3D printing is nothing new in the auto industry, but customizing form-fitted sport seats for customer racers is an innovative way to test out a potential new personalization product. Then again, Porsche…

Porsche creates innovative new 3D-printed sport seats for 911 and 718

Porsche 3D-Printed Bodyform Full-Bucket Seat
Porsche’s new “3D-printed bodyform full-bucket seat” uses sandwich construction for form-fitted comfort. (Photo: Porsche)

3D printing is nothing new in the auto industry, but customizing form-fitted sport seats for customer racers is an innovative way to test out a potential new personalization product.

Then again, Porsche has long used motorsport to hone its road cars, so the act of creating 40 prototypes of its “3D-printed bodyform full-bucket seat” for some European-based 911 and 718 client racers isn’t too much of a stretch. 

Porsche Tequipment will start producing the new six-point safety belt-equipped “bodyform” driver’s seat prototypes in May 2020, and after it receives enough feedback from those customers, which will be incorporated into the seat’s development, it will start making them available to road car customers in soft, medium and hard firmness levels and various colours though its Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur division from mid-2021.

“3D-printed bodyform full-bucket seat”
The coloured components in the 3D-printed “lattice structure” give the seat a wholly unique look. (Photo: Porsche)

Just to be clear, custom-fitted driver’s seats have been part of the motorsports world for almost as long as car racing has existed, but 3D-printing technology will allow the same level of personalization in Porsche’s road cars, as long as enough owners expressed an interest.

Together with a driver’s seat specifically designed around an individual customer’s body contour, the new 3D-produced seats would allow for “an extended range of colours” so that owners could match their cars’ interiors to Porsche’s available “Special” colour palette, and their “Custom Colour” requests.

Porsche 3D-Printed Bodyform Full-Bucket Seat
Porsche produces this “lattice structure” in a 3D printer and then incorporates it into the seat. (Photo: Porsche)

Along with the ergonomic fit for enhanced comfort and control, the new 3D-printed bodyform driver’s seat will allow for a totally unique interior design, plus lowered weight, and even “passive climate control” says Porsche, the latter due to the seat’s sandwich construction.

The base support, which is produced from expanded polypropylene (EPP), gets bonded to a “breathable comfort layer consisting of a mixture of polyurethane-based materials.” The external skin, made out of “Racetex,” features a perforation pattern that allows for climate control, while “window panels” expose the coloured components in the 3D-printed “lattice structure” and therefore give the seat a completely original look.

Porsche 3D-Printed Bodyform Full-Bucket Seat
The breathable material allows for “passive climate control”. Photo: Porsche)

“The seat is the interface between the human and the vehicle, and is thus important for precise, sporty handling. That’s why personalized seat shells customized for the driver have been standard in race cars for a long time now,” commented Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche. “With the ‘3D-printed bodyform full-bucket seat’, we’re once again giving series-production customers the opportunity to experience technology carried over from motor sports.” 

Mazda is doing a good job of taking its brand as close to premium territory as it can without actually raising prices to the point where it has to compete directly with Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the rest…

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Mazda’s CX-5 makes a good argument against paying more for a premium brand name. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Mazda is doing a good job of taking its brand as close to premium territory as it can without actually raising prices to the point where it has to compete directly with Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the rest of the luxury labeled lot.

It starts with good outward design that translates well into all sizes and body styles, the sporty CX-3 subcompact SUV looking very similar to the fresh new CX-30, as well as the compact CX-5 shown here, and largest three-row CX-9 mid-size model, and likewise for the compact 3 and mid-size 6 series car lineup, not to mention the fabulous MX-5 sports car.

Mazda calls its latest design language KODO 2.0, or in other words this is now the second-generation of its clean and elegant “art of the car” philosophy, a glimpse of which we initially saw in its sensational Vision Coupe and Kai concepts from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the latter of which more or less morphed into the latest Mazda3 Sport, and is starting to affect the brand’s SUVs like this recently updated CX-5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s styling is both sporty and elegant. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The CX-5 has been Mazda’s compact crossover utility since it laid its Ford Escape-based Tribute to rest in 2011, the much more modern Mazda3-based design arriving in January of 2012. The second-generation model seen here came onto the scene in 2017 and integrated much more KODO 2.0 styling into its design than its predecessor, resulting in a much more upscale looking SUV.

The real premium experience happens inside, however, with details like fabric-wrapped A-pillars and a luxuriously padded dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, and door uppers front to back, and then going so far as to trim out the cabin with a tasteful supply of anodized metal accents, this beautifully brushed treatment even decorating some of the switchgear that’s sometimes finished with knurled metal detailing, not to mention real Abachi hardwood in its top-tier Signature trim line. Mine didn’t include the Signature’s dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather and trim, the latter included on the door inserts and armrests along with the seats, but its Pure White regular leather was impressive nonetheless. It all makes for a rich, upscale environment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
LED headlights are standard, while GT and Signature trims get more distinctive elements as well as dynamic cornering ability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, despite the luxurious appointments seen inside the SUV in the photos, it isn’t a Signature model, but even this mid-range (third-rung out of four) GT trim line is nicer inside than most competitors top-line trims, albeit devoid of over-the-top premium bits like the Signature’s aforementioned wood inlays that adorn the instrument and door panels, plus the satin chrome-plated glove box lever and power seat switches, higher end cross-stitching detail on the steering wheel, plusher Nappa leather upholstery, a black interior roof lining, a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror instead of a less elegant framed one, LED illumination for the overhead console lights, vanity mirrors, front and rear room lamps and cargo area light, and a host of upscale features like a nice bright 7.0-inch LCD multi-information display at centre, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display, a 360-degree surround parking monitor, front and rear parking sensors, gunmetal finish 19-inch alloy wheels in place of the GT’s silver-finish 19s, an off-road traction assist function to improve its ability on the trail, and the quickest Skyactiv-G 2.5 T four-cylinder engine featuring a Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT) good for 250 horsepower (with 93 octane premium fuel or 227 with 87 octane regular) and 310 lb-ft of torque (for 2020 it gains 10 lb-ft to 320 when fuelled with 93 octane), plus paddles for the six-speed automatic transmission.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
These 19-inch silver-painted alloys are standard with the GT. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That’s a really potent powertrain for this class and available optionally for $2,000 in as-tested GT trim (for 2020 the GT with the turbocharged engine also gets paddles, off-road traction assist, and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display), although my tester came with the base non-turbo Skyactiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder with fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and no paddles on the steering wheel. So equipped it makes 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, which is around the same as offered by the class sales leaders with their most formidable engines, while I prefer the feel of a regular automatic over those competitors’ continuously variable transmissions (CVT) any day of the week.

Of note, Mazda also offers a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel powerplant in top-line Signature trim that puts out 168 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the ritziest CX-5 starting at $40,950 (plus freight and fees) and topping out at $45,950 with the oil burner upgrade, so you’ll need to get the calculator out to see how long it’ll take to save $5,000 by using normally cheaper, more efficient diesel fuel. Before you do, however, make sure you check around for available examples, as the diesel feature was only available for the 2019 model year (at the time of writing there were plenty, albeit nowhere near as many as gasoline-powered variants).

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Top-tier trims also get signature LED lighting in the rear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I tested it and was impressed, but as much as I like Rudolf’s invention and was plenty happy with its 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy, the much less expensive, and much quicker turbo-four achieves a very respectable claimed 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating as it is, so it’s no wonder the diesel was discontinued. My GT tester, which comes standard with i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) and starts at $37,450, is good for 9.8, 7.9 and 9.0 respectively, while the same engine with FWD that comes standard with mid-range $30,750 GS trim is most efficient with a respective rating of 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Even the refinement, quality of materials and near-premium excellence of this non-top-line GT trim will impress. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Believe it or not there’s a fourth engine available, the 2.5-litre four found in the $27,850 base GX without cylinder deactivation, which performs just as well yet manages just 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 8.8 combined with FWD, whereas that engine with AWD is said to consume 10.2 city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined. AWD is a $2,000 option in GX and GS trims, by the way, and standard with the GT and Signature.

There’s absolutely no way I’m going to itemize every feature available in each trim, not to mention the various packages, but being that I tested the GT I should go over its standard kit. Features specific to the GT that can’t be found in lesser trims (yet come standard with the Signature) include the aforementioned 19-inch alloys on 225/55 all-seasons (lower trims include 17-inch alloys on 225/65s), adaptive cornering for the headlamps, LED signatures within the headlights and taillights, LED fog lamps, LED combination tail lamps, power-folding side mirrors, plus piano black B- and C-pillar garnishes, and that’s only on the outside.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s dash design is artfully crafted and intelligently laid out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Proximity-sensing access lets you inside and pushbutton ignition gets things started (although the latter is standard across the line), while the primary instrument cluster is Mazda’s classic three-gauge design with a decent sized multi-information display in the right-side dial (the 7.0-inch LCD MID is standard in GT trim for 2020), and above that a really handy windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display (ADD) (head-up display) comes complete with traffic sign recognition. Additionally, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat includes power lumbar support and two-way memory, while a six-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat is included too, as are three-way ventilated front seats, and three-way heatable rear outboard seats.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The gauges are laid out in Mazda’s sporty three-dial design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to premium-level niceties, a satin-chrome front console knee pad adds class to the front seating area, as does a fabric-lined glove box and premium stitching on the front centre console, while a powered moonroof adds natural light, a Homelink universal garage door opener adds convenience, accurate navigation got me where I was going, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system upgrade sounded great thanks to an AM/FM/HD radio, seven channels of customized equalization, SurroundStage Signal Processing, Centerpoint 2 surround sound technology, AudioPilot 2 Noise Compensation, and SiriusXM satellite radio (with a three-month complimentary service). Mazda also supplies CX-5 GT and Signature owners with SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (with a five-year complimentary service), as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, air vents on the backside of the front console, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Android Auto is standard across the CX-5 line, as is Apple CarPlay. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Some other features pulled up to the GT from lower trims include automatic headlight levelling, a front wiper de-icer, radar cruise control with stop and go, a heatable steering wheel, an additional two USB ports in the rear centre armrest, and a bevy of advanced driver assistive systems such as Smart Brake Support (SBS) with forward sensing Pedestrian Detection, Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS) and High Beam Control System (HBC) from second-rung GS trim, plus auto on/off LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, LED turn signal indicators on door mirrors, rain-sensing intermittent wipers, an electronic parking brake, dual USB ports and an auxiliary audio input, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Aha and Stitcher internet radio, SMS text messaging read and respond function, as well as all the expected active and passive safety systems from the base GX. There’s plenty more, but I’ll leave something for you to discover.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The sides of the lower console are padded leatherette, and that metal-edged knob just below the shifter is for controlling the infotainment system. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The CX-5 is spacious and comfortable no matter which trim you purchase, with excellent front and rear seating, including ample room for three abreast in the rear row. Legroom and headroom is good too, while the rear outboard heaters are a nice touch, although the controls can’t be accessed if someone’s sitting in the middle position. Now that I’m griping, a bright and airy panoramic sunroof would be welcome in top-tier GT and Signature models.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Yes, that’s a fabric-wrapped A-pillar embellished by a beautifully detailed Bose tweeter. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

More important than that is the CX-5’s best-in-class 40/20/40 split folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers. I’m always calling for a centre pass-through and this is an even better solution, because there’s more than enough room for an entire family’s skis, poles and snowboards down the middle while boots, helmets and other gear is stowed in back with rear passengers comfortably occupying each window seat. Once again I bring up the folly of housing the rear seat warming buttons within the folding armrest, where they can’t be accessed when the centre pass-through is lowered. Hopefully Mazda will rethink this decision and relocate the rear seat heater switchgear to the door panels when the model comes up for redesign. On the positive, the CX-5 can load up to 875 litres (30.9 cubic feet) of cargo behind the rear seatbacks and 1,687 litres (59.6 cu ft) when they’re loaded flat, making it one of the roomier compact crossovers in its mainstream volume-branded class.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The rich looking CX-5 GT gets the no-cost option of a Pure White leather interior, and believe it or not Signature trim is even nicer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Mazda tops off all this roomy luxury with performance that comes very close to premium as well, although in my base GT tester I’m not referring specifically to straight-line power as much as ride and handling. The sense of quality starts with well-insulated doors and body panels, so that everything is solid feeling upon closure and nice and quiet once underway, while the ride is firm but never harsh, more akin to an Audi or BMW than a Mercedes or Lexus. Still, that translates into good manoeuvrability around town and better than average agility when pushed hard. Mazda relies on tried and tested engineering to achieve these results, its front suspension made up of MacPherson struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar, and its rear suspension incorporating an independent multi-link setup with coil springs and stabilizer bar.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The rear seating area is large and comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As noted earlier, the base engine is on par with some of the class leaders’ top powerplants as far as acceleration goes, but more importantly it’s smooth and efficient, while the six-speed automatic transmission was so smooth it made me wonder if Mazda hadn’t adopted a CVT into its drivetrain. Of course, it shifts like a regular automatic when revs climb, and while this is a very good thing that performance fans will appreciate, it once again goes about its business smoothly. While the base GT doesn’t offer paddles, you can shift manually via its console-mounted gear lever, and take note Mazda does provide a Sport mode that certainly gives it more pop off the line and better passing performance, but that’s it for extra drive settings, the default mode taking care of any eco and comfort duties that a driver might otherwise want to select.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
While initially appearing upscale, the heated rear seat controls can’t be accessed if someone is sitting in the middle or if gear is stowed through the centre pass-through. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

In summary, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 is an exceptionally good entry that should be considered seriously by anyone purchasing in its compact SUV class. The Canadian segment leader is Toyota’s RAV4 with a category-best 65,248 sales in calendar year 2019, followed closely by Honda’s CR-V with 55,859 deliveries, Ford’s Escape (all-new for 2020) at 39,504, Nissan’s Rogue at 37,530, Hyundai’s Tucson at 30,075, and the CX-5 at 27,696 unit sales. While the CX-5 might seem far down the list at first glance, keep in mind there are 14 entries in this class, and the next best-selling VW Tiguan only managed 19,250 deliveries, while the Chevrolet Equinox found just 18,503 buyers, Jeep Cherokee just 13,687, Subaru Forester only 13,059, Kia Sportage 12,637, GMC Terrain 12,023, Mitsubishi Outlander 10,701, and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 5,101 unit sales. What’s more, the CX-5 was one of just six models to increase its numbers year-over-year, the rest losing ground.

2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s 40/20/40-split rear seatback is another premium touch that makes it easier to live with than most competitors. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Right now is a good time to buy a CX-5, because Mazda is offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models (and plenty of 2019s are available right across Canada), and for those wanting a 2020 CX-5, up to $1,000 in incentives. Make sure to check CarCostCanada for all the details, including itemized pricing of trims, packages and individual options, manufacturer financing/leasing deals, rebate information, and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that can help you negotiate the best possible deal. Most retailers are available by phone or online, and of course they’re motivated to sell.

All said I highly recommend the CX-5 in this class, especially for those who appreciate the finer things in life, yet would rather not have to pay a premium price.

Due to all automakers’ capabilities in product development and production, many have been called into action to help stop the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus from spreading farther, and now Porsche is considering…

Porsche amongst automakers committing money and resources to fight COVID-19

Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board
Oliver Blume, the chairman of Porsche’s Executive Board, is directing the German automaker to donate funds and manpower to help eradicate COVID-19. (Photo: Porsche)

Due to all automakers’ capabilities in product development and production, many have been called into action to help stop the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus from spreading farther, and now Porsche is considering the employment of its 3D printers to produce critical medical products.

Before this it donated five million euros to “people in need as a result of the virus” and also spent 200,000 euros on food donations to charitable organizations.

“Porsche already supports a large number of charitable initiatives and we are significantly extending this commitment during the coronavirus crisis,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board. “There are people who urgently need help and we are concentrating on providing humanitarian aid. We can overcome the pandemic only if we work together and show solidarity.”

Additionally, Porsche is deploying its specialist staff, such as its medically experienced personnel and IT experts, to fight against COVID-19, plus the German luxury brand is supporting its Porsche employees to carry out voluntary work.

Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche
“We are supporting the food banks at our locations this year with 200,000 euros,” said Blume.

What’s more, the premium automaker is assisting with technical materials and supplies, like procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), plus it’s deploying its vehicles and providing logistics operations in the event of specific supply bottlenecks and transport requirements, while using its media presence to assist in the communication of appeals and important messaging as well, and finally Porsche is making donations and grants to various organizations in need of support due to COVID-19.

“We are supporting the food banks at our locations this year with 200,000 euros,” continued Blume. “In addition, we have made an offer to certain charitable organizations to provide vehicles with drivers, perhaps where there is a bottleneck in the transport of relief supplies or people. We have also increased donations from Porsche AG by five million euros. This amount will be used to support local organizations and people who are in need as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Our employees also help personally and voluntarily with the charitable organizations at our locations.”

As noted earlier, Porsche is considering the production of medical products too, which could be produced by the brand’s many 3D printers.

Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche
“We are currently clarifying with the state government which components are required,” added Blume regarding the production of PPE. “They range from protective goggles to respiratory masks.”

“We are currently clarifying with the state government which components are required,” added Blume. “They range from protective goggles to respiratory masks. For highly specialized medical products, you have to comply with the legal requirements and certifications. Here, the lead must lie with the medical technology specialists, who could then delegate orders to the automotive industry. Our 3D printers are available in any case. As a first step, we have already forwarded protective clothing from our stocks to the state government. And together with our parent company, Volkswagen, we are participating in the procurement of further equipment on a large scale, especially from China. We must also ensure that we look beyond the medical sector and recognize where our help is needed.”

All of these efforts have been put forward despite Porsche halting production on March 21st for an initial period of two weeks.

“We are assessing the situation as it presents itself,” Blume said. “The most important thing for us is that the supply chains can be rebuilt as soon as possible. We are less dependent on China than we are on our European neighbours. In this respect, I hope that we as a society will manage to contain the coronavirus and that we will then receive a signal at European level as to when we can all restart production.”

Like most automotive brands, Porsche Canada has also started to experience a dramatic downturn in sales, with its March 2020 deliveries reduced by 42 percent compared to the same month last year. It’s quite possible April will be worse, so kudos to Porsche for giving back in this time of need.

How do factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent sound to you? That’s what Nissan is offering in order to entice you into a new 2019 Versa Note. Yes, I know the Versa Note was recently discontinued,…

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV Road Test

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
Nissan’s Versa Note might be on its way out, but there are still plenty of new examples available and it remains a very good little car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How do factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent sound to you? That’s what Nissan is offering in order to entice you into a new 2019 Versa Note.

Yes, I know the Versa Note was recently discontinued, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good car. In fact, Nissan’s second-smallest hatchback is a great little runabout that provides more interior room than most subcompact competitors. It’s just passed its best-before date, and is therefore being replaced by an all-new subcompact sedan for 2020.

If you haven’t seen the new four-door Versa yet (and you may not have as it’s only being offered in the U.S. so far), imagine a shrunken 2020 Sentra or a smaller version of the recent Altima crossed with Nissan’s newest Leaf. If you’re not sure what the Altima looks like, Nissan’s mid-size family car was recently redesigned to look like a smaller, less dramatic Maxima sedan, the latter being Nissan’s ultimately stylish flagship four-door (it really is a nice looking car), while the current second-generation Leaf was recently normalized in order to appeal to a larger audience (the first one was a bit whacky). All in all the new Versa sedan looks fresh and modern, and the outgoing Versa Note doesn’t.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note features a long wheelbase and tall roofline for impressive interior room. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While not the latest, greatest Nissan on the block, this final Versa Note nevertheless incorporates most of the brand’s newest frontal design trends for much more attractive styling than the original version sold here, which was in fact the second-generation sold elsewhere. That car ended up replacing the even blander Versa sedan as well as the unorthodox (but brilliantly cool) Cube crossover, and actually did rather well on the sales charts when first arriving on the scene in late 2013.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
It’s lack of fog lamps are a clear sign this example is not a Special Edition, while its alloy wheels denote its SV designation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, the 12,297 Versas sold in 2013 and 13,314 delivered in 2014 were a combination of the Note hatchback and Versa sedan, the latter cancelled in Canada after the 2014 model year. Thus calendar year 2015 resulted in just 9,120 Versa Note unit sales, which by hindsight should have been celebrated as a banner 12 months being that Canadian sales slipped to 7,417 units the following year and only climbed up to 7,865 in 2017, before dropping all the way down to 5,385 examples in 2018 and only 2,369 last year.

Despite losing favour with the buying public as the years continued, which was partially due to the extremely well received Micra city car that arrived in 2014, and also because of Canadian consumers’ continued purge of cars for crossover SUVs (Nissan currently leading the market’s small SUV charge with its popular Kicks and Qashqai subcompacts and Rogue compact), the Versa Note is a well-designed four-door hatchback that delivers big in space and comfort.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa Note is a back to basics car, but it’s still very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Note offers loftier occupants an incredible amount of headroom thanks to a tall overall design that makes it feel more like a subcompact SUV or a mini-minivan than an economy car. The seats are especially comfortable too, thanks to memory foam that really cushions and supports the backside, and the upholstery is attractive as well, with a nice blue fleck on black cloth. The driver even gets a folding armrest attached to the right-side bolster for added comfort.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
Although the design looks dated compared to Nissan’s newer offerings, the Versa’s cabin is well organized and reasonably well equipped. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Other nice details include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt function, and some attractive satin-silver detailing on its spokes. The silver treatment circles around each HVAC vent too, plus it adorns the centre stack and surrounds the shift lever. What’s more, the gauge cluster is particularly impressive, with backlit dials and some great looking digital displays. In fact, it’s so nice that it makes the infotainment touchscreen seem dated by comparison. The truth is that the centre display does look a bit behind graphically, especially when compared to interfaces in Nissan’s newer more recently updated models, but it’s nevertheless plenty functional and easy to use, plus at 7.0 inches in diameter it’s quite large, which works well for the backup camera.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
This upgraded gauge cluster is a real treat for this class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Due to the lack of telescopic steering, the Versa may not fit your body type ideally however, my long legs and short torso necessitating a seat position that was closer to the pedals than I would’ve liked, causing me to compromise with a more upright backrest than normal. I managed to get reasonably comfortable after spending some time setting it up, after which it also provided an adequate driving position for decent control.

On the positive, the rear seating area is spacious with more legroom than average for this class (Natural Resources Canada actually classifies the Versa Note as a mid-size car), so like I mentioned a moment ago, this little car (with a long wheelbase) is perfect for large people on a budget. A flip-down rear centre armrest gets filled with dual cupholders, plus there are two cupholders on the backside of the front console that are easy to access for rear passengers, while a magazine holder gets added to the backside of the front passenger’s seat.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The infotainment interface is fairly old school in design, but very functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Versa Note is good for those that haul a lot of cargo as well. It includes 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, which is normal in this class, but unusually welcome is the fancy Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor that moves up and down as needed. It’s good for stowing tall cargo when left at the bottom, or when lifted allows for a totally flat loading area once the seats are lowered. The Note’s dedicated cargo volume measures 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seats, while laying the seatbacks flat results in a really generous 1,084 litres (38.3 cu ft) of maximum space.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The large 7.0-inch display provides a good view from the backup camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All of that spacious interior volume comes well stocked with features, but of course its content will depend on which trim you choose. Take note, Nissan dropped the model’s sportiest SR trim for 2019 and its most luxurious SL trim for 2018, but they introduced the $700 SV Special Edition package for the model’s final incarnation, which adds fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler and Special Edition badging to the exterior, plus proximity-sensing keyless access to get you inside and a pushbutton ignition system to turn on the engine, while the cabin includes upgraded NissanConnect infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as SiriusXM satellite radio.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The HVAC interface is fairly rudimentary, but it all works well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

One glance at my tester’s lack of fog lamps and it’s easy to see that it’s not an SV Special Edition, but instead its 15-inch alloy wheels make its regular $18,398 SV designation clear (the base Note S comes with wheel covers over 15-inch steel rims). The SV also adds the impressive instrument cluster and leather-wrapped steering wheel I mentioned earlier, plus power door locks with remote keyless entry, powered windows, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) as standard equipment, cruise control, a six-way manual driver’s seat (that now includes height adjustment), heatable front seats, a cargo cover, and more.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
SV trim comes standard with a more efficient CVT automatic. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The $14,698 base S model is the only trim available with a five-speed manual transmission for 2019 (it came standard in the SV as well for 2018), but the CVT can be had for $1,300 more. No matter the transmission, the base model also includes power-adjustable heated side mirrors, a four-way manual driver’s seat, air conditioning, the aforementioned 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with audio streaming, audio and phone switches on the steering wheel spokes, a hands-free text messaging assistant, Siri Eyes Free, aux and USB inputs on the lower console, a four-speaker audio system, and more.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
Two-way heated front seats make the winters more bearable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, all the expected active and passive safety features are included too, but if you want the latest advanced driver assistive systems such as collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with lane departure warning, or dynamic cruise control with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPILOT assist self-driving technology, it’s best to look toward one of the newer SUVs in the Japanese brand’s lineup.

The Versa Note is more traditional than those trendier utilities, and in this respect it does everything that most practical consumers need. It’s not quite as fancy or edgy as the newer Nissans, yet along with its comfortable seats, and thanks in part to its aforementioned long wheelbase it provides an extremely nice ride for its subcompact price, plus adequate performance off the line or when passing, while its CVT is very smooth if not particularly sporty.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The front seats are very comfortable, but the driver’s position isn’t ideal for those with longer legs than torso and arms. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The same 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder found in the tiny Micra puts out an identical 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque in the Note, which means the larger, heavier car doesn’t feel as enthusiastic when going about its business. Of course, the focus is more on fuel-efficiency in this class, and to that end the Versa gets a Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.6 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.7 combined with the manual, or 7.6 city, 6.2 highway and 7.0 combined with the CVT, which doesn’t sound all that good until comparing it to the just-mentioned Micra that when fully loaded has an identical 1,092-kilo curb weight as the base Versa Note’s starting point (the as-tested Note SV weighs in at 1,124 kg), yet nevertheless manages just 7.9 combined with its manual and 8.0 combined with its less advanced four-speed auto. A better comparison is the similarly roomy Honda Fit that’s good for 7.0 L/100km combined with its six-speed manual or just 6.5 with its most efficient CVT.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The rear seating area is very spacious, and actually rated as a mid-size car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Note is a tall hatchback as mentioned, so its high centre-of-gravity works against performance when pushing hard through the corners, but if you don’t mind a little body lean when trying to make up time, it manages fast-paced curves reasonably well. This said, if you’re looking for a sportier runabout and don’t mind slightly less room, the considerably less expensive Micra that I mentioned a moment ago is a very good bet. The Versa Note, on the other hand, is designed more for comfort than speed, and therefore does a great job of shuttling one to five adults around town with ease, and would likely make a decent road trip companion as well.

2019 Nissan Versa Note SV
The Versa delivers a lot of cargo space for the subcompact class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you’d like to take advantage of the zero-percent financing noted earlier in this review, and think this little Nissan might suit your lifestyle and budget, I’d recommend checking out CarCostCanada’s 2019 Nissan Versa Note Canada Prices page where you can go over all trims and packages in detail, not to mention quickly scan the available colours within each trim, while also learning about the latest manufacturer rebates that could save you even more.

Best of all, however, is a CarCostCanada membership that provides access to dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands upon purchase. All of the above is available online at CarCostCanada’s website or via a new CarCostCanada app downloadable for free from your phone’s app store. So before you call your local Nissan retailer or connect with them online (it’s probably a good idea to deal with them remotely during this time of crisis) make sure you’ve first done your homework at CarCostCanada, so you can get the best deal possible on your new Versa Note.

FYI, there are fewer new Ford Flex SUVs still available for sale than I had initially expected, although dozens are spread across most of the country. This means anyone wanting to get their hands on a…

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6 Road Test

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Your last chance to purchase a new Ford Flex is now, and the available discounts are major. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

FYI, there are fewer new Ford Flex SUVs still available for sale than I had initially expected, although dozens are spread across most of the country. This means anyone wanting to get their hands on a new example of this wholly unique three-row crossover utility needs to act quickly, because dealer-level discounts will be deep, plus according to CarCostCanada, Ford is offering up to $5,500 in additional incentives for this final 2019 model.

Yes, the unconventional Flex is being ushered off the stage after more than a decade of service and only a couple of years of reasonably good sales. Its first calendar year of 2009 resulted in 6,047 units down Canadian roads, and the next 12 months (2010) was good for 4,803 deliveries, but it saw lacklustre sales performance after that, with a high of just 3,268 units in 2012 and 1,789 in 2015. Strangely, year-over-year Flex sales picked up by 13.4 percent from 2017 to 2018 and 9.6 percent in 2019, so there’s still interest in this wonderfully unusual family hauler, but nevertheless its days were done as soon as the revitalized fifth-generation Explorer came on the scene in 2011 (hence the Flex’s immediate drop-off in sales that year).

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
While lower to the ground than most 7-passenger crossover SUVs, the Flex’s boxy profile provides plenty of passenger and cargo room. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For a bit of background, both the Flex and Explorer share a unibody structure based on Ford’s D4 platform architecture, which is a modified version of the original Volvo S80/XC90-sourced D3 platform. Looking back a bit further, the first D3 to wear the blue-oval was Ford’s rather bland Five Hundred sedan that quickly morphed into today’s Taurus (or should I say, yesterday’s Taurus, as it was recently discontinued as well, and therefore also benefits from up to $5,500 in additional incentives as per CarCostCanada). The Flex’s familial lineage harks back to the 2005–2007 Freestyle that was rebadged as the ill-named Taurus X for 2008–2009.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
There’s nothing else quite like a Flex, a practical SUV that performs as sportily as this example’s blacked out Appearance package suggests. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The just noted people movers don’t get much respect anymore, yet they were comfortable, nicely sized, reasonably agile, and quite innovative for their era. Each was amongst the first domestics to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and the Five Hundred and Freestyle were certainly some of the largest vehicles to do so before that point (the Nissan Murano beat them by a couple of years). Interestingly Ford soon abandoned the CVT for its large vehicle lineup, choosing a six-speed automatic for all Flex and fifth-gen Explorer model years, which has proven to be a reliable transmission.

Now that we’re talking mechanicals, the Flex received two different versions of Ford’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6 when introduced, which still carry through to today’s model. While the base Duratec engine made 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque from onset, output grew to 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque in 2013, which moved the three-row seven-occupant SUV along at a decent clip. A 355 horsepower 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 making 350 lb-ft of torque became optional in 2010, and that turbocharged mill transformed the somewhat sedate five-door estate wagon into a rarified sleeper, while another 10-hp bump to 365 made it one of the most potent family conveyances available from a mainstream volume brand right up to this day.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The aging Flex doesn’t offer LED headlamps, but these HIDs light up the road well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That’s the version to acquire and once again the configuration I recently spent a week with, and it performed as brilliantly as it did when I first tested a similarly equipped Flex in 2016. I noticed a bit of front wheel twist when pushed hard off the line at full throttle, otherwise called torque steer, particularly when taking off from a corner, which is strange for an all-wheel drive vehicle, but it moved along quickly and was wonderfully stable on the highway, not to mention long sweeping corners and even when flung through sharp fast-paced curves thanks to its fully independent suspension setup and big, meaty 255/45R20 all-season rubber. I wouldn’t say it’s as tight as a premium SUV like Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7 or BMW’s X7, but we really can’t compare those three from a price perspective. Such was the original goal of the now defunct Lincoln MKT, but its styling never took off and therefore it was really only used for airport shuttle and limousine liveries.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
These glossy black 20-inch alloys are part of the $900 Appearance package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Like the MKT and the many three-row Japanese and European crossover utilities available, the Flex is a very large vehicle, so no one should be expecting sports car-like performance. Combined with its turbo-six powerplant is the dependable SelectShift six-speed automatic mentioned earlier, and while not as advanced as the 7-, 8-, 9- and now even 10-speed automatics coming from the latest blue-oval, Lincoln and competitive products, it shifts quickly enough and is certainly smooth, plus it doesn’t hamper fuel economy as terribly as various brands’ marketing departments would have you believe. I love that Ford included paddle shifters with this big ute, something even some premium-branded three-row crossovers are devoid of yet standard with the more powerful engine (they replace the lesser engine’s “Shifter Button Activation” on the gear knob), yet the Flex is hardly short on features, especially in its top-tier Limited model.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
LED taillights come standard, but the gloss-black rear appliqué is part of the Appearance package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I’d recommend leaving manual mode alone if you want to achieve the best fuel economy, however, but even the most potent V6 on the Flex menu does reasonably well at 15.7 L/100km city, 11.2 highway and 13.7 combined, at least when compared to similarly powered SUVs. It’s not much worse than the base engine either, with the AWD version going through an estimated 14.7 L/100km in the city, 10.7 on the highway and 12.9 combined, and the FWD model slurping back 14.7 city, 10.2 highway and 12.7 combined.

The Flex continues to be available in base SE, mid-range SEL and top-level Limited trim lines for the 2019 model year, with the majority still not spoken for being SELs (but don’t worry, there are plenty of SE and Limited models still around too). According to CarCostCanada, where you can find all pricing and feature information about most vehicles sold into the Canadian market, the Flex starts at $32,649 (plus freight and fees) for the SE with front-wheel drive (FWD), $39,649 for the SEL with FWD, $41,649 for the SEL with AWD, and $46,449 for the Limited that comes standard with AWD. All trim lines include the base engine, but for an additional $6,800 those opting for the Limited model can access the more formidable turbo-V6 (take note that other features are thrown in for this price too).

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex’s interior was impressively refined for 2009, but despite a number of updates it’s now showing its age. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This means, for a retail price of $53,249 before adding any other features, you get a 2019 Flex Limited Ecoboost AWD that comes well equipped with all of the performance upgrades mentioned plus standard 19-inch silver-painted alloys on 235/55 all-season tires, HID headlights, fog lamps, LED taillights, a satin-aluminum grille, chromed exterior door handles, stainless steel bright beltline mouldings, a satin aluminum liftgate appliqué, a powered liftgate, bright dual exhaust tips, power-folding heatable side mirrors with memory feature and security approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sensors, and that’s only on the outside.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex cockpit has long been well organized, and its generous assortment of features in top-line Limited trim makes for a luxurious family hauler. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You can use remote engine start to warm things up or cool them down before even entering the Flex Limited, plus proximity-sensing access (or Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keypad) to get inside, pushbutton ignition to keep things running, Ford MyKey to keep things secure when valets or your kids are at the wheel, while additional interior features include illuminated entry with theatre dimming lighting, a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with a genuine hardwood inlay, Yoho maple wood grain appearance appliqués, power-adjustable foot pedals with memory, perforated leather upholstery on the first- and second-row seats, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, a six-way powered front passenger seat, heatable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, ambient interior lighting with seven colours including default Ice Blue plus soft blue, blue, green, purple, orange and red, plus Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, a great sounding 12-speaker Sony audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, dual USB charging ports (in the front console bin), dual-zone automatic climate control, rear manual HVAC controls, four 12-volt power points, a 110-volt household-style three-prong power outlet, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross-Traffic Alert, and more.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Ford was far ahead of its time when introducing the Flex’s dual-screen instrument cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For such an old vehicle the Flex appears right up to date when it comes to electronics due to its Cockpit Integrated Display that houses two bright, colour, high-resolution TFT displays within the primary gauge cluster (it was way ahead of its time) while the just noted Sync 3 infotainment system is nothing to sneeze at either, thanks to a large graphically stimulating and highly functional touchscreen with ultra-fast capability and excellent usability, the functions including extremely accurate optional navigation and a very good standard backup camera with active guidelines (but an overhead 360-degree surround view camera is not available), plus standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, the ability to add more apps, plus much more.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex’s centre stack s well organized and packed full of features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Over and above the list of standard Limited features it’s possible to add a $3,200 301A package that includes a heatable steering wheel rim, really comfortable 10-way powered front seats with three-way ventilation, adaptive cruise control, Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, and Active Park Assist semi-autonomous parking capability, but take note that all 301A features already come standard with the more potent engine, as does a unique set of 20-inch polished alloys, an engine block heater, a power-adjustable steering column, and a one-touch 50/50-split power-folding third row with tailgate seating.

You might have noticed that my tester’s wheels are hardly polished alloys, or at least they’re not silver, the glossy black 20-inch rims included as part of a $900 Appearance package that also adds a gloss-black exterior treatment to the centre grille bar, side mirror caps, and liftgate appliqué, plus Agate Black paint to the roof pillars and rooftop, while the interior gets a unique leather-wrapped steering wheel with Meteorite Black bezels, an exclusive graphic design on the instrument panel and door-trim appliqués, special leather seat upholstery with Light Earth Gray inserts and Dark Earth Gray bolsters, and floor mats with unique logo.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Navigation is a standalone option, even with the top-tier Limited model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My tester’s multi-panel Vista panoramic sunroof has always been a standalone option for $1,750, while it’s still strange to see its voice-activated navigation system (with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link) as an individual add-on (nav systems are almost always bundled into top-tier models), while the glossy black roof rails can also be individually added for only $130, but take note you can get the roof rails (also in silver) as part of a $600 Cargo Versatility package that also combines the otherwise $500 Class III Trailer Tow package (good for up to 4,500 lbs or 2,041 kilos of trailer weight) with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats (otherwise a $150 standalone option) for a much more utile SUV.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Despite its years, the Flex’s dual-zone climate control interface is state-of-the-art thanks to touch-sensitive switchgear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’ve listed everything available with my tester, you can also add a refrigerated centre console for $650, or upgrade the otherwise 60/40-split second row bench seat to captain’s chairs with a centre console for just $150 (although I prefer the standard bench seat because its 40-percent section auto-folds from the rear in all trims), while $250 inflatable second-row seatbelts improve rear passenger safety, and a dual-screen rear entertainment system will add $2,100 to the bottom line.

Now that I’ve covered all of the Limited trim’s features, many of which are pulled up from base SE and mid-range SEL trims, it’s important to mention that the Flex cabin isn’t quite as refined as what you might find in the new 2020 Explorer, for instance. This said, I remember how blown away I was with its refinement when it came out, which just goes to show how far Ford and all other carmakers have come since 2009. The new Edge, for instance, which I recently tested in top-line trim, is probably better than the older Lincoln MKX, now replaced by the impressive Nautilus, whereas this Flex’s interior is a lot like the previous Edge inside.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
These upgraded 10-way powered seats, with heated and cooled cushions, are extremely comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It gets the big, clunky, hard plastic rocker switches for the powered locks instead of the more sophisticated electronic buttons, and certainly has a lower grade of hard composites throughout the interior than more recently redesigned Ford SUVs. Then again its dash-top features a nice soft-touch surface treatment, as do the door uppers front to back, while the door inserts get the cool graphic inserts noted earlier along with nice, large padded armrests.

All said, interior space might possibly be this SUV’s most noteworthy attribute, the Flex getting its name for its combination of minivan-like seating and cargo storage capability. First, let’s get real about overall space. The Flex’s maximum load carrying capacity of 2,355 litres (83.1 cubic feet) when both rear rows are folded flat pales in comparison to the old Ford Freestar minivan’s 3,885 litres (137.2 cu ft) of total cargo volume, but it’s good as far as three-row SUVs go. The Flex provides 42 more litres (1.5 cu ft) of maximum storage than the old 2019 Explorer, for instance, which is one of the largest SUVs in its class. Then again, the 2020 Explorer manages a maximum of 2,486 litres (87.8 cu ft) with its two rear rows folded, which beats both older utes.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex’s optional multi-pane panoramic Vista sunroof really adds to its visual size when inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The rear hatch powers open to expose 426 litres (15.0 cu ft) of dedicated cargo space behind the third row, which is actually 169 litres (6.0 cu ft) shy of the outgoing Explorer, but drop the second row down and the Flex almost matches the Explorer’s available capacity perfectly with 1,224 litres (43.2 cu ft) compared to 1,240 litres (43.8 cu ft). A handy feature mentioned earlier allows the third row to be folded in the opposite direction for tailgate parties, but you’ll need to make sure the headrests are extended as they might uncomfortable otherwise.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The second-row is large, comfortable and can be swapped out for captain’s chairs with a centre console. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Total passenger volume is 4,412 litres (155.8 cu ft), which means every seating position is roomy and comfortable. Really, even third row legroom is good, while headroom is generous due to a tall roofline and the Flex’s width makes sure no one feels claustrophobic. The open-airiness of the panoramic sunroof really helps in this respect too, and its three-pane design is also smart because it provides the structural rigidity such a large vehicle like this needs. Thoughtful features I really like include the massive bottle holders in the rear door panels, which are really useful for drive-thru excursions, especially considering the grippy cupholders in the centre armrest are a bit on the small side.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Ford doesn’t sell a minivan, so the Flex’s rear seats needed to fit large teens and adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As you can probably tell, I have a soft spot for this unorthodox box of an SUV, and appreciate Ford for having the courage to build it in the first place. While it’s old and feels a bit dated inside especially, plus is missing some features I’d appreciate having such as rear outboard seat heaters and USB ports in the back, it’s hard to knock its value proposition when factoring in the potential savings. Of course, choosing this old SUV when it’s parked next to a new 2020 Explorer will be difficult, but a similarly equipped version of the latter SUV will set you back another $10k before the aforementioned discount, while Ford is only offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on this newer vehicle (which is still pretty impressive). That’s a difference of more than $13k, so therefore choosing a fully loaded Flex might be ideal for those on more of a luxury budget.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The third row can be powered down via buttons on the cargo wall. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before the COVID-19 outbreak I would have recommended rushing to your dealer in order to make sure you get one of the last remaining new Flex SUVs before they’re all gone, and while they will certainly disappear in due time you’ll probably need to deal with your Ford retailer digitally these days. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to do your homework first before making the call, so be sure to visit the 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, where you can check out all the trims and pricing, plus see if there have been any updates regarding manufacturer discounts, rebates and/or financing/leasing packages, while a membership to CarCostCanada will also provide otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing (the price the dealer actually pays the manufacturer), which will give you the best chance possible to negotiate a great deal. Your Ford retailer will have your Flex prepared (while wearing hazmat suits, masks and gloves no doubt), after which you can simply pick it up at your convenience.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Shown here with most of its rear seats folded, the Flex provides a lot of potential cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So if this oddball SUV is as special to you as it is to me, I recommend taking advantage of the great model ending deals to be had. It might be an old entry amongst a plethora of seemingly more enticing new offerings, but keep in mind that its moderate popularity means that it’s remained fairly fresh despite its years (you won’t see many driving around the corner toward you or parked beside you at the mall), while its decade of availability and well-proven mechanicals make certain that reliability will be better average.

Well, I’ve done my cursory scan of Toyota Canada dealer websites, and yes in fact there are new 2019 Prius Prime models available in most provinces. This means you can still get some great discounts…

2019 Toyota Prius Prime Road Test

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius Prime offers dramatic styling that differentiates it from regular Prius models. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Well, I’ve done my cursory scan of Toyota Canada dealer websites, and yes in fact there are new 2019 Prius Prime models available in most provinces. This means you can still get some great discounts at the retail level, plus Toyota is offering zero-percent factory leasing and financing for the 2019 model, compared to a best of 2.99 percent for the 2020. 

Like always I found this gem of info at CarCostCanada, where you can also study up on most brands and models available including the car on this page that’s found on their 2019 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page, the newer version found on their 2020 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page, or you can search out a key competitor like Hyundai’s latest entry found on the 2019 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page or 2020 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page (the former offering zero-percent factory leasing and financing, albeit the latter not quite as good at 3.49 percent). CarCostCanada also provides information about manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing, allowing you to arrive at the dealership well equipped to work out the best deal possible.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Possibly the Prime’s most distinctive visual feature is a concave roof, rear window and integrated rear lip spoiler. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If your lease is expiring amidst the COVID-19 outbreak we’re all currently enduring, or you just need a new vehicle, most dealerships are still running with full or partial staff, but the focus these days is more on service than sales. It’s not like you can go on a test drive or even sit in a car, but those wanting to take advantage of end-of-model-year deals or special financing/lease rates should try purchasing online, after which your local dealer will prep the vehicle and hand over the keys, while wearing gloves no doubt.

Being that we’re so far into the 2020 calendar year, let alone the 2020 model year, let’s talk about all the improvements made to the 2020 Prius Prime so you can decide whether to save on a 2019 or pay a little more for a 2020. For a bit of background, Toyota redesigned the regular Prius into this current fourth-generation model for the 2016 model year and added the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Prime variant for 2017. The standard hybrid version received a fairly extensive refresh for 2019 that cleaned up its styling for more mainstream appeal, which incidentally didn’t affect the car being reviewed here, but that said the 2020 Prius Prime has been given some significant updates that we’ll overview now.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
LED headlights, driving lights and fog lamps make this Prime Upgrade model stand out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For reasons I can’t quite explain, early Prius Primes came standard with gloss white interior trim on the steering wheel and shifter surround, which stood in stark contrast to the glossy black plastic everywhere else. What’s more, they fixed a large centre console between the rear outboard seats that reduced seating to four for 2019, a problem now remedied for 2020 so that the new Prime can carry five. Both issues made me wonder whether or not Toyota’s design team wasn’t initially taking notes on Chevy’s first-gen Volt, and by doing so had decided that shiny white interior plastic and a fixed rear centre console were prerequisites for plug-in hybrids. Fortunately, the Volt’s design team chose to go all black and remove the rear centre console for its second-generation design (that was much too closely aligned to the Chevy Cruze and has since been discontinued along with its non-electrified gasoline/diesel-fed platform mate), and as it appears the interior design team at Toyota followed Chevy’s lead with the same deletions for the updated 2020 Prius Prime.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
As far as Prius alloy wheels go, this set is pretty sharp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additional 2020 updates include standard Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, sunvisor extenders, and a new easier-to-access switchgear location for the seat warmer toggles, plus two new standard USB-A ports for rear passengers.

Trims don’t change going into 2020, with the base model once again being joined by Upgrade trim, the latter of which can be improved upon by a Technology package. According to CarCostCanada, the base price for both model years is set to $32,990 plus freight and fees, but take note that Toyota now throws in a tonneau/cargo cover for free, something that used to be part of the Technology package, thus reducing the latter package’ price from $3,125 to $3,000. This isn’t the only price that goes down for 2020, however. In fact, the Upgrade trim’s price tag drops $455 from $35,445 to $34,990, for reasons they don’t explain.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
This photo shows the unique concave rear window well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Prius Prime’s Upgrade trim adds a 4.6-inch larger 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation (that replaces the Scout GPS Link service and its three-year subscription), wireless phone charging, Softex breathable leatherette upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat (that replaces the six-way manual seat used in the base model), illuminated entry with a step lamp, a special smart charging lid, plus proximity-sensing keyless access for the front passenger’s door and rear hatch handle (it comes standard for the driver’s door), but take note the move to Upgrade trim deletes the Safety Connect system including its Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance program (three-year subscription).

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Prepare yourself for an interior that’s a lot more premium-like than past Prius models. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Technology package included with my tester adds fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, a really handy head-up display, an always welcome auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink remote garage door opener, a great sounding 10-speaker JBL audio system, helpful front clearance parking sensors, semi-self-parking, blindspot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

It would be low hanging fruit to insert a joke right now about the need for blindspot monitoring and the equal requirement of watching your mirrors in a car that produces a mere 121 net horsepower and an unspecified amount of torque, not to mention an electronic continuously variable automatic (CVT) that’s hardly sporty, all of which might cause traffic to zip past as if it was standing still, but like with all hybrids the Prime isn’t as slow as its engine specifications suggest. Electric torque is immediate, needing no time to spool up revs like an internal combustion engine, and while all-wheel drive isn’t available with this plug-in Prius, the front wheels hook up well off the line for acceleration that’s more than adequate when taking off from stoplights, merging onto highways and passing large, slow moving highway trucks.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
There is nothing quite like a Prius inside, thanks to a unique assortment of digital displays enhanced by an optional head-up display. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Prime is also quite capable through the corners, but like it’s non-plug-in Prius sibling it’s set up more for comfort than speed, with very good ride quality considering its low rolling resistance tires. What’s more, its extremely tight turning circle made it manoeuvrable in confined parking spaces. This is exactly the way most Prius owners want their car to behave, because optimizing fuel economy is the end game, after all. To that end the 2019 Prius Prime has an exceptionally good Transport Canada rating of 4.3 L/100km in the city, 4.4 on the highway and 4.3 combined, compared to 4.4 city, 4.6 highway and 4.4 combined for the regular Prius, and 4.5, 4.9 and 4.7 respectively for the AWD version. Of course, the Prime is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) so you could theoretically drive solely on electric power if you had the patience and practical ability to recharge it every 40 kilometres or so, which is its claimed EV range.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
This long, narrow digital gauge cluster is slanted toward the driver. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Possibly an even greater asset is the ability to park the Prime at coveted charging stations that are almost always right next to the doors of shopping malls and other facilities. Better yet, with appropriate stickers attached to the rear bumper you can use the much faster HOV lane on your way home during rush hour traffic when alone.

Toyota follows up the Prime’s comfort-oriented luxury driving experience with a cabin that’s actually quite refined as well. Below and between a set of fabric-wrapped A pillars, the Prime gets a soft-touch dash top and instrument panel, including a sound-absorbing soft-painted composite under the windscreen, plus soft-touch front door uppers, padded door inserts front to back, and nicely furnished armrests. Toyota added some attractive metallic and piano black lacquered detailing across the instrument panel, the latter blending nicely into the extra-large optional 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen display at centre (which as noted replaces the base model’s 7.0-inch display in Upgrade trim).

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
How’s this for a digital map? The Prius’ available 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen is really impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Before I delve into that, each Prius Prime gets an ultra-wide albeit somewhat narrow digital gauge cluster up on the dash top in the centre position, but it’s canted towards the driver with most primary functions closer to the driver than passenger, so it feels a little more driver-centric than in past versions, and certainly didn’t cause me any problem. In fact, I found it easy to glance at without having to take my eyes fully from the road, and it’s a nice gauge cluster to look at too, thanks to attractive graphics with rich colours, deep contrasts, and crisp resolution. When upgrading to the aforementioned Technology package it’s complemented by a monochromatic head-up display that can be positioned for driver height. It places key info directly ahead of the driver for optimal visibility.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
I’ve always loved the blue-patterned shift knob, but I’ll be glad to see the glossy white interior trim gone for 2020. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to the big vertical centre touchscreen, it really makes a grand statement upon entry, mimicking Tesla in some respects. It was easy to use, and featured a wonderfully large, near full-screen navigation map, while the bottom half of the screen can be temporarily used for other commands via a pop-up interface.

That Softex pleather mentioned a moment ago is actually quite nice, and truly breathes better than most synthetic hides. The driver’s seat is extremely comfortable with good lower back support that’s enhanced via two-way powered lumbar adjustment, while the side bolsters are really impressive too. The tilt and telescopic steering column also gave me ample reach, so therefore I was able to get comfortable and feel in control of the car, which hasn’t always been the case with Toyota products.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
These top-line Softex-covered seats were extremely comfortable and very supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The steering wheel rim is pleather-wrapped too, and wonderfully soft, while it also features a heatable rim that was oh so appreciated during winter testing. The switchgear on the two side spokes was high in quality, which can be said for the rest of the car’s buttons, knobs and switches too. The quick access buttons around the outside of the infotainment system are touch-sensitive, which is a nice “touch,” sorry for the pun. Speaking of touch, I still love the electric blue digital-style shift knob that’s always been part of the Prius experience. All in all, this latest, greatest Prius is a high quality product from front to back.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The rear seating area gets comfortable buckets split by a fixed centre console. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Toyota doesn’t go so far as to wrap the rear door uppers in soft-touch synthetic, but the rest of the rear cabin is finished just as nicely as that up front. This even goes for the aforementioned centre console fixed between the two rear seats, which includes some nice piano black lacquer around the cupholders as well as a comfortable centre armrest sitting atop a storage bin below. I noted its removal as a bonus for the 2020 model, but if you don’t have kids or grandchildren to shuttle, it’s a very nice feature that rear passengers will certainly appreciate. On this note, I was surprised to find individual rear buckets in back, this giving the car a much more premium look and feel than others in the class. There’s plenty of space to stretch out back there too, both for legroom and headroom, while thanks to good lower back support I was thoroughly comfortable as well. Additionally, Toyota includes a vent on the sides of each seat, which helps to cool off the rear passenger area nicely.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
A charge cord is provided under the cargo floor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The cargo compartment is wide and spacious, although it’s fairly shallow due to the large battery positioned below the load floor. There’s also a small covered storage area complete with a portable charging cord hiding below the rearmost portion of that floor. The rear seats fold forward in the usual 60/40 configuration, but they sit quite a bit lower than the cargo floor so it’s not a completely flat surface. Such are some compromises often made when choosing a plug-in electric vehicle, although this point in mind the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, the Prime’s closest competitor now that the Volt is gone, didn’t have this problem (it’s cargo floor sits a bit lower than its folded rear seatbacks, which incline slightly as with most cars in this class).

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
A large battery is mounted below the cargo floor, making it higher than the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when folded down. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Now that I’m grumbling (although that wasn’t much of a complaint), I will never understand why the Prius has always had a beeping signal inside the car when reversing. It can only be heard from within the car, which makes it one of the strangest features ever created for any car, and serves absolutely no purpose. I mean, if you’re not aware enough to know that you put your car into reverse then you really shouldn’t be behind the wheel. The need for a beeping signal to remind when you’re in reverse is absolutely silly, and in fact it audibly interferes with the parking sensor beep, which goes off at the same time. Please, Toyota, rectify this ridiculous feature once and for all. Now that was a decent grumble.

Of course, the annoying reverse beeper hasn’t stopped the Prius from becoming the world’s best-selling hybrid-electric vehicle, and this latest incarnation fully deserves to wear the coveted blue and silver nameplate, whether in regular, AWD or PHEV form.

After first driving the all-new 2019 Mazda3, I would’ve immediately said it was by far the best car in its compact segment. Then the new 2020 Toyota Corolla arrived, and while the Mazda3 might still…

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT FWD and AWD Road Test

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The new Mazda3 Sport look fabulous, especially in top-line GT trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

After first driving the all-new 2019 Mazda3, I would’ve immediately said it was by far the best car in its compact segment. Then the new 2020 Toyota Corolla arrived, and while the Mazda3 might still nudge it out of the way for tops in class in my books, it no longer holds such an obvious lead.

Of course, sales numbers and what I find most appealing don’t always correlate, the Honda Civic leading this category in deliveries by a country mile. In fact, the Civic is the best-selling car in Canada and has been for years. Even after losing 12.8 percent in year-over-year 2019 sales it still managed to top 60,000 (60,139 to be exact) units, while the Corolla was second after a 2.5 percent year-over-year loss with 47,596 sales, the Hyundai Elantra was third after a 5.5 percent downturn resulting in 39,463 deliveries, and the Mazda3 you see on this page, along with its four-door sibling, was fourth after a surprising 20.4 percent drop to 21,276 units.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Red or grey? FWD or AWD? Manual or automatic? So many choices, but one great car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

There are many others in this class too, Volkswagen’s Golf coming close to beating the 3 with 19,668 unit sales after an 8.4 percent dip, but to be fair to VW we need to lump its 17,260 Jetta deliveries into the mix after a gain of 14.1 percent, for a total of 36,928 VeeDub units and an effective fourth place, while Kia’s Forte also gained 8.0 percent for 15,549 unit sales. I won’t go into detail about the segment’s sub-10k competitors, but will say some, including Chevy’s Cruze and Ford’s Focus, have called it quits whereas Nissan’s Sentra, with just 7,719 units sold, probably should (although I haven’t driven the new one yet so we’ll need to wait and see if it’s got what it takes to break away from the bottom-feeder crowd).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The Mazda3 Sport certainly doesn’t come up short on styling. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Pulling the outgoing Sentra up beside any recent Mazda3 makes the Nissan look rather dowdy, but such is the case for comparing a car that hadn’t been significantly updated for seven years with one that’s been regularly redesigned, the last time being this very model year. I don’t want to make this review a hatchet job on the past Nissan Sentra, however, because a new one is coming and we’ll see how well it stacks up after testing. Still, I can’t believe Nissan will make the massive leap forward necessary in a single generation for the Sentra to measure up to the best in this class, which in my opinion is the Mazda3.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Mazda offers a variety of wheel upgrades that really make the 3 stand out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So why am I writing a review about a 2019 model so far into the 2020 calendar year? That’s easy, as there are plenty of new 2019s still available throughout Canada in every trim. I don’t specifically know why this is the case. Possibly Mazda Canada didn’t expect the 20-plus percent downturn in sales last calendar year and therefore overestimated their allocation, but you should take advantage of any savings nonetheless, because the 2020 Mazda3 hasn’t changed very much in either four-door sedan or hatchback body style. I’m covering the five-door Sport model in this review and will write another review of the sedan shortly. For this review I’ve tested two top-line GT trims in both front- and all-wheel drive, so I’ll cover most of the important issues, particularly what it’s like to drive the new i-Activ AWD system.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
LED headlights come standard across the line, while adaptive cornering capability is standard with the GT. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Regarding potential discounts for a 2019 Mazda3 Sport, CarCostCanada is reporting up to $1,000 in additional incentives without haggling, compared to $750 with the 2020. That’s not a lot, but I’m guessing you’ll be able to negotiate a larger discount if you have all the information you need to do so. This in mind, a CarCostCanada membership will provide access to dealer invoice pricing, so you’ll know exactly how much the dealer paid for the car you’re negotiating on. This could save you thousands with or without a trade, plus CarCostCanada also provides info about the latest manufacturer rebates. Make sure to check them out before you visit the dealership.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The GT comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to the car in question, the five-door Sport model is mechanically identical to the Mazda3 sedan despite its performance-oriented name, which gives it both 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre SkyActiv engines, the first good for 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque and the upgrade making 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions standard and optional across the entire lineup (even in top-line GT trim, which is a bonus for performance fans), the former a slick-shifting relatively short-throw gearbox with a nice, easy, evenly weighted clutch take-up, and the latter providing manual-shift capabilities including paddle shifters in GT trim, while both transmissions come with a drive mode selector featuring a very responsive Sport setting. i-Activ AWD is only available with the automatic, incidentally.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
These great looking 18-inch rims add a level of sporty sophistication to the near-premium Mazda3. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For 2020, the Mazda3 Sport GT comes standard with proximity-sensing keyless entry, which was previously part of the optional Premium package that my 2019 test car includes. The Premium package adds a more stylish frameless rearview mirror for 2020, plus satin chrome trim throughout the cabin, although this 2019 model certainly wasn’t devoid of the latter.

For 2019, trims include the base GX starting at $21,300 plus freight and fees, the mid-range GS from $24,000, and the top-line GT from $25,900, with the 2.0-litre engine found only in the base model and 2.5 standard in GS and GT trims. The automatic transmission costs an extra $1,300 across the line, while i-Activ AWD adds $1,700 over and above the price of automatic-equipped models.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The LED taillight design was certainly influenced by the MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Both direct-injection, 16-valve, dual-overhead cam engines are given Mazda’s trademark SkyActiv name, but only the larger mill features segment-exclusive cylinder deactivation, while both can run on regular fuel, the former claimed to achieve a Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 8.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.8 combined with its most efficient 2.0-litre four connected to the base manual transmission, or 8.6 city, 6.7 highway and 7.7 combined when the same engine is mated to the automatic. Alternatively, the 2.5-litre four is said to be capable of 9.2 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 8.1 combined with its manual gearbox, 9.0 city, 6.8 highway and 8.0 combined with its automatic, or 9.8, 7.4 and 8.7 with its auto when mated to AWD.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
While the red car features a more traditional black interior, this black and red combination looks fantastic. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Considering the power advantage, the top-line engine doesn’t give up much in economy. Of course, if you choose to use most of its power all the time you won’t be able to meet the claimed numbers, but I only flogged my two weeklong loaners for short testing purposes despite the spirited performance offered by the 2.5-litre four. As luck would have it, the red FWD model with the black interior came with the six-speed manual, and the grey AWD car with the red interior featured its standard six-speed auto with paddles, allowing me a nearly complete driving experience when it comes to the GT model.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 12-speaker Bose audio system in the GT features these gorgeous drilled aluminum speaker grilles. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

First off, both models provide excellent driver ergonomics, which isn’t always the case in this compact class or higher. The driver’s seat, which is 10-way-powered including lumbar support in GS and GT trims when their respective Luxury and Premium packages are added, is wholly comfortable with decent lateral support and very good lower back support. Even more important for me is a tilt and telescopic steering column that provides excellent reach, due to my longer legs and shorter torso. Fortunately the Mazda3’s wheel can actually be pulled rearward more than necessary, which allows for ideal driver positioning regarding comfort and control.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
What do you think? Black or … (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The rear seating area is comfortable and spacious too. Headroom is good, with about three and a half inches of airspace left above my head, about four ahead of my knees, and plenty of space to put my feet underneath the driver seat when it was set up for my five-foot-eight frame. Likewise, I had about four inches between my left hip and shoulder to the door panel, which was certainly enough, plus there’s enough room to seat three average-sized adults in back, but I’d rather not have someone larger than a child in the middle on a longer trip.

Speaking of three being a crowd, Mazda includes a wide folding centre armrest with dual integrated cupholders too, but the 3 Sport doesn’t include a lot of extras in the rear seating area, such as overhead reading lights, vents on the backside of the centre console or anywhere else, USB charging ports or any other type of device charger, or for that matter heated seats.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
…. red? The latter sure catches the eye. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The cargo compartment was definitely spacious enough for my needs. It’s nicely carpeted all the way up the sidewalls and of course the backs of each 60/40 folding seat, which unfortunately don’t offer a centre pass-through (as is the case with most competitors). The hard shell carpeted cargo cover is easy to remove, and needs to be flipped upside down on the cargo floor or shoved behind the front seats to store, while the 3 provides 569 litres of dedicated storage behind the rear seatbacks or 1,334 when they’re fully folded.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The steering wheel is a thing of beauty, and very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While we’re inside, I should talk about some key Mazda3 attributes, interior quality and refinement. The theme is minimalist, albeit impressively finished for the class. In fact, few mainstream volume-branded compact models come as close to delivering a premium product. The 3’s entire dash top and all door uppers are finished in a higher grade of padded composite than usual, while the instrument panel and door panels just below are covered in an even plusher stitched leatherette, one of my testers’ interiors even dyed in a rich crimson red to match its perforated leather upholstery.

I’ve liked the newest Mazda3 since first testing it in the aforementioned sedan body style, particularly the horizontal dash design theme that’s visually strengthened by a bright metal strip of trim spanning the entire instrument panel from door to door. It cuts right through the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, and provides a clean and tidy lower framing of the vents both left and right. This top-line model adds more brushed metal, including beautifully drilled aluminum speaker grilles plus plenty of satin-aluminized trim elsewhere. Mazda continues its near-premium look and feel by wrapping the front door uppers in the same high-quality cloth as the roofliner.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
A new 7.0-inch partially digital display modernizes the 3’s gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Framed by a lovely leather-clad sport steering wheel, the rim held in place by stylishly thin spokes endowed with high-quality metallic and composite switchgear, the primary instrument cluster is a mix of outer analogue dials and inner digital functionality, organized into Mazda’s traditional three-gauge layout. The speedometer is at centre, and therefore part of the larger 7.0-inch screen that doubles as a multi-information display. It’s not as fully featured as some in the industry, but it certainly serves its purpose well.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The narrow display limits the size of the camera, but it’s high in quality and generously equipped. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The 8.8-inch centre display is a tablet-style design sitting wide and low, yet due to a narrow profile it makes for a relatively small screen compared to most currently on the market. This will either be a positive or a negative depending on how much you like big screen infotainment, or not, and only required some extra attention paid to the backup camera when reversing. The camera is nice and clear with a high resolution, while active guidelines are provided, but it’s a bit on the small side.

The rest of its functions work very well, with Mazda once again going with a white on black background for the majority of interface panels, except of course navigation which is bright and colourful, as is the satellite radio display that shows attractive station graphics. The system is solely controlled by a rotating dial on the lower console, which once again gives the car a more premium look and feel than the mainstream segment’s usual touchscreen centre display, but I would’ve appreciated the ability to also tap, swipe and pinch the screen for various functions. Nevertheless, I was able to do most things easily with this infotainment system, including connecting my smartphone via Android Auto (Apple CarPlay is also included).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The Mazda3’s switchgear is very high in quality, as is most everything else in the impressive cabin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I should probably itemize everything in the previously-noted upgrade packages, the GS trim’s Luxury package featuring the 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory mentioned earlier, plus leatherette upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a powered glass moonroof with a manual-sliding sunshade, whereas the GT comes standard with the auto-dimming centre mirror and moonroof while being available with a Premium package that exchanges the faux leather upholstery for real hides and including the power/memory driver’s seat, plus it links the exterior mirrors to the memory seat while adding auto-dimming to the driver’s side.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The infotainment system is operated by this rotating dial and surrounding buttons. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additional GT Premium package features include 18-inch alloy wheels in a black metallic finish, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless entry, a windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display (ADD) (a.k.a. head-up display), rear parking sensors, a HomeLink wireless garage door opener, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with a complimentary three-month trial subscription), SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (with a complimentary five-year trial subscription), the aforementioned navigation system, Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems including Smart Brake Support Rear (SBS-R) that automatically stops the car if it detects something in the way (like a curb, wall or lighting standard), and Smart Brake Support Rear Crossing (SBS-RC) that does the same albeit after detecting a car or (hopefully) a pedestrian, these last two features complementing the Smart Brake Support (SBS) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) automatic emergency braking from the GS, plus that mid-range model’s Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), forward-sensing Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), High Beam Control System (HBC), and last but hardly least, Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. Incidentally, the base GX model features standard Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), meaning the occupants of a Mazda3 GT with its Premium package are as wholly protected as in any luxury branded alternative.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 3 GT’s 10-way powered driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I could go on and on talking about GX, GS and GT features, such as the GX trim’s standard LED headlamps, LED taillights, LED interior lighting front and rear, pushbutton ignition, electromechanical parking brake, three-way heatable front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, SMS text message reading/responding capability, and more, plus I really appreciated the sunglasses holder in the overhead console that comes standard in the GS, which protected the lenses of my Ray-Bans thanks to its soft felt lining, not to mention the GS model’s auto on/off headlights (the base model only shuts them off), rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, two-zone auto HVAC, and heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim (I love this feature in the depths of winter).

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The red leather seats really make the Mazda3 Sport’s interior pop! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The GT’s standard Adaptive (cornering) Front-lighting System (AFS) with automatic levelling and signature highlights front and back made for clear night vision, plus its upgraded 12-speaker Bose audio system provided excellent sound quality, and the 18-inch alloys on 215/45 all-season rubber were no doubt an improvement through the corners when compared to the GX and GS models’ 205/60R16 all-season tires on 16-inch alloys, the fact that Mazda doesn’t offer steel wheels with covers like most of its rivals being a bonus nevertheless.

Speaking of wheels and tires, the sportier Mazda3 GT produces a slightly firmer ride than the two lesser trims, but it certainly never felt rough. On the positive it handles sublimely, always feeling stable and in control despite its rather remedial front strut and rear torsion beam suspension setup, the aforementioned 2020 Corolla, the Civic and others coming standard with fully independent chassis designs.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
Rear seat roominess is good, and the level of quality is just like the front seating area. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additionally, the more potent 2.5-litre engine provided a lot of get-up-and-go, while its Sport mode made a significant difference in performance off the line and during passing manoeuvres. The automatic’s manual mode only requires the flick of the shift lever to engage, while as previously noted Mazda provides the GT with shift paddles on the steering wheel that work best when manual mode is chosen, but they’re not needed in order to change gears. Then again, the manual shifts so nicely you may want to save $1,300 and swap cogs on your own, which would be my preference being that I don’t commute daily.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
The 3 allows for a lot of cargo when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are upright … (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The AWD system, incidentally, makes response off the line immediate with zero to very little front wheel slip, which isn’t the case with the FWD version, particularly in wet weather. I also noted more high-speed control in both wet and dry conditions with the AWD car around corners, although I must say that my manual-equipped FWD tester provided its own level of control that an automatic simply can’t match when really pushing hard. I’d personally go with AWD, however, just to save me the hassle of chaining up on my way to the ski hill or when traveling up country mid-winter, as I’m sure this feature would turn the Mazda3 into a little mountain goat when matched with a good set of winter tires.

2019 Mazda3 Sport GT
…. or all the way down. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

All in all the Mazda3 is a great driver’s car, as well constructed as many luxury-branded compacts, more than adequately filled with features, popular enough so that its resale value remains high, impressively reliable, and safe according to the IIHS that gave the U.S. version a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. Added to all this it’s one of the best looking models in the compact segment, once again providing a premium appearance that seems pricier than its reasonable window sticker proves. I can’t help but recommend the Mazda3 to anyone wanting an excellent compact car at a great value.

The Geneva Motor Show may have been cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China), but that hasn’t stopped automakers from making their big reveals…

Porsche reveals most powerful, fastest 911 Turbo S yet

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
The new 911 Turbo S is more powerful and much faster than its predecessor. (Photo: Porsche)

The Geneva Motor Show may have been cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China), but that hasn’t stopped automakers from making their big reveals online, and therefore Porsche has pulled out all the stops with the most exciting version of its all-new 992 yet.

The 2021 911 Turbo S just hit the web with a 61-horsepower bump over its much-revered 580-hp predecessor, which means it now makes a staggering 641-horsepower from an identically sized 3.8-litre six boosted by two VTG (variable turbine geometry) turbochargers. What’s more, the horizontally opposed engine also puts out an additional 37 lb-ft of torque for a total of 590, so be glad it comes standard with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive that can transfer up to 369 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels when required.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
New functional styling makes the upcoming Turbo S more aggressive looking. (Photo: Porsche)

The 3.8-litre turbo-six, which is based on the latest 911 Carrera engine generation, has been completely redesigned. It gets a new charge air-cooling system and new, larger VTG turbochargers in a symmetrical layout that feature electrically adjustable waste-gate flaps, while piezo injectors are said to significantly improve “responsiveness, power, torque, emissions, and revving ability.”

The standard gearbox is an upgraded Turbo-specific eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automated design, which allows for a shockingly quick sprint from standstill to 100 km/h in just 2.7 seconds, an improvement of 0.2 seconds over its predecessor, while zero to 200 km/h arrives in a scant 8.9 seconds, this being a full second faster than the outgoing Turbo S.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
The new Turbo S will be available in Coupe and Cabriolet body styles. (Photo: Porsche)

To put the new 911 Turbo S into perspective, it’s a tenth of a second quicker from zero to 100 km/h than the current GT2 RS (soon to be replaced by one based on the new 992), a 700-horsepower monster. Those choosing the new 911 Turbo S Cabriolet will lose a tenth of a second in the other direction, but that makes the drop-top as quick as a GT2 RS, so it certainly hasn’t lost face in this regard. No doubt the convertible would be best for hearing the new sports exhaust system, which features adjustable flaps that promise the kind of distinctive sound only a Porsche flat-six can deliver.

An American performance spec worth noting is 10.5 seconds over the quarter mile on the drag strip, which is no small feat, while those lucky enough to test one out on the Autobahn will potentially be able to achieve a maximum speed of 330 km/h (205 mph) in either coupe or convertible model.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
The new Turbo S is wider and therefore should be even more stable than the previous version. (Photo: Porsche)

Hauling the Turbo S back down to reality are standard carbon-ceramic brakes with 10-piston front calipers, while control is further enhanced via a larger rear wing that, together with the pneumatically extendable front spoiler, delivers 15 percent more downforce than the outgoing model.

The new car is also wider than the outgoing 911 Turbo S by 45 mm (1.8 inches) above the front axle, measuring 1,840 mm (72.4 in) across, and 20 mm (0.7 inches) over the rear axle, spanning 1,900 mm (74.8 in), which should improve stability, while Porsche has tweaked its active suspension management system’s (PASM) software and hardware, lowering it by 10 mm (0.4 in) and providing “faster and more precisely controlled dampers,” stated Porsche in a press release, to enhance “roll stability, road holding, steering behaviour and cornering speeds.”

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Porsche has made many improvements to its latest 911 interior, and the Turbo S gets all these and more. (Photo: Porsche)

The numerous functional vents added to the Turbo S’ front fascia and rear fenders are more about engine and brake cooling, however, not to mention design aggression, with those added to the rear valance especially eye-catching. Additionally, special rectangular exhaust tips protrude from the outer edges of the black centre diffuser, while the entire Turbo S design gets rounded out by a set of staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear lightweight alloys wrapped in respective 255/35 and 315/30 Pirelli performance tires.

Inside, the new Turbo S is as livable as any other 911 and even more upscale thanks to a full leather interior with carbon trim and Light Silver accents, plus a GT sports steering wheel, a large 10.9-inch infotainment touchscreen at dash central, a newly integrated Porsche Track Precision app within that centre display that comes as part of the Sport Chrono package, a Bose surround-sound audio system, and leather-upholstered 18-way power-adjustable sport seats.

The new 911 Turbo S will be available to order in April of 2020, with deliveries expected later this year. Pricing for the 911 Turbo S coupe starts at $231,700 plus freight and fees, while the 911 Turbo S Cabriolet starts at $246,300. To order yours, contact your local Porsche retailer.

Until it arrives, enjoy the few videos Porsche supplied.

 

The new Porsche 911 Turbo S: The peak of driving emotion (2:28):

 

 

The all new Porsche 911 Turbo S. Relentless. (1:02):

 

 

Livestream: new Porsche 911 Turbo S Premiere (14:56):