tyres

Tyres That Bind

Underestimate the value and importance of a good set of tyres on your car at your peril.Read more


Opinion: Distracted Driving

Are we so addicted to staying connected that we will risk our lives and others for the sake of a paltry text or tweet?

When you get in behind the wheel do you drop your phone into the side pocket and leave it there? Or is that familiar ping just too hard to resist?Read more


Honda Civic

Honda Civic: Out of this World

I had just parked the Honda Civic on a city street and was getting out to admire my handy work when a passer-by nodded in the car’s direction while speaking on his mobile phone and said “gorgeous car”. That doesn’t happen very often, not least when driving a sub-€25,000 mass market hatchback.

But the Honda Civic had more surprises in store for me aside from avant-garde looks. Read on.

Design

The Honda Civic is a little bit of a Marmite car – you will love the way it looks or you will seriously dislike it (see more photos here). It’s sharp and angular and looks like nothing else in its class, bringing a futuristic and original look to the hatchback segment. The current model is lower and wider than the previous model and has been designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind - the result is a sporty, athletic profile. LED daytime running lights and 16” inch alloys fitted as standard add to the dynamism. The downside of the Civic's unusual exterior design is that the rear spoiler splits your view out the rear window and visibility is poor towards the rear corners of the car.

Honda Civic
Honda Civic: avant-garde looks you won't find anywhere else in this segment

Inspiration for the Civic’s interior came from cockpits of jet fighter planes and race cars and it shows - the instruments feel like they wrap around the driver’s seat and the futuristic look continues inside with attractive indigo illuminated dials and digital displays to inform you of vehicle information. While there are a lot of hard plastics about, the quality of the cabin is very good and the build quality is what you would expect from a Japanese hatchback. But it can’t match the Volkswagen Golf for classy feel and straightforward, functional layout. Again if you like “different”, then you will probably adore the interior of the Civic.

Civic interior
Interior inspired by cockpit of race cars and jets - cool!

It is very comfortable inside and spacious with useful storage spaces dotted throughout. The boot is big and deep - 401 litres in addition to a 76 litre under floor compartment that brings the total volume to 477 litres. However, there is no spare wheel - the Civic instead comes with a tyre repair kit as standard. The rear doors open at 90⁰, handy for accessing the rear seats, and the rear seats can be folded down or rearranged in a variety of ways thanks to Honda’s innovative “Magic Seats”. You can even flip up the rear seat cushions to carry tall objects. The practicality puts some other hatchs to shame.

Honda Civic
Seats can be folded in a variety of ways

Driving

The new 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel engine has transformed the Honda Civic and the low emissions make it ideal for the Irish market. It’s an excellent engine, both exceptionally frugal (78mpg) and powerful (120bhp). It never feels under pressure and it’s easy to keep the car in its power band. And it’s quiet!

There is an enjoyable lightness to the steering and the Civic is as easy to drive on the motorway as it is in town. The Civic has a new suspension that soaks up the bumps in the road well while it still feels sporty and agile if you want to throw it around corners at the weekends. It stayed settled for me over some seriously rough roads and while it may lack some of the steering feel and preciseness that makes a rival Ford Focus sparkle in this department, it is still a lot of fun to drive when you match it to that powerful, smooth 1.6 litre diesel engine and a snappy six speed manual gearbox.

Economy

The official economy figure is an amazing 78mpg and the 1.6 i-DTEC engine comes fitted with fuel saving start stop technology as standard. The Honda Civic has been designed with fuel efficiency in mind and the diesel model even gets little gills on the rear wings to enhance air flow over the sleek body. The addition of an econometer in the driver’s line of vision that advises you on how your driving style is impacting fuel economy by changing blue to green when the car is being driven economically is further evidence that fuel efficiency was at the forefront of the engineer’s minds when building this car.

Honda Civic
Indigo illuminated dials are very nice to look at

Equipment

There are three trim levels available on the 1.6 litre i-DTEC Civic:  Comfort, Sport and Executive. Comfort models get Bluetooth, six airbags, alarm, remote central locking, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, 16" alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, electric front and rear windows and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Sport trim adds dual zone air conditioning, auto lights/wipers, front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, cruise control and speed limiter, front fog lamps, leather steering wheel and gear knob and alloy pedals.

Executive trim adds leather interior, heated front seats, glass roof, and satellite navigation and colour touchscreen.

Verdict

The Honda Civic is a cool hatchback that deserves your attention. It's very practical but don't confuse that with boring. You can have a bit of fun with this and it's as enjoyable to drive as it is to look at. And the new diesel engine is real triumph, combining great performance with refinement and economy.

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Comfort
Price: 
€24,195 (Range starts at €21,895)
Engine: 
1.6 litre, turbocharged four cylinder diesel
Power: 
120bhp
0-100km/h: 
10.5 seconds
Economy: 
78.5mpg (3.6l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 
94g/km
Tax band: 
A2 (€180 per year)

Caroline Kidd


smart fortwo

Smart By Name And Smart By Nature

Smart by name and smart by nature. The smart fortwo set a new standard for small and smart urban mobility when it was launched in 1998. Since then over 1.5 million have been sold.Read more


Fiat 500

Bon Voyage! Choosing The Best Rental Car

Summer time means holidays and that might mean renting a car abroad to get off the beaten track and see places that you would never visit if you were to rely on public transport alone.

Renting a car abroad can be amazing fun. It can also be amazingly stressful with a myriad of rules and regulations for driving in a foreign country to get your head around before setting off. Driving in a left hand drive car on the “wrong” side of the road on unfamiliar roads can also be like learning to drive all over again.

While we may dream of exploring Europe in a Mercedes C 63 AMG Coupe, the reality is that most of us will be picking the cheapest car on the list.

Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé
Choosing a rental car: how about this white Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé?

Take my sister for example. She’s planning a driving holiday around Northern Italy and is finding herself charmed by the cheap and cheerful Fiat 500. I’m telling her that the Fiat 500 will be perfect for “escaping” from the central Milan rental car pick-up point, but out on the motorway I’m not so sure if this charismatic Italian will be the best companion.

You see a Fiat 500 is great for driving around city streets and parking where space is at a premium. But comfortable motorway cruiser? I don’t think so. The last time I drove a Fiat 500 on a motorway I needed a good lie-down afterwards.

My point is that renting a car abroad is a little bit like buying a car at home but on a smaller scale. Though the car will only be in your company for a few days you still need to think about how you will use the car and what it needs to do for you to make your holiday as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.

So briefly, here’s my short list of things to consider when choosing a suitable car to rent for your next holiday abroad:

  • How many people do I need to carry and will it be big enough to carry their luggage?
  • Will I be using this car for the cross-country/continent road trip of the decade or just for short journeys to the beach and local tourist attractions?
  • Is this car suitable for the type of use? e.g. Is it comfortable? Economical? Spacious?
  • Will I be confident driving it? e.g. Is it compact enough? Is it a manual or automatic?

Enjoy and don’t forget to pack the driver’s licence!

Caroline Kidd


Ford Focus

Ford Focus: Confident & Competent Hatchback

The current Ford Focus has been around since 2011 but with a new model just around the corner why is it still one of the bestselling hatchbacks in its class? Let’s find out.Read more


Ford EcoBoost

Petrol vs Diesel

The petrol vs diesel debate is a popular one, isn’t it? Everyone has an opinion on it. Those that buy a diesel car will defend their purchase with gusto. People like me who still potter around in old petrol cars will smugly argue why petrol cars are the best thing since sliced bread - despite being taxed to the hilt as if public enemy number 1 on the road.

Well here’s my tuppence worth - I’m going to tell you why I love petrol cars. Not big thirsty V8s, just normal, small, run-of-the-mill petrol cars.Read more


Fiat 500L

Feeling Very European In The Fiat 500L

The Fiat 500L is Fiat’s five seat MPV that promises to deliver the style of the Fiat 500 city car and the space and versatility of an MPV. It might not be an obvious choice for a young driver but if as part of your lifestyle you often or occasionally need lots of space to carry people, IKEA flat packs or stuff for hobbies (you know adventure sports and that sort of thing), then trust me, the Fiat 500L is worthy of consideration. Here’s why.Read more


Toyota Aygo

Toyota Aygo Joins Customisation Crew

City cars are cheap to buy, cheap to run, easy to drive and great cars for young drivers. But some of them are just plain boring and not so great to drive.

Luckily the latest generation of city cars come with lots of options for customisation so we can stamp a little of our personality onto our cars.

And underneath the flash exterior, you will find that small cars punch well above their weight in terms of comfort and driving dynamics.

The latest city car to arrive here Read more