Caroline and Bianca in France

Changing Lanes, Arctic Swan And The Lanes Challenge

Caroline and Bianca in France
Caroline and Bianca in France

Arctic Swan, Changing Lanes And The Lanes Challenge

It all started when my friend and co-automotive blogger, Bianca Hurduc of Arcticswan, invited me to her hometown of Thionville, France. There was talk of great cars, road trips and crossing borders into Luxembourg and Germany. It was an invitation I could not refuse and I knew it would be a fun adventure with Bianca as chief-coordinator. So I checked my diary, booked some flights and packed my bag. Simples!

Bianca sorted the cars for the weekend with her contacts at DS Store Thionville and Losch Luxembourg. We also needed the latest and trendiest eyewear for our bespoke road trip. So thank you to Mes Petites Binocles who supplied us with the prettiest of sunglasses for the weekend.

Bianca also introduced a challenge aspect and so ‘The Lanes Challenge’ was born. We documented our adventures through photos and videos posted on social media. And we also made a video, which you can watch here!

Day 1: France

On Day 1, we popped over to DS Store Thionville to collect our first test car, the quintessential French DS 3 Crossback. The model provided to us was particularly special because it was the La Premiere (First Edition) with a luxurious specification that included ruby red quilted leather seats and 18 inch Black Onyx diamond-cut alloy wheels. Quelle beauté! Under the bonnet there was the 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine with 155 hp and the car featured an 8-speed automatic transmission.

I was happy to let Bianca plan and sort out our itinerary for the weekend, as I believed in her intuition and local knowledge. So where did she bring me in the DS 3 Crossback?

The beautiful DS3 Crossback from DS Store Thionville
The beautiful DS3 Crossback from DS Store Thionville

Our first stop was the beautiful Château de Malbrouck, close to the German border and the town of Manderen. Before exploring the castle, the DS 3 Crossback posed for a few shots outside the castle. The elegance and style of the DS 3 Crossback of course blended beautifully with the classic French château. Clever Bianca! I was feeling full of joie de vivre at this point, a feeling that would become very familiar to me over the weekend!

The castle was an exciting place to explore with four towers and a parapet walk. Then an almighty thunderstorm arrived somewhere after ‘The Witches Tower’ with a heavy accompaniment of rain. It was a beautiful and atmospheric experience thereafter, one that will stay with me for a long time.

Then it was time to begin making our return journey and it was my turn behind the wheel. I was super excited to drive the new DS 3 Crossback as it hasn’t arrived in Ireland yet and I really enjoyed the larger DS 7 Crossback when I drove it earlier in the year.

The significance of driving a French car through the French countryside and visiting a French château was not wasted on me. The DS 3 Crossback is smooth and agile on the road and I quickly relaxed behind the wheel. The engine is a typical gem from the PSA group with brisk performance and excellent refinement.

The interior of the DS 3 Crossback is quite individual and heavily adorned being a twist on contemporary French luxury. The diamond motif features heavily in the interior and while some of the switches can be hard to find on the move, the digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen are as clear as day!

Bianca had another surprise in store for me. The sat nav directed me to Schengen, which is a small town on the border between France, Luxembourg and Germany. The famous Schengen Agreement was also signed here, which led to the creation of the Schengen Area and the abolition of internal border checks.

I believe Bianca was slightly bemused by my enthusiasm for taking photos of road signs but she cooperated amiably. It was so inspiring to be able to walk between three countries, across the beautiful Moselle river.

Concluding thoughts on Day 1: I’ve had fun, I’ll never forget that thunderstorm, I’m tired, Schengen was awesome, I can’t wait to drive the DS 3 Crossback on Irish roads, thank you Bianca for an awesome Day 1.

The DS3 Crossback at Chateau de Malbrouck
The DS3 Crossback at Chateau de Malbrouck

Day 2: Germany

It was time to change the whole mood and pace of the Changing Lanes/Arctic Swan collaboration. And who was responsible for that change? The Volkswagen Up GTI!

Bianca had arranged an Up GTI from Losch Luxembourg as our test car for the next few days. Again, I was super excited to be driving the new Volkswagen Up GTI because it’s not officially on sale in Ireland.

The Volkswagen Up GTI looks the business in the metal. Our test car was finished in white with red and black GTI branding and elements. The Up is cute for sure and very compact! Inside, the Up GTI carries the classic GTI tartan seat upholstery and features a special red dashboard panel and gear knob with GTI badging. It’s very SMART with typical VW build quality. In terms of equipment it’s basic enough with no touchscreen, but there was air con, electric windows, cruise control and Bluetooth.

So what had Bianca planned for today? Well, she had an awesome day planned for me in Germany. And again, driving a German car in Germany was not wasted on me!

But first it was time for a challenge. I was put in the driver’s seat to take us from Thionville to Trier in Germany without GPS. Feeling confident, I hit the motorway.

It was a good opportunity to get to know the Up GTI a little better. The free revving 1.0 115hp petrol engine is perfect for nipping around town and putting larger cars to shame, while on the twisty stuff the Up GTI is fun, fun, fun, with a pure and natural feeling to the drive. You might not be going exceptionally fast but you will feel like you are flying! Volkswagen pumps some artificial engine noise into the cabin to enhance your driving experience and it’s actually a very realistic growl and adds to the sporty ambience!

So there we were on our way to Trier. Without the lady from Google maps telling us where to go. And me driving. Soon we passed the border between Luxembourg and Germany and I began to see the signs for Trier. I think Bianca was trying to distract me as she was talking a lot, which was nice of course, but I could easily have had my mind carried off to some obscure region of Bianca’s brain and missed the exit for Trier and end up in an even more obscure region of Germany.  So I politely stayed focused on the task at hand (sorry Bianca!), took the exit off the motorway for Trier, and joined the traffic on the way into the city.

At the Porta Nigra in Trier, Germany
At the Porta Nigra in Trier, Germany

I was really excited to be in Trier because it’s the home of Rallye Deutschland and I won the challenge! Finding a parking spot proved more difficult, not because of the Up’s small dimensions, but because everyone seemed to have decided to go shopping in Trier on that day. Still we got the Up parked and began walking the streets before stopping in a traditional German restaurant for some fine local food.

I was in awe that I had eaten breakfast in France and was now having lunch in Germany after already driving through Luxembourg. I observed the difference in the cultures, the way the people were dressed and how they carried themselves. We got as far as the Porta Nigra (Latin for ‘black gate’), which is a local landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 2nd century by the Romans and was the old gate into the city. Inspiring stuff once again!

Then it was back to the car, this time with Bianca taking the helm. She took me to the beautiful, picturesque Bernkastel-Kues, another chocolate box German village on the banks of the magic Moselle. The Moselle valley is famous for wine and there are vines growing just on the outskirts of town and along our driving route. This town reminded me of Ireland and all the greenery made it feel like home too.

Then it was back in the car and we followed the Moselle back home. I was driving during what was another torrential downpour. I had left Ireland seeking sunnier climes but the rain here was some of the heaviest I had ever seen!

We made it back to Thionville after our German adventure and put the Up to bed for the night, to dream of the next day’s adventure.

Day 2 highlights: the church bells at Trier Cathedral, an amazing lunch, the beautiful Moselle valley, beauty tips from Bianca in Bernkastel-Kues (!).

The Volkswagen Up GTI from Losch Luxembourg
The Volkswagen Up GTI from Losch Luxembourg

Day 3: Luxembourg

So it was Day 3. Could Bianca Hurduc of Arcticswan fame really do better today? Could she outdo herself in the itinerary planned for today? Was she still gunning for crown of France’s best travel blogger as well as top automotive blogger?

HELL YEAH because Sunday turned out to be unforgettable also.

We fired up the Up and hit the highway for Luxembourg. Our destination was Vianden Castle close to the German border. Viandan Castle has huge historical significance and is a proper fairytale castle. We must have spent a few hours there. But after an afternoon looking at old stuff, it was nice to get back into the modern cabin of the Up GTI – the coolest city car that ever roamed the earth!

I grabbed the keys from Bianca and we headed for some of Luxembourg’s finest rural roads – such beautiful roads and scenery! I was having fun.

Our destination was Luxembourg city. Now Luxembourg is a place I never thought I would visit in my life. As a kid I would have looked at the map and thought “That’s a tiny spot, I’ll never go there”. Well life has surprises for us.

Luxembourg city turned out to be a real highlight for me. But first food. Bianca knew where we could get the best burgers in town, which we did. But the Irish must have been here because there were a scary number of Irish references on the menu.

So once we had filled our tanks, it was time to explore. Luxembourg city is beautiful – elegant, clean, quirky and full of surprises. I had no idea that the city was on two levels. We had another pinch yourself moment in the Notre Dame Cathedral, as we arrived just as Sunday service was coming to a close. It was so special I cried!

SO…after another truly special day, we drove back to Thionville and put Up GTI to bed for the last time. This was going to be emotional.

Day 3 highlights: that burger, that church, that city, that plane, that video, MAGIC happened. Luxembourg you were awesome!

Getting to know the staff at Vianden Castle. Luxembourg
Getting to know the staff at Vianden Castle, Luxembourg

Day 4: Lost in Thionville

And so it was emotional. But not before Bianca let me off in the car, this time the challenge to find the centre of Thionville without GPS, park the car and behave like a French person (haha not really).

But I enjoyed exploring Thionville, itself full of history and character, and got the opportunity to talk in bad French to the people in the stores. On the way back to Bianca’s house I did the very French thing of stopping in the Carrefour shopping mall to buy nothing other than Jeff Bruges chocolate. Life was happening in Thionville just like anywhere else in the world and yes I felt happy and comfortable here.

But all good things must come to an end and it was a rather sombre Caroline and Bianca that brought the Up GTI back to Losch Luxembourg on Monday afternoon.

But Bianca had one last challenge for me. To read the description of the car in German! I took a ten-week German course when I was 21 but never really got far past hello (hallo) and goodbye (Auf Wiedersehen). But I gave it a good shot and well, I think she was impressed.

We had our memories, a thick tapestry of painting places with hearts and tyres – a weekend of fun, laughter, tears, selfies, ice cream and coffee. My heart was full and the Up was part of it.

I was touched by Bianca’s kindness and thoughtfulness towards me, to take me into her home and her family with the warmest of welcomes and finest hospitality. I was very grateful to Bianca’s motoring partners DS Store Thionville and Losch Luxembourg for allowing the Irish person they had never met to drive their cars. We had an amazing time and we are already plotting a new awesome collaboration!

The magic Volkswagen Up GTI in Luxembourg city!

A bientôt!

Caroline

www.arcticswan.com

www.changinglanes.ie

www.dsstorethionville.fr

www.loschluxembourg.lu

www.mespetitesbinocles.fr


The new Nissan LEAF 62 kWh

Carzone Shows Growing Interest In Electric/Hybrid

The new Nissan LEAF 62 kWh
The new Nissan LEAF is the most searched for electric vehicle on Carzone

New data from Carzone highlights the growing interest for electric and hybrid vehicles among Irish motorists, along with confirming the most sought-after electric and hybrid cars on the market.

The data shows that hybrid and electric car views on Carzone have increased by 53% and 106% respectively year on year.

These statistics coincide with the Government’s recent commitment to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on Irish roads with the ‘Climate Action Plan’, which details Ireland’s plan to work towards a target of 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030.

The Nissan LEAF is Ireland’s best-selling EV and has had the highest number of views on Carzone, above any other EV models, so far this year. Views for the Nissan LEAF on Carzone have increased by 19% since 2018 (from 104,311 views to 123,818). Nissan also claims the title of most viewed EV brand on Carzone for 2019 year to date.

Tesla is the second most viewed EV brand on Carzone with views of the Tesla Model S up 4% on last year.

The BMW i3 is the third most viewed EV on Carzone, with the Renault ZOE in fourth place and the Volkswagen e-Golf in fifth.

With high consumer interest in EVs, along with ambitious government sustainability plans, the demand for EVs will continue to increase in to next year, with a number of new EV launches forthcoming, including the Opel Corsa-e, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Peugeot’s e-208 and the Volkswagen ID.3.

The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a popular hybrid on Carzone

Toyota retains its position as the most viewed hybrid car brand on Carzone with the Prius Hybrid, Yaris Hybrid and C-HR increasing in popularity each year. Luxury brand Lexus is the second most viewed hybrid car brand, followed by BMW in third.

Views of the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid have increased by 75% since last year. It is the number one viewed hybrid car on Carzone for 2019 so far. Views of the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid have increased from 63,402 in 2018 to 111,250 for the same period in 2019. With a growing number of these vehicles being advertised for sale, this large SUV is proving popular with family buyers transitioning from diesel and petrol models.

The Lexus IS300h is the second most viewed hybrid car for sale on Carzone in 2019, while the Toyota Prius rounds out the top three.

Karl Connolly, Audience Manager at Carzone said, “The new insights from Carzone confirm the shift in attitude towards electric and hybrid cars over the last few years as motorists get to grips with alternative fuels and the benefits they bring. According to the 2018 Carzone Motoring Report almost two thirds of Irish motorists were planning to make the switch to an alternative fuelled car soon, and this is reflected in the views on Carzone over the past 12 months. It will be interesting to see if the interest continues to rise in the coming months and years”.


The new Honda CR-V Hybrid

2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid Review

The new Honda CR-V Hybrid
The new Honda CR-V Hybrid

Caroline drives the new Honda CR-V Hybrid!

Honda has electrified their new CR-V range with the addition of the new Honda CR-V Hybrid. Based on the new generation of the popular family SUV, the new CR-V Hybrid uses a petrol electric hybrid powertrain to deliver fuel consumption as low as 5.3l/100km and CO2 emissions of just 120g.

Priced from €38,000, the 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid carries a premium over the new CR-V 1.5 VTEC petrol (from €33,500) but comes with a sophisticated hybrid powertrain and automatic transmission. Available with five seats only, the CR-V Hybrid is a large family SUV with plenty of kerb appeal. The evolution between the styling of this new CR-V and the previous generation has been quite gentle, but there are broader and more muscular wheel arches, sharper contours on the bonnet and rear quarters, as well as the latest Honda headlight signature. LED lights and 18” alloy wheels come as standard.

If you don’t immediately fall in love with the CR-V on the outside, you certainly will once you sit inside. The Honda CR-V has a fabulous build quality and the interior is immaculately finished with plenty of soft touch materials, metallic trim and wood-effect inserts in the dashboard and doors. On all but the entry model, there is a stylish looking 7” touchscreen set in the dash with the Honda Connect infotainment system. It’s one of the best interiors in the business and large and comfortable too for a family on the move. The automatic transmission adds to the ease of use also. Headroom is excellent in the rear as are the passenger footwells and a flat floor means its not too bad for the middle passenger either. The boot is large too at 497 litres.

The interior of the new Honda CR-V Hybrid
The interior of the new Honda CR-V Hybrid

Driving the 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid

The 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid uses a 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid powertrain with 184hp and 175Nm of torque available in both the front wheel drive and four wheel drive model. The CR-V Hybrid puts its power to the road using a CVT automatic gearbox. The CR-V Hybrid is driven by Honda’s unique i-MMD technology, which intelligently and automatically switches between three driving modes – EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive – to optimise both performance and efficiency.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid is one of the most aerodynamic cars in its class and features Honda’s Active Shutter Grille system to improve fuel efficiency. The hybrid system is operated via buttons rather than a traditional gear lever – Drive, Park, Neutral and Reverse. There is also a Sport mode button for a more responsive throttle input. A short range EV mode can be selected when in town and it gives about 2 km of pure electric drive, depending on battery charge and driving conditions.

The new CR-V Hybrid is a dream to drive, with a very natural and smooth hybrid drive. It’s not the kind of SUV you want to throw into bends but the steering has still got decent feel and it's easy to place on the road. It's comfortable on the move and there's not too much transmission whine so it's a quiet and refined drive. It’s very quiet, well-insulated and refined. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.5l/100km, and the car would make an excellent choice for urban families who need a large SUV for short, frequent trips.

Rear seating in the Honda CR-V
Rear seating in the Honda CR-V

What are my options?

Honda Ireland is selling the new CR-V Hybrid in four grades: Comfort, Lifestyle, Elegance and Executive. Standard equipment includes 18” alloys, keyless entry and start, emergency call, Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment including adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist system, driver lumbar support, climate control, and LED headlights.

Lifestyle models (€40,500) add equipment including rain sensing wipers, electrically folding side mirrors, leather steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera and Honda Connect with 7” touchscreen.

The Elegance model (€43,500) has leather upholstery, front heated seats, active cornering lights and ambient lighting.

The Executive model (€49,500) has an opening panoramic glass roof, head-up display, heated steering wheel, electric tailgate and rear heated seats.

Prices quoted here are for front wheel drive models and include Government grants and reductions for hybrids. All wheel drive (AWD) models are available from €43,500.

The model I was driving was a fully loaded CR-V Hybrid Executive AWD with a list price of €49,500.

Hybrid power seems to be a rather natural fit for the new CR-V. The refinement and efficiency of the hybrid powertrain is impressive.

We liked the new Honda CR-V when we tested it last year with the 1.5-litre turbo petrol. However, while the new CR-V Hybrid is more expensive to buy it feels like a better investment for the efficiency and refinement it offers. The new CR-V Hybrid retains all of the CR-V's natural attributes: that is it's a big, comfortable family SUV with an excellent, almost premium feeling cabin. They hybrid powertrain feels like a natural fit for the CR-V and it's easily one of the best SUVs you can buy right now.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid is available from €38,000
The Honda CR-V Hybrid is available from €38,000

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Honda CR-V Hybrid Executive AWD
Price:
€49,500 (Range from €38,000)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
180 hp
Torque: 175 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.2 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.5 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
126 g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year

If you are looking for a hybrid SUV you might also like this review of the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.


We celebrated our 5th birthday with an Audi A1 and a cupcake!

Changing Lanes Turns 5!

We celebrated our 5th birthday with an Audi A1 and a cupcake!
We celebrated our 5th birthday with an Audi A1 and a cupcake!

This summer, Changing Lanes turned 5! That's five years of driving cars, attending car launches, posting about it on social media and writing car reviews!

Changing Lanes has grown up and so have I. In summer 2019, Changing Lanes also underwent a redesign. We have a new logo and this marks a new era for Changing Lanes!

I would not be here today, still driving cars without my wonderful readers. I'm so grateful for your support.

At Changing Lanes, life goes on in that I still have a test schedule full of cars and some launches and events on the horizon. Changing Lanes continues to prosper on social media.

It's been a long journey but I'm proud of what Changing Lanes has achieved.

I look forward to what the next year will bring.

Safe motoring,

Caroline.

Founder/Editor

Caroline Kidd Changing Lanes
Happy birthday to us!

a motoring journalist from Portugal and the founder of Garagem Global

Interview With João Isaac, Garagem Global

João Issac is a motoring journalist from Portugal and the founder of Garagem Global
João Issac is a motoring journalist from Portugal and the founder of Garagem Global

João Isaac is a motoring journalist from Portugal and the founder and editor of the blog Garagem Global. I recently spoke to João about his favourite cars and how he began his career in motoring writing!

1. Can you introduce yourself in a few sentences?

First of all, I want to thank you for this interview, Caroline. It really is a pleasure to share my experience with you and all the Changing Lanes readers. My name is João Isaac. I´m 33 and I’m from Lisbon, Portugal. Let’s cut to the chase: I love everything about cars. It was always my obsession since I can remember. In my youth, what started with playing with toy cars and reading all the car magazines I could buy, evolved to something that’s more than just a hobby. It’s a way of life. My way of life, I’m truly addicted to cars. Their history, how they changed throughout the years and evolved to what we know and drive today. From the iconic and expensive classics to the humblest new hatchback you can buy today at any dealership, I do believe they all have something special. They all have a story to tell. As a product, since their early development stages until the day they finally leave the roads and give way to a replacement. It’s a big journey worth sharing. And let’s not forget the most important part of a car, the memories we create while driving them and living with them through our lives. Those are the best ones.

2. What was your first car?

I inherited my first car. It’s a 1991 Seat Ibiza 1.2 GLX with System Porsche engine and was bought new by my grandparents. I still own it today and it has only 43,000 miles on the clock. It’s my pride and joy. It has huge sentimental value to me. The first car I bought is another Ibiza. It’s a 2001 model with a 1.9 TDI engine and it is my daily driver. This one has nearly 250,000 miles and has never left me stranded on the side of the road. I can't sell it either. I love them both.

3. Why did you start your blog?

My blog Garagem Global started because I needed more cars in my life. Collecting magazines, attending classic car and racing events to take some pictures, hearing the engines roaring and buy some memorabilia wasn’t enough. I also developed a special taste for photography in these events, which I thought I could use one day to shoot press cars and events I could get in to. So one day while working at an event in Circuito do Estoril (at the time I worked as a consultant in a Fleet Management company) I met Renault Portugal’s PR and made my first move. I introduced myself and told him I was beginning a new blog and that I needed a first car to review and start working on my dream job. He accepted my suggestion and a few days later I found myself driving a cabriolet Mégane. This was the beginning and soon other brands and cars followed.

João and the Mazda MX-5
João driving the Mazda MX-5 RF

4. What attracted you to this industry?

The engineering part of it plays a big role here. I have an engineering degree and my love for cars was the main reason I chose it. But as I said before, the car as a product and the way it changed throughout the years is also very relevant to me. I'm interested in knowing how car manufacturers have evolved since their beginnings and how relevant each model was and still is to the market. And of course, the act of driving. There’s nothing like driving your car, on your favourite road. As someone once said, way before me, “It's not about the destination, it’s the drive to get there that really matters the most”. If I could spend all of my time behind the wheel, I’d do it. No doubts about that.

5. What would be in your dream 3 car garage?

This has to be one of the trickiest ones. Can I change it to “Which cars would be in your 3 enormous garages?” Back to reality. I would say a fully loaded rally Spec Mk1 Ford Escort, a Porsche 911 GT3RS and something fast but usable on normal roads. Something beautiful and great to drive like an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. It can be driven hard at a race track or on a winding road, but it can also be very competent as a daily driver.

6. What has been your favourite car to test and why?

I think I have to say the Caterham 7. It gave me the most pure, analog and emotional experience possible at the wheel of a car. It’s not the most practical car in the world at all, I’ll admit it, but it is so much fun and so good to look at! I’m writing this and at the same time I’m remembering those few days I had that magical key in my hand. As I said earlier, memories.

Joao and the Hyundai i30N
João driving the Hyundai i30N

7. Most memorable moment of your career to date?

My first day working for a car magazine was very special. It was something I pursued for a long time. But later I had the opportunity to drive an Audi R8 V10 Plus at the Ascari Race Circuit. This has to be one of those moments that I will keep forever in my mind. It really was epic. I loved every single moment of that day.

8. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a motoring journalist?

Don’t stop believing and don’t stop trying. If the opportunity does not show, go around and make it happen. Find another way to make it real and believe in yourself and in your passion. I have tried for many years to start working for a car magazine and I have never made it. So I decided to work on that anyway by creating my blog. It all started way back in 2014 and I have to say I never made any money directly from that. Of course, my blog provided me a way of developing my writing abilities and a way to show my work, which has evolved into my first paid job as a motoring journalist in a car magazine during 2018. But money was not the point. That was not my objective. I started driving the cars I love and being with important people from the industry that I followed for years. That still gives me great pleasure. I enjoy it like it was the first time. My point is: use your time to make it happen. Start writing and let your motoring journalist journey begin. The path you choose will be great. I’m sure of that because there will be cars on the way. Lots of them.

Thank you to João for taking part in this interview!

You can follow João on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


The new CUPRA Ateca!

2019 CUPRA Ateca 2.0 TSI Review

The new CUPRA Ateca!
The new CUPRA Ateca!

Caroline drives the new CUPRA Ateca!

CUPRA is making a welcome return to Ireland, this time as its own standalone brand. It’s not long ago since SEAT sold a number of hot CUPRA versions of the Ibiza and Leon in Ireland. But in 2018, CUPRA launched as a singular brand within the Volkswagen Group, with plans for a line-up of tasty new performance models. The first of these to debut here is the amazing CUPRA Ateca.

New CUPRA cars, inspired by SEAT’s award-winning motorsport division, will be available exclusively from Airside CUPRA, Ireland’s only specialist CUPRA dealer.

What is it?

Based on the rather suburban Ateca SUV, the new CUPRA Ateca is anything but suburban. Priced from €49,990, the CUPRA Ateca is powered by the stunning 2.0 TSI turbo petrol engine with 300 HP! Four wheel drive as standard makes the best possible use of that power in an SUV and there’s also a slick shifting DSG gearbox that does nothing to dull down the fun.

Under the bonnet of the CUPRA Ateca, there's a 2.0 TSI petrol engine
Under the bonnet of the CUPRA Ateca, there's a 2.0 TSI petrol engine

The new CUPRA badge is out of this world and is placed around the car. My test car looked fantastic in Black Magic and drew many admiring glances though the car lacks some recognition – most people haven’t a clue what it is other than it looks fast! There’s a special honeycomb grille, glossy black trim, full LED headlights, 19” alloys, four magnificent exhausts at the rear. The CUPRA name is spelt out on the lower grille and at the rear. This car is COOL.

The CUPRA Ateca also has a fantastic interior that’s really well appointed. There’s sophisticated Alcantara trim on the door panels and on the sports seats. Copper stitching and carbon fibre effect trim also feature. A full digital instrument panel is a fine addition and is supported by the 8-inch touchscreen navigation system in the centre of the dash.

Driving the new CUPRA Ateca

The CUPRA Ateca has an independent front suspension setup using MacPherson struts and a multilink rear. The adaptive suspension system – Dynamic Chassis Control – provides a setup that can be adjusted to the driver’s needs from comfort to firm and sporty. The CUPRA Ateca also gets larger front and rear discs, at 340mm and 310mm respectively, giving greater confidence in the SUV.

The interior of the new CUPRA Ateca
The interior of the new CUPRA Ateca

The newly developed seven-speed DSG transmission has been engineered to offer a sportier feel with faster, smoother and more precise changes. The CUPRA Ateca also features launch control. All-wheel drive 4Drive technology analyses road conditions in real time and progressively delivers power at each moment to the wheels that need it. The CUPRA Ateca is clearly smart also!

On the road, the CUPRA Ateca is shockingly quick and fun to drive with the 2.0 TSI giving a fabulous performance here. It pulls hard like a hot hatch with 400Nm of torque and 0 to 100kmh in just 5.2 seconds. The CUPRA Ateca is more than reminiscent of a Golf R. It imitates the hunkered down feel of a hot hatchback well, but in the corners the higher centre of gravity means it doesn’t feel quite as planted. The CUPRA mode is the most hardcore drive setting and gives the car a ferocious soundtrack to match the bad boy looks.

So would you buy it?

The cool thing about the CUPRA Ateca is that it’s still a very on trend and practical SUV. There is seating for five and a generous 485 litre boot. So it can be your not so guilty pleasure.

The CUPRA brand doesn’t have immediate recognition now with its new badging and dissociation from the SEAT brand so that may hold the car back somewhat in Ireland. However within the Volkswagen Group, this is a fantastic machine and very well placed. A petrol powered performance vehicle with all the practicality of an SUV and the engine and performance of a hot hatchback. The CUPRA Ateca is a fantastic debut and signal of intent from the new performance brand.

The CUPRA Ateca is really very good!
The CUPRA Ateca is really very good!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: CUPRA Ateca 2.0TSI DSG 4Drive
Price:
€49,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
300 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
5.2 seconds
Top speed: 247 km/h
Fuel economy:
8.5-8.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
168 g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year

 


Driving test tips for Ireland in association with Liberty Insurance!

Top Tips For Passing Your Driving Test

Driving test tips for Ireland in association with Liberty Insurance!
Driving test tips for Ireland in association with Liberty Insurance!

Disclosure: This is paid for content. Sponsored by Liberty Insurance.

Your driving test is coming up and you’re not sure if you need to fix that broken indicator light or just how important reverse parking really is. To clear up any questions you may have, we spoke to Matthew Connors, General Manager at the Airport Driving School, to get his advice and tips to help you fully prepare for the day.

“It’s very important that people are aware of the important points, as it’s easy to make a simple mistake. People often fail a test if they park incorrectly or if they are coasting. Also, it’s important to have your Learner Permit, tax, insurance and NCT in date. It’s very common for people to fail the test if these are out of date,” says Matthew, who has been a driving instructor since 2005.

Keep two hands on the steering wheel!
Keep two hands on the steering wheel!

Here's Matthew's list of tips to help you pass your test (hint: best to avoid doing doughnuts!).

Driving Test Tips

  1. Make sure you are accompanied to the test centre, ideally with an RSA ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and don’t forget to bring your Learner Permit. Be sure to check that it is still in date.
  2. Make sure your car is in a roadworthy condition and your Tax, Insurance and NCT (if required) are in date. Also, be sure you have L-Plates on the car.
  3. Be at the test centre at least 15 minutes before your test. Arriving at the centre last minute will more than likely leave you stressed before you even begin your test.
  4. Study the Rules of the Road to make sure you have a good start with the examiner. Also, practise opening and closing the bonnet of the vehicle you are driving for the test.
  5. Make sure your car is reversed into a car parking spot as this will make it easier as you begin the test.
  6. Check your brake lights and indicators at least 30 minutes before your test time, as this may allow you time to get a replacement bulb if needed.
  7. Stay calm and drive the way your instructor trained you. Listen to the examiner’s instructions as they will give you plenty of time before any turn. (Tip - Don’t anticipate a turn even if you recognise it from your lessons, wait for the instruction from the examiner).
  8. Don’t give up even if you think you made a mistake as it may not be as bad as you think.
  9. When reversing around a corner, don’t get too close to the kerb as this may result in rubbing or mounting the kerb. Clutch control is vital to keep the car at walking pace whilst maintaining all-round observation.
  10. The ‘Turn In The Road’ manoeuvre is not a 3-point turn. In fact, it may be completed in as many turns as required depending on the width of the road and the size of your car.
  11. Coasting is a very common mistake for learner drivers. This means pressing your clutch down too early before you stop or not releasing it once you have changed gear. (Tip—Don’t put your foot on the clutch unless you are going to use it and press the clutch down approximately one car length before you plan to stop.)
  12. Practise parking because you will be required to park at a spot of your choice at the end of the test. (Tip - Park in the easiest and most convenient spot once the test is finished).

With all these tips, you will be well on your way to clutching that coveted N plate. Double-check the list and leave the flip-flops at home - good driving shoes essential!

Once you pass your driving test, great value car insurance for young drivers from Liberty Insurance will get you Ready for the Real World.


The new Peugeot Rifter

2019 Peugeot Rifter Review

The new Peugeot Rifter
The new Peugeot Rifter

Caroline drives the 2019 Peugeot Rifter.

Van-based MPVs will never be the sexiest of people carriers. But what they do offer is outstanding practicality at good value pricing! The new Peugeot Rifter is a case in point. The replacement for the Peugeot Partner Tepee MPV sports new styling, a versatile and practical interior as well as the latest in Peugeot technology, engines and interior design.

With pricing starting from just €23,540, the new Peugeot Rifter is a boxy people carrier available with five or seven seats. There’s also a short wheelbase or long wheelbase variant. The Rifter is no oil painting but it does bear the look of the new generation of Peugeot models with a characteristic front end. It’s also available in a high spec GT Line (pictured), which gives the Rifter considerable more visual chutzpah at a price.

The Peugeot Rifter is exceptionally spacious and practical
The Peugeot Rifter is exceptionally spacious and practical

So what's so great about the 2019 Peugeot Rifter?

Still, beauty is hardly the point here. And you will certainly find a reason to smile when you see all the space inside of this vehicle! The van DNA means that the Rifter is primed for carrying people and their gear. Sliding doors feature and reveal wide openings that make access and egress very easy. There are three individual rear seats in row 2 and lots of leg and headroom.

There are many storage spaces around the cabin. The boot is simply magnifique at 775 litres with a very low sill and flat floor. The boot also doubles as a great place to relax should you wish to take a quick break on your road trip!  The large boot lid makes a great canopy also. The Rifter is sounding more like a great buy by the paragraph.

Inside, Rifter gets Peugeot’s new generation interior. You sit quite high in the Rifter but Peugeot has done a good job to make it feel more car-like with a well-finished dashboard and a nice mix of materials and colours on our GT Line test model. Peugeot’s compact steering wheel and digital instrument cluster feature and the infotainment screen is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The interior of the new Peugeot Rifter
The interior of the new Peugeot Rifter

What are my options?

The new Peugeot Rifter is listed with a choice of three trims: Active, Allure and GT Line. Standard equipment includes 8” touchscreen, digital instrument panel, 16” wheels, full size spare wheel, air conditioning, Active Safety Brake, Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Recognition. My GT Line test car (from €28,400) adds 17” alloys, keyless access and start, High Beam Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and Advanced Driver Attention Alert, dark tinted rear windows, front and rear parking aid, dual zone climatronic air conditioning and GT Line styling.

In Ireland the Rifter is offered with the 1.2 PureTech petrol 110bhp 6-speed manual; 1.2 PureTech petrol 130bhp automatic 8-speed automatic, a 1.5 BlueHDi diesel 75bhp 5-speed manual; a 1.5 BlueHDi diesel 100bhp 5-speed manual; a 1.5 BlueHDi diesel 130bhp 6-speed manual; and a 1.5 BlueHDi diesel 130bhp 8-speed automatic.

There are three individual seats in row 2
There are three individual seats in row 2

Driving the Peugeot Rifter

My test car was the 1.5-litre diesel with 130 hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox. It does well in the Rigter with reasonable refinement and plenty of power. Motor tax is €200 per year while over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.4l/100km.

On the road, the Rifter does a decent job of offering occupants a comfortable and refined drive. It’s agile around town with light steering and handles reasonably well for a van!

You soon settle into life with the Rifter. The big Peugeot has moved on in terms of offering buyers more refinement and cabin ambience. It’s hugely practical and spacious with a great range of engines. A petrol engine option also gives it an edge on rivals. Good value pricing and lots of equipment means that the Rifter is definitely worth a test drive if you are looking for a super practical and affordable way to carry people and their stuff.

The new Peugeot Rifter goes on sale in Ireland priced from €23,540
The new Peugeot Rifter goes on sale in Ireland priced from €23,540

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Peugeot Rifter GT Line 1.5 BlueHDi 130bhp 6-speed
Price:
€31,000 (Range from €23,540)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
130 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
0-100km/h: 
11.6 seconds
Top speed: 183 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
155 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

2019 Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy Review

The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy
The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

Caroline drives the new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy!

The Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy arrived in my life in a blaze of Liquid Yellow glory. This grand event has been preceded by weeks of driving the usual motoring journalist’s blend of SUV, small hatchback and saloon in varying shades of silver, grey and maybe a pop of blue for 2019.

There I was, sitting in traffic in the Mégane R.S. Trophy when I became aware that I was driving the most obvious car in Dublin city. Why was everyone watching me? Suddenly, I felt completely conspicuous and slunk a bit lower into my Recaro seat.

Of course, leaving the car park I had devilishly slipped the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy into Sport mode. Though it was pointless, other than for the gnarly engine note. For the first time, there is a valve in the exhaust of the Mégane R.S. that allows you to adjust how noisy and anti-social your Trophy becomes. And for test purposes it was best to get right into the thick of things.

Through slow-moving city traffic, the Mégane R.S. Trophy felt tense, but well behaved. This was hardly its ideal environment but a few swift starts from the traffic lights, and pops and bangs summoned by lift off from the accelerator, beckoned to this car’s potential. I was driving the EDC automatic version, and on the downshift even at speeds below 50 kmh, there were some beautiful burbles and crackles from the exhaust. I was getting excited for the open road.

The Renault Megane R.S. is the pinnacle of what Renaultsport can offer you in terms of a hot hatch
The Renault Megane R.S. is the pinnacle of what Renaultsport can offer you in terms of a hot hatch

What's so special about the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy?

The Mégane R.S. and I have history. Late last year I had another momentous week with the Renault Mégane R.S. 280 (priced from €41,995), but the Trophy is the more hardcore version of Renaultsport’s crowning hot hatchback (priced from €46,995). The Trophy uses the same 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol unit but power is up from 280hp to 300hp, and torque is up from 390 Nm to 420 Nm in the Trophy EDC automatic. It’s shed some weight and it comes as standard on the stiffer, more track focused, “I’m going to make your jaw rattle” Cup Chassis.

Cosmetically, it’s a beautiful car in the metal, with Liquid Yellow being more like liquid gold. Swoon. The Trophy gets special 19” ‘Jerez’ alloy wheels, red Brembo® brake callipers, increased front and rear track with bespoke front and rear wings and a rear spoiler to improve aerodynamic performance.

The interior of the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy
The interior of the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

Inside it’s a pretty standard Mégane interior but there are beautiful (optional) Alcantara-finished Recaro bucket seats, carbon grey trim, aluminium pedals and an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel! It’s a sporty ambience but there are quite a few hard plastics, which are harder to stomach considering the list price of the car. But that’s a foible you could aim at rivals also.

Of more frustration is the infotainment system, which is fiddly to use on the move. However, the inclusion of Apple Car Play and Android Auto mean that you can bypass it more simply too. The standard BOSE stereo system is awesome.

The Mégane R.S. Trophy is available from €46,995 in Ireland
The Mégane R.S. Trophy is available from €46,995 in Ireland

But back to the story! What happened when I left the city?

I took the long way home of course, through the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It was midsummer, the sun shone and the tourists decided to pull in to let me have some fun. It turned out to be a fantastic test route. Not only will the scenery take your breath away, but the long straights, tight corners and mixture of road surfaces make the drive interesting too.

Under the skin of the Trophy, the limited slip differential and four wheel steering add up to amazing precision, stability and agility. The torque steer under heavy throttle is eliminated. When you quicken the pace, the Trophy flows so beautifully through corners. In these magic circumstances, I felt “at one with the car”, words I don’t utter lightly. The Trophy is elevated to the arena of the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS with a mechanical and tactile feel behind the wheel that marks out the very best.

Yes, the Trophy is a fine piece of engineering. The ride is firm and for day to day use the firm but less firm Mégane R.S. 280 on the Sport chassis is more comfortable and refined. But the Trophy is beguiling in its own way, with the tension of a true racer and the handling to match. The Trophy is not the fastest hot hatchback of all time in a straight line but sometimes the “slower” way around is more interesting. That’s certainly the case here. A true alternative.

The hot hatch of your dreams in Liquid Yellow
Take the long way home in the Mégane R.S. Trophy!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy EDC Auto
Price:
€49,995 (Trophy from from €46,995)
Engine: 1.8-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
300 hp
Torque: 420 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 254 km/h
Fuel economy:
36.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 
176 g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year


The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review

The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Caroline drives the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid!

The renaissance underway at Toyota continues in the SUV class. Not only has the brand ditched diesel power from the RAV4 line-up - and indeed the rest of their passenger car range in favour of hybrid - but there’s also a new platform that promises better driving dynamics.

The Toyota RAV4 was the original ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ (SUV). Now in its fifth generation, Toyota has reinvented the RAV4 upon the exciting new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture). In Ireland the new Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain so from herein, it shall be known as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid!

Priced from €35,900, the new RAV4 Hybrid has a stylish new look. It is a car transformed in styling terms. It is an altogether leaner and more angular SUV than the model it replaces, with more than a hint of the utilitarian design of the larger Landcruiser. It has an identity! In Ireland, 17” alloys and LED headlamps come as standard, while Sport models are available with a bi-tone paint option.

The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is available from €35,900
The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is available from €35,900

The interior of the new Toyota RAV4

Inside there is a new interior that has stepped up in terms of quality and design. The dashboard has a clean horizontal design with soft touch materials and satin chrome features. There is a more ‘rugged’ feeling to the cabin of the RAV4 than say the new interiors of the Corolla family, with some large knobs to twist for the ventilation controls. It’s a marked improvement on the old car but it’s not the most stylish of the class. There is an 8” touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, but the absence of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is a frustration.

However for buyers looking for a spacious family SUV, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid really does deliver. The new car has a longer wheelbase to create more interior space and there is generous seating in the rear for three with a flat floor. The opening angle of the rear doors has been increased so getting into and out of the vehicle and access to child seats has been made easier. The boot is also now a very generous 542 litres with a wide opening making it a practical space to work with. There is a height-adjustable, two-level deck board that can be reversed when dirty items need to be carried. The rear seats have a 60:40 split-folding function and there are storage nets on each side of the boot.

The interior of the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The interior of the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Equipment and specifications

Toyota Ireland is selling the new RAV4 in five grades: Aura, Luna, Sol, Sport and Platinum. Standard features on Aura models (from €35,900) will include 17” alloys, LED lights front and rear, dual exhaust tailpipes, black roof rails, electric parking brake, automatic lights, 7” multimedia system, dual zone climate control with rear vents, folding mirrors, driving mode selector and rear view camera. Toyota Safety Sense 2 is also standard, adding safety equipment such as automatic high beam, driver attention alert, eCall emergency call system, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, road sign assist and lane trace assist.

The Luna model (from €37,590) will add dark grey painted upper front grille, silver front underrun, chrome interior trim, auto wipers, power tailgate, Smart Entry & Start, 8” multimedia system, front fog lamps, and front and rear parking sensors.

The Sol (from €39,590) adds 18” alloys, rear privacy glass, heated front seats, leather upholstery and satellite navigation.

Sport (from €42,240) adds 18” machine-finished alloy wheels, bitone roof, projector LED headlamps, painted lower bumpers and mouldings, painted front fog lamp surrounds, unique sport leather upholstery, black headlining, driver’s electric seat adjustment and lumbar support, and paddle gear shift.

Platinum (from €43,000) features include 18” alloy wheels, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, chrome outer door handles, leather seats, grey headlining, memory driver seat adjustment, luggage net and heated steering wheel.

Rear legroom in the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Rear legroom in the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Driving the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The 2019 RAV4 has a new, improved 2.5-litre petrol electric hybrid powertrain with more power and greater efficiency. Front wheel drive models now have 218hp, while all wheel drive models have 222hp. Power is put to the road through a CVT automatic gearbox.

Toyota has also done much with the new platform to improve the driving experience. The new RAV4 has a more rigid body and lower centre of gravity with every component lighter and located lower down in the vehicle for improved comfort and driving dynamics. The response from the electric power steering has also been improved.

On the road, the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid immediately feels more natural and balanced, handling confidently through corners with more fluid steering. It falls short of being one of the more engaging cars to drive in its class, but it's a pleasant and competent drive. You sit high in the RAV4 and the driving position has been improved so you feel "more at one with the car". It's comfortable over Irish roads and properly efficient now that Toyota has ditched diesel. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.8l/100km, which is very good considering this is a large SUV! The only bugbear is the refinement of the vehicle with some wind whistle around the wing mirrors at high speeds on the motorway and the CVT transmission can get quite noisy when you accelerate hard, working better when gentle throttle is applied.

Toyota has transformed the RAV4 Hybrid into a stylish and contemporary SUV. The RAV4 Hybrid is a spacious SUV with a real individual and rugged look. With the absence of a diesel model, it's competing in a higher price bracket where standards are high. Inside there's a much improved interior, even if it is missing some sophistication. The efficiency of the vehicle is most surprising as Toyota has really delivered on creating a desirable and efficient hybrid large family SUV. The RAV4 Hybrid is a car you would be proud to see on your driveway!

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a stylish, spacious and efficient large family SUV!
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a stylish, spacious and efficient large family SUV!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Sol
Price:
€39,590 (range from €35,900)
Engine: 2.5-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
218 hp
Torque: 202 Nm
0-100km/h:
8.4 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.5 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
105 g/km
Motor tax: 
€190 per year