By Marc Lachapelle
Of the thirty-four new models that made their first Canadian appearance at the Montreal International Auto Show, more than a third were from Japanese and Korean carmakers and two were also making their North American début. Here is a quick rundown:
Kia Soul Hybrid Concept – Kia Koup Concept
Kia and Mitsubishi shared the honour of presenting North American firsts at this 41st edition of the MIAS. The Korean carmaker showed the Kia Soul Hybrid, a concept version of its funky new Soul compact urban crossover that will be available with a base 1.6-litre, 122-horsepower four cylinder engine or an optional 2.0-litre, 142-hp unit, both four cylinders. The Soul Hybrid is equipped with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain built around a 1.6-litre gas engine. It also shared the spotlight on the Kia stand with the fire-red Koup concept, a slick-looking coupe, as its name suggests.
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback
The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback was shown for the first time in North America with the help of two world-class athletes, former World Champion downhill skier Mélanie Turgeon and Benoît Huot, a multiple gold medal-winning Paralympic swimmer. Mitsubishi was thus underlining its support of the Right To Play organization that helps children in need worldwide. Offered in response to the great popularity of hatchbacks in this country, the all-new Lancer Sportback will be exclusive to Canada. It will come to market this spring in GTS and Ralliart trims, both powered by a 2.4-litre, 168-horsepower double overhead cam four-cylinder engine coupled to a standard 5-speed manual gearbox. A CVT transmission with 6-step manual mode and steering-mounted paddle shifters is an option. Sportback models also get a sport suspension with larger stabilizer bars and a strut tower plus larger-diameter front and rear disc brakes.
2010 Honda Insight
Unveiled in Montreal mere days after its official world début in Detroit, Honda’s second-generation Insight could hardly be more different than its predecessor, a low-slung two-passenger coupe with aero skirts that was the first hybrid sold in North America. The all-new 2010 Insight is a small four-door hatchback sedan derived in part from the recently-introduced Fit. It is powered by the latest iteration of Honda’s series hybrid powertrain, built around an improved 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine and coupled to a CVT transmission. Its estimated fuel economy ratings are 4.8 L/100 km in city driving and 4.5 L/100km on the highway. The new Insight will be extremely well-priced, at little more then $20,000. It will definitely make big waves.
Hyundai Tucson FCEV Prototype
Still savouring its Genesis luxury sedan’s 2009 North American Car of the Year title, Korea’s top automaker had a surprisingly modified – the word ‘pimped’ comes to mind – version of it on display in its stand during press day in Montreal. Yet, the vehicle making its first Canadian showing was the Tucson FCEV hydrogen fuel-cell powered prototype. Hyundai representatives mentioned that a production version of this compact utility vehicle would go on sale in Korea for the 2012 model year.
2009 Nissan Cube
Trendy and sporty were the key words at Nissan and Infiniti. The first Nissan Cube was launched in 1998 and was an immediate hit in its native Japan: Ditto for the second-generation model, in 2002. Fast-forward to 2009 for the Canadian début of the third-generation Cube, now available here with typically boxy styling that has been likened to “a bulldog in sunglasses” and power from a 1.8-litre, double overhead cam four-cylinder rated at 122 horsepower. It drives the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a CVT transmission.
2009 Nissan 370Z
At the virtual extreme on the performance scale sits the second generation of Nissan’s reborn ‘Z’. The fully-redesigned 2009 370Z sports car is slightly shorter, wider and lighter than its predecessor. It is powered by a 3.7-litre, double overhead cam V6 with a maximum output of 332 horsepower, bolted to a 6-speed manual gearbox with a new system that electronically matches engine revs perfectly when downshifting. You can also get it with a 7-speed automatic gearbox that also matches revs in manual mode. With a base price of $39,998, the newest ‘Z’ promises exceptional bang for the loonie.
2009 Infiniti G37 convertible
A few meters away, the Infiniti stand showcased the new G37 convertible, also making its Canuck début. Built on a longer-wheelbase version of the same rear-wheel drive platform as the ‘Z’ and powered by an ever-so-slightly tamer version of the same 3.7-litre V6, good for 325 horsepower, the G37 features a three-piece retractable hardtop.
2009 Toyota Venza – Scion Fuse concept
There is great interest and curiosity, among visitors at the Montreal show, for the all-new 2009 Toyota Venza crossover. Under its smooth bodywork, the five-passenger Venza can be equipped with either a 2.7-litre four-cylinder producing 182 horsepower or a 3.5-litre, 268-hp V6, both coupled to a 6-speed automatic gearbox with the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. In another hall, Toyota Canada displayed the Scion Fuse concept as a teaser for the planned Canadian début of its Scion brand, planned for 2010 with all-new 2011 models.
2010 Lexus RX 350 / 450h – 2010 Lexus IS Convertible
Meanwhile, a pair of non-identical twins starred in the Lexus exhibit. Under subtly-redesigned bodywork, the best-selling RX 350 and RX 450h luxury ‘crossover-utility vehicles’ get a myriad enhancements and upgrades. The RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-litre, 275-horsepower V6 gasoline engine coupled to a new 6-speed automatic gearbox. The RX 450h, on the other hand, gets an extensively revised gas-electric hybrid powertrain with a new 3.5-litre V6 engine running on the more energy-efficient Atkinson cycle but also new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and exhaust heat recovery systems that further reduce emissions and produce a claimed 14 per cent improvement in fuel economy. The combined calculated output of this engine and the system’s electric motors is 295 horsepower so this hybrid ‘ute is no slouch. And for sun-seeking sybarites, Lexus introduced the new IS convertibles. The IS 250 C and IS 350 C will share the same retractable hardtop when they roll into dealerships this spring.
The 2010 Mazda3 is the extensively redesigned, second-generation version of a compact that became a top runner in Canadian sales overnight. With a wide new grin for a grille and flared front wheel arches inspired by recent Mazda concepts – and its RX8 sports car – the Mazda3 is nonetheless instantly recognized. It is available as a traditional four-door sedan or a four-door hatchback, powered by a revised iteration of Mazda’s 2.0-litre four that delivers 148 horsepower or a new 167-hp, 2.5 litre four hooked up to a new 6-speed manual gearbox.
2010 Subaru Forester – Subaru STI Rally Car
Finally, Subaru played it both clean and dirty at the Montreal show. It first unveiled the 2010 Forester, rated as a partial zero emission vehicle (PZEV) thanks to its 2.5-litre, naturally-aspirated horizontal or ‘boxer’ engine. The PZEV emissions rating is the second set by the California Air Resource Board (CARB) after only Zero emissions vehicles (ZEV) such as pure electrics. The Forester thus joins the Legacy and Outback PZEV models already on sale. On the flip side, ready for dirt, was the Canadian Rally Championship-winning WRX STi, introduced onstage by its driver. Patrick Richard won the national rally championship with co-driver Alan Ockwell in the maiden season of their new STi. They will be gunning for another title this season, against even tougher competition.