Small ride, big value

From the April 2023 print edition

What makes a vehicle ideal for a fleet? An affordable price up front is a key factor, of course, but it’s not the only one. Fuel consumption, safety, and overall usability can be just as important, depending on the application.

With these attributes in mind, we’ve compiled a list of eight small vehicles available in Canada today that fleet managers should consider. We’ve provided a mix of compact and subcompact cars and crossovers, from gas-powered to hybrid and electric vehicles—and we even snuck in a truck—to provide options that meet a variety of needs and purposes.

Subaru Crosstrek
Like the Kona, the Subaru Crosstrek subcompact SUV has a new generation on the way for 2024. This one’s an early arrival with dealerships expected to receive their first units in the spring. The new Crosstrek comes with interior and exterior redesigns, an updated version of the brand’s standard full-time AWD, and a choice between two engines with four horizontally opposed cylinders: a 152hp, 145lbs-ft 2.0L or a 182hp, 176lbs-ft 2.5L (Combined fuel ratings have not yet been published). With 22cm of ground clearance and Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite, this is a natural choice for those who need a small but rugged SUV. Pricing for the 2024 model starts at $27,352 including fees.

Ford Maverick
Since Ford announced its plans to drop its entire car line-up back in 2018, the Blue Oval has unapologetically been a truck brand. This has allowed room for the Ford Maverick, one of only two truly compact pick-ups on the Canadian market. The standard powertrain is a FWD 2.5L, four-cylinder engine with a hybrid system, averaging 6.4 L/100km combined. Need more capability? Each of the three available trims can be optioned with a 2.0L, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine and AWD—and there are FX4 and Tremor off-road packages available, too. Pricing starts at $33,295 with delivery. The hardest part of this decision is finding one: demand is through the roof, so this tiny truck is consistently out of stock.

Nissan Versa
Very few subcompact cars are left in Canada, so if a cheap and cheerful small sedan is what you’re looking for, start here. Available exclusively with a 1.6L, four-cylinder engine making 122hp and 114lbs-ft of torque, the Versa isn’t exactly a powerhouse. But it’s efficient with a combined average of 6.7L/100km combined if you opt for a model with a continuously variable transmission, and a five-speed manual remains available. With a starting price of $20,048 and a maximum pre-accessories price of $24,888 including delivery charges, this
is about the closest to frugal a new vehicle gets in 2023.

Honda Civic
While the Honda Civic is no longer Canada’s best-selling car—that honour went to the Toyota Corolla for 2022 amid supply chain disruptions—it held that crown for nearly a quarter century. Honda’s asking price of $28,749 with fees just to get in the door on an 11th-generation Civic stings a little, too. But it remains popular for good reason: it has a reputation for reliability, and it’s built right here at home. Two engines are available: a 2.0L, four-cylinder making 158hp and 138lbs-ft of torque, and a 1.5L turbo four-cylinder producing 180hp and 177lbs-ft. Both average 6.9L/100km combined in the sedan unless you opt for the Sport trim, where that figure goes up to 7.1; hatchback models come with slightly higher figures.

Mazda has some interesting stuff happening at the top of its line-up, but don’t forget the humble Mazda3: with two body styles, three engine options, available AWD, and an interior that edges toward premium without dragging the price along, there’s a lot to appreciate here.

For the most efficient option, pick the sedan with either the base 155hp, 150lbs-ft 2.0L engine or the 191hp, 186lbs-ft 2.5L, both of which average 7.6L/100km combined with FWD. For the best performance, choose the 250hp, 320lbs-ft 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Pricing starts at $23,829 including delivery fees for the sedan and $24,829 for the hatch.

Buick Encore GX
Buick is a brand that doesn’t get enough attention: it offers mid-premium appointments and classy styling at reasonable price points. The Buick Encore GX is now the brand’s smallest vehicle with the even tinier Encore being discontinued. It’s available with front- or all-wheel drive, a Sport Touring model and a new Avenir premium trim arriving for 2024, and two different engines. Though with the choices being a 137hp, 162lbs-ft 1.2L, three-cylinder or a 155hp, 174lbs-ft, 1.3L, three-cylinder, neither option is especially powerful—but fuel consumption is good with both averaging less than 8L/100km combined with FWD. The larger engine with AWD averages 8.6L/100km combined. Pricing starts at $29,542 including fees and crests at $35,000 for upper trims before options.

Hyundai Kona
We’re recommending the Kona, Hyundai’s smallest crossover, with an asterisk: a new generation is coming for 2024 with funky new styling and updated powertrains. In the meantime, the current-generation Kona continues to be a solid subcompact thanks to its diverse powertrain options. There’s the standard Kona with its 147hp, 132lbs-ft 2.0L, four-cylinder averaging 7.4L/100km combined or 7.9 with AWD; the slightly souped-up N Line and the properly performance-tuned Kona N; and the Kona Electric, which makes 201hp and 290lbs-ft for up to 415km while burning no fuel at all. With such a wide variety of powertrains to choose from, pricing is just as diverse, starting at $25,306 including fees and climbing to $47,252 for the EV, though the latter qualifies for the federal iZEV rebate as well as provincial rebates where they exist.

Toyota Prius
This may seem like a predictable suggestion, but we’re not talking about the same Prius you’ve been buying for years. Toyota’s headline hybrid enters a new generation for 2023, and with it comes edgier styling, an updated powertrain, standard electric all-wheel drive, and more enthusiastic performance: 196 horsepower from a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine and electric motors, to be precise, a significant improvement over the previous model. And even with these improvements, the Prius averages 4.8L per 100km combined, according to data from Natural Resources Canada. Two models are available, XLE and Limited, with retail pricing starting at $39,864 including delivery charges and dealer fees.