Top 5 family/city cars at Canadian Car of the Year TestFest
At Canadian Car of the Year TestFest we are ranking the top 5 family/city cars..
The case for a family sedan. Hatch or wagon to earn Canadian Car of the Year honours is a strong one; last year, the Subaru Legacy won. The year before that? The Mazda6.
This segment tends to be one of the highest-selling in Canada; look no further than the Honda Civic’s impressive run of 16 straight years of being the bestselling passenger car in Canada for proof. In fact, this list starts right there.
2016 Honda Civic
The Civic is all-new for 2016, having received a complete redesign and new powertrain options including—for the first time in a factory Civic—a turbocharged four-banger.
It was one of the turbo’d options that I sampled the Automotive Journalist’s Association of Canada’s (AJAC) annual TestFest car of the year, on the roads around Ontario’s Clarington region. It’s a 1.5-litre plant (the base car gets a naturally-aspirated 2.0L), with i-VTEC valve timing. At first I thought this would be a problem, but the technology works in conjunction with the motor to deliver smooth, quick progress.
The real highlights, though, include how roomy it is inside (the engine has been moved forward, allowing for more room inside and a massive trunk more akin to what you’d find in a midsize as opposed to a compact) and how smooth it rides. The Civic has always handled well—and the new car’s super-direct steering rack is no different—and now it rides well, too.
2016 Chevrolet Volt
Also completely redesigned for 2016, The General’s polarizing EV was a standout at this year’s event. The styling is a little more restrained than previous—which is OK—but it remains a slippery shape that helps provide quite, smooth and efficient progress making the Volt on this list for Canadian car of the year’s smaller cars.
Like the previous car, the second-gen Volt is still a range-extended EV, meaning there’s a gas engine used to either charge the electric powerplant’s batteries or provide motive force if you’re desperate.
New for 2016 is what’s called a “Hold” feature; basically, it lets you lock out the EV motor so you can save the juice for when you need it most, like stop-and-go traffic. That way, you can use the gas motor when it’s least taxed (cruising on the open highway, for example), and save your juice for when the most gas will be used.
2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen
The star of this car is the 1.8-litre turbocharged motor. 1.8 has special connotation in the Volkswagen world; before the 2.0L was in everything from the Gold to the Passat, it was a 1.8L unit that ruled the day.
So it’s back, except now, a few key additions take it a step further. I could bore you with the details, but for the purposes of a quick hit story like this, just know that it makes for some fantastic forward progress and good fuel economy.
Not to mention that it’s a station wagon, and as a crazy auto journalist, well, loving wagons is kind of a prerequisite. Plus, it’s sporty, it handles well and there’s actually more room inside here than there is in the Tiguan crossover.
2016 Scion iM
It’s the new xB. No, wait—the new Toyota Matrix…maybe it’s the Lexus CT200h. Either way, it’s actually a brand new segment for Scion, a brand that you’d think would have had an entrant in the compact hatch market for quite some time now, but really hasn’t.
It’s also an important segment, so they need to get it right and for the most part, I’d say that with the iM, they have. It’s roughly the size of the Mazda3, but the Scion gets some great styling and interior additions to match. Yes, the aggressive bumpers may be a bit much for some, but they’ll probably be able to forget all that once they take a seat inside.
There, they’ll experience some quality materials, good infotainment and roominess, too. The only option, really, is a continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission. It’s not the most powerful car here, but it handles very well and threading it through town is no problem thanks to good visibility and responsive steering.
2016 Smart ForTwo
“Most improved” honours for Canadian Car of the Year have to go to the little city car that really took the North American car market by storm when it debuted here 10 years ago. It was funky, it was cute, it was bright-coloured and offered a little slice of Europe to our roads.
Thing is, as that novelty began to wane, the shortcomings started to appear, most notably in the transmission department, with the automated-manual transmission making for some herky-jerky progress. Especially around town, which is a problem, because it’s a car meant to thrive in that environment.
The new car gets a dual-clutch auto, which is a colossal step up on the old model. Power is up to 89 hp and 100 lb.-ft. of torque, which makes for some properly zippy progress. The neon orange interior on one of the TestFest cars may be a little much for some, but this is a funky European car, so why not? You don’t have to spec it that way, after all. We’re also huge fans of the dual-tier rear hatch, whose window opens separately from the hatch, which opens pickup truck tailgate-style.