Nearly six out of every 10 new vehicles sold in Canada are now SUVs and crossovers, and just under one-third of all SUVs and crossovers sold stem from ten nameplates. Six different auto brands control the list of Canada’s 10 best-selling utility vehicles in 2022’s first-quarter, a small group that now generates more sales activity than the entire Canadian passenger car sector.
This is the SUV’s world; cars are just living in it. And they’re barely hanging on.
Inventory shortages, the likes of which the auto industry hasn’t seen in generations, have stripped volume away from nearly every automaker and the overwhelming majority of individual vehicle nameplates. Canada’s SUV sector, however, didn’t fare nearly as bad as the market at large in 2022’s first three months.
Utility vehicle volume was off 2021’s decent pace by a small 7-per-cent margin. The rest of the market? Non-SUV sales declined at an 18-per-cent clip. The auto industry’s supply chain crisis has certainly not distributed itself equally across all corners of the market, and that’s just as true in the SUV market as in any other sector. Canada’s top-selling utility vehicle experienced a particularly sharp drop in sales; 2021’s first-quarter third-place contender saw its volume chopped in half.
Yet Canada’s SUV leaderboard is still stuffed full of home runs, including a new third-place vehicle that just happens to wear what may be the most famous SUV badge in history.
10. Toyota Highlander: 4,448, up 2 per cent
Among vehicles that come standard with three-row seating, none sell more often in Canada than the Toyota Highlander. Even before the pandemic (and a number of other factors) led to a vicious supply crisis and inflated pre-owned prices, the Toyota Highlander was a residual juggernaut, ensuring owners of lofty long-term value. Everything that was true of the Highlander is now simply more true.
9. Hyundai Tucson: 4,449, down 8 per cent
Four brands managed to land two vehicles on the list of Canada’s top-selling SUVs/crossovers: Toyota, Jeep, Nissan, and Hyundai. For too long, Hyundai persisted without an expansive utility vehicle lineup, forging ahead with the Santa Fe and Tucson when brands such as Toyota and Jeep were attempting to fill niches above and below. Yet in 2022, Hyundai is a major SUV seller. The brand now generates 72 per cent of its sales with utility vehicles. Hyundai is actually selling more utility vehicles in Canada than GM’s four brands combined.
8. Nissan Rogue: 4,648, down 50 per cent
No high-volume SUV in Canada has struggled more than the Rogue to live up to 2021’s first-quarter sales pace. Without Rogues to sell, Nissan dealers have fortunately been able to make up some of the gap with other small utility vehicles. As a result, brand-wide volume is down 13 per cent, matching the Canadian market’s rate of year-over-year decline. At this time last year, the Rogue was Canada’s third-best-selling utility vehicle.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad
7. Jeep Grand Cherokee: 4,979, up 10 per cent
With a broader lineup than we’ve ever seen from the Grand Cherokee, including a long-wheelbase three-row variant, this former flagship is well positioned for the modern automotive industry. The Grand Cherokee breaks through typical class designations: is it a luxury SUV, a genuine off-roader, or a rugged commuter destined for the school drop-off lane? It’s all of those things. Moreover, Stellantis dealers have actually had Grand Cherokees to sell, which clearly makes all the difference.
6. Nissan Qashqai: 5,169, up 73 per cent
The Qashqai’s 73-per-cent surge into the top 10 is certainly a surprise, but Nissan’s ability to sell at a high level is nothing new. Before the Hyundai Kona took over the subcompact crossover segment in 2019, the Qashqai was the sales leader. Given the Rogue’s severe inventory shortfall, the Qashqai’s presence on Nissan dealer lots this winter was certainly welcome respite.
5. Hyundai Kona: 5,363, down 22 per cent
While narrowly hanging onto its position atop the subcompact crossover leaderboard, the Hyundai Kona is presently not Hyundai Canada’s top seller. A surging Elantra has actually caused a car to once again top Hyundai’s sales charts. Besides the inventory struggles that plague all brands, how much longer can the Kona reasonably be expected to control its segment? 2022 is the first-gen Kona’s fifth model year.
2021.5 Mazda CX-5. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia
4. Mazda CX-5: 5,442, down 15 per cent
The Mazda CX-5 is set to be joined by what will surely be a noble challenger this month, the similarly-sized but more aggressive Mazda CX-50. Whether the two will get along in the sandbox remains to be seen — Mazda originally maintained both the CX-30 and CX-3 but has since cancelled the CX-3. The MX-5 Miata may be Mazda’s heart and soul, but in the broader marketplace, the CX-5 is Mazda’s public face; the brand’s identity. Better than four out of every ten Mazdas sold in Canada are CX-5s. It actually easily outsells Mazda’s other utility vehicles combined.
3. Jeep Wrangler: 6,642, up 47 per cent
The Wrangler, the only properly body-on-frame SUV on this list of best-selling SUVs, has been a relatively high-volume SUV since the JK Wrangler arrived in 2007. Rising to the podium represents an entirely new level of volume for the Wrangler, which was Canada’s 8th-best-selling SUV at this time a year ago. Competition, in the form of Ford’s scarcely available Bronco, has not had any negative impact on the Wrangler whatsoever. For the record, Ford reported 1,718 Bronco sales in Q1.
2021 Honda CR-V Sport Photo by Renita Naraine
2. Honda CR-V: 7,828, down 32 per cent
Despite losing one-third of its volume from 2021 Q1 levels, the Canadian-built Honda CR-V is actually closing the gap on its primary Canadian-built challenger. A year ago, the CR-V trailed Canada’s SUV sales leader by over 4,100 units at the end of March. This year, the margin is below 2,100 units. It won’t get any easier for the CR-V, however, as Honda approaches a production changeover in advance of the sixth-generation CR-V’s arrival later in 2022.
1. Toyota RAV4: 9,899, down 37 per cent
Despite all of the headwinds coming out of the auto industry’s 2020 crisis, Toyota Canada managed to sell more RAV4s in 2021 than in 2020. But the year didn’t end on such a high note — Q4 sales plunged 44 per cent. That’s the unfortunate trend that is continuing for Canada’s best-selling non-pickup truck. Toyota shed nearly 5,800 RAV4 sales over the first three months of the year. This serves to prove how dominant the RAV4 has become since assuming the role of Canada’s best-selling SUV in 2016. Even with its losses, the RAV4 is still outselling its nearest rival by a 26-per-cent margin.