The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?
The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Which is better?

In this comparison review, we are going to take a closer look at two of the hottest premium compacts on sale in Ireland right now – the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class! In 2018, Mercedes-Benz launched a new generation of the A-Class, while in 2019 it was the turn of BMW, with a new 1 Series hitting dealer showrooms.

Both cars mark an entry into the ranges of their respective brands. Premium compact hatchbacks are an opportunity for aspirational buyers to get on the ladder of their favourite premium brand. Get them hooked and it's likely they will stay a fan forever, migrating to larger models as their lifestyle and earning power changes.

While the A-Class is now available as a hatchback and as a saloon, here we will examine it in hatchback form as the direct rival to the BMW 1 Series hatchback.

The new BMW 1 Series is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €32,891
The new BMW 1 Series is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €32,891

Nice to look at?

Both the new BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are attractive cars in the metal, with high class kerb appeal. BMW styling has turned into something quite controversial in recent years and the 1 Series hasn't been immune from criticism for its larger than life grille. But it is a significant improvement over the car it replaces, and brings it more in line with larger BMWs like the popular 3 Series and 5 Series. In fact at Changing Lanes we are a big fan of that rear styling. The appearance changes depending on trim level, with the M Sport models really looking the best. They sit lower on the road with a more aggressive body kit and 18” alloys, as well as satin aluminium struts in the kidney grille.

Over in the Mercedes-Benz camp the A-Class avoids controversy with a handsome compact exterior. A slimmer and lighter appearance adds even more desirability to the latest generation of the A-Class. Like the BMW, different trim levels give the car a different look. But the AMG Line models have sporty flair that really suits the new generation Benz compact, with a sportier styling kit and 18” alloy wheels.

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €31,080
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €31,080

So which car has the best interior?

While exterior looks are a personal preference, inside is where the battle is really fought these days for the hearts and minds of buyers. Even in the premium compact class, the race to include as much digital technology and connectivity is on. Big time. It's a race both our featured brands here do very well, but with their own unique style.

When the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived in 2018, the brand was debuting the all new MBUX infotainment system that has since been rolled out to other models in the Mercedes range. The twin screen layout was new and exciting, with the system responding to novel voice commands of 'Hey Mercedes'. It has aged very well. In fact the whole A-Class interior is still a joy to behold in 2021 as one of the best premium compact interiors of its generation! Material quality is excellent and the design is super stylish. One just feels expensive inside the new A-Class. It's a very satisfying place to sit. The widescreen digital effect comes from two high-resolution displays, 7 inch as standard or optionally extra large at 10.25 inch.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 1 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 1 Series

Over in the BMW 1 Series, there has also been a significant revamp of the interior. With a strong influence from the larger 3 Series, the cabin is of fantastic quality. There are impossibly glam back lit trim elements among the driver-oriented cockpit, with all of BMW’s latest digital technology at your fingertips. It’s in its best iteration with the BMW Live Cockpit Professional incorporating a digital instrument panel and 10.25” Control Display. Another neat feature is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which allows you to alter the car’s settings, ventilation or find a list of local restaurants for example using a simple summons of ‘Hey BMW’. I wonder where they got that idea from...

How practical are they?

Much has been made of the 1 Series migration to a more space efficient front wheel drive layout. While many may lament the loss of BMW rear wheel drive from the 1 Series range, practicality does matter at this side of the market and the new platform reaps dividends in the new 1. Now adults will be able to sit more comfortably in the rear with much more competitive legroom than ever before. There is also more boot space. The boot capacity has been improved by 20 litres to 380 litres, now with a wider opening. An electrically operated tailgate is optionally available for the BMW 1 Series for the first time.

The new A-Class has a longer wheelbase than the previous generation of the car to improve interior space. There’s also more shoulder, elbow and headroom. The BMW and the Merc have a largish transmission tunnel and relatively narrow middle seat meaning both are more comfortable for two people. The A-Class boot has a capacity of 370 litres in the hatchback, while rear seats fold 40:20:40 as standard. It's 60:40 split as standard on the 1 Series. It's hard to split these two on interior space. Take one for a test drive and see if you can get comfortable!

The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Engine options

In Ireland, the new BMW 1 Series is sold with petrol and diesel engines at the time of writing. They include the 118i petrol (136 hp), 116d diesel (116 hp), 118d diesel (150 hp) or 120d diesel (190 hp). Manual and automatic transmissions are available. There's also the high performance 128ti with 265 hp and the M135i xdrive with 306 hp. At Changing Lanes we had the opportunity to test the new 118i, powered by a new three cylinder turbo petrol engine for the 1 Series. Power is a modest 136 hp but it's actually a sweet entry into the range.

The latest A-Class range includes two new four-cylinder petrol engines (1.3-litre A200 with 163 hp and 2.0-litre A250 with 224 hp) and a new four cylinder diesel (1.5-litre A180d with 116 hp). Manual and automatic transmissions are available. An entry level A160 with 109 hp is available too. You can also buy high performance versions of the A-Class: A35 (306 hp), A45 (387 hp) and A45 S (421 hp). At Changing Lanes we had the opportunity to test the A200 model powered by a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine pushing out 163 hp. A nicely refined engine with a pleasant thump of power.

An A250e plug-in hybrid is to join the A-Class range in Ireland in 2021.

Why not try these for a test drive?

BMW 118i M Sport Auto. Priced from €40,202 (January 2021)

Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line. Priced from €42,888 (January 2021)

The new BMW 1 Series is available with petrol and diesel engines
The new BMW 1 Series is available with petrol and diesel engines

Driving them

Buyers should expect high end refinement and driving dynamics from such esteemed company.

Let's start with the new BMW 1 Series. The new 1 Series is up to 30 kg lighter than the car it replaces but more rigid. Is it enough to make up for the loss of rear wheel drive from the classic BMW compact? There's some help from ARB technology taken from the electric i3 and it is used in the new 1 Series for the first time in a combustion engined BMW. On the road this means that the 1 Series exhibits excellent stability and balance in cornering. There's an impressively tight turn in but the car lacks the outright sparkle and playfulness of the 3 Series for example. The steering just doesn’t translate the same sensations to your fingertips. Overall refinement is excellent and this car covers the tarmac well, despite the M Sport treatment giving a tad firmer ride. Long distance motorway cruising is very pleasant behind the wheel of the 1 Series. The 118i also does a fine job here for a three cylinder petrol engine. The engine feels lively enough and smooths out well at speed, with decent enough fuel economy. Gear changes through the new 7-speed automatic are well judged.

The new generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is also front wheel drive, however it doesn't have the same reputation as BMW for sporty handling. Yet the new A-Class turns out to be a delight to drive, especially with one of the lively petrols like the A200. In fact the steering is so sharp and the body control so good that it's a very fine line between this and the new 1 Series.

Both cars come with their own version of driving modes as standard equipment.

Mercedes-Benz will add a plug-in hybrid to the A-Class range in 2021
Mercedes-Benz will add a plug-in hybrid to the A-Class range in 2021

Pricing and Equipment

The BMW 1 Series is available from €32,891 and comes in three trim levels: SE, Sport and M Sport. The entry level SE model has 16" alloys, air conditioning, multifunction steering wheel, front collision warning, lane depature warning, Drive Performance Control, cruise control and 8.8" control display with touch function and iDrive controller.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is available from €31,080 and comes in Style, Progressive and AMG Line trim. Standard equipment includes 16" alloys, air conditioning, cruise control, digital instrument cluster and media display with touchscreen and MBUX infotainment, Dynamic Select, heated front seats, multifunction steering wheel, Active Lane Keeping Assist, part leather/cloth seats, and reversing camera.

So which are you buying?

Another tough call. Both the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are a cut above your average hatchback with premium design, refinement and driving dynamics. And you will pay dearly for it too with the most desirable M Sport and AMG Line models asking for serious money.

The new BMW 1 Series has come on leaps and bounds for this new generation of the car. While we might shed a tear for the loss of the rear wheel drive, at least now the 1 Series can properly compete as a versatile hatchback. Inside the interior is such good quality, it's properly matured and feels like a bigger car. There is just one petrol engine at the entry to the range, but it does punch above its 136 hp. There are also a number of diesels to choose from.

The BMW 1 Series more competitive than ever
The BMW 1 Series more competitive than ever but is it enough?

Over at Mercedes, the new generation A-Class has spawned a number of derivatives like the CLA and GLB from its compact underpinnings. Each time we drive another derivative it's a reminder of what a wonderful car the new A-Class is. The interior is fantastic modern contemporary and hasn't aged at all. Mercedes' new petrol engines are also winners, particularly the A200.

It's for these combined reasons that this reviewer would be heading in the direction of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the premium compact space. Perhaps the 1 Series has lost the edge in the driving dynamics that would lead to a decisive YES, like the one we give the 3 Series in the class above. Did we have a bad time in the 1 Series? No not at all and we could really appreciate that beautiful tight turn in. The classic sensations just weren't there. But that cabin is wonderful. Front grille? Not sure.

The gap has indeed narrowed to the A-Class as the new generation of the car feels pure and agile, and the A200's 163 hp petrol engine is really fun in the A-Class. Then there's the cabin and the looks, so quietly sophisticated. Altogether it makes the Mercedes-Benz A-Class a winning package.

The new A-Class excels for its style, design and quality
The new A-Class excels for its style, design and quality

Want to find out more? Read our detailed review of each model compared here:

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Looking for something a bit bigger? Check out our twin test of the BMW 3 Series vs Audi A4!

Caroline Kidd

 


The latest Suzuki Vitara on test for Changing Lanes!

Suzuki Vitara (2021) Hybrid Review

The latest Suzuki Vitara on test for Changing Lanes!
The latest Suzuki Vitara on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Suzuki Vitara!

The Vitara is an icon of the Suzuki range that has managed to stay relevant throughout its 33 year career in the automotive industry. That means that over the years it's been repositioned and softened to appeal to the compact SUV market that has emerged. Now the Vitara evolves again with the addition of some mild hybrid technology to the mix.

To backtrack a little, Suzuki has been dabbling in 12 volt mild hybrid technology for some years now before it was even fashionable to lend a little electrical support to reduce emissions and eke out better fuel consumption. In fact at Changing Lanes we've always been impressed with the real world economy of Suzuki vehicles like the latest Swift, Ignis and S-Cross. No fibbing from Suzuki. The cars always deliver what matters.

What's new for the 2021 Suzuki Vitara?

Now the Japanese brand is excited to tell us about the 48 volt mild hybrid technology that now feature across the Vitara and S-Cross ranges. Well frankly everyone is excited about hybrid these days.

The Vitara has stayed relevant since it was first launched back in 1988
The Vitara has stayed relevant since it was first launched back in 1988

In Ireland the Vitara now comes exclusively with a new 'K14D' Boosterjet petrol engine with 1.4-litre capacity and 48 volt mild hybrid technology, which replaces the old 1.4-litre Boosterjet derivative. The new hybrid powertrain is said to offer up to 20% lower CO2 emissions, a greater level of torque and 15% overall improvement in WLTP combined fuel consumption.

The new system is similar in basic principle to the 12V Hybrid SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) system that Suzuki debuted in 2016 on the Swift. The newly developed 48V hybrid powertrain remains very lightweight in design and the components add less than 15k g to the overall weight of the vehicle. Could it be magic? You will have to read on to find out!

What's on offer?

The Vitara itself had a minor facelift back in the beginning of 2019. It remains the most popular Suzuki on sale in Ireland. With pricing starting from €23,230, it is also competitively priced to compete in its segment. The range kicks off with the SZ4, followed by the SZ-T from €25,750, and the SZ5 from €27,760.

The interior of the 2021 Suzuki Vitara Hybrid
The interior of the 2021 Suzuki Vitara Hybrid

Standard equipment on the new Vitara for 2021 includes automatic climate control, 16" alloys, and LED headlamps. There is also a standard safety equipment including Dual Sensor Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Cruise Control.

In our eyes, the SZ-T remains a sweet spot of the range with touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, rear parking camera and 17" alloys.

All models are front wheel drive as standard though 4x4 is available from €29,745.

Inside the Suzuki Vitara

In the last revamp, Suzuki gave the Vitara's cabin a little upgrade in quality, with the upper instrument panel now finished in a soft touch material. The interior is basic but cheerful enough, just like the rest of the car. There is a plucky spirit to the Vitara that remains after all these years. Buyers will love the authentic small SUV feeling from behind the wheel thanks to a genuinely elevated driving position. And of course it looks different from the outside too, with a boxy charm that hasn't really changed much. It's definitely a tad dated, but Vitara's loyal customers don't seem to care.

Interior space also remains good for this class of vehicle. It may be compact but it's not cramped, like some rivals. There is decent enough legroom in the back, and it feels roomy up front. The boot is 375 litres and well capable of most tasks, with split folding rear seats.

New Vitara Hybrid range on sale from €23,230 in Ireland
New Vitara Hybrid range on sale from €23,230 in Ireland

Driving the Vitara Hybrid

The 1.0-litre turbo petrol is now gone from the Vitara line-up in Ireland, leaving the more powerful new 1.4-litre with 129 bhp, paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox. It's a lively companion for the Vitara, feeling nippy and capable whether in town or on the motorway. The added electrical assistance adds smoothness to take off and low speed manouvres.

And what about that fuel consumption? Over a few days driving the Vitara Hybrid, my average fuel consumption was 6.6 litres per 100 km.  I found this a little disappointing considering the high billing of the mild hybrid technology, but otherwise I would probably say it was acceptable for a petrol powered compact crossover.

On the road, once again the Vitara proves to be more fun than you might expect from the little Japanese compact. Steering is light making it agile around town, but out on the open road it is entertaining to drive. I took it the long way home through the Wicklow Mountains and I was suitably impressed with the smiles per mile!

It's no hot hatch or even hot SUV, but it brings some rudimentary joy. Well up for a jaunt down a twisty road. Not that Vitara owners are interested in such frivolous fun(!). Are maybe they are? You tell me. But it's nice to know it can. Again Vitara punches above its weight in this department. Always full of surprises. There are a few refinement issues, like road noise at high speeds, but it's comfortable for the most part.

Suzuki adds mild hybrid technology to the Vitara
Suzuki adds mild hybrid technology to the Vitaranology to the Vitara

Did you like it?

Do we like the Suzuki Vitara? Yes we do! It's an honest little compact SUV with big attitude. It performs well on practicality, offering better space inside than many rivals. It's not the most luxurious inside, but it's not trying to be either. Pricing remains competitive for the segment with a decent level of standard equipment.

Suzuki continually impresses us with its engine technology and real world fuel consumption. Again the Vitara gets their most modern mild hybrid technology. Is it a success? Perhaps expectations were too high but we did anticipate a better return on economy than what we got, which seemed about average for a petrol powered compact of this size.

It is roaring fun to drive. You certainly wouldn't think it to look at it, but some rivals are sheer boring beside it.

The Vitara is showing its age though it remains a subtle but solid buy with plenty of fans out there.

There's still lots more to discover in the Suzuki range in 2021, with a newly facelifted Ignis that we will be driving soon, along with a refreshed version of the fabulous Suzuki Swift supermini.

The Vitara is a subtle but solid buy in its class
The Vitara is a subtle but solid buy in its class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet Hybrid SZ-T
Price:
€25,745
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
129 hp
Torque: 235 Nm
0-100km/h:
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Fuel economy: 
5.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
128g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


The new Kia Sorento on test for Changing Lanes!

Kia Sorento (2021) Review

The new Kia Sorento on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Kia Sorento on test for Changing Lanes!

The Kia Sorento has long been a popular model for the brand in Ireland. With demand for 7-seater SUVs, the Sorento always filled the gap perfectly with family-friendly seating all wrapped up in a cool SUV exterior.

In 2020, the brand launched an all-new generation of the Kia Sorento. With the model first appearing in 2002, Sorento is now in its fourth generation. Together with the popular Kia Sportage, it brought the Kia brand to prominence here in Ireland and throughout Europe.

The formula remains much the same - big family SUV with seating for seven. However from whatever angle you look at this Sorento, the jump appears big. Kia is seriously stepping up the game with the new Sorento, which should seriously worry any other brand trying to sell a 7-seat SUV.

What's new for the 2021 Kia Sorento?

Appearances matter. And Kia has done a wonderful job with the new Sorento. Inspired by the uber-big Kia Telluride, an SUV available in other markets like North America, the new Sorento has much stronger and serious design language. There is indeed more than a slice of Americana about the big, blocky grille and squared-off rear, but still the typical flair we expect from the Korean brand in this century. Cue the interesting light detail at the rear, and S O R E N T O spelled out in large letters.

The 2021 Kia Sorento raises the bar for design in the 7-seat SUV segment
The 2021 Kia Sorento raises the bar for design in the 7-seat SUV segment

Kia also is one of the brand's at the forefront of electrification, with no delays on rolling out electrified powertrains, even to their biggest SUV on sale in Europe. You could say they are ahead of the curve and have been for some time. Can you see why other brands might be worried?

For the first time, this behemoth will be available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. In Ireland this model will go on sale from February, priced from €50,000 and exclusively all wheel drive. So what we find in the Changing Lanes garage to review today is the new Kia Sorento diesel, now on sale priced from €51,600.

Another reason why this Sorento impresses so much on a first encounter is the way the interior is kitted out and the technology on board. As I cruised down the M11 after picking the Sorento up in Sandyford, Dublin, I felt like I was driving a Korean Range Rover. I'm not making fun of Kia as only fools would do that with a brand that has become such a powerhouse. And Ireland clearly loves Kia.

The Kia Sorento is available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time in 2021
The Kia Sorento is available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time in 2021

Inside the new Kia Sorento

You sit high in the 2021 Kia Sorento. From your armchair you are met with an all-new dashboard design that is a sign of great things to come. It really does feel like a fresh start for the brand once again. This will be Kia’s most high-tech car ever, thanks to new connectivity features, driver assistance and infotainment technologies including an impressive twin digital screen display.

For Kia's flagship SUV in Ireland, a 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster is twinned with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system at the centre of the dashboard. These display information clearly within the driver’s line of sight, and create a cool wide-screen user experience.

Quality goes up another level again inside the new Sorento; another reason for competitors to worry if they are not 100 per cent on their game, and focusing too much on trying to cut costs.

But what is most impressive is the attention to detail, the way the ambient lighting cuts through the elegant design of the dash and door panels. The glossiness of it all. And the slickness of the new digital instrument panel with its funky fuchsia pink detailing. As I was changing lanes, my speedometer turned into a camera view of my blind spot. How clever.

The interior of the 2021 Kia Sorento
The interior of the 2021 Kia Sorento

More technology on board

That's because the Sorento is equipped with Kia’s new Blind-Spot View Monitor. When you indicate to change lane, the system displays a high-resolution video feed on the left or right side of the TFT-LCD instrument cluster. The video feed comes from discreet wide-angle, high-resolution cameras, hidden in each of the door mirror housings. These provide a wider viewing angle than the door mirrors, giving drivers a clear view of any approaching vehicles.

In Ireland the entry into the range is the K3 model. It is a well-equipped car that comes as standard with 18” alloys, the twin digital screens display with telematics, rear view camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and charge ports on all three rows of seats. Safety features include Bind Spot Detection, Front Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Smart Cruise Control, and Highway Drive Assist.

The K4 model on test adds even more comfort and safety features including a panoramic sunroof, driver and passenger power seats, 12 speaker Bose sound system, rear heated seats, power opening tailgate, the Blind-Spot View Monitor, Around View Monitor and Parking Collision Avoidance.

Generous 7-seat accommodation inside the new Kia Sorento
Generous 7-seat accommodation inside the new Kia Sorento

How practical is it as a 7-seat SUV?

The Sorento is huge inside with seating for seven. It's built on Kia’s new-generation midsize SUV platform, so is larger again with a longer wheelbase to maximise interior and boot space. The platform ensure the Sorento is one of the most versatile and spacious three-row SUVs on the market.

We can believe it. The rear bench will accommodate three easily and rear legroom in row 2 is very generous. The 2021 Kia Sorento is a proper family car with plenty of storage and other convenience features for all three rows of seats.

Access to the third row of seats is also very easy, with the second row seats released forwards with just the touch of a button.

The seats in the very rear will be most suitable for children, but the Sorento does better than a lot of rivals on space. And in five seat mode you get a huge boot, and more than a token boot space in seven seat mode. Cowabunga!

The new Kia Sorento goes on sale in Ireland priced from €51,600
The new Kia Sorento goes on sale in Ireland priced from €51,600 for the diesel, from €50,000 for the hybrid

Driving the 2021 Kia Sorento

The 2.2-litre diesel in the Kia Sorento is new and avoids being a rumble in the jungle. 202 hp ensures it's no lazy elephant either, with 0 to 100 km/h achieved in 9 seconds. It's remarkably refined, another ode to Kia's ambition for their brand. The Sorento is a fabulous way to travel, smooth and comfortable. Power is directed to the front wheels only in diesel spec using a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. Over a few day's driving my average fuel consumption was 6.7 litres per 100 km, while this model will cost €420 to tax per year. The diesel Sorento can also tow up to 2.5 tonnes.

In development of this new generation of the Sorento, Kia engineers worked to reduce the effect that road surface imperfections have on the body, and to reduce noise and vibrations through the suspension, while also improving body control and steering responses under cornering. This has been achieved with a series of geometry changes and new components, as well as improvements to the structure of the suspension system. The 35 mm longer wheelbase also contributes to an overall improvement in cruising comfort, while a more rigid bodyshell results in lower body vibrations.

Handling is predictable for a large SUV. It's not sporty, as much as the driving modes would like you to believe. But it is an easy beast to manoeuvre around tight country roads and delivers the necessary comfort and refinement this segment requires, without cartwheels or fanfare. We did note some road noise at motorway speeds, but other than that the new Sorento is a charming large SUV that can fully command its sticker price.

The Sorento diesel provides a reliable source of power and economy for long distance or rural users
The Sorento diesel provides a reliable source of power and economy for long distance or rural users

What's next?

A new Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid will join the range in Ireland in February. It will be powered by a 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine paired with a high-capacity 13.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a powerful electric motor. Together the petrol electric hybrid powertrain in the Sorento will produce up to 265 hp and 350 Nm torque. The plug-in hybrid Sorento will come with a 6-speed automatic and will be all wheel drive exclusively. The boon for this model with urban users is a pure electric range of up to 56 km and low emissions of just 50 g - meaning motor tax of just €140!

Did you like it?

The new 2021 Kia Sorento is a serious sign of intent from the Korean brand. Kia has a great track record in Ireland selling SUVs, and the Sorento will continue the fine tradition in the large family SUV category. All things considered it is still remarkably good value, considering the space on board the new Sorento, and the level of equipment and technology.

Buyers will have more options now when it comes to powertrain. While we are yet to test the Sorento hybrid, we can confirm the diesel is a star performer. The new diesel engine is more refined and has plenty of power and torque to make the Sorento drive effortless and something to be enjoyed. Towing capability is strong but buyers may lament the loss of four wheel drive from the Sorento diesel range. That will be reserved for hybrid models.

The biggest recommendation for the Sorento is the space inside the vehicle and the living room feel. It's more and more like a luxury hotel on wheels. Who could believe we would be saying these things about a Kia? But times have changed and the Sorento will woo buyers from other brands, no problem.

This is a truly impressive SUV and one of our favourite cars of the past year.

The stunning new Kia Sorento raises the game in design and quality for the Korean brand
The stunning new Kia Sorento raises the game in design and quality for the Korean brand

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Sorento 2.2 diesel K4
Price: 
€56,500
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel
Power:
202 hp
Torque: 440 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9 seconds
Top speed: 202 km/h
Economy (WLTP):
6.1-6.4l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
165 g/km
Motor tax: 
€420 per year


The new Ford Kuga diesel on test for Changing Lanes!

Ford Kuga (2021) Review

The new Ford Kuga diesel on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Ford Kuga diesel on test for Changing Lanes!

The Ford Kuga has long been a favourite with the Irish public. The Kuga was the brand's first SUV in Europe and launched in the market back in 2008. It quickly becoming popular for its chunky good looks, as buyers began to abandon large family saloons. Ford has sold more than 1 million Kugas in Europe since 2008. Ford's form in SUVs has been a bit hit and miss ever since, but the Kuga has always maintained its position as one of Ireland's favourite new and used family cars.

But even the mighty Kuga is not immune to changes in market trends. 2020 saw Ford really get their act together in terms of hopping on the back of electrification and launching mild hybrid vehicles, with more exciting models to come in 2021. We loved the Ford Puma we tested earlier in the year, and this sleek compact crossover is a return to form for the Ford brand in Europe. Mild hybrid versions of the Fiesta and Focus are now available, while next summer will see the arrival of the new all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

Hybrid power joins Kuga range

The march continued in 2020 with the arrival of the all-new third generation Kuga, available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time and a trusty diesel, with a regular hybrid to join the Kuga range in 2021. The Kuga diesel is available from €34,581, while the Kuga plug-in hybrid is available from €43,017.

The new Ford Kuga is on sale in Ireland priced from €34,581
The new Ford Kuga is on sale in Ireland priced from €34,581

The Ford Kuga really needed some attention as it was languishing behind newer rivals in terms of design and quality, as well as those all-important electrified powertrains.

Ford has bounced back with a nicely styled mid-size SUV that bears their new design language. It loses the awkwardness of the previous version, instead morphing into a lighter-looking, athletic SUV that's much easier on the eye. Alongside the Puma, these two are worth paying a visit again to your local Ford dealer.

Inside the 2020 Ford Kuga

The theme of brand renewal continues inside with an all-new interior. It's a big improvement in design with a slimmer and more lightweight feel to the dashboard layout. It's quite similar to the Focus inside, with now familiar apparel like the touchscreen perched on the dash, and an indigo backlit digital driver's display that we first saw in the Puma earlier this year. Quality is nothing special for the class with almost a too generous hand with the hard plastic, but it's great to see the Kuga going in a more modern direction at last.

Inside the new Ford Kuga
Inside the new Ford Kuga

The Ford Kuga is sold in four trim lines: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale. The ST-Line is the pick of the range (from €36,723) with a sportier exterior finish including 18” rock metallic alloy wheels and red brake calipers, black roof rails, ST-Line full body styling kit and large rear spoiler.

Inside there is a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, alloy pedals, and ST-Line sport seats. The Ford Kuga ST-Line also gets the full digital 12.3” instrument cluster as standard. The ST-Line X model on test adds full LED headlamps, automatic high beam and an excellent B&O premium audio system.

How practical is it?

As a family car, the Kuga performs very well with a spacious interior and seating for five. Footwells in the rear are generous and the doors open out wide. The rear bench also has good width for the middle passenger to get a decent amount of wriggle room. The 2020 Ford Kuga is 44 mm wider and 89 mm longer than the outgoing model. The second row of seats can be moved backwards to improve legroom or forwards to increase boot space. It's a huge boot either way.

At launch in Ireland, the range is based around the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with 120 hp and the new 2.5-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid with 225 hp. The diesel is a well-proven Ford powerplant that appears in other models too. On paper, its performance credentials look a little lacklustre but it feels more powerful on the road than 120 hp. In Ireland diesel manuals are sold, with automatic transmission reserved for the hybrid.

Plenty of legroom and a huge boot in the 2020 Ford Kuga
Plenty of legroom and a huge boot in the 2020 Ford Kuga

Driving the new Kuga

Diesel has always been the default choice for family SUVs and it's easy to see why. The Ford Kuga diesel returns excellent economy and over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.3 litres per 100 km. It's smooth and refined on the road, and the Kuga works well with the manual gearbox. You can exploit that surprisingly sporty feel behind the wheel.

Ford has once again done a great job with the Kuga's handling. There are selectable drive modes included and I would recommend a stint in Sport mode. On a twisty road the more responsive throttle and stiffer suspension make for an entertaining drive. I was having far more fun than I should have in a diesel family SUV. There's loads of front end grip and quite weighty steering. Comfortable too though we did note some road noise over coarser asphalt at motorway speeds.

For buyers ready to try hybrid the Kuga plug-in hybrid will offer them the opportunity to plug in and charge the battery to exploit an up to 56 km WLTP electric range. CO2 emissions are rated at just 32 g per kilometre, while there is potential to run the car very cheaply indeed with regular charging. Next year's Kuga hybrid won't come with a plug, but it looks still to offer a fuel efficient drive.

The Ford Kuga offers customers choice of diesel or petrol hybrid powertrains
The Ford Kuga offers customers choice of diesel or petrol hybrid powertrains

Did you like it?

The new Ford Kuga was one of 2020's big releases. Along with the Ford Puma, these two new models are a return to form for the brand in Europe. The Kuga has a great customer base, and meets the needs of a lot of people in a real sweet spot of the market.

This is a much improved car now with a modern interior update and all the latest technology features. It's got a cool new look and ST Line models look really great on the road.

The Ford Kuga is still amazing fun to drive on a twisty country road. It stands out among rivals for this character trait. It shouldn't be this fun and be able to carry five people comfortably! All with a diesel engine!

The Kuga is one of the most spacious SUVs at its price point.

While we are yet to sample the hybrid Kuga, this Kuga diesel gets a thumbs up and delivers great economy.

Quality could be better in the Kuga so as long as you're not expecting the last word in luxury, the Kuga is back in the game. Welcome back!

The Kuga is practical and fun to drive
The Kuga is practical and fun to drive

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBlue ST-Line X
Price: 
€39,134 (Range starts at €34,581)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.7 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Economy (WLTP):
5.1l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP):
127 g/km
Motor tax:
€200 per year


The new Peugeot 2008 on test for Changing Lanes

Peugeot 2008 1.2 Petrol Review

The new Peugeot 2008 on test for Changing Lanes
The new Peugeot 2008 on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the new Peugeot 2008!

Peugeot launches an all-new generation of the popular 2008 compact SUV with a radical new design, new interior and a range of petrol and diesel engines. 2020 also saw the launch of the first ever electric 2008, the e-2008. Together with the 208 supermini, the Peugeot 2008 spearheads a new strategy for the brand that allows customers to choose the powertrain that best suits their budget and lifestyle, without compromising style or practicality.

It’s a clever strategy. Things are beginning to change fast in the motor industry. The market now demands electrified powertrains including greater choice in hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. In 2020, Peugeot in Ireland made serious moves into this market with the launch of the e-208, e-2008, and 508 and 3008 plug-in hybrids, with more exciting models to come. New facelifted versions of the equally popular 3008 and 5008 family SUVs are arriving in dealers now too, just in time for 211 registrations.

Say hello to the new Peugeot 2008

Peugeot revolutionised the design of their cars several years ago with new design language focused around strong, confident lines, eye-catching lighting signatures and styling details inspired by premium vehicles. Now they are revolutionising what’s under the bonnet and how it is pitched to the customer.

The 208 supermini was the first new generation model in the Peugeot range to be launched giving customers the choice between petrol, diesel or electric. The platform the car is built on is designed from the start to be suitable for a combustion engine or electric powertrain.

Now Peugeot brings the same smorgasbord of choice to the 2008 compact SUV range.

The new Peugeot 2008 goes on sale in Ireland from €24,450
The new Peugeot 2008 goes on sale in Ireland from €24,450

Petrol power & the 2008

In this review I’m taking a closer look at the Peugeot 2008 1.2-litre petrol with 130 hp. Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to drive the new Peugeot 2008 diesel, which impressed us for its long distance economy.

Yet petrol power still makes a lot of sense in these small crossovers, with many spending most of their time in low speed, urban driving. The 2008 petrol range starts from €24,450 and comes from the award-winning Puretech family of engines. In the 2008 it’s available with 100 hp, 130 hp or 155 hp, with a 6-speed manual or the option of 8-speed automatic (130 hp and 155 hp engine only). It’s a smooth and quiet engine that purrs away beautifully under the bonnet.

Yet compared to the diesel we drove earlier in the year (from €27,100), it will mean more time at the pumps. During our extended test drive over a few weeks we averaged 7.0 litres per 100 km. From January, motor tax will be €200 per year for this model.

The e-2008 uses a 50 kWh battery with a WLTP range of 310 km and retails from €31,262 including VRT relief and SEAI grant.

On the road, the 2008 has matured in terms of the comfort it offers occupants and the refinement of the drive, particularly in this petrol model. The suspension strikes a balance between decent handling ability and a compliant suspension, so it avoids the brittleness over bumps that can plague some compact crossovers. The compact steering wheel gives the car an added boost in low speed urban manoeuvres.

Strong confident stance for the new 2008
Strong confident stance for the new 2008

What's new for the 2020 Peugeot 2008?

In design the Peugeot 2008 has also matured and now looks more like a mini-3008. It has a great presence in the car park or on the road, with character defining lines, a striking LED light signature and strong confident grille. As you go up the trim levels, more bling gets added including larger alloys and roof rails, bringing the 2008 into premium territory.

Inside Peugeot has upped cabin quality and ironed out the finer details of the i-Cockpit arrangement. That’s the unique interior concept to Peugeot where you look over the compact steering wheel at the instrument binnacle. To your left, there is a slick looking touchscreen that connects to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2008 has increased in size somewhat so there is more room now inside the vehicle. You will certainly notice it in the rear, where there is more legroom making it one of the most generously sized of the compact SUVs. The boot is also a decent size (360 litres) with a practical flat loading sill. It’s definitely bigger inside than the 208. There are also two Isofix child seat fixtures in the rear.

Standard equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, rear view camera, LED headlights, front fog lamps, cruise control, traffic sign recognition, automatic headlights and wipers, and touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Inside the new Peugeot 2008
Inside the new Peugeot 2008

Allure models (from €26,100) add items such as 17” alloys, passenger seat height adjustment, rear privacy glass and 3D effect i-Cockpit.

The GT model (from €30,280) adds heated front seats, 10” touchscreen, black roof, front parking sensors, high beam assist and contrasting lime stitching to the interior.

Did you like it?

The new Peugeot 2008 once again executes the compact SUV concept with a flourish that keeps it one of the most distinct of its class. Built to be practical and stylish, the new model will build on the success and customer base of the first, but with more maturity, refinement and style that makes it stand out.

Inside buyers will find a well appointed cabin and a decent small family car with generous kneeroom and a practical boot.

Granted the most desirable Allure and GT models do push the 2008 out of the budget side of the market, yet add considerable image and desirability to the popular French crossover in the process.

Equipment levels are good, even from entry. Peugeot truly offers something for everyone with a range of proven petrol and diesel engines, and of course the arrival of the e-2008. With electric cars having a bit of a moment right now, Peugeot has the compact side of the market covered.

The new 2008 is available in petrol, diesel or electric
The new 2008 is available in petrol, diesel or electric

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Peugeot 2008 GT 1.2 Puretech
Price: 
€30,280
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
130 hp
Torque: 230 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.8 seconds
Top speed: 198 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.5-5.6 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 127 g/km
Motor Tax:  €200 per year


Mazda MX-30 (2020) First Drive Review

The new Mazda MX-30 on test for Changing Lanes in Dublin!
The new Mazda MX-30 on test for Changing Lanes in Dublin!

The new Mazda MX-30 is Mazda's first battery electric vehicle and will arrive in Ireland in February 2021. The MX-30 is a compact electric crossover and will go on sale here priced from €30,495 including grants and VRT relief. Powered by a 35.5 kWh battery, the new Mazda MX-30 has a range of up to 200 km (WLTP).

We took the new MX-30 for a test drive ahead of its official launch in Ireland in 2021. Here are our opening thoughts on Mazda's first electric car.

Styling

The MX-30 is a compact crossover with plenty of cool exterior features. It evolves Mazda's famed Kodo design philosophy that little bit further with a more expressive, 'friendly' design. LED headlights come as standard as does obligatory plastic cladding around the wheel arches, sills and bumpers, a crucial accessory for any bonafide urban crossover! There's also showstopper rear hinged freestyle doors that open outwards and invisible B pillar between the front and rear passenger compartment. Six body colours are available - Soul Red Crystal, Polymetal Grey, Machine Grey, Arctic White, Ceramic White and Jet Black - and contrasting roof finishes.

Interior

The Mazda MX-30 interior is a beauty to behold with a pleasing evolution of Mazda's typical driver-centric cockpit design. Everything is positioned for the comfort of the driver. The MX-30 furthers the concept of the horizontal layout to give the interior a simpler, wider look. To this end, the interior features a floating centre console that stands independent of the dashboard and adds additional storage. The introduction of a 7-inch touch-screen air-conditioning control panel is a first for Mazda too, and simplifies the dash layout even further.

The MX-30 adds an earthier feeling to Mazda's classically classy interiors with more intentional natural and recycled materials including a cork centre console and door trim made from fibres produced from recycled plastic bottles.

Elsewhere the dials and interface are conventional and easy to follow. Build quality is good too.

The cockpit of the new Mazda MX-30
The cockpit of the new Mazda MX-30

Practicality

The MX-30 has similar dimensions to the Mazda CX-30. It feels roomy up front with an airy lounge-like feel. The rear seating is accessed through freestyle doors. There's no B pillar to block access and egress. Novelty value for sure however rear legroom is on the tight side. The shape and position of the rear windows also mean occupants can feel a little restricted. Legroom will be tight for larger adults.

Battery, Range and Charging

The MX-30 uses a 35.5 kWh battery, with a WLTP range of 200 km. Mazda is on a 'right-sized' battery approach to building electric vehicles. That means that they haven't stuffed the MX-30 with a high capacity battery in a race to win range. Mazda cites this as more efficient electric motoring, avoiding the weight of a larger battery and reducing energy spend over the entire life cycle of the vehicle 'from well to wheel'. This strategy also keeps overall vehicle weight lower for better handling and agility, which is currently not the case for many EVs.

They make a good case for this but the MX-30's range can look a bit feeble against the competition in the electric crossover segment. Fast charging is available through a CCS charging adapter at 50 kW, giving 80% battery power in 36 minutes. It can be charged to full in as little as 5 hours at home.

The Mazda MX-30 is a new electric crossover from the Japanese brand
The Mazda MX-30 is a new electric crossover from the Japanese brand

On the road

At Changing Lanes, we had the opportunity to preview the MX-30's new electric powertrain when driving a prototype vehicle last December in Lisbon, Portugal. We reported an impressive display by the prototype with natural feeling responses and revving character through a sound actuator. So now we have the opportunity to drive the real thing on Irish roads!

With 145 PS and maximum torque output of 271 Nm, the front-wheel drive MX-30 will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Though the 'MX' might imply something sexy and powerful, the MX-30 is not a sports car and doesn't need excessive power either. Yet there's pleasant kick from the accelerator should you want it.

To help the driver feel more connected to the car and driving process, aural feedback is provided via the audio system in sync with pressure applied to the accelerator. It's very impressive and gives that impression of revving an engine and moving through gears. Technologies such as electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus) ensure a natural feeling behind the wheel and stability while cornering.

The MX-30 feels at home in the urban environment of our test route. This was not a full test of battery performance however early indications were that the MX-30 uses energy cleverly.

Freestyle doors bring a distinct character to the new MX-30
Freestyle doors bring a distinct character to the new MX-30

Pricing & Equipment

In Ireland the new Mazda MX-30 will be available in four trim levels: First Edition, GS-L, GT and GT Sport.

GS-L models are available from €30,495. Features include radar cruise control, windscreen projected head-up-display, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights and a rear camera. Higher grades such as the GT Sport (from €34,795) will add equipment such as a 12 speaker Bose sound system, sunroof and 360° view camera.

There is also a GT model available from €31,595.

The First Edition models will be the first to arrive in Ireland from February and are priced from €31,795. Features include 8-way power driver seat with memory setting, adaptive LED signature headlights and a choice of dark or light leatherette and cloth interior. Higher grades such as the GT Sport will add equipment such as a 12 speaker Bose sound system, sunroof and 360° view camera.

The MX-30 is also the first in the Mazda range to benefit from the latest MyMazda app, which is now available for free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It now contains functions that are only possible on an electric vehicle including notifications if a driver forgets to plug in the charging cable, the ability to control charging using a timer, monitoring charging progress, and a range indicator. The MyMazda app also gives MX-30 drivers real-time information on charging point availability and location, allows them to view key information such as plug types and opening hours, and send the destination directly to the navigation system.

The MX-30 features a further enhanced suite of i-Activsense features. Turn-Across Traffic functionality has been added to the existing Smart Brake Support (SBS) system to help prevent collisions when turning across traffic at intersections. New technologies include Emergency Lane Keeping with Road Keep Assist, which helps keep the car on the right track even in the absence of lane markings, and Emergency Lane Keeping with Blind Spot Assist, which helps prevent collisions when changing lanes.

50 kW fast charging is available
50 kW fast charging is available

Rivals

The new Mazda MX-30 will compete against other compact electric crossovers such as the Kia e-Niro, Kia e-Soul, Hyundai Kona Electric, Peugeot e-2008.

Summary

The Mazda MX-30 is yet another addition to the growing range of electric vehicles now available to buy in Ireland. It adds electric power to the fashionable body of a crossover, with a modern urban look that's bound to draw attention.

Mazda enters the field of electric vehicles bringing its driver centric design philosophy. That's welcome in the electric vehicle space. The beautiful interior design and interesting material choices certainly differentiate the MX-30, as do the freestyle doors! We're not convinced yet of the practicality of the arrangement but it surely is different!

Behind the wheel Mazda delivers the same pedantic pursuit of driver pleasure as in any of their combustion engined cars. This is good for people who enjoy driving.

Which leaves us thinking about range. We are yet to fully put to the test the practicality of charging and living with the MX-30. Yet the 200 km range will be eclipsed by most rivals. There's a lot of logic to Mazda's approach but will it work for real people?

The Mazda MX-30 is thankfully well-priced and well-equipped so there's still plenty to play for.

Mazda MX-30 is one of the most exciting electric crossovers arriving in Ireland in 2021
Mazda MX-30 is one of the most exciting electric crossovers arriving in Ireland in 2021

Caroline Kidd


The new Honda e on test for Changing Lanes

Honda e (2020) First Drive Review

The new Honda e on test for Changing Lanes
The new Honda e on test for Changing Lanes

The new Honda e has arrived in Ireland and goes on sale priced from €29,995 including Government grants and VRT relief. It's the Japanese brand's first battery electric car, based on the Honda Urban EV concept car, which made a dramatic debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2017 and has had tongues wagging ever since in anticipation of its cool retro-inspired styling and lounge-like interior.

With a WLTP range of 222 km, it is an all electric city car aimed at the urban dweller. It brings a number of innovations to the Honda brand, including Side Camera Mirror System. We had an opportunity to bring the Honda e for a test drive in Dublin. Here are our opening thoughts on the quirky Honda e.

Styling

The production Honda e retains most of the cool character of the original Honda Urban EV concept. Small in size, the Honda e is from the future and at home on city streets lit by neon lights. It's anything but ordinary. The clues are there as you approach. Traditional side mirrors have been replaced by cameras so the Honda e has 'no ears' per se, just small housing for the cameras protruding from each wing. At the front, there's a closed grille with those dazzling round headlamps deliberately styled to give the Honda e a friendly human face that you will just fall in love with instantly. Charging is via a remote controlled flap on the bonnet that opens to reveal a CCS port for fast charging and AC charging.

Quirky styling and laden with tech characterises the new Honda e
Quirky styling and laden with tech characterise the new Honda e

Interior

Inside Honda treats us to another glimpse of the future. Many manufacturers are showing us concepts of lounge-like interiors built around screens and more screens but Honda brings one to production in the year 2020. It's an elegant, classy and techy dashboard set-up with full-width LCD touchscreens and wood panelling that would not be out of place in an upmarket furniture store. Neither would the seat upholstery or bench-like seating in the rear. The Side Camera Mirror System means you get more screen action to show you what is going on around the vehicle. The compact cameras on the outside of the vehicle provide live images to two six-inch screens inside the vehicle. This camera technology is a first in the compact segment. Works beautifully we can confirm in daylight, though we haven't experienced it at night time yet. Standard kit too. Go up to the Advance model (from €32,995) and Honda will even up the ante with a Centre Camera Mirror System, which cleverly relays the image from a central rear-facing camera to the rear-view mirror display. It's an interior fitting of an up and coming electric city car. Analogue fans need not apply.

Practicality

The Honda e is a small car but can fit humans in it too and some of their gear. It's five door with four seat interior. Up front it feels roomy but legroom is on the small side in the rear and the boot has a capacity of just 171 litres. It's cool though, right?

Battery, Power and Range

The purpose built EV platform uses a 35.5 kWh battery, with a WLTP range of 222 km. The Honda e has 136 hp, while the Honda e Advance has 154 hp. Fast charging is available through a CCS charging adapter, with the opportunity to add 80% of charge in just 30 minutes. The Type 2 AC connection charges the car to full in 4.1 hours, with a 7.4 kW supply.

Inside the new Honda e
Inside the new Honda e

On the road

The excitement of setting off in the Honda e on a dull Monday morning in October just a few weeks before Lockdown 2.0! Bizarrely despite all that visible tech the Honda e is as easy as 1 2 3 to drive, or P R N D, considering it's controlled by a simple button gear selector that means you just press a button to put the car in Drive.

As well as Single Pedal Control, the Honda e also has two drive modes; Normal, for a quiet refined drive around town and Sport, for increased responsiveness.

Silence is the language of the Honda e. It's light and nippy and oh so modern. We felt a bit small on the motorway but could still keep up with the best of them. In typical urban driving it's that perfect slice of zero tailpipe emissions future motoring with instant acceleration and responsiveness. Buy the Honda e and that's 'now' motoring, but we expect more will join as Honda Ireland expects to sell their full allocation of 150 little e badged Hondas in 2021.

We had limited time to test the Honda e's consumption and efficiency but early indications are that it uses electricity cleverly. If buyers can charge every night at home you will set off each day on your commute with close to 170 km.

So much cool stuff in the cabin of the new Honda e
So much cool stuff in the cabin of the new Honda e

Pricing & Equipment

An enhanced suite of safety features sees the addition of three new safety technologies to the Honda e including Collision Mitigation Throttle Control, preventing sudden acceleration in either reverse or drive upon starting the car when there is an obstacle in the way; Low Speed Brake Function, which applies emergency braking while driving at low speed, and Lead Car Departure Notification System which notifies the driver when the car in front has started moving.

Another new feature is Honda Parking Pilot, which provides further driver support by monitoring for parking spaces and highlighting on the HMI screens a suitable position to begin assisted parking.

In Ireland the Honda e (from €29,995) comes as standard with Honda Sensing suite of safety features, 16" alloys, climate control with rear vent, automatic wipers, electric windows front and rear, heated front seats, parking sensors, rear view parking camera, ambient lighting, and panoramic glass roof.

Honda e Advance (from €32,995) adds an increased motor output, Centre Camera Mirror System, a more powerful audio system, heated windscreen and steering wheel, and the smart Honda Parking Pilot driver aid.

Honda in Ireland has chosen to sell the new Honda e from a number of urban Honda dealers nationwide, including Des Darcy Honda and Clonskeagh Motors Honda in Dublin, Kevin O’Leary Honda in Cork, and Sheils Honda in Limerick and Galway.

Rivals

The new Honda e will compete against other compact electric vehicles like the Peugeot e-208 and the MINI Electric.

Summary

The new Honda e hits the compact EV market at the premium end. Honda has many valid reasons for not using a larger capacity battery for more range but it will be tough for the Honda e in a market that fetishises range - the more of it the better seemingly and I might be saying the same thing after spending a week with the car.

The Honda e may not win the range race but what it does have is street cred that makes it serious eye candy for early adopters. If you're after a budget small car, the Honda e is evidently not for you. But the premium build, technology-laden Honda e is undeniably cool, adventurous and desirable.

A trendsetter we can fully get behind and look forward to delving deeper into the technology and practicality of living with a Honda e when we take it on an extended test drive in January 2021. Watch this space!

The new Honda e all electric compact now on sale from €29,995
The new Honda e all electric compact now on sale from €29,995

Caroline Kidd


The new Audi A1 citycarver on test for Changing Lanes!

Audi A1 Citycarver (2020) Review

The new Audi A1 citycarver on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Audi A1 citycarver on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the new Audi A1 citycarver.

In 2019, Audi launched a new generation of the A1 city car. At Changing Lanes, we really like the A1 for its new angular, sporty styling, nifty driving dynamics and one of the best interiors in the small car class, dripping with the latest Audi technology features. While this is a premium small car bearing a premium car price, we couldn’t see anyone being disappointed with the overall Audi A1 experience.

For the first time Audi has now added the new Audi A1 citycarver derivative to the A1 range. Described as ideal for navigating the urban jungle, the citycarver is inspired by trends for crossovers. So Audi has raised the ride height of their diminutive city car, and thrown some more outdoors apparel at it.

What's so special about the new Audi A1 citycarver?

There's four centimetres more ground clearance which gives the A1 citycarver more presence, along with classic Audi Singleframe grille with honeycomb pattern. Two characteristic slots above the grille differentiate it from the A1 Sportback. Wheel arch enhancements, redesigned sills in a contrasting colour, unique bumpers, 17” alloys, and different interior seat fabric also give it a more unique look. At the rear, a new look bumper echoes the robust look of the front end. A contrast roof is also included.

When you meet the Audi A1 citycarver for the first time, you might be hard pressed to see the changes but the extra ride height is probably most notable. I love the A1’s angular charm anyway and cool slotted bonnet. Under the skin, there's also a modified suspension.

The A1 citycarver is inspired by crossovers with more ride height and rugged styling
The A1 citycarver is inspired by crossovers with more ride height and rugged styling

Inside the new A1 citycarver

Inside, the Audi A1 citycarver has the same high quality cabin as the rest of the A1 range. I’m not shy to say it’s one of the best cabin experiences of any small car. It’s cool, grown up and sophisticated, taking features from larger Audis, like the 8.8” MMI infotainment screen and digital instrument panel with optional virtual cockpit. The instrument panel is tilted toward the driver. Aside from hard plastics in the door panels, the dashboard materials and switches look and feel good with lots of cool glossy black.

Aside from the digital tech, other features include LED headlights with dynamic rear turn signals, air conditioning, cruise control, Audi pre-sense front and lane departure warning

Inside it’s a nicely sized compact car with generous footwells in the rear and a 335 litre boot. Practical as it gets for a small car too. The luggage compartment package, features a net and is a handy feature for everyday life in the city!

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

Driving the Audi A1 citycarver

In terms of engines the A1 citycarver comes exclusively with the 30 TFSI, which is a good thing as the 1.0-litre TFSI has a decent 116 hp and running costs are competitive for a small car. It’s no sports car but is does feel nippy and fun to drive on the road. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.9 litres per 100 km, including some motorway driving.

There is a bit more lean in corners with that small extra ride height, but there is so much grip it hardly matters behind the wheel. Comfort levels are good too by small car standards.

The Audi A1 citycarver is a high spec vehicle and retails from about €29,350 under current 2020 pricing. The Audi A1 Sportback range kicks off at €24,810 for a less well-equipped model. But a high spec sporty S line model with the same 1.0-litre engine with 116 hp retails for roughly the same money as the A1 citycarver so it's a pretty straightforward choice for small car buyers who want something a little fun and exclusive.

The Audi A1 citycarver on sale from €29,350
The Audi A1 citycarver on sale from €29,350

The Audi A1 delivers on both counts. If you love the look of the A1 citycarver with its robust wheel arch cladding and contrast sills, then by all means this is a fabulous buy. At Changing Lanes we're more excited about the A1 S line's lowered, sporty look, but it is a matter of opinion and the citycarver certainly follows current market trends.

Not only does it look great, but it's also still agile and fun for the city. Parking is easy and this is a well equipped car with the latest in car technology and features. Yes you pay a premium for that Audi badge upon the grille but this is a top quality small car and a pure delight. Loved it.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A1 citycarver 30 TFSI
Price: 
€29,650
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
116 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.4 seconds
Top speed: 203 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 6.1-6.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 139-145 g/km
Motor Tax:  €200 per year

The Audi A1 citycarver is expensive but cool and fun to drive
The Audi A1 citycarver is expensive but cool and fun to drive

The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes

Volvo XC40 (2020) T5 Hybrid Review

The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes
The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the new Volvo XC40 T5 hybrid!

This week on Changing Lanes we test the new Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid. Volvo’s compact SUV has been a great success for Volvo and is now the bestselling model in the Volvo range in Ireland since it launched here in 2018. A former Irish Car of the Year winner, the Volvo XC40 has established itself as formidable competition in the premium compact SUV segment.

Launched with petrol and diesel engines, Volvo continues the Swedish brand’s journey to electrification with the arrival of plug-in hybrid technology to the tune of the new Volvo XC40 T5. Volvo already sells plug-in hybrids in other models in the range, including SUVs, so this is a continuation of a similar theme. While an all-electric XC40 is expected in 2021.

What's so special about the Volvo XC40 T5?

In the T5 ‘Twin Engine’, this compact SUV model uses a three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine supported by a battery and electric motor to reduce emissions and give the XC40 the capacity to drive on pure electric power for a short range. This is ideal for city dwellers with short commutes and ability to charge their car between journeys.

The T5 is not only the first hybrid powertrain in the XC40, it’s also the first to be engineered for use in Volvo's CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform and uses a front-wheel drive layout. The powertrain is supported by a new seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission, featured for the first time in a new-generation Volvo model.

While the Volvo XC40 range kicks off from about €38,297, buyers will pay from about €47,700, including grants and VRT relief, for this ability to embrace a modern plug-in hybrid powertrain in their new Volvo SUV.

The Volvo XC40 is the bestselling Volvo in Ireland
The Volvo XC40 is the bestselling Volvo in Ireland

So what do you get for your money?

Power output is an impressive 262 hp, while CO2 emissions are just 48 g CO2 meaning buyers will pay €170 per year at the moment in motor tax. A 10.7 kWh lithium-ion battery on board means that the new XC40 T5 can be driven on electric power only for a range of up to 46 km.

The Volvo XC40 is a fine piece of design. The Recharge branding appears for the first time on the C pillar to indicate the electrified powertrain underneath and there is a recharging outlet positioned under a flap on the front wing.

Inside, the Volvo XC40 is still a masterclass in design in its segment. The layout is simple and stylish, while the quality is just superb. The car comes equipped with digital instrument panel and portrait style infotainment system and it still feels modern, with smartphone connectivity available. Passengers are well accommodated for with large footwells in the rear, while there is also a good-sized boot with 460 litres making it an ideal fashionable family car.

The interior of the Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro
The interior of the Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro

Driving the Volvo XC40 T5

On the road, the XC40 T5 is a dream to drive. Its hybrid powertrain means it runs super silently whether in town or on the motorway. The power delivery is smooth and urgent, with a pleasant kick when you press the accelerator. It’s 262 hp after all! Handling is positive though under hard braking you will feel the weight of the vehicle. Though the electric motor is helping particularly at low speeds in town, where it is most efficient, on the open road you call more on the engine. While the onus is on drivers to charge up to improve the efficiency of the vehicle, without charging regularly I achieved an average fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 km.

The T5 is available in a range of trim levels including R-Design and Inscription with Pro editions of each. Our test car was a beautiful Inscription Pro that comes with luxurious features such as 19” alloys, leather upholstery, heated front seats, ambient lighting, powered tailgate and a show-stopping Orrefors Crystal glass gear selector.

The XC40 plug in hybrid can be driven on pure electric power up to about 46 km.
The XC40 plug in hybrid can be driven on pure electric power up to about 46 km.

So did you like it?

The Volvo XC40 is a proper premium SUV, nothing has changed when you add a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s impressively refined and covers the road smoothly and comfortably, leaving little to disagree with.

It is a pricey vehicle, and plug-in hybrids are still not for everyone. Yet economy returns are promising and charging after each journey will make a lot more sense.

The cabin is comfortable and well appointed with a good use of space. The plug-in hybrid technology hasn’t put the XC40 at a disadvantage when it comes to providing the space and practicality required of the compact SUV segment.

Volvo is pushing electrification strongly in their range, giving buyers more options and settling one’s conscious of driving an SUV in the city. With hybrid power and the ability to drive on electricity only, it feels like the right thing to do for urban dwellers. But if you are not quite sold on hybrid for your motoring needs, the XC40 is still a very good SUV with plenty to discover across the range.

New Volvo XC40 T5 available from about €47,700 after grants and VRT relief
New Volvo XC40 T5 available from about €47,700 after grants and VRT relief

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro
Price: 
€50,100 after grants and VRT relief
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
262 hp
Torque: 425 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.3 seconds
Top speed: 205 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 2.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 55 g/km
Motor Tax:  €170 per year


The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid

Hyundai Kona Hybrid (2020) Review

The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid
The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the new Hyundai Kona Hybrid.

Hyundai hit the jackpot when they launched the new Kona back in 2017. Riding on a wave of success with the popular Tucson family SUV, the Korean brand took a grip on the compact crossover class with the Kona and hasn’t let go since. It’s slipped quietly into a top 5 position as one of Ireland's bestselling cars and trounced all upon the competition.

So what's so special about the Hyundai Kona?

The Hyundai Kona offers buyers an on-trend compact car with rugged crossover-inspired styling and stance. But aside from aesthetics, it also offers buyers impressive choice. In what is still unusual for the compact crossover class, the Kona is now available in Ireland as a hybrid, electric vehicle or with a simple combustion engine (petrol or diesel).

The Hyundai Kona Electric has been a favourite at Changing Lanes since we drove it in 2019. We were impressed with how well the electric powertrain blended with the charismatic crossover and a range in excess of 400 km made range anxiety a thing of the past.

Now in 2020 the Hyundai Kona Hybrid comes to market with a 1.6-litre petrol electric powertrain that means emissions are rated at just 101 g/km. Fuel consumption is quoted by the manufacturer as 5.0 l/100km under WLTP. With the Kona Hybrid, buyers who require a traditional fuel powered car can now reconcile their conscious with a more fuel efficient hybrid.

The new Kona Hybrid goes on sale from €29,050, using a 6-speed automatic gearbox to deliver power to the front wheels. For reference, the Hyundai Kona 1.0-litre petrol manual goes on sale from €21,400, while the diesel range starts from €23,400. At the top of the range, the Hyundai Kona Electric retails from €39,300 including grants and VRT relief.

The Kona Hybrid is cheap to run with lower emissions
The Kona Hybrid is cheap to run with lower emissions

What's new for the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid?

Hybrids are all the rage at the moment. The Kona Hybrid packs this technology into an already successful compact. On the outside a discreet hybrid logo at the rear and new 18" alloy wheels differentiate it from the rest of the combustion engined Kona range. Yet the Kona's rugged good looks are retained, along with distinct front end lighting, robust plastic cladding around the sills, bumpers and wheel arches, and two tone colour combinations.

The Kona Hybrid still rides a little bit higher than a standard hatchback, but drives pretty much like the latter - part of its appeal. It's also a practical vehicle, though being compact by dimensions means that legroom can get tight in the back for taller passengers. Boot space hasn't been impacted and it remains akin to any family hatchback with 361 litres and a flat loading sill.

The interior of the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid
The interior of the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid

Inside the Kona Hybrid

The Hyundai Kona Hybrid has an identical interior to the rest of the Kona combustion engine range. Everything is simple and logically laid out, with a few additional interfaces to relay information to the driver about the hybrid system and power flow between engine, battery and electric motor.

Hard plastics do feature a lot, though the Hybrid does get its own dedicated interior colour pack to add interest to what is otherwise a relatively subdued affair. There are white accents around the air vent surrounds and gear shift bezel, as well as glossy black accents on the door handles and steering wheel.

There is a good level of standard equipment: 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, climate control, electronic parking brake, cruise control, rear view camera and wireless phone charger.

Kona Hybrid on sale in Ireland priced from €29,050
Kona Hybrid on sale in Ireland priced from €29,050

Driving it

On the road the Kona takes off in near silence, benefiting from that electrical assistance from the hybrid powertrain. The dual clutch automatic gearbox makes driving in town easy, while the Kona is naturally agile in that environment. It also performs well on larger roads despite its compact proportions, with decent levels of comfort and refinement.

The hybrid powertrain itself uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine, 1.56 kWh battery and 32 kW motor to deliver a maximum hybrid system power of 141 hp and 265 Nm to the front wheels. The bias in the transmission is to efficiency so it would be foolish to expect exciting performance from this car. But buyers should be more interested in how they can save fuel using the Kona Hybrid and drive in an eco-friendly manner. In that regard the hybrid does deliver and with a patient right foot, we achieved average fuel consumption of 5.4 litres per 100 km. Motor tax for this model is currently just €190 per year.

Hyundai is a brand keen to try new things and embrace trends in the motor industry. In many ways, they are one of the driving forces behind innovation in the motor industry right now, offering alternative technologies to more people, while creating stylish, practical vehicles that sit comfortably among consumers.

At Changing Lanes, we adore the Kona Electric yet the nature of the technology and powerful 64 kWh battery means the price tag still puts it out of reach of buyers of small crossovers.

At the entry into the range, the 1.0-litre petrol Kona will satisfy the needs of many compact crossover buyers at very competitive pricing.

The Kona Hybrid offers cheaper running costs yet the price positioning opens the field to more competition from the family crossover/SUV segment that may see it overlooked for more spacious vehicles. Yet the Kona Hybrid is undeniably an efficient vehicle using the latest hybrid technology, and we look forward to seeing it evolve into 2021.

Once of the few hybrid compact crossovers on the market, the Kona is a stylish and fuel efficient way to travel
Once of the few hybrid compact crossovers on the market, the Kona is a stylish and fuel efficient way to travel

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Hyundai Kona Hybrid with 2 tone roof
Price: 
€29,650
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
141 hp
Torque: 265 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.6 seconds
Top speed: 160 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 101 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year