It’s been years since sales of new passenger cars have had a larger market share in Canada than the sum of all the pickups, vans and SUVs consolidated under the “Truck” sales category. And the first half of 2021 was no different.
Overall, new vehicle sales in Canada were up 33.2% on a year-over-year (YOY) basis for the first six months of this year compared to the historic drop in sales during the same period in 2020. But of the 868,394 new vehicles sold in Canada, passenger cars only totalled 167,620 units, an 18.2% YOY gain*.
As we reach the halfway point of 2021, here are the most popular new passenger cars that Canadians have bought so far this year.
10th place: Nissan Sentra – 5,006 sold
The front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger 2021 Nissan Sentra is a really good compact sedan. It has to be. Even though the world is SUV-crazy, automakers are still making and selling excellent examples of the compact car craft. The Sentra, now in the second year of its 8th-generation, holds its own among them. And with a YOY sales increase of 103.0%, Canadian buyers seemingly agree.
9th place: Volkswagen Jetta – 5,607 sold
Although the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta is relatively unchanged for 2021, for the first six months of this year, Canadians bought 19.7% more units of the front-wheel-drive 5-passenger VW compact sedan than during the same period last year. Because it was redesigned for 2019, the Jetta’s tech and safety features remain fresh. Similarly, the driving dynamics continue to be refined and athletic—only amplified with the Jetta GLI sports sedan.
8th place: Volkswagen Golf – 5,707 sold
Volkswagen Canada saw a decrease of 16.2% in YOY Golf sales.—the only car on this list to record a sales drop. This despite the Golf not being crazy expensive (it isn’t) or that the front- or all-wheel-drive (in Golf R form) 5-passenger VW compact delivers the high-quality feel and sporty driving manners of a much more expensive European car. An all-new 8th-generation Volkswagen Golf is coming to Canada for the 2022 model year, but only in the form of the high-performance GTI and R variants.
7th place: Toyota Camry – 6,012 sold
With this list dominated by compacts, the Toyota Camry is the lone mid-size family sedan representative, with sales up 58.7% compared to the same time in 2020. Last year Toyota introduced all-wheel-drive to the 5-passenger front-wheel-drive Camry and the model’s first TRD performance variant. This year, Toyota improves this bestseller with freshened looks, the debut of Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, and a revised infotainment system.
6th place: Mazda Mazda3 – 6,209 sold
With its blend of sophisticated styling, upscale interiors and refined ride and handling characteristics, Canadians continue to be fond of Mazda’s latest 5-passenger Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback. With sales up 17.4% compared to the first half of 2020, that love affair continued. For 2021, a new turbocharged version of the existing 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine is available, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive standard.
5th place: Tesla Model 3 – 6,400 sold
As Canada’s most popular battery electric vehicle (BEV), it’s no surprise to see the Model 3 sedan on this list. The smallest Tesla recorded a 14.3% YOY sales increase for the first six months of 2021, and for many good reasons. The 5-passenger Model 3 delivers sleek styling inside and out, available AWD, and an impressive driving range of 423 kilometres—even withthe least expensive Standard Range Plus trim.
4th place: Kia Forte – 7,486 sold
The 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive Forte sedan and Forte5 hatchback deliver a lot of value. And with sales up 32% YOY for the first six months of 2021, Canadian buyers seem to agree. Accepting that it’s all in the eye of the beholder, we’d still venture that the 2021 Forte would get a thumbs-up from most people for its aesthetics. There’s a hint of Stinger (Kia’s highly rated sports sedan) about it, which is a good thing.
3rd place: Hyundai Elantra – 12,486 sold
The all-new 5-passenger front-wheel-drive 2021 Hyundai Elantra compact sedan is a bit longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing model. The new gas-electric Elantra Hybrid trim is equipped with a dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission and multi-link rear suspension. Also available for the first time is the sporty new Elantra N-Line, powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine with a stout 201 horsepower. The updates have increased the Hyundai's popularity with Canadian buyers to the tune of a 28.8% YOY sales increase.
2nd place: Honda Civic – 20,243 sold
While a redesigned Civic is being released in Canada for 2022, the ever-popular Honda compact saw a YOY sales gain of 11.3% for the first half of 2021. While Honda dropped the 2-door coupe model, the 5-passenger Civic can still be had as a sedan or versatile hatchback. It also offers multiple engine choices and either a CVT automatic or manual transmission. Also in the offering is the track-worthy Civic Type R hatchback. The sporty Civic Si model is taking the year off for 2021, set to return for 2022.
1st place: Toyota Corolla – 20,572 sold
With a YOY sales surge of 39.2%, Toyota’s Corolla just nudged past its Honda rival to capture the crown as Canada’s most popular passenger car so far in 2021. The most recent front-wheel-drive Corolla compact is the best iteration yet of the world’s highest-selling nameplate. In either 5-passenger sedan or hatchback form, the Corolla comes packed with safety and driver-assistance features that cost extra in an Audi, tech you still can’t get in a BMW, and refined driving manners that could have passed for a Lexus not that long ago.
*Vehicle sales based on manufacturer-supplied information between January 1 and June 30, 2021.