Car sales have been slip-sliding away when compared to crossover SUV deliveries lately, with BMW selling less than half of its 3 and 4 Series models than it did a decade ago, and Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class…
Car sales have been slip-sliding away when compared to crossover SUV deliveries lately, with BMW selling less than half of its 3 and 4 Series models than it did a decade ago, and Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class down to a third of its 2010 numbers. Tesla’s all-electric Model 3 is bucking the trend, however, with a total of 12,800 Canadian deliveries in 2021, compared to just 4,348 for the 3 Series, and 3,010 sales of the C-Class.
If the Model 3’s clean sweep of its category in North American markets wasn’t enough, last year it outsold the 3 Series in 28 European countries as well. In fact, with 141,429 deliveries under throughout 2021, Tesla’s entry-level car sold more units in Europe than the Canadian and U.S. markets combined, according to JATO Dynamics. Comparatively, the 3 Series only found 116,250 European buyers during the same period,
Back to Canada, the Tesla Model Y compact luxury crossover SUV didn’t fare as well as the Model 3 last year, both in total sales and when compared to rivals, due to just 6,400 examples sold for a sixth-place ranking in the compact luxury crossover SUV segment. Ahead of the Model Y was the Audi Q5 in first with 9,968 deliveries, while the Acura RDX came in second with 7,976 unit-sales. Third was the BMW X3 with 7,506 deliveries, while fourth was taken by Lexus’ NX with 7,283 new Canadian buyers, and finally Mercedes-Benz’ GLC-Class took fifth with 6,887 units sold.
In the U.S., mind you, the Model Y was far and away number one in its class thanks to 161,529 deliveries compared to 86,478 combined BMW X3 and X4 sales (made up of 75,858 X3s and 10,620 X4s), so being that Canada often mirrors American sales in this category, albeit by approximately 10 percent of the volume, it’s likely that Tesla’s compact crossover would have placed much higher if enough units were made available (allocation is often the culprit). Whether or not calendar year 2022 will see a Canadian adoption of this U.S. market trend won’t be known until Tesla’s quarterly numbers start arriving in early April, and even if it’s not on top after Q1, it would be unwise to bet against Tesla being number one in Canada’s compact luxury crossover SUV class by the close of this year.
Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up.
Take Lexus for example, or for that matter Volvo. The former was selling its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback into North American markets as recently as 2017 (check out our road test), but after seven years of production, plus a couple of down years with nothing in an entry-level segment at all, it was effectively replaced with the UX subcompact crossover SUV. As for Volvo, we need to go all the back to 2013 for the final 300-plus (new) C30s that found Canadian buyers, and then had to wait five additional years for its XC40 subcompact SUV replacement. Likewise, a new C40 electric crossover is expected from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand later this year or early 2022.
See the trend? It wasn’t like the compact B-segment (subcompact luxury) was ever a big deal here in Canada, at least not like it’s been in Europe where Audi’s A1 has been pulling in premium buyers for almost a dozen years, plus its similarly sized A2 before that, and larger A3 even longer, as have BMW’s 1 and 2 Series, not to mention Mercedes’ A-Class, but amongst the few small luxury-branded cars we’ve enjoyed, some are leaving for good, never likely to return.
Still, premium brands need gateway products to entice new customers into the fold, and while small sedans and hatchbacks still attract such buyers to well-established German automakers, luxury buyers are more likely to opt for a subcompact crossover SUV instead. So therefore, while the entry luxury car category won’t likely grow much larger in the coming years, it still has a faithful following that’s passionate about their stylish, low-slung little rides, so let’s see which models are pulling in the most Canadian customers.
Mini Cooper dominates the small luxury car sector
When the words “luxury” and “car” get combined, most probably don’t immediately conjure up images of the cute little Mini hatchback. After all, it was initially Britain’s answer to Germany’s peoples’ car (and the “Suez Crisis” fuel shortage) way back in 1959, a micro hatchback that was as inexpensive to buy as it was efficient to operate. BMW purchased the Mini nameplate as part of its Rover group takeover from British Aerospace and Honda (20-percent) in 1994, and since 2001 has sold a variety of body styles and models, including a compact luxury SUV, dubbed Countryman.
And just in case you don’t understand the logic behind including a brand with pricing that begins where a fully-loaded Kia Rio ends, at $23,490 for a base Cooper 3-Door, consider that most Mini owners don’t purchase stripped-down examples. To that end, a JCW Convertible will set you back more than $60k after all of its extras are tallied up. So, if 60-grand for a subcompact hatchback doesn’t qualify Mini’s Cooper for luxury car status, not to mention sharing underpinnings with some of BMW’s smaller models, it’s difficult to surmise what will.
Mini’s car lineup is powered by three-cylinder and four-cylinder turbocharged engines displacing 1.5 and 2.0 litres respectively. As noted, the 1.5 makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and when installed in the base Cooper 3-Door, hits 100 km/h from standstill in 8.1 seconds with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and manages 8.8 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined with the former if driven more modestly, or 8.4, 6.5 and 7.5 with the latter. Obviously, performance and fuel economy won’t be quite as good in either the 5 Door, Clubman, or Convertible due to weight gains, a reality that affects the other engines in the lineup too.
On that note, the 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in the second-tier Cooper S, and once again comes with both six- and seven-speed transmissions, while the quickest and thriftiest Cooper S 3-Door manages a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds with either gearbox, plus fuel economy ratings of 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.8 combined with the manual, or a respective 8.9, 6.6 and 7.9 with the auto.
The best fuel economy of all, however, comes from Mini’s Cooper SE, which uses a 181 horsepower electric motor (with 199 lb-ft of torque) and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery to drive the front wheels, resulting in “fuel economy” of about 16.9 to 14.9 kWh/ 100 km (according to NEDC). Its 177-km range, makes it only suitable for urban use, however, which means you’ll need to leave it at home for longer road trips… a shame.
The Mini Cooper 3 Door and Convertible only have four seatbelts, which is probably all you’d ever want to try and fit in anyway (especially in the latter), while 5 Door and Clubman models feature seating for five, the latter housing five adults (kind of) being that it’s not only 454 mm (17.9 in) lengthier than the 3 Door and 293 mm (11.5 in) longer than the 5 Door, with a wheelbase that spans an extra 175 mm (6.9 in) and 103 mm (4.0 in) respectively, but also 74 mm (2.9 in) wider, which of course matters even more when stuffing three abreast. At 1,801 mm (70.9 in), the Clubman is also wider than anything in this class save Audi’s A3, while its wheelbase is identical to Acura’s ILX and BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, plus longer than the A3’s and BMW’s diminutive i3, the latter of which is still longer than both 3 and 5 Door Minis.
As you might have imagined, dedicated cargo capacity is most generous in the Clubman too, growing from just 160 litres (6.0 cubic feet) in the Convertible, 211 litres (7.0 cu ft) in the 3 Door, and 278 litres (10 cu ft) in the 5 Door, to 495 litres (17.5 cu ft) in the Clubman, which, in fact, is the same as the Countryman SUV.
As far as sales go, Mini delivered 2,739 examples of its four-model car lineup to Canadians in 2020 (not including the Countryman crossover), and also saw another 2,111 low-slung units leave its dealerships over the first nine months of this year, which makes it look like the brand will surpass last year’s rather poor showing when 2021 comes to an end, but it probably won’t realize as many car sales as in decades past. Prior to 2020, Mini’s worst calendar year on record for car deliveries was 2004 when it only sold 2,800 Cooper hatchbacks, but most other years the brand’s cars ranged between 3,500 and 5,500 Canadian sales.
So far, there’s no serious challenger to Mini’s collective Cooper car line when it comes to sales success in this class, but as mentioned earlier in this report, the real growth in the entry-level luxury sector is happening in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV category, in which Mini’s Countryman sits ninth out of 12 competitors (see the “Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now” story). Mini will likely need to achieve much greater success in that burgeoning category in order to keep funding the niche models in its car lineup, so as not to continue eroding what is currently a diverse offering.
Notably, Mini both expanded and contracted this car line dramatically from 2012 through 2017, with the introductions and then cancellations of the 2012–2015 Cooper Coupe and Cooper Roadster models. The 2013–2016 Cooper Paceman (a three-door crossover coupe based on the Countryman) was its attempt to widen its small SUV offering, a la BMW X2, but slow take-rates for all of these creative offerings have now turned them into modern-day collectables. To be clear, like all Minis these were brilliantly fun niche models that we were admittedly excited about initially, and while all three might now be seen as mistakes that negatively impacted the brand’s bottom line, having eaten up significant R&D money that could’ve gone elsewhere, it’s hard to criticize the brand for thinking outside of the box, or rather two-box design layout, and trying something completely different.
Still, it’s hard to keep a brand that’s as enjoyable to drive as Mini down (even its perennially low Consumer Reports reliability rating can’t do that), and while parent company BMW’s 2 Series is on a roll that could possibly see it pass by the Cooper for overall sales leadership in Canada (read about that below), diehard Mini enthusiasts (and there are many) continue to love what makes these little sprites segment best-sellers.
Mercedes’ A-Class leads sales of traditionally desirable subcompact luxury cars
Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most premium of luxury brands overall, this side of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, the Stuttgart-based automaker’s own Maybach marque, and a bunch of supercar makes like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, and of course Ferrari, so therefore, acquiring a sleek sport sedan or hot hatch bearing the famed three-pointed star will be seen by many as quite the accomplishment. This said, the most affordable way to do so comes by way of the A-Class, made available to Canadian new car buyers as of the 2019 model year.
The A-Class, available in both A 220 4Matic four-door sedan (see our review of the A 220 4Matic here) and A 250 4Matic five-door hatchback (see our review of the A 250 4Matic Hatch here) trims and body styles, plus sportier AMG A 35 versions of each, quickly earned the top-spot in the compact B-segment amongst traditionally desirable brands, thanks to managing 2,355 deliveries amidst a difficult 2020, which saw sales of most models in this category slide south, although 2021 already looks stronger for the entry-level Mercedes model thanks to 1,517 units sold throughout the first three quarters of the year, even though this positive growth now leaves it in the negative when compared to BMW’s increasingly popular 2 Series, which was made available with four doors as of model year 2020 (more on that in a minute).
To be totally fair, CLA-Class numbers should really be included in Mercedes’ overall segment sales, because it’s really the same car as the A-Class under its sleeker, more coupe-like skin, while most three-pointed star competitors, such as the just-covered Mini Cooper and BMW’s 2 Series, lump all of their subcompact body styles under one model name. This said, combining all the 2020 A-Class deliveries with the 1,085 CLAs sold in the same year results in a total of 3,440 B-segment sales for Mercedes, along the number-one position overall. Then again, if we’re looking at total automaker sales, BMW AG’s namesake brand and Mini combined for 3,881 deliveries in 2020 (including 168 i3 EVs), which puts the Bavarian marque on top. Likewise, the German and British brands’ combined Q3 sales of 4,033 units give it an even stronger lead so far in 2021, so Mercedes has some catching up to do.
This shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to a diverse A-Class engine lineup. The base A 220 sedan comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the same engine in the A 250 hatch makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the A 35 in either model, and the little 2.0-litre powerplant puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, making them two of the most exciting cars in their class to drive. What’s more, all A-Class models are some of the easiest to keep in their respective lanes, no matter the weather condition, due to standard 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Paddle-shifters enhance control of a standard 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also includes a standard ECO Start/Stop system to save on fuel, resulting in a 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined rating for the A 220 sedan; a 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined rating for the A 250 hatch; or a respective 10.7, 8.2 and 9.5 for both AMG A 35 models.
The A-Class’ near-longest 2,729 mm (107.4 in) wheelbase means both front and rear seating is comfortable for this small car category, while its fractionally narrower than average 1,796 mm (70.5 in) width (not including mirrors) shouldn’t make much of a difference from side-to-side.
At 243 litres (8.6 cu-ft), the sedan’s trunk is the smallest in the class, however, other than the two aforementioned Mini 3 Door models, but the hatchback’s cargo compartment is larger than average at 370 litres (13.0 cu ft), plus both provide more space when the rear seat is folded forward, made even more convenient with a 40/20/40-divided split.
Due to very few negatives, most A-Class customers are very satisfied with their purchases, as evidenced by the model’s top ranking in the “Compact Luxury Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, while J.D. Power named it runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” segment of its latest 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study (the sportier CLA-Class earned the top position). Last but hardly least, Vincentric placed it on top of the “Luxury Compact” class of its Best Fleet Value in Canada Awards, something it also achieved in the U.S.
Interestingly, none of the cars in this top five list even rated in the “Entry-Luxury-Car” category’s top three for Canadian Black Book’s latest 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, but this is (at least partially) because CBB includes pricier C-segment models, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class that claimed the highest accolades, as entry-level models. Likewise, Lexus’ mid-size ES, which was one of the runners-up, is considered entry-level by CBB too.
Ironically, being that residual values are all about pre-owned cars, with CBB’s awards going to three-year old vehicles, the ES was tied with Lexus’ now discontinued CT 200h. Obviously, Lexus models hold their value very well amongst small luxury cars, but then again, Mercedes does too, so it’s possible we’ll see the A-Class replace the CT for top-three residual value leadership when it’s been on the market long enough to qualify.
Expect major upsurge in Audi A3 sales when redesigned model arrives for 2022
Audi deserves credit for being the first German luxury carmaker to offer a four-door sedan in this compact B-Segment, with the advent of the redesigned 2015 A3 that was also available in higher performance S3 tune, plus as an A3 Cabriolet (Acura’s EL was the first entry-luxury sedan when it arrived in 1997, while the A3 was a five-door hatch from model years 2006 to 2014). An even more potent RS 3 sedan made this class of subcompacts shine in 2018, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Moving into the 2022 model year after technically not providing a 2021 car, the Cabriolet has been discontinued and all-new redesigned A3, S3 and RS 3 sedans are on the way. These should help boost the Ingolstadt-based brand’s future prospects in this waning segment, thanks to sharper styling, a modernized interior, and upgraded performance.
Now in its fourth generation, the new A3 rides on the same MQB platform used for the eighth-generation 2022 Volkswagen Golf (which kind of qualifies for entry-level luxury status on its own, at least in GTI and R trims), making it slightly longer, a bit wider and fractionally taller than the outgoing model, but the sedan’s 2,636 mm (103.8 in) wheelbase doesn’t change, so the extra 40 mm (1.6 in) of length has mostly gone to cargo capacity that’s up 64 litres (2.2 cu ft) to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft), from just 284 litres (10.0 cu ft) in previous years.
Just like its predecessor, the Canadian-spec A4 and S4 will receive one S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox shared between them, plus two different versions of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, although staying true with the times means that a 48-volt mild hybrid system has been added to the mix. While fuel economy will no doubt improve, aided further by coasting capability the shuts the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain off when not needed to maintain speed (i.e. going downhill), the hybrid system will also boost base performance from 184 horsepower to 201, although torque actually inches downward from 222 lb-ft to 221. This should result in a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time than the current car, which is rated at 6.2 seconds, but so far Audi hasn’t announced such numbers for the new model.
The 2022 S3, on the other hand, can dash from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, shaving a tenth from the old car’s sprint time thanks to a move up from 288 horsepower to 306, whereas its electronically-limited top track speed of 250 km/h is identical to the outgoing model.
Lastly, a new RS 3 is on the way, with a reported 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. It catapults from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 290 km/h (180 mph), while the new car’s handling will be improved with a torque-vectoring rear axle dubbed Torque Splitter, which was designed to reduce understeer while maintaining the Quattro AWD system’s legendary high-speed grip.
Identically to the outgoing A3, 2022 Canadian-spec trim levels include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, but the new car now comes standard with Quattro AWD, which has caused base pricing to increase substantially from $34,500 in 2020, to $38,900 (plus freight and fees) this coming year. The S3, which already included Quattro as standard, will now start $47,900. This is actually a decrease of $500 due to base Komfort trim now becoming available (Progressiv was the S3’s previous base trim). Of note, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 A3.
Improvements inside the 2022 A3 include a 10.3-inch version of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard equipment, plus a new 10.1-inch fixed infotainment display at centre, or a 12.3-inch upgrade, instead of the old pop-up unit that, while kind of awesome in its own way, is about as useful as pop-up headlights now that most jurisdictions require us to run with our front lamps on during the day. Therefore, as much as we might miss the main monitor powering up out of the dash during startup, or better yet, disappearing altogether on a night drive, the new larger display is more in keeping with today’s technology-first world, while it also integrates much more advanced high-definition capability along with updated graphics.
AS far as awards go, the outgoing A3 earned runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which was won by BMW’s 2 Series.
Gran Coupe has given BMW’s 2 Series line the shot in the arm it’s always needed
BMW’s 2 Series made the greatest B-segment gains in sales over the past year, mostly due to the aforementioned Gran Coupe. While year-over-year 2 Series deliveries only grew by 13 percent in 2020, up from 1,202 to 1,358 units, sales have already increased by more than 33 percent over the first nine months of 2021, now totaling 1,811 units for a current ranking of third in class. Of course, we need to factor Audi’s lack of 2021 A3, S3 and RS 3 models into any future prognostications, which, as noted earlier, caused their deliveries to almost completely disappear, thus we’ll need to see how well the new A3, and the completely redesigned 2 Series Coupe, fare in the coming year.
Yes, while the four-door variant of this model only gets minor package and standalone options changes for 2022, the two-door coupe has undergone a ground-up redesign, and most should like what they see. For starters, BMW chose a more conventional twin-kidney frontal grille compared to its larger 4 Series counterpart, which can best be described (in the kindest way possible) as controversial.
The “G42”, as it’s known internally, will once again feature rear- and all-wheel drive layouts in the U.S. and other markets, albeit so far only the latter has been announced for Canada. Additionally, no 255-horsepower 230i variant is expected in the land of the almost free either, but instead we’ll only get the 382-horsepower inline-six engine mated to a standard paddle shifter-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission—yes, no six-speed manual is available in either market, at least until we see a new M2 (which, fingers crossed, will hopefully have a DIY gearbox). That’s 47 additional horsepower than the outgoing M240i, incidentally, so despite its torque figure dropping down to 369 lb-ft, it still manages a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, while its top track speed remains limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).
An available adaptive M suspension will make the most of a 51-mm (2-in) longer wheelbase, its track also growing by 54 mm (2.1 in) up front and 31 mm (1.2 in) at the back, with near 50:50 weight distribution for almost ideal balance, so handling should be just as crisp. Overall, the 19-kg (42-lb) heavier, 1,755-kg (3,869-lb) 2 Series coupe grows 88 mm (3.4 in) longer and 66 mm (2.6 in) wider than its predecessor, although its 2.5-mm (1.0-in) height reduction makes for slipperier styling.
The longer wheelbase should aid cabin comfort, particularly in the rear, while those up front will benefit from deeper bolsters when upgrading the seats. Some standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, showing BMW really does have plans to market this 2 Series to folks with more than one friend, while an upgraded iDrive infotainment system boasts up to 10.3 inches of screen space, with new functions including an upgraded voice control system that can distinguish between driver and passenger commands, plus Connected Parking that notifies the driver of a given destination’s parking issues.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is also standard, with the latter providing full Google Maps integration, but iPhone users shouldn’t feel left out, because they can use NFC connectivity for up to five devices. Additionally, a mobile app makes the new 2’s LTE wi-fi function available from further away, providing the ability to check the car’s location or status, lock or unlock its doors as needed, and even access its external cameras for security’s sake.
The 2 Coupe’s new standard audio system provides 10 speakers and 205 watts of power, but audiophiles will want to upgrade to the Harman Kardon Surround Sound system thanks to its 14-speaker, 464-watt output. Additionally, a colour head-up display system has been added to the options list, projecting current speed, speed limit, and even passing restrictions onto the windshield ahead of the driver.
The new 2022 M240i xDrive is expected to show up at Canadian dealers in November, with pricing starting at $56,950, but as noted earlier there hasn’t been any announcement about the rear-wheel drive 230i. In fact, only the all-wheel version is currently offered on BMW Canada’s retail website, and CarCostCanada’s 2022 BMW 2 Series Canada Prices page isn’t showing a RWD version for 2022 either. This may mean the much-loved and considerably more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe won’t be coming north of the 49th.
Likewise, only the M235i xDrive version of the four-door Gran Coupe can currently be seen at CarCostCanada, while the 2022 version of this car isn’t showing up at BMW’s website at all. Instead, the automaker’s new car configurator just allows the 2021 model to be built, with two engine options, the other being the lesser 228i Gran Coupe, which at $38,990 remains the most affordable car in BMW’s Canadian lineup for the time being. If BMW has chosen not to bring its least expensive sedan to Canada, and instead price the most affordable 2 Series at $51,400, expect to see 2 Series sales drop off dramatically moving into the new year.
At least the 2021 2 Series represents good initial value, while all 2 Series trims do well when it comes time to trade in. As noted earlier, it earned the top spot in the “Premium Compact Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and making it an even better bet, the 2 Series took best-in-class honours in the same third-part analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), within its “Small Premium Car” segment. Additionally, it earned a best-in-class score in the same category of the coveted 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) too. That’s a lot of metal in the trophy cabinet, and reason enough to consider a new 2 Series if your budget allows, or a 2021 model while new ones remain available.
Mercedes takes fifth in sales with its sporty CLA four-door coupe
The previously mentioned Mercedes CLA-Class earned a solid fifth place in the compact B-segment, with 1,085 deliveries last year and 1,031 more over three quarters of 2021. Longer, wider and lower than the A-Class sedan, the CLA makes up for its size increase by being powered by the 221-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is also used in the A 250 Hatch. It boasts an identical 258 lb-ft of torque too, but its 75 kg (165lbs) of extra mass means that it’s slightly slower off the line than the hatchback, but its wider track should make up time in the corners.
The gap in off-the-line acceleration narrows to an unnoticeable 0.1 seconds in AMG CLA 35 trim, however, this model using the same 302 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four as found in both AMG-tuned A-Class models, but the even more formidable AMG CLA 45 leaves all of its lesser siblings far behind with a sprint from zero to 100 km/h of only 4.1 seconds, thanks to 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a heavily massaged version of the same 2.0-litre engine. The CLA 45 gets another cog in its dual-clutch gearbox too, totaling eight, aiding its higher top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph), while 4Matic all-wheel drive is once again standard.
For 2022, the CLA 250 4Matic starts at $43,600, while the AMG CLA 35 4Matic can be had from $52,100, and AMG CLA 45 4Matic from $62,900. Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2022 CLA models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,000.
How the rest of the subcompact luxury car field stacks up
Acura’s ILX remains a very competent offering in this class, despite its age (see a recent review of the ILX here). It received the brand’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille as part of a refresh for 2019, and received a boost in sales that year because of it. Deliveries dropped by 58.6 percent in calendar year 2020, with just 774 new buyers compared to 1,871 the year before, but 2021 has seen some strength with 729 down the road as of September 30th, and now with a new 2023 Integra expected to debut soon, Acura’s future in this class is brightening, as is the future of the entire segment that’s soon bolstering its ranks with another new entry. Moving into 2022 it will be last in the class, however, being that BMW’s i3 EV is being discontinued.
On the positive, the ILX achieved runner-up status in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which means the new 2022 ILX, which moves into the new model year without any notable changes, should be just as well built. It continues forward with one, single, high-revving, naturally aspirated 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard paddle-shifters, front-wheel drive, standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps, a twin-display infotainment system inside, and a full assortment of AcuraWatch safety and convenience features including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, much like the rest of the cars in this class.
ILX prices start at $31,400 in base trim for 2022, and move up to $33,900 for the Premium model, plus $35,400 for the Premium A-Spec, and finally $36,800 for the top-line Tech A-Spec. All ILX trims represent very good value in this segment, especially considering the model’s size and performance, while 2021 models are an even better deal, not only because they’re priced slightly lower, but also due to Acura currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are averaging big savings of $6,375.
Finally, a special mention should be given to BMW’s all-electric, or optionally range-extender-enhanced (REx) i3, which despite being an elder statesman in this class, and on its way to pasture, provides one of the most inviting interiors in any class, plus supercar-like carbon-fibre composite construction, all for a 2021 base price of $44,950, or $53,600 with the REx. BMW is also offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 from that list price, plus government rebates are available due to its battery plug-in powertrain. As noted previously in this article, the little Bimmer only sold 168 units last year, while just 111 examples have found home in 2021 so far.
There probably won’t be many if any new compact B-segment cars added to this category in the near future, unless Tesla or one of its EV rivals decides to offer an even smaller four-door sedan than the Model 3, or if Mazda’s 3 sedan and hatch move even further upmarket than their near-luxury top-tier GT has already gone, with higher pricing to match, but we may see alternative body styles of current models remerge, such as an A3 Sportback to counter Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch (see our review of the A 250 4Matic here), being that such layouts very popular in Quebec where European tastes remain dominant. Audi may also want to consider its A1 Sportback, especially if fuel costs keep rising and target entry customers’ expendable incomes are impacted by market instability, while BMW might be wise to consider its five-door 1 Series for the same reasons.
Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury car mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use all the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each car. Also, be sure to find out how CarCostCanada can save you thousands off your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting…
Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting new luxury buyers.
Let’s face it, small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they used to. Certainly, Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed recent success with its affordable new A-Class sedan and hatchback thanks to 2,355 buyers in Canada throughout 2020, plus a reasonable take-rate for its updated CLA four-door coupe at 1,085 units over the same 12 months, while BMW’s new four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (redesigned for 2022) helped that three-model line stay relevant with 1,358 deliveries last year (the 2 Series Cabriolet will be discontinued for 2022), although Audi’s A3 (plus the S3 and RS3), that was doing decently with 1,720 sales in 2020, saw its numbers fall off a cliff over the first six months of this year with just 131 down Canadian roads, but this was more than likely due to an all-new 2022 model arriving in four-ringed dealers as “pen” goes to “paper” (the A3 Cabriolet was just cancelled, but an all-new 400+hp RS 3 Sedan is expected soon).
That’s a good sign for small sedan lovers, but the return of this now niche model is only possible because Audi does so well in the crossover SUV sector. The same goes for its German counterparts, plus Japan’s lone small sedan contester, Acura, that only sold 774 ILX sedans in Canada last year. They’d better get a move on with their long rumoured CDX subcompact luxury SUV, because as noted a moment ago, they’re missing out on an important gateway for Honda HR-V fans (and there are plenty of them) that want something a bit more upscale (will it happen when the soon-to-be nine-year-old HR-V gets a redesign for 2023?).
To put things into perspective, last year’s best-selling subcompact luxury car was Mini’s Cooper with 2,739 units down Canadian roads (thanks to 3-Door, 5-Door, extended Clubman, and Convertible variants), while the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment’s chart-topping Buick Encore found 6,650 new buyers last year, plus that model’s stretched and modernized Encore GX sibling pulled in another 5,045 for a total of 11,695 units. Granted, some will find it another stretch to consider Buick a premium brand at all, this especially true in the smallest of SUV categories where the Encore is priced tens of thousands lower than most “rivals” at under $25k (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $10,000), but it does go to show how important this burgeoning segment is to luxury carmakers (and entry-level luxury brands).
Audi Q3 tops the subcompact luxury SUV list amongst desirable premium brands
No doubt, some of the dwindling Audi A3 buyers mentioned a minute ago have gravitated to the taller, more utile Q3 in recent years, noted by sales that have steadily grown from 1,566 units in 2014, when it first arrived, to 5,949 deliveries throughout 2020, making the Q3 the true best-selling model in the subcompact “luxury” crossover SUV class (sorry Buick). Even better, Audi sold 4,224 Q3s over the first half of 2021, once again showing every competitor how critically important this new category is to securing future growth.
Moving into the 2022 model year, Canadian-spec Q3s are available in three trims including Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, all standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic, and the brand’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. The base “40” engine makes 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 9.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, while a more potent version of the same powerplant, dubbed “45”, is good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a much more satisfying 7.4 seconds from zero to 100 km/h.
Fuel economy is a Q3 strongpoint, with a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.2 combined for the more economical 40 engine tuning, or 11.7, 8.4 and 10.2 respectively when moving up to the 45. A fully independent MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension setup makes sure handling is nimble too.
The base 2022 Q3 40 TFSI Quattro starts at $38,400 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Technik 45 TFSI Quattro is available from $47,200, plus nearly $5,000 in options are available. What’s more, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for 2022 Q3 buyers, although average CarCostCanada membership savings are currently $2,200, so therefore, make sure you find out how dealer invoice pricing can save you thousands too.
Those buying a new Q3 have the confidence that it’ll hold its value better than some competitors, thanks to its runner-up status in the latest Canadian Black Book 2020 Best Retained Value Awards in the “Sub-Compact Luxury Crossover” category, where the Győr, Hungary-made crossover matched BMW’s X1, and was beaten by Mercedes’ GLA.
The Q3 also tied for runner-up in the “Small Premium SUV” segment of the latest 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), matching the Volvo XC40, but both Europeans were edged out by Lexus’ new UX. Additionally, the same third-party analytical firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) has it solely owning the runner-up position in the same category, once again behind the GLA.
Lexus UX second in sales after just two years on the market
Lexus smartly said goodbye to its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback in 2017, and hello to the new UX soon after in 2019, thus helping to pave the way for other automakers to do likewise once realizing the Japanese luxury brand’s ability to earn second place on the sales charts in less than two years of availability.
A total of 2,520 UX models rolled out of Lexus dealerships in 2020, beating a best-ever total of 1,640 CT 200h deliveries in 2012, which is a gain of more than 50 percent, while at the close of Q2 2021 the UX had found 1,525 new buyers, showing that it’s on target for an even stronger third year.
For 2022, the UX is only available with one drivetrain in Canada, having dropped its entry-level front-wheel drive UX 200 designation north of the 49th parallel (and we’re guessing Alaska, Hawaii, etcetera, too). This means last year’s base window sticker of $38,450 gets a $2,250 bump up to $40,700 for 2022, but that’s a small price to pay for all-wheel drive, via an electric motor driving the rear wheels, plus a more potent hybrid drivetrain that’s better on fuel. Before segueing into the UX 250h model’s performance and fuel-efficiency advantages, it should be said that Lexus is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from 2.9 percent, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,964 at the time of writing.
Where the outgoing UX 200 only put 169 horsepower down to the front wheels, the UX 250h once again makes 181 net horsepower, which gets close to base Q3 performance on paper, and actually matches it on asphalt as well, evidenced by its 9.1-second 0-100 km/h acceleration in a straight line (the discontinued UX 200 managed 9.2 seconds).
The UX 250h also delivers much better fuel economy that’s estimated at 5.7 L/100 city, 6.2 highway and 6.0 combined, a feat that’s no doubt assisted by a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), albeit expensing some performance. More engaging F Sport trim adds paddle shifters, however, making the most of the equipment on hand, which includes standard Sport mode that, together with the UX’ well balanced front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup, improves fast-paced handling.
As noted earlier, the UX claimed top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while it also tied for runner-up with the GLA in the same company’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, only beaten by the XC40, while the entire Lexus brand topped J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study overall, and is also the most reliable luxury brand according to Consumer Reports.
Additional reasons to consider the new UX include J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards that ranked it number one in its Premium Subcompact Utility Vehicle” category, while the UX also achieved a best-in-class score in the “Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover” segment of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards (be sure to check out our 2021 Lexus UX Road Test).
BMW X1 slipping in popularity yet still a top-three contender
Talk to anyone considering a step up from a mainstream volume brand into the luxury sector and the names BMW and Mercedes-Benz will inevitably be included in the conversation, and for good reason. With almost and more than a century respectively behind them, the two German brands have earned most consumers’ respect, and the prestige that followed plays an important part in premium brand decision making.
While priced near the bottom of BMW’s lineup, at $42,425 (the aforementioned 2 Series Gran Coupe is $1,000 less), the base 2022 X1 xDrive28i is hardly the least expensive SUV in the subcompact class (although up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,000 might help). Still, 2,384 new buyers didn’t mind paying close to that much in calendar year 2020.
What’s more, after six months of 2021, the X1 had managed to sneak past Lexus’ UX with 1,616 deliveries to its credit, but these numbers are a far cry from sales in 2017, 2018 and 2019, that saw the X1’s popularity steadily slipping downward from its once grand heights of 6,120, 5,308, and 4,420 units respectively.
This negative trajectory might have something to do with the sportier X2 stealing 1,856 buyers after arriving in 2018, although the sleeker SUV’s sales have been sliding too, with 1,383 delivered in 2019 and just 790 in 2020. As of Q2 2021’s close, a 495-unit midterm tally looks like it might be improving on last year’s total, so we’ll need to see how things shake out after the rest of the year gets added up.
The X1’s performance wouldn’t be the issue holding buyers back from signing on the dotted line, however, as its sole 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a blistering (compared to most competitors) 6.2-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h, thanks in part to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive, while the latter aids the front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension make BMW’s usual magic through the corners (although take note, the first-generation X1 was a sharper handler, with this one increasing the comfort quotient).
The X1 also performs well when it comes to utility, offering the most dedicated cargo volume available in the entire class at 767 litres (27.1 cu ft). Additionally, folding its conveniently-divided 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks forward results in a grand total of 1,775 litres (58.7 cu ft) of gear-toting space, also the most in the segment.
The next best is Mercedes’ new GLB-Class, incidentally, with 700 and 1,680 litres (24.0 and 62.0 cu ft) respectively, while the worst when it comes to dedicated cargo room is the same automaker’s GLA-Class with a token 435 litres (15.0 cu ft) to its name, which it mostly makes up for when dropping its rear seats down, resulting 1,430 litres (50.5 cu ft) of load-hauling capacity. In case you were wondering, Infiniti’s decommissioned QX30, which was developed alongside the GLA-Class, offered more space behind the rear seats at 543 litres (19.2 cu ft), but it suffered from the least amount ever offered in this class when laid flat, at 963 litres (34.0 cu ft). This may have been one of the key reasons for its slow sales, as the great-looking QX30 was a wonderful little SUV other than that.
Volvo XC40 earns a well-deserved fourth place on the sales charts
Speaking of cargo shortcomings, Volvo’s XC40 can’t attribute its top-five success to luggage carrying prowess, being that it only manages a scant 586 litres (20.7 cu ft) of volume behind the rear seats, and 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) when folded, making it the third smallest in the segment (not including the Encore) with respect to the former, and second smallest (including the Encore) for the latter, but it does most everything else so well that its consumer take-rate truly deserves to be above average.
Like the majority in this subcompact luxury SUV class, the XC40 is the most affordable way to own a new Volvo, not to mention that it’s one of just five contenders in this 10-model segment priced below $40k. Specifically, the base XC40 Momentum T4 AWD starts at $39,950 for 2022 (plus Volvo is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,250), and packs a lot of style, quality, performance and versatility for its small package.
At 4,425 mm (174.2 in), it’s actually the shortest from nose to tail amongst the top five, yet its 2,702-mm (106.4-in) wheelbase is longer than all of the above (although not the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class below), which gives it an athletic visual stance while making as much of the available interior space as possible.
Another bonus is the XC40’s multiplicity of powertrains, starting with the T4 designated engine only available in base Mlomentum trim. With 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, it’s nowhere near the least potent in the category, and at just over 8 seconds from a standing start to 100 km/h, it’s hardly the slowest base model either. Much of its energetic takeoff can be attributed to its precise-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and just-noted standard AWD, while the fuel economy tradeoff is reasonable at 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined.
Moving up to the T5, a stronger version of the same engine doesn’t impact efficiency much either, with a claimed rating of 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined, especially considering output increases to 248 horsepower, torque to 258 lb-ft, and its zero to 100 km/h time comes down to just 7.2 seconds.
So far so good, but speed demons will want to move up yet another notch on the ladder to the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, an EV version of the little SUV that’ll blast from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.9 seconds, making it one of the fastest subcompact luxury SUVs currently available. The Recharge incorporates a 75-kWh battery and two electric motors for a resultant 402-horsepower, plus the grip of AWD. What’s more, it can travel up to 335 km (208 miles) on a single charge.
The XC40 Recharge is already gaining respect in the industry too, with highest marks in the “Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards for consumers. The regular XC40 has also done well, with a top-tier result in the “Compact Luxury Crossover SUV” class of AutoPacific’s most recent 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, plus as noted earlier, it tied with the Q3 in the “Small Premium SUV” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while also receiving best-possible honours in the same firm’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. That’s quite the trophy case!
As for sales numbers, both conventional and electric versions accounted for 2,254 Canadian deliveries in 2020, its best year yet (out of two full years), while it already achieved sales of 1,829 units by this year’s halfway mark, putting it on target for second in the class if momentum (sorry for the pun) continues. Again, the XC40 deserves its success.
Mercedes GLB newcomer edges ahead of GLA for top-5 honours
Mercedes believes so much in the entry-level luxury SUV sector that it introduced a second entry for 2020, and despite being the new GLB’s first full year on the scene it still managed to edge out the smaller GLA with 1,775 units to 1,759. Any question about which model will dominate moving forward is being answered this year, with the first six months of 2021 resulting in 1,474 deliveries for the GLB and 1,291 for the GLA.
To be totally fair to Mercedes, like BMW and its X1/X2 combo, the GLA/GLB duo actually compete with each other as much as they battle against rival brands, so therefore when combining the sales of both SUVs into one, the three-pointed star brand ended up second in the class with 3,534 units rolling out of its Canadian dealerships last year, while even better, it found 2,765 new subcompact crossover SUV buyers over the first two quarters of 2021.
While the two models offer very different takes on styling, size and utility, the fact you can get into the larger GLB for only slightly more than the diminutive GLA might have more to do with its success than its more traditional, upright, SUV-like design. Size in mind, the new GLB-Class is 224 mm (8,8 in) longer than the GLA-Class, at 4,634 mm (182.4 in) from front to back, while its wheelbase spans 100 mm (3.9 in) more. That makes it just 22 mm (0.9 in) shorter than the compact luxury GLC-Class, although true to its subcompact classification, the GLB’s 1,834-mm (72.2-in) width is 56 mm (2.2 in) narrower than the GLC, while identical to the GLA’s width. Its height, however, is 20 mm (0.8 in) taller than the larger GLC, and 47 mm (1.8 in) higher than the GLA, making it the clear winner for headroom.
The GLB’s second-best-in-class cargo capacity was already noted (in the X1 overview), but differences between the GLB and GLA weren’t covered, those being 265 litres (9.3 cu ft) of extra space behind the larger SUV’s rear seats, and 250 litres (8.8 cu ft) more when both second-row backrests are laid flat.
Pricing for the GLA starts at $42,400 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,750), whereas the most affordable GLB begins at $46,500 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,450), while AMG 35 variants of both models are priced at $52,900 and $57,500 respectively.
AMG? That’s right. Mercedes hasn’t forgotten to include performance variants, even in this more affordable market segment. Both M-B models offer a fuel economy-focused variant and at least one that makes daily commutes and weekend getaways a lot more fun, with the GLA and GLB 250 4Matic duo utilizing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, plus the AMG GLA and GLB 35 4Matic models make a sizeable 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Straight-line acceleration equals 6.7 seconds to 100 km/h for the base GLA and 6.9 for the GLB, while the AMG versions scoot away to the same speed from a stoplight at 4.9 and 5.2 seconds apiece. Shifts are lightning quick too, thanks to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, while economy is decent considering their go-fast capability, with the GLB rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined in its most efficient form, or a respective 11.1, 8.9 and 10.1 with its formidable AMG badging. Similarly, the GLA is good for a claimed 9.8 city, 7.2 highway and 8.7 combined rating in base form, or 10.4, 8.1 and 9.4 with its mid-range AMG-lite upgrade.
AMG-lite? Yes, there’s more. Mercedes’ GLA can also be had in brilliantly fun AMG GLA 45 4Matic trim, which means for $60,500 its 2.0-litre turbo four puts out a whopping 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, resulting in the segment’s fastest acceleration at just 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h.
How the rest of the subcompact luxury crossover SUV field stacks up
Enough has already been said about the sixth-place GLA-Class throughout this top-5 review, particularly when it comes to its many awards, which left the Mini Countryman (available from $32,990, less up to $3,000 in additional incentives) in the luxury crossover SUV segment’s seventh sales spot last year with 1,637 deliveries, although 2021 might lower its ranking significantly, as the BMW-owned British brand had only sold 310 examples as of Q2 2021’s end (a chip shortage issue?).
The Countryman’s lacklustre 2021 sales performance is just a bit more than half as much of the ninth-place Land Rover Range Rover Evoque’s January-through-June year-to-date tally of 609 deliveries ($49,950 for the P250 AWD, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,000), after selling 1,410 units last year, while BMW’s X2 ($44,950, plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $3,000) once again found 790 customers in 2020 and 495 over the first six months of this year.
Last, but nowhere near least when it comes to premium-level accoutrements, features and performance, is Jaguar’s somewhat pricier E-Pace ($51,500, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,250) that earned just 265 sales last year and a nominal 80 as of June 30, 2021. The E-Pace, which initially hit our market in 2017, was stylishly refreshed from the outside in for 2021, and truly deserves more love than it gets.
That covers everything in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment, so far at least, but stay tuned for Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale, which should provide a lot of performance in a small package, and who knows, maybe Acura’s CDX, or whatever they’ll eventually call it, will arrive alongside the upcoming HR-V. We should also expect an entry-level Genesis crossover in this class, because the South Korean premium upstart is working feverishly to fill holes in its new lineup, evidenced by their new 2022 GV70 compact luxury SUV, and the just-announced all-electric GV60. Being that we all now know how important this smallest of SUV categories is, could a Cadillac XT3 be in the works? Lincoln needs to attract new entry-level buyers too, so due to their naval naming scheme theme we think a new Patrol is in order (although Nissan may own the global name for its Armada in our market too, so maybe the tiny ship’s “Cyclone” class designation would be more fitting. We don’t think a new Infiniti QX30 is in the works, however, being how terribly Nissan’s luxury brand is struggling to survive right now.
Likelier, expect larger, more profitable luxury brands such as Audi and Lexus to double down on their efforts by supplementing their existing models with roomier alternatives, just like Mercedes has done with the GLB, or sportier variants like BMW’s X2.
Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview (even the Buicks), plus use the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each SUV.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
I want you to feel good about being Canadian for a moment. No, it’s not for anything our various governments are doing, not that I’ll allow this review to get political. It’s not out of some false…
I want you to feel good about being Canadian for a moment. No, it’s not for anything our various governments are doing, not that I’ll allow this review to get political. It’s not out of some false sense of superiority over our American neighbours either, but more so because of something Mercedes-Benz Canada is doing with its entry-level A-Class.
First off, M-B made the Hatch body style available in Canada from the get-go, a model I previously reviewed in A 250 trim and am once again doing now in AMG-tuned A 35 guise, while neither has been offered to our friends in the U.S. of A. It’s the slightly smaller, fractionally lighter and therefore arguably sportier version of this Mercedes subcompact luxury twosome (threesome if you include the CLA), not to mention the measurably more practical variant as well, so it fits nicely into our pragmatic market.
Mercedes’ offers the classy little A-Class Sedan in our small luxury car sector too, available in as-reviewed A 220 trim as well as a four-door A 35 variant. For 2022, however, insult gets added to American injury, in that MBUSA will be discontinuing its A 35 Sedan (as well as the AMG CLA 35) from the U.S. lineup altogether (plus plenty of other AMG models), leaving only the A 220 (and CLA 250) to those wanting a subcompact three-pointed-star car.
So therefore, let yourself feel good, Canadian sport compact fans! Mercedes has your back in more ways than one, and believe me, either one of these AMG-tuned A 35 4Matic models is worthy of your attention. I spent one thoroughly enjoyable week with each, starting with the A 35 Hatch and finishing off with an A 35 Sedan. The size difference referred to earlier is noticeable, incidentally, especially while parking, due to 112 mm (4.4 in) less length from nose to tail, while the hatchback’s 17 fewer kilograms (38 less lbs) makes it a smidge quicker off the line and a tiny bit more flickable through the curves.
In total, the A 35 Hatch measures 4,445 mm (175.0 in) compared to the Sedan’s 4,557 mm (179.4 in), while both share a 2,728-mm (107.4-in) wheelbase. This makes the A 35 Sedan third longest in the compact B segment, behind the CLA 35/45 that’s 137 mm (5.4 in) shorter. It also has the second longest wheelbase in the class, but at just 1,791 mm (70.5 in) wide (not including its mirrors), only two competitors are narrower, including the soon-to-be discontinued BMW i3 BEV, and the comparatively tiny Mini Cooper 3-Door hatchback, although the latter model hardly qualifies for luxury brand status in its entry-level trim. To finish off the basic measurements, both A 35 Sedan and Hatch are 1,432 mm (56.4 in) tall.
That last figure makes the A 35 a bit taller than the category average, which aids head space, while the cars’ previously noted wheelbase provides good legroom all-round, but those seeking practicality will want the Hatch, as its 368-litre (13.0 cu-ft) cargo area is 125 litres (4.4 cu-ft) greater than the Sedan’s 243-litre (8.6 cu-ft) trunk. That’s also the smallest boot in the subcompact luxury car class, and when compared to the trunk in BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, which can handle up to 430 litres (15.2 cu-ft) of gear, it’s underwhelming to say the least. Then again, if you only need to cram in a single golf bag it’ll probably do, although when factoring in that a person purchasing an A 35 Hatch won’t be seen clumsily stuffing their trolley cart into the A 35 Sedan’s leather- and psuede-lined rear passenger compartment, the truncated A-Class might be the more elegant of the two.
On that note, each and every car in the A’s luxury B-segment comes standard with an impressively finished interior, particularly when talking materials quality plus overall fit and finish, although top-tier As, which include these two AMG variants, provide a level of eye-popping wow-factor that nothing in this premium category can match. Of course, Mercedes’ massive driver display cum centre touchscreen is a serious attention getter, not only for its sizeable near digital overload, but more so for the colourful, artful graphics infused within. It’s a joy to look at and ultra-easy to use, plus comes packed full of pretty well every feature you could ever want.
Equally dazzling are the numerous buttons, knobs, toggles and switches found throughout the cabin, most made from satin-finish aluminum or something that looks and feels similar, while the jet engine-inspired vents across the instrument panel are downright gorgeous. As for softer surfaces, Mercedes finishes the majority of touchpoints with high-quality pliable synthetics, as well as padded leather or suede-like micro-fibre, with harder composites only used for panels below the waist, which is also the case for most others in this class.
The engine start/stop button is found next to three of the just-noted HVAC vents, with a quick press reminding there’s even more to get excited about ahead of the firewall. Applying right foot to throttle initializes a sensational assortment of mechanical sounds, or at least more than I was expecting from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. A total of 302 horsepower comes via fast-revving action, while most of its 295 lb-ft of torque seems available from near standstill. Launching from a stoplight feels instantaneous, with 100 km/h only requiring 4.7 seconds, unless you’re in the Sedan that needs 0.1 seconds more for a 4.8-second zero to 100 km/h run.
For sure, a tenth of a second is splitting hairs. There’s no way you’ll be able to feel such a difference from the seat of your pants. Both cars’ standard 4Matic all-wheel drive optimize the grip of each 225/50R18 Continental ProContact performance tire, these even tenacious in wet weather, while the steering wheel paddles make the most of the AMG-tuned seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, which provides swift yet smooth shifts of all gears. Likewise, braking performance is brilliantly strong, with both A 35s slowing from 100 km/h to a halt in merely 33 metres (109 ft).
Cornering prowess is equally impressive. Its components aren’t any different than most peers, including an electronic variable-assist rack and pinion steering setup, a front Macpherson strut and rear multi-link suspension design, plus the AWD system and 18-inch rubber noted earlier, but the resultant handling can only be matched by a small assortment of competitors. Throw the A 35 into a tight, fast-paced curve and it reacts with a level of precision that’s almost unrivaled, staying fully planted and horizontal to the road surface below, fully poised to take on the next corner. It remains just as stable when hard on the brakes, even mid-corner.
I’d guess the Hatch is slightly more tossable through the series of high-speed two-laners I used for testing purposes, thanks to the trimmer curb weight noted earlier, but I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference, even if I were lucky enough to drive them both back-to-back on the same backcountry road. So, unless you’re planning to create an autocross star after Mercedes’ warranty runs out, either should do. I’m just glad Canadians get the choice of both, let alone an A 35 at all.
Speaking of choice, those who would rather pay less for a more compliant ride and better fuel economy can opt for Mercedes’ most affordable A 220 4Matic Sedan or the once-again sportier A 250 4Matic Hatch. These provide more forgiving suspension tuning, with personalities that are generally more comfort-biased. The A 220 puts out a reasonable 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, whereas the A 250 makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the latter being identical numbers to the CLA 250 4Matic, incidentally.
Likewise, most of lesser As’ cabin luxuries are similarly soft (minus the ultra-psuede) and equally well made to the AMG versions of each, while the aforementioned 10.25-inch-times-two MBUX driver display/infotainment system can be had in their upper trims (lesser variants use 7.0-inch displays stuffed into the same enclosure).
By the way, estimated fuel economy ratings are 9.6 L/100km in the city, 6.9 on the highway and 8.4 combined for the A 220 Sedan; 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined for the A 250 Hatch; 10.7 city, 8.2 highway and 9.5 combined for the A 35 Sedan; and finally, 10.6, 8.2 and 9.5 respectively for the A 35 Hatch. And yes, those relatively low numbers combine for a fair compromise considering the A 35’s output. Then again, at more than $1.50 per litre where I live, and considerably more if you plan on filling your A 35 up with recommended premium fuel, the A 220 is the budget option that would keep on giving well after the initial purchase.
That brings up price, which is $49,800 plus freight and fees for either AMG A 35 Sedan or A 35 Hatch, which means there’s an $11,600 price spread from base A-Class to AMG when comparing the sedans, and a $9,600 jump upwards from the entry-level A 250 to the hyper-tuned version of the hatchback. Of course, the upgrades represent much more than just performance, being that many otherwise optional features come standard with the two AMG models, plus some of the previously mentioned finishings can only be found in the A 35s.
In summary, it’s probably best to snap one of these AMG models up while you can. Considering nothing similar will be available in the U.S. for 2022, and ditto for most other AMG models throughout Mercedes’ range, they could become popular grey-market cars for enthusiasts south of the 49th. Additionally, it may not be too long until M-B’s Canadian division follows the MBUSA’s lead. Certainly, Canada is a very different market from the U.S., with especially unique small car preferences, but once again the performance car carnage Mercedes is enacting down south is impacting most AMG variants, so this isn’t a compact-versus-mid-size issue. For now, we seem safe going into 2022, but I wouldn’t hesitate if you’ve got any AMG model in your sights.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
If you’re old enough to be called a boomer, or if you fall into the early gen-xer category, you might remember when wagons were the furthest from cool a car could be. Certainly there were exceptions,…
If you’re old enough to be called a boomer, or if you fall into the early gen-xer category, you might remember when wagons were the furthest from cool a car could be.
Certainly there were exceptions, like Chevy’s Nomad, the early ‘70s Olds Vista Cruiser my family borrowed to travel from Vancouver to California one summer, some of Volvo’s Turbo Wagons, and Mercedes’ 1979 (W123-body) 500 TE AMG that’s possibly coolest of all, but believe it or not minivans had more street cred than wagons when they arrived in the ‘80s, and when those ultimately useful monobox conveyances stopped stroking our collective ego it was up to crossover SUVs to balance the emotion-driven wants and practical needs of our busy suburban lifestyles. The thing is, to many serious car enthusiasts, the wagon never went out of style.
The last one on that list is in a class of one from price to performance, its $124,200 buying a 3.3-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h via a 603 horsepower 4.0-litre biturbo V8 as well as a whole lot of luxury, while the somewhat more sedate AMG-tuned E variant provides a similar level of luxury for its much more affordable $87,800 base price yet utilizes a turbocharged and electrically compressed 3.0-litre inline-six making 429 horsepower to push it from zero to 100 km/h in a scant 4.5 seconds.
At $60,900 the AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon is the value five-door amongst Mercedes’ go-fast AMG estate line, but despite its much more affordable price point it still delivers the goods. Its 385-horsepower 3.0-litre biturbo V6, complete with rapid-multispark ignition and high-pressure direct injection, propels it from naught to 100 km/h in a very respectable 4.8 seconds, much thanks to a near equal 384 lb-ft of torque, and the sounds its engine and exhaust make doing so are almost as entertaining as the drive itself.
To be clear, there’s nothing remotely like the C 43 Wagon on the Canadian market. BMW, which has long offered its 3 and 5 Series Touring wagons, no longer sells any in Canada (at least not since last year that saw the sedan get redesigned and the wagons carryover unchanged—they’re gone for 2020), while Audi only provides its tall crossover wagon lineup consisting of the A4 and A6 Allroad, and with 248 and 335 horsepower apiece they don’t perform anywhere near as well as Mercedes’ AMGs. What about Volvo? The Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker should be commended for providing the regular-height V60 sport wagon and their raised V60 Cross Country wagon with performance from diesel, turbocharged gasoline, turbo and supercharged gasoline, plus turbo, supercharger and hybrid electric gasoline power units and horsepower ratings from 190 with the diesel to a mighty 405 hp for V60 Polestar trim (the mid-size E-segment V90 and V90 Cross Country models have been discontinued in Canada for 2020), but as innovative as it is (and it’s truly impressive) Volvo’s smooth, linear 2.0-litre turbocharged, supercharged, hybrid powertrain isn’t as in-your-face exciting as the C 43 Wagon’s raucous V6, AMG SpeedShift TCT 9-speed, and 4Matic all-wheel drive combination.
The C 43 has the requisite menacing look down too. Granted it’s a lot more imposing in Black, my tester’s coat of Polar White almost saintly by comparison, but don’t let the angelic demeanor fool you. All of the matte and glossy black trim gives away its bahn-storming purpose, with highlights being its mesh front grilles, the aggressive lower front fascia with straked corner vents, the side mirror caps, the mostly glass roof and roof rails, the window trim, the deeply sculpted rear diffuser, the quad of tailpipes, and the 19-inch alloys shod with Continental ContiSportContact SSR 225/40 high performance rubber.
Eye-arresting LED headlights with three separate elements provide advanced style and a level of brilliance capable of turning dark nighttime side roads into near daylight, their vertical corner lamps particularly unique, while bright metal adorns the top half of each exterior door handle and a large strip spanning the back hatch, not to mention various badges including a subtle front centre grille-mounted “/////AMG” logo, two proudly declaring the “BITURBO 4MATIC” powertrain on each front fender, one boasting a larger and more prominent version of AMG’s logo and another for the car’s “C 43” nameplate on the left and right of the rear liftgate respectively, plus various Mercedes three-pointed stars at each end, on the wheel caps, etcetera.
Of course, proximity-sensing keyless entry gets you inside, where you’ll be greeted by a stunning set of sport seats finished in black perforated leather, red stitching and brushed aluminum four-point harness holes up top, not to mention a small AMG badge on the centre backrest, that is if your eyes aren’t first distracted by the exquisitely detailed doors that get even more brushed and satin-finish aluminum trim, plus drilled aluminum Burmester speaker grilles and red-stitched black leather everywhere else.
Red thread and padded leather continues to surface the dash top, even as far as the most forward portion just under the windshield, plus the instrument panel all the way down each side of the centre stack, the latter finished in gorgeous available gloss carbon fibre as it swoops down into the lower centre console that culminates into a large split centre armrest detailed out in more red-stitched soft leather.
Speaking of large, two oversized moonroofs give the impression of one massive panoramic sunroof without as much loss in torsional rigidity, important in such a long roofed car capable of attaining an imposed 250-km/h (155-mph) top track speed, not to mention shockingly good handling on some of my favourite semi-deserted non-track backroads, a process that, while thrilling to the nth degree, is almost downplayed by the luxuriously appointed C 43’s overall quietness. The roof pillars, finished in the same high quality cloth as the roofliner, can take some credit for calming the wind and hushing the rest of the outside world, but most of the magic is in the ultra-stiff unibody itself, plus all of the seals, insulation, engine and component mounts, etcetera. Thus only slight wind and road noises enter the cabin, allowing for more of the growling engine or alternatively the audio delights of the aforementioned optional Burmester stereo.
You can control the volume of all 13 speakers from a beautiful knurled metal cylinder button on the right-side steering wheel spoke, this just one of the C 43’s full array of steering wheel switchgear, two of which are tiny Blackberry-style touchpads that let you scroll through the wholly impressive digital gauge cluster or the centre display. The entire wheel is a cut above, the partial Nappa leather-clad rim flattened at each side and the bottom for a really sporty look and feel, while a red top marker lines up the centre and suede-like Dinamica (think Alcantara) adds grip to the sides.
There’s more brushed and satin-finish aluminum in the C 43 than any competitor, but somehow Mercedes pulls it off with a level of retrospective steampunk tastefulness that shouldn’t make sense yet obviously does. The five circular HVAC vents on the instrument panel make the look work, the three at the centre underscored by a stunning row of knurled metal-topped brushed aluminum toggle-type switches, this only upstaged by another cylinder switch for drive mode selection of Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery settings, and a rotating dial for the infotainment system, both once again detailed out in knurled aluminum and the latter positioned below Mercedes’ trademark palm rest cum touchpad and quick access button infused controller.
Mercedes displays are the envy of the auto industry, especially newer models that incorporate dual connected 12.3-inch screens for the primary instruments and infotainment. The current fourth-generation (W205) C-Class (S205 for the wagon), introduced in September 2014 for the 2015 model year and therefore in its seventh year of production, hasn’t been given the brand’s latest dash design yet, but its traditional hooded analogue gauge cluster (and large multi-info display) can be substituted for 12.3 inches of digital instruments when opting for the C 43’s Technology package, at which point it comes filled with all the digital wizardry the brand is now becoming renowned for. It’s as colourful as gauge clusters get, and uniquely customizable with various background designs and loads of multi-information features. It allows for a multitude of function combinations too, and can either take over the entire display with a navigation map, for instance, or just a portion thereof, working wonderfully once figured out.
My tester’s optional centre display, which is slightly smaller at 10.25 inches (the base model gets a 7.0-inch screen), is a fixed-tablet design propped atop the centre stack in an all too common layout these days, although its innards are pure Mercedes-Benz and therefore filled with attractive, colourful graphics and easy to scroll through ahead of choosing a function as needed, plus it comes loaded up with myriad features. Unlike many such displays the C’s isn’t a touchscreen, so all tap, pinch or swipe gesture controls need to be done via the previously noted touchpad or scrolling wheel on the lower console, or the little touch-button on the steering wheel, all of which work well enough. I prefer having use of a touchscreen as well as the other controls, mind you, or at least a larger touchpad, which is also showing up in some of Mercedes’ more recent offerings.
That Technology package mentioned a moment ago costs $1,900 and also includes the active Multibeam LED headlights I spoke of before, and adaptive high beam assist, while all the gloss-black exterior trim noted earlier was actually part of a $1,000 AMG Night package.
Likewise, the fabulous AMG Nappa/Dinamica performance steering wheel that I went on about at length earlier is part of the $2,400 AMG Driver’s package that also includes the free-flow, four-pipe AMG performance exhaust system with push-button actuated computer-controlled vanes, the 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke aero wheels (the base model gets 18s), an increase in top speed to the previously noted 250 km/h (155 mph), and an AMG Track Pace app that allows performance data, such as speed, acceleration, lap and sector times to be stored in the infotainment system while driving on the racetrack.
For 2020 AMG Driver’s package also includes an AMG Drive Unit that features a set of F1-inspired controls below each steering wheel spoke for quickly adjusting performance settings (with integrated colour displays for confirming the selection). The left pod of switches can be assigned to functions like manual shift mode, the AMG Ride Control system’s damping modes, the three-stage ESP, and the AMG Performance Exhaust system, while the circular switch on the right selects and displays the AMG Dynamic Select driving mode.
As you can see by checking out the photo gallery and smaller images shown on this page, those cool steering wheel controls were not on my tester, which means the car photographed was actually a 2019 model. Other than this, and some small details such as dual rear USB ports as standard equipment across the entire C-Class lineup, the C 43 Wagon you’re looking at is identical to the 2020.
That means the $5,600 Premium package found in my tester would be the same as the one in the 2020 model, with both featuring aforementioned proximity keyless access, a touchpad controller, and the 590-watt Burmester Surround Sound audio system, plus a 360-degree surround camera system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, navigation, voice control, satellite radio, real-time traffic info, wireless phone charging, an integrated garage door opener, Mercedes’ Active Parking Assist semi-autonomous self-parking, rear side window sunshades, and a powered tailgate with foot-activated gesture control.
My tester also included the $2,700 Intelligent Drive package with its Pre-Safe Plus, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Distronic Distance Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Traffic Sign Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, and Route-based Speed Adaptation.
I could go on and on talking about standard features and options (and the slick $250 designo red seatbelts really deserve mention), but the reality is this little C 43 is well stocked and beautifully finished, and at least as importantly it’s wicked fun to drive. Shifting into reverse to back out of my driveway caused a rearview camera with an overhead view and particularly good dynamic guidelines to pop into view, but oddly this super wagon’s automatic shifter is still on the column, making it either the most anachronistic hot hatch in existence or the smartest, being that it was always the most efficient place to house an auto shifter. It’s a completely modern electronically shifted transmission, mind you, that you pull down and up for drive and reverse as has always being the case, but pressing a button for Park is new. All manual shifts are executed via steering wheel mounted paddles, and believe me you’ll be tempted to scroll through the incredibly impressive nine-speed automatic all the time.
AMG specifically programmed Merc’s new nine-speed to prioritize performance, which means the wider range of more closely spaced ratios shift quicker yet still plenty smooth, and the aforementioned AMG Dynamic Select system’s Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes really make a difference. What’s more, three overdrive ratios and ECO Start/Stop that automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to reduce fuel consumption and minimize emissions aids efficiency, the C 43 Wagon good for a claimed 12.4 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 10.8 combined for both 2019 and 2020.
That’s amazingly good for a vehicle with this kind of performance, not to mention one with all-wheel drive. The AMG 4Matic system has a fixed 31:69 front/rear torque split designed to optimize performance off the line and through the corners, while the latter benefits from a nicely weighted electromechanical power assist rack-and-pinion steering setup with good feel, and a standard AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension featuring three-stage damping that clings to tarmac like you’d expect an AMG-tuned Mercedes would. I even felt comfortable enough to turn the traction/stability control off for a little sideways sliding, and it was perfectly predictable and wonderful fun.
If you’ve never driven something like the C 43 you’ll be shocked and awed, as anything with AMG badges is the stuff of legend. Braking is equally heart arresting thanks to a track-ready AMG Performance Braking system with perforated (not cross-drilled) 360 mm rotors and grey-painted four-piston fixed calipers up front, and solid 320 mm discs at the rear. The difference between perforated rotors and other manufacturer’s cross-drilled process begins at the moment of casting, where the AMG discs are cast with the holes in place so as to improve strength and heat resistance. The result is strong braking even when used too much at high speeds on curving, undulating mountainside roads. They’re the next best thing to carbon-ceramic brakes, but offer nicer day-to-day stopping performance that suits the C 43 Wagon’s overall mission ideally.
Yes, hooliganism aside, this family shuttle is plenty practical. It’s roomy up front with seats that are as comfortable as any in the class, while the second row provides more than enough space for most body types to stretch out. A wonderfully complex folding centre armrest adds to the comfort quotient when three’s a crowd, as it’s filled with pop-out cupholders and a shallow, felt-line bin for storing what-have-you, or alternatively the centre position can be eliminated entirely by dropping the 20-percent section of the 40/20/40-split seatback down for stowing longer cargo like skis without the need to force rear passengers into the less comfortable centre position, the usual result of less convenient 60/40-split rear seats. Those rear seatbacks fold down via two small electronic buttons too, helping to make the C 43 as easy to live with as it’s outrageously fun to drive. The end result is cargo capacity that expands from 460 litres to 1,480, which is subcompact to compact SUV levels of usability (its load capacity fits between the GLA- and new GLB-Class).
So folks, if you hadn’t previously figured out that wagons are cool again, despite being a little late to the party it’s certainly not over yet. For me, this is Mercedes’ AMG wagons offer the ultimate balance between performance and practicality, combined with some of he nicest interiors in the auto industry. That they wear one of the most prestigious badges available is merely a bonus, and that Mercedes is now providing up to $5,000 in additional incentives on 2020 models is even more motivation to take a closer look.
To find out more, make sure to visit CarCostCanada’s 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Canada Prices page where you can learn about all C-Class body styles, trims, packages and standalone options, plus you can build the exact model you’re interested in. Even better, a CarCostCanada membership will provide the most important information you could need before even talking to your local Mercedes-Benz retailer, including details on available manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus you’ll learn about dealer invoice pricing so you can know exactly how far they may be willing to discount your C 43.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay
Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s…
Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s ILX, BMW’s 2 Series, and others in a traditional car category that’s now under threat by an ever-burgeoning class of subcompact luxury SUVs.
Still, while Mercedes-Benz has always offered a bevy of industry segment stalwarts, it’s also become the brand of micro-niches, having invented the four-door coupe body style, so it would be highly unusual behaviour for its leadership to say so long to its plentiful car lineup just because its utilities are currently experiencing more growth. After all, Mercedes has been around longer than most of its competitors, and therefore has endured all the trends the automotive industry has ever weathered.
Speaking of endurance, or lack therefore, Lexus said goodbye to the entry-level luxury car market by cancelling its CT, Acura hasn’t bothered to update its ILX in too long to remember, everyone’s still wondering if BMW will ever offer North Americans anything in this class with four doors, and all other premium brands haven’t even bothered showing up at all, but take note that Mercedes has been selling its brand new A-Class Hatchback for two months already, and plans to add the completely new A-Class Sedan that more specifically targets the most popular four-door version of the segment-leading A3 (and will become the most affordable Mercedes model) later this year, while the fall of 2019 will also see the arrival of a fully redesigned CLA-Class four-door coupe that promises a serious move up the desirability ladder, not that the current model is particularly lacking.
“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales.
Of those new CLA buyers in Canada, more than two thirds were new to Mercedes-Benz at the height of the model’s popularity, while also important, these new Mercedes owners averaged seven years younger than the brand’s typical customer at the time. Starting this fall, Mercedes will offer Canadian entry-level luxury consumers the choice of three recently redesigned or all-new subcompact car and SUV models (four if you split the A-Class into its hatchback and sedan body styles, and five if you count any potentially remaining stock of B-Class models still around when Mercedes wraps up its tenure at the close of this model year), the CLA being the sportiest, most expressive of the bunch, and many of these customers will likely move up to pricier more profitable models within the automaker’s lineup as their careers and personal finances progress.
“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” added Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.”
First shown at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, an apropos venue considering the ultra-advanced MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment interface that together with the integrated digital instrument cluster covers more than half the dash top, the new CLA looks a bit more grown up thanks to a more serious, almost frowning and forward-slanting M-B sport grille which, in its release, Mercedes claims is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose.”
The new grille, found ahead of a longer hood topped with classic Mercedes “powerdomes”, is flanked by sharper, narrower and more complex LED Multibeam headlamps featuring 18 individually-controllable LEDs, all of which is underscored by additional complexity in the lower front fascia, while the updated model sees more muscular lower haunches and its greenhouse moved rearward for a more traditional GT profile. It continues this grand touring tradition with squarer more conventional trunk cutout as part of a revised rear end design featuring narrower, more horizontal LED taillights that sit higher up above the back bumper and therefore add more visual width to the design, its slipperier sheet metal registering a wind-cheating 0.23 coefficient of drag.
“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.”
Inside, it’s easy to see that Mercedes is targeting the younger market mentioned earlier, thanks to an edgy, sporty look including bright colours, plus those all-in-one digital displays that are large enough to cause screen envy amongst owners of the latest Apple, Microsoft and Samsung tablets. That fixed freestanding gauge cluster and central widescreen display unit eliminates the need for a cowl to shield instruments, with the rest of the completely dash panel including a sporty paddle-shifter-infused leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel ahead of the driver, a very narrow, near retro HVAC interface at centre, and an uncluttered floating-style lower console featuring Mercedes’ exclusive palm rest and new infotainment touchpad controller within easy reach. Only the circular dash-mounted air vents appear carryover, but of course their “avant-garde” turbine-like jet-engine design is entirely new and particularly striking.
That MBUX infotainment system, which debuted in the new A-Class a year ago, after a similar system was first integrated into the E-Class, is more than just a very large pretty interface with impressive high-resolution graphics capable of Augmented Reality navigation and fully customizable displays, it also provides serious computing power with integrated software that can even “learn and respond to natural speech,” says Mercedes.
This will be good news to anyone who has ever been frustrated by the majority of voice recognition systems past and current, which need very precise and often not intuitively thought out commands. Instead, Mercedes’ voice assistant reportedly communicates similarly to Amazon’s Alexa system, only needing an occupant to say “Hey Mercedes” in order to prompt any number of functions via less direct questions, plus it’s smart enough to recognize the person asking the question, rather than others in the car that might be having a separate conversation.
“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.”
According to Mercedes, the updated voice assistant is now capable of recognizing and responding to more complicated questions than previous voice recognition systems offered, citing the example, “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops.”
MBUX can also cover a broader range of topics than previous hands-free voice systems, with an example of a sports query being, “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” The question, “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” may be more concerning to Mercedes drivers these days however, stock market information being one of the subjects MBUX is well versed in. Alternatively, maybe you need a simple calculation performed while driving. Mercedes’ example might be a bit rudimentary for anyone old enough to be behind the wheel of the CLA, but possibly a child in the back seat might ask, “What is the square roof of 9?” or for that matter “How big is Texas?” when it comes to a general knowledge question, but it’s fair to expect that plenty of health-conscious Mercedes owners may want to ask, “What is the fat content of avocados?”
Also designed make life with a new CLA easier and more accommodating, the upcoming model grows by 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) to 4,688 mm (184.5 in) from nose to tail, and rides on a 30-mm (1.2-in) longer wheelbase that now measures 2,729 mm (107.4 in), while it’s also 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in), not including the side mirrors, and fractionally (2 mm/0.1 in) lower overall at 1,439 mm (56.6 in).
According to yet more measurements provided, the result of its mostly increased exterior dimensions is a roomier and therefore more comfortable cabin, with front occupants getting 17 mm (0.6 in) more headroom, rear occupants benefiting from a hair’s-width (+3 mm/0.1 in) of additional head space, and width measurements experiencing the greatest improvement thanks to shoulder room up 9 and 22 mm (0.3 and 0.8 in) respectively front to back, and front to rear elbow room increasing by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) apiece.
Despite the new CLA’s longer wheelbase and greater overall length, front legroom is actually down by a millimetre while rear legroom grows by the same nominal measurement, plus the trunk is also surprisingly smaller, albeit by just 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a nevertheless still commodious 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), but this said the load compartment opening’s width expands by a considerable 262 mm (10.3 in), while the load floor is now 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and 24 mm (0.9 in) deeper.
Under the opposing deck lid, the updated CLA will once again come standard with Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, currently featuring 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque yet making the same twist and 13 horsepower of additional thrust in the new A-Class, which will more than likely be the go-to powerplant for this future CLA. It will come mated to the premium brand’s in-house developed and produced 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated transmission, while both front- and 4MATIC all-wheel drivetrains will be available. An AMG-powered version is expected after the base CLA 250 debuts, with performance that will likely match or exceed the current model’s 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
The new CLA’s increased width makes a difference to the chassis’ track too, widening it by a substantive 63-mm (2.5-in) up front and 55-mm (2.1-in) in back, while it also receives a reduced centre of gravity for what should be especially sporty driving dynamics. Suspension specifications include Mercedes’ Direct-Steer system and front hydromounts, plus a decoupled multi-link rear axle that minimizes noise, vibration and harshness levels, while larger stabilizer bars help reduce body lean when pushed hard. The standard tires should measure 225/45R18, with 225/40R19s being optional.
As with all new Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, plus most luxury competitors, advanced driver assistance systems play a big part in enhancing ease-of-use and safety, so the CLA will include standard Active Brake Assist automatic braking, and included in the optional Intelligent Drive Package is Active Lane Keep Assist that helps drivers remain centered in their chosen lane while also keeping them from wandering off the road, plus additionally it will include Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and automatic reverse braking.
The Intelligent Drive Package, pulled from the ultra-advanced Mercedes S-Class, does more than that, mind you, thanks to its ability to drive the CLA autonomously for short distances. This is a semi-autonomous system requiring “cooperative driver support,” says Mercedes, but in certain situations it can drive itself.
The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, which will be built at the Kecskemét assembly plant in Hungary, will arrive this coming fall, at which time it just might reclaim top spot in the subcompact luxury car hierarchy, although Mercedes’ more traditionally sedan-style A-Class will more than likely assume that position. After all, the more upright four-door will start at just $34,990 (see all new A-Class Hatchback and Sedan prices and features on CarCostCanada), about $4k less than the current CLA, so it has a significant advantage in the sales department. Still, with all the big upgrades made to the new CLA it should easily reclaim its loyal following while attracting a fresh set of adventurous newcomers to the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Until the new model arrives, be sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above and these six Mercedes-Benz-supplied videos below:
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): World Premiere | Trailer (1:21):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES in Las Vegas | Re-Live (18:40):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES | Highlights (1:50):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): The Design (1:06):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) and Jan Frodeno: In the Wind Tunnel (1:41):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) (1:03):
Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their…
Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their ride and they visit the showroom of their favourite premium brand.
Along with the usual assortment of sport-luxury sedans, two- and four-door sport coupes, convertibles, and traditional sport wagons, they’ll be met by more new SUVs than they’ve ever seen, filling ever-increasing segments as well as micro niches never before imagined.
The new GLC Coupe is just one of those unusually welcome alternatives within the burgeoning luxury SUV sector, helping to fill out a particularly focused market segment that was previously only occupied by BMW’s X4.
The sporty Mercedes SUV arrived in similar fashion as the German brand’s GLE Coupe, which now handily goes up against BMW’s long-running X6 in the larger mid-size SUV category. The fastback Merc went on sale in 2014, a considerable eight years after the Bimmer, with Stuttgart appearing to have waited in order to judge market reaction to the Bavarian’s entry. Surprising many, Mercedes took no time bringing the smaller GLC Coupe to market the following year as a 2016 model.
Now that we’re about to enter model year 2018, things are heating up a lot more thanks to the expected arrival of Mercedes-AMG’s new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe. It’s a perfect example of how the top German brands lead all premium competitors by filling niches within niches. In this case BMW was first with its X4 M40i, but that sporty model in no way diminishes the impact of this exciting new three-pointed star entry, especially considering that along with the SUV coupe version comes a more practical AMG-tuned compact SUV.
That would be Mercedes-AMG’s GLC 63 S 4Matic+ that first showed up alongside the SUV Coupe variant at the 2017 New York International Auto Show in early April, a model that only has Audi’s SQ5, Jaguar’s F-Pace S and Range Rover’s new Velar for competition, being that BMW has yet to modify its more traditional compact X3 SUV. Just the same, both AMG-tuned M-B SUVs deliver a level of potency that should cause their rivals to shy away from a direct fight on the track.
Where the X4 M40i and SQ5 put out a similar 355 and 354 horsepower respectively, plus 343 and 369 lb-ft of torque, and the slightly larger supercharged 3.0-litre V6 powered F-Pace and Velar improve on both with 380 horsepower apiece, albeit only 332 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes seems to have its targets set more directly on Porsche’s Macan Turbo that unleashes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque in regular trim or 440 and 442 respectively with its Performance package. Still, as impressive as Porsche’s top compact SUV is, in all-conquering AMG style the two new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ models produce 503 scorching horsepower and 516 lb-ft of tire smoking torque.
The dominant engine is nothing less than Mercedes-AMG’s handcrafted and individually signed twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, a dry-sump version of which is shared with the mighty AMG GT sports car, whereas cog swapping duties come by the brand’s new in-house designed and built AMG SpeedShift MCT 9-speed automatic that debuted in the E 63 S 4Matic+, a lightweight paddle shifter-actuated transmission boasting a start-off wet clutch (that replaces the torque converter), ultra-short shift/response times, and double-declutching functionality.
Of course, such specifications result in a very quick tag team of sport utilities, with zero to 100 km/h sprints of 3.8 seconds each, aided by an electronic limited-slip rear differential and constantly variable front-to-rear torque distribution from the standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drivetrain that’s also tuned by AMG. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.
Four wheel grip is further enhanced by a standard set of twinned five-spoke lightweight 20-inch alloys on 265/45 front and 295/40 rear performance tires (or optional 21-inch forged alloys with 265/40 front and 295/35 rear rubber) that also help it stop faster via special high-performance brakes featuring 390-millimetre drilled and internally-ventilated discs front and back, whereas an adjustable air suspension with adaptive adjustable damping optimizes cornering capability.
What’s more, in order to give the GLC 63 S Coupe 4Matic+ an edge over its more pragmatic sibling, Mercedes has added a “Race” mode to its usual Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driver-selectable AMG Dynamic Select performance settings. These modify engine, transmission, suspension, steering, ESP, and all-wheel drive responsiveness depending on demands.
An easy way to tell these ultimate performance SUVs apart from their less formidable brethren are AMG Panamericana-style frontal grilles with unique vertical strakes, similar in design to those found on the much lauded Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster and GT R sports coupe. The GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe also benefit from unique front and rear bumper designs, while the wheel arches are widened to fit their meatier rims and rubber, plus the SUV body style gets its first rear rooftop spoiler.
Inside, special sport seats are covered with Mercedes’ exclusive Artico leatherette bolsters and suede-like Dinamica microfibre inserts, these materials showing up elsewhere around the cabin as well. Additionally, a tasteful supply of aluminum trim joins a mostly black interior that gets spiced up with red accents, not to mention the expected AMG-embossed badges. Beautifully finished carbon-fibre trim is also available, inside and out.
“For us, the new GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ is quite a special vehicle,” said Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “It is no easy job designing an SUV to be highly sporty and dynamic, while at the same time offering exceptional driving stability. This required us to put our heart and soul, along with our many years of SUV expertise, into the development of this vehicle. The result is an SUV that can be driven with high precision and agility and which, if required, is equally at home on a high-speed lap of the racetrack. With our V8 biturbo engine, we hold a decisive USP in the Performance market. What is more, with SUV and Coupe, we offer the widest choice in the segment. Also, the technical closeness to our sports cars is underscored visually by the Panamericana grille, which was previously reserved for our AMG GT models.”
Of note, the Canadian market will not be getting the 469 horsepower non-“S” AMG GLC 63 variant of these two SUVs, models that are available in the U.S. as well as other markets.
When the 2018 Mercedes-AMG 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe arrive in showrooms across Canada later this year, pricing will likely start in the high $80k to low $90k range.
After a report issued by Daimler on May 10th stating it would no longer be selling the 2017 model diesel cars in the United States. Daimler has since become the center of attention of an investigation…
After a report issued by Daimler on May 10th stating it would no longer be selling the 2017 model diesel cars in the United States. Daimler has since become the center of attention of an investigation by German authorities.
Twenty-three prosecutors and 230 German police searched Daimler offices to seek evidence related to the possibility of diesel engine emissions irregularities. The police and prosecutors say 11 sites are being investigated in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemburg, Berlin, Lower Saxony and Saxony with employees that are “known and unknown” to Daimler. Earlier in the year Daimler admitted that some of its employees were part of a criminal investigation.
This investigation comes after a United States federal judge gave the final approval to a settlement for Robert Bosch GmbH to pay $327.5 million USD to American VW diesel car owners. Bosch, the world’s largest car parts supplier, has not admitted to any wrongdoing stating “Bosch neither acknowledges the facts as alleged by the plaintiffs nor does Bosch accept any liability” however, last year it was reported by Reuters that $747 million USD was put aside to cover potential settlements.
Investigators confiscated files and hard drives, apparently containing sensitive information.
Daimler and Bosch are both based in Stuttgart Germany and in a recent quarterly report Daimler said, “Europe and the United States, have inquired about and are investigating test results.”
Last year the U.S. Department of Justice had asked Daimler for an internal investigation to be done because of possible emission irregularities, however, it went mostly unnoticed by German authorities.
Since May 23, the launch of the investigation into Daimler has seen its stock price drop three points. Which may be an indication of further fallout, or it may have more to do with the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump said he would like to impose a 35% import tax on all German cars. This import tax is unlikely to happen as the largest BMW factory in the world is located in Spartanburg County, South Carolina and employs 8,800 Americans and has a current daily output of nearly 1,400 vehicles.
For now though Daimler says they are fully co-operating with the investigation but refuse to comment on the proceedings.