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APA at the 2019 Montreal Salon de l'Automobile Press Day

By Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer

After a blockbuster Press Day in 2018, the Montreal Salon was a low-key affair this year.

While vehicles like the Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Toyota GR Supra and Range-Rover Evoque were unveiled using a traditional presentation, including pulling the sheet off the vehicle, the manufacturers of cars like the Kia Soul, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Blazer, were content to skip a formal introduction and just have their important new vehicles on display on their show stands.

Forever seeming a long way off, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles suddenly seem a lot closer. The Quebec government has purchased 50 Mirai fuel cell cars from Toyota; with a new hydrogen refuelling station nearing completion in Quebec City. To further the cause of hydrogen in the marketplace, Toyota and Honda used the Montreal Salon to announce a joint-venture for the promulgation of hydrogen in Canada.

This report covers the most significant vehicles at the Salon and follows the progress of Journalists through the Palais de Congres on the Press Day



The same but different. The all-new third-generation Kia Soul 

While not officially unveiled at the Salon, the 2020 Soul, which should be on sale this spring, was on display on Kia’s stand.

The design of the new Soul is a refinement of its predecessor and immediately identifiable as a Soul, if not as an all-new car. Built on the same architecture that underpins the Rio that debuted for 2018, the Soul is essentially the same size as its predecessor.

Cabin styling follows previous Soul themes and features the simple, logical controls that are becoming a Hyundai-Kia hallmark. Available for 2020 is a wide 10.25 inch infotainment screen with crisp graphics and a head up display system as well. Cabin materials are very attractive, especially for this segment. Seating is comfortable front and rear, and rear seat riders have good legroom and plenty of space under the front seats to rest their feet. Trunk space is good for a car this size and the trunk is deep below the window line.

The only gas engine at launch will be a 147 horsepower 2L four used in a number of Hyundai Kia products. The 2L can send its power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission or a new CVT. A turbo performance model is expected some time during the 2020 model year. Kia has announced a new generation electric model powered by a 64 kWh battery pack that powers a 201 horsepower electric motor with a stout 291 lb-ft of torque. 

Kia's elegant and versatile Forte5 will not be on sale until this fall 

Though the new-generation Forte sedan went on sale in the fall of 2018, the hatchback won’t be available to consumers until the fall of this year. The car is elegant, and with a hatchback tail, practical as well.

The 2L four powering the Forte Sedan will be standard, with the 1.6L turbo four, with 201 horsepower, optional. A Six-speed manual transmission can be replaced by a CVT on the 2L car with a seven-speed dual clutch automated manual optional on the turbo.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is available in hatchback (pictured) and sedan body styles 

Though already on sale, the Montreal Salon was the official unveiling for the smallest Mercedes-Benz branded cars offered in Canada.

While Canada gets both the hatchback and sedan body styles, only the sedan will be offered in the United States.

Like other current Mercedes cars, both A-Class variants are attractive and immediately identifiable as originating from Stuttgart.

The cabins of the A-Class do not have conventional instruments, but employ a rectangular multi-configurable computer tablet which may not be to all tastes. Equally polarizing are very glitzy dashboard vents. MBUx Mercedes-Benz User Experience), a Siri-like in car concierge, is new. A horizontal touchpad based user interface will likely prove as unsuited to in-car use as similar systems used by Acura and Lexus.

The front seats are firmly supportive but the rear seat is mounted too low for adult comfort. Considering its front-wheel drive layout, the A-Class has limited rear seat legroom in the back. Headroom is quite reasonable in the hatchback but is limited on the sedan.

Power stems from a turbocharged 2L four with 221 horsepower and a robust 258 lb-ft of torque. Power reaches the front wheels, or optionally, all wheels, via a seven-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission.

Though they share the same engine, the sedan will be marketed as the A220, with the hatchback wearing the A250 moniker.

The new-generation Corolla sedan joins the hatchback that went on sale in late 2018

Like the recent Corolla Hatchback, the 2020 Corolla sedan is built on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) components set that has underpinned all recent Toyotas.

Other than an expressive front end, the rest of the new Corolla’s exterior design, while neat, lacks flair. Inside the dashboard is shared with the hatchback and features straightforward controls, including those for the large info screen. Seating is comfortable enough front and rear, and rear legroom is good for this class. The new Corolla’s trunk is quite roomy.

The standard engine is a 2L four rated at 169 horsepower, 35 more horsepower than the mainstream Corolla boasted in 2019. Power reaches the front wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. New for 2020 is a hybrid version of the Corolla. It is powered by a 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors to produce 121 horsepower. Called Hyper Prime Nickel, the battery pack employs the nickel metal hydride battery technology Toyota has had so much success with. Power finds its way to the front wheels via a CVT. Though the Corolla hybrid is officially available, dealers will be getting so few cars that finding one to buy will be next to impossible. 

The 2020 GR Supra looks marks a return to the Supra name after a long absence  

The Supra name returns for 2020, appended to a car which is a joint venture between Toyota and BMW, which will also generate the next BMW Z4. Unlike the previous Supra which was a very large car for a sporty coupe, the current one looks quite trim.

BMW’s 3L turbocharged inline six is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels of the new Supra. BMW will be building both the GR Supra and the Z4 in Germany.

Drivers may be seeing more hydrogen refueling pumps in the future

Honda and Toyota used the Montreal Salon to announce a partnership with Transition énergétique Québec, that will construct a hydrogen infrastructure project on the south shore of Montreal. To be completed by late 2019, the hydrogen infrastructure facility will join the one being built by government of Quebec near Quebec City. The hydrogen facilities will intially be used to refuel the 50 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell electric cars that the Government of Quebec has ordered for evaluation purposes.   

Chevrolet reprises the Blazer name for a new two-row crossover based on the component set that underpins the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse

Though not on the show schedule, the Blazer, reprising a famous name from Chevrolet’s past, was hiding in full sight at the Salon. Previously a body-on-frame SUV version of GM’s compact pickup, the new Blazer is a two-row crossover spun off the same component set as the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse.
Styling is attractive outside and the cabin is fronted by a dashboard that borrows its design theme from the Camaro sport coupe. The new Blazer is roomy and comfortable and has a very large cargo bay. 

With the new Blazer, Chevrolet joins competitors like the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Murano, all of which are two-row crossovers with powerful engines that deliver brisk performance and reasonable towing capacity.

GM’s 2.5L four and 3.6L V6 can power the Blazer. Power can reach the front or all wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. 

The new Explorer retains a unibody format but switches to a rear-wheel drive based drivetrain for 2020 

After nine long years on the market, Ford has decided to replace its ancient Explorer.
Ford has jettisoned the unibody front-wheel drive based platform of the Explorer for a new unibody structure that employs rear-wheel drive. Perhaps this platform gives a nod to a potential rear-wheel drive based large sedan in the future for both Ford and Lincoln. The new Explorer is built on a longer wheelbase than its predecessors but all other dimensions are similar.

Exterior styling is clean and resembles that of the Ford Edge that was facelifted for 2019.
The base engine will be a 300 horsepower 2.3L turbo four. Optional engines include a new hybrid that combines the efforts of a 3.3L-V6 with an electric motor for a total system horsepower of 318. The 400 horsepower 3L-V6 turbo seen in the Lincoln MKZ will power the ST trim, while the Platinum trim uses a 365 horsepower version of this engine. Power will reach all wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission in all cases.

Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 active safety system will be standard for the 2020 Explorer, which is scheduled to be available this summer.

The new Mazda 3 sedan adopts a very conservative look  

The fourth-generation Mazda 3 made its Canadian debut at the Salon in Montreal. Both the sedan and hatchback body styles return for 2019. but are as dissimilar from one another as two cars sharing the same structure and components can be. The sedan looks very conservative and in some ways echoes the silhouette of the second-generation 3 that debuted for 2010. The hatchback borders on the radical, and displays taut unbroken surfaces that somehow manage to impart a sense of tension as well. The hatchback shares a direct design connection with the current MX-5.

While other cars in this segment have grown quite large, the new 3 retains its trim dimensions. A tidy footprint is good for urban driving but also renders a cabin that can now be considered tight in terms of both width and rear seat legroom when compared to the limousines of this class like the Honda Civic or Nissan Sentra. Size constraints aside, the new 3’s cabin is a study in tasteful, conservative design and is assembled from attractive components.

Power is produced by Mazda’s familiar 2L and 2.5L fours. Two six-speed transmissions, a manual and a conventional automatic, are available. Available for the first time in a 3, is all-wheel drive, which can be twinned with the 2.5L engine.

Sales of the new 3 should start this March. 

The Mazda 3 hatchback looks very different from the 3 sedan  

Though all new and very attractive, the second-generation Range-Rover Evoque looks little different than its predecessor 

Jaguar Land-Rover scored a coup by holding the North American debut of its second-generation Evoque in Montreal.

Other that taller windows, the new Evoque displays a similar silhouette as its predecessor. The new Evoque employs new technology, like flush door handles that extend past the body work when the car is unlocked, that Jagaur Land Rover has introduced on its other new cars such as the Jaguar i-Pace and Range-Rover Velar.

Like the outside, the Evoque’s cabin looks updated but also very familiar. Cabin materials are very plush. Seating is comfortable up front, but the rear seat is mounted a bit low for adults and legroom is more adequate than generous for a car this size. Cargo capacity looks good for the intended user.

Power stems from JLR’s “Ingenium” 2L turbo four producing 246 horsepower. New for 2020 is a hybrid, which uses a 48 volt electrical system and a strap-on belt starter generator unit to produce 296 total system horsepower. The sole transmission offered with either powertrain is a nine-speed automatic. The new Evoque goes on sale in the spring.