December 19, 2012
Article by Autos.ca Staff
There has never been a better time than now for Canadian automotive consumers. The broad range of choices available in our market is immense, everything from ultra-efficient all-electric vehicles right up to turbocharged V12 monsters; if you have a particular automotive taste, chances are someone is making the right car for you.
But too much choice can sometimes be daunting. With the market so competitive right now, how do you sort the good cars from the bad cars? Well, thankfully, there really are no new vehicles sold today that could truly be considered ‘bad’ cars. However, some vehicles do excel at their automotive mission in life better than others, while others are exclusive niche products or have a very narrow, specific purpose. So what is a consumer to do?
Well, that is what we are here for. However, we do not intend for you to take our word as the gospel truth, but rather educated advice from those who have had the opportunity to drive the majority of these vehicles and were able to analyze each one’s strong and weak points. That is why we have brought back the annual Autos.ca Top Picks.
How are the top picks chosen?
The Autos.ca staff of eight editors and writers each ranked every new vehicle for sale in Canada for the 2013 model year from best to worst within 10 vehicle categories: City and Subcompacts, Compacts, Family Cars, Sports Cars Low, Sports Cars High, Luxury Car Low, Luxury Car High, CUV/SUV Low, CUV/SUV High, and Trucks.
We took into account factors such as styling, comfort, functionality, quality, performance, fuel economy, safety features, reliability, and value for money. We also considered class-specific aspects such as cargo capacity, payload, towing, utility, and ground clearance. The top two vehicles in each category were then chosen as part of our Top Pick list, except in Compact vehicles, where there was a tie for second so three vehicles were chosen, and in Trucks, where one vehicle absolutely ran away with the category so it was our only pick in that category. Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know in our online forum.
City and Subcompacts
The Honda Fit was the car that proved to Canadians that subcompact vehicles can be fun. And while other fun subcompact vehicles, like the Mazda2, have since come to market, none have been able to match the Honda’s ability to transform into an incredibly practical vehicle thanks to the trademark Magic Seats. Not bad for a vehicle that hasn’t changed all that much since its 2006 North American introduction.
2012 Honda Fit, 2012 Kia Rio Sedan. Click image to enlarge
If the Honda Fit was the first subcompact to bring fun to the segment, then the Kia Rio is the vehicle that has brought style and luxury. With one of the most attractive exterior designs in a subcompact vehicle, especially in sedan form, the Rio also has features unheard of for this segment, options like a heated steering wheel.
2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon, 2013 Ford Focus ST, 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT. Click image to enlarge
Like the Focus, this is one versatile vehicle. The Volkswagen Golf can be had as a 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, wagon, diesel, gasoline, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, automatic, manual, DSG, turbo, naturally aspirated, 4 cylinder, 5 cylinder, and so on. It doesn’t hurt either that the Golf and its GTI hot-hatch variant is a fun vehicle to drive as well as being sophisticated for a compact.
The Focus has proven since its inception that it is a serious player in the compact car segment. With segment-leading technology and a punchy 2.0L engine, the Focus is a compact that looks great, is fun to drive and is practical. Then there is the Focus ST which is making us rethink what a front-wheel-drive performance vehicle is capable of.
The Elantra nearly dethroned the Honda Civic in 2011 as the bestselling vehicle in Canada, and for good reason. The all-new Elantra is the most stylish vehicle in the compact segment, and for 2012 things have only gotten better with the addition of a coupe and hatchback (Elantra GT) model. It doesn’t hurt either that the Elantra is a feature-packed great value.
For years manufacturers have been trying their hardest to equal the Accord’s combination of comfort, refinement and efficiency while still providing a sporty drive. Well, a new Accord is here for 2013 and it is back to the drawing boards once again for the competition. The new Accord continues to be one of our favourite mid-size sedans and the 6-speed manual V6 coupe is a blast to drive.
2013 Honda Accord, 2013 Ford Fusion SE. Click image to enlarge
The Fusion has redefined style for the mid-size sedan market. Yes, it may look like a baby Aston Martin, but is that a bad thing? With the choice of three regular engines and a fantastic hybrid option, the Fusion brings the substance to back up its gorgeous good looks.
2013 Subaru BRZ, 2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge
Sports Cars Low
Like its FR-S twin, the BRZ is the real deal. Sure we could have lumped these two cars together, but both Scion and Subaru deserve individual recognition for making these cars happen. Not only has it brought along another budget performance car to the masses, but it is one focused on driver feel and engagement above all else. Low power and Prius tires only make it easier to explore the car’s limits safely.
One of the most talked-about vehicles in recent memory, the FR-S has lived up to the insane hype. With steering, response, and control second only to cars costing twice or several times as much (and even then, we are talking a small handful), the FR-S has brought back fun-to-drive and rear-wheel drive to budget-conscious consumers.
The Boxster has stepped into the prime time for 2013. No longer will the Boxster hide in the shadows of its bigger brother, the 911, thanks to one of the best looking exterior designs we have seen in years. But that is only half the story; the Boxster also features an intuitive, neutral driving experience that would make any novice driver look like a professional on a race track.
We shouldn’t really have to defend this choice. The 911 could quite possibly be the most recognizable sport car in history, the world over. It doesn’t hurt that the basic shape of the 911 hasn’t changed since the 1960s, but that is a testament to its iconic status. All new last year, the 911 has only gotten better and the 7-speed manual Carrera S is especially entertaining to drive.
2013 Porsche Boxster, 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge
2013 Cadillac ATS, 2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge
Luxury Car Low
The ATS is Cadillac’s first attempt at making a compact, rear-wheel-drive based luxury sports sedan. So, did it work? Oh yeah! This vehicle is dynamically superior to anything else with four doors in its price range when equipped with the magnetic ride suspension.
The C-Class is one of those vehicles that can be whatever you want it to be. Available in either a sedan or a coupe, the C-Class can be a sedate, relatively affordable entry into the luxury market as in the C 250, or it can become a track weapon when the C 63 AMG Black Series is indulged in. In case that is not enough, there is the choice of all-wheel drive on virtually every model but the AMG.
2013 Porsche Panamera GTS, 2012 BMW 528i. Click image to enlarge
Luxury Car High
Sure, many may find it ugly. But the Panamera redefines what a sports sedan should aspire to. Available with a multitude of engines and two drivelines, the large Panamera thinks it is a 911 and attacks corners accordingly. That large hump out back makes this car quite practical as it can carry four adults and their luggage.
BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series is the mid-size luxury sedan all other mid-sizers aspire to be. From the turbocharged four-cylinder 528i to a turbocharged V8 in the M5, the 5 Series is sure to have something for everyone. Want a hatchback? Well, there is the 5 Series GT as well.
2012 Honda CR-V, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Click image to enlarge
The CR-V has defined the compact crossover segment for the past 15 years so it should come as no surprise that Honda did not mess with the formula too much for the CR-V’s 2012 redesign. While others are experimenting with turbocharged engine options and gee-whiz technology, Honda continues to offer an affordable, practical, and efficient package that hits the sweet spot in the compact crossover segment.
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
The Santa Fe was always a good crossover utility vehicle, but for 2013 Hyundai has made it great. The Santa Fe is now available in two models and the first to hit our markets is the 5 seat compact version, the Santa Fe Sport. With great looks, loads of cargo and passenger space, and a choice of sophisticated four-cylinder engines, the Santa Fe Sport has shot to the top of the crossover segment.
2012 Volkswagen Touareg, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. Click image to enlarge
The Touareg is one of the few large crossover utility vehicles to offer a diesel engine—and what a diesel engine it is! Delivering compact-car-like efficiency, the Touareg is truly one of those vehicles where you can have your cake, and eat it too. If diesel is not your thing, the 3.6L V6 is a great engine as well.
Nissan completely reinvented the Pathfinder for 2013, and we think that is a good thing. Gone is the body-on-frame truck from the previous generation, and making its return to the Pathfinder line is a unibody crossover chassis. The Pathfinder features a good suspension, ample space, decent levels of content, and of course great value.
Number one selling vehicle in the United States? Yup, sure is. Number one selling vehicle in Canada? Also has that honour. The only vehicle every one of our writers chose as best in class? You betcha. Yes, the Ford F-150 is all of these things because, well, it is just that good.
2012 Ford F-150 and… the 2012 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge