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The 2013 Toyota RAV4 had its world debut at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. It will be built in Ontario. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 had its world debut at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. It will be built in Ontario. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

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The all-new Toyota RAV4 and updated 2013 Honda Civic highlight a lineup of Los Angeles auto show world debuts with a distinctly Canadian flavour.

The RAV4, Civic and the limited-edition Dodge Charger Daytona and a new Chrysler Town & Country S are all built in Ontario manufacturing plants.

Toyota will start official production of the new-generation 2013 RAV4 in January, and unveiled the compact crossover on Wednesday, keeping much of the information on it under tight wraps until just after our production deadline. But leaked images of official-looking photos of the RAV4 on design-focused website carstyleblog.com show a sharper-edged family hauler with a hint of aggression in its scowling visage and pointed nose, while the side profile shows a rapidly rising beltline and dramatically upswept rear-window treatment that trades some rear visibility for a major increase in visual flair.

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The company is widely expected to drop the V-6 option in the RAV4, leaving the larger engine to the larger and pricier Venza and Highlander crossovers. But what this sharper-looking RAV4 also does is orphan the U.S.-only all-electric RAV4 EV based on the more conservatively styled current model, which is to be sold for another two years in California and a couple other states, while charging about double what the fresher gas model will cost.

Recipe for EV sales success? Hardly.

Many Canuck consumers will also be interested in the hastily revised Civic, which features extensive changes to the front, rear and interior.

The current generation of the Civic debuted in spring 2011 as a 2012 model, but almost as soon as it launched, it was lambasted for its staid styling, cheapened interior and lacklustre handling, and soon lost its cherished long-time Consumer Reports recommended label.

While sales of the 2012 Civic in both Canada and the United States have stayed healthy despite the widespread critical shellacking, Honda moved quickly to address all these areas. There’s now a more tapered look overall, a wider and more assertive twin grin treatment up front on higher trim levels where a wide chrome lower garnish mimics a similar chrome treatment in the grille, while the more angular rear taillights nicely flow into the bumper and an integrated rear spoiler.

The Civic is still a more conservative-looking compact sedan than its Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Ford Focus rivals, and still sadly lacks a practical five-door hatchback version that the other three all offer now. But Honda has dived into upgrades for the Civic’s interior as well, including available black and black leather seats, a new instrument panel and centre console with upgraded materials, expanded availability of heated seats, navi, automatic climate control and rear-view camera. Honda is also promising better handling, steering and reduced road noise.

Chrysler will show off two new Canadian-built products, including the Dodge Charger Daytona, and the new Chrysler Town & Country S trim level. The Charger Daytona will offer some of the go-fast styling bits – and of course, a large spoiler – as well as sportier suspension tuning from the powerful SRT8, but at a lower price, and without the gulp-inducing, premium-only fuel bills. Or at least diminished fuel bills, as it still comes with a 5.7-litre, 370-hp Hemi V-8, though here with cylinder deactivation at least while cruising on the highway.

Changes to the new T&C S minivan will be more limited, and reserved for upgrades inside similar to the S models in the rest of Chrysler’s lineup.

Toyota tops repair reliability study

A study that rates reliability by the number of engine fault codes combined with the cost of repairs measured over the last year has found that Toyota is the most reliable auto manufacturer in North America, followed by Hyundai and BMW.

The ranking is interesting because, of the top 10 auto manufacturers, Toyota had the second-highest average repair cost ($490.72 U.S.), while BMW had the highest average cost per repair of all ($502.48). Yet these auto makers also had the lowest percentage of repair incidents, so that even when combined with their high repair cost scores, Toyota took the gold and BMW the bronze spot in the Overall CarMD Index rankings. Hyundai took the No. 2 ranking, although its average repair was only $271.86

This is the second annual CarMD Vehicle Health Index ranking, produced by CarMD.com Corp., which sells widely used diagnostic tools that records repair information. The survey used a U.S. database of 163,000 specific repairs performed from September, 2011, to September, 2012, on model year 2002 to 2012 vehicles, and the site also offers a list of the most reliable cars overall in the past decade (2010 Toyota Corolla is number one), top three vehicles in each category, and most prevalent repairs by make at http://corp.carmd.com.

Fourth- to 10-place finishers in this year’s survey (and their average repair prices) were: 4. Honda ($466.77); 5. Volkswagen ($392.00); 6. Nissan ($366.53); 7. Kia ($320.08); 8. General Motors ($290.50); 9. Ford ($340.96); 10. Chrysler ($287.93).

Mazda to bring diesels to North America

Mazda North America has confirmed that it will bring diesel-powered vehicles to the United States, as well as revive the rotary engine, at least for Japan.

Mazda will confirm today when and in what it plans to launch the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder SkyActiv diesel in North America.

The new Mazda6 making its North American debut in Los Angeles is a possibility, but the CX-5 crossover is more likely to be the first to receive it, possibly as early as the first quarter of 2013, according to a report in Car and Driver.

The rotary engine that ended production with the demise of the much-loved RX-8 sports car in June will be revived in a greener form next year as a range-extending powerplant for a plug-in hybrid vehicle set for a low-volume, lease-only release next year in Japan, trade journal Automotive News reported this week.

Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi wouldn’t confirm which vehicle would receive this extended-range electric-rotary hybrid powertrain, or whether the vehicle was planned for any other markets. But fear not, rotary fans, Yamanouchi also said Mazda is working separately on a primary rotary engine for use in its unspecified sporty cars, though there’s no timeline yet for any future such products.

*****

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