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Stinger, so take you pick. Learn more about these deals as well as available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to source dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada. Also, make sure to download the new free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.

More detailed information about the 2021 Arteon, and the Euro-market Arteon Shooting Brake, will follow the upcoming world première later this month.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Volkswagen

Have you ever wanted something so bad that your credit card just magically pops out of your wallet, all your personal info auto-fills the various fields, “accept charges” buttons unconsciously get…

New 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition a blast from Porsche’s storied past

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Absolutely gorgeous! The new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition will be limited to just 992 examples.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that your credit card just magically pops out of your wallet, all your personal info auto-fills the various fields, “accept charges” buttons unconsciously get pressed and confirmation emails immediately arrive? That’s what Porsche hopes will happen with its new very limited 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, and while most of us don’t have American Express Centurion cards that allow us to nonchalantly plop $205,900 plus fees for a frivolous sports car when such desires strike, enough high-rolling, Fed-infused Wall Street hedge managers do to make special projects like this happen.

The new 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition fits the phrase “modern-day classic” better than anything we’ve seen for quite some time. It’s based on the new 2021 911 Targa we shared here last month, and we have to say the car’s classic silver roll hoop body style suits this special edition’s retro design perfectly.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Yes of course we want one, complete with its motorsport-inspired livery.

Unless you detest such memory lane recreations, or more specifically in this case, homages paying tribute to the glory days of Porsche’s beginnings, the 911 Targa 4S Heritage probably had you at hello. From its gorgeous Cherry Metallic paintwork (it’s also available in four alternative exterior colours), motorsport-inspired spear-shaped front fender stripes and circular decal-style number livery, and historically true 1963 Porsche Crest badges, rear mounted Porsche Heritage badge, and gold-tone nameplates, to its two-tone Bordeaux Red or Black leather and Atacama Beige OLEA club leather and corduroy-lined cabin, this is one stunning head-turner.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
The gold emblems are period-correct and oh-so cool.

Porsche goes even further with details like green backlighting on the tachometer and centre dash top-mounted “stopwatch”, which being typical of ‘50s and ‘60s cars, plus the microfibre roofliner gets perforations similar to past Porsches (and VWs). And those just-mentioned period-correct Porsche crests? You’ll find them on the key fob, hood, steering wheel and wheel hub covers, those latter items capping off wheels resembling the “five-leaf” Fuchsfelge alloys brought to market for the 1966 911S. Of course the new Carrera Exclusive Design alloys are staggered and much larger than those from Porsche’s past, now measuring 20 inches up front and 21 inches at the back, while framing a set of classic black brake calipers.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
For anyone that grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, there’s corduroy in this car! We’re half expecting to see geometric velour patterns in Porsche’s follow-up Heritage Design Edition.

This is the first example of four collector’s models from Porsche’s Heritage Design strategy, incidentally, and as was shown in this article’s first paragraph, it doesn’t come cheap. There’s always a price paid for exclusivity, and with just 992 of these special Heritage 911 Targas available (the number referencing the latest 911’s internal code name), its lofty window sticker will make sense to those capable of taking advantage. Porsche commemorates the example purchased with a beautiful gold metal “911 Heritage Design Edition XXX/992” dash plaque, with the number “000” shown likely kept for Porsche’s own collection.

The 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition pays obvious tribute to late ‘60s and early ‘70s 911 Targas, but Porsche makes the point of claiming this car represents four decades of classic 911s.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Porsche pulls the green background lighting in the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition’s gauge cluster from ’50s and ’60s-era 356 and 911 models.

“We are evoking memories of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in customers and fans with the Heritage Design models,” stated Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG in a press release. “No brand can translate these elements into the modern day as well as Porsche. In this way, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers. With the exclusive special editions, we are also establishing a new product line which stands for the ‘lifestyle’ dimension in our product strategy.”

As noted before, this first example of the four Heritage Design models is based on the all-new 2021 911 Targa 4S, and therefore is as modern as the new the new 992-generation gets under the skin, including all of Porsche’s latest chassis tech, driver assistance systems, infotainment advancements, and more. Below its automatically deployable rear wing is 443 horsepower worth of horizontally opposed, twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder greatness combined with a paddle-shift prompted eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. It’s capable of shooting from standstill to 100 km/h in less than 3.6 seconds (when Launch Control is engaged) and maxes out at a track speed of 304 km/h.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Each of the 992 examples get this beautiful numbered plaque on the dash shelf.

Classic car aficionados have long appreciated how horology has played an important role in the automotive industry’s beginnings, in that early watchmakers provided the same types of instruments we now refer to as gauge clusters. Porsche remains true to its past with the beautiful analogue clocks found on the centre dash tops of all models, which can usually be upgraded to a complex chronometer stopwatch and lap counter by adding its Sport Chrono Package. Exclusive to 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design owners, Porsche Design, a majority-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG, although a credible luxury watchmaker on its own, has created the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design edition chronograph wristwatch.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Of course, it goes without saying that you must have the matching Porsche Design wristwatch too.

Once again just 992 examples will be manufactured, and come complete with a face featuring a white seconds hand and “Phosphorus Green” rings around its perimeter like the primary instruments in both the 356 and original 911 Targa. Additionally, its Arabic hour indices are styled in typical Porsche block lettering, while the leather strap is produced from the same hides as those found in Porsche interiors.

This watch and the new 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition are available to order now before arriving in Canada this fall. And yes, if you’ve read this far you definitely don’t have an American Express Centurion card, or you would’ve already placed your order. 

Those that end up missing out on the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, yet still have some room left over on their platinum cards, should take a look at our recent overview of the 2021 911 Targa 4 and 4S (it only starts at $136,000), and then click on one of CarCostCanada’s 2019, 2020 or 2021 Porsche 911 Canada Prices pages to find out about available manufacturer rebates, financing and/or leasing deals, and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Right now factory leasing and financing rates can be had from zero percent on all of the above model years. Knowledge is everything, and in this case a CarCostCanada membership is a small price to pay for all the savings coming your way. Also, make sure to download the new CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well. This said…

Hyundai updates the Santa Fe with a bold new look for 2021

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2021 Santa Fe shows a bold new face for this popular model, and a possible styling risk for Hyundai.

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well.

This said not all onlookers are pleased with the design direction the South Korean brand is taking its popular mid-size five-passenger crossover SUV, with a quick CarCostCanada poll showing 100-percent of respondents preferring the outgoing model to the new one. Still, playing it safe can often result in more criticism while sticking your neck out with something daring might only cause initial pushback, so time will tell how buyers respond to the new model when it arrives later this year.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe offers a more conservative styling approach, yet still provides a distinctive design.

One thing is for sure. There won’t be many mistaking the 2021 Santa Fe from its competitors, thanks to a distinctive new widened grille that looks one part Hyundai and another part Fisker thanks to extending right out to each corner of the frontal fascia. It’s nevertheless mostly unique, and according to Hyundai’s press release accentuates the SUV’s “wide and well-balanced stance.”

“We modernized the New Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre. “The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
This version of the 2021 Santa Fe shows a different grille design with octagonal insert openings, plus medium grey lower bodywork.

Hyundai didn’t explain why the new grille’s “signature geometric patterned inlay” is different depending on which photo is shown, however, the model with body-colour painted lower trim (most likely the new top-line Santa Fe Ultimate) receiving seven rows of isosceles trapezoids, and the model with dark grey lower bumpers and rocker panels getting better aeration via larger octagonal vent openings similar to those currently in use, resulting a sportier appearance. Are these actually different grilles or the result of active grille shutters? We’ll learn more as additional info gets introduced closer to launch.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Flat-planed wheel arches provide a solid looking stance.

As it is, not a lot has been revealed in Hyundai’s 2021 Santa Fe release, other than nine exterior photos of white-painted examples in the two trims just noted. Both receive all-new T-shaped signature LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), however, which distinctly flow from the lower grille extensions up to the headlamp clusters, where each T’s stem gets capped off by its glowing cross-member. The outer tip of each T visually continues rearward along the new Santa Fe’s beltline before meeting up with a crease in the model’s redesigned wraparound LED taillights, while thicker flat-planed wheel arches “accentuate the SUV’s rugged and powerful character,” adds Hyundai, which house large 20-inch alloy wheels featuring a seven-spoke geometric pattern in the two Santa Fe trim-line examples shown.

From the rear, the new 2021 Santa Fe receives more horizontal styling elements to bring attention to its wide stance, including a thin light bar connecting the new taillights just mentioned, and lower down on the bumper a narrow reflector strip spanning most of the model’s width, plus a wider, larger rear vent cutout and metallic skid plate below that, which Hyundai dubs “a unique three-layer look.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Unique 20-inch wheels provide a seven-spoke geometric design.

Although Hyundai provides no photos of the updated 2021 Santa Fe interior, it shares some info in the press release that sheds some light on what we can expect. Keep in mind the current 2019-2020 fourth-generation Santa Fe (read our road test review of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate here) is already one of the more luxuriously equipped two-row crossover SUVs available in the mainstream volume-branded auto sector, but according to Hyundai the new updated model provides “more space, comfort, and convenience,” and adds “a new level of luxury with every component finished in premium soft-touch materials.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new Santa Fe’s rear design includes a new light bar between the taillights and a horizontal reflector strip spanning most of the bumper.

Hyundai continues by saying the new Santa Fe’s centre console “sits high, giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” while all switchgear is “centered for intuitive and ergonomic use.” What’s more, like with the new three-row Palisade, the new Santa Fe’s reworked lower centre console receives a quad of buttons for gear selection, replacing the conventional shift lever. This is possible due to the new Santa Fe’s shift-by-wire transmission, and while no photo was provided for publication, we noticed one on the 2021 model’s press site page that’s most likely the real deal. It looks identical to the Palisade’s centre stack and lower console, so therefore, while we can’t be certain which model it comes from, it’s safe to say we’ll see something similar if not exactly the same in the updated Santa Fe. Either way, we’ve included it in our photo gallery above, so make sure to check it out. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe gets a more upright design and an arguably more rugged looking rear bumper.

The new button-type gear selector receives a right-side extension housing a new Terrain Mode dial selector with stylish knurled metal edges that optimizes the performance of Hyundai’s HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system, including Sand, Snow and Mud settings, plus Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart modes (the latter intuitively recognizing and automatically responding to personal driving style). Additionally, five more buttons provide quick adjustment to various driving and parking camera controls.

The new drive controls sit below two redesigned rows of centre stack switchgear, the top silver-painted row mostly for adjusting the larger, wider 10.25-inch AVN (audio, video, navigation) high-definition infotainment touchscreen atop the dash, this interface featuring power/volume and tuning/scrolling/enter knobs with the same knurled metal-look grips as the Terrain Mode selector, and the middle row also including LCD readouts for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, plus the same knurled metal edging on its “Auto” and “Sync” dials. The upscale detailing most likely continues into other areas of the cabin, but we’ll need to wait for more interior photos to know how far Hyundai has gone with such improvements.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Despite photos of the 2021 Santa Fe interior not being provided yet, a single photo of its centre stack and lower console appears on the automaker’s website.

The Santa Fe is Hyundai Canada’s longest running SUV nameplate, having originally arrived for the 2001 model year as a larger than average compact car-based crossover SUV. Now, four generations later it was the second best-selling five-passenger SUV in Canada during 2019 behind the Ford Edge, with 18,929 sales compared to the blue oval brand’s 19,965. This said, it was number one in the entire mid-size segment in 2018 with 24,040 units sold compared to 19,156 for the Edge, and that was after nearly a decade of class dominance with a peak of 28,402 deliveries in calendar year 2017.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new design feature T-shaped signature DRLs that strike upwards through the extended grille and into the LED headlamp clusters.

While Canadians clearly like the Santa Fe, Hyundai’s more recently introduced models are gaining traction in their various SUV segments too. The aforementioned Palisade was only introduced last year as a 2020 model yet 3,845 units were sold before the close of 2019. Sales were down for the first part of 2020 for obvious reasons, but from January through April the Palisade’s 1,285 units were nearly half of the Santa Fe’s 2,665 deliveries (the latter representing a 56-percent plunge), boding well for the larger utility when stronger sales resume, whereas the Kona (also available as an electric-powered EV) leads its subcompact SUV segment with 4,858 sales, the Tucson is close behind and third after the mighty Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in the larger compact SUV class with 4,733 units, and the all-new Venue has been selling strongly amongst city car-sized utilities with 1,577 down the road.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai promises the 2021 Santa Fe will provide a roomier, more accommodating cabin.

Once again we’ll need to see how Hyundai’s faithful respond to the new 2021 Santa Fe’s unorthodox styling before we predict a return to the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts, but improvements to its already impressive interior won’t hurt. This said, those that prefer the outgoing 2020 model’s styling may want to purchase one now and by doing so take advantage of up to $3,000 in additional incentives. To learn more go to CarCostCanada’s 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page, and just in case you can find a 2019 version still available, CarCostCanada’s 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page shows factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
If you like the look of the 2019-2020 Santa Fe more, check CarCostCanada for up to $3,000 in additional incentives.

Hyundai Canada is also offering zero-percent leasing and financing rates for the 2020 Venue, 2020 Kona Electric, the 2019 Kona Electric and the conventionally powered 2019 Kona, the 2019 Tucson, and 2019 Nexo (a hydrogen-powered EV), while you can access up to $1,000 in additional incentives when opting for a 2020 Kona or Palisade, and like the 2020 Santa Fe up to $3,000 in additional incentives when choosing a 2020 Tucson. Find out more about a CarCostCanada membership that provides all of this info and more, including available manufacturer rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next purchase, by linking to their “How It Works” page, plus download the new CarCostCanada mobile app in the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Hyundai