Compact cars abound at the Canadian International Auto Show
From the April 2018 print edition
Mid-February is traditionally a time of hearts and flowers and the wistful celebration of Cupid’s aim. But for those whose veins course with octane rather than romance, it’s also the time when the Canadian International Auto Show rolls into town. While mid-size passenger cars have been the hardest hit by the explosive popularity of crossovers and SUVs, compact car sales also dropped 40 percent between 2014 and 2017. Good news for the consumer, since it forced other automakers to price-match the Nissan Micra’s $9,998 claim to fame as Canada’s least expensive car. Sales grew by 2.9 percent last year, and the healthy crop of new small cars on display at the CIAS suggests that the versatile compact is recovering.
Last refreshed in 2015 the Focus is essentially unchanged for 2018. It comes in a dizzying array of models, from a basic economy box; an all-electric EV to an all-wheel-drive, rally-inspired RS hatchback. Available in sedan or hatch, the Focus comes standard with capless fuel filler, backup camera, MyKey owner controls, Sync voice recognition connectivity with 4.2-in. display. There are plenty of available technology and comfort options moving up through the trim levels. Engine choices are a 123hp three-cylinder, a 160hp four-cylinder, 252hp turbo-four, and a 350hp, 2.3L turbo-four in the RS models.
For over 50 years, the Corolla has been a popular choice in the compact segment. In 2018 it adds a new range-topping XLE trim, and there’s a hatchback on the way for 2019. The single engine choice, a 1.8L four-cylinder puts out 132hp; bumped to 140hp in the L Eco trim. What the Corolla lacks in excitement, it makes up for in durability and safety—it’s a multiple IIHS five-star safety pick—and every model comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense. This includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure with steering assist, auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.
Available in sedan or hatchback, the Mazda3 was significantly refreshed last year and receives only minor updates for 2018. Last year marked the first use of Mazda’s SkyActiv-Vehicle Dynamic control technology and improvement to their i-ActiveSense safety suite. There are two engine choices, a 155hp 2.0L four-cylinder, and the 184hp 2.5L four-cylinder, mated to either a six-speed manual, or six-speed automatic transmission. Available are LED head and taillights, electronic parking brake to accommodate a larger, covered centre console, perforated leather upholstery and wrapped, heated steering wheel.
Changes to the Golf for 2018 are minor but important. All models now get LED daytime running lights or optional LED headlamps, restyled front and rear fascia, new LED tail lamps and new rim designs and paint colours. Interiors are upgraded with larger touchscreen displays and emergency braking systems now feature pedestrian recognition. The same 170hp 1.8L four-cylinder engine returns with either five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Sporty GTI models get a boost in power to 220hp and the Golf R boasts 292hp and a new seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. The R also receives a slick new “Volkswagen Digital Cockpit” similar to Audi.
Nissan’s second bestseller in Canada, the Sentra, receives some slight changes to available features for 2018. Siri, Bluetooth and emergency braking are standard. Available options include Sirius XM, a moon roof, Navigation, Bose stereo and leather upholstering. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are strangely absent. Engine choices are: 124hp four-cylinder (130hp with the six-speed manual), or a 188hp turbo-charged four-cylinder with a continuously variable transmission.
Since a brand-new WRX is slated to appear next year, there are only a few minor updates to the WRX’s fascia, and a revised equipment list for 2018. For the first time, Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite (adaptive cruise, pre-collision braking, lane-keeping assist reverse auto braking) is available, but only on CVT-equipped WRXs. Available with 268hp, or 305hp for the even sportier STI, the WRX comes standard with all-wheel-drive
The Cruze returns for 2018 unchanged, except that the hatchback joins the sedan in offering a diesel variant. With that powertrain, the Cruze boasts the lowest consumption rate, at 5.0L/100km highway, of any non-hybrid or EV vehicle in Canada. It puts out 137hp and an impressive 240lbs-ft. of torque for instant responsiveness. Standard engine is a 153hp turbo-charged four-cylinder. There are four trims, with standard Bluetooth, seven-in. MyLink infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB and rear camera. Additional features moving up through the trims include keyless start, heated steering, sunroof, Bose sound, 4.2-in. multi-information display, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging.
Canada’s best-selling car for nearly two decades underwent a ground-up redesign in 2016. A brand-new hatchback followed the sedan and coupe shortly after. The Civic was the first compact to offer radar-based advanced driving assist technology across the trim lines. There are three engine choices: a 2.0L four cylinder with 158hp; a 1.5L four cylinder with 174hp, which is massaged to 205hp in the Civic Si. With 306hp, the 2.0L turbo-four in the Type R is the most powerful in the lineup. Standard on base trims are cruise control, Bluetooth, backup camera and USB. Upper trims get Honda’s Lane Watch, keyless start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also available are LED headlights, heated rear seats, navigation, premium sound, Honda Sensing active safety technology.
With its bargain-basement price and meager fuel consumption, the Mirage is the epitome of budget commuter with modest power and a no-frills interior. This year sees a new trim level, ES Plus, that builds on the base E with air, keyless entry and 6.5-in. infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s one engine, a noisy 78hp three cylinder with either five-speed manual or CVT, but it nevertheless helps the Mirage achieve a 6.0L/100km combined fuel rating.