The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class

2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Review

The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class
The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Caroline drives the 2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class!

Five seat MPVs used to be very popular but in recent years the SUV has taken over. But when an MPV does come along in my test schedule, it’s a reminder that these vehicles still make quite a lot of sense for buyers who prioritise space and practicality. Mercedes-Benz is obviously a brand that still believes in the genre because they’ve just introduced the all-new B-Class.

As I was driving the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class, I looked around and began to see numerous examples of the previous generation of the car. Clearly the B-Class has quite a following! So why would you disappoint your core market and render it to the scrap heap?

What's new for the 2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class?

Priced from €32,745, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class has a new look in line with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range and is spawned from the very stylish new A-Class that arrived in Ireland in 2018. The wheelbase is now longer with short overhangs and a slightly lowered roof line. The new B-Class is styled to maximise interior space, but it’s classy and discrete in that Mercedes-Benz way!

The new B-Class goes on sale from €32,745 in Ireland
The new B-Class goes on sale from €32,745 in Ireland

However it’s inside the new B-Class where the real Mercedes star shines. The B-Class has an all-new dashboard design that’s really impressive. The material quality is excellent and this car gives the occupants a feeling of wellbeing with a light and spacious feel. There’s a digital instrument panel and touchscreen with touchpad control that complete the modern look of the new B-Class.

It’s a far more practical car than the A-Class hatchback it’s based on with more headroom and legroom. The new B-Class is a bit wider than the car it replaces so there is more elbow room for everyone also. There are two deep footwells in the back making it a comfortable place to stretch out the legs for a long journey. The boot is also very practical for carrying things being large (455 litre capacity) with a wide opening and low sill.

In Ireland, the new B-Class is sold in Style, Progressive (from €34,969) and AMG Line (from €37,337) trims. Standard equipment includes 16” alloys, MBUX infotainment system, reversing parking camera, leather/fabric upholstery, active lane keeping assist and heated front seats. The AMG Line car I had on test has 18” AMG alloys, sports steering wheel, AMG bodystyling, AMG sports pedals, diamond radiator grille with single louvre, LED headlamps and dual zone climate control.

The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class
The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Driving the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class is powered by new, efficient engines, all compliant with new Euro 6d-TEMP regulations mandatory from next year. Petrols include the B180 and B200. Diesels are available from €35,300 and are badged B180d, B200d and B220d with a new 2.0-litre diesel making its debut in the B-Class range.

My test car was a B180 powered by a 1.3-litre turbo petrol with 136hp and mated to an automatic gearbox. The petrol engine is smooth and quiet, only getting noisy when you really accelerate hard. When taking off the automatic gearbox can be a bit slow, but out on the open road the power delivery is smooth and effortless. Manual gearboxes are also available. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.4l/100km with motor tax of €270 per year for the B180.

On the road the Mercedes-Benz B-Class offers excellent comfort and refinement. It handles and steers competently with some body roll owing to its height, but for MPV buyers comfort is far more important, and the B-Class delivers on that.

Five seat MPVs may no longer be fashionable, but there is no disputing their value to buyers who prioritise space, practicality and comfort. The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is now more stylish than before with a fantastic cabin ambience and the latest range of petrol and diesel engines. The B-Class has compact dimensions on the road, but the interior is surprisingly roomy. The best quality is the comfort the B-Class offers on the move.

Owners of the previous generation of this car will love the new B-Class!

The new B-Class is a stylish and practical five seat MPV

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz B180 Automatic AMG Line
Price:
€38,987 (range from €32,745)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
136 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9 seconds
Top speed: 212 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.4-5.6 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
125 g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year

 


The new Toyota Corolla Saloon

Toyota Corolla Saloon Review

The new Toyota Corolla Saloon
The new Toyota Corolla Saloon

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla Saloon!

It’s fair to say that the Toyota Corolla Saloon is one of Ireland’s best loved cars. But even legends like the Corolla saloon have to move with the times. Indeed, there’s something of a revolution going on at Toyota since Toyota Global President, Akio Toyoda, declared “no more boring cars!” from the brand. At that means you too, Corolla!

The revolution is partly down to Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that is underpinning a whole new generation of models including the RAV4, Camry and Corolla.

There’s also been a little housekeeping going on at Toyota. The Toyota Auris name has now been discontinued. Instead a new family of compact models - a hatchback, estate and saloon – will all wear the Corolla badge.

The new Corolla Saloon also debuts a hybrid powertrain for the first time, which is good news for Irish buyers. Toyota’s 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain has been significantly revised and improved to make for a smoother and more efficient drive.

The Toyota Corolla Saloon is available from €25,685
The Toyota Corolla Saloon is available from €25,685

What's new for the Toyota Corolla Saloon?

In looks alone, this new Corolla Saloon is a handsome beast with a wide and low stance. At the front the styling is a small bit different to the hatchback and estate with a unique LED light signature, while around the rear it’s as sharp as a Samurai sword!

Inside the Toyota Corolla has an all new interior with improvements in design, quality and technology. There are plenty of soft touch materials and a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment. However the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the main touchscreen is a bit disappointing.

The new Toyota Corolla Saloon is priced from €25,685 with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, while the hybrid is available from €26,820. There are four trim levels - Aura, Luna, Luna Sport and Sol - with standard equipment including 16” alloys, LED headlamps/fog lamps, 8” Toyota Touch, rear view camera, dual zone climate control, and Toyota Safety Sense with adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist.

My test car was a Luna Sport Hybrid with a list price of €29,995. Equipment included 17” alloys, chrome window frame, rear privacy glass, rain sensor, Smart Entry & Start, navigation, textured chrome inserts to the interior, grey lower dashboard, ambient lighting, heated front seats and driver lumbar support.

The boon for the Corolla Saloon is that it sits on a longer wheelbase than the hatchback. That means that it is generously sized in the rear for carrying passengers. The car feels spacious and airy for its class. At 471 litres, the boot is only outsized by the Corolla Touring Sports and the opening is wide enough for a saloon also making the space more usable.

The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Saloon
The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Saloon

Driving the new Toyota Corolla Saloon

On the road the longer wheelbase also pays dividends for comfort. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Corolla Saloon is very comfortable and relaxing to drive. The hybrid powertrain has 122hp and offers smooth power delivery and decent acceleration. Give it too much throttle and the CVT gearbox does protest with more transmission whine, but at a relaxed pace, this car just wafts along effortlessly. It handles and steers with ease also. Over a few days of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 4.9l/100km while motor tax is €180 per year.

The new Toyota Corolla Saloon is the more classic and traditional member of the new Corolla family, but it feels much more modern and sophisticated than the car it replaces. A sharp new look for the outside and a new interior bring the Corolla Saloon into a new era, but the traditional Corolla values of comfort and space remain.

The Corolla Saloon is the one for ‘big car’ comfort and refinement, now with hybrid power and efficiency!

The Toyota Corolla Saloon scores for comfort and space
The Toyota Corolla Saloon scores for comfort and space

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Saloon Hybrid Luna Sport
Price:
€29,995 (range from €25,685)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
11 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
98 g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year


The new Audi A1

2019 Audi A1 1.0 TFSI Review

The new Audi A1
The new Audi A1 30 TFSI S Line

Caroline drives the 2019 Audi A1!

Priced from €24,650, Audi Ireland has just introduced the second generation of the Audi A1. With a stylish design, the latest technology and a sophisticated cabin, the A1 may be the entry into the Audi range but the essence of Audi desirability is compressed within that compact frame.

In fact, the Audi A1 has grown up considerably. It’s larger than before with a more angular and cooler design than before. According to Audi, the A1’s dynamic new styling has been inspired by the brand-defining Ur quattros of the Eighties. The more chiselled and serious appearance broadens the car’s appeal even more in my opinion. Matched to an eye-popping colour like Turbo Blue, and you have a car that makes a serious style statement. The S Line models add sportier styling including larger air inlets, additional sill trims, an elongated slit centrally below the bonnet with two fins and a larger rear wing.

The new Audi A1 is now sold solely as a practical five door hatchback and there’s more interior space than before, particularly noticeable in the rear. The boot is respectable for any small hatchback at 335 litres.

The Audi A1 range starts from €24,650 in Ireland
The Audi A1 range starts from €24,650 in Ireland

Inside the 2019 Audi A1

The 2019 Audi A1 has an all new interior and it really is a joy to behold! The cabin has a lovely snug and sophisticated feel with the latest infotainment and assistance features. There is a fully digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution, 10.25-inch display as standard. The Audi smartphone interface also comes as standard and integrates iOS and Android smartphones using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For the full effect, you will want to spec MMI Navigation plus with a 10.1-inch MMI touch screen and the Audi Virtual Cockpit. Together it truly is one of the best small car interiors on the market right now.

It is pricey however, though that goes with the territory of a premium small car. In Ireland the A1 range is sold in Attraction (from €24,650), SE (from €26,550) and S Line (from €28,900). Standard equipment includes lane departure warning, air con, electric windows, 8.8” MMI display, 15” wheels and automatic lights and wipers. SE adds features such as 16” wheels, leather trim, cruise control and rear parking sensors. The S Line adds 17” wheels, LED headlights and rear lights with dynamic indicators, aluminium look interior (switches and buttons), S-Line exterior styling, sport seats and sports suspension.

The interior of the new Audi A1
The interior of the new Audi A1

Driving the new Audi A1

The 2019 Audi A1 range kicks off with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 116hp – the ’30 TFSI’. There’s a 6-speed manual gearbox and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission available. Other engine options include a 1.5 and 2.0-litre TFSI. My test car was an Audi A1 30 TFSI with the 1.0-litre 116hp engine. It suits the A1 perfectly. It is so much fun on the road with plenty of power and always feels lively. It’s also reasonably efficient – over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.4l/100km.

As an alternative to the standard suspension on Attraction and SE, tauter sport suspension is fitted as standard to S line models. On the road the Audi A1 is a blast to drive. There is minimal body roll through corners and the steering is nicely weighted for a sporty drive. There are a number of driving modes to choose from, including a dynamic mode which is great for twisty roads! Generally the refinement and comfort is good for a small car, however on poor surfaces the firmer suspension and bigger wheels of the S Line model pick up more surface defects and road noise.

The Audi A1 may be the most compact Audi you can buy but there’s no doubt to this small car’s pedigree. It is obviously not cheap for what is still a compact car, but it is extremely stylish and desirable. There’s personality to it and this new generation interior is a treat also. You do have to pay a bit to get the full digital experience, but when you do, this car is streets ahead of the competition.

The new Audi A1 is a master stroke in small cars.

The Audi A1 is one of the most advanced small cars around!
The Audi A1 is one of the most advanced small cars around!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A1 30 TFSI 116hp S Line
Price:
€28,900 (range from €24,650)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
116 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 203 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.7-5.8 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
128-131 g/km
Motor tax: 
€270-280 per year


The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

2019 Skoda Kodiaq RS Review

The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!
The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

Caroline drives the new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

Skoda has recently expanded their ‘Rally Sport’ family of performance models with the launch of the new Skoda Kodiaq RS. While Skoda’s Octavia RS already has a loyal following in Ireland, the trend for SUVs means that the Skoda Kodiaq RS is an obvious and potentially lucrative opportunity for the brand.

What's new?

Skoda has taken their already popular, flagship Kodiaq SUV and given it a high-performance makeover. The Kodiaq RS sits at the very top of the Kodiaq range with a list price of €62,295. Under the bonnet there’s a 2.0-litre, bi-turbo diesel putting out 240 hp and 500 Nm of torque. All Kodiaq RS models come with 4x4 and a DSG automatic gearbox.

The Kodiaq RS has been given the ‘speedy’ makeover in more ways than just one! On the outside there are 20” alloy wheels with red brake calipers, front and rear RS bumpers, and the new RS logo with red detailing. The Kodiaq RS is an attractive SUV with ‘street cred’!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS combines the space of a seven seat SUV with extra performance
The Skoda Kodiaq RS combines the space of a seven seat SUV with extra performance

The interior of the Skoda Kodiaq RS

Inside there are special sports seats with Alcantara upholstery, carbon inserts on the instrument panel, black roof lining and stainless steel pedals. Equipment includes dual zone air con, Skoda’s virtual cockpit display with five different display settings including a new Sports View, interior ambient lighting, parking sensors, rear parking camera and the 9.2” Colombus colour touch screen infotainment and navigation system.

The Kodiaq has a really spacious, comfortable and well-appointed cabin. With five seats or seven for an extra €1000, the Kodiaq RS offers families a lot of space. The rear bench will seat three with large footwells and plenty of head room. Things are tighter in row 3 but for children or occasional use, these extra seats are a bonus. In five seat mode, the Kodiaq RS has a huge 715 litre boot. It’s just a brilliant family car!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS has a sporty and well-appointed cabin
The Skoda Kodiaq RS has a sporty and well-appointed cabin

On the road in the Skoda Kodiaq RS

But is it the performance SUV of your dreams? Certainly, Skoda has given the Kodiaq RS a flagship engine for the occasion. It’s the first time a biturbo diesel has appeared in a Skoda and it’s the fastest diesel production Skoda ever! 0-100kmh is just 7 seconds with a top speed of 220kmh.

However the Kodiaq is a big lump and while acceleration feels brisk it will never take your breath away. Still, the RS handles with considerable finesse in the corners and something called ‘Dynamic Sound Boost’ heightens the excitement on board. Some artificial enhanced engine noise is produced in the cabin and outside of the vehicle and it’s no exaggeration to say that is has a distinct V8 vibe! A little incongruous from a diesel Kodiaq RS but it is fun!

Motor tax for this vehicle is €570 while over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 7.9 litre per 100km.

The Skoda Kodiaq RS is a natural progression for the Skoda RS brand merging the trend for large SUVs with the sporty image of the RS badge. On the road the Kodiaq RS is far from the rip-roaring performance of a hot hatchback but it is fun with a great image bestowed upon it by the RS branding. The Kodiaq RS retains everything we love about the Kodiaq in that it's spacious, practical and comfortable. It is pricey but the range topping diesel engine, high spec and novelties like Dynamic Sound Boost make it great fun for day to day driving!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS is available from €62,295
The Skoda Kodiaq RS is available from €62,295

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Skoda Kodiaq RS 4x4 DSG
Price:
€62,295
Engine: 2.0-litre bi turbo diesel
Power: 
240 hp
Torque: 500 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7 seconds
Top speed: 220 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
167g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year


The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650

Skoda Scala First Drive Review

The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650
The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650

The all-new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland. It’s Skoda’s new five door family hatchback that slots in between the Fabia and the Octavia. It effectively replaces the Rapid. Caroline went to the Irish press launch to test drive the new Scala. It’s on sale in Ireland now priced from €23,650.

Styling

The Skoda Scala is a straightforward, five door hatchback. It’s actually one of the largest cars in its segment measuring 4.4 metres in length, but the wide and low stance hides the length. There’s little extravagant flourish to the styling of the Scala but it is the first Skoda to have S K O D A spelt out in individual letters across the rear! Mid-range cars get 16” alloys and LED taillights with dynamic indicators, while top of the range Style models have 17” wheels and full LED headlights.

Interior

The Skoda Scala has a new generation interior for a compact Skoda. That means that there has been a step up in quality and design. The Scala is the first car in the Volkswagen Group family to receive the third and most advanced generation of infotainment systems known internally as MIB3. The benefits of the new MIB3 units include a much cleaner cockpit as former infotainment, and air-conditioning buttons move to controls operating from very sophisticated looking 6.5”, 8.0” or 9.2” colour touch screens. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless phone charging available. The cabin is a mixture of soft and hard plastics with the Style model getting a particularly stylish pearl-effect dash panel insert.

Practicality

It’s one of the longest cars in the class, so it’s also generously sized inside for a five door family hatchback, particularly for rear seat passengers. The rear footwells are impressively large. Boot capacity is 467 litres so it’s one of the best in class.

Engines

Engine options for new Scala include a 1.0 TSI 115bhp and 1.5 TSI 150bhp petrols, and a 1.6 TDI 115bhp diesel is also available with both manual and DSG automatic transmissions.  A lower powered 1.0 TSI 95bhp petrol unit will be offered at a later date.

The interior of the new Skoda Scala
The interior of the new Skoda Scala

On the road

We took a Skoda Scala 1.0-litre TSI for a drive around Kildare. It’s smooth with light controls for an easy, affable driving nature. The 1.0-litre petrol does the job here without feeling under pressure on our test route across motorway and rural roads. My first impressions were that the Scala doesn’t feel as sporty on the road as a Ford Focus for example and there was some audible road noise coming into the cabin, but it certainly feels up to class standards.

Equipment

At launch the Scala will be available in Ambition and Style specifications with an Active entry version to be added by the end of 2019. The Ambition equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, dynamic rear LED indicators, air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, rear parking sensors and a 6.5” colour touch screen unit. The Image Package, which consists of the glass tailgate, will be provided as standard from Ambition. The Style model gets 17” alloy wheels, full LED headlights, dual zone climate control, rear view camera, keyless entry, auto lights, rain sensor and 8” infotainment unit.

Pricing

The Scala range starts from €23,650 for the 1.0 TSI 115bhp. Diesels start from €26,475. When the Active model arrives, it will undercut these.

Rivals

Skoda points to the Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30 and Kia Ceed as key rivals for the new Scala.

Verdict

The Skoda Scala replaces the Rapid and goes more upmarket in the process. The Scala is aimed at a younger buyer looking for a more stylish vehicle and it certainly offers a very smart new generation interior with the latest in infotainment and connectivity. The Scala carries the Skoda value proposition of being generously sized for carrying passengers and their things. I look forward to bringing you a full road test report later in the year!

The Skoda Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Skoda Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines

Caroline Kidd

 


The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid Review

The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid
The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback!

Late last year, Toyota Ireland promised a ‘hybrid invasion’ in 2019. It’s not surprising they were feeling confident – this year new cars from the Toyota brand have been arriving thick and fast, including the new generation of the RAV4 Hybrid and the return of the Camry.

But 2019 has also seen the arrival of a new generation of the Toyota Corolla, one of Ireland’s best-loved cars. The Corolla family – hatchback, saloon and estate – are all available now as hybrids. It was time I took this new Toyota Corolla Hybrid for a test drive!

Ever since Toyota Global President, Akio Toyoda, declared "no more boring cars!" from the brand, there has been something of a renaissance underway at Toyota. That’s thanks to Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that is underpinning this new generation of models.

Available from €24,380 with a 1.2-litre petrol engine or from €26,370 as a petrol electric, self-charging hybrid, the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is pitched as the compact, sporty one within the new Corolla family. Certainly, the new Corolla Hatchback has undergone a terrific makeover. The new Corolla Hatchback is longer and lower than the Auris Hatchback it replaces, with a snug, sporty stance on the road. Exclusive to the segment, there are also four optional bi-tone colour schemes available from launch. They combine the body colour with a metallic black finish to the roof, roof front and rear pillars, and the door mirrors.

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback range goes on sale from €24,,380 in Ireland
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback range goes on sale from €24,,380 in Ireland

Equipment and interior

The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is offered in Ireland in three grades: Aura, Luna (from €26,995), Luna Sport (from €29,620) and Sol (from €30,115). Standard equipment includes 16″ alloys, Toyota Safety Sense including adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist, LED headlights/fog lights and 8″ Toyota Touch. My Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Luna Sport model had a list price of €29,620 and features included rear view camera, Toyota Touch® 2 multimedia system, bi beam LED headlamps, LED front fog lamps, 17” black machined alloys, black contrasting roof, black roof spoiler, rear privacy glass, red dashboard trim and blue ambient lighting.

The design and quality of the interior of the new Toyota Corolla has improved almost as dramatically as the exterior styling of the car. There are plenty of soft touch materials and a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment. However, technology buffs may be disappointed with the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Corolla Hatchback will seat five with reasonable accommodation for the compact class. The Hatchback sits on a slightly shorter wheelbase to the Saloon and Touring Sports, so if rear space is a priority, buyers will appreciate the more spacious feeling in the back of those models. The boot is about average for the segment at 361 litres.

The interior of the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
The interior of the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

On the road in the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Toyota has made much of the newly adopted Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-C platform and rightly so. Key concerns for engineers were to make this Corolla safer and more engaging to drive than anything that has come before. The GA-C platform guarantees a more rewarding driving experience thanks to a centre of gravity that is lowered by 10 mm, a multi-link rear suspension fitted as standard across the model range, and a 60% more rigid body shell through the use of high strength steel as reinforcement in key areas. According to Toyota, these contribute to better handling and stability without compromising ride and comfort, as well as reducing high frequency vibration for an increased feeling of quality.

This new generation of the Corolla uses a revised 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain putting out 122hp. However, the hatchback is also available with a more high performance 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain with 178hp. It retails from €32,915.

I was immediately impressed by the smoothness and refinement of the new Toyota Corolla 1.8-litre Hybrid on the road. The hybrid powertrain means that the car uses a CVT automatic gearbox, but Toyota has considerably improved the refinement of the transmission and also invested in better cabin insulation.

Rear legroom in the new Corolla Hatchback
Rear legroom in the new Corolla Hatchback

How efficient is it?

The Hatchback feels agile and dynamic on the road with fluid and direct steering responses and good body control through corners. Over a week of driving the hybrid delivered fuel consumption of 4.5/100km, while low emissions mean that motor tax is €180 per year. Around town the hybrid frequently dips into EV mode, which makes this hybrid a very efficient solution for drivers who do short commutes and plenty of town and city driving. On the motorway at high speeds, the Corolla will become less efficient but again it has been markedly improved in these circumstances, as seen in my overall average fuel consumption that was rated with about 300 km of motorway driving.

The Toyota Corolla has been one of the most anticipated new cars of 2019. It’s now a stylish and desirable hatchback on par with rivals in terms of interior finish, technology and its ability to engage the driver. Rear legroom is a little tighter compared to the Saloon and Touring Sports, but the Corolla is dubbed as the sporty one and the shorter wheelbase does make it feel more dynamic on the road. Toyota has also improved the hybrid powertrain and from my time driving the car, there are certainly savings to be made in terms of efficiency, particularly for urban drivers. There is a lot riding on this new generation of one of Ireland’s best loved cars, but the new Corolla Hatchback has been transformed.

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact car
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact car

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Hatchback Luna Sport
Price:
€29,610 (from €24,380)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 142 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.9 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Claimed fuel economy:
3.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
83g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year


The new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid Review

The new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
The new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Caroline drives the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports!

The Toyota Corolla is one of Ireland’s best loved cars and is now in its 12th generation. Ever since Toyota Global President, Akio Toyoda, declared "no more boring cars!" from the brand, there has been something of a renaissance underway at Toyota.

That’s thanks to Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that is underpinning a whole new generation of models including C-HR and Prius, and now in 2019, Camry, RAV4 and the new Toyota Corolla family.

The new Toyota Corolla is now available in Ireland as a saloon, hatchback and estate (‘Touring Sports’). I recently took the Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid for a test drive. Available from €28,420, the Corolla Touring Sports comes exclusively as a petrol electric, self-charging hybrid. In this new generation of Corolla it uses a revised 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain putting out 122hp.

The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is available from €28,420
The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is available from €28,420

Sporty and stylish family car

In the metal, the new Corolla really makes a style statement. The Touring Sports is particularly successful in my opinion. In fact, the hatchback, saloon and estate have all been given an individual look because the new platform gave the designers the freedom to do that.

The Touring Sports is available in the entry Luna trim and in Sol trim with a bit more gear (from €31,990). But even the entry model comes exceptionally well equipped with 16” alloys, LED headlamps/fog lamps, 8” Toyota Touch, rear view camera, dual zone climate control, and Toyota Safety Sense with adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist.

For the extra spend, Sol adds 17” alloys, a chrome window frame, rear privacy glass, rain sensor, Smart Entry & Start, navigation, textured chrome inserts to the interior, grey lower dashboard, ambient lighting, heated front seats and driver lumbar support.

The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Inside the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

The design and quality of the interior of the new Toyota Corolla has improved dramatically. There are plenty of soft touch materials and a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment, though technology buffs will be frustrated by the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The interior of the car is nicely spacious too with decent accommodation for the compact class. The estate is the obvious choice in this new trio of Corollas if you need more space and a bigger boot. The boot aperture opens wide for easy loading with a low, flat load lip. At 598 litres, there’s also 237 litres more boot volume than in the hatchback.

Boot space in the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
Boot space in the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Driving the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Toyota has made much of the newly adopted Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-C platform and rightly so. Key concerns for engineers were to make this Corolla safer and more engaging to drive than anything that has come before.

The GA-C platform promises a more rewarding driving experience thanks to a centre of gravity that is lowered by 10 mm, a multi-link rear suspension fitted as standard across the model range, and a 60% more rigid body shell through the use of high strength steel as reinforcement in key areas. According to Toyota, these contribute to better handling and stability without compromising ride and comfort, as well as reducing high frequency vibration for an increased feeling of quality.

I was immediately impressed by the smoothness and refinement of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports on the road. The hybrid powertrain means that the car uses a CVT automatic gearbox, but Toyota has considerably improved the refinement of the transmission and also invested in better cabin insulation.

The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a stylish and practical estate car
The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a stylish and practical estate car

How fuel-efficient is the new Corolla?

The Touring Sports has adequate power for driving and overtaking manoeuvres. However, as a hybrid it really needs to deliver on fuel efficiency. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.6 l/100 km, and I saw a return of over 60 mpg on some journeys. The hybrid system works particularly well in town and promotes a more relaxed mode of driving that helps to deliver on efficiency. Low emissions mean that motor tax is €180 per year.

There has been much anticipation for this new generation of the Corolla. But until we drive it we can never be sure if it will deliver on all that is promised. However I’m happy to report that the new Toyota Corolla has improved considerably in just about every way, and it’s also got super competitive again in the compact class.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a very handsome vehicle and the most practical member of the new Corolla family. It's genuinely efficient, spacious and pleasant to drive making it a great family car.

No more boring cars!

The 2019 Toyota Corolla is a car transformed
The 2019 Toyota Corolla is a car transformed

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Sol
Price:
€31,990 (from €28,420)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 142 Nm
0-100km/h: 
11.1 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.5 – 5.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
87g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year

 


The 2019 Suzuki Vitara

2019 Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet Review

The 2019 Suzuki Vitara
The 2019 Suzuki Vitara

Caroline drives the 2019 Suzuki Vitara!

The Suzuki
Vitara has status as a bit of a legend. Debuting in 1988, early iterations of
the Vitara had boxy, utilitarian attitude by the bucketloads. In fact it’s not
uncommon to see some late 80s and early 90s models still on the road.

Over the years, the Suzuki Vitara has morphed to suit the rise in popularity of the ‘soft-roader’ and SUV. Softer around the edges, it’s probably reached its meekest form in the current generation of the car. That’s not an insult, and it’s great to see Suzuki adapting their Vitara to suit market trends. With pricing starting from €20,995, the Vitara is now scrapping it out with the other compact crossover. But while most of its competitors have been spawned from superminis, I was delighted to find that the Vitara still has a whiff of its tough early roots about it.

The Suzuki Vitara is available from €20,995
The Suzuki Vitara is available from €20,995

The 2019 Suzuki Vitara

In early 2019, Suzuki refreshed the Vitara range with styling upgrades, new engines and more technology and safety features. That’s good for Vitara fans.

On the
outside the 2019 Suzuki Vitara has a more elegant front face with redesigned
grille and lower bumper, and the rear lamps have now been redesigned with a
distinctive LED display. There is something charming about the Vitara’s
presence, and while the back of the car is a little too generic for my liking,
you can’t deny that there is a plucky toughness to this car that is missing
from many rivals.

There are also two new colours for 2019, including Solar Yellow Pearl and Ice Greyish Blue, the latter of which is particularly fashionable!

The interior of the 2019 Suzuki Vitara
The interior of the 2019 Suzuki Vitara

Inside the 2019 Suzuki Vitara

In Ireland the Suzuki Vitara is sold in three trim levels: SZ4 (from €20,995), SZT (from €22,995) and SZ5 (from €26,495).

Inside
there is new seat trim design and suede seat fabric fitted on SZ5 models. The
upper instrument panel is upgraded to a soft touch material and the instrument
cluster now features a central colour information display. There are still
plenty of hard plastics about the cabin but it’s simple and inoffensive with
good levels of standard equipment. Bluetooth, alloy wheels, electric windows,
cruise control and climate control are fitted as standard on all models, while
smartphone link audio and navigation is fitted as standard on SZ-T and SZ5
grade.

SZ5 also adds Dual Sensor Brake Support (also on SZ-T ALLGRIP models), Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Interior space is good for this class of vehicle. There is good room to stretch out in the back and there is also a practical 375 litre boot, comparative to any hatchback. Lots of headroom all round too.

Rear seating in the Suzuki Vitara
Rear seating in the Suzuki Vitara

What are my engine options?

Engines for the Vitara range now include the excellent 1.0-litre (111hp) and 1.4-litre (140hp) turbocharged petrol engines with Boosterjet technology, seen already on other models in the Suzuki range like the Swift and S-Cross. The 1.0-litre petrol comes with a 5 speed manual or automatic gearbox, while the 1.4 litre petrol is available with a 6 speed manual or automatic gearbox. ALLGRIP ‘Select’ four wheel drive is also available from €28,495.

My test car was the Suzuki Vitara 1.0 SZT with a list price of €22,995. This 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine suits the car well and has adequate power and performance. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.2l/100km.

Driving the Suzuki Vitara

You sit higher in the Vitara than in some of the more low slung hatchback-based crossovers. The little Vitara is fun to drive and grips the tarmac willingly with light but precise steering and not too much body roll. There is some road noise at high speeds and the suspension picks up some disturbances over uneven tarmac but overall the Vitara is a surprisingly good compact crossover.

The Suzuki Vitara is perhaps a slightly offbeat choice in the compact crossover segment. Yet it’s very enjoyable to drive and has its own charm. It’s good value with the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine and comes well equipped with plenty of space. If you are in the market for a small SUV, the Vitara is definitely worth a test drive – it could win you over very quickly!

The Suzuki Vitara is a fun little crossover for the compact class
The Suzuki Vitara is a fun little crossover for the compact class

Caroline Kidd

Model
tested: 
Suzuki
Vitara 1.0 SZT
Price:
€22,995 (from €20,995)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
111 hp
Torque: 160 Nm
0-100km/h: 
12.5 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
121g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year


The new Skoda Karoq Sportline

2019 Skoda Karoq Sportline

The new Skoda Karoq Sportline
The new Skoda Karoq Sportline

Caroline drives the 2019 Skoda Karoq Sportline!

Skoda has been competing in the compact SUV segment in Ireland with the new Karoq for over a year now. In 2019 the Karoq range has expanded again with the launch of the Skoda Karoq Sportline, which brings a little extra ‘oomph’ to the Karoq’s SUV offering!

Available from €34,100, the Karoq Sportline is positioned at the top end of the Karoq range and is available with a 1.5-litre TSI (150hp) turbo petrol engine, and 1.6-litre (115hp) and 2.0-litre (150hp) diesels. A 6 speed manual gearbox is standard but a 7 speed automatic transmission and four wheel drive are also available.

The Skoda Karoq Sportline starts from €34,100
The Skoda Karoq Sportline starts from €34,100

Sporty features inside and out

For a sporty appearance, the Karoq Sportline gets special sports bumpers including rear diffuser, black radiator grille, tinted windows, black door mirrors, black roof rails, LED headlamps and 18-inch ‘Mytikas’ black alloys wheels.

Inside,
there are front sports seats with contrasting silver stitch, a multifunction
sports steering wheel in perforated black leather, black headliner, carbon
effect inserts in the dash, LED interior lighting pack, aluminium door sills with
Sportline logo and aluminium sports pedals.

The interior of the Skoda Karoq has a simple layout built around an 8” touchscreen that pairs seamlessly with smartphones. The perceived quality is good for the segment and the Sportline treatment adds a pleasant injection of atmosphere to the cabin of the Karoq.

The interior of the Skoda Karoq Sportline
The interior of the Skoda Karoq Sportline

What do you get?

Standard equipment includes dual zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, parking camera and a driving mode selector. The test car had the Skoda Virtual Cockpit added as an option for €594. It adds a cool and modern finish to the cabin with five different views to choose from.

The Karoq
Sportline has been dolled up but thankfully retains all the practical features
of the standard compact SUV. It will seat five with plenty of head and legroom
in the rear. The boot is also very generous at 521 litres.

My test car was fitted with a 2.0TDI diesel with 150hp and in Sportline guise has a list price of €35,160. This engine has loads of power and flexibility, and offers decent refinement. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.0l/100km and motor tax is €270 per year.

The Skoda Karoq Sportline comes with petrol and diesel engine options
The Skoda Karoq Sportline comes with petrol and diesel engine options

Driving the 2019 Skoda Karoq Sportline

On the road, the Skoda Karoq Sportline delivers an agile and composed drive, as we have come to expect from Skoda. Comfort and refinement are also on par with rivals so it falls neatly into the segment, and should fit the requirements of most compact SUV buyers.

The Skoda Karoq Sportline adds a lot to the Karoq offering. Visually it’s a very appealing car, especially in red. It has loads of standard equipment and a suitably atmospheric interior also.

Underneath the Karoq has the basics covered in that it’s a spacious and comfortable family SUV. Sportline just gives it that extra bit of visual appeal to give it a hand to stand out in the segment.

The Skoda Karoq gets a pleasant injection of attitude in Sportline trim
The Skoda Karoq gets a pleasant injection of attitude in Sportline trim

Caroline Kidd

Model
tested: 
Skoda
Karoq Sportline
Price:
€35,160 (Range from €28,350)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 340 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9 seconds
Top speed: 205 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.6 - 6.0l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
123g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year


The new Kia ProCeed!

2019 Kia Proceed 1.4 GT Line

The new Kia ProCeed!
The new Kia ProCeed!

Caroline drives the 2019 Kia ProCeed!

Over the last few years, Kia has really put itself on the map as one of the most modern and progressive car manufacturers. Not content with raising standards across their range of hatchbacks, SUVs and saloons in recent years, the ambitious Korean brand has also pushed itself into new segments. Last year it was the stunning Kia Stinger GT stealing all the headlines for its evocative design and high-performance engine. This year it’s the return of the Kia ProCeed. But not as we know it!

The Kia ProCeed entered the market a number of years ago as a sporty, three door hatchback. But there is no longer much of a market for cars like that. So Kia has reimagined the ProCeed as a “shooting brake” to coincide with the new generation of the Kia Ceed family that arrived in Ireland in 2018.

The Kia ProCeed is a prestigious "shooting brake" for the compact class
The Kia ProCeed is a prestigious "shooting brake" for the compact class

The 2019 Kia ProCeed

The new Kia ProCeed is a cross somewhere between an elegant hatchback and a practical estate. It now sits at the top of the Ceed range, with a list price of €28,946. For reference the Ceed hatchback range kicks off at €22,695 and the SW range at €25,295.

However, the Proceed range is very simple in Ireland in that Kia Ireland is offering just one model with a high specification – GT Line. The 2019 Kia ProCeed GT Line has a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine under the bonnet putting out 140hp. A six speed manual gearbox comes as standard while there is a 7 speed automatic version available for €30,445.

The interior of the Kia ProCeed
The interior of the 2019 Kia ProCeed

Stylish and practical

The 2019 Kia ProCeed is a design-led concept merging style and practicality. The ProCeed is lower and longer than both the Ceed five-door hatchback and Sportswagon and so carries its own unique identity within the Ceed family. In fact it’s quite unique in the family car segment with a striking raked back silhouette, sharing only its bonnet and front wings with the Ceed five-door.

The ProCeed name is spelled out in capitals across the centre of the tailgate, beneath LED tail-lights which span the width of the tailgate, giving the car a unique light signature. The ‘tiger nose’ front grille is finished in high gloss black with satin chrome, with matching high gloss black door mirrors and side sill mouldings. The air intake has a lower lip with black accent, and the rear spoiler is body coloured with high gloss black trim.

The ProCeed is every bit the head turner especially finished in Infra Red, but it’s also versatile with a 594 litre boot. The boot is bigger than in the Ceed hatchback and just a few litres shy of the SW in that regard. It’s also easy to load and access the space too. The sloping roofline means that in the rear, there is some impact on headroom, but otherwise this is a competively sized car for the compact class.  

Rear seating in the Kia ProCeed
Rear seating in the Kia ProCeed

The interior of the Kia Proceed

The interior is almost a carbon copy of the Ceed on which it is based, though the ProCeed does have a black headliner, special upholstery and a D-shaped sports steering wheel. It’s a comfortable cabin with some stylish brushed chrome and gloss black to add interest. Considering the premium buyers pay for this model, it would be nice to see some more higher quality materials or a more individual design. A small frustration really.

Standard equipment on the ProcCeed GT Line includes 17” alloys, automatic headlights, front projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights with a full-width LED brake light, front fog lights, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, rear privacy glass, wireless phone charger, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Lane Keeping Assist with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist.

The Kia ProCeed is available from €28,946 in Ireland
The Kia ProCeed is available from €28,946 in Ireland

Driving the Kia ProCeed

Kia has made a few changes to the ProCeed under the skin for a sportier and more engaging drive. This has been achieved by using stiffer front and rear springs to increase body control and improve steering inputs, and softer front and rear anti-roll bars to keep its inside wheels in contact with the road, even under hard cornering. 

On the road the ProCeed immediately feels tauter and more engaging with loads of front end grip and minimal body roll making it a very accomplished car to drive. There is a firmer edge to the suspension but it’s by no means uncomfortable. There was quite a lot of audible road noise however on our test drive.

The 1.4-litre engine does perform well in the ProCeed with good power and performance, reaching 100kmh in just 8.8 seconds from a standstill, and smooth power delivery through the six speed manual gearbox. There is no diesel engine available in the ProCeed in Ireland so running costs will be a little higher. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption was 6.9l/100km and motor tax is €280 per year.

The new ProCeed is design triumph for Kia!
The new ProCeed is a design triumph for Kia!

Verdict

The new Kia ProCeed makes a style statement, while also being practical, so it's a compelling alternative to the family hatchback or SUV. The ProCeed does command more investment over the Ceed hatchback and SW, but it’s a prestigious vehicle and fun to drive also. Another stunning and ambitious car from Kia!

Model tested: Kia ProCeed 1.4 T-GDi GPF Petrol 140 hp 6MT
Price:
€28,946
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140 hp
Torque: 242 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.8 seconds
Top speed: 209 km/h
Fuel economy:
45.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 
132g/km
Motor tax: 
€280 per year