As the economy slowly begins to reopen and drivers once again take to the street, those who have been holding back on car shopping may be restarting their search. Before heading to the dealership though, have a look at some of my favourite new 2020 model year vehicles from Honda, FCA, Lexus and more.
Top pick: 2020 Honda Civic Type R
The sole Honda Civic to don the Type R badge in Canada “broke the Internet,” as the kids say nowadays during its debut back in 2017. Now just three years on, the brand’s quickest product receives a refresh, the changes focusing on fine-tuning the already excellent performance-oriented machine.
For example, on the outside the front grille has been enlarged to facilitate better engine cooling, and there’s a new exclusive Boost Blue paint option. Underneath the bodywork, the brake rotors boast a two-piece construction and working together with revised brake pads, help reduce fade and improve high-speed braking efficiency.
Inside, drivers get to enjoy an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that not only feels great to the touch but also affords greater grip if operated with gloves. The shifter wears a fresh knob atop and features shorter throws providing an even more exhilarating driving experience.
Finally, the Honda Sensing safety suite of driver assist technologies is standard equipment on the Type R highlighted by automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and assist and radar cruise control.
Honourable mention: Honda Civic Hatchback
Like bigger brother the Type R, the hatchback variant of the Honda Civic is being facelifted for the 2020 model year. Subtle touches such as smoked headlamp housings and alloy wheels, as well as body coloured accenting in the foglight surrounds and central air intake, give the car a sportier style.
Complementing the exterior updates are different dash trim designs — A geometric pattern on the Sport grades and a special brushed black treatment on Sport Touring. All Civics benefit from additional sound insulation in the floor, trunk and fenders.
Honourable mention: Honda Passport
Released in 2019, the first ever Honda Passport slots in nicely between the CR-V and the Pilot. Blending on-road manners and off-road capability, the mid-size SUV rides on the same platform as the Ridgeline pickup and comes standard with an i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system for optimal traction in virtually all conditions.
Beneath the hood a smooth 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 engine powers the five-passenger Passport, which yields a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds.
Top pick: 2020 Jeep Gladiator
Think of the all-new Jeep Gladiator as business in the front and party in the back. Essentially a four-door Wrangler with an extended wheelbase and a five-foot bed, the vehicle combines the best of both worlds delivering all the rugged off-road fun the brand is known for, but throwing in the practicality of a truck.
Head-on, the look is unmistakable. The signature seven-slot grille is present although tweaked a bit: wider spaces in-between the vertical sections take advantage of increased airflow, and the top is gently curved for aerodynamic purposes.
The grade-topping Rubicon model includes Jeep’s proven Rock-Track 4×4 system. Full-time torque management and Tru-Lok locking differentials means the most difficult of terrain is conquerable, aided by skid plates all around, heavy-duty steel rear bumper, 282 millimetre ground clearance and 762 millimetres of water fording.
When pickup duty calls, the body-on-frame Gladiator has a payload of 1,600 pounds and ability to tow a maximum 7,650 pounds (with available Max Towing Package). The 787-millimetre longer frame compared to the standard Wrangler allows for a lot of extra cargo to be carried, too.
Honourable mention: 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Recipient of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Best EV award, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid remains North American’s only partially electrified minivan. What’s not to love?
The vehicle is able to travel 50 kilometres in zero emissions mode, achieving a fuel efficiency rating of 2.7 Le/100 km, or 800 kilometres when using both electricity and gasoline. For 2020 a new Red S Appearance Package bundling 18-inch “Black Noise” aluminum wheels and Rodèo Red Nappa leather seating.
Honourable mention: 2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
In the 4C Spider, Alfa Romeo offers something few marques can: an Italian-handcrafted mid-engine sports car inspired by a rich racing history. Built using an F1-esque carbon fibre monocoque chassis, the incredibly lightweight roadster weighs less than 1,128 kilograms.
Packing an all-aluminum 1.7-litre turbocharged four cylinder motor producing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Alfa can rocket from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 4.1 seconds.
2020 Lexus IS Black Line Special Edition
Lexus’ enthusiast favourite the IS is still in its third generation, returning this year in sleek, dark packaging. The Black Line Special Edition is available as either an IS 350 AWD or IS 300 AWD and is essentially an F SPORT Series 2 spec that’s been smoked out — cue the triple black LED headlamps, black rear lip spoiler and 18-inch Black Vapour Chrome wheels.
Customers may also choose between two exclusive colour combinations like a Magnese Luster (gunmetal)/black interior or Obsidian Black/black and blue interior. In addition, Ultra White and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 paint configurations are sold as well.
Matching the aggressive styling are a number of unique cabin appointments: two-tone Nuluxe F SPORT seats, a heated leather and indigo blue wood steering wheel, and dark blue wood accenting.
2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
For those seeking a different option in the crowded compact crossover space, there’s the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Recently given a makeover, the face of the vehicle looks significantly different featuring bolder front slats, a more defined chrome DYNAMIC SHIELD element and sharper LED headlights.
It’s not just the front fascia undergoing an upgrade either. The hood and fenders are bulked up causing the SUV to look wider, and at the other end a pair of lower mesh vents have been added underneath LED taillights.
The three-diamond company has added a Special Edition trim level that comes with heated front seats, next generation eight-inch Smartphone Link Display Audio infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, lower bumper garnishes and large roof spoiler.
2020 Kia Telluride
Entering the eight-passenger segment for the first time is Korean manufacturer Kia, after launching the flagship Telluride last year. Conceived and assembled in the United States, this flagship SUV is created to perform and be darned comfortable to boot.
An efficient and robust Atkinson Cycle 3.8-litre V6 engine, pumping out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The large vehicle handles better than expected, and in most weather conditions, due in part to four-wheel independent suspension and on-demand all-wheel drive.
There are other surprises waiting inside. Occupants will notice brushed metal and matte-wood finishes, and when opted for, double-stitched, quilted Nappa leather upholstery. Both the first and second rows offer optional heating and ventilation, while the third is reclinable.