The Renault Arkana on test for Changing Lanes

Renault Arkana Review (2024) | Stylish and practical

Read Caroline's Renault Arkana review for everything you need to know about buying Renault's stylish SUV coupé in Ireland.

The Renault Arkana first launched in Ireland in 2021 and quickly became one of the brand's bestsellers, outselling the Clio and the Captur.

Along with the Megane E-Tech and the newly launched Austral, it gives Renault a strong presence in the compact side of the market.

The Arkana has recently been updated for 2024 so it was time for another spin.

The Renault Arkana on test for Changing Lanes
The Renault Arkana on test for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the Renault Arkana?

Styled as an SUV coupé, the Arkana is a stylish, five-seat family car with trendy crossover-inspired looks. It sits a bit higher off the ground than your average hatchback and features familiar Renault design cues like striking LED lights front and rear.

At the rear, the roof slopes down in an attractive coupé style - with little compromise to practicality as the Arkana houses a generous boot and plenty of passenger space. Alloy wheel sizes vary from 17- to 19-inch depending on trim level.

For the update, Renault has made a few subtle tweaks. Evolution and Techno trim lines are joined by the new Esprit Alpine, which replaces the previous R.S. Line and gets some sportier trim like 19-inch alloys and gloss black wing mirror caps.

The grille has a new diamond pattern and wears the new Renault logo. There's also a new F1-style blade in the front bumper, finished in grey on the Esprit Alpine. The rear lights have smoked glass covers and tailpipes are finished in gloss black.

There's also a new colour called Midnight Blue.

The cabin of the Arkana
The cabin of the Arkana

The Arkana is available as a 1.3-litre mild hybrid petrol or as an even more fuel-efficient hybrid. It also still manages to offer good value in the market, starting from €32,590 for the petrol and from €35,490 for the hybrid.

Driving the Arkana E-Tech Hybrid

The Arkana E-Tech Hybrid uses a 1.6-litre full hybrid just like the Clio Hybrid. It combines a four-cylinder petrol engine with a small capacity battery, two electric motors and a 6-speed multimode automatic transmission.

With 145hp, it has plenty of power while boasting lower CO2 emissions and the ability to drive up to 80% of the time on battery power alone at low speeds in town, for example.

It also proves to be very fuel efficient with real world consumption between 5.5 and 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres during my time with the car. It's not a plug-in hybrid, so doesn't need to be plugged in to get the best efficiency from it.

It's a capable drive without being as sporty as what the coupé looks might suggest. The steering is accurate and direct but the hybrid can get noisy under hard acceleration.

The ride is a little firm so in town and on country roads it feels a little bumpy at times. There's quite a lot of road noise at high speeds on the motorway too.

The Renault Arkana is available as a petrol mild hybrid or full hybrid
The Renault Arkana is available as a petrol mild hybrid or full hybrid

But on balance, it's a nice car to spend time with. It offers a good view out of the road ahead and is simple and efficient to drive.

The 1.3-litre petrol is available with 140hp or 160hp depending on trim level and also comes with an automatic transmission.

There's no diesel option in the Arkana range.

Inside the Arkana

The Arkana still scores well for practicality. The hatchback-style boot has a wide opening and capacity of 480 litres. It doesn't feel cramped in the back despite the sloping roofline and provides adequate space for two, or even three from time to time.

The cabin design and finish hasn't changed much in this update but it's still a nice place to be with a good solid feel and plenty of cool digital tech on board.

The Esprit Alpine (from €37,790) offers the plushest cabin of the range with details such as suede-effect and synthetic leather seats with Alpine logo and blue stitching. The leather wrapped steering wheel gets stitching in the colours of the French Tricolour. There's also a bespoke grey panel in the dash.

The boot of the Arkana
The boot of the Arkana

It also has luxury features like heated steering wheel, heated front seats with power adjustment. Lovely!

The entry level Evolution model comes with a 7-inch touchscreen now with in-built navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

It's worth going for the mid-range Techno model as it adds an impressive full digital driver display and larger 9.3-inch touchscreen.

Did you like it?

The Renault Arkana is still a great offering in the market for style, practicality and efficiency. It's not quite as sporty to drive as it looks and could do with a bit more refinement overall but for the price it still manages to offer good value for buyers. The update is very, very subtle but what a great looking car!

Arkana is a car with a lot of charm and it's no surprise it's such a big seller for Renault in Ireland.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Renault Arkana is practical, stylish and efficient
The Renault Arkana is practical, stylish and efficient

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI on test for Changing Lanes

Skoda Octavia RS TDI Review | Fast, fun and frugal


Read Caroline's Skoda Octavia RS review for everything you need to know about buying the last ever diesel Octavia RS performance saloon.

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI is no more - it's going out of production around about now though it's still possible to pick one up on the new or used car market.

The Skoda Octavia is one of Ireland's favourite cars and has been for a very long time.

Same goes for the high performance RS models, but the RS TDI in particular. Its blend of power, performance and economy always struck just the right note with the Irish motorist seeking something fast, fun...and frugal.

It's time for one last blast before we say goodbye to our favourite fast Skoda diesel.

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI on test for Changing Lanes
The Skoda Octavia RS TDI on test for Changing Lanes

Styling 

The Skoda Octavia RS is sporty and understated. It's a very handsome car with timeless design that's seen it gently evolve from previous models. The Octavia RS TDI gets a few sporty additions to its styling to help it to stand out as something a bit special in the range - notably 19-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers, a lowered ride height of about 15 mm, sportier bumpers, glossy black grille with the famous badge, black wing mirror caps, black boot lip spoiler and two chrome tipped exhausts. It's a high spec car with matrix LED headlights included as standard with headlight washers.

Interior

The Octavia RS gets a suitably sporty feeling cabin. Highlights include the sports front seats with integrated headrests, logo and red stitching, as well as a suede-style material in the dashboard and doors that adds a plusher feel than more standard Octavias. There's also a little carbon fibre effect trim, aluminium pedals and a gorgeous sports steering wheel with paddles.

A full digital driver display comes as standard as does a large touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A wireless smartphone charging pad is available as an option.

Standard features include a reversing camera, heated steering wheel and heated front seats. Altogether it's a great cabin to spend time in.

The cabin of the Skoda Octavia RS TDI
The cabin of the Skoda Octavia RS TDI

Practicality

Just like the rest of the range, the Octavia RS TDI offers a hugely spacious interior. There's loads of legroom in the back and amenities like vents, USB-C ports and an armrest with cupholders.

The boot in the saloon is a massive 600 litres, while the Combi offers even a bit more at 640 litres. A powered tailgate comes as standard.

Engine

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 200hp and 400Nm of torque. 0-100kmh is completed in a swift 7.4 seconds. Motor tax costs €210 per year.

Driving 

Out on the road, the Skoda Octavia RS TDI is great fun to drive. There are a number of driving modes, with Sport mode activating a sound actuator to enhance the drive with a sportier soundtrack and making the Octavia feel speedier and more responsive. Don't sniff at a diesel performance car - the Octavia RS TDI is one of the best. The engine is an absolute peach, offering a smooth and strong delivry of power seamlessly put to the road via a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The 4x4 version is no longer on sale but the front wheel drive version does just fine in terms of the grip it offers and the way it goes around corners. It feels really agile and precise. Throw in the plentiful torque of the diesel and this is one of the last fun and engaging cars on the road.

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI - a joyous machine!
The Skoda Octavia RS TDI - a joyous machine!

Performance is good without the suspension being overly firm or uncomfortable for day to day driving.

What about fuel economy then? Skoda quote about 5.0-5.1 litres per 100 kilometres and that is definitely possible when cruising out on the motorway. Over a week of zealous driving my average consumption was still a respectable 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres.

Pricing

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI is on sale from €47,845 for the Saloon and from €49,485 for the Combi.

Verdict

It's sad to say goodbye to the Skoda Octavia RS TDI. It's a brilliant car offering the perfect blend of power, performance, spaciousness and economy. In that way it's been perfect for the Irish market and it's a car we've enjoyed for many years. Its time is up but it will be missed and is sure to be a popular buy on the used market for years to come.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Skoda Octavia RS TDI ceases production in early 2024 - grab one before they are all gone!
The Skoda Octavia RS TDI ceases production in early 2024 - grab one before they are all gone!

The new Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok Review (2024) | Rugged and refined

Read Caroline's Volkswagen Amarok review for everything you need to know about buying Volkswagen's pick-up truck in Ireland.

The new Volkswagen Amarok went on sale in Ireland in 2023 and marks a significant step forward in design, equipment and off-road capability.

Volkswagen teamed up with Ford to create the new Amarok so it shares a lot with the new Ranger - but there is enough distinction to make the Amarok a worthy contender for your shortlist of new pick-up trucks.

It's a segment dominated by the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux - but the new Amarok is up for the fight.

Let's take a closer look.

The new Volkswagen Amarok
The new Volkswagen Amarok

Styling

The new Amarok shares its engine, gearboxes and underpinnings with the Ranger but they certainly don't look like a carbon copy of each other. At the front, Volkswagen has given the Amarok a more refined face with a new X motif slashing across the front bumper. It's not quite as beefy looking as the Ranger with a more classic Volkswagen look. It's more of an evolution of the previous version of the Amarok, which launched all the way back in 2010.

There are a few different trim levels, which add a little more bling as you go up through them. The Aventura model we tested is no longer listed but is a high spec vehicle with matrix LED headlights, chrome trim and 21-inch wheels.

Interior

The new cabin is a big step up from the previous version with upgraded digital technology, equipment and plenty of plush materials. There's a lovely leather wrapped Volkswagen steering wheel and soft leather on top of the dashboard and doors to make it feel a little more posh. There's a full digital driver display just like the Ford but with bespoke graphics, and the same large portrait-style touchscreen. It comes with all the latest functionality like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike the Ranger however, there's more reliance on the touchscreen for things like adjusting the climate control.

The cabin of the new Amarok
The cabin of the new Amarok

The Aventura model has luxury features like heated front seats with power adjustment, heated steering wheel and a Harman Kardon sound system. All versions come with air conditioning and adaptive cruise control.

Practicality

The Amarok comes as double cab only so it offers space for a few rear seat passengers. It's bigger than before and fairly accommodating on legroom and headroom.

Towing capacity is up to 3.5 tonnes. A new feature is roof capacity of up to 350kg when stationary. The bed can take a payload of around 1 tonne, though the Aventura model tested here can only carry about 573kg. Volkswagen says a Euro pallet can fit sideways between the wheel arches.

It's also better off-road these days because of increased overall length but reduced overhangs front and rear to improve approach and departure angles. Wading depth has increased from 50 to 80 centimetres. You can get accessories like a hard top or powered roll cover to keep tools and equipment safe and dry.

The new Amarok has improved off-road capability
The new Amarok has improved off-road capability

Engine

At launch the Amarok was available with a choice of 2.0-litre or 3.0-litre V6 diesel, though Volkswagen has since withdrawn the V6 from sale in Ireland. Luckily I was able to experience it in the Aventura model I tested and it doesn't disappoint. It offers 240hp and 600Nm of torque and feels strong and robust on the road. It's refined to drive, matched well to the 10-speed automatic, and delivers a nice V6 burble at low speeds. Overall consumption averaged around 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres during my time with the truck.

The 2.0-litre diesel is offered with 168hp or 202hp. Gearbox options are a 6-speed manual or 10-speed automatic.

Driving

The Amarok is very capable in its on road driving manners, settling down well to a cruise on the motorway. It's big but still easy to steer down twisty rural roads. It's also remarkably comfortable for a pick-up truck though the ride can be a bit bumpy at times.

All versions come with 4Motion selectable four wheel drive as standard. The Amarok also features a number of different pre-configured driving modes to help you out off-road. Other tools include a hill descent control and rear locking differential.

Rear seating in the Amarok
Rear seating in the Amarok

Pricing

The Amarok starts from €48,890 in its most basic guise rising to €66,790 for the top of the range Style model.

Verdict

The new Volkswagen Amarok is a brilliant companion with improved on and off-road driving capabilities. It has impeccable road manners for a pick-up, offering a good degree of control and comfort from behind the wheel. It's come on a lot in terms of technology and equipment with more high-tech features than ever. The classy finish to the styling and interior give it a bit of distinction to the Ranger, though it may not be enough to truly tempt buyers away from the bestseller. Still, if you're looking for an alternative to a Ranger or Hilux, it's definitely worth a look.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Amarok is on sale now
The Amarok is on sale now

The 2024 Peugeot 2008

Peugeot 2008 Review (2024) | So much to like

Read Caroline's Peugeot 2008 review for everything you need to know about buying Peugeot's small SUV in 2024.

The Peugeot 2008 has been a huge hit for the Peugeot brand since it first launched in Ireland all the way back in 2013.

Now in its second generation, it is one of the brand's bestsellers alongside the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 SUVs.

Peugeot has recently spruced up the 2008 to keep it competitive against its rivals like the Skoda Kamiq, Ford Puma and Toyota Yaris Cross. It goes on sale priced from €30,740.

It's available with a choice of engines including petrol, petrol mild hybrid and the full electric Peugeot e-2008, which I reviewed for this site last summer. But it's the 1.2 petrol that's the subject of this review.

Let's take a closer look.

The 2024 Peugeot 2008
The 2024 Peugeot 2008 on test for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the Peugeot 2008?

The current Peugeot 2008 launched here in 2020 but still looks fresh. It has lots of style and sophistication for the small SUV class. It now has been updated in line with the rest of the Peugeot range so it gets the brand's new lion shield logo, larger grille and 'three-claw' daytime running lights at the front.

At the back P E U G E O T is now spelt across a black strip connecting the rear lights, which also have a new lighting signature.

There are three trim lines: Active, Allure and GT. Standard wheel sizes vary from 16- to 17-inch with more efficient aerodynamic design.

There's a range of smart colours available including Selenium Grey, Okenite White, Vertigo Blue and Elixir Red. There's also a trendy contrasting black roof for the GT model.

The upmarket feel continues to the inside.

The cabin of the 2024 Peugeot 2008
The cabin of the 2024 Peugeot 2008

Inside the Peugeot 2008

The cabin design is now an older variation of the brand's 'i-Cockpit' that mixes a compact steering wheel with a cosy, driver-focused feel. The build quality feels good for this kind of small SUV and the mix of materials combine for a classy feel.

There's a full digital driver display on Allure and GT models, and a now standard fit 10-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone connectivity. Like before, the ventilation is controlled from the screen though there are a few shortcut buttons to pull up menus quickly.

A parking camera and parking sensors come as standard. Wireless smartphone charging is standard with the GT model.

It's a car that's easy to get comfortable in quickly and is spacious for its size with ample legroom and headroom. There's also a practical 434 litre boot with a two-position floor that is bigger than some hatchbacks.

The 2008 is available as petrol, petrol mild hybrid or full electric
The 2008 is available as petrol, petrol mild hybrid or full electric

Driving the 1.2 petrol

The Peugeot 2008 is a joy to drive with smooth dynamic steering and very composed handling through bends. Out on the motorway it shows the maturity of a larger car, feeling supple and comfortable at all times. It's a solid car to drive and never gets too noisy.

The 1.2-litre petrol is the entry into the range and is available with 100hp or 130hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox. There's also an automatic mild hybrid version with 136hp. On test was the 1.2 petrol Allure with 130hp retailing at €34,295 and it's brilliant in the 2008. It's lively and perky to drive, while also being quiet and economical. You couldn't wish for more from a petrol crossover.

Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres and it costs €200 to tax per year.

Rear legroom in the 2008
Rear legroom in the 2008

There's also the Peugeot e-2008 (from €35,610), which gets a new 54kWh battery with more range than before (up to 406 kilometres WLTP) and a more efficient 156hp electric motor.

Did you like it?

It's an easy yes. The Peugeot 2008 remains one of the best of its kind. If you're looking for a stylish, fun and spacious small SUV, the Peugeot 2008 definitely has to be on your shopping list. Whether you go petrol or electric, it's a great buy.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Peugeot 2008 is one of the best small SUVs you can buy
The Peugeot 2008 is one of the best small SUVs you can buy

The Subaru Solterra

Subaru Solterra Review | Best off-road EV


Read Caroline's Subaru Solterra review for everything you need to know about buying Subaru's electric crossover in Ireland.

Subaru is known as a 4x4 specialist with cars like the Impreza, Forester and Outback in its repertoire and famous for the flat four Boxer engine.

The brand is a small player in the Irish market but does have a strong following of fans who love the straightforward rugged and reliable character of a good Subaru.

The Japanese car brand has dabbled in some hybrid technology to clean up its environmental credentials and now steps into the arena of the full battery electric vehicle (BEV) with the all-new Subaru Solterra.

The Solterra was co-developed with Toyota and shares much of its engineering, battery and interior with the Toyota BZ4X. Subaru gave its all wheel drive expertise to the project, giving the Solterra a leg up in the market for any buyer seeking an EV that won't embarrass you off road.

Let's take a closer look.

The Subaru Solterra
The Subaru Solterra

Styling

The Solterra shares its basic shape with the Toyota BZ4X but with a few Subaru tweaks that make it arguably a better looking car overall. It's quite a big vehicle in the metal with numerous crossover design cues that hint at its ability off road. For a start, it sits a little bit higher off the ground than your average hatchback with a good 210 mm of ground clearance and there is copious amounts of plastic cladding around the wheel arches. At the front, the Solterra gets Subaru's iconic hexagon grille plate. There are also different headlights with washers. The standard wheel size is 18-inch, with the option to upgrade to a set of 20-inch on the Touring model. At the back, there are two separate lights as opposed to the Toyota's full light bar.

Interior

While the outside styling does offer a little distinction from the Toyota, inside it's a carbon copy. Subaru cars always had strong, good quality cabins and the same has to be said for the Solterra. However, the collaboration has added a little more style and digital tech to proceedings. There's a nice mix of materials including a tweed-like fabric on the dashboard and lots of gloss black. There's a leather wrapped steering wheel and digital driver display set above it. This is a little different to the set up in most other cars and may require you sit a bit higher to see everything on the screen. There's also a large touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, There are separate buttons underneath to adjust the climate control.

The cabin of the Solterra
The cabin of the Solterra

The Solterra is very well equipped with standard features on the Limited model including heated front and rear seats, keyless entry, 360 camera, digital rear view mirror and many safety features. The Touring adds a double sunroof, synthetic leather seats, power adjustment for the front seats, wireless smartphone charging and a Harman Kardon stereo with subwoofer.

Practicality

The Solterra offers generous space inside for passengers. The rear seat is quite wide and there is a lot of legroom thanks to a flat floor the width of the cabin. The floor is quite high however so the rear bench doesn't offer much in the way of thigh support but the rear seats do recline. A powered tailgate comes as standard and opens to reveal 452 litres. The boot is well designed with a wide opening and low sill making it easy to pack and unpack. There's also a little underfloor storage.

Battery

The Solterra uses the same battery as the BZ4X. It's a 71kWh battery (64kWh usable) with up to 465 kilometres of range (WLTP). A heat pump comes as standard but in real world driving the dual motor, all wheel drive set-up proves not to be the most efficient, while turning on the ventilation has a significant impact on the estimated range. Over a week of driving my average consumption was about 23 kWh per 100 kilometres, which indicates a range of 278 kilometres on a full battery charge.

The Subaru Solterra is the brand's first full electric vehicle
The Subaru Solterra is the brand's first full electric vehicle

Driving

Subaru as a brand is known for its rugged reliability and the Solterra comes to market as dual motor, all wheel drive only (the Toyota BX4Z is available in a front wheel drive variant). Aside from good ground clearance, the Solterra has a few other off-road tools on board like Grip Control, a hill descent control and X Mode, which allows you to switch between two preconfigured modes - Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud. If you find yourself in a muddy field, you will be glad to be behind the wheel of the Solterra.

Performance figures are good with 218hp, 336Nm of torque and 0-100kmh in just 6.9 seconds. The Solterra feels very responsive and sprightly on the road. It's an excellent handling car with a low centre of gravity from the battery position giving a nice feeling of balance and dynamism to the car. There's not too much lean in corners and the grip is superb. There are also a few driving models like normal, eco and power. There's paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to adjust the regenerative braking. It feels very solid and planted on the road though the experience is upset by quite a lot of road noise in the cabin at high speeds. Still the ride quality is excellent, and the Subaru takes on Irish roads with aplomb.

Rear seating in the Solterra
Rear seating in the Solterra

Charging

DC fast charging is possible up to 150kW for an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. AC charging is possible up to 7kW.

Pricing

The Solterra has recently had a price cut to keep it competitive and now starts from €44,995.

Verdict

The Subaru Solterra is a significant car for Subaru and stays true to Subaru's incredible 4x4 heritage, being perfectly set-up for winter roads, muddy fields and dirt tracks. It's a nice car to be behind the wheel and feels like a good quality offering. It's loaded with equipment and looks pretty smart too. The range is a little disappointing and others offer more range for similar money. But if you can live with that, the Solterra is a lovely car.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Subaru Solterra is one of the best EVs for off-roading
The Subaru Solterra is one of the best EVs for off-roading

The new Suzuki Swift

Suzuki Swift Review (2024) | The affordable small car

Read Caroline's Suzuki Swift review for everything you need to know about buying the new Swift in Ireland.

The Suzuki Swift is one of the perennials of the small car class. It's been around for years and it's known for being simple, affordable and fun to drive.

Some manufacturers are moving their small cars to hybrid and full electric - adding the Euros in the process. Others are killing them off altogether, like the Ford Fiesta.

Suzuki is taking a more relaxed approach. The company is launching its new Swift in 2024 as a petrol mild hybrid with a starting price of just €21,495.

And this approach could pay dividends for the Japanese car brand, which has already been growing in Ireland over the last few years. As the race to electric gains pace, buyers seeking simple, affordable motoring need to look elsewhere - likely falling into the arms of Suzuki, among others, whose entire range of cars come under the €35,000 mark new.

The new Suzuki Swift
The new Suzuki Swift

Suzuki bestsellers include the Vitara and the iconic Swift. The new Swift is expected in Ireland in April and could be the perfect antidote if you're fed up of crazy car prices.

Styling

The new Swift sees an evolution of its styling so it's still very recognisable. The car hasn't changed much in its dimensions and takes up a similar footprint to before. It looks a little more grown-up thanks to a new front end, gloss black grille and new lights with L-shaped daytime running lights. The Suzuki badge has been moved from the grille to the bodywork. There's also a new bonnet that doesn't appear to sit completely flush with the car leaving a slightly awkward panel gap.

The standard wheel size is 16-inch across the range. Like before, you can opt for a contrast roof. There's a great selection of colours too including the new Frontier Blue and Cool Yellow. The Burning Red Pearl Metallic and Frontier Blue Pearl Metallic colours consist of a three-layer coating for a richer finish.

Around the back, there are more 3D-style light clusters and a wide rear bumper. The Swift's classic sporty stance is complete. It's lost a bit of its cuteness overall but this more mature look is what's required of a global car that will sell in many markets around the world.

Interior

The cabin of the previous Swift was looking quite tired and basic. Thankfully this new one comes on in leaps and bounds. The new two tone pale grey and black interior makes this far more appealing. There are still lots of hard plastics but they are disguised well and don't look as cheap. There's a sporty steering wheel and old-fashioned analogue dials. A new 9-inch touchscreen comes with wireless smartphone connectivity and is a big improvement on the previous version. But no wireless smartphone charging option is a disappointment.

The cabin of the 2024 Suzuki Swift
The cabin of the 2024 Suzuki Swift

Otherwise it's an exceptionally well equipped car. Just two trim levels, Motion and Ultra. Standard equipment includes a reversing camera, push button start, four electric windows, heated front seats, automatic air con and lots of standard safety features like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition.

Practicality

The boot can only muster about 265 litres, which is a good way off the best in class. Still it will fit a few bags or suitcases and the rear seats can split fold. The Swift is surprisingly roomy in the back with decent headroom and legroom for adults from time to time, though children should be fine. It's short on amenities or storage with just space in the doors for a bottle. However, in a smart move Suzuki has given the Swift conventional rear door handles rather than the hidden ones from the previous car, which makes access in and out easier - particularly for small children.

Engine

The engine in the Swift is brand new. It's a 1.2-litre mild hybrid just like before, but it's gone from four to three cylinders. It offers about 82hp and fuel consumption as low as 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres. A little more torque makes it more responsive to drive than before though 0-100 km/h is a leisurely 12.5 seconds. Motor tax is €180 per year for the manual or €190 per year for the CVT.

The new Swift is one of the most affordable cars on sale
The new Swift is one of the most affordable cars on sale

Driving

Still it feels a lot quicker on the road. That's because the Swift is a true lightweight. It weighs less than one tonne. It comes with a five speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic and is an absolute hoot to drive.

Suzuki has reduced the roll in corners and the Swift is mighty fun out on the open road. It's not too noisy thanks to a bit more sound insulation and offers a nicely cushioned ride for a small car.

We didn't get to test it out on the motorway but it excelled on rural roads and in suburbia.

Pricing 

The 2024 Suzuki Swift 1.2 Motion goes on sale from €21,495 with a manual gearbox or from €23,495 with a CVT. The Ultra model with more equipment is available from €22,695.

Rear seating in the new Swift
Rear seating in the new Swift

Verdict

Suzuki sells the Swift in 169 countries and it has sold over 9 million units since it became a global model in 2004.

In Ireland it's one of the brand's bestsellers and has been for many years.

Suzuki is not in a hurry to go electric but its entire range now has some sort of hybrid assistance to boost efficiency. We are likely to see the brand's first EV in 2025 but the Swift still satisfies a market looking for a simple, affordable fuel-powered car.

And let's not forget the Suzuki Swift is still astoundingly good value for a small car in 2024. The interior and equipment levels are a massive improvement over the old car. It's reasonably practical too.

Cheap to run and fun to drive, the new Swift is one of the surprise highlights of the year so far.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The 2024 Suzuki Swift is a fun and efficient small car
The 2024 Suzuki Swift is a fun and efficient small car

The new BMW i5

BMW i5 Review | The electric executive car

Read Caroline's BMW i5 review for everything you need to know about buying the new electric 5 Series in Ireland.

The new generation BMW 5 Series has arrived in Ireland and goes on sale as a petrol 520i, a petrol plug-in hybrid (530e or 550e) and as the all-new electric i5.

Following on from the success of the BMW i4, the i5 places a battery in BMW's classic executive saloon. A popular car for years now, it's famous for its luxury and dynamic rear wheel drive handling.

BMW has taken the decision not to sell the new 5 Series as a diesel so it's goodbye to the 520d and hello to the new i5.

Worth it? Let's take a closer look.

The new BMW i5
The new BMW i5

What's so special about the BMW i5?

The BMW i5 has a 81.2kWh battery (usable capacity) and there are two derivatives at launch - single motor or dual motor.

The classic single motor, rear wheel drive i5 eDrive 40 comes with a range projected between 477-582km (WLTP). It goes on sale from €91,105.

There's also a more powerful and expensive all-wheel drive i5 M60 xDrive with M performance upgrades and rear wheel steering.

The new generation 5 has a bigger presence than before, being longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces. BMW has done away with entry variants, so all 5 Series (from €70,845 for a 520i) and i5 models come as standard in the handsome M Sport trim. The M Sport Pro is available for upgrade too.

Alloy wheel sizes vary from 19- to 21-inch but it looks good even on the standard 19s.

The iconic kidney grille sits proudly at the front framed by LED headlights and sporty side air intakes. There's new black contrasting side sills and flush door handles for the very first time on a 5 Series.

Around the back, there is a subtle evolution of styling - but otherwise it's classic 5 Series. Strong, handsome, this time fully electrified.

A subtle evolution of style for BMW's famous executive saloon
A subtle evolution of style for BMW's famous executive saloon

Inside the i5

The brand new interior has had a massive digital upgrade with the addition of the new BMW curved display as seen in other models like the iX and the iX1. There's a full digital driver display that blends seamlessly into the central infotainment display, which can be controlled via touch control, voice control, gesture control and the iDrive controller on the centre console. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also feature, as well as wireless smartphone charging.

Charging stops can also be planned through the navigation system and battery preconditioning in advance to optimise the battery for fast charging.

'Veganza' synthetic leather upholstery comes as standard for a luxury feel. Front seats are heated with power adjustment and lumbar support. The cabin feels incredibly solid and well-built though without the outright opulence of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class for example. It's still a sturdy premium offering however.

For a bit more bling, the BMW Interaction Bar makes its debut in the 5 Series. It's like a thick strip of ambient lighting that can change colour depending on the drive mode selected and flash visual warnings to the driver.

The cabin of the new BMW i5
The cabin of the new BMW i5

The i5 feels spacious inside for an executive saloon though a large transmission tunnel does impede on legroom for a middle seat passenger. But there's plenty of space and comfort for two VIPs on either side!

The boot is also generously sized at 490 litres, just a bit down on the space in the fuel versions (520 litres). The rear seats also split 40:20:40.

A Touring model is also available in both the fuel and electric version.

Driving the new BMW i5

It's a quiet and serene experience driving the new i5. You do feel nicely isolated from wind and road noise as it moves effortlessly over the tarmac. The ride is generally good too for an electric saloon on the standard lowered M sports suspension - just a bit bumpy over imperfections in the road surface. Things smooth out well on the motorway. There's also the option to upgrade to adaptive dampers.

The i5 eDrive 40 has 340hp and 430Nm of torque. It's a heavy car but can still do the sprint to 100km/h in just 6 seconds to the tune of an electric engine soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer, as seen in some other new electric BMWs. It does add a little bit of drama and excitement. There's also a Boost paddle behind the steering wheel for 10 seconds of maximum power and torque.

Handling is very secure and assured. The i5 has classic BMW meaty steering and is easy to place on the road. It has some dynamic skill and does offer a fair bit of driver engagement. Yet you can feel it shifting its considerable weight in fast cornering. A BMW i4 is more fun in this way.

Boot space in the new i5
Boot space in the new i5

During my test in a very cold January, the average consumption was about 19-23kWh per 100 kilometres, which translates to a real world driving range of 370-430 kilometres. A heat pump comes as standard and there is also a few levels of regenerative braking.

When it does come to charging, the i5 comes with an 11kW on board AC. DC fast charging is possible up to 205kW for a 10 to 80% charge in 30 minutes.

Did you like it?

BMW has pulled off quite a feat with the new electric i5. It's a very convincing member of the new 5 Series range, offering excellent comfort and refinement befitting of an executive car yet retaining a desirable profile packed full of the brand's latest digital tech. It's modern, sporty and very expensive - but for 5 Series buyers ready to go electric, this car offers a smooth transition.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The new BMW i5 is a fun to drive electric saloon with great presence
The new BMW i5 is a fun to drive electric saloon with great presence

The 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid

Mazda2 Hybrid Review (2024) | Fuel-sipping hybrid

Read Caroline's 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid review for everything you need to know about buying Mazda's hybrid small car in Ireland.

The Mazda2 Hybrid joined the Mazda range for the first time in 2022. Sold alongside the Mazda2 petrol, the Mazda2 Hybrid is essentially a rebadged Toyota Yaris.

The hybrid supermini is an important step in helping the Japanese brand to reduce emissions and offer customers a fuel-sipping hybrid option (without the cost of developing its own).

Toyota is a leader in hybrid for over 25 years so this car certainly has good provenance. But is it distinct enough?

Now in 2024, Mazda seeks to distinguish this car a little more with a few styling tweaks from its own European Design Studio.

I travelled to Barcelona to take a first look at the new Mazda2 Hybrid, ahead of its arrival in Ireland this March.

The 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid
The 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid

Styling

The Mazda2 Hybrid is a Yaris in disguise but this time around Mazda has done a little more than a simple rebadging exercise. Mazda's version of the famous small car gets a new face with a unique bumper and Mazda five-point grille. At the back, the light clusters are separated by a body coloured garnish. Black side mirrors come as standard. The Homura models add glossy black trim, LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. This is a very convincing spec for the Mazda2 Hybrid, with a sporty, squat stance on the road. Glass Blue is added as a new colour.

Overall the design tweaks do give the Mazda2 Hybrid a modicum more style than before, yet it still looks more like a Toyota than a Mazda. This may be disappointing for Mazda fans but doesn't take away from the fact that it's a very accomplished small car underneath.

Interior

Again, there's very little inside to distinguish the Mazda2 Hybrid from the Yaris, except for a Mazda badge on the steering wheel and printed on the mats. It's a solid, well-made interior - though it lacks the artistic flair of a true Mazda cabin. It benefits from the same digital upgrade the Yaris receives this year, including larger and more modern touchscreens (9” to 10.5”) with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and the availability of an impressive full digital driver display.

Standard features include a reversing camera, leather steering wheel, electric windows, automatic air con and adaptive cruise control. Going up the trim levels adds things such as smart keyless entry, parking sensors, wireless mobile phone charging and even a head-up display and panoramic roof on the very top of the range Homura Plus model.

Inside the 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid
Inside the 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid

Practicality

At 286 litres, the boot is average for a small car but will fit two cabin bags side by side. The rear seats also split fold 60:40. Rear legroom is on the tight side so it's certainly one of the more compact models on sale - though you will get adults in there from time to time and children will be fine.

Engine

The Mazda2 Hybrid uses Toyota's 1.5-litre petrol electric hybrid with 116hp, just like the latest Yaris. It's incredibly frugal with fuel consumption quoted between 3.8 - 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres. Real world consumption is not too far off that, though consumption naturally increases at high speeds on the motorway.

Driving

The Mazda2 is a solid and capable small car on the road. It handles well without being particularly fun to drive. But the hybrid does feel more lively overall than a Mazda2 petrol, which can feel a bit lethargic, particularly on motorways. The Mazda2 Hybrid has no problem keeping up with the best of them on the motorway though it does get quite noisy with a lot of tyre and wind noise at high speeds. It's at its best in town and city driving when the hybrid drive really comes into its own. At low speeds, it frequently dips into EV mode, running silently on the power from its electric motor with no emissions from the exhaust. For this reason it's a very convenient option for buyers who want to be a little more environmentally conscious but without the need for chargers and charging - the small capacity battery is topped up in braking and deceleration.

Boot space in the Mazda2 Hybrid
Boot space in the Mazda2 Hybrid

Pricing

There are four trim lines confirmed for Ireland: Centre-line from €27,700; Exclusive-line from €29,550; Homura from €32,300; and Homura Plus from €34,700.

Verdict

It's challenging to put an individual stamp on a car as popular and well-known as a Toyota Yaris. Mazda has tried again with the 2024 Mazda2 Hybrid and the results are more convincing than before, particularly in the sporty Homura trim line. It's an attractive car though Mazda fans are likely to be a little underwhelmed by it overall as it lacks the artistic flair and craftmanship of a true Mazda. But, it's not a bad car: it's incredibly frugal and well-made with a modern, digital cabin and plenty of high-end safety features. It's lack of distinction from the Yaris might let it down in the wider market. But within Mazda's range, it's a frugal and lively compact car.

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Mazda2 Hybrid is incredibly efficient
The Mazda2 Hybrid is incredibly efficient

The new Renault Clio - delightfully chic

Renault Clio Review (2024) | A brilliant small car

Read Caroline's Renault Clio review for everything you need to know about buying Renault's popular small car in Ireland.

The Renault Clio is an international bestseller and one of the French brand's best loved small cars. It's recently been updated to keep it competitive with a few small tweaks to the styling, addition of a new Esprit Alpine trim level and some enhanced equipment onboard.

Available as a simple petrol manual or as an even more fuel efficient hybrid, the 2024 Renault Clio range kicks off from €24,845.

The new Renault Clio - delightfully chic
The new Renault Clio - delightfully chic

What's so special about the Renault Clio?

There are few small cars as chic and stylish as the Renault Clio. The facelifted Clio gets a new front end that gives it a meaner and sportier look, particularly in the top of the range Esprit Alpine - inspired by Renault's Alpine brand of sports cars.

The grille now stretches the full width between the LED headlights, while the new F1-style blade in the front bumper is finished in grey on the Esprit Alpine. Another striking feature is the new half diamond shaped LED daytime running lights that give it some real dynamic appeal.

Alloy wheel sizes start at 16-inch, with the Esprit Alpine getting a fancier 17-inch diamond cut set with blue or grey centre caps, depending on the body colour.

There are new clear covers for the rear lights but otherwise it's business as usual for the Clio. It's still one of the best looking small cars on sale.

There are a few tweaks inside too. Nothing major but the Esprit Alpine replaces the old RS Line and has a few sporty additions.

The cabin of the 2024 Renault Clio
The cabin of the 2024 Renault Clio

Inside the Clio Esprit Alpine

The Clio's cabin has matured very well with impressive digital tech on board and an upmarket feel - particularly in the new Esprit Alpine (from €28,345).

Front sports seats come with blue contrast stitching and Alpine logos to add a sporty feel. There's a fabric dashboard panel with a French flag to remind you what you're driving and Tricolour stitching in the steering wheel too.

Entry level models come with a 7-inch digital driver display and 7-inch touchscreen that's easy to use, with now wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to make smartphone integration even simpler. The Esprit Alpine gets the flashier 10-inch digital driver display and 9.3-inch portrait-style touchscreen.

Standard features on the entry level Evolution model include keyless entry, automatic air con and rear parking sensors. The Techno adds a reversing camera and wireless smartphone charging, while the Esprit Alpine is the most luxurious of all with heated steering wheel/heated front seats and safety equipment like adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The Clio Hybrid is brilliant in town and very fuel-efficient
The Clio Hybrid is brilliant in town and very fuel-efficient

The Clio feels roomy enough inside for a small car though the back seat will be more comfortable for two rather than three. The petrol models are best for boot space with a Golf-beating 391 litres. Opt for the hybrid and this goes down to 301 litres. But it's still a practical space for a few suitcases or shopping bags.

Driving the Clio Hybrid

The Clio is available with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 90hp and a 6-speed manual or as a 1.6-litre hybrid that promises even greater fuel efficiency.

The hybrid is more expensive to buy (from €30,545) but offers a few benefits particularly in town driving where it can run for up to 80% of the time on its small capacity battery alone powering just the electric motor to turn the wheels - just like a Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Nor does it require a plug, with the battery being topped up during braking and deceleration.

It's smooth to drive with a multimode automatic transmission making it simple too. It has more power (145hp) than the entry level petrol and contributes to a more mature feeling on the road. Slot it into the ‘B’ mode to increase regenerative braking and you can adjust the driving behaviour somewhat with the Multisense driving modes.

Rear seating in the Clio
Rear seating in the Clio

Over my time with the car, average fuel consumption was 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres, making it cheap to run too.

The Clio is good fun to drive with direct steering and good body control through bends. Comfort and refinement levels are pretty good for a small car though it does get noisy over coarser road surfaces and doesn't do much to take the edge off the bumps and holes of Irish rural roads.

Did you like it?

It's an easy yes! It's hard not to find yourself endeared by the Clio's charm. It's compact enough to be fun, yet big enough to offer some decent practicality. It's super stylish and well-equipped making it one of the most desirable small cars on sale.

It's hard to justify the hybrid's price tag over the basic petrol though it is a more sophisticated offering overall, cleaner and more efficient.

Either way, the Clio is still one for the shopping list.

The brilliant Renault Clio
The brilliant Renault Clio

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The BYD Dolphin is on sale now

BYD Dolphin Review | Best value EV

Read Caroline's BYD Dolphin review for everything you need to know about buying BYD's new compact electric hatchback in Ireland.

The BYD Dolphin is one of the most anticipated new cars to arrive in Ireland in 2024 because it's one of the most budget-friendly EVs to go on sale in quite a while.

EVs have secured themselves a reputation thus far of being expensive, with many models pricing themselves above their petrol and diesel counterparts.

The tide is turning with many brands now cutting prices to entice buyers among the backdrop of a slowing EV market and in an effort to fend off the very plausible threat from new Chinese car brands - just like BYD.

The BYD Dolphin has a starting price of just €25,570 for the Dolphin 44.9kWh with up to 340 km (WLTP) range and from €29,318 for the Dolphin 60.4kWh with up to 427 km (WLTP).

And beyond the quirky name, the Dolphin is a cheerful enough companion for the road.

Let's take a closer look.

The BYD Dolphin is on sale now
The BYD Dolphin is on sale now

What's so special about the BYD Dolphin?

The Dolphin is pitched as a compact hatchback to take on the popular MG4 and Volkswagen ID.3. It's part of BYD's 'Ocean Series', just like the newly launched BYD Seal four-door saloon.

It has a straightforward, practical shape as opposed to the sleeker and sportier MG and ID.3. But BYD clearly tried to stamp some trendy design touches on it like the attractive colour palette, contrasting roof, alloy wheels with coloured inserts, LED lighting and a smart full-width light bar at the rear.

The Dolphin uses BYD's very own 'Blade Battery', which is a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery as opposed to the lithium ion batteries we've heard a lot about to date. They are cheaper to make and do without precious metals like cobalt and nickel, which is an advantage.

It will seat five and there is a tremendous amount of legroom in the back seat. Built on a bespoke electric vehicle platform, there is a flat floor the full width - though it's still a compact car so it's most comfortable for two back there.

At 345 litres, the boot is a little disappointing though it will be perfectly adequate for some. It's smaller than the boot in the MG4 and ID.3, which may limit its appeal for family buyers.

The cabin of the new Dolphin
The cabin of the new Dolphin

Inside the BYD Dolphin

The Dolphin's cabin is full of character. It's a really fun interior with a strong aquatic theme - the door handles are shaped like a dolphin's flipper and there's a curved finish to the dashboard that does resemble waves on the sea.

The Design model gets a beautiful coloured interior - dark blue in my test car with some red stitching in the steering wheel and around the circular air vents.

There are cheaper hard plastics in places but they are well-disguised among lots of soft touch materials in the dashboard and doors. The vegan leather seats with integrated headrests are another highlight.

The digital technology on board is a little hit and miss. There is a small digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, yet the icons are small and it appears quite cluttered.

An impressive 12.8-inch rotatable touchscreen is well-placed in the centre of the dash. It looks great with crisp graphics yet simple tasks like adjusting the fan speed require a few prods of the screen if you are using Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which still require a cable to connect.

The new BYD Dolphin
The Dolphin is a cheerful companion for the road

Otherwise it's an exceptionally well-equipped car with standard features including lots of safety and driver assistance features, 360-degree camera, heated front seats with power adjustment and automatic lights with high beam assist.

The Design model adds wireless smartphone charging and a panoramic glass roof.

Driving the Dolphin

The Dolphin 60.4kWh uses a 204hp motor to send power to the front wheels. It's nippy enough and there's no problem picking up speed quickly to join motorways or for overtaking manoeuvres.

It's not the most exciting car to drive in the world with quite woolly steering but it's easy to place on the road and keep in lane on the motorway. It feels solid and comfortable on the road though it does get quite noisy at high speeds on the motorway, which might limit its appeal as a car for long commutes. A Volkswagen ID.3 is more refined in this manner.

Rear seating in the Dolphin
Rear seating in the Dolphin

There is a heat pump to improve the efficiency of the battery in cold weather and two 'strengths' possible of regenerative braking. Overall efficiency is good with my average sitting at about 16.3kWh per 100 kilometres during my time with the car. This put me on track for a real world driving range of about 370 kilometres between battery charges.

When it does come to charging, the Dolphin has an 11kW onboard AC charger. Fast charging rates are less impressive at 88kW compared to key rivals but it will still manage to go from 10-80% in 40 minutes.

Did you like it?

Beyond the sedate looks, the Dolphin is a cheerful car that will make a perfect family runabout. For the price, it has a very nice interior that makes rivals appear a bit dull and sparse. It's exceptionally well-equipped and while the screen is not without its foibles, overall this is a pleasant car to be behind the wheel of. It ticks the box for comfort without coming close to much excitement behind the wheel, yet it offers good reliable range. In short, the BYD Dolphin is a perfectly capable compact electric hatchback. If you’re interested in going electric and don’t want to spend a huge amount of money, it's a great option.

The Dolphin is one of the best value EVs on the market in Ireland
The Dolphin is one of the best value EVs on the market in Ireland

Model tested: BYD Dolphin Design
Price: 
€31,192
Battery:
60.4Wh
Range: 427 kilometres (WLTP)
Power: 204 hp
Torque: 310 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year