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 

Scion xD

Specifications

NOT RATED

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Delayed 2013 model released in February 2013. Revised headlights outside, new heater controls panel, speedometre graphics, audio unit incorporating Bluetooth and standard seat-mounted side airbags inside. New colours.
Performance
The 1.8L four from the Corolla produces 128 horsepower, 22 more than the 1.5L four that powers the Yaris. Hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission, the xD is a sprightly, if vocal performer. There is a pronounced driveline vibration when accelerating from a stop, and wind and road noise combine to take the serenity out of cruising. The nicely geared steering is both light and numb. Handling and ride get the job done but won't inspire any sonnets. Except for a fussy-looking combined tach-speedo, the xD's dashboard and the rest of the cabin are attractive. Straightforward controls. Comfortable seats front and rear, with good rear seat legroom. Reasonable cargo space with the rear seat up is litlle different than it is in the current Yaris. 

Comments
Based on the previous-generation Yaris hatchback, the Scion xD, built on a 50 mm shorter wheelbase, is 30 mm longer and wider and the same height as the current Yaris hatchback.
Other than its more powerful engine, the xD fails to make a case for itself as cargo space, the chief deficiency of the previous Yaris, is much improved for 2012. One engine, a 128 horsepower 1.8L four, and two transmissions, a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, are offered on the xD.

Pricing

The xD is sold as a single model with numberous and expensive dealer-installed factory accessories. The xD is priced about $1600 higher than a five-door Toyota Yaris LE with the Convenience package, but monthy payments are significantly higher for the xD than they are for the Yaris. 

Reliability: Proven components from the Corolla and Yaris should provide above average reliability. 


Body Style:  4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.8L‑4 (128 HP)

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

City Fuel Economy:  8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Subaru Impreza, XV Crosstrek

Specifications

5 star

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Standard Bluetooth. Limited equipped with navigation. WRX may move to the fourth generation platform during the 2013 model year.

Performance

The 2L characterful and vocal boxer four must be pushed to make good progress. Disappointing engine refinement compared with segment rivals. Light, docile clutch and a vice-free gearchange on the car tested by the APA. Well-calibrated CVT transmission. Careful suspension development is reflected in an absorbant ride and steady handlint. Nicely-weighted, precise steering. Strong brakes despite spongy pedal feel. Classically elegant cabin with clear gauges, straightforward controls, plentiful space, comfortable seats and much improved cabin materials. The cargo bay on the hatchback is a bit shallow. Audio equipment is a big improvement over what Subaru used to provide. Other than an even more resilient ride and slightly more lean in corners due to a higher ride height, the XV Crosstrek is little different to drive than the Impreza it is based on. Good outward  visibility. Phenomenal performance from the WRX and STI models that are still built on the previous-generation platform.

Comments
Only one engine, a 148 horsepower 2L flat four, is offered in the current-generation Impreza. It can be linked to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. The previous-generation WRX and STI feature turbocharged versions of Subaru's flat four. Only manual transmissions, a five-speed on the WRX and a six-speed on the STI, are offered on the turbo models. 
Pricing

 

The hatchback body style commands a $900 premium over the sedan of the same trim level. The Touring and Sport trim upgrades are priced to reflect the content included in the packages. High-value Limited package. Leasing is very good in 2013.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data on the new model.


Body Style:  4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
2L-flat four (148 HP)*, 2.5L-flat four T (WRX 265 HP; STI 305 HP) 

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

City Fuel Economy:  8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Suzuki SX4

Specifications

3 star

 

 

 

 

 

What’s new

New JE base sedan. Front fascia restyled to resemble the Kizashi. Navigation standard on All wheel drive models. All wheel drive variants fo the SX4 hatchback are marketed as a "Crossover" this year. Suzuki withdrew from U.S. market, leaving Canada as its sole outpost in North America.


Performance
The 2L four is responsive enough, but lacks the energetic sparkle expected of an engine rated at 150 horsepower. The engine disappoints from a refinement perspective as well, regardless of whether the car is accelerating through the gears or cruising at a steady speed. The CVT works well on the open road but is poorly calibrated for urban situations, making for jerky progress in town. The ride-handling balance is very well judged, with good bump absorption and flat cornering. Good noise suppression from the wind and the road. With tall doors and high-mounted seats, the SX4 is a snap to get into, and with lofty windows, easy to see out of. The driving position is excellent and the seats are comfortable. The rear seat is split 60/40, the backrests fold down, and the seat assembly flips forward as well, liberating a substantial cargo area below the window line. Rear seat passengers in the hatchback enjoy ample space and a comfortable seat. Rear seat space and comfort in the sedan are exceptional for a car in this segment. Big clear instruments and straightforward controls are a model for others to follow. Acceptable cabin materials and rigorous assembly. Good heater and a very a good audio system. The all-wheel drive system available on the hatchback has three modes; front-wheel drive, on-demand all-wheel drive and continuous all-wheel drive. Transitions from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive are imperceptible.  An oil or grease-based anti-corrosion treatment is recommended for the SX4.

Comments

The SX4 is available in hatchback and sedan body styles. Both are powered by a 150 horsepower 2L four that sends power to the front, or optionally, all wheels, via either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. APA has dropped the rating on the SX-4 to Below Average this year, as Suzuki's dwindling presence in Canada (under 6000 in 2012) augur poorly for the brand's long-term prospects in this market. Several Suzuki dealers have closed, and obtaining parts and service can require a long drive outside major metropolitan markets. So far, parts supply and resale values have not been an issue.

Pricing
All-wheel drive, standard on the JLX hatchback, is optional on the JA ($2900) and JX ($2400), hatchbacks. Good value JX and JLX trim upgrades on the hatchback. The Sport trim level on the sedan is a bargain. The base JA all-wheel drive hatchback is priced only $300 less than the better and more economical Subaru Impreza which also has much better resale value.
Upgrading to the JX hatchback model (front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive) is good value. Overpriced all-wheel drive JLX upgrade. The Sport package, available on the sedan, is a bargain. The JX trim level of the base sedan and hatchback cost the same. The Suzuki SX4 JA all-wheel is priced about the same as a Subaru Impreza 2L hatchback; which is a superior diriving car and have a much better resale value than the SX4.

Reliability: Rated above average. Few complaints have been received about the SX4 other than faulty wheel bearings. 


Body Style:  4HB, 4SD
Occupants: 2/2
Engines:
2L-4 (150 HP) 

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

City Fuel Economy:  8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Japan

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Marginal

Rear: Marginal

NHTSA Rating: 



Toyota Corolla

Specifications

5 star

 

 

What’s new
New audio systems. Standard Bluetooth on the CE B Package. Heated seats are now part of the C Package on the CE trim level. The LE model now includes Keyless Go, automatic temperature control and a leather-strapped steering wheel. Leather seating is standard on the XRS in 2012.

Performance
When hooked up to the four-speed automatic transmission, the Corolla's 1.8L four is smooth, delivers adequate performance and economical at the pump. The Corolla is not as quiet overall as either the Chevrolet Cruze or Ford Focus. The Corolla's steering is precise, but also numb and lightly weighted. Tight turning radius. The long-travel brakes have a spongy pedal feel. The somewhat narrow seats hold the driver well. With a telescoping steering wheel and height adjustable driver's seat, most people can find a comfortable driving position except for the very tall, who feel short of legroom. Class average rear seat comfort and legroom. The cabin is fronted by an elegantly minimalist dashboard stocked with big, clear instruments and straightforward controls. The rest of the interior relies more on shapes than applied ornament, and except for ultra-prosaic fabrics (CE model), is nicely done. BIg trunk. 

Comments
Most Corollas are powered by a 132 horsepower 1.8L four that can be hooked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. Toyota also offers a 2.4L four that sends power to the wheels via a five-speed automatic, but there are very few takers. 

Pricing
The LE trim level and CE Convenience package are great value. S-trim level, LE Upgrade and Corolla S Leather packages are overpriced. The 2.4L/five-speed automatic transmission powertrain in XRS is worth about $1600 when other equipment is accounted for. Good value leasing.

Reliability: Above average reliability. Complaints received regarding oil leaks from the intake manifold and the timing chain cover.


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.8L-4 (132 HP)*, 2.4L‑4 (158 HP) 

Transmissions: 5M, 4A*, 5A 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  9L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Canada

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Toyota Matrix

Specifications

5 star

 

 

What’s new
Revised packages including a new Touring package.

Performance
The 2.4L engine suits the Matrix very well. Smooth and quiet, it provides spirited performance in town and on the highway. The manual transmission is graced by a precise gearchange and a docile clutch. Real world fuel consumption with the 2.4L engine was higher than expected. Despite its height, the car handles very well, taking corners flatly. Quick, precise and communicative steering. The ride of the XRS model shod with low profile 18 inch tires is surprisingly absorbent. The spongy brake pedal is hard to modulate. Small windows and heavy rear roof pillars restrict visibility to the sides and rear. Although the front seat cushions are a bit short, the seats are supportive and are covered in an attractive cloth. Good rear legroom, but the rear seat begins to feel hard and flat after a few minutes. The driver faces a hideous dashboard with jagged shapes and great lashings of faux alloy. The instruments, resting at the bottom of long tubes, are oddly marked, with 160 km/h showing at top dead centre of the speedometer. Heating and audio controls are logical and easy to find. Good cargo capacity and versatility, but the hard plastic cargo floor lets cargo slide around. The premium audio system in the XRS model tested produces only average sound.

Comments
The 132 horsepower 1.8L engine powers most Matrixes, with the 158 horsepower 2.4L four offered in the XRS and all-wheel drive models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with both engines, with four-speed and five-speed automatics available with the 1.8L and 2.4L engines respectively. All-wheel drive is packaged with the 2.4L engine hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Pricing

Poor value Convenience and Touring packages. Upgrading to the Touring package and both S groups are great value. The bigger 2.4 L/five-speed automatic transmission combination in the  XRS is worth about $1600 when other equipment is accounted for. The all-wheel drive model with the S package costs $2365 more than a similarly-equipped XRS with automatic transmission. The base Matrix with the Convenience package is more is more refined than a Kia Soul 2u, and costs roughly $600 more. Good value leasing. Good resale value.
Reliability: Above average reliability. Some complaints of oil leaks from the intake manifoldl and timing chain cover on the 1.8L engine.


Body Style:  4HB
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
1.84L‑4 (132 HP), 2.4L‑4T (158 HP)* 

Transmissions: 5M, 4A, 5A* 
Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive*, all-wheel drive

City Fuel Economy:  10.2L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 3/60,00, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Canada

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Not tested

Rear: Acceptable

NHTSA Rating: 



Volkswagen Beetle

Specifications

Not rated

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s new
Though new, this is no longer a "New" Beetle.

Performance
The 2.5L five-cylinder is strong and flexibible. The smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission tries to attain the highest gear as soon as possible, but kicks down readily when asked. Stable handling, but its chassis is not quite as balanced as that of the Golf it is based on. Lots of road noise at highway speeds. The precise steering is not as communicative as it is in the Golf. The brakes work well despite spongy pedal feel. Good visibility. The cabin, fronted by a dashboard with big gauges featuring sober, crisp graphics, and large centre panel containing a vent-flanked radio and 3-dial HVAC knobs, is reminiscent of the original Beetle's dash. A dash painted to match the exterior hue is available. The rest of the cabin is very chic. Great space and comfortable seats in front, with less room in the back seat than in the related Golf.

Comments

The new (but no longer "New"), Beetle is built on a 41 mm (1.6 inch) shorter wheelbase, is 77 mm (3 inches), longer, 31 mm (1.2 inches), wider and marginally taller than than the Golf MKVI it is based on. While unmistakably a Beetle, the new car sheds its whimsical oval forms for something decidedly more chiselled and planted looking. Men, who avoided the New Beetle like they eschew tofu, find the new Beetle attractive and are buying the car in greater numbers than before. Women find the new car less cute than before and are less eager to buy this Beetle than the last one. Buyers aren't cross-shopping the Beetle with the Golf, but they are looking at the MINI before they make their final decision. The hatchback arrives first, with a convertible to follow. Power stems from the same 2L turbo four and 2.5L five offered in the Golf. Transmissions choices include a five-speed manual and six-speed  automatic with the five, and a six-speed manual and DSG with the turbo. A diesel-engined variant has been announced for the 2013 model year. The turbo has a multi-link rear suspension set-up compared to the torsion-beam system on the 2.5L Beetle.

Pricing

Good value Premiere+ and Tech packages. The Highline trim upgrade priced to reflect extra content. The Connectivity package is overpriced. The 2L turbo engine cost roughly $2000 when other Sportline equipment, standard with the engine, is accounted for. Good lease value.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data. Electrical problems are possible. Expecti typically high Volkswagen servicing costs. Unproven DSG transmission. 


Body Style:  2HB
Occupants: 2/2
Engines:
2L-4 T (200 HP), 2.5 L-5 (170 HP)* 

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

City Fuel Economy:  10.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 4/80,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Mexico

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Not tested

Side: Not tested

Rollover: Not tested

Rear: Not tested

NHTSA Rating: 



Volkswagen Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R

Specifications

5 star

 

 

 

 

What’s new
The firmer sport suspension is mandatory when with the Highline trim level. The GTI gets L.E.D. running lights as standard equipment. Package alterations. The all-wheel drive 256 horsepower Golf R is limited to 500 units in Canada.

Performance
Powered by the 2L turbodiesel, the Golf harnesses abundant torque that bestows it with brisk acceleration, wondrous flexibility, impressive refinement and astonishing fuel economy. The manual gearchange works well, and while the clutch is progressive and docile, its high engagement point on the example driven by the APA was a bother. Mated with the responsive six-speed automatic transmission, the Golf’s 2.5L inline five delivers ample power while emitting a creamy multi-cylinder warble which lifts the car above other cars in its class in terms of aural pleasure and refinement. The GTI's 2L turbo four is smooth, quiet, strong, flexible and more economical than the less powerful 2.5L five. Steering, brakes, ride and handling could hardly be better judged for a mainstream hatchback. Though weighing about the same as cars from the competition, the Golf feels incredibly solid. Big, clear gauges and generally straight forward controls. However, some APA drivers complained that the climate controls were small, hard to see and fiddly to operate. Powerful air conditioning. The base radio is a pleasure to listen to and the upgraded radio delivers sound of exceptional clarity. Big, comfortable seats reside in a cabin with good space front and rear. Top-notch fit and finish. Roomy trunk with the rear seat in place, with good cargo versatility with it folded down.

Comments

Fiendishly complex model range. Three and five door versions feature the current sixth-generation body, with the wagon being a fifth-generation Jetta with a Mark VI Golf front grafted on. Three engines, a 2.5L inline five, a 2L four-cylinder turbodiesel and a 2L gas turbo (in 200 horsepower GTI and 256 horsepower R guises), are available. Transmission choices are a five-speed manual and six-speed automatic on 2.5L cars, with a six-speed manual and DSG automatic available with the gas turbo and TDI engines.

Pricing
The Comfortline and Highline trim upgrades represent very good value. The Sportline package is priced to reflect the value of its additional contents. The station wagon body style is priced from $1200 to $2100 more than a similarly equipped four-door hatchback. Upgrading to the Comfortline trim level and the Multimedia package are good value. The Highline model upgrade exactly balances price and content. Good resale value, especially diesel wagon. The Golfs are a good lease deal in 2012.

Reliability:  Rated average for reliability based on partial data received thus far on the Golf since its renewal for the 2010 model year. Electrical problems are possible. Expecti typically high Volkswagen servicing costs. Unproven DSG transmission.


Body Style:  2HB, 4HB, 4SW
Occupants: 2/3
Engines:
2L-4 T (GTI 200 HP; R 256 HP), 2L-4 TDI (140 HP), 2.5L-5 (170 HP)* 

Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 6A* 6 automated manual 

Drive Layout: Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive (R)

 


City Fuel Economy:  9.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 4/80,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Germany (hatchback), Mexico (wagon)

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 



Volkswagen Jetta

Specifications

4 star

 

  

 

What’s new
Revised gauges (except base). New audio systems. GLI 2L gasoline turbo range topper, with independent rear suspension, was added for 2012.

Performance
The normally-aspirated 2L engine’s initial enthusiasm soon dissolves into a breathless thrashing where requests for acceleration are met more by noise than by forward motion. The smooth and flexible 2.5L five and 2L TDI engines are much better suited to the the Jetta than the base 2L. The 2L gasoline turbo in the GLI is strong and flexible, but sounds a bit strange when installed in this car. The DSG automated manual transmission works very well but is determined to reach the highest gear possible as soon as possible in the interests of fuel economy. The mainsteam car rides and handles well, but the steering is numb. The GLI, with its independent rear suspension, rides and handles a bit better than the mainstream Jettas. Refinement, balance and cabin ambience all trail those of the Golf. Classically elegant cabin stylng. Once known for lavish cabin materials, those of the Jetta are, at best, class average. Big, clear gauges and logical controls. The climate controls are functional but look and feel cheap. Big, comfortable seats front and rear. Very good use of space makes the Jetta one of the roomiest cars in its class. That said, if you don't need the extra rear seat legroon, the Golf is a much nicer car.

Comments
A variety of powertrain options are available. The base engine is an ancient and wheezy 2L four. Buyers can upgrade to the 2.5L inline five cylinder, a 2L turbodiesel or a 2L gasoline turbo engine. The base engine and the 2.5L can be linked to either a six-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. The 2L gas turbo and the TDI can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or VW’s DSG automated manual. Though the new Jetta was panned by many critics, the public embraced it warmly and sales doubled in 2011, to almost 27,000 units.

Pricing
Compared with the base 2L, the 2.5L five costs an extra $2100 ; and the the diesel costs $2300 to
$2700 more than the 2.5????. Except for the Trendline +, trim upgrades are good value. Equipped with automatic transmission and the Luxury Leather package to match the equipment level standard on the 2.5L Highline, the 2L gas turbo GLI is priced $4700 higher. Good lease value.

Reliability: Not rated, insufficient data. The various cost-cutting measures employed in the Jetta cast doubts on its long-term reliability. Unproven DSG transmission. 


Body Style:  4SD
Occupants: 2/3

Engines:
2L-4 T (GTI 200 HP; R 256 HP), 2L-4 TDI (140 HP)*, 2.5L-5 (170 HP)* 


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

City Fuel Economy:  7.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions ratings: N/A
Warranty: 4/80,000, 5/100,000
Country of Origin:  Mexico

IIHS Ratings:

Front: Good

Side: Good

Rollover: Good

Rear: Good

NHTSA Rating: 


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