You’ve mostly likely heard of the CX-5, Mazda’s popular compact crossover SUV, and maybe you’ve even taken notice of the little CX-3 subcompact crossover, not to mention both models’ larger CX-9 mid-size seven-passenger utility. If you’re really car savvy you’ll also know that Mazda offers the sporty CX-30 between the CX-3 and CX-5, not to mention the new MX-30 electric crossover that’s sized similarly to the CX-30, but were you aware the new compact CX-50 is on its way?
If you’re CX-confused right about now we’ll understand, because the independent Japanese automaker hasn’t exactly tiptoed lightly into the crossover SUV sector, even having a long-discontinued model (in our market) dubbed CX-7 to its credit. So far, all CX models (including the lone MX-30) have been for pavement and light-duty off-road use only, but Mazda is changing things up with the new 2023 CX-50, and beefing up the brand’s styling while they’re at it.
New CX-50 offers plenty more SUV for many more dollars
Ushering in a new look for Mazda’s SUV lineup, the CX-50 joins the CX-30 in previewing an entirely new naming scheme for Mazda’s SUV lineup, which will eventually be followed by the two-row CX-70 and three-row CX-90 mid-size models. The compact CX-50 is sized similarly to the current CX-5, yet it’s priced higher at $37,900 in base GS-L trim, making it $7,700 pricier than today’s base CX-5. Likewise, the CX-50 GT will start at $42,850, which makes it $3,900 more expensive than the equivalent 2022 CX-5 GT AWD.
For that we can expect even more premium finishings and features, plus, as noted earlier, the ability to venture farther off the beaten path than its more city-centric sibling. Some standard 2023 CX-50 GX-L features include LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear rooftop spoiler, a 7.0-inch driver’s display, a 10.25-inch Mazda Connect infotainment touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, heatable front seats and a heated steering wheel rim, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, leatherette upholstery, a panoramic glass sunroof, and a powered rear liftgate. Additionally, standard driver assist systems will include emergency front braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.
GT and Meridian Edition trims should be popular
The CX-50 GT further adds adaptive cornering headlamps, a head-up display system, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, a 360-degree surround parking camera, ventilated front seats, a powered front passenger seat, leather upholstery, premium audio, a navigation system, wireless phone charging, and rear emergency braking.
Later this year, Mazda will also offer a CX-50 Turbo Meridian Edition, featuring exclusive 18-inch rims on all-terrain rubber, beefier headlight and rocker panel protective cladding, and available “outdoor-specific” accessories. We can expect pricing for this model to arrive closer to its availability.
Longer and leaner CX-50 provides an athletic stance
While some literature claims the CX-50 as a mid-size model, in North America it will be considered a compact as it’s only slightly larger than our current CX-5 and shares the compact model’s transverse platform underpinnings, which also gets utilized by the even smaller CX-30 and fourth-generation Mazda3. All in all, the CX-50 measures 4,719 mm (185.8 in) long with a 2,814-mm (110.8-in) wheelbase, plus it’s 1,852 mm (72.9 in) wide and between 1,613 and 1,623 mm (63.5–63.9 in) tall, depending on the trim.
This makes the CX-50 169 mm (6.6 in) longer than the CX-5, with 116 mm (4.5 mm) of added wheelbase for significant growth from nose to tail, but it’s only 10 mm (0.4 in) wider, the key measurement when comparing compact to mid-size models. What’s more, even at its tallest the CX-50 is a considerable 57 mm (2.2 in) lower than the CX-5, which helps make it appear longer, leaner and thus, sportier.
CX-50 performance and fuel economy should remain similar to the CX-5
Whether it actually feels sportier off the line will be another story, being that the CX-50 utilizes the same standard 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine as the CX-5, rated at an identical 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, although it comes standard with fuel-saving cylinder deactivation. It also features the same six-speed automatic transmission and standard i-Activ all-wheel-drive system, yet the CX-50 weighs in at 1,681 to 1,772 kg (3,706–3,907 lbs), depending on trim, a weighty 176 to 113 kg (388–249 lbs) more than the lightest and heaviest CX-5.
In GT Turbo trim, the CX-50 will receive the CX-5’s optional 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, and thus should help minimize any performance differences, although take note that engine output is reduced to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft when running 87-octane regular unleaded fuel.
Standard “Mi-Drive” system includes Off-Road driving mode
The 2023 CX-50 GT Turbo will start at $45,350, and like the other trims will receive various standard “Mi-Drive” driving modes including Sport, Off-Road and Tow settings, while the CX-50’s trailering capacity is average for the class at 907 kg (2,000 lbs) when fitted with the naturally aspirated engine, but up to 1,587 kg (3,500 lbs) with the turbo.
As for fuel economy, the CX-5 may not offer greater relief at the pump unless the 2023 model receives some transmission updates, because the current cylinder-deactivated all-wheel drive model is rated at 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, compared to the CX-50’s claimed estimate of 9.7 L/100 km city, 7.9 highway and 8.9 combined. Yes, you read that correctly. The new CX-50 is thriftier on fuel than the much lighter CX-5. Let’s see how these two come out in the wash, so to speak, because the CX-50 really should go through slightly more fuel, unless its longer, lower shape allows for big aerodynamic improvements on the highway.
New U.S.-built CX-50 to arrive in May
All said, the 2023 CX-50, which will be built on a separate line alongside the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing joint-venture plant in Huntsville, Alabama, will go on sale in May of this year. The new plant will be capable of building up to 300,000 units per year, split between the two automakers.
Introducing the first-ever Mazda CX-50 | Mazda Canada (1:25):
Introducing the First-ever Mazda CX-50 | First Look | Mazda USA (1:42):
The First-ever Mazda CX-50 | For Collectors of Rare Experiences (0:15):
The First-ever Mazda CX-50 | Beautifully Capable (0:15):
The First-ever Mazda CX-50 | Every Road Is an Invitation (0:15):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Mazda
Porsche is adding a new “T” trim line to its most popular Macan model for 2023, and it looks to be an ideal combination of fuel-efficiency and agility. The Macan, which was updated midway through…
Porsche is adding a new “T” trim line to its most popular Macan model for 2023, and it looks to be an ideal combination of fuel-efficiency and agility.
The Macan, which was updated midway through 2021 for the current 2022 model year, gets refreshed exterior styling as well as an updated interior. Key details inside include a new centre stack and console, incorporating a 10.9-inch touchscreen filled with a fully-networked Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment interface up top, plus a stylish glass-like interface with touch-sensitive switchgear below.
Macan T adds special styling details
The new 2023 Macan T adds some nice exterior and interior design details such as Agate Grey metallic trim elements outside, specifically on the front fascia, mirror caps, side blades (which also include “Macan T” script), the rooftop spoiler, and the rear bumper cap, plus glossy black exterior window trim and exhaust pipes, as well as Dark Titanium 20-inch Macan S alloy wheels and the choice of 13 plain, metallic and special colours.
Stepping inside reveals “Macan T” branded black aluminum door sill plates, a multifunction GT steering wheel featuring a heated leather-wrapped rim (that can optionally be covered in Race-Tex), and heatable eight-way powered sport seats with grey pinstriped Sport-Tex centre panels and embossed Porsche crests on the front headrests. This exclusive upholstery is based on the Macan’s Black leather package, and therefore features silver stitching on the seat bolsters, headrests, and steering wheel rim.
Up until now the “T” designation has never been used outside of Porsche’s 718 and 911 sports cars lines, and due to this the Macan T is the first Porsche with steel suspension components to bear the name, plus the first four-door model to do so. T, which stands for Touring in Porsche-speak, was originally used for the 1968 911 T, but now is a trim level that designates lightweight, affordable performance, particularly emphasizing handling dynamics.
To this end the new Macan T’s suspension is lowered by 15 mm and comes standard with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), although take note that a further 10 mm drop can be achieved by opting for the brand’s adaptive air suspension. Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive is also standard, which is expected, but it receives more rear torque bias in the Macan T in order to improve at-the-limit cornering. Additional standard features include stiffer front anti-roll bars and specific chassis tuning that Porsche says is “the perfect suspension for the vehicle and powertrain.” Additionally, those opting for the Macan T’s available Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system will find that it’s been further retuned to enhance performance through tight, fast-paced curves.
Upgraded powertrain is identical to entry-level 2022 Macan
As part of its 2022 refresh, the base four-cylinder engine received a bump up from 248 horsepower to 261 hp, and 273 lb-ft of torque to 295 lb-ft, which translates into much stronger get-up-and-go. In fact, the model’s zero to 100 km/h sprint time has been reduced by 0.2 seconds, from 6.7 seconds to 6.5 in the new model, while base models upgraded with the Sport Chrono package see their sprint times drop from 6.4 seconds to 6.2. The Macan T comes standard with the Sport Chrono package, so it benefits from quicker acceleration, while its top track speed is limited to 232 km/h.
Along with the Sport Chrono package is a dash-top mounted stopwatch/lap timer, plus a convenient steering wheel-mounted Sport Response button that makes switching between drive modes quick and easy. This can be used to shorten the shift increments of its standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated Porsche’s Doppelkupplung (PDK) transmission, the latter standard across the entire Macan line.
Speaking of alternative Macan models, those wanting more straight-line performance can choose the revised 348-hp 2022 Macan S that hightails it from zero to 100 km/h in only 4.8 seconds, while the latest 434-hp Macan GTS blasts from standstill to the same speed in just 4.5 seconds, which incidentally was the previous Macan Turbo’s sprint time.
Macan T slots in between base Macan and Macan S trims
The Macan GTS costs a cool $85,500, by the way, which is fair value considering its performance and Porsche pedigree, while the Macan S will set owners back a much more affordable $70,600. The new Macan T will fit right in between the S and base model, the latter of which starts at just $58,500, plus it benefits from the four-cylinder engine’s considerably lower running costs when it comes to fuel-efficiency. Currently we only have the base model’s numbers of 12.2 L/100km in the city, 10.2 on the highway and 11.3 combined, but these shouldn’t change in its transition to T trim, whereas the 2022 Macan S is rated at 13.1 in the city, 9.6 on the highway and 11.5 combined, and GTS at 13.5 city, 10.5 highway and 12.2 combined.
Macan T pricing and detailed ordering info will be announced early this spring, but take note that all of the other models mentioned can currently be had with factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2022 Porsche Macan Canada Prices page for more detailed info, plus the ability to price out each Macan trim including options on their configuration tool. CarCostCanada will also keep you apprised of any other manufacturer deals, like rebates, if you become a member, and you’ll always have access to dealer invoice pricing info, which can help you save thousands when negotiating your next new vehicle deal. In fact, CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $1,250 when purchasing the new Macan, impressive considering how tight inventories are these days, so be sure to check out how their system works and definitely download their free app from the Google Play store or Apple Store.
Dare forward: the new Porsche Macan T (0:54):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Porsche
Two weeks of living with two trims of Kia’s latest Seltos, and it’s now easy for me to understand why this little crossover has become such a popular option in the subcompact SUV segment. The Seltos…
Two weeks of living with two trims of Kia’s latest Seltos, and it’s now easy for me to understand why this little crossover has become such a popular option in the subcompact SUV segment.
The Seltos came out of nowhere in 2020, only to rise up to fourth overall in a category with no less than 22 offerings last year (it’s grown to 25 since). This just might be unprecedented success, and is especially impressive when considering that Kia already offers the eighth-placed Soul and 18th most popular Niro. The Soul, incidentally, is available in regular internal combustion or electric variants, whereas the Niro comes with conventional, plug-in hybrid, or EV powertrains. The Seltos is only gasoline-powered so far, which says a lot about our current purchasing habits when contrasted against the direction our various governments and many special interest groups are pointing us in, although hybrid and/or EV powertrains will likely follow thanks to shared architecture with the Hyundai Kona Electric.
Hyundai-Kia’s B-SUV platform (that’s formed off the back of the Rio’s K2 platform) is a major Seltos positive, as the Kona, in regular or EV form, a good SUV to share underpinnings with considering its number-one position in segment sales, with a lead of nearly one-third over the next-most-popular Subaru Crosstrek.
The Canadian numbers were 31,733 to 22,161 units in 2020, while the third-place Nissan Kicks managed 14,149 deliveries, and fourth-place Seltos came close to achieving podium placement with 13,016 sold examples of its own. It skipped right by some category diehards too, such as Honda’s (somewhat long-in-tooth) HR-V that was only able to pull in 12,068 sales, Nissan’s Qashqai at 11,074 units, Hyundai’s Venue with 10,740 deliveries, and the Soul with 9,869. The rest are all in the four figures, some like Jeep’s Renegade and Fiat’s 500X (basically the same SUV under very different skins) only capable of finding 362 and 35 respective buyers apiece.
To be clear, the subcompact crossover SUV segment is really split up into two parts, with the Seltos slightly larger than some of those just mentioned, particularly Nissan’s Kicks and Hyundai’s Venue. While most expect something smaller to arrive in Kia’s lineup soon, along the lines of the truly subcompact Venue, the $21,295 Soul claims that spot for now, despite being almost identical to the Seltos in cabin size and cargo capacity. Your reasons for choosing either will come down to personal styling preferences, plus the $23,395 Seltos’ more modern dash layout, how the two drive (electrically-enhanced included), and possibly the need to save a couple of thousand for a non-EV Soul, whereas the significantly smaller Venue is better suited to four occupants and much less gear, albeit for considerably less initial money (with a base of $18,199) and better ongoing fuel economy (I covered the 2021 Venue here).
It might also be helpful to understand some of the industry trends, and particularly how Hyundai and Kia fit in with respect to this. The macro trend sees car buyers migrating to crossover SUVs, and to that end Hyundai now uses its Venue as the most affordable gateway into its brand, having discontinued its subcompact Accent 5 Door hatchback after the 2020 model year (and Accent sedan before that). Kia, on the other hand, still sells its Rio 5 Door, having only dropped the four-door sedan version of this car after 2020, and by so doing makes sure that its conquest pathway is much more affordable. Where Hyundai is now asking $3,250 more for a Venue than it was for an Accent, Kia is able to pull in buyers with budgets of $17,295 (which admittedly is much pricier than the previous $15,495 2020 Rio 5-Door or even more affordable $14,845 2019 Rio sedan—notably the 2020 Rio sedan wasn’t available in cheaper LX trim at all, causing that year’s base LX+ sedan to start at $18,045), and a 5- to 10-percent difference is a lot when on a tight budget.
Comparatively to either the Rio or Venue, the Seltos might seem like a luxury SUV. First off, it appears more upscale from the outside than either, with a sportier character than the cute, albeit somewhat awkward looking Hyundai; the Venue’s big grille on a small SUV styling won’t be for everyone. The Seltos’ lines are comparatively clean, uncluttered, and, to my eyes at least, attractive, starting with a wide, relatively narrow front grille opening, and expanding outward via stepped headlamp clusters, which include a set of unique-looking LEDs in top-level trims. A tight, tidy rear design incorporates a good helping of metal brightwork and optional LED tail lamps, while attractive 16-, 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels can be found across the entire line.
Specifically, the 16-inch alloys are only included with the base Seltos SX FWD model, meaning the move up to SX AWD pushes wheel-size out another inch. All other trims include standard AWD, while the wheels remain 17 inches in diameter right up to the SX Turbo, that gets gorgeous machine-finished 18s with cool red-accented centre caps, although the mid-range EX Premium (one step above the EX) includes a sharp set of machine-finished 17-inch rims.
The two models I tested over a back-to-back two-week stint included EX and SX trims, the former featuring the more fuel-economy-oriented Atkinson-cycle enhanced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The latter, on the other hand, came standard with the brand’s 1.6-litre direct-injection Turbo, resulting in a more spirited 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, plus a much quicker shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. These two very unique trims gave me a good feel for what Kia has on offer across the entire Seltos range.
The lesser EX model is seen here in Neptune Blue, with its 17-inch grey-painted twinned five-spoke alloys, whereas the top-line SX Turbo wears Lunar Orange, along with the sportier 18-inch rims I mentioned a moment ago. Both are premium paints that incur a reasonable $250 upcharge, this being the same for all eight colour options except base Onyx black.
Rather than pore over feature details, all of which you can look up for yourself on the automaker’s retail website, I’ll cover some of those items I particularly appreciated and/or found lacking in my test models, plus share my experiential notes, continuing from previous exterior styling comments over to thoughts about the interior, especially its more conventional hooded instrument panel layout and tablet-style infotainment display than the more premium Mercedes-like dual-screen setup found in the recently updated mid-size Sorento and upcoming (slightly larger than its predecessor) compact 2023 Sportage (which looks similar to what I’ve already tested in the 2022 Hyundai Tucson).
The more futuristic dash design appears to be the way Kia is going, having even updated its various looks and functionality since the fabulous Telluride that I covered a few months ago. Instead, the Seltos’ dash layout appears more like the Niro’s and other older models. It’s highly utile, with a nicely shrouded hood shading dual analogue dials bookending a 3.5-inch, colour multi-information display in the EX, and larger, more versatile 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT display in the SX. The former provides visual indication that the automatic high beams are active, something I really appreciated, plus dynamic cruise control info, while latter does both and much more.
Still, after experiencing Kia’s newer design layout in other models, I the current iteration comes across a tad dated, despite being complemented by a very helpful head-up display (HUD) system that projects key info onto the windshield ahead of the driver, something not seen too often in this class. For reference, I find the same when comparing a similarly-sized Mercedes GLB to anything in its class, not that the German and Korean models should be compared in any other way, especially when it comes to pricing.
The Seltos does provide a very refined interior for the subcompact SUV class, however, with my EX-tester even including the same perforated Sofino faux-leather seat upholstery as my top-tier SX Turbo, which I initially thought was the real deal. The EX didn’t include the SX’ powered driver’s seat, mind you, or its two-way powered lumbar support, but was comfortable nonetheless, as were the two crossovers’ shared leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, although the EX model’s gloss-black dash facing wasn’t quite as upscale as the SX trim’s padded and stitched leatherette bolster, which even extends under the larger centre display as well as to the left side of the primary gauge binnacle and steering column—good to see you get something for the extra coin.
There are more upgrades, of course, despite EX and SX models sharing the just-noted gloss-black trim on the steering wheel spokes, lower centre console surfacing, and door inlays, as well as identical single-zone automatic climate control interfaces, solar glass front windows, and chromed grille insert, satin chrome beltline trim, and aforementioned LED taillights (that transition from incandescent bulbs in EX trim), not to mention unseen but important (to some) features like Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (in place of the base model’s Blind-spot Collision Warning), Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (in place of the LX’ simpler Rear Cross-traffic Alert), as well as a raft of features pulled up from base LX trim.
Somehow, I completely lost track of detailing the Seltos’ interior refinement, not even mentioning both models’ stylish satin silver trim that helped make me feel as if I was in a much more upscale SUV than its aforementioned pricing should allow, or for that matter its nicely stitched leatherette gearshift boot, softly padded leatherette side and centre armrests (front to back for the former and covering a handy storage bin for the latter), while the folding rear centre armrest, filled with the usual twin cupholders, is exclusive to EX and SX trims. Lacking, sadly, were soft-touch door uppers in either trim or row, the two models’ identical inner door skins leaving me somewhat disappointed due to Kia having spoiled me to expect more from entry-level models than other brands, which admittedly don’t necessarily upgrade their equivalent rides to such high levels of luxury either.
Some features that differentiate both the SX and EX Premium from the regular EX trim include the previously noted LED headlights and LED fog lamps, the upgraded instrument cluster, auto-dimming rearview mirror, multi-directional power-adjustable front seats and two-way powered lumbar support for the driver’s seat, plus three-way air-cooled front seats to go along with all lesser models’ three-way heatable front cushions, and the EX (and above) heated steering wheel rim, not to mention warming outboard rear positions for the EX Premium and SX models, as well as a larger and much improved 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (instead of the 8.0-inch base display) with integrated navigation and UVO Intelligence-connected car services, along with Satellite radio, a wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control with Highway Drive Assist (a Level 2 advanced semi-autonomous “self-driving” assistance system designed for limited-access highways), an electromechanical parking brake, Advanced forward collision-avoidance assist (improving on the EX trim’s Forward collision-avoidance assist), ambient mood lighting, a rear cargo privacy cover, and more.
I should say more about the upgraded infotainment touchscreen, plus the smaller one found in the EX and below, specifically that both are very good and include Apple CarPlay, plus Android Auto smartphone integration. My somewhat outdated Samsung S9 hooked up to the latter easily and working flawlessly throughout both test weeks, whereas the SX’ exclusive navigation system was also easy to use and completely accurate. The general look of the displays should be attractive to most, while both backup cameras were bright, clear and included moving guidelines.
A powered glass sunroof hovered above front occupants in both models, with controls found on an attractive overhead console, this even including LED reading laps complemented by another set of LED overhead lights in back.
Aforementioned wheel upgrades and HUD aside, the SX gains exclusive chromed door handles, rain sensing wipers, bright metal interior door handles, and possibly best of all, an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system that includes four door-mounted speakers, a centre speaker, two door-mounted tweeters, and a separate subwoofer, all of which are powered by an external amp. The sound was very good for the class, and thanks to the satellite radio upgrade mentioned earlier, was capable of being tested via many music genres.
As noted earlier, both trims’ driver seats were comfortable, with an edge to the SX due to its adjustable lumbar, while the Seltos’ driving position is excellent, even for my long-legged, short-torso frame. The tilt and telescopic steering column had enough rearward reach to provide comfort with more than enough control, and I certainly had ample space in all directions for movement.
Likewise, in the back, where both trims’ seats were comfortable, and plenty of legroom, head space and side-to-side roominess could be found. Cargo capacity is good for the class too, with 752 dedicated litres (26.5 cubic feet), as well as 1,778 litres (62.8 cu ft) when both sides of its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded (mostly) flat.
Back up in the driver’s seat, I won’t go so far as to say the Seltos EX was particularly quicker than its base competition off the line, but it felt sportier through the curves than most rivals. Even this lower powered model included a slick rotating drive mode selector next to the gear lever for choosing regular Normal mode, an auto-select Smart mode, and Sport mode capabilities, all of which provided unique characteristics that were easily definable. Of course, all of this was heightened when at the wheel of the more potent SX, especially transmission response, which reacted faster to inputs than almost anything else in the class.
This is where your personal priorities will be exposed, aforementioned upgrades aside, because the two SUVs offer very different driving experiences. I found myself more relaxed in the EX, or at least I was less likely to dig my right foot into the throttle, because the result was less rewarding. Certainly, it got up and went with little hesitation and progressed through the gears fast enough for some spirited driving, even spinning right up to its 6,500-rpm rev limiter before making surprisingly convincing “pseudo” shifts, but by nature a CVT focuses more on fuel-efficiency than rapid, satisfying acceleration. Nevertheless, Kia could differentiate these trims even further by including paddle-shifters with the SX… just saying.
The dual-clutch gearbox and more powerful turbocharged engine didn’t overly impact efficiency either, or at least the SX was stingy enough for me at 9.4 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.7 combined, compared to 8.8 city, 7.6 highway and 8.2 combined with the EX (or LX AWD), or 8.2, 7.1 and 7.7 respectively for the LX FWD. All in all, the SX’ level of performance should make the move upmarket worthwhile those who can afford a little extra investment.
As with everything else in this class, the various drive modes don’t impact the Seltos’ suspension setup, which, while fine for everyday driving, might hold you back a bit when pushing fast and hard through winding terrain, where the EX felt a bit more unsettled than the SX. This was probably, at least partially due to the difference in rolling rubber, the lesser model’s 215/55R17 Kumho Solus all-seasons not quite as grippy as the larger-diameter 235/45R18 Kumho Majesty tires (have to wonder where they came up with that name).
What matters more in this class, however, is ride quality, which was very good for both trims. In fact, I’d be quite happy with either as my daily driver. I found the previously noted self-driving mode was a bit more relaxing during highway excursions too, and I was pleasantly surprised to find anything so technologically advanced in this category at all, although it should be noted others in this segment are stepping up with similar systems.
Still, it remains easy to understand why Kia’s Seltos is selling so well. It’s a great looking little crossover SUV, is well made, impressively finished, well-featured in every trim, attractively priced, plenty efficient, and even fairly fun to drive with its mid-range powertrain, plus downright fun when upgraded to the SX. Add to this its two-year, 40,000-km longer-than-average (mostly) bumper-to-bumper warranty, spanning five years or 100,000 km, and it’s an easier decision.
Truly, the most difficult choice in this class might come down to this Seltos or its Hyundai Kona cousin (with a similar warranty), proving the South Korean automaker understands the benefits of creating its own competition. When push comes to shove, both SUVs are more than worthy of your attention. I’d recommend looking over some of the others in this class too, but for the time being these are leading the back for good reason.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
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
For many in Canada, Volkswagen is more of an afterthought when considering a new vehicle. Last year it sat 12th amongst mainstream volume brands in sales volume, with the lion’s share of new deliveries…
For many in Canada, Volkswagen is more of an afterthought when considering a new vehicle. Last year it sat 12th amongst mainstream volume brands in sales volume, with the lion’s share of new deliveries going to Ford (at 232,194 units), Toyota (196,882), Honda (146,582), Hyundai (133,059) and Chevrolet (111,741), although only the Asian brands offer anything in the compact car class, so therefore this segment’s sales hierarchy looks a lot different when comparing both brand popularity and individual model success.
Last year, Volkswagen was the fourth best-selling brand in this category (at 23,665 units) when combining Golf (13,113), Jetta (10,552) and Beetle (460) deliveries, with the Golf placing sixth amongst individual models, the Jetta seventh, and the Beetle way down in 17th, which incidentally was second to last being that it wasn’t the only car being discontinued (Chevy’s Volt found its last nine buyers in 2020 too).
As for the first two quarters of 2021, the Beetle was dead last after just three units were shuffled off to future collectors, while the placement of the Golf and Jetta remained the same with 5,707 and 5,618 examples sold respectively. The big change in the segment comes from Nissan’s new Sentra that’s now right behind the Jetta with 5,004 deliveries to its credit, whereas Subaru’s Impreza and WRX/STI lost significant ground due to just 1,724 and 1,548 respective units down the road, which is probably due to an all-new WRX/STI soon debuting for 2022, plus a new Impreza (and Crosstrek) to follow for 2023.
Others losing steam in this segment include Hyundai’s Ioniq that only sold 1,538 units compared to Toyota’s Prius at 3,107, but the Korean brand’s Ioniq Electric is set to be replaced by the much more intriguing Ioniq 5 in the fall, while Nissan’s all-electric Leaf just seems to be withering on the vine with just 639 sales to its name, although 2022 will see a substantially lower price that should boost interest. Additionally, Hyundai’s Veloster will only come in super-quick N trim for 2022, probably the result of the rest of the line not getting much action, verified by only 328 deliveries, and finally the slowest selling car in this class is Honda’s Insight hybrid, which at a mere 193 unit-sales is getting slaughtered by other HEVs that sell for thousands less.
With the Puebla, Mexico-built Golf leaving our market after this year, Volkswagen will likely take a major negative hit in this segment too, falling behind others that focus more on reliability and comfort over perceived performance, although to be clear, Golf GTI and Golf R models will remain, as will the entire Jetta lineup, including its sportiest GLI variant.
It’s difficult to say if the Jetta will be able to take up the slack on its own, being that other five-door alternatives like the new 2022 Civic Hatchback, the Corolla Hatchback, the Kia Forte 5, the Mazda3 Sport, the Impreza 5-Door, and some other stragglers noted a moment ago, could fill in VW’s entry-level hatchback void. Of course, the German brand will hope such buyers will ante up for its new Taos subcompact crossover SUV, which is sized similarly, or the slightly larger compact Tiguan, while the all-new ID.4 kind of fills the void left by the Golf Alltrack (more on that car in a moment), albeit with an all-electric twist.
With all of that business out of the way, why choose a 2021 Jetta, or for that matter the 2022 model that shouldn’t change by much? Compared to the 2019 version, which was the first year of this seventh-generation body style, the 2021 infuses VW’s new MIB3 infotainment software into an interface that looks pretty well identical, although it’s the system beneath the graphics that matters most, thanks to including wireless App-Connect, enhanced voice recognition, USB-C charging, upgrades to the navigation system, and SiriusXM with 360L streaming and satellite content, while a wireless charging pad now sits on the lower console below in as-tested Execline trim.
As for choosing a Jetta over one of its four-door competitors, that will come down to a lot of factors including styling, its Germanic feel, and on that note, its performance. Of course, the GLI is the Jetta version to drive if you’ve got a passion for going fast, but this said all Jettas have usually tended to be more engaging than most of their Asian alternatives. Performance has been a priority for the brand since the Golf/Rabbit arrived on our shores in 1975, with the sportier GTI variant hitting the market in 1979, three years before our American friends received theirs.
The Jetta, which back then was basically a two-door Rabbit with a trunk, arrived here in 1980, and quickly became our best-selling European import. A wagon (always a personal favourite) was introduced at the turn of the millennium for the Golf’s fourth and fifth generations, although that baton was dubbed SportWagen when passed over to the seventh-gen Golf line, and even ended up being offered as a soft-roading crossover dubbed Alltrack that featured some SUV-like bodywork and raised ground clearance in an attempt to take on Subaru’s Crosstrek.
While wagon fans (including yours truly) still lament the loss of both Jetta and Golf variants, there’s a lot to love about the sedan, especially in top-tier Execline trim. The four-door’s styling has received mixed reviews, but that’s hardly unusual in this entry-level class. Honda is undergoing the same type of scrutiny with its new 2022 Civic after the brand followed its usual two steps forward, one step back routine (it’s as if there’s a tug-of-war between styling progressives and conservatives resulting in each side winning out every other generation), while Toyota appears to have hit the sweet spot with its latest Corolla, although the sharply chiseled new Hyundai Elantra is giving both of these top-sellers a run for their design money.
The other Korean, Kia’s Forte, continues to look attractively conservative and thus places fourth in this class, just ahead of Mazda’s rakish 3 that’s probably the closest competitor to the Jetta and Golf due to its performance-oriented personality, this possibly why the smaller, independent brand’s compact hatchback and sedan models sit so close to the Golf and Jetta on the aforementioned sales chart.
Moving inside, the Jetta is a tour de force when it comes to electronics. The just-noted infotainment system is very good, thanks to a high-definition gloss touchscreen, attractive graphics, an easy-to-understand layout and quick response to inputs, not to mention real analogue knobs for the power/volume and tuning/scrolling functions, plus it’s one of the only touchscreens in the industry to feature proximity-sensing capability, which means that bringing your hand towards the display causes a row of digital buttons to automatically pop up even before your finger touches the screen. It’s a really cool effect, but it’s also useful because, when those buttons automatically disappear, the entire display is made larger for whatever function you’re using.
Of course, the infotainment system comes filled with all the expected features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and control of the decent sounding Beats Audio system, complete with eight speakers and a sub, but I must say the backup camera is a bit subpar for a top-line model in this segment, not for its clarity, which is excellent, but rather for not including dynamic guidelines.
Nevertheless, the Jetta Execline’s fully configurable 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, that’s exclusive to Execline trim and the top-level GLI, is in another world compared to anything else offered in this class. Certainly, others include fully digital gauge packages in upper trims, one that I recently drove being the 2021 Elantra in top-line Ultimate dress, but like the new 2022 Civic’s take on this tech, its navigation map wasn’t capable of filling the entire screen like Volkswagen’s. I know that’s not the end-all, be-all of functions, but just like this feature wowed me in Audi’s Virtual Cockpit before, it once again had me mesmerized in the Jetta, even providing the ability to zoom in and out from a button on the right-side steering wheel spoke. The active display does more than just that, of course, offering up a smaller map with surrounding info in another mode, plus a particularly colourful duo of circular gauges in its default setting, not to mention plenty of other features in numerous configurations.
Framing the gauge cluster is another VW favourite, the Jetta’s flat-bottom sport steering wheel, which is one of the nicest in its segment thanks to a meaty soft leather-covered rim with wonderfully form-fitting thumb spats to each side and grippy baseball-style stitching around the inner ring, plus thin spokes filled with high-quality switchgear, while those spokes are dressed up with a tasteful splash of aluminized brightwork and piano black lacquered surfaces.
Yet more satin-finish accents and inky black highlights can be found throughout the rest of the cabin, but it’s not overdone like some rivals from the east. I prefer to call the Jetta’s interior purposeful rather than austere, but I’m sure some will find the mostly muted black interior a tad conservative, bright and colourful displays aside.
This said, most of the pliable composite surfaces that made earlier (pre-2010) Jettas feel like premium rides have been eliminated, only leaving a rubberized soft-touch dash top and upper instrument panel, plus equally pampering front door uppers. The only model in this class with less appealing plastics is the Elantra that doesn’t even offer soft door uppers up front, but we’re not exactly comparing D-segment luxury sedans here. The clear differentiator is Volkswagen’s choice of hard plastics south of the waste line, other than the comfortable padded leatherette used for the door inserts and armrest, as well as the centre armrest overtop the console bin, which are nicely padded in plush leatherette.
The front seats, on the other hand, are firmer than any in this class and most in the entire industry, which is a bit unusual considering the Jetta Execline’s comfort-oriented mission. I’d normally never complain about cushion firmness, but the Jetta’s seem designed by someone who dreams on a tatami mat. These things go beyond just firm, with a lower cushion that actually became quite uncomfortable on longer stints during my weeklong test.
Oddly, GLIs, GTIs, and even Golf Rs that I tested previously never felt this way, but at least the Jetta’s side bolsters were excellent, while the six-way power-adjustment on its driver’s side (the front passenger gets no such luxuries), with two-way powered lumbar support that met the small of my back ideally, plus three-way memory no less, came to the rescue as best it could, as did the soft perforated leather that provided an exit strategy for forced ventilation, which kept me cool when otherwise ready to fume about my aching back. Their heatable capability was even more useful in this situation, as my driver’s seat warmed to near therapeutic temperatures in order to ease two inflamed ischia. More on the positive, better than average reach and rake from the tilt and telescopic steering column made for a great driving position, while the steering wheel rim in Execline trim is also heatable, as are the rear outboard seats.
Also positive, my tester’s rear outboard seats were truly superb, with more of a bucket-like feel than any others I’ve experienced in this class, thanks to excellent side bolstering that really wrapped all around my backside. The same can be said for the lower cushions, which provided a little more padding than the driver’s seat, or so they felt. VW includes a nice and wide flip-down armrest with integrated cupholders in the middle position, so together with the door armrests the rear outboard seating area is comfortable for both forearms.
As for space, I had about half-a-foot in front of my knees and plenty of room to stretch out my legs, with feet under the front seats when the driver’s position was set for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame. Additionally, I had about three-and-a-half inches left over above my head, plus plenty of space next to my shoulders and hips. I’m not sure if the Jetta is best-in-class for rear seat roominess, but I’m guessing it’s very close. Volkswagen should be commended for this, but unfortunately the rear compartment’s finishing was less appealing than most in this category, including the expected hard plastic door upper, but also hard plastic door inserts that are almost never part of the package. At least the powered sunroof overhead was almost panoramic, helping to visually open the car up to more natural light.
Like the rear passenger compartment, the trunk is large at almost 400 litres (14.1 cu ft), while the lid lifts up high and out of the way, but be careful to push it all the way up, because if you leave it down even slightly it will fall and smack you in the head, which happened to me once during my test. Also different from most Volkswagens, the Jetta only offers 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks instead of the usual 40/20/40-split used in the Golf and other VW products. This limits the usability of the trunk when going skiing, for instance, especially if rear passengers want to enjoy the aforementioned seat warmers, but such is the same for most of the Jetta’s peers.
Leaving the best for last, I set the dual-zone automatic climate control system to 21.5C via outer rings wrapping large circular dials that wiggled a bit too much for my liking, their digital readouts bookending a row of nicely damped buttons that included those needed for warming buttocks and backside, after which I turned the fuel-saving auto start-stop system off and the drive mode setting from Normal to Sport, disregarding Eco and Custom, the lower-console mounted buttons for these rather sloppy and noisy, unfortunately, unlike the nice and tight aluminized ignition button and little electromechanical brake lever found nearby. I then slotted the eight-speed automatic’s gear lever into “D” for drive before shoving it over to the right to “S” for manual shift mode, and let the Jetta’s impressive 1.4-litre turbo-four spool up as much of its 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque as possible before launching from standstill.
It’s the torque that matters most in this little mill, with all of its available twist from just 1,400 rpm, while the gearbox is quick-shifting and very smooth, only needing a set of steering wheel paddles to make it more engaging. These come with the GLI, incidentally, along with a much faster-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while its 2.0-litre turbocharged four puts out a much more energetic 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of just 6.6 seconds compared to 8.7 for the Jetta Execline, although opting for the more comfort-oriented Jetta pays of at the pump.
Driving more modestly in Eco mode results in 8.0 L/100km in the city, 6.0 on the highway and 7.1 combined in the Jetta Execline, whereas the automated transmission in the GLI is only good for a claimed 9.7 city, 7.0 highway and 8.5 combined. The GLI can be had with a six-speed manual too, by the way, which is identically quick and exactly as efficient with fuel, while the regular Jetta with its base six-speed manual (not available in the Execline) manages just 7.9 city, 5.8 highway and 6.9 combined for truly stingy operation, plus it reportedly takes exactly the same amount of time to arrive at 100 km/h from standstill as my automatic-equipped tester.
Better than its straight-line performance, the Jetta Execline provides a nicely weighted, electrically assisted rack and pinion steering system resulting in good handling for the class, despite incorporating a less-than-ideal semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension setup. The front suspension uses independent Macpherson struts, par for the course in just about any segment, but only the GLI gets an upgrade to a multi-link rear suspension design, which is much better for absorbing pavement irregularities and therefore keeping rubber on the road where it can apply traction.
Comparatively, even Honda’s most basic Civic LX comes standard with a fully independent suspension including a rear multi-link rear setup, as does Toyota’s simplest Corolla L, and Nissan’s cheapest Sentra S, while Subaru’s least expensive Impreza with Convenience trim uses independent double wishbones, which aid comfort yet are more durable for heavier loads, and easier for tuners to tweak, not to mention easy for technicians to adjust for wheel alignment. What about the Golf? Unlike the Jetta, the most affordable Golf Comfortline gets the more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup, so while that model is still available it remains the go-to car for lower end VW performance enthusiasts, a worthwhile investment for just $1,500 more.
As you may have noticed I left out plenty of Jetta competitors when comparing suspension designs, so it’s only fair to add that the Elantra, Forte, and Mazda3 utilize a similar rear torsion beam setup, which is prized for reducing cost and improving rear packaging, the latter sometimes resulting in increased cargo capacity.
In the end, the Jetta is a good car that deserves its success, however middling that may be. It hits high in some areas, such as roominess and advanced electronics, but doesn’t really match up in interior plastics quality, front seat comfort, and overall performance, the rear end getting skittish when pushed hard around curves over rough pavement, something the Civic and Corolla, for instance, don’t do.
If it were my money and a VW was the target brand, I’d opt for a Golf every day of the week, due to its sharper styling, much better interior quality (even including cloth A pillars), wholly improved handling, and the increased usability (albeit less security) of its rear hatch. To think this model is on its way out is criminal, but it’s not Volkswagen’s fault that Canadians aren’t buying as many cars these days as they used to, instead opting for crossover SUVs more often than not. At least we’ll still have the fabulous GTI and Golf R, while as noted the Jetta GLI is a credible performance car as well.
The 2021 Jetta starts at a very reasonable $21,595 in Comfortline trim with its six-speed manual, while my Execline model is available from $28,995. Good news, Volkswagen is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional no-haggle incentives, while CarCostCanada members were averaging $1,527 in savings at the time of writing, thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Make sure to find out how a CarCostCanada membership can help save you money when purchasing your next new car, and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, plus check out the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page to find out pricing for all the Jetta’s other trim lines, including the GLI.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada,…
In the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, one model stands above them all. Kia’s Kona only arrived on the scene in March of 2018, but in only its first partial year it rose to sales prominence in Canada, placing third in its class, and even then, it was a mere 42 units behind the next most popular Subaru Crosstrek.
Nissan’s Qashqai was number one that year, but it would quickly lose this status during the following 12 months when the Kona’s sales increased by a staggering 78-percent to 25,817 examples, dwarfing the next-best-selling Qashqai’s 18,526-unit total. Calendar year 2020 saw another bump up the sales charts to 31,733 deliveries, with the best-of-the-rest Crosstrek managing a very respectable 22,161 units, albeit still about a third, or 9,572 deliveries behind, while today, the impressive little Kona is on its way to approximately the same sales results for 2021, once again leading the pack in popularity with 15,715 examples down the road after six months.
Why such dominance? One look should immediately give it away. This little ute is a knockout, combining plenty of unorthodox styling cues, but doing so in a way that’s appealing to most buyers in the entry-level SUV marketplace. Up front and centre it features Hyundai’s unique hexagonal grille, although its bold, assertive design is surrounded by some rather fun styling features, including a narrow slat just above, two slim bi-functional LED headlamps with active cornering lights positioned high above the front fenders to each side (projectors are standard below Ultimate trim), some beefy blocks of matte grey/black composite just under those, which are integrated with squarish metallic bezels that look like sporty brake vents, and house LED driving lights inside.
A sporty lower lip spoiler filled with fog lamps sits below everything, the blackened matte material joining up with thick, meaty grey/black fender extensions that circle each wheel cut-out, while more of the darkened trim spans the rocker panels, other than a thin strip of metal-look trim that sits on top.
Hyundai continues a similar look at back, where a thin trip of black trim on the fourth pillar forms a floating roof design that follows the rear window down to an elegant set of horizontally-positioned LED taillights, all of which sit above another blocky cluster of black-cladding that frames backup and reflector lamps before forming into a big black and grey diffuser-style rear bumper.
It might sound to some as if I’m describing a mix of the more controversially styled fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee, available from 2014 to 2018, and Nissan’s ultimately whacky Juke (that I honestly kind of like), but it all works so well that it’s sparked zero controversy at all.
My top-line Kona Ultimate AWD tester added a set of 18-inch machine-finished alloy rims with gray-painted pockets (shared with lesser Trend trim), wrapped around 235/45 Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season rubber. Its Blue Lagoon paintwork borders on radical, but somehow still comes across as tasteful with the Kona, while all the just-noted dark matte grey body cladding across the bottom actually features a slightly glossed up metallic look in Ultimate trim. Some of the metallic bits mentioned a moment ago are partially exclusive to top-line trim too, while the metallic brightwork edging the front grille can also be found on the Trend model.
Climb inside, and the Kona continues its expressive attitude, albeit with a dose of upscale refinement. Hyundai mixes dark greys on most surfaces with light grey tones that almost border on white, for the mid-section of the dash and door uppers, while the seats are surfaced in more of a medium grey.
The light grey is dimpled for a nice textured effect, and finished in soft-touch synthetic along the dash facing, while Hyundai utilizes a nice soft paint to make the door uppers a bit more appealing, if not more comfortable for those that rest their elbows on the side window sills. The rest of the interior plastics are harder, although they’re comprised of good, solid-feeling composites and seem as if they’re designed to put up with abuse over the long haul, while the cabin’s overall design is very appealing.
This is especially true of its details, such as the nice leather-wrapped sport steering wheel that includes comfortable thumb spats and elegantly thin spokes dotted with high-quality switchgear, some of the toggles even aluminized. The stalks behind the steering wheel are very high in quality too, while all of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the interior are tightly fitted and well damped, despite not being always made from particularly dense composites.
The primary instrument cluster is mostly a backlit analogue design (for now… keep reading), although a narrow, vertical 4.2-inch TFT Supervision multi-information display sits in the middle of the tachometer and speedometer, adding a bit of colour for highlighting key functions. Better yet, a useful head-up display system sits overtop on the dash, projecting key info in the driver’s line of sight where it’s safer to pay attention to.
Over to the right, the centre stack is nicely laid out, with the usual fixed tablet-style infotainment display on top, seeming to stick up and out of the dash. The 8.0-inch touchscreen (up an inch from lesser trims) is flanked by two rows of buttons and dials, nothing new here, but I like the way Hyundai has design the pod-like controls, which are all backlit for easy use at night.
The user interface itself is not up to Hyundai’s newer standards, with older graphics and a matte screen, but it’s still easy to use and filled with functions. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration come standard, as does an accurate navigation system in Ultimate trim, while the backup camera includes helpful active guidelines. The Infinity audio system offers good sound quality, ideally suited to my favourite SiriusXM satellite radio stations, or alternatively one of the many podcasts I regularly listen too, the latter streamed via Bluetooth (which incidentally includes voice command).
USB ports for smartphone integration and/or charging can be found at the base of the centre stack, along with dual 12-volt chargers, although you might find the Ultimate’s exclusive wireless charging pad more to your liking, a real bonus in this entry-level segment.
Separating the two-shelf phone storage/charging area from the infotainment display is a simple, straightforward single-zone automatic climate control interface comprised of two dials and a digital display, the left knob for temperature settings and the right one for fan speeds, this non-manual system only found on the Kona’s Ultimate trim, while a row of quick-access HVAC buttons sits just below.
The three-way front seat heater controls are located on the lower console, right in front of a separate button for turning the heatable steering wheel rim on and off, and not far away from two separate buttons for hill descent control and rear parking sensors (this last item exclusive to Ultimate trim), not to mention the gear lever at centre, complete with a leather-clad knob and boot.
Now that we’re talking mechanicals, the shifter sends commands down to a sporty seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), standard in all AWD models. Right next to the shifter in these three trims, that include Trend, Luxury and as-tested Ultimate, is another button for four-wheel drive lock, which really helps when trying to get unstuck from the snow, mud or out of any other type of slippery situation, while a Drive Mode button on the opposite side of the console lets you swap between default, Eco and Sport settings, the latter really increasing the fun factor.
To that end, Hyundai gives its AWD models a little more oomph from a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, this engine making 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque compared to the base 2.0-litre mill’s 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft. The former powerplant is sporty for this tiny tyke class, but I won’t go so far to say that it sounds sporty, at least not all the time due to a slightly anemic exhaust note when driven slowly, but put your foot into the throttle and a nice growly tone accompanies its brisk acceleration.
In this way, the Kona 1.6T AWD kind of fills the shoes of the aforementioned Juke, which in Nismo AWD-form, or better yet the even more potent Nismo RS, was one seriously zippy performer thanks to 215 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque driving a reasonably sophisticated AWD system via a six-speed manual gearbox. That little screamer was killed off five years ago, however, leaving this top-line Kona as one of the segment’s most aggressive performers.
It moves off the line with plenty of chutzpa, although strangely Hyundai forgot to fit a set of paddles to the sporty steering wheel in order to provide any hands-on entertainment. It’s certainly shiftable via the gear lever, which merely takes a leftward flick of the wrist to actuate, but folks these days, myself included, would rather flick away in the upper regions of the cockpit. We’ll see if Hyundai addresses this in the model’s forthcoming refresh, or for that matter updates this model’s handbrake with an electromechanical one, although this last point isn’t an issue for me.
At least the gearbox allows the engine to rev right up to redline before it automatically shifts, this working best in Sport mode, of course, but shifts are truly quicker than most in this class no matter the mode you’re in, due to its dual-clutch design. It’s smooth when doing so too, thus a best-of-both-worlds scenario, while its claimed fuel economy rating is about the same as the less powerful engine when optimized with AWD, at 9.0 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, compared to 9.2, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively for the 2.0 AWD. The base 2.0 FWD Kona, incidentally, gets an estimated 8.6 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.9 combined rating.
Possibly most important in this class is ride quality and overall comfort, which the Kona provides in spades. Of course, this is a small SUV, so don’t expect Palisade levels of poshness or quietude, but within this class it’s a refinement superstar, and therefore ideal for everything from inner-city commutes to fast-paced highway road trips, with a little serpentine action thrown in the middle just for fun. Yes, this little ute provides good grip around such circuitous corners for an overall fun experience, which made it my go-to vehicle during its test week.
Another reason the Kona sells well is overall practicality, this a critical factor that even mighty Toyota is only starting to figure out with its upcoming Corolla Sport Cross (the CH-R’s cargo capacity is miniscule). Settling into the Kona Ultimate’s perforated leather-covered eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, which includes two-way powered lumbar and hides that have a particularly upscale feel, I couldn’t help but be impressed by its substantive bolsters that ideally enveloped my backside. All around, it provided the ideal amount of comfort, plus good, firm support, almost Germanic in its design. The tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach and rake was superb too, easily finding a good driving position for my short-torso, long-legged frame, which is not always possible in this class or others.
No one should feel claustrophobic up front either, thanks to lofty headroom and plenty of shoulder space, while the same can also be said for rear occupants that offer no shortage of room for legs and feet. The Kona seats three abreast, although two adults in back is best, with the centre armrest folded down to maximize comfort and provide a place for drinks. The outboard seatbacks offer decent lower back support, but other than that, rear creature comforts are nowhere near up to the levels of Ultimate trims in Hyundai’s larger SUV lineup—although the netted magazine holders on the backsides of the front seats are nice.
Features in mind, Ultimate trim does come well-equipped for this class, with items like solar front glass, rear privacy glass, rain-sensing wipers, powered and timer-heated exterior mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, a multifunctional auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver, an overhead console integrating a nice padded sunglasses holder and reading lights, plus controls for the powered glass sunroof, lidded and lit vanity mirrors in the front sun visors, plus more.
Advanced safety technologies found in top-tier Ultimate trim include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and Driver Attention Warning, while High Beam Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control make the Kona much easier to live with on long commutes and trips.
My tester included a handy cargo net attached to all four chromed tie-down hooks at each corner, while the substantive cargo floor is both removable and capable of being raised to match the same level as the seatbacks when folded. Hyundai provides a shallow divided container just below, made from a solid-feeling foam, which is also removable, and when lifted exposes the spare tire below. Likewise, the hard-shell tonneau cover can be removed easily. Expanding on the 544-litre dedicated luggage area are rear seatbacks that fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, which when laid flat via latches on the seat tops makes a sizeable 1,296 litres.
To be honest, due to styling alone the Kona has long been a personal favourite in this class, but after a week behind the wheel I can truly say the rest of the package attests to its popularity. It does everything a subcompact SUV should and more, so it will likely remain on top until some other manufacturer comes up with something that checks off more boxes for similar pricing.
Money in mind, the most basic Kona in Essential trim starts at $21,299 plus freight and fees, while Preferred trim can be had for $23,049, and AWD adds $2,000 to either. The Kona Trend, which comes standard with AWD, starts at $26,899, while Luxury trim does likewise for $27,999. The special Urban Edition, which gets upgraded to the 1.6-litre turbo-four AWD powertrain, is available from $28,049, while the Limited Edition also features the upgraded engine for $28,049. Finally, the as-tested Ultimate can be had from $32,299. On a side note, Hyundai makes the FWD-only Kona Electric, which ranges from $43,699 in Preferred trim to $49,199 for the Ultimate, less government rebates, depending where you live. I’ll be covering this one in a separate review soon.
Before signing off, it’s important for you to know the 2022 Kona will see a fairly dramatic styling refresh from the outside in, including a wider, shallower grille, new headlamps and driving lights, a deeper front fascia, plus changes to the rear lighting elements, bumper, and more. Inside, a new dash design offers an optional digital gauge cluster, while available heated rear seats will give rear passengers more to celebrate on cold mornings. Atop the centre stack, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen will be standard, with the upgraded version stretching to 10.3 inches. Lastly, a sportier N Line trim will soon vie for most entertaining subcompact performance SUV credentials, thanks to a 195-horsepower version of the same 1.6-litre turbo-four used in today’s top-line Kona. Details on this last upgrade are not yet available, so we’ll keep you posted.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Call it the seven-year itch, but Porsche is updating its popular Macan compact luxury SUV for 2022. This will be the Macan’s second refresh, the first update affecting 2019 to 2021 models. That version…
Call it the seven-year itch, but Porsche is updating its popular Macan compact luxury SUV for 2022.
This will be the Macan’s second refresh, the first update affecting 2019 to 2021 models. That version received exterior styling modifications, including the current crossover’s three-dimensional tail lamps, plus changes to the cabin, specifically a reworked centre stack that added a bigger 10.9-inch, high-definition touchscreen with a reconfigured infotainment interface up top, a fresh set of quick-access controls just below, and new HVAC vents underneath both.
For 2022, the Macan boasts an even more dramatic exterior redesign, plus an overhaul of the lower centre console, while under the skin it gets powertrain upgrades as well as some suspension tweaks to improve handling.
Some of those behind-the-scenes changes are likely due to the need to incorporate an electric drivetrain in the next couple of years. We reported on this in detail recently, noting the upcoming Macan EV is currently testing in real-world conditions. This will likely be the Macan’s top-of-the-line power unit, in various stages of tune, and might just receive the “Turbo” and “Turbo S” trim designations when available, just like it does with the quickest Taycan EVs. Therefore, it makes sense that Porsche has dropped its Turbo trim line for 2022, now only offering the GTS as its more potent SUV challenger.
Before getting your mittens in a twist, take note that the new Macan GTS receives a 59-horsepower and 22 lb-ft gift for 2022, thanks to Porsche integrating the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 from last year’s Macan Turbo between the front struts of the lesser trim line, the result being the exact same 434 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque found in 2021’s top-tier Macan. Thus, the Macan GTS can be flung from zero to 100 km/h in an identical 4.3 seconds, when equipped with its Sport Chrono package, while the SUV’s top track speed has also been increased from 270 km/h with last year’s Turbo to 272 km/h for this year’s GTS, possibly due to aerodynamic benefits from the updated styling.
Thanks to the new upgraded 2022 GTS, it only made sense for Porsche to enhance the powerplants downstream too, resulting in the old 2021 GTS’ 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 making the move over to the new 2022 Macan S. This engine continues to make 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, which is a 27-horsepower and 31-lb-ft boost over the 100-cc larger V6 used in last year’s S, that 3.0-litre unit now cancelled. All in all, the new Macan S matches the old Macan GTS in a straight line, zipping from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds with its Sport Chrono package upgrade, while its terminal velocity is now said to be three seconds faster at 259 km/h.
While all this is good news from a value perspective, because Macan buyers will soon be getting a lot more performance for their money, it really only came down to a shuffling of trim name designations, but this isn’t so at the Macan’s point of entry where its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine gets some significant upgrades that provide another 13 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque over its predecessor, for a final tally of 261 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. Therefore, the entry model’s zero to 100 km/h sprint gets shaved by three seconds to just 6.2 when its optional Sport Chrono package is included, all be topping out 3 km/h faster than last year’s turbo-four, at 232 km/h.
Just like before, all 2022 Macans come with the seven-speed Porsche dual-clutch transmission (PDK), as well as standard Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel-drive, which has proven to be a good combination for quick-shifting yet efficient performance no matter the weather conditions.
As for road-holding, few Macan owners have find much to complain about, the SUV arguably being one of the better handling offerings in the compact luxury SUV segment. Just the same, Porsche chose to make it better by giving it a more direct, sports car-like feel that provides greater feedback from the steering system. To achieve this, the German luxury brand readapted the damper characteristics of its Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) so that it actively and continuously regulates damping forces to each individual wheel. PASM, which comes standard with S and GTS trim lines, is optional with the base model.
Added to this is a standard sport air suspension with the Macan GTS. This setup automatically lowers the body by 10 mm so as to enhance stability at high-speed. The air suspension is 10 percent more rigid at the front axle too, plus 15 percent firmer at the back axle, while an available GTS Sport package increases the wheel and tire package to 21 inches, plus adds Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), and the Sport Chrono package as standard equipment, making this top-line Macan (so far) even more capable on road and track.
As noted earlier, the new 2022 Macan’s higher terminal speeds are probably due to improved aero, which includes a completely reshaped front fascia that incorporates a much stronger looking grille and corner vent arrangement, the latter being bigger and more upright in layout, similar to those featured on the brand’s legendary 911 sports car. The new Macan now looks wider and more capable, which is a visual follow-up to all the suspension upgrades.
While base and S trims look nearly identical from the front, even including the same LED headlights incorporating the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) as standard, and standard Sport Design exterior mirrors are also included, the GTS receives an even more aggressive grille featuring unique airflow elements that change from body-colour to matte black, while this top-level trim’s sideblades once again display a scripted “GTS” trim designation. This said, that sideblade GTS script is written in body-colour when choosing new optional Python Green paint, while it can also be optionally enhanced with a new 3D structure design, available on the rear diffuser too.
As usual, the Macan visually distinguishes each trim line with special sets of tailpipes, the just-mentioned rear diffuser housing four circular exhaust tips on S and GTS models, or alternatively two rectangular ones for the base model.
Personalization is always a popular option with Porsche buyers, thus your 2022 Macan can be had in 14 unique exterior colours, including new Papaya Metallic and Gentian Blue Metallic, plus of course the aforementioned Python Green that’s only available with the GTS if it’s upgraded with the GTS Sport package. What’s more, Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur provides Individual Colour and Paint-To-Sample options, so there’s really no end to exterior paint choices.
Rounding out the entire package are larger standard alloys and rubber, now measuring 19 inches for the entry-level turbo-four model, 20 inches on the mid-range Macan S, and 21 inches for the top-tier GTS. Seven new wheel designs are now available, once again making customization more convenient than ever.
Inside, the most noticeable changes were once again made in the middle, or more precisely the sloping lower centre that’s now covered in touch-sensitive switchgear, other than the Macan’s two-zone auto climate control system’s temperature selectors that remain knurled in metal. Overall, the look is clean and minimalist, plus the two parallel panels should be easier to literally wipe clean. What’s more, the new console features a shorter gear lever for a sportier feel, while up on top of the dash, all Macans now include a standard analogue clock.
Just in front of the driver, the new 2022 Macan includes the new 911’s multifunction and GT Sport steering wheels, which is a good way to further enhance the SUV’s sports car-like driving experience. One of the buttons on the new wheels’ spokes also activates voice commands to control functions in the previously-noted full-HD 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management system, making life with the new model easier.
Back to customization, Porsche has no shortage of interior colour options either, such as leather upholstery and contrasting seam packages in Gentian Blue, Papaya or Crayon, while the available GTS Sport package gets some exclusive design details and equipment such as Race-Tex upholstery with extended leather, a Carbon interior package, 18-way sport seats, as well as contrast stitching and GTS lettering in body-colour green when choosing Python Green exterior paint.
What does all this cost? The updated 2022 Macan starts at $58,500 (plus freight and fees), while the new Macan S is available from $70,600, and the Macan GTS from $85,500. Those wanting their GTS with the model’s ultimate GTS Sport Package will need to add $13,470 to their bill, for a total of $98,970 before any other options.
In the end, no matter which 2022 Macan trim line you purchase, it promises to be faster and a bit more advanced than its predecessor, while providing the same kind of luxury, comfortable interior accommodations, and dependable service the Macan has become known for.
Regarding the latter, the Macan earned the highest possible ranking in J.D. Power and Associates 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study’s Compact Premium SUV category, while the same study also placed the Porsche brand in second amongst 16 luxury rivals. Likewise, the Macan achieves similar results when holding its resale value, with the Canadian Black Book Best Retained Value Awards naming it best in its Compact Luxury Crossover-SUV class for both 2019 and 2020.
There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV.
It arrived for 2018 and hasn’t changed much since, only adding automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and parking sensors as standard equipment for 2019, plus LED headlamps with cornering lights and navigation standard for 2020 (along with the option of a new plug-in hybrid xDrive30e variant), and finally SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto smartphone connectivity (which was never offered previously), lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring as standard for 2021. There have been a few other small details changed along the way, such as paint colours and some minor interior trim bits, but it’s mostly been the exact same SUV for the past five years.
This said, 2022 will bring some significant styling updates as part of a mid-cycle refresh, including a squarer grille to align it more cohesively with BMW’s latest design philosophy, plus new LED headlamps, updated taillights, revised front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, and massaged exhaust tips. All mechanicals remain the same, other than the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e that will be discontinued.
Changes inside will include an updated centre stack and lower console, now featuring a standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as an identically sized infotainment display at centre, with a 12.3-inch option for each. A number of secondary controls have been moved around and modified, making it almost seem like an all-new model, but make no mistake, the crossover you see here is basically the same SUV you’ll be buying next year, other than styling and electronics.
Then again, it may have better interior quality. This will take a personal deep-dive in order to verify, but then again, the current X3 is so well finished inside and out that I’d question BMW’s ability to make it much better. Certainly, they could spend Rolls-Royce dollars and blow us all away, but so far not many competitors can touch BMW’s interior quality in the X3’s $50k price point.
Pricing in this class is all over the map, incidentally, with the cheapest entry being Buick’s Envision at $35,998, if it really does qualify as a true compact luxury SUV competitor. But Cadillac’s XT4 does, of course, and it’s priced a mere $100 higher at $36,098, making the price gap between most affordable and priciest a shocking $27,400. The X3’s more popular competitors’ window stickers come closer to the $50k mid-point, mind you, with the segment’s best-selling rival in 2020 being the $44,505 Acura RDX, followed by the $46,550 Audi Q5 (that includes sales of the sportier $55,400 Q5 Sportback), plus the $49,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC (its sales totals also including the $53,900 GLC Coupe), and finally the $47,100 Lexus NX, putting the X3 in fifth place last year.
The X3 has dropped down to sixth so far in 2021 (it stays fifth when including X4 sales), thanks to Q2 sales of 3,120 units, and Tesla’s Model Y managing 3,200 deliveries, although with perfectly even totals of 1,600 sales per quarter it’s difficult to believe the U.S. tech firm’s numbers. There’s been some shuffling on top too, with 2021 Q2 totals placing the Q5 well into the lead with 5,702 deliveries, followed by the GLC with 3,806, NX with 3,619, and finally last year’s top-selling RDX with just 3,456, but these standings could very well change before the year is out, plus this by no means speaks to each model’s popularity, being that many automakers are having problems producing at full capacity due to chip shortages.
In the US, incidentally, the X3 was number one in 2020 with 59,777 deliveries, followed by the NX with 55,784, RDX with 52,785, GLC with 52,626, and Q5 with 50,435, while the Q5 has jumped right up behind the X3 so far this year thanks to 33,566 unit-sales compared to 36,273 respectively. This said, the Model Y had more than doubled X3 sales as of June’s end, with a total of 76,429 units (and the U.S. division’s numbers appear legit).
Maintaining best-selling status amongst gasoline-powered internal combustion engine offerings (including a PHEV) in the U.S., and top-five in Canada (or fourth including the X4) is impressive no matter what factors have been at play, and this despite a higher-than-average base price. Model Y aside, the Stelvio (at 487 units), Macan (at 2,283), F-Pace (at 1,446), and Velar (at 1,339) sell in much smaller numbers, so the X3 may just be one of the more profitable models in the class.
I, for one, would be willing to pay significantly more for its superb interior, which includes one of the best driving positions and driver’s seats in the category, plus the X3’s impressive driving dynamics. The latter has always been a BMW hallmark, but it’s not necessarily because of engine performance in xDrive30i trim. The 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out a reasonable 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in this base model, which makes it good for spirited 6.3-second sprints from standstill to 100 km/h, and a top track speed of 210 km/h (130 mph), but it’s by no means class-leading when it comes to straight-line performance.
I’ve long known BMW to be conservative with all performance specs, however, and can honestly say it felt quicker off the line than its official claimed time, but either way its eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly overall, plenty quick in Sport mode, was even more engaging when using its steering wheel-mounted paddles, and certainly couldn’t achieve the model’s 10.2 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined fuel economy rating when driving so aggressively.
Now that we’re talking practicalities, I’ve only mentioned how well the X3 handles, without commenting on its excellent ride quality. It truly is a comfortable city conveyance, even with my tester’s uprated 20-inch alloys on 245/45 Pirellis. Likewise, it can eat up highway miles easier than most in this size class, its adaptive cruise control flawless at maintaining a desired speed no matter the weather or topography.
It’s just such moments that the aforementioned near-best-in-class driver’s seat and overall top-notch driving position proved this SUV worthy of its increased price, the tilt and telescopic steering wheel reaching rearward enough to provide ideal comfort and control, despite my long-legged, short-torso body type. The rim of that wheel is wrapped in a very high-grade leather, plus is heatable for keeping fingers warm mid-winter, while the seat leather feels higher in grade than some competitive hides, despite being the most basic in BMW’s line.
The Bavarian automaker provided an attractive leather-like soft-touch synthetic across the entire dash top too, which was beautifully stitched together with contrasting thread. My X3 received the same surfacing for the door uppers, inserts and armrests, albeit these last items were even more padded for added comfort, while the door inlays were finished in a nicely textured aluminum. There was no shortage of aluminized trim elsewhere, not to mention piano black lacquered composite across the lower console, of all places, where it will be more likely to attract dust and scratches (this is not one of my favourite trends), but nonetheless the workmanship is as good as this class gets, and overall solidity and refinement bar none.
All the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, with the only weakness being hard plastic used for the lower door panels, but this is par for the course in the X3’s compact luxury SUV segment. Then again, the entire lower dash is soft synthetic, which is unusually good for this segment, even including the sides of the centre console, making it nicer for larger folk whose knees might otherwise chafe.
The rear compartment is almost as comfortable as up front, with ample room in all directions, plus the same level of fit, finish and materials quality. My well-equipped model provided plenty of back seat toys too, some for warming derrieres, others shading eyes from sunlight, and yet one more for providing additional sun if desired, the latter two achieved via side window sunshades and a big panoramic glass sunroof.
On that note, my tester was upgraded with the $12,100 Ultimate Package, which includes the extra-large sunroof as well as a proximity-sensing entry system, ambient lighting, universal remote, and wireless device charging, these otherwise found in the $4,500 Premium Package Essential upgrade; plus the head-up display, wonderful sounding Harman/Kardon surround audio system, four-way powered lumbar support, heated rear outboard seats, rear sunshades, storage compartment package, and more from the $6,500 Premium Package Enhanced; while ultimately adding adaptive full LED headlights with High Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus with a 360-degree overhead surround monitor, Driving Assistant Plus, BMW Gesture Control, adjustable rear seats, and more.
This package pushed the price of my X3 xDrive30i over $65k, with a few items not mentioned included as well, but take note that BMW is providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives right now, with CarCostCanada members saving an average of $2,181 thanks to learning about the X3’s dealer invoice pricing before negotiation. Find out how the CarCostCanada system can work for you, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store before you start shopping, so you can have all of their critical info at your fingertips when you need it most.
BMW electronics are some of the best available, by the way, with my X3 featuring high-definition displays and bright, colourful graphics that never ceased to delight. As expected, the primary gauges were digital and fully configurable, while the centre display is a nice widescreen tablet-style design featuring a convenient, easy-to-use tile layout.
At the opposite end of the SUV, you may have noticed me mention a storage compartment package when previously listing out options. The upgrade, amongst other items, includes really useful aluminum rails in the cargo compartment for lashing down large items. Of course, the usual tie-down latches can be found in the rearmost cargo compartment’s four corners, plus a small netted stowage area to the left, and best of all, an extremely deep hidden compartment below the rigid cargo floor, along with a spot to lock down the retractable cargo cover when not in use. This is a hefty piece of German handiwork, by the way, and takes a fair bit of strong-armed finesse to remove.
The X3’s dedicated stowage area is reasonably generous for the class, measuring 813 litres (29 cu ft), but keep in mind that it grows to 1,775 litres (62.7 cu ft) when lowering the rear seatbacks via convenient release levers on each sidewall. I’m an even bigger fan of the large centre pass-through provided by the rear seat’s 40/20/40-split configuration, which allows for longer belongings like skis to be stuffed down the middle while both rear passengers enjoy the benefit of those previously mentioned butt warmers.
If an over-engineered cargo cover is all I can find to complain about, it’s obvious that BMW has done a very good job engineering this much-loved SUV. The X3’s overall build quality is excellent, finishing impressive, feature set right up at the top of this category, and overall drivability in a class of few. No wonder it still sells so well after all these years.