We’ll save judgment on if these are the best new cars in Canada but they certainly attract attention. How does the search activity on unhaggle.com compare to actual sales volumes?
The Canadian new vehicle market has been red-hot of late setting sales records every consecutive year for the last five years. The volume of vehicles sold fell just short of two million in 2016 and despite predictions that the market would take a step back in 2017 it did the opposite and surpassed the two million vehicle mark for the very first time. As we approach the halfway point of 2018, it’s hard to say where sales figures will land by the end of the year, but as of the end of May, Canadian new car buyers are on pace to purchase about as many new vehicles as they did in 2017. The quest for a sixth straight year of record sales could come right down to the wire.
This begs the question, “which cars are driving these numbers?” One glance at 2017 new vehicle sales figures without further context would have you believe that our roads are dominated by pickup trucks, as they make up four of the top five sellers. Part of this comes down to selection, as a pickup truck buyer has just seven brands to choose from as compared to over thirty brands that sell SUVs and passenger cars. It should also be noted that about 20% of Canadian new vehicle sales are fleet sales (vehicles bought by a business) and they tend to buy a lot of pickups (think construction, trades, landscaping, etc.).
Before we begin, we’d like to acknowledge that while the Unhaggle user base is large, it’s not perfectly representative of the Canadian market as a whole. Our audience tends to skew a bit heavier in Ontario and leans more urban versus rural, for instance. That said, these are real in-market car buyers and their search trends shed some interesting insights when compared side-by-side with actual sales. Without further ado, here are the top ten most searched vehicles on unhaggle.com as of the end of May.
1. Honda CR-V
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 6th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 7th bestselling model
In terms of actual sales, only pickup trucks and its cousin, the Civic, outrank the CR-V. In 2017, it was outsold by the rival Toyota RAV4 (more on this later) by the slimmest of margins – just 451 vehicles. This year, it’s built a healthy lead of 1,308 vehicles through May which can be attributed to its well-received redesign for the 2017 model year. The surge in SUV popularity and the power of the Honda brand means the CR-V will likely soon hold a spot in the top five selling vehicles in Canada, perhaps as early as this year. CR-V sales are up an impressive 17% year over year through May.
2. Honda Civic
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 3rd bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 3rd bestselling model
A strong one-two start for Honda (we promise this list gets more diverse). As previously alluded to, the rise of the light truck segment (and the corresponding decline in passenger car sales) has been well documented with pickups trucks, SUVs and vans now combining to outsell passenger cars by more than two to one. That said, Canada’s best-selling passenger car for the last 20 years (!) shows no sign of giving up that crown any time soon. However, due to the aforementioned decline in passenger car popularity, Civic sales are down 5% year over year through May.
3. Mazda CX-5
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 15th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 16th bestselling model
This is the first real surprise on our list but perhaps it shouldn’t be. Both Canadian and US sales of the CX-5 have increased every year since it was launched in 2012. Like the CR-V, it also underwent a successful refresh in 2017. Category heavy-hitters such as the CR-V, RAV4, Rogue, Escape and Wrangler continue to outsell the CX-5 but this much search activity suggests that it has people’s attention and could soon threaten for a top ten spot in the sales rankings. CX-5 sales are up an impressive 14% year over year.
4. Toyota RAV4
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 7th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 6th bestselling model
As previously mentioned, the RAV4 looks to be at risk of losing its crown as the top-selling SUV in Canada, a title it’s held since overtaking the Ford Escape in 2016. With a redesign on the horizon for the 2019 edition, Toyota will be hoping that translates into an increase in customer interest similar to what the CR-V and CX-5 have seen. RAV4 sales are up a respectable 6% year over year.
5. Toyota Corolla
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 8th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 8th bestselling model
Wait, who said the passenger car segment was dying? All jokes aside, the Corolla is one of just two Sedans in the top ten best sellers and while sales are respectable it doesn’t even come close to challenging the Civic for the top spot in the passenger car category. The Corolla has built its reputation over the years as a reliable, affordable and safe car allowing it to hold off the Elantra, Cruze and Mazda3 for second place in the passenger car category. All of that aside, Corolla sales are down 12% year over year.
6. Nissan Rogue
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 11th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 12th bestselling model
Had we told you last year that the Canadian launch of the Nissan Qashqai would be a runaway success you would have been well within your rights to predict that would come at some expense to the Rogue. That hasn’t been the case, however, with sales right on pace with 2017 numbers even though the Qashqai has moved an impressive 7,100 vehicles in the first four months of 2018. For comparison’s sake, that’s almost 500 better than the next vehicle on our list. Rogue sales are flat year over year.
7. Volkswagen Tiguan
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 27th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 31th bestselling model
The Tiguan has experienced a meteoric rise up the sales charts during the last few years. After selling nearly 4,000 more Tiguans in 2017 than it did in 2016, Volkswagen is better than doubling their 2017 pace thus far in 2018. Like Nissan, Volkswagen has benefitted significantly from a major shakeup in its SUV lineup, dropping the underperforming Toureg and replacing it with the immediately more popular Atlas. Tiguan sales are up an eye-popping 100% year over year.
8. Ford F-Series
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 1st bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 1st bestselling model
Canada’s bestselling vehicle for an almost unbelievable 52 years is a victim of Unhaggle’s primary demographic (urban commuter) when it comes to this list. Nonetheless, its selling power alone means the Ford F-Series squeaks into our top ten, even as its closest competitor, the RAM Pickup barely made our top 50 most searched vehicles. While the overall merits of their bold strategic decision to transition from steel to aluminum are still being debated, it hasn’t impacted top line sales in a meaningful way. Comparing against massive sales numbers in 2017, F Series sales are down just 6% year over year.
9. Subaru Crosstrek
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 28th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 46th bestselling model
The Crosstrek has surged its way up the sales charts over the last few years. After making some improvements last year, the Crosstrek is currently on pace to be Subaru’s bestselling Canadian vehicle by the end of 2018. In fact, the reason it doesn’t rank higher on the list of bestselling Canadian vehicles is likely due to its limited supply. A quick scan of Toronto area new vehicle listings shows only 24 Crosstreks compared to over 1,000 Honda Civics. Through the first four months of 2018 sales of the Crosstrek are up an eye-popping 106% year over year.
10. Hyundai Tuscon
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 17th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 13th bestselling model
Building off the momentum of a complete redesign for the 2016 model year the Tuscon had a very successful 2017, selling almost 7,000 more units than it did in 2016. It’s come back down to earth slightly in 2018, perhaps due to increased internal competition from the new Hyundai Kona, but still comfortably maintains a spot in the top 20 selling cars in Canada. Overall, Tuscon sales are down 26% year over year.
Honourable Mention: Audi Q5
- 2018 Canadian sales rank (as of May 31): 36th bestselling model
- 2017 Canadian sales rank (full year): 49th bestselling model
The Q5 isn’t actually the 11th most searched vehicle on unhaggle.com – it’s 15th, to be honest – but it is the highest ranking vehicle that we classify as luxury. The luxury segment isn’t a huge piece of the new vehicle market but it’s growing quickly in Canada. While Audi still trails BMW and Mercedes-Benz in overall luxury brand sales by lineup, it has a star on its hands when it comes to the Q5. Q5 sales are up an impressive 32% year over year.