Monday, February 15, 2010

Canadian International Auto Show Update

I got back from the 2010 Toronto auto show after going daily since 2008. I can't really review any of the cars other than the ones I've driven at work but I can give a review about how the cars are inside in general. There would be too many cars to cover so I'll make a general statement about the state of each.

Acura: The entire lineup was so ugly I didn't bother. With cars this ugly I don't care if they're any good.

Audi: The Audi section was one of the busiest and for good reason. From the inside of even the base A4 you can tell the materials are of higher quality than a regular car. The built quality of Audis is extremely well done. There isn't anything to complain about the styling, most sport a very aggressive look. Price is really what may hurt Audi's sales, nothing they offer is worthwhile without spending more than 30K. That said they have lots of interest which is always good.

BMW: Of the three big German high tier companies it was BMW that was the least busy. Their cars are not the most stylish, in fact I found a lot to be either boring or ugly. BMW was hoping the 5-series GT would attract was rather lonely. The best looking car BMW offers for 2010 is actually the Z4. Inside a BMW its of pretty reasonably quality however there are some poorly designed switches and very cheap stalks on the wheels.

Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep: The Chrysler section was not very busy. I've driven most of the cars that this company has to offer and frankly none have been very good, some are just worse than others. Very poor interior quality and very poor ergonomics is what one can easily see in any of their cars at an auto show. I will say the Fiat 500 and the Fiat 500 Arbarth attracted more attention than anything else this company offered. It was the only reason I visited this section.

Ford: I can easily say Ford spent the most money at this auto show because they have the largest lot. They also strategically positioned their most important cars and had several examples of all of them for people to see. There were a lot of Ford Fiestas and from what I can see its looking like it will be a good car. Ford also had the most upcoming models to display with the 2012 Focus and the Edge both very important cars which will determine Ford's right to return to become one of the most important auto makers. I expect great things from Ford with how eager they seem to be.

GM: Due to how many models GM still has it had the second largest space for its cars. Its really clear GM wants to make a big effort to separate its current cars from its previous one. Their most important car was the Cruze and compared to the Cobalt it replaces its much much better styled inside but its still very plastic. The new LaCrosse has better seats than the old one and seems to be styled well inside, but there are still annoying touches of cost cutting in the materials they were willing to use. The Cadillacs were much better done and had less of the interior woes as the others. Overall it looks like GM is on the right track, its just not looking like it will be as quick as Ford.

Honda: The newest introduction to the Honda section is the Accord Crosstour...and its horribly ugly. Its almost as bad as the Acuras and once again I don't care if its any good its too ugly to be seen driving in. Honda also showed its CR-Z, I'm not sure if its the concept or whether its exactly what the production version will be. The rest of Honda's line wasn't interesting and many showed weak interior trim bits. This is also the final year of the S2000, its your last chance before Honda ruin its lineup with boring cars.

Hyundai: The Hyundai section was ridiculously busy, the key cars they wanted to show were the newly redesigned Sonata and the Tuscon. I can easily say they surpass their predecessors in interior quality. Hyundai has done probably the best job at making plastic not seem cheap and has styled them to work with the interior. If there's anything that might trouble someone, the price is slowly going up. There's a price to pay if you want a higher quality product.

Infiniti: The biggest change to the Infiniti lineup is the new M series. The M is actually a pretty handsome looking car, very nicely trimmed and appears to be priced within reason. The very popular G series of cars are also very nicely done, if you've been inside the Maxima then much of the interior of that car is present in the G cars. Infiniti will do well so long as they stick with what they currently have and continually improve them.

Jaguar: The Jaguar section is very small mostly because Jaguar doesn't offer nearly as many models as they used to. The new XJ is very similarly styled like their current XF. I guess my problem with this is the XJ has always looked the same for nearly 40 years, why not retire the name and call it the XL or whatever new notation they want to give it?

Kia: The situation with Kia is rather similar to Hyundai. Most of the current Kias are much more improved over the previous ones. The new ones are the Forte, Sorento and Sportage. All these cars are much better than the cars they replaced, the Forte particularly is superior to the Spectra it replaces. The prices with Kia are still pretty reasonable so its not yet ready to jack up the prices probably to built its name.

Land Rover: Much like Jaguar the Land Rover section is pretty small. Not a whole lot has changed for Land Rover other than interior improvements to the Discovery. They appear more luxurious inside than the boxy exteriors seem to imply. Tata ownership seems to not have affected Land Rover in any way.

Lexus: The car Lexus wanted to promote for this year was the HS hybrid, unfortunately its part of the brake recall that affected the Prius. As a result nobody was interested in that car, but rather the IS and the GS. Lexus quality is actually still quite high but the interiors are not styled as nicely. Another annoying thing is the prices they're very high, sometimes I'd rather toss out the luxuries in favour of a good driving experience in a high quality car.

Mazda: This is the company I keep scoring very high in my reviews, its a rather busy section in Toronto. The most important car Mazda is launching is the new Mazda2 and very similar to the Ford Fiesta. Several Mazda3s were available including the Mazdaspeed3. The only old vehicles left is the Mazda5 and the CX-9. The Mazda5 you can tell is old as its interior quality is not on par with the newer better design of the 3, the 5 will be replaced next year. The CX-9's future seems to be unknown due to the it being based off the old Edge, Mazda is no longer under Ford's rule meaning its free to use either the new Edge or build off the CX-7.

Mercedes-Benz: Despite their recent failings in quality, the tri pointed star seems to have done a great job at attracting attention. The new E-class is extremely good looking and the release of the new SLS halo car helps the image that Mercedes is serious again. While the C-class is a disappointment with its interior, the E and S are still very good. Its hard to say whether Mercedes produces the same level of durability and reliability they once did in the 80s and early 90s but this batch of cars is certainly better than nearly every car they offered in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Mitsubishi: The newest design at the Mitsubishi section was the 2010 Outlander. The styling of the Mitsubishis are actually pretty good considering their small lineup. Performance also seems to be something their very good at since they're willing to show off their Evo X. Interiors however is something that hurts all Mitsubishis even the 2010 Outlander. With better interior styling and higher quality materials Mitsubishi can rise to the levels of at least Mazda instead of relying on its warranties.

Nissan: Other than the Nissan Cube, very little is different with the Nissan lineup other than having the Quest minivan go missing. Most Nissans have decent interiors, it just depends on where it was built to determine whether it will fall apart or stay intact. The Cube itself is quite a surprise, I was expecting Nissan Versa level of quality due to their shared platform. I was wrong it was of higher quality material and its styled the way one would expect if one bought a car like that. Nissan is on the path to success.

Scion: The newest badge in the Toronto auto show, its a very old thing in the United States but its arrived in Canada this year. Looking at all its models I know all of them are outdated. Starting with the xD, its very difficult to say its nothing more than a different Yaris. The xB had some of the worst plastic I've seen in a long time. The tC is clearly too old and slow to be worth considering as a sports coupe. Its clear Scion is very late, bringing an outdated lineup is not going to be a good start.

Subaru: Their newest addition is the new Legacy and the Outback. I'm not as thrilled about the styling of the new Legacy as I liked the old one much better. Ever since Toyota bought shares into Subaru's parent company it seems as if the cars started to look duller. Nevertheless the Legacy actually had aluminum interior trim, I wasn't expecting to see that. It makes me wonder why nobody did this and instead went with faux wood plastic. So much nicer and easier to say you bought a quality product.

Suzuki: The newest addition to Suzuki is the Kizashi building on the same principles as the SX4 that was released not too long ago. The interior is of average quality, its not exactly bad but there are some touches not as nice as Hyundai's. The good news is the Kizashi comes fully loaded. One of the key items the Kizashi has is it comes with AWD in a class that only the Legacy offers this choice. If the SX4 is any indication it seems Suzuki is more concerned about the driving experience and offering a reasonably interior and a fully equipped car at a reasonably price. It now makes me wonder why they're keeping the Swift+, its absolutely terrible to the SX4 and Kizashi.

Toyota: The Japanese giant has been hit very hard with a huge string of recalls. Still Toyota is hoping its 2011 Sienna is a sign that change is about to come. Its too bad Toyota doesn't have its FT-86 concept car to wow people who wouldn't normally have been interested in Toyota. Now as for their other cars, you don't have to look too far to see quality is down a whole lot. I've already mentioned the Corolla's interior being terrible, the Tundra is even worse and the build quality isn't up to code. The new Prius still has the flimsy gear lever which I thought was awful on the old one. Toyota has a lot of work to do to fix its image problem, but I personally believe they have to revamp their whole lineup. Its sad to say but Toyota deserves to be in the state its in, they sacrificed its core principles for sales. Its paying the price for that betrayal of its values.

Volkswagen: The current largest auto maker in the world does not do too well in North America at first it doesn't seem apparent as to why. Of all the auto makers VW offers the most amount of diesel options clearly preferring diesel over hybrid. Their newest vehicle is the redesigned Golf and I must say its much better looking. Interiors are of reasonable quality, however in most cases they are rather bland and in some cases boring. Also VW should drop the Routan, nobody will be fooled with a low quality minivan hiding behind German trim. A big problem VW needs to overcome is their awful MSRP, one has to spend at least 20K for their new models. The City Jetta and Golf are outdated models.

Volvo: Finally the Sweedish car maker known for safety. Not a whole lot of changes have occured for Volvo this year but one can tell that despite this Volvo is still relevant. The styling is still pretty good on most of their models and they also are slowly adding more features to each car. Inside you can tell Volvo uses better materials than mainstream auto makers through their plastic quality if they have a weak point in their interiors its the Ford style switches. We'll have to see next year if Chinese ownership will affect what Volvo does.

Anyways that's all I got this week. Hopefully I'll be able to review another car next week.

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