The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)

Opel Insignia Used Car Review (2009-2017)

The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)
The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)

Check out our Opel Insignia used car review!

The Opel Insignia was one of my first ever car reviews for Changing Lanes. That was 2014. Now I think it's fair to say that we can class it as a used car review. I've updated my original review with some more background information. This will help you if you are thinking of buying a used Opel Insignia from between the years of 2009 and 2017. 

The first generation Opel Insignia reached Ireland in 2009. It received a refresh in 2013 and stayed in production until 2017 when it was replaced by the all-new Opel Insignia Grand Sport.

Diesel was king in Ireland in 2009 and the Insignia looked after customers well in this regard. It quickly became a fleet favourite. The visibility of this generation of the Opel Insignia is still high on Irish roads. The Opel Insignia replaced the Opel Vectra and was a huge step forward in design.

Opel Insignia Review

In summer 2014, I tested the Opel Insignia SRi, the sporty one in the range with attractive OPC inspired body styling, 18" alloys, and sports suspension. The first generation Insignia has good presence on the road, while inside it's comfortable and good quality for the large car segment of this era.

The Insignia range was refreshed in 2013 and there were updates to the headlamp design, revised front bumper with slightly bigger and lower air intakes, along with different rear light clusters, new rear bumper and some other trim updates.

The 2013 facelift also saw a revamped interior, new steering wheel, better quality materials, and a new Intellilink touchscreen that removed more buttons for a cleaner look. There was also a new touchpad controller available and voice control.

The interior of the first generation Opel Insignia
The interior of the first generation Opel Insignia

Standard equipment is impressive and over the years there were five trim levels -  S and SC being the more basic ones, SE and Elite the more premium ones and SRi the sporty one. SC and above have the IntelliLink infotainment system with 8” touchscreen and Apple CarPlay from 2015. Some of the safety features available on the first generation Opel Insignia include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear view parking camera, traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning system.

Opel Insignia Hatchback Vs Saloon Vs Estate

The Opel Insignia was available as a hatchback, saloon or Sports Tourer estate between 2009 and 2017. Interior space was competitive for a large car, not outstanding but the boot was a good size at 530 litres in the Insignia hatchback, 540 litres in the Insignia estate and 500 litres in the Insignia saloon.

My 2014 Opel Insignia was powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 163 hp. This engine is economical with good pulling power but it's a bit on the noisy side. In 2015 it was replaced by an improved and much quieter 2.0-litre diesel with 170 hp. Read our review of that diesel Insignia here. Manual and automatic gearboxes are available. Other engine options for the Insignia at the time included a 1.6-litre CDTi with 136 bhp and a 1.4-litre turbo petrol with 140 bhp.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Is the Opel Insignia a good car?

On the road the Opel Insignia majors at cruising effortlessly up and down motorways. This car has broad appeal. The suspension is on the firm side but not uncomfortable by any means. The steering is precise and intuitive giving a reassuring and sporty feel going around bends. This is matched to excellent grip and body control (no doubt down to that extra firmness in the suspension!). The car grips but there is a fair bit of movement of the car’s weight over the suspension. SRi models fitted with sports suspension are tighter in this regard.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi 2.0-litre diesel I tested had a normal retail price of €33,295.

Not surprisingly, the Opel Insignia is a popular choice as a company car for its comfort on long journeys and good suspension that absorbs bumps and ruts so well. The huge 530 litre boot and great rear passenger space make it a great family buy too. The Opel Insignia is the German car without the premium price tag but retaining that feeling of quality that you expect from a German car.

It isn't the most dynamically exciting car in the class (that accolade goes to the Ford Mondeo) but the Opel Insignia is more than up for the job of long motorway cruises, keeping everyone on board happy and comfortable!

If you are thinking of buying a used Opel Insignia, I hope this review has been useful.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Details correct at time of test

Model tested: 2014 Opel Insignia SRi Limited Edition 5-door Hatch
Price: €33,295 (as tested new in June 2014)
Engine: 2.0 litre diesel
Power: 163 bhp
0-100km/h: 9.5 seconds
Economy: 65.7mpg (4.3l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
Tax band: A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd


The new Kia XCeed!

Kia XCeed 1.6 Diesel (2020) Review

The new Kia XCeed!
The new Kia XCeed!

Caroline reviews the new Kia XCeed!

Since the launch of the new Kia Ceed in the summer of 2018, Kia has created a number of spin-offs to appeal to different buyers of compact vehicles. There was the practical Ceed SW followed by the elegant ProCeed shooting brake. Now in 2020 we say hello to probably the most desirable of them all – the new Kia XCeed!

Why so desirable? Well that’s because the XCeed is a crossover and Europe loves a good crossover right now. So does Ireland. Kia claims compact SUV practicality for the XCeed along with the sporty packaging and engaging handling of a hatchback. The new XCeed goes on sale from €26,345, so buyers do pay more for the prestige of this vehicle over an equivalent Ceed hatchback.

What's so hot right now about the Kia XCeed?

So is it worth it? In the metal the new XCeed has got a great stance. The only body panels carried over from the five-door Ceed hatchback are the front doors. While the wheelbase remains the same as other models in the Ceed line-up, the 2020 Kia XCeed has longer front and rear overhangs. The proportions are still compact but the ride height has been raise by up to 42 mm over the Ceed hatch. Wheel arch and side sill cladding along with silver roof rails give the car a tougher, SUV-like presence, with the metallic valance in the rear bumper enhancing this effect. My grey test car looked smart and premium but to really stand out there is a vibrant new Quantum Yellow shade that is unique to the XCeed!

Caroline in the cabin of the Kia XCeed
Caroline in the cabin of the Kia XCeed

What's it like inside?

The cabin design of the new XCeed is more or less the same as what we’ve seen in other members of the Ceed family. So that means a contemporary design with the latest Kia infotainment system and good quality fit and finish. The 10.25 inch touchscreen in my test car was really nice to use, with large graphics, clear interface and seamless integration with smartphones. A new yellow colour pack is unique to the XCeed and adds more fun and character. Black upholstery is contrasted with vibrant yellow stitching for seats and doors, yellow seat piping, and a blend of gloss black and metallic yellow highlights throughout the cabin.

Interior space is also good for the compact class, with reasonably sized footwells in the rear. The higher roofline adds a greater feeling of space to the interior. The hip point for each seat is raised by up to 42 mm over the Ceed hatch so it is easier for occupants to step in or out. The boot is also bigger by 31 litres with a total volume of 426 litres.

The XCeed goes on sale in Ireland from €26,345
The XCeed goes on sale in Ireland from €26,345

In Ireland, the new Kia XCeed is offered in three trim levels (K2,K3 and K4). Engine options include a 1.0-litre turbo petrol with 120 hp or a 1.6-litre diesel with 115 hp. A new XCeed plug-in hybrid will join the range from April priced from €28,945. Standard equipment includes 16“ alloys, LED lights front and rear, rear privacy glass, 8 inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, and a host of safety features including Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance, High Beam Assist and Speed Limit Assist.

My test car was a K3 diesel with 18” alloys, 10.25 inch touchscreen with Sat Nav /Tom Tom and rear view camera, half leather upholstery, electronic parking brake and a wireless phone charger. The list price for this model is €30,495.

The K4 completes the range with added features such as heated front seats ,12.3 inch supervision instrument cluster, smart key with push button start, climate control and Blind Spot Detection.

Driving the 2020 Kia XCeed

Kia’s European engineering team developed the suspension and steering of the Kia XCeed to deliver a comfortable ride and more engaging handling. According to the brand, the new XCeed was tested across a wider range of road surfaces than any previous European-developed Kia to ensure the handling character was ‘truly European’.

On the road, buyers will enjoy the more commanding view of the road ahead compared with a conventional hatchback. The XCeed is agile and fun to drive. Unique suspension tuning accommodates for the raise in ride height ensuring the new XCeed feels nothing short of accomplished and comfortable over a variety of Irish roads. Road noise has been reduced also.

The interior of the new Kia XCeed
The interior of the new Kia XCeed

Diesel is still an important fuel for motoring in some parts of the country and indeed for all high mileage drivers. The Kia XCeed 1.6-litre diesel offers enough power and torque, however it’s not the most refined or efficient diesel on the market right now in the compact segment. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.9l/100km while motor tax is €200 per year.

So did you like it?

The 2020 Kia XCeed offers buyers now even more style and individuality in the compact segment. The design of this vehicle has been wonderfully executed and on style and image alone, the XCeed should find many homes. Everything we loved about the new Ceed is retained and enhanced here. So the cabin is good quality but lifted a little more with the addition of the optional coloured trim. And there is a more spacious and practical nature to this car though dimensions are still compact.

The diesel engine wouldn’t be my first choice but there is a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine available and a new plug-in hybrid that will allow buyers to explore battery technology without range anxiety.

The Kia XCeed does carry a premium for its fashionable looks but buyers have shown again and again that they will go that extra mile for the SUV/crossover look.

The new XCeed is a fantastic addition to the Kia range!

Would you be brave enough for Quantum Yellow?
Would you be brave enough for Quantum Yellow?

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia XCeed 1.6 CRDi K3
Price: 
€30,495 (from €26,345)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.4 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Fuel consumption (NEDC2): 
4.1 – 4.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (NEDC2):  
109-114 g/km
Motor Tax: €200 per year


The 2020 Skoda Superb Sportline!

ŠKODA Superb (2020) 1.5 TSI Sportline Review

The 2020 Skoda Superb Sportline!
The 2020 Skoda Superb Sportline!

Caroline drives the 2020 ŠKODA Superb!

The ŠKODA Superb is a bit of an Irish legend, loved for its huge cabin and ‘more for less’ pricing. The ŠKODA brand gets better and better and the company is now the fourth bestselling brand in Ireland. ŠKODA has a place in Irish hearts some brands can only dream of, backed up by cars that people want to own and drive. The Superb is one of Ireland’s favourite cars and over 18,000 of them have found homes in Ireland since it arrived here back in 2002.

In what could be interpreted as a nod of respect for the Irish grá for the ŠKODA brand, it has recently been announced that ŠKODA's first ever electric SUV will be called 'Enyaq'! Electrification is already a feature of the range with the arrival of the ŠKODA Superb iV plug-in hybrid.  

The latest generation of the ŠKODA Superb arrived in Ireland in 2015 and is the most successful version of the car to date.

The interior of the new SKODA Superb Sportline
The interior of the new ŠKODA Superb Sportline

What’s new for 2020?

ŠKODA has revamped the Superb range for 2020 with revised styling, updated interior and new features, as well as the addition of the new plug-in hybrid. The range goes on sale in Ireland from €30,985.

Other engine options include a 1.5-litre TSI petrol with 150 hp, a 1.6-litre TDI diesel with 120 hp, and a 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 150 hp. 6-speed manual and 7-speed DSG automatic gearboxes are available. Diesels are available from €33,295.

My test car was a Superb 1.5-litre TSI DSG in Sportline trim with a list price of €39,955.

This is a very handsome car and looks ‘superb’ in Sportline trim, which adds sporty features such as a black radiator grille, black 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED Matrix headlights and a lowered sports chassis.

For the facelift, the grille is now larger with double slats and protrudes a little further down into the front bumper. The headlights are narrower and come with LED technology as standard for the dipped and high beam. At the rear, a horizontal chrome trim
connects the full LED tail lights, with ‘ŠKODA’ spelt out for the first time in block lettering.

Other trim lines include the entry level Active, followed by Ambition, Style, and the range topping L&K.

Inside the 2020 ŠKODA Superb

The 2020 ŠKODA Superb offers class-leading interior space!
The 2020 ŠKODA Superb offers class-leading interior space!

The Superb continues to set benchmarks for spaciousness in the segment with up to 625 litres of boot space. I exclaimed when I opened the boot! In my job I see lots of boots, but the Superb’s is surprisingly cavernous for a car that looks as elegant as this one. It opens like a hatchback for extra practicality and access. It’s no wonder this car is so popular. Cabin space is also truly excellent and rear legroom best in class.

The interior is solidly built with new infotainment systems adding more modernity to the Superb range. The Sportline model retails from €37,485 and adds sport seats with Alcantara®/leather, tri zone climate control, ambient lighting, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control and aluminium pedals.

The Superb Sportline has great looks and image
The Superb Sportline has great looks and image

Driving the ŠKODA Superb Sportline

The Superb is all about big car comfort and refinement. It's got a fantastic transmission in the form of the DSG automatic gearbox mated to the 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine with 150 hp. Diesel used to be king in this segment but the Superb petrol does a fine job. It's smooth and quiet, though it does lack the punchy torque of a diesel. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.9l/100km so high mileage users will still want to look at the diesel.

Despite the rising popularity of SUVs, there is still a generous market for big cars like the ŠKODA Superb. While there is keen entry pricing into the range, the Superb no longer has to play the budget card because it's such a fine, desirable car. The Sportline trim is my pick of the bunch and draws plenty of admiring glances.

The Superb is ageing very well and now has renewed pep in its step with a refresh in styling and updated equipment in the cabin. A new plug-in hybrid certainly creates momentum around the Superb again, though the petrol model on test is still hugely relevant to buyers, as is the diesel option.

The Superb feels great to drive and is a 'superb' buy!

The Superb range is available in Ireland from €30,985
The Superb range is available in Ireland from €30,985

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: ŠKODA Superb Sportline 1.5 TSI 7-speed DSG
Price: 
€39,955 (from €30,985)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 250 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.2 seconds
Top speed: 218 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
6.0-6.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
136-156g/km
Motor Tax: €270 per year


The new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X

Mazda3 Skyactiv-X (2020) Review

The new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X
The new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X

Caroline drives the new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X.

Mazda has been working behind the scenes on a multi-solution approach to the decarbonisation of transport. While the brand will launch their first electric vehicle, the MX-30, towards the end of 2020, they have certainly not given up on the internal combustion engine. In fact, Mazda is very much committed to improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine with innovative engineering that will continue to meet the transport demands of many people whose circumstances just don’t match electric vehicles right now.

One of the brand’s most astounding innovations has been the introduction of the Skyactiv-X petrol engine. It is billed as a revolutionary engine, the world’s first engine to use spark controlled compression ignition combining the spark ignition of a petrol with the compression ignition of a diesel. The brand promises more power, performance and efficiency. It was time to take a test drive in the new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X to get to grips with this new engine and test the claims Mazda makes about it.

To recap, Mazda launched a new generation of the Mazda3 in Ireland in 2019. Along with the launch of the brand’s new CX-30 compact SUV, these models spearhead a new generation of Mazda vehicles built on a new platform. Mazda’s famous KODO design language evolves for even more refined surfacing and showstopper looks. Note the magic in the curvature of the metal of the new Mazda3’s C pillar.

Inside the new Mazda3

The interior of the new Mazda3
The interior of the new Mazda3

The premium design continues to the inside of the vehicle. Here the interior of the Mazda3 has matured again. It’s plush, sporty and well-appointed with the latest technology features and infotainment. All models feature a seven-inch colour TFT driver instrument display and the latest version of the Mazda Connect infotainment system. My test car was a beautiful GT Sport with burgundy leather. This interior finish really springs the Mazda3 into the company of premium hatchbacks like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Inside the Mazda3 will seat five, but some rivals do rear seating space better. At 351 litres, the boot is about average for the compact class. A Mazda3 saloon is also available with a bigger boot at 444 litres.

Now Mazda has expanded the engine range to include the 2.0-litre, four cylinder Skyactiv-X with 180 hp and 224 Nm of torque. This new engine joins the 2.0 Skyactiv-G petrol (122hp) and the 1.8 Skyactiv-D diesel (116hp). Manual and automatic gearboxes are available.

Skyactiv-X offers more power in the Mazda3
Skyactiv-X offers more power in the Mazda3

So what about Skyactiv-X?

When we reviewed the Mazda3 Skyactiv-G back in 2019, we noted that at times this naturally aspirated engine could feel a bit lazy as we’re used to driving turbocharged engines in cars like this from other manufacturers. Now Mazda gives us Skyactiv-X. They’ve squeezed out more horsepower and it feels more lively on the road, though it’s still far from a hot hatchback. But the extra flexibility is welcome. And the good news is that this extra power hasn’t come at a cost to efficiency. The Mazda3 Skyactiv-X actually falls into a lower motor tax band than the Skyactiv-G and over a week of driving my fuel consumption was the same – 6.6l/100km.

This is not the diesel-like economy Mazda promised with this engine. And some refinement has been lost with Skyactiv-X with more diesel-like noise in certain scenarios. But by and large this is a very pleasant car to spend time with, and certainly in this spec it feels like a true range topper. The Mazda3 is poised on the road, smooth and engaging to drive.

This new engine technology does carry a premium with the Skyactiv-X range starting from €31,920. For example, the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X GT Sport on test has a list price of €35,420, putting it well into the territory of premium hatchbacks. Lucky that the Mazda3 is so well designed and appointed that it can sit very comfortably in this company.

Mazda3 Skyactiv-X available from €31,920
Mazda3 Skyactiv-X available from €31,920

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-X Petrol 180 ps 6 Speed Manual Transmission 2WD 
Price: 
€35,420
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Power: 
180 hp
Torque: 224 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.2 seconds
Top speed: 216 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.8 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP)/NEDC2:  
131g/km/103g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year


The new Volvo S60

Volvo S60 T5 Petrol (2020) Review

The new Volvo S60
The new Volvo S60

Caroline drives the new Volvo S60.

Volvo is bravely stepping into the future with the new Volvo S60 – without diesel. The new S60 is the first Volvo to be produced without a diesel engine and will be sold exclusively powered by a petrol engine or as a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. This move is part of a bold statement from the brand about transport beyond the traditional combustion engine that will see all new generation Volvos from 2019 now sold only as either a mild petrol hybrid, plug-in petrol hybrid or battery electric vehicle.

Pricing starts from €46,222, putting the new Volvo S60 firmly in the executive car park.

Being a typical Swede, Volvo has the politics just right for this car. The S60 is simple, handsome and discrete but still with enough star power to draw some admiring glances. I loved the sporty elegance of the new Volvo S60.

The interior of the new Volvo S60
The interior of the new Volvo S60

Inside the new Volvo S60

Volvo interior design is some of the best in the business and the new S60 is no exception. There's a modest colour palette and the cabin architecture somehow has a mysterious soothing effect, which is reassuring for a fleet driver who will spend may hours on the road. The UN has been in here for sure.

There are no distractions, just a simple layout built around a 9″ tablet-style touchscreen with voice-activated control, navigation system and access to the Volvo On Call connected services platform. The system also connects easily to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It’s comfortable and quality is superb. Interior accommodation is good for the segment with generous footwells in the rear and boot volume a competitive 442 litres.

Driving the new S60

The new S60 is built at Volvo’s new Charleston plant in South Carolina, USA, on Volvo’s SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform, which also underpins the S90, V60, V90, XC60 and XC90. The S60’s chassis strikes a good balance between comfort and control, while the steering is precise and responsive. Double wishbone front suspension and Volvo’s integral rear suspension reap dividends for surprisingly sporty handling and keep weight to a minimum for more agility.

The Volvo S60 is available as a petrol or petrol-electric hybrid
The Volvo S60 is available as a petrol or petrol-electric hybrid

My test car was a S60 T5, which is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine putting out 250 hp and 350 Nm of torque. The T5 is fun and responsive to drive with a slick shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox. The problem is it will never be as economical as a diesel. Over a week of driving, my average fuel consumption was 8.2l/100km.

In Ireland, the S60 range kicks off at €46,222 for a T4 petrol with 190hp, while the T5 R-Design model I had on test has a list price of €49,495. Equipment includes leather sports seats, sports steering wheel, LED headlights, keyless entry and start), head-up display, 18" alloy wheels, 12.3” driver information display and cruise control.

There’s also the S60 ‘T8 Twin Engine’ plug-in hybrid powertrain with 390 hp. The 11.8 kWh battery on board gives an electric-only range of up to about 58 km, with CO2 emissions from just 39g/km. When not in pure EV mode, it runs as a hybrid with support from a petrol engine. It has potential to be a more economical car to run however it has a comparatively high sticker price of €62,495.

The new S60 is smart and fun to drive with the refined response of a petrol engine
The new S60 is smart and fun to drive with the refined response of a petrol engine

I loved the Volvo S60 but wondered if dropping diesel might be a little premature when it comes to the transport needs of customers in a segment favoured by long distance, company car drivers.

Of course for everyone else, the new Volvo S60 is a great alternative mid-size sports saloon that’s fun to drive with the refined response of a petrol engine.

The Volvo S60 holds its corner very comfortably in the executive car park. It's a fabulous piece of design inside and out. Alternative but powerful in its own right.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Automatic
Price: 
€49,624
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
250 hp
Torque: 350 Nm
0-100km/h:  
6.2 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
7.4 – 8.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
169-170g/km
Motor Tax: €390 per year


The new Volvo XC90 B5!

Volvo XC90 B5 AWD (2020) Review

The new Volvo XC90 B5!
The new Volvo XC90 B5!

Caroline drives the 2020 Volvo XC90.

Volvo is quickly becoming a leader in SUVs. Taking all the experience the brand garnered building practical family cars, namely estate cars, the Swedish brand has turned their magic touch to SUVs.

The new XC90 spearheaded Volvo’s spectacular revival in 2015 and was the first vehicle to be built on the new Volvo in-house designed and built chassis, using its own in-house designed and built engines. The XC90 was closely followed by the XC60 and the XC40, a family of Volvo SUVs all proving to be formidable competitors in their respective segments.

So what's new for 2020?

And what an experience the Volvo XC90 is. For the 2020 model year, the XC90 has received a refresh with new styling details, more equipment, upgrades to petrol-electric plug-in versions and the Irish debut of a new mild-hybrid powertrain - the B5 diesel mild hybrid tested here.

Priced from €77,970, the XC90 firmly occupies the large premium SUV segment. This is a stunning car inside and out. The XC90 is beautifully designed and makes an elegant statement wherever it goes. Now there are new grille and lower front bumper designs and the air intakes also have a fresh look. New alloy wheel designs have been introduced for 2020. All XC90 versions now come with roof rails and dual exhaust tailpipes as standard.

The interior of the 2020 Volvo XC90
The interior of the 2020 Volvo XC90

R-Design models (from €82,363) get a new black high-gloss finish for the exterior trim, including the door mirror casings, window frames and roof rails. There are also new paint options, including Thunder Grey, Pebble Grey and Birch Light shades.

Inside the 2020 Volvo XC90

The cabin has been designed with a simple layout built around the 9" tablet-like touchscreen with voice-activated control, navigation system and access to the Volvo On Call connected services platform. It's also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The XC90's cabin is a calm, reassuring and comfortable place to be. It is a generous seven seat SUV with great leg- and headroom all round. Even in seven seat mode, the XC90 still seems to have more space to spare, while there's a huge 775 litres in five seat mode.

In Ireland, the new XC90 range is available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription versions along with Pro upgrades for each. Standard equipment includes 19" alloys, LED headlights with active high beam, power-operated tailgate, parking sensors, rear parking camera, leather-faced upholstery, powered driver’s and front passenger seats, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control with ‘CleanZone’ air-quality system,12.3-inch driver’s information display, City Safety, including automatic emergency braking with Steering Support, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Run-off Road Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection.

R-Design highlights include the gloss black mesh front grille, door mirror casings and window surround, sports seats with leather and nubuck upholstery, front-seat cushion extensions, sports leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, sports pedals, black headlining and 20" alloy wheels with a diamond-cut and black finish.

The new XC90 is available as a mild hybrid diesel or a petrol electric plug-in hybrid
The new XC90 is available as a mild hybrid diesel or a petrol electric plug-in hybrid

What are my options?

Buyers in Ireland can choose from the new 'B5' mild-hybrid diesel with 235 hp or the 'T8 Twin Engine' petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with 390 hp. Every XC90 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

My test car was a Volvo XC90 B5 R-Design with a list price of €82,863. It is a fantastic combination. Volvo’s established 2.0-litre 235hp diesel engine is combined with a 48-volt battery, a KERS kinetic energy recovery system and an integrated starter generator. Volvo says the system improves fuel economy by up to 15 per cent in real-world driving and produces lower NOx emissions than the outgoing D5 XC90 it replaces. It's a supremely quiet and refined set up. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 8.2l/100km.

The other engine option is the XC90 T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain, which has been revised for 2020 with an increase in the high-voltage battery’s capacity from 10.4 to 11.8 kWh. This increases the car’s electric-only driving range to about 46 km.

The Volvo XC90 is priced from €77,970 in Ireland
The Volvo XC90 is priced from €77,970 in Ireland

Driving the new Volvo XC90

On the road the Volvo XC90 is good. Very good! It's a smooth drive with excellent ride quality. Refinement is top notch. The XC90 has surprising agility and has been engineered exceptionally well to make it one of the best, most effortless drivers in the large SUV segment. It's certainly not trying to be sporty but you do feel very much in control and in command behind the wheel of the XC90.

The Volvo XC90 is big, commanding and luxurious. Yet on the road it has the kind of agility associated with a smaller vehicle. The B5 is super refined and suits this behemoth very well. Interior quality and ambience is up there with the best on offer in this segment. Volvo probably wouldn't say this in a press release, but you will feel calmer and more relaxed behind the wheel. I did!

The Volvo XC90 is a masterpiece in the world of large SUVs.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volvo XC90 B5 AWD Automatic R Design
Price: 
€82,863 (XC90 from €77,970)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
235 hp
Torque: 480 Nm
0-100km/h:
7.8 seconds
Top speed: 220 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
6.9-7.5l/100km
CO2 emissions NEDC2:
155g/km (WLTP: 179-195g/km)
Motor tax: 
€390 per year

Caroline in the Volvo XC90!
Caroline in the Volvo XC90!

The updated 2020 Audi A4

2020 Audi A4 2.0 TDI Review

The updated 2020 Audi A4
The updated 2020 Audi A4

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi A4.

The Audi A4 is one of Audi's bestsellers in Ireland and a core pillar of the brand. Since the first Audi A4 debuted in 1994, the A4 has matured into a highly sought after premium saloon, a gateway to the Audi brand and some of the larger Audi saloons. It packages all that's great about the brand in subtle, refined elegance that looks good everywhere.

A new generation of the Audi A4 debuted in 2015 on a new platform. In 2019, Audi updated the A4 range to keep it competitive against key rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The range kicks off at €40,570.

What’s new for the 2020 Audi A4?

New headlights with LED technology are now standard across the range. The Singleframe grille is broader and flatter and there are also redesigned bumpers and trim elements. It's subtle sophistication for the Audi A4. It is a classic good-looking Audi saloon. S line models adopt a more sporty look.

S line models adopt a sportier look for the new A4
S line models adopt a sportier look for the new A4

Inside the 2020 Audi A4

Audi has taken the A4's wonderful interior and made it better with the addition of some new technology features. The cabin is a fantastic mix of beautiful high quality materials ensuring a first class cabin experience. The brand has aptly replaced the old infotainment system with the latest 10.1-inch high resolution MMI touch display tilted slightly towards the driver. The graphics are elegant and sophisticated, and it works seamlessly with smartphones. It lifts the cabin and gives another contemporary edge to the 2020 Audi A4. The Audi virtual cockpit provides a 12.3 inch digital display for the driver and is an option very much worth ticking.

There are two trim levels for Ireland - SE and S line - with standard equipment including heated, electrically adjustable front seats, tri zone climate control, the 10.1-inch colour display, smartphone interface, 18“ alloys, LED headlights and rear lamps, rear view camera, Audi Drive Select, keyless go, front and rear parking sensors, and cruise control.

S line models (available from €47,435) feature 19" alloys, S line front and rear bumpers, black headliner, matte brushed aluminium trim elements, gloss black trim elements, leather/Alcantara sports seats, sport suspension, stainless steel pedals, rear dynamic turn signals and high beam assist.

The interior of the new Audi A4
The interior of the new Audi A4

Engine options

In Ireland the new Audi A4 is available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 150 or 190 hp, or a 2.0-litre diesel with 136, 163 or 190 hp. A 6-speed manual gearbox or S tronic automatic are also available. Some of these engine variants feature a 12 volt mild hybrid system with a belt-starter generator and a Li-ion battery to reduce consumption by shutting down the engine in certain circumstances.

My test car was 2.0-litre diesel S tronic with 163 hp - badged 35 TDI - and in S line trim it has a list price of €49,350. This is a new power output for the Audi A4 and is a nice balance between performance and economy. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was a very economical 5.3l/100km.

The new A4 range starts from €40,570 in Ireland
The new A4 range starts from €40,570 in Ireland

Driving the 2020 Audi A4

Refinement and comfort are part of the deal in this segment. The 2020 Audi A4 does not disappoint in this regard and moves over the tarmac in a very sophisticated fashion. Extra measures like a windscreen with acoustic glass, heighten the refined atmosphere in the cabin. S line models come with sports suspension with stiffer damping for more direct contact with the road and sportier handling. The A4 is smooth and agile but overall it's not the sharpest driving experience in this segment. Where it does excel, is in calm refinement and that cabin is a wonderful place to while away a few hours on the motorway.

Audi has successfully revamped the A4. The new interior technology totally lifts the cabin and keeps it contemporary. For many, the cabin alone is a reason to buy the A4 as it is beautifully crafted and designed with technology at your fingertips. A calmer driving experience majors on comfort and refinement. There's plenty of reasons to choose the A4 as your next executive saloon.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A4 35 TDI S tronic
Price: 
€49,350
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
163 hp
Torque: 380 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.2 seconds
Top speed: 228 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.4 – 5.7l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
143-150g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year


The new SKODA Kamiq!

2020 Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI DSG Review

The new SKODA Kamiq!
The new Skoda Kamiq!

The new Skoda Kamiq completes an epic SUV trilogy for Skoda. Starting with the popular Kodiaq in 2017, joined by the mid size Karoq in 2018, and now the baby of the bunch – the petite but capable Kamiq! Small SUVs and crossovers are hot property these days and the Kamiq range kicks off at a very attractive €21,300.

The Kamiq is smart to look at, with compact, boxy dimensions. Skoda is quick to lift the car’s aesthetic features – split headlights featuring the daytime running lights above the main headlights, wide radiator grille, rear diffuser, elevated bonnet, front spoiler. Yet my favourite feature was the small dome in the bonnet that can be seen from the driver’s seat. In my eyes this is an unusually charismatic Skoda.

Built on the Volkswagen Group modular transverse matrix (MQB), Skoda has taken the platform and done some wonders with interior space. Compact crossovers can be very, eh, compact, but somehow the Kamiq feels like one of the most generous in the segment for rear head- and leg-room. The boot is also a good size for the segment with a capacity of 363 litres.

The interior of the new Kamiq
The interior of the new Kamiq

Inside the new Kamiq

The Kamiq is also the second new model in the Skoda range after the Scala to debut Skoda’s new interior design. It’s quite chic and minimalist with great infotainment, technology and smartphone integration. The 10.25 inch Virtual Cockpit is an option. Material quality is good for the segment with some nice trim elements.

In Ireland at launch the Kamiq is available in three trim levels kicking off at €21,300 for the 1.0-litre TSI 95 hp Active, from €23,300 for the Ambition and from €25,300 for the Style. Other engine options include a 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol with 115 hp, a 1.5 TSI turbo petrol with 150 hp and a 1.6 TDI diesel with 115 hp. 5-speed and 6-speed manual gearboxes feature as does an excellent 7-speed DSG.

Standard equipment on Active and Ambition models includes the 6.5-inch ‘Swing’ touch screen infotainment system, LED headlights and tail lights, Lane Assist, Front Assist with City Emergency Brake and Predictive Pedestrian Protection, and Multi-Collision Braking.

My Style model has a high specification with equipment including 17” alloys, rear view camera, dual zone climate control, rear privacy glass, rain sensing wipers, leather steering wheel, the 8.0-inch ‘Bolero’ infotainment unit and full LED headlights with AFS and dynamic front and rear indicators.

Smart, fun and functional - the new Kamiq
Smart, fun and functional - the new Kamiq

Driving the new Skoda Kamiq

On the road drivers can enjoy an elevated seating position and light controls for a smooth and agile driving experience. The 1.0-litre 115 hp petrol engine suits this car very well and I was driving it in combination with the DSG automatic gearbox. It’s another stellar performance from this small engine/auto gearbox combination making it ideal for those seeking a small automatic for the city. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.5 l/100km and motor tax is currently €200 per year for this model.

Skoda has landed in the popular compact B-SUV segment with a really strong new model. The Kamiq has the charisma of a small off-roader and it’s a great addition to the Skoda range. It’s spacious inside for its size and the small petrol engine makes it good fun to drive. There’s good value to be had in the Kamiq range with some well-proven engines and gearbox options.

The new Kamiq has everything covered to storm the compact crossover segment!

New Kamiq available from €21,300
New Kamiq available from €21,300

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: ŠKODA KAMIQ Style 1.0 DSG
Price: 
€28,100
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10 seconds
Top speed: 193 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP):
5.5-6.8l/100km
CO2 emissions:
113g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

 


Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!

2020 Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 First Drive Review

Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!
Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is the Opel brand’s first plug-in hybrid. It will arrive in Ireland later in February as the new, all wheel drive, range topper of the Grandland X mid-size family SUV range. Caroline travelled with Opel Ireland to the Black Forest, Germany, to test drive it.

Styling

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is a standard, friendly-looking family SUV, except for one key differentiating feature – the black bonnet that is exclusive to the Hybrid4. While this reviewer is a fan, Opel Ireland thinks it’s a risky move so dealer stock will be monotone only (the black bonnet will be available by special order). There’s a Hybrid4 badge at the rear and an extra flap housing the socket to charge the battery on board.

Interior

The new plug-in hybrid variant carries the same interior as the rest of the Grandland X range, except for a few new buttons and screens to control and monitor the hybrid system. The Grandland X cabin is quite sombre and conservative, but well-built with the latest technology features including the 8" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 can drive like an electric vehicle for up to 59 km
The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 can drive like an electric vehicle for up to 59 km

Practicality

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is a mid-size family SUV with seating for five and competitive rear seating space for this class of vehicle. The battery has been placed under the rear seats and there has been little intrusion to the space in the vehicle as a consequence of the electrified powertrain. Charging cables can be stored in a special compartment under the boot floor and the boot is still competitively sized.

Engines

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with two electric motors to produce an overall system output of 300 hp and 520 Nm of torque, making it the most powerful model in the Grandland X range. An eight speed automatic gearbox comes as standard.

There will also be a front wheel drive only Opel Grandland X Hybrid available from March with 225 hp.

CO2 emissions are as low as 29 g/km.

On the road

The Opel Grandland X starts in electric mode and has a pure electric range of up to 59 km. The driver can select easily between four driving modes on start up: Electric, Hybrid, Sport and AWD.

Once leaving the confines of Basel Airport, I slipped the Grandland X into hybrid mode. In this mode, the car intelligently selects how much electric assistance to give. Over the first leg of my test drive over motorway and then smaller, fast flowing roads through the Black Forest, my average fuel consumption was an economical 4.6/100km.

Opel engineers encourage owners to plug their new Grandland X Hybrid in every day because the best economy is returned from the car when the battery is kept topped up, as common with all plug-in hybrids. For drivers who travel a short commute comfortably within the 59 km, it would be possible to run the car on electricity only, dipping into the fuel tank rarely. Of course there is never fear of range anxiety because you always have the back up of the petrol engine.

Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 has all wheel drive for extra reassurance in challenging road conditions
Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 has all wheel drive for extra reassurance in challenging road conditions

On the return leg of the journey back to the airport, my battery power ran low as we did not charge at our lunch stop. Average fuel consumption was 6.3l/100km over a 100 km journey that included high speed Autobahn driving.

I dipped into Sport mode during my test drive and it turns the Opel Grandland X into a different animal. This performance biased mode gives the driver instant feedback through the pedals. However, this is not a sports SUV, the Opel Grandland X won’t hustle around corners like a hot hatch but it’s a pleasant pop of power in an otherwise demure SUV.

Charging

The battery can be fully charged in around two hours with a 7.4 kW wallbox or about seven hours using a three point plug at home.

Equipment

In Ireland the new Grandland X Hybrid 4 will be available in the high spec Elite trim. Equipment includes 19" alloy wheels, 8" colour touchscreen, leather seat trim, power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, front parking sensors, driver drowsiness system, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane assist and side blind spot alert.

Pricing

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 Elite will go on sale in Ireland priced from €47,415. The Grandland X Hybrid (front wheel drive) will go on sale from €36,645 for the entry SC, €39,245 for the SRi and €41,745 for the Elite. All prices quoted here are inclusive of Government grants and incentives amounting to €7,500 for plug-in hybrids.

The interior of the new Grandland X Hybrid4
The interior of the new Grandland X Hybrid4

Rivals

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid and Hybrid4 will compete against sister brand Peugeot’s 3008 Hybrid4 and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Summary

The new Grandland X Hybrid4 is a pioneering new product for the Opel brand. Along with the new Corsa-e, these models spearhead the brand’s move to electrification that will see the brand’s entire product portfolio with a battery electric vehicle or hybrid by 2024.

The Grandland X is currently available with diesel and petrol engines, and the Hybrid4 marks a new departure, now offering another option for buyers seeking to move to a lower emissions vehicle.

With the standard Grandland X range kicking off at €28,995, the Hybrid4 carries a significant investment. And though huge savings can be made on running costs, some strategy regarding charging at home and at your destination is needed in order to truly see the benefits of a PHEV.

The hybrid system itself is impressive, as are the performance figures for a standard mid size family SUV. But it’s the green credentials of the Opel Grandland X, not the sporty ones, which should truly inspire buyers to own one.

The Grandland X Hybrid4 is available from €47,415
The Grandland X Hybrid4 is available from €47,415 in Ireland

Caroline Kidd


The new Ford Fiesta ST!

2020 Ford Focus ST 2.3 EcoBoost Review

The new Ford Fiesta ST!
The new Ford Fiesta ST!

Caroline drives the new Ford Focus ST.

Hot hatchbacks are rare delights in my test schedule. This January I was lucky to find the Ford Focus ST waiting for me for a review. The early days and weeks of January can have a somewhat lethargic feel. Dark mornings, dark evenings, the promise of spring still not quite there yet. So the new Ford Focus ST put some pep in my step with the energetic 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine under its bonnet pushing out a glorious 280 hp and 420 Nm of torque.

Ford has a fine pedigree manufacturing hot hatchbacks. In fact, I still talk about the 2017 Ford Focus RS to anyone who will stand around long enough to listen, the charismatic swansong of the last generation Ford Focus.

But with the launch of the new generation Ford Focus in 2018, the ST hot hatchback range has also been reinvented. The styling of this car has much improved, with a more mature, refined and lighter appearance. You can still spec your Focus ST in an eye catching shade like Orange Fury but for my test car, Ford picked signature Performance Blue (€1500) on 18” wheels with optional red brake calipers, which is more demure but had a special iridescence to it, especially at night.

Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST
Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST

Interior of the new Ford Focus ST

Inside, the Focus ST also benefits from a new interior design that is more modern and lighter looking with Ford’s new touchscreen set up in the centre of the dash with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. There are special Recaro sports seats and a ST badge on the steering wheel. Other than that, there is not much else to signify this as a fast performance model. A little more drama and atmosphere in here would be nice.

The ST-2 I drove had ST design 18” alloy wheels, front lower grille in high gloss black, front and rear parking sensors, FordPass Connect and partial leather Recaro Performance seats. It was priced from €41,099. It also included the Performance Pack for €1,500 (rev matching, shift indicator, launch control, performance suspension CCD, multi-colour ambient light and red brake callipers).

The ST-3 adds 19” alloy wheels, painted calipers, fixed full LED headlamps, rear view camera, full leather Recaro seats and power 4-way driver and passenger seats. As of January 2020, only one series, ST3, is listed on the Ford Ireland website. The ST diesel with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 190 hp is available from €43,971, with the ST petrol available from €45,838. All come as standard with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s available as a wagon for extra practicality.

Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST
Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST

What’s new for the 2020 Ford Focus ST?

The new Focus ST uses a new generation of Ford’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost all-aluminium engine and is the most powerful ever offered for a Focus ST. Advanced turbocharging technology delivers 280PS power at 5,500rpm and 420Nm of torque from 3,000rpm to 4,000rpm. It is also the most free-revving Focus ST engine ever, delivering 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.7 seconds for the five-door model. A new electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) enhances the cornering and stability of the EcoBoost variant by sharpening responses to changing grip levels and driver inputs.

Selectable Drive Modes technology has also been introduced to the Focus ST for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the vehicle’s character to suit the driving scenario. Ford’s new rev-matching technology that debuted on the new Ford Mustang is also introduced as part of an optional Performance Pack for 2.3-litre EcoBoost manual models, as is Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) that enhances the short long arm (SLA) independent rear suspension configuration for greater refinement.

The interior of the new Ford Focus ST
The interior of the new Ford Focus ST

Driving the new Ford Focus ST

This translates on the road to the most refined Ford Focus ST ever, that can slip along effortlessly before crushing corners like the true professional it is. The Focus ST’s six-speed manual transmission enables more urgent gear-changes and provides a sportier feel with a shift-throw reduction of seven per cent, compared with the standard Focus. Delivering smoother, faster downshifts, the technology briefly “blips” the throttle as the driver engages a lower gear – matching the engine rotation speed to that of the gear that is being selected. Damping stiffness has been increased up to 20 per cent at the front and 13 per cent at the rear, and ride height reduced by 10mm, to improve road-holding and response in performance driving scenarios.

On the road, I quickly found Sport mode for I was looking for some more aural delights. There’s some mighty pops and bangs available in that mode. The Focus ST can navigate corners with remarkable speed, grip and precision. It is a true professional.

The Focus ST is an icon. This new refined character is something new for the ST. Too well behaved for the most part perhaps? Depends on what side of the fence you are on. It is a very usable car for every day driving, comfortable yet always ready and able to flex its muscles down a stretch of curvy tarmac.

The Ford Focus ST is a true professional
The Ford Focus ST is a true professional

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus ST-2
Price: 
€41,099
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine
Power: 
280 hp
Torque: 420 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
8.2/100km
CO2 emissions:  
179g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year