Top Five of 2019 by Mike Johnston:Family comes first in Top Five

Boy was I wrong.

The Civic has been Canada’s top selling car for two decades, so Canadians know what they like.

The 1.5-litre direct injected turbocharged engine was quick off the line and the six-speed manual transmission was fun to drive. Most drivers will opt for an automatic transmission but if you can, a stick shift is just fun to drive.

Honda listened to some of the negative press it received and replaced touch controls for the radio and heat and air conditioning with large rotary knobs.

They not only make it easier to use but look good.

If you are looking for a sporty Sedan, the Civic Si is a no-brainer.

Fourth – Cadillac XT6 2020 

It’s rare I get a chance to drive a new vehicle before a lot of other automotive journalists but that was the case with the Cadillac XT6 (price as tested, $81,328).

I had seen the advertisements everywhere when it was launched so I was looking forward to seeing what was so special about this vehicle.

The XT6 is Cadillac’s entry into the three-row seat SUV market but in a nimbler size.

The Escalade offers three-row seating but it is more of a truck than an SUV. The XT6 is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 matched to a nine-speed transmission.

The drive was smooth and it handled all types of weather during my week behind the wheel.

I drove the XT6 a lot at night which let me try out the night vision, a $2,300 option. As the system picks up a pedestrian they are highlighted in yellow on the screen behind the steering wheel.

It worked very well, and even in heavy downpours, it identified people before I even saw them.

The XT6 was fun to drive and it didn’t take long for me to figure out why Cadillac was so excited about its newest vehicle.

Third – Volkswagen Atlas 2019

I always seem to have a Volkswagen on my list.

Last year, there were two. The Jetta, which is maybe the perfect car and the Tiguan.

This year, I spent a week with the company’s largest SUV. And it wasn’t just me who noticed the Atlas (price as tested, $54,975). People at work had lots of questions about the SUV. That interest is usually saved for more sportier vehicles.

But as people get older, have kids, they need a solid people mover and you can’t get any more solid than the Atlas, which has only been available for two years.

Powered by a 3.6-litre VR6 engine and matched to a Tiptronic 4Motion eight-speed transmission, the Atlas moved when required while offering more than enough room for passengers in the second and third row.

My tester had the Captain’s seats in the second row, making it a lot easier to get in and out of the third row.

The interior of the Atlas continues the tradition of Volkswagen getting everything right.

The digital cockpit is a breeze to use and can be changed for different looks. The infotainment system is great and controls are quick to learn.

A great drive paired with great style makes this Volkswagen SUV a winner and a great choice for families looking for a solid people mover.

Second – Toyota Corolla 2020

I’m not sure why, but in all the years I have tested vehicles, I had never been behind the wheel of a Corolla (price as tested, $26,990).

I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again, as the Corolla is number two on my favourite cars, I was able to drive in 2019.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. A small, cramped car with not a lot to offer drivers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Corolla was spacious, stylish and fun to drive.

As I noted in my write up, I had driven the bigger Camry the week before and the Corolla was not a step down in any aspect.

The 1.8-litre direct injection four-cylinder engine matched to a 10-step CVT transmission really made the Corolla move. Leave the car in Eco or Normal driving mode and the gauges are outline in a cool blue colour.

Switch to Sport mode and the colour changed to a hot red. I’ve written numerous times about how Sport mode doesn’t really make some cars move quicker but the Corolla was the exception.

And it won’t hurt your wallet as it cost me just $25 for gas during my week.

I now understand the appeal of the Corolla. It is a solid people mover. It isn’t flashy but it has lots of nice features and won’t break the bank.

First – Buick Regal 2019

The Buick Regal was the biggest surprise of the year for me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before getting behind the wheel but I didn’t even consider how much I was going to like driving this car.

My perception of Buick sedans was that they were for older people who had made some money and were looking for a comfortable ride.

Man was I wrong.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission really made this car move. It was surprisingly fast.

Take a walk to the back of the Sportback Regal (price as tested, $45,250) and you won’t find a trunk.

It features a liftback, like you would find in a hatchback. This lets GM provide 892 litres of cargo space. That’s more than twice the room you would find in a regular truck and by folding down the rear seats you get about 1,700 litres of room, that’s better than some CUVs and SUVs I have driven.

The interior is nicely laid out and unlike some cars, it took just seconds to sync my phone with the audio system.

There’s plenty of room inside the Regal for four adults and a third person in the back seat won’t feel cramped. The car has an overabundance of standard features and all-wheel drive is available for those Canadian winters.

In a world where SUVs and CUVs have caught the attention of most vehicle buyers, the Sportback offers a nice compromise with sophistication and luxury you want in a Sedan.