Honda is calling 2022 the “Year of the Crossover,” partially due to 2021 being the year of their 11th-generation Civic, but more specifically because of two very important upcoming SUV releases. Top…

Honda teases a larger, sportier looking 2023 HR-V

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Honda has released two artist’s renderings of their next-gen HR-V subcompact crossover SUV, and we like what we see.

Honda is calling 2022 the “Year of the Crossover,” partially due to 2021 being the year of their 11th-generation Civic, but more specifically because of two very important upcoming SUV releases. Top of the list will be a complete redesign of Honda’s best-selling CR-V, expected later this year as a 2023 model, but the smaller 2023 HR-V that’s teased here in two artist’s renderings, is at least as critical for its entry-level gateway position.

The subcompact crossover SUV class has gained a lot of traction in recent years, growing from just eight models in 2010, to a shocking 27 now, and while the current HR-V is no longer the segment’s top-seller, it’s done very well for a design that’s been around for almost a decade with only one mid-cycle refresh.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
The new HR-V’s front end gets a sportier grille, more conventional LED headlamps, and Acura RDX-like corner vents for a very clean, sharp design.

To be clear, the HR-V arrived to the Canadian market in June of 2015, but it was already two years old and in its second-generation. Amazingly, despite arriving halfway through the year, it managed second in sales for the category, only beaten by Kia’s Soul, while it narrowly missed the top spot by just 301 units in 2016. Calendar year 2017 saw the HR-V rise right up to the top with 14,149 deliveries, but that triumph was quickly quelled when Nissan’s ultra-affordable Qashqai hit the streets in 2018, followed by the current sales-leading Hyundai Kona that sold a whopping 25,817 units in 2019, plus 31,733 in 2020 (despite the health crisis). What’s more, even though a microchip shortage caused calamity through last year’s auto production, the Kona nearly equaled 2020 results with a total of 31,101 units down Canadian roads in 2021.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Focusing in on the new HR-V’s grille design shows an aggressive shape almost Ford Mustang-like in shape, that’s filled with a large honeycomb-pattern mesh insert.

Comparatively, the aging HR-V placed sixth in Canada’s subcompact crossover segment last year, with 11,616 deliveries, allowing it to narrowly edge out the smaller Hyundai Venue that found 11,548 buyers, plus the Mazda CX-30 that managed a strong 11,407 unit-sales. Additionally, it fell marginally behind Nissan’s Qashqai that overtook its Japanese rival with 11,972 examples sold. The second-place Subaru Crosstrek attracted more subcompact SUV buyers than the HR-V as well, with 23,342 unit-sales, while the third-ranking Nissan Kicks did likewise with 18,750 deliveries. Finally, the Kia Seltos managed fourth thanks to 14,436 new owners in 2021. While it might appear as if HR-V sales are much below average, keep in mind that it still outsold 19 mainstream volume-branded subcompact SUV competitors, which is no small feat.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Here’s a closer look at the LED headlight clusters.

A much better HR-V story gets told south of our border, mind you, where Honda was able to sell a staggering 137,090 units last year, which is almost 10,000 more than the U.S. subcompact SUV segment’s next-best-selling Crosstrek. Exactly how they upped year-over-year sales by more than 63 percent in 2021 is anyone’s guess outside of the brand’s inner circle, and it wasn’t only because the model took a slight dive in 2020. In fact, sales were up more than 38 percent from 2019, but it may have come down to available microchips in a market that made many vehicles hard to get.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Do you like the C-shaped corner vents? Might these look better on a possible Acura ADX variant?

Being that the second-generation HR-V was based on the back of the now discontinued (in North America) entry-level Fit hatchback, it was always much more accommodating than its diminutive dimensions let on. Just like the Fit, the HR-V boasts an extremely low cargo floor, plus an ultra-flexible 60/40-split rear “Magic Seat” that comes with backrests that fold down in the traditional way for carrying larger cargo loads, plus lower cushions that flip upwards, pickup truck style, for stowing taller items on the second-row passenger compartment’s floor. The innovative packaging allows it to compete with larger subcompact models like the Qashqai, Crosstrek, Seltos, CX-30 and new Toyota Corolla Cross, despite being externally sized more closely to the Kona, Kicks and Toyota C-HR. This makes it significantly larger than a Venue, incidentally, the smallest crossover currently available in our market.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
The new HR-V’s rear design looks very attractive, while pulling on plenty of Honda styling cues.

If you happen to follow global automotive news you might already realize Honda debuted the updated Japanese Domestic Market version of the HR-V in 2021. It’s named Vezel in Japan, while the same SUV replaced the first-generation HR-V in Europe. That new model features an identical 2,610 mm (102.8 in) wheelbase as the outgoing model and our current HR-V, plus approximately the same overall length of 4,330 mm (170.5 in), the previous generation spanning 4,295 to 4,335 mm (169.1 to 170.7 in) from nose to tail depending on markets and trims. It’s just 20 mm (0.8 in) wider too, at 1,790 mm (70.5 in), and slightly lower overall at 1,580 to 1,590 mm (62.2 to 62.6 in) when compared to 1,605 to 1,610 mm (63.2 to 63.4 in) for the previous model, the latter difference likely dependant on tire choices.

This said, our second-generation HR-V (the third-generation globally) will be North American-specific and therefore won’t necessarily share the Japanese/European model’s platform. Instead, there’s a greater chance we’ll see it riding on a version of Civic/Insight and CR-V underpinnings, not to mention the new Acura Integra (a.k.a. ILX), which means it should receive a stronger powertrain, plus possibly the option of a sportier and/or fuel-friendly hybrid model too, as well as the continuation of Honda’s Real Time all-wheel drive.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Here’s a close-up look at the LED taillight clusters.

Currently, our 2022 HR-V is available with front- and all-wheel drivetrains, while employing Honda’s 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) across the line. The engine is good for 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque no matter the trim, and as verified by the HR-V’s continued popularity it’s been potent enough for most peoples’ needs.

Probably more important than performance in this class is efficiency, and to that end today’s HR-V gets a claimed five-cycle rating of 8.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 7.8 combined with FWD, plus 8.8 city, 7.5 highway and 8.2 combined with AWD, and lastly 9.1, 7.7 and 8.5 respectively with the sportier AV7 version of the same transmission, which makes it fairly stingy for the segment.

2023 Honda HR-V Teaser
Would you be more interested in a future HR-V if it looks as aggressive as these drawings?

It’s difficult to say if Honda will be able to maintain the second-generation’s miserly ways with a larger 2.0-litre powertrain if incorporated into the design, especially considering the subcompact SUV will also grow in size and weight, but that 200-cc larger engine is rated at 7.7 L/100km city, 6.0 highway and 6.9 combined in the 2022 Civic Sedan, which also uses a CVT and FWD, so there’s no reason to think it will be much thirstier in a slightly taller crossover. That engine also puts out a much more suitable 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque, which should more than make up for the renewed 2023 HR-V’s size and weight gain.

Other possibilities include a hybrid variant, at least in markets where Honda can make a viable business case for selling one. Unfortunately, infinitesimal Insight sales in Canada, due to higher pricing than electrified competitors, plus no CR-V Hybrid availability at all, make it appear that moving large numbers of hybrids hasn’t been Honda Canada’s priority in recent years, a shame considering how well it once did with the Civic Hybrid.

2021 Honda Vezel/HR-V
This is the 2021 Honda Vezel, still called HR-V in Europe. Just right or too bland?

Still, it only makes sense the Japanese brand will eventually want to put forth a serious hybrid or electric challenger North of the 49th (Accord Hybrid aside). After all, despite our relatively small population, Canada remains the 13th largest automotive market globally. If Honda does choose to sell a hybrid variant into North America, they’d have the option of the 129-horsepower electrified drivetrain currently offered to European HR-V customers, or the 151-hp setup provided in our Insight sedan, the latter probably more suitable to buyers in our market.

All said, it’s impossible to know if a larger HR-V will return more sales than the current model. Of course, redesigns normally produce an immediate spike in activity, but being that we have so many brands selling multiple models into this class, and the sales results of their smaller and larger models vary dramatically, we need to believe that Honda has based its decision to produce a larger HR-V on extensive market research, because changing up their highly successful subcompact SUV formula poses a significant risk. What’s more, if Honda isn’t able to integrate its versatile Magic Seat system into the new design, usable cargo space may not increase. Loyal HR-V owners will be collectively hoping they do.

2021 Honda Vezel/HR-V
The Vezel looks nice from behind, but not as eye-catching as the HR-V rendering Honda provided earlier this week.

When it comes to styling, what we can gather from the artist’s rendering is a vastly more appealing crossover SUV, even discounting the added width, tire/wheel sizes and other visual tricks artists play when rendering prototype vehicles. The upcoming HR-V appears to be a sportier, tougher looking crossover, with an attractive new grille design that seems to frown instead of smile. This more menacing theme has worked well for Toyota trucks and SUVs, while the C-shaped glossy-black corner vents are so similar to the outgoing Acura RDX’ (pre-facelift) that one has to assume we’ll also be getting a spin-off for Honda’s luxury brand. An ADX with the Civic’s optional 180-horsepower turbocharged engine, anyone? How about an optional 200-hp Type S? Its powertrain could easily be pulled from the Civic Si. That would give the Lexus UX a run for its money.

2021 Honda Vezel/HR-V
This is the 2021 Vezel’s interior design, which shows some interesting details around the centre stack, but not much creativity elsewhere.

The rendering’s rear styling shows enlarged taillight clusters bearing some semblance to the current model’s design, not to mention a respectful nod to past Civic models, particularly the eighth-generation sedan. It’s also easy to see additional Acura influences on the backside of the new HR-V, so it will be interesting to find out how the finished product looks.

As for the interior, small crossover SUVs are often where automakers let their proverbial hair down in order to have some fun. Just the same, Honda did no such thing with the domestic-market Vezel, which gets a fairly staid, conservative dash design, featuring only the slightest bit of creativity around the centre stack (see the gallery for photos).

In the end, these two renderings only serve to tell us that an “all-new HR-V will launch in North America this year,” further promising to be both “sporty and versatile,” or so says the two-line press release. Thankfully, we shouldn’t have to wait very long to find out.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Honda

Ford has been on a roll lately, winning two of last year’s North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) awards, with its redesigned F-150 winning best truck and Mustang-Mach-E…

Honda Civic plus Ford Bronco and Maverick win NACTOY awards

2022 Ford Bronco
The new Ford Bronco won a NACTOY award in the SUV category.

Ford has been on a roll lately, winning two of last year’s North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) awards, with its redesigned F-150 winning best truck and Mustang-Mach-E earning top marks in the utility sector, and now it’s done the same for 2022. This time the blue-oval winners of both categories include the all-new Ford Bronco SUV, and the even fresher Ford Maverick compact pickup truck.

“We’re thrilled and honored to earn both Truck and Utility of the Year from the NACTOY jury for the Ford Maverick and Bronco, especially among such a strong field of competitors,” stated Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. “But we’re also proud because these awards are well-deserved recognition for the tremendous amount of work, focus and energy our teams have invested in designing, engineering and building exciting vehicles for our customers. This also reflects the overwhelming reception we’ve had from our Maverick and Bronco customers alike.”

2022 Ford Maverick Lariat
Ford took a second award with its brand new 2022 Maverick compact pickup truck.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker doesn’t have much opportunity to earn a best car of the year award, being that it only offers the Mustang fastback and convertible to those not interested in SUVs and trucks, which leaves the door wide open for those that do cars better. Last year, the Hyundai Elantra earned top spot in the car category, whereas the new Honda Civic just took first place for 2022.

To earn this highest honour, the Civic edged out the redesigned Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, which are basically the same car in different trims (there’s no longer a regular Golf for 2022), plus the stunning new Lucid Air electric luxury sedan, a recent competitor to the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback
Honda’s redesigned 2022 Civic, shown here in its Hatchback body style, has kept the legend on top of the sales charts in Canada.

“The Honda Civic has long set the standard by which other compact cars are measured and this all-new Civic raised that bar in every conceivable way,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda national sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “We’re especially proud for the Civic development team in Japan and our production associates at our plants in Greensburg, Indiana and Alliston, Ontario where the 2022 Civic Sedan, Hatchback and Si are built.”

Where the new Civic gets a dramatic styling update, its other changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary, which was a smart choice for a car that outsells every competitor most months, but the two new Fords are completely new additions to the domestic brand’s lineup, and necessary considering they no longer sell many cars. The Bronco goes head-to-head with the Jeep Wrangler as a serious 4×4-capable off-roader, while the Maverick is forging into an entirely new car-based compact pickup truck segment, only shared with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz.

2022 Ford Maverick Lariat
The Maverick, shown here in Lariat trim, provides a lot of value in the pickup truck sector.

The Maverick beat the Santa Cruz in the final NACTOY showdown, as well as the larger Rivian R1T electric truck. It comes standard with a hybrid drivetrain, is available with a potent turbo, decent fuel economy, and features some smart cargo carrying innovations.

The Bronco didn’t have an easy fight in its SUV category either, with the all-new Genesis GV70 and pure-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 challenging. While none of these specifically compete against each other in real life, they all excel in the sport utility sector, and only one could be the winner.

2022 Ford Bronco
Ford is directly targeting Jeep’s Wrangler, which should be immediately evident with this interior photo.

“This year’s group of semi-finalists includes some of the most interesting and innovative cars, trucks and utility vehicle candidates in recent memory,” said NACTOY President Gary Witzenburg, “and a larger number of new trucks than we’ve seen in many years. And it features more electric vehicles than we’ve ever seen, all of which our jurors will continue to test and evaluate prior to our next vote.”

More than 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada took part as jurors in this year’s NACTOY awards. To qualify, a vehicle needs to be completely new or significantly updated for the current model year. All finalist evaluations are based on design, driver satisfaction, innovation, performance, safety, technology, and value.

2022 Honda Civic Sedan Touring
Honda has improved the Civic’s interior and electronics (Civic Sedan Touring shown).

The new 2022 Civic starts at $24,465, but Honda is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $1,837. The 2022 Ford Bronco, on the other hand, can be had for a base of $41,299, while additional automaker incentives are up to $1,000 and CCC membership savings are averaging $1,000. Lastly, the new 2022 Ford Maverick starts at $25,900, but the manufacturer is also offering up to $1,000 in incentives and CCC members are once again saving an average of $1,000. Find out how a CarCostCanada membership can save you money on your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

 

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Honda and Ford

With an estimated 200,000-plus F-150 Lightning orders in the books, Ford has clearly shown the market is ripe for full-size electric pickup trucks. In fact, the books are likely full for 2022. Added to…

Chevy Silverado EV designed to take on Ford F-150 Lightning… Eventually

2024 Silverado EV RST
The 2024 Silverado EV, shown here in top-line RST trim, is more of a styling departure from its namesake forebear than Ford’s F-150 Lightning.

With an estimated 200,000-plus F-150 Lightning orders in the books, Ford has clearly shown the market is ripe for full-size electric pickup trucks. In fact, the books are likely full for 2022. Added to that, microchip shortages and recent talk about a coming battery shortage means the Dearborn-based automaker’s ability to fully deliver on these orders is suspect, but nonetheless, if a history of BEV customer patience is anything to go by, particularly with respect to Tesla, the blue-oval brand may garner a lot of market share and win out in the end.

This scenario would see Chevrolet, a leader in battery-electric vehicles, come up short by being late to the electrified truck party. If the bowtie brand had been quicker to the draw, they could have capitalized on Ford’s temporary weakness, but instead the new Silverado EV pickup, introduced at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, won’t be available until 2023 as a 2024 model. Just the same, fleet buyers and eco-minded consumers may want to wait for the General’s new model, because its unique features really set it apart.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
The Silverado EV RST’s rear styling certainly looks conventional enough.

First off, and possibly most critical, the Silverado EV is based on General Motors’ new Ultium platform, an electric-specific truck and SUV chassis. The Lightning rides on Ford’s conventional F-150 chassis architecture, which is likely why it was quicker to market. Most electric vehicle fans will give a nod of approval to GM for going the extra mile of taking this pure-EV route, but the optimal choice is not yet clear. The F-150’s body-on-frame layout is a very well-known entity, whereas the Silverado EV’s design is mostly uncharted territory. It’s a mix between a traditional truck frame and unibody, which will hopefully end up being a best-of-both-world’s scenario.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
The Silverado EV’s Midgate bed extension system is a major differentiator in this market segment.

Two trims will be available at launch, including a WT (Work Truck) version designed specifically for the aforementioned fleet market and individual contractors, plus another that’s dubbed RST, focused on personal use. Initially, the latter will get the moniker RST First Edition, although to be clear it will show up in the fall of 2023, after the WT arrives that spring.

The RST First Edition will be good for a range of 640 km between charges, albeit probably not while towing up to 10,000 lbs (4,536 kg) of trailer, or for that matter a full payload of passengers and cargo, or 1,300 lbs (590 kg). While towing capacity is very strong, the electric model doesn’t compare all that well against a conventionally-powered Silverado 1500, which is good for a payload range of 1,870 to 2,280 lbs (848- 1,034 kg).

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
2024 Silverado EV RST’s Multi-Flex Tailgate is similar to what’s already available from today’s Silverado.

Still, the Silverado EV should be mighty quick off the line when its WOW (Wide Open Watts) maximum power mode is engaged, thanks to 660 horsepower and 780 lb-ft of torque. Smart, Chevy. Not as brilliantly silly as Tesla’s Ludicrous mode, referencing the 1987 space parody film Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy and Rick Moranis), but clever just the same.

It should be noted that a WT model capable of towing up to 20,000 lbs (9,072 kg) will be made available sometime after lesser trims are introduced, while no matter the trim level a Tow/Haul mode will be included, while trailer hitch provisions, an integrated trailer brake controller, and a Hitch Guidance system as part of Chevrolet’s Advanced Trailering System, will be available. It should be mentioned that base WT trucks only be able to haul 8,000 lbs (3,629 kg), plus a payload of just 1,200 lbs (544 kg) due a performance downgrade of 510 horsepower and 615 lb-ft of torque. Notably, this model will be upgradable to 640 km of range.

Multi-Flex Tailgate (similar to what’s already available from today’s Silverado
The Silverado EV RST’s interior looks ultra-premium.

As standard, at least initially, both trims will receive a DC fast charging system with up to 350 kilowatts of capability, while both models will be available with up to 10.2 kW of offboard power delivery, meaning contractors and tradespeople will be able to plug in their tools while using the lowered tailgate as a workbench, plus campers will be able to light up and even heat their tents and trailers with an extension cord. And speaking of cords, the electrified Chevy truck will be capable of charging another EV via its optional accessory charge cord.

The Silverado EV, which is set to be assembled at GM’s Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan-based Factory ZERO, comes with an adaptive air suspension that can be raised or lowered by up to 50 mm (2.0 in). Additionally, four directional wheels should make it capable of rotating on the proverbial dime. GM will also provide its Super Cruise semi-autonomous drive system as an option, which will even be functional when towing.

Multi-Flex Tailgate (similar to what’s already available from today’s Silverado
The 8.0-inch driver’s display appears well equipped with features.

While the above features are strongpoints, the truck’s Multi-Flex Tailgate (similar to what’s already available from today’s Silverado) and Chevy Avalanche-style Midgate bed expansion system, provide much greater cargo functionality than anything currently on the market. Where the just=noted 2001-2013 Avalanche (and the 2002-2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT) featured a single-piece Midgate, the Silverado EV’s is split in a 60/40 configuration, which allows longer items to be loaded while a third occupant sits in back. Those items can be up to 10 feet, 10 inches long when the tailgate is closed, by the way, which almost doubles the Silverado EV’s five-foot, 11-inch bed-length. This creative cargo solution could become a key reason for BEV truck buyers to wait for the Silverado EV over a Lightning, Rivian R1T, or any other electric pickup.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
The column-mounted shifter looks positively old-school, but we like the packaging efficiency of this type of design.

The wait certainly won’t be for its compact dimensions. In fact, the new Silverado EV, which will only be available in one Crew Cab body style, measures 5,918 mm (233 in) from nose to tail, making it slightly longer than today’s 5,885 mm (231.7-in) 2022 Silverado Crew Cab, although the two models’ heights are approximately the same.

Like its size, few should complain about the Silverado EV’s styling, as it builds on the conventional model’s current design theme, albeit with more modern lines and details. It should appeal more to those who prefer smooth, flowing, wind tunnel-formed designs than folks with a greater focus on tradition than aerodynamics.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
Is 17 inches large enough for a touchscreen? As far as Silverados go, it’s go big or go home.

To the latter point’s end there’s no conventional grille. The bowtie badge is merely placed at the centre of a Tesla-like body-colour panel, all of which sits below an elegant strip of LED lighting that spans the entire width of the vehicle before melding into the headlight clusters. These are slim LEDs, while just underneath is a complex set of driving/fog lamps divided by a knife-like chrome bezel. A rugged matte black and silver bumper cap finishes off the frontal look before it rounds each corner and joins up with the truck sector’s usual swollen fender flares, which are finished in gloss black for a classier appearance than the usual matte application. Lastly, the rear design is appropriately more conventional with an upright box and traditional tailgate that’s bookended by a stylish set of LED taillights.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
DC fast charging system with up to 350 kilowatts of capability comes standard.

What appears to a premium-level interior will come standard with a panoramic glass roof in First Edition trim, as will a glossy infotainment display above the centre stack, measuring 17 inches from corner to corner. Lesser Silverado EV trims, including the WT, will feature a reasonably sized 11-inch touchscreen, which should be more than suitable for most peoples’ needs. Similarly, the top-line model’s 8.0-inch configurable driver’s display shrinks down to 7.0 inches in lower trims.

Like Ford’s Lightning, interested parties only need a $100 deposit to reserve their Silverado EV, so as long as buyers don’t mind waiting until 2023 to take delivery, and can afford the RST First Edition’s $119,948 base price, it will likely steal sales from the blue-oval truck. Then again, Chevy won’t have anything to compete against the Lightning XLT’s $68,000 initial base price, which is expected to go down once lower-end trims become available.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST
The Silverado EV RST certainly looks roomy.

To deal with this issue, General Motors promises more affordable consumer variants, although buyers will likely have to wait another 12 months for delivery, pushing these less expensive Silverado EVs into the 2025 model year. On the other side of the pricing spectrum, GM president Mary Barra alluded to a potential Trail Boss edition during the live model launch program, which would certainly garner some attention in both EV and off-road camps.

And now for the ultimate electric pickup truck question: is there a frunk? Yes, a front-trunk (frunk) is included, but Chevy calls it an eTrunk. It’s lockable and weatherproof, of course, plus large enough to stow a big hard-shell suitcase along with a few smaller items.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Chevrolet

Let’s get this right out in the open: Toyota needs to build a production version of the Compact Cruiser EV Concept as soon as possible. This thing would sell like avocado toast, even if it’s not capable…

Toyota dreams up a sure hit with its Compact Cruiser EV Concept

2022 Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Concept
The Compact Cruiser EV Concept was introduced alongside 16 other future BEV prototypes.

Let’s get this right out in the open: Toyota needs to build a production version of the Compact Cruiser EV Concept as soon as possible. This thing would sell like avocado toast, even if it’s not capable of wandering off-pavement, but of course, plenty of automakers, such as Rivian with its new R1S SUV and R1T pickup truck, plus GMC with its reborn Hummer EV line (that will soon offer both body styles as well), are proving that electrics are very capable off-road, so there’d be no reason to worry about being relegated to tarmac when behind the wheel of this tiny Toyota.

Dimensions in mind, or at least those visibility apparent being that Toyota has given us very little to go on so far, the Compact Cruiser EV Concept might have more in common with Suzuki’s original Samurai or that brand’s more recent subcompact Jimny SUV than the near mid-size FJ Cruiser or the original FJ40 it’s spiritually emulating. We do know that it doesn’t share the FJ Cruiser’s body-on-frame chassis or anything else from that go-anywhere utility, other than some styling cues, a version of the original FJ40’s (and FJ Cruiser’s) Sky Blue exterior paint, and the “TOYOTA” lettering on the similarly narrow grille.

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
The FJ Cruiser was a massive hit when introduced in 2006, and was obviously inspirational to the new concept.

Where the 2006–present (discontinued in North America after 2014) FJ Cruiser may have preceded a number of would-be peers, particularly Ford’s reinvented Bronco (and Bronco Sport) and Land Rover’s completely reimagined Defender, the Compact Cruiser EV Concept appears destined to electrify its retro off-roading class if produced. Unfortunately, however, we can lump Compact Cruiser EV Concept electric motor and battery specs into our zero-knowledge base.

As far as we can tell, this SUV is more of a design study, but being that today’s Toyota rarely misses out on an opportunity to cash in on a good idea (unlike General Motors that sadly chose to apply its legendary Blazer nameplate to a two-row, mid-size grocery getter instead of a retrospective K5-style Blazer that could’ve easily been built off the back of its full-size Tahoe, the tiny Land Cruiser-like BEV will most certainly get the green light.

Vintage Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Both the FJ Cruiser and the new Compact Cruiser EV Concept pay tribute to the classic Land Cruiser FJ40.

It’s part of Toyota’s new “Battery EV” strategy, introduced online on December 14, 2021 (see the video below), in which “Toyota wants to prepare as many options as possible for” their “customers around the world,” stated the automaker’s president, Akio Toyoda during the presentation.

The namesake brand introduced 17 concepts as part of the program, of which most body styles and capabilities currently available with traditional internal combustion power were represented, from crossover-like family haulers to sports cars, SUVs, a pickup truck, and vans, the wide spectrum of potential offerings showing that Toyota isn’t about to give up any market share, or brand heritage, in its quest to go electric.

2022 Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Concept
The new concept’s hood scoop is similar to TRD Pro upgrades currently offered on Toyota trucks and SUVs, but the narrow grille is pulled from the past.

Likewise, the presentation showed off seven Lexus EVs in various shapes and sizes (see the gallery for more), and hinted at six more hidden behind in the shadows. Altogether, the Japanese automaker plans to “offer 30 BEV models across the Toyota and Lexus brands, globally” by 2030, “with more on the way” after that. Due to so many models in the planning stages, and a promise to provide “BEVs in all segments, including sedans, SUVs, K-Cars, commercial vehicles and other segments,” there’s certainly a place for this Compact Cruiser EV Concept.

The little SUV is all angles and edges, with obvious styling cues pulled from classic FJs and the more recently updated FJ Cruiser, plus a number of design details from other Toyota models, including the current RAV4 TRD Off-Road (available in a similar Cavalry Blue for 2022 and even closer Blue Flame colour in 2021), the 4Runner TRD Pro (available in a cool Voodoo Blue back in 2019), the Tacoma TRD Pro (unfortunately no longer available in Cavalry Blue), and the new 2022 Tundra pickup truck (with a colour palette that offers nothing even remotely similar, but the old one did).

2022 Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Concept
The sharp, rectangular LED headlamps are similar to those used on the new Tundra, but the C-shaped driving lights are unique.

While the hood scoop appears inspired by similar ones on the FJ Cruiser or recent Tacoma/Tundra TRD Pro models, the rectangular LED headlamps are closer to the new 2022 Tundra, whereas the chunky C-shaped driving lights are more distinctive still, at least to Toyota. The tiny concept also takes everything that previously made the FJ Cruiser look rugged up a notch, with a beefier front skid plate embellished by blazing red tow hooks, plus four of the most aggressive matte-black fender flares ever imagined for this size of 4×4. Toyota’s FT-4X Concept was a recent example of similar styling, and was no doubt inspiration for this new BEV as well.

2022 Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Concept
Are the fender flares aggressive enough for you?

Fortunately, the Compact Cruiser EV Concept’s designers were more practical with its body style than those behind the FJ Cruiser, with full-size, traditionally front-hinged rear doors for easier to the back seat, while the cargo area appears to be nice and upright, which is ideal for loading in as much gear as possible.

As it is, Toyota hasn’t revealed a single rear exterior image or any photos of the interior either, so therefore details about the powertrain, and the platform underpinning this new SUV, are unknown as well.

 

Media Briefing on Battery EV Strategies (Presentation / with subtitles) (25:51):

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota / Lexus

Until recently, the most you could pay for an Acura MDX (less destination and dealer prep fees) was $69,400 when upgraded with an optional colour, which is only $1,090 less than the technologically advanced…

Sportier new 2022 Acura MDX Type S breaks $80k threshold

2022 Acura MDX Type S
The new 2022 MDX Type S upgrades Acura’s 3.0-litre V6 to 355-hp.

Until recently, the most you could pay for an Acura MDX (less destination and dealer prep fees) was $69,400 when upgraded with an optional colour, which is only $1,090 less than the technologically advanced MDX Sport Hybrid would have set you back when it was last available in 2020. Moving into the New Year, however, two new trim lines will push that price up over $80k, but despite the much higher price, we’re guessing plenty of Canadians will be more than willing to go all in for a 2022 MDX Type S.

The new Type S, which arrives at Canadian dealerships next month for a starting price of $79,000 ($81,500 with destination fees included), boasts plenty of upgrades worthy of the extra coin, particularly an engine that boasts 65 more horsepower and 87 lb-ft of additional torque, resulting in a total of 355 horsepower and 345 lb-ft, while the sporty new model also includes an Active Exhaust system to make it sound as quick as it goes.

2022 Acura MDX Type S
The MDX’ 10-speed automatic has been improved for strength as well as performance, including downshift rev-matching.

The engine remains 3.0 litres in displacement, but the MDX’ 10-speed automatic transmission has been upgraded with stronger internal components, plus quicker shifting capability, and rev-matched downshifts, whereas a performance-tuned version of Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) makes the best use of the high-performance tires below.

The upgraded MDX Type S rides on unique 21-inch twinned five-spoke rims with black painted pockets and self-sealing all-season rubber, while hidden behind those wheels are Brembo brakes incorporating large 363-mm front rotors with four-piston fixed calipers, enhancing stopping power.

2022 Acura MDX Type S
The MDX Type S’ suspension sees performance tweaks too, while unique 21-inch alloys join uprated Brembo brakes.

Maintaining stability under braking and through the corners is an Acura-first adaptive air suspension boasting three different damping profiles specific to the Type S. Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System has been updated too, now including Type S-exclusive Sport+ and ride height-increasing Lift modes. While all this sounds ultra-sporty, keeping the family comfortable is critical in this three-row luxury SUV class, so rest assured Acura also promised “a smooth, comfortable ride” in their press release.

2022 Acura MDX Type S
The interior improvements are impressive, but we suspect the Type S’ quilted leather will be the biggest luxury hit.

Those wanting even more luxury can opt for the $4,000 Ultra Package, which pushes the MDX Type S’ price up to $83,000 ($85,500 with destination). The top-tier package comes with 16-way power-adjustable front seats featuring nine massage settings, as well as quilted leather upholstery throughout, and a 1,000-watt ELS Studio 3D surround audio system infused with 25 speakers, including special LED illuminated doors speakers, PrecisionDrive carbon fibre speakers, and CenterParquet.

With respect to styling, all 2022 MDX Type S models receive a revised front fascia, which is highlighted by an open-surface Diamond Pentagon grille designed to improve engine cooling. A unique Type S-exclusive front splitter trims off the front lower section, while a special Type S rear diffuser comes filled with four exhaust outlets.

The East Liberty, Ohio-built 2022 MDX Type S joins the TLX Type S sport sedan and NSX Type S mid-engine sports car in Acura’s lineup.

MDX Type S Introduction (0:49):

Acura Type S Turbo V6 – Development Story (8:25):

Acura Type S Lineup (0:30):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Acura

Just in case Porsche’s new 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS isn’t intense enough for you, a new Clubsport model adds a handy helping of track-ready components after almost completely gutting the interior, resulting…

New Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport provides track-ready alternative to racers

2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport
Porsche’s 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS and new Clubsport model (left) are perfect track warriors for your next Sunday afternoon autocross session.

Just in case Porsche’s new 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS isn’t intense enough for you, a new Clubsport model adds a handy helping of track-ready components after almost completely gutting the interior, resulting in one of the most enticing OEM race cars the auto industry has ever produced.

Let’s face it. The 718 Cayman GT4 RS is already one of the best road-going performance cars available, thanks to a lightweight mid-engine layout, plenty of 911 components, and a 4.0-litre horizontally opposed six pulled from the fabulous GT3 RS, this mill good for a sensational 500 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque. The engines spins to a stratospheric 9,000 rpm, makes peak thrust at 8,300 rpm, maximum twist at 6,000 rpm, and comes with a special six-speed manual transmission that’s said to be pure bliss to shift.

2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport
The Clubsport’s huge rear wing is adjustable, just like most other track-ready components that make it an out-of-the-box force to be reckoned with.

The new Clubsport version does away with the DIY gearbox, however, substituting it for a quicker shifting seven-speed dual-clutch PDK with paddles, which is more ideally suited for track use, while additional racecourse-ready performance parts include a gargantuan swan-neck rear wing that teams can adjust for optimized downforce or increased straight-line speed, while under this special Cayman are two-way adjustable shocks as well as a set of anti-roll bars that can be tweaked individually too. Likewise, the Clubsport’s ride height, toe, and camber can also be adjusted as required, plus teams can opt for one of three pre-set spring rates with either the front or rear axle.

Clamping down on velocity, performance calipers bite into sizeable 15.0-inch front rotors that are actually cooled by the big NACA vents atop the 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport’s hood, while enhancing braking control and handling further is race-tuned stability control system.

2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport
As cool as the Clubsport is, most of us would be much happier at the wheel of a regular 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS.

A quick peek inside shows an interior devoid of the types of leather, microsuede, carbon fibre and electronics normally found in a 718 Cayman GT4 RS, instead replaced by white painted metal for most surfaces, along with a welded-in roll cage, one sole Recaro driver’s seat with a six-point racing harness, and a fire extinguisher. The Clubsport gets a built-in air-jack too, while an optional 138.2-litre (30.4-gal) fuel cell can be included for longer races.

All added up, it only makes sense that removing the high-end hides, metals and electronics should decrease the price, right? Hardly. In fact, all the Clubsport fittings nearly double the window sticker, from a base of $160,600 for the 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS, to $229,000 USD, or approximately $293,400 CAD for the race-spec version.

The new Clubsport is nevertheless considered a good value within racing circles, however, something you’ll know all too well if you’re actually considering buying one. Everyone else would be better served behind the leather-wrapped wheel of a regular 718 Cayman GT4 RS, and currently Porsche is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $1,000 off of retail. Check out how the CarCostCanada system works, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

The new 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport (12:18):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

The future is here, or at least Porsche wants us to know they’ve got our electric recharging needs covered when it comes time for us to invest in a new EV. The German performance marque has been doing…

Porsche creates cute “Back to the Future” promo to highlight 1.21 gigawatts of fast-charging infrastructure

Porsche Taycan and a DeLorean go "Back to the Future"
Together with a highly modified DeLorean sports car, Porsche reminds us that we can also go back to the future thanks to 1.21 gigawatts of fast-charging Electrify America stations.

The future is here, or at least Porsche wants us to know they’ve got our electric recharging needs covered when it comes time for us to invest in a new EV.

The German performance marque has been doing well with their new Taycan four-door coupe and Taycan Cross Turismo five-door crossover, even outpacing sales of Tesla’s competitive Model S in Canada this year, with 576 units sold compared to 452 for the American electric brand, so therefore promoting its recharging network only makes sense.

In the case of Electrify America, which is connected to Porsche’s U.S. operations via VW Group ownership south of the 49th, your personal benefit may only be realized during weekend excursions across the border or the occasional extended road trip in the same direction.

Either way, when Electrify America’s combined capability with its affiliated European network (Ionity, a collaborative effort between BMW, Daimler, Ford and the VW) is tallied up, more than 1.21 gigawatts of fast-charging power is made available to Taycan owners, meaning you’ll be able to get where you want to go easier and faster than ever while traveling in the U.S.

2022 Porsche Taycan
Porsche Taycan features an 800-volt electric system capable of being recharged from 5 to 80 percent in just 22 minutes.

Commemorating this achievement, Porsche produced a humourous short video starring the ultra-modified DeLorean sports car from 1985’s “Back to the Future” film (watch it below). Those familiar with the classic comedy might remember a young Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly) playing a video tape of an older Christopher Lloyd (Emmett “Doc” Brown) explaining that he’d need 1.21 gigawatts of power to send the DeLorean back through time, at which point a younger mid-50s-era Doc expressed bewilderment (over and over) that it would take “1.21 gigawatts!” of power to achieve such a feat (enjoy a YouTube video of the scene below).

The two companies make up the largest DC fast charging networks in the U.S. and Europe respectively, with 670 stations to Electrify America’s credit, and 372 location under the Ionity banner (so far).

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
The Taycan is available in four-door coupe and five-door Cross Turismo body styles.

DC fast charging is the best way to refuel your Taycan, being that the 800-volt super-EV only requires 22 minutes to replenish its battery from five to 80 percent. Thanks to the Taycan’s 270-kW charging speed, you’ll spend “less time spent charging and more time traveling,” claimed Porsche in a press release.

Additionally, the Taycan’s Plug-and-Charge system, which Porsche jokingly stated is “second only to Mr. Fusion for convenience,” all you need to do is plug it in for charging to begin automatically. Better yet, Taycan owners receive “30 minutes of free charging for the first three years of ownership” at Electrify America locations. Porsche claims that it’s easy to locate recharging stations too, thanks to a “Charging Planner” featured within the Taycan’s Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment system.

Porsche earned over 20,000 Taycan buyers worldwide in 2020, while even better, the sport-oriented automaker had already sold 19,822 of its ultra-quick EVs by Q2 of 2021. With sales growth like that, a growing network of fast chargers will be a necessity.

 

The Porsche Taycan x Back to the Future (1:00):

1.21 Gigawatts – Back to the Future (6/10) Movie CLIP (1985) HD (3:15):

Two weeks of living with two trims of Kia’s latest Seltos, and it’s now easy for me to understand why this little crossover has become such a popular option in the subcompact SUV segment. The Seltos…

2021 Kia Seltos EX and SX Road Test

2021 Kia Seltos EX
Kia’s Seltos, looking good here in mid-range EX trim, is one of the best-selling crossovers in its subcompact SUV class.

Two weeks of living with two trims of Kia’s latest Seltos, and it’s now easy for me to understand why this little crossover has become such a popular option in the subcompact SUV segment.

The Seltos came out of nowhere in 2020, only to rise up to fourth overall in a category with no less than 22 offerings last year (it’s grown to 25 since). This just might be unprecedented success, and is especially impressive when considering that Kia already offers the eighth-placed Soul and 18th most popular Niro. The Soul, incidentally, is available in regular internal combustion or electric variants, whereas the Niro comes with conventional, plug-in hybrid, or EV powertrains. The Seltos is only gasoline-powered so far, which says a lot about our current purchasing habits when contrasted against the direction our various governments and many special interest groups are pointing us in, although hybrid and/or EV powertrains will likely follow thanks to shared architecture with the Hyundai Kona Electric.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
Stylish and nearly identical from front to back in EX to SX (shown) trims, It’s easy to see why this Kia has quickly become so popular.

Hyundai-Kia’s B-SUV platform (that’s formed off the back of the Rio’s K2 platform) is a major Seltos positive, as the Kona, in regular or EV form, a good SUV to share underpinnings with considering its number-one position in segment sales, with a lead of nearly one-third over the next-most-popular Subaru Crosstrek.

The Canadian numbers were 31,733 to 22,161 units in 2020, while the third-place Nissan Kicks managed 14,149 deliveries, and fourth-place Seltos came close to achieving podium placement with 13,016 sold examples of its own. It skipped right by some category diehards too, such as Honda’s (somewhat long-in-tooth) HR-V that was only able to pull in 12,068 sales, Nissan’s Qashqai at 11,074 units, Hyundai’s Venue with 10,740 deliveries, and the Soul with 9,869. The rest are all in the four figures, some like Jeep’s Renegade and Fiat’s 500X (basically the same SUV under very different skins) only capable of finding 362 and 35 respective buyers apiece.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
Even the Seltos base headlamps look good, and feature automatic high-beams in EX trim.

To be clear, the subcompact crossover SUV segment is really split up into two parts, with the Seltos slightly larger than some of those just mentioned, particularly Nissan’s Kicks and Hyundai’s Venue. While most expect something smaller to arrive in Kia’s lineup soon, along the lines of the truly subcompact Venue, the $21,295 Soul claims that spot for now, despite being almost identical to the Seltos in cabin size and cargo capacity. Your reasons for choosing either will come down to personal styling preferences, plus the $23,395 Seltos’ more modern dash layout, how the two drive (electrically-enhanced included), and possibly the need to save a couple of thousand for a non-EV Soul, whereas the significantly smaller Venue is better suited to four occupants and much less gear, albeit for considerably less initial money (with a base of $18,199) and better ongoing fuel economy (I covered the 2021 Venue here).

2021 Kia Seltos SX
A move up to the SX includes these sophisticated looking and much brighter full-LED headlights.

It might also be helpful to understand some of the industry trends, and particularly how Hyundai and Kia fit in with respect to this. The macro trend sees car buyers migrating to crossover SUVs, and to that end Hyundai now uses its Venue as the most affordable gateway into its brand, having discontinued its subcompact Accent 5 Door hatchback after the 2020 model year (and Accent sedan before that). Kia, on the other hand, still sells its Rio 5 Door, having only dropped the four-door sedan version of this car after 2020, and by so doing makes sure that its conquest pathway is much more affordable. Where Hyundai is now asking $3,250 more for a Venue than it was for an Accent, Kia is able to pull in buyers with budgets of $17,295 (which admittedly is much pricier than the previous $15,495 2020 Rio 5-Door or even more affordable $14,845 2019 Rio sedan—notably the 2020 Rio sedan wasn’t available in cheaper LX trim at all, causing that year’s base LX+ sedan to start at $18,045), and a 5- to 10-percent difference is a lot when on a tight budget.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
The EX includes fog lamps and an attractive set of grey-painted 17-inch alloys.

Comparatively to either the Rio or Venue, the Seltos might seem like a luxury SUV. First off, it appears more upscale from the outside than either, with a sportier character than the cute, albeit somewhat awkward looking Hyundai; the Venue’s big grille on a small SUV styling won’t be for everyone. The Seltos’ lines are comparatively clean, uncluttered, and, to my eyes at least, attractive, starting with a wide, relatively narrow front grille opening, and expanding outward via stepped headlamp clusters, which include a set of unique-looking LEDs in top-level trims. A tight, tidy rear design incorporates a good helping of metal brightwork and optional LED tail lamps, while attractive 16-, 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels can be found across the entire line.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
Some brighter metal-like detailing graces the SX model’s front fascia, while its 18-inch alloys really pop.

Specifically, the 16-inch alloys are only included with the base Seltos SX FWD model, meaning the move up to SX AWD pushes wheel-size out another inch. All other trims include standard AWD, while the wheels remain 17 inches in diameter right up to the SX Turbo, that gets gorgeous machine-finished 18s with cool red-accented centre caps, although the mid-range EX Premium (one step above the EX) includes a sharp set of machine-finished 17-inch rims.

The two models I tested over a back-to-back two-week stint included EX and SX trims, the former featuring the more fuel-economy-oriented Atkinson-cycle enhanced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The latter, on the other hand, came standard with the brand’s 1.6-litre direct-injection Turbo, resulting in a more spirited 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, plus a much quicker shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. These two very unique trims gave me a good feel for what Kia has on offer across the entire Seltos range.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
Both EX and SX trims feature standard LED taillights.

The lesser EX model is seen here in Neptune Blue, with its 17-inch grey-painted twinned five-spoke alloys, whereas the top-line SX Turbo wears Lunar Orange, along with the sportier 18-inch rims I mentioned a moment ago. Both are premium paints that incur a reasonable $250 upcharge, this being the same for all eight colour options except base Onyx black.

Rather than pore over feature details, all of which you can look up for yourself on the automaker’s retail website, I’ll cover some of those items I particularly appreciated and/or found lacking in my test models, plus share my experiential notes, continuing from previous exterior styling comments over to thoughts about the interior, especially its more conventional hooded instrument panel layout and tablet-style infotainment display than the more premium Mercedes-like dual-screen setup found in the recently updated mid-size Sorento and upcoming (slightly larger than its predecessor) compact 2023 Sportage (which looks similar to what I’ve already tested in the 2022 Hyundai Tucson).

2021 Kia Seltos SX
It might be missing soft-touch door uppers, but the top-line Seltos SX delivers some premium materials and features inside.

The more futuristic dash design appears to be the way Kia is going, having even updated its various looks and functionality since the fabulous Telluride that I covered a few months ago. Instead, the Seltos’ dash layout appears more like the Niro’s and other older models. It’s highly utile, with a nicely shrouded hood shading dual analogue dials bookending a 3.5-inch, colour multi-information display in the EX, and larger, more versatile 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT display in the SX. The former provides visual indication that the automatic high beams are active, something I really appreciated, plus dynamic cruise control info, while latter does both and much more.

Still, after experiencing Kia’s newer design layout in other models, I the current iteration comes across a tad dated, despite being complemented by a very helpful head-up display (HUD) system that projects key info onto the windshield ahead of the driver, something not seen too often in this class. For reference, I find the same when comparing a similarly-sized Mercedes GLB to anything in its class, not that the German and Korean models should be compared in any other way, especially when it comes to pricing.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
Both EX and SX trims offer nicely organized and comfortable driving positions.

The Seltos does provide a very refined interior for the subcompact SUV class, however, with my EX-tester even including the same perforated Sofino faux-leather seat upholstery as my top-tier SX Turbo, which I initially thought was the real deal. The EX didn’t include the SX’ powered driver’s seat, mind you, or its two-way powered lumbar support, but was comfortable nonetheless, as were the two crossovers’ shared leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, although the EX model’s gloss-black dash facing wasn’t quite as upscale as the SX trim’s padded and stitched leatherette bolster, which even extends under the larger centre display as well as to the left side of the primary gauge binnacle and steering column—good to see you get something for the extra coin.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
EX trim comes standard with fairly conventional analogue primary gauges bordering a 3.5-inch multi-information display.

There are more upgrades, of course, despite EX and SX models sharing the just-noted gloss-black trim on the steering wheel spokes, lower centre console surfacing, and door inlays, as well as identical single-zone automatic climate control interfaces, solar glass front windows, and chromed grille insert, satin chrome beltline trim, and aforementioned LED taillights (that transition from incandescent bulbs in EX trim), not to mention unseen but important (to some) features like Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (in place of the base model’s Blind-spot Collision Warning), Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (in place of the LX’ simpler Rear Cross-traffic Alert), as well as a raft of features pulled up from base LX trim.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
The SX features a larger 7.0-inch driver display, enhancing the entire left side of the gauge cluster.

These latter items include a Safe Exit Assist System, Rear Occupant Alert, Hill-assist control, Downhill brake control, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, six airbags, and more, which were enough to earn higher-end Seltos trims Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS (albeit not “+” status, only achieved in this class by Chevy’s similarly-sized Trailblazer, Ford’s new Bronco Sport, Subaru’s Crosstrek Hybrid, Mazda’s CX-30, plus the smaller Mazda CX-3). Of note, Buick’s Encore GX, Hyundai’s Venue and Kona, Kia’s Soul, Subaru’s regular Crosstrek, plus Toyota’s C-HR (as well as Kia’s larger Sportage, although it doesn’t compete in this segment) earned the same regular Top Safety Pick score, but notably Buick’s smaller Encore, Chevrolet’s Trax, Fiat’s 500XFord’s EcoSport, Jeep’s Renegade and Compass, Mini’s Countryman (although it’s more of a premium player), Mitsubishi’s RVR, plus Nissan’s Kicks and Qashqai (Rogue Sport in the U.S.) didn’t.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
Like base LX trim, the EX utilizes an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen with nice graphics and plenty of features.

Somehow, I completely lost track of detailing the Seltos’ interior refinement, not even mentioning both models’ stylish satin silver trim that helped make me feel as if I was in a much more upscale SUV than its aforementioned pricing should allow, or for that matter its nicely stitched leatherette gearshift boot, softly padded leatherette side and centre armrests (front to back for the former and covering a handy storage bin for the latter), while the folding rear centre armrest, filled with the usual twin cupholders, is exclusive to EX and SX trims. Lacking, sadly, were soft-touch door uppers in either trim or row, the two models’ identical inner door skins leaving me somewhat disappointed due to Kia having spoiled me to expect more from entry-level models than other brands, which admittedly don’t necessarily upgrade their equivalent rides to such high levels of luxury either.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
EX Premium and SX trims boast a premium-like 10.25-inch centre display, which is really impressive for this class of SUV.

Some features that differentiate both the SX and EX Premium from the regular EX trim include the previously noted LED headlights and LED fog lamps, the upgraded instrument cluster, auto-dimming rearview mirror, multi-directional power-adjustable front seats and two-way powered lumbar support for the driver’s seat, plus three-way air-cooled front seats to go along with all lesser models’ three-way heatable front cushions, and the EX (and above) heated steering wheel rim, not to mention warming outboard rear positions for the EX Premium and SX models, as well as a larger and much improved 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (instead of the 8.0-inch base display) with integrated navigation and UVO Intelligence-connected car services, along with Satellite radio, a wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control with Highway Drive Assist (a Level 2 advanced semi-autonomous “self-driving” assistance system designed for limited-access highways), an electromechanical parking brake, Advanced forward collision-avoidance assist (improving on the EX trim’s Forward collision-avoidance assist), ambient mood lighting, a rear cargo privacy cover, and more.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
EX Premium and SX trims up the ante with navigation.

I should say more about the upgraded infotainment touchscreen, plus the smaller one found in the EX and below, specifically that both are very good and include Apple CarPlay, plus Android Auto smartphone integration. My somewhat outdated Samsung S9 hooked up to the latter easily and working flawlessly throughout both test weeks, whereas the SX’ exclusive navigation system was also easy to use and completely accurate. The general look of the displays should be attractive to most, while both backup cameras were bright, clear and included moving guidelines.

A powered glass sunroof hovered above front occupants in both models, with controls found on an attractive overhead console, this even including LED reading laps complemented by another set of LED overhead lights in back.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
The base powertrain’s CVT is sportier than you might think, but it’s best for those wanting to optimize fuel economy.

Aforementioned wheel upgrades and HUD aside, the SX gains exclusive chromed door handles, rain sensing wipers, bright metal interior door handles, and possibly best of all, an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system that includes four door-mounted speakers, a centre speaker, two door-mounted tweeters, and a separate subwoofer, all of which are powered by an external amp. The sound was very good for the class, and thanks to the satellite radio upgrade mentioned earlier, was capable of being tested via many music genres.

As noted earlier, both trims’ driver seats were comfortable, with an edge to the SX due to its adjustable lumbar, while the Seltos’ driving position is excellent, even for my long-legged, short-torso frame. The tilt and telescopic steering column had enough rearward reach to provide comfort with more than enough control, and I certainly had ample space in all directions for movement.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
EX trim and above include convincing faux perforated leather, but EX Premium and SX trims get three-way cooling plus powered lumbar.

Likewise, in the back, where both trims’ seats were comfortable, and plenty of legroom, head space and side-to-side roominess could be found. Cargo capacity is good for the class too, with 752 dedicated litres (26.5 cubic feet), as well as 1,778 litres (62.8 cu ft) when both sides of its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded (mostly) flat.

Back up in the driver’s seat, I won’t go so far as to say the Seltos EX was particularly quicker than its base competition off the line, but it felt sportier through the curves than most rivals. Even this lower powered model included a slick rotating drive mode selector next to the gear lever for choosing regular Normal mode, an auto-select Smart mode, and Sport mode capabilities, all of which provided unique characteristics that were easily definable. Of course, all of this was heightened when at the wheel of the more potent SX, especially transmission response, which reacted faster to inputs than almost anything else in the class.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
The Seltos offers a roomy rear seating area, plus seat warmers the outboard positions for EX Premium and SX trims.

This is where your personal priorities will be exposed, aforementioned upgrades aside, because the two SUVs offer very different driving experiences. I found myself more relaxed in the EX, or at least I was less likely to dig my right foot into the throttle, because the result was less rewarding. Certainly, it got up and went with little hesitation and progressed through the gears fast enough for some spirited driving, even spinning right up to its 6,500-rpm rev limiter before making surprisingly convincing “pseudo” shifts, but by nature a CVT focuses more on fuel-efficiency than rapid, satisfying acceleration. Nevertheless, Kia could differentiate these trims even further by including paddle-shifters with the SX… just saying.

The dual-clutch gearbox and more powerful turbocharged engine didn’t overly impact efficiency either, or at least the SX was stingy enough for me at 9.4 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.7 combined, compared to 8.8 city, 7.6 highway and 8.2 combined with the EX (or LX AWD), or 8.2, 7.1 and 7.7 respectively for the LX FWD. All in all, the SX’ level of performance should make the move upmarket worthwhile those who can afford a little extra investment.

2021 Kia Seltos EX
The Seltos dedicated cargo area measures an impressive 752 litres.

As with everything else in this class, the various drive modes don’t impact the Seltos’ suspension setup, which, while fine for everyday driving, might hold you back a bit when pushing fast and hard through winding terrain, where the EX felt a bit more unsettled than the SX. This was probably, at least partially due to the difference in rolling rubber, the lesser model’s 215/55R17 Kumho Solus all-seasons not quite as grippy as the larger-diameter 235/45R18 Kumho Majesty tires (have to wonder where they came up with that name).

What matters more in this class, however, is ride quality, which was very good for both trims. In fact, I’d be quite happy with either as my daily driver. I found the previously noted self-driving mode was a bit more relaxing during highway excursions too, and I was pleasantly surprised to find anything so technologically advanced in this category at all, although it should be noted others in this segment are stepping up with similar systems.

2021 Kia Seltos SX
Cargo space opens up to 1,778 litres when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded down.

Still, it remains easy to understand why Kia’s Seltos is selling so well. It’s a great looking little crossover SUV, is well made, impressively finished, well-featured in every trim, attractively priced, plenty efficient, and even fairly fun to drive with its mid-range powertrain, plus downright fun when upgraded to the SX. Add to this its two-year, 40,000-km longer-than-average (mostly) bumper-to-bumper warranty, spanning five years or 100,000 km, and it’s an easier decision.

Truly, the most difficult choice in this class might come down to this Seltos or its Hyundai Kona cousin (with a similar warranty), proving the South Korean automaker understands the benefits of creating its own competition. When push comes to shove, both SUVs are more than worthy of your attention. I’d recommend looking over some of the others in this class too, but for the time being these are leading the back for good reason.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann