Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — You know you’re a hipster-road-trip-junkie nerd when you walk into the car-porn extravaganza that is the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) and the first vehicle that catches your attention is a Volkswagen Camper.
That camper, part of a local 99.9 FM Virgin radio contest, is certainly not designed to compete with the heavy hitters on the floor of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre but I didn’t care — I’ll always be a big fan of the VW camper. I said it two years ago and I’m saying it again today.
Three Reasons to Love the Auto Show
Visiting CIAS is fabulous for three reasons. First, you see vehicles like the Camper, as well as cool gadgets and concept cars that many people in your circle probably won’t appreciate.
Second, it’s an outstanding tourist attraction and a must for people who love cars or even just like them a little. It doesn’t hurt if you’re a shameless gearhead with oily hands and lugnuts falling out of your pockets. The good news is you don’t have to be a gearhead — one of the remarkable things about this show is the number of families that show up just to see the different vehicles. It’s big business. Make no mistake — this is a show where millions of dollars are on the line, deals are made and reputations are secured. With that being said, there is something at this show for all ages and most people who come to CIAS just want to be close to the action and get a glimpse of a really cool automobile — especially eye-catching up-and-comers like Ford’s new GT1, which was unveiled at the show.
Third reason? You can see some of the coolest trends in the industry, and there have been many over the years. One of the most important ones that has driven the market is the push for cleaner cars. CIAS is not only a splendid opportunity to get a first look at some of the environmentally friendly advances made by the automotive industry, but also a chance to check out other interesting and innovative developments.
Canadians Demand Green Vehicles
This year’s show kicked off with the Canadian Green Car of the Year competition, where the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) announced the award’s four finalists: Honda Fit, Kia Soul EV, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry Hybrid. The winner will be announced at the Vancouver International Auto Show in March.
While not a finalist for the award this year, one manufacturer that has a great record for clean cars is Hyundai. Michael Ricciuto, director of product and corporate strategy at Hyundai Auto Canada, was on hand for the launch of the Tuscon Fuel Cell.
“The Tuscon Fuel Cell, is the first mass-produced fuel-cell vehicle ever in the world, and we’re launching it here in Canada this year,” said Ricciuto, adding that the vehicle is only going to be sold in the Vancouver area because hydrogen fuelling is only available in that market right now. “It’s incredible technology where you combine oxygen that’s in our atmosphere with hydrogen, there’s an electro-chemical process through the fuel cell itself that creates electricity and drives the electric vehicle.”
It Is Possible To Look Cool In A Minivan
Vacay.ca has always written about road trips and encouraged Canadians to get on the road and see the country up close. Minivans continue to be a very good choice for long treks — especially if you’re travelling with a family. The minivan has a bit of a reputation for being an ego-killer, though, with many people choosing to hit the road with fancier cars.
Clare Dear, an award-winning journalist and president of AJAC, says Chrysler is a leader in the domestic market for minivans. Honda, Toyota and Nissan have minivans that are available as well but unlike their predecessors, they don’t lack for style.
“For some people, they may have a large family plus all their stuff. So you probably couldn’t beat a minivan for that kind of situation, especially with two or three kids and all the stuff that they’re taking on a holiday. In terms of packaging, there’s probably nothing better than a minivan for them. But then there are a lot of people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan,” says Dear. “So that sort of pushes people toward the SUV, which sort of blossomed out of the minivan concept. Some people want the added height, and vision that you get in an SUV. Many SUVs are available with three rows of seating so you can get the seating capacity of a minivan. The issue there is if you use the third row, there’s no space for cargo, and that can be an issue. But if it’s a situation where it’s a couple and one child, a nice sedan would probably be adequate for them.”
While the question of what’s adequate and reasonable will always be an important factor when considering what car is best for you, the best part about the Canadian International Auto Show is that you can dream. Can you see yourself in a Toyota FT-1 or the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider? How about a $437,000 Rolls Royce Ghost 2?
At CIAS you can dream big all you want and you don’t have to feel silly doing it — everyone else at this show will be doing the same thing.
MORE ABOUT CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW
Tickets (includes GST): Adults, $23; Children, $7; Family Pass, $45
Dates: Show runs until February 22, 2015.
Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front Street West, Toronto, ON
February 18-21: 10:30 am-10 pm; February 22: 10:30 am-6 pm