We may not have driven much in 2020, but let’s face it: one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic is that crowded public transport is icky and, if you have to travel, your own car is the safest way to do it. You’re a responsible person who knows that there’s more to look for in a new car than just the price and colour but where do you start? To help, we’ve compiled the best cars in Canada for newbies in 2021.
Best no-nonsense first car: Honda Civic
Considering it's been around since 1972, the Honda Civic may very well have been your parents’ first car, just as it might now be yours. Currently in its 11th generation, the Civic comes as a sedan, a hatchback or a Type R. If you don’t have one of these jobs with the best starting salaries, a reliable, cheaper car is your best bet and the no-nonsense Civic fits the bill. It may not be sexy, but this workhorse will get you from Point A to Point B and it’s just the right size for city traffic.
Best car for zipping around the city: Mazda3
Now in its fourth generation, the Mazda3 is starting to give the bestselling Honda Civic a run for its money. It comes as a sedan or a hatchback. This agile little car has a powerful, fuel-efficient Skyactiv engine, making it perfect for zipping around the city, so say goodbye to expensive commutes. Bonus: you won’t have much trouble manoeuvring into (and out of) tight parking spaces either.
Best carpooling car: Kia Rio 5
Good maintenance and carpooling are some of the easy ways to cut down on your car costs. The sporty and cheap Kia Rio 5 is a five-door hatchback that will make carpooling fun. It’s compact, which makes getting around the city — and finding parking — a breeze. At the same time, it’s spacious enough on the inside to comfortably seat four adults. Smartphone-compatible technology allows you to control everything from the temperature to maintenance alerts and you can even get the carpool karaoke playlist going with a simple voice command.
Best car for green living: Toyota Corolla Hybrid
The Toyota Corolla was "born" in 1966, the same year as Selma Hayek, Kiefer Sutherland and Rick Astley. Like all of these celebs, it’s definitely not showing its age — and like Rick Astley, it’s never going to let you down. You can now get this classic in a hybrid model, giving you even better fuel economy and reducing all those nasty emissions. The hybrid engine takes charge in stop-and-go city traffic, with the internal combustion engine only kicking in when the battery runs low.
Best car for a road trip: Toyota Sienna
If you need wheels for those great Canadian road trips, you'll want a car that’s spacious enough to fit clothes, coolers, camping gear and an exclusive group of cool friends. But you also want a car that won’t have you stopping at every gas station to fill up the tank again. The Toyota Sienna gives you everything you'd need in the perfect road-trip car, with all kinds of bonus smart technologies to make the ride more fun. It’s a hybrid too, so most of your stops along the way will be for snacks, bathroom breaks and admiring the views.
Best car for your dog: Chrysler Pacifica Limited
Road trips with your human friends are great and all, but trips with your furry companions are even better. If you’re buying a car with your pup in mind, good speakers become less important. Instead, you'll need to look at a car that’s easy for your pooch to get in and out of. Think: wide doors and a low height. You also need enough space for your dog — or a pack of them — to curl up in for the trip so they don’t try to clamber all over the steering wheel. The Chrysler Pacifica Limited not only comes with all these features, but also has leather seats and the built-in Stow ’n Vac vacuum cleaner for easy cleaning.
Best car for parents: Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
The Toyota Camry has been a favourite with families since its inception in 1982. The five-seater Camry Hybrid SE has all the features that has made this car so popular over the years — a roomy interior, lots of safety features and style — but it also adds heated front seats, kid-friendly tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bonus: the fuel efficiency of this hybrid car makes it even better.
Best off-road vehicle: Jeep Wrangler 4xe
Jeep has produced off-road vehicles since the Second World War and the Jeep Wrangler has been around since 1986. It’s also still your best option for reaching those hard-to-get-to Canadian camping spots, and now the hybrid version allows you to do it in a more eco-friendly fashion. Just because it’s a hybrid vehicle doesn’t mean it won’t get you across rough terrain. On the contrary, this might just be the most powerful Wrangler Jeep has produced.
Best car for showing off: Mazda MX-5 Convertible
If you have one of those jobs that could make you a millionaire, you could easily show off in a luxury sports car like a Porsche. If you don’t have one of those jobs, though, it doesn’t mean you can’t still show off. The Mazda MX-5 convertible — also known as the Miata — made its debut in 1989, and the 2021 version is even more impressive. This little two-person roadster has Mazda’s Skyactiv is light but powerful. It comes with a wide array of state-of-the-art tech for an exceptional driving experience too. But if you really care about how it looks, it doesn’t disappoint: there’s a soft-top and a hard-top model and the design makes this car look way more expensive than it actually is.
Best car for winter driving: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
One thing you should never forget when you’re looking at cars is that you live in Canada, which means long, harsh winters. The best cars for winter driving have on-demand all-wheel drive, with good ground clearance and high beams and safety features like forward-collision warning with emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has all these and more: heated front seats, for instance. Because it’s a hybrid, you can also do your bit to reduce carbon emissions and slow down climate change that will bring even worse winters.