A Quick Dive Into the Unique Cars of Canada
While the selection is similar to what we get in the US, there are some interesting exceptions that remain north of the border.
David Patterson, a.k.a. "That Dude In Blue," recently posted a video about the rarely discussed car culture of Quebec. I can tell you from personal experience that he nailed it quite accurately. My wife is from Montreal, and we just spent most of a week there attending a family wedding. But what fascinated me even more than Quebec's car culture was the small selection of models, new and old, available in the Great White North that didn't make their way to the States.
Unfortunately for American enthusiasts, there is a government ban on importing any car less than 25 years old that was not approved for sale in the US. A Canada-spec Ford Focus is fine, but an R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R is not. Canada has a similar import ban, but it's only 15 years. That's how I stumbled across a street legal R33 GT-R parked behind Gibeau's Orange Julep in Montreal, along with three or four R32s. The only other time I've ever seen so many GT-Rs in one place was at the 2016 New York International Auto Show, where Nissan showcased one of every generation of the GT-R at the unveiling of their latest model.
But not all Canadian unobtanium is exotic like the GT-R. One day I found this Nissan Micra, another car we never got in the US, parked next to me in Cote St. Luc. Subcompact hatchbacks aren't exactly popular here, so it makes sense why Nissan chose to withhold this one, about the same size as a Chevy Spark. The Micra was one of the most common small cars I saw there. Don't dismiss it as unimportant to enthusiasts, either. The Nissan Micra Cup is a Canadian series of six races across Ontario and Quebec that features the diminutive hatch.
Another Nissan that's not available in the US but common in Canada is the Nissan X-Trail. This SUV was positioned below the Xterra and Pathfinder and only sold in Canada for 2005 and 2006 when the Rogue replaced it. For Canadians, the X-Trail is just another compact SUV, nothing special. But every one I passed caught my eye because we don't have them where I live.
But I think my favorite Canadian car is the Acura CSX. Look closely and you can make out the lines of the Honda Civic it's based on. The CSX is a premium compact car that combines the practicality of a Civic with the "luxury" of an Acura. Think of it as a follow-up to the Integra sedan, but built and only available in Canada. This may look like a rebadged JDM Civic, but in fact, the opposite is true. The CSX came first, and Honda liked it so much they adapted it to become the JDM Civic. I can even see design elements of the CSX in the latest Civic. In this photo, you can see the pentagonal grill that has been adopted by other Acuras to replace the unpopular chrome beak. If I ever move north of the border I'd seriously consider buying one of these as a daily driver, specifically six-speed 197 horsepower CSX Type-S.