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First Drive – 2018 Chevrolet Equinox: it's all about timing

 

Niagara, ON – Whenever a new vehicle goes through a generational cycle, a spike in sales is imperative. With the compact crossover segment in a current sales boom, there's no better time to release the all-new 2018 Equinox and reap the rewards.

The timing of the Equinox's release has thus far panned out. Through March 2017, the Equinox has been on a surge, sitting in sixth position with a 43.7 percent year-over-year Canadian sales jump.

The Equinox has not gone through a major makeover since 2010, making the third-generation model one of the most, if not the most, important vehicle for the Chevrolet brand, as it takes on the likes of the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Rav4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and the list can keep going on.



Chevrolet is going into battle with a product that's shorter and lighter, yet more spacious than its previous iteration. Weight has been reduced by 181 kg (400 lbs.), thanks in large part to its shorter frame, as well as its chassis being made of high-strength steel. But Chevrolet used a little ingenuity to find more cargo space with an added 3 cu.-ft. of storage space underneath the trunk for a maximum cargo space (while the second row is folded flat) of 1,798 litres.

Another major change comes under the hood with three new engine choices being offered – two gas versions and a diesel. They will all be released at different times, starting with the currently available turbocharged, 1.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. The base unit is matched only to a six-speed automatic transmission with a choice of standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD).

If those numbers seem a bit odd – they are. The 2018 version's horsepower gets lowered 12 hp, while its torque gets a boost of 31 lb-ft. The reduction in weight and additional torque create the necessary power for the Equinox to keep pace with other vehicles on the road, as well as those in its segment.



In June, production will begin on the 2.0-litre four-cylinder that has 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission geared for impressive fuel economy. To be followed in the fall with a segment-first 1.5-litre diesel powertrain that generates 136 hp and a whopping 236 lb-ft of torque paired to that same six-speed automatic unit. According to Chevrolet Canada, the diesel will achieve segment-leading highway and combined fuel economy rated at 7.4 L/100 km in the city, 5.7 L/100 km on the highway and a 6.9 L/100 km combined.



But for this first drive program around the scenic roads of Niagara, Ontario, our chariot was the volume-selling 1.5-litre unit. The drive was quiet, unassuming and smooth – a perfect companion around the equally-smooth roads of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. Everything about it was comfortable from its two-tone leather seats (a Premier trim addition) to its decent amount of headroom and legroom in both rows. Even its centre console acted as the perfect armrest while navigating through city traffic or on the highway.

 

When cruising, the Equinox proved its worth as an errands-soldier for families. However, when pushed, the gearbox gets a little noisy with some high revving, but that comes with the crossover territory. Even though, it won't set any speed records, the ute handles sharp turns effectively without need for correction or much body roll. Steering finds a nice, middle-of-the-road balanced setting that's not to loose, allowing you to fully keep control on turns.

According to Chevrolet Canada's presentation, the Equinox is being labelled as the 'perfect balance of style and function' – and it totally makes sense. Not only is its interior well crafted with soft-touch materials (especially noticeable in the Premier trim provided), it's versatile with room to fit five passengers comfortably, carry a big load with the second row folded flat, or tow up to 1,500 pounds. In addition, I was able to achieve a 7.8 L/100 combined fuel economy rating – a notch below its official combined AWD rating of 7.9.



As smooth as it drives, one of its best attributes comes down to value. Like other Chevrolet products, the Equinox possesses many standard features such as a rear vision camera, On Star with 4G LTE WiFi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a parental control safety system called Teen Driver, a seven-inch touchscreen with MyLink, standard stop/start technology, heated front seats and heated rear view mirrors. It's a lot to receive starting at a price of $26,995 that already includes freight and A/C tax.

As you move up the ladder, the prices go up – all the way to a starting price of $35,395 for the Premier AWD, but that even comes at a discount from the previous iteration that didn't possess even close to the amount of technology and elevated design.



The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox has all the tools to be a successful crossover at a time when crossovers are in high demand. It's not the most exciting crossover offered, but it offers a complete package of design, value and reasonable fuel economy, only to be made better by the soon-to-market diesel in the fall that will resonate with many families.

2017 Kia Niro walkaround at CIAS

We check out the all new 2017 KIA Niro Hybrid at the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. The Niro is KIA's first dedicated hybrid in the North American market.

 

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2018 Ford EcoSport walkaround at CIAS

We check out the all new 2018 Ford EcoSport at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. Popular in other markets, Ford has decided to bring this subcompact SUV to the North American market. The Ecosport's closest competitors are:

- Mazda CX3
- Honda HR-V
- Nissan Qashqai
- Toyota C-HR

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Range Rover Velar newest addition to roster

In 1970 Land Rover launched the original Range Rover. Almost half a century later that spirit of innovation continues with the introduction of the fourth member of the Range Rover family, to be unveiled on March 1, 2017.

Elegant simplicity, a visually reductive approach and all-new consumer technologies are the hallmarks of the new Range Rover Velar.

Land Rover Chief Design Officer, Gerry McGovern, said: “We call the Velar the avant-garde Range Rover. It brings a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand. The Range Rover Velar changes everything.”

Refined for every occasion and for various terrains, the Range Rover Velar uses unique sustainable materials and advanced engineering to continue Land Rover’s drive to go Above and Beyond.

The origin of the Velar name (pronounced vel-ar) dates back to the first Range Rover prototypes of the Sixties: the pioneers of the luxury SUV landscape.

When development engineers needed to hide the true identity of the 26 pre-production Range Rover vehicles, they chose the name Velar, derived from the Latin ‘velare’ meaning to veil or cover.

Full details of the Range Rover Velar will be announced on March 1, 2017.

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2018 Jeep Compass walkaround at CIAS

We check out the Jeep Compass at the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. The Compass' closest competitors are:

- Honda HR-V
- Mazda CX-3
- Chevrolet Trax
- Buick Encore
- Nissan Qashqai

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Chevrolet unveils 2018 Equinox

Call it the right balance. On the autumnal equinox today, Chevrolet introduced the all-new 2018 Equinox – a fresh and modern SUV sized and designed to meet the needs of the compact SUV customer.

“We’ve got the strongest truck business in the industry and we’ve reinvigorated our car lineup with Volt, Cruze and Malibu,” said Alan Batey, Global Chevrolet president. “We’re applying the same customer focus to grow our crossover/SUV business – starting with the Chevrolet Equinox.”

Today’s compact SUV customers make sure a vehicle meets all of their needs, from design, connectivity and safety perspectives. The Equinox delivers on all fronts, starting with its fresh new design and all-new propulsion systems.

Fresh, new design

The new Equinox’s expressive exterior has a lean, muscular skin echoing the global Chevrolet design cues and sculpted shapes seen in the Volt, Malibu and Cruze. Extensive aero development in the wind tunnel influenced the sleek shape.

It is a richer, more detailed design featuring chrome trim on all models and Malibu-inspired styling. Projector-beam headlamps are standard, along with LED daytime running lamps. At the rear, horizontal taillamps emphasize the Equinox’s wide stance, while uplevel models feature LED taillamps.

“Customers who previewed the vehicle early on had a strong emotional response to the sleek and sophisticated exterior design,” said John Cafaro, executive director, GM Design. “Those same themes are carried through to the interior, making the space beautifully intuitive.”

The interior takes advantage of the Equinox’s all-new architecture to offer a down-and-away instrument panel, while a low windshield base provides a commanding outward view. New elements such as available denim-style seat fabric blend high style with high-durability, while a new “kneeling” rear seat enhances functionality. With it, the bottom cushions tilt forward when the split-folding seatbacks are lowered, allowing a flat floor for easier loading.

Connectivity

The 2018 Equinox offers purposeful technology, helping to keep passengers safe, comfortable and connected.

Chevrolet’s latest connectivity technologies are front and centre, including 7- and 8-inch-diagonal MyLink infotainment systems designed to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is subject to their terms, privacy statements and data plan rates, as well as a compatible smartphone.)

Safety

The Equinox offers a comprehensive suite of available active safety technologies and adaptive crash-avoidance features that provide ease of use and peace of mind on the road.

Teen Driver is also offered, allowing parents to set controls and review in order to encourage driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle.  

Available advanced active safety features to enhance driver awareness on the road include radar- and camera-based adaptive technologies that can provide alerts to potential crash threats, allowing the driver to react and make changes to avoid them, including:

-New Safety Alert Seat
-New Surround Vision
-New Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator
-New Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking
-New Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
-New Rear Seat Reminder
-Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert 
-Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
-Turbocharged engines and more

A range of three turbocharged engines – including the segment’s first turbo-diesel in North America – provides customers more choices when it comes to performance, efficiency and capability in the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox.

They include a 1.5L turbo, a 2.0L turbo – matched with GM’s new nine-speed automatic transmission – and a 1.6L turbo-diesel.

“With three choices, customers can select an engine that offers more of the attributes that are important to them: efficiency, performance and capability,” said Dan Nicholson, vice-president, Global Propulsion Systems. “The advantage for each is power of a larger engine and the efficiency of a smaller engine.”

The new Equinox is the first Chevrolet model in North America to use an all-turbocharged, multi-engine powertrain lineup. That includes the expected segment-exclusive 1.6L turbo-diesel that will offer customers excellent efficiency and capability.

“It is an all-new SUV from the ground up and one that takes on the industry’s biggest competitors with a stronger architecture, greater efficiency and more technology,” said Rick Spina, executive chief engineer. “And it looks great doing it.”

Additional vehicle highlights:

-Approximately 180 kilograms (400 lbs) lighter than the current model – a 10-percent weight reduction
-Switchable AWD system that enhances efficiency by disconnecting from the rear axle when not needed 
-Unique kneeling rear seat that enables a flat rear load floor and up to 1,798 litres (63.5 cu.ft. (of maximum cargo space
-Heated seats and a remote starter are standard on all trims in Canada.

Equinox sales have reached more than 2 million since its launch and it is Chevrolet’s second-best retail selling vehicle, after the Silverado.

The 2018 Equinox goes on sale in the first quarter of 2017 in North America. It rolls out to approximately 115 additional global markets later in the year.

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First Drive – 2016 Honda HR-V

Miami, FL – “Versatility, technology, fun-to-drive and stylish,” said Jean-Marc Leclerc, Vice President, Auto Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. These were desires from consumers when asked about what they would like from a compact crossover.

Those four traits were what Honda focused on when creating the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V. The HR-V in its second go-around (it was built back in 1999 on a supermini platform, only to last until 2006), slots below the No. 1 selling import nameplate SUV, the CR-V, and aims to make significant strides in the fast-growing compact segment.

The HR-V looks nothing like its former self with use of the Honda Fit hatchback platform. It's an elevated version for those that enjoy a higher seating position coupled with a fun and youthful flair.


The first thing you will notice as you walk around the vehicle is a catchy rear door handle that can be found at the window level, eerily similar to the Hyundai Veloster. It's gimmicky and shows me that Honda is trying too hard to impress. If you want to be cool, create something that's hip and blows people's minds. Placing a door handle in an unusual spot won't instantly get you a ticket to the VIP area.

Luckily, the rest of the exterior does the job in making the HR-V an instant attraction. It has a lot of styling and motion in its build, which is not typically found in this segment. Honda has created a sloping coupe-like motion coming from the roof to the nose of the CUV, as well as to the rear. Up front, the HR-V has a bold grille that creates a powerful stance for its size. The HR-V utilizes some sporty and sharp cuts across the body emphasizing that youthful coolness it was hoping to achieve.



Inside, the HR-V shows off its versatility. First of all, it's longer, wider and taller than the Fit, but slightly shorter than the CR-V with maintaining its same amount of knee and legroom.

All of the great versatile features from the Fit are incorporated into the HR-V. There are five seat modes that include: Normal, Split, Tall, Utility and Long. To summarize this, you can adjust the seating from pulling just one seat down or up to having a complete flat floor with a max cargo of 1,665 litres of space. If you need to put a mountain bike or surfboard inside, no problem, the HR-V caters to your adventurous needs.


As great as the CUV looks from the outside, I have to scale that excitement down a notch when addressing the interior. The dashboard plastic comes off cheap, the seven-inch multimedia touchscreen is bland, but the worst of it has to be the horizontal vent that sits in front of the front passenger seat. I'm not sure what they were going for there? More is not all the time better.

The reason I come off harsh with Honda's design comes down to a belief that they needed to make the HR-V look like all-new creation, and not just bits and pieces that reflect other vehicles in the lineup. It's a growing segment and it might far surpass offerings like the Chevrolet Trax and Mitsubishi RVR, but it has to line-up against the upcoming Mazda CX-3, Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade and Subaru XV Crosstrek.



On the road, the HR-V powers its way smoothly with the use of the 1.8-litre four-cylinder that's found in the Civic rated at 138 horsepower and 127 lb.-ft. of torque. All of the vehicles on hand were all-wheel drive, so they all came with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Otherwise, you can opt for a front-wheel drive with a six-speed manual gear shifter. 

The ride was smooth, comfortable and relaxing. The aim of this compact crossover is not to be a speed burner, so don't get your hopes up, when you struggle to power your way into the left lane for an intersection turn. On a positive note, the CVT doesn't allow much engine noise to enter the cabin, so your smooth and quiet drive stays consistent.

The HR-V will get you from A to B with a reasonable amount of fuel usage. The all-wheel drive version on the press trip is rated at 8.8L/100 km in the city and 7.2L/100 km on the highway.



The combination of a impressive fuel efficiency and an inexpensive low price of $20,690 for the LX trim in front-wheel drive and with a six-speed manual tranny are the ingredients that Honda hopes will drive consumers to the dealership. Starting prices top out below $30K for the EX-L with navigation and all-wheel drive, so you can worry less about significantly going over budget while negotiating.

The 2016 Honda HR-V should appeal to younger families that are looking to either slightly upsize or downsize, depending on what they've previously owned. The HR-V has a youthful vibe with plenty of versatility and practicality, that would appeal to the more adventurous or constantly-travelling consumer.

The 2016 Honda HR-V will go on-sale during the summer season.

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