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The Gear Concept is a subcompact hatch. (Honda)
The Gear Concept is a subcompact hatch. (Honda)

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Honda Gear Concept debuts in Montreal Add to ...

Honda Canada surprised many at the Montreal auto show last week with the world debut of its Gear Concept, a mono-box hatchback design uncovered even before the public opening of the high-profile Detroit auto show last week.

The North American premiere of any vehicle at a Canadian auto show is a rare event, and usually only happens when it’s a specific Canadian model that won’t be sold in the United States – the original diesel Smart, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, etc. Even then, the car has usually been seen or often sold in other parts of the world.

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However, the three-door Gear concept was a true world debut, and a subcompact hatch, launched in an area where this particular automotive recipe is as popular as poutine. Unlike most recent Honda and Acura “concepts,” it was an actual design exercise, not just a mere production car with flashier wheels and some extreme show car details. But it was also designed with some consideration of its intended real-world audience and price.

“Subcompact cars are usually either utilitarian, but uninspiring, or they’re fun, zippy cars that are impractical and too expensive for the Gen-Y buyer,” said Dave Marek, design director at Honda R&D Americas, upon its release. “Gear Concept tears down those walls – it’s practical but fun, customizable, connected and affordable.”

Alfa Romeo to return to North America this year, Marchionne says

The Italian-accented Alfa Romeo brand will return to the United States by the end of 2013, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a Detroit show media scrum last week, but whether the sleek and slightly upscale sibling brand to Fiat will arrive in Canada by then – or at all – is unconfirmed.

A spokesperson for Chrysler Canada, asked about Canadian timing for the possible return of Alfa Romeo, wrote in an e-mail this week that the company “had nothing to announce at this time,” while confirming Marchionne’s comments in Detroit.

Marchionne said the first Alfa Romeo to arrive in the United States will be the sinuously curvaceous 4C, a lightweight, two-seat sports car that will compete with the Porsche Cayman and Boxster.

Mitsubishi plans to bring new subcompact to Canada

A new Mitsubishi subcompact car will launch in Canada this fall, and will be sold in the United States, but it may or may not be called the Mirage, a Mitsubishi Canada spokesperson said this week.

The company is hoping to avoid another name mix-up as the crossover that’s called the RVR crossover here, but was renamed Outlander Sport at the last minute in the United States. Whatever it’s called, Mitsubishi promises it will be one of the most fuel-efficient gas vehicles on the market, and importantly in this class, one of the most inexpensive as well.

Looking at the preliminary specifications, it may just be one of the slowest new cars on the market as well. With a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine putting out 74 hp and the same amount of torque, delivered to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic, the five-door subcompact is longer and wider than the Chevrolet Spark, and taller than the Mazda2 and Hyundai Accent, all of them making notably more power than the Mitsu.

Mitsubishi stresses that it is aiming to price the 2014 Thailand-built subcompact in the low teens, and that it will come with a long list of standard – but as yet unspecified – features. But it will provide the same industry-leading five-year/100,000 km limited vehicle warranty, and even longer 10 year/160,000 km powertrain coverage, as other new Mitsubishis, which will likely tempt some buyers also contemplating a used car purchase in that same price range.

The company unveiled the car at the Montreal auto show last week as a North American premiere. There were also 44 Canadian premieres at the show, show organizers said, including the compact Kia Forte, Chevrolet Silverado, Mazda6 and Porsche Cayman.

Quebec, B.C. residents most likely to consider an EV: poll

Consumers in British Columbia and Quebec are the most open to electric vehicle ownership, according to a new Harris/Decima research study commissioned and released by the Canadian Automobile Association.

The national survey found that 45 per cent of British Columbians say they are likely to buy or ready to consider buying an all-electric vehicle for their next new vehicle purchase, followed closely by the 42 per cent of Quebecers that answered similarly. Unsurprisingly, both provinces feature some of the highest gas prices in the country, although B.C. offers thousands less in provincial government rebates on the purchase of these vehicles than Quebec or Ontario.

Where B.C. does seem to be leading the charge now is in the planned installation of high-voltage DC fast chargers that can quickly charge most battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the road now to an 80 per cent charge in 10 to 20 minutes. The province announced last week the first of 13 locations that will soon receive the Level 3 chargers, at the Telus World of Science in Vancouver, courtesy of a provincial program meant to encourage zero local emissions vehicles, by helping BEVs travel between cities and longer distances in shorter time spans.

The CAA released the survey at the same time as it announced its own initiatives to educate buyers on all plug-in vehicles. It launched a new EV site aimed at Canadians with information about models available in Canada – which often differs from those in the United States – as well as a detailed breakdown of government incentives, a cost calculator that will estimate how much 20,000 kilometres worth of driving will cost in a variety of vehicles (including a fairly accurate $306 estimate in electricity for my 2012 Nissan Leaf) and a detailed map of charging station locations across the country.

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