Acura is smartly bringing back one of its most revered nameplates for 2023, and simultaneously ditching a three-letter moniker that never managed to garner as much devoted loyalty. The ILX has long been…
e compact sedan capable of running alongside the smallest offerings from Europe’s, Asia’s and the U.S.’ biggest luxury players, thanks to a combination of the previous ninth-generation (2012–2015) Honda Civic Si underpinnings and 2.4-litre engine with a much more sophisticated eight-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. Certainly, the compact four-door has needed a redesign for years, so therefore sales have waned, but along with a significant update for 2023, Acura has blessed it with a much more endearing name.
Along with the new designation, a much-needed restyling, and a host of other improvements, the new 2023 Integra receives a base price of $34,350 (plus freight and PDI) that’s closer to upper trims of the outgoing ILX, which currently ranges from $31,400 to $36,800.
Integra roots go back 37 years
The ILX has already been with us for a decade, although it was given two facelifts in 2016 and 2019, the first one upgrading the drivetrain to its current iteration, and last one being a more dramatic visual departure, in that it received the brand’s latest “Diamond Pentagon” grille. Plenty of additional upgrades were made to each iteration as well, including the model’s sportiest A-Spec trim added to the latter.
Before the ILX, Canadians wanting an entry-level Acura had the option of the 2006–2011 CSX, which was exclusive to our market, albeit with styling shared with the Honda’s domestic-market Civic, while once again it shared plenty of parts with Honda’s Civic Si, albeit only in Type-S trim (beginning in 2007).
The CLX replaced the Canadian-exclusive 1997–2005 EL, which was more of a gussied up Civic in that it offered no performance option, yet nevertheless managed to accumulate 51-percent of Acura Canada’s sales in its first year and remain the Canadian division’s best-selling model from 1997 to 2003.
Up until 1996 the point of entry into the Acura brand was this article’s subject namesake Integra, or at least the inspiration for the name, which started life in 1986 and therefore joined the mid-size Accord-based Legend as one of the Japanese luxury brand’s initial two launch models.
Following Acura tradition by riding on affordable Honda Civic underpinnings
Like that original Integra, the renewed 2023 version is based on Honda’s ultra-popular Civic, although back in the mid ‘80s Acura had a Civic Coupe (and hatchback) to utilize for two-door hard-points, whereas the most recent 11th-generation Civic is only available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles.
Understandably, fans of the original Integra were disappointed when the new 2023 model showed up as a five-door hatchback in prototype form and once again in production trim, despite early first-, second- and third-generation Integras being sold as four-door sedans (plus four-door pillared hardtops) and five-door liftbacks, not only as three-door liftbacks, often referred to coupes (the fourth-gen Integra, which only came in three-door liftback form, was known as the RSX here).
Five-door Integra makes sense in today’s market
Old Integras are most collectable in sportier looking three-door form, which, by the hubbub of controversy surrounding the new Integra’s initial announcement, must have been how many fans initially imagined the majorly-hyped new version before it came out. Looking across the auto mall at Ford, disgruntled Acura enthusiasts might just want to be grateful the new Integra isn’t a crossover SUV (looking at your Mustang Mach-E).
With no three-door model in the Civic lineup, and the need to base the Integra on an existing body style, it makes sense Acura chose the liftback option to pay tribute to the luxury brand’s past. Doing so also results in the sportiest of its two Civic donor platforms, plus better access to the cargo area than the outgoing ILX’ trunk.
High-revving Honda Si engine making way for more efficient 1.5-litre turbo-four
Those who love the high-revving 2.4-litre ILX engine might be disappointed that its replacement loses 900 cubic centimetres, but take heart because the new Civic-sourced 1.5-litre unit is much more efficient (which matters these days) and utilizes a turbo to produce more output overall at 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, compared to 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft for the ILX.
Where the outgoing engine has been both lauded and criticized for its quick-spinning, peaky performance, with serious enthusiasts loving its mechanical audio track and intense accelerative VTEC forces in the upper rev-range, it was always a bit too sporting for some. After all, the current ILX, and soon this new Integra, need to serve as Acura’s entry-level product for all.
Therefore, the new model’s more subdued engine note and broader, more automatic-friendly torque band, which ranges from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm, should make it much more enjoyable with the eight-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, not to mention easier to drive casually around town, while max power can still be found at a lofty 6,000 rpm, or 800 rpm lower than the ILX, meaning that those wanting to rev the engine out will still have an adrenaline inducing, VTEC-enhanced soundtrack to draw upon. That this engine is also used in today’s Civic Si is just another nod to both the ILX’ past and previous Integra’s, et al.
Acura incorporates fabulous six-speed manual transmission from Civic Si
Where the outgoing ILX was not available with a manual transmission (odd considering the Civic Si that donated its 2.4-litre four only was offered with a six-speed manual), the new Integra can now be had with a six-speed DIY gearbox in top-line Elite A-Spec trim at no extra charge, with both the manual and automatic models starting at $42,550, while positioned between base and Elite A-Spec trims is the regular A-Spec at $37,050. According to Acura, the six-speed manual is a “segment-exclusive” feature (sad, but true), which could cause plenty of traditional performance enthusiasts to flock to this front-wheel drive model, despite rear-wheel drive normally being the configuration of choice for the go-fast crowd.
Then again, Honda’s Civic is quite possibly the best-handling front-driver ever created, in 306-horsepower 10th-generation Type R trim at least (the new one is expected later this year as a 2023 model, incidentally), so the automaker knows a thing or two about maximizing handling prowess in this less-than-optimal layout.
Making the most of its dynamic chassis design is a standard sport-tuned suspension, plus the Elite A-Spec adds an Adaptive Damper System that provides even more control of the road below. Likewise, the Elite A-Spec model features a customizable Individual mode for its Integrated Dynamics System, with the rest of the Integra’s trim lines coming standard with the usual Comfort, Normal, and Sport driving modes.
Impressive top-level technologies included
So far, no Tech trim (currently top-of-the-line with the ILX) will be offered, which kind of makes sense being that all 2023 Integras will feature a standard configurable 10.2-inch digital driver’s display, dubbed Acura Precision Cockpit. Then again, a head-up display unit is optional with the Elite A-Spec package, as is a higher-end 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The just-noted wireless capability of its smartphone integration will once again make this package’s Qi-compatible wireless charging pad something useful (it isn’t when forced to plug-in for smartphone integration), while this top-tier upgrade also includes a 16-speaker ELS STUDIO 3D audio system.
Back to standard kit, the Integra’s advanced safety features include a special set of driver and passenger airbags that were “designed to control head rotation in a crash,” says Acura, while rear seat airbags are also included. What’s more, a new single-camera AcuraWatch system boasts enhanced Traffic Jam Assist (TJA) and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR). Lastly, a one-year free trial of AcuraLink services will also be included across the line, also incorporating the brand’s Security and Remote packages at no extra cost.
All Integra trims come standard with best-in-class roominess
According to Acura, the Integra also promises class-leading rear legroom and cargo volume (the latter partially due to its convenient hatchback design), which are two bonuses the ILX couldn’t boast of.
After all is said and done, it’s difficult to criticize Acura for making a much better ILX and then rebranding it with a legendary name. Calling this five-door model an Integra brought it much more press than merely making it the second-generation ILX, while badging it with a memorable moniker also pulls on the heartstrings while making it easier to bring up in conversation with friends. Just ask anyone not seriously into cars what an ILX is, and you’ll get a stunned look. Do the same for the new Integra, and while you might get a quizzical, doe-eyed gaze, you’re also more likely to receive a curious response. A name like Integra is more easily embedded in one’s memory too, aiding Acura’s marketing efforts, while reducing its spend. Overall, it just makes sense.
Introducing the Next-Gen Integra (0:30):
Next Generation 2023 Acura Integra Debut Featuring Pierre Gasly (1:02):
2023 Acura Integra Production Model Walkaround (6:02):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Acura
Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up. Take Lexus for example, or…
Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up.
Take Lexus for example, or for that matter Volvo. The former was selling its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback into North American markets as recently as 2017 (check out our road test), but after seven years of production, plus a couple of down years with nothing in an entry-level segment at all, it was effectively replaced with the UX subcompact crossover SUV. As for Volvo, we need to go all the back to 2013 for the final 300-plus (new) C30s that found Canadian buyers, and then had to wait five additional years for its XC40 subcompact SUV replacement. Likewise, a new C40 electric crossover is expected from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand later this year or early 2022.
See the trend? It wasn’t like the compact B-segment (subcompact luxury) was ever a big deal here in Canada, at least not like it’s been in Europe where Audi’s A1 has been pulling in premium buyers for almost a dozen years, plus its similarly sized A2 before that, and larger A3 even longer, as have BMW’s 1 and 2 Series, not to mention Mercedes’ A-Class, but amongst the few small luxury-branded cars we’ve enjoyed, some are leaving for good, never likely to return.
Still, premium brands need gateway products to entice new customers into the fold, and while small sedans and hatchbacks still attract such buyers to well-established German automakers, luxury buyers are more likely to opt for a subcompact crossover SUV instead. So therefore, while the entry luxury car category won’t likely grow much larger in the coming years, it still has a faithful following that’s passionate about their stylish, low-slung little rides, so let’s see which models are pulling in the most Canadian customers.
Mini Cooper dominates the small luxury car sector
When the words “luxury” and “car” get combined, most probably don’t immediately conjure up images of the cute little Mini hatchback. After all, it was initially Britain’s answer to Germany’s peoples’ car (and the “Suez Crisis” fuel shortage) way back in 1959, a micro hatchback that was as inexpensive to buy as it was efficient to operate. BMW purchased the Mini nameplate as part of its Rover group takeover from British Aerospace and Honda (20-percent) in 1994, and since 2001 has sold a variety of body styles and models, including a compact luxury SUV, dubbed Countryman.
And just in case you don’t understand the logic behind including a brand with pricing that begins where a fully-loaded Kia Rio ends, at $23,490 for a base Cooper 3-Door, consider that most Mini owners don’t purchase stripped-down examples. To that end, a JCW Convertible will set you back more than $60k after all of its extras are tallied up. So, if 60-grand for a subcompact hatchback doesn’t qualify Mini’s Cooper for luxury car status, not to mention sharing underpinnings with some of BMW’s smaller models, it’s difficult to surmise what will.
Mini’s car lineup is powered by three-cylinder and four-cylinder turbocharged engines displacing 1.5 and 2.0 litres respectively. As noted, the 1.5 makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and when installed in the base Cooper 3-Door, hits 100 km/h from standstill in 8.1 seconds with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and manages 8.8 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined with the former if driven more modestly, or 8.4, 6.5 and 7.5 with the latter. Obviously, performance and fuel economy won’t be quite as good in either the 5 Door, Clubman, or Convertible due to weight gains, a reality that affects the other engines in the lineup too.
On that note, the 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in the second-tier Cooper S, and once again comes with both six- and seven-speed transmissions, while the quickest and thriftiest Cooper S 3-Door manages a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds with either gearbox, plus fuel economy ratings of 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.8 combined with the manual, or a respective 8.9, 6.6 and 7.9 with the auto.
The best fuel economy of all, however, comes from Mini’s Cooper SE, which uses a 181 horsepower electric motor (with 199 lb-ft of torque) and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery to drive the front wheels, resulting in “fuel economy” of about 16.9 to 14.9 kWh/ 100 km (according to NEDC). Its 177-km range, makes it only suitable for urban use, however, which means you’ll need to leave it at home for longer road trips… a shame.
The Mini Cooper 3 Door and Convertible only have four seatbelts, which is probably all you’d ever want to try and fit in anyway (especially in the latter), while 5 Door and Clubman models feature seating for five, the latter housing five adults (kind of) being that it’s not only 454 mm (17.9 in) lengthier than the 3 Door and 293 mm (11.5 in) longer than the 5 Door, with a wheelbase that spans an extra 175 mm (6.9 in) and 103 mm (4.0 in) respectively, but also 74 mm (2.9 in) wider, which of course matters even more when stuffing three abreast. At 1,801 mm (70.9 in), the Clubman is also wider than anything in this class save Audi’s A3, while its wheelbase is identical to Acura’s ILX and BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, plus longer than the A3’s and BMW’s diminutive i3, the latter of which is still longer than both 3 and 5 Door Minis.
As you might have imagined, dedicated cargo capacity is most generous in the Clubman too, growing from just 160 litres (6.0 cubic feet) in the Convertible, 211 litres (7.0 cu ft) in the 3 Door, and 278 litres (10 cu ft) in the 5 Door, to 495 litres (17.5 cu ft) in the Clubman, which, in fact, is the same as the Countryman SUV.
As far as sales go, Mini delivered 2,739 examples of its four-model car lineup to Canadians in 2020 (not including the Countryman crossover), and also saw another 2,111 low-slung units leave its dealerships over the first nine months of this year, which makes it look like the brand will surpass last year’s rather poor showing when 2021 comes to an end, but it probably won’t realize as many car sales as in decades past. Prior to 2020, Mini’s worst calendar year on record for car deliveries was 2004 when it only sold 2,800 Cooper hatchbacks, but most other years the brand’s cars ranged between 3,500 and 5,500 Canadian sales.
So far, there’s no serious challenger to Mini’s collective Cooper car line when it comes to sales success in this class, but as mentioned earlier in this report, the real growth in the entry-level luxury sector is happening in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV category, in which Mini’s Countryman sits ninth out of 12 competitors (see the “Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now” story). Mini will likely need to achieve much greater success in that burgeoning category in order to keep funding the niche models in its car lineup, so as not to continue eroding what is currently a diverse offering.
Notably, Mini both expanded and contracted this car line dramatically from 2012 through 2017, with the introductions and then cancellations of the 2012–2015 Cooper Coupe and Cooper Roadster models. The 2013–2016 Cooper Paceman (a three-door crossover coupe based on the Countryman) was its attempt to widen its small SUV offering, a la BMW X2, but slow take-rates for all of these creative offerings have now turned them into modern-day collectables. To be clear, like all Minis these were brilliantly fun niche models that we were admittedly excited about initially, and while all three might now be seen as mistakes that negatively impacted the brand’s bottom line, having eaten up significant R&D money that could’ve gone elsewhere, it’s hard to criticize the brand for thinking outside of the box, or rather two-box design layout, and trying something completely different.
Still, it’s hard to keep a brand that’s as enjoyable to drive as Mini down (even its perennially low Consumer Reports reliability rating can’t do that), and while parent company BMW’s 2 Series is on a roll that could possibly see it pass by the Cooper for overall sales leadership in Canada (read about that below), diehard Mini enthusiasts (and there are many) continue to love what makes these little sprites segment best-sellers.
Mercedes’ A-Class leads sales of traditionally desirable subcompact luxury cars
Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most premium of luxury brands overall, this side of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, the Stuttgart-based automaker’s own Maybach marque, and a bunch of supercar makes like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, and of course Ferrari, so therefore, acquiring a sleek sport sedan or hot hatch bearing the famed three-pointed star will be seen by many as quite the accomplishment. This said, the most affordable way to do so comes by way of the A-Class, made available to Canadian new car buyers as of the 2019 model year.
The A-Class, available in both A 220 4Matic four-door sedan (see our review of the A 220 4Matic here) and A 250 4Matic five-door hatchback (see our review of the A 250 4Matic Hatch here) trims and body styles, plus sportier AMG A 35 versions of each, quickly earned the top-spot in the compact B-segment amongst traditionally desirable brands, thanks to managing 2,355 deliveries amidst a difficult 2020, which saw sales of most models in this category slide south, although 2021 already looks stronger for the entry-level Mercedes model thanks to 1,517 units sold throughout the first three quarters of the year, even though this positive growth now leaves it in the negative when compared to BMW’s increasingly popular 2 Series, which was made available with four doors as of model year 2020 (more on that in a minute).
To be totally fair, CLA-Class numbers should really be included in Mercedes’ overall segment sales, because it’s really the same car as the A-Class under its sleeker, more coupe-like skin, while most three-pointed star competitors, such as the just-covered Mini Cooper and BMW’s 2 Series, lump all of their subcompact body styles under one model name. This said, combining all the 2020 A-Class deliveries with the 1,085 CLAs sold in the same year results in a total of 3,440 B-segment sales for Mercedes, along the number-one position overall. Then again, if we’re looking at total automaker sales, BMW AG’s namesake brand and Mini combined for 3,881 deliveries in 2020 (including 168 i3 EVs), which puts the Bavarian marque on top. Likewise, the German and British brands’ combined Q3 sales of 4,033 units give it an even stronger lead so far in 2021, so Mercedes has some catching up to do.
This shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to a diverse A-Class engine lineup. The base A 220 sedan comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the same engine in the A 250 hatch makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the A 35 in either model, and the little 2.0-litre powerplant puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, making them two of the most exciting cars in their class to drive. What’s more, all A-Class models are some of the easiest to keep in their respective lanes, no matter the weather condition, due to standard 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Paddle-shifters enhance control of a standard 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also includes a standard ECO Start/Stop system to save on fuel, resulting in a 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined rating for the A 220 sedan; a 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined rating for the A 250 hatch; or a respective 10.7, 8.2 and 9.5 for both AMG A 35 models.
The A-Class’ near-longest 2,729 mm (107.4 in) wheelbase means both front and rear seating is comfortable for this small car category, while its fractionally narrower than average 1,796 mm (70.5 in) width (not including mirrors) shouldn’t make much of a difference from side-to-side.
At 243 litres (8.6 cu-ft), the sedan’s trunk is the smallest in the class, however, other than the two aforementioned Mini 3 Door models, but the hatchback’s cargo compartment is larger than average at 370 litres (13.0 cu ft), plus both provide more space when the rear seat is folded forward, made even more convenient with a 40/20/40-divided split.
Due to very few negatives, most A-Class customers are very satisfied with their purchases, as evidenced by the model’s top ranking in the “Compact Luxury Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, while J.D. Power named it runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” segment of its latest 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study (the sportier CLA-Class earned the top position). Last but hardly least, Vincentric placed it on top of the “Luxury Compact” class of its Best Fleet Value in Canada Awards, something it also achieved in the U.S.
Interestingly, none of the cars in this top five list even rated in the “Entry-Luxury-Car” category’s top three for Canadian Black Book’s latest 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, but this is (at least partially) because CBB includes pricier C-segment models, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class that claimed the highest accolades, as entry-level models. Likewise, Lexus’ mid-size ES, which was one of the runners-up, is considered entry-level by CBB too.
Ironically, being that residual values are all about pre-owned cars, with CBB’s awards going to three-year old vehicles, the ES was tied with Lexus’ now discontinued CT 200h. Obviously, Lexus models hold their value very well amongst small luxury cars, but then again, Mercedes does too, so it’s possible we’ll see the A-Class replace the CT for top-three residual value leadership when it’s been on the market long enough to qualify.
Expect major upsurge in Audi A3 sales when redesigned model arrives for 2022
Audi deserves credit for being the first German luxury carmaker to offer a four-door sedan in this compact B-Segment, with the advent of the redesigned 2015 A3 that was also available in higher performance S3 tune, plus as an A3 Cabriolet (Acura’s EL was the first entry-luxury sedan when it arrived in 1997, while the A3 was a five-door hatch from model years 2006 to 2014). An even more potent RS 3 sedan made this class of subcompacts shine in 2018, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Moving into the 2022 model year after technically not providing a 2021 car, the Cabriolet has been discontinued and all-new redesigned A3, S3 and RS 3 sedans are on the way. These should help boost the Ingolstadt-based brand’s future prospects in this waning segment, thanks to sharper styling, a modernized interior, and upgraded performance.
Now in its fourth generation, the new A3 rides on the same MQB platform used for the eighth-generation 2022 Volkswagen Golf (which kind of qualifies for entry-level luxury status on its own, at least in GTI and R trims), making it slightly longer, a bit wider and fractionally taller than the outgoing model, but the sedan’s 2,636 mm (103.8 in) wheelbase doesn’t change, so the extra 40 mm (1.6 in) of length has mostly gone to cargo capacity that’s up 64 litres (2.2 cu ft) to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft), from just 284 litres (10.0 cu ft) in previous years.
Just like its predecessor, the Canadian-spec A4 and S4 will receive one S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox shared between them, plus two different versions of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, although staying true with the times means that a 48-volt mild hybrid system has been added to the mix. While fuel economy will no doubt improve, aided further by coasting capability the shuts the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain off when not needed to maintain speed (i.e. going downhill), the hybrid system will also boost base performance from 184 horsepower to 201, although torque actually inches downward from 222 lb-ft to 221. This should result in a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time than the current car, which is rated at 6.2 seconds, but so far Audi hasn’t announced such numbers for the new model.
The 2022 S3, on the other hand, can dash from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, shaving a tenth from the old car’s sprint time thanks to a move up from 288 horsepower to 306, whereas its electronically-limited top track speed of 250 km/h is identical to the outgoing model.
Lastly, a new RS 3 is on the way, with a reported 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. It catapults from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 290 km/h (180 mph), while the new car’s handling will be improved with a torque-vectoring rear axle dubbed Torque Splitter, which was designed to reduce understeer while maintaining the Quattro AWD system’s legendary high-speed grip.
Identically to the outgoing A3, 2022 Canadian-spec trim levels include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, but the new car now comes standard with Quattro AWD, which has caused base pricing to increase substantially from $34,500 in 2020, to $38,900 (plus freight and fees) this coming year. The S3, which already included Quattro as standard, will now start $47,900. This is actually a decrease of $500 due to base Komfort trim now becoming available (Progressiv was the S3’s previous base trim). Of note, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 A3.
Improvements inside the 2022 A3 include a 10.3-inch version of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard equipment, plus a new 10.1-inch fixed infotainment display at centre, or a 12.3-inch upgrade, instead of the old pop-up unit that, while kind of awesome in its own way, is about as useful as pop-up headlights now that most jurisdictions require us to run with our front lamps on during the day. Therefore, as much as we might miss the main monitor powering up out of the dash during startup, or better yet, disappearing altogether on a night drive, the new larger display is more in keeping with today’s technology-first world, while it also integrates much more advanced high-definition capability along with updated graphics.
AS far as awards go, the outgoing A3 earned runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which was won by BMW’s 2 Series.
Gran Coupe has given BMW’s 2 Series line the shot in the arm it’s always needed
BMW’s 2 Series made the greatest B-segment gains in sales over the past year, mostly due to the aforementioned Gran Coupe. While year-over-year 2 Series deliveries only grew by 13 percent in 2020, up from 1,202 to 1,358 units, sales have already increased by more than 33 percent over the first nine months of 2021, now totaling 1,811 units for a current ranking of third in class. Of course, we need to factor Audi’s lack of 2021 A3, S3 and RS 3 models into any future prognostications, which, as noted earlier, caused their deliveries to almost completely disappear, thus we’ll need to see how well the new A3, and the completely redesigned 2 Series Coupe, fare in the coming year.
Yes, while the four-door variant of this model only gets minor package and standalone options changes for 2022, the two-door coupe has undergone a ground-up redesign, and most should like what they see. For starters, BMW chose a more conventional twin-kidney frontal grille compared to its larger 4 Series counterpart, which can best be described (in the kindest way possible) as controversial.
The “G42”, as it’s known internally, will once again feature rear- and all-wheel drive layouts in the U.S. and other markets, albeit so far only the latter has been announced for Canada. Additionally, no 255-horsepower 230i variant is expected in the land of the almost free either, but instead we’ll only get the 382-horsepower inline-six engine mated to a standard paddle shifter-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission—yes, no six-speed manual is available in either market, at least until we see a new M2 (which, fingers crossed, will hopefully have a DIY gearbox). That’s 47 additional horsepower than the outgoing M240i, incidentally, so despite its torque figure dropping down to 369 lb-ft, it still manages a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, while its top track speed remains limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).
An available adaptive M suspension will make the most of a 51-mm (2-in) longer wheelbase, its track also growing by 54 mm (2.1 in) up front and 31 mm (1.2 in) at the back, with near 50:50 weight distribution for almost ideal balance, so handling should be just as crisp. Overall, the 19-kg (42-lb) heavier, 1,755-kg (3,869-lb) 2 Series coupe grows 88 mm (3.4 in) longer and 66 mm (2.6 in) wider than its predecessor, although its 2.5-mm (1.0-in) height reduction makes for slipperier styling.
The longer wheelbase should aid cabin comfort, particularly in the rear, while those up front will benefit from deeper bolsters when upgrading the seats. Some standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, showing BMW really does have plans to market this 2 Series to folks with more than one friend, while an upgraded iDrive infotainment system boasts up to 10.3 inches of screen space, with new functions including an upgraded voice control system that can distinguish between driver and passenger commands, plus Connected Parking that notifies the driver of a given destination’s parking issues.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is also standard, with the latter providing full Google Maps integration, but iPhone users shouldn’t feel left out, because they can use NFC connectivity for up to five devices. Additionally, a mobile app makes the new 2’s LTE wi-fi function available from further away, providing the ability to check the car’s location or status, lock or unlock its doors as needed, and even access its external cameras for security’s sake.
The 2 Coupe’s new standard audio system provides 10 speakers and 205 watts of power, but audiophiles will want to upgrade to the Harman Kardon Surround Sound system thanks to its 14-speaker, 464-watt output. Additionally, a colour head-up display system has been added to the options list, projecting current speed, speed limit, and even passing restrictions onto the windshield ahead of the driver.
The new 2022 M240i xDrive is expected to show up at Canadian dealers in November, with pricing starting at $56,950, but as noted earlier there hasn’t been any announcement about the rear-wheel drive 230i. In fact, only the all-wheel version is currently offered on BMW Canada’s retail website, and CarCostCanada’s 2022 BMW 2 Series Canada Prices page isn’t showing a RWD version for 2022 either. This may mean the much-loved and considerably more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe won’t be coming north of the 49th.
Likewise, only the M235i xDrive version of the four-door Gran Coupe can currently be seen at CarCostCanada, while the 2022 version of this car isn’t showing up at BMW’s website at all. Instead, the automaker’s new car configurator just allows the 2021 model to be built, with two engine options, the other being the lesser 228i Gran Coupe, which at $38,990 remains the most affordable car in BMW’s Canadian lineup for the time being. If BMW has chosen not to bring its least expensive sedan to Canada, and instead price the most affordable 2 Series at $51,400, expect to see 2 Series sales drop off dramatically moving into the new year.
At least the 2021 2 Series represents good initial value, while all 2 Series trims do well when it comes time to trade in. As noted earlier, it earned the top spot in the “Premium Compact Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and making it an even better bet, the 2 Series took best-in-class honours in the same third-part analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), within its “Small Premium Car” segment. Additionally, it earned a best-in-class score in the same category of the coveted 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) too. That’s a lot of metal in the trophy cabinet, and reason enough to consider a new 2 Series if your budget allows, or a 2021 model while new ones remain available.
Mercedes takes fifth in sales with its sporty CLA four-door coupe
The previously mentioned Mercedes CLA-Class earned a solid fifth place in the compact B-segment, with 1,085 deliveries last year and 1,031 more over three quarters of 2021. Longer, wider and lower than the A-Class sedan, the CLA makes up for its size increase by being powered by the 221-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is also used in the A 250 Hatch. It boasts an identical 258 lb-ft of torque too, but its 75 kg (165lbs) of extra mass means that it’s slightly slower off the line than the hatchback, but its wider track should make up time in the corners.
The gap in off-the-line acceleration narrows to an unnoticeable 0.1 seconds in AMG CLA 35 trim, however, this model using the same 302 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four as found in both AMG-tuned A-Class models, but the even more formidable AMG CLA 45 leaves all of its lesser siblings far behind with a sprint from zero to 100 km/h of only 4.1 seconds, thanks to 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a heavily massaged version of the same 2.0-litre engine. The CLA 45 gets another cog in its dual-clutch gearbox too, totaling eight, aiding its higher top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph), while 4Matic all-wheel drive is once again standard.
For 2022, the CLA 250 4Matic starts at $43,600, while the AMG CLA 35 4Matic can be had from $52,100, and AMG CLA 45 4Matic from $62,900. Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2022 CLA models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,000.
How the rest of the subcompact luxury car field stacks up
Acura’s ILX remains a very competent offering in this class, despite its age (see a recent review of the ILX here). It received the brand’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille as part of a refresh for 2019, and received a boost in sales that year because of it. Deliveries dropped by 58.6 percent in calendar year 2020, with just 774 new buyers compared to 1,871 the year before, but 2021 has seen some strength with 729 down the road as of September 30th, and now with a new 2023 Integra expected to debut soon, Acura’s future in this class is brightening, as is the future of the entire segment that’s soon bolstering its ranks with another new entry. Moving into 2022 it will be last in the class, however, being that BMW’s i3 EV is being discontinued.
On the positive, the ILX achieved runner-up status in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which means the new 2022 ILX, which moves into the new model year without any notable changes, should be just as well built. It continues forward with one, single, high-revving, naturally aspirated 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard paddle-shifters, front-wheel drive, standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps, a twin-display infotainment system inside, and a full assortment of AcuraWatch safety and convenience features including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, much like the rest of the cars in this class.
ILX prices start at $31,400 in base trim for 2022, and move up to $33,900 for the Premium model, plus $35,400 for the Premium A-Spec, and finally $36,800 for the top-line Tech A-Spec. All ILX trims represent very good value in this segment, especially considering the model’s size and performance, while 2021 models are an even better deal, not only because they’re priced slightly lower, but also due to Acura currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are averaging big savings of $6,375.
Finally, a special mention should be given to BMW’s all-electric, or optionally range-extender-enhanced (REx) i3, which despite being an elder statesman in this class, and on its way to pasture, provides one of the most inviting interiors in any class, plus supercar-like carbon-fibre composite construction, all for a 2021 base price of $44,950, or $53,600 with the REx. BMW is also offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 from that list price, plus government rebates are available due to its battery plug-in powertrain. As noted previously in this article, the little Bimmer only sold 168 units last year, while just 111 examples have found home in 2021 so far.
There probably won’t be many if any new compact B-segment cars added to this category in the near future, unless Tesla or one of its EV rivals decides to offer an even smaller four-door sedan than the Model 3, or if Mazda’s 3 sedan and hatch move even further upmarket than their near-luxury top-tier GT has already gone, with higher pricing to match, but we may see alternative body styles of current models remerge, such as an A3 Sportback to counter Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch (see our review of the A 250 4Matic here), being that such layouts very popular in Quebec where European tastes remain dominant. Audi may also want to consider its A1 Sportback, especially if fuel costs keep rising and target entry customers’ expendable incomes are impacted by market instability, while BMW might be wise to consider its five-door 1 Series for the same reasons.
Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury car mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use all the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each car. Also, be sure to find out how CarCostCanada can save you thousands off your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
Mercedes was a forerunner in the subcompact luxury class with its B-Class MPV back in 2005. The practical little runabout provided a higher level of interior quality and better overall solidity than more…
Mercedes was a forerunner in the subcompact luxury class with its B-Class MPV back in 2005. The practical little runabout provided a higher level of interior quality and better overall solidity than more mainstream volume-branded small cars of the era, and therefore quickly became a hit here in Canada. No doubt many miss that intelligently designed people mover, but this said far fewer seem saddened by its loss than are now buying into its replacement, the much more universally appealing A-Class.
Mercedes brought its stylish four-door A 220 sedan and A 250 Hatch to market three years ago for the 2019 model year, and it quickly became the entry-level luxury sector’s most popular model, unless we’re including Mini’s Cooper (that edged the A out by 67 units in 2019) as a true premium-level car. Nevertheless, the A-Class, together with its sportier CLA sibling, dominate the subcompact luxury car segment, and believe me it’s not difficult to understand why.
I’ve driven all of the above, and therefore can attest to the many improvements Mercedes has brought to the fledgeling entry-level luxury sector. I say fledgeling because most premium brands continue to ignore it completely, instead focusing on entry-level crossover SUVs. Including the upright Mini hatchback and comparatively long, low and sleek CLA, only seven models occupy this smaller subcompact arena, the Cooper and A-Class followed by Audi’s A3 (and derivatives), BMW’s 2 Series, Acura’s ILX, and BMW’s i3, the latter of which probably fits more ideally into a separate entry-level electric luxury car category that doesn’t really exist yet.
The latter list is based on their sales volume in calendar year 2020, by the way, and on that note, I expected the much less expensive four-door Gran Coupé body-style would give BMW’s 2 Series line a solid leg up the segment’s sales chart order last year, but it didn’t even manage to outpace the aging Audi A3, which never even received a 2021 version to boost sales at the end of last year, due to soon being replaced for 2022.
That last car in mind makes me wonder why Audi doesn’t believe it can sell the hatchback version of its A3 in North America, while Mercedes obviously can. Sedans have long done better in the U.S. market, but there’s a place for arguably sportier looking and definitely more practical liftbacks, that is unless trunk security is a big issue in your city. Property crime is rampant in my town, especially from cars, but I’d still prefer a hatch over a sedan for general convenience’ sake, especially when loading it full of gear.
Fortunately, I was able to test the A 220 4Matic late last year, plus this slightly quicker A 250 4Matic Hatch, and AMG versions of both (those two reviews are shortly forthcoming), and while I might find it difficult to choose from the four, opting for Mercedes over the others wouldn’t be as difficult a decision. After all, along with their good looks, fabulous interior design, and impressive all-round performance, they scored highest amongst their Compact Luxury Car classmates in AutoPacific’s latest 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA), after doing the same in that third-party analytical firm’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA) study.
Likewise, Vincentric (another third-party analytical firm) awarded the A 220 4Matic with the Best Fleet Value in Canada in its Luxury Compact segment, and they even include larger compacts within this category, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class and BMW’s 3 Series. Speaking of holding value, the Canadian Black Book gave similar accolades to the just-noted C-Class in their 2020 “Best Retained Value” Award (2021 hasn’t been revealed yet) that, like Vincentric, includes subcompacts as well, so that honour should rub off a bit on its little A-Class brother’s shoulders, but then again BMW’s 2 Series is said to have held onto most of its “investment” in the Premium Compact Car category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, while that firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) puts the most affordable Bimmer on top of its Small Premium Car segment too.
I obviously need to call BMW in order to book a test drive, hopefully in the newish Gran Coupé, which I must admit is one great looking sport sedan, plus if it drives anywhere near as well as the M2 I tested previously, it has to be a serious contender in this class. Of course, BMW has yet to offer anything so practical in the entry-level sector with its sportiest M badge, something Mercedes has been doing with its AMG division for as long as its CLA has been in existence (model year 2014), so kudos to the F1-inspired mega-luxury brand for bestowing power on the masses so early. Audi followed shortly thereafter with its S3 for 2015 and RS 3 for 2018, while it took BMW until model year 2016 to arrive with its M2, which to this day remains available in two-door Coupe form only.
Just how I fell down this subcompact luxury/performance car rabbit hole and remained trapped inside for so long, says a lot about my undisciplined personality, but suffice to say Mercedes’ go-fast attitude trickles down to its more fuel-conscious trim lines. Before delving into the exact A 250 Hatch shown on this page, it might interest you to know about the various trims and how they all fit together to form the most diverse lineup in the subcompact luxury car segment.
For starters, the A 220 sedan receives a 188-horsepower version of Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s good for 221 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through a quick-shifting yet smooth-operating seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. The A 250 Hatch ups the ante with a much more potent spin on the same engine, enhanced with 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which just happens to be the same output as found in the base CLA 250 4Matic.
While all this sounds great, take note of the AMG A 35’s claimed output of 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, regardless of sedan or hatchback body styles, while the AMG CLA 45 puts out a staggering 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. That one I must drive, as it comes mighty close to the M2’s 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, yet as already noted does so in a much more livable four-door package.
Coming back to earth, the A 250 Hatch is a very spirited daily driver, that not only puts fun back into the weekly commute, but combines that with a bit of thrifty pragmatism at the pump thanks to an estimated fuel economy rating of 9.4 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway, and 8.2 combined when driving modestly in Eco mode. Surprisingly, that rating makes it more efficient than the less powerful A 220, which nevertheless sips fuel at the fairly easy rate of 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined, which either means the A 250 Hatch provides a best-of-all-world’s performance/efficiency scenario, or Canada’s five-cycle testing method is somehow out of whack.
The two AMG-powered A-Class models are pretty stingy on fuel too, by the way, with identical ratings of 9.5 combined, while the quickest CLA isn’t much thirstier at 10.3 combined, that latter giving some buyers reason enough to choose the Merc over the comparatively gluttonous M2, which slurps up 12.6 L/100km of pricey premium. Don’t get me wrong, because I absolutely love the M2, but something more practical as a daily driver would be a necessity in my life.
Enter the A 250 4Matic Hatch, what I think is the ideal balance of luxury, spaciousness, and performance in this class, all for a reasonable price. It sneaks under the $40k threshold at $39,900, albeit before adding freight and fees (plus options you’ll definitely want), yet after subtracting up to $1,000 in additional factory incentives, according to CarCostCanada’s 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page.
While we’re talking pricing, both AMG A 35 models start at $49,800, also fair for all the added performance, features and styling upgrades, so don’t count this one out before doing the requires maths to see if you can fit one into your budget. This said, I would totally understand if someone chose an A 250 hatch instead, being that its straight-line performance is more than adequate, handling prowess excellent, and overall refinement easily up to premium standards.
I’ll let you decide how you feel about its exterior styling, as it’s a personal taste issue, but for what it’s worth I love the way this car, and the rest of the A-Class lineup looks. Its sport grille pulls on classic Mercedes design cues going all the way back to “Silver Arrows” race cars of the 1950s, the W196 Streamliner a personal favourite, which, along with an open-wheel variant, helped the three-pointed star brand sweep the Formula One World Championships in 1954 and ’55 by claiming victory at the old high-speed Monza, Italy track (with its fabulous high-banked curves) in Streamlined Type Monza bodywork (they had more flexible regulations back then), with two legends, Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, at the wheel.
I love Mercedes’ storied history, something you really can’t put a price on. Sure, Asian luxury brands provide some nice premium alternatives, but few marques come close to offering up what Mercedes has in store, no matter the premium segment they’re competing in. For an example, Porsche’s brilliant 911 GT2 RS (991.2) only recently unseated the phenomenal AMG GT Black Series’ fastest production car lap record on the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife race track, and I’m willing to bet Mercedes will be back to once again contest single-lap bragging rights at some point in the near future, while it should also be noted the German automaker (with help from Brackley) has owned the top spot in F1 for seven consecutive years running.
Back at the Nürburgring, a current A 45 S 4Matic+ (W177) was piloted around the 20.8-km course in October of 2019, managing a respectable time of 7:48.80 minutes, which while not quite as quick as the GT Black Series that ran the ‘Ring in just 6:43.616 in order to earn fastest production car status back in November of 2020, makes me ponder how much fun this A 250 4Matic would be on a closed course.
Alas, no opportunity arose for me to take this little liftback to my local raceway, not that the 2-km, nine-turn road course is anything to get particularly excited about, especially when considering all the circuitous mountainside roads located throughout my area. Thus, my weeklong test of this A 250 4Matic Hatch, which included a dedicated day-trip, was most enjoyable, which of course included a few stints that hovered slightly over posted speeds for short durations.
The engine’s aforementioned output gives the A 250 good power off the line, resulting in a claimed zero to 100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds (which is 1.5 seconds slower than the A 35 Hatch, in case you were wondering), while its dual-clutch gearbox, complete with steering wheel paddles and a very engaging Dynamic Sport mode, shortens input reaction times to make the most of the drivetrain and nicely sorted chassis setup.
To be clear, Sport mode doesn’t make any changes to the front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s pre-set characteristics, which is already lowered slightly from the A 220 sedan. My tester, which rode on 225/45R18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season rubber encircling four gorgeous AMG-branded five-spoke alloys, was noticeably sharper in most every other way, which certainly seemed to enhance its overall performance through corners. Braking is strong too, and totally controllable, even when clamping down hard from high speeds, something I was able to do repeatedly with very little fade.
The other three modes are Eco, Comfort, and Individual, the first one being where I left it more often than not in order to minimize fuel consumption, the second a default mode it automatically reverted to at start up, and the final fourth setting allowing some personal choice between performance parameters. Eco and Comfort modes transform the compact hatch into a fairly refined city commuter and highway cruiser, although to be frank this isn’t the most cosseting of suspensions in the class. You will feel the road below, something Mercedes drivers openly appreciate, but I didn’t find it as firm as a similarly optioned 2 Series.
Driving more casually gives opportunity to appreciate the A 250’s beautiful interior. I know BMW does a good job with quality, as does Audi, all the Germans being leaps and bounds ahead of the sole Japanese contender in this class, but Mercedes is the absolute king of bling inside. The A-Class has a drop-dead gorgeous cabin, starting with its two-in-one MBUX digital gauge cluster/infotainment touchscreen that provides such brilliantly crisp and sensationally colourful graphics it’ll take your breath away.
The driver’s display allows each user to choose a design that suits their personal style, all of which are more vibrant than anything I’ve seen from the competition. The integrated multi-information display is as full of functions as anything in this class too, providing loads of discoverable options to keep the love alive long after the initial excitement of purchase might otherwise subside.
The attached infotainment display is a touchscreen, as noted, and therefore fully capable of tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, depending on the function being used. I should also note that Mercedes provides a redundant infotainment controller on the lower console that’s easier to reach when sitting back in the driver’s seat. It includes a touchpad that works identically to the touchscreen, other than providing haptic feedback, plus is surrounded by a number of quick-access switchgear for immediate access to regularly used functions. Yet more infotainment redundancy can be found on the steering wheel spokes, so Mercedes has you covered no matter how you want to integrate with the MBUX system.
The infotainment monitor is just as high in definition as the driver’s display, by the way, and includes all the expected features when moving up through Mercedes’ checklist of options. What this means is you’ll need to spend more to get features that might come standard in cars from the Asian brands, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration which, believe it or not, come as part of the $2,950 Premium Package.
There’s a lot more in that package that you’ll most likely want, including a wireless device charger, proximity-sensing keyless access, ambient lighting, an auto-dimming centre mirror and driver’s side mirror, power-folding exterior mirrors, blind spot assist, vehicle exit warning, live traffic info, a Connect 20 Mid audio upgrade, and get this, a digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch central media display, and MBUX extended functions, such as an automatic front camera that warns of stationary obstacles (even cars ahead when pulling up to a stoplight), or a similar feature that does the same thing when a pedestrian is walking across a crosswalk. This said, the ultra-wide combined displays I made such a fuss about earlier, are not standard.
This I didn’t know before writing this review, because I’ve never seen the alternative. In fact, just try to look through online images for a photo of a base model with analogue gauges and a separate display screen and you probably won’t be able to locate anything, something I did at length in multiple search tools. Even Mercedes doesn’t show this interior when configuring an A 250 on their retail website, this base car always showing the upgraded instrument panel photo in its interior gallery. It’s as if it didn’t exist at all. I’m guessing the Premium Package is chosen by each and every dealer, because who’d want an A-Class without it? It’s a smart way to get the advertised retail price below $40k, but probably not reflective of anything you’re going to find on the lot. I suppose you could order one if you really wanted to remain analogue.
Navigation is optional too, which is normal for this class. The $1,000 augmented reality-enhanced upgrade provides live traffic information as well, plus traffic sign assist, while a $1,600 Technology Package adds active Multibeam LED headlights with adaptive high beams, and Distronic active distance assist.
Advanced driver aids and safety equipment in mind, a $1,900 Intelligent Drive Package adds Distronic active distance assist separately, plus active speed limit assist, map-based speed adaptation, enhanced automated stop-and-go, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active emergency stop assist, active blind spot assist, active steering assist, evasive steering assist, active lane change assist, and active lane keeping assist.
Should I go on? Maybe it’s better if you go to Mercedes’ retail site to build this car yourself, or for that matter over to the CarCostCanada page I mentioned earlier, where you can configure it similarly, right down to the wide array of $890 to $2,500 optional paint colours.
Before departing completely from the options menu, I should probably point out that the AMG-style wheels noted before are in fact part of a $1,500 Sport Package that also changes up the grille with a chromed diamond-block insert, plus it modifies the lower front fascia with a more aggressive AMG design featuring attractive metallic accents. Inside, your feet will rest upon special AMG floor mats when they’re not pressing down on a set of AMG brushed stainless steel sport pedals, while your backside settles in to upgraded sport front seats and your hands grip a much nicer sport steering wheel wrapped in fine Nappa leather, the aluminum shift paddles on its backside part of this package as well. A bit more ($2,000) will swap the Sport Package out for an all-black Night Package, if a more menacing look is your thing.
The steering wheel rim can be heatable for an additional $250, or for $1,200 more the just-noted front seats can be climate cooled to reduce perspiration during hot summer months. Other extras include a $450 powered front passenger seat with memory, a $300 universal remote, a $650 overhead parking camera, a $1,500 head-up display, a $900 active parking assist system, a $700 Burmester audio upgrade with 12 speakers and 450 watts of power (that would be high on my list, despite the regular audio system sounding just fine), $450 for satellite radio, and more. A car with all of these options and a simple metallic paint will add about $17,000 to the base model’s list price, resulting in about $57k before any discount, which is more or less the level of top-tier pricing you’ll find with most of the A 250 Hatch’s rivals.
What you won’t find with any of these are the interior details hinted at earlier, the dual-display MBUX system only part of the car’s wow factor. The stunning five circular HVAC vents on the dash are eye-arresting enough, their brushed aluminum finish looking like a quintet of retro jet engines. Likewise, knurled metal trim bits adorn some of the key buttons, knobs and toggles, while plenty of other interior accents are finished in aluminum or aluminized composite. If the little A 250’s interior doesn’t titillate your senses, I’m afraid you’ve lost your love for cars, or at least modern, tech-filled conveyances.
If you’re more into taller SUVs than classically shaped cars, most everything that makes the A 250 4Matic great can be had in the GLA 250 4Matic, so keep that in mind while shopping. Likewise, the A-Class’ general styling, on the outside and inside, is much like its larger brethren, although the C-Class never received Mercedes’ dual MBUX display, and will soon skip right past that infotainment era for the 2022 model year, which introduces a new version of the system featuring individual driving and media interfaces, the latter a lot larger and closer to the driver, thus negating the redundant lower console-mounted touchpad and controls that come as part of an upgraded A-Class and so many other models in Mercedes’ lineup.
Eventually we’ll see how this next chapter in interior design plays out in future A-Class models, but until then, today’s A remains the most advanced subcompact luxury car on the planet (when so equipped). So, if you’re in the market for an entry-level premium car, you’ve really got to check the A-Class out in person.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and…
As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and handling, or Honda’s Fit as far as cargo carrying capability, but those two, like so many others in this class, are gone, leaving a shrinking subcompact market segment that’s now a mere shadow of what it once was only a few short years ago.
Fortunately, the current 2021 Bolt includes a few crossover-like styling cues, such as roof rails plus some thick black cladding around its wheel cutouts and rocker panels, as well as an ever-so-slightly raised stance, so it kind of qualifies for subcompact SUV status. Either way, the tiny rocket would probably beat the aforementioned Fiesta ST off the line, let alone a Mini Cooper JCW, while the impressive load of features in my top-level Premier model comes close to promoting it to premium status.
By all accounts it’s a rather unassuming looking hatchback, not unlike the Spark and Sonic that came before. It’s sized more like the latter car, but provides a sleeker, more windswept look than the now discontinued Chevy subcompact, and certainly more road presence than the tiny little Spark, which has now taken over the mantle of Canada’s most affordable new car from Nissan’s cancelled Micra and Mitsubishi’s slightly pricier Mirage.
Having only arrived in 2017, the Bolt has quickly taken over sales chart superiority in the subcompact segment, with last year’s 4,026 Canadian deliveries clearly outpacing the category’s second-best-selling Kia Rio that only managed to find 3,868 buyers, a far cry from the 15,601 new owners it earned in 2013, a year that saw Hyundai’s Accent in first with 18,884 sales. Interestingly, 2013 wasn’t even the Accent’s most successful year, with 2008 notching up 29,751 unit-sales, this being the highest number of sales that a vehicle in this class has ever managed over a calendar year in Canada. The entire segment didn’t even break 16,000 deliveries in 2020, incidentally, and if it wasn’t for the Bolt, it probably wouldn’t have come close to that number. Looking back now, it’s bizarre to fathom that Canada’s subcompact category almost hit 100,000 units in 2014.
Of course, the Bolt has about as much in common with today’s Kia Rio or Nissan Versa (the only two mainstream volume-branded subcompact models left) as a BMW 3 Series. Sure, it might be sized like the little Korean and Japanese models, but it’s plug-in battery-powered and therefore priced more like the Bavarian luxury sedan. In fact, you can buy the Bimmer for $48 less (not factoring in dealer discounts or government subsidies); the 330e plug-in hybrid starting at $44,950, compared to the base Bolt LT’s starting price of $44,998.
My Bolt Premier tester will set you back $50,298, including its vibrant Oasis Blue paint, this standout hue of blue being one of two standard colours including Summit White, while Silver Ice Metallic (exclusive to this trim), Nightfall Grey Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic, Kinetic Blue Metallic, Cayenne Orange Metallic, and Slate Grey Metallic cost $495 extra, and Cajun Red Tintcoat is slightly more at $595.
You’ll need to pay $750 more for a Driver Confidence II package if you want to get following distance indicator, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and IntelliBeam automatic high beams, items normally standard in this price range, thus pushing the base price up over $51,000, while Chevy also offers a 120-volt charging cord for $850, plus aluminum sill plates for $155, a number of carpeted and all-weather floor and cargo mats, an interior protection package, a cargo net, and the list goes on.
While the price of entry is staggeringly high for the Bolt’s subcompact class, its base sticker costing more than twice as much as the most expensive 2021 Kia Rio 5-Door EX Premium, keep in mind that base models qualify for the federal government’s $5,000 rebate, while BC offers another $5,000 rebate (my total rebate was shown as $8,000 after configuring) and residents of Quebec a maximum of $8,000 (check with each jurisdiction for eligibility), so other than the fact that these incentives are paid by regular Canadian taxpayers (many of which are poor folk barely managing to keep making payments on their Sparks, Micras and Mirages, let alone bus passes), it can significantly reduce the cost of EV ownership.
With or without the just-noted extras, the Bolt Premier’s cabin is very inviting, with a lot of light and medium grey colour tones combined with orange stitching on the perforated two-tone leather seats. It’s a sporty look that nicely matches the little electric car’s spunky character.
Most eye-catching is the digital gauge cluster and large infotainment touchscreen, the former bright, colourful and filled mostly with primary driving information, albeit featuring a useful multi-information display at centre. The main touchscreen on the centre stack was bright and colourful too, plus extremely well-organized with most of the features new car buyers expect these days, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as all the usual audio features like SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming. Redundant controls are included for the single-zone auto climate system too, plus in-depth pages for powertrain efficiencies.
Considering the lofty price, I found it odd that no navigation system was included, especially now that some electric cars provide sophisticated navigation equipment that effectively maps out range and finds the nearest public charging location. Of course, you’ll be able to use your smartphone’s navigation via the aforementioned Google and Apple apps for directions, even if these don’t include the types of EV-specific functions $50k should provide. Fortunately, the just-noted audio system is a good enough distraction to lessen any range anxiety that might develop by not knowing where to hook up, while the moving guideline-enhanced backup camera with its separate overhead view will make slotting into the EV charger’s parking spot a near effortless experience when you’ve finally located one.
Charging is almost a non-issue, by the way, thanks to so much range that you might find yourself blasting up and down the highway just to see if you can drain it, like I did for part of my test. In fact, I drove it most of the week without the need to charge, but take note that larger batteries need longer to top up. Chevy claims about 40 km of range per hour of charging on a 240-volt system, which you can purchase for your home or find elsewhere in shopping mall parking lots, public building parking, or private charging resellers like ChargePoint or Flo, while a public-access DC fast charger only needs 30 minutes on the plug to generate up to 145 km of range.
Max range on a full charge is 417 km, although this is an estimate that depends on plenty of factors, from the load you’re carrying (including bodies and cargo), exterior temperature (colder weather means less range), driving style (if you’re stomping on the throttle all the time, or putting on a lot of highway miles, you’ll dramatically reduce distance to empty), plus more.
Yes, the “tiny rocket” descriptor I used at the beginning of this review says it all, the Bolt lives up to its name and then some. Jabbing right foot to the floor results in seriously neck-snapping straight-line acceleration, the direct result of all the big battery’s 66-kWh capacity and the immediacy of an electric motor’s power delivery, especially one putting out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. With Sport mode engaged (which really does make a difference), it’s 0.2 seconds quicker off the line than the long-gone Fiesta ST, by the way, the Bolt launching from standstill to 100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds, but its 1,616-kilo (3,563-lb) curb weight is just too much to make it as agile through the corners as the 1,234 kg (2,721 lb) blue-oval hatchback.
It holds its own nonetheless, and provides a more comfortable ride, which no doubt matters more to the majority of EV buyers. On that note, I left it in one-pedal mode most of the time, what you get by pulling the gear lever rearward to its L position. This allows you to drive by just using the throttle; what might otherwise be called the gas pedal in a conventional vehicle, or we could call it the go-pedal if you prefer. So set, braking is mostly automatic via electric motor drag when lifting the right foot. It’s an incredibly smooth operator, much better, in fact, than any previous system like this I’ve used. Normally there’s too much braking power, causing everyone’s heads to bob back and forth uncomfortably when pressing and lifting off the go-pedal, but the Bolt was really smooth and easy to modulate.
Chevy also provides a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that effectively does the same when it comes to braking, so if you prefer to have less rolling resistance for a more traditional feel when driving around, you can just leave it in drive and use the steering wheel paddle to brake when needed. Of course, there’s a big brake pedal in the usual spot, just in case you need to stop quickly.
The steering wheel rim next to braking paddle is heatable, incidentally, while the Bolt Premier’s three-way heated front seats were capable of therapeutic levels of warmth. Additionally, a wireless device charger was integrated within the lower centre console, purposely tucked away so drivers won’t be tempted to glance down at an incoming message when on the road. Chevy made sure that texts can be viewed and responded to (via stock answers) on the centre display, so there’s less need to touch it while driving. Two USB-A connectors and a powered auxiliary port can be found right beside the wireless charging pad, while another two USB-A charging points are located on the backside of the front console for rear passengers.
In case you were wondering if the Bolt Premier’s $50k-plus retail price buys you lavish levels of luxurious finishings, Chevy wasn’t feeling generous when applying the types of soft-touch synthetic surfaces found in cars costing upwards of $30,000. Instead, it gets a small rubber armrest on each door panel, plus a more comfortable padded leatherette one in the middle. I found the seats excellent, offering good support all around, but surprisingly they’re not powered. Should we chalk that up to environmentally conscious weight savings?
Along with the manual seats and lack of navigation, my top-line Bolt was also missing a sunroof, and just in case you didn’t notice me mention it above, the automatic HVAC system only has one single zone. Some of these items can be found in similarly sized subcompact hatchbacks sold in the low $20,000s, so when it comes to these creature comforts, at least, be prepared to pay more for less.
Of course, the majority the money goes towards the big battery pack and electrical drive system that makes driving it so much fun, and so ultimately efficient. It’s also roomy, especially for legroom and headroom. Chevy designed it with a long wheelbase to accommodate the battery, which spans the entire floor, from the front foot well to rearmost portion of the back seat. The end result is a noticeable improvement in legroom over its subcompact peers, while head space in this class is almost always open and airy. This said it’s narrower than compacts like Chevy’s old Cruze and Volt, but not by much, while it’s a lot wider than the little Spark, so there’s more room for elbows and knees.
The driver’s position fit my long-legged, short-torso body ideally, with excellent reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, while most rear passengers should be able to stretch their legs out to some extent, due to feet slotting easily underneath the front seat. A nice large folding armrest can be found at the centre of the rear row, while heated seats are included in back too. There’s decent storage as well, with 1,603 litres (56.6 cu ft) available when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, making this a very practical little electric. Chevy even includes a removable cargo floor for fitting in taller cargo or stowing belongings below, one item of which was the aforementioned 120-volt household-style charge cord that can be used at home while waiting for a 240-volt system to be installed.
So that’s the 2021 Chevy Bolt from front to back, with a little sales info and road testing to spice things up in between. If you’re looking for the best deal on a subcompact hatchback it’s probably not the car for you, but if you want the most advanced small hatch on the market, not to mention one of the more affordable new electric cars available, it’s a very good choice that I can’t help but recommend. Its overall performance is strong, range superb, infotainment technology impressive, overall livability great for the small car sector, and overall design appealing for a car in its class.
The all-new 2022 model will remedy a significant portion of my pricing complaint, so if you’re considering one of these outgoing 2021 models, make sure to aggressively push for a final price that comes closer to matching the much more affordable new version. If your Chevy dealer can’t do that, you should probably choose a 2022.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
The Bolt EV, which currently combines subcompact-sized hatchback practicality with a zero-emissions plug-in battery-powered electric drivetrain that’s more fun to drive than anything available at its…
The Bolt EV, which currently combines subcompact-sized hatchback practicality with a zero-emissions plug-in battery-powered electric drivetrain that’s more fun to drive than anything available at its entry-level size, is getting a major update for 2022, including an even more practical EUV crossover variant.
Think of the latter as the modern-day version of the now defunct Prius V, which was a good idea from a practical standpoint, albeit the EUV is purely electric instead of hybrid powered, and arguably more attractive to a broader consumer base. The two Chevy EVs are also smaller than anything that currently wears the Prius nameplate, with even the updated regular variant sized closer to the subcompact Prius C, which was also discontinued for lack of sales.
Despite mighty Toyota failing to create a brand within a brand with its highly successful Prius nameplate, now only offering two slightly different looking versions of the same compact/mid-size hatchback, one hybrid-powered and the other upgraded with a larger battery and plug-in capability, General Motors’ most popular brand will take a stab at the sub-brand business model, but to Chevrolet’s credit their new EUV actually looks like a subcompact crossover, so maybe it will fare better in this daunting quest than Toyota.
The current first-generation Bolt is a raised hatchback as well, and therefore similarly crossover-like. In another attempt to give it crossover status, the new version, shown on a sandy beach in some of its press photos (which is never a smart place to park without four-wheel drive), once again gets a slight lift along with blacked out trim around its lower regions and wheel cut outs, with only a set of black roof rails needed to finish off the SUV look. Alas, you’ll need to step up to the new EUV to get those.
The Bolt EUV also grows the regular model in every dimension, although it’s really only adding 161 mm (6.3 in) of length, being that it’s just 5 mm (0.2 in) wider with 10 mm (0.4 in) more track, plus 5 mm (0.2 in) taller. This improvement, which adds 75 mm (3 in) of wheelbase, allows the EUV to gain 78 mm (3.1 in) of legroom in back, but oddly cargo space is down a fraction, from 470 litres (15.6 cu ft) with the seats up and 1,614 litres (57.0 cu ft) when lowered, to 462 and 1,611 litres (16.3 and 56.9 cu ft) respectively in the larger EUV.
Despite the increase in height, the EUV’s headroom is also lower by a literal 0.2-mm (0.1-in) hair front to back, while it loses 24 mm (0.9 in) more up front when the sunroof is added. Shoulder room gets reduced nominally in the second row too, whereas hip room increases by a similarly wafer-thin sliver up front yet decreases by slightly more in back, so therefore the move up to the larger EUV really only benefits rear passenger legroom, an issue that reportedly causes complaints from current Bolt owners. At least the little crossover’s curb weight only increases by 41 kilos (90 lbs).
The added weight won’t likely be felt by EUV buyers thanks to the aforementioned performance of today’s Bolt, a power unit that Chevy saw no need to upgrade, although it will shave approximately 15 km (9 miles) from the larger model’s estimated range, from 417 km (259 miles) to 402 (250). This means the new 2022 Bolt EV and EUV will both be powered by a permanent magnetic electric drive motor and 65-kWh, 288-cell lithium-ion battery that combine for a very healthy 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Both models will be front-wheel drive only, like a number of other small crossover SUVs currently available.
DC fast charging capability is standard, which provides about 150 or 160 km (100 or 95 miles) of respective EV or EUV range after a 30-minute recharge, while a new dual-level charge cord allows its owner to hook up to either a 240-volt charging station or 120-volt household-type three-prong outlet.
Anyone familiar with the current Bolt will see the new models’ most significant changes inside, where both the EV and EUV receive cabins featuring a more horizontal theme to create a wider visual presence. The new layout is more conventional too, with a less pod-like centre stack that flows downward into a traditional lower console. It remains filled with the same standard 10.2-inch touchscreen, which is not only large for the subcompact class, but has been refreshed with new graphics. The system continues to offer a full assortment of functions, including standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus available navigation, while it’s now supported by standard wireless charging. On the contrary, the fully digital primary instrument cluster appears identical to that in the outgoing car.
Along with the current Bolt’s previously noted rear legroom shortcomings, customers also complained about seat comfort and substandard interior materials quality. While there’s never an excuse for the former, the latter wouldn’t normally be an issue amongst subcompact vehicles, but being that the Bolt EV nudges up against $45,000 before any government rebate programs, more soft-touch synthetics probably should have been part of this EV’s offering all along. Therefore, 2022 variants will reportedly get better perceived quality, with some dash-mounted faux leather even appearing in the press images. Interior switchgear has also been improved, although nothing appears premium-like in its design or execution.
The redesigned lower centre console features a new gear selector, however, ditching the conventional shift lever for a narrow row of Acura/Honda-like push and pull buttons. A green-lit button closest to the driver engages one-pedal driving, which is a more effective way than sliding the shift lever into the “L” position, a system used for the current Bolt and other GM EVs and plug-ins. More familiar to Bolt and Volt users are paddles on the backside of the new flat-bottom steering wheel, which can be used to assist braking and recharge the battery via regenerative kinetic energy.
Speaking of tech, the top-tier EUV Premier will be the first Chevy to offer GM’s Super Cruise hands-free semi-self-driving technology, functional on median divided highways. The EUV Premier also boasts adaptive cruise control and an HD 360-surround parking camera.
As for new Bolt family styling, most should find the smaller EV more attractive than its already reasonably handsome (for a subcompact hatchback) predecessor, unless its prospective owners would rather look at a more traditional grille-filled front fascia. The new car does away with the black mesh grille insert for a grey-painted and patterned panel within an ovoid outline, a very slender opening slotting below being the only real opening. This at least creates a familiar face compared to the Tesla Model 3 that looks as if it’s one of those non-branded cars used for insurance company advertising (and the like).
Chevy once again ties a black strip of fender trim into the headlight clusters, which are now LEDs to enhance forward visibility and potentially lead to a higher IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, but those lighting elements are much more complex than the ones departing. The main lenses are narrower, thanks to the just noted LEDs within, while the old car’s traditional fog lamps get replaced by an extension of said black trim, not unlike today’s Cadillac front fascia designs.
The EUV gets a different frontal look, separating the headlamps and vent-like fog lamp bezels, and providing a deeper air intake at the base of the solid grey grille insert. The aforementioned black fender trim piece flows into the mirror caps of both cars, and appears to follow the black-painted window trim around the glass to a floating roof, similar to the car it replaces and other Chevy vehicles. While the backsides of both models are quite different in execution, they have similar designs overall, with neat, horizontally-shaped LED-infused taillights at each corner, plenty of glossy black composite in between, and big matte black bumpers at the bottom, the EUV a bit dressier thanks to a set of aluminum-look faux skid plates front to rear.
Pricing for the 2022 Bolt EV will start at just $38,198 plus freight and fees, which is an impressive $6,800 less than the outgoing 2021 Bolt EV, whereas the new Bolt EUV will be available from only $40,198. Just as importantly, loading them up should keep their end numbers below $45k, which if exceeded disallows them from government rebate programs. Currently, only the base 2021 Bolt LT, at $44,998, qualifies for the most generous government handout, while the better equipped Bolt Premier’s $50,298 MSRP disqualifies it from any rebates. The new models are expected to arrive at GM retailers this summer, so we expect GM to offer ever-increasing incentives in order to rid dealerships of the current model.
So far CarCostCanada is only showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2021 Bolts, and up to $2,000 on 2020 models, but you’ll need to become a member to find out the details. CarCostCanada’s inexpensive membership provides the latest info on manufacturer rebates, when available, plus up-to-date details on factory leasing and financing deals, while best of all you’ll receive dealer invoice pricing to help you get the optimal deal on any new vehicle.
When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never achieves the same level of musical genius again. Could the next Z be the one that finally outdoes the original?
Sometimes we forget that Nissan (then Datsun in North America) had already experienced relative success with another great sports car before the 240Z arrived in 1969. In fact, the 1965–1970 1600 roadster (and predecessors), named Fairlady in Japan and raced in SRL 2000 form by actor Paul Newman at the very beginning of his motorsport career, was the 240Z’s (Fairlady Z’s) predecessor despite looking nothing like it. Where the 1600 roadster looked and performed similarly to British and Italian sports cars of the era such as the MGB, Triumph TR4/TR5, Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider and Fiat Spider, the 240Z left every other entry-level competitor in the visual and literal dust, and became an instant hit because of it.
The Zs that followed gained displacement to overcome pollution equipment and therefore weren’t quite as appealing, while the 280ZX added luxury and weight, a scenario that continued to play out with the 300ZX, although the second-generation 300ZX was absolutely gorgeous and extremely powerful for the era, and is therefore considered by many as the best Z since the 240. This said the 350Z was lauded for styling and performance when it arrived, while the 370Z added more luxury and weight, and has kind of worn out its welcome after 12 years on the market. This brings us to the here and now, with hopes that the yellow beast before us all is a thinly disguised seventh-gen Z.
The Z Proto, as it’s called, appears more than just a concept. The name Proto is short for prototype after all, which outside of sports car racing circles means a near production ready concept designed to test the waters before a full introduction. Nissan has a history of near-production concepts, which bodes well for this car becoming the new 400Z, as netizen pundits are calling it.
Nissan has been teasing the next-gen Z for quite a while, first with a teaser video showing the car in silhouette a few months ago. This caused quite the stir, with many expecting a production-ready car to appear, but alas we only have a concept, albeit a nicely fleshed out one at that. The Z Proto looks like it could easily be a production model, from its graceful lines that pay greater respect to the original than any Z since the ‘70s, to its fully formed interior that continues forward with many of the key design elements that have always been part of Nissan’s much-loved super coupe.
From the front, the Z Proto immediately reminds of the early 240, 260 and 280 Z cars, particularly the blocky, rectangular grille that seems to pay tribute to a popular mod of the era which saw owners removing the thin chromed front bumper (this practice became even more popular amongst 280Z owners due to its larger safety regulated front bumper), but also shares similar sizing to the current 370Z’s frontal opening. Just the same, this has been the new Proto Z’s most criticized design element, with some thinking it’s just too big and square.
The Proto’s elegantly formed hood plays off early Zs too, but with a much wider domed centre section that begins farther rearward after a more pronounced crease down the middle. The ovoid headlights are entirely new, however, sharing some circular symmetry with the first Z, particularly the daytime running lights that are supposed to represent the circular reflection of the transparent headlamp fairings used on Japanese-domestic-market (JDM) models (and aftermarket upgraded North American cars). Their flush glass-covered sealed beam look is more in-line with the fourth-generation Z32, mind you, which incidentally housed the Z’s first Xenon HIDs as part of its 1998 makeover, but the new concept uses LED technology.
The Z Proto’s roofline, rear quarters and hatch, on the other hand, pull cues from a variety of eras, albeit mostly from the ‘70s due to moving most of its visual weight to the rear, which sees nicely upswept quarter windows as well as pillars with integrated “Z” logos, paying direct homage to first-generation models. This said, the rear lighting elements and back panel garner more influence from both the refreshed 1987-1989 Z31 and all Z32 300ZX models thanks to their large, horizontal taillight treatments, while the entire car is a major departure from both 350Z and 370Z models, necessary to provide a fresh approach to such an outdated model.
For those wanting a return to what arguably made the original 240Z a great car to drive, its superb power to weight ratio, the Z Proto’s five-inch longer body won’t be good news unless Nissan constructs it from lightweight metals and composites. Doing so, of course, would drive the price up substantially, which means we’re only likely to see the same types of high-strength steels and alloys used in the platform-sharing Infiniti Q60’s body structure, with any exotic materials allocated to the much pricier GT-R.
The new Z Proto measures 4,381 mm (172.5 in) long, 1,849 mm (72.8 in) wide, incidentally, which is exactly the same width as the Q60, plus it’s 1,310 mm (51.6 in) tall. We can expect a production version to use at least as much aluminum for its body panels as the current 370Z, which gets a lightweight hood, door skins and hatch. Aluminum suspension components will make the grade too, the current Z already using an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, and forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly.
Within that just-noted engine cradle will be Nissan’s impressive twin-turbo 3.0-litre VR30DDTT engine, an advanced power unit that delivers superb performance and much better fuel economy than the 3.7-litre V6 currently in use. It comes in two states of tune in the Q60, including 300 and 400 horsepower variants, with most pundits expecting a 400Z nameplate to accompany the most potent version. This said it would be an unusual move to limit the upcoming Z to just the top-line engine, as a 300Z’s lower price point would allow for many more sales, while a potential 300ZX could denote available all-wheel drive, currently standard in Canada in the Q60, while provide an ideal marketing connection to the aforementioned historical Z models. A six-speed manual is shown in the concept, nothing new here, while it’s possible the new Z will debut more forward gears for the automatic, which currently houses seven.
As has mostly been the case through the decades, the new Z Proto’s interior is heavily influenced by first-gen Z cars, albeit with modern-day refinement and technology that far surpass today’s model. A key giveaway includes the sport steering wheel with its classic circular centre pad endowed with a “Z” logo instead of Nissan’s usual crest, but fans will appreciate the trio of driver-canted ancillary gauges atop the centre dash even more. Along with the usual oil pressure and voltmeter dials, the Z Proto replaces the current model’s digital clock with a boost gauge, a nod to the twin-turbo V6 housed just ahead.
The digital gauge cluster and large high-definition infotainment touchscreen are the most notable improvements over all predecessors, the former necessary for respect in this segment, and allowing for much more driver usability due to the ability to incorporate sophisticated performance readouts, while the latter should come equipped with all the usual modern amenities including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a big, clear backup camera with the possible option of a 360-degree overhead bird’s-eye view, and more.
The three rotating dials used for the heating and ventilation system strangely don’t appear to provide dual-zone capability, but it is automatic so this version is at least up to par with the current car.
Speaking of the current car, the Z Proto’s side-window defog vents on the outside corners of the dash, and its uniquely shaped door handles with integrated air vents, appear directly pulled from today’s Z, a strange choice if the brand wants to wholly differentiate the upcoming model from the one it replaces.
The seats look fabulous, but such can be said for the current model’s top-tier Recaros too, all of which help to make the new Z Proto appear like a production model in waiting. Then again Nissan is calling it a “development study vehicle,” so we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high, even though the 2001 Z Concept ended up looking a lot like the 2003 350Z. Reports claim the production vehicle has been signed off and development is well under way, but so far we haven’t been given a launch timeline. Considering today’s Z is now the oldest generation of any model sold in Canada, they may want to get a move on.
Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019 version probably threw a few diehard Hyundai buyers for a loop, with the previous L, LE, GL and GLS lines being creatively redubbed Essential, Preferred and Ultimate.
The car before you would’ve been named the Accent GLS 5-Door Manual back in 2017 when the 2018 model debuted, but for 2019 was renamed the Accent Ultimate 5-Door Manual. The manual in this top-line trim won’t exist for 2020, incidentally, so being that this exact model in 2019 form was still available at the time of writing, I thought I’d tell you about it along with changes made to the new 2020 Accent, plus let you know about any potential savings on either car.
For starters, the Accent Sedan is gone. Yes, those who love subcompact four-door sedans can no longer look to Hyundai to satiate their desires. Hyundai isn’t alone, with Toyota dropping its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for 2020 as well, Nissan saying goodbye to its Versa Note and not bringing its redesigned Versa sedan north of the 49th, Ford killing off its entire Fiesta line that included a sedan and hatchback last year, and Chevy having done likewise with its Sonic the year before, leaving Kia’s Rio as the sole option for three-box city car buyers.
Also new, the Accent gets a fully redesigned engine for 2020, plus a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gone is this car’s very reliable 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s good for a commendable 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, replaced by the South Korean brand’s all-new 1.6-litre Smartstream four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.
The new powertrain is obviously more about fuel economy than performance, having said goodbye to 12 horsepower plus 6 lb-ft of torque, and to this end it achieves an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.0 combined with its base six-speed manual, or an even better 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.7 combined with its most fuel-efficient CVT. It really shines when compared to the outgoing model shown here, which could only achieve a claimed rating of 8.2 city, 6.3 highway and 7.3 combined no matter whether using its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Of course, the 2019 example before you really shines when taking off from a standing start or passing on the highway. True, I haven’t driven the new 2020 model yet, so Hyundai may have made up for its engine output disadvantage with shortened initial gear ratios, but I’m guessing those trading up from old to new will still find it difficult not to notice a sizeable difference in performance. Hyundai is no doubt hoping the car’s fuel economy improvements will more than make up for any accelerative shortcomings.
This said, fewer and fewer new vehicle buyers are trading up from subcompact cars to the same type of vehicle, but instead are opting for a small SUV. Hyundai has the subcompact SUV category fully covered with its new city car-sized 2020 Venue and slightly larger Kona, the latter model introduced for 2018. The sales of these two have grown exponentially, whereas the Accent’s numbers are dropping at a relatively rapid rate. From a high of 29,751 units in 2018, and still strong Canadian sales of 23,173 in 2014, the Accent’s deliveries have steadily slumped downward from 19,371 in 2015, 19,198 in 2016, 13,073 in 2017, 9,021 in 2018 and just 5,989 in 2019.
As noted, small SUV sales have been the benefactors, with the Kona finding 14,497 new buyers in its first partial year (it arrived in March) of 2018 and a whopping 25,817 units throughout 2019, making it number one in its class last year, and the same over the first three months of 2020 too. The Venue is too new and the 2020 calendar year too wonky to make any sense of how it will do overall when things normalize, but if it sells anywhere near as well as the similarly sized Nissan Kicks it should rank somewhere amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s top three or four (the Venue outsold the Kicks in March and had its best sales in May, but Nissan Canada only reports its sales quarterly so we’ll need to wait a little longer to find out—I’ll tell you in my upcoming 2020 Venue and Kicks reviews). Of more importance to this review, in Q1 of 2020 the Venue outsold the Accent by about 1.6 to 1, making it easier to appreciate why Hyundai dropped the slower selling sedan variant.
This said there are a lot of reasons to choose the Accent over one of its taller more SUV-like brethren. I say SUV-like because most modern SUVs are little more than raised hatchbacks or wagons with chunkier, beefier styling. Some, like the Venue, don’t even offer all-wheel drive, so their buyers are opting for a more rugged go-anywhere design and a taller ride-height for better outward visibility. They give up some handing chops and oftentimes fuel economy too, but that’s ok in today’s oh-so image conscious society.
The Accent’s 2018 redesign was a major improvement over its more sheepish predecessor, its much bolder wide mouth grille adding a little Audi-like presence to this entry-level commuter. In Ultimate trim there’s more chrome bits to brighten the exterior, particularly on the front fascia that incorporates a set of fog lamps with metal brightwork bezels on each corner, while the side window belt mouldings and each of its four door handles are chromed as well. The LED headlamps with LED signature accents help spiff up this top-line trim too, as do the LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, while a sporty set of 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels round out the look nicely, these framing a set of four-wheel disc brakes in Ultimate trim (lesser versions use rear drums).
I have to say, the Accent’s exterior styling never left me feeling as if I was living at the entry level of the market. Along with the big, bold grille is a wonderfully detailed front fascia worthy of hot hatch respect, albeit the car’s dramatically sculpted rear valance is even more eye-catching thanks to a large, body-wide black mesh grille insert resulting in a particularly aggressive look. A rear roof top spoiler gives the Accent’s profile a longer, leaner appearance, although it’s not as if they need to visually stretch this car in order to make it look longer than it actually is.
This is the largest Accent in its 18-year tenure, or at least it’s been on the Canadian market for 18 years. The Accent nameplate has been in existence longer, but here in Canada it was previously dubbed Excel, and before that Pony. I’ve driven every generation since the mid-‘80s rear-wheel drive Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed original took our market by storm, and believe me it’s come a long way (as has everything else).
The current 4,190-mm long Accent hatchback is 90 mm lengthier than its 18-year-old predecessor, with a 2,580-mm long wheelbase that now spans 180 mm more, while the new car’s 1,729-mm width shows its greatest growth at 109 mm from side-to-side, its 1,450 mm in height only 55 mm taller. Of course, this makes today’s subcompact more like the compacts of yesteryear, which actually means they’re better value than ever when factoring in that the Accent’s price hasn’t really gone up when compared to inflation.
The base Essential starts at just $14,949 plus freight and fees for 2020, by the way, which is quite a bit cheaper than last year’s $17,349 base price. Unusual I know, especially when factoring in the thrifty new engine, but the 2019 model came standard with a Comfort Package that’s extra with the 2020 model, the new 2020 Essential with Comfort Package now starting at $17,699. The price for the Accent’s second-rung Preferred trim has increased too, from $17,549 last year to $17,899 this year, while the as-tested Ultimate has added $1,250 from $20,049 to $21,649, but take note the new CVT auto is now standard whereas last year’s six-speed automatic was an extra (what do ya know?) $1,250 across the line.
Another interesting point about small car value that most Canadians don’t realize is the great deal we’re getting here compared to the U.S. The base 2020 Accent south of the 49th (that just happens to be a sedan as no hatchback is offered there) is $15,295 USD, which was $20,735 CAD after calculating the exchange rate at the time of writing. Likewise, their top-line 2020 Accent Limited is $19,400 USD or $26,300 CAD, while our full-load Ultimate is once again just $21,649. We’re getting a stellar deal.
On top of this, Hyundai Canada is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2019 models or up to $750 in additional incentives for 2020 models according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about available rebates, financing rates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new car purchase. They’ve even got a free mobile app to make your car shopping experience easier, so make sure to find out how their smart system can save you big time before you purchase your next car.
The Accent’s larger exterior dimensions translate into a much roomier subcompact hatchback than you might have been expecting, especially when it comes to width. The seats offer plenty of adjustability as long as you’re not looking to modulate the driver’s lumbar area, which is static as is usually the case in this class. I could’ve used a more pronounced lower backrest and better side bolstering, but I can understand this is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore it’s not going to match everyone’s body type ideally. The rest of its adjustments are more than adequate, however, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach was particularly good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to feel right at home with excellent control of the wheel and pedals, not always the case in this category.
Rear seat spaciousness was very good too, but take note that even in this top-line trim there’s no folding centre armrest in back. Instead, the seatbacks fold 60/40 to expand the already generous dedicated cargo area when the need to load in longer items arises. When folded the seatbacks are about four inches above the load floor, which therefore isn’t flat, but most will probably prefer that Hyundai chose to maximize available volume instead of creating a level load area when the rear seats are lowered. A spare-saver tire and some tools can be found below the load floor, while a hard-shell cargo cover hovers above, all par for the course in this segment.
More out of the norm for this subcompact segment is the Accent 5-Door Ultimate’s tastefully sporty interior design, plus its impressive load of features. The fact you can leave its key fob in your pocket or purse when opening the door via proximity-sensing access before starting the engine with a button just goes to show how far Hyundai has gone to lift up this lower class into a more sophisticated crowd. The cabin is further enhanced with a sharp-looking two-tone red and black motif. Hyundai doesn’t go so far as to finish any surfaces with soft-touch synthetics, other than the padded leatherette armrests and of course the nicely upholstered seats, these complete with red leatherette side bolsters, red stitching and a stack of six hexagonal shapes embroidered onto their cloth backrests, all of which match the door panel inserts, the red stitching on the shifter boot, and the red baseball stitching on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Once again everything mentioned impresses more than most shopping in this category will expect.
The steering wheel spokes include very high-quality switchgear left and right, the toggles on the former for the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and connecting to the phone, whereas the latter spoke’s switches are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and cruise controls.
The gauges ahead of the driver are a simple fare, with backlit dials surrounding the just-noted multi-info display, so if you want to be impressed by a digital interface as you’ll need to look to the right at the centre stack which gets a large touchscreen infotainment display complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, plus more.
Just below is a single-zone automatic climate control interface that’s made easy to use thanks to large dials that accept winter gloves, while below that is a row of buttons for three-way heated front seats and even a heatable steering wheel rim. At the base of the centre stack is a large bin for storing your smartphone, with connections for a USB-A charge port and an auxiliary plug.
Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is included in the top-line Accent, as is a powered glass sunroof, while features pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering (an improvement over the tilt steering wheel in base trim), cruise control, front seat warmers and the 7.0-inch infotainment display noted earlier (the base model gets a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen), plus automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (up from four speakers in base trim), keyless entry, and a rear seating area USB-A charging port from Preferred trim, the automatic transmission and Bluetooth mentioned before, plus power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, air conditioning and power windows from the Essential Comfort package, and lastly variable intermittent front wipers, six-way driver and four-way front passenger manually adjustable seats, plus power door locks from base Essential trim.
As noted earlier my test car came with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s no longer available in top-line Ultimate trim, this a shame to those of us who appreciate the sportier nature of a DIY transmission. The little car really comes alive with the manual, which makes the most of its aforementioned 138 horsepower. Takeoff from standstill is quick, the shifts are smooth and clutch take-up good, while braking is strong too. High-speed handling is more than adequate for the class, the Accent’s previously noted width and lower ride height (than an SUV) allowing for less body roll than you might expect. Likewise, it feels nice and stable at highway speeds, making this a car I could cruise in all day. Truly, it’s a comfortable and confidence inspiring little ride, which is no doubt a key reason it remains such a strong seller in this class.
Yes, the Accent’s entry-level car category might seem like a dying breed, but all it would take to reignite interest in small, cheap commuters like this is an extended downturn in the economy, and that could very well be just around the next corner. Combined with rising fuel prices (we’re once again experiencing that too), the Accent makes a good case for itself, with the icing on its cake being a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. I recommend you check this little car out, and remember to opt for the 2019 if your prime focus is performance, or 2020 if you’re looking to save a bit more at the pump.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo editing: Karen Tuggay
Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly…
Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly shows an elongated wagon-like body style similar in concept to Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo (see a full road test review of all Panamera models here).
While exciting news for five-door sport wagon fans in Europe, take note the new Arteon Shooting Brake, as it’s called, won’t be available in North American markets. Instead, Canada and the U.S. will only get the refreshed first-generation Arteon in its four-door fastback body style, which means the German automaker will have less opportunity to pull this model up from its sales doldrums.
Yes, as attractive as today’s Arteon is, the sleek sport sedan has been relegated to niche status in Canada. Sales during calendar year 2019 totalled just 456 units (although deliveries started partway through the year in March), which left it dead last in the volume-branded mainstream mid-size sedan segment. The Passat, its more conventional and much less expensive four-door sedan stable mate, finished one step ahead with 672 examples sold, and take note this happened well before 2020’s tumultuous health, economic and social woes shook up the market.
This last point in mind, over the first three months of 2020 (all that’s been reported so far, and mostly before we were hit by hard times) the Arteon’s numbers were even worse with just 81 Canadian buyers (which if extrapolated over four quarters would equal 324 sales), although the new 2020 Passat found 523 new owners during the first three months of the year (theoretically equaling 2,092 unit sales over four quarters), a clear sign that Canadians like the new 2020 model’s ground up redesign.
At first glance, the Passat’s positive initial 2020 sales results could bode well for the upcoming Arteon mid-cycle makeover, health, social and especially economic issues aside, but the current 2020 Arteon is already a stunner, and while the artist’s rendering appears longer, lower and wider with much larger wheels, typical of such cartoonish drawings, if one were to squeeze it back into reality the update should actually look much like the current car other than a slightly modified grille and lower front fascia, plus similarly mild modifications most likely applied to the rear.
The Arteon’s interior is currently the best Volkswagen has on offer, and while we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes, VW is promising to integrate its latest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for faster application processing, improved connectivity, greater overall functionality, and better entertainment.
Volkswagen will also introduce more intelligent assist systems, such as “Travel Assist” semi-autonomous or “highly assisted driving.” Like other hands-on-the-wheel self-correcting driver assist systems currently offered by other manufacturers, Travel Assist has been designed specifically for long-distance highway use, with the Arteon capable of “steering, acceleration and braking up to speeds of 130 mph [210 km/h],” said Volkswagen in a press release, albeit “under the control of the driver.”
All of this could push the cost of the already pricey Arteon higher, however, the current version of this low-slung sport sedan hitting the road just a hair’s breadth under $50k ($49,960 plus fees to be exact), which is without doubt a key reason its sales are slow.
Kia’s Stinger, the only other four-door coupe in the mainstream volume-branded mid-size sedan segment, found 1,569 Canadian buyers last year, however, while walking away with 2019 Canadian Car of the Year honours, but this similarly sleek alternative is a considerable $5,000 less expensive and comes equipped with stronger base and optional performance as well as more features.
Right now it’s possible to lower a new 2019 Arteon’s base price to match the Stinger’s window sticker, mind you, with up to $5,000 in additional incentives available from Volkswagen, while the German automaker is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent for the 2020 Arteon. Not to be outdone, Kia is offering the same $5,000 in additional incentives on any 2019 Stingers still in stock or up to $4,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Stinger, so take you pick. Learn more about these deals as well as available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to source dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada. Also, make sure to download the new free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.
More detailed information about the 2021 Arteon, and the Euro-market Arteon Shooting Brake, will follow the upcoming world première later this month.