Automotive

WhatFinger

Missing the Matrix? The Corolla iM might fit the bill

Missing the Matrix? The Corolla iM might fit the bill
What do you do if you loved your little Toyota Matrix hatchback and want to get a new one, only to sally forth to your local Toyota store and find that, like the Pontiac Vibe with which it shared its DNA, it’s no longer available?

Well, you could check out the Corolla iM, which right now is the closest thing Toyota offers to that great little wagon. It started life as the Scion iM, but once Toyota decided to say sayonara to the Scion era (sorry…) it dumped all that line except for this little hatch and the wonderful little FR-S sports coupe that’s now known as the 86.

By Jim Bray - Monday, June 25, 2018

Toyota’s Sequoia may have been treemendous once – but it’s time for an upgrade

Toyota's Sequoia may have been treemendous once – but it's time for an upgrade
Maybe it’s Toyota’s way of ensuring the long-term viability of “old growth” forests, but the Tundra-based Sequoia SUV seems more like a blast from the past than a state-of-the-art “people and stuff hauler.”

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great vehicle – it’s a Toyota, after all, and so if nothing else the thing’ll probably serve its owners forever – but it’s a vehicle that, to make a Sequoia analogy, seems to have a few more rings in its trunk than some of the “new growth” gigantic SUV’s with which it competes.

By Jim Bray - Friday, June 15, 2018

Up-engined Mazda 6 sports even more ‘Zoom-Zoom’

Up-engined Mazda 6 sports even more 'Zoom-Zoom'
Truth in advertising gets even more truthful for Mazda with the release of the 2018 6 sedan and its optional choice of a turbocharged engine.

The engine, which comes from the company’s big SUV/Crossover CX-9, ups the 6’s entertainment/engagement ante substantially, which I imagine is the entire point behind Mazda’s move.

I’ve never driven a Mazda that didn’t put a smile on my face (well, their old pickup truck was pretty ordinary, but that was quite a while ago), and even though I’d have preferred a bit more oomph from the current generation 6 when I first reviewed it back in 2013 I still liked the car and found it to be a rewarding driving experience.

By Jim Bray - Sunday, June 10, 2018

New Accord offers plenty of reasons to like Hondas again!

New Accord offers plenty of reasons to like Hondas again!
The Honda Accord, all-new for 2018, provides substantial evidence that the Japanese carmaker does indeed listen to its customers (and maybe critics, too!). That’s because, after a few years of making vehicles that are nearly as annoying as they are pleasant, the new Accord is a lovely breath of fresh air.

I used to love Hondas and always looked forward to driving them. Then the company seemed to go off the rails, doing things that defied logic (as defined by me, anyway) such as removing the volume and tuning knobs from the audio system, forcing you to use a touch screen that wasn’t particularly usable – especially while the vehicle was in motion, even if you could figure out the interface.

By Jim Bray - Monday, June 4, 2018

Lexus NX hybrid a winner despite a couple of annoyances

Lexus NX hybrid
The good news is that my favourite Lexus has received some tweaking for 2018, and the Japanese luxury brand has wisely refrained from messing too much with the successful NX SUV/crossover.

The bad news is that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to whine about, which comes in handy for a reviewer who doesn’t want to seem overly hyperbolic about a vehicle. And in this case, one of my complaints is easy enough to correct: buy the turbo gas engine version rather than the hybrid, with its whiny continuously variable transmission.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, May 19, 2018

Reborn VW Jetta is a terrific small sedan

Reborn VW Jetta is a terrific small sedan
It may be German inside and out, but VW’s new small sedan makes me think in French.

French, as in “Je t’adore” because (putting it into pun-dit English) “Jetta adore” is how I came away from my week with the new, 2019 Volkswagen Jetta. This probably surprises no one who reads my columns regularly, because you know that I’m a big fan of VW’s, just about any VW – and that includes Audi and Porsche as well (and would probably include such other VW brands as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley, if I were ever lucky enough to get seat time in them).

By Jim Bray - Saturday, May 12, 2018

Big Navigator a cushy and plush drive

Big Navigator a cushy and plush drive
This was certainly the nicest bus I’ve ever driven!

Lincoln’s new Navigator, redesigned for the 2018 model year, is a really nice vehicle for those looking for a motorhome-sized SUV that coddles with the best of ‘em.

It isn’t a motorhome, of course, just a reasonably conventional LARGE three row SUV for the luxury-minded buyer.

By Jim Bray - Monday, May 7, 2018

Ford’s biggest and (until recently) littlest SUV’s offer a lot to like

 Ford Escape
Ford continues to expand and update its line of SUV/Crossovers for 2018, with a minor refresh of the Escape but also with a brand new Expedition.

The two units bookend the Edge and Explorer, ensuring there’s a model for every person’s size preference, from small to absolutely humongous. And they’re pretty nice vehicles as well. There’s one smaller, the just-out Ecosport, but that isn’t covered here..

I spent a week with each of these units, an Escape wearing the Titanium trim level and an Expedition Limited, both of which come with about as much tech and toys as one can want. Of the two, the Escape would be my personal choice because, as a small person, it’s much more a size I’d find useful – but that doesn’t mean that larger folk (or folk who need to carry more folks and/or stuff) won’t find the Expedition worth a look.

By Jim Bray - Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid

Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid
Who’d have thought a Toyota Prius could be an engaging vehicle to drive?

I never did, until this current generation came along a year or so ago, and after having a second kick at the car a couple of weeks ago I came away liking the Prius even more. Heck, if it didn’t have a loud and obnoxious continuously variable transmission, and such a strange-looking exterior, I might even think about putting one in my garage.

By Jim Bray - Monday, April 23, 2018

Motoring: Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic AWD
“It’s too big, I can’t drive it,” says my wife when she tries to drive the Subaru Outback. True, it is a large vehicle. But if given the chance it exceeds expectations. Because here we have an estate that boasts a massive boot, large enough (once the retractable cover is removed) for all the stuff that the Saunders family regularly travels with: two pushchairs, travel cot, luggage and lots of food. And there’s still room to change my young son’s nappy. But the great thing is that when behind the wheel the driver forgets that it’s an estate car.

By Tim Saunders - Friday, April 6, 2018

Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market

Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market
It’s loud. It’s whiny. Its interfaces are incoherent. But it’ll help you save the world, and you might be able to make other people help you pay for it!

It’s Honda’s new Clarity, in this case a plug-in hybrid model. Honda calls it the newest member of their “completely redesigned lineup,” even though it sports exactly the same dashboard abomination – as in no knobs for tuning the stereo or tuning the volume up or down - that the company is finally moving away from with its new Accord and other models.

Claritys (Clarities?) start at a Canadian MSRP of $39,900 and if you want to step up to the top line version – the Touring trim level – it’ll cost you and/or your peers $43,900 (your peers, according to Honda, thanks to “up to $13,000 of government incentives”). For that price you’ll get what Honda says is “a big step forward for the company’s electrified fleet, entering the Canadian market with the best overall combined range and interior volume in its class.”

By Jim Bray - Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in

Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in
It’s green and powerful, and it isn’t the Incredible Hulk. Instead, it’s the new Bullitt edition of Ford’s legendary pony car, the Mustang. And it looks like it’ll be a heckuva ride!

The tie-in comes as the iconic Steve McQueen cop film Bullitt celebrates its 50th anniversary, assuming a movie can celebrate its own birthday, so what better time than now to exploit, er, honour, a dead actor and what’s undoubtedly his most famous movie vehicle other than his LeMans Porsche and the motorcycle with which he leapt tall barriers with a single bound in The Great Escape.

By Jim Bray - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Electric Vehicles Beware: Customers Prefer SUVs and Pick-Ups

Electric Vehicles Beware: Customers Prefer SUVs and Pick-Ups
SUVs and crossovers made up more than one in three cars sold globally last year—almost tripling their share from just a decade ago. The world increasingly wants these larger vehicles that originated in America. Spurred by rising incomes and lower gas prices, drivers in China, Australia, and other countries are showing a preference for SUVs over smaller sedans. Compared to smaller cars, SUVs are about 30 percent less efficient and they are less likely to have electric versions because there are technological and cost hurdles to powering a larger car with batteries. Further, many automakers believe that drivers of SUVs value power and performance and do not want to be constrained by battery-powered cars with far less range.

By Institute for Energy Research - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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

‘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