Automotive

Automotive, Car Reviews

CX-9 brings Mazda’s fun driving experience to the three row crossover

It’s big and it only sports a four banger engine, but the Mazda CX-9 SUV/crossover is one of the best driving vehicles in the class.

In other words, it’s a typical Mazda.

Mazda is a relatively small car company, and for the last few years the Hiroshima-headquartered Japanese carmaker has had to forge its own path without another carmaker having its back (Ford used to be a partner). Yet it consistently comes up with vehicles - sedans, SUV/crossovers and, of course, sports coupes - that are just plain fun, yet are also featured fully and exude an air of quality that makes them seem more expensive than they are. 

The CX-9 is Mazda’s biggest vehicle, but slip this baby into sport mode via the little rocker switch on the centre console and the vehicle seems to shrink a tad, just enough to make it sit up and take notice that you’re looking to play. It still feels big, of course - even Mazda can’t change the laws of physics - but it goes from feeling like a nice, big SUV to a nice, big Mazda SUV, and all the “Zoom-Zoom” that brings.

Toyota Camry: the extraordinary ordinary family car

It’s been called vanilla, boring, bland, but what the Toyota Camry really is, is a fabulously designed and rendered sedan that gives a driver everything needed and most of what could be wanted - in an unassuming but handsome package that’s as state-of-the-art as most people could want.

It also sells oodles (it’s been one of the top selling cars for years now) and, judging by the Toyota logo and the number of old Camry still on the road, it’ll probably run forever.

That, to me, makes it an automotive masterpiece.

Sure, I’ve called the car vanilla, and I suppose it still is in some ways - in that it’s not yummy like butterscotch or a fantastic driving car like an Audi A6 or even, well, the Hyundai Elantra Sport reviewed here last week. I meant that crack originally as a minor put down of what I considered to be a boring car, but over the years that I’ve reviewed cars (including more than a few Camrys) the Camry has grown in looks, driving feel, and features - so much so that this current version (which will be replaced for 2018 with an even newer one) really is pretty much all one could want in a car. And it’s even decent to drive!

Sporty Hyundai sedan ups the fun factor of an already great car

It drives like a Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and it feels like a German car in its construction. But it’s not German - it’s from South Korea, proving once more that the "traditional" automakers had better be taking the Hyundai/Kia twins very seriously lest they end up on the government dole.

The car under discussion here is the Hyundai Elantra Sport,  the winner of the Best New Sport/Performance car from AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year awards - an annual fall TestFest that also resulted in the more "pedestrian" Elantra winning its
category
as well. Quite a feat for a company whose cars used to be the butts of many automotive jokes (though that was a long time ago now!).

VW Passat Estate

We live in a materialistic world.

This fact becomes blatantly clear when I park the sleek Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion estate on the busy main road outside my house. The previous day I had done this with my own ageing mark 5 Ford Fiesta and had very quickly proceeded to be bibbed and tooted by a series of impatient motorists fed up with queuing to get passed me. Yet not a soul does this with the Passat, which is parked there at a much busier time of day for considerably longer. Now aside from this being an interesting study in human behaviour the large VW plays a vitally important role in my family’s move from our Victorian mid-terrace to a more family friendly detached property in a quieter location. Without doubt parking the VW outside our house increases the street’s credibility and there is no qualm about doing this because there are power folding wing mirrors so they cannot be knocked by frustrated drivers.

By Tim Saunders - Friday, May 5, 2017 - Full Story

Honda and Toyota offer wildly different visions of Crossover styles

One’s a truck that drives like an SUV; the other is an SUV that drives like a truck. Which one makes more sense?

Naturally, it depends on the task at hand. If you’re looking for a small pickup truck that rides like more a car, the Honda Ridgeline is the clear choice. But if you want a brawny adventurer that’ll be as comfortable off the asphalt as it is inside the city, the Toyota 4Runner is the winner.

And never will the twain meet, except perhaps in this column.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, April 22, 2017 - Full Story

Ford SUV’s offer good driving and plentiful technology for 2017

Ford offers a long list of SUV’s for sale, from the entry size Escape to the humongous Expedition, all of which face stiff competition from a huge number of SUV/Crossover models available. So how do the three most popular models stack up for the 2017 model year?

Pretty well, I’d say, though I haven’t driven all of the competition recently. But after a week with each of the Escape, Edge and Explorer (with a week off between to fall under the spell of the exquisite new Lincoln Continental), I came away impressed with how well the vehicles drive, how easy they are to operate, and how nice they are overall.

I slid my prodigious posterior into the Edge first, Ford of Canada’s sample wearing the Sport trim level that immediately caused my ears to perk up. Sure, it’s a bigger SUV than I like (which makes the Explorer even more so…), but - at least in the Sport trim - it drives smaller than it looks, and that made a huge difference to my enjoyment.

New Hyundai hybrid an interesting and rewarding drive

Hyundai’s Ioniq green car is so new we don’t even have a published price for it in Canada yet, but it’s worth waiting for because the hybrid is so good to drive I kept forgetting it’s an earth saver.

Heck, I liked driving the Ioniq so much that, after all my hybrid humour and hammering over the years, I figure I’m risking a lightning bolt from above just for saying I like this car. And isn’t that ioniq, er I mean ironic?

Motoring: Honda HR-V

When the Honda HR-V arrives on my doorstep (it’s a tough job being a motoring journalist) I am very pleasantly surprised. You see I remember the original HR-V in production from 1999 to 2006, which looked, frankly, strange. It was a quirky vehicle that didn’t really look comfortable in itself and quite boxy, too.

This second generation model is a veritable delight. It’s curvaceous and sexy and extremely youthful looking no doubt enhanced by its pearly white finish. First and foremost it is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) but I would go as far as saying that it is one of the most stylish I have had the pleasure of driving. Head on it looks fresh; I like the curvaceous front end and from the rear there is a hint of the frog about it thanks to its slightly arched back.

By Tim Saunders - Sunday, April 9, 2017 - Full Story

New Continental puts Lincoln firmly back on the map

It doesn’t wallow, nor does it feel like a car my grandfather would drive. In fact, it looks as if Lincoln has thrown down a gauntlet with the 2017 Continental, announcing to the world that the famed marque is not only back, but capable of taking on the competitors head to head.

When was the last time you read that about a Lincoln Continental?

It’s something I had never written before, let alone thought.  Oh, I liked the MKZ I drove last fall a lot, but as nice as it was it still felt like a “gussied up” Fusion (which it is, really), whereas after spending a week in the grand new Continental I came away excited for the future of the famed nameplate, which had kind of gone to sleep as a major luxury brand.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Reacts to Corporate Welfare Announcement for Ford Canada

OTTAWA, ON: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) Federal Director Aaron Wudrick released the following statement in response to today’s joint Federal-Ontario announcement regarding Ford Canada:

“The federal and Ontario governments continue to double down on the failed strategy of taxpayer subsidies to private businesses. It is ludicrous to suggest that Ford ‘needed’ a $200 million handout from Ontario and Canadian taxpayers, as the company earned a global pre-tax profit of more than US$10 billion in 2015. If the federal and Ontario governments are concerned about business competitiveness, they should eliminate misguided policies that drive up costs (such as the Green Energy Act and carbon cap-and-trade) and lower business taxes.

Corporate welfare is an unsustainable, wasteful and unfair approach to economic development that creates perverse incentives and teaches businesses that the key to success is to cozy up to governments for free taxpayer money.”

By Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- Aaron Wudrick, CTF Federal Director- Thursday, March 30, 2017 - Full Story

Kia Sorento a fine ride that outdoes some higher end SUV’s

Though there’s only been some minor tweaking done to the Kia Sorento for 2017, that isn’t cause for any concern.

In fact, the undoubted rationale for maintaining the status quo is that the SUV/Crossover was already a darn fine vehicle, with lots of equipment stuffed into it, and even without a major overhaul it’s still highly competitive in the crowded market niche of mid-sized utility vehicles.

This is the vehicle, after all, that drove away with the Best SUV/CUV ($35K - $60K) award after competing at the 2016 Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. It beat out the BMW X1, Ford Edge, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Tucson (conventional and Fuel Cell Electric), and the exquisite Lexus NX 200t (F SPORT) for the honours so, unless the collected auto journalists that voted on the category were collectively delusional - and I would never accuse them of that! - it’s quite the vehicle.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - Full Story

Honda adds an ugly but kind of fun hatchback to its Civic line

You could look at it as a return to form, an extra reason to give Honda’s classic Civic a look if you’re in the market for a mainstream car.  And it is, somewhat, because Honda offered hatchback Civics in Canada for many years.

Alas, this isn’t Civics of old and, as great as it is in so many ways, it’s still a current Honda and that means it may drive you nuts as you drive.

Full disclosure: I once owned a Honda Civic hatchback, a silver 1976 model I adored and drove happily for three years, at which time it was pretty well rusted out and went from being wonderfully dependable to woefully undependable. But those were a great three years of cheap and fun driving.

I traded straight across a six month old 1975.5 MGB (which sold for appreciably more than the Civic and which kept leaving me on the side of the road) moving in the process to something that would hold the family we were planning to build at the time. And even though I only got three years out of that Civic before it informed me non-verbally that it was retiring, I never questioned that swap.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - Full Story

Canadians want reliability in their cars - so how does 2017’s crop stack up?

Forget fine Corinthian leather, ultimate connectivity and high horsepower. It appears that Canadians are more interested in buying a vehicle that doesn’t leave them stranded on the side of the road than they are in creature comforts or high technology.

That’s according to a survey of Canadian men and women (or, to be inclusive "memen"), as reported by a GfK survey of over 22,000 Internet users in 17 countries, though only 1,002 of them were from the Once Great White North. It appears to be a "yuge" majority,  too: more than eight in 10 women (83 per cent) and 77 per cent of men named reliability as the number one feature they seek out when they put down their hard-earned after-tax cash for a new set of wheels.

That’s a pretty hefty margin! On the other hand, only 23 per cent of guys and 17 per cent of gals seek out the latest technology in a vehicle they purchase. I can see that to a certain extent: some of the current safety nannies, like lane departure warnings, can be very obtrusive and annoying, and the first time one experiences them can be a bit of a freak-out.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - Full Story

Mitsubishi winter driving event helps teach control on snow

Winter may be on its way outsoon, but there’s still enough of the “old person” around to ensure that snowy Canadian roads will be challenging for at least a few more weeks. That means there’s still ample opportunity for more skid-related fender benders before spring springs and the grass starts rizzing.

And to that end, Mitsubishi Canada has been on the road as well, bringing some professional drivers and some of their Outlander SUV/Crossovers to Alberta to not only showcase the “crummy weather capabilities” of their vehicles but to give some handy tips to attendees who find themselves oot and aboot when the white stuff sticks.

I love these events; they’re not only fun but they can help you “navigate the neige” with more confidence and skill. I did a similar type of thing a couple of years back when Ford came through and will always show up for such events because you can never have too much practice - and it’s a real hoot sliding around a snowy open area in someone else’s vehicle (and they treat you really nicely, too).

So it was that Mitsubishi and their folk, armed with a squadron of Outlanders, came through Calgary last Saturday on the last leg of their three stop tour to Wild Rose Country. They were accompanied as well by representatives from Morrisport Advanced Driving, a group of personable driving experts with whom I’ve worked before as well.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Full Story

Motoring: Fiat 500x

Teenagers standing by the roadside clapping and cheering.

Not something that I expect as I drive past in the Fiat 500x and at first I am oblivious but then slowly realise it’s the bright Amalfi yellow exterior - costing in excess of £1,000 - that’s really brought us to their attention.

Few vehicles on Britain’s roads have this effect and that alone makes you stand back and admire this characterful Italian.

Fiat has really achieved something special with this sports utility vehicle. It’s a difficult thing to do when considering the competition from the likes of the eye-catching Nissan Juke and Qashqai etc. etc.

By Tim Saunders -- Zainab Calcuttawala- Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Full Story

Toyota’s 2017 Highlander a handsome and comfortable SUV

The popular Highlander SUV/Crossover is about mid-way through its current generation and Toyota has enhanced and upgraded it for the 2017 model year, making it an even more pleasant vehicle to be in.

In fact, I’d reckon that, after my week in Toyota Canada’s sample Highlander XLE AWD model that it’s an even nicer vehicle than its up market cousin, the Lexus RX 350. That’s because, while it isn’t as luxurious or, ahem, prestigious as the Lexus (which rides on the same basic platform), the sample was plenty luxurious enough, more handsome inside and out (with the usual "eye of the beholder" caveat)  and easier to operate.

The ease of use comes mostly from Toyota’s decision to put a touch screen in the centre stack and mount it within reach of even short people. And it’s easy to fathom and to use. The Lexus has its screen mounted high and out of reach, forcing the company to put one of those damn mouse-like Remote Touch devices on the centre console, and as nifty as that sounds it’s actually counterproductive if you’re just trying to get stuff done because you’re fiddling with the knob and menus all the time instead of just poking and choosing.

By Jim Bray - Friday, February 24, 2017 - Full Story

Volkswagen and Subaru drive off with Canadian Car of the Year honours

The best new car and utility vehicles in Canada for 2017 come from Germany and Japan and, while one is considered a car, both could be considered utility vehicles as well.

That’s because the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) overall winner, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, is not only a great car in its own right,  it’s also what once would have been known in these parts as a station wagon, a family-and-hauling-friendly vehicle that blends the best of both worlds while never forgetting that at heart, it’s a Golf - which is a very good thing indeed.

The other side of the Car of the Year coin is Utility Vehicle of the Year, which for 2017 has gone to the Subaru Forester, which just happens to be my favourite Subaru year after year (though I must admit liked earlier ones better).

By Jim Bray - Monday, February 20, 2017 - Full Story

Honda moves in the right direction with the new CR-V

Maybe Honda is listening to its critics because this new CR-V is a nice step back toward Hondas of old, Hondas that weren’t just great vehicles, but which didn’t really annoy their owners at the same time.

I’ve been one of those critics over the past few years,  though I can’t imagine a small potatoes guy like me being responsible for Honda moving back toward the light - but it’s sure good to see.  

By Jim Bray - Saturday, February 11, 2017 - Full Story

Lexus GS sport sedan a ‘Lexurious’ and fun drive

Lexus has been relentlessly, and passionately, pursuing automotive perfection since the brand first upset the luxury car market back in 1989. Does that mean its current line has reached that pinnacle of automotive excellence for which it has advertised its intent for so long?

Of course not. The only perfection in this world is my wife - followed closely by my grandson (and, yes, they made me write that) - and it isn’t realistic to expect flawlessness in any mere product, especially since your idea of perfection is undoubtedly quite a bit different from mine (which,  of course, means yours is wrong…).

But they keep plugging away, redefining and refining their line and building some of the most reliable vehicles on the planet year after year.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 5, 2017 - Full Story