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APA at the January 2018 Auto Shows

Several APA staffers attended the Detroit and Montreal auto shows. Here is the news on the most significant vehicles revealed at the shows.

Formally known as the North American International Auto Show, the Detroit show is the first all-vehicle event of the 2018 season. Detroit once had January all to itself, but the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, held just before Detroit, has become a vehicle technology showcase that is now usurping some of Detroit’s thunder. The following vehicles were exclusive to the Detroit show and did not appear in Montreal.

The second-generation Veloster turbo displayed in Detroit is from Hyundai's new "N" high-performance division. 

Based on the just released new-generation Accent, the Veloster exhibits similar design cues as its predecessor. The asymmetric doors -- two on the right, one on the left -- remain and afford easy entry to the rear seat, which benefits from better headroom.

Power stems from either the Elantra's 2L four or the returning 1.6L turbo. The 'N' model (named after Hyundai's Namyang technical facility and the Nürburgring), slated for a late 2018 release, has a 2L turbo four.


The GAC GA4 sedan on display in Detroit

2018 was the second year GAC (Guangzhou Automobile Group Motor Co.) had a large display at the Detroit show. The company is not selling vehicles in North America yet, but announced plans to enter the U.S. market by the end of 2019. The GA4 road performance is still an unknown here, but its design and fit and finish yield little to established carmakers.

Though it uses the Ranger name formerly applied to Ford's compact pickup, the new Ranger has grown substantially

On display for all to see in Detroit, the new Ranger will go on sale in late 2018. Previously a compact, it has adopted a mid-size configuration that will compete with GM's successful Canyon/Colorado twins. Ford's 2.3L EcoBoost turbo four is the only powerplant announced to this point but others are sure to follow, as are several additional body styles..


The 2019 Silverado 

Continuing its recent strategy of staging the reveals of vehicles sharing the same platform at different times to open up some marketing space between them, GM unveiled the Chevrolet Silverado version of its new full-size truck; the similar GMC Sierra will likely appear at the Chicago show in February.

The familiar 5.3L and 6.2L V8 engines return; the cylinder deactivation system is more sophisticated, with a wider range of operating parameters, than previously. The 5.3L and 6.2L V8 gasoline engines will be joined by an inline six-cylinder diesel. Along with the recently announced Mercedes CLS, the GM engine is the second inline six announced over the last few months, which may herald a renaissance for this engine format.

GM will use more aluminum in the new Silverado and Sierra, but has not moved to a complete alloy body like the current Ford F-150. Perhaps surprisinigly, GM managed to shave about 200 kilograms off its pickups, about two thirds what Ford saved by moving to an expensive all alloy truck body.


Chromatically enhanced view of Place Jean-Paul Riopelle outside the Paiais de Congres in Montreal 

Scheduled in January 2018, Montreal's Salon International de l’Auto is the first show on the Canadian auto show circuit. The 2018 Salon was one of the best in years with a dizzying array of significant new vehicles. There was big news on the hydrogen front as two Quebec cabinet ministers were on hand to announce that Quebec has purchased 50 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars for testing in a harsh four-season environment.

Automakers were in a euphoric mood after a year of record-breaking sales in 2017. However, long new car loans--84 months is now typical--that make for monthly payments people can handle, are beginning to cast a long shadow over future sales, as they could keep some consumers out of the market for a long time. The future of NAFTA is another cloud on the horizon, and automakers must be losing sleep over the potential currency exchange rate fluctuations, supply chain disruption and lower profitability if it unravels.

This report follows the reveal schedule of the press day and highlights the most significant vehicles unveiled.


The 2019 Kia Forte was shown in Montreal but won't arrive until the autumn of 2018

The new Forte is yet another demonstration that a more conservative wind is blowing through the design halls of the Hyundai-Kia combine. The Forte's cabin is roomy for its size, very nicely appointed and features all the infotainment features buyers expect. An array of active safety features will be available.

The Forte will use the platform and 2L four from the Hyundai Elantra but will eschew the Elantra's conventional six-speed automatic transmission for a CVT, a new feature for the Hyundai-Kia group and one that may show up in the Elantra when it gets its mid-cycle refresh for 2019.

Other than a jagged lower front fascia and gratuitous chrome-accented vents in the front fenders, the Genesis G70 is a neat styling job

The G70 will go head-to-head with compact luxury stalwarts like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It's the third vehicle to be released under the stand alone Genesis brand name. The G70's cabin is elegant and sumptuously outfitted. However, compared to its major rivals, room is at a premium and accessing the rear seat requires some suppleness. Except for the rear-wheel drive, manual transmission 2.0T Sport model, all G70s feature all-wheel drive. Engine choices include two turbos, a 2L four and a 3.3L V6.

Genesis has stepped outside the conventional dealership model. Like Tesla in Canada, vehicles can be purchased online, and at seen at select boutiques located in fashionable locations. Genesis considers the dealer to be their "agent" and cars are sold at a fixed price set by the manufacturer -- more Apple than haggle. The one-price policy resembles to a certain degree the model pioneered by Saturn. Consumers wanting a test drive, or booking their cars for service will be met at the custommer's location by Genesis personnel who will deliver a demonstrator or service loaner. Genesis is on a very slow roll-out in Canada; the G70 is at the heart of the compact luxury sedan market and gives the brand the high volume car it needs here. Genesis still desperately needs a luxury crossover vehicle to secure the franchise.


The XC40, Volvo's new compact luxury crossover, goes on sale in the spring as a 2019 model.

The XC40 is Volvo's fourth vehicle since its renaissance under Geely ownership. It is built on a new Compact Modular Architecture. Initially, the XC40 will be sold as a T5, with a 248 horsepower version of Volvo's 2L turbo four; a T4 with around 185 horsepower is rumoured to be coming.

After an elegant XC90, a sublime S90-V90, and an attractive enough XC60, Volvo may have hit a wall with the blocky XC40 that shares no visual elements with the rest of the line apart from a rectangular grille. Volvo has re-purposed its attractive TFT (transistor film technology) dash gauges, large info screen and minor controls from the current lineup inside the new crossover. The front seats, long a Volvo hallmark, are very comfortable and there is plenty of legroom and headroom is abundant. Volvo appears to have lost interest when it got to the back seat. Rear legroom is acceptable, but the seat cushion is small, thinly padded, mounted low to the floor, and strangely, doesn't fill the total width available. A wide array of active safety equipment is available on the XC40, including Volvo's new semi-Autonomous Pilot Assist driving feature.

The 2019 Jetta goes on sale in the spring  

Like most of Volkswagen's recent new vehicles, including the Golf, Tiguan and Atlas, the new Jetta is built on VW's MQB platform. The sole engine at launch is the returning 1.4L turbo four with a solid torque profile. The engine is now equipped with an auto stop-start feature. Power reaches the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed conventional automatic. Like most newer cars, there is a focus on active safety equipment; with radar cruise, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision, blind spot, rear cross traffic and lane departure warnings, available.

The new Jetta's passenger capsule delivers about the same space as its predecessor. Seating, a VW strong point, is comfortable. Legroom is ample up front and acceptable for rear seat riders. Cabin materials which were a little disappointing on the last Jetta are now quite attractive. Most models feature traditional large gauges but premium models are equipped the VW Digital Cockpit, which uses a Transistor Film Technology screen. The trunk is ample.

The hydrogen fuel cell powered Toyota Mirai demonstrated that the perpetually delayed hydrogen era may be closer than we thought 

Two Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Isabelle Melançon Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change and Pierre Moreau, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources were on hand to announce that the Government of Quebec has purchased 50 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars to evaluate how the cars work in a harsh four-seasons environment. Toyota also took the opportunity to announce that Quebec will be the first jurisdiction in Canada where the Mirai will be available to retail customers. Toyota decided to launch the Mirai in Quebec as the province is the market leader in clean vehicle sales, accounting for half of the EV sales in Canada, and because Quebec consumers are very open to new technology.

The government of Quebec is keen on green vehicles, announcing that it wants to reduce carbon consumption by 40 percent by 2030, and would like CO2 emissions from vehicles to drop by 90 percent by the year 2050. Minister Melançon expressed personal disappointment that of the 156 low or no emissions vehicles available globally, only 40 are on sale in Canada, and even those offered here are often hard to get.

An interest in hydrogen is not new for Quebec, as it is home to the Hydrogen Research Institute (HRI) of the Université du Québec at Trois-Rivières, one of Canada's leading institutions engaged in hydrogen research. Its focus is the field of sustainable energy system using hydrogen, especially as it pertains to energy storage. Its facility in Trois-Rivières has a particular focus in adapting hydrogen power to harsh Canadian winter weather. The need to have water in the fuel cell for it to operate is balanced by the risk of that water freezing in cold weather, distorting the hydrogen fuel cell. Management of water in the fuel cell is crucial.

Some pundits contend that hydrogen is the eventual end point for personal transportation as the electricity needed to power the car is created onboard, and filling the hydrogen tank takes no more time than filling up a gasoline powered car. Certainly, outside of urban areas and predictable daily commuting duties, the hydrogen fuel cell eliminates the range anxiety and lengthy recharge times of a battery electric vehicle, and represents a more versatile mode of transport than conventional electrics, especially for long trips.

The cost of producing hydrogen is still an unknown factor and one that needs to be solved before any possible hydrogen age can commence. However, Quebec, with near endless amounts of clean, hydro-electric energy--Quebec alone is the fourth largest generator of hydro-electric power in the world--is in a unique position to produce hydrogen at a cost that is sustainable in both climate and market terms. Quebec sees its future as a renewable energy powerhouse; eventually assuming Alberta’s role as the key energy supplier for Canada, but replacing Alberta’s carbon energy with clean energy.

The Ascent is Subaru's new three-row crossover 

Subaru has returned to the three-row crossover segment after the slow death of its previous effort, the Tribeca. Like all future Subarus, the new Ascent is based on the variable architecture that debuted on the 2017 Impreza.

The new platform must not be able to accept Subaru's silky flat six engine as the Ascent will be powered by a 2.4L turbo four, which will make similar power as the six but lacks its smooth delivery. A CVT will transmit power to all four wheels.

Styling easily marks the vehicle out as a Subaru but is not particularly noteworthy. The cabin is very nicely designed. The front seats are comfortable and there is plenty of space. The middle row seats are supportive enough but legroom is tight, too tight for larger adults. As with many of the vehicles in this segment, the third row seat is best left to the young and agile. Cargo space is quite reasonable even with the third row seat back raised to carry passengers..

 Though strictly front-wheel drive, the Nissan Kicks will be marketed as a crossover

The Kicks is a front-wheel drive hatchback with crossover looks. It enters the ever-growing B-segment crossover marketplace. The car was a bit of a surprise as many thought that the recently introduced Qashqai was the vehicle Nissan had designated as its vehicle for this segment. With the Kicks, Nissan is following the Hyundai strategy of offering one additional crossover than other makers feel is necessary.

Like Toyota's C-HR, the Kicks is available exclusively with front-wheel drive. Nissan decided not to sell its current-generation Micra (Canada still gets the previous generation car) in North America, but elected to use the platform to support a tall hatchback model they could price high enough to make a profit here. It's a strategy Mazda used for the CX-3 that is working well for them.

The Kicks is powered by Nissan's ubiquitous 1.6L four which mates up to a CVT exclusively. Autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warnings are standard; with a blind spot warning system available on premium variants.

The exterior is one of the more attractive Nissans released over the last while, as the firm emerges from a dark place in design terms. The Kicks is available in some quasi-compelling two tone paint combinations. The cabin design is refreshingly clean, uncluttered and features very functional controls. The seating position is good for the driver with plenty of headroom and legroom up front. The rear seat is supportive and legroom is good for this class. The regularly shaped cargo area has good space with the rear seat in place and good versatility when the rear seat is folded.


Arcs Ahoy! The 2019 QX50 is yet another curvilinear crossover from Infiniti

The QX50 changes focus this year; moving from a premium rear-wheel drive platform derived from a luxury sedan to mainstream front wheel drive underpinnings.

The exterior design is very Infiniti, and the interior is both attractive and luxurious. Front seat passengers are very well catered for but the oddly shaped rear seat, lack of toe space under the front seats and tight legroom may make rear seat riders wish they had stayed home.

Nissan's big V6 has been jettisoned for a powerful 2L four which Infiniti refers to as the VC-Turbo, VC standing for variable compression. The engine adjusts the compression ratio between 8:1 (for performance) and 14:1 (for fuel economy). Former Swedish carmaker Saab toyed with this idea and won several awards for the technology, but abandoned the concept after General Motors (Saab's owner at the time) cut off funds for further development. This technology is innovative but unproven and complex; potential owners may be comforted by Infinit’s six-year/110,000 kilometer powertrain warranty.

Based on the Accent, the Kona is Hyundai's entry into the burgeoning micro CUV segment. Kia's equivalent car, the Stonic, will not be coming to Canada.

Based on the new Accent, the Kona is slightly larger than its donor car. Two familiar Hyundai engines, a 2L four and a 1.6L turbo four, are offered. Transmission choices include a conventional six-speed automatic with the 2L and a seven-speed dual clutch unit on the turbo.

Available active safety equipment includes Autonomous Emergency braking, lane keeping assist as well as driver alertness, blind spot and rear cross traffic warnings. The Kona has a roomy, comfortable cabin and good cargo space for the size of the car. 

Like Nissan, Hyundai offers four crossover models (Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe XL) versus three for Honda and Toyota (if you count the C-HR as a crossover). Hyundai want to increase its Canadian sales, and the Kona represents the first of a new generation of crossovers, with redesigned Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe XL models expected in the next year or so.

Similar silhouette but cleaner lines of the new Hyundai Accent hatchback 

The Accent sedan debuted almost a year ago but the hatchback saw the light of day in Montreal just before it reaches dealerships. In Canada, the hatchback is overwhelmingly the best seller of the two body styles, but the previous model bombed in the U.S., where only the sedan will be sold. The new Accent is about the same size outside and its cabin packaging is similar to that of the outgoing car. The interior is very nicely done and all the infotainment features buyers demand are available. The proven 1.6L four and six-speed automatic are carried over from the previous car. 

Electrics helping electrics. The Hyundai Charge Here mobile charging service starts in Montreal this spring

Hyundai announced a pilot project for the Montreal area called Hyundai Charge Here. Hyundai electric owners who inadvertently run out of battery energy can call Hyundai who will dispatch an Ioniq Electric equipped with a battery in its trunk that can provide 40 kilometers worth of energy to a stranded Ionic in about 20 minutes. The idea is so brilliantly simple it is a wonder that nobody thought of it before. Hyundai Charge Here will provide enough range to either get home or to one of the public recharging locations that are much more plentiful in Quebec than they are in other parts of Canada.

The new Jeep JL Wrangler made its Canadian debut at the Montreal show  

The body-on-frame 2018 Wrangler JL is all-new from the wheels up. The doors, hood, windshield and fender flares of the new Wrangler are fashioned from aluminum. Two different soft tops are available for 2018. One is a conventional convertible top, but with more bows to allow for a tighter fit, reducing wind noise and making it easier to fold. Owners of previous convertible Jeeps frustrated by the zippers needed to remove the clear panels adjacent to the cargo area, will be pleased that those transparent flexible elements have been replaced by solid glazed panels that slip into channels built into the body. In addition to the conventional soft top, Jeep also offers what they call the Sky One-Touch roof, which features fixed roof rails and a retractable canvas roof like the "transformable" top in the Fiat 500 cabrio. The fold down windshield and removable doors that are traditional Wrangler features return on the new JL.

The cabin still looks "rugged" but appears much more designed than before, and its gauges and minor controls look less rustic. Rear seat legroom and access are still compromised on the short wheelbase model, but the four-door Unlimited offers decent accommodations and access.

FCA's ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (now with stop-start) returns as the standard engine for 2018. It is joined by an optional 2L turbo four, shared with the Alfa-Romeo Giulia. The turbo features a  light hybrid system, called eTorque, that will save a small amount of fuel and features a stop-start function. FCA's emissions-scandal-tainted and durability-challenged VM Motori 3L V6 turbodiesel is slated to become available in 2019. A six-speed manual transmission is available but the overwhelming majority of buyers will opt for the eight-speed automatic.