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2020 Hyundai Palisade Luxury

Filling All Gaps

Once claimed to be late for the SUV party, Hyundai now has filled almost every gap in its model range

Hyundai is arguably the most passionate automobile brand of this century. Starting with the “dirt-cheap” Pony in North America about 40 years ago and with a quality level below average, the Korean company today (we should better say the Hyundai-KIA Group) produces cars and SUV’s with top quality and sold all over the world. And we should add Genesis, the group’s rising luxury nameplate.

Engine and Drivetrain

Hyundai’s newest and biggest SUV comes with a 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Without the turbocharging, the engine delivers the torque at the high rpm ranges, so you need to rev the Palisade out to go fast. We would say, this car is borderline fast, as it weighs more than 2.5 tons, the V6 engine is barely enough for it. We wish it comes with forced induction, even with slightly smaller displacement would be fine but it would have offered way more usable and flat torque band. In our tests, we see 12.5L / 100 km average fuel consumption, which is not too bad for a 3-row huge SUV that weighs over 2500 kgs.

Hyundai’s 3.8L, the six-cylinder engine offers 291 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and a still-healthy 262 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 r.p.m.

Hyundai decided to match this 3.8L V6 engine with their 8-Speed torque converter automatic transmission and as soon as you start driving, you realize it is 100% tuned for comfort. It takes a lot of time to downshift, even if you use paddle shifters, there is a lag which causes 1-2 sec delay to accelerate. Having a slightly underpowered engine and slow response transmission is not the best combo for short burst acceleration, which you shouldn’t expect to be the fastest in the straight line anyway. Quite frankly, the transmission is extremely smooth and it doesn’t “hunt the gears” to get better fuel economy.

The Palisade comes with an all-wheel-drive except for the base trim. Unlike in the USA, it comes with more off-road modes, although this is not a rock crawler, it is quite capable in light off-road situations. The Canadian version comes with Mud-Sand-Snow modes which tune the drivetrain in different ways. For instance, in Sand mode, it keeps the revs high, and distributes the torque 50:50, and mimics if it has a limited-slip differential. Hence, it transfers the power to the wheel with more traction and brakes the wheel with less traction. No matter how capable this system is, it is still front-wheel biased and rear wheels activate when the front loses traction, which helps the fuel economy overall.

Our tester comes as Luxury, the second-highest trim level.

Features and Driving Impressions

As a cost-cutting strategy, the Palisade shares the same platform with Kia Telluride, but also with Kia Sedona and Sorento. So, you should not expect any sporty driving experience, because as soon as you start driving this vehicle, you feel it has zero sporty pretensions.  Also, it is a huge 3-row SUV, but you don’t feel like you are driving a huge vehicle as the suspension is tuned well enough so it feels like a car more than a truck driving dynamics. Driving smoothness level is also paired with lots of new technologies, which is one of the strongest points of the Palisade. As typical with recent Hyundai models, the Palisade offers the best bang for the buck in its class.

The dashboard is well-crafted with high-quality materials

Hyundai offers four² different trim levels. If you want to get the all-wheel-drive (which you should), you need to skip the base trim. Our tester was the Luxury trim, which was missing few more features compared to the top trim called “Ultimate”, such as better looking rims, LED tail lights, Nappa leather, 4-way lumbar support, ventilated rear seats, head-up display, wireless charging pad, 12.3” instrument cluster, double sunroof (additional sunroof for rear seats), and LED interior lights. You can choose captain chairs in the top two trims, which is a huge plus for people who want their rear-seat passengers to be more comfortable, and it would be easier for people to get access to the third row without folding down the second-row seats.

Second-row seats in bench-setup offer enough spaces for three passengers
The third row offers reasonable leg and headroom. However, minivans still offer a better third-row seat

Nevertheless, the Luxury trim is more than enough as you can save $3000 by opting for those features out. The Luxury trim comes with regular leather seats, driver memory seats, power seats for both sides, heated rear seats, 10.25” infotainment system, Harman/Kardon premium audio system and so on. As always, Hyundai’s adaptive cruise control and infotainment systems are really good. It is so good that it makes you want to buy this vehicle as it comes with even more advanced adaptive cruise control system, so it recognizes that you are driving on the highway and it allows you to keep your hands off the steering wheel for several minutes, not like 5 seconds for most brands. At the same time, lane keep assist is able to keep the car centered, it is not like bumping it inside the lane when it’s out. So, this is a revolutionary step going forward. It stops and starts moving smoothly and this is one of the best parts about driving a Palisade. Another interesting feature is, when you use your right/left indicator, it automatically switches the camera on that side, so you will see what’s going on in your instrument cluster. This safety feature was awarded as the best by AJAC.

Interior

Overall interior space with material quality and craftsmanship is one of the best in its class. There are lots of soft touch-plastics and some hard touch plastics on the dashboard. Although we are not a fan of shifter buttons as you have to make sure you pushed it properly every time, or you can go the way that you shouldn’t, that’s why there are tons of interior space and they utilized that well. The third row has plenty of space, not as good as a minivan but one of the best in 3-row SUV segment.

One thing that Hyundai must change or improve, not only in Palisade, but all in their model lineup is the blind spot monitoring system. It is extremely annoying and intrusive. It beeps so loudly the first thing you want to do is disable it. Palisade’s blind spot cameras make this system obsolete; you don’t really need it. But if you don’t have that camera option, then you are pretty much stuck with this annoying system. Another bummer is especially if you are an Android smartphone user, you won’t get a full-screen experience like Apple users. We had some connection problems with Android Auto but we believe this was a problem unique to our tester.

Competition

When we check the other alternatives in this class, surprisingly the strongest contender is its cousin, Kia Telluride. Although they use the same platform, they look completely different. Hyundai / Kia tried their best not to use the same parts except the drivetrain, which means the Telluride also has underwhelming but comfort biased drivetrain. Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot get really old and they will be renewed soon, but they keep their values better than Hyundai. Subaru Ascent is also a strong contender with its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, but it comes with a CVT transmission which may be boring for some people. Hyundai comes with torque converter 8 speed instead, which is more preferable. Ford Explorers’ new generation is also on the market for a few weeks (and we expect to test drive it soon). With a higher MSRP. Overall, Hyundai was able to enter the 3-row SUV market with a great price-performance proposition.

Conclusion & Pricing

With a stronger-than-ever product portfolio consisting of cars, CUV’s and SUV’s, the Korean automotive giant looks confidently into the future. The Palisade is a testament to this self-confidence.

Our takeaways are:

+ Great comfort and driving smoothness

+ Advanced adaptive cruise control and great infotainment system

+ Good fuel economy despite being a heavy vehicle

+ Great bang for the buck in its class (at a price of higher depreciation – almost premium German brand level)

Things need to be improved

– Intrusive Blind Spot monitoring system

– Underwhelming engine and transmission

– Shorter warranty in Canada, compared to the USA.

Article And Pictures By Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

For more and most up-to-date information please visit: https://www.hyundaicanada.com/

2019 Nissan Rogue SV AWD

Aging gracefully. Launched in 2014, the Rouge still looks modern

Overview

Nissan Rogue, aka X-Trail in some other markets, is the best-selling Nissan model in North America. It was first launched in 2007. The second and current generation was introduced in 2014 and got a mid-cycle update in 2017. Although the Rouge is still a best-seller, it is harder to stand out from the competition as the vibrant and very competitive SUV market has seen updated models recently such as the brand-new Toyota RAV and the Ford Escape.

The unmistakeably front fascia for all modern Nissans

Exterior / Interior

Nissan changed the exterior design of the Rogue significantly in 2017. Now it looks like the rest of the Nissan lineup. Most of the Rogue models come with halogen headlights unless you go with the higher trims. Rogue is one of the biggest crossovers in the compact segment and has an above-average interior space. The Rouge once offered an optional and very tight third row, which is not available anymore. The exterior design has aged well and still has a modern and fresh look.

Interior design, like the exterior, is not very exciting but functionally good. The Rogue has one of the smartest combinations of legroom and cargo area in its class. The second-row seats can also slide forward and backward so you can set up both cargo area and rear seats according to your needs. The dashboard has leather, soft-touch plastic and some hard-plastic at the bottom. It shares lots of parts with its smaller sister, the Qashqai. (See our test review)

The interior and dashboard are ergonomically well designed
The legroom in the rear is above class average

With 40 cubic feet of cargo space, it offers an above-average size in this segment. Also, when it comes to cargo practicality, Rogue is a strong contender. It offers dividers in the cargo area which you can utilize and put those dividers in different positions to get the most space out of it. Our tester was the top trim, which is called the “SV” that has a panoramic sunroof that allows more daylight inside the Rogue, but you must sacrifice a little bit of headroom in the rear seat.

With 40 cubic feet of cargo space, the Rouge offers an above-average size in this segment.

Engine & Drivetrain

Nissan Rogue comes with 2.5L Naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine which produces 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission as well as an all-wheel-drive unless you go with the base trim, which is a front-wheel drive. Overall powerband falls a little bit behind the competition as most of them switched to the forced induction and provides way more torque in the mid-range. However, the engine is extremely smooth and “communicates” well with the CVT transmission. For those who are not convinced with the CVT reliability, Nissan doubled the warranty period, it comes with a 10-year 200.000 km warranty.

The 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. A turbo-charging engine at least in the upcoming generation would be a good option

Although the Rouge is not the fastest in this segment, it has a good fuel economy. During our test, the fuel consumption was around 9.0L / 100 km with about 75 percent highway and 25 percent city driving.  Of course, it uses front wheels only to move forward most of the time, as it is an on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but rear wheels can get involved when the car loses traction in the front. Overall, it is a super comfortable and smooth platform that you can enjoy it if you are not looking for a fast crossover. Obviously, there are better options in the market with more horsepower and torque and usually with turbocharging. We hope Nissan would also add a turbocharged engine option in the upcoming generation to make the Rogue more competitive in this class.

Overall driving impressions & features

Our tester with the top trim level had every feature that Nissan offers with the Rogue. Nissan ProAssist works really well and it is super easy to activate adaptive cruise control, which also fully stops and can move the car forward by clicking “+” button. The 7” touch-screen display is responsive, but the infotainment system looks dated. The SL trim also comes with LED headlights, built-in Navigation system, 7.0” touch-screen display, Voice Recognition, SiriusXM, Push-button start along with Intelligent Key System, Remote Engine Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, 360-camera parking assist, auto brake hold, 6-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, optional Bose Premium Audio system, and so on. Although our tester had the ProAssist, not all the trims have this safety feature and we think Nissan could do better as the competitors have been pretty aggressive bringing their latest active safety features down to every trim. Currently, it is just on the top trim with the Rogue.

Pricing and conclusion

Nissan Rogue is a strong contender in the crossover segment. It has been doing pretty good in this class, as sales numbers are still high. Remember, this was first launched in 2014 and still can keep up with the competition. However, as it gets older, it has some disadvantages, but if those are not important for you, it is a decent option with great pricing. It is comfortable, it offers great interior space, and super smooth-quiet driving experience and we believe it is one of the best bangs for the buck in its segment. The Rogue starts at $26,898 with the S trim and it can go all the way up to $37.698 if you choose the top SL Platinum trim. We believe you should go with at least SV trim, preferably the top trim as it is the only trim that offers Adaptive Cruise Control.

It is a good alternative if you are looking for:

+ Comfortable well-tuned suspension

+ Smooth Drivetrain

+ Large interior & cargo space

What can be improved?

– Needs forced induction engine, more torque, more power

– Adaptive cruise control should be available in all trims

– Dated infotainment system

Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars

For more detailed and most up-to-date information, please visit: www.nissan.ca

2019 Nissan Micra S

Affordable and Fun

Fourth generation Micra was first released in 2010, but still looks fresh

We have been test-driving some expensive cars since 2010, but we are also aware that not everybody has the same budget. If you are looking for a commuter, or just a reliable car can take you to work, there are still decent options in the market. Nissan is one of the few manufacturers that offers affordable options for almost $10.000 CAD, called Micra. It is a global success story and there is a reason why it is so successful all over the world. It is affordable, good on gas, small enough you can drive around narrow European and Asian streets. It is one of the cheapest cars we have ever driven as a press car, but surprisingly it is really fun to drive.

Nissan Micra was first released in 1982 and it has been on the market ever since all around the world, with different names, and engine options. For instance, our tester is not the latest generation globally, as fifth-generation Micra is released in Europe in 2017. In Canada, we still get the fourth generation, which has been on the market since 2010. It is available in Canada since 2014 and recently underwent a facelift and it still looks fresh. Our tester is the S model, which only has absolute basic features to keep the price low.

Interesting fact: It is the most affordable race vehicle in Canada, called Micra Cup car. Micra Cup is a race series located in Ontario and Quebec. The drivetrain is exactly the same compared to the street-legal Micra, but there are some crucial suspension upgrades. The race-ready version of Nissan Micra comes with Racing Suspension Kit, 5-point harness, modified (probably straight-piped) exhaust, roll-cage, racing seat, track-oriented brake pads, and wheel/tire combo suitable for track racing. You need to purchase the Micra Cup car to be able to race in the Micra Cup which is around $20.000 CAD.

For more details, please go to https://www.micracup.com/main

Micra Cup Car has important changes for track racing

Engine and Drivetrain

Let’s start with the heart of Micra, as this is the most surprising part for us. It comes with 1.6 Liter 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine, which produces 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. These numbers may sound low, but the car is so lightweight that we would even say this is a quick car within the speed limits. The engine is tuned to have maximum torque in the low and mid-range, and more than enough to move this tiny car. Our tester comes with a manual transmission, and gear ratios are short. As a small car designed for narrow city roads, this is not surprising. We wish it had 6th gear, it revving almost 4000 rpm on the highway while you are driving at 120 km/h, so that means more engine noise and more fuel consumption. Speaking of fuel consumption, our tests show 8.5L / 100 km city, 6.5L / 100 km highway driving. Overall, it is extremely easy to drive and park it around the city as steering, clutch is soft and low turning radius (4.6 meters) helps in tight corners. It is not a highway cruiser by any means, but short trips are doable and can handle speeds over 100 km/h.

Nissan’s 1.6L 4-cylinder engine produces 109 HP and 107 lb-ft of torque

Driving Impressions

One of the first things we realized when we started driving the Micra is, it feels they shared some parts with its French-European partner Renault. This Micra platform was jointly developed by Nissan and Renault. Steering, shifter, clutch feels exactly driving like Renault Clio. This is definitely not a bad thing, as Clio is also very popular and known as a reliable compact hatchback in Europe, this is how Nissan keeps the costs low when manufacturing the Micra.

The suspension is tuned softly, as expected for a commuter/small hatchback. It isolates big bumps successfully. Not only that, but it is not making weird noises when isolating road imperfections, which is quite surprising for this price range. When you are pushing the Micra to its limits in the corner, it wants to understeer a lot. You can disable the stability control but not the traction control. However, the traction control is not too intrusive. Once you disable the stability control, TCS gets involved a few times and leaves you on your own.

Tiny 15″ wheels and Firestone tires are not good for spirited driving

One of the reasons why it easily understeers is the inner tire loses the traction quickly. So definitely not a corner carver by any means. If you like to drive your car spiritedly, you should be more careful and patient when turning at high speeds, as there are tons of body roll and it has higher center of gravity. Base trim Micra comes with tiny 15” wheels and Firestone tires, which are not helping for handling, too. However, comfort-wise, it definitely feels more expensive than its actual price.

Interior space is one of the best in its class

Overall interior materials aren’t the greatest, as you would expect from a small hatchback that costs almost $10.000 brand new. There are only hard plastics all around the dashboard, and door panels. The only soft-touch plastic is available in this car the steering wheel. There are also not many features, as this is the base trim. It only has absolutely basic features and whatever is required legally to have in a car. Computer trip, ABS, Traction Control, Front-Side and Curtain Airbags, Electronic Stability Program, Rear-view Camera, and a colored 7” screen which also has Bluetooth connection feature. Yes, there is no air conditioning, no power locks, no remote keyless entry, no electric windows or mirrors. You need to step up to SV trim to have those features. You immediately feel the 1990s vibe when you get inside the Micra S, and we enjoyed the experience of driving it. If you don’t need these features, then you can save a lot of money by choosing the S trim and still be safe, as safety features are exactly the same as the top trim. The only thing needs to be improved about this interior is the seat cloth quality. It feels really cheap, even for a car worth $10.000.

The interior space, legroom, and headroom is one of the best parts about the Micra, regardless of the trim you choose. It offers a larger cabin than the competition. We were able to sit in the back keeping the driving position of the front seat, and our knees were not touching to the seat (6’1″ height), it was close though. It would not be the best option for 4 passengers especially for long trips, but more than enough for daily driving.

It has surprisingly good rear legroom space
Trunk is really tiny and not that deep

Price & Conclusion

Long story short, Nissan offers one of the most affordable cars in Canada. It costs $10.488 if you choose manual transmission as of October 2019. Last year it was cheaper than $10.000 but they added rearview camera and 7″ screen which bumped the price around $500. If you want to get the automatic, which increased the price up to $14,298. Actually, it is a big bump, to be honest, but it also comes with air conditioning, as well as cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls. If you want everything that is available in a Micra, you need to choose the SR trim, but it costs $17.598 + tax.

When we check the competition, there are a few important differences:

Toyota Yaris: It is a strong contender with proven reliability and good resale value, but it has significantly higher MSRP. In fact, you can get the Micra with Automatic transmission for the same price Yaris with the manual.
Mitsubishi Mirage: It is $500 more expensive than the Micra, and it has worse resale value, fewer cylinders & horsepower, significantly less interior space. However, it comes with a better warranty.
Chevrolet Spark: It is the only option in this class cheaper than the Micra ($9995) in 2019. However, it has a smaller engine with less horsepower, significantly less overall cargo space, legroom, and headroom.
Fiat 500: This is an iconic Fiat model that starts at $22.495. So you can literally get two Micra S for the price of one 500. Although they are in the same segment, their target market is completely different and not comparable to each other.

For the price, Nissan Micra is a strong contender in its class

Our overall takeaway from our Micra test drive is, some people just need to get from A to B. Nissan Micra with the S trim is a great alternative if you are that kind of person. This car is a great example that an affordable car can also be fun at the same time. Of course, you won’t find many features inside, but it offers the most interior space in this price range, as well as a comfortable ride and peppy engine which can easily get you around the city and some short-trips on the highway.

Some of our takeaways are

+ Good fuel economy

+ Price

+ Peppy engine characteristics

+ Suspension is tuned really well for this price range

Things can be improved

-It needs 6th gear, as gear ratios are short for better acceleration

-Seat cloth material feels cheap

For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, please visit http://www.nissan.ca

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Cabriolet

BMW’s flagship grand tourer coupe is finally back, after almost three decades. Like Toyota Supra, or Nissan Skyline, it reminds us 90s as 8 series was first introduced in 1990 and it was one of the legendary cars most millennials will still remember. Unfortunately, first generation 8 series were discontinued in 1999 due to poor sales. However, it seems BMW decided to resurrect it, and reintroduced the 8 series last year. The question is, is the second generation of 8 series going to be successful? Let’s find it out.

Exterior and Interior

The interior is well-crafted with superior craftsmanship and high-quality materials. Yet, more differentiation from the other models would be good.

As usual, BMW 8 series carries lots of design elements from the other BMW’s. It looks elegant, but sporty, a great blend of both styles. We wish it had some similarities with the first generation 8 series, but it looks more like an inflated version of 6 series. This is one of the most important flaws. As a Gran Tourer, it definitely looks big but only people who are into BMWs will see the differences compared to 6-Series. Other than that, it looks beautiful from the outside, especially LED taillights and Laser headlights look really attractive and we should not complain about that.

The color combination in the interior is beautiful. The rear seats are far too small by any means

When we first got into the interior, we see that it also carries lots of parts and design styling from the other BMWs. It may be a deal-breaker for people who are willing to spend almost $150.000 to see exactly the same steering wheel, gauges, screen, console buttons from the 3-Series. That doesn’t mean it is bad, overall interior quality is impressive, we just thought it would be better if the 8 series had more unique design and parts specifically used for 8 series so that the owners would have felt they are actually driving an 8 series when driving it.

Unfortunately, that feeling is really limited when you sit inside 8 series, regardless of the materials used in the interior. Like the newest BMWs, it offers driver-focused dashboard. However, rear-seat space is where you feel that you are driving a coupe, as it is extremely limited. BMW introduced this car as a four-seater but adults may not be comfortable in the back seat.

Our tester is a cabriolet, which is a fun-to-drive car in the summer. However, it is a soft-top, so it has a significant disadvantage, which is a road & tire noise when the top is up, especially on the highway. To be honest, it has little to no wind noise, which is quite impressive for a soft top, but it is not refined as a hardtop. We wish as a Gran Tourer, a hard-top option was available. Although it would have been even heavier, it would be more appropriate for the 8-Series.

Engine and Drivetrain

The Twin-Turbo 4.4 Liter V8 engine delivers 523 horsepower and 553lb-ft of torque.

This is where you start to feel you are driving a Gran Tourer, but definitely not a sports car. BMW M850i comes with twin-turbocharged 4.4 Liter V8 which produces 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. This masterpiece is also matched with BMW’s 8 Speed torque-converted automatic transmission. There is torque everywhere in the rpm range, and despite having more than 2 tonnes (4600 pounds) of weight, it is able to do 0-60 in less than 4 seconds. This drivetrain is so good, it would have been a hypercar level of performance if it was lighter, so the biggest hit for this platform is the additional weight as a cabriolet car.

Of course, the xDrive system contributes a lot to achieve 0-60 less than 4 seconds even with the Cabriolet version. This is one of our favorite all-wheel-drive systems, as it is rear-biased – almost like rear-wheel drive when tight maneuvering. When going straight, there is no rear wheel spinning and the car immediately distributes power to the front.

Low profile Bridgestone tires define the sporty character of the 850i

As always, BMW tuned the suspension extremely well on the M850i for public roads. There are few different driving options, but even in Sport+ mode, the suspension stiffness isn’t that hard, totally manageable and drivable daily. However, the tune delta of suspension between Comfort and Sport+ is not that wide. In fact, most of the time, we kept it in Sport+ mode to get the most out of overall performance during our test. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect to have good fuel economy when having twin-turbo V8 and over 4600 lbs of weight, it is hard to go lower than 11.0L / 100km even driving conservatively on the highway. If you drive like you stole it, it is not that hard to see more than 20.0L / 100 km.

Overall driving impressions & features

The BMW kidney gets bigger and bigger
A bold statement even in standstill

This is the hardest part to explain. BMW tried to put everything in this car and that’s why this is a weird combo. It is a grand tourer, cabriolet, sports car, all-wheel drive at the same time. That’s why it is hard to say it is a true grand tourer or sports car. The car doesn’t feel nimble at all, definitely not a corner carver but extremely capable with the xDrive system. In comfort mode, it feels like you are driving 5 or 7 Series, super light steering, soft suspension, and smooth torque curve. However, even with the M badge, it cannot be a sports car as the 8-Series belongs to the highways, not a race track. It is big, heavy and not as agile as a Porsche 911.

Feature-wise, it is not really different than other BMWs, except being a cabriolet. It comes with almost all features available for 5-7 Series. We are impressed with Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System which comes with an active 12-Channel amplifier with an output of whopping 1.375 watts.  This is one of the best factory sound systems we have ever tried. Of course, all good things come with a hefty price, it costs $4.900 CAD extra to get this as an option. Other than that, the infotainment system is the latest edition, and much more user-friendly than the previous one. As always, latest digital cluster is excellent, easy to read, but not unique to the 8-Series.

Pricing and Conclusion

BMW 8 series starts at $123.500 CAD and if you opt for the Cabriolet, it goes up to $131.500. Our tester has almost everything with the Executive Package, which is $4.500 extra. With all options, it costs $143.200 before taxes.  It is definitely not bargains but considering it is capable to do everything well, and what it can offer to its owners, we would recommend buying it if you have the budget. However, if you are looking for a unique character and more nimble options, you should look elsewhere. Unless you are die-hard cabriolet fan, we would opt out for it to save some weight and money. Keep in mind, there are also M8 and 8-Series Gran Coupe versions coming soon, we assume price is going to be higher than our tester.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving comfort

+ Overall interior quality

+ Excellent drivetrain and performance

Things need to be improved:

– No Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is not free

– Hardtop option must be available for refined driving experience

– Despite being great in most parts, it lacks character

– Base MSRP is higher than the competitors

For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, please visit: http://www.bmw.ca

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

A long but enjoyable day trip from Toronto to Windsor was a good opportunity to become familiar with Mitsubishi’s newest product

Mitsubishi Then And Now

First things first: Mitsubishi today deserves a better space in the automobile landscape. This Japanese brand built its first automotive in 1917 and also the first four-wheel-drive car in Japan. Mitsubishi is part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, once the biggest company in Japan. This name has also a history of success in motorsports. In 2016. Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan Alliance and owned 34 percent by Nissan.

Overview

The new front fascia inherits the so-called “Dynamic Shield” as the main design element

The Eclipse Cross is now the brand’s newest model. It may also be the last model independently developed before the era of the Alliance.

In the last decade or so, Mitsubishi entirely focused on SUV’s and CUV’s. For example, The legendary Lancer, once a star of the rally world is now quite outdated and still on sales in North America after several make-ups but without any intention for a new model. A strategy which is understandable considering the tight resources the company has.

To experience this compact SUV in the range-topping GT version, we took a long, daily drive from Toronto to Windsor.

A new front fascia called “Dynamic Shield” became the new face of the current generation. Also, the Eclipse Cross has it. With its progressive, forward-leaning design and split, visibility reducing rear window, it sacrifices some functionality for the sake of the design.

Engine and Powertrain

The 1.5-liter engine does the job on daily driving even if it is weaker than competitors

To stay “lean” in its portfolio, Mitsubishi offers one single-engine option for each version of the Eclipse: a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 to 3,500 rpm. It is paired with a continuously variable transmission and Mitsubishi’s four-wheel-drive system. In this class, many of its competitors offer stronger engines but in a country with not more than 119 km/h and not a lot of hilly roads, it is enough for your daily commute and driving the “E-Cross” provides some pleasure too. I am not a fan of CVT’s either and would prefer a more traditional automatic. Nevertheless, the CVT works well.

Interior

Despite some drawbacks, the dashboard and the interior is attractively designed and well-executed

The interior is significantly better in material and workmanship than what we see in older models like the Lancer.

In terms of functionality and user-friendliness, there is room for improvement. The on-off button and the volume control are on the far side of the infotainment screen and harder to reach. This was probably because the original design was for the Japanese version with the right-side steering.

The volume control is also a pair of pushbuttons instead of a dial.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard features, which is a big plus. There are plenty of folks who couldn’t be the least bit concerned over how an infotainment system works, though, and they may find these things don’t grate on them as much.

The front-row seats are much higher and more upright here than in most compact SUVs. This is not my favorite seating position. however, I did not feel uncomfortable with that.

A beautifully designed vehicle overall

Driving Impressions

I found the suspension more comfort-oriented and compliant than a typical SUV. It leans smoothly on curves and reasonably absorbs the small potholes and vertical bumps. At highway speeds up until 119 km/h, the interior noise is acceptable and conversation with your front passenger is very easy.

Even in the GT version there’s no full panoramic sunroof available, but instead there’s a pair of smaller ones. Still, this is good enough to let in much sunlight.

The split-window of the liftgate is arguably the most important design feature of the Eclipse Cross

The keyless entry was a bit surprising since it doesn’t work on the rear doors, and also the liftgate is “excluded”. The lack of a power liftgate is one of the “small” reasons for a competitive price. On the other hand, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel promise a vehicle good to go for the winter.

Fuel consumption is also worth noting: With an average of 10.7 liters, mainly on highway driving, it delivers fuel economy which is competitive in its class.

Pricing

The Eclipse Cross GT has a MSRP of $37,873 as tested, including freight and PDI. This is a competitive price for a Japanese vehicle that offers the longest warranty in the industry.

Conclusion

A modern, non-conventional design that stands out in this crowded segment, a relatively affordable price and a warranty (10 years and 160 kilometers) that largely eliminates the worries about long-term ownership are valid reasons to choose the Eclipse Cross instead of an Escape, RAV or CR-V despite some drawbacks.

Over the coming years, we can expect Mitsubishi to generate synergies from its alliance with Renault-Nissan (assuming that the alliance itself will move forward in a Post-Ghosn era with success) and become a stronger player in the cut-throat competition of the automotive business.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit:

http://www.mitssubishi-motors.ca

Article and Photos by Varol McKars

2019 Ford Explorer Platinum in Thousand Islands

Overview

Ford’s 7-passenger SUV looks compacter than it actually is. A good design remained fresh for 8 years

The new, 2020 Explorer is already on sale by the time we publish this post. Based on its Lincoln Aviator cousin, Ford’s new seven-passenger crossover has more tech, more performance, and is also more stylish. We will test the new Explorer in the upcoming weeks. This article is more about a farewell and respect to the outgoing, fifth-generation Explorer, that you can still find at some dealers.

General Assembly of the Kingston City Hall. A place to better understand the British past of Canada

I drove the 2019 Explorer in its range-topping Platinum version during two long drives to Kingston and Niagara Falls.

Engine and Powertrain

Power is what the Explorer Platinum has under the hood. The 3.5L V6 engine with double turbochargers delivers 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. It was a pleasure to drive this SUV on two long journeys. With the curb weight of over 2,200 kg, these numbers are good unless you expect the performance of a sports car.

A visit to Kingston usually starts near the historic City Hall

Rated at 14.5 L/100 km city, 10.6 L/100 km highway, and 12.7 L/100 km combined, the Explorer falls behind its competitors. I reached an average of 13.6 liters after mostly driving at the highway. Natural Resources Canada measurements are good and useful for comparative purposes but not so much for real life.

Downtown Kingston with the British Martello Tower is worth a day visit from Toronto or a perfect stopover while driving from Ottawa to Toronto
Hanging flowers in Ivy Lea with the Thousand Islands Bridge in the background
For travelers short of time, a-one hour boat cruise departing from Ivy Lea is a good opportunity to become familiar with the amazingly beautiful Thousand Islands Region

Driving Impressions

Driving WB at 401 around Trenton while facing the sunset

While cornering, you feel a fair amount of body roll that reminds you of the size of this vehicle. Two times during the test, I experienced a slow nose-dive during braking which turned out to be a test also for the tires. If you remember the quality of Hankook tires about ten years ago, we should admire the progress Koreans achieved. These big tires work well and Ford definitely made a wise and thoughtful decision. (Ford is a company which had huge problems with tires in the past. (Keyword: Firestone)

Crossing the Cataraqui River in Kingston

Inside the cabin engine and wind noise were minimal and talking to a passenger in the middle row was so easy (without turning your head of course) while enjoying the powerful sound system. Highway cruising at 120 km/h is a pleasure thanks to its long wheelbase and absorbent suspension. Yet, occasional but serious potholes distort this feeling. The same, 20-inch, big, well-braking Hankook tires are this time, probably not the “best shoes” the Explorer can wear. At least not with these dimensions.

The dashboard and interior of the Explorer look still fresh and well-built at the end of its life-cycle
The Explorer offers two comfortable seats in the second row

Conclusion

The Ford Explorer Platinum still feels a relatively new and technologically up-to-the-times vehicle. And smart buyers can check the dealer lots for the heavily discounted 2019 models. It is worth doing so for the purchase of a vehicle with a 60K g price tag.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit https://www.ford.ca/

Article and Photos by: Varol McKars

2020 BMW 3-Series

The Best Premium Compact Sedan

The All-New 2020 3-Series is now available in Canada

We are living in a world where most of the families are looking for SUVs and it is understandable. They are practical, lots of headroom and legroom space, big trunk, most of them offer all-wheel drive, and they offer a great comfortable ride. However, we are sure there are still many families looking for the more engaging driving experience, that’s why they look for compact sports sedans. Before the SUV tsunami hit the market, especially in the 90s and 2000s, compact and mid-size sedans were the king. Today, circumstances have changed and even some manufacturers stop selling sedans in North America.

Interestingly, BMW 3-Series is still the best-selling BMW all around the world. This year, in Canada BMW introduced the 7th generation 3-Series which had been launched in Europe in 2018. We have had the opportunity to review two different versions of the all-new Bimmer this summer, the 330i xDrive and the M340i xDrive respectively. Both of them are so capable in terms of technological features, overall build quality and driving experience. In this article, we will explain their features and find which one would be a better option for you.

Exterior and Interior

Compared to the last generation, the differences in exterior design are not immediately detectable. Of course, it is not the same, but you need to be eagle-eyed or a “BMW guy” to see the difference. The headlights and taillights look more sleek, and sporty. Definitely an upgrade, but it is having VW Golf or Porsche 911 syndrome, you must be familiar with the 3-Series to see the design difference at first look. Overall exterior design definitely look premium, but we are on the fence which one looks the best as Mercedes C series also look great. At the end of the day, this is a subjective matter.

M340i comes with sportier M wheels, front and rear bumpers
This is how a non-M 3-series looks like – It is still a sports sedan (330i)

The new 3-series is slightly bigger than its predecessor; it is 73 mm longer, 15 mm wider and 13 mm taller. It has 40 mm longer wheelbase and increased track width, which affects the overall agility of the car. It looks almost as big as E39 BMW 5-Series from 20 years ago. Unsurprisingly, this is a common trend in the car industry, cars usually get bigger at each generation, but it also helps with overall interior space, as it offers more legroom than its predecessor.

Interior design is much driver focused than the previous generation. In fact, this may be the most driver-focused dashboard in its class. We were speechless when we first got into the 3-Series. Whole dashboard is refreshed and you immediately feel that it is different than the previous gen. Everywhere is soft-touch plastic, leather and high-quality aluminum. Steering wheel leather feels great, overall interior quality is excellent especially for a car marketed as a compact sedan. A few years ago, there was a significant difference between 3 and 7 series in terms of the quality of plastics leather, wood/aluminum trims, but now the gap is much smaller. This generation comes with a bigger screen, and fortunately, it comes with the newest infotainment system.

Overall interior quality is top-notch, as you would expect from BMW

Engine and Drivetrain

This is where both M340i and 330i really shine, regardless of your choice. Both engines are fast, but M340i is really fast. 330i produces 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is a 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged engine. If you choose the M340i, it comes with 3.0L inline 6-cylinder turbocharged engine, which produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Both cars feel faster than what is written on paper, both engines have great torque curve and offer extremely smooth operation. 0-60 times in 5.8 second for the 330i and 4.4 seconds for M340i. Both numbers are impressive, but M340i can keep up with exotic cars from 5-10 years ago when it comes to pure acceleration. Both cars are limited to 210 km/h, but it takes way less time for the M340i to reach that speed. If you live or have plans to live in Europe, you may need to remove the speed limiter.

You may be glad to remember that in Germany, in a 13K km section of the highway network allows driving pleasure without speed limit.

3.0L Inline-6, 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque –
M340i is the most powerful non-M 3-Series ever
330i’s 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine has 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque

This is one of the cars we really had a hard time observing the overall fuel consumption, as it varies a lot. If you drive spiritedly, it is not hard to see over 15.0L/100 km. If you drive normally, you can get it down to 9.0L/100 km. 330i consumes approximately 1.5 – 2.0L / 100 km average less fuel than its bigger brother, as it has two fewer cylinders and missing more than 100 horsepower.

Both engines come with torque converted 8-speed automatic transmission and it works flawlessly. Of course, M340i is tuned for sportier driving, but it can be extremely comfortable. We are glad torque converter automatics are back as they offer performance, comfort, and reliability at the same time. Both testers had xDrive All-Wheel-Drive system and like the rest of the drivetrain, it also works flawlessly. We really enjoyed driving them as it is rear-wheel-drive biased and engages the front wheels when you get less traction in the rear.

There are some technical updates with the 7th generation 3-Series. Now it comes with lighter chassis, and body weight reduced by as much as 50kg. BMW also revised the front and rear suspension to get better ride comfort and acoustics. Not only that, but BMW was able to achieve better drag co-efficiency, and reduced it by 0.03 down to 0.26 Cd over the previous 3-Series. They completely sealed the under-body, as well as new aerodynamically optimized wheels. Last but not least, they also used the latest BMW kidney grille which comes with active air flap control.

3-Series has active air flap control, which improves aerodynamic efficiency

Unlike the 330i, M340i also comes with adaptive M suspension and differential, which makes it a blast to drive the car. For daily driving, Comfort mode offers sufficient comfort and not overly stiff. When you switch to the Sport or Sport+ mode, there is no body roll at all. It has a great balance of being sporty while still being comfortable. M sport differential is noticeable around tight corners, you really have to try hard to get it out of control, but in the same time, it is super easy to control during oversteering (Yes! It over-steers even if it is an xDrive). This is a type of car which you feel you are a better driver than what you actually are because it makes you feel so confident, and it makes everything easy for you while not being intrusive. It is actually useful if you are cornering hard or taking it to track. You won’t feel a difference if you take your BMW just to work or coffee shop.

19″ Wheels are aerodynamically optimized and looks great. Best of both worlds.

Driving Impressions

Honestly, we really tried hard to find a flaw. If we have to mention some, we are missing steering feeling of E46 M3, but they have to use electronic steering to keep up with the latest technologies, so it’s understandable. At the end of the day, steering feeling is a little bit numb because of that, but it is responsive and predictable. Both testers come with almost all options available for 3-Series, but there were no cooled seats. We checked the website and couldn’t find it even as an option. The 3-series, premium compact sedan definitely deserves this feature, even optionally.

We enjoyed the latest iDrive infotainment system, it is one of the best you can get today. However there is no Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay is not free. This is not acceptable for a premium car that costs over $60.000 and maybe a deal-breaker for many people. For daily usage, we weren’t in love with rear legroom, as it is slightly less than the competition, but not a huge deal as it is still livable. At the end of the day, it is a compact sports sedan, and you should not expect SUV practicality.

It has sufficient rear legroom, but a little bit behind the competition

Other than that, there are some technologies taken from its bigger brothers, such as Advanced Adaptive Cruise control which allows you to not to touch the steering wheel up to 60 km/h. Also, park assistant works flawlessly and makes life easier for people who are not comfortable parking their cars, both vertically and horizontally. It is going to take forever if we add each feature, but you should definitely get the Premium Excellence Package, as it comes with important features like Laserlight Headlights, Nappa leather seats, Ambient Lighting, Head-up Display, Automatic Trunk, Lumbar Support, Heated Front and Rear seats, Harman Kardon Premium Sound System and so on. Although it costs over $8000, it is a well-worth investment.

Pricing and Conclusion

The base MSRP for the 330i xDrive Sedan is $49,000. Our tester with options called; Premium Excellence Package ($8.900), M Sport Package ($2,000), Adaptive M Suspension ($600) and Metallic Paint ($895), the price exceeds the 60K Threshold ($61,395 to be exact). If you choose the M340i xDrive, it starts from $61,850 and our tester had the same Premium Excellence Package but for $8.300, as well as the Adaptive M suspension option for $600.

The most important question is, is it worth? Definitely. If you are looking for a premium sports sedan, 3-Series is one of the most capable ones out there. If you just daily drive it, we think 330i is more than enough for your needs. However, if you are looking for more spirited driving, as well as occasional track-day events and couldn’t afford the M3/M4, definitely go with the M340i. We think that even at times of the global SUV/CUV surge, this sports sedan will continue to be a leading player and it outperforms current generations of C-Series and A4.

Our takeaways:

+ Overall interior quality
+ Excellent performance, engine, and transmission
+ Impressive technological features, such as Adaptive+ Cruise Control, or digital instrument cluster

Things can be improved:

  • Rear legroom space
  • No Android Auto and you have to pay to use Apple CarPlay
  • No cooled front seats, not even as an option

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

2019 Lincoln MKC 2.3T Reserve

End Of The Episode One

We enjoyed the comfortable suspension and road-holding of the MKC during the scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Overview

At the end of its model life, the MKC dropped the split-wing grille and moved to the current Lincoln signature design with a notch etched in below the crest. This is the new face of most Lincoln models and a new stage in creating a common design language for the future. A long and painful process which is starting to pay-off and will continue into the Corsair.

Engine and Powertrain

Our tester had the optional 2.3-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The same as what we know as EcoBoost at Ford, the mother brand. It delivers 285 hp and 305 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,750 rpm. All-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission are standard as you would expect from a compact SUV at the luxury category with an MSRP close to 60K. Whether or not you got used to it, shifting by button is “still” the norm.

Driving Impressions

The interior is sufficiently different from the Escape, its cousin. Yet, the Corsair will raise the bar in interior design and quality

The more elegant design and refinement of the current MKC have consequences also inside the cabin: Active noise control and an acoustic windshield and front door glass create a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Ride is comfortable and “adequately different” from the Escape, its “platform cousin” thanks to the standard adaptive suspension.

One weakness of the MKC is and has been its relatively short range. Arguably as a combination of a 60-liter tank, thirsty turbo engine, (as you push the gas pedal harder for more power and torque) and AWD, the range may drop to well below 450 kilometers, lower than the average in this class. During our test, with dominantly highway drive, our average measurement was 12.5 L/100 km, with occasional drive in sport mode. Also worth noting is that the MKC requires more expensive 93 octane fuel.

Inside, leather upholstery, open-pore wood grain inserts, heated front seats, a power liftgate, and the Sync3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, are important features to note. Although we were not able to test it; the Reserve package has a Class II towing rating with 3,000 lbs. (1,361 kg) including a trailer sway control.

The rear seats offer comfort and space and nothing short of the class standards

On the exterior, we loved the 20-inch bright-machines aluminum wheels (750 dollars extra) that give a bolder look to the compact SUV. All with other options such as Technology Package: active park assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, forward sensing, and lane-keeping, the MSRP of our tester reaches $58,570.

Conclusion

As a smart buyer of a luxury brand, if you are interested in the MKC, expect to get a generous discount of several thousand dollars. This happens everywhere and with each brand if the new generation is about to occupy dealer lots. The good thing is you have a chance of owning a mature and well-built vehicle.

By the time we published this article, we did not know how much longer the MKC will be on sale.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit: https://www.lincolncanada.com/

Article and Photos By Varol McKars

2019 Ford Escape Titanium

Can It Keep Up With The Competition?

Ford Escape is an important model for Ford, as it is one of the best- selling ones in North America. It is not that surprising, as SUV market grows rapidly, the competition gets very fierce.  This is the last year of current generation Escape, and we wanted to do a farewell review for it. The competition mostly has recently updated models and this review shows if the 2019 Escape can keep up with them.

Exterior And Interior

This is the third generation Escape, which is first released in 2013. It underwent a small refresh in 2017, and compared to pre-facelift version, it looks more like a smaller-scaled Edge. Unlike the previous generation which was a square design, this looks more like a modern SUV. Interestingly, it was designed by Ford of Europe, where the compact SUV is sold as Ford Kuga in. It is not that hard to see European design elements, and I think this is one of the better-looking alternatives in this segment. Our tester was the range-topping Titanium version, which comes with 19” aluminum wheels and we think this is one of the best combination if you are looking for an Escape.

Third generation Escape is refreshed in 2017 and aged really well
This interior is designed in 2013, and still looks fresh

When we get inside the Escape, we see lots of soft-touch plastics, especially in the upper side of dashboard and front doors. This car is from 2013, and the interior still doesn’t look old. Of course, we are not a fan of Ford’s infotainment system, and we wish they have updated it in 2017, but we are aware that it will be refreshed pretty soon. Ford Escape falls behind the competition when it comes to combined legroom, as it is significantly shorter than some of its rivals such as Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.

Ford Escape has 68 cubic feet of cargo space, which is plenty enough for families

Engine And Drivetrain

Ford Escape comes with three different engine options and optional All Wheel Drive system. Base version come with naturally aspirated 2.5L engine, middle trims get 1.5L turbocharged Ecoboost engine. If you opt for the Titanium trim, it comes with 2.0L turbocharged Ecoboost and All-Wheel Drive engine standard which our tester had that. 2.0L engine produces 245 horsepower and 275 ft-lbs of torque but it requires Premium gas. We didn’t have a chance to try the base 2.5L or turbocharged 1.5L engine, but we can assure you, you should go with the 2.0L engine as it is borderline fast but doesn’t like being over 4500 rpm at all. It has a lot of torque down low and mid-range rpms, but once you go over 4000 rpms, you feel it starts to fade significantly. It is obvious that this engine is tuned for daily driving and you shouldn’t expect more than that. Our mixed-mood test drive delivered an average consumption of 11.5 liters of regular, which is good considering its weight and All Wheel Drive system.

2.0L Direct Injected and Turbocharged “Ecoboost” Engine is only available with SEL (Optional) and Titanium trims

The transmission is not that exciting either. It is an oldschool 6-speed automatic transmission with no paddle shifts on steering wheel. Ford decided to use the same shift buttons they use on F-150, which is not really engaging when driving. If you keep it at D, it is smooth and more than enough for commuting. It has slow response to manual upshifting and downshifting. Again, despite having impressive numbers on paper, it is unable to offer “wow” effect when driving. At least, they still use torque converted automatic instead of a CVT, which means it is more reliable on the long term. We can definitely say this engine transmission combo is one of the smoothest on the market, but you shouldn’t expect anything else.

Although 19″ wheels look great, they are not the best option for any kind of off-roading

The all-wheel drive system is a little bit different story though. It is one of the better alternatives on the market, as this is not just an on-demand system. It is definitely a front-biased one, but it doesn’t engage like an ON/OFF switch that makes driving experience smoother. The rear wheels work most of the time as you can also see how it works in the instrument cluster. To keep a long story short, definitely get the Escape with All-Wheel-Drive. We think the braking performance is as good as the all-wheel-drive system, and we are really impressed with it. Initial bite is great, it doesn’t feel spongy and extremely sensitive for driver inputs.

Driving Impressions

Things get more complicated when it comes to driving it daily, because that’s when you see how it falls behind and you start to feel it is getting older. Ford tried its best to keep up with the competition, by implementing half baked technologies. For instance, we were definitely expecting a premium sound system in a top trim. It has a Sony badge on the head unit so we assume it is better than the lower trims, but it definitely lacks mid-range frequency. If you are an audiophile, it may not be the best option for you. Another example is, there is an adaptive cruise control but it is unable to work under 30 km/h which is quite disappointing. Almost all other competition already integrated full stop & go feature whereas this one just leaves you on your own when you need it most.

We nitpick because the competition in this segment is intense. However, we are talking about an SUV which is from 2013, so it may be difficult for Ford to fully implement latest technologies. We are sure Ford will add these features in the next generation, but this is what we have so far. There are some nice features as well. Leather trimmed power seats, keyless entry and start-stop system, foot-activated liftgate, heated steering wheel, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two-zone automatic air conditioning system, panoramic sunroof, front collision warning system, blind spot monitoring, park assist system, HID Bi-Xenon headlights and so on.

Dual exhaust tips give it a sportier look

Conclusion

The most important question is, can it keep up with the competition? Yes and no. Yes, because it is aged really well. Interior and exterior still looks great. It is smooth, comfortable and we are sure it will be more reliable with that torque converted automatic transmission than CVT offerings of other manufacturers. We would say no, because technology wise, it is falling behind the competition. If you are not the most tech-savvy person and looking for an SUV offers great comfort, smoothness, easy to use, and if you find a good deal, we would recommend the Ford Escape. It starts at $24,218 Canadian and goes up to $38,000 with 2.0L Ecoboost engine and All-Wheel Drive.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Drivetrain smoothness

+ Overall comfort and ease of use

+ Competitive pricing

Things can be improved:

– Sound system should be better

– Half-baked features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with no Stop & Go

Hyundai Veloster N

We personally love hot-hatches, as they offer a driving experience full of fun and yet still practical, comfortable and affordable enough you can take your family and belongings with you. Hyundai’s sports car has been popular since the end of the 1990s, especially in European and Asian markets. As automobiles get more expensive and bigger, hothatches are considered as a revolution. Instead of modifying regular mass-produced hatchbacks, car manufacturers offer “factory-prepared” high-performance versions of them for a small price premium. The hothatch market actually started with Mini Cooper in 1960s in Europe, and today it is more popular than ever. In North America, hatchbacks have historically not been popular, but this trend is slowly changing, as they get faster and more competitive with supersport cars.

Veloster N is one of the best looking hot-hatchs in 2019, light blue color makes it even better

Yes, we said Supersport cars. “Cheap” hot-hatch lap times in Nürburgring are getting closer, and sometimes even better. Hyundai Veloster N is one of them. The letter “N” is the first letter of Korean City named Namyang, where Hyundai’s headquarters is located, as well as it is primed for the Nürburgring Nordschleife. This car actually is developed by Albert Biermann, former head of BMW M division, which shows Hyundai’s effort to produce a car to challenge the big boys in its class, such as Honda Civic Type R.

Engine and Drivetrain

2.0L Turbocharged Direct Injection engine produces 275 horsepower, and it is a blast to drive

Well, it’s a hot-hatch, so we have to talk about the most important thing makes it different from a base Veloster. The Veloster N comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It weighs just above 1400 kg, so power to weight ratio is impressive, and more than enough for a small hatchback to get moving. The engine is a part of THETA family which is used in other Hyundai/Kia models, but there are significant changes such as different engine internals and turbocharger. We are impressed with the torque curve as it spools up around 1500 rpm and still lots of torque all the way to the redline. The engine is matched with 6-speed manual transmission only, and gear ratios are set perfectly for both daily and track use.

Exterior and Interior

Sporty rear bumper, bigger rear wing, two exhaust tips make it look way more agressive than the base Veloster

Veloster N exterior is looking extremely attractive especially if you are a person who likes hatchbacks. Its light blue color makes it even more distinctive in its class. Overall body lines look exactly the same with base Veloster, whereas this one has bigger wheels, sporty-looking front-rear bumpers and rear wing, which doesn’t look like cartoonish like the latest Type-R. This is one of the better looking sporty hot-hatchs in its segment. Of course, 3-door design is what makes the Veloster different and genuine. While having a coupe look, rear seats are still more accessible than a regular coupe, which makes a huge difference. Also, wheels look great, it comes with 19” rims as well as 235/35 Pirelli tires.  Well done, Hyundai.

Veloster N runs on 235/35/R19 Pirelli Summer tires

With regard to the interior features, this is where it has a lot of common points with the base Veloster, there are minor changes such as sportier seats, N badged steering wheel, different instrument cluster, N performance addition to the infotainment system where it shows performance data, and that’s it. There are no soft-touch plastics in the interior, so that’s a bummer for a car costs $35.000. For a more detailed review, please see our regular Veloster review link here . What we didn’t like about the Veloster N is, it is actually missing some vital safety features like blind-spot monitoring which is available on a base model. For a 3-door coupe, it should be a standard feature no matter what version you get. Instead of having a heated steering wheel in a sporty hatchback, we’d rather have more safety features. If it is just for cost-cutting or weight saving, we think it’s not worth it.

Other than not having blind-spot monitoring, it still has some important features, like cruise control (not adaptive), heated front seats, Infinity premium audio system, 8.0” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera, and Hyundai’s great infotainment system. If you look comfort features like cooled – powered seats, you should look elsewhere as this segment is simply not for you.

The interior looks modern and sporty, but hard plastics are all over the dashboard

There is a small difference in the infotainment system though, which is the N mode. Unlike many of its competitors, it offers great customization for suspension, steering, engine, traction control, rev-matching setups. You can choose for comfort mode, all the way up to track/sportiest setup for each section. Most of its competition offers few different driving modes and that’s it. Veloster N takes it to another level by offering not only multiple driving modes, such as N – N Custom – Sport – Comfort and Eco, you can customize all driving dynamics to your liking.

Seats are well-bolstered and comfortable enough for daily driving

Driving Impressions

This is where Veloster N really shines. As mentioned, it offers multiple customization options that makes the driving experience more enjoyable and suitable for all conditions. We kept the suspension usually in street mode, as it is overly dampened in N mode. Normal mode is stiff enough to remind you that this is not a base Veloster, but not super stiff that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you switch to N mode, this is where it gets uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be driving in this mode on public roads anyway. Steering feeling is nice, but again, they adjusted it so well, street mode is the way to go. Exhaust modes are different story though, we enjoyed it in fully open mode, as it sounds awesome. It makes popping sound if you rev it over 4000 rpms. Most potential buyers don’t even have to get an aftermarket exhaust system to get a better sound, as Hyundai already offers it out of the box.

Exterior design matches well with the overall driving dynamics

When we take the Veloster N to some tight corners, we are even more impressed. The electronic differential works extremely well, it is difficult to get the car understeer while cornering. If you are on the limit, you should be on the throttle to feel that the differential is trying to pull the car towards the corner. Braking performance is also good, Hyundai somehow decided to use modified Kia Optima brake calipers to keep the costs low, instead of using Brembo brakes. We didn’t have a chance to take the car to the track, but it is more than enough for spirited driving on the public road.

Driving mode differences are strikingly significant. When the driver wants to take it easy, Comfort mode makes the driver feel like he is driving a base Veloster, it is silent and comfortable enough to get you from home to work, but when you want to have fun, it can be a great weekend warrior and corner carver. This is why we love hot-hatch cars, as they offer multiple driving characters for the affordable price range, and the Veloster N took it to another level where you can literally daily drive it and take it to a track day with no problem.

Veloster N is missing some features, LED headlights are one of them

The traction control in sport mode is also not too intrusive, which we really appreciated as you wouldn’t want to completely turn it off on public road, and it is fully adjustable and you can make it more sensitive for wet conditions. Hyundai offers a great driving experience with the Veloster N, as it still lets the driver decide how much he wants the car to get involved and help the driver, while still being engaging, fun to drive and competitive in hothatch segment.

The rear right door is what makes the Veloster different from the others

Conclusion

Overall, we enjoyed driving the new Veloster N. It is new in its class, and competing with old boys like VW Golf R and Civic Type R. We can definitely say the Veloster N can keep up with the competition despite being new in this class, which is surprising for us. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, there is still room for improvement, but this is a legit first attempt makes its rivals nervous about the next move. The Veloster N starts at $34.999 Canadian and that’s actually the only option that you can get. Considering its rivals have MSRP of $43.000 and more, this is a bargain and it offers best bang for the buck in this segment. We can definitely recommend the Veloster N if you are looking for a sporty hatchback as it offers a great overall package that you can use it for both track days and grocery shopping, and even some short trips.

Some of our takeaways are:

+ Great driving dynamics + customization

+ Excellent handling and engine performance

+ More practicality despite having a coupe design

+ Price – Performance ratio is the best in its class

Things can be improved

– Missing some essential safety features, such as Blind Spot Monitoring and LED Headlights

– Too much hard plastics for a car costs over $35.000 CAD.

Article & Photos by Dan Gunay