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car review

2022 Toyota Corolla.The Globe and Mail

I’ve driven a Smart car for the last 10 years and I love it, but it’s time for a new car. My husband has a Toyota Camry and he says I should get myself something small like a Yaris, but Toyota doesn’t make that anymore. I don’t want a large car and I want to be environmentally friendly, but I also want something that’s safe and comfortable and not too basic. What would you recommend? – Edwina

Richardson: Edwina sounds like one of those practical people who wants the comfort of her own transport instead of taking the bus, but doesn’t want to clog up the roads. Good for her!

Gentile: Who wants to take a bus or public transport in this day and age? COVID-19 has changed the way we commute. People don’t want to take the risk of getting on public transport or ride-sharing, either.

Richardson: If you can afford your own transport, many people feel safer enclosed in their own vehicle. It doesn’t have to be big. But here in Canada, the Smart car never really took off. I think drivers just didn’t trust their safety surrounded by larger cars and trucks on the road.

Gentile: I totally get it. When I’ve driven the Smart Fortwo in the past, sometimes it felt like a death trap, especially driving over bridges and sharing the road with transport trucks. It would shake the entire time and I’d be white-knuckling it behind the wheel.

2022 Mazda CX-3.The Globe and Mail

Richardson: It’s actually a very safe vehicle. It encloses its two passengers in a super-strong safety cage, and the small size means it’s more likely to bounce away than crumple in anything but a head-on collision.

Gentile: Regardless, it still made me nervous behind the wheel. And if Edwina wants another Smart, she’s out of luck. They’re not sold here anymore. Unfortunately, the pool of small cars keeps dwindling as consumers prefer larger SUVs over passenger cars.

Richardson: There might be a bit of a revival of very small vehicles in the next few years. Electra Meccanica is a Vancouver-based company that makes battery-powered three-wheelers for single seat drivers, for example, though they’re not sold in Canada yet, just the U.S. Time will tell if people actually want a vehicle like that, but Edwina might, one day.

Gentile: No thanks. I’ll skip the three-wheeler. For now, consumers are buying SUVs, not cars, and many manufacturers are responding. Many have already dumped their small cars – cars I really loved like the Honda Fit, the Hyundai Accent, the Chevy Sonic and the Toyota Yaris, which was on Edwina’s short list of small cars.

Richardson: So what would you recommend for her, given she’s been happy with her Smart but now wants something that’s a step up from being basic?

Gentile: First off, she could go the used route if she wants a small car like a Yaris or Fit. But if she wants new, I’d start with a Corolla, which is now Toyota’s smallest car in the lineup. It’s fuel-efficient, safe and reliable.

Richardson: It’s nicely equipped too if she goes up a couple of trim levels, or she could consider the hatchback for an extra $2,000 and get more cargo practicality. No more wind-up windows!

Gentile: The 2022 Toyota Corolla also comes with a hybrid powertrain, starting at $25,190. It costs more than the gas-powered version, which starts at $19,450. But Edwina wants something environmentally-friendly and not too basic, so that might fit the bill.

2022 Honda Civic.The Globe and Mail

Richardson: For what she’s describing, she would probably do well with an all-electric car. It would be small and never use any gas. I doubt she drives far in a day because she’s been happy with her Smart car, but we don’t know if she can plug it in easily to charge it. She might live in a condo, or have only on-street parking. Because she didn’t ask, we’re best to stick to conventional or hybrid engines.

Gentile: If we’re looking at a Corolla, we need to look at its closest competitor: the Honda Civic. It’s made in Alliston, Ontario and it has a great track record for safety, reliability and dependability. After all, it has been Canada’s best-selling compact car for more than two decades.

Richardson: I wonder if Edwina would really want a sedan, given that her husband has a slightly larger sedan already. The Civic hatchback starts at $28,000 but is probably sportier than she’s looking for. Or how about coming back down in size and price to the sensible Mazda CX-3?

Gentile: The CX-3 is a great idea. It’s stylish, comfortable, fuel efficient and affordable, starting at $21,600. My only complaint is the rear seats – they’re very cramped. But it doesn’t sound like Edwina is going to need them anyway.

Richardson: She’s used to a car with no rear seats, but she’ll have some practical cargo space now with the CX-3 without going overboard.

Gentile: Sure, it’s not as small as her Smart car – not many cars are. But the CX-3 is compact in size, it has a tight turning radius, and it’s easy to drive and park in crowded areas. Seems like we both agree. Edwina, go for the CX-3.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com and use ‘What car’ as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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