Chevy has updated its Bolt EV plug-in electric car for 2022, and along with subtly reworked styling, a revised interior and more tech, the bowtie brand will add a second crossover-style variant dubbed EUV, to make the model appeal to more would-be buyers.
The Bolt EV is positioned within the subcompact hatchback segment, with a focus on practical four- to five-passenger capability and flexible cargo hauling utility, plus highly efficient, zero-emissions, battery-powered mobility. Despite all of this clean, green and easy-to-live-with pragmatism, today’s Bolt is actually a great deal more fun to drive than most would imagine before stepping inside, thanks to more than ample torque from its potent electric motor.
In an interesting move, the outgoing Bolt will lose its roof rails as the new EUV takes over the SUV-style family role, or at least the version shown in GM’s press photos shows a clean roof without any rooftop load carrying capability. The original Bolt not only included a set of roof rails, but also featured a slightly taller ride height and black body cladding around its lower extremities, all in crossover-like fashion. The new 2022 Bolt will carry forward with the latter conventions, while the EUV’s roof rails are more prominent and (at least in the trim level shown in photos) black, adding to its SUV-like presence.
What’s more, the new Bolt EUV adds length, width and height over the regular model, now measuring 161 mm (6.3 in) more from nose to tail, 5 mm (0.2 in) extra from side-to-side, with 10 mm (0.4 in) of additional track, plus 5 mm (0.2 in) add from the base of its tires to the top of its just-noted roof rack. Most importantly, its extended length results in 75 mm (3 in) of extra wheelbase, allowing the EUV to increase rear legroom by 78 mm (3.1 in), but strangely the larger model’s cargo volume decreases slightly, from 470 litres (15.6 cu ft) behind the rear seats and 1,614 litres (57.0 cu ft) when folded down, to a respective 462 and 1,611 litres (16.3 and 56.9 cu ft).
Odd yet again, despite the EUV increased height, its headroom drops by 0.2 mm (0.1 in) front to rear, plus it forgoes another 24 mm (0.9 in) in front when the optional glass sunroof is chosen. Second-row shoulder room is reduced slightly as well, but hip room grows by a similarly hair-like measurement yet shrinks a bit more in back, thus the upgrade to a larger EUV seems to only benefit rear passenger legroom, which was an issue that has reportedly caused complaints from first-generation Bolt owners. On the positive, the EUV’s curb weight only increases by 41 kg (90 lbs).
The extra poundage probably won’t be felt by EUV buyers, however, being that both Bolts will continue to zip along faster than anything else in their subcompact categories. This in mind, plus factoring in the regular Bolt’s exemplary 417 km (259 miles) range, caused no reason for Chevrolet to improve the power unit, although the same battery/motor setup in the EUV reduces range by about 15 km (9 miles) to 402 km (250 miles).
The powertrain in question is GM’s permanent magnetic electric drive motor and 65-kWh, 288-cell lithium-ion battery, which combine for a stealthy yet healthy 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Both Bolt models are front-wheel drive, similar to a number of other small crossover SUVs, so don’t take them onto a beach for photos like GM did for the press images.
Chevy makes DC fast charging capability standard, which allows for approximately 160 or 150 km (100 or 95 miles) of EV or EUV range respectively after 30 minutes of charging, while a special dual-level charge cord makes it possible for owners to hook up to a 240-volt charging station or 120-volt household-style three-prong outlet.
Those familiar with today’s Bolt will notice that Chevy left the biggest changes to their interiors, where both EV and EUV models feature more horizontally themed layouts for a wider visual effect. The new design is more conventionally laid out as well, replacing the pod-type centre stack with one that flows downward in a more traditional style, ending in a conventional lower console. The same standard 10.2-inch touchscreen remains, large for the subcompact category, while the infotainment graphics have been given a refresh. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity are still standard, with a navigation system optional, but most will probably be happiest to see a new standard wireless charging pad. Chevy saw no need to change the Bolt’s fully digital primary gauge cluster, however, which looks exactly the same as that in today’s model.
Together with the current Bolt’s less than ideal rear legroom, owners also complained about seat comfort and interior materials quality, which they deemed substandard for the many asked. While loading the Bolt up with an impressive list of kit, including that big infotainment display just noted, the car’s near $45k price point justifies higher quality surface treatments. Thus, the new 2022 Bolt models will get their just desserts, with softer surfaces in key areas, even including what appear to be padded leatherette on the dash. Chevy seems to have improved some cabin switchgear too, but we shouldn’t expect anything nearing Cadillac quality.
Knobs, levers and switches in mind, the new lower centre console includes an updated gear selector that replaces the current model’s conventional shifter for a slim row of Acura/Honda-style push and pull buttons. The green-lit button nearest to the driver engages one-pedal driving, which is a more effective design than slotting the shift lever into the “L” position, a system employed for the current Bolt and other EV and plug-in models within GM’s various lineups. The paddles on the backside of the new flat-bottom steering wheel will be more familiar to Bolt (and Volt) owners. These can be used for braking assistance, plus for recharging the battery through regenerative kinetic energy.
Tech in mind, the top-line EUV Premier will be first amongst Chevrolet vehicles to offer GM’s Super Cruise hands-free semi-self-driving technology, which is functional on median divided highways. The EUV Premier also features adaptive cruise control and an HD parking camera with a bird’s eye overhead view.
With respect to new Bolt family styling, the majority of onlookers should find the smaller EV better looking than its already reasonably attractive (for a subcompact hatchback) predecessor, unless a more traditional grille-filled front fascia is preferred. The new model says goodbye to the black mesh grille insert, instead replacing it with a grey-painted and patterned panel cut in an ovoid outline, with a slender slot below being the real air intake. This patterned effect does a better job creating family branding than Tesla’s Model 3, for instance, which looks like a non-branded car in an insurance commercial.
Following a theme from the first-gen Bolt and Volt predecessor, Chevy connects the new LED headlamps and side mirror housings with a thick black strip of fender trim, while the outgoing car’s traditional fog lights have been axed for more extended black trim, similar to Cadillac’s front fascia styling.
The EUV features a unique frontal design, which separates the headlight clusters and air intake-style fog lamp bezels, while providing a deeper air vent at the base of a similar solid grey grille insert. Black fender garnishes also flow into the mirror caps, while appearing to follow the black-painted window trim around the glass to a floating roof look, not unlike designs in use across the Chevrolet lineup.
The rear designs of both Bolt models are unique in their execution, but they have a similar design theme that features clean, horizontal, LED taillights at the corners, plus loads of gloss-black composite trim in between. Large matte black bumpers underscore the look, although in a change of pace the EUV appears somewhat dressier due to aluminum-like skid plates, both in the rear and up front.
The 2022 Bolt EV will be priced from $38,198 (plus freight and fees), which is a shocking $6,800 lower than today’s 2021 Bolt EV (those roof rails must have been expensive add-ons), while the new Bolt EUV will be available from $40,198. This means that fully loaded versions should keep them below $45,000, which is as high as possible before being disqualified for government rebate programs. Today’s base Bolt LT can be had for $44,998, incidentally, so it qualifies for the most generous of rebates, whereas the better equipped 2021 Bolt Premier’s $50,298 MSRP doesn’t.
Lovers of small hatchbacks like Nissan’s Micra and Versa Note will have noticed a disturbing trend in recent years, their cancellations.
The same has happened with most manufacturers, with Toyota having dropped its Yaris, Honda having nixed its Fit, Ford having axed its Fiesta (and Focus), and the list going on. All of the above have increased their allotment of small crossover SUVs, however, which on the surface seems as if we’re not all that concerned about fuel economy after all.
Fortunately, most of these new crossover SUVs are merely front-wheel drive economy cars on steroids. The various brands have slightly raised their suspensions and rooflines, sometimes making them more accommodating inside, but all come standard with front-wheel drivetrains and equally efficient powerplants, some not even offering all-wheel drive at all.
For that extra $500, Nissan has grafted a big, imposing grille on the front of its smallest crossover, and for the most part we feel it looks quite good. Its chromed surround flows elegantly upwards and outward toward sharply chiselled headlamps, while a fresh set of LED fog lights are located just beneath, at least when viewing the Kicks’ sportiest top-line SR trim. Updates aren’t as noticeable at each side or hind end, the former featuring a new set of LED turn signals within revised side mirror housings, and the latter adding a reworked bumper cap.
The slight price increase also includes new standard features such as auto on/off headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, and a rear wiper/washer, while changes to the cabin include a new standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When moving up to mid-range SV and top-line SR trims, the display gets upsized to 8.0 inches in diameter, with additional features including a leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob, a single-zone auto HVAC system, and a Bose audio upgrade.
The Kicks’ 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine makes a reasonably peppy 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, which means it wasn’t changed as part of the refresh. Likewise, its continuously variable transmission (CVT) remains standard too, resulting in the identical a fuel economy rating to last year: 7.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.2 combined with its sole front-wheel drivetrain.
The 2021 Kicks also comes well equipped with advanced standard safety and convenience features such as automatic emergency braking, rear auto braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and auto high-beam assistance. The move up to SV or SR trims includes driver alert monitoring plus a rear door alert system that warns the driver when something (or someone) may still be in the rear seating area after parking, while top-tier SR Premium trim adds an overhead camera system.
Mercedes is expanding its electric vehicle lineup rapidly, due to the goal of providing a “Carbon Neutral” model lineup by 2039, with the latest plug-in offering possibly its most important being that it’s the gateway into three-pointed star EVs.
When (or if) the EQA is sold into the Canadian market (we shouldn’t expect it before calendar year 2022), it will most likely be Mercedes’ most affordable EV. Designed to slot below the EQC, which was originally scheduled to launch later this year but will likely arrive next year, the EQA will initially combine for a three-way EV lineup topped off by the full-size EQS luxury sedan and SUV variant (although the EQE sedan and SUV are expected to join below the EQS models, these targeting Tesla’s Model X and Audi’s E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback).
Mercedes is obviously targeting the Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, and Audi E-Tron GT Quattro with the latter (or maybe more so with the upcoming EQE sedan), as well as the Tesla Model Y and Jaguar i-Pace with the EQC, whereas only the Volvo XC40 Recharge competes directly with the EQA (and to some extent the BMW i3), allowing a fairly open market in the electrically-powered subcompact luxury SUV market segment. This could change in the next year or so, however.
According to Mercedes-Benz Canada President and CEO, Brian Fulton who was addressing journalists attending the Montreal International Auto Show in January of 2019, the EQS, EQC and this EQA model will initiate a 10-model EQ lineup of new EVs, with one of the others including an EQB (based on the GLB subcompact SUV).
While the EQC’s dual electric motors produce 300 kilowatts (402 horsepower) and 564 lb-ft of torque, the smaller EQA’s initial 250 trim line will offer a single electric motor with 140 kW (188 hp), focusing more on efficiency than performance. A more capable performer is expected to make approximately 200 kW (268 hp) through a second electric motor driving an opposing set of wheels, this resulting in all-wheel drive. A thin battery gets spread out below the floor in order to maximize interior space, enhance weight distribution, and lower the model’s centre of gravity to optimize handling.
Of utmost importance, the EQA’s range is said to be about 500 kilometres on a single charge (depending on the model chosen), based on Europe’s somewhat optimistic NEDC and WLTP standards (we should expect this number to be downsized when the EQA hits North American markets).
Making the most of stored electricity, the EQA will utilize an intelligent navigation system that plots out the most efficient routes possible after calculating real-time traffic information, as well as terrain, weather conditions, driving style, and charging requirements.
Further aiding efficiency, Mercedes has incorporated a standard heat pump to channel the warmth generated from the EQA’s electric powertrain into the passenger compartment. Eco Assist aids battery usage too, while plenty of advanced driver assistive systems and electronic safety technologies have been designed to protect everyone onboard.
While most might think Mercedes used one of its wind tunnels to perfect the EQA’s impressive 0.28 drag coefficient, the reality is that such aerodynamics were achieved digitally, a first for the German carmaker. Therefore, the EQA’s smooth exterior shell with nearly flush headlights and grille, plus its arcing coupe-like roofline, wind-cheating alloys, and almost completely enclosed underbelly were the result of computer simulations.
Just the same, there’s no denying the EQA’s GLA-Class roots. The new electric shares architectural hard points with Mercedes’ smallest gasoline-powered SUV, just like the brand’s other EQ models utilize the underpinnings of their similarly named counterparts.
Mercedes has added blue accents to the headlight clusters for a bit more personality, while an LED light strip visually connects those lenses with daytime running lamps that span across the grille. The theme gets used similarly for the SUV’s hind quarters too, which show organically-shaped LED taillights visually connecting through a narrow reflector that spans the back hatch.
Inside, the EQA should look familiar to anyone who’s experienced a modern-day Mercedes model. The instrument panel is highlighted by the automaker’s dual-screen MBUX display, featuring a digital primary instrument cluster to the left and an infotainment touchscreen on the right, the latter controllable via a touchpad and buttons on the lower centre console as well. Together with such systems’ normal functions, the two EQA displays will feature a bevy of EV-specific graphic interfaces.
Just like with its gasoline-powered models, Mercedes also integrates ambient lighting to highlight key interior design elements in the EQA. Materials quality should be up to par as well, while an optional rose gold trim package should match similarly coloured smartphones.
Although Mercedes’ EQA is not yet available for purchase, those wanting an efficient subcompact luxury SUV should consider the brand’s GLA-Class, which is currently being offered with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, or if you can still manage to find a new 2020 model (2020 was a rough year for car sales after all) you may be able to save up to $5,000 in additional incentives.
To find out more, visit our 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Canada Prices and 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA Canada Prices pages, plus remember that a CarCostCanada membership can provide yet more savings from factory rebates (when available), manufacturer leasing and financing deals (when available), and always available dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your deal. Check out how easy the CarCostCanada system is to use and how affordable it is, plus be sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
If you haven’t considered the XC40 before, you’re in for a treat. It’s the smallest Volvo available, fitting into the subcompact luxury SUV segment and therefore going up against BMW’s X1, Mercedes’ GLA and B-Class, Lexus’ UX and others, plus due to the Swedish brand no longer offering a compact hatch (the C30 was discontinued in 2013 and its V40 successor was never imported), this little crossover is now its entry-level model.
I, for one, am a big fan of this little SUV. It’s stylish, fun to drive, thrifty, well made, and as innovative as crossover sport utilities come. In case you didn’t know, the XC40 has been around since the 2020 model year, and full disclosure forces me to let you in on the fact that this test model is actually a 2020. Fortunately, changes to the 2021 XC40 are minimal, with my tester’s Amazon Blue exterior colour choice unfortunately being discontinued this year.
As much as I like it, Amazon Blue won’t be popular with manly men, as it’s a bit on the feminine side. This said, I’ve seen a few around and they’re quite catching. In fact, this metrosexual boomer had no issue being seen in the powdery blue SUV, especially when push came to shove and I was able to scoot away from stoplight oglers as if they were standing still.
Yes, the XC40 is mighty quick thanks to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in as-tested T5 trim, its eight-speed automatic shifting gears quickly yet smoothly, its all-wheel drive completely eliminating tire slip, and its lightweight mass making the most of the available energy output. This is a really fun SUV to drive, the optional 2.0-litre turbo-four always willing to jump off the line or say so long to slower moving highway traffic. This said, my test model’s Momentum trim comes standard with a less potent version of the same engine, the T4 model powering all wheels with 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be good enough for all but the most enthusiastic of speed demons.
The eight-speed auto includes a gas-sipping auto start/stop system that aids the T4 in achieving a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined fuel economy rating, whereas the T5 gets a claimed 10.7 in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.4 combined. I recommend Eco mode for extracting the most efficiency, of course, but default Comfort mode is quite thrifty too. Volvo also includes a Dynamic sport setting when needing to get somewhere quickly, whereas an Individual mode can be set up for your own personal driving style.
While I really like the as-tested Momentum model, especially with its upgraded 235/50 all-season Michelin tires on 19-inch wheels that certainly improve performance over the base model’s 18-inch 235/55s, I’d put my own money on an XC40 R-Design for the paddle shifters alone (although it also comes standard with the T5 all-wheel drivetrain, and is the only trim that can be had in new Recharge P8 eAWD Pure Electric power unit), these helping to make this sporty little SUV a lot more engaging at the limit.
That’s where the so-equipped XC40 really shines, its handling fully capable when pushed hard and overall grip surprisingly steadfast, especially when considering its excellent ride quality. Even when slicing and dicing this little cutie through some local mountain backroads it never caused concern, while in-town point-and-shoot manoeuvres were a breeze made even easier thanks to the SUV’s generous ride height. It’s all due to a fully independent suspension with front aluminium double wishbones and an integral-link rear setup, composed of a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring.
Even better from a luxury standpoint, the XC40 feels like it was honed from a solid block of aluminum alloy, the body’s structural integrity never in doubt. I appreciated the SUV’s quiet, hushed, big SUV experience despite its diminutive size, this cocooning quality complemented by properly insulated doors that thunk closed in an oh-so satisfying way, and refinement that goes a step above most subcompact luxury SUV peers.
For a moment, pull your eyes away from the exterior’s classic crested Volvo grille, stylishly sporty Thor’s hammer LED headlamps, sharply honed front fascia, and uniquely tall “L” shaped LED tail lamps, not to mention the satin-silver accents all-round, and instead focus on this little crossover’s luxuriously appointed interior. Keeping in mind this is the XC40’s most basic of trims, Momentum gets very close to R-Design materials quality, featuring such premium staples as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, a soft, pliable dash-top covering and equally plush door panels, stitched leather armrest pads, and carpeted door pockets (that are big enough to slot in a 15-inch laptop along with a large drink bottle).
Don’t expect such niceties below the waistline, but Volvo uses a soft-painted harder composite that feels nice, while the woven roof liner looks good and surrounds an even more appealing panoramic sunroof featuring a powered translucent fabric sunshade. You’ll find controls for the latter on a nicely sorted overhead console, otherwise filled with LED lights hovering over a frameless rearview mirror.
Following Volvo tradition, the driver’s seats is wonderfully adjustable and wholly comfortable no to mention supportive, with more than adequate side bolstering plus extendable lower cushions that cup under the knees nicely (a favourite feature of mine). The leather used to cover all seats is above par, by the way, and they come with the usual three-way warmers up front, plus a steering wheel rim heater.
Most body types should fit into this little ute without issue, whether positioned front or back, while the rear seats expand the relatively generous cargo hold—from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet)—via the usual 60/40 division. This said a highly useful centre pass-through provides stowage of longer items like skis when two rear passengers want to use the more comfortable window seats.
While all this is very good, Volvo wasn’t merely satisfied to provide the expected luxury, performance and styling elements to their entry-level ute and call it a day, but instead went the extra measure to include a lot of handy innovations that make life easier. Being that I left off in the cargo compartment, I might as well star this section of the review off by noting the useful divider housed within the cargo floor. Once lifted up into place to stand vertically, I found it especially helpful for stopping groceries from escaping their bags, particularly when using the three bag hooks on top to keep them in place.
Moving up front you’ll find another handy hook within the glove box, which can be pivoted into place when wanting to hang a purse, garbage bag or what-have-you, while just to the left of the driver’s knee are two tiny slots for stowing gas cards. The XC40 can be had with all the segment’s best electronic helpers too, like a powered rear hatch that automatically lifts when waving a foot under the rear bumper, automated self-parking, and all the latest driver aids like autonomous emergency braking for the highway and city, lane change alert with automated lane keeping, etcetera, but some might find the XC40’s standard gauge cluster even more compelling.
It’s fully digital right out of the box, measuring 12.3 inches and sporting a graphically animated speedometer and tachometer plus a big centre information display featuring integrated navigation mapping with actual road signs, phone info and the list goes on. Like some competitive clusters, the multi-information display can be set to take over the majority of the driver display, thus shrinking the primary instruments. It’s a superb system that I almost like as much as Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system.
The latter is comprised of a 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen that comes closest to mimicking a tablet than anything else in the auto industry, especially when utilizing Apple CarPlay (not so much for Android Auto). Being that I currently use a Samsung, I keep the Volvo interface in play at all times, and absolutely love the audio “page” that not only shows all SiriusXM stations nicely stacked in sequence, but real-time info on which artist and song is playing. This way you can quickly scan the panel and choose a station, never missing a favourite song.
The base audio system is impressive too, as is the active guideline-infused parking camera, especially if the overhead version is included, and nav directions are always spot on, while the as-tested dual-zone climate control interface is ultra-cool thanks to colourful pop-up menus for each zone’s temperature setting and an easy-to-use pictograph for directing ventilation.
A list of standard Momentum features not yet mention include remote start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sonar with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants’ knees, plus more, all for only $39,750 plus freight and fees.
No matter the price you pay, the XC40 is a compact luxury SUV worth owning. It combines a higher level of refined luxury than most peers and superb performance all-round, with plenty of style and practicality. This is a crossover I could truly live with day in and day out, even painted in my tester’s playful powder blue hue.
If you look at the 2018–2020 Hyundai Accent, you’ll be hard pressed to see any changes at all. The fifth-generation entry-level subcompact model arrived in sedan and hatchback form during calendar year 2017, and since then only had its trim levels changed from L, LE, GL and GLS to Essential, Preferred and Ultimate for the 2019 model year, and lost its four-door body style for 2020 (in Canada, the U.S. kept the sedan and dropped the hatchback).
Actually, there’s a lot more to the 2020 Accent than meets the eye, particularly a redesigned engine and all-new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) for those wanting an automatic, replacing the 2019’s conventional six-speed auto. Another change is the elimination of the six-speed manual gearbox from top-line Ultimate trim, this version of the car only available with the CVT for 2020.
By the way, Hyundai isn’t the only automaker to kill off its subcompact sedan in Canada. Toyota dropped its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for the 2020 model year too, while Nissan said so long to its Versa Note and won’t be offering the redesigned Versa sedan (that’s available south of the border) in our jurisdiction. Ford also discontinued its Fiesta four- and five-door variants after the 2019 model year, while Chevy dropped its Sonic the year before that, all of which leaves Kia and its Rio as the only choice for sedan buyers in the subcompact class.
The 2020 Accent’s new 1.6-litre Smartstream engine replaces a very dependable four-cylinder of the same displacement, with the new one optimized for fuel economy over performance. The 2020 mill has actually lost 12 horsepower and 6 lb-ft of torque for a rating of 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft compared to 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque in the 2019 car I last tested. In a car so small and light, this should make a significant difference, but it’s possible Hyundai has worked magic in the car’s manual and new CVT transmissions, so I’ll have to test the new one to know for sure.
On the positive the new 2020 Accent is rated at 7.8 L/100km city, 6.1 highway and 7.0 combined with its standard six-speed manual, or 7.3, 6.0 and 6.7 respectively with the more efficient CVT. The outgoing 2019 Accent’s claimed rating of 8.2 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.3 combined for both the manual and auto makes it easy to see Hyundai’s reason for change. In this class their choice of fuel economy over performance makes a lot of sense, being that most buyers are choosing Hyundai’s least expensive model in order to save money. After all, those who want a performance car can opt for the new Elantra N or one of the even sportier Veloster trims.
Then again, the 2019 Accent 5-Door Ultimate I tested is really fun when powering away from stoplights, and it has no difficulty passing long semi-trailers on a two-lane highway. The six-speed manual is a joy to flick through its notchy double-H pattern, the clutch take-up is near effortless to engage and well sorted, making it as good for those wanting to learn how to drive manual as it is for seasoned pros, while the Ultimate model’s four-wheel disc brakes are strong (the two lesser trims get rear drums), and the 17-inch alloys make a difference when pushing it hard through tight corners. I’m not going to pretend this is some sort of hot hatch, but the Accent can hold its own through a set of fast-paced S-turns, while it’s very good on the open highway thanks to a fairly long wheelbase. I had no problem cruising in this car for the better part of a day, whether running errands around town or out on the freeway. After a weeklong test I found it comfortable and more than just capable, it was downright fun to drive.
I know it’s more popular to opt for crossover SUVs than regular cars these days, but those looking to save a couple thousand might want to fall in love with something like this low-slung hatchback instead of its more rugged looking alternative. Yes, Hyundai’s new Venue is tempting at just over $17k, but you can get into an Accent for under $15k and you’ll be getting a larger, more accommodating car with better performance or fuel economy (depending on the year).
Put the two side-by-side and some will be forced to admit the sportier looking Accent has the edge on the Venue when it comes to styling too, but that will come down to personal taste, of course. The 2018 redesign did a lot to improve the Accent’s cool factor, thanks to big, bold grille and plenty of classy chrome elements to on this Ultimate model. The metal brightwork is most noticeable on the front fascia around the fog lights, also exclusive to this trim, while the side window mouldings and exterior door handles are chromed too. A set of LED headlights with LED signature accents also improve the look and functionality of this top-tier model, as does the set of LED turn signals infused into the side mirror caps, while its 17-inch multi-spoke alloys add class as well as some sporty character to the overall design.
As mentioned a moment ago, the 2020 Accent Essential can be had for a mere $14,949 (plus freight and fees), which a lot less expensive than last year’s base price of $17,349. As it was (and still is, being that 2019 models were available at the time of writing), the 2019 Accent came standard with a Comfort Package that’s now extra. The 2020 Essential with Comfort Package starts at $17,699, while the price for the Accent’s second-tier Preferred trim line has jumped up from $17,549 in 2019 to $17,899 in 2020, and the as-tested Ultimate has increased its entry price by $1,250, from $20,049 to $21,649, but remember that it now comes standard with the CVT. Willing to take a guess what the upgrade from six-speed manual to six-speed automatic is in a 2019 Accent? Yup, $1,250.
This is the largest Accent ever, by the way, which translates into a roomier, more accommodating car than most will expect in this class, particularly when it comes to interior width. The Accent’s seats provide a lot of adjustability, as long as you’re not hoping to adjust the driver’s lumbar support as there’s no way to do so, and while I would have like more pressure at my lower back, as well as deeper side bolsters, the Accent is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore not capable of matching everyone’s body type perfectly. The rest of the seat’s adjustments were good, mind you, while the tilt and telescopic steering wheel’s reach was very good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso body had no problem getting both comfortable and in control, which isn’t always the case in this class and some others.
The rear seating area is spacious and comfortable as well, although those that want a centre rear armrest will need to look elsewhere. The seatbacks fold 60/40, however, expanding the already sizeable cargo area when needing to haul longer items. When lowered, the seatbacks sit about four inches above the load floor, so it’s not flat, but I was glad Hyundai chose to maximize available space instead of making it all level. A small spare tire and some tools are stowed underneath, and a hard-shell cargo cover rests above, all expected in this class.
Less normal in this entry-level segment is the Accent Ultimate’s impressive cabin decor, not to mention its bevy of features. Access by proximity keyless entry ahead of starting the engine via button was a nice touch, while the interior is further spiced up with a two-tone red and black colour scheme. Hyundai doesn’t finish any cabin surfaces with soft-touch plastics, but all armrests are padded leatherette, and sharp looking seats are plenty soft of course, these finished with red leatherette bolsters, red stitching and some cool hexagonal embroidery on their cloth seatbacks. The red theme continues over to the door panel inserts, more red thread on the leatherette shifter boot, plus more on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The steering wheel is really nice, incidentally, while its spokes come filled with extremely high-quality switchgear, the toggles on the left adjusting the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and phone use, while the ones on the right are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and the Accent’s cruise control system.
The instruments in front of the driver are simple and straight-forward, with bright backlit dials on either side of the just-mentioned multi-information display. More impressive is the bright, colourful and well-endowed 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, a large backup camera with moving guidelines, and more.
A single-zone automatic climate control system can be adjusted just below, which includes large dials for easy use while wearing winter gloves, while under that is a row of buttons for the three-way heatable front seats and even one for the heated steering wheel rim. Where the centre stack meets the lower console is a big tray for holding your smartphone, plus USB-A and auxiliary connections.
The top-line Accent Ultimate also includes a powered moonroof and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, by the way, while equipment pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering column (the base model only gets a tilting wheel), cruise control, front seat heaters and the larger 7.0-inch centre touchscreen (instead of the 5.0-inch one on the base model) mentioned already, as well as automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (an improvement over four speakers found in the base model), keyless access, and a USB-A charging port in the rear seating area from Preferred trim; the automatic transmission and Bluetooth noted before, plus power-adjustable and heatable side mirrors, air conditioning and powered windows from the Essential Comfort package; and finally variable intermittent front windshield wipers, a manually adjustable six-way driver’s seat, a manually adjustable four-way front passenger’s seat, and power door locks from the base Essential model.
There’s a lot to like about today’s Accent, especially when factoring in value. Add in a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty and it all starts making sense. If you’re not wholly sold on a new subcompact SUV like Hyundai’s Venue or Kona, I recommend you take a closer look at the Accent, and when you do, don’t forget to choose a 2019 model for performance or 2020 to save more on fuel.
I’ve heard the line before. People only buy Mercedes-Benz products to flash its prestigious three-pointed star. That may be true in some cases, but with respect to the new A 220, and many other cars in its extensive lineup, it wins new luxury buyers by being best in class.
It doesn’t hurt that the A 220 looks as good as it does, but take note that at just $37,300 (plus freight and fees) the newest model in Mercedes’ wide and varied 2020 collection isn’t just for the affluent. Yes, that number is a significant $2,310 more than last year’s A 220, but it now comes with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, Canadians probably not buying enough of the 2019 front-wheel drive variants to make a business case viable moving forward. Still, Mercedes’ most affordable new model is well within reach of those not normally capable of buying into the luxury class, with this base model priced very close to fully loaded versions of mainstream volume-branded compacts.
At first sight the A 220 appears too long, low and lean to be a compact four-door sedan, but with a little research I soon found out its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase puts it slightly smaller than some mainstream compacts you likely know better, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3, while it competes directly in size and particularly in price with premium-badged sedans such as the Audi A3, Acura ILX, and new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although the Bimmer more accurately targets Mercedes’ sporty CLA-Class four-door coupe.
The new BMW hasn’t been around long enough to collect usable sales data, and it’s hardly been the best of years for the car industry on the whole anyway, so therefore a look back to calendar year 2019 more accurately shows the A-Class and the rest of Mercedes’ small car lineup cleaning up in Canada’s compact luxury competition. Mercedes sold more than 5,000 subcompact luxury models in 2019, which included the new A 250 hatch as well as this A 220 sedan, plus the CLA-Class and outgoing B-Class (more than 300 of the now cancelled Bs were delivered last year, and another 200-plus over Q1 of 2020).
By comparison, the second-best-selling Mini Cooper, which is also a collection of body styles and mostly lower in price, found more than 3,700 Canadian buyers, whereas the Audi A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 garnered 3,100-plus new customers, the ILX almost 1,900, the 2 Series (ahead of the new four-door coupe arriving) at just over 1,200, and BMW’s unorthodox i3 EV finding 300 new owners. Incidentally, the A-Class, which was the only model in this segment to achieve positive year-over-year sales in 2019 (slightly below 14.5 percent), won over 3,632 new buyers last year alone, placing it just behind the previously noted Mini that saw its Y-o-Y sales fall by 17 percent.
Certainly, the A 220’s attractive styling and approachable pricing contributed to its strong sales last year, but there’s a great deal more to the swoopy four-door sedan than good looks and price competitiveness. For starters is a knockout cabin that wows with style and hardly comes up short on leading-edge features. Most noticeable is Mercedes’ all-in-one digital instrument panel/infotainment display, that combines some of the most vibrantly coloured, creatively penned graphics in the industry with wonderfully functional systems, while housing it all within an ultra-wide fixed tablet-style frame.
These electronic interfaces are important differentiators when comparing an entry-level Mercedes to fully loaded compact sedans from mainstream volume brands like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Truly, the A 220’s lower dash and door panels aren’t necessarily made from better materials than its more common compact counterparts, respectively the Civic, Corolla, Elantra and Mazda3, but most everything above the waste comes close to matching the tactile and materials quality found in more expensive Mercedes models, like the C-Class and even the E-Class. Together with the eye-popping digital interfaces already mentioned are gorgeous stitched leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood along those door panels and across the dash, while satin-finish aluminum trim can be found all over the interior, my personal favourite application being the gorgeous turbine-like instrument panel HVAC vents.
Going back to the all-in-one primary instrument cluster and infotainment widescreen display, dubbed MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, the left-side gauge package provides a number of different display themes including Modern Classic, Sport and Understated, plus the ability to create your own personalized themes, while the layout can be modified to a numeric format speedometer in place of the traditional-looking circular one, with the rest of the display area used for other features like navigation mapping, fuel economy info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting information, etcetera.
Over on the right-side of my test model’s MBUX display were the usual assortment of centre-screen infotainment functions, like navigation (albeit with the ability to opt for an augmented reality feature that shows a front camera view displaying upcoming street names and directional indicators); audio system info including graphical satellite radio station readouts; drive settings that include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (that can also be chosen via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; a calls, contacts and messages interface; a big, clear parking camera with active guidelines; plus more, and on top of all this Mercedes provides more hands-on control of infotainment functions than any competitor.
Adjustments can be made via the touchscreen itself, which is rather uncommon in the luxury class, plus you can use Mercedes’ very smart Linguatronic Voice Control system that’s easily one of the most advanced in the industry (but take note that “Mercedes” is a tad too eager to help out, always responding with a pesky “How can I help you?” when mentioning her name), or alternatively let your thumbs do the talking via a miniscule set of BlackBerry-like optical trackpads on the steering wheel spokes, or finally use the touchpad on the lower console, which is surrounded by big quick entry buttons as well. That touchpad is the best I’ve used this side of my MacBook Pro, providing intuitive responses to tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is as easy to use as dropping your right arm from the steering wheel, and didn’t cause me to divert my eyes from the road more often than necessary.
An attractive row of climate controls stretches across a smartly organized interface just below the centre display, featuring highly legible readouts and lovely knurled aluminum toggle switches, all hovering above a big rubber smartphone tray that boasts wireless charging capability. All around, the A 220 provides most everything you’ll need and a number of things you won’t, but I like the soft purple ambient lighting nonetheless.
The only negative I could find were the small, delicately sized and hollow feeling steering wheel stalks for the turn signals/wipers and selecting gears, but due to how well they’re made I still can’t lambaste them completely. I’m thinking they’re more about reducing mass to save on fuel and improve performance, not that they’d individually make a big difference to either. To be clear, I’ve never tested lighter or less substantive column stalks ever. In fact, the shift paddles feel heftier, but they certainly did what they needed to and won’t likely fall apart, it was just a strange decision for Mercedes to make such important hand/machine interfaces so flimsy feeling.
Even before I shifted the A 220 into gear, I was shocked at how thin the lower door panel composite was. Was this due to weight savings as well? The plastic extrusions were perfect with thin ribs strengthening their upper edges, so it wasn’t a case of cutting corners, but they didn’t feel up to Mercedes’ usual high-quality standards. Fortunately, as noted earlier, the A 220’s more visible surfaces are superb, other than the hard-composite lower centre console that might be somewhat disappointing to those that have recently spent time in one of the upper trims of the volume-branded compacts noted before, which mostly finish such areas in soft padded pleather.
Up above is a particularly nice overhead console featuring controls for a big panoramic glass sunroof, plus LED dome and reading lights, and more. It was strange that the B and C pillars weren’t wrapped in fabric, with only the A pillars done out to premium standards, just like the mainstream cars just mentioned, but of course this isn’t totally uncommon in the luxury segment’s most basic entry-level category. At least all of components fit nicely together, with each lid and every door shutting with firm Teutonic solidity, except for the glove box lid that was particularly light in weight.
My tester’s interior was doused in a light grey and black two-tone motif, much of the grey being leather that covers both rows of seats that are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive, particularly via their side bolstering. They even included manually-adjustable lower thigh extensions that I loved. I’m not only talking about the front seats, by the way, because those in the rear outboard positions provided good comfort as well, thanks to sculpted backrests and more foot and legroom than expected, plus a decent amount of headroom.
After adjusting the driver’s seat for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight, small-build body type, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough space for my feet while wearing a pair of boots, while side-to-side roominess was good too. With three inches of airspace over my head, tall teens and larger adults than me should have no problem fitting in back, while the rear headrests also provided comfortably soft support.
Mercedes provides a fold-down centre armrest in back, but I found it too low for comfort, although it would likely be ideal for smaller sized adults or children. It comes with a duo of pop-out cupholders that clamp onto drinks well, while a set of netted magazine holders are attached to the backside of each front seat too. Each rear outboard passenger gets their own HVAC vent as well, plus just under these is a pull-out compartment complete with a small storage bin and a pair of USB-C chargers. No rear seat warmers were included in my tester, but LED reading lights could be found overhead.
Cargo shouldn’t be a problem being that the A 220’s nicely finished trunk is quite big for this class, and I really appreciated the ability to stow longer items like skis down the middle thanks to ultra-versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Folding the seats down is easy too, because Mercedes offers up a set of trunk-mounted levers.
Together with everything already mentioned, this year’s A 220 comes well equipped with standard features such as LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior inlays, pushbutton start/stop, MBUX infotainment (although the base model’s display size is smaller than my tester’s at 7.0-inches for each of its two screens), a six-speaker audio system (that provided deep resonant bass tones along with nice mids and highs), a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof mentioned earlier, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus a lot more.
You may have noticed more gear in the photos, this because my test model also came with $890 worth of Mountain Grey Metallic exterior paint; $500 of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a $3000 Premium package featuring proximity keyless access, power-folding mirrors, a bigger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and the same sized centre display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice control, induction charging, auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated powered trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package that added multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; plus a $1,000 Navigation package including a GPS/nav system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality function noted before, a Connectivity package, and finally Traffic Sign Assist.
The long list of additions continue with a new (for 2020) $1,900 Intelligent Drive package boasting Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (which uses the nav system info to adjust the A 220’s speed based on road conditions ahead before the driver can even see what’s coming), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; $475 satellite radio; plus black open-pore wood inlays for $250 (walnut inlays are available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s previously noted $37,300 base price, making for an impressively equipped compact Mercedes at just $47,815 (plus freight and fees).
It was missing a lot of additional gear too, by the way, including a $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, $500 optional 19-inch alloys, a $250 heated Nappa leather steering wheel, a $1,500 head-up display unit, a $650 surround parking monitor, a $700 450-watt, 12-speaker Burmester surround audio system (which is quite the deal for this brand), a $300 garage door opener, a $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory (the base model’s is manually operated), and $1,200 worth of cooled front seats (these new for this model year).
As impressive as the new A 220’s styling, cabin design, detailed execution and loads of features are, the brand’s century of heritage really comes through when out on the road. Despite only endowed with 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, straight-line acceleration is quite strong and even more so when set to Sport mode, at which point shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic come quickly and precisely. The car’s now standard 4Matic all-wheel drive allowed all four of the 225/45R18 Michelins below to latch onto pavement simultaneously, resulting in sharp, immediate results when my right foot was pegged to the throttle, while the little sport sedan tracked brilliantly during fast-paced highway and curving byway excursions, even in rain-soaked conditions.
Standard shift paddles add some hands-on engagement that was really appreciated when pushing hard in Sport mode, but I also found them useful for short-shifting to save on fuel. I opted for Eco mode for such situations, which provided even smoother more relaxed shifts as well as fuel economy improvements. The A 220 is rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, and while we’re talking efficiencies, last year’s front-wheel drive version didn’t make that much of a difference due to a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.7, 6.8 and 8.4 respectively, so therefore Mercedes’ choice to offer AWD as standard equipment won’t hamper your fuel budget.
It was during my usual relaxed pace of driving, with a focus on saving fuel, that I really appreciated the A 220’s excellent ride quality, impressively smooth for this class of car, but then again it’s important for me to point out that it’s never soft and wallowy. In Germanic tradition its ride is firmer than rivals from Japan, although I couldn’t imagine anyone complaining about harshness. The A 220’s hushed ambiance makes it feel even more refined and luxurious, making it ideal for isolating noisy, bustling city streets as well as toning down the sound of wind on the open road.
I must say, if my own money was on the line in this entry-level luxury segment, I’d opt for the A 220 over its four-door subcompact premium rivals, as it scores high marks in all key categories. It looks stunning and offers up what I think is the nicest interior in the class, can be had with all the features I want and need, is great fun to drive when called upon yet provides all the pampering luxury I’d ever want, and is a fairly pragmatic choice too, at least with respect to four-door sedans.
This said I have yet to drive the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although its self-proclaimed four-door coupe body style won’t be able to offer up the same amount of rear seat headroom as the A 220, and the only other subcompact luxury competitors are the Audi A3, which has been on the market for seven-plus years with only a subtle mid-cycle makeover, plus the Acura ILX that’s just as long-in-the-tooth, although only last year it had a much more dramatic update. Still, the ILX is merely an old Honda Civic under the skin, albeit with a better powertrain and gearbox.
Whether opting for the new A 220 or one of the other cars mentioned in this review, I’d be sure to check them all out right here at CarCostCanada before heading to the dealership, mind you. Our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while the 2019 model (if still available) was available for up to $2,000 in additional incentives. Members can access information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives, and best of all is dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Find out how CarCostCanada works here, and make sure to download our free app at the Google Android Play Store or Apple App Store so you can access all this valuable info when you’re at the dealership.
Mazda’s CX-3 has been a popular economy car alternative in Canada since arriving on the scene five years ago, even rising to third amongst subcompact SUV entries a couple of years ago.
In order to remain near the top of the charts, Mazda gave it a mild makeover for 2019, and even added some additional updates to the top-tier GT trim partway through the model year. To bring attention to these changes, which have also been included in the 2020 model, I took the opportunity to spend a week with one pre-updated 2019 CX-3 GT as well as another post-updated version, which are both featured here in this review.
Although the CX-3 has looked mostly the same since inception, Mazda steadily improved it over the years. The 2017 version carried over identically to the original 2016, but 2018 added a manual transmission to base FWD models, plus retuned the suspension for greater comfort, and added G-vectoring control as standard equipment to enhance all-weather cornering capability. Mazda also reduced its interior noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, while revising the steering wheel design and the look of its primary instrument cluster. They added standard Smart City Brake Support too, a low-speed automatic emergency braking system, plus pulled additional standard and optional i-ActivSense advanced driver assistance systems down to lower trims, such as full-speed Smart Brake Support with front obstruction warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, etcetera.
The mild updates for 2019 added a slightly reworked grille, taillights and wheels, while the cabin received some materials plus a new seat upholstery design partway through the year (as just noted), while the lower console of all 2019 models was reorganized to accommodate an electromechanical parking brake. Blind spot monitoring was also made standard for 2019, while the top-tier GT trim received real leather in place of leatherette and everything standard from the previous year’s Technology package, which included satellite radio, auto high beams, and lane departure warning.
The 2019 CX-3’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine received a 2-horsepower bump as well, increasing total output to 148 horsepower. While torque has remained at 146 lb-ft for the SUV’s five-year tenure, the power upgrade continues unchanged into the 2020 model year, as does the rest of the CX-3 in its entirety.
Just in case you’re wondering, the difference in power from 2018 and 2019 equals 1.35 percent, which is imperceptible without electronic detection. I certainly couldn’t tell the difference from one model year to the other, and have been perfectly happy with the CX-3’s performance since day one, always finding it a fun SUV to drive.
As for fuel economy, the 2019 CX-3 gets a 8.8 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 8.0 combined rating when its sole engine is mated to its base manual transmission and FWD, while the automatic with FWD yields an estimated 8.3 in the city, 6.9 on the highway and 7.7 combined, and the auto with AWD gets a claimed 8.6, 7.4 and 8.1 respectively.
This single engine is included with all trims, incidentally, while the base GX once again comes standard with a manual gearbox and FWD, and is optional with a six-speed automatic in either FWD or the automaker’s i-Activ AWD. The mid-range GS comes standard with the automatic and is optional with AWD, whereas the GT features the automatic and AWD as standard equipment. The CX-3 base price comes in at just over $21k (plus freight and fees), while my fully optioned test model starts at a little more than $31k (see all prices, including trims, packages and standalone options on our 2019 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page). Those prices stay the same for 2020, by the way, although you can save up to $2,000 in additional incentives for the 2019 CX-3, while average member savings have in fact been $2,166 according to the just-noted page. The 2020 Mazda CX-3 gets up to $600 in additional incentives, says its 2020 Mazda CX-3 Canada Prices page, while average member savings hold steady at $2,166. With savings like this, a CarCostCanada membership will pay for itself quickly.
Steering wheel-mounted paddles get added to the Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission in both GS and GT trims, which certainly increase driver engagement, while the GT also increases its wheel size from 16s 18-inch alloy rims on 215/50R18 all-season rubber, aiding grip when pushed hard. Although the CX-3 only employs a semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension setup, with the usual MacPherson strut up front, handling is very good for the class, while a power assisted rack-and-pinion steering system delivers immediate response and fairly good feedback. Since Mazda softened its ride, the CX-3 is much more comfortable on uneven pavement too, which really helps enhance overall refinement.
On that note the CX-3 is really nice inside, which of course is expected from Mazda that’s one of the most premium-like brands in the mainstream volume sector. Of course, the little SUV isn’t as upscale as the new CX-30 or CX-5, particularly in the latter model’s Signature trim that gets cloth-wrapped A pillars, real wood trim and other niceties, this smallest model not even applying pliable synthetic to the dash-top and door uppers, but its instrument hood is quite luxurious thanks to stitched leatherette, while the centre section of the instrument panel gets a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette or microsuede bolster across its middle, and leatherette knee protectors are fixed to the insides of the lower console, plus leatherette or suede adorns the door inserts.
Before delving further, I should explain why some CX-3 GTs feature leatherette trim and others get microsuede. Early 2019s received stitched leatherette on the instrument panel bolster and door inserts like previous model years, my Soul Red Crystal painted tester an example of this interior treatment, but Mazda updated these areas to grey Grand Luxe Suede midway through the 2019 model year, which can be seen in my Snowflake White Pearl tester. Now the Alcantara suede-like material is the only treatment on these surfaces for the 2020 CX-3 GT.
So if you’ve been checking out the CX-3 at your local dealer (and there’s no shortage of 2019s thanks to the recent downturn of nearly everything), you’ll now understand why some have the leather look and others are plusher. I like both, but the psuede feels more opulent, and it’s also the newest trim so may help with resale.
The mid-year upgrade changed the GT’s upholstery too, my red tester boasting stunning two-tone brown and cream perforated Cocoa Nappa leather that’s no longer available for the 2020 model year, whereas my white tester featured the same perforated black leather with grey piping as found in the new 2020. Mazda will be happy to sell you a CX-3 GT with Pure White leather instead, this no-cost option available for both years. Try to find this level of variety, let alone luxury in competitive subcompact SUVs and you’ll be stymied, Mazda a cut above when it comes to personalization.
Other than upholsteries and trims the early and late arrival CX-3 GTs are mostly identical, other than the circular dash vents that feature black inner bezels in the early model and metallic red in the later one, but the horizontal strip of vents that elegantly underscores the aforementioned instrument panel bolster is the same in both, while all vents are highlighted by a very authentic looking satin-finish aluminum.
There’s a lot more of this premium-look metal throughout the interior, surrounding the analogue and digital primary instruments, embellishing the third steering wheel spoke, ringing the centre dash-mounted infotainment display, as well as the lower console-mounted controls used for inputting data. This features a beautiful knurled metal-edged dial and another smaller one for adjusting audio volume, while additional quick-access switchgear includes buttons for the main menu, audio system, navigation, radio favourites, and the back button. The three-dial auto climate control system features some knurled metal detailing too, once again making the CX-3 look and feel more upscale than its price suggests it should.
The infotainment system in mind, Mazda was slow to integrate Apple CarPlay Android and Auto into the CX-3, which means if you’d like to have either you’ll be required to opt for the late 2019 arrival or a 2020. The 7.0-inch centre touchscreen display in my early 2019 is otherwise good, and included navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, a great sounding Bose audio system with seven speakers, satellite and HD radio, text message reading and responding capability, and the list goes on, while the newer version includes all of the above plus the two smartphone applications, and Android Auto worked as well as Android Auto works.
Speaking of features, 2019 and 2020 CX-3 GTs include auto on/off LED headlamps with adaptive cornering as well, plus auto-levelling and the previously noted automatic high beams, while LED fog lights, LED rear combination tail lamps with signature details, and additional chrome trim improve the exterior, while proximity keyless access let’s you inside, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory provides comfort and support. Atop the gauge cluster is an Active Driving Display that powers a transparent panel up to reflect key information instead of having it projected right onto the windshield like a regular head-up display unit, while some of that info includes traffic sign recognition. Up above, an auto-dimming rearview mirror makes driving at night easier while a powered glass sunroof lets more light in during the day.
Features pulled up from lesser trims worth noting include pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a wide-angle backup camera (not including dynamic guidelines), Aha and Stitcher internet radio, dual USB charging ports, three-way heated front seats, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, a folding rear centre armrest with cupholders, a removable cargo cover, tire pressure monitoring, all the expected active and passive safety features, plus more.
The just-mentioned 10-way power seats plus the CX-3’s tilt and telescoping steering column provided adequate adjustability for good comfort and control without forcing me to cramp my longer than average legs (for my height), while the rear seat was spacious enough even when I had the driver’s seat pushed back farther than some would require. It’s just important to remember that the CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest, and their larger CX-30, CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs offer a lot more space for getting comfortable.
Of course, the CX-3 provides less cargo space than these larger Mazdas too, with just 504 litres available behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and even less at 467 litres in GT trim due to the audio system’s subwoofer, while laying the rear seats flat results in a maximum of 1,209 litres in the two lower trims or 1,147 litres in the GT.
After everything is said and done, I think you’d be satisfied with any Mazda CX-3 trim, being that it’s a good looking, fun to drive, efficient and impressively refined subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it has many opponents, many that add size and roominess like Mazda’s own CX-30, but for those wanting a smaller SUV it’s hard to beat the CX-3.
Does the idea of purchasing an inexpensive, economical yet very comfortable, roomy and practical hatchback at zero-percent financing sound like a good idea right now? If so, I recommend taking a closer look at the new 2019 Versa Note.
Of course, a 2019 model is hardly “new” this far into 2020, but it nevertheless is a new car that’s never been licensed and therefore qualifies for new car financing and leasing rates, plus it comes with a full warranty.
As it is there are too many Versa Notes still available on Nissan Canada’s dealer lots, so the automaker has created an incentive program to sell them off as quickly as possible. This benefits you of course, so it might be a really good idea to find out if this little car suits your wants and needs, because the price is right.
The Versa Note was discontinued last year, but cancelling a car doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. In actual fact, Nissan’s second-smallest model is an excellent city car that’s also better than most on the highway, plus it offers more passenger and cargo room than the majority of its subcompact rivals. It just happens to be past its stale date, having already been replaced by two trendier subcompact crossover sport utilities dubbed Kicks and Qashqai.
Those wanting Nissan’s latest styling will be happy to find out the Versa Note received an update for its 2017 model year, incorporating most of the brand’s latest frontal styling cues for much more attractive styling than the previous incarnation. The Note doesn’t include a floating roof design, like the Leaf EV and most other new Nissan models, while its taillights are also unique to the model, but its hind end is nevertheless attractive and overall shape easy on the eyes.
At least as important, the Versa Note provides a taller driver and passengers a lot of headroom due to its overall height, making the car feel more like a small SUV than a subcompact city car. The seats are particularly comfortable as well, due to memory foam that truly cushions and supports one’s backside, plus the upholstery in my top-line SV model was very good looking, with an attractive blue fleck pattern on black fabric. The driver’s seat even includes a comfortable minivan-style fold-down armrest on its right side.
Additional niceties include a leather-clad steering wheel rim, stylish satin-silver spokes, and a tilt steering column. Nissan adorns each dash vent with the same silver surface treatment, not to mention both edges of the centre stack and the entire shift lever surround panel.
Also impressive, my tester’s upgraded instrument cluster features backlit dials and really attractive digital displays. It’s so stylish that it makes the centre touchscreen seem dowdy by comparison. Truth be told, the main infotainment display is graphically challenged, particularly when put beside some of Nissan’s more recently improved models, but it more than does the job and is user-friendly enough, while at 7.0 inches it’s reasonably bit for this class, which provides good rear visibility through the reverse camera.
While there isn’t much to criticize the Versa Note about, no telescoping steering means it might not fit your body ideally. I have longer legs than torso and therefore had to crank the seatback farther forward than I normally would so as not crowd my legs and feet around the pedals, which worked but would’ve caused me to think twice about purchasing one.
On a much better note, those in back will find a lot more legroom than most subcompact contemporaries (the Versa Note is actually classified as a mid-size model), this thanks to a very long wheelbase, which makes the Versa Note perfect for taller than average folks. Rear passengers will find a comfortable folding armrest in the centre position, with the usual twin cupholders integrated within, another duo of cupholders can be found on the backside of the front console. Lastly, a magazine pouch is included on the backside of the front passenger’s seat.
The Note is also great for hauling loads of gear. It gets the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but its innovative Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor doesn’t follow the subcompact herd. It can be moved up or down as required, meaning you can stow taller items in the latter position or otherwise awkward cargo on a flat load floor when slotted into the former. You can fit up to 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seats, incidentally, or 1,084 litres (38.3 cu ft) of what-have-you by lowering both rear seatbacks. That’s very good, by the way.
For its price range the spacious Versa Note gets its fair share of equipment, but like all new cars this depends on which trim is chosen. Of note, the sportiest SR mode was discontinued for 2019 and the more luxurious SL was dropped for 2018, but Nissan brought in a $700 SV Special Edition package for this final year, which includes a set of fog lights, a rear rooftop spoiler, and Special Edition badges on the outside, plus proximity keyless entry for access to the cabin along with pushbutton start/stop to get things going once strapped inside, while other goodies include an enhanced NissanConnect infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus satellite radio.
A quick look at my test model’s photos will show no fog lights or rear spoiler, so I won’t be directly reporting on the 2019 SV Special Edition, but its 15-inch alloys make it clear that this isn’t a base model either (the entry-level Note S gets 15-inch steel wheels with covers). The regular SV starts at $18,398 and includes the aforementioned gauge cluster upgrade as well as the leather-clad steering wheel also noted before, along with powered door locks with remote access, power windows, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), cruise control, a six-way manual driver’s seat (featuring height adjustment), heated front seats, a cargo cover, plus more.
Base S trim, which starts at $14,698 plus freight and fees, is the only 2019 Versa Note trim that can be had with a five-speed manual gearbox (you could get a manual with the SV for the 2018 model year), but base buyers should know the CVT can be added for a mere $1,300 extra. Transmission aside, base S trim also gets a set of powered and heated exterior mirrors, a four-way manual driver’s seat, air conditioning, a less comprehensively equipped 7.0-inch infotainment system, Bluetooth hands-free with streaming audio, phone and audio switchgear on the steering wheel, a hands-free text message assistant, Siri Eyes Free, auxiliary and USB ports, four-speaker audio, etcetera.
All the usual active and passive safety gear is included as well, of course, but those wanting the newest advanced driver assistance systems like collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blindspot monitoring with lane departure warning, or active cruise control with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPILOT assist self-driving tech had better choose one of the automaker’s more recently introduced subcompact crossovers.
Let’s be nice and call the Versa Note traditional instead of antiquated, because at the end of the day it goes about its business very well and therefore delivers what many consumers require from a daily commuter. While hardly as technologically advanced or trendy in design, the Note nevertheless provides comfortable seating and a very good ride for its entry-level price range, plus decent get-up-and-go when pushing off from standstill or while passing, plus its CVT is ultra smooth.
The Versa Note uses the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder as the smaller Micra, making an identical 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. That means the bigger, heftier model doesn’t feel quite as quick off the line. The Note’s purpose is more about fuel economy anyway, and with that in mind it manages a claimed five-cycle rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.7 combined with its manual, or 7.6 city, 6.2 highway and 7.0 combined with the CVT. That doesn’t seem all that great until comparing it to the Micra that has the same 1,092-kilogram curb weight when fully loaded as the Note’s base trim (the Note SV as-tested hits the scales at 1,124 kg), but still only can manage 7.9 L/100km combined with its manual and 8.0 combined with its four-speed auto. I think the similarly roomy Honda Fit is a better comparison, the innovative subcompact capable of 7.0 L/100km combined with its six-speed manual or just 6.5 with its most economical CVT.
As for handling, the Micra has the Versa Note beat any day of the week. In fact, Nissan Canada uses the Micra in a spec racing series, something that would be laughable in the more comfort-oriented Note. The larger hatchback is particularly tall as noted, so therefore its high centre of gravity works counter to performance when attempting to take corners quickly, but then again if you don’t mind a bit of body roll it manages just fine. Better yet is the Versa’s roomy comfort, whether tooling through town or hustling down a four-lane freeway where it’s long wheelbase aids high-speed stability, it’s a good choice.
If you think this little Nissan might suit your lifestyle and budget and therefore would like to take advantage of the zero-percent financing mentioned before, I’d recommend checking out our 2019 Nissan Versa Note Canada Prices page where you can browse through all trims and packages in detail, plus quickly scan colour choices within each trim, while also searching for the latest manufacturer rebates that could save you even more.
Better yet, a CarCostCanada membership provides access to dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when making a purchase. Everything just mentioned can be accessed at the CarCostCanada website or via a new downloadable CarCostCanada app, so make sure to check your phone’s app store. This said, ahead of calling your local Nissan retailer to purchase a new Versa Note, or connecting with them online (and it’s a good idea to deal with them remotely right now), be sure to do your homework here at CarCostCanada so you can claim the best possible deal.
The car you’re looking at has given up on Canada and moved to the States. Yup, it’s true. Call it a traitor if you want, but Hyundai’s subcompact Accent Sedan won’t be available north of the 49th after this 2019 model year, so if you’ve always wanted to own a new one you’d better act quickly.
Fortunately for us, the more practical hatchback version is staying, complete with a new engine and new optional continuously variable transmission, the latter replacing the conventional six-speed automatic found in the 2019 Accent Sedan being reviewed here. The U.S., incidentally, loses the hatchback variant that we prefer. How different our markets are, despite (mostly) speaking the same language and being so close.
So why is this subcompact carnage occurring? It comes down to sales, or a lack thereof. Hyundai Canada only sold 202 Accents last month, but it’s brand new Venue crossover SUV, which is more or less the same size as the Accent hatch, yet an SUV so it’s going to be much more popular, sold 456 units in its first-ever month of January 2020. I think the Venue is going to sell big time, as I’ve been driving one in between writing this review of the Accent, and am thoroughly impressed. It’s also the least expensive SUV in Canada, which won’t hurt its popularity either.
I’m not sure if the Venue will surpass Kona sales, the larger utility finding 1,651 buyers last month and an amazing 25,817 during its first full year of 2019, which incidentally saw it first in its subcompact class (the same segment the Venue is entering now), resulting in a shocking 7,000-plus units ahead of the Nissan Qashqai. So car fans should be happy Hyundai kept its Accent here at all, especially considering how many of its peers have departed over the past couple of years for the same reasons (like the Nissan Versa Note, Toyota Prius C and Yaris Sedan, Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, etc).
At least the Accent remains near the top of its class, only outsold by its Kia Rio cousin last month, 243 deliveries to the Accent’s aforementioned 202, but beating the Yaris’ 190 sales, a car that took the top spot away from the Accent last year, a position Hyundai has held for as long as I can remember. Who knows which subcompact car will be in the lead when the final tally gets sorted out once December 31, 2020 has passed?
Most of us should be able to agree that this 2019 Accent Sedan won’t do much to increase the Accent’s overall numbers this year. Certainly Hyundai will appreciate your buying one of the handful remaining, and yes I checked and there are plenty of retailers with new ones in stock across the country, but more dealers have sold out and are therefore saying hello to the updated 2020 Accent Hatchback, which looks identical yet gets the revised engine I mentioned earlier in this review, plus a totally new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter in place of the now departed six-speed automatic gearbox integrated into my 2019 tester.
I must admit to having divided feelings about these mechanical upgrades, because the changes seem to be only benefiting fuel economy at the expense of performance. This 2019 Accent boasts a reasonably strong 132 horsepower from its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, plus 119 lb-ft of torque, whereas the fresh new 2020 model’s 1.6-litre four features some cool new “Smartstream” tech, but nevertheless loses 12 horsepower and six lb-ft of torque, the new ratings only 120 and 113 respectively.
To clarify, the Accent’s Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine has little in common with the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi engine found in the new Sonata. The Accent’s engine is naturally aspirated with four inline cylinders, dual-port injection (DPI), continuously variable valve timing, and a new thermal management module that warms the engine up faster to optimize performance and efficiency, whereas the Sonata’s four-cylinder is downright radical in comparison.
That turbo-four is configured into a V, which will be fabulous for packaging into smaller engine bays of the future and ideal for mating to hybrid drivetrains that could potentially fit into the engine bays of current models. It puts out 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque due, in part, to an industry-first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) system that improves straight-line performance by four percent while improving fuel economy by five percent and reducing emissions by 12 percent. A Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (LP EGR) system helps Hyundai to achieve the last number, but I’ll get into more detail about its advanced tech when I review the new 2020 Sonata Turbo.
Respect should be paid to the technology behind the Accent’s new Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine, but clearly it’s more of an upgrade to an existing powerplant than anything revolutionary. Still, the new model’s improvement in fuel economy needs to be commended, with the 2019 Accent being reviewed here good for just 8.2 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 7.3 combined whether employing its standard six-speed manual or available as-tested six-speed automatic, and the new 2020 Accent managing an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 6.9 combined with its six-speed manual gearbox or 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.6 combined with its new CVT—the latter number representing 12-percent better economy.
As for the six-speed automatic in the outgoing Accent I’m reviewing here, it shifts smoothly, delivers a nice mechanical feel and even gets sporty when the shift lever is slotted into its manual position and operated by hand, so traditionalists should like it. Still, the 2020 Accent’s available CVT, called ITV by Hyundai for “Intelligent Variable Transmission,” should be thought of as an upgrade. Hyundai claims it simulates shifts so well you won’t be able to tell the difference (we’ll see about that), and don’t worry I’ll say how I really feel in a future road test review. Fortunately, CVTs are usually smoother than regular automatic transmissions, unless the simulated shifts are a bit off. Again, I won’t explain all the details that make Hyundai’s new CVT better than the rest, saving this for that model’s review, but for now will say that it features a wide-ratio pulley system Hyundai claims to provide a broader operation ratio than older CVTs, which improves fuel economy when higher gear ratios are being used and enhances performance when lower ratios are employed.
The 2019 Accent Sedan delivers sportier performance than most in this class, thanks to the powerful little engine noted earlier, plus the engaging manual mode-enhanced gearbox, while its ride quality is comforting due to a well-sorted front strut and rear torsion beam suspension system, and should continue being good in the new 2020 as Hyundai doesn’t make any noted changes. Handling is also good, or at least good enough, the Accent’s electric power steering system delivering good directional response and overall chassis quite capable through the corners if kept at reasonable speeds. Hyundai incorporates standard four-wheel disc brakes, which do a good job of bringing the Accent down to a stop quickly, making the car feel safe and stable at all times.
Changing course, the Accent’s cabin is quite roomy for such a small car, particular when it comes to headroom. Legroom up front is pretty good too, and it should amply sized from side-to-side for most body types, plus I found the driver’s seat and steering wheel easy to position for comfort and control due to good tilt and telescopic steering column rake and reach. While all of the usual seat adjustments are included, there was no way to adjust the lumbar, but the seat is inherently good so I felt supported in all the right places.
Most cars in this class are tight in the back seat, and the Accent Sedan is no exception. Still, but two average-sized adults or three slender passengers, kids included, should fit in with no issue. I positioned the front seat for my longer legged, shorter torso five-foot-eight frame and had approximately two inches remaining between the front seatback and my knees, plus ample room for my feet while wearing winter boots. The seatbacks are finished in a nice cloth, which would be more comfortable if they touched my knees, but I doubt anyone wants to experience such a confining space either way. My small-to-medium torso felt comfortable enough as far as interior width goes, with about three to four inches at the hips and slightly more next to my left shoulder to the door panel, while about two and a half inches of nothingness could be found over above my head (not in my head… I can hear the jokes coming).
Hyundai doesn’t provide a folding armrest in the middle, however, so it lacks the comfort of a larger car like the Elantra or aforementioned Sonata, plus no vents provide air to rear passengers, but Hyundai does include a USB charger for powering passengers’ devices on the backside of the front console.
What about refinement? Strangely, Hyundai isn’t following the latest subcompact trend to pliable composite surfaces in key areas, which means others in this class are doing a better job of pampering occupants, at least in the touchy-feeling department. The dash top, for instance, and the instrument panel, door panels and most everywhere else is hard plastic, other than the leather-wrapped steering wheel of this top-line Ultimate model, plus the fabric door inserts, centre armrest, and cloth upholstered seats, of course. Unforgivable in the Canadian market, however, are hard shell plastic door armrests, which are downright uncomfortable.
Cutting such corners is a shame in a vehicle that does most everything else so well, although I should also criticize Hyundai for including an antiquated monochromatic trip computer in this top-line trim. It should be a full-colour TFT multi-information display this day and age, and on that note I don’t have a problem with its analogue gauges, even though some competitors are now beginning to digitize more of their clusters.
I’m guessing that Hyundai is hoping such shortcomings get forgotten quickly when the Accent’s potential buyers start adding up all the other standard and optional features before comparing its low pricing to competitors. On top of everything already mentioned my top line Accent Sedan came with proximity access with pushbutton start/stop, a fairly large centre touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a host of downloadable apps, a rearview camera with active guidelines, plus much more. A single-zone automatic climate control makes sure the cabin is always at the right temperature, while my tester included three-way heatable front seats plus a heated steering wheel rim, the former capable getting downright therapeutic for the lower back.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel rim just mentioned is beautifully finished and nicely padded for comfort, while its spokes’ switchgear is very well done and complete with voice activation, audio controls, plus phone prompts to the left, and multi-information display plus cruise controls to the right. The turn signal/headlamp and wiper stalks are pretty premium-level as well. In fact, most of the interior buttons, knobs and switches make the Accent feel more expensive than its modest price range suggests. The same goes for the overhead console, which integrates yesteryear’s incandescent lamps yet boasts one of the most luxe lined sunglass holders I’ve ever felt, as well as a controller for the power moonroof.
The Accent Sedan’s rear seats fold individually in the usual 60/40-split configuration, adding more usability to the reasonably sized 388-litre (13.7 cu-ft) trunk, but this said the trunk lid is quite short which limited how much I could angle inside. Of course, a hatchback would solve this problem, so we should be glad Hyundai Canada chose to keep the more versatile of the two body styles for 2020. Hyundai provides a fairly large compartment underneath the load floor no matter which model is chosen, my tester’s mostly filled with a compact spare and the tools to change it, but there’s some space around its perimeter for smaller cargo.
So that’s the 2019 (and some of the 2020) Accent in a nutshell. If you really want a new Accent Sedan, you’d best begin to call all the Hyundai retailers in your city. I’ve checked, and some were available at the time of writing, but I’d recommend acting quickly. According to our 2019 Hyundai Accent Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada, the most basic Accent Sedan in Essential trim with the Comfort Package starts at $17,349 (plus freight and fees), whereas this top-tier Ultimate Sedan can be had for $21,299, less discount of course. Retailers are motivated to sell, after all, so make sure to get a CarCostCanada membership to access info about manufacturer rebates, plus factory leasing and financing rate deals, which were available from zero percent at the time of writing (plus 0.99 percent for the new 2020 Accent), and as always your membership will give you access to dealer invoice pricing that could potentially save you thousands on a new car.
As far as Accent Sedan alternatives go, Kia is keeping its Rio Sedan for 2020 (its basically the same as the U.S.-market Accent Sedan below the surface), and it also includes all the 2020 drivetrain improvements mentioned earlier in this review. As of the 2020 model year the Rio has become the only new subcompact sedan available in Canada, so South Korea’s alternative automotive brand has a good opportunity to lure in some new buyers it might not have been able to previously, while they’re still selling a 2020 Rio Hatchback.
Therefore you’ve got the option of snapping up this 2019 Hyundai Accent Sedan while some are still available, choosing the new 2020 Accent Hatchback with all of its mechanical updates, or opting for the same improvements in the Kia Rio Sedan or Hatchback. This said, maybe a new Hyundai Venue or Kona suits your style, as these two are superb subcompact crossovers only slightly more money. All in all it seems like Hyundai Motor Group has you covered no matter what you want in an entry-level vehicle, so the automaker’s future certainly looks promising.
There are certain market segments an automaker wants to do well in. Obviously, higher end models like large sedans, SUVs and sports cars present the opportunity for higher profits, and are therefore important to any brand’s bottom line, while larger compact and mid-size models are critical for volume, but if you’re not able to pull buyers into the fold early on, when they’re moving up from pre-owned to new, or from a mainstream volume brand to luxury, then it’s more difficult to sell those higher end models later on. Or at least that’s the theory.
One might say BMW group owns the subcompact luxury SUV category in Canada. After all, together with the segment’s most popular X1, which found 4,420 entry-level luxury buyers last year, this Mini Countryman that was good for 2,275 slightly less affluent up-and-comers, and the sportiest (and priciest) BMW X2 that earned 1,383 new customers of its own, its total of 8,078 units sales more than doubled what Audi or Mercedes-Benz could deliver in Canada last year.
While BMW would no doubt like to eventually pull Mini customers up into its namesake brand, and some now doubt do make the progression, it really exists on its own. What I mean is that Mini has a completely unique character that car enthusiasts aspire to, and not kept around merely as a gateway brand. If a Mini owner was fortunate enough to trade in their Countryman for a larger, pricier SUV, they might just as well choose a Range Rover Velar instead of an X3 or X5. Then again, it’s probably just as likely they’ll stick with their Mini, choosing instead to move up within the brand to a John Cooper Works trim level or maybe even this top-line Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid.
The Countryman was one of the first subcompact luxury SUVs on the market, arriving way back in 2010. Mini made major improvements for its 2017 redesign, so now this second-generation model has been with us for four years if we include the 2020 model. If you looked at a 2020 and this outgoing 2019 model you wouldn’t be able to notice many changes. Some wheel designs have been changed, a normal occurrence every now and then, with the big updates found under the skin, and then only impacting buyers wanting a manual transmission. Yes, it’s been axed for 2020, mostly because Mini’s U.S. division swapped it out for a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox in front-wheel drive models not available here, so it’s almost entirely the previously optional eight-speed automatic across the Countryman line in Canada, whether DIY enthusiasts like it or not.
Almost entirely? Yes, the very Countryman S E ALL4 hybrid on this page uses a six-speed Steptronic automatic driving the front wheels via a 136-horsepower 1.5-litre three-cylinder Twin Power Turbo engine. The ALL4 in the name designation denotes all-wheel drive, but unlike the other ALL4s in the Countryman lineup, this model’s rear wheels are solely powered by an 88-horsepower (65kW) synchronous e-motor via electricity stored in a 7.6 kWh Li-Ion battery.
Like with most all-wheel drive systems, power can be apportioned front or back, with the wheels in the rear employed fully in EV mode, or partially when the Countryman detects front slippage and needs more traction. That means it feels as if you’re driving a regular hybrid, with each axle using its motive power sources seamlessly as needed, all working together harmoniously via Mini’s drivetrain management system. The S E ALL4’s electric-only range is a mere 19 km after a complete charge, but who’s counting.
Not even 20 km? Ok, that is pretty minuscule, and many of my colleagues are reporting real world results of 12 and 13 km. Thank goodness Mini made another change to the Countryman line for 2020, a larger batter for a 30-percent gain in EV range for 29 km in total. While this will hardly cause BMW i3 fans to shift allegiances, the added range allows the Countryman S E ALL4 to be used as a regular commuter without the need to recharge until you get to work, as long as your daily commute falls within most peoples’ average. If you really want to go green you can stop along the way for more energy, and it won’t take too much time for the new 10-kWh battery to recharge.
It’s probably not a good idea to use EV mode all the way to work if you need to take the highway, unless it’s bumper to bumper all the way. While the Countryman S E ALL4 can achieve speeds of up to 125 km/h with just its e-motor, you’ll drain the battery in minutes if you try. Instead, you can use its hybrid mode on the highway (up to 220 km/h if you’re feeling frisky) and switch back to EV mode when traveling slower, which maximizes a given charge. The regenerative brakes help to charge up the battery when coming to stops or going downhill, doing their part to maximize zero emissions driving.
I made the point of recharging the battery whenever possible during my weeklong test. I’d grab a coffee at McDonalds and give it a quick charge outside, drop by the local mall and do likewise, and one time stayed a little longer at Ikea’s restaurant in order to fully top it up, plus of course I charged it overnight. Being that it takes quite a bit of effort to find somewhere in public to charge it that’s not being used, the novelty quickly wears off when the battery runs out of juice in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes. Still, its fuel economy is good even when not charging it up all the time, with an 8.4 L/100km rating in the city, 8.8 on the highway and 8.6 combined. Plugging it in more often can give you an equivalent rating of 3.6 L/100km combined city/highway, however, so it’s obviously worth going through the hassle.
At least as important for any Mini, the Countryman S E ALL4 is fun to drive. I can’t think of many hybrid SUVs that include a manual mode shifter, let alone a Sport mode (that actually does something), but all you need to do is slide the switch at the base of the gearbox to the left and this PHEV shoots away from a stoplight with plenty of energy, taking about seven seconds to reach 100 km/h thanks to a total of 221 net horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque (the electric motor puts out an immediate 122 lb-ft of twist by itself), and while it can’t quite achieve the 301-hp John Cooper Work’s Countryman’s ability to get off the line, the JCW managing just over 6 seconds to 100 km/h, this 1,791-kilo cute ute still feels quick enough.
The S E ALL4 is even more sporting around fast-paced curves, with the kind of high-speed handling expected from a Mini. It’s not as firmly sprung as a JCW, but then again it provides a more comfortable ride. Likewise, the Countryman S E ALL4 is a complete pleasure on the freeway, tracking well at high-speed and excellent at overcoming unexpected crosswinds, my test model’s meaty 225/50R18 all-season tires providing a sizeable contact patch with the tarmac below.
A fabulously comfortable driver’s seat made longer stints behind the wheel easy on the back, my test model’s boasting superb inherent support for the lower back and thighs, with the former benefiting from four-way lumbar support and the latter from a manually extendable lower cushion to cup under the knees (love that). It’s spacious too, both up front and in the rear, with the back seats roomy enough for big adults as long as the centre position stays unoccupied. A wide armrest folds down from middle, housing the expected twin cupholders, while two vents on the backside of the front console keep fresh air flowing. A 12-volt charger has me wondering when Mini plans to modernize with USB charging ports, while no rear seat heaters were included in this trim. At least there was a wonderfully large power panoramic glass sunroof up above, making the Countryman’s smallish dimensions feel bigger and more open.
I’ve read/heard a number of critics complain about the Countryman not offering enough cargo space, however, but this little Mini’s cargo compartment design has me sold. Of course it’s relatively small compared to a larger compact or mid-size luxury utility, which is par for the course when choosing a Mini, its dimensions measuring 487 litres behind the rear seatback and 1,342 litres when lowered, but it’s the folding centre section I appreciate most. This allows longer items like skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats. The Countryman’s 40/20/40 rear seat split is the most convenient in the industry, while the seats’ folding mechanism feels very well made with everything clicking together solidly. The rear compartment is finished well too, with high quality carpets most everywhere. It all helps Mini make its argument for premium status.
Some buyers don’t consider Mini a premium brand, while those in the know place it alongside (or slightly below) BMW, at least when it comes to the Bavarian automaker’s entry-level models, like the X1. Of course, the X1 xDrive28i starts at a lofty $42,100 when compared to the $31,090 Countryman, but this fully loaded S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid, featuring upgrades like the previously noted sunroof, plus LED cornering headlights and fog lamps, a head-up display, navigation, real-time traffic info, superb Harman/Kardon audio, a wireless device charger, and more, will set you back more than $50k (the S E ALL4’s base price is $44,390), so Mini is in the same league. This pricing spread makes it clear that Mini sits well above most other mainstream volume branded subcompact SUVs, which range in price from $18,000 for the most basic to $35,000 for something fancier in full dress.
By the way, you can find out all about 2019 and 2020 Mini Countryman pricing right here on CarCostCanada, with details about trims, packages and individual options included, plus you can also access money saving manufacturer rebate info, the latest deals on financing, and best of all dealer invoice pricing that could help you save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate. CarCostCanada provides all this and more for every volume mainstream and luxury model available in Canada, so make sure to go there first before stepping into a dealership.
The base S E ALL4 is well equipped too, by the way, including 18-inch alloy wheels on run-flat tires, puddle lamps, a keyless toggle start/stop switch, a sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, well bolstered sport seats with leatherette upholstery, adaptive cruise control, park distance control, two-zone automatic climate control, a large high-definition centre touchscreen with excellent graphics, and more.
Additionally, all of the high-end features just mentioned are housed in an interior that’s finished to premium levels, or at least it’s premium for this compact luxury SUV category. This means it includes fabric-wrapped roof pillars and plenty of pliable composite surfaces, while the switchgear is nicely made too, not to mention brilliantly retrospective with respect to the chromed toggles on the centre stack and overhead console.
All in all, the Countryman S E ALL4 might be a fuel-efficient hybrid, but it’s also a Mini, which means it lives up to the performance expectations the British brand’s loyal followers want, while also providing a high level of style, luxury, features, roominess, and more. That it’s possible to drive emissions-free over short distances is a bonus, as is access to your city’s high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, plug-in parking spots closer to the entrance of shopping malls, stores, etcetera, and better than average fuel economy whether using EV mode or just its hybrid setup. It’s a bit pricey, but the Countryman S E ALL4 delivers a lot for the money asked.