Good news! The VW van is actually coming back, and it looks like this visual blast from the past design might also be one of the most practical competitors in the all-electric space. But before delving…
Good news! The VW van is actually coming back, and it looks like this visual blast from the past design might also be one of the most practical competitors in the all-electric space. But before delving into the details, some history.
The original 1949–2013 Volkswagen Van, as it was simply called in our market (specifically the old-school version with the rounded edges, otherwise known as the T1 and T2), was also dubbed the Kombi in Brazil, where it was produced from 1957 until finally being put to rest in 2013. Additionally, it was called the Bulli at home in Germany, where it ruled the family roost until the larger, squarer Vanagon (T3) arrived in 1979, and has been on the comeback trail at least as long as this journalist has been covering the automotive sector.
The Transporter wasn’t just a Jason Statham movie franchise
Before too much confusion transpires, Volkswagen didn’t stop building its T (Transporter) series of vans when the T3 departed. After that incredibly accommodating model enjoyed a reasonably popular run as a family conveyance here in North America, it was replaced by the front-engine, water-cooled T4 in 1990, which also graced our roads with the Eurovan nameplate. After a fairly long stint on our side of the Atlantic, VW Canada discontinued the Eurovan in place of the embarrassingly rebadged Dodge Caravan dubbed Routan (2009–2014) that the automaker probably hopes we’ll forever forget (sorry, VW).
No doubt, many T series-faithful, that never accepted DaimlerChrysler’s watered-down facsimile of the real deal, would love to get their hands on the all-new 2022 Multivan T7 that debuted last June, but we most likely won’t see that sizeable model unless Volkswagen decides to enter something larger in our commercial sector (can you imagine how the RV aftermarket would go wild with this near full-size family hauler?).
VW microbus has been the comeback kid for decades
Back to the comeback, a very enticing Microbus concept debuted in 2001, causing everyone already in love with the New Beetle to salivate over the possibility of a much more accommodating retro alternative, but alas it never materialized. A decade later the 2011 Bulli electric concept arrived to less fanfare. It probably would’ve hit the EV market too soon to have had any serious sales success if produced anyway, although the all-electric BUDD-e van that showed up in 2016 might’ve found more traction. None of that matters now that the ID. Buzz, introduced last month, has been slated for production this year as a 2023 model, in Europe at least.
The ID. Buzz looks more like that 2001 Microbus than any concept since, although it houses front lighting elements similar to those found on the current all-electric ID.4 compact SUV, even including a thin LED light strip that connects the two headlamps. The taillight cluster is one single unit too, but the circular “VW” badge isn’t integrated within the centre reflector strip on the Buzz like with the 4, instead positioned on its own just below in traditional microvan fashion.
Only one 201 hp rear-drive version has been shown so far
This said, the ID. Buzz we’re looking at is a European version, so our variant may see some slight changes. The 82 kWh (net) base battery pack, which doesn’t use cobalt, and the entry-level power unit shouldn’t change, however, as its 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque should be enough for budget-conscious families, although it’s possible VW will leave this powertrain in Europe where an EV’s ability to travel long distances isn’t quite as critical. On that note, VW hasn’t announced any range estimates for this new power unit, only saying it’ll propel the ID. Buzz up to an electronically limited top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph). Fortunately, Volkswagen promises powertrain upgrades for both markets, which will likely include all-wheel drive. That model should be popular here, so stay tuned.
As for underpinnings, the ID. Buzz utilizes the same MEB platform architecture as the ID.4. In its Buzz application, it will be offered with two wheelbases, the longer for a seven-seat option, although VW only shared wheelbase measurements of the standard model that spans 2,988 mm (117.6 in). This makes the Buzz’ shortest wheelbase a significant 223 mm (8.8 in) longer than the ID.4’s wheelbase, while the new van stretches 4,712 mm (185.5 in) from nose to tail no matter which wheelbase is chosen, which is 128 mm (5.0 in) greater than VW’s crossover EV.
ID. Buzz Cargo van might make an ideal camper
Additionally, both ID. Buzz body styles measure 1,985 mm (78.1 in) wide without the side mirrors, while the new van is also 1,937 mm (76.3 in) tall. Of note, just like T series vans, an ID. Buzz Cargo van will be offered as well. It will be fractionally taller at 1,938 mm, thanks to a heavier duty chassis.
Volkswagen claims up to 1,121 litres (39.5 cu ft) of cargo capacity behind the rear seats of the two-row version, or 3,900 litres (137.7 cu ft) behind the first row with the passenger van’s rear seats removed, or you’re filling up the cargo van. The latter, incidentally, gets a front bench seat for up to three abreast, just like the original.
Could a modern-day VW “Westfalia” be in the cards? We can only hope. The ability to tread softly into the woods or desert with AWD via an all-electric powertrain is tantalizing, although we’d recommend a potent solar charging unit on top.
ID. Buzz interior looks positively appetizing
Inside, the ID. Buzz cargo van is more business-like, with mostly muted grey tones other than the very colourful and large digital displays (the standard digital cockpit measures 10 inches diagonally, while the centre-mounted infotainment system is 10 inches in base trim and up to 12 inches, with navigation, optionally), whereas the passenger van carries the exterior’s “organically based” colour scheme into the cabin.
Yummy looking lemony Lime Yellow and downright festive Energetic Orange interiors were chosen for the press photos, with both looked totally “fab” thanks in part to all the cream-coloured surfaces surrounding the body-colour dash and door trim. Bay Leaf Green and Candy White (the only non-metallic base colour) are on the “menu” too, as are Mono Silver and Starlight Blue (also available in two-tone) amongst metallics, plus Deep Black featuring a pearl effect.
The colourful door panels continue rearward to the side-sliders, while the seat upholstery is shown in a cream recycled leatherette, in the yellow model, and burnt orange cloth made from reclaimed and recycled plastics in the orange model.
Gear selection in the original vans was done from a classic stick on the floor, but the new model utilizes a column shifter in order to free up space on the modular centre console. In the ID. Buzz’ press release, VW expends a lot of ink describing the various USB ports and cupholders, which are aplenty due to its family orientation, but safety is a key selling point in this sector as well.
Safety and convenience are key in the family class
To that end, VW promises all the usual driver assist and safety systems, of course, including an updated version of the brand’s Travel Assist, now featuring automated lane changes at highway speed, plus the ability to manage autonomous driving on country roads without centre markings.
Both ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo models will be built by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover, German, with production on target to start during the first half of 2022, advanced sales taking place in May, and European deliveries beginning in the third quarter of this year. The North American debut of the long-wheelbase Buzz will occur sometime next year, with sales following in 2024. The long-wheelbase van will also be offered in Europe, but so far VW has said nothing about offering the regular-wheelbase, five- (and also six-) person model here.
Now, check out the World Premiere of the ID. Buzz, with actor Ewan McGregor sharing his love of the Beetle and impressions of the new ID. Buzz:
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Volkswagen
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s…
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.
Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.
With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.
Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.
Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.
This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.
The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.
Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V
Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.
This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.
Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.
Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.
The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.
The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.
Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment
With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.
Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.
Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.
At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.
The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.
Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn
With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.
Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.
This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.
Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020
While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.
The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.
Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.
The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.
For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.
And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.
All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.
Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.
Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains
The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).
The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the Hyundai–Kia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.
Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do…
Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do a double take. It’s attractive in an inoffensive way, the new grille a bit more daring than the previous model’s horizontal slats, but compared to the initial artist’s renderings that came out ahead of the real deal in 2017, and photos that followed, it comes across a bit watered down in the metal. The new Jetta GLI, however, is a different story. In fact, I find this car quite attractive, and I’m willing to guess it might even pull eyeballs toward less expensive trims.
As with all GLI models thus far, the Jetta’s chrome exterior detailing has been blacked out and splashes of red added across the grille and uniquely around the outer edges of the wheels that frame big red brake calipers, plus of course the discreet GLI badges front and back, while now it now gets a set of thin, blade-like garnishes on each front fender that also feature a “35” designation as part of this 35th anniversary edition. Those otherwise grey-painted twinned-five-spoke 18-inch wheels were shod in 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires, not the even sportier 19s found on a Golf R, but they were still sticky enough when pushed hard.
Before delving into performance, other notable GLI trim pieces include a strip of glossy black edging along the top portion of the grille, plus more shiny black detailing around the lower fascia’s corner vent bezels, overtop the mirror caps, on the front portion of the roof as well as the rear third section, connecting the larger sunroof panel in the middle so it all looked like one clean sheet of dark glass, and lastly for the tastefully discreet rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a really attractive car from front to back, and more importantly for me, the type of compact sport model that a mature driver doesn’t feel out of place driving.
Inside, nicely bolstered, inherently comfortable perforated leather seats with red stitching and nicely patterned inserts simultaneously look sporty and luxurious, and therefore exactly what Volkswagen fans should expect, while the steering wheel is performance perfection. It features a slightly flat bottom and ideally shaped thumb spats, plus red baseball-style stitching around the inside of the leather-wrapped rim. Volkswagen continues the car’s red performance theme with more red thread on the leather shifter boot, the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the “GLI 35” seat tags, plus the same logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless steel treadplates.
Of course, there’s plenty of satin-silver aluminum around the cabin too, the aforementioned steering wheel featuring more than its share, foot pedals aside, plus plenty on the centre stack and lower console as well. Some faux carbon-fibre trim and inky piano black surfacing adorns the dash and upper door panels, the former completely soft to the touch thanks to a premium-level rubberized composite along the entire top and ahead of the front passenger, with the latter finished similarly to the front door uppers, as are the door inserts and armrests.
All of this sounds great, but I’m going to guess most eyes will be pulled more quickly towards the fully digital gauge cluster, which boasts an Audi-like Virtual Cockpit design dubbed Digital Cockpit in VW-speak. Like in the pricier German brand’s cars, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit features a “VIEW” button on the steering wheel that turns the gauge package into a multi-function display, even capable of placing the centre-mounted infotainment system’s navigation map directly in front of the driver where it’s most needed. It can do the same with most functions, making it one of the most impressive electronic features available in the mainstream volume-branded sector.
The just-noted centre display is a large eight-inch touchscreen featuring premium-like high-definition resolution, plus brilliant graphics with rich colours and contrasts, and like the gauge cluster it comes loaded with functions like tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe features, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link for integrating your smartphone, audio, navigation, app, driving mode and fuel-saving eco interfaces, plus a performance driving component with a lap timer and more.
I was surprised, however, that active guidelines weren’t included as part of the rear parking monitor, especially in this top-tier trim, and my tester even included the $995 ($1,005 for 2020) optional Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) package featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This bundle also includes Light Assist automatic high beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the Lane Assist lane keeping system.
Just below is a three-dial dual-zone automatic climate control interface that looks good, is easy to use and functions well, plus along with three-way heatable front seats that can be controlled from this panel as well, are three-way ventilated cushions for making summer months more bearable. Just one powered and infotainment-connected USB-A port hangs above a rubber-based wireless device charger, which is big enough for the largest of smartphones, all of which tucks in behind the gearlever and its U-shaped collection of switches, including an electromechanical parking brake, buttons for turning off the traction control and auto stop/start system, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.
Just above, a sunglass holder sits in the overhead console, the latter also housing switchgear to open the large powered moonroof that includes an attractive opaque fabric sunscreen with an aluminum front section that looks especially upscale.
This said the GLI, which at $32,445 for the manual-shift model or $33,845 for this DSG-equipped version, doesn’t exactly come cheap, so much is expected as far as fit, finish, materials quality and general refinement goes, but if you were to spend some time in any Golf GTI, for instance, and then decide you needed a trunk instead of a hatch to mitigate security risks, per se, you just might be disappointed. To be clear, the entry-level Golf GTI starts at $30,845, which is $850 less than the $31,695 base Jetta GLI, but the Mexican-built hatch pulls the fabric-wrapped A pillars already standard in less expensive Golfs up to the sportier variant, unlike the any Jetta, which are built alongside the Golf at VW’s Puebla, Mexico assembly plant as well, while all the plastic below the waist, and some of the chest-height surfaces are pretty basic hard composites.
Yes, I know the Jetta is a compact model, but now that competitors from Japan and Korea are delivering much higher materials quality, particularly top-line versions of the new Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and even Kia’s Forte that I drove just before this GLI, and factoring in that VW used to offer the most premium-like cabins in the mainstream volume-branded sector, this Jetta GLI was a bit of letdown. The new Forte comes in a sporty GT trim now, by the way, which competes directly with this GLI, yet unlike its rival from VW, the Kia’s inside rear door panels are finished with the same high-quality soft-touch detailing as those up front, while the German brand didn’t even bother including a padded insert at all, and instead formed its door panel solely from hard plastic, making its rear compartment one of the least appealing to look at or touch in this class or any.
Heatable outboard seats were a nice feature, but the interface surrounding the buttons used to turn them on was as low-rent as you’re likely to see in this segment. The seats themselves were nice, thanks to the same red-stitched perforated leather as those up front, and nicely carved out bucket-style outer positions that should hold rear passengers in place during spirited driving. A fairly large flip-down rear armrest gets a pair of cupholders integrated within (or is that a trio?), but unlike previous Jettas there’s no centre pass-through for stowing skis or other long cargo. Instead, when needing to expand on the dedicated cargo area’s already generous 510 litres, the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks will force one of the rear passengers into the less comfortable centre position. This is mostly par for the course in this class, however, it’s just that VW stood out before, and still does when opting for a Golf.
Volkswagen more than makes up for such shortcomings with the GLI’s on-road experience, however, this sport sedan being one of, if not the most engaging entry within its mainstream volume compact four-door segment. The 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out plenty of torque at 258 lb-ft (up 18 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque over its predecessor), resulting in some difficulty keeping the front wheels from spinning during spirited takeoff (if it was only available, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive would help in this respect), while the new seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox feels even quicker through the paddle-actuated gears than the old six-speed DSG, albeit with the added benefit of a taller final gear for improved fuel economy (9.3 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.4 combined for the as-tested auto or 9.6, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively for the manual) and (theoretically) a higher top speed.
Ripping off zero to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds it’s one quick Jetta, while Sport mode really adds to the experience. It’s nothing like the Golf R or equivalent super sport compacts such as Subie’s WRX STI or (RIP) Mitsu’s EVO, but it respectably puts otherwise sporty alternatives like Mazda’s 3 GT to shame in a straight line, and even makes the once-mighty Civic Si seem as if it’s dawdling off the line. Wheel slip during takeoff aside, the Jetta GLI proved unflappable through high-speed corners, even when broken tarmac threatened to upset the rear end, but thanks to a fully independent suspension with a multilink setup in the rear, a move up from the regular Jetta’s comparatively remedial torsion-beam rear suspension. Instead, the inside rear suspension absorbed the jarring pothole and ensuing thump with ease, allowing the tire’s sizeable contact patch to maintain full traction and hook up as I exited the corner. Try that in a regular Jetta and things might get very out of shape, not to mention the Mazda3 I noter earlier (although I must say the Japanese compact manages such situations surprisingly well and combines AWD with its own G-Vectoring Plus to make up for some of its torsion-beam shortcomings).
This said, back more pedestrian speeds (or rather while stopped during parking manoeuvres), I experienced something that’s never happened to me before. When I came to a stop to park the auto start/stop system automatically cut off the engine, which is not unusual in itself, but when I quickly decided to reverse so as not to be park too close to the car in front of me the engine wouldn’t restart when in reverse. I had to shift it back into “P” and then dab the throttle in order to reignite the engine, at which point I could shift back into reverse to back up. Very strange. It worked perfectly through the rest of the week, mind you, as did the entire car.
The aforementioned $32,445 (manual) and $33,845 (DSG) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with features not yet mentioned including fog lights, LED headlamps, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a formidable eight-speaker BeatsAudio system with a sub, a powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar and three-position memory, plus more. This feature set and all previously noted equipment remains intact for 2020, by the way, so therefore those that find a new 2019 are basically buying the same car for less.
This in mind, take note that VW Canada is offering up to $3,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models that were still available at the time of writing, while the new 2020 GLI, which as just-noted is unchanged other than for the loss of this 35th Edition (for obvious reasons), can be had with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, although average CarCostCanada (where the following information was found) member savings were $2,500 for the 2020. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 and 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices pages to learn about available manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing specials, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you even more, plus make sure download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes store.
Although the latest Jetta doesn’t exactly light my fire in lesser trims, this new Jetta GLI is a step ahead in many respects, particularly when it comes to styling, straight-line performance and interior electronics. I’d like to see VW improve some of the materials used inside for a more refined cabin, but this probably won’t bother you too much while driving anyway, unless you’re trying to impress someone riding in back. Then again, at least your father-in-law will appreciate the comfort of the GLI’s independent rear suspension, excellent seats and decent legroom while he’s complaining about all the cheap plastic.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay
Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly…
Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly shows an elongated wagon-like body style similar in concept to Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo (see a full road test review of all Panamera models here).
While exciting news for five-door sport wagon fans in Europe, take note the new Arteon Shooting Brake, as it’s called, won’t be available in North American markets. Instead, Canada and the U.S. will only get the refreshed first-generation Arteon in its four-door fastback body style, which means the German automaker will have less opportunity to pull this model up from its sales doldrums.
Yes, as attractive as today’s Arteon is, the sleek sport sedan has been relegated to niche status in Canada. Sales during calendar year 2019 totalled just 456 units (although deliveries started partway through the year in March), which left it dead last in the volume-branded mainstream mid-size sedan segment. The Passat, its more conventional and much less expensive four-door sedan stable mate, finished one step ahead with 672 examples sold, and take note this happened well before 2020’s tumultuous health, economic and social woes shook up the market.
This last point in mind, over the first three months of 2020 (all that’s been reported so far, and mostly before we were hit by hard times) the Arteon’s numbers were even worse with just 81 Canadian buyers (which if extrapolated over four quarters would equal 324 sales), although the new 2020 Passat found 523 new owners during the first three months of the year (theoretically equaling 2,092 unit sales over four quarters), a clear sign that Canadians like the new 2020 model’s ground up redesign.
At first glance, the Passat’s positive initial 2020 sales results could bode well for the upcoming Arteon mid-cycle makeover, health, social and especially economic issues aside, but the current 2020 Arteon is already a stunner, and while the artist’s rendering appears longer, lower and wider with much larger wheels, typical of such cartoonish drawings, if one were to squeeze it back into reality the update should actually look much like the current car other than a slightly modified grille and lower front fascia, plus similarly mild modifications most likely applied to the rear.
The Arteon’s interior is currently the best Volkswagen has on offer, and while we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes, VW is promising to integrate its latest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for faster application processing, improved connectivity, greater overall functionality, and better entertainment.
Volkswagen will also introduce more intelligent assist systems, such as “Travel Assist” semi-autonomous or “highly assisted driving.” Like other hands-on-the-wheel self-correcting driver assist systems currently offered by other manufacturers, Travel Assist has been designed specifically for long-distance highway use, with the Arteon capable of “steering, acceleration and braking up to speeds of 130 mph [210 km/h],” said Volkswagen in a press release, albeit “under the control of the driver.”
All of this could push the cost of the already pricey Arteon higher, however, the current version of this low-slung sport sedan hitting the road just a hair’s breadth under $50k ($49,960 plus fees to be exact), which is without doubt a key reason its sales are slow.
Kia’s Stinger, the only other four-door coupe in the mainstream volume-branded mid-size sedan segment, found 1,569 Canadian buyers last year, however, while walking away with 2019 Canadian Car of the Year honours, but this similarly sleek alternative is a considerable $5,000 less expensive and comes equipped with stronger base and optional performance as well as more features.
Right now it’s possible to lower a new 2019 Arteon’s base price to match the Stinger’s window sticker, mind you, with up to $5,000 in additional incentives available from Volkswagen, while the German automaker is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent for the 2020 Arteon. Not to be outdone, Kia is offering the same $5,000 in additional incentives on any 2019 Stingers still in stock or up to $4,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Stinger, so take you pick. Learn more about these deals as well as available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to source dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada. Also, make sure to download the new free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.
More detailed information about the 2021 Arteon, and the Euro-market Arteon Shooting Brake, will follow the upcoming world première later this month.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Volkswagen
News flash! Volkswagen has a lot of 2019s still available, including the fabulous Golf Alltrack. Okay, I let the cat out of the proverbial bag and now without having to read any further you know how I…
News flash! Volkswagen has a lot of 2019s still available, including the fabulous Golf Alltrack.
Okay, I let the cat out of the proverbial bag and now without having to read any further you know how I feel about this impressive little crossover wagon. This said you may also now realize how disappointed I am that it was discontinued last year, with the remaining 2019s all that’s left of new inventory.
In case you’re wondering how much you can currently save on this fashionable European, CarCostCanada is reporting up to $1,500 in additional incentives, but I’m guessing you can get more off than that. Sign up for a CarCostCanada membership and you can access the 2019 Golf Alltrack’s dealer invoice price, so when you call the dealership or go online to negotiate (I wouldn’t recommend showing up at the dealership right now), you’ll know exactly how much they paid VW for it, plus you’ll know about any manufacturer rebates and financing/lease rates currently available. I seriously don’t understand why someone would consider buying a new car without first arming themselves with this treasure trove of knowledge.
The Golf Alltrack is a car I’d consider owning, because it suits my personal taste and lifestyle to a tee. I find it great looking, even more so than the Golf SportWagen it’s based upon, which is also cancelled for 2020, the Alltrack’s raised height and tastefully beefy body cladding working perfectly with its long, chiseled fuselage, while all of its aluminum-like detailing, including the side mirror caps, make it look downright rich.
Like with all Golf models, the Alltrack’s most impressive attribute is its interior. Premium-like details abound, such as fabric-wrapped A-pillars, a soft-touch dash top that extends down to the midpoint of the instrument panel, the same pliable composite used for the front door uppers, an impeccably detailed leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with fabulously thin spokes filled with high-quality switchgear, cool grey carbon fibre-style dash and door inlays, glossy piano black surfacing in key areas, and a tasteful assortment of satin-finish aluminum accents throughout.
The Alltrack’s monochromatic multi-information display (MID), which sits between the otherwise highly-legible primary instrument cluster, wasn’t up to standards when I last tested this car in 2017 and still isn’t. This is particularly true from a manufacturer that offers a wholly impressive full digital display in some of its other models, while most of its compact rivals provide high-resolution full-colour TFT MIDs loaded with features.
On the positive, my as-tested top-tier Alltrack Execline’s infotainment system was superb, this model and the base Highline trim replacing the old outdated 6.5-inch centre touchscreen with a state-of-the-art 8.0-inch display this year, once again filled with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink smartphone integration, and a nice clear backup camera (albeit without active guidelines), while exclusive to the Execline is nicely detailed navigation mapping with very accurate GPS guidance. Additional infotainment features include voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, the latter controlled via an easy-to-use audio interface connecting through to a standard six-speaker audio system with satellite radio in the base Highline trim, albeit a much more expressive nine-speaker Fender system in the Execline, while additional digital panels provide access to apps, car system functions, etcetera. The display even uses proximity-sensing technology that pops hidden digital buttons up from its base when your fingers get near.
Now that I’ve mentioned changes from the previous 2017 model I tested and this 2019, I should also give you a bit of history and fill you in on some additional updates made along the way. The Golf Alltrack actually came into existence for the 2017 model year, and surprisingly was updated for 2018 with new LED signature lights inside its base halogen and optional LED headlamps (depending on trim), redesigned LED taillights with their own signature look, plus other subtle changes to the front and rear fascias.
This 2019 model carried over everything from 2018, including the updated transmission choices that now consist of a base six-speed manual (VW’s six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with manual mode was standard initially) as well as paddle-shifters for the now optional six-speed DSG auto in Execline trim, so therefore it’s now more engaging to drive in most trims (the Highline DSG forgoes the paddles).
The 2018 model received two new colours as well, growing from seven in 2017 to nine the following year, all of which are available in both trim levels for 2019. The test model featured on this page wears one of those new colours, Peacock Green Metallic, while White Silver Metallic will likely be the more popular choice considering most everyone’s love affair with white and VW’s traditional allegiance to its Germanic silver heritage racing livery. Inside, no-cost optional Shetland beige offsets the green nicely, while Titan Black is standard.
To clarify, the previously single-trimmed model now has two trims, Highline and Execline, the former starting at $31,200 (plus freight and fees) with its manual or $1,400 more for the DSG automatic, while my tester’s Execline trim can be had for $35,270 with the manual or $36,670 as-tested, less the aforementioned incentives and any other discounts you can negotiate after learning about its dealer invoice price from CarCostCanada.
The Execline includes one-inch larger 18-inch alloys on 225/40 all-seasons as standard equipment, plus standard LED headlights with active cornering, paddle shifters with the automatic transmission, navigation, an SD card slot, the aforementioned Fender audio system with a subwoofer (which produces great sound for the class), front sport seats, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar (that’s superb, by the way, with excellent side bolstering), and leather upholstery.
VW also added its only optional upgrade with my tester, a $1,750 Driver Assistance Plus package that includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic assist, lane assist, automatic high beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, plus park assist with park distance control.
Features pulled up to Execline trim from the base Highline include standard 4Motion all-wheel drive, automatic on/off headlights with coming and leaving functions, fog lamps, silver finished side mirror caps, silver roof rails, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, power windows, the aforementioned leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, simulated carbon fibre decorative inlays, brushed stainless steel foot pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, a USB port, three-way heatable front seats, a two-way powered front passenger seat (it’s eight-way manually adjustable), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, LED reading lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, a large powered panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade made from an opaque fabric, a scrolling rear cargo cover, 12- and 115-volt charging outlets in the cargo area, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through, and the list goes on and on, although considering its mid-‘30k price point a heated steering and heated rear seats would be nice.
Mechanically, the Alltrack is identical to previous model years, utilizing Volkswagen’s well-proven turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. It provides strong, smooth, linear power resulting in reasonably quick takeoff and good highway passing power for this fairly light, relatively compact car, and while the all-wheel drive system doesn’t offer a low gearing range or even a locking differential, it’s excellent on rain-soaked roads, packed snow, and can even manage some lighter duty off-road situations.
Transport Canada rates the Alltrack’s fuel economy at 11.1 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.6 combined for the manual, and 10.7, 8.0 and 9.4 respectively for the automatic, so it’s pretty good as far as compact crossover utilities go.
The entire car rides on Volkswagen’s usual front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, which means that its ride is very good and handling even better, this even despite a one-inch higher centre of gravity over its Golf SportWagen donor car. The ride-height lift comes from exclusive springs and shocks, while the power steering is speed-sensitive to improve feel, and it’s nicely weighted with good response and reasonably good connectivity to the road, unusual for this class, while the vented front and solid rear brake discs provide good stopping power thanks to 286 and 272 mm diameters respectively.
All of these attributes could be applied to the regular Golf hatchback too, but the big difference with the Alltrack or its just-noted SportWagen sibling when compared to shorter wheelbase VW alternatives is cargo space, with the two elongated models getting 368 additional litres (13.0 cubic feet) of volume behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 362 (12.8 cu ft) more when they’re folded flat, the larger car’s cargo capacity measuring 861 and 1,883 litres (30.4 and 66.5 cu ft) respectively.
Just like the regular Golf, the rear centre pass-through provides useful storage for longer cargo such as skis, allowing two rear passengers to enjoy the more comfortable window seats. I also like that Volkswagen includes levers on the side of the cargo walls for dropping the seats, and they fully fold down automatically. Another positive is the quality of the cargo cover, which is by far the best in this class. It’s a solid chunk of metal mated to high quality plastic the clicks into place like a precision instrument, and it weighs a fair bit when pulling it out too.
Volkswagen includes a shallow area under the load floor along with a space saver spare tire. There’s no powered rear hatch to make access easier when hands are full, but it was never an issue during my weeklong test. The roof rack on top is also useful too, providing you get the necessary add-ons to make the most of it. And speaking of loads, the Alltrack receives 14 additional kilograms (31 lbs) of payload capacity to go along with the added space over the regular Golf, resulting in a 459-kg (1,012-lb) maximum.
In case you’re wondering how it stacks up against VW’s Tiguan, the Golf Alltrack is just 73 litres (2.6 cu ft) smaller behind its rear row and actually 23 litres (0.8 litres) roomier when its rear seatbacks are laid flat, so it’s a good compact SUV alternative if you’d rather be closer to the ground to experience more traditional road car handling.
On that note I prefer driving this Golf Alltrack when compared to the new Tiguan, and find its interior more refined as well, but of course I’m well aware my personal taste doesn’t always flow in the mainstream, something made obvious by this model being discontinued while the Tiguan is becoming VW’s shining star.
Tiguan sales were up 42.7 percent in calendar year 2018 to 21,449 units in Canada, but its upward surge still wasn’t enough to upstage the Golf that beat it by 28 deliveries. This said Volkswagen needs six different Golf models to achieve that number, including the regular Golf hatchback, Golf GTI, Golf R, e-Golf, Golf SportWagen, and this Golf Alltrack. Last year saw the Tiguan lose 10.2 percent to 19,250 units from its previous high, while the Golf only lost 8.4 percent to 19,668 units in 2019. Now with the Golf Alltrack and SportWagen gone from the lineup, the Tiguan has an opportunity to overtake the Golf, although the current realities of COVID-19 mean that 2020 will be far from a banner year.
Just the same, if the Golf Alltrack sounds like your idea of the perfect car/SUV compromise, I recommend first doing some research at CarCostCanada for any manufacturer rebates, financing/leasing deals, and of course dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, and then contacting your dealer via phone or online. Most retailers are providing home road tests of fully sanitized cars these days, so as long as you’ve prepared ahead of time, you’ll get the best deal possible. As for the Golf Alltrack, I’m quite certain you’ll love it.
Photos by Trevor Hofmann
I love it when an automaker makes my job easy. For 2019, which has actually been a stopgap model year for Volkswagen’s Passat before the current version gives way to the second-generation of this special…
I love it when an automaker makes my job easy. For 2019, which has actually been a stopgap model year for Volkswagen’s Passat before the current version gives way to the second-generation of this special North American-built car, it only comes in one fully loaded Wolfsburg Edition trim line, which certainly reduces my need for research. Now I can focus more on the fun stuff, like styling, interior design and quality, how comfortable it is, what it’s like to drive, and so on.
It’s been around since 1972 in some form or another, arriving to North American markets a year later. Named Passat in Europe since inception, the initial Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Audi-esque four-door fastback and wagon were dubbed Dasher here, and then Quantum for its similarly four-ring inspired second generation. The B3 finally took on the Passat nameplate, but as much as I liked that car, especially in 2.8-litre VR6 form, and the B4 that followed, the 270 horsepower 4.0-litre W8-motivated B5 with all-wheel drive was my personal favourite, and amongst the first Passats I got to know as a fledgling automotive scribe back in the early aughts.
That’s when VW rivalled Audi for performance and interior refinement, the unabashedly bold Phaeton luxury sedan showing up the following year with 335-horsepower V8 and 420-horsepower W12 powerplants plus $96,500 and $126,790 base prices respectively, and soon after that the 309-horsepower Touareg V10 TDI delivering a mind-blowing (for the time) 553 lb-ft of torque. Back then Volkswagen came closer to premium status than any other mainstream volume brand, and while today’s VW-badged vehicles still provide some upscale features not often offered amongst rivals, such as minimalist design, fabric-wrapped roof pillars (but only the A-pillars now), fully digital high-definition primary instrument clusters, and rear seat centre pass-throughs (or even better 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks), soft-touch surfaces are unfortunately less common, plus key switchgear is often hollow and cheap feeling, and chassis’ aren’t always fully independent (the new Jetta once again uses a torsion beam rear suspension, unlike the mostly IRS-equipped cars it competes against).
It certainly looks nice in this lovely Tourmaline Blue Metallic paint, one of six standard exterior colours available this year, including the usual white, black, grey and silver shades plus gorgeous Fortana Red Metallic, while the sportier R-Line exterior trim package comes standard this year, as do auto on/off LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and a stylish set of silver-painted twin-five-spoke 19-inch Salvador alloy rims wrapped in 235/40 all-season tires, and that’s just what we can see on the outside.
It looks downright rich inside, thanks to my tester’s beautiful cream-like Cornsilk Beige cabin motif (the interior comes in black and grey too, depending on exterior colours), with the dash top, door uppers and carpets done out in black for contrast. The horizontally ribbed leather seats look completely high-end, while splashes of textured metal, brushed aluminum and chrome are tastefully applied, as is de rigueur piano black lacquered plastic surface treatments on the superbly crafted steering wheel’s spokes, on the centre stack surrounding the infotainment and HVAC interfaces (albeit the latter not quite as impressive due to loose, wiggly knobs), continuing down to the lower console, and glitzing up the rear seating area vent panel on the backside of the front console, which also houses a USB-A charge port and three-way rear outboard seat warming buttons.
Heatable rear seats and all of the high-end features already mentioned in a $32,995 mid-size sedan? That’s right, it’s a pretty decent deal made even better thanks to a $2,000 no-questions-asked discount right off the top, which is an end of the model year, goodbye, so-long, don’t let the door hit you on your way out kind of send-off to a model that’s served its purposes relatively well over the past nine or so years. You can learn all about this rebate and any other available savings by visiting CarCostCanada, and while you’re there make sure to read up on dealer invoice pricing that makes it easier than ever to get the best deal possible.
Additional standard features include proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters, a colour multi-information display with a trip computer, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, brushed stainless steel pedals, rain-sensing wipers, heated washer nozzles, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a powered glass sunroof, front sport seats, three-way heatable front seats to go along with those in back, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, LED reading lights in the front and rear, an Easy Open trunk lid, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre armrest and pass-through down the middle, and much more.
A smallish albeit proximity-sensing (yes, a row of digital controls pops up when your hand gets near) 6.33-inch centre touchscreen provides quick response times and clean, simple, high-resolution (albeit unimaginative) graphics, plus the usual tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls that work ideally with the standard navigation system’s map, while additional infotainment features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration, plus Bluetooth, voice control, an SD card slot, and a pretty poor rearview camera image with the top portion of the display actually cut off by what seems like an hallucinogenic psilocybin-induced semicircle that might be more distracting than helpful, plus there aren’t any dynamic guidelines let alone an overhead 360-degree view.
The Fender premium audio system was fairly good, and included six speakers and a subwoofer, plus satellite radio, a CD player, USB audio input/charging (but only one in this big car), and more. While the Passat’s infotainment system has most of the right ingredients, swapping my keys for a new 2020 GTI at the end of the week made its much larger touchscreen an obvious improvement, its incredible resolution, plus its superior depth of contrast and colour, having me looking forward to the new 2020 Passat’s system.
A lid at the base of the centre stack lifts to expose a rubber tray for storing your personal device, but it wasn’t large enough for my average-sized smartphone, so I suppose I was happy no wireless charging pad was connected to it either. Instead, the aforementioned USB and an aux port sit beside a 12-volt charger, while the row of switches next to the shift lever just behind included a button for front and rear parking sensors and another for the semi-autonomous self parking system, plus four dummy buttons that made me feel like this particular model was missing a lot of equipment. For instance, there was no heated steering wheel, a shame considering how impressive the flat-bottom leather-wrapped rim and its array of high-quality switchgear was, plus the leather front seats weren’t ventilated.
Then again, the Passat’s list of standard safety features is impressive, with autonomous emergency braking, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, driver assistance, park distance control and park assist leaving little to be desired, but it’s the way all of these systems worked that I liked more. Sometimes advanced driver assistive systems can be overly sensitive, engaging too early or misreading a given situation and then reacting when they shouldn’t, all of which could potentially cause a driver to turn them off, but after hardly noticing they were there during my weeklong drive, the Passat’s lane keeping assist system kept me locked next to the white lane when I tried veering off the highway without my turn signal on. While a bit annoying, I immediately became grateful that the system only came into play when needed, and it worked very well.
I noted earlier that Volkswagen’s interior materials quality isn’t quite as good as it used to be, but I’d best explain this in detail with respect to this Passat. It’s mostly on par with key rivals, although from a brand that previously was way above average when it comes to soft-touch padded surface treatments and other refinements, it’s now below average. This said the quality of pliable composites used on the dash top and door uppers is above par, but before sounding too positive, the lower dash and glove box lid, the sides of the centre stack, and the lower door panels are a lower than average grade of hard plastic. And there’s the rub. Some areas are finished so well that the Passat’s in a class of one, yet other details seem more suited to an entry-level subcompact.
The powertrain poses an equal dichotomy, in that it measures up to most competitors’ base engines, yet finds itself stuffed into the bay of a near-premium offering. It makes sense that VW chose the car’s more fuel-efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder as its sole offering instead of last year’s optional 3.6-litre V6, being that the latter engine wasn’t a popular upgrade, but in a market segment that often provides engine options with well over 200 horsepower the Passat’s 174 ponies and 184 lb-ft of torque aren’t exactly going to excite the masses, on paper at least.
In reality, all that torque arrives at just 1,500 rpm, so it feels a lot sportier off the line than the numbers suggest. The front wheels are fed power through a tried and tested six-speed automatic transmission, with the aforementioned paddle-shifters providing plenty of hands-on engagement, important because the mid-size four-door manages fast-paced curves a bit better than most family sedans. A fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup with stabilizer bars at both ends makes sure it grips tarmac decisively, but despite better than average handling its ride is still plenty compliant, providing a bit more firmness than most Japanese, Korean and domestic mid-size sedans, but never unpleasantly rough or jarring.
All this and it gets reasonably good fuel economy at 9.3 L/100km in the city, 6.5 on the highway and 8.1 combined, another reason VW opted for the four instead of the six. Add to this a near comprehensive four-year or 80,000 km warranty, and the Passat starts looking like a very intelligent buy.
Practical issues in mind, the Passat’s front seating area is sizeable enough for large occupants, and the driver’s seat is comfortable albeit slightly firmer than average. It gets fore and aft two-way lumbar support that just happened to meet the small of my back perfectly, while the lower cushion reached far enough forward to almost completely cup under my knees. Rear seat roominess is even more generous and dutifully comfortable in the outboard positions, while the trunk is larger than average at 450 litres (15.9 cubic feet), plus its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are made even more agreeable to passengers and long cargo by including the aforementioned pass-through right down the centre. This could be a dealmaker for skiers preferring to keep their boards securely locked inside when not strapped onto their boots.
As for whether the 2019 Passat Wolfsburg Edition’s many attributes cause it to be a dealmaker for you or not, you’ll never know unless you try one on for size. The fact so few are on the road compared to Camrys, Accords and literally every other mainstream mid-size sedan currently available (Volkswagen sold just 570 Passats YTD as of Q3 2019, compared to 11,579 Camrys and 9,089 Accords, with the only car in the class selling fewer units being VW’s own Arteon with just 288 deliveries so far this year), will set you completely apart from the crowd as you’re arriving in style, and some may even mistake it for something premium, like an Audi. I begrudgingly continue to like it, not because it’s particularly better than anything else, but more so because I’m a sucker for European-badged exclusivity and contrarily root for the underdog more often than not.
Here’s hoping the new 2020 Passat improves on this outgoing model’s weaknesses while keeping its many attributes, so it can truly be hoisted above all others the way its predecessors could. This said if VW chose cut corners in order to bring pricing down, and by so doing didn’t make the upcoming redesign more refined and premium-like inside than this passing generation, the Passat will unfortunately continue on as an also-ran, garnering very little interest and eventually disappearing from our continent. That would be a shame.
In case you were hoping the new seventh-generation 2019 Jetta would be doing direct battle with the $16,790 base Honda Civic, the identically priced Toyota Corolla, the $15,999 Hyundai Elantra, or any…
In case you were hoping the new seventh-generation 2019 Jetta would be doing direct battle with the $16,790 base Honda Civic, the identically priced Toyota Corolla, the $15,999 Hyundai Elantra, or any other sub-$17k compact sedan, think again. In fact, it won’t even undercut the $19,995 Subaru Impreza that comes standard with all-wheel drive. Instead, Volkswagen’s second-most affordable car will enter the Canadian market at $20,995, which represents a significant $4,600 bump up from the outgoing 2017 Jetta.
Of course, for that money you can expect more standard features than the older car as well as its peers. For starters the new 2019 Jetta won’t be available in base Trendline trim, so say goodbye to 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. Instead, all 2019 Jettas will receive alloy wheels starting at 16 inches, as well as auto on/off LED headlights with a coming and leaving home function, plus LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, an electromechanical parking brake, a multifunction trip computer, cruise control, a proximity-sensing infotainment display measuring 6.5 inches in base trim, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with audio streaming, an SD card slot, a USB input, four-speaker audio, a static backup camera, a front centre armrest with a storage tray, heated front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more.
As impressive as some of its base features are, some of the 2019 Jetta’s less expensive competitors are now coming standard with auto on/off LED headlights too, plus similarly large infotainment displays with backup cameras, etcetera, while even more impressive, some competitors are now being shipped with standard advanced driver assistance systems that cost extra with the Jetta. For instance, all Corolla trims include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with automatic steering assist, adaptive cruise control and LED headlights with automatic high beams.
While these features will be optional on the mid-range Jetta Highline, as will blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert that’s also available with most rivals, VW will step up its safety offering with a new class-exclusive automatic post-collision braking system designed to automatically apply the brakes after an impact, which would stop the vehicle even if the driver were incapacitated.
While much is new some things stay the same, starting with the Jetta’s sole 1.4-litre turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine. It puts out three fewer horsepower resulting in 147 instead of 150, plus an identical 184 lb-ft of torque, while it once again drives the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual gearbox, which no doubt to the delight of performance fans everywhere continues to be offered in all trim levels.
The available Tiptronic automatic transmission remains a very reasonable $1,400 option yet sports two more forward speeds for a total of eight, while it also boasts a new auto start/stop system that temporarily shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to save fuel and reduce emissions. The new Jetta will also come standard with an Eco mode to reduce fuel consumption even further, but unlike the outgoing Jetta no engine upgrade option is yet available.
Better news has the 2019 Jetta riding on Volkswagen’s more advanced Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform architecture, which currently underpins the award-winning Golf. This said the latest Jetta won’t be on the receiving end of the MQB platform’s most-lauded component, its fully independent rear suspension that unfortunately makes way for a cheaper torsion-beam setup. This may change for a future Jetta GLI, however, so VeeDub’s legions of performance fans will want to keep their collective fingers crossed, but then again Volkswagen has already lost many of these one-time loyalists to Civic Nation which has long offered an independent rear suspension in its least expensive base trim, let alone the mighty Civic Si and Type R variants. Hyundai offers an independent rear suspension in the Elantra Sport as well, as do some others in this class.
Just the same, the majority of Canada’s compact sedan buyers will find the new Jetta’s 32-millimetre (1.3-inch) longer wheelbase, now spanning 2,685 mm (105.7 inches), greater width, taller roofline and resultant increased interior room more appealing, while its shorter front and rear overhangs, combined with a more gradually sloping four-door coupe-like rear pillar, provide a sportier visual profile.
Still, while the new Jetta’s design is slightly sleeker and somewhat more shapely than the car it replaces, featuring a larger, bolder grille that integrates nicely into LED headlamps, its stately lines lean more toward the current model’s conservatism than the initial design sketches’ (see the gallery) low-slung drama, which puts it on a safe route that should help it appeal to the auto market’s large base of low-key consumers, while enjoying a longer shelf life than something more radical otherwise would, which may earn it a stronger resale value too.
Along with more space inside, Volkswagen promises a more upscale, premium-like passenger compartment, at least up front. More soft-touch synthetic surfaces will provide improved refinement, while the overall interior design has been modernized with the infotainment display more prominently mounted higher up on the instrument panel’s centre stack for easier access with less distraction away from the road ahead. What’s more, the top-tier Execline model includes a fully configurable colour TFT gauge cluster dubbed Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, similar to the Audi Virtual Cockpit.
Upper trims in mind, the mid-range Highline model starts at $24,095 and features standard proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, voice recognition, two additional audio speakers for a total of six, satellite radio, a larger powered panoramic sunroof, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
As noted earlier, Highline trim allows the addition of an optional $995 Driver Assistance Package with auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and lane keeping assist. Also available with Highline trim, the $1,700 R-Line Package adds 17-inch alloys, fog lamps with integrated cornering lights, special R-Line exterior design details including glossy black painted exterior mirrors, plus R-Line badging, remote start (with the automatic transmission only), 10-colour ambient cabin lighting, a black headliner, an R-Line steering wheel, a sport suspension, and Volkswagen’s Cross Differential System (XDS) that applies braking to the inside front wheel in mid-turn to enhance cornering capability.
The top-tier Jetta Execline, which starts at $27,695, makes the XDS system, 17-inch alloys, and ambient interior lighting standard, while upgrading the headlights to lens-type full LEDs featuring unique LED signature daytime running lights, chromed window surrounds, side mirrors with integrated turn signals and memory, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim and shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and memory, front seat ventilation, perforated leather upholstery, a 400-watt eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system, and more. The Jetta Execline is also available with the Driver Assistance Package.
Today’s outgoing Jetta has been steadily losing sales since its highpoint of 31,042 units in 2014, its 2017 sales of 17,483 units showing a decline of 43.7 percent over four years and a year-over-year downturn of 16.5 percent since 2016 alone. This is partially due to greater consumer interest in compact SUVs like Volkswagen’s Tiguan, but it can’t be overlooked that the aforementioned Civic and Corolla have gained market share over the same duration, as has the Kia Forte and Volkswagen’s own Golf.
Volkswagen is banking on this redesigned 2019 Jetta finding similar upward momentum to that stylish Golf, and likewise it’s hoping to pull from the Jetta’s 600,000-plus previous Canadian owners to achieve that. Still, with much higher than average base pricing, a deficit in standard advanced safety technology, and a low-rent rear suspension design it’s going to be an uphill battle.
And the winner of the 2017 Auto Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year award is (insert drumroll here)… the 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack! Well that one caught me by surprise,…
And the winner of the 2017 Auto Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year award is (insert drumroll here)… the 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack!
Well that one caught me by surprise, as did the selection of the 2017 Subaru Forester for the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. Not that these two compact crossovers aren’t worthy, but the Subie was merely a mid-cycle refresh, and a mild one at that, and the COTY winner was (as just stated) more of a crossover SUV than a car (or at least that’s how VW classifies it on their retail site).
Yes, I’m aware that it’s actually Golf SportWagen and therefore kind of qualifies, but it’s adequately raised and moderately pumped up on Var (Anavar or oxandrolone for those not familiar with one of the milder and therefore more popular anabolic steroids) thanks to plenty of matte black body cladding including a quad of flared fenders, slick looking aluminized front and rear undertrays and rocker moulding trim, a set of aluminum roof rails up top, plus some trick aluminum-finish mirror caps to each side, not that these have anything to do with SUVs. No matter how you slice it, VW was trying to turn its wagon into a compact crossover SUV and did such a good job they won AJAC’s Car of the Year title.
This wasn’t the first time a Volkswagen Golf won AJAC’s Car of the Year, the GTI deservedly taking top honours in 2010, but it’s the first time sport utilities won both the COTY and the CUVOTY. The rugged looking VeeDub first won the “Best New Large Car” title last fall, which is certainly a big title for a compact wagon, but hey. As long as automakers are bending categories to suit their current lineup of rolling stock, why not bend a few rules about what actually constitutes a “large car”.
Of course, I’m having a bit of fun with my esteemed auto journo colleagues (a number of which are highly intelligent, incredibly hard working, very dedicated, wholly professional, and damn nice… the others we won’t mention) and the results of what is no doubt a mind-numbingly complicated rating process that’s horribly challenging to organize and then vote upon, so I hope they don’t take offence. They were certainly right in choosing two great crossover SUVs as their topmost winners, this new 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack combining almost everything I’ve always loved about the Golf SportWagen with a certain cool factor that non-wagon lovers might say was missing.
Almost? Yah, it would’ve been better with if TDI were stamped on the back and the awesome 2.0-litre turbo-diesel still bolted into its engine bay. I know the dirty little devil isn’t exactly on good terms with the world right now, but those of us who love modern-day oil burners are lamenting their loss from VW’s lineup and most other Euro brands.
As it is this beefy little five-door gets VW’s still impressive gasoline-powered 1.8-litre direct-injection four-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty to propel its “large car” mass forward in lickety–split quickness no matter the slipperiness of tarmac or alternative road surface underneath, thanks in part to standard 4Motion all-wheel drive.
The AllTrack’s increased ground clearance combines with an “Off Road” driving mode that is claimed to optimize “traction on uneven surfaces,” says VW, so this week we’ll just have to find out firsthand. I can’t say its all-season rubber or 18-inch Canyon alloys fill me with rock-crawling confidence, but a little summer beach sand might be a fun in the absence of any knee-deep powder.
I think Volkswagen had the latter in mind when creating the Golf AllTrack, along with weekend jaunts to the cottage, weeklong road trips with a tiny Boler or Scamp in tow (I wonder if you can get one of those in Tornado Red?), or any other light duty use for strong torque and four-wheel traction.
I don’t have either so I’ll likely keep my upcoming road test comments to driving sans camp trailer, not to mention the usual laurels I laud on any Golf’s superb interior, which in this case includes VW’s excellent 6.5-inch proximity sensing, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink infused touchscreen infotainment system.
All Golf SportWagens benefit from an outrageously roomy interior, especially in the very back for cargo, not to mention a centre pass-through that makes the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks more flexible, so being that this new AllTrack is no different from the wagon in this respect it should work well for the heavy hauling I’ve scheduled.
I won’t go into too much detail about features, but suffice to say that exterior colours are your only options, with the base 2017 Golf AllTrack packed full of everything already mentioned as well as a six-speed automatic with manual mode, auto on/off headlamps with static cornering capability, fog lights, powered and heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, ambient LED interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, voice activation, two SD card slots, navigation, a rearview camera, satellite radio, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, a 12-way powered driver’s seat, heatable front seats, a really nice panoramic powered sunroof, variable cargo load floor, a 115-volt household-style power outlet in the cargo area, etcetera.
I’ll come back and report on how all this stuff works very soon…