Starting the process of choosing a new vehicle can sometimes be like opening Pandora’s box. As soon as you start researching, thousands of different makes, models and features will be sent your way. It can certainly be overwhelming!
Thankfully, each year, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada—which includes professional journalists, writers, photographers and corporate entities who work day-in and day-out in the automobile industry—vote on the best cars for Canadians to buy. More than 1,500 ballots are cast.
They base their evaluations on “real-world testing,” which means they take factors such as acceleration, braking, maneuverability, safety features and cargo capacity into consideration as they drive cars on public roads, exactly where you would drive them. They do this so the results and conclusions they reach will be 100 per cent relevant to consumers.
So without hesitation, let’s take a look at a few of their top picks of the best cars in Canada in 2019. Hint: there’s quite a few Kias and Mazdas on this list!
Best Large Car (and Canadian Car of the Year 2019): Kia Stinger
Price: starting at $39,995
Pros: One of the biggest pros about the Kia Stinger for those who don’t drive stick is the excellent automatic transmission—it’s precise and gets into gear as quickly as a manual transmission would. As with most vehicles on this list, the tech is totally up to date, including a touchscreen display with smartphone integration, an amazing sound system, satellite radio, leather upholstery and parking sensors. Many reviews have commented on the outer appearance of the Stinger as well, calling it a work of art for the sculpted body lines and sleekness.
Cons: For those big families with a lot of tall people, the Stinger—with its low roof—will likely feel cramped for passengers in the back. There’s no manual transmission option available and it’s not the most fuel-efficient car in the market. In addition, the rear visibility is limited, a sacrifice made for the sleek design (though there is blind-spot monitoring).
Best Small Car: Kia Forte
MSRP: starting at $17,195
Pros: There are quite a few highlights when it comes to the Kia Forte. First, many have praised its efficient, well-engineered engine, excellent steering and handling and above average fuel economy, as well as the easy-to-use infotainment system with a large, 8-inch touchscreen and voice-activated controls. Another pro is the spacious interior, complete with lots of leg and headroom and seating for up to five people. There’s tons of storage space inside the vehicle as well as in the large trunk area. Most importantly, the Kia Forte has long been pegged as one of the industry’s most reliable vehicles and the 2019 model is no exception.
Cons: The Kia Forte is a bit sluggish when it comes to acceleration and is only available as a four-door sedan (no hatchback option), which might be problematic for some consumers.
Best Utility Vehicle: Jaguar I-PACE
MSRP: starting at $89,800
Pros: This might be a pro for some and a con for others, but the Jaguar I-Pace is an electric vehicle (Jaguar’s first EV, actually) but it can travel as far as 240 miles on a full charge and charges very quickly. It handles beautifully and is loaded with the latest in-car tech, including a corresponding app that can check charging status, batter range, organize navigation in advance and heat or cool the cabin before a trip. It’s also equipped with artificial intelligence which, after a week or two, is able to anticipate driving styles and routes, among other things. Not to mention, it is one stylish-looking car.
Cons: For those who love to stay connected even while on the road, the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto may be a deal breaker. And the price point is quite high for your average car buyer – use our car loan calculator to learn how much you can afford to invest in a new vehicle.
Best Green Car: Nissan Leaf
MSRP: starting at $42,298
Pros: This all-electric vehicle is super eco-friendly and though it doesn’t have the longest driving range (150 miles per charge), most often you’ll be able to get through a normal driving day without needing to plug in. It’s a stable, smooth drive and has a bit of zip to it, so highway driving will be a breeze. It also includes the new e-Pedal, which basically allows you to drive with just one pedal. Pushing down accelerates while releasing pressure brings the car to a stop. Using one pedal will absolutely take some getting used to, but it will soon be second nature.
Cons: The shorter driving range could be considered a con for long-distance drivers and there are a few interior issues, including a hump in the middle of the back seat which could make seating uncomfortable for adult passengers. And for those in cold climates with lots of snow, the Leaf is a front-wheel-drive car, which makes getting out of deep snow a bit more challenging.
Best Pick-up Truck: Ford F150 Diesel
MSRP: starts at around $46,000
Pros: The Ford F150 has long been considered one of the best in the market, and now with a diesel option, it will continue that reign. This truck is in the win column for most categories, starting with the cabin being unusually roomy (and having adjustable seating). Not to mention the visibility is great, with Ford mitigating the common rear-window-view issues by making sure the blind spots are minimal and adding a backup camera. There are multiple trims available to accommodate almost anyone’s trucking needs, from basic to the absolute luxury, and engine options couldn’t be better. Plus the interior tech, the Sync 3 system, is built into the centre console, is incredibly intuitive to use and can easily be synced to your smartphone. Lastly, storage is often overlooked when it comes to trucks, the assumption being the bed in the back will solve all your storage needs, but the F150 also has lots of room inside the cabin to store even more goodies.
Cons: The F150 does not have great fuel efficiency, with the diesel engine getting around 9 kilometres per litre in the city and 11 kilometres per litre on the highway. The F150 is also a very tall vehicle, which can pose a challenge when getting in and out if there aren’t any running boards to step on (which is an add on with a more expensive trim). Otherwise, it basically takes a running jump to get your butt in the seat.
Best Sports-Performance Car: Mazda MX-5
MSRP: starting at $32,900
Pros: Mazda has upped the ante in terms of power when it comes to the newest edition of their MX-Miata. The two-passenger car stands out when it comes to handling and shock-absorption and you can ride with the top down, making summertime drives an extra fun experience. It’s also surprisingly comfortable; the MX-5 has top rankings for supportive seats and the telescopic steering column helps maintain a more comfortable driving position. And for the audio nerds out there, this roadster has the option of including a Bose sound system. Top down, volume up—what more could you ask for?
Cons: Even though the seats are comfortable, many consumers say the MX-5 is simply too small, especially for drivers who are six-feet or taller. And the lack of a backseat and tiny trunk space makes it an inconvenient family car. It’s also not great in winter, which should be a surprise to no one. It’s low to the ground and doesn’t offer all-wheel-drive, so if a heavy snowfall hits, you’d be stuck for sure.
Best Small Utility Vehicle: Hyundai Kona
MSRP: starting at $44,999
Pros: Right off the hop, one of the car’s best features is pointed to in its name. The Kona, Canada’s first electric sub-compact SUV, has an almost incomprehensible range, with the ability to travel up to 258 miles on a single charge (just a bit longer than Hawaii’s 225-mile Kona loop). The Kona can also be charged incredibly quickly, reaching a full charge in just 54 minutes with a 75kW charger. The internal system also allows the car to be automatically charged overnight during off-peak hours. And if you’re looking for storage space, the Kona has it; when the seats in the back are folded down, there is 46 cubic feet of space to use. On top of all these pros, the Kona also has great fuel economy, excellent handling, outstanding warranty coverage, an above-average predictability rating and has been given the highest safety designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Cons: Even though the cargo space is ample, when the back seats are in use, things are a little tight when it comes to headroom and legroom. And the funky look of the car is certainly not for everyone, especially the lime green option.
Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle: Mazda CX-5
MSRP: starting at $27,850
Pros: The engine in the CX-5 is one of its top selling points, increasing its power substantially from previous editions of the vehicle. The steering, handling and stability gives the CX-5 sports-car vibes in a crossover’s body. This stability also means the ride is noticeably quiet in the cabin, thanks in part to a great suspension system and soundproofing. The CX-5 seats five and passenger space is ample, which makes it the perfect family vehicle. But you’re not sacrificing cargo space for passenger comfort, either; there’s plenty of room when it comes to storage. One of the opt-in options is all-wheel drive, which is ideal for those who live in harsh winter climates or those who do a lot of off-roading. To top it off, the CX-5 also has a stellar fuel-economy rating.
Cons: It seems to be a common problem but the CX-5, like many other vehicles on this list, has issues when it comes to the rear seats. The lack of legroom and headroom makes those seats ideal for kids but not great for adults, especially for long journeys. There is also no option for manual transmission and for those who desire a bit more pep in their step, the base engine will be a little lacking. However, you can choose to upgrade the engine to something a bit better.
Best Large Utility Vehicle: Mazda CX-9
MSRP: starting at $36,700
Pros: A few big changes have been made to the CX-9, including the addition of smartphone connections through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a ton of USB ports that will come handy when you’re down to your last bit of power. Another change comes by way of the suspension, which keeps the ride as smooth and bump-free as ever. The interior has a feel of luxury but without a massive price tag to match, and critics have praised the precise steering and exceptional braking abilities. Those who often cart around several passengers will be happy to hear the middle row of seats slide and recline for added comfort. In terms of tech that will aid the driver, the CX-9 has blind-spot monitoring and a slow-speed automatic emergency braking system.
Cons: When looking at similarly-sized vehicles from other companies, the CX-9’s cargo space definitely leaves much to be desired and the design of the roof pillars makes visibility an issue, especially when trying to see out of the small rear window. The CX-9 also has a low towing capacity when compared to other vehicles in its class, maxing out at 3,500 lbs.
There are plenty of cars to look at as you start your search and now you have a head start! If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada for more award-winning cars that could be yours.