By Amy German

by Iulian Boz

This year’s Montreal International Auto Show (January 18-27) had a lot to offer. Aside from presenting upcoming models, new concepts and the latest technologies, there were lots of activities for the entire family.

Honda gave Montreal a gift by premiiering its new concept of Honda Gear at the show. This is a big surprise for Montreal, since it hadn’t seen a world premiere since the 1980s. It is a small car that will not be produced, but it has a remarkable style targeted mostly at young consumers.

Earlier Honda had announced its new SUV concept at the Detroit Auto Show. This small urban SUV will make its way into mass production sometime during the next two years. Smaller than the CRV, this new crossover will be built on Honda Fit platform. The innovative design and fuel-control technology makes it an interesting choice for someone who wants a relatively compact car, with all-wheel drive and maximum interior space for both passengers and cargo.

Speaking of fuel consumption, this auto show was proof that automakers are shifting towards green driving. Even in the large pickup truck category, fuel economy has become a major concern. General Motors will introduce the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado with its new direct ignition and direct injection technology and a new type of engine lubricant that will deliver more miles per gallon.

Currently, Ford advertises its new 2013 F-150 as the best combination of power and gas consumption ever. Even the new 2014 Impala is supposed to consume 24% less fuel than the previous model. The trend of the North American automakers to make smaller cars continues. GM presented the new Chevy Trax, a small SUV with an amazing 1.4 turbo engine that will deliver up to 138 horsepower.

Subaru is clearly accommodating Canadian driving conditions with its new announcements. The 2014 Forester and Forester DIT deliver 175 and 250 horsepower respectively. The automatic versions come with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that controls the rpms and keeps them at an optimum point, which allows for better fuel consumption. Only the 175h/p version is available with a manual transmission.

Also, the 2013 XV Crosstrek comes in three versions. It is built on the Impreza platform, but is a pretty tall car, and with Subaru’s symmetrical AWD is a great car for Canadian weather. For sports-driving enthusiasts, Subaru presented the 2013 BRZ, which is the first Subaru without all-wheel drive. It is a fun-to-drive car, and the rear-wheel drive delivers an amazing sporty performance. Interestingly enough, this model was made in partnership with Toyota. Scion FRS is the equivalent model on Toyota’s side.

Nissan redesigned the Altima, Sentra and the Pathfinder. All the 2013 models come with Bluetooth, cruise control and board computer. Most of them will also come with a “Nissan Connect” GPS system that is powered by Google Points of Interest.

The handyman trucks got lots of attention, since Nissan put lots of work into designing cargo space and utility of their trucks, like the ladder that slides from the roof along the side of the vehicle.

Mazda will be launching models with SkyActiv technology, a new Mazda technology for fuel economy. It will be available for diesel engines as well, and surprisingly enough we should expect a SkyActiv turbo diesel version of Mazda 6 in Canada in September 2013. It will be the first diesel car in North America from a Japanese car manufacturer.

Fiat showed two new models of the 500 series: the 500L 2014, a larger, five-door version of the classic 500, and the 500C Abarth 2013, a sportier version with a sliding roof. At the show, they were right next to the Mini Coopers: the classic, the five-door and the new Mini Paceman 2013. The new trend I observed is to create models that would target different market segments – larger cars for families and sporty versions for a younger consumer.

The auto show also provided an opportunity to take a trip into the past by presenting a representative model for each decade of the 20th century. Starting with the Ford Model T produced from 1908 to 1926, and ending with the Mazda Miata, a star of the 1990s, and the Mini Cooper, the icon of the 2000s, one could observe the evolution of car manufacturing over the years.

Aside from all the new models and new technologies, the Montreal Auto Show was primarily a fun place to be for the entire family. One of the main activities this year was the free test drive of an electric car. From the eight cars of five brands anyone could try a three-kilometre tour behind the wheels. It is a good idea to offer people an opportunity to feel what it’s like to drive one, especially when you think of how much money you could be saving. Not to mention that Quebec’s ministry of natural resources offers up to $8,000 in credits to purchasers of qualifying low-consumption cars. An additional credit is available to those who buy a charging station to use at home. Similar programs exist in other provinces and the amount of credits varies.

CAA Quebec offered a video simulator where you could try to drive “green”. Frederic Lamonté, a specialist in “green driving”, explained the theory before you tried (on the video simulator) to change your driving habits. From chasing green lights, gradual acceleration and breaking techniques, there’s lots you can learn about improving fuel economy and polluting less.

Ford’s sport driving simulator adapted for the Ford Fiesta 2014 was definitely a star activity at the show. It is a huge simulator on an elevated platform that allows movement in all directions to allow a real track-driving experience. It is equipped with three large screens for an exciting visual experience and the movements of the machine stimulate the pressures of turns, braking and acceleration. I drove a sport car on a real track once, and I can tell you that this simulator delivers an experience that is very close to the real deal.

Many other organizations were present at the show. The Sûreté du Québec was there with pamphlets and signs about driving rules, demerit points and car customization. Amusingly enough, Ticket911 (a law firm specializing in traffic violations) were distributing business cards saying how they can help avoid those points and negative driving records.

Other groups included the Centre de Formation Professionnelle de Verdun, which offers a DEP in auto mechanics in about 16 months; G1 Tour that was offering a track-driving experience for $129 (regular rates are about $400); auto insurers, car aesthetics services, and rust-proofing companies.

Whatever your interests are about the automotive world, the Montreal Auto Show delivers it all, so that you can find answers to your questions, have a good time or simply enjoy the cars.