2012 Lemon Aid New Car Reviews - Small

The small car segment, a crucial and very competitive one in Canada, contains some of Canada’s best-selling cars.

Cars in this segment are no longer cheap, but equipment levels, refinement and performance are equal to those of mid-size cars a decade ago. Other than a need for greater cabin space, there is no compelling reason to move beyond this class.

Over the last few years, new cars in this segment have arrived as relentlessly as waves on a beach. New entries for this year include the Acura ILX, Chevrolet Volt, Dodge Dart, and Nissan Leaf, as well new versions of the Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Beetle. Hyundai has also introduced two early-release 2013 variants of the Elantra, a coupe, and the GT, which replaces the Touring.

The better cars in this class are economical to operate, very reliable, and have excellent resale value. Interestingly, the highest-rated cars are often very competitive on a monthly payment basis, and are the only ones that offer a lease worth considering. The average and below average cars in this segment can seldom be leased, and though finance payments may be low, so will the resale value if you trade in the car before the six year mark.

A note about mileage: The APA's posted fuel economy figures for 2012 differ from those published by the Canada EnerGuide. For 2012, the APA is using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA), numbers for fuel economy as they better reflect real-world fuel economy. For more information, read APA President George Iny's article regarding the inadequacies of the Canada EnerGuide test cycle

 

Acura ILX  Hyundai Elantra  Nissan Cube  Subaru Impreza 
Chevrolet Cruze 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT  Nissan Juke  Suzuki SX4 
Chevrolet Volt  Kia Forte  Nissan Leaf  Toyota Corolla 
Dodge Dart  Mazda 3  Nissan Sentra  Toyota Matrix 
Ford Focus  MINI Countryman  Scion tC  Volkswagen Beetle 
Honda Civic  Mitsubishi Lancer  Scion xB  Volkswagen Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R 
Honda Insight  Mitsubishi RVR Scion xD  Volkswagen Jetta 

Acura ILX

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

What’s new
The Civic-based ILX replaces the CSX in Canada, and returns Acura in the U.S. to the small car market it abandoned when the RSX was discontinued.  

Comments
The Civic-based ILX replaces the CSX in Canada and gives Acura in the U.S. an entry level car that it hasn't had since the demise of the RSX hatchback. With a totally bespoke exterior and cabin, the ILX bears no resemblance to the Civic, something that could never be said for the badge-engineered CSX. The ILX is a neat styling job overall, and has a similar silhouette to that of the first-generation Mazda 3. The ILX's interior benefits from the Civic's space efficiency, and can easily accommodate four adults. A conventional dashboard, with proper gauges, replaces the space-age oddity fronting the Civic. Cabin materials, while better than those of the Civic, are unimpressive for a car with a base price around $30,000, roughly $6000 higher than the similarly-equipped Civic EX-L. Around 2000 Canadians per year stepped up to a CSX over a visually similar Civic EX-L, it will interesting to see if more people make the leap from the Civic to the bespoke ILX.  

Pricing
The base ILX is priced roughly $6000 higher than a similarly-equipped Honda Civic EX-L.
Reliability: New car, not rated. The Civic is rated above average.

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
2L-4 (150 HP)*, 2.4L‑4 (201HP),  1.5L-4 H (111 HP combined) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  n/a
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5 (Tier 2 Bin 3 [Hybrid])
Warranty: 4/80,000, 5/100,000

Country of Origin:  United States

 

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Chevrolet Cruze

Specifications

ABOVE AVERAGE

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Cruze: fog lamps and Keyless Go are standard on the LTZ trim level. Buick Verano: all-new Cruze-based vehicle shares no exterior or cabin bits directly with the Cruze, and is marketed to those seeking a compact luxury car.
Performance
Equipped with the 1.4 turbo and an automatic transmission, the Cruze launches strongly and is smooth and quiet. Light, yet precise sterring. Very good ride-handling compromise for a big-volume mainstream touring car. Impact noise from the rear suspension on big bumps. Strong brakes. Conservatively elegant, well-finished cabin with impressive attention to detail. Big, clear gauges, and logical controls. Comfortable front seats, but the backrests, which tip in at the top, don't suit all occupants. The hard rear seat combines with just adequate rear legroom to undermine rear passenger comfort. The ECO model was not noticeably more economical than the mainstream 1.4T, which is no mileage champion itself.  The Cruze tied toe Ford Focus for second spot in an APA four car comparison test that included the first place Honda Civic and the fourth place Hyundai Elantra.

Comments
The base engine in the Cruze is a normally-aspirated 1.8L four that produces 136 horsepower. Starting with the LT trim level, the Cruze is powered by a turbocharged 1.4L four that produces about the same horsepower as the 1.8L, but significantly more torque. Chevrolet has announced that the Cruze will be offered with a diesel engine for the 2013 model year. The Buick Verano is Cruze based, but, with bespoke styling and a its own cabin design, it is a unique vehicle and not just a badge-engineered variant. The exterior displays numerous Buick styling cues and the cabin is quite sumptuous. Power stems from a 2.4L version of the Ecotec four found in various GM products. With 180 horsepower and strong torque, the Verano should deliver brisk pefornance, and, with Buick's "Quiet Tuning" sound abatement measures, serenity as well.

Pricing
Cruze: the LT upgrade includes a wealth of features and the turbo for less than $2000. The LTZ package significantly overpriced for the content it delivers. The LS+ and  LT+ packages are priced to reflect content. Verano: trim upgrades are very good value. A loaded Verano is priced only $1627 higher than a similarly-equipped Cruze LTZ, but the Cruze lacks the Verano's parking sonar, fog lights, bigger 2.4L engine and four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.
Reliability: Insufficient data, not rated. New GM cars can develop glitches in the years they are launched. 


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.4L‑4 T (138 HP)*, 1.8L‑4 (136 HP),
2.4L-4 (180 HP [Verano]) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000 (Cruze), 4/80,000 (Verano), 5/160,000 (both)
Country of Origin:  United States

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Chevrolet Volt

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

 

What’s new
GM's "extended range" sedan is now on sale in Canada.

Comments
Built on the same wheelbase as the related Cruze, the Volt is 99 mm shorter, 8 mm narrower and 46 mm lower than its mainstream showroom companion. The Volt drives very much like a mainstream compact car. Precise, nicely weighted steering. Supple ride. Very quiet in normal driving. The brakes are hard to modulate. Restricted visibility due to multiple blind spots. Surprisingly, the very sedan-looking Volt is actually a hatchback. The exterior styling lacks verve, with the black-painted band under the door windows being a bit awkward. The cabin is fronted by a swoopy dash housing a bright, crisp digital display package with speedometer, fuel gauge and electrical charge state, among other things. The touch screen and multiple buttons on the prominent dash centre stack can be distracting. Adequate space and comfortable in front, but rear legroom is lacking. Good cargo capacity and versatility. Primary power is furnished by a 149 horsepower electric motor drawing off the 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with a range of 40 to 80 kilometers. A full recharge can be done in four hours at 240 volts or 10 to 12 hours at 120 volts. An 84 horsepower 1.4L gas engine takes over when the batteries are drained, extending the range up to a possible 580 kilometers. Very low running costs if the Volt is fully charged for its daily commute so it runs totally in electric mode. The Volt is a well-conceived technical tour-de-force that functions seamlessly.
Pricing
Starting at around $43,000, the Volt is expensive, but government rebates of $8321in Ontario and $7769 in Quebec are available.    

Reliability: New vehicle, insufficient data, not rated.

See the Hybrid and Electric car section. | See our "Recently Driven" entry.


Body Style:  4HB
Occupants: 2/2

Engines:

Electric motor (63 kW/149 HP); generated by electricity: 1.4L‑4 (84 HP) 


Transmissions: None
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  6.7 L/100 km (gas); 22.5 kW/100 km

ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/160,000, 8/160,000 (on electric drivetrain)
Country of Origin:  United States

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



2013 Dodge Dart

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

What’s new
Based on the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta, the Dart replaces the Caliber.

Comments
With the Dart, Dodge reprises a name familiar to the majority of the population over the age of 50. The car is based on the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta's platform that has been stretched to accommodate the space needs of North American buyers. With chic, clean and contemporary styling, the Dart is one of the best-looking cars in its class. The cabin is also nicely designed and looks carefully constructed from attractive components. Dart denizens reside on comfortable seats and enjoy good space, front and rear. The Dart gives Dodge a mainstream sedan to sell against the Civic, Cruze, Elantra, Focus et al, in the high volume (21 percent of all new vehicle sales in Canada, according to Chrysler), compact car segment where its mediocre predecessor, the Caliber, garnered little attention. Three four-cylinder engines are offered. They include a 160 horsepower 2L, a 2.4L with 184 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.4L that churns our 160 horsepower. Six-speed transmissions, a manual and an automatic, are offered with the two larger engines. The 1.4T can be linked up to a six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission.

Pricing
No pricing details available.

Reliability: New car, not rated. 


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.4L‑4  T (160 HP), 2L-4 (160 HP), 2.4L-4 (184 HP) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A, 6A automated manual (1.4T) 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  n/a
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,00, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  United States

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Not tested

Side: Not tested

Rollover: Not tested

Rear: Not tested

NHTSA Rating: 



Ford Focus

Specifications

ABOVE AVERAGE

 

 

 

What’s new
The high-performance front-wheel drive early-release 2013 Focus ST will arrive by the fall of 2012.

Performance
The smooth 2L fourr sounds sporty when extended. Acceleration feels a bit soft for 160 horsepower. The automated manual transmission generally upshifts smoothly, but downshifts reluctantly. Manual-mode (SEL and Titanium), quickens downshifts via a shift-lever mounted toggle. Loud clunks accompany some shifts, especially in traffic. Ford has already altered transmission programming to improve quality. Precise, perfectly weighted steering, crisp handling and a resilient ride. Weak air conditioning. Awkward ignition key placement. The Focus is reasonably quiet but some of the group of early cars sampled by the APA suffered from suspension squeaks. The Focus cabin contains lots of matte finishes, soft-touch plastics and chic faux alloy accents. Crisply-marked gauges, but turquoise needles and secondary MPH readouts are not to all tastes. Complex controls. The MyFord touch screen reacts slowly when its surface is touched for changes. Very tight cabin, little headroom and severely limited rear legroom. Try the back seat before you buy a Focus. Large, comfortable front seats. The Focus tied for second place with the Chevrolet Cruze, behind the Honda Civic, and ahead of the Hyundai Elantra, in a recent four car APA comparison test.

Comments
The all-new third-generation Focus debuted in Europe and North America at the same time. Power stems from a 160 horsepower 2L four that sends power to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual clutch automated manual with a full automatic mode. The turbocharged 240 2L four sitting under the hood of the 2013 Focus ST will send power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

Pricing
The hatchback body style of any trim level is priced $900 higher than the equivalent sedan. The SE upgrade is overpriced but stepping up to the SEL trim level represents good value. Titanium pricing is a total mystery when its content is accounted for. A comparably equipped SE sedan is priced $2000 higher than a Civic LX, and finance payments are higher as well. Poor lease value.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data. None of the mechanical units of the new Focus are shared with its predecessor. The erratic function of both the automated manual transmission and the MyFord Touch interface have generated consumer complaints


Body Style:  4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
2L-4 (140 HP)*, 2L-4 T (250 HP [ST]) 

Transmissions: 5M, 6M (ST), 6A automated manual* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 4
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  United States

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Honda Civic

Specifications

ABOVE AVERAGE

 

 

 

 

What’s new

Ninth-generation Civic went on sale last summer. A 2.4L four replaces the previous 2L on the Si. The hybrid model returns for the first time since 2009. 

Performance
The smooth, flexible, and very economical 1.8L engine is well-mated to the responsive five-speed automatic transmission. Predictable handling, though some lean is evident in corners. The Civic delivers a firmly absorbent ride that shrugs off major bumps. The electric power steering is precise and has great directional stability on the highway, but is too light and a bit numb as well. Excessive road noise. The cabin retains its eccentric two-level dash featuring a prominent tach over which hovers a digital speedo and minor readouts which are hard to read in bright sunlight. Complex trip computer and audio controls. The Audio and HVAC controls are poorly integrated into the dash and look like afterthoughts. The upper dash and door panel trim resembles handmade paper, but look cheap and shiny. Comfortable seats reside in a cabin with plenty of space for four adults. The Civic was the winner of an APA multi-vehicle comparison test that also included the second-lace Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus and the fourth place Hyundai Elantra.

Comments
The new Civic sedan looks very familiar. With a longer roof line and crisper lines, the coupe is more elegant than its predecessor. The current Civic had a troubled launch as production volume was restricted due to the parts shortages of crucial Japanese-sourced components following the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. In addition, styling which is too similar to announce its newness, and a decontented cabin soured some buyers on the car. That said, the Civic is a fine car on the road, as evidenced by its winning our recent four car test against some very stiff opposition. Honda is said to be pulling forward a cabin update, not ususally done until the fourth year a design is in production, to this fall. Most Civics will be powered by a 1.8L four that can be teamed with either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The Si model houses a 2.4L four under its hood, with power reaching the front wheels exclusively through a six-speed manual transmission. The hybrid model returns after a two-year absence. Its 93 horsepower gasoline engine combines with an electric motor to produce 111 horsepower that reaches the road via a CVT. Unlike other hybrid systems, Honda's electric motor provides an assist to the gasoline engine, and won't move the car by electricity alone.

Pricing
LX and EX-L trim upgrades are great value. The EX package price reflects its additional content. Coupes are priced $500 more than sedans (Si same price). Very good lease value. Very good resale value.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data. Predicted reliability is above average as the new Civic 1.8L Civic shares its mechanical units with the previous-generation car. 

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4SD*, 2CP
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.8L-4 (140 HP), 2.4L-4 (201 HP [Si]), 1.5L-4 H (111 HP combined[hybrid]) 

Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 5A*, CVT 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.4L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5 (Tier 2 BIn 3 [Hybrid])
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000, 8/160,000 (hybrid components)
Country of Origin:  Canada and the United States.

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Honda Insight

Specifications

AVERAGE

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Freshened front and rear styling and more attractive cabin materials. Reduced engine friction, aerodynamic improvements and energy-efficient tires are said by Honda to improve fuel economy. Single trim-level model range.
Performance
The gasoline engine is smooth enough in normal driving but becomes harsh when pushed. The idle-stop mechanism saves fuel when the car is stopped, but lacking a full electric propulsion mode, the frequent starts and stops in heavy traffic are tedious. Adequate, but unenthusiastic handling in normal driving, accompanied by considerable lean in corners. Stiff ride. Big blindspots in the rear. The easily-scanned speedometer glows green, blue respectively for frugal, normal and aggressive driving. Minor controls are more straightforward than their confusing predecessors. Good cabin space for a car this size and reasonable cargo space as well. Cabin materials are more attractive than before. Honda's hybrid system renders the Insight unpleasant to drive. If you don't need a back seat, Honda's Insight-based CR-Z, is chic inside and out and a much nicer car to drive. The Toyota Prius is a much nicer, more economical car than the Insight, and is well worth the extra money Toyota charges for it. 

Comments
After a poor reception and tepid sales in 2010, Honda passed on the 2011 Insight, returning to the market an updated 2012 model that appears to address some of the shortcomings of the 2010 Insight. 

Pricing
Only one trim variant, a well-equipped LX, is offered for 2012. Good lease value. The Insight is roughly $4000 cheaper than the base Prius, but if you lease, the payment for the Prius (48 month lease), is only about $30 more per month.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data. Predicted reliability is above average. 

See the Hybrid and Electric car section.


Body Style:  4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.3L‑4 (88 horsepower gasoline engine, 98 combined with the electric motor)

Transmissions: CVT 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  5.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 3
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



2013 Hyundai Elantra

Specifications

ABOVE AVERAGE

 

 

 

What’s new
The 2013 Elantra sedan and coupe were released in the early summer of 2012. Sedan updates include revised steering knuckles for improved steering feel, darker faux alloy accents inside the cabin as well as an eight-way power seat on the Limited model.

Performance
The engine delivers good acceleration but becomes loud when strongly exercised. The automatic transmission upshifts smoothly and can be reluctant to downshift. Its programming seeks the highest gear possible in the interests of fuel economy, often at the expense of on-road elan. The ActiveEco function amplifies this tendancy but can be switched off. On a short test drive on smooth roads, the suspension give the impression of agility and a smoothly compliant ride. However, when the going gets rough, the Elantra, with its crashing front and bouncing rear suspension, betrays a lack of final development finesse common on a number of current Hyundai offerings. The Elantra is noisier than the Chevrolet Cruze or the Ford Focus. The big wheel and tire package on the Limited magnifies the Elantra's suspension deficiencies. Nicely weighted, but numb steering. Strong brakes. The conservatively elegant cabin is fronted by a dashboard housing large, clear gauges and the controls are straightforward except for the fussy climate interface on the Limited. Good legroom front and rear, but rear seat riders will find both toe and headroom in tight supply. The flat and oddly-padded front seats prove comfortable enough. Spacious trunk. Strong air conditioning. Good audio equipement.  

Comments

The styling of the Elantra sedan, both inside and out, has attracted a lot of attention and buyers. The soon-to-be-released coupe is quite chic as well, and Hyundai Canada should have no problems shifting the limited number of cars (1000 to 2000 units), available to it. All Elantras are powered by a 1.8L four producing 148 horsepower. Power reaches the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. 

Pricing
Sedan: upgrading from the L to the GL trim level exactly balances price against value. The GLS package is very good value and $2000 price bump for the Limited brings roughly $3000 worth of equipment. The GL trim level is the best value in the lineup. Coupe: the coupe is only marketed in GLS and SE (the SE is equipped the same as a Limited sedan with navigation), trim levels. Coupes and sedans are priced the same. While still a great value, the Elantra, and Hyundais in general, are no longer the "bargains" they used to be. Good value leasing is available for 2013.    

Reliability:  Insufficient data, not rated. Most Hyundais released since 2006 have been rated above average


Body Style:  2CP, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.8L‑4 (148 HP) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  8.1L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: Tier 2 Bin 5
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  United States (sedan), South Korea (coupe)

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Specifications

NEW

 

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Available in the summer of 2012, the 2013 Elantra GT replaces the Elantra Touring in Canada.  
Comments
Based on the i30 model Hyundai sells in Europe, the South-Korean built GT replaces the Touring in the Canadian market. The GT is powered by the same 1.8L four as the U.S.-built Elantra sedan and employs the same six-speed transmissions. The GT has less available cargo space than the wagon-like Touring, but its elegant styling, and roomy, carefully-finished cabin will win new adherents. An interesting available feature is a rear-view camera located under a hinged panel on the tailgate which keeps the camera clean when not in use.

Pricing
There is no entry level GT model equivalent to the cheapest L trim level sedan.   

Reliability:  New car, not rated. Most Hyundais released since 2006 have been rated above average.


Body Style:  4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.8L‑4 (148 HP) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  n/a
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000
Country of Origin: South Korea

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Not tested

Side: Not tested

Rollover: Not tested

Rear: Not tested

NHTSA Rating: 



Kia Forte

Specifications

AVERAGE

 

 

 

What’s new
No changes of note

Performance
The 2L/six-speed automatic transmission combination delivers ample power and relaxed cruising. The 2.4L four is smooth, flexible and quick, but the uncertain clutch take-up point on the manual transmission makes the automatic a better choice. Stable handling (especially crisp in the Koup), but the ride borders on punishing, especially if you opt for the SX. Good exterior vision. The cabin is fronted by a dashboard stocked with big, clear gauges and logical, easy-to-use controls. The rest of the cabin design is refreshingly clean but not in the least bit stark in appearance. Though most surfaces are hard plastic, matte finishes make the parts look good. Comfortable seats, front and rear, and good legroom for both rows of seats. Large, regularly shaped trunk. Versatile cargo area on the hartchback model.

Comments

The mainstream engine is a 156 horsepower 2L four, with a 2.4L 173 horsepower four optional. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Both the hatchback and coupe body styles have proved quiite popular, with combined sales nearly equalling those of the sedan. Made in South Korea.

Pricing

Trim upgrades are very good value. The Koup and hatchback body styles sell for $500 and $700 more respectively than the equivalent Forte sedan. Unimpressive incentives discourage leasing.

Reliability: Above average reliability predicted like those of other recent Kia offerings.


Body Style:  2CP, 4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
2L‑4 (156 HP)*, 2.4L‑4 (173 HP) 

Transmissions: 6M, 6A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 5/100,000

Country of Origin: South Korea

 


IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 


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