Expert Advice | The car in question

Our staff member answers questions from readers.

Posted at 11:45am

Eric Le Francois

Eric Le Francois
special cooperation

A loyal one

Q: I am looking for a small four wheel drive car. I live in Montreal (and want to do less shoveling) and the chalet is in mountainous terrain. I keep my cars for a very long time. I’m a Toyota fanatic, but the CH-R doesn’t have all-wheel drive. So, Kona, HR-V? Other suggestions? — Line B

A: If you want to stay loyal to Toyota, we recommend you take a close look at the Corolla Cross. Especially since this autumn model will also be available with a hybrid motor (non-rechargeable). You might also consider the Subaru Crosstrek for the quality of its four-wheel drive system, as well as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, a vehicle that offers an attractive value for money (four-wheel drive comes as standard) and a warranty that will probably put your mind at ease (10 years on the powertrain ). As for your other two choices, the Kona has several appeals, but the service mechanics are sluggish and the trunk volume is tight. The HR-V will undergo a full bench test next week. This is a new generation (reliability file still virgin), more packaged, more expensive and less clever than the model it replaces.

To finish with the Volt

PHOTO RICHARD VOGEL, Associated Press Archive

The Chevy Volt

Q: I always believed that the system used by GM’s Volt would be the system of choice before we had enough electric vehicle range (600-800km) for people to buy it. A range of 70 to 100 km (rechargeable) for nearby trips and a generator that charges with maximum efficiency for long distances. How do you explain the move away from this system? – Richard G

A: Even today, many consumers find it difficult to understand General Motors’ decision. And this misunderstanding in this file, like many others, is a matter of communication. The Volt was a great idea technologically and, as you point out, an excellent ambassador for consumer adoption of electric propulsion. The main reasons that led to the scrapping of this technology were: its profitability, low commercial success and, most importantly, its limits were quickly reached. On this topic, note that the Voltec architecture was compatible with a small aerodynamic car. It couldn’t be adapted to an SUV the size of an Equinox, for example. The latter would then have required a range extender (i.e. petrol engine) that was more powerful, heavier (necessary to add a larger petrol tank) and even more expensive to produce.

prisoner of the system


The CarPlay infotainment system

Q: We regularly hear negative reviews about the infotainment systems on some new cars. Can this be replaced with another one? — Marc-Andre L.

A: Unfortunately no. For almost ten years, Google and Apple have each been launching their own standards (Android Auto and CarPlay) to use their software on the vehicle’s control screen and the driver’s cell phone. So-called “closed” systems that allow computer giants to remain in control of data collected from users. Here the fight begins. Many manufacturers prefer “open” systems to keep control over their valuable data.

It’s urgent


The Acura RDX

Q: As the owner of a 2013 Acura RDX, 155,000km, I was planning to keep my car for another two or three years and then replace it with an electric car of equal value in terms of comfort, reliability and safety. My trusted mechanic informed me this week that I have to reckon with expensive repairs (steering, air conditioning, bodywork) within 10 to 12 months. So I have a little time to replace my vehicle, but not as much as I would like. Buying an electric car seems unrealistic to me in this timeframe.

Is it an option to lease a petrol car for three years and then buy an electric car? And could it be economical? Would buying a petrol car (new or used) with the intention of selling it three years later be more interesting? And could it be economical? My height of 1.96 m must be taken into account. Mid-range sedans are not for me. Which scenario to consider? Which SUV models could be suitable for me? — Jean-Pierre B.

A: The current problem is the availability of vehicles (gas or electric). Given the sometimes unreasonable cost of multiple used vehicles, a better choice would be to rent a new vehicle, and ideally a plug-in hybrid, as one intends to make the jump to an electric vehicle in the future. This technology bridges the gap between the old and new worlds, as it allows the battery to be charged not only via the combustion engine, but also from the socket, enabling driving in “purely electric” mode for around fifty kilometers. The problem is that a plug-in hybrid SUV is neither very cheap to buy nor necessarily immediately available. For cheaper prices, you can inquire about the future Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (suspected but unconfirmed range of around 80 km) due for launch in the autumn, or the Hyundai Santa FE plug-in hybrid.

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