With regular unleaded soaring over $2.00 per litre in some provinces, and expectations for even higher pump prices in the near future, Canadians are starting to get serious about going electric. This brings up the question, which EV is most efficient?
While EVs capable of “going the distance” are impressive, an ability to drive 400 to 500 kilometres on a single charge might not be your best choice unless you plan to travel from Toronto to the Muskokas or Vancouver to the Okanagan on a regular basis. Efficiency, on the other hand, is paramount, because it factors in how much you’ll actually be spending. After learning this, you can compare a given EV to the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicle you’re driving now.
This formula would normally require the comparison of an EV’s Le/100km ranking to an ICE vehicle’s L/100km rating, but in this case, we’re borrowing info compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so you’ll be seeing MPGe. Either way, it gives us a good indication of the top 5 most efficient vehicles available in a market that’s very similar to Canada, plus, as an added bonus, we’ll also list off how the “losers” fared.
1) Tesla Model 3: Canada’s best-selling electric vehicle for good reason
Most popular doesn’t always translate into most practical, but in the world of electric cars, efficiency seems to matter just as much as style, performance, luxury features and premium status. The Model 3 has it all, along with best-selling BEV stats and sales leadership in its compact luxury D-segment, beating such perennial all-stars as BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi’s A4 (see our Tesla Model 3 sales story here).
At a starting price of $45,099, the all-electric Model 3 is just $109 more expensive than the $44,990 base BMW 330e, which is merely a plug-in hybrid, while last year’s M-B C 300 4Matic Sedan (the redesigned one is not yet available) started at $49,500 with no motive electrification at all. Similarly, the 2022 Audi A4 Komfort 40 TFSI quattro incorporates no electric motivation, but at least its $43,800 window sticker saves $1,299 off the top, but that’s no small comfort when balancing off all of these German challengers’ premium unleaded requirement.
So how do the numbers stack up? As per the EPA, the Model 3 achieves 132 MPGe combined city/highway for a cost of $500 USD per year, or about $635 CAD at the time of writing. After seeing countless social media posts of Canadians filling their tanks well beyond $100 per fill per week, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how quickly a Model 3 might pay itself off compared to the just-noted ICE vehicles it competes with.
2) Lucid Air: Gorgeous newcomer offers a lot for the luxury sedan crowd
Lucid what? For many, the name Lucid won’t ring any bells, but those keeping an eye on the EV scene will already be well informed of this Tesla Model S sized competitor. Designed to compete with Tesla’s first practical passenger car (which achieves sixth place on this list), the Air is a much more modern take on luxury, plus its $105,000 entry point is much more advantageous than the Model S’ $120,700 base price.
Still, eclipsing the $100k threshold will make Lucid Motors’ initial model out of reach for the majority of Canadians, even when considering its exceptional 131 MPGe rating and second-place ranking on this list, the latter matching the Model 3 at $500 USD per year, incidentally, or $635 CAD.
3) Tesla Model Y: An even more practical Model 3
For those wanting a Model 3 but requiring more space, the Model Y provides a sporty crossover alternative featuring more cargo space, a handy liftback design and a slight increase in ride height for better overall visibility.
Starting at $75,700, the Model Y brings EV ownership a bit more down to earth than the Lucid, albeit nowhere near as affordable as the Model 3. At 129 MPGe, however, its annual running costs are identical to the aforementioned EVs at about $500 USD ($635 CAD).
4) Chevrolet Bolt EV: Affordable from the get-go
General Motors has been building electric cars longer than the majority of its competitors, giving Chevy a competitive edge that’s resulting in strong sales and low running costs.
The Bolt EV achieves a 120 MPGe rating and $550 USD ($700 CAD) per annum running costs, and when including its initial price of just $38,198, becomes one of the more affordable electric vehicles on this list, especially after factoring in any government rebates.
If you’re wondering how Hyundai’s $44,999 Ioniq 5 fits into the picture, which incidentally is identical under the skin to the less dominant Korean brand’s just-mentioned EV6, a ninth-place standing is respectable, plus 114 MPGe rating and $600 USD ($764 CAD) yearly running cost estimate laudable, the two new Korean models making me wonder how Kia will be able to sell any more $44,995 Niro EVs, which sits 10th on this list. That practical crossover manages 112 MPGe, however, for the same annual cost of $600 USD ($764 CAD).
Mustang Mach-E is a strong seller despite being less efficient than many EV peers
Considering its success on the sales charts, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E should seemingly be ranked higher on this list, but its 103 MPGe and $650 USD ($827 CAD) annual running cost estimate won’t allow, although it’s more or less matched to its main competitor, Tesla’s Model X that achieves the same yearly electrical costs, albeit just 102 MPGe. The sharp looking new Volkswagen ID.4 ranks the same for running costs too, but with a 99 MPGe fuel economy estimate.
The mid-size sedan might be a dying breed, especially in Canada where they’ve never been as popular as compact four-doors and hatchbacks, but Hyundai hasn’t given up on it like some others in this class. In fact, the Sonata was given a complete eighth-generation redesign for the 2020 model year, so therefore its seriously menacing new face carried forward unchanged into 2021, and will so once again for 2022.
Menacing yes, but that’s not to say I don’t like the look. As seen on this as-tested Sonata Hybrid Ultimate, which gets more chrome than some other Sonata trims, such as the sporty new N Line variant, and particularly when that grille is surrounded by Hampton Grey paint that comes across as more of a champagne-taupe in some lighting conditions, the snarly look is almost soft and approachable. Whether you find it intensely angry or just purposefully intent, the new Sonata does appear consequential, and when push comes to shove it should be, because it’s doing the serious work of minimizing its eco-footprint while maximizing range and performance.
The Sonata Hybrid’s fuel economy is superb at 5.3 L/100km in the city, 4.6 on the highway and 5.0 even combined. It’s even a smidge better than similarly-equipped Toyota Camry Hybrids that come rated at 5.3 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.1 combined (the Camry Hybrid’s base LE trim does better at 4.9, 4.8 and 4.9 respectively), and considerably more efficient than the Honda Accord Hybrid that gets a 5.3 city, 5.7 highway and 5.5 combined rating.
Even more surprising was the Sonata Hybrid’s acceleration and all-round performance, especially when the net numbers showed just 192 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. It certainly felt more potent off the line than these figures suggest, plus thanks to steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, its six-speed automatic transmission was quite engaging as well.
The Sonata Hybrid responds eagerly when pushed hard through corners too, plus it tracks confidently at high speeds in any condition, including on wet, slippery roads. It even remained stable when yanked aggressively toward the centre median by a large puddle, something much-needed and often appreciated in my city’s mostly wet winter weather.
Additionally, the button-operated gear selector is one of the best electronic transmission controllers I’ve tested, as it’s laid out intuitively and can all be actuated without moving the hand very far. Unlike some others (I’m speaking to you Honda/Acura), Hyundai’s quickly became second-nature, never leaving me mentally stranded in dumbfounded, panic-stricken overwhelm when coming up short of a turning circle-deprived U-turn with traffic approaching.
Interestingly, the electromechanical parking brake doesn’t automatically release when skipping a step and simply putting the car into Drive ahead of hitting the throttle, which is normally how these things work. I guess Hyundai felt it was best to err on e-brake safety, so be prepared to flick the switch manually each time you set out.
A two-way memory driver’s seat will automatically adjust you or your significant other back into your chosen position at the press of a single button, mind you, and I must say the driver’s positioning was superb overall. It comes complete with plenty of reach from the manually-operated tilt-and-telescopic steering column, while the seat itself was blissfully comfortable, despite only providing two-way lumbar support.
Both front seats get amped up with three-way heating and/or cooling, however, while the heated steering wheel rim put out near finger-scorching warmth—Hyundai may want to consider allowing drivers to tone it down a bit by adding a dual-mode temperature setting. Speaking of warmth, a dual-zone automatic climate control system made it easy to maintain an ideal level of cabin air comfort, while the centre stack-mounted interface was easy to sort out.
Now that I’m on the subject of instrument panel interfaces, there’s no shortage of digital displays inside this top-tier Hyundai. For starters, the only hint to things analogue about the gauge cluster is the nicely designed graphical nod to yesteryear’s circular speedometer and tachometer dials, with the division between both comes filled with a multi-information display-style assortment of functions. The display quality is very high in definition, while its reaction to inputs is instantaneous, and its feature set good for the class.
Being a hybrid, my tester included an animated energy-flow graphic at centre when the car was set to Eco mode, with surrounding colours being a mix of aqua-green and blues when so set, but everything glowed red in Sport mode, not that choosing the fiery hue was a particularly original thing for Hyundai to do (hey designers, how about orange or yellow just to separate your cars from the masses?). This said, Hyundai leaves a version of its Eco metre on the right-side dial no matter which drive mode the car is set to, with the Smart setting a personal favourite, being that it feels ready and waiting to either drive as frugally as possible more often than not, or as quickly as possible when called upon.
Hyundai added rear-facing cameras below the Sonata’s side mirrors last year, which project a live image onto the left- or right-side primary gauge cluster dials when engaging either turn signal. This is an absolutely brilliant feature that more competitors should adopt, but so far Hyundai, plus its Kia and Genesis sibling brands, are the only ones to offer it simultaneously with advanced driver technologies such as blind-spot monitoring, or lane change warning and intervention.
Of note, Honda was actually first with a turn signal-activated rear camera system dubbed LaneWatch, which I raved about when more readily available, but recently the Japanese brand has been phasing it out in favour of blind-spot monitoring. Kudos to Hyundai for created an even better dual-sided camera system (Honda’s was only added to their cars’ passenger-side blind-spot), and then making it available alongside all of its advanced driver assistance and safety features.
A glance to the right shows a centre display that’s as high in definition as the digital gauge cluster, which means it’s impressive as well. It’s about the same size too, and utilizes a touchscreen-controlled scrolling tile system that features three large tiles at startup. These can be organised as per preferences, with the stock setup including a navigation map on the left, audio functions in the middle, and fuel economy readouts to the right. Hyundai also includes some touch-sensitive buttons down each side of the display, plus a volume knob. I would’ve appreciated a tuning/scrolling knob (usually on the right) as well, and considering this car is probably targeting a more mature crowd than most others in Hyundai’s lineup, I’m guessing an analogue dial for tuning in radio stations or changing tracks would be appreciated by more folks than just me.
The navigation system worked faultlessly during my multiple-week test, and the audio system impressed even more, not only filling the car with streaming media and satellite radio, both of which I use all the time, but its sound quality was very good for this class.
I was also happy to see a wireless charging pad at the base of the centre stack, plus USB charge points for the wired crowd, not to mention the availability of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the former having become my go-to smartphone connectivity tool as of late. The charging pad wasn’t working when I first got the car, but I was able to set it up easily via the infotainment system’s settings page, where I found countless cool personalization possibilities as well.
Looking upward, there’s an attractive overhead console, but no moonroof. That’s an unusual site in this class, but maybe more fitting in a car that’s partially powered by a motive battery, Hyundai replaced the traditional moonroof with a non-translucent glass solar roof. That’s right, the cool glass section on the front half of the Sonata Hybrid’s outer roof is only visible when outside of the vehicle, and while the lack of a sunroof wasn’t much of an issue for me, it was a very strange omission after 20-plus years of testing cars, and one I can imagine some may be totally put off by. After all, the only cars without sunroofs have long been cheap, base models, which this Sonata Hybrid Ultimate is not.
Along with the aforementioned comfortable front seats that included all the usual adjustments in this class, the cabin provided very impressive finishing. The dash top was mostly softish composite, except for the shroud overtop the instrument cluster and the very front portion of the dash under the windshield (some might call this the back portion), which alternatively gets a textured, soft-painted composite.
Even better, to the left and right of the dash top’s sloping section, plus around the centre display, nicely stitched and padded leatherette added an element of luxury. There’s more of this highfalutin stuff elsewhere too, particularly on the door panels front and back, plus the just-noted soft-painted surfacing gets used for additional touchpoints as well. Lastly, some of the mainstream sector’s usual hard-shell plastic can be found in the interior’s lower regions, but it’s nicely textured and seems well put together, as does everything else in the cabin.
Rear seat legroom is excellent, while the backrests and lower cushions are very comfortable. A large, wide armrest folds down from centre, featuring the usual dual integrated cupholders, plus outboard rear passengers also get two-way heatable seats, with switchgear next to each power window controller on the door armrests. Lastly, a USB-A charging port can be found on the backside of the front centre console, just below a set of heat/air vents.
The Sonata Hybrid’s trunk is identically sized to the regular Sonata’s cargo area too, this not having always been the case with hybrid models due to rear-bulkhead-mounted battery packs (the old Ford Fusion Hybrid’s battery was quite intrusive). It’s therefore quite spacious at 453 litres (16.0 cu ft), while the trunk’s usefulness can be expanded upon with the usual 60/40 split rear seatbacks.
At the time of publishing, Hyundai had yet to update its retail site with 2022 Sonata Hybrid information, which probably means 2021 models are still available. Either way, CarCostCanada had and still has 2022 and 2021 model year details, so suffice to say the 2022 is pretty well identical to its predecessor, other than the addition of new Shimmering Silver optional paint to go along with the same five upgraded hues that were also available last year. All six optional colours add $200 to the bottom line, whereas Hyper White is the only standard shade, and therefore the only way you can get a 2022 Sonata Hybrid for $40,649 (plus freight and fees), before negotiating a discount that is.
When putting pen to paper, so to speak, Hyundai was offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives, although most CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,500, thanks to knowledge of these incentives as well as having dealer invoice pricing info on hand when negotiating. All said, the 2022 Sonata Hybrid is $450 pricier than the 2021, the latter still starting at $40,199. Both model years are only available in one Ultimate trim, which means there are no options other than just-noted colours.
So, if you’re looking for a luxuriously appointed mid-size sedan with an impressive balance of efficiency and performance, you should seriously consider Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid. If you don’t mind being greeted by a menacing frown each morning, I can promise it’ll deliver plenty of smiles throughout the rest of each day.
by Trevor Hofmann
If you want to know where the future lies in the automotive industry, just look where automakers are putting their money. Obviously, major investment is going into electric and other alternative fuels…
If you want to know where the future lies in the automotive industry, just look where automakers are putting their money. Obviously, major investment is going into electric and other alternative fuels with minimal returns so far, but amongst more conventionally-powered segments, the subcompact crossover SUV category is growing faster than any other.
In fact, the subcompact SUV segment has more than tripled from just eight competitors in 2010 to a shocking 25 this year, while the subcompact car category has simultaneously contracted from nine rivals in 2010, and an even more significant total of 18 in 2014 (mostly due to boat loads of fuel-friendly imported city cars taking a stab at our market before mostly saying sayonara, auf wiedersehen, and arrivederci, not to mention annyeong for the South Korean-sourced Chevy Spark EV), to just six now, one of which (Chevy’s Bolt EV) is purely electric. The result is this affordable SUV class becoming the majority of brands’ market entry point; hence the importance automakers are placing on these smallest of small SUVs.
Speaking of size, the segment has not only grown in numbers, but also in diversity. So far, eight brands offer two or more models within this category, with Kia providing three. Even Buick, General Motors’ near-luxury division, which only has four models to its name, includes two in this segment alone, a tally that grows 2.5 times under GM’s umbrella when factoring in Chevy’s threesome (they added the all-electric Bolt EUV this year).
Similar to how the mid-size SUV segment is divided into two- and three-row alternatives, subcompact SUVs can be had as micro-sized city car replacements or slightly larger alternatives to yesteryear’s subcompact hatchbacks. A good example of the latter is Honda’s HR-V, which was formed off the back of the now defunct Fit. Similarly, Hyundai’s class-leading Kona (which gets updated for 2022) rides on an all-new B-SUV platform only shared with Kia’s Seltos, but the Venue being reviewed here was built on the back of the old Accent and current Rio 5 (kind of… keep reading).
The Venue, on the other hand, which is one of the smaller micro-utes available, is based on the Hyundai-Kia K2 platform that, in regular “K” instead of “K2” form, previously underpinned Accent as noted a moment ago. Yes, I know the Accent was a full subcompact and not a city car, but it’s related to the K1 platform used for smaller hatchbacks not sold here. Either way, it’s tiny for an SUV, and follows a trend initiated by the aforementioned Encore and Trax, which have done very well over the past decade, not to mention others that have long departed, such as Nissan’s Juke and Cube, and the Scion xB (a slightly larger and much more conventional looking second-gen Juke remains available in other markets).
To be fair to Mazda, they’re a smaller independent automaker with nowhere near the deep pockets of Hyundai, so a complete redesign of the smaller utility may not have been in the cards due to budgetary constraints. Hyundai is therefore more capable of gaining market share in a sub-segment that probably won’t achieve the same level of sales as its larger subcompact, the Kona, which is currently the overall subcompact sales leader.
Its lead is so significant, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine any rival catching up. Maybe a redesigned Qashqai could close the gap, being that Nissan’s oddly named utility previously owned top-spot in the subcompact category, but now the Kona outsells the Qashqai by almost three to one, with 31,733 deliveries in 2020 compared to just 11,074. The difference has shrunk to about 2.5 to one over the first six months of 2021, however, with 15,715 Konas down Canadian roads compared to 6,384 Qashqais, but it’s still a massive lead.
The Venue is newer to the market than its key Kicks rival, so it still has some catching up to do. Last year it found 10,740 entry-level SUV buyers compared to 14,149 for the Kicks, the latter being number one in the smaller micro-ute group, yet the Venue’s success was still impressive for its first full year on the job, not to mention the fact that Hyundai didn’t have anything to sell into the subcompact SUV class before the Kona that arrived partway through 2018, compared to Nissan that’s been selling Cubes and Jukes in Canada since 2009 and 2010 respectively, many of these models’ customers naturally gravitating to the Qashqai and Kicks.
In case you’re wondering where the Venue stacks up in sales compared to all the others it directly competes against, its near 11k 2020 tally landed it in second place behind the Kicks, followed by the C-HR with 7,135 deliveries last year, the Encore with 6,650, CX-3 with 6,445, Trax with 3,887, Countryman with 1,637, Renegade with 362, and 500X with 35 (that’s not a typo).
As of Q2 2021’s close, the Venue was still in second, although the refreshed Kicks’ numbers grew to 9,628 units compared to just 2,021 for the littlest Hyundai (that’s not a typo either), with the C-HR only managing 1,553 deliveries, the Encore a mere 534, which therefore caused it to be jumped by the CX-3’s 1,510 unit-sales and Trax’ 891, while Mini’s SUV found just 310 new owners (it is more of a luxury ute, however, and therefore much higher in price), the smallest Jeep coaxed in an insignificant 15, and the spicy Italian an infinitesimal 6.
So why is the Venue so successful in a market segment it only just entered in the latter months of 2019? It’s cute, well-appointed, comfortable, roomy for its outward dimensions, drives well, and is easy on fuel, while, based on Hyundai’s overall brand reliability, it should also be dependable. Hyundai ranked third (or fourth) amongst mainstream volume brands in the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (whether or not we choose to include Buick in the mainstream sector or premium), while its sister company, Kia, placed first.
Toyota, incidentally, was second, while Hyundai’s Tucson tied for runner-up in the same study’s “Small SUV” category, beaten by Kia’s Sportage, which was basically the same vehicle under the skin before its recent redesign (and will be once again after Kia updates the Sportage for 2023). Now that these two utilities have grown in size to match the RAV4, CR-V and Nissan Rogue, I expect them to compete in the “Compact SUV” class, leaving room for the Venue, Kicks and others to vie for the Small SUV award.
Kudos in mind, the Kona Electric was top of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” class in the consumer section of Vincentric’s 2021 Best Value in Canada Awards, while the most recent J.D. Power 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards placed the conventionally-powered Kona highest in its “Micro Utility Vehicle” category. Hyundai won other awards in different categories, but for the sake of relevance I thought it best to leave such reporting to its small SUV sector.
It will be interesting to see how the Venue will fare, or for that matter if those at the helm of the various third-party analytical firms choose to further divide their SUV categories in order to allow a more even playing field for this new class of smaller, less expensive utility. Let’s see what happens.
If I were on one of these organizations’ panels, I’m pretty sure of how I’d vote after spending a week with the Venue. Or at least I was sure after a week behind its wheel, when I made it clear in my notes by saying, “Hyundai has created another hit! The Venue is my new favourite sub-subcompact SUV!” Just the same, while writing this review now, I’ve been driving a refreshed 2021 Kicks SR for the better part of a week, which has been very impressive as well, so I should probably temper my enthusiasm for the Venue, just a bit.
From a styling perspective, the Venue can only be described as cute. Much the same could’ve been said about the Kicks before its update, but Nissan gave the refreshed 2021 model a larger, bolder new grille and sleeker headlamps, resulting in a micro-SUV that just may now appeal to more everyday guys. Despite having a fairly large grille of its own, the Venue presents a softer, kinder look, complete with a tiny set of narrow driving lights/turn signals up on top of the front fenders (à la Jeep Cherokee in its current fifth-generation, albeit pre-mid-cycle makeover), plus larger headlamps underneath, which are surrounded by cool circular LED signature lighting, and finally a classy light satin-grey apron underscoring everything.
The latter stays the same across the Venue’s four-trim range, but the otherwise halogen driving lights and automatic on/off headlamps become LEDs when adding the Urban Edition Package to Trend trim, or when upgrading to top-line as-tested Ultimate trim; the headlights being bifunctional and even including adaptive cornering capability. My tester also had its normally blackened grille insert swapped out for a bright metal one, standard with Ultimate trim, while its sharp looking 17-inch alloys, shod with 205/55R17 all-season tires, are shared with the just-noted Trend.
The $500 Urban Edition Package will be a must-have for artistic types that want splashes of exclusive two-tone colour decorating key exterior components, such as the unique lower front and rear fascias, mirror caps, rocker panel garnish, and roof, some of these colours adding a bit more to the bottom line, but well worth it for those who want it. This said, Ultimate trim targets a more conservative crowd that clearly want to keep things classy, my tester finished in $200 Fiery Red exterior paint, which is clearly the most eye-catching colour from a somewhat more subdued palette of blues and shades.
Despite the Urban Edition Package making the Venue look sportier, it’s devoid of the Ultimate’s rear disc brakes, utilizing the base model’s rear drums instead. Both upper trims receive great looking premium cloth upholstery with leatherette bolsters inside, however, with the Ultimate also getting an exclusive driver’s sliding armrest with a hidden storage box below.
The gauges are analogue, expected in this class, with a large monochromatic display at centre. While black and white displays might’ve been ok a number of years ago, I found this multi-information display a bit disappointing, considering I was driving a top-line model. Ultimate trim also gets a clearer high-definition 8.0-inch centre touchscreen, which looked fabulous, but unusually, this upgrade includes a downgrade from wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration to a less convenient wired system.
It’s the only trim to get navigation, however, not that it’s as necessary after integrating your smartphone, but HD and satellite radio upgrades are always a big bonus to this music buff, and while it sounds quite good for the class, it doesn’t include the cool driver’s seat headrest-mounted speakers found in the top-tier Kicks. Many will appreciate Hyundai’s Bluelink smartphone connectivity service, mind you, which is available in Ultimate trim, while I would never complain about the extra front USB-A port found in Trend trims and above either.
I should mention the centre infotainment system’s processor is extremely fast when reacting to inputs. For instance, you can move the map around with your finger in real-time without any delay or image degradation. I even flicked it around extremely fast for testing purposes, and it never missed a beat.
What is missing? Most 2021 Nissan Kicks trims swap out one of the USB-A ports for a USB-C, not available in the Venue, while my top-tier Kicks SR Premium tester included a split-screen backup/overhead parking camera within its 8.0-inch display, instead of a simpler rear-view only setup. On the Venue’s side, the base Kicks only comes with a 7.0-inch centre display, one inch smaller than Hyundai’s entry-level monitor. This said, neither offer a wireless charging pad, which is something that would benefit all owners no matter the trim level.
Both top-level micro-SUVs include single-zone automatic climate control, the Venue’s laid out in an attractive and space-efficient three-dial design including buttons and digital readouts integrated within, although the Venue provides three-way heatable front seats in all trims, which heat up to near therapeutic levels, while the Kicks makes buyers move up to its second-rung SV trim for warmers that don’t get quite as hot. Heated steering wheels that warm up all the way around the rim are also on the menu for both micro-crossovers, with each requiring a buyer to move up one notch in their respective trim hierarchies.
Trims in mind, the Venue is available in four, including Essential, Preferred, Trend and Ultimate, priced at $17,599, $21,599, $22,699, and $24,999 (plus freight and fees) respectively. Hyundai is currently offering the 2021 model with up to $1,500 in additional incentives according to CarCostCanada, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,250 at the time of writing. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store, so you can access all of their important info when you need it most, some of which includes factory financing/leasing rates, rebates, and dealer invoice pricing that can save thousands upon purchasing any new vehicle.
The only model available with a six-speed manual is base Essential trim, with all others making Hyundai’s Smartstream iVT standard. iVT stands for Intelligent Variable Transmission, incidentally, which when translated into simple English means it’s a chain belt-based continuously variable transmission that’s been designed to reproduce the shift pattern of a manual transmission in order to provide a more natural feel, plus respond quicker to driver input, while still delivering better efficiency than a regular automatic gearbox. What’s more, the iVT’s chain belt utilizes the belt’s tension in order to adjust the pulley’s diameter, therefore eliminating belt slippage and reducing drag. The chain belt is also maintenance-free, thus adding to transmission lifespan, which should improve long-term reliability.
It certainly doesn’t feel like a regular continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is what you’d be getting in the Kicks (not that I felt particularly put out by Nissan’s gearless box), with the Venue’s providing snappier shifts via eight “steps” that make it worthy of steering wheel-mounted paddles, let alone its gear lever-actuated manual mode.
Additionally, the Venue’s Sport mode really made a difference when pushing hard, impacting engine response and allowing slightly higher revs between shifts, plus it affects shift speed as well, with the result being a more entertaining Sport mode than found in the Kicks, but then again, it’s not as dramatic as the Mazda CX-3’s (an SUV that’s being discontinued in North America, by the way).
So set, the Venue sprinted away from standstill at a fairly quick pace, or at least quicker than expected from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder that only makes 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. That efficient autobox, which needs to take some credit for the Venue’s impressive 7.9 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.5 combined fuel economy with the iVT autobox or 8.6, 6.8 and 7.8 respectively with the manual (the CVT-only Kicks is rated slightly better at 7.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.2 combined), has something to do with the engine’s power delivery, no doubt, but take note that despite its SUV styling the Venue is not available with all-wheel drive.
Just like the Kicks the Venue is front-drive only, notable from the initial front-wheel spin experienced at full throttle from a standing start, which I might add was quickly followed by traction control intervention and the just-noted straight-line performance. It therefore had no trouble getting ahead of most stop light dawdlers, and was acceptably fast for those moments when I wanted to dart in and out of congested city traffic.
Steering is direct enough, and it’s turning circle very small, allowing dreamy manoeuvrability in parking lots and laneways. Get it on a winding back road and the Venue performs quite well too, albeit within reason. It’s no Mini Countryman after all, and at about half the price when loaded with features, we shouldn’t expect it to be.
On the highway, however, it was a complete joy. I bet you didn’t expect me to say that, because top-speed isn’t anything to write home about. It maintains illegal highway speeds easily, however, so no issue there (unless you’re not paying attention and get caught), but more importantly, the little Hyundai offers great tracking ability and a wonderfully smooth ride for such a short wheelbase.
As noted earlier, the Venue is one of the truest of micro-SUVs, with its 2,520-millimetre span from front to rear axles even short for the subcompact class. It’s actually second smallest, behind Ford’s EcoSport, with a wheelbase of 2,519 mm, while even the rather small interior of Toyota’s C-HR rides on a much lengthier wheelbase measuring 2,640 mm.
Fortunately, the comparatively upright Venue feels larger inside than its external dimensions suggest. To clarify, it measures 4,040 mm from nose to tail, 1,770 mm from side-to-side, and 1,565 mm tall (or 1,590 mm with roof rails), while its front and rear track stretches 1,555 and 1565 mm respectively, which once again makes it shorter than anything else in the class save the EcoSport, but its 1,770-mm of width makes it exactly the same as the H-RV from side-to-side, while wider than the CX-3, the base Trax, and once again the EcoSport. Vertically, however, its 1,590-mm height makes it nowhere near as tall as the 1,650-mm high EcoSport or many of its other rivals, but it’s still taller than the CX-3, C-HR, and Kona, making its headroom quite expansive.
The Venue’s cargo capacity is good at 902 litres when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, while dedicated luggage space is 528 litres, just 16 litres short of the Kona’s 544 litres behind the rear seats. The Kicks offers 915 litres of maximum cargo space, incidentally, but the gain is so nominal it’s more or less a wash, yet its dedicated storage volume measures 716 litres, which is a significant bonus in this tiny SUV class.
Back up front, the driving position is excellent, with the tilt and telescopic steering column’s rake and reach capable of being moved far enough rearward to provide my long-legged, short-torso frame ample comfort and control over the lovely leather-clad steering wheel, which allowed for a relaxed seatback while a wrist could easily hang over the top of the steering wheel rim; the ideal check for driver seat positioning. I also found plenty of space from side-to-side, although folks used to a larger utility might find themselves sitting a bit closer to their front passenger than in compact or mid-size SUVs.
The rear passenger compartment is spacious and the seats comfortable too, plus despite being a bit tight for three adults there’s a seatbelt in the middle for a third passenger, better left for smaller folk or children. There’s no foldable centre armrest, which is common for this class, but it would’ve been a nice addition. Likewise, there aren’t a lot of rear-seat creature comforts, unusual for a top-line Hyundai, but once again very normal for an entry-level vehicle. This means there are no rear seat warmers, no rear air vents, and not even a port to plug in and charge a personal device. The Kicks, on the other hand, provides two USB-A chargers on the backside of the front centre console.
It’s a nicely finished, relatively refined cabin too, but don’t expect a lot of soft-touch surfaces. The dash-top is made from a nicely textured composite, but it’s hard, and each door upper is hard-shell plastic as well. Even the door inserts offer no cushioning, the only area to get some slightly padded leatherette, stitched with contrasting thread no less, are the door armrests.
This, unfortunately for Hyundai, is a big downgrade from the latest Kicks SR Premium that pampers with pliable, padded, premium-level pleather, also with contrast-stitching, from the very left to the very right of the dash facing, plus the centre armrest, instead of being a firm yet pliable rubber in the case of the Venue, is just as comfortable as the cushy door armrests that flow down in one single piece from the equally comforting door inserts. What’s more, Nissan even wraps each side of the lower front console in stitched, padded leatherette, protecting the inside knees from chafing while looking downright sensational at the same time, so Hyundai might want to give its ultimate Venue a bit more luxe when it comes up for a refresh.
The Venue’s aforementioned leather-wrapped steering wheel is very nice, however, but once again I think you’ll be more impressed by the top-line Kick’s more padded and sportier shaped flat-bottom leather-clad rim, while both models’ leather-enhanced shift knobs will probably be more of a personal taste issue—although the leatherette boot shrouding the Venue’s gear lever wears a more pronounced contrast stitching that adds a bit more style.
The Venue’s fabric seats are really attractive, and finished in leatherette with light grey stitching and similarly coloured piping on the bolsters. The textured inserts feature a swoopy light grey “J” pattern (or reverse-J on the driver’s side) that matches a similar black-stitched pattern on the lower cushions, which I have to say is not only really nice, but totally unique and much more creative than most automakers offer. Hyundai even repeats the pattern on the back seats, something not always seen in the lower classes.
Some other details include metallic white trim around the vent bezels and under the tablet-style infotainment touchscreen, although the latter looks more like a free Alcatel giveaway tablet from five years ago than anything from Samsung or Apple. The shifter surround gets the same metallic white treatment, while the door handles are in a dark grey metallic finish. All of the switchgear is impressive for the class too, featuring nice dense composites, extremely tight fitment, and high-quality damping. I have to say, whoever came up with this interior design should get some sort of award, at least from Hyundai, because it’s really well done.
Not surprisingly these days, but still a treat in such a small, inexpensive vehicle, my Venue came well-stocked with advanced driver assistive systems in a suite dubbed Hyundai SmartSense. Of course, this list includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection (a.k.a. automatic emergency braking), plus Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist (that’s so good it can nearly drive itself on the highway, and even on city streets, almost like the Hyundai Driving Assist semi-autonomous feature), Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and Driver Attention Warning, while automatic High Beam Assist adds convenience.
A feature I really like is a subtle audible notification that lets you know when the car in front leaves after being stationary at a stoplight. This is useful if you happen to be looking down to change the radio station, setting some other function in the infotainment system, or operating the HVAC system, or for that matter talking to someone in the car.
It’s these types of thoughtful features that raise Hyundai above most peers, and have made it a success story in Canada. The Venue is now the most affordable way to get into the Korean brand when buying new (albeit only a few hundred less than the base Elantra), and the least expensive crossover SUV in the country, by a long shot. Factor in their five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty, and this cute little utility becomes difficult to argue against.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s…
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.
Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.
With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.
Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.
Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.
This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.
The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.
Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V
Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.
This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.
Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.
Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.
The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.
The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.
Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment
With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.
Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.
Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.
At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.
The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.
Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn
With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.
Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.
This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.
Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020
While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.
The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.
Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.
The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.
For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.
And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.
All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.
Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.
Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains
The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).
The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the Hyundai–Kia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.
Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada,…
In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada, placing third in its class, and even then, it was a mere 42 units behind the next most popular Subaru Crosstrek.
Nissan’s Qashqai was number one that year, but it would quickly lose this status during the following 12 months when the Kona’s sales increased by a staggering 78-percent to 25,817 examples, dwarfing the next-best-selling Qashqai’s 18,526-unit total. Calendar year 2020 saw another bump up the sales charts to 31,733 deliveries, with the best-of-the-rest Crosstrek managing a very respectable 22,161 units, albeit still about a third, or 9,572 deliveries behind, while today, the impressive little Kona is on its way to approximately the same sales results for 2021, once again leading the pack in popularity with 15,715 examples down the road after six months.
Why such dominance? One look should immediately give it away. This little ute is a knockout, combining plenty of unorthodox styling cues, but doing so in a way that’s appealing to most buyers in the entry-level SUV marketplace. Up front and centre it features Hyundai’s unique hexagonal grille, although its bold, assertive design is surrounded by some rather fun styling features, including a narrow slat just above, two slim bi-functional LED headlamps with active cornering lights positioned high above the front fenders to each side (projectors are standard below Ultimate trim), some beefy blocks of matte grey/black composite just under those, which are integrated with squarish metallic bezels that look like sporty brake vents, and house LED driving lights inside.
A sporty lower lip spoiler filled with fog lamps sits below everything, the blackened matte material joining up with thick, meaty grey/black fender extensions that circle each wheel cut-out, while more of the darkened trim spans the rocker panels, other than a thin strip of metal-look trim that sits on top.
Hyundai continues a similar look at back, where a thin trip of black trim on the fourth pillar forms a floating roof design that follows the rear window down to an elegant set of horizontally-positioned LED taillights, all of which sit above another blocky cluster of black-cladding that frames backup and reflector lamps before forming into a big black and grey diffuser-style rear bumper.
It might sound to some as if I’m describing a mix of the more controversially styled fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee, available from 2014 to 2018, and Nissan’s ultimately whacky Juke (that I honestly kind of like), but it all works so well that it’s sparked zero controversy at all.
My top-line Kona Ultimate AWD tester added a set of 18-inch machine-finished alloy rims with gray-painted pockets (shared with lesser Trend trim), wrapped around 235/45 Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season rubber. Its Blue Lagoon paintwork borders on radical, but somehow still comes across as tasteful with the Kona, while all the just-noted dark matte grey body cladding across the bottom actually features a slightly glossed up metallic look in Ultimate trim. Some of the metallic bits mentioned a moment ago are partially exclusive to top-line trim too, while the metallic brightwork edging the front grille can also be found on the Trend model.
Climb inside, and the Kona continues its expressive attitude, albeit with a dose of upscale refinement. Hyundai mixes dark greys on most surfaces with light grey tones that almost border on white, for the mid-section of the dash and door uppers, while the seats are surfaced in more of a medium grey.
The light grey is dimpled for a nice textured effect, and finished in soft-touch synthetic along the dash facing, while Hyundai utilizes a nice soft paint to make the door uppers a bit more appealing, if not more comfortable for those that rest their elbows on the side window sills. The rest of the interior plastics are harder, although they’re comprised of good, solid-feeling composites and seem as if they’re designed to put up with abuse over the long haul, while the cabin’s overall design is very appealing.
This is especially true of its details, such as the nice leather-wrapped sport steering wheel that includes comfortable thumb spats and elegantly thin spokes dotted with high-quality switchgear, some of the toggles even aluminized. The stalks behind the steering wheel are very high in quality too, while all of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the interior are tightly fitted and well damped, despite not being always made from particularly dense composites.
The primary instrument cluster is mostly a backlit analogue design (for now… keep reading), although a narrow, vertical 4.2-inch TFT Supervision multi-information display sits in the middle of the tachometer and speedometer, adding a bit of colour for highlighting key functions. Better yet, a useful head-up display system sits overtop on the dash, projecting key info in the driver’s line of sight where it’s safer to pay attention to.
Over to the right, the centre stack is nicely laid out, with the usual fixed tablet-style infotainment display on top, seeming to stick up and out of the dash. The 8.0-inch touchscreen (up an inch from lesser trims) is flanked by two rows of buttons and dials, nothing new here, but I like the way Hyundai has design the pod-like controls, which are all backlit for easy use at night.
The user interface itself is not up to Hyundai’s newer standards, with older graphics and a matte screen, but it’s still easy to use and filled with functions. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration come standard, as does an accurate navigation system in Ultimate trim, while the backup camera includes helpful active guidelines. The Infinity audio system offers good sound quality, ideally suited to my favourite SiriusXM satellite radio stations, or alternatively one of the many podcasts I regularly listen too, the latter streamed via Bluetooth (which incidentally includes voice command).
USB ports for smartphone integration and/or charging can be found at the base of the centre stack, along with dual 12-volt chargers, although you might find the Ultimate’s exclusive wireless charging pad more to your liking, a real bonus in this entry-level segment.
Separating the two-shelf phone storage/charging area from the infotainment display is a simple, straightforward single-zone automatic climate control interface comprised of two dials and a digital display, the left knob for temperature settings and the right one for fan speeds, this non-manual system only found on the Kona’s Ultimate trim, while a row of quick-access HVAC buttons sits just below.
The three-way front seat heater controls are located on the lower console, right in front of a separate button for turning the heatable steering wheel rim on and off, and not far away from two separate buttons for hill descent control and rear parking sensors (this last item exclusive to Ultimate trim), not to mention the gear lever at centre, complete with a leather-clad knob and boot.
Now that we’re talking mechanicals, the shifter sends commands down to a sporty seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), standard in all AWD models. Right next to the shifter in these three trims, that include Trend, Luxury and as-tested Ultimate, is another button for four-wheel drive lock, which really helps when trying to get unstuck from the snow, mud or out of any other type of slippery situation, while a Drive Mode button on the opposite side of the console lets you swap between default, Eco and Sport settings, the latter really increasing the fun factor.
To that end, Hyundai gives its AWD models a little more oomph from a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, this engine making 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque compared to the base 2.0-litre mill’s 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft. The former powerplant is sporty for this tiny tyke class, but I won’t go so far to say that it sounds sporty, at least not all the time due to a slightly anemic exhaust note when driven slowly, but put your foot into the throttle and a nice growly tone accompanies its brisk acceleration.
In this way, the Kona 1.6T AWD kind of fills the shoes of the aforementioned Juke, which in Nismo AWD-form, or better yet the even more potent Nismo RS, was one seriously zippy performer thanks to 215 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque driving a reasonably sophisticated AWD system via a six-speed manual gearbox. That little screamer was killed off five years ago, however, leaving this top-line Kona as one of the segment’s most aggressive performers.
It moves off the line with plenty of chutzpa, although strangely Hyundai forgot to fit a set of paddles to the sporty steering wheel in order to provide any hands-on entertainment. It’s certainly shiftable via the gear lever, which merely takes a leftward flick of the wrist to actuate, but folks these days, myself included, would rather flick away in the upper regions of the cockpit. We’ll see if Hyundai addresses this in the model’s forthcoming refresh, or for that matter updates this model’s handbrake with an electromechanical one, although this last point isn’t an issue for me.
At least the gearbox allows the engine to rev right up to redline before it automatically shifts, this working best in Sport mode, of course, but shifts are truly quicker than most in this class no matter the mode you’re in, due to its dual-clutch design. It’s smooth when doing so too, thus a best-of-both-worlds scenario, while its claimed fuel economy rating is about the same as the less powerful engine when optimized with AWD, at 9.0 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, compared to 9.2, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively for the 2.0 AWD. The base 2.0 FWD Kona, incidentally, gets an estimated 8.6 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.9 combined rating.
Possibly most important in this class is ride quality and overall comfort, which the Kona provides in spades. Of course, this is a small SUV, so don’t expect Palisade levels of poshness or quietude, but within this class it’s a refinement superstar, and therefore ideal for everything from inner-city commutes to fast-paced highway road trips, with a little serpentine action thrown in the middle just for fun. Yes, this little ute provides good grip around such circuitous corners for an overall fun experience, which made it my go-to vehicle during its test week.
Another reason the Kona sells well is overall practicality, this a critical factor that even mighty Toyota is only starting to figure out with its upcoming Corolla Sport Cross (the CH-R’s cargo capacity is miniscule). Settling into the Kona Ultimate’s perforated leather-covered eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, which includes two-way powered lumbar and hides that have a particularly upscale feel, I couldn’t help but be impressed by its substantive bolsters that ideally enveloped my backside. All around, it provided the ideal amount of comfort, plus good, firm support, almost Germanic in its design. The tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach and rake was superb too, easily finding a good driving position for my short-torso, long-legged frame, which is not always possible in this class or others.
No one should feel claustrophobic up front either, thanks to lofty headroom and plenty of shoulder space, while the same can also be said for rear occupants that offer no shortage of room for legs and feet. The Kona seats three abreast, although two adults in back is best, with the centre armrest folded down to maximize comfort and provide a place for drinks. The outboard seatbacks offer decent lower back support, but other than that, rear creature comforts are nowhere near up to the levels of Ultimate trims in Hyundai’s larger SUV lineup—although the netted magazine holders on the backsides of the front seats are nice.
Features in mind, Ultimate trim does come well-equipped for this class, with items like solar front glass, rear privacy glass, rain-sensing wipers, powered and timer-heated exterior mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, a multifunctional auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver, an overhead console integrating a nice padded sunglasses holder and reading lights, plus controls for the powered glass sunroof, lidded and lit vanity mirrors in the front sun visors, plus more.
Advanced safety technologies found in top-tier Ultimate trim include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and Driver Attention Warning, while High Beam Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control make the Kona much easier to live with on long commutes and trips.
My tester included a handy cargo net attached to all four chromed tie-down hooks at each corner, while the substantive cargo floor is both removable and capable of being raised to match the same level as the seatbacks when folded. Hyundai provides a shallow divided container just below, made from a solid-feeling foam, which is also removable, and when lifted exposes the spare tire below. Likewise, the hard-shell tonneau cover can be removed easily. Expanding on the 544-litre dedicated luggage area are rear seatbacks that fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, which when laid flat via latches on the seat tops makes a sizeable 1,296 litres.
To be honest, due to styling alone the Kona has long been a personal favourite in this class, but after a week behind the wheel I can truly say the rest of the package attests to its popularity. It does everything a subcompact SUV should and more, so it will likely remain on top until some other manufacturer comes up with something that checks off more boxes for similar pricing.
Money in mind, the most basic Kona in Essential trim starts at $21,299 plus freight and fees, while Preferred trim can be had for $23,049, and AWD adds $2,000 to either. The Kona Trend, which comes standard with AWD, starts at $26,899, while Luxury trim does likewise for $27,999. The special Urban Edition, which gets upgraded to the 1.6-litre turbo-four AWD powertrain, is available from $28,049, while the Limited Edition also features the upgraded engine for $28,049. Finally, the as-tested Ultimate can be had from $32,299. On a side note, Hyundai makes the FWD-only Kona Electric, which ranges from $43,699 in Preferred trim to $49,199 for the Ultimate, less government rebates, depending where you live. I’ll be covering this one in a separate review soon.
Before signing off, it’s important for you to know the 2022 Kona will see a fairly dramatic styling refresh from the outside in, including a wider, shallower grille, new headlamps and driving lights, a deeper front fascia, plus changes to the rear lighting elements, bumper, and more. Inside, a new dash design offers an optional digital gauge cluster, while available heated rear seats will give rear passengers more to celebrate on cold mornings. Atop the centre stack, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen will be standard, with the upgraded version stretching to 10.3 inches. Lastly, a sportier N Line trim will soon vie for most entertaining subcompact performance SUV credentials, thanks to a 195-horsepower version of the same 1.6-litre turbo-four used in today’s top-line Kona. Details on this last upgrade are not yet available, so we’ll keep you posted.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz…
Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz and Ballard Engineering, the latter bringing the hydrogen fuel-cell tech to the table. After driving that car, and realizing it felt totally normal other than its relatively silent electric propulsion (electrics weren’t very common back then), I believed hydrogen was the way of the future. How wrong was I? At least for the short-term.
It took a decade and a half for me to experience another hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, mostly because of the incredible challenges of installing any sort of hydrogen infrastructure to facilitate refuelling. That car was the outgoing Toyota Mirai, which was followed soon after by a week in this Hyundai Nexo. Fortunately, Vancouver’s Lower Mainland has three new H2-capable public stations where owners of these vehicles can fill up. This now allows for sales, leases and rentals (Greater Vancouver Lyft drivers can now rent a Mirai for weeks at a time) of Toyota’s mid-size sedan and Hyundai’s slightly larger than compact crossover SUV.
So, what happened to Ford and Mercedes? Considering they were two of the first manufacturers to dabble in hydrogen-powered vehicles, it seems strange they’ve mostly left the technology behind. Other producers have come and gone too, while some are still developing hydrogen fuel-cell cars, but haven’t brought them to market (or at least, our market). Honda, for instance, offers an H2 version of its Clarity sedan in the US (we just got the plug-in hybrid), and it’s only $379 USD per month (about $475 CAD at the time of writing) after a small down-payment.
If the Clarity was a pure EV it would be a steal, considering how much you can save by not having to fill the tank (recharging off peak hours is significantly less than pumping gas or H2), but hydrogen doesn’t come cheap, so (without attempting any calculations, which would be near impossible with the information available) buying into the technology is not going to save you any money at the pump.
Living with a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicle is more about the convenience of not having to wait for hours to recharge its electric drive motor (it took me about five minutes to refill), plus the environmental benefits of the just-noted (local) zero-emissions powertrain. Only water vapour leaves the tailpipe, so it’s no more polluting during its use than an electric vehicle.
Just for some fun history, I should point out that Mazda was actually the first major player to take part in the hydrogen game. Not afraid of investing in alternative powertrains, the Japanese brand’s 1991 HR-X Hydrogen Wankel Rotary didn’t use a fuel-cell, but certainly burned H2. Others on the H2 history list include boutique (Morgan) as well as household name brands, from both mainstream and luxury carmakers all across the world, with Hyundai’s initial hydrogen foray being the 2001 Santa Fe FCEV, which was quickly followed up with the 2004 Tucson FCEV. The two SUVs received generational updates, which makes Hyundai one of only a small assortment of brands keeping the hydrogen dream alive.
Respect needs to go out to Hyundai for shaping most of its alternative fuel vehicles in the more popular SUV body style, making them much more likely to find buyers than Toyota and Honda, which have also invested millions into H2 tech, yet house such advancements in a waning automotive commodity. No doubt it made sense for Toyota and Honda to stuff their H2 powerplants in four-door, three-box bodies, especially when considering the popularity of their mid-size Camry and Accord sedans when the respective Mirai and Clarity were in their development stages, but doubling down on this for the second-gen Mirai, arriving this year, seems odd, while alternatively Hyundai’s market insight to have stuck with SUVs appears very forward thinking.
Hyundai went further by targeting compact buyers, which are more plentiful globally, plus extending the Nexo’s wheelbase to mid-size lengths in order to make sure its second-row legroom and cargo capacity allowed for optimal space. To that end, the Nexo is 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the outgoing Tucson, albeit the same width and height. It’s not only more practical, but the extra length provides a better ride, improves high-speed tracking, and looks leaner and therefore arguably better than it would have if shorter.
I’m not going to say it looks better than the much more sharply angled 2022 Tucson that was recently introduced, mind you, which is a particularly eye-catching crossover SUV, but I like the Nexo’s flowing grille and LED headlamp combination, plus its extremely smooth lines front to back, and cool matte grey paint. Some interesting details include Land Rover-inspired pop-out door handles that help keep the body lines flush to improve its coefficient of drag, as well as a thin accent strip between grille and hood that lights up at night. The 19-inch five-spoke alloys look pretty good too, maybe because they aren’t as aerodynamically-flush as some grotesquely wind-cheating wheels of the past.
Inside, the Nexo lives up to its (partial) name, by transitioning Hyundai’s SUV lineup into the future, or at least it did when this model debuted two years ago. It features a similar dual-display instrument cluster/infotainment system as Mercedes’ MBUX (which it has just left behind with the introduction of its new S- and C-Class models). It includes a digital gauge package to the left and touchscreen on the right, the former monitor’s multi-information display controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear. Comparison to Merc’s MBUX is difficult to avoid, and while I’m not going to say Hyundai’s is better, I can’t help but laud the South Korean brand for integrating left and right rear-facing cameras within, these projecting live images onto the cluster when applying the turn signals (now becoming common in Hyundai and Kia vehicles).
Unexpectedly, the pewter-coloured centre stack is as much of a look back to yesteryear as all the digital screens are modernistic, albeit in a quaint, busy for the sake of being busy kind of way, as if Hyundai was attempting to fill my mind with memories of the mid-1980s, when I made mixed tapes on my old Nakamichi tape deck from LPs on my B&O Beogram 4000 turntable. Those that appreciate quick access to functions will like the Nexo console setup, while the SUV’s audio system sound quality wasn’t as potent as my old home system, which was powered by a ‘70s-era Luxman L-504 amp and finished off with a set of Boston Acoustics A400 speakers, but it easily overcame Hyundai’s quiet electric powertrain.
Selecting P, N, D or R is as easy as pushing a button, which engages the Nexo’s 120-kW (161 hp) electric motor, complemented by 291 lb-ft of ever-willing torque. The motive motor pulls power from a 40-kWh battery, but only twists the front wheels, as no all-wheel drive option is available despite its SUV profile.
As noted earlier, the 95-kW fuel-cell stack allows electricity production on the fly, resulting in mobile electrical powerplant, of sorts. Recharging is therefore continuous, as long as there’s hydrogen in the tank, and the EPA claims you’ll be able to extract about 570 to 610 km (355 to 380 miles) after refilling, depending on conditions.
Other than the quick refuelling process, the rest of the Nexo driving experience is just like an electric vehicle, although the usual silence is interrupted by a slight vacuum sucking sound when pressing hard on the go-pedal. I only did this for testing purposes, however, so most of the time it was blissfully quiet, aforementioned tunes aside.
Still, when I needed a fast getaway the Nexo delivered, and likewise when passing laggards on the highway. Even better, it was ultra-smooth doing so, Hyundai’s engineers obviously prizing refinement ahead of excitement. By my own completely unscientific Seiko quartz chronograph calculations, I managed to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a wee bit over eight and a half seconds, which is about half a second quicker than Hyundai achieved, although I imagine the difference has more to do with my unscientific methods combined with their usual conservative estimates. This won’t impress any Tesla owners either way (or Chevy Bolt owners for that matter), but it certainly doesn’t hold up traffic when merging onto the highway.
A more pleasant surprise occurred when veering off of a local four-lane freeway onto a curving two-lane backroad that snakes along a winding river near my home. This is where Hyundai’s engineering team appears to have taken advantage of the Nexo’s low centre of gravity, this provided by installing all the heavy equipment (battery included) under the floorboards. It feels truly hooked up around fast-paced corners, and its electrically assisted rack and pinion steering setup was surprisingly responsive for this class of vehicle.
Better yet was the Nexo’s ride quality, much thanks to a traditional Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension design, along with good tuning. Despite its ability to hustle around corners at a brisk rate, potholes, frost-heaves, bridge expansion joints and other intrusive road imperfections did little to impact driver or occupants, resulting in one of the best ride/handling compromises in the compact crossover SUV segment, and this while rolling on sizeable 245/45HR19 all-season tires.
The Nexo comes across as solid and well-made too, with zero body groans despite having a glass sunroof overhead, and nominal wind or road noise to mar the peaceful experience within. Once again, it was surprisingly refined for its compact SUV segment.
This focus on refinement is probably why Hyundai didn’t provide a sport selection amongst its driving modes. Alternatively, the Normal setting becomes the default for performance, while Eco mode smooths out the edges even more, and by doing so maximizes all the tiny droplets of compressed hydrogen from its trio of 52-litre H2 tanks. The Nexo’s drive mode selector can be found on the lower console next to the infotainment system’s quick access switchgear, by the way, all of which butt up against the previously noted quad of transmission buttons, so finding it should be easy enough after getting acclimatized.
This said, the steering wheel paddles aren’t for shifting gears. Instead, the left one is for simultaneously applying the brakes and sending regenerative kinetic braking energy to the battery. You can bring the Nexo to a full stop just by applying this paddle, as long as the SUV isn’t rolling too quickly, plus the strongest of its three settings needs to be chosen first. That’s the job of the paddle on the right, plus eliminating any rolling resistance by easing off the regenerative brakes. Similar systems are included in most electric cars, so anyone familiar with this EV technology will feel right at home in the hydrogen-powered Hyundai.
Something else similar to EVs is the impressive load of features found in each Nexo, these helping to offset the rather high prices EV and H2 buyers need to pay in order go green. Along with the excellent digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen mentioned a while ago, my Nexo tester included a 360-surround overhead camera system, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, wireless charging, and more.
What about luxury finishings? Now that Hyundai has expanded to include its premium Genesis brand, we shouldn’t expect cloth-wrapped roof pillars and soft-touch synthetics below the belt-line, but the entire dash top is made from a nice pliable plastic, as are the front and even the rear door uppers, along with the door inserts and armrests.
I appreciated the heated steering wheel rim as well, while the inherently comfortable power-adjustable driver’s seat was not only three-way heatable, but provided three-way cooling too, not to mention two-way lumbar support that managed to press against my lower spine in just the right spot to alleviate stress.
Additionally, those in back should be comfortable thanks to generous legroom and reasonable width for the class. I think three could sit across the rear bench in a pinch, but I’d rather be back there with just one more passenger so I could enjoy an outboard seat heater and the folding centre armrest with dual integrated cupholders. There’s only one three-prong household-style power outlet on the backside of the front console, however (not that I’ve ever seen more), and no USB ports in the rear, so it’s possible that aft passengers will end up squabbling about device charging.
Fortunately, the Nexo’s dedicated cargo volume is pretty good at 850 litres (30 cu ft), while it’s expandable to 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. This said, a 40/20/40 division would’ve been better, as owners could lay longer items like skis down the middle, while rear passengers enjoy the aforementioned heatable window seats. A mostly level load floor aids usefulness, plus Hyundai includes a bit more storage underneath a carpeted lid.
If you’re used to the high prices of EVs, you’d better sit down and buckle up before I mention the Nexo’s sticker shocker. This mainstream brand-badged compact SUV starts at a whopping $71,000 plus freight and fees, which will certainly be a deal-killer for anyone that hasn’t already priced out a $52,000 Tesla Model Y, or for that matter Hyundai’s own $41,599 Ioniq Electric. Truly, the Nexo is purely for early adopters who want to own something completely unique, and are willing to put up with very few places to fill up.
You may already be aware that Vancouver is an anomaly when it comes to retail hydrogen refuelling stations. It’s been a hotbed of H2 development for decades (more specifically the suburb of Burnaby), so having an unfair share of H2 stations per capita makes sense. One is in North Vancouver, close to where Toyota houses its local press fleet. I’m quite sure this is just a coincidence, the real reason for the location more likely being its relative proximity to Whistler, BC, a popular destination spot that’s well within the Nexo or Mirai’s round-trip range. It’s also found in the same city as the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation, HTEC being the developer, manufacturer and installer of hydrogen refuelling pump/station hardware, and responsible for setting up the H2 islands around the city, including a Shell station in Vancouver, close to the airport (YVR) and my home.
As for the rest of Canada, a fourth station is currently being built on Vancouver Island, with a fifth set to open in Kelowna, BC. After that you’ll need to put your H2-powered vehicle on a train if you want to fill up in Quebec City (about 4,800 km away). More are planned, but for the time being it appears that hydrogen is more of a west coast thing.
Speaking of the left, there are 43 hydrogen refuelling stations in California, with the only other two available in the US found in Connecticut and Hawaii (forget the train trip for that final location). Again, there are plans to expand the H2 network in the US, with a supposed “hydrogen highway” eventually connecting California and BC’s H2 infrastructure along the US I-5. Being that this has been bantered about for decades, its ETA is anyone’s guess, but with powerhouses like Hyundai and Toyota behind the technology, some form of a hydrogen-powered future is probable.
To find out about Nexo trim levels, including the $73,500 Ultimate version tested, plus all the standard and optional features, check out the 2021 Hyundai NEXO Canada Prices page on CarCostCanada, while you can compare this one to the 2020 version that didn’t offer a base Preferred trim line (strange name as I’d prefer to have the Ultimate), and was priced $500 lower. Also, you can research the other models mentioned in this story by following the links connected to their names. Learn more about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you money when purchasing your next new vehicle, by keeping you up to date on manufacturer rebates, factory leasing and financing deals, and most importantly, by providing dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating. Also, remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you’ll have all this vital info when you need it most.
Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.…
Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.
Yes, it appears as if 2021 is the blue-oval brand’s year to shine as two of its vehicles drove away with class wins, the always best-selling F-150 earning 2021 Truck of the Year honours, and the controversially named Mustang Mach-E silently accepting 2021’s Utility of the Year.
Car of the Year went to Hyundai with its new 2021 Elantra, the reality of which might cause some in Dearborn to wonder what might have happened if the much-lauded (in Europe and other markets) new Focus had been made available in our market.
Notably, the just-noted Truck of the Year finalists are merely significantly upgraded trims of models already available in 2020, leaving the winning F-150 as the only entirely redesigned model entered into this year’s North American Truck of the Year class. How this may have impacted the Truck of the Year results is not known.
If you were smart enough to purchase a 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Sedan back when it was new you got an amazing deal. I remember testing a fully loaded 2015 example when it first came out, complete with…
If you were smart enough to purchase a 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Sedan back when it was new you got an amazing deal. I remember testing a fully loaded 2015 example when it first came out, complete with its fabulous 420 horsepower 5.0-litre Tau V8 in top-tier Ultimate trim and couldn’t believe the level of performance and premium quality available for just $62,000. Neither could my friend that managed Canada’s number one BMW dealership, who was shocked by its styling, interior quality, features and engine specs, stating at the time that he had nothing that could compete with it dollar for dollar.
As it was, you could acquire most everything just noted minus some top-level features and the potent eight-cylinder engine for a mere $43,000 back then, which made the base Genesis Sedan the best luxury car value for its time bar none. When the Hyundai variant was laid to rest and the new Genesis G80 appeared unchanged for the 2017 model year the price went up, but not significantly with all features added. In fact, the top-line G80 5.0 AWD Ultimate example I tested at the time was only $3,000 more than the previous Hyundai-badged version, and came with the benefit of concierge purchasing and servicing for a more premium ownership experience.
This said, base 2017 G80 Luxury trim saw a price increase of $5,400 from the previous 2016 Genesis Sedan Luxury trim’s $48,600 MSRP, while the previous $43k entry-level model was eliminated from the lineup. Hence, the 2017 G80 saw a significant base price hike of $11,000, resulting in sales plunging from the Hyundai-branded Genesis Sedan’s high of 1,513 units in 2014, and subsequently more modest results of 1,377 deliveries in 2015 and 961 during the 2017 calendar year (these last ones being discontinued 2016 model-year cars), to 433 examples of the Genesis-branded G80 throughout its first full year of 2017, plus 393 units for 2018, and 324 for all of last year.
Of course, these final numbers coincide with a general decline in four-door sedan deliveries (and cars overall), although when comparing sales results of the Genesis Sedan/G80 to the segment best-selling Mercedes-Benz E-Class (that also includes the E-Class sedan, coupe and convertible, plus the CLS four-door coupe), which only saw its deliveries drop from 3,789 units in 2014 to 3,452 in 2019, it’s a night and day situation.
Hyundai’s choice to create the Genesis brand certainly appears rosier when comparing the G80’s sales results the BMW 5 Series’ much more dramatic decline over the same six-year timespan, its 2,337 unit sales in 2014 falling to just 1,621 deliveries last year (not including a smattering of 6 and 8 Series models that also compete with the E-Class in this segment, these staying about even at just above 400 units), while Audi’s A6 went from 1,113 examples to 687 respectively (not including 876 to 608 A7s).
Of note, 1,119 G70 sales made 2019 somewhat brighter for the Genesis brand, albeit these rays of hope weren’t enough to cast off the shadow of just 82 G90 deliveries (the latter better than the mere 65 Equus models sold in 2014, however, and only slightly down on the Hyundai flagship’s 2012 high of 116 units).
Anyone with some business acumen knows that sales don’t necessarily translate into profits, but only the South Korean brand’s parent company, or a very skilled analyst with time to delve into the intricacies of the publicly trading automaker’s balance sheet, will be able to deduce whether Genesis’ price increases have added to the automaker’s overall bottom line, or if their reductions in volume posed any negative impact.
Suffice to say the Genesis brand is a long-term project, with the aforementioned GV80 mid-size luxury SUV and additional future crossover models expected to find many more buyers, but it’s interesting to note that Hyundai Motor Corporation’s share value (see HYMTF on the KRX) has weathered a fairly steady decline from 167,000 KRW ($138 USD; $188 CAD) in October of 2015 to 110,000 KRW ($91 USD; $124 CAD) as of July 16, 2020, a 34 percent downturn.
This is the sort of boring business fodder you may want to peruse while relaxing in the comfortable rear seat of a chauffeured G90, instead of cluttering your mind when at the wheel of the sportier G80. Hard numbers aside, all Genesis models are superb examples of modern engineering excellence that can easily keep up with their Teutonic and Japanese competitors, while they’re also very easy on the eyes, highly refined with impressively finished materials, stocked full of the latest tech, convenience and luxury amenities, and fully deserving of being ranked alongside comparative Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and other premium-branded models, heritage aside. Truly, the only negative thing I can say about today’s G80 is its six-plus-year-old design, although being particularly attractive and somewhat exclusive it still looks surprisingly fresh.
That’s a good thing, because the only change from 2019 to 2020 is the removal of the CD changer, which by perusing our photo gallery can be seen on my test model’s centre stack. The rest of the car is identical in every way, which is no bad thing. This said the G80 will undergo a complete redesign for 2021 with styling that more closely resembles the new G90 up front (particularly the grille) with plenty of GV80 details thrown in all-round for good measure, while its sweptback rear window and deck lid remind me a bit of the Audi A7. In other words, it looks great.
As it is, there are plenty of good reasons to purchase a 2019 or 2020 G80 while you still can, with possibly the most notable being the ability to acquire factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. A quick scan of the 2019 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page or 2020 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada will inform you of this deal, while you can also choose any trim and build your G80 right there, while opting for a CarCostCanada membership will give you info on leasing and financing deals for the majority of vehicles currently sold new in Canada, as well as other manufacturer incentives such as rebates, while CarCostCanada also provides dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating your deal. Find out how it works now and while you’re at it, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
Speaking of Apple and Google, CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in every 2019 and 2020 G80, but before I delve into more of the model’s standard and available features I should mention that trims and prices stayed the same in 2018, although Genesis added a new 365 horsepower 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine to the G80 line, along with a new $62,000 Sport trim level sold exclusively with this high-output engine, while base Luxury trim was dropped for 2019, making the 311 horsepower 3.8-litre V6-powered Technology the new base G80 model at $58,000. The same three-model lineup is available once again for 2020, with pricing for the V8-powered Ultimate trim still unchanged at $65,000.
If you’re considering a move up to the Genesis brand from a Hyundai model like the Elantra or Sonata, its feature set probably won’t impress you all that much. After all, Hyundai has long made a name for providing a lot more functionality than its peers for similar if not better pricing, but nevertheless the base G80’s menu does kick things up a notch.
Standard items include LED daytime running lights and taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing keyless entry with a hands-free power opening/closing trunk lid, open-pore genuine hardwood interior inlays, a heated steering wheel rim, a power-adjustable steering column, a 7.0-inch colour multi-information display/digital gauge cluster, a head-up display, a 9.2-inch centre touchscreen with navigation, a 17-speaker audio system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED cabin lighting, a panoramic sunroof, a 16-way powered driver’s seat, a 12-way powered front passenger’s seat, Nappa leather upholstery, heatable front and rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats, and a host of advanced driver assistive systems such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane change assist, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert.
Both Sport and Ultimate trims replace the base model’s bi-xenon headlights with full LEDs, plus add 19-inch alloy wheels, a microsuede headliner, and a slim credit card-like proximity key fob, while the Sport also includes a special set of 16-way powered front Sport seats that were oh-so comfortable and plenty supportive at the lower back and below the knees thanks to four-way power-adjustable lumbar support and a power-extendable lower cushion.
The two-tone light grey and charcoal black interior colour-way is truly attractive, the two shades separated by gorgeous gloss carbon fibre trim on each upper door panel and across the dash, while plenty of brushed aluminum accents brightened key areas throughout the cabin, some of the Lexicon speaker grilles even drilled out in a stylish geometric pattern. All switchgear exudes a feeling of quality too, while soft, pliable composites join up with a generous supply of Nappa leather for a plush, refined inner sanctum.
Really. Just go ahead and try to find any hard plastic. There is some, but it’s very difficult to locate, only including a few small pieces below the dash, which otherwise is covered in premium materials all the way down to the nether regions above the knees, including the glove box lid, while the inner doors are skinned with the very best soft synthetics and leathers from top to bottom, as are the top edges of the lower centre console. That console’s lower sides are made from harder plastic, but this is common amongst the majority of competitors so it’s not an issue. In fact, if you were to compare the G80 side-by-side against a new E-Class, for instance, which actually uses hard plastic on the lower door panels, you’d come away thinking that Genesis does a pretty good job of pampering its new owners.
This said Mercedes leads in digital wizardry, its latest E having been first in its family of updated models to incorporate the brand’s now trademark dual-display instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen, a fully customizable design that makes most rivals seem antiquated at best. This is where the upcoming 2021 G80 will make the biggest gains over this outgoing model, the current car’s mostly analogue gauge cluster being bright, clear and easy to read, but not providing the wow factor of some competitors.
Likewise, for the infotainment system that’s fully functional and then some. It provides a nice graphical interface for the impressive Lexicon audio system noted earlier, its parking camera not only offers a rear view with active guidelines, but also a 360-surround overhead vantage point and multiple closeups as needed, while the climate control interface even shows each occupant’s cabin temperature setting on a lifelike interior graphic.
An elegantly square analogue clock is flanked by twinned panels of HVAC buttons and knobs just below on the centre stack, while a similarly useful audio interface rests under that, complete with the optical drive noted earlier. Additionally, USB and aux ports are housed in a lidded compartment in the lower console, right beside a wireless device charger that conveniently tilts towards front seat occupants.
Lastly, a nicely finished overhead console features a felt-lined sunglasses holder, LED reading and overhead lights, plus controls for the powered panoramic sunroof, which can be covered by a plush suede-like fabric shade that opens via a separate powered switch. On that note, the roof liner and all the pillars are finished in the same luxurious psuede material, as are the two front sun visors.
The G80’s driving position is excellent, made even better by the aforementioned sport seats, while the rear seating area’s spaciousness is about average for the class. When the driver’s seat was set up for my somewhat long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame I had about eight inches room ahead of my knees, lots of legroom to stretch out my lower extremities, plus about four inches to the door panel next to my hips and shoulders, and approximately three inches of airspace over my head. This should allow comfort for most body types.
I wouldn’t say the rear compartment is overly generous with features, but your outboard passengers will get LED reading lights just below the grab handles situated just above the side windows, plus separate vents with scrolling heater controls emanating from within the backside of the front centre console. There are also some very nice pop-out magazine holders on the front seatbacks, and those seatbacks are beautifully finished with what looks like leather all the way down to their bases. This in mind, the rear door skins are as nice as those up front, while a folding centre armrest features the usual dual cupholders as well as controls for the three-way outboard seat warmers noted earlier. Lastly, classy metal clothes hooks on the backside of the B pillars are nice additions.
The trunk is also large at 433 litres (15 cubic feet), but take note the rear seats don’t fold for longer cargo, with items like skis needing to alternatively fit within a relatively small and narrow pass-through down the centre or not at all.
Back up front, along with a fresh set of headlights, a revised lower front grille, reworked front and rear facias, new standard 18-inch wheels, a fresh set of primary instruments, the analogue clock noted earlier, and new premium speaker grilles, one of the big changes for last year’s G80 was a redesigned shifter knob, which is now a slicker looking leather-wrapped, metal-surrounded design that merely moves rearward into drive and forward into reverse, plus into the centre for neutral.
This is due to a new eight-speed automatic below the surface, and I must say that it’s much easier to find neutral with the G80 than with electronic shifters used in some other cars, such as with Chrysler’s 300. One of the benefits of an electronic shifter is a button for Park, or you can simply turn the ignition off and it will go into Park automatically, while Genesis includes a drive mode indicator includes Normal, Eco and Sport selections, with Eco noticeably subduing the G80s performance and therefore enhancing fuel economy, which is fairly good considering all the power available at 13.8 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.9 combined as tested (the base engine is good for a claimed 13.4 city, 9.6 highway and 11.7 combined, while the V8 manages a projected 15.6, 10.4 and 13.2 respectively), and Sport mode sharpening its drivetrain and tightening its suspension for much more engaging performance.
With 365 horsepower on tap the G80 Sport uses the much-lauded powertrain as found in the new Kia Stinger, and while this is great because the latter has become a performance icon amongst import fans, keep in mind the Genesis weighs 100 to 200 kilos more depending on features, so its pull isn’t quite as dramatic off the line. It’s still impressive, however, with all four of my tester’s 245/40R19 Continental’s immediately biting into the tarmac below thanks to Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive, allowing for wonderfully quick launches from standstill and seemingly never-ending highway passing power. I certainly wouldn’t have reason to upgrade to the Tau V8, the turbo-six making a satisfying growl at full throttle, if not the eight’s sonorous bellow and lovely burble at idle.
There’s a little less weight over the front wheels of the V6-powered example, which is always helpful amid tight, fast-paced corners, which the G80 Sport manages very well, incidentally. In fact, despite this car’s 2,120-kg (4,674-lb) curb weight it feels rather really light on its feet, so to speak, and surprisingly agile no matter how it’s thrown into a curve, within reason. It was also one of the nicest, easiest cars I drove around town in all year, so much so it would be ideal for a novice wanting to improve their skills. Its ride quality is smooth, its cabin is quiet and cocoon-like, and just plain comfortable all the time.
Yes, the G80 Sport truly is a superb car. Genesis has been fine-tuning it for years, which likely means it’ll be one of the more dependable mid-size luxury sedans currently available, but just in case something goes wrong it’s backed much longer than any luxury competitor at five years or 100,000 kilometres, which means you get almost comprehensive coverage for mechanical problems or any other issue, plus complimentary scheduled maintenance as well as the convenience of home or office (or these days home office) car pickup via their valet service. That’s one of the best reasons to choose a new Genesis.