Almost everyone wants to get into a crossover these days, from drivers to the companies that make them. You can’t blame them. Low oil prices and urban versatility make CUVs a wise choice.
With that in mind, Honda is taking aim at the entry level crossover market with its new HR-V.
The HR-V is small for a crossover, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t feel that way. Even though it’s based on the small Honda Fit, you’d be hard-pressed to say the HR-V is much smaller than its big brother, the CR-V. Beside a traffic light, the Fit-based crossover appears almost a foot shorter.
Starting at the back, the trunk is big enough to swallow enough groceries from a big supermarket run, or a stroller and an array of bags for a weekend jaunt.
The back isn’t cramped, and I fit my 5-foot-11 frame behind the driver’s seat with knee room to spare but with my head just shy of the roof. No space constraints up front.
Cabin quality is typically Honda-solid. There’s a no-nonsense aspect to the layout and everything is where you’d expect it to be.
The USB ports, stashed at the bottom of the centre console behind the shifter, aren’t the easiest to get to. In a way, you may be less likely to be distracted by your phone with this placement.
Speaking of connectivity, the infotainment system features a screen that’s well-placed and easy to read. Pre-set text message replies are handy, and overall phone integration works well. The voice recognition picks up commands with ease.
One complaint with the infotainment system, however, is that it is really all-encompassing. With its electrostatic screen, you’ll need to ditch your winter gloves to change simple things like the volume. Granted, the steering wheel-mounted audio controls provide another way to adjust your soundtrack.
Despite all the outdoorsy hype that comes with crossovers, the HR-V is most at home on city streets. It handles tight parking spots with the precision of an experienced cakemaker writing a birthday greeting.
Under the hood, however, is where things could use improvement.
The 1.8-litre four cylinder engine, the only available unit, is noisy and feels underpowered in the HR-V when coupled with the continuously variable transmission.
Pairing it with the CVT is perhaps not the best option, but it’s the only way to go if you want the HR-V with all-wheel drive.
If you can drive stick, get the manual transmission. Honda makes great shifters and it should work well in the HR-V.
Opting for the manual ‘box, the buzzing CVT gives way to a six-speed manual that the driver can thrash around, pulling a better response from the engine.
But back to the CVT. Putting the ‘ute into Sport mode improves throttle response. With the HR-V shifter set to “S,” the HR-V feels better on the road.
There’s also Econ mode, activated by pressing a green leaf button, to save you visits to the pumps.
Rock-solid Honda build quality is only available from, well, Honda, and that trait shines through after spending time with this CUV.
Drivers looking for a spacious, compact crossover might find their right vehicle in the HR-V.
When the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge first came out earlier this year, I thought it had a neat screen that was particularly useless.
The “edge” in the name reflects the phone’s curved edges along the longest sides.
At first I thought ‘Why do we need a curved edge on a screen?” Consumers usually want more battery life, a bigger screen and more space to store their cat videos and selfies.
Samsung touted the fact that notifications could show up on the edges, so the whole screen wasn’t bothered by push alerts. It was not a bad idea. But the curved edge also seemed a little gimmicky.
Apparently, I was wrong. Consumers loved the screen so much, it’s back, bigger and better than before.
The latest iteration, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, has a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Perhaps the freight-train-long moniker exists so consumers remember it. Regardless, it appears to be aimed to go up against the iPhone 6+.
The screen is spectacular. Measuring 5.7 inches diagonally, it’s the most vivid and sharpest display I’ve seen on a smartphone. Although on paper it’s not as sharp as its predecessor, the S6 Edge, the reproduction is top notch.
With an infinity pool-like screen, the Edge+ easily draws attention to itself and gets noticed.
To take advantage of the edge, the phone has a launcher-like application that lurks alongside the periphery of the screen on whichever side you choose. Swipe out to quickly connect with a contact or launch a favourite app. It’s not obtrusive at all, which sometimes meant I forgot it was there and din’t take full advantage of it.
When reviewing the first S6 Edge, I would often accidentally activate edges of the screen with the palm of my hand. That happens less now with the Edge+. Perhaps the software has been improved and the handset can better detect unintentional contact or I’m more vigilant of how much more of the phone is a touchscreen rather than the frame.
RAM has been upped to 4 GB from 3 GB, while the processor is an octacore.
Nothing appears to get in the way of this phone’s processing firepower. The increase in RAM helps to soothe any concern that Samsung’s Touchwiz user interface, which is slapped on top of Android Lollipop.
The look and feel is upscale, alongside that of Apple’s iPhone 6+. The glass back looks particularly luxurious, but be warned that it’s at the mercy of change and keys in your pocket (while the front display’s Gorilla glass is much hardier).
The camera captures the best images of any smartphone I’ve used. It’s a 16-megapixel unit with a f1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization. The latter is unusual for smartphone cameras, since most use electronic image stabilization, if at all.
In this case, it’s the lens that moves to capture a sharper image, not some software guesswork.
Details are sharp, colours balanced and the shutter is quick. There’s a RAW shooting mode too that will save uncompressed image files which can be better manipulated later on.
The phone can also shoot 4K video and it can stream live directly to YouTube (not at the same time).
Speaking of which, the phone features next-generation LTE technology, enabling a maximum download speed of up to 450 Mbps. (Hint: If you’re in range of a cell tower that offers such connectivity, perform a speed test with someone on a regular connection. Chances are you’ll win).
While the handsets don’t ship with a wireless charger, the device is capable of such charging with optional equipment. Regardless, the handset is also fast-charge compatible, meaning you can juice up completely in about 90 minutes. This feature is also designed to compensate for the fact that the battery is not removable.
Samsung says it found very few users ever removed their batteries, and improving the charging characteristics is a better solution for users looking to get an electrical boost.
With a price tag that starts at $949 for the 32 GB model, this Edge+ is one of the priciest handsets out there.
Chances are you’ve probably never heard of Alcatel, and you didn’t know they make smartphones.
Most of the time when shopping for an Android smartphone, consumers see offerings from companies like Samsung, Motorola and LG. What’s this Alcatel I speak of?
Well, let me introduce you to the Chinese company’s OneTouch Idol 3. Available flat-out for $349 it’s a relatively affordable Android device that packs above average performance.
In the palm of my hand, it feels as sturdy as a high school calculator, which isn’t saying much. The plasticky construction is something I haven’t felt in several years. By comparison, Motorola’s Moto G starts at $199 and feels sturdier and more upscale.
That Moto, however, can’t compare in the performance section and would be beat out by the Alcatel handset.
Behind the Idol 3’s screen sits competent hardware. It’s quarterbacked by a quad-core 1.5 Ghz processor mated to 2 GB of RAM. While there’s only 16 GB of internal memory, it can be expanded up to 128 GB with a microSD card.
Users with more than just a few apps – and an appetite for listening to more than just a few dozen songs – will be best suited to taking advantage of the phone’s expandable storage option.
The phone spurs to life smoothly and behaves with seemingly no lag. Apps like Instagram scroll smoothly and games like Need For Speed perform with ease.
The full HD 1920×1080 HD screen reproduces colourful images, perhaps with not as much contrast as competitors – but it’s definitely sharp at 401 ppi.
Users will find the volume rocker on the right and the power rocker on the left edge. This may take some time to get used to, particularly for those accustomed to phones in which this is switched (as many will find).
Speaking of audio, the Idol 3 has stereo speakers above and below the 5.5-inch screen. This arrangement, not often found on smartphones, is a pleasant surprise. It helps music videos come to life and provides for a more immersive gaming experience.
It’s also a feature that makes the Idol 3 “reversible” – in a way, it’s never upside down.
As is the case with other inexpensive Android phones, the rear-facing camera isn’t spectacular.
With the Idol 3, Alcatel is using a 13-megapixel image sensor coupled to a fast f2.0 lens system. It produces adequate images when the lighting is good. In dimly lit situations, images are grainy and sometimes blurry. The 8-megapixel front-facing camera works well for taking sharp selfies, helped by a wide-angle lens.
Battery life appears to be above average and I was able to get more than a day of moderate usage out of the handset. Two days would’ve been possible, if I pushed it.
Overall, the Alcatel One Touch Idol 3 packs a lot of performance for a phone with a mid-level price range. If a great camera isn’t a priority, grab a good quality case and the Idol 3 is good to go.
Recently released images show an incredible stash of high-end cars collecting dust in a Vietnam warehouse.
The vehicles were seized by police back in 2013 when investigators busted a car smuggling ring, GTSpirit.com reports.
At the time, authorities caught suspects driving 15 luxury and high-performance vehicles across the border to China.
Since the seizure, 144 vehicles have been dormant in a warehouse.
The selection of vehicles is astonishing. There’s a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, a Maybach 62S…the list goes on.
Check out more images over at GTSpirit.com.
Should you slow down with urgency or coast with caution to a red light?
A new feature set to be available on certain BMWs will tell drivers when traffic lights will change, and whether they’ll be seeing red or green.
The Bavarian automaker is rolling out a new feature that taps into the traffic signal network of certain cities in the U.S. and Australia in order to tell drivers what’s about happen on the lights ahead.
Powered by Connected Signals, a cloud-based system that receives red or green light data from various cities, drivers will receive a relevant chime or visual notification based on the anticipated behaviour of upcoming lights. The app also uses data from the car, such as its location and speed.
If the light is about to turn red, they will see a red light notification on the dashboard display accompanied with a countdown. Likewise, the same will happen for a green light.
What if the driver is about to turn left or right rather than drive straight through? If the turning signal is activated, the driver won’t receive a traffic light notification.
In a statement released late last week, BMW USA said any BMW with the BMW Apps feature will be compatible with Connected Signals’ Enlighten App.
Drivers without a BMW can still get the app, but it won’t integrate with their dashboard displays.
It’s not known if the feature will be available to Canadian BMW customers at the same time as U.S. availability.
Why know the lights?
One obvious benefit is that drivers may be able to arrive at their destination more quickly if they’re able to “beat” the lights.
However, BMW highlights the potential for this feature to increase safety and save fuel because the predictions will help drivers avoid unnecessary acceleration or sudden breaking.
The actual savings might not be as remarkable, however.
Other features available from a handful of automakers are also designed to save fuel, without having to keep an eye on the traffic signals.
Many vehicles are available with start-stop systems which turn off the engine at stop lights, or in stop-and-go traffic. The fuel savings, however, may not be considerable.
Some cars with large engines can also turn off cylinders when the extra oomph isn’t needed.
Today’s new cars are available with enough technology to keep you travelling at the right speed, in your lane and awake for the journey.
However, your 2002 Audi or GM might look sleek but seem long in the tooth without the ability topark autonomously and create Wi-Fi hotspots.
Fortunately, there are ways to make your old car smart without having to get dirty under the hood.
Almost all cars built since 1996 have something called an on-board diagnostic port, or more technically speaking, an OBD-II port.
It’s this portal that lets you turn your old ride into a more modern, Internet-connected machine.
Most drivers probably don’t even know what an OBD-II port is, much less know where it is. Hint: look at the bottom of your dashboard, probably in the bottom-left corner by your hood release lever.
When dealerships say they’re going to “scan your car” for problems after you report seeing a dreaded “Check Engine” light, they plug their garage’s computer or tablet to the OBD-II to see what’s wrong with your car.
It’s this port that gives you a window to your vehicle’s soul. All drivers need is an OBD-II port reader and a smartphone.
Lemur’s BlueDriver is a simple, basic option that costs about $100.
The dongle, about the size of your key fob, plugs into the OBD-II port and then links up with your phone over a Bluetooth connection.
Drivers and passengers are able to see real-time data from the car, including engine load, emissions information, fuel consumption, etc.
The BlueDriver can also identify and decipher error codes, suggesting possible solutions to a variety of problems. Perhaps that pesky “Check Engine” light is due to a bad oxygen sensor.
While most dealerships may still want to perform their own diagnostics, drivers can still head to the shop with a good idea of what’s wrong under the hood.
Mojio is a niftier OBD-II gadget from a Vancouver-based company. But unlike BlueDriver (and similar competitors), this one is more advanced.
It relies on an always-active 3G Internet connection to transmit your vehicle and driving information back to the cloud — and the driver.
From hard acceleration to unnecessary breaking, Moijo is designed to provide drivers with more than just raw numbers.
Error codes will prompt mobile alerts, while the analytics platform will help drivers see why their fuel-sipping car is blowing through tanks of gas.
However, the steady Internet connection requires a subscription ($4.99/month) so the Mojio won’t be constantly communicating with the driver’s cellphone over a battery-draining Bluetooth connection.
Drivers not wanting to pay a monthly subscription can also consider the Dash or Automatic OBD-II port devices.
Recipes for automation
Ok, you can’t program your old jalopy to drive itself just yet. But the cloud can help make your time behind the wheel more efficient.
Recipes available on IFTT (If This, Then That) can trigger events in your digital ecosystem based on where you drive, how you drive, or what you need to do while driving.
For example, Mojio drivers can receive a mobile alert if their battery runs low. Automatic drivers can prompt their car to turn on their house lights when they get home. Dash can send a tweet to let your followers know you’re on the road and not reading their 140-character posts.
And should your dashboard’s error display light up like a Christmas tree, Automatic can send those error codes to your mechanic via email before you’ve even had a chance to open the owner’s manual.
As you hike through Algonquin Provincial Park or ski down a powder bowl in Whistler later this year, look out for the drone following you from above.
A new wave of autonomous drones fitted with self-tracking cameras appear destined to change the way we record our memories.
Just as a loyal lapdog won’t leave its owners alone, the devices — capturing photos dubbed “dronies” — are capable of tracking people’s movement. As the subject bikes, hikes or boats along, the recording drones will automatically follow the action.
Dronies swarm Kickstarter
From Lily to Zano, several dronie-inspired start-ups have been littering crowdfunding websites with their pitches. In return, they’re getting enough support from the public to build their self-shooting drones – and still have enough cash left over to buy a real plane.
Available for preorder at roughly $323, Zano is one of the most affordable dronie tools we’ll see on the market.
The company’s launch plans follow an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. Its creators set a respectable goal of approximately $237,000, but instead raised almost $4.5 million from 12,075 backers.
Slated to ship in July, the Zano is about the size of a grapefruit and can fly for 10-15 minutes.
In order to keep you in frame, it communicates back to your Android or iOS device via a Wi-Fi connection.
At the other end of the spectrum is the US$1,349 Hexo+. While the price tag is a little steep, footage captured by this GPS-linked drone is incredible and it’s available for order right now.
While both the Zano and Hexo+ drones are more expensive than your typical selfie stick, it’s hard to argue with such stunning shots.
Beyond selfie sticks
Recently, it’s become the norm to see snowboarders with a GoPro at the end of a pole, or mountain bikers with an action camera mounted to their handlebars. Don’t forget about Fido; pet owners are even attaching action cameras to their dogs.
Selfie sticks, however, can get in the way of action. Cycling star Alberto Contador appears to haveslapped down a fan’s selfie stick during a stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
They’re also illegal at several tourist hotspots,in Canada and across the rest of the world.
That raises questions around regulations: How will we prevent Johnny’s and Jimmy’s dronies from colliding in the terrain park? Can Janey’s and Sally’s drones avoid each other along the mountain bike path?
Days before lawyers from the City of Toronto and Uber appeared in court to deal with an injunction against the ride-hailing service, two local taxi companies released new mobile apps.
The apps would give customers the power to book a ride, track their cab and pay through the app itself. Sound familiar?
Uber first disrupted the Toronto cab industry more than three years ago, launching on March 15, 2012. It’s since expanded in Canada to Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton.
Uber customers could check the location of nearby drivers, see a fare estimate, track the location of their cab and pay through the app.
In May 2015, Toronto’s Beck and Co-op Cabs were ready to compete.
Beck’s app, released on May 20, is billed as “Canada’s first taxi-company app with in-app payment, map views and many more features…”
Testing out the app, it doesn’t seem to compare as well. The Beck app doesn’t show the location of nearby cabs (until a booking was made), and an attempt to change a booking prompted an error message that read “Order Not Editable.”
During one of my attempts to book a cab, I received a call back from a friendly Beck agent because I didn’t specify an address, I had just dropped the “Pick Me Up” pin at an intersection (and the app didn’t detect a nearby address). The agent on the phone did tell me that humans dispatch the cab drivers, not the app — much like the Beck app in 2012.
The app, however, did provide a fare estimate.
Co-op’s ‘GATA Hub’ app (get a taxi anywhere) wasannounced Friday and is a better solution. It provides fare estimates, advanced cab tracking and in-app payments. Reviews left in the App Store are favourable.
Legality vs. convenience
With the case in court, Uber launched a social media campaign Monday to build support for its ride-hailing service in Toronto.
Early Monday afternoon, the hashtag #uber4to was trending on Twitter in Canada.
Only Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair photos were trending higher.
Most tweets marked with #uber4to praised the convenience and affordability of Uber rides.
— Sari Abdo (@MindofSari) June 1, 2015
Some posts, however, raised concerns over safety and pricing.
Also Monday, traditional taxi drivers gathered outside Toronto City Hall, staging a protest against the digital disrupter.
In an ironic twist captured by one Twitter user, several cab drivers appeared to be protesting the very service they may be active on
— Douglas Judson (@dwjudson) June 1, 2015
When asked how many “normal” taxi drivers use Uber, company spokesperson Susie Heath told CTVNews.ca that “thousands of drivers in Toronto have partnered on the platform as a new way to earn.”
So much support for a service tangled in legal and policy proceedings may be a testament to its convenience, but Uber isn’t in top gear just yet.
Despite customer praise shared on social media, Uber continues to run into trouble with policymakers.
In a statement issued last October, the City of Toronto said UberX – a version of the app that allows everyday drivers to pick up fare-paying passengersin their own vehicles — violates municipal bylaws and “may post a serious safety risk.”
Uber continues to claim it is a technology company, connecting riders with drivers, while city regulators across Canada say it is an unregulated taxi service.
Samsung’s Galaxy S line of phones, for the most part, stand out for solid screens, fast hardware and generally good cameras. But the construction never felt as solid as the specs would warrant.
It’s not like the handset of the S5 would shatter if it were to slide off a table, but the phone didn’t feel rock solid.
Not only does Samsung’s latest flagship Android device feature innovative hardware, it now feels like the premium handset that it deserves to be known for.
The perimeter of the device is wrapped in a metal frame, meanwhile the back cover is a solid, albeit permanent, slab of glass.
It survived several tumbles from a spinning bike, and one fall from my hand while I was trying to unlock my car in the freezing cold. The damage? Just a scratch on the edge from the pavement.
Despite the beefy feeling of build quality, the handset is still remarkably light, weighing in at only 136 grams.
The downside is that 1) there’s no option to add a microSD card for expandable memory and 2) you can’t swap out the battery. While many consumers are unlikely to replace the battery after a couple of years, some hardcore users may miss this flexibility.
On the upside, the phone is available in healthy storage configurations: 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB varieties.
The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen looks stunning and is the best-looking display on the market right now. On the S6 Edge, the left and right sides of the display are curved away from the front, thus the ‘Edge’ moniker.
This unique bend in the design makes it appear as though images and video and displayed in pseudo-3D, kinda like icing on a cake that adds depth.
Why else would you want a curved screen? Well, another benefit is the potential to see notifications displayed along the edge, so as to not disturb the rest of what you’re seeing on the screen. Or perhaps it’s a subtle text message visible from the curved display lurking under your phone’s case. The curved screen is not a feature I fell in love with, and there are two other potential drawbacks to consider.
In addition to the ‘Edge’ premium (about $100), the curved display makes it a little difficult to pick the phone off a table without disturbing what’s going on on the screen itself. So, for example, you might accidentally exit an app playing a soccer game, or pause a YouTube video.
Maybe it’s my stubby man hands, but I’d save the $100 to avoid this problem.
The rear-facing 16-megapixel camera features optical image stabilization to help produce sharper photos, and what a camera it is. Inside the dark, dimply-lit Parliament buildings during a recent trip to Ottawa, the S6 captured images in rich in detail despite not using the flash.
That’s thanks to the fast F 1.9 aperture which really excels in low-light situations. It’s also a damn fast camera too, ready to snap stills in 0.7 seconds.
When asking strangers to take a photo of my and some friends (sorry, no selfie stick here), they would inadvertently think the phone wasn’t taking photos because the shutter was just so fast.
Speaking of speed, the 64-bit octa-core processor provides more than enough juice for the S6 to crunch through everything from gaming to SnapChat.
With such a big screen and a fast processor, what is the battery performance like?
Yes, the battery in the Edge is smaller than what was used in its predecessor, the S5. But on that trip to Ottawa, the S6 helped me navigate through the city, take photos at touristy spots, browse the web, watch YouTube, use Instagram, hail an Uber, call the lost Uber driver, and then stream more YouTube to a TV late into the night.
Samsung has made its Android user interface, Touchwiz, less obtrusive, lending the S6 a fairly no-nonsense Android experience. Sure, it isn’t a pure Android phone (straight from Google, such as with the Nexus devices) but the latest Samsung likely won’t have users noticing the extra layer of software.
If you’re in the market for a smartphone with a big, gorgeous screen and a fantastic camera, the S6 should be on your list. And if you want to stand out from the crowd (and don’t mind paying extra for it), the Edge will turn heads wherever you go.
Google already has a gadget in the streaming video sphere: Chromecast. But the company’s new $99 Nexus Player and Remote is aimed to offer viewers something extra than just a physical remote.
First, let’s review what was already in the market.
Chromecast is a cheap $39 dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI slot, and can stream everything from Netflix to what’s open on your desktop web browser.
The Nexus Player, meanwhile, looks like a small, 12-centimetre flying saucer that is connected to any TV with an HDMI cable.
The Player packs impressive 802.11 ac MIMO connectivity, meaning that your home network will never be the reason video stutters or playback fails. Few devices support that standard, and chances are it’s faster than the speeds your own router can support.
Usually, some people would prefer a hard-wired Ethernet port over WiFi for video devices, but 802.11 ac is just as good without the messy cables.
Inside there’s a 1.8 Ghz quad-core Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of built-in storage. The device runs Android TV, a version of Google’s mobile operating system optimized for the big screen.
A big draw for some users is the possibility to use the Player as a gaming console with the $39 Gamepad (available separately). I didn’t have a chance to try this out, but the hardware inside the Player coupled with the Gamepad suggests the two could work well for gamers.
Otherwise, it’s hard to screw up a streaming stick or a simple set-top box these days, and the Nexus Player doesn’t disappoint here.
Streaming video to the TV from a variety of sources is easy, whether it’s from YouTube, Netflix, Google’s Play store or your own media stash using Plex.
Just use the remote to navigate to what it is you’d like to watch, and the video is piped through to your big screen. The remote also has a built-in microphone, in which case you can just tell the Player what it is you’d like to watch.
The interface is a lot more user-friendly than it is with the Chromecast, and the performance is much more reliable.
The app selection could be broader, but that’s likely to improve over time. It would also be nice if the Player had a USB port or card reader so you could play content from storage devices directly.
For some, the Nexus Player will be an ideal device to get because of its gaming potential. For others, the device is a Chromecast on steroids. Either way, it does what it’s designed to do well