Are Canadians actually buying the best cars? We compare Consumer Reports best vehicles and brands with Canadian car buying habits
Compact Car: Toyota Corolla
Consumer Reports’ top pick for 2018 was Canada’s second-best-selling car in calendar year 2017, the highest-volume year for the Corolla nameplate since 2009. Only the Honda Civic generates more Canadian passenger car sales than the Corolla, which climbed the leaderboard after seven consecutive years as the number three car.
Compact Green Car: Chevrolet Bolt
Launched in Canada little more than a year ago, the Chevrolet Bolt’s build-up was slow. Yet in both October and November of 2017, the Bolt topped 300 Canadian sales. That doesn’t make the Bolt a common vehicle – Chevrolet sells more than 500 Cruzes per week – but by the standards of pure electric cars, and considering its rarity on dealer lots, it’s obvious that the relatively long-range Bolt has the ability to engage the public.
Luxury Compact Car: Audi A4
If you thought the luxury car was dead, if you thought all luxury car buyers had become luxury crossover buyers, if you thought the launch of a new premium car was a waste, just have a look at the Audi A4. After averaging fewer than 5,900 annual A4 sales over the previous half-decade, Audi sold more than 7,000 A4s in 2017, third amongst premium brand cars in Canada last year.
Midsize Car: Toyota Camry
Canadian sales of midsize cars are undeniably falling. They plunged by nearly a fifth in 2017. But the Toyota Camry continues to be the most popular member of the slowly dying breed. As Toyota launched an all-new Camry in mid-2017, Camry sales in the second half of the year rose 22 percent, year-over-year.
Large Car: Chevrolet Impala
While many of Consumer Reports individual vehicle picks are clearly hugely popular with Canadian buyers, the Chevrolet Impala is most definitely not. In keeping with the decline faced by the large car segment, Chevrolet Impala sales now total a fraction of what they did a decade ago. General Motors sold more than 21,000 Impalas in 2006; more than 11,000 in 2010. In 2017? Only 3,079, ever so slightly more than in 2015 and 2016.
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
It’s a far cry from the fleet-friendly, oft-discounted Dodge Grand Caravan, but the Toyota Sienna is Canada’s second-best-selling minivan. Moreover, though the Grand Caravan still outsold the Sienna by more than three to one in 2017, the Sienna recorded 15,470 sales, a 13-year high.
Compact SUV: Subaru Forester
At the hot-selling Subaru brand, where sales have increased in each of the last 12 years, more than doubling since 2011, the Subaru Forester is the brand’s top seller. Forester sales nevertheless slipped 3 percent in 2017, year-over-year, in part because of in-showroom competition and the aging Forester falling behind the competition.
Luxury Compact SUV: BMW X3
As BMW launches the third-generation version of its second SUV, BMW X3 sales climbed to the highest level ever in Canada in 2017. The X3 isn’t a top seller in its category – the Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLC are all more common. But BMW has high hopes for the new X3, with lofty expectations from BMW HQ for the X3 to take over top spot in short order.
Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander
Steadily more popular, the Toyota Highlander is now the second-best-selling three-row SUV in Canada. 15,259 Highlanders were sold in 2017, double the number Toyota sold in 2013. The Highlander played a major role in 2017 of driving the Toyota brand’s light truck share up to 59 percent of total sales. Half a decade ago, that figure was 39 percent.
Full-Size Pickup Truck: Ford F-150
Consumer Reports top pick for full-size pickup trucks – based on reliability, owner satisfaction, safety, and road testing – is Canada’s most popular vehicle. The Ford F-150 earns the lion’s share of sales for the Ford F-Series, which for the first time ever sold more than 150,000 copies in 2017. No other vehicle line has ever even topped the 100K mark.
With no real dealer network, with no presence across much of the country, with a branding strategy that’s bound to confuse after years in which the Hyundai Genesis preceded the launch of the Genesis brand, with no entry-level G70 yet on sale, Consumer Reports top-ranked brand is one of the least popular auto brands in Canada. Genesis sold only 525 G80s and G90s in 2017. Keep in mind, the Hyundai Genesis, which was the Genesis G80 before Hyundai spun off its new brand, attracted 1,513 copies in 2014.
Unlike the top-ranked auto brand, the second-ranked brand in Consumer Reports annual report is a vibrant, flourishing, highly sought after four-ring German. Audi sales in 2017 grew for a 12th consecutive year, and volume has more than doubled since 2011. Audi’s best seller is the Q5, Canada’s best-selling premium brand SUV. Audi’s second-best seller is the A4, one of Consumer Reports ten top vehicle picks.
A long-time powerhouse, BMW is Canada’s second-best-selling premium brand. BMW’s Canadian volume, thanks to surging crossover sales, climbed to a record high of 38,562 sales in 2017. 3 Series sales perked up last year, and the brand’s five utilities (soon to be six) formed 55 percent of total BMW sales.
It’s by no means surprising to see Toyota’s Lexus brand ranking high in Consumer Reports overall rankings. But why is Lexus, which sold a record high 24,765 vehicles in 2017, not at the top of the heap? Lexus’ predicted reliability score is above average, as are its owner satisfaction scores. The brand which leads these rankings, Genesis, has owner satisfaction scores that aren’t just above average – they top the charts.
Porsche’s mediocre predicted reliability scores are overcome by top-tier owner satisfaction ratings and road test scores, of course, leading Porsche to this fifth-place result in Consumer Reports overall brand rankings. Porsche sold a record 8,249 vehicles in Canada in 2017, more than doubling its volume since 2013.
No mainstream non-luxury auto brand ranks higher in Consumer Reports overall brand rankings then Kia, still an upstart Korean even some two decades into its Canadian tenure. After sharp declines following 2012’s record output, Kia Canada nearly drew back to those levels with 76,504 sales in 2017. The Forte, Sorento, and Sportage account for six in ten Kia Canada sales.
Subaru’s best seller, the Forester, is one of Consumer Reports ten top vehicles in this very report. Subaru ranks seventh among brands, and is one of only two mainstream brands in the top eight. Both Subaru’s predicted reliability and owner satisfaction scores are above average.
While Tesla doesn’t release model-by-model monthly sales figures, registration figures show that Tesla sold 3,478 copies of the Model S and Model X in Canada last year. For comparison’s sake, that’s roughly half what Volvo sells but nearly triple Maserati’s total.
The builder of Canada’s best-selling car and Canada’s second-best-selling utility vehicle – both of which are built in Canada – Honda is Canada’s third-ranked brand overall in terms of total sales. In Consumer Reports study, predicted reliability is average; owner satisfaction is above average.
Legendary status in Consumer Reports studies nevertheless resulted in a 10th-place finish for the Toyota brand overall in 2018. Toyota is Canada’s second-best-selling auto brand; Toyota’s Canadian-built RAV4 has been Canada’s top-selling utility vehicle in each of the last two years. Toyota’s predicted reliability is right at the top of the charts, but owner satisfaction scores are “merely” above average.
Once a high-volume brand, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ namesake Chrysler brand certainly is no longer. Only 13,364 Chryslers were sold in 2017, down 45 percent from 2015; down 71 percent since 2005. Only two Chryslers remain in the lineup: the largely forgotten 300 and the Pacifica, Canada’s fourth-best-selling minivan.
Hyundai sales dipped in Canada in 2017, falling 6 percent to 129,696 units. That’s the lowest Hyundai Canada total since 2011, a startling downturn given the fact that Canadians are buying more new vehicles than ever before. Hyundai earned above average scores for predicted reliability from Consumer Reports, but owner satisfaction scores are only average.
Mazda Canada sales rose 7 percent to 74,056 units, a seven-year high for the Mazda brand. The CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 utility vehicles are the tickets to success for Mazda – they now account for 54 percent of the brand’s Canadian sales. Mazda’s high owner satisfaction scores are let down marginally by average predicted reliability figures.
Like so many premium brands, Infiniti set a Canadian sales record in 2017. Infiniti still ranks only seventh overall among luxury outlets, yet with 12,433 sales last year, Infiniti has nearly doubled its Canadian volume since 2011. Thanks to the new Q60, Infiniti car sales rose 1 percent in 2017, but the brand’s five utility vehicles account for 71 percent of Infiniti sales.
In Consumer Reports rankings, Mercedes-Benz is the eighth-ranked premium brand, scoring average results in terms of owner satisfaction and predicted reliability. In the marketplace, on the other hand, Mercedes-Benz is Canada’s most popular luxury auto brand, outselling next-best BMW by a 16-percent margin in 2017.
Canadians registered more than 2 million new vehicles in 2017, more cars and trucks and vans and SUVs and crossovers than ever before. But were Canadians buying the best vehicles?
Consumer Reports recently released results that show the best (and worst) vehicle brands plus the 10 best vehicles overall. The results are based on reliability, safety, owner satisfaction, and road test scores. Based on those scores and Canadian sales results from 2017, we discover whether Canadians buy the best vehicles, or the worst.