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Go figure! How much does your car cost annually? Add to ...

At a time when official fuel consumption figures are increasingly under the microscope, the Canadian Automobile Association has released a far more detailed overall car cost calculator, one that compares depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuelling costs on most 2012 and older vehicles, going as far back as 1990.

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Once you pick your model, and input how far you drive in a year, your mix of city versus highway driving, plus the price of fuel in your area, the site provides an online tool to calculate your approximate depreciation costs. For a truly representative figure, you’ll have to provide a realistic estimate of your insurance and maintenance costs, although it does provide some general averages if you’re unsure, or if you are looking into buying a car such as this.

A survey early in February of Canadians by Ipsos-Reid, commissioned by the CAA, found that 90 per cent of vehicle owners underestimate the cost of owning and operating a vehicle, while 40 per cent underestimated the cost by a whopping $4,000 a year or more.

The CAA also highlighted that two-thirds of Canadians think they spend more on groceries than on their vehicle, but that is likely not the case with most car owners, citing an average yearly ownership cost for a compact car of $9,500 in Canada (supplied by CAA partner CarData Inc.), and the average annual grocery bill in Canada of $5,500, according to Statistics Canada.

It’s no doubt a useful tool, available at caa.ca/drivingcostscalculator, but there is still some missing info. There is no information on 2013 vehicles yet, even on ’13 vehicles that came out in 2012, such as the Chevrolet Spark or Hyundai Elantra GT and coupe. And it doesn’t have the complete depreciation, maintenance and insurance costs listed for plug-in vehicles, since they’re so new, and this information is still not easily available.

However, for plug-in vehicles, it has useful tools to tailor the cost picture to each province and time frame of when you plan to plug in, which varies widely in areas with time of use pricing, such as in Ottawa and Toronto, but not Montreal. And it does have information on the Ford C-Max Energi, which is a 2013 model.

GM to provide Internet cars

GM confirms that it will equip most of its 2015 vehicles next year with high-speed mobile internet, including in Canada, where strict telecommunications regulations have often meant advances in American telematics services were unavailable at launch – or ever – in Canada.

The company said most of its model year 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles will offer 4G LTE mobile broadband service, offered through AT&T in the United States and Canada, GM said, with other carriers to be announced in the next few months.

A built-in 4G LTE connection will help bring about services such as fast in-vehicle WiFi hot spots, streaming video entertainment in the back seat, and faster app downloads, the company said, without specifying when or in what such services would be available.

GM did say that these services would build on its OnStar network of connected services, so users won’t have to have an LTE device or even a smartphone to use these services. However, these will likely bring more temptation for buyers to subscribe to such services after the initial free OnStar period expires.

In the future, widespread in-vehicle 4G LTE connectivity will enable cars to increase safety, efficiency and convenience for drivers and passengers, not only by offering fast WiFi inside the cars, but with real-time traffic and navigation updates possible, pulling information from the cloud.

New Jeep Cherokee to replace Liberty

Leaked photos online has led to Chrysler’s official confirmation that the Jeep Liberty will be replaced by an all-new, radically styled mid-size SUV, to be called the Cherokee, reviving a Jeep name with a long history as the one of the brand’s – and the industry’s – first popular mainstream SUVs.

The separated, two-level headlight treatment, with thin LED-equipped headlights moulded high in the Cherokee’s hood, already has many online commenters comparing it to the Nissan Juke, both favourably and unfavorably. The first grainy photos of the vehicle coming off the Toledo assembly line were published by Jalopnik.com, which reported that it believed the SUV would be officially unveiled at the New York auto show.

Chrysler eventually released a few official, and more flattering, shots of the Cherokee, confirming its rebirth would indeed take place at the New York auto show late in March.

Jeep is not a brand known for taking design risks, but that appears about to change with the Cherokee, which Chrysler said will go on sale in the third quarter in the United States. Chrysler’s head of design Ralph Gilles tweeted last week that it was time to shift some paradigms around, trade journal Automotive News reports.

VW not bringing plug-ins to Canada

Despite various reports that Volkswagen is planning to unveil production versions of its tiny XL1 super-green two-seater and Golf plug-in hybrids, neither are scheduled to arrive in Canada within the next two years, Volkswagen Canada says.

The XL1 will reach production as a diesel-electric hybrid that consumes only 0.9 litres/100 km, which VW says makes it the most fuel-efficient vehicle in production, as well as the most aerodynamic vehicle out there, with a low co-efficient of drag of 0.189 and small frontal area.

The XL1 is about as wide and long as VW’s subcompact Polo, but lower than a Porsche Boxster. VW has reportedly certified it for sale in Europe, as well as committed to producing at least 50 examples of the XL1, which to these eyes looks similar to GM’s EV1 (that was also never sold in Canada).

The more practical and likely less-expensive Golf plug-in hybrid will also be unveiled at the Geneva auto show in mid-March, along with its production sibling the Audi A3 e-Tron hatchback. Hybridcars.com is reporting that the Golf plug-in is expected to arrive next year in the United States, possibly as a 2015 model. But VW Canada spokesperson Thomas Tetzlaff said neither plug-in VW is currently planned to be sold here, at least in the immediate future.

“This could, of course, change,” he wrote in an e-mail. “But certainly not in the next couple of years.”

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