Volvo Car Canada Ltd. delivered 7,102 vehicles in 2017 compared to 6,103 the year prior, which represents an increase of 16.4 percent. What’s more, with 668 vehicles sold in December compared to just 433 sales in the same month of 2016, deliveries are up 54.3 percent. In total, Volvo has enjoyed twenty-seven consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth.
“We are thrilled with the double-digit growth of the Volvo Canada brand in 2017,” said Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “The XC90 continued to account for our best-selling model, but sales of the all-new XC60 and its predecessor were also significant contributors to 2017 sales.”
The XC60 found 2,315 buyers in 2017 compared to 1,526 in 2016, representing a 51.7 percent year-over-year increase. This said the updated XC60 was only introduced last summer, which means a full 12 months of sales should result in a much bigger impact this year.
Deliveries of the S90 mid-size sedan were also strong throughout 2017 at 784 units, after Volvo delivered just 101 in 2016, but the former low number was only because the S90 arrived toward the end of the year. This said when combined with sales of the S80 it replaced, which totaled just 23 units in 2016, Volvo shows 532.2 percent growth in this segment alone.
It’s quite possible the XC60 and XC90’s combined market strength played a significant role in the new V90 mid-size wagon and its raised crossover-style V90 Cross Country sibling’s comparatively slow sales, which despite the latter becoming available in Q1 of 2017 and the former later in the year totaled just 444 units (103 for the V90 and 341 for the V90 CC) over the year. That’s roughly double 2016’s XC70 sales, which was the decade-old model replaced by the V90 CC last year, but the still long-in-tooth XC70 found 426 buyers the year prior, 513 in 2014, 624 in 2013, and steadily greater numbers in years past to the point that together with the long-gone V70 it sold 1,220 units in 2010.
When a completely new model (especially one that’s been very well received by the automotive press and customers alike) can’t even muster enough support to beat previous years’ sales of a very old predecessor it says a lot about the mid-size luxury wagon/wagon-crossover market on the whole. No wonder Audi dropped its once competitive A6 Avant and A6 Allroad in Canada, while Buick’s choice not to bring its stylish new 2018 Regal TourX north of the 49th appears to make sense as well. Still, the V90 and V90 CC improved on 2016 calendar year sales of its predecessor so it’s a narrow win for Volvo Canada, and there’s always 2018, a full year of availability, to improve its sales performance.
Ironically, other than the D-segment S60 and V60, which are yet to benefit from redesigns and therefore saw their sales dip 45.0 and 27.6 percent, from 657 and 627 units respectively in 2016 to 361 and 454 units last year, the only other model to falter in 2017 was the XC90 mid-size SUV that ushered in the brand’s metamorphosis, its 2,650 calendar year total falling from a recent high of 2,951 units in 2016, this due in part to availability of the aforementioned XC60, plus 2017 being the second year of this new generation and pent-up demand now ebbing.
Volvo wasn’t the only brand to experience an uptick in sales last year, the entire Canadian automotive industry having improved 4.6 percent over 2016, marking the eighth consecutive year of sales increases since 2009 and the first time more than 2 million units have been sold over a given calendar year.
Of note, out of 2,038,798 total vehicle sales, light truck sales, which include crossover SUVs, grew 8.7 percent to nearly 1.4 million units in 2017, while passenger car sales fell by 3.4 percent to about 640,000 deliveries, which was their lowest level since 1964 (hence some of the challenges with the V90 series).
This year-over-year growth came despite a tapering of sales in both November and December, which saw declines of 1.1 and 1.2 percent respectively. How this bodes for 2018 is anyone’s guess, although Volvo will probably still experience an upturn due to the entirely new XC40 subcompact SUV arriving in March, plus the redesigned S60 and V60/V60 Cross Country scheduled for summer’s end.
“With the arrival of the XC40 this March, and two more models launching in the second half of the year, our brand is poised to have a strong 2018,” added Lvovich. “We would like to thank our retailer network for their efforts and their commitment to customer satisfaction throughout the year.”
When the XC40 and D-segment models arrive later this this year, Volvo will have completely redesigned its entire model range and bolstered its ranks with a fresh new entry.
Along with a completely new brand-wide design language that’s been almost universally praised by industry pundits and customers alike, the Swedish automaker has one of the more innovative approaches to powertrains in the auto business. No matter the vehicle offered, the same fuel-efficient turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder gets installed, although when moving up through the trim lines it either gets additional supercharging to move performance from 258 horsepower to 316, or a plug-in hybrid system that cranks out 400 horsepower and can also drive about 50 km on pure electric propulsion alone.
On top of all this, Volvo’s interiors are some of the most luxurious in the premium sector, its new tablet-style infotainment system is winning awards for functionality and user-friendliness, its advanced driver assistance and active/passive safety systems are some of the most advanced available, its prices are very reasonable for what you get, and the list goes on.
Needless to say there are plenty of reasons backing up Volvo’s recent sales success.
Acura, Honda’s luxury division, topped 20,000 sales in Canada for the third consecutive calendar year in 2017, a solid effort that was given an image boost by the all-new NSX Sport Hybrid supercar and…
Acura, Honda’s luxury division, topped 20,000 sales in Canada for the third consecutive calendar year in 2017, a solid effort that was given an image boost by the all-new NSX Sport Hybrid supercar and a real shot in the arm by the refreshed 2017 MDX mid-size SUV, both having arrived partway through the previous year, while an upgraded 2018 TLX sedan that went on sale halfway through 2017 pushed the premium brand over the top.
Acura’s 20,299 2017 deliveries beat last year’s 20,227-unit total, although in a refreshingly honest Honda Canada Inc. (HCI) press release the brand’s parent company called this modest gain “relatively flat sales versus the previous year.” HCI was clearly proud of its combined Acura and Honda brand sales, however, with its 197,251 unit total showing an annual increase of six percent over the same 12 months in 2016, which resulted in an all-time annual sales record for the fourth consecutive year.
In a comparatively small way next to the 50,443 Honda CR-V deliveries in 2017, HCI’s total was nevertheless helped along by Acura’s top-selling RDX compact SUV that achieved its best-ever sales of 8,101 units despite being near the end of its current lifecycle. This marks six years of consecutive sales growth for the RDX, a vehicle that also managed an impressive second in sales volume out of 17 competitive nameplates, only beaten by Audi’s redesigned Q5 that broke five figures at 10,271 units.
“Acura’s RDX luxury SUV served as the brand’s success story last year, driving sales to surpass the coveted 20,000-unit mark for the third consecutive year, despite being in its final product cycle year,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada Inc. “Representing the most extensive Acura redesign in more than a decade, the all-new RDX will launch later this year, signaling the beginning of a new era for Acura products inspired by Precision Crafted Performance.”
The RDX follows a value packed strategy that benefits all Acura models, with other strong sellers including the just noted MDX that’s up from 5,425 sales in 2016 to 5,838 deliveries in 2017. The MDX is the most popular dedicated three-row SUV in Canada, while at 4,205 unit sales in 2017, also improving on the previous year’s total, the renewed TLX sport-luxury sedan is the most popular non-German car in the highly competitive D-segment, by a long shot.
As for Acura’s entry-level entrant, at just 2,047 deliveries for 2017, down from 2,459 in 2016, 2,551 in 2015, 2,752 in 2014, and a high of 3,192 in 2013, it’s hardly the slowest selling C-segment luxury car. That would be Lexus’ long-in-tooth CT at 367 units, while BMW’s 2 Series also suffered losses with sales coming in at just 1,929 units. Mercedes saw CLA deliveries sag too, albeit at 3,764 units it’s still number two in the segment, while B-Class sales grew to 2,369 units and Audi finished on top with 3,997 A3 sales. Still, Acura dealers (and fans) can hardly wait to get their mitts on the completely redesigned 2020 ILX to be based on Honda’s evermore-popular Civic, which was once again the best-selling car in Canada thanks to 66,935 buyers in 2017.
So what can we expect from Acura in 2018? A fully redesigned 2019 RDX won’t be the only boost to sales this year, albeit despite receiving an attractive refresh for 2018 the brand’s impressive yet slow-as-molasses-selling RLX Sport Hybrid flagship sedan will need a miracle to see it break three figures after finding just 59 buyers in 2017, although a full year with the new TLX should help the Japanese luxury brand grow its sales further.
Fiat recently announced some updates to two of its most practical models, the most extensive being an exterior and interior mid-cycle refresh for the 500L subcompact hatchback, and the other a rather…
Fiat recently announced some updates to two of its most practical models, the most extensive being an exterior and interior mid-cycle refresh for the 500L subcompact hatchback, and the other a rather late in the year yet particularly attractive new Urbana Edition styling package for the brand’s most popular 500X subcompact SUV.
The 500L already has one of the more appealing interiors in the subcompact sector, but unfortunately the outgoing model’s unorthodox exterior design never found much favour with Canadian consumers. Therefore Fiat has given it a refresh including new front and rear fascias. Most noticeable is the simplified upper grille and reworked lower bumper cap, the latter featuring additional black trim with more chrome and a sportier air intake just below. Reshaped door panel sculpting with new body side mouldings continues the revisionist theme rearward, ending in a modernized rear bumper cap with chrome edged horizontal reflectors at each corner.
Inside, a renewed primary gauge cluster is framed by a sportier steering wheel that incorporates a smaller and therefore more visually appealing airbag enclosure, while the centre stack benefits from FCA’s updated Uconnect 4 infotainment system boasting standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus just below a new climate control interface improves aesthetics and functionality. Lastly, Fiat has played musical chairs with its shift lever and cupholders for better ergonomics.
No doubt the Italian brand hopes these changes will increase 500L sales, which ended Q3 2017 amongst the slowest for any vehicle in Canada at just 40 units. In comparison, the 500X’ 846 deliveries over the same nine months make it a runaway success, despite dropping behind the Mini Countryman for lowest Canadian subcompact SUV volume.
To help boost its popularity Fiat now offers a 500X Urbana Edition, which spiffs up the design with new Miron (Metallic Iron) black and copper colour accents.
“The Fiat 500X combines iconic Italian style with functionality, performance and all-wheel-drive confidence,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. “The new Fiat 500X Urbana Edition takes our top-selling Trekking trim, best known for its rugged exterior and interior appearance, and adds unique content with black and copper accents to create a fresh new personality option for our customers.”
Available in four exterior colours including Grigio Graphite (graphite grey), Blue Sky Metallic, Bianco Gelato (white clear coat), and Nero Cinema (black clear coat), the sporty Miron gloss black paint adds contrast to the front and rear fascias, 18-inch alloys, mirror caps, door handles, side sill mouldings, liftgate bezel, and taillight surrounds, while the backend 500X badge and wheel centre caps are finished in the copper colour. Lastly, Fiat blackens the headlamp surrounds before topping off the little SUV with matte black side roof rails.
The classy theme continues inside, with the radio and vent bezels finished in the glossy Miron black, plus a black textured instrument panel highlighted by a copper 500 logo ahead of the front passenger, as well as copper thread used for a set of embroidered 500 logos on the otherwise black Castiglio chevron-patterned fabric seats.
The Urbana Edition adds $795 to 500X Trekking trims in both FWD and AWD, resulting in $29,540 for the former and $33,235 for the latter, plus freight and fees.
Incidentally, the base 500X is competitively priced from $23,245 in base Pop trim, while addition 500X trims include Sport and Lounge.
Fiat has yet to update its retail website with information about the new Urbana Edition package or include it within their “Build & Price” configuration tool, so contact your dealer to see if they have any available. As for the 2018 500L, Fiat is still showing 2016 and 2017 models on their site, but they will likely offer 2018 information soon.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Fiat’s 500X since it debuted two years ago as a 2016 model, and certainly didn’t hold back sharing such positive sentiments in my review of a Trekking Plus AWD…
Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Fiat’s 500X since it debuted two years ago as a 2016 model, and certainly didn’t hold back sharing such positive sentiments in my review of a Trekking Plus AWD model, that trim actually discontinued for 2017. We now have a 500X Sport in our garage, and while not as fully featured as the Trekking it’s nevertheless amply appealing. Unfortunately, the 500X hasn’t done as well on North American sales charts as I first expected or Fiat initially hoped.
As with any new model, the buying public has to like its familial design language in order to enjoy success, and to that end the Fiat brand suffers a similar fate to Mini. I’m not saying that the 500X or its siblings are unattractive in any way (ok, the 500L is a bit odd), but like the iconic British carmaker, the equally storied Italian brand has chosen to cling to its past for all North American offerings instead of offering the many more modern designs within other market segments sold globally, and retrospective styling isn’t for everyone.
I can’t say for sure that styling is central to Canadian’s lack of interest in the 500X or Fiat in general, nor the U.S. market that mostly shuns the Italian carmaker, but the impressive little SUV remains almost as exclusive as a near-exotic Maserati despite doubling its numbers over the first half of 2017.
Last year Fiat found a mere 766 500X buyers, whereas by the close of Q2 2017 it had already purveyed 786. That’s impressive growth, but still not enough to get it out of the subcompact SUV basement. The only competitor selling less is Mini’s Countryman that arguably targets the premium sector due to much higher pricing, the next slowest selling model being the platform-sharing Jeep Renegade with 3,962 sales last year, albeit a much stronger showing over the first six months of 2017 thanks to 2,968 sales. By comparison, Honda’s HR-V found 12,371 buyers last year and a shocking 8,219 over the first half of 2017, with others in the class being Subaru’s Crosstrek with 9,723 and 3,945 deliveries respectively, Mazda’s CX-3 with 9,354 and 4,873, Chevy’s Trax with 9,072 and 3,202, Mitsubishi’s RVR with 6,196 and 3,443, and so on.
I’ll tell you why I think these numbers aren’t fair in my upcoming review. For now, suffice to say there’s a lot more to the little Fiat 4×4 that a simple pricing, specs and features overview can attest to. As for pricing, the base front-wheel drive 2017 500X Pop starts at $23,245 before freight and fees, although Fiat is currently offering a $3,000 no-haggle discount, getting the base price down to $20,245. This makes it one of the most affordable in its class, and therefore an even more viable alternative to the aforementioned big sellers than usual.
With the Trekking Plus now gone, Fiat provides four 500X trim levels for 2017. Already noted base Pop trim is immediately followed by the $27,745 Sport (now available for $24,745), plus the non-Plus $28,745 Trekking (now $25,745), and lastly the top-line $31,740 Lounge (now $28,740). I won’t detail out all the features of the two upper trims in this overview, but in short the Trekking gets a sporty off-road theme and the Lounge is downright luxurious, and these models are positioned above a subcompact SUV that starts out fairly well equipped in base trim.
Standard Pop goodies include bifunctional halogen projector headlamps, body-colour powered heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, chrome door handles, a body-colour rear rooftop spoiler, a chromed exhaust tip, a capless fuel filler, an engine block heater, remote keyless entry, an electromechanical parking brake, a body-colour instrument panel, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, a 3.5-inch multi-information display, micron-filtered air conditioning, a Uconnect 5.0 multimedia centre with 5.0-inch colour touchscreen, four-speaker AM/FM audio with a USB port and aux input, premium soft-touch interior surfacing, cloth upholstery, powered windows, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and a fold-forward front-passenger seat, tire pressure monitoring with a display, hill start assist, seven airbags, an antitheft engine immobilizer, a security alarm, and more.
Safety in mind, top-tier trims earn IIHS Top Safety Pick status when optional front crash protection is added, but this level of active safety isn’t available with our Sport trimmed tester. Instead, Sport trim moves its standard feature set up a significant notch from the base 500X thanks to 17-inch alloys on 215/55 all-seasons in place of 16-inch steel rims on 215/60s, a sportier 3.73 final drive ratio instead of 4.43, Fiat’s Dynamic Selector with three driving modes, auto on/off headlamps, fog lamps with cornering capability, deep tint privacy glass, remote start (with the automatic), proximity-sensing keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, a “Premium wrapped” leatherette steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, six-speaker audio, satellite radio with a one-year subscription, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, a front centre sliding armrest, another USB port, illuminated vanity mirrors, a reversible height-adjustable cargo floor, etcetera.
The only trim standard with a backup camera is top-line Lounge, but don’t worry because Sport buyers can add Fiat’s ParkView monitor separately for $475 or upgrade to the $1,250 Driver Assist Group that includes the camera as well as Park-Sense rear sensors, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, and a colourized version of the base model’s 3.5-inch multi-information display.
Additional Sport options include a $695 Cold Weather Group with a windshield wiper de-icer, a heatable steering wheel, and heated front seats; a $1,295 Convenience Group with everything from the Cold Weather Group as well as dual-zone auto climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, ambient lighting, and a cargo cover; and a $1,100 Navigation Group that includes navigation with detailed mapping within a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen, plus a compass.
Standalone Sport options include a fabulous $1,295 dual-pane panoramic moonroof, a $995 BeatsAudio sound system, a sportier set of $300 machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets, and a $295 compact spare tire. My tester includes nearly everything on the options list, making it especially good for my detailed hands-on review.
Something else I like, Fiat offers the same number of paint choices no matter the trim level, and it’s a massive 11-colour palette allowing buyers a lot more personalization than most competitors. Along with four base colours, which even include trendy Arancio orange and classic Italian Rosso Passione, a colour Fiat clarifies as “Hypnotique Red” as if that should help us picture it, are five $195 metallic hues including stunning new Rame Chiaro, a light copper, and two $995 tri-coat colours, the latter including bright Giallo Tristrato yellow, and Rosso Amore red.
The base 500X Pop can only be had with front-wheel drive, but all models above can be outfitted with Fiat’s all-wheel drivetrain, which comes standard with the Lounge. This is nothing unusual, but offering two engines isn’t the class norm. Even base models have a choice of powertrains being that the puny but potent 1.4-litre MultiAir four-cylinder is the designated engine for the six-speed manual, front-wheel drive variant and the larger 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir four is dedicated to the ZF-designed nine-speed automatic that comes standard with all-wheel drive. The smaller turbocharged unit puts out a commendable 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, whereas the bigger naturally aspirated engine makes 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.
Our Sport had the former drivetrain setup that’s good for a claimed 9.5 L/100km in the city and 7.1 on the highway, although thanks to the optional engine’s nine-speed automatic it’s not much thirstier with an estimated rating of 10.7 city and 7.7 highway.
As noted earlier, Fiat’s Dynamic Selector configurable drive modes let you choose pre-programmed settings to manage throttle response and engine revs before shifts, which is an unusually welcome feature for an SUV in this class, giving the 500X a sportier character than most of its rivals. What’s more, the little Fiat SUV’s available all-wheel drive system boasts a disconnecting rear axle to minimize fuel consumption when extra traction isn’t required.
I’ll go over all of my 500X Sport tester’s mechanicals and how well they work in my review, and also point out what makes this SUV more and/or less appealing than key rivals. The subcompact SUV segment is now one of the most competitive after all, with a total of 13 entrants, two of which arrived for this 2017 model year. Three more are expected soon, so it won’t get any easier for Fiat and its unorthodox 500X. Stay tuned…
Listen up. Just in case you haven’t already heard, there’s no better new car for your money than Nissan’s Micra. For just $9,988 plus freight and dealer fees, which makes it the least expensive…
Listen up. Just in case you haven’t already heard, there’s no better new car for your money than Nissan’s Micra. For just $9,988 plus freight and dealer fees, which makes it the least expensive new car in Canada, the 2017 Micra represents the best value in the entire auto industry.
What’s more, it’s so much fun to drive that Nissan Canada developed a spec racing series dubbed Nissan Micra Cup to tout its performance prowess, a smart way to change common perceptions about life with an entry-level sub-subcompact economy car.
In case you’re wondering, the Micra Cup racing-spec car is no more formidable off the line than the stock machine being sold for less than $10k, its DOHC, 16-valve, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine making an equal 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, which is sports car territory when factoring in its scant 1,044-kilo (2,302-lb) curb weight.
To put that last claim into perspective, the pre-owned 1985 Toyota MR2 mid-engine sports car that I managed to talk my boss into giving me for a daily driver after a particularly good sales month (I sold cars for a Toyota dealer in the late ‘80s) tipped the scales at a nearly identical 1,035 kilograms (2,282 lbs) and made 112 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque from its AE86 Corolla-sourced 1.6-litre four. It was ruddy quick for its era, and while I won’t directly compare Toyota’s brilliant little “Twin Cam” and its sonorous 7,500-rpm redline to the Micra’s more utilitarian 6,600 maximum spin, both cars utilized standard five-speed manuals and optional four-speed automatics.
Rather than be forced to respond to all the MR2 faithful’s hate mail pointing out the obvious benefits of a short-throw manual gearbox, lower centre of gravity, mid-engine rear-wheel drive chassis layout, etcetera ad nauseum, let’s just agree that owning a modern-day subcompact with a similar power-to-weight ratio to a revered classic sports car can result in plenty of smiles at the wheel, whether you have the talent of current 2017 Micra Cup season leader Olivier Bédard, or simply enjoy a spirited drive while commuting back and forth to work, university, or running errands.
In truth, today’s Micra has more in common with Toyota’s superb little 2004–2005 Echo Hatchback, which was also a tall, two-box front-drive subcompact, albeit with a 1.5-litre four making 108 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque, a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and once again a featherlight curb weight of 944 kg (2,081 lbs). It was a cute looking little hatch as well, especially in sportier RS trim, a car I’d love to pick up with its base manual gearbox in good condition. Being that the base Echo Hatch started at $12,995 back in its day, the pricier RS still fetches $4,000 to $5,000 now, which makes the 13-year newer Micra seem all the more appealing.
As you can probably tell from the photos, the 2017 Micra SR currently in our garage sells for considerably more than the base S model Nissan woos us down to its dealerships to check out. While the Micra S starts at $9,988, it moves directly up to $13,648 when adding the aforementioned automatic, an upgrade that also bundles in air-conditioning and steering wheel-mounted switchgear complete with cruise controls (the base model’s “naked” steering wheel looks a bit odd in a new 2017 model).
I should also mention these features come alongside a standard menu that includes tilt steering, a trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, AM/FM/CD audio with speed-sensitive volume control and an aux jack, fabric seat trim, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, vented front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, all the expected airbags, plus more.
Second-rung SV trim, available from $14,048, makes those last items standard no matter the chosen transmission, while also adding illuminated audio and Bluetooth phone controls to the left spoke of the steering wheel, powered windows and locks, the latter featuring remote keyless entry with a panic alarm, body-colour power-adjustable heated side mirrors, body-colour door handles, two more driver’s seat adjustments for a total of six, a flip-down driver’s seat armrest, upgraded cloth upholstery, chrome interior door handles, two more stereo speakers totalling four, and more.
Put beside these two models the top-line Micra SR seems ultra-luxe, thanks to unique sport headlights and taillights, fog lamps, chrome around those fogs as well as the front fascia’s lower grille, side sill extensions, a rear rooftop spoiler, a chromed exhaust tip, and machine-finished 16-inch alloys with black painted pockets on 185/55 all-season rubber (instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers encircled by 185/60 all-seasons) on the outside, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob (on manual transmission models), sport fabric seat and door insert upholstery, a 4.3-inch colour display audio system with an integrated rearview parking monitor, a USB port, and more for $16,188 plus freight and fees.
My $17,188 tester, which includes $1,000 for the automatic transmission, adds $135 for Gun Metallic grey paint while boasting a $460 Colour Studio Trend package from the accessories catalogue featuring coloured mirror caps, door handles, and side sport stripes (glossy black the chosen “colour” in this instance), boosting the as-tested price to $17,783. Despite the Micra’s fabulous base price, I’d be tempted to choose this very trim and accessories package upgrade because it looks so great and drives so well, minus the autobox for improved performance and a lower price.
I’ll go into more detail describing this 2017 Micra SR’s driving dynamics in my upcoming review, while also going into more detail about features usability, interior quality, comfort, roominess, and more. I might even talk sales numbers, being that the Micra outsells all of its key competitors by a grand margin, even shaming larger subcompact models when it comes to popularity. Of course all this makes sense, the Micra being a street-legal race car and all. Come back soon for my full review…
Two things matter most with electric cars: range and price. If it can drive far enough on a single charge to be practical and doesn’t cost too much more than a conventionally powered equivalent then…
Two things matter most with electric cars: range and price. If it can drive far enough on a single charge to be practical and doesn’t cost too much more than a conventionally powered equivalent then some semblance of sales success will follow.
Being that the latter situation hasn’t fully materialized I probably should’ve mentioned a third criteria to electric vehicle success, government support. Everywhere that EVs are relatively plentiful you’ll also find well-funded taxpayer programs, first to reduce the cost of initial purchase through rebate programs, and secondly to supply the necessary public charging stations to facilitate life with a plug-in vehicle.
Until recently, the highest EV rebate payout in Canada was Quebec at $8,000 compared to $5,000 in BC and zero anywhere else, other than Ontario that now gives buyers of some electric cars, including Ford’s Focus Electric, up to $14,000 back through various programs. We can discuss how fair it is that many hardworking Canadians who can’t afford a new car are stuck paying for those who have more, but that’s a philosophical and/or political question for another time. Rather, it’s probably better to talk about how you can get your hands on some of that “free” money by purchasing one of these electrics, because it might be a lot more within your reach than you may have previously thought.
Let’s start by doing some elementary math. The 2017 Focus Electric starts at $31,998 plus freight, fees and taxes, but Ford is currently (August 26, 2017) offering $3,595 of no-haggle discounts so you can have it for $30,153 including freight before taxes, or maybe less if you ask nicely or play as if your trade-in is worth more than you know it actually is. This means you can be driving a Focus Electric for a bit over $16,000 and taxes after rebates if you live in Ontario, $22,000 and taxes if you live in Quebec, or $25,000 and taxes if you live in BC.
Factor in that you’ll be paying a fraction of what you’d otherwise ante up for fuel, or potentially nothing at all if you coordinate your daily outings so as to plug-in at the many aforementioned charging stations that have yet to start charging users money in most jurisdictions, and you should easily be able to add up exactly how much you’ll be saving by chopping 100 percent off your auto fuel budget.
Electric car maintenance is much lower too, especially under the hood where there’s so much less to go wrong, and while it’s difficult to put a price on using HOV lanes with only a driver in the car, to some people “time is money,” as Mr. Franklin once said.
But does the Ford Fusion Electric meet the other key EV objective? Does is supply enough range after a full charge to satisfy practical applications. After a week spent in the original 2013 Focus Electric back in the fall of 2012, I certainly didn’t think it was worth my tester’s rather steep $42,749 as-tested price, especially with 122 kilometers of best-scenario range in ideal conditions, a maximum of 89 being all that ever showed up on my tester’s gauge cluster. I never dared try to find its real-world limit, because it was too difficult to guess and I didn’t want to get stranded on a bridge somewhere.
That was then, this is now. Where the old 2013 Focus Electric was better left in the hands of adventurous souls not affected by range anxiety, today’s 2017 Focus Electric qualms any such worries thanks to 161 km of EPA-estimated range. That’s still 11 km short of the Nissan Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric, and eons less capable than the new Chevy Bolt that can manage up to 383 km per charge (believe me, I couldn’t drain the Bolt’s batteries no matter how hard I flogged it), but the Bolt begins at $43,195 before freight and fees, while the Leaf’s price range starts at $33,998 and rises to a lofty $40,848 when fully trimmed out, which makes the Focus Electric appear pretty thrifty even when paying an extra $550 for its fanciest paint job and another $1,000 for leather upholstery.
But still, is the new Focus Electric liveable? Not from an interior ergonomics and passenger/cargo practicality perspective, but with respect to real-world range? I’ll delve into both issues when I publish my full review, but for now will focus on standard features that are one of this car’s strong suits.
First off, Ford keeps things simple with one trim level and a couple of available options, just noted a moment ago. This means every single 2017 Focus Electric gets a completely unique one-piece grille with chromed with piano black accents that you’ll either love for looking like an Aston Martin or loathe for the same reason, plus standard auto on/off headlights with signature LEDs, dedicated DRLs, LED taillights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, approach lighting and special blindspot mirrors, chrome beltline mouldings, a rear rooftop spoiler, 17-inch Sparkle Silver-painted alloys, an SAE J1772 CCS charge port with a new illuminated LED state of charge indicator, and that’s only on the outside.
Remote start will get prepare the Focus Electric before you get there via MyFord Mobile with remote cabin preconditioning, while proximity access with pushbutton ignition gets you inside and ready to go. Additional standard features include illuminated entry, ambient lighting, an electromechanical parking brake, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide instrument cluster, two driver configurable 4.2-inch colour LCD multi-information displays within the same primary gauge cluster, a message centre with a trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, dual-zone auto climate control, Sync 3 infotainment with an 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with tap and swipe capability, enhanced voice recognition, navigation, a rearview camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth, nine-speaker Sony audio, satellite radio, full-floor centre console with storage, cupholders and two chargeable USB ports, a leather-wrapped shift knob, illuminated vanity mirrors, heatable front seats, rear heat vents, a rear centre armrest with storage, one-touch up/down powered windows front and back, a removable rear package tray, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.
On the safety front, the 2017 Focus Electric includes hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, traction and stability control, ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes, and all the usual airbags including one for the driver’s knees, but so far no advanced driver-assistance systems like forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blindspot alert, lane departure warning, self steering capability, self parking, dynamic cruise control, auto high beams, etcetera.
I doubt those looking for a relatively inexpensive EV will care all that much about such advanced safety systems, which of course would push the Focus Electric’s price much higher if standard or available. This car is more about getting environmentally conscious consumers on the road to a brighter, cleaner future.
To that end the power unit has been upgraded for 2017, its lithium-ion battery now more “energy dense” than the outgoing model, says Ford. Now it can manage 33.5 kWh instead of 23.0 kWh, which makes it more capable than the Leaf’s 30-kWh battery and Kia Soul’s 27-kWh power unit. Altogether, the new Focus Electric makes 143 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque from a 107 kW electric motor, while using a single-speed direct-drive transmission to power the front wheels.
Also important, the new Focus Electric will recharge faster due to a new standard 50kW-capable DC fast charge port, the result being full depletion to 80 percent in less than half an hour. This will eventually make it easier to charge when traveling long distances, although you’ll be hard pressed to find a publicly available DC fast charging port now. Alternatively, you’ll need five and a half hours to charge from zero to full via a 240-volt charge station, or 30 hours from a regular household outlet.
Additional 2017 improvements include a new braking coach that trains you to decelerate more effectively so as to recover more energy from the car’s regenerative braking system, plus new White Gold exterior paint.
The Focus Electric is underpinned by MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front, and a Control Blade independent rear suspension with a stabilizer bar, while steering comes from an electric power-assisted steering, while torque vectoring control aids handling.
Come back soon to find out how all of this works, and especially how far I’m able to drive on a single charge…
And the winner of the 2017 Auto Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year award is (insert drumroll here)… the 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack! Well that one caught me by surprise,…
And the winner of the 2017 Auto Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year award is (insert drumroll here)… the 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack!
Well that one caught me by surprise, as did the selection of the 2017 Subaru Forester for the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. Not that these two compact crossovers aren’t worthy, but the Subie was merely a mid-cycle refresh, and a mild one at that, and the COTY winner was (as just stated) more of a crossover SUV than a car (or at least that’s how VW classifies it on their retail site).
Yes, I’m aware that it’s actually Golf SportWagen and therefore kind of qualifies, but it’s adequately raised and moderately pumped up on Var (Anavar or oxandrolone for those not familiar with one of the milder and therefore more popular anabolic steroids) thanks to plenty of matte black body cladding including a quad of flared fenders, slick looking aluminized front and rear undertrays and rocker moulding trim, a set of aluminum roof rails up top, plus some trick aluminum-finish mirror caps to each side, not that these have anything to do with SUVs. No matter how you slice it, VW was trying to turn its wagon into a compact crossover SUV and did such a good job they won AJAC’s Car of the Year title.
This wasn’t the first time a Volkswagen Golf won AJAC’s Car of the Year, the GTI deservedly taking top honours in 2010, but it’s the first time sport utilities won both the COTY and the CUVOTY. The rugged looking VeeDub first won the “Best New Large Car” title last fall, which is certainly a big title for a compact wagon, but hey. As long as automakers are bending categories to suit their current lineup of rolling stock, why not bend a few rules about what actually constitutes a “large car”.
Of course, I’m having a bit of fun with my esteemed auto journo colleagues (a number of which are highly intelligent, incredibly hard working, very dedicated, wholly professional, and damn nice… the others we won’t mention) and the results of what is no doubt a mind-numbingly complicated rating process that’s horribly challenging to organize and then vote upon, so I hope they don’t take offence. They were certainly right in choosing two great crossover SUVs as their topmost winners, this new 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack combining almost everything I’ve always loved about the Golf SportWagen with a certain cool factor that non-wagon lovers might say was missing.
Almost? Yah, it would’ve been better with if TDI were stamped on the back and the awesome 2.0-litre turbo-diesel still bolted into its engine bay. I know the dirty little devil isn’t exactly on good terms with the world right now, but those of us who love modern-day oil burners are lamenting their loss from VW’s lineup and most other Euro brands.
As it is this beefy little five-door gets VW’s still impressive gasoline-powered 1.8-litre direct-injection four-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty to propel its “large car” mass forward in lickety–split quickness no matter the slipperiness of tarmac or alternative road surface underneath, thanks in part to standard 4Motion all-wheel drive.
The AllTrack’s increased ground clearance combines with an “Off Road” driving mode that is claimed to optimize “traction on uneven surfaces,” says VW, so this week we’ll just have to find out firsthand. I can’t say its all-season rubber or 18-inch Canyon alloys fill me with rock-crawling confidence, but a little summer beach sand might be a fun in the absence of any knee-deep powder.
I think Volkswagen had the latter in mind when creating the Golf AllTrack, along with weekend jaunts to the cottage, weeklong road trips with a tiny Boler or Scamp in tow (I wonder if you can get one of those in Tornado Red?), or any other light duty use for strong torque and four-wheel traction.
I don’t have either so I’ll likely keep my upcoming road test comments to driving sans camp trailer, not to mention the usual laurels I laud on any Golf’s superb interior, which in this case includes VW’s excellent 6.5-inch proximity sensing, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink infused touchscreen infotainment system.
All Golf SportWagens benefit from an outrageously roomy interior, especially in the very back for cargo, not to mention a centre pass-through that makes the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks more flexible, so being that this new AllTrack is no different from the wagon in this respect it should work well for the heavy hauling I’ve scheduled.
I won’t go into too much detail about features, but suffice to say that exterior colours are your only options, with the base 2017 Golf AllTrack packed full of everything already mentioned as well as a six-speed automatic with manual mode, auto on/off headlamps with static cornering capability, fog lights, powered and heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, ambient LED interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, voice activation, two SD card slots, navigation, a rearview camera, satellite radio, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, a 12-way powered driver’s seat, heatable front seats, a really nice panoramic powered sunroof, variable cargo load floor, a 115-volt household-style power outlet in the cargo area, etcetera.
I’ll come back and report on how all this stuff works very soon…
I was about to start this story by saying there has never been a more successful luxury SUV created than the Lexus RX, but after some in-depth research I’m finding out that’s an old, outdated statistic.…
I was about to start this story by saying there has never been a more successful luxury SUV created than the Lexus RX, but after some in-depth research I’m finding out that’s an old, outdated statistic.
The RX, which was the first car-based luxury crossover SUV ever produced, has been amazingly successful here in North America where it remains number one by a long shot, but within Canada alone it’s currently second behind Audi’s smaller albeit almost as accommodating Q5, while globally they both get beaten badly by Buick’s number-one selling Envision that sold 123,397 units worldwide during the first five months of 2017 (you can thank China for that), as well as Mercedes-Benz’ GLC runner up that found 117,856 global buyers over the same period. I don’t have exact numbers for the RX in all the countries it’s sold in because it didn’t make the top 100 vehicles list. So much for starting out this garage overview with a bang.
Of course, with 109,435 total U.S. sales last year and 8,147 here in Canada, and 46,737 in the States over the first half of 2017 and 4,501 north of the 49th, Lexus and its RX have nothing to be ashamed of. Toyota’s luxury division is really only getting its feet wet in China after breaking through the six-figure threshold for the first time last year with 109,151 total sales brand-wide, while Lexus International reported 677,615 global deliveries in 2016, which is a four-percent improvement over 2015 and its fourth consecutive record year of sales growth. Yup, it’s tough to complain with numbers like that.
It’s difficult to complain after picking up Lexus’ latest 2017 RX 350 either. The five-passenger SUV was redesigned for the 2016 model year and still looks very sharp, literally. There isn’t an edgier sport utility available, now that Lexus’ ultra-wide spindle grille is front and centre, made even bigger and bolder in our tester’s F Sport trim. It flows into a deeply sculpted hood up top, while yet more jagged edges outline each of its triple-stacked LED light cluster elements to each side, these finished off with checkmark LED DRLs at bottom. Even more radically shaped fog lamp bezels are immediately surrounded in chrome before getting finished off with apostrophe-style vertical vents at each corner, all sitting atop razor-thin lower valance detailing.
The RX 350 F Sport’s flanks are almost as chiselled, each fender shaved flat ahead of gloss black, chrome and LED-infused side mirror housings on the beltline and deeply gorged, upward sweeping rocker panel sculpting across the lower doors, former foreshadowing a glossy black D-pillar depicting a floating roof while the latter visually melds into a chunky rear bumper encasing a sporty rear diffuser and two angularly shaped exhaust ports. By comparison the LED taillights are almost conservative, although a nice fit just the same, while plenty of satin-finish metal brightwork combine with fabulous looking 20-inch dark graphite multi-spoke alloys on 235/55R20 rolling stock. Lexus is hardly a boring brand anymore, and its once conservative RX is now one of the more avant-garde in its class.
The RX 350 F Sport’s cabin is almost as creased and creviced as its origami-folded exterior sheetmetal, but I leave any comments about style, materials quality, refinement, switchgear, electronic interfaces, and feature usability to my upcoming road test review, due out soon so to beat the arrival of the 2018 model.
Other than rumour about a longer extended-wheelbase three-row seven-passenger version expected early next year I don’t have any info about that the new model year, but the five-occupant version arriving this fall is expected to be mostly carryover so you shouldn’t feel any hesitation about buying a 2017. Lexus made a few changes to this year’s model too, including the addition of a new Safety Sense+ suite of advanced driver-assistance systems, now standard. On the list is millimeter-wave radar sensing pre-collision warning, lane departure alert, dynamic cruise control, and auto high beams, all items that were previously bundled in with expensive option groups yet are now standard across the entire model range.
Other standard safety features include auto on/off full LED headlamps, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors (the latter power-folding with heat and integrated turn signals), a backup camera with dynamic guidelines that’s projected onto a large 8.0-inch infotainment display, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active front headrests with whiplash protection, front and rear outboard seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, plus more.
On the options list is new Intelligent Clearance Sonar, which is collision mitigation for low-speed situations such as parking, while additional active safety options include Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a wide-view front, rear and side parking monitor, and a 12.3-inch Electro Multi Vision (EMV) display that most companies would call a head-up display, but as slick as some of these systems are Lexus has yet to adapt much in the way of autonomous mitigation systems to the RX 350, such as automatic corrective steering, but its aforementioned pre-collision system is designed to apply emergency auto braking after an initial warning.
The RX 350’s numeric designation actually refers to its 3.5-litre V6 engine, unlike so many other models that have deviated from this sensible practice (the RX 450h hybrid being one), its output a commendable 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to D4-S fuel injection that combines direct injection with conventional port injection in order to best balance performance and efficiency. Aiding both objectives is an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while standard all-wheel drive is par for the course in Canada’s premium SUV sector. Lastly, Lexus’ standard Drive Mode Select adds Sport, Eco and Normal modes to either enhance the driving experience or minimize fuel usage and emissions.
Once again I’ll leave any experiential comments to my upcoming review, and instead give you a rundown of some additional standard and optional features not yet mentioned, the $55,900 base RX 350 receiving a pretty impressive list of items including 18-inch alloys, a heated windshield, roof rails, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a heatable multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control with a dust, pollen and deodorizing air filter, 12-speaker audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-way powered front seats with two-way powered lumbar support, perforated leather upholstery, driver-side memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more.
As with most vehicles in this class there’s no shortage of available options with the 2017 RX 350 thanks to four packages. Rather than organize them by price, with the least expensive being the $7,600 Luxury package, followed by the $8,700 F Sport Series 2 package, and either the $13,450 F Sport Series 3 or identically priced Executive package, I thought it best to go over the two F Sport packages and then the two other option groups.
While all RX 350s are plenty sporty, adding the F Sport Series 2 package makes a difference visually thanks to a unique black mesh grille insert, premium LED headlights with cornering lamps, sportier lower fascia detailing, 20-inch dark-grey painted F Sport multi-sport alloys, upgraded LED combination taillights, and F Sport exterior badging, while that F Sport branding also enhances a unique set of treadplates, an upgraded gauge cluster, a three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, a special leather-wrapped shift knob, and a different set of sport seats. Additional F Sport Series 2 improvements include aluminum foot pedals with rubber inserts, that 12.3-inch EMV head-up display mentioned earlier, an automatic air recirculation control system, voice-activated HDD navigation with Lexus’ joystick-style console-mounted Remote Touch Interface, front and rear parking sensors, an adaptive variable air suspension, and VDIM.
My tester is fitted with the F Sport Series 3 package, which means everything above is included plus Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, the previously noted wide-view parking monitor, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio upgrade, a panoramic glass sunroof, power-reclining and power-folding rear seats, and a touch-free gesture-controlled powered rear liftgate.
Alternatively the Luxury package forgoes the F Sport styling and performance upgrades yet adds its own 20-inch alloys along with the aforementioned premium LED headlamps and taillights, parking sensors, 12.3-inch EMV, auto air recirculation, and navigation, plus includes LED illuminated aluminum treadplates, a leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar support, premium leather upholstery, and rear side sunshades. Move up to the Executive package and everything just noted in the Luxury package is included, plus all F Sport Series 3 package upgrades. The only negative to the way Lexus Canada has packaged up its top-line RX 350 is an inability to get an F Sport with “the works,” or rather all available options.
Lexus also limits exterior colour options, my F Sport tester only available in five shades and hues including its chosen Nebula Grey, the remaining four being Atomic Silver, Obsidian black, Ultra White, and Matador Red Mica, although the ability to add a stunning Rioja Red interior to default F Sport Black is certainly notable. If you choose base, Luxury or Executive trim the exterior paint palette grows to include Eminent White Pearl, black metallic Caviar, and dark blue Nightfall Mica, yet excludes Obsidian and Ultra White, whereas a golden beige Satin Cashmere Metallic is exclusive to Luxury and Executive trims. The more luxury-oriented RX 350 gets more interior colour choices too, eliminating Rioja Red but adding Parchment beige and Noble Brown to the usual Black.
That’s probably enough detail for now. Stay tuned for a full road test that will include all of my dictated notes organized into slightly more readable commentary. Until then you can check out my review of the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport…