Automotive, Car Reviews


Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?
South Korean carmakers have come a long way in a relatively short time. And they’ve earned their current success by offering cars that are built well, competitive in price and even more competitive in features.

Hyundai, the subject of this particular rant, has developed from the old and unloved Pony and Stellar of the 1980’s, and their later and rather bizarre “relax, you’ll get there someday” jingle I took to mean that, undoubtedly unconsciously, Hyundai was admitting their cars were lacking in oomph. Yes, Hyundai used to be a joke, automotively speaking.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 17, 2018 - Full Story

‘Electric-ish’ BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel

'Electric-ish' BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel
BMW’s first SUV - though they refer to it as an SAV - has been given the plug-in hybrid treatment and the result is a large utility (er, Activity, in BMW-speak) vehicle that might even save you some gas money.

The X5 xDrive40e is the first plug-in hybrid production model from BMW’s core lineup. Starting at an estimated MSRP of $74,950 CAD, before options, it’s a darn fine vehicle and equipped well even at that trim level (it’s a premium vehicle, after all). And BMW seems to be listening to some of the folks who’ve whined about its interfaces in recent years. That would include me, who has muttered maledictions about the iDrive system, the complexity of merely storing a radio station preset and the annoying folly of having to pull door handles twice to get out of the vehicle and the start/stop button twice to get the thing to actually shut down.

By Jim Bray - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - Full Story

The 2018 Canadian Car of the Year is a Honda - and the Best Utility Vehicle is a minivan

Honda's all-new Accord sedan
Looks like Honda might be wise to buy a bigger display case to hold all the international awards its new Accord is receiving.

That’s because, after being named 2018 North American Car of the Year at the car show in Detroit, as well as scoring its way onto the Car & Driver 10 Best Cars list yet again (for about the 1,000th time) Honda’s all-new Accord sedan has won the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, presented under the auspices of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 18, 2018 - Full Story

Canadian Car of the Year gets down to the best of the best

Mazda CX-9
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Best Car award is now down to three finalists.

Well, six, technically - but that’s a pretty steep winnowing from the 182 vehicles that were eligible for this year’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards. And it means there are now only three contenders (or a contender and two pretenders?) for the titles of Canadian Car of the Year and the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Mazda leads the way with three vehicles that are still in the running - and as a Mazda fan I’d be happy with any of them taking their categories. Alas, the prevailing “wisdom” seems to be aimed elsewhere, at least in the “car” of the year category.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, February 11, 2018 - Full Story

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!
What would you do if you found yourself with an extra $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you give it to charity, buy stocks or other investments, or maybe just blow it on a four wheeled toy?

A good friend of mine, Blair, posed that query to me a couple of days ago and it got me thinking about what I’d do in such a situation if I didn’t have to consult with anyone about how (or if…) it should be spent.

I don’t know if Blair has an extra 35 grand burning a hole in his pocket or if he was merely "goal setting," but his challenge was: "you have $35K and want to buy a sports car for occasional use. What would you choose?" He also mentioned I didn’t have to use the full 35 grand of "play money" but I imagine that by the time all is said and done I’d have spent that amount and maybe a little more.

By Jim Bray - Thursday, February 1, 2018 - Full Story

Americans’ most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada’s best new car gets a step closer

Americans' most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada's  best new car gets a step closer
What do Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen all have in common? They were named to the list of the 15 cars that American consumers keep the longest before putting them out to pasture.

The news comes courtesy of,  which bills itself as "an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance."  I’d never heard of them before learning about this study, but after checking out their site they seem to be kind of like AutoTrader in their focus.

By Jim Bray - Monday, January 29, 2018 - Full Story

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta
One of my favourite sedans is about to be reborn and if initial pictures are any indication it will be an interesting step forward.

That car is the Volkswagen Jetta, which until this new generation basically resembled a Golf with a trunk (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The new generation is not only redesigned, but VW says it also features a transferrable six year, 72,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty.

Alas, that new warranty is only from VW USA; VW Canada will continue with its four year, 80,000 km warranty, but this probably isn’t a big deal in this day and age of vehicle dependability.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, January 21, 2018 - Full Story

Gorilla Glass debuts in car windshields

Gorilla Glass debuts in car windshields
Chemically toughened glass already keeps cell phone screens (mostly) crack-free, and now this type of glass is starting to make its mark in the auto industry in car windshields. According to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, Gorilla Glass and similar strong, transparent materials could soon make an appearance in even more consumer products.

By American Chemical Society - Friday, January 19, 2018 - Full Story

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda’s entry

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda's entry
It may be a bad pun, but the headline above is a good piece of advice if you’re one of the people thinking about making the move to a new minivan.

I’m not a minivan guy at all - my wife wanted one when our kids were sized and had lifestyles that were "minivan friendly" but I always managed to stave it off, until now they’re long-married and on their own and a minivan is even less of a necessity for empty nesters. But I understand and laud the minivan as perhaps the ultimate in family-and-their-stuff hauling (at least until the three row SUV came along) and I’ve driven enough of them over the years to appreciate their utility, if not their fun.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - Full Story

Motoring: Peugeot 3008

Motoring: Peugeot 3008
When I take delivery of the Peugeot 3008 SUV (sports utility vehicle) I have a schedule planned. It is going to Chichester, only 30 minutes from home, down the M27 and after that a more gruelling trip to Cornwall, some 240 miles away. This should give me a good idea of what this vehicle is about. Throw into the mix a trio of trouble: Harriett (6), Heidi (4) and Henry (1).

My little rascals get really excited when a vehicle is delivered and when they see the 3008 their eyes light up. The burgundy finish gets a thumbs up and we all like the black roof and smattering of chrome. Looking closer the rear section reminds me of the Range Rover Evoque but there’s also a hint of the ‘70s about it with the way the panel under the glass swooshes up in a sort of curve. The chunky chrome exhausts at the rear and the black privacy glass, the large chrome grille at the front and the sizeable bonnet all help to give this mid range SUV character. And even some drivers of more expensive Land Rovers and Range Rovers double take, I notice. Inside it is dark due to the black roof fabric and dark interior trim. This is only really emphasised if, like me, you have been driving cars with large glass roofs. There’s a comfortable driving position and, as my son Henry makes me realise when he stands in front of it, it sits quite high up. Therefore, the driver enjoys a good view of the road ahead. All controls are close to hand and the finish of the 3008 is good although the bonnet feels a little tinny to me.

By Tim Saunders - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - Full Story

GM thanks taxpayers for bailout by introducing car with no steering wheel so they can die in it

GM thanks taxpayers for bailout by introducing car with no steering wheel so they can die in it
Trends come and trends go. People jump on completely insane ideas because everyone else is jumping on them. I get it. It’s been that way since the dawn of time. Pet rocks. Lava lamps. Halter tops. Pink Floyd. All kinds of things become things because - for whatever reason - a few people decide to ride them and everyone else follows, until it’s time to jump off and jump on something else.

(And sometimes we jump off things we should stay on forever, like Sonny Crockett’s wardrobe, but I digress.)

For the most part I attribute it to a uniquely human aversion to engage in critical thinking. “This is idiotic but everyone else is an idiot too so who cares?” It’s easier than thinking, and it earns you less resistance, so what the hell?

By Dan Calabrese - Friday, January 12, 2018 - Full Story

Americans must be free to buy vehicles that meet their needs!

Americans must be free to buy vehicles that meet their needs!
COPPER HILL, Virginia — Imagine if there were just one kind of car you could buy and you were told by the government you had to buy.  No choice, no options.

One size fits all,  just because.  It’s a ridiculous idea, of course.

The reason there are different types of cars — and trucks and SUVs and everything in between — is because people have different needs.

By Guest Column -- Eric Peters- Thursday, December 28, 2017 - Full Story

All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!

All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!
Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry is quite a revelation. It’s not only a great mainstream "bread and butter" car, it’s also a car an enthusiastic driver could - well, if not exactly "lust after" then "learn to love and not be ashamed."

Sure, it’ll never go head to head with such sporty sedans as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 series, but those are also higher end vehicles and the Camry doesn’t pretend to be in their league (that’s why Toyota has Lexus). In its own market niche it faces such worthy competitors as the all-new Honda Accord (which is pretty tough competition on its own), Nissan’s Maxima, the Mazda 6,  Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, and others such as the domestic competitors from the once-Big Three (i.e. Ford Fusion, etc.).

By Jim Bray - Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - Full Story

Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon

Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon
Design is becoming more thought provoking.

I notice this as I admire the new Fiat Tipo station wagon, parked on my driveway.

There’s barely a straight panel on it and that’s nothing to do with my driving! This has led me to cast my mind back to vehicles of the past. It seems that curves started to become fashionable in the ‘60s on the likes of the E-type Jaguar but many cars of that period were still boxy and this was the case right through to the ‘80s, even the ‘90s where straight lines still prevailed on the likes of the Vauxhall Cavalier. Of course this is a very general perception and there were exceptions to the rule such as TVR and the more specialist manufacturers. Over the next 20 years those straight lines were gradually rounded off, think of the Ford Granada and Vauxhall Omega. But we now live in a different era, one where manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board and created something that combines both straight lines and curves. The Fiat Tipo is a good example of this. The front wheel arches are a tasteful blend of slightly boxy curvaceousness which joins up with the equally well crafted bonnet. It looks chunkier from the side than head on. And it’s a good effect. This is offset by the two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels.

By Tim Saunders - Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - Full Story

New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that’s a good thing!

New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that's a good thing!

By Jim Bray - Monday, December 11, 2017 - Full Story

Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that’s plenty of fun

Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that's plenty of fun
The entry level version of Mazda’s smallest SUV is not only a great vehicle that’s a blast to drive, it also shows clearly that there are plenty of common features on today’s vehicles that aren’t really necessary.

I mean, for 20 grand Canadian, you can have a great-looking “crossover” that’s also a great driving one (it feels kind of like a tall Mazda 3). It’s almost enough to make me want to think about owning an SUV, without simultaneously ducking to avoid a lightning strike from Heaven.

Sure, for that $19,995 entry price you don’t get adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and that type of thing. But you do get manual cruise control, and vehicle that handles so nicely that you should have no trouble keeping inside your lane (as long as you pay attention - and if you don’t, why are you there?). You also get outside rear view mirrors you can adjust to virtually eliminate blind spots - and plenty more standard features, like airbags, belts and the like. Just like every car today, pretty well.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, December 3, 2017 - Full Story

Mercedes’ golden age of design continues with 2017 C-Class Wagon

Mercedes-Benz' C Class wagon
Mercedes-Benz’ C Class wagon is a lovely and wonderful car that combines the best of a sedan with most of the utility of an SUV/Crossover. I call that a winning combination.

Okay, let’s get the “I’m a wagon guy” out of the way first. I’m a wagon guy. I love ‘em - they’re like a sedan except you can haul a big screen TV in them - depending on the size of the screen.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, November 26, 2017 - Full Story

Car buyers lose big when big government tells them what to buy

Car buyers lose big when big government tells them what to buy
DALLAS — For a century carmakers built the cars and trucks their customers wanted.  That’s changing. Increasingly they’re building cars and trucks the government wants their customers to have—and that means electric vehicles (EVs).

CNN reports that China, France, Great Britain, India, Norway and Germany are considering banning the future production and sale of gasoline and diesel-powered engines.

By Merrill Matthews - Thursday, November 23, 2017 - Full Story

Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018

Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018
Does Honda’s mid-cycle refresh of its little Fit mean the car’s a little Fitter now?

Indeed. The Fit is a good little car - despite the Honda-isms of the company’s current line that continuously drive me crazy - and Honda has indeed made it even better than before. They’ve even returned the volume control knob to the centre stack, proving that they either do listen to their critics or that they’ve actually started driving their own products for a change.

By Jim Bray - Friday, November 17, 2017 - Full Story

Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel

Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel
Toyota, please don’t even think about 86ing this great little smile generator!

A tip of the pun-dit hat to my friend Harry for that one, though the rest of the groaners in this piece are all mine.

The Toyota 86 - the Scion FR-S before Toyota said sayonara to the Scion era - and its virtual twin from Subaru (named after a Business Revitalization Zone or something) are relative rarities in this era of high tech gadgetry: they’re raw and unsophisticated, but they also hearken back to the days when cars were simpler, more direct and, dare I say, visceral.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, November 12, 2017 - Full Story