2010 Lemon Aid Small Cars


Acura CSX

Honda Insight

Subaru Impreza

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Hyundai Elantra

Suzuki SX4

Dodge Caliber

Hyundai Elantra Touring

Toyota Corolla

Ford Focus

Kia Forte

Toyota Matrix

GM Chevrolet Cobalt

Kia Soul

VW City Golf

GM Chevrolet Cruze

Mazda 3

VW New Beetle

GM Chevrolet HHR

Mitsubishi Lancer

VW Jetta

Honda Civic

Nissan Cube

VW Golf

Honda Civic Hybrid

Nissan Sentra

 

The small car segment represents the bulk of the car market in Canada. 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 interior space, there is no compelling reason to move beyond this class.  

Small cars have become safer over the last few years, with the newest entries generally achieving the best ratings in standardized crash tests. Seven of the 26 cars reviewed in this category have received a quadruple Good (frontal, side and rear impacts as well as Rollover) rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Six of the cars covered in this section have achieved the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick status. Six other cars in this group earned Good ratings in two out of the four IIHS test categories.  

Crash test data show that side-curtain airbags are the best available method of addressing vehicle height mismatches and protecting occupants of smaller vehicles in the event of a side impact with something bigger or taller. Twenty-one  of the 26 cars in this class are fitted with side-curtain airbags as standard equipment, and three offer them as an option. Neither the PT Cruiser nor the Volkswagen New Beetle, two of the oldest car designs in this class currently on sale, offer side curtain airbags. 

Electronic stability control (ESC), which can correct the trajectory of a car before a driver even knows it is about to go out of control, has filtered down from the luxury car stratosphere to cars at the very heart of the market in Canada. Nine of the 26 cars in the small segment have ESC fitted as standard, with most others offering it as a reasonably-priced option.  

Over the last few years, new cars in this segment have arrived as relentlessly as waves on a beach. The segment takes a bit of a breather this year with the sixth generation Volkswagen Golf being the sole new-for-2010 entry. The early release 2011 Chevrolet Cruze goes on sale in the summer of 2010.        

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.

The auto market has become very volatile this year. Prices have been unstable, with some major price increases (and a few reductions as well) taking place during the model year. In addition, frequent changes in manufacturer incentives (especially Honda), have led to big monthly payment swings within single model lines as well as altered value relationships between competing vehicles. Take the price differences noted in the reviews for individual vehicles as a guide, but check payment details on manufacturer websites (or with an APA councillor) when you are about to choose a new vehicle, as payment details may have changed, sometimes radically, since the payment information was compiled.


 Acura CSX

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA
ACURA CSX (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD                                                   
Engine: 2L-4 155 HP*, 2L-4 197 HP (Type-S)
Transmission: 5M, 5A*, 6M (Type-S)
City Fuel Economy: 9.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
Base model discontinued, Tech model renamed i-Tech. Price reductions of $2500 on the i-Tech and $3400 on the Type-S.

Performance
With a bit more power than the Civic, the regular CSX is marginally quicker and smoother than its donor car. The thumb-operated manumatic shift toggles on automatic transmission-equipped cars work very well. Ride and handling are little different than on the Civic. Though it develops much of its horsepower at high RPMs, the CSX Type-S is docile and flexible at average engine speeds. It delivers energetic acceleration, more exhaust rumble and an intoxicating intake snarl above 6000 rpm. The steering is quick, and while firm, the ride is supple for a car with such precise handling. A light, progressive clutch and a precise, short-throw gearchange complete the picture.  

Reliability
Predicted above average reliability. Four year/80,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The Civic-based CSX is sold only in Canada. Mainstream CSXs are powered by a 2L four that produces 155 horsepower, 15 more than the 1.8L four installed in the Civic. Power goes to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a manumatic-equipped five-speed automatic. The Civic Si’s 197 horsepower 2L four and six-speed manual transmission power the CSX Type-S. Built in Canada.

Pricing
With all models having navigation this year, the Civic and CSX lines no longer overlap. The CSX Type-S is priced $2500 higher than the CSX i-Tech model (both with manual transmission as the Si is not offered with automatic) and $4110 more than the Civic Si, but includes leather seating and a navigation system ($3500 worth of equipment) not offered on the Civic Si.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. The Civic (on which the CSX is based) was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the frontal, side and rear impact tests conducted by the IIHS. Rated Good for Rollover. Ranked first of the 27 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 Chrysler PT Cruiser

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER PT Cruiser (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 2.4L-4 150 HP
Transmissions: 4A
City Fuel Economy: 11L/100 km
ESC available: No
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
The PT Cruiser returns for 2010 in a single trim level with limited options.

Performance
Adequate acceleration. Despite some torque steer under acceleration, handling is good and the steering is precise. The Cruiser rides well. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and the rear seat is spacious for two adults. The elevated driving position is excellent, but the thick windshield pillars reduce visibility. The cabin design is attractive and nicely finished. Effective heating and air conditioning, but the ventilator fan is fairly noisy. Large, practical cargo area with a multi-position parcel shelf, lots of tie down hooks, and versatile rear seats that can be arranged in various ways, or removed if you’re strong (they are heavy).   

Reliability
Average. The best reliability record of any small Chrysler product. Low quality Neon-derived steering and suspension components. Space in the engine compartment is tight, which hampers access for maintenance. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments

The 2.4L engine is mated exclusively to a four-speed automatic transmission. Built in Mexico.

 

Pricing
A good value Convenience package is about the only option offered on the PT Cruiser this year. The Chevrolet HHR, the PT's chief rival, is not only a more pleasant vehicle on the road, it is also cheaper. PT Cruiser sales held steady last year in a down market.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags are standard on all models. Side-curtain airbags are not available. The PT Cruiser was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test and Poor in the side and rear impact tests. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked last out of the 27 cars in its class. Standard ABS. ESC is not available. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dodge Caliber

 

 

 

 

 

 

BELOW AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
DODGE Caliber (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 2L-4 158 HP* 
Transmission: 5M, CVT*
City Fuel Economy: 9L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Late entry 2010 model. Redesigned cabin with more soft touch surfaces, electronic temperature controls replace cables, an improved air conditioner as well as active head restraints and an iPod connector. 1.8L, 2.4L and turbo engines have been discontinued.

Comments
Hooked up to a CVT, the 2L four accelerates well and is a relaxed cruiser. The high revs the continuously variable transmission (CVT) allows during hard acceleration spoil refinement. However, once drivers are accustomed to the CVT they use fewer revs and refinement improves. Good ride-handling compromise. The steering is nicely weighted and geared but is a bit numb. Comfortable front seats, but the rear seat is hard and flat. Good legroom front and rear. Straightforward instruments and controls. The new dashboard and improved materials have transformed the cabin from shabby to almost chic. Cargo room is good with the rear seat up and very good with it down. Made in the United States.

Reliability
Below average reliability. Weak suspension, steering and poor corrosion resistance. Unproven CVT. An extended powertrain warranty might be advisable if you will keep the car past the 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. APA members receive a discount on the purchase of an extended warranty through a recommended dealer. Three years/60,000 bumper to bumper, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Upgrading to the SXT represents excellent value. The SE Plus and SXT Sport package are priced to cover the extra value of features they contain. A down market, Chrysler’s withdrawal from leasing and its bankruptcy hit the Caliber hard last year, with sales tumbling about 50 percent. Rapid depreciation. Buy something else unless the deal is beyond compelling.  

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags. Seat-mounted side airbags are optional on the SXT model. In IIHS tests, the Caliber was rated Good for frontal impacts and rear impacts and Marginal for side impacts. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 22nd out of the 27 cars tested in its class. ABS is standard on the SXT and on cars with automatic transmission, optional on the SE. ESC is not offered on the SE but is optional on the SXT.    


 

  

Ford Focus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
FORD Focus (FWD)
Body Styles: 4SD, 2SD
Engine: 2L-4*140 HP (143 HP on two-door sedans with manual transmission)
Transmission: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 8.5L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
MyKey, keyless entry, driver's message centre, ABS, ESC and (except for the S) an alarm system are standard this year. New SE appearance package. Revised exterior fascias on the SES sedan.

Performance
The Focus is a sedate sedan with a cushy ride with sound, if uninvolving handling. The willing 2L engine mates well with the four-speed automatic to deliver smooth performance in town and mechanically relaxed cruising. Intrusive road and exhaust noise. Supportive front seats and a comfortable driving position. The rear seat is tight on legroom and headroom, and while the seat cushion is supportive, the backrest is not.  Though functional, the main instruments are unattractive, as is the expanse of faux alloy on the dash on top models vast enough to trigger a faux alloy shortage. The audio controls are logical, but there are too many buttons for the climate control system where just three dials would suffice. The wiper stalk, set at a strange angle, lacks a mist feature and needs the “Thumb of Hercules” to activate the windshield washers. The Focus cabin displays lots of hard, shiny surfaces and looks and feels cheap. Access to the roomy trunk is hampered by a small aperture. Good climate and audio systems.  

Reliability
Few complaints about the 2008 and later models. The 2005-2007 models had acceptable reliability. Weak corrosion resistance; an oil or grease based anti-rust treatment is highly recommended. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
Though Ford has been selling the second-generation Focus in Europe since 2004, our Focus is just a 2008 re-skin of the car that debuted here as a 2000. Two sedans, a two-door and a four-door, are available. The Mazda-derived 2L four sends power to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The MyKey system key can be programmed to limit top speed to 129 km/h, reduces tire spin, limits audio system volume to 44 percent of potential and rings a speed alert chime at certain speeds. We are still more than a year away from the third-generation Focus, which will take the nameplate upmarket. Made in the United States.

Pricing
Upgrading from the SE to the SEL represents really good value. The SES package is priced to content. The two-door (SE and SES only) is priced about $400 higher than the equivalent four-door. A Focus SEL sedan is priced $2000 higher than the Honda Civic DX-G, a lot for an old design that will suffer from savage depreciation. Investigate monthly payments carefully before settling on a Focus, as you could drive a top-rated up-to-date car for little more per month than you would pay for the ancient Focus.

Safety
Seat mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models. The Focus was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and rear impact tests and Acceptable in the side impact test. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 18th out of the 27 cars in its class. ABS and ESC are standard on all models.


 

 

Chevrolet Cobalt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
CHEVROLET Cobalt (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD, 2CP
Engine: 2.2L-4 155 HP*, 2L-4T 260 HP (SS only)
Transmission: 5M, 4A* (SS 5M only)
City Fuel Economy: 8.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard on the SS
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
G5 deep-sixed along with Pontiac. Standard side-curtain airbags. Revised dashboard trim. A USB port, a satellite radio, a sunroof and a limited-slip differential  are now standard on the SS.

Performance
The 2.2L engine performs well, but exhaust noise can either be sporty, or boomy, depending on your taste. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth and eager. The manual transmission has a docile clutch and pleasant gearchange. Spongy brake feel. There is ample space up front, but rear legroom is tight and the seat cushion is unsupportive. Headroom and rear ingress/egress are difficult in the coupe. Exterior panel fit and paint are quite well done. The interior design and materials are attractive, but there are a few rough edges if you look closely. Big trunk, but the small trunk aperture makes it hard to get luggage in, and its high sill makes unloading a chore as well.

Reliability
Average reliability. Weak points: emission system, electronics, front brakes and steering. Expensive replacement parts at dealers. Three year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/160,000 km on the powertrain. The closure of so many GM dealers may make finding service difficult.

Comments
A 2.2L four powers most versions of this car, with a 2L turbo four resting under the hood of the SS. Cobalts with the 2.2L engine send power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. The 2L turbo in the SS mates exclusively to the five-speed manual transmission. Made in the United States.

Pricing
Coupes and sedans are priced the same. Upgrading from the LS to LT package represents very good value, with the Team Canada special edition offering reasonable content for the price asked. Expensive ($1250) automatic transmission. The manual transmission-only SS is pricey for a Cobalt, but nobody else offers 260 HP for $27,000. A down market, GM’s withdrawal from leasing and its bankruptcy hit the Cobalt (and its now defunct platform mate, the Pontiac G5) hard last year, with sales declining 60 percent from 2008 levels.

Safety
Side-curtain airbags are standard on all Cobalts this year. Seat mounted side airbags are not available. Equipped with side-curtain airbags, the Cobalt was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and rear impact tests and Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 17th of the 27 cars in its class. ABS is standard on the Cobalt LT, SS and SS, but is not offered on other models. ESC is standard on and exclusive to the SS model.


Chevrolet Cruze

 

 

 

NEW
GENERAL MOTORS
2011 CHEVROLET Cruze
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 1.8L-4 136 HP, 1.4L-4T 138 HP
Transmissions: 6M, 6A
City Fuel Economy: n/a
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a 

Comments
The Cruze, already on sale in Europe and Asia, starts production in Ohio this summer, and goes on sale shortly thereafter. Ostensibly the Cruze replaces the Cobalt, but that car will continue to be built for a time. The new car, built on a 61 mm (2.4 inch) longer wheelbase, is 49 mm (1.9 inches) shorter, 71 mm (2.8 inches) wider and 30 mm (1.2 inches) taller than the Cobalt. With good proportions, clean lines and restrained ornamentation, the Cruze is a vision of conservative elegance. The clear gauges and straightforward controls of the dashboard front a cabin that can't be faulted for style or cabin materials in this segment. Rear seat legroom, a sore point of the Cobalt, is increased due to the longer wheelbase. LS models are powered by a normally aspirated 1.8L four with 136 horsepower, while the LT and LTZ variants have a turbocharged 1.4L four producing 138 horsepower (but a much higher torque figure). Power reaches the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.   

Reliability
New car, insufficient data. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/160,000 km on the powertrain.  

Safety
Ten airbags (seat-mounted side, side-curtain, knee protection and rear seat side airbags) are standard on all models. Not crash tested. ABS and ESC are standard on all Cruzes.


Chevrolet HHR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
CHEVROLET HHR (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 2.2L-4* 155 HP, 2.4L-4 172 HP, 2L-4T 260 HP (SS)
Transmissions: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 9.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Standard side-curtain airbags. A USB port and brand name audio equipment are standard on LT 1SB. A sunroof is standard on the SS model. New colours. 

Performance
The linear throttle response of the 2.2L engine combines with the smooth automatic transmission to deliver good performance and relaxed cruising. Generally quiet operation except for a boom period around 70 km/h. Comfortable ride and predictable, non-sporting handling. Long brake pedal travel. Reduced visibility due to the small side windows and low windshield header rail. The high roof liberates more cabin space inside the HHR than is available in the Cobalt, from which the HHR is derived. While some cabin plastics are a bit shiny, fit and finish are quite good. Comfortable seats. Versatile cargo area, with a rigid plastic element that can be used as the trunk floor or as a parcel shelf to keep the contents of the trunk out of view. Excellent air conditioning. SS: sportier handling than the mainstream HHR, but acceleration is a bit disappointing considering the car is rated at 260 horsepower.

Comments
With its “essence of 1949 Suburban” HHR, Chevrolet mined its heritage much more directly than Chrysler did when it created the PT Cruiser. Chrysler used the Neon as the base for the PT, and the oily bits from Chevrolet’s Cobalt compact car underpin the HHR’s retro skin. The HHR is longer, wider and taller than its rival from Chrysler. Built in Mexico.

Reliability
Average reliability. Reliable engine and transmissions. Weak points: emission system, front brakes and suspension. Water can accumulate in the sound-proofing material located in the front fenders. Consider removing it. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, five years/160,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
The HHR LT is better equipped, nicer to drive and cheaper than its chief rival, the Chrysler PT Cruiser. A down market, GM’s withdrawal from leasing and its bankruptcy hit the HHR hit hard last year, with sales declining 40 percent from 2008 levels.

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags on all models. Seat-mounted side airbags are not available. The HHR was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Acceptable in the side impact test and Marginal in the rear impact test. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 21st out of the 27 vehicles in its class. ABS and ESC are standard.     


 

 

 

Honda Civic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA Civic (FWD)
Body Styles: 2CP, 4SD
Engines: 1.8L-4 140 HP*, 2L-4 197 HP (Si)
Transmissions:  5M, 5A*, 6M (Si)
City Fuel Economy: 8.2L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
MP3/Auxiliary audio input jack and front centre console armrest are now standard on the base DX model. The MSRP of the Civic was dropped $1000 in November 2009.

Performance
The Civic is a competent all-rounder. The engine is strong and the automatic transmission, with smooth upshifts and decisive downshifts, is a delight. Except for road noise, the Civic is a quiet car. Excellent real world fuel consumption of the 1.8L four matches some B-segment cars, and is only 1L/100 km higher than the smaller Fit. The Civic’s ride is firm, yet never harsh, and retains its composure when fully loaded. Visibility to the sides is hampered by the extreme rake of the windshield. The Civic has comfortable seats and good space front and rear. The two level instrumentation with a prominent tachometer and digital speedometer is eccentric but works well. The climate controls use a multiplicity of buttons when three knobs would suffice. The spacious trunk is augmented by a one-piece folding rear seat on the mainstream DX-G (split-fold on the Sport, EX-L and Si).  

Though it develops much of its horsepower at high RPMs, the Si’s four is docile and flexible at average engine speeds. Energetic acceleration, more exhaust rumble and an intoxicating intake snarl above 6000 rpm are indications that the Si is no ordinary Civic. The steering is quick, and while firm, the ride is supple for a car with such precise handling. A light, progressive clutch and a precise, short-throw gearchange complete the picture. 

Reliability 
Above average. This generation Civic has generated far fewer complaints than the 2001-2005 car. The air conditioner condenser is vulnerable to damage from road debris. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain

 

Comments
Honda’s current Civic was a radical confection when it debuted as a 2006 model and is still an avant-garde design. Although the affordable coupe market has almost melted away over the last decade, Honda continues with a coupe version of the Civic. Built on a shorter wheelbase than the sedan, the coupe is shorter overall and lower than the sedan, and has an even more steeply raked windshield. Powering the 2009 Civic are two four-cylinder engines. A single 140 horsepower 1.8L four powers mainline Civics, with a 2L engine found under the hood of the Si versions. The Civic 1.8L qualifies for a $100 fuel tax rebate from Ontario, one of only a handful of conventional gas-engined cars to do so. The base four can be linked to a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The Si comes exclusively with a six-speed manual. Made in Canada and the United States.

Pricing
Upgrading to the DX-G, Sport and EX-L trim levels constitutes acceptable value. The standalone air conditioning option (DX-A) is, at $1300, very expensive. Honda monthly payments on the Civic were extremely uncompetitive until January 2010, when revised factory incentives brought lease and finance payments into line with those of key competitors. A Civic DX-G costs about the same to lease (48 months, $0. down) as a Corolla CE with the Enhanced Convenience package, but generates a slightly lower finance (60 months, $0. down) payment. The Civic DX-G has a $1700 higher MSRP than a Honda Fit LX, however, monthly payments are nearly $20 less if leasing (48 months, $0. down) and almost $30 cheaper if financing (60 months, $0. down). A down market and marketing missteps led to a 15 percent drop in Civic sales in 2009.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The Civic was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Rated Good for Rollover. Ranked first of the 27 cars in its class. Standard ABS. ESC is standard on the EX-L and Si, is not offered on other models.


 

 

  Honda Civic Hybrid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA Civic Hybrid (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 1.3L-4 i-VTEC 93 HP, plus 15 Kilowatt electric motor electric motor, 110 HP combined
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
City Fuel Economy: 4.7L/100 km, (7.5L/100 km observed)
ESC available: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 2 

What’s new
Extremely late 2010 introduction.

Comments
The Civic Hybrid is powered by Honda’s second-generation hybrid system. The Hybrid uses regenerative braking to send power back to the battery pack. An intelligent braking system lets the regenerative brakes handle a greater (and variable) proportion of overall braking to return more energy to the battery pack. The Civic Hybrid employs an idle-stop mechanism that shuts off the gas engine when stopped at a light, and has an electric air conditioning compressor to keep occupants cool while the gas engine is stopped. Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) is used to save fuel and the valvetrain reduces pumping losses when cylinders of the gas engine are idling. Twin spark plugs per cylinder can fire in tandem or sequentially to provide maximum combustion efficiency depending on driving conditions. Power from the IMA system is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Honda installs lighter alloy wheels and hard-compound low-resistance tires to save fuel. The Civic Hybrid is smooth, quiet and seems quite normal. Only the constant high engine speed allowed by the CVT when the driver wants maximum acceleration betrays the unusual drivetrain. Braking feels conventional despite the regenerative braking. Made in Japan.

Reliability
Above average reliability. Honda’s previous Hybrid systems have been reliable. The air conditioner condenser is vulnerable to damage from road debris. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain and 8 years/130,000 km on the IMA battery pack only.

Pricing
More expensive than the Insight.   

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The Civic was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Rated Good for Rollover. Ranked first of the 27 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


Honda Insight

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
HONDA Insight (FWD)
Engine: 1.3L-4 (88 HP + 13 HP electric) 98 HP net
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
City Fuel Economy: 4.8L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 3

Performance
The Insight seems competent when driven gently on smooth roads, but loses its composure when faced with major road surface irregularities or any type of curve. The engine is smooth enough in gentle driving, but becomes shrill and breathless when driven with any gusto. The idle kill mechanism saves fuel, but with no full electric mode to shuttle the car around silently in heavy traffic, the constant on-off cycles of the engine are tiresome. The illuminated speedo background glows green, blue-green or blue respectively to indicate if the car is being driven in a frugal, normal, or aggressive manner. Poor visibility for lane changes. The main instruments are easy to scan but the minor controls are counter-intuitive and obstructive. Lumpy looking overstyled dashboard. Average cargo space and versatility for a car in this segment.  Honda's hybrid system is simple and achieves good fuel efficiency, but renders progress in the Insight unpleasant. In an APA comparison test, the high tech Honda was found wanting when evaluated against a Volkswagen Jetta turbodiesel. The strategies Honda adopted to arrive at its high efficiency solution result in a series of compromises so pronounced that the point of the whole exercise has to be pondered. On the other hand, with smooth, strong performance, and low emissions, the VW turbodiesel engine is a paragon of eco-friendly total efficiency with no compromises, and powers a car that is a great all-rounder to begin with.    

Reliability
Not rated. Previous Honda hybrid cars have been reliable. Three years/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain, and 8 years/130,000 km on the IMA battery pack only.

Comments
Cheaper than a Civic Hybrid, the Insight is the least expensive hybrid on the market. With bespoke styling, the Insight is instantly identifiable as a hybrid, a strategy that worked superbly for Toyota with the Prius. With clean lines, a near vertical rear window and a tapering tail, the new Insight pays visual homage to its predecessor. Together, the 88 HP 1.3L i-VTEC four (with 2 sparkplugs per cylinder) and 13 HP electric motor produce 98 net horsepower. The Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) is 19 percent smaller and 28 percent lighter than that found in the Civic. The Insight uses 84 1.5V "D" nickel metal hydride batteries, fewer than the Civic. An efficient powertrain, low resistance tires, regenerative brakes and other tweaks result in a claimed 4.8L/100 km City fuel consumption figure. 

Pricing
Upgrading to the EX trim level represents very good value. If you really want a hybrid, opt for a Prius instead. Lease (48 months, $0. down) and finance (60 months, $0. down) payments for an Insight LX are about $50 less per month than they are for a base Toyota Prius, which is a much better developed more substantial car and is well worth the extra money.  

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard. The Insight was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 7th of the 27 cars in its class. ABS is standard. ESC is standard on the EX model but is not offered on the base Insight.


 

 

 

 

Hyundai Elantra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE

HYUNDAI Elantra (FWD)

Body Style: 4SD

Engine: 2L-4 138 HP

Transmissions: 5M, 4A*

City Fuel Economy: 7.8L/100 km

ESC available: Yes

Emissions rating: n/a

 

What’s new

New grille. GL Sport Package has a firmer suspension this year. The GLS model is now equipped with ESC. Claimed to be more fuel efficient

 

Performance

The Elantra’s engine delivers good performance but lacks the kind of refinement expected in cars in this category. The basic four-speed automatic transmission works cheerfully enough. Minor specification changes aimed at improving fuel economy have brought official city fuel consumption figures below those of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, two notably frugal compact cars. Steering effort is a touch too light and the steering doesn’t naturally return to centre as readily as it should after a turn. The Elantra has an absorbent ride and handling, and while not the last word in precision, is secure. Grit and salt thrown up by the wheels ping loudly off the underbody. Rear seat passengers complained of road noise and some suspension clunking. Comfortable seating and good space-efficiency make the Elantra’s cabin a welcoming place. Big, clear instruments and logical controls. Top-notch cabin design, materials and assembly would not look amiss in a car one class up. Good exterior panel fit, and the paintwork is smooth and shiny. Excellent audio system. Big trunk.   

 

Reliability

Above average reliability since the current model debuted. Uneven dealer service. Five year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

 

Comments

One engine, a 2L four, can be linked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. Though not as fun to drive as a Civic or a Mazda 3, the Elantra now matches the better Japanese-branded cars for comfort and reliability, but has fallen behind in terms of driveline refinement. One of the few new cars that qualify for a $100 rebate offered by the province of Ontario for low fuel consumption. Built in South Korea.

 

Pricing

Upgrading to the GL and GL Sport packages are good value.. Lease payments (48 months, $0 down) for the GLS (GLS is the minimum acceptable trim level as side-curtain airbags are not offered on lesser models) are only about $40 less per month (48 months, $0. down) than the monthly payment for financing (60 months, $0. down). Compared with a Corolla CE with the Enhanced Convenience package, monthly payments for the Elantra GLS are about $40 more per month if you lease (48 months, $0. down), but are about $25 less if you finance (60 months, $0. down).

 

Safety

Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags, standard on the GLS and Limited, are not offered on other models, a glaring omission. Tested with side and side-curtain airbags, the Elantra was rated Good in the IIHS frontal test, Marginal in the side impact test and not rated for rear or Rollover impacts. Ranked 24th out of the 27 cars in its class, but the ranking may change once all test categories have been completed. ABS is standard on the GL Sport, GLS and Limited but is not offered on other models. ESC is standard on the GLS and Limited, but is not offered on other models.

 


 

 

 

 

Hyundai Elantra Touring

 

 

 150

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HYUNDAI Elantra Touring (FWD)

Body Style: 4HB

Engine: 2L-4 138 HP

Transmissions: 5M, 4A*

City Fuel Economy: 8.7L/100 km

ESC available: Yes

Emissions rating: n/a

 

What’s new

The GL gains standard cruise control, front console, driver seat height adjustment and heated mirrors. ESC is now standard on the GLS. The L-Preferred model has been discontinued. No side-curtain airbags are available on the L.

 

Performance

While performance and highway refinement are quite good, the raspy 2L four and four-speed automatic powertrain combination lacks the refinement now expected of cars in this segment. A five-speed automatic transmission would improve acceleration, cruising serenity and fuel economy. Suspension tuning needs more development work as well. The base models rides well enough and is stable on the highway, but wallows too much in the corners. The sporty GLS Sport version of the Touring handles more crisply but hammers occupants over big bumps. The steering lacks feel and steering effort is higher than many people appreciate. Very good visibility. Spacious and versatile cabin. Clear gauges and logical controls. Soft-touch surfaces, a tilt and telescoping steering and a cooled glove compartment are luxurious touches for a car in this segment. Comfortable seating. The vertical rear tailgate creates a big, square cargo area. The Touring was judged last car of an APA three car comparison test with the Mazda 3 and Mitsubishi Lancer hatchback. The Touring was the best of the three car in terms of passenger and cargo space, but was well behind the others in drivetrain refinement and driving pleasure.     

 

Reliability

Predicted above average reliability like the Elantra sedan from which the Touring derives its powertrain. Five year/100,000 km warranty.

 

Comments

The Elantra I30 hatchback Hyundai sells in Europe is sold in Canada as the Elantra Touring. The five-door, built in a 50 mm (1.97 inch) longer wheelbase, is 30 mm (1.18 inches) shorter, 39 mm (1.54 inches) taller and marginally narrower than the Elantra sedan, which it shares no exterior body panels with. For the Canadian market, the Touring is powered by the same 2L four as the Elantra sedan. Power reaches the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.

 

Pricing

Upgrading from an L to a GL is very good value. The GLS package is priced to cover the value of the extra content it brings. The Sport package on the GLS model is overpriced. Compared with the Convenience package equipped Toyota Matrix, monthly lease payments (48 months, $0. down) for the Touring GLS are about $35 higher, but finance monthly payments are $20 lower (60 months, $0. down).

 

Safety

Side-curtain airbags are installed in GL, GLS and GLS Sport variants, but not on the base car, a glaring omission. Not crash tested. ABS is not offered on the L but is standard on all other models. ESC is standard on the GLS and GLS Sport models, but is not offered on lower trim levels.

 


2010 Kia Forte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
KIA Forte (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD, 2CP
Engines: 2L-4 157* HP, 2.4L-4 174 HP
Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 4A*, 5A
City Fuel Economy: 8.1L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Some cabin trim upgrades. A coupe body style (called Koup) has been added. 

Performance
The 2L four-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. Some bits, like the door panel inserts that looked cheap when the car was launched, have already been improved. Comfortable seats, front and rear, and good legroom for both rows of seats. Large, regularly shaped trunk.       

Reliability
New car, not rated. The Spectra, the Forte’s predecessor, was rated average to above average for reliability. Five year/100,000 km warranty.   

Comments
The mainstream engine is a 157 horsepower 2L four, with a 2.4L 174 horsepower four optional. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission in the 2L, with a four-speed automatic being optional. The 2.4L engine can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.

Pricing
Upgrading to the next trim level is very good value. There is no Forte Koup LX, but the EX and SX trim levels are priced little different than the equivalent sedan.

Compared with a Honda Civic DX-G, monthly payments for a Kia Forte EX are $50 higher if leasing (48 months, $0. down), but are about $20 cheaper if you finance (60 months, $0. down).

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard. Not crash tested. ABS is standard on all models. ESC is not offered on the base models but is standard on the 2.0L EX and 2.4L SX trim levels.  


Kia Soul

150 

 

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KIA Soul (FWD)

Body Style: 4HB         

Engine: 1.6L-4 122 HP, 2L-4 142 HP

Transmission: 5M, 4A

City Fuel Economy: 8.5L/100 km

ESC Available: Yes

Emissions Rating: n/a

 

Performance

The vocal 2L provides good urge for spirited driving whether hooked to a manual or an automatic transmission. Smooth, responsive automatic transmission. The manual transmission is not a tactile delight, but is foolproof. The 4U model handles crisply but its 18" wheels, low-profile tires and firm suspension settings result in a turbulent ride. Briefly tested by the APA, the 2U, equipped with 16” wheels and higher profile tires handles nearly as crisply as the 4U but rides less harshly. Restrained wind noise but road noise is excessive, even for this end of the market. The Soul has big, clear gauges, stylish, logical controls and very good fit and finish, especially for the price. Large, comfortable seats front and rear, with ample legroom. Cargo space, good with the rear seat up, is commodious with the seat folded. In a group test conducted by the APA which included the Nissan Cube, the Soul had a more stylish cabin, better rear seat legroom and a much more supportive rear seat. The Kia feels sportier on the road, but falls way beyond the Nissan in terms of driveline refinement and ride comfort. 

 

Reliability

The Soul is based on the Rio, which has above average reliability for the first five years, deteriorating after that. Five year/100,000 km warranty.

 

Comments

Power comes from familiar Hyundai 1.6L and 2L fours. Two transmissions, a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, are available with the 2L, with manual transmission only with the 1.6L. Like the Rondo, the Soul has been a breakthrough product for Kia, with over 8000 sold since its spring 2009 release.

 

Pricing

With air conditioning, the manual transmission 1.6L Soul retails for $16,500. Upgrading to the 2L model is an absolute bargain, with the bigger engine and about $3500 worth of additional features offered for a meagre $1500. Retro, Burner and SX variants lack value. A Soul 2U is nearly $2000 cheaper than a Toyota Matrix Touring, can be financed for about $50 less per month (60 months, $0. down), but leases for roughly $30 more per month (48 months, $0. down) than the Toyota.  

 

Safety

Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard. The Soul was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Rated Good for Rollover. Ranked 2nd out of the 27 cars in its class. ABS and ESC, not available with the 1.6L engine, are standard on 2L Souls.

 

Mazda 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
MAZDA 3 (FWD)
Body Styles: 4HB, 4SD*
Engines: 2L-4 148 HP*, 2.5L 167 HP, 2.5L-4T 263 HP
Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 5A*
City Fuel Economy: 8.7L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Turbocharged Speed 3 is now available. New fabrics on mainstream models.  

Performance
The 2.5L four in the 3 GS hatchback is quick, quiet, smooth, flexible and pretty parsimonious with fuel, especially on the highway. The excellent five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, responds eagerly to driver commands and is geared to facilitate very relaxed cruising. This frothy drivetrain is installed in a carefully developed chassis that handles sinuous backroads with aplomb, refusing to lose its composure even when faced with sizeable mid-corner bumps. This handling prowess does not come at the expense of ride comfort, which is pleasingly resilient. If the 3 disappoints at all, it is in its steering, which, while precise and nicely geared, is too light and lacks feel. Strong progressive brakes.

Though a temperature gauge is missing, the 3 is fronted by a dashboard stocked with clear instruments (which can be partially blocked by the adjustable steering wheel) and straightforward, logical controls. The HVAC recirculation button has no visible tell-tale, so drivers don’t know whether it is on or off.  The cabin design is conservatively avant garde, and carefully constructed from attractive components. The front seats grip occupants well on twisting roads, but some APA testers found their padding too firm for total comfort. Taller drivers may find the front seats have insufficient travel. Rear seat legroom, just adequate for adults, is disappointing for a car in this segment. Good trunk space on the sedan and good versatility with the hatchback. Good audio quality. The 3 hatchback (Sport in Mazda speak) was judged the best car in a three car APA comparison test that included the Mitsubishi Lancer hatchback (rated a close second) and the Hyundai Elantra Touring (rated a distant third).    

Reliability
Average reliability predicted. The previous 3 had numerous teething problems following its launch. Three year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain

Comments
Mazda’s MZR fours, displacing 2L and 2.5L, power mainstream 3s. Manual transmissions are a five-speed with the 2L and a six-speed with the 2.5L. A five-speed automatic is available with both engines. The 2.5L turbocharged four in the MazdaSpeed 3 churns out 263 horsepower and mates exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. Made in Japan   

Pricing
Trim level upgrades are good value. Sport hatchback body priced $1000 (GX, GT) to $1500 (GS includes the 2.5L four) more than the sedan. High lease payments (48 months, $0. down) in relation to finance payments (60 months, $0. down: finance only $40 higher per month). A 3 GX is about $20 cheaper to finance (60 months, $0. down) than a Honda Civic DX-G, but the Civic costs about $20 less per month to lease (48 months, $0. down).

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain air bags are standard on all models. The 3 was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Not rated for Rollover. Ranked 8th out of the 27 cars in its class. ABS is standard. ESC is optional on the GS and standard on the GT and the Speed 3.  

 


Mitsubishi Lancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
MITSUBISHI Lancer (FWD), Ralliart, Lancer Evolution (AWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 2L-4 152 HP, 2.4L-4 168 HP, 2L-4T 237 HP (Ralliart), 2L-4T 291 HP (EVO)
Transmission: 5M, CVT*, Twin-clutch SST
City Fuel Economy: 9.5L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5 

What’s new
ESC and ABS are standard on all models. Revised instruments and displays. Solar UV control front glass. GT trim level discontinued. 

Performance
The 152 horsepower 2L version of this engine is smoother and better insulated than it is in various Chrysler products, but it is hardly the last word in refinement. That said, it is willing, flexible, and moves the Lancer along at a good pace. Linked to a five-speed manual transmission with a precise short-throw gearchange and light clutch, the Lancer is a lively performer. Low gearing leads to higher than normal engine revs at highway speeds. The CVT delivers good acceleration and low-rev cruising, but is a slow-witted device that holds onto high revs too long during acceleration, spoiling refinement. The 2.4L engine in the GTS is slightly slow off the line but builds up a good head of steam once underway. That said, the CVT takes the edge off the big 2.4L’s performance and renders it a noisier engine than it is when hooked to the manual transmission. Quick, nicely-weighted steering that suffers from torque-steer, especially with the 2.4L engine. The Lancer’s agile handling is coupled to a firm yet resilient ride. Tight turning circle. The front seats are quite small but prove comfortable on long runs. Rear seat comfort and legroom are good for this class. The rising beltline makes occupants feel a bit buried, especially in the rear seat, and hinders visibility for lane changes. Lane change visibility is further reduced on the hatchback by the sloping roof shape, which also reduces rear seat headroom to a bare minimum for taller occupants. Big, clear main instruments. Fuel and temperature displays are available via the standard trip computer. Cabin climate is controlled by three large dials that feel cheap when turned. Interior fit and finish are both better than they were when the current Lancer was introduced. The trunk on the sedan is roomy and easily accessed, but the lack of anything to grab the lid by leads to dirty fingers. The hatchback cargo area is nicely finished, and has a cargo floor panel that can be adjusted to two different heights. The Lancer GTS hatchback came in second in a trio of cars (the other cars were the Mazda 3 GS hatchback and the Hyundai Elantra Touring L) in a recent APA comparison road test.

Reliability
Above average reliability thus far. Some complaints regarding poor paint adhesion Comprehensive five year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, with 10 years/160,000 km on the powertrain. Very expensive replacement parts. 

Comments
The Lancer is based on the variable-size chassis that also underpins the Outlander, Dodge Caliber, Chrysler Sebring and the Compass and Patriot from Jeep. The 2.4L powering the GTS can, like the 2L, be linked to either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT. The Ralliart is powered by a turbocharged 2L four that sends power to all four wheels via a twin clutch gearbox similar to VW’s DSG system. The 2L four in the Lancer Evolution cranks out 291 horsepower. Its all-wheel drive system sends power to the road via either a five-speed manual transmission or the twin clutch gearbox. Made in Japan

Pricing
Great value SE upgrade; GTS package is overpriced. The Sun and Sound package is no bargain. The hatchback body style has been rendered a niche model by being marketed only in hyper-expensive trim levels. Lease payments (48 months, $0. down) for the SE are $70 higher than they are for a Civic DX-G or a Corolla CE Enhanced Convenience package. Lease payments for the Lancer (48 months. $0. down) are only $40 less per month less than they are for financing (60 months, $0. down), making leasing a dead issue for the Lancer for 2010. Finance monthlies (60 months, $0. down) for the Lancer and quite close to those of the Civic and the Corolla. Lancer sales increased marginally last year in a down market.  

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models. The Lancer was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Not tested for Rollover. Ranked 9th of 27 cars in its class. ABS and ESC are standard on all models.