The 2018 Canadian Car of the Year is a Honda - and the Best Utility Vehicle is a minivan
By Jim Bray
Looks like Honda might be wise to buy a bigger display case to hold all the international awards its new Accord is receiving.
That's because, after being named 2018 North American Car of the Year at the car show in Detroit, as well as scoring its way onto the Car & Driver 10 Best Cars list yet again (for about the 1,000th time) Honda's all-new Accord sedan has won the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, presented under the auspices of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
The 2018 CCOTY, as it's called, is the second overall Canadian Car of the Year award the Accord has snagged this decade, having also copped the top prize in 2013 for its previous generation.
The new Accord won its category (Best Large Car in Canada) in the initial balloting, putting it head to head against the other car category winners: the Mazda 3 (Best Small Car in Canada) and Volvo's S90/V90 (Best Large Premium Car in Canada). And while the Accord wasn't my choice for the Best Car in Canada, I did predict it would take the crown.
So the best car you can buy in Canada right now has a continuously variable transmission and annoying nannies. On the upside, it would drive really well with a real transmission (you can get a six speed stick on some models, and Honda's manuals are very nice traditionally) and its interfaces are much better than the fiascos Honda has been inflicting on consumers for a few years. So, yeah, the Accord is a great car; just not to me.
As for Honda's reaction, well to the surprise of absolutely no one anywhere, the company is very pleased. "We're honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from a group of respected automotive journalists in Canada," said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. "We're both proud and thankful for all of our associates who supported the production and development of this vehicle and for our passionate customers who have supported the Accord for the past forty years."
The all-new for 2018 Accord isn't a particularly handsome vehicle (of course beauty, as I've said often, is in the eye of the key holder) but it does feature an upscale and quite luxurious look in this ground-up redesign. Honda says it features "a lighter and more rigid body structure, an advanced new chassis design wrapped in a more sophisticated, sleek and athletic design with top class interior space and comfort."
Drive train options include two all-new, high-torque VTEC turbo four cylinder engines (no V6 anymore, boo hoo), as well as the first 10 speed automatic transmission offered in a front-drive car. There's also a new generation of Honda's two-motor hybrid technology available, for those who want to replace their smog emissions with smug emissions (or just to save some gas money).
Maximizing the Minivan…
Meanwhile, Chrysler's Pacifica minivan was named as the 2018 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. It beat out two Mazdas for the title (CX-5 and CX-9), either of which I would have chosen over the Pacifica, though I also have to admit that I actually enjoyed driving the Pacifica hybrid when I had it.
Minvans are probably the least sexy vehicles on the road these days (well, there are buses and garbage trucks…) but they're certainly big on the utility aspect that was the basis of this category. I'd rather be torn apart by wild dogs than actually own a minivan (a bullet I dodged - both the owning and the being torn apart - when our kids were small) but I certainly understand their appeal and the benefits.
But we live in an automotive universe that, since the advent of the minivan decades ago, now offers three row SUV's and those, to me, can give you almost all the minivan hauling advantages without feeling like you're driving a big dust buster or a small bus. Maybe you won't be able to take that 65 inch TV home in the SUV, but how often do you have to do that anyway?
All of which may make it all the more remarkable that, in this day and age, a minivan would be voted Best Utility Vehicle. I guess the numbers, and the votes, don't lie.
"There's an extra air of significance when one of our homegrown products wins a domestic award," said Reid Bigland, President and CEO, FCA Canada. "Chrysler Pacifica's recognition as 2018's Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year reinforces its position as the most awarded minivan of the last two years, and provides important third-party validation for the exclusive suite of versatility, style, safety and technology that it brings to Canadians."
The Pacifica is built in Canada, too, which probably didn't hurt its chances.
On the upside, at least I called both the Pacifica and the Accord as the inevitable winners - unlike in most years, when my powers of prognostication have proved less than prescient. Of course, my skills as a seer were pretty straightforward: given that I am usually wrong about the winners, I just picked the car and utility vehicle I'd be least prone to buy. And doesn't that just figure?
From the three finalists in each category I'd have chosen the Mazda 3 for Best Car which, while not all-new this year, is still a great vehicle. I'd have opted for either of the Mazdas for Utility Vehicle, too, because they're both terrific.
Don't get me wrong: the Accord and the Pacifica are both excellent vehicles, even if they don't particularly turn my personal crank. If I wore a hat, I'd take it off to Honda and Fiat Chrysler.
Upon the announcement of this year's winners, AJAC president Mark Richardson said "we're thrilled to declare the Honda Accord to be the Canadian Car of the Year for 2018, and the Chrysler Pacifica to be the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. They've both been decided through the most vigorous system of testing possible by AJAC's automotive professionals. They're both deserving of being considered the very best vehicles you can buy in 2018."
The winners were announced at the Canadian International AutoShow, held this week in the Centre of the Universe (a.k.a. Toronto), the announcements coming after a year of journalists' test drives and two rounds of balloting by the nearly 100 voting members of AJAC. Unlike in other years, we could drive the vehicles during our regular road tests during the entire year, as well as at the Car of the Year TestFest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (nee Mosport) in late October.
Each of us scored the rides on many different factors, such as performance, features, technology, design, fuel consumption and overall value for money. The vehicles that scored the highest in each class were declared the category winners, and those 14 champions were voted on again to winnow the list down to three finalists in Car and Utility categories.
The nice thing about testing vehicles outside of TestFest is that you're (usually) in your own neck of the woods, on roads and in conditions that are familiar. The nice thing about TestFest is that you drive category combatants back to back, which gives you a better "apples-to-apples" perspective even though the drives themselves are (usually) a lot shorter than the ones we get at home.
The result is a pretty decent cross section of cars, minivans, trucks and SUV's duking it out fender to fender, which makes AJAC's overall Car and Utility Vehicles of the year pretty good examples of the best that's available in the Canadian marketplace today (even if some snotty writers think they know better).
Congratulations to Honda and Fiat Chrysler, indeed. Well done.
Copyright 2018 Jim Bray
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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