The 2020 Renault Clio!

2020 Renault Clio TCe 100 Petrol Review

The 2020 Renault Clio!
The 2020 Renault Clio!

A new Renault Clio has just reached Ireland in time for 2020 new car sales! The fifth generation of the iconic small French hatchback has matured just like a fine Bordeaux that gets better with age. Priced from €17,195, the headline features for new Clio are refreshed looks, a new cabin, new petrol engine, new technology and a new trim line.

In the 30 years since the iconic supermini first went on sale, the Renault Clio has sold 55,000 models in Ireland with the previous generation Clio being the most successful - 12,000 units sold to date.

What's new for the 2020 Renault Clio?

The Clio has a new look but it's a gentle evolution of a very successful design. The previous generation Clio that debuted in 2012 was a dramatic departure of what had come before. It was top designer Laurens van den Acker's first masterpiece for Renault and was the start of a cascade of stylish new Renaults with clearly defined road presence depicted in sensuous curves and distinct light signature.

Inside the new Renault Clio
Inside the new Renault Clio

The 2020 Renault Clio matures with some stretching and refining of surfaces. The bonnet features sculpted ribs, while the grille is now bigger and the front bumper more pronounced.

The side profile is one of the best in the segment - sleek and stylish - with hidden window-mounted rear door handles giving the sporty look of a three-door model. Full LED headlamps are flanked by Renault’s C-Shaped daytime running light signature. The colour palette features the eye-catching Valencia Orange - specially treated for a radiant shine - and the classic 'looks good everywhere in every weather' Iron Blue.

Inside the new Renault Clio

However it’s inside where we see some really welcome changes. There’s a new interior design that has matured but is still textured enough to not be boring. Material quality has improved and the new driver instrument panel looks much better, along with a new infotainment system with either 7-inch or 9.3-inch touchscreen. You’ll still probably skip Renault's interface and head straight to Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity for ease of use.

The new Clio available from €17,195
The new Clio available from €17,195

Renault Ireland is offering new Clio in four trim lines: Expression, Dynamique, Iconic and a new sporty-looking R.S. Line. Full LED lights come as standard as do air con and cruise control with speed limiter, ADAS safety systems, electric windows and mirrors. Dynamique features the 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while Iconic’s EasyLink with built-in navigation includes intuitive Google address search. The R.S. Line has full exterior R.S. look, with 17” alloy wheels, special interior trim and the 9.3” EasyLink screen as standard.

My test car was a Clio 1.2 litre 100 hp in Iconic trim line with good specification and priced from €20,395.

Is it practical?

There’s also now more space than ever in the new Clio, despite being 12 mm shorter and 8 mm lower than its predecessor. The new front seat design gives more comfort and support but the design also frees up more legroom in the rear. Elsewhere, boot capacity has increased to 391 litres, and there's a further 26 litres of storage dotted around the cabin.

There's currently a line-up of small efficient petrol and diesel engines, though a 1.6-litre ‘E-TECH’ petrol-electric hybrid is on the way later in 2020. There's an entry level three-cylinder naturally aspirated SCe 75 with 72 hp, but the pick of the range is the new 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit with 100 hp ('TCe 100').

Renault has introduced an excellent new petrol engine into the Clio range
Renault has introduced an excellent new petrol engine into the Clio range

I absolutely adored this engine. It feels nippy and refined and is truly efficient. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was just 5.0l/100km! This engine is available on Dynamique trim and above from €19,095. It's fitted as standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, but the engine is also available with a seven-speed CVT gearbox.

There's also a 'TCe 130' turbo petrol engine with more power again and available exclusively with the seven-speed EDC dual-clutch transmission.

The 'Blue dCi 85' diesel is a 1.5-litre unit and has a six-speed manual gearbox. Official WLTP fuel economy figure for this model is just 4.2 l/100 km.

New 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
New 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Driving the 2020 Renault Clio

The 2020 Renault Clio sits on a new Renault CMF-B platform, which delivers improvements in space, safety, technology and weight saving. This car is light and athletic on the road. Refinement is also excellent and the Clio is a comfortable on motorway runs as it is in town or country road driving. The TCe 100 positively hums and is very efficient.

You quickly blend into the groove with the new Clio. There's good value to be had in the Clio range and it's a great all rounder. The cabin might not be the last word in luxury, but it's a much improved interior that's fun and cheerful to spend time in. The new 1.2-litre petrol engine is highly desirable and makes the car more versatile.

This is a really great small car!

Caroline and the new Renault Clio in Valencia Orange!
Caroline and the new Renault Clio in Valencia Orange!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Clio TCe 100 Iconic
Price: 
€20,395
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
100 hp
Torque: 160 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.8 seconds
Top speed: 187 km/h
Economy: 
5.2/100km
CO2 emissions:  
118g/km
Motor tax: 
€ per year

 


The new Audi e-tron

2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro Review

The new Audi e-tron
The new Audi e-tron in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi e-tron.

Audi has landed into the world of EVs with a big splash in the form of the flagship Audi e-tron SUV. With a massive 95 kWh battery, the e-tron is a technological achievement, a perfect embodiment of the Vorsprung durch Technik the brand is built upon. Progress through technology, the concept of the new e-tron is undoubtedly big, impressive and optimistic. Audi chose to conceive a large family SUV as the brand’s first ever fully electric production model. The new e-tron will spearhead an electric vehicle (EV) offensive for the brand that will see 12 production Audi e-models by 2025.

But the most important question for most EV buyers right now is – how far will it get me on one charge? While Audi quotes a WLTP range of up to 436 km, this reviewer can tell you that during our real world test during a cold spell in December, we travelled a reliable 300 km on a full charge.

What about performance?

In the metal the e-tron looks like the kind of vehicle that will make the ground shake when you start it up. But no twin turbos under the bonnet here. In fact, there is very little under the bonnet at all! Powerful front and rear electric motors energised by a large high-voltage battery, give the e-tron 55 quattro a power output of 402 hp and 664 Nm of torque and the 0 to 100 km/h sprint figure is 5.7 seconds. When you are swapping stats and stories at the EV fast charger, this will be met with a short intake of breath - but performance is not really the story here.

The interior of the new Audi e-tron
The interior of the new Audi e-tron

For sure the e-tron can move quickly. But what is more impressive and frankly enjoyable about this vehicle is the silky smooth refinement of the car. The way the controls feel, how it covers the tarmac so smoothly and effortlessly, all in silence.

Audi says the drive components are installed low and central for the best dynamic ability with the battery system located between the axles in the form of a flat, broad block beneath the passenger compartment. They say that this configuration makes the Audi e-tron’s centre of gravity similar to that of a saloon car. Axle load distribution is perfectly balanced at almost 50:50.

The Audi e-tron is very clever

Audi drive select allows driver to toggle between seven profiles depending on the driving situation, road conditions or personal preferences. The system also influences the standard air suspension with adaptive dampers. The pneumatic springs adjust individually to the road conditions depending on the speed and the driver’s preferences, varying the ride height by as much as 76 millimetres. At higher, motorway speeds on longer journeys the e-tron can sit lower on the road to improve aerodynamics and range. I drove it in the efficiency mode most of the time, with the most discernible difference being a less responsive throttle.

The 2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro is powered by a 95 kWh battery
The 2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro is powered by a 95 kWh battery

And when it comes to charging the mighty e-tron, there’s up to 150 kw charging, which I can tell you feels like magic. High speed 150 kw IONITY chargers arrived in Ireland in the summer at select Circle K stations and I’m lucky to have one in my area. There are fast chargers and then there are IONITY chargers. For €8 per use, I went from 10% battery power to 100% in 40 minutes. When I hopped back in the range read 314 km. At home with a 22 kw wallbox a full charge can be got in approximately 4.3 hrs or 8.3 hours with 11 kW charging.

Inside the 2020 Audi e-tron

Priced from €89,810 including grant reductions, the new Audi e-tron is an elite piece of kit. Inside, the e-tron is as salubrious as any other member of the Audi range. It features the latest in Audi interior design with a stunning digital cockpit. Material quality is excellent throughout and the space inside the vehicle is also used well. An electric tailgate reveals a boot volume of 600 litres.

Audi Ireland has also just recently announced the arrival of the Audi e-tron 50 quattro, which uses a 71 kWh battery and starts from €64,990 with a shorter WLTP range of 336 km.

The new e-tron 55 quattro available from €89,810 including grant reductions
The new e-tron 55 quattro available from €89,810 including grant reductions

The concept of the Audi e-tron is a true showstopper. Audi’s flagship electric SUV is a fantastic debut with the convenience of 150 kw charging and a genuine 300 km of real world range.

While the stats from the high voltage battery are impressive, the packing of this EV technology means that there is no denying the car feels heavy on the road and you will be acutely aware of carrying your battery when slowing down at a junction or for a roundabout. Dynamically, the e-tron does little to excite.

But the execution of this vehicle’s premium attributes, the attention to detail in the way it's been designed and built, and the smoothness of the cabin and ride is highly seductive. Hell, it’s an Audi after all. You will enjoy this car.

For eco-conscious trendsetters and EV evangelists, the e-tron brings huge bragging rights.

Caroline Kidd and the Audi e-tron
Caroline and the Audi e-tron

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi e-tron 55 quattro
Price: 
From €89,810 (including grants)
Battery: 95 kWh
Power: 
402 bhp
Torque: 664 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 200 km/h
CO2 emissions:  
0 g/km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!

Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Review

The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!
The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!

The Mazda MX-5 turned 30 in 2019 and to celebrate, Mazda has produced a limited edition 30th Anniversary model. Only 3000 will be made and distributed worldwide with just ten of those cars making their way to Ireland. In December I had the pleasure of spending a week with car #16 of that limited production run.

Finished in exclusive Racing Orange paint, the Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition is a showstopper. Priced from €40,995, this model now sits at the very top of the range and is a significant investment over the entry level MX-5 (available from €28,195). But it’s special y’know.

Only 3000 models will be distributed worldwide
Only 3000 models will be distributed worldwide

So what's so special about the Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary?

The orange paintwork and 2.0-litre petrol 184 hp engine are non-negotiable. Yes, the MX-5 30th Anniversary edition gets by default the more powerful engine in the range - the 2.0-litre petrol engine has been improved to output more power – up from 160 hp to 184 hp – since we last tested the MX-5 in 2017. This is paired to an ultra-precise and mechanical feeling six-speed manual gearbox. Bilstein dampers, a strut-brace and limited slip differential mean best possible performance from the tiny two seat roadster.

Other special features include exclusive 17" wheels, orange brake calipers with Nissin brakes on the rear and Brembo brakes on the front wheels, and a 30th Anniversary badge displaying the model’s serial number. It’s one very cool looking machine.

The interior of the MX-5 30th Anniversary
The interior of the MX-5 30th Anniversary

What's the MX-5 30th Anniversary like inside?

The black interior has been laced with orange trim for a modern, youthful feel. There’s orange piping on the Recaro seats with Alcantara trim, orange trim around the air vents and on the inside door panels, steering wheel, dashboard and gear lever. The infotainment screen is controlled via steering wheel mounted controls and a rotary controller on the centre console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard.

The cabin of the MX-5 is snug and sporty. You’ve got to enjoy tight spaces. Feet stretched out in front of you on the pedals, press the start button to fire up the engine, left hand on the gear shifter as you slot the car into first gear…there’s a tactile, raw feeling to the Mazda MX-5 that stays for the entire journey.

The Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary is available from €40,995
The Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary is available from €40,995

Driving it

A perfectly balanced chassis translates to lightening quick steering and chassis responses in corners that account for the magic feeling only a true sports car like the MX-5 can give you. This car flows through corners with just delicate movements on the steering wheel and a lightness of touch that's absolutely thrilling when the roads get twisty and you give it a bit more throttle. Sitting so close to the ground means you feel like you're flying all the time. There’s lots of engine noise through the gear changes and the lack of refinement from the fabric roof just adds to the atmosphere.

This is a stiff set-up and can be teeth jangling on very rough roads. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.1 l/100 km, which is remarkably good.

The Mazda MX-5 is a wonderful sports car for people who love driving for the fun of it. It's small, a bit uncomfortable at times...but I doubt you will ever regret buying it other than the day you are asked to do an airport run.

You do pay a premium for the 30th Anniversary model but the orange theme adds a surprising amount of energy. A fantastic birthday makeover for an icon!

Caroline says sayonara from the cabin of the MX-5 30th Anniversary - we have our memories

Caroline says sayonara from the cabin of the MX-5 30th Anniversary - we have our memories

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary 2.0 Skyactiv-G
Price: 
€40,995
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 205Nm
0-100km/h:  
6.5 seconds
Top speed: 219 km/h
Economy: 
6.9/100km
CO2 emissions:  
161g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year

 


The 2020 Range Rover Evoque

2020 Range Rover Evoque Review

The 2020 Range Rover Evoque
The 2020 Range Rover Evoque

The world’s trendiest SUV enters the new decade. Caroline reviews the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. 

The Range Rover Evoque was a dramatic new model for the Range Rover brand back in 2011, putting the brand on the radar of style setters everywhere with Victoria Beckham undoubtedly becoming the poster girl for the car. The Evoque was a huge success and high on many wish lists.

In 2019 it was time for the Evoque to evolve once again. The game for stylish premium compact SUVs had moved on with plenty of competitors looking to replicate the Evoque's success.

But the Evoque's blend of cool styling and the heritage of the Range Rover brand is a hard one to beat. Designers have wisely not upset the classic Evoque silhouette - high beltline/sloping roofline – instead opting for some subtle but modern refining of the surfaces. The super-slim Matrix LED headlamps are new and the flush door handles slip elegantly out from the car once you unlock it. Yes, this is a car you want to be seen in. It’s cool and stylish with the underlying pedigree of not just the Land Rover brand, but the prestigious Range Rover one too. Believe it’s a baby Range Rover because it really is.

What are my options?

In Ireland the Evoque range kicks off at €42,845. There are front wheel drive and four wheel drive models available with the 2.0-litre diesel with 150, 180 or 240 hp the popular choice in Ireland. A 2.0-litre petrol is available with 200, 250 or 300 hp. Mild hybrid technology (MHEV) now features across the range to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. An Evoque plug-in hybrid is expected soon also. A manual gearbox comes as standard and a 9-speed automatic is also available.

The interior of the new Evoque
The interior of the new Evoque

Trim lines are based around an entry Evoque and a more sporty Evoque R-Dynamic with S, SE and HSE packages available for both.

The car I had on test was a Range Rover Evoque S with four wheel drive and the 2.0-litre 150 hp diesel. It is a sweet spot in the range and is available from €49,285. The Evoque S is instantly luxurious inside with specification including leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear view camera, impressive infotainment, dual zone climate control and cruise control. On the outside there are 18” alloys and LED headlights. The capability of four wheel drive models is second to none as we found out testing the Evoque in Greece in 2019. The 2.0-litre diesel is also well up to the job here.

Inside the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

The cabin is comfortable with many beautiful soft touch materials. It’s reasonably spacious and competitive in terms of size for a compact premium SUV. Built on Land Rover’s new Premium Transverse Architecture, the overall dimensions are near on identical to the previous generation of the car but there is more interior space now than before. A longer wheelbase provides 20 mm extra rear kneeroom. The electric tailgate opens to reveal a generous 591 litres, perfect for impromptu shopping trips or day trips to the mountains.

The controls for the ventilation and four wheel drive system are set on a touchscreen like panel, which you might be at odds to operate when you first slip in behind the wheel. But after a while, it's actually very easy to use and looks so impressive. It's a proper 21st century technology addition! The new infotainment system also looks very well and is an improved unit.

The Range Rover Evoque is available from €49,285 in Ireland
The Range Rover Evoque is available from €49,285 in Ireland

Driving the new Evoque

On the road the 2020 Range Rover Evoque excels first and foremost for comfort and refinement. This is a premium driving experience with no such foibles as wind or road noise to upset passengers. A new, more rigid platform means the Evoque feels athletic in the corners with good handling and supple suspension reacting well to all road surfaces and changes in direction.

The 2.0-litre diesel with 150 hp is ideal for the Evoque and feels lively and powerful.  It mates well to the automatic gearbox, never getting too noisy in the cabin, even under hard acceleration. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.6 l/100 km.

The Evoque will slip perfectly from smart city streets to rougher terrain and looks good doing both. The cabin experience is great for passengers with lots of comfort and luxury detailing. There are new powertrains on the way, but the Evoque diesel should still be popular. For buyers looking for a premium mid-size SUV, the Evoque still makes a great case for itself. It looks great and has a fantastic image. Land Rover have successfully brought the Evoque into a new era, with a welcome addition of new technology.

The Evoque matures perfectly. Still utterly desirable!

Caroline and the new Range Rover Evoque
Caroline and the new Range Rover Evoque

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Range Rover Evoque S D150 AWD Automatic
Price: 
€55,995
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 380 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.2 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Manufacturer Quoted Economy: 
5.6l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
149g/km
Motor tax: 
€390 per year


The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!

2020 Nissan LEAF 62 kWh Review

Caroline and the new Nissan Leaf 62 kWh!
Caroline and the new Nissan LEAF 62 kWh!

Caroline drives the 2020 Nissan LEAF 62 kWh.

The Nissan LEAF is one of Ireland’s most popular electric cars and a pioneer of mainstream electric motoring. Within the last year the number of electric vehicles available in Ireland has expanded and the LEAF has been under attack from some new rivals. However the high visibility of the LEAF in Ireland, all generations, is undeniable, and you are definitely likely to encounter one at your local EV charger. The LEAF has clearly penetrated the market here very well.

In 2018, Nissan launched an all-new LEAF hatchback with a 40 kWh battery with more power and a range in the region of 250 km. The car had evolved into something more desirable with modern design technology and safety features. In 2019, the LEAF got even better with the launch of the new longer range Nissan LEAF 62 kWh.

What's new for the 2020 Nissan LEAF?

Priced in Ireland from €37,840, the 62 kWh LEAF crucially has a 25% increase in energy density and 55% boost in energy storage capacity, giving the 62 kWh LEAF a power output of 217 PS and up to 385 km (WLTP) on a single charge compared to the 40 kWh Nissan LEAF. I tested the car in the cold weather of November and with 98% battery power when I picked it up, the range read about 340 km.

The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!
The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!

Other new features for the LEAF 62 kWh include the new NissanConnect infotainment system as standard, with Apple CarPlay® and AndroidAuto® for seamless smartphone connectivity. An upgraded navigation system also shows live traffic and nearby chargers. There’s also a new NissanConnect Services app that allows users to send navigation routes and preset air conditioning or heating.

Nissan so far has ignored the electric crossover/SUV trend and the LEAF remains a classic hatchback with the latest Nissan family face. The new battery retains a similar shape and size to the 40 kWh LEAF battery pack, so there is no detriment to interior space in this upgraded model. Interior accommodation is about average for a hatchback of this size and the boot is a very good size. There are special places to store the cables so the practicality of the space is not negatively impacted.

The interior of the LEAF

Inside, the LEAF 62 kWh has the same dash design as the new generation LEAF we tested in 2018. There is some new digital technology however already the graphics on the driver information panel and infotainment screen are looking a little dated. Still, functionality is okay and it's handy to be able to find nearby charging stations. You also sit a little higher in the LEAF than a standard hatchback because of the battery under the floor.

The interior of the new Nissan LEAF
The interior of the new Nissan LEAF

In Ireland, the new 62 kWh Nissan LEAF starts from €37,840 in SV grade with a high specification including Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Recognition, Intelligent Trace Control, Moving Object Detection, Intelligent Lane Intervention, e-Pedal with regenerative function, front and rear parking sensors, Around View Monitor, 17″ alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and LED rear signature lights.

The range-topping SVE 62 kWh LEAF is available from €40,500 and includes ProPilot, Bose Audio System, Intelligent Auto LED headlights, heated leather steering wheel and leather heated seats front and rear.

Driving the Nissan Leaf 62 kWh

On the road, the Nissan LEAF is nippy with 217 hp at its disposal. It handles well through corners and is smooth, refined and of course, quiet, on the move.

The extra range of this 62 kWh model is very welcome. The CHAdeMO type rapid charger is 50kW / 100kW compatible and will get you from 20% to 80% charge in about 90 minutes (50kW). Charging at home takes about 12 hours.

The new LEAF 62 kWh is still eclipsed by some rivals like the Kia e-Soul in terms of the range and how far it will go on one charge.

The Nissan LEAF is the original mass market electric vehicle, famed for its accessibility and affordable entry into electric motoring.

However, the new LEAF 62 kWh requires considerable investment and in range alone, there are some better competitors in this space.

LEAF buyers now have more options. Not everyone wants a crossover or SUV. Hatchback lovers still exist. The game is moving rapidly for EVs. The LEAF 62 kWh keeps up for now.

LEAF 62 kWh available from €37,840
LEAF 62 kWh available from €37,840

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Nissan LEAF 62 kWh SVE
Price:
€40,500
Battery: 62 kWh
Power: 
217 hp
Torque:  340 Nm
0-100km/h: 
6.9 seconds
Top speed: 158 km/h 
Range (WLTP):
385 km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


Caroline and the Mazda CX-30 EV Prototype

Mazda MX-30 EV Prototype First Drive Review

Caroline and the Mazda CX-30 EV Prototype
Caroline and the Mazda MX-30 EV Prototype

In 2020, Mazda will launch the brand's first ever electric vehicle, the Mazda MX-30 all-electric SUV. I had an opportunity to preview the new MX-30 in Portugal, and test drive Mazda's new EV technology in a prototype vehicle.

Mazda has set out to bottle up the company's Jinba Ittai - driver and car as one - engineering ethos, and produce an electric vehicle that delivers ‘outstanding driving pleasure’. The MX-30 will be the third new generation Mazda - after the 2019 Mazda3 and CX-30 - when it goes into production towards the middle of 2020.

At Mazda's Technology & Design Forum in Lisbon, we had the opportunity to speak in great detail with the MX-30 European product development team, led by the passionate and articulate Christian Schultze, Director and Deputy General Manager at the Mazda Motor Europe R&D Centre. Schultze has been working with Mazda in Europe since 1990 and told us about the product development that saw the European team in consultation with their Japanese colleagues from an early stage. The MX-30 will be a global car but will launch first in Europe in 2020 and has been developed for this market.

The new Mazda EV prototype in action in Sintra, Portugal
The new Mazda EV prototype in action in Sintra, Portugal

The MX-30 uses the brand's new Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture and employs a number of new technologies and innovations to create the most natural feeling EV powertrain. Electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus) is an evolution of a system already found in Mazda's fleet and promises a feeling of more natural feedback by precise torque control and sound that lets the driver know exactly what the car is doing. Mazda has developed its own bespoke motor pedal concept for the Mazda MX-30 for a more natural feel relative to the driver’s intended amount of acceleration and deceleration. They have also developed special sound or ‘aural feedback’ through the audio system corresponding to the driver’s pedal action that helps the driver to more precisely control vehicle speed and adds to the driving pleasure.

Power will come from a 35.5 kWh battery giving a power output of about 140 hp, torque of 265 Nm and an electric range estimated somewhere in the region of 200 km. Mazda engineers also spoke to us about the possibility of a rotary engine being installed as a range extender.

The test vehicle provided to us in Portugal on a bright December morning was an e-TPV (electric technology proving vehicle) using the chassis and body of a CX-30. The MX-30 and CX-30 are closely matched in size and wheelbase so this was a realistic preview of what the MX-30 is going to feel like on the road.

The interior of the prototype - don't touch the red button
The interior of the prototype - don't touch the red button

I was accompanied by a member of the Mazda event team who briefed me on the vehicle. He was monitoring the technical underpinnings of the car through a tablet and the big red button on the dash you can see in the photos was where he could cut the power to the car, should any warnings or faults appear on the system. Before we set off on the test route on a beautiful mountainous road through the Sintra region, he let me know that the only safety equipment the test vehicle had was ABS - no airbags, no lane departure warning, no ESC, etc. I looked down the ravine to the left and thought...okay... just before I met one of the locals who thought he was driving in my country.

I was so excited to be driving this new electric car from Mazda that feels like no other. The Mazda DNA is very quickly apparent. The steering was natural and fluid, the car willing to play ball among the twists and turns of our test route with a pleasant amount of grip through the front tyres in fast cornering.

The most interesting and frankly, brilliant, innovation here is the aural feedback from the car and sensations through the pedals as you accelerate and decelerate. Electric cars are typically devoid of any feedback through the pedals or controls. Not so with the CX-30 EV prototype. It feels and sounds not much different than a petrol CX-30 in typical stop/start driving. Up and down inclines, I had the opportunity to experience this new technology and I loved it: gurgles and resistance like a good old-fashioned ICE.

We test drove the Mazda EV prototype to preview MX-30's new EV technology
We test drove the Mazda EV prototype to preview MX-30's new EV technology

The nature of the weight distribution of an EV versus a front engined mid size SUV was apparent in the way the car shifted its weight around corners, but it was remarkably good to drive. Certainly I felt the relative 'low' power of the CX-30 EV prototype (140 hp) versus some of the similarly sized EVs I've driven at home, as it doesn't feel quite as lively off the line.

Mazda is persevering to push a 'right sized' battery approach that they claim is kinder to the environment when you look at where battery and EV technology is right now. But there are obvious shortcomings to this approach in an era where many rivals are pushing out EVs with 64 kWh batteries and range in excess of 400 km.

This wasn't an adequate test of battery range and practicality in every day life but from an engineering perspective, what we drove in Lisbon was really promising for the future of EVs and the Mazda brand. It's worth noting that the MX-30 is just one part of Mazda's 'multi-solution approach' to the debarbonisation of transport. The brand is also working on improving engine efficiency with innovations such as Skyactiv-X, the world's first petrol engine with compression ignition, and a new clean diesel coming next year. Mild hybrid technology has already begun to be rolled out in the brand's newest product ranges and Mazda will offer more electric, plug-in hybrid and range extender vehicles in the future.

Caroline KiddCaroline Kidd

 


The Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate

Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate Review

The Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate

Caroline drives the Ford Mondeo Hybrid.

Ford has been slow to adopt an electrification strategy but the reveal of the new Mustang Mach-E is a strong sign of commitment to EV technology from the global car brand. Surprisingly it’s the brand’s Mondeo that has seen the best efforts yet at cutting emissions and providing customers with more trendy alternatives to diesel.

The problem with that strategy is while hybrid might be sexy, the Mondeo is not! It’s a practical car but showing its age. In these times where change in the car industry is occurring so quickly, there is little mercy to be shown to the Mondeo.

The Ford Mondeo Hybrid debuted in Ireland in 2018 and the hybrid estate model I had on test is new for 2019.

The Mondeo now has more than a whiff of old school about it – the styling hasn’t changed much over the last 5 years or even ten years – but it does major on classic big car qualities like comfort and refinement. Now with a hybrid option, it offers low mileage, frequent urban users a more fuel efficient solution in a big car.

The interior of the Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate
The interior of the Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate

Inside the Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate

On first impressions, the interior of the car is very dull and dated but there is an attractive enough colour display for the driver with useful information about the hybrid system. The SYNC 3 infotainment system also features and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

In Ireland, the Ford Mondeo Hybrid is sold as a Titanium or Vignale model and goes on sale priced from €35,247. Standard equipment on my Titanium model included cruise control, traffic sign recognition, dual zone climate control, parking sensors, rear view camera, lane keeping aid, roof rails and 16” alloys.

This car is huge inside and super comfortable making it easier to forgive its shortcomings. It’s not cutting edge but it’s a fantastic car to drive very day, one that never disappoints. I did many miles in this car and it was an absolute pleasure. The estate is super practical, but the battery gives an unusual shape to the boot floor.

Boot volume is in excess of 400 litres
Boot volume is in excess of 400 litres

Driving the Mondeo Hybrid Estate

I did a lot of motorway driving and over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.8l/100km, though in town I saw consumption as little as 5 l. It works best in urban environments, when it’s working more on electric power. The Mondeo Hybrid favours a more gentle right foot to build its power slowly and steadily. Too much throttle and there’s more annoying transmission noise. But it’s powerful enough when you need it for overtaking manoeuvres.

The Ford Mondeo Hybrid has some stiff competition from the likes of the Volkswagen Passat GTE and the Toyota Camry. Yes, it’s a big comfy cruiser but is that enough in these times? The hybrid system can return good efficiency with a little bit of care. The interior is far from cutting edge and where the car shows its age the most. The Mondeo has fallen some way from its glory days but it is still a satisfying car in its own way.

The Ford Mondeo Hybrid is available from €35,247
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid is available from €35,247

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Mondeo Estate HEV Hybrid Titanium
Price:
€35,247 (Range from €32,580)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
187 hp
Torque: 173 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.2 seconds
Top speed: 187 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.4l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
103 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

 


The new 2020 Opel Corsa - it's hot!

2020 Opel Corsa First Drive Review

The new 2020 Opel Corsa - it's hot!
The new 2020 Opel Corsa - it's hot!

There’s an all-new Opel Corsa arriving in dealerships now in Ireland. The Corsa is Opel’s most popular model worldwide and a household name since 1982. Now this historic supermini hero is in its sixth generation - but has never looked better! Built on a new platform, the new Corsa is lighter and more stylish than before with a welcome addition of new technology and equipment. Caroline travelled to Croatia with Opel Ireland to test drive the 2020 Opel Corsa.

Styling

The previous generation Corsa was rather disappointing in the style stakes but that’s been rectified. This new Corsa is seriously desirable in the metal – compact and sporty – with a raft of colour and trim options that depart a different vibe for whatever you’re having yourself. From sporty SRi to city smart Elite, hues ranging from cool grey to cheeky ruby red, the new Corsa has something for everyone! A contrast black roof is available on some models also.

Interior

The interior of the 2020 Opel Corsa has also been extensively modernised. Build quality is good and there is a grown-up feeling in here. It’s quite a conservative cabin so the red trim of the SRi model is a real fun and welcome addition. In Ireland, cars will be specced from standard with a 7” colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will keep younger drivers very happy. Top of the range models get a 10” screen.

The interior of the new Corsa
The interior of the new Corsa

Practicality

The new Corsa carries pretty much the same dimensions as the previous generation of the car. Rear seating is okay for the supermini class but legroom and headroom are not the most generous in the class. The boot volume is up 24 litres to a total of 309 litres. The rear seats split fold 60:40.

Engines

At launch, the Opel Corsa is available in Ireland with a 1.2-litre petrol (75 hp), a 1.2-litre turbo petrol (100 hp) and a 1.5-litre diesel (102 hp). A new electric version, the Corsa-e, will arrive in Ireland in March with a range up to 330 km.

On the road

The new Corsa is lighter, lower and more rigid. The driving position has been much improved and it is now a more engaging car to drive. It sits on a new platform that it shares with the new Peugeot 208 however Opel engineers insist that they have tuned this car 'to be an Opel’.

We can believe it. Opel has such confidence in this car that they took us to the beautiful Dalmatian coast of Croatia and gave us roads that had many twists and turns, climbs and descents, to put the Corsa through its paces and have fun. The car was well set up for this. Yes the suspension is on the firm side but the Corsa is agile and fun to drive as small cars should be.

The Corsa is available with petrol and diesel engines, with a new electric Corsa-e on the way in March
The Corsa is available with petrol and diesel engines, with a new electric Corsa-e on the way in March

We sampled the new 1.2-litre turbo unit with 100 hp in Elite trim and the 130 hp version in the SRi spec. The 1.2 130 hp engine won’t make its way to Ireland. The 100 hp engine is very nice to drive, smooth and chirpy through the gears. A manual gearbox is standard on many models but there’s also a new 8-speed automatic, which we had the opportunity to test. For a small petrol auto combination, on a first encounter it performed well.

Equipment

In Ireland the new Corsa will be available in SC, SC Premium, SRi, SRi Premium and Elite.

The car will be well specced from base with standard equipment including 16” alloys, LED headlights, touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, air con, leather covered steering wheel, cruise control, electric door mirrors and front windows, high beam assist, lane departure warning with lane assist, traffic sign recognition and emergency city braking.

SC Premium will add heated front seats and steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, anti dazzle rear view mirror and rear parking sensors.

Boot space in the new Opel Corsa
Boot space in the new Opel Corsa

SRi will add Opel Connect, sports style front seats, sport mode switch, LED tail lights, LED front fog lights, 16” Hurricane alloys, chrome tailpipe, black roof and rear privacy glass.

SRi Premium adds heated front seats and steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and start, electric parking brake and electronic climate control.

Elite models have 17” alloys, 10” infotainment screen, Multimedia Navi, heated front seats and steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, fabric and leather effect trim and rear view camera.

Pricing

In Ireland the new Corsa range kicks off at €17,975 for the SC, €18,875 for SC Premium, €23,000 for SRi, €24,300 for SRi Premium and €23,645 for Elite. The new 1.2-litre 100hp engine is available from €21,695 and the diesel from €21,645.

The Opel Corsa B of the 1990s was the most successful Corsa to date
The Opel Corsa B of the 1990s was the most successful Corsa to date

Rivals

Rivals include the Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Citroen C3, Toyota Yaris and Mazda2.

Summary

The new Opel Corsa is a much improved car. Gone goes the frumpy look and in comes a stylish smart supermini with lots of kerb appeal. Technically, it’s lighter and more fun to drive than before. On price, it’s not the cheapest but when you dig a bit you can see that the entry model is a highly equipped car. The tastier SRi and Elite versions do carry quite a premium, however the Corsa feels fun and special enough to warrant a place in the higher end of the market for stylish, high spec superminis.

Welcome back Corsa!

 


The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d

Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d Review (2020)

The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d
The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d

Caroline drives the new for 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC!

The GLC is Mercedes-Benz mid-size SUV offering based on the C-Class family. The GLC debuted for the first time in 2015 and it was revamped with updates to the styling, interior, technology and engines in 2019.

The range starts from €48,040 meaning that buyers do pay a premium over a C-Class but SUVs are so desirable right now, nobody seems to care. In fact, after spending a week with the GLC it’s not difficult to see the appeal of this vehicle. Visually it’s got a great presence and it inherits all the best C-Class DNA (namely that awesome interior), but with a great injection of practicality.

The chunky SUV styling sits well upon its frame - equal parts rugged and elegant. The AMG Line test car brings its best game face with the divine diamond radiator grille, 19” alloys and AMG body styling pack.

The interior of the GLC
The interior of the GLC

Inside the new Mercedes-Benz GLC

Inside, the interior of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC receives the same updates as the revamped C-Class saloon and estate. This mid-life refresh has been very successful in that it modernises the interior considerably and shows Mercedes’ fine quality and technology off to the very best, including the excellent MBUX multimedia system with ‘Hey Mercedes’ commands. The Advantage pack adds the 10.25” display screen in the centre of the dash – that’s highly desirable. There is a digital instrument panel available but the analogue dials look fine and you can control the infotainment and menus using simple swipe controls on the multifunction steering wheel. Leather upholstery comes as standard.

The GLC feels more spacious and practical than the C-Class it’s based on thanks to more headroom and a raised ride height. The transmission tunnel does eat into space for the middle passenger but it’s by and large a good family vehicle. The boot is competitive for the class at 550 litres and a powered tailgate comes as standard. Woohoo!

New generation Mercedes’ four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with more power and greater efficiency feature also. 4MATIC four wheel drive is available and the most popular models will be the GLC 200d and the GLC 220d diesels.

Rear legroom in the Mercedes-Benz GLC
Rear legroom in the Mercedes-Benz GLC

Driving the new GLC 220d!

I tested the higher powered 220d 4MATIC, which has a 2.0-litre diesel putting out 194hp. The power delivery through the 9-speed auto is deliciously smooth and indulgent. This car is a peach to drive, far more engaging than what you might think. It hustles along effortlessly and is very comfortable and refined. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.7 l/100km and motor tax is €280 per year.

The range starts from €48,040 for a GLC 200d, while the 220d starts from €50,160.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC benefits in a big way from this facelift with a beautifully appointed cabin and the latest engines and technology features.

This is a very impressive car on the road, with a ride that is perfectly judged and comfortable to make it a pleasure to drive every day.

The GLC 220d is highly desirable with a pleasant punch of power and silky refinement.

These are expensive cars but Mercedes is offering considerable equipment from entry. The GLC matures impeccably!

The GLC 220d is a fine diesel mid-size SUV!
The GLC 220d is a fine diesel mid-size SUV!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC AMG Line
Price:
€52,660 (Range from €48,040)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
194 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 215 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP):
5.2-6.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
140 g/km


Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!

Ford Focus Active Review (2019)

Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!
Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!

Caroline drives the new Ford Focus Active!

Ford has expanded the Focus range in Ireland with the arrival of the new Focus Active. Priced from €25,344, the Focus Active aims to bring crossover style to the compact class.

To that end, the Focus has been raised by 13 mm and styling has been tweaked for a more rugged look – grey skid plate front and rear, roof rails, new plastic cladding, dark grille with unique mesh pattern and special alloy wheel designs.

Inside, the Focus Active has unique seat upholstery, new trims and 'Active' scuff plates. The Active version also has two new drive modes, perfectly tuned for adventure – ‘Slippery’ and ‘Trail’!

The Ford Focus Active hatchback is crossover inspired
The Ford Focus Active hatchback is crossover inspired

What are my options?

In Ireland the Focus Active is available as a hatchback or estate (from €26,414) and engines include Ford’s acclaimed 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and 1.5-litre TDCi diesel. My test car was a Ford Focus Active 1.5 TDCi with a 6-speed manual gearbox, priced from €27,353.

Standard equipment includes 17" 5-spoke two tone painted aluminium wheels, pre-collision assist, electronic parking brake, keyless start, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights with cornering lights, air con, cruise control, radio with 8" touchscreen display with DAB, Ford SYNC 3 with Voice Control, plus Bluetooth® and USB connectivity, navigation and six speakers.

Visually the the new Focus Active does carry a strong appearance and image thanks to the styling tweaks and slightly raised ride height. However, unfortunately this character hasn't found its way much into the interior of the car. It's rather plain inside. Changes are negligible though the Focus has a fine cabin with the latest technology features and seamless integration with smartphones. The car is nicely sized and accommodating, having improved interior space over the previous generation of the Focus.

The interior of the new Ford Focus Active
The interior of the new Ford Focus Active

Driving the new Ford Focus Active

Ford has modified the chassis of the Focus Active with unique springs, dampers, stabiliser bars, and front and rear knuckle geometries, to account for the raised ride height of the vehicle. On the road, the Focus Active still feels like a Focus though it's not quite as sharp with a less sporty, hunkered down feel through corners. Still it's athletic and good to drive - comfortable and smooth on the motorway, compact and agile around town. The 1.5-litre diesel performs well with 120 hp providing adequate rather than blistering power. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at an economical 5.1 l/100km.

Ford has also added a little more capability for adventurous souls. In addition to the Normal, Sport and Eco Selectable Drive Modes equipped as standard on all Focus models, the Focus Active now introduces Slippery mode, which adjusts ESC and traction control settings for increased confidence on surfaces with reduced grip such as mud, snow and ice. There's also a new Trail mode, which helps maintain momentum on soft surfaces such as sand.

The Ford Focus range now offers a number of different ‘flavours’, like the classic Titanium, the sporty ST-line and now the outdoorsy Active.

The crossover makeover has worked very well on the new Fiesta Active, with a great presence and spec at good value pricing.

However, for the Focus it has sacrificed a little of its sporty edge in the process. No surprises then that the ST-Line is still my favourite Focus!

The car follows market trends with crossover-inspired styling. In this regard, the Active makeover departs a different look for the Focus that is bound to garner it a few fans.

The Focus Active is available from €25,344
The Focus Active is available from €25,344

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus Active 1.5 TDCi
Price:
€27,353 (Range from €23,364)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP):
4.5-4.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
93 g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year