New EV Test Track re-energizes the Canadian International Auto Show

While short, the indoor test track delivers a taste of what EVs have to offer

After a two-year hiatus, the Canadian International Auto Show is back in Toronto with an extensive catalog of cars you can actually buy and supercars most can only dream of affording.

However, with the growing interest in electric vehicles (EVs), this year’s Auto Show offers a new attraction, an indoor test track that’s available to all attendees that hold a full license.

I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of electric vehicles for purely superficial reasons. I find EVs sterile looking and quite boring to look at.

An EV should be more futuristic, with looks like a DeLorean, a fully digital touch-screen dashboard across the entire car and offer design features like a wacky blue interior to help it stand out.

Instead, the electric vehicle market is saturated with SUVs and infotainment systems that consist of a tablet slapped in the middle of a dashboard without much thought.

Because the average EV often looks so uninspiring, I assumed the driving experience would evoke the same feelings. In that sense, The Canadian International Auto Show’s new EV indoor test track is the perfect opportunity to target an audience that feels apprehensive about these cars.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to drive around an indoor test track?

Attendees have a choice of 13 cars from multiple car manufacturers including the following:

Cadillac Lyriq
Chevrolet Bolt/Bolt EUV
Hyundai Ioniq 5/Kona
Kia Niro/EV6
Nissan Ariya
Subaru Solterra
Lexus NX450h+
Toyota RAV4 Prime/bZ4X
VinFast VF 8

For my test track session, I drove the Hyundai Kona, the Ioniq 5’s slightly less popular, smaller sibling. It took about half an hour to finally take the car for a drive, though the wait time changes based on the model you want to drive.

As expected, there are rules while on the test track, the main one being that you can’t exceed more than 30km/h. This means you’re not tapping into your inner Lewis Hamilton but rather channeling how you’d drive with your granddad in the passenger seat. It also means you don’t get the chance to fully experience what it would be like to drive the EV on a real road.

These limitations make sense because otherwise, the EV test track experience would shut down after a few hours due to crashes and angry drivers barking at each other. Once I got into the Kona, my driving session lasted roughly 5 minutes (which is equivalent to two laps around the test track).

After my session was over, I couldn’t help but feel that the experience felt a bit short. This would have been solved by having at least one more lap so you can get a feel for your selected car. Despite my complaints, I enjoyed my time at the EV test track, and compared to my experience at previous Auto Shows, it’s a great interactive attraction.

On the more positive side, I like that despite the limiting rules of engagement, you still have complete control over the car. It’s not a simulated experience or a glorified joy ride. It also accomplished its goal, not necessarily selling you on a specific EV but rather opening your mind up to visiting a dealership for a proper test drive.

While I’m not totally sold on an electric vehicle yet, I am a lot more willing to test drive one in the future. The Canadian International Auto Show is open until February 26 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The EV test track can be accessed on the 800 floor.