The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

Kia XCeed Plug-In Hybrid (2020) Review

The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes
The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the 2020 Kia XCeed.

Earlier in the year we tested the Kia XCeed diesel; now it’s the turn of the hybrid.

The Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid (PHEV) comes to market with fashionable crossover style and an equally on trend hybrid powertrain. It’s a stylish piece of design for the compact segment but how successful is the hybrid powertrain?

Kia has astounded us over the last few years with a range of exciting and innovative models that puts them ahead of some even more established brands.

The Korean brand has not only stepped up quality and design but has also been an enthusiastic adopter of electrification into their range. The brand already sells two popular electric vehicles in Ireland, the Kia e-Niro and the Kia e-Soul, Irish Car of the Year 2020.

Fashionable crossover style for the new XCeed
Fashionable crossover style for the new XCeed

What's so special about the Kia XCeed Plug-In Hybrid?

Hybrid is also a key feature of the range, debuting here in the Niro range back in 2016 and now extending to the XCeed range and next Kia Sorento.

The brand has had great success in Ireland with its SUVs like the Sportage and moved into the crossover market with the Stonic and now the XCeed. A derivative of the Ceed is a good place to start for the XCeed and it inherits the same underpinnings and interior with some modifications. The XCeed in my opinion is the most desirable of the range with its crossover-style makeover.

The XCeed PHEV has a new closed ‘tiger-nose’ grille to aid aerodynamic efficiency and the charging port is integrated into the left front wing. In Ireland it retails from €28,350 including grants and VRT relief. It is available in just one high specification. Standard equipment includes 18” alloy wheels, dual zone automatic air con, 8” touchscreen with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, rear privacy glass, rain sensing wipers, lane keep assist and forward collision avoidance.

Inside the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV
Inside the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV

Inside the Kia XCeed PHEV

Inside, the XCeed PHEV is comfortable with a well-laid out cabin and good finish. There are some new features for the plug-in hybrid including a charging indicator on top of the dashboard to signal visually to the driver the state of the battery (charging or fully charged).The instrument cluster also displays remaining charge levels, anticipated electric-only range and the flow of energy between the battery pack, engine and electric motor. The ‘Driver Only’ heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is a handy feature to reduce the draw on battery energy from the ventilation system.

There is good space inside the vehicle for a compact with decent legroom in the rear. The Ceed model line-up was engineered from the start to accommodate new hybrid powertrains so the battery pack doesn't interfere with passenger space. The 8.9 kWh battery pack is located alongside the 37-litre fuel tank beneath the rear bench. However the boot is on the shallow side with luggage capacity in the hybrid down to 291 litres, less than the pure combustion engine versions.

How does the hybrid work?

The 2020 Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor and 8.9 kWh battery pack to produce 141 hp and 265 Nm of torque. There is a pure electric range quoted up to 54 km by the brand, though in real world driving this will be a little less. But it does allow buyers to experiment with driving an electric vehicle and means that short commutes or errands can be run on battery power alone, with little dip into that petrol tank. It can take less than 3 hours to charge the battery to full capacity.

Luggage capacity in the new XCeed hybrid
Luggage capacity in the new XCeed hybrid

Kia says that the XCeed Plug-in Hybrid has been engineered exclusively for European roads, with European buyers in mind. The ride and handling characteristics have been tuned for dynamism and driver engagement, with some special tweaks to suspension and steering over the diesel and petrol XCeed range.

The powertrain is paired with a six-speed double-clutch transmission, while regenerative braking technology also comes as standard to recuperate energy typically lost during coasting or braking.

Driving the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV

On the road the Kia XCeed PHEV impressed for its smooth, refined drive. Handling is quite neutral so the car behaves predictably on the road but there isn't much dynamic spirit to it. There are two modes to switch between – Sport and Eco - and both are worth acquainting yourself with.

In Eco mode there is a bias towards efficiency with a duller throttle feel ensuring you optimise your fuel economy. To that end we averaged between 5.0 and 5.5 litres per 100 kms across mixed roads - urban, rural and motorway. That is an impressive return and motor tax is just €170 per year, accounting for the reduced CO2 emissions from the hybrid powertrain.

When you need more throttle response and quick acceleration, for example when overtaking or joining the motorway, the Sport mode is a must.

Kia has invested to bring plug-in hybrid technology to the compact class, and the brand is offering buyers in Ireland an attractive package of price, equipment and fuel sipping hybrid technology in the compact class.

The XCeed occupies a sweet spot of the market right now with styling that is right on point for current trends for crossovers. Adding hybrid to that creates a very appealing prospect. While the hybrid carries a small premium over the entry level petrol XCeed, in return I think buyers will be impressed with the fuel economy and refinement of the vehicle.

The Kia XCeed PHEV offers buyers a fuel sipping hybrid crossover
The Kia XCeed PHEV offers buyers a fuel sipping hybrid crossover

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid
Price: 
€28,350
Engine: 1.6 litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
141 hp
Torque: 265 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.8 seconds
Top speed: 225 km/h
Fuel economy: 4.2 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Motor Tax:  €170 per year


The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!

Jaguar XE Chequered Flag (2020) Review

The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Jaguar XE.

We review the 2020 Jaguar XE Chequered Flag edition with great anticipation that soon turned to a real grá for this lithe and lovely cat. Fresh from a 2019 facelift, Jaguar’s compact saloon invites more customers to the brand with contemporary luxury and first class engineering.

Jaguar Ireland is turning our attention in the direction of the Chequered Flag edition of the XE. It adds an impressive list of standard equipment along with some sporty styling additions, all available from a competitive €47,005.

What's so special about the Jaguar XE?

Let’s rewind a little to put this XE into some context. Jaguar is a small brand compared to the other heavy hitters in the premium segment but buyers of premium cars should do themselves a favour and check out what’s available from the brand. To date, Changing Lanes has spent time with Jaguar's new breed of SUVs; that will be the ground-breaking F-PACE of 2016 and the E-PACE follow up of 2017.

But what about the classic Jaguar saloon? The XE was in fact an all-new model for the brand back in 2014, joining the XF and XJ in Jaguar’s premium saloon range. Just like competitor brands, the XE was about attracting younger buyers to the brand with a modern compact saloon that oozed class and sporty appeal. Let’s remember this is the brand that lives by the tagline ‘The Art of Performance’.

The Jaguar XE Chequered Flag is on sale priced from €47,005
The Jaguar XE Chequered Flag is on sale priced from €47,005

What's new for the 2020 Jaguar XE?

The Jaguar XE has great presence on the road and the 2019 facelift offers some satisfactory updates to appearance to keep things modern. New front and rear bumpers feature as do all-LED headlights and tail-lights with distinctive ‘J-blade’ LED signatures. Chequered Flag editions get black 18” alloys and exterior pack.

However, it’s inside where the XE really does sell itself beautifully. Open the door and you will be met by a stylish and classy cabin full of leather and other contemporary magic. We loved our test car's cream leather and panelling. The contour-hugging front seats are mounted low, creating a sports-car like driving position. The raised centre console also adds to the sportiness.

The 2019 facelift reaped dividends for the brand in this segment. Soft-touch materials, premium veneers and all-new door trims feature as does a revised centre console, new gear shift selector, and a new steering wheel shared with the I-PACE electric SUV. It features hidden-until-lit graphics and tactile switches for intuitive control of key functions.

The interior of the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag
The interior of the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag

More technology for the interior

The Chequered Flag edition also benefits from a swish new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with 10" touchscreen. Apple Car Play and Android Auto sync easily but the native system is quite impressive. The twin-screen system also includes a 5.5" lower touchscreen with two physical dials for things like ventilation and other functions. It looks great and it is actually one of the easiest on the market to use. Wireless phone charging is available for the first time too.

Other standard features on the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag are 14-way electric heated front seats, illuminated metal tread plates, configurable ambient lighting, front and rear parking sensors and reverse camera.

In Ireland the Jaguar XE is available at present with petrol and diesel engines form the brand’s Ingenium range of engines. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel puts out a healthy 180 hp. There is also a 2.0-litre petrol available with 250 or 300 hp.

The Jaguar XE strikes a fine balance between comfort and performance
The Jaguar XE strikes a fine balance between comfort and performance

On the road in the Jaguar XE!

Jaguar has a fantastic heritage in motorsport and building performance-oriented road cars. Yet can they package this supremacy in a compact saloon? We were keen to find out. In fact the XE appears to do it better than any rival in its current iteration. Much of the on-road performance is down to the Jaguar XE’s lightweight aluminium intensive body structure. Aluminium makes up 75 per cent of the body and combines with classic sporty rear wheel drive and sophisticated integral link rear suspension. The XE is the most agile in its class, a playful mate for keen drivers. The steering is wonderfully weighted with loads of precision and steering feel. No interruptions, this car is an excellent communicator on the road.

Jaguar has achieved a fine balance between comfort and performance in the XE. Despite a sporty oriented drive this car covers the road phenomenally well. Automatic transmission comes as standard and we liked the slickness of shifts in association with the 2.0-litre diesel in our test car. This engine is another fine point. Refinement is very good and performance, one of the best. It’s swift and responsive with 430 Nm of torque, achieving 0 to 100 kmh in 8.1 seconds. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was a competitive 5.5 l per 100 km.

Enthusiastic drivers will also find a Dynamic mode that amplifies the car’s sporting character, with faster gear shifts, sharper throttle response and increased steering weighting. We kept the car in Comfort most of the time and we were happy with the experience behind the wheel. Other modes include Eco or Rain, Ice, Snow Mode. Jaguar also includes All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) in the spec, a useful driver aid based on Jaguar Land Rover’s experience in off-road traction systems. It’s like a low speed cruise control system and helps XE drivers to electronically gain traction in seconds, ideal for use on low-grip surfaces, such as snow-covered roads.

Diesel and petrol engines are available in the current XE line-up
Diesel and petrol engines are available in the current XE line-up

Did you like it all?

So was there anything we didn’t like about this car? With the XE there is a compromise to be made on interior and boot space. This is the smallest car in its class when it comes to interior space. Rear legroom is on the tight side compared to rivals. The saloon style boot restricts practicality somewhat. There is over 410 litres available, but like for like, it is less than what you find in rivals.

The Jaguar XE is a smooth operator that comes up behind you, overtakes you and you never realised it was just so good. Seductive looks and the prestige of the Jaguar badge should put it on your shortlist as a mid size sports saloon. Yes we can call it a legitimate sports saloon because it really does feel like one. Even with a four cylinder diesel engine!

Once you get behind the wheel you will love the Jaguar for its classy interior and incredible on the road performance and agility. The 2019 facelift keeps the XE very competitive in its segment with the addition of the latest infotainment. The Chequered Flag edition is very tempting for the level of standard kit and price; when you compare it to rivals of similar spec it seems well-priced.

The XE feels smaller inside than rivals but if space is not a priority, then enjoy one of the most fun and sporty compact saloons on the market right now.

Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on sale now
Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Jaguar XE 2.0 D Chequered Flag
Price: 
€47,005
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
180 hp
Torque: 430 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.1 seconds
Top speed: 228 km/h
Fuel economy: 4.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
Motor Tax:  €270 per year


The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

Audi A5 Sportback (2020) Review

The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback!

The Audi A5 Sportback is revamped for 2020. Redrawn lines, renewed technology and a revised engine line-up are the headline features. Audi modernises their gorgeous five door coupé that’s still practical enough to carry up to five people AND turn heads. Aside from the new look, new mild hybrid drivetrains and the latest MMI touch operating concept debut. Pricing starts from €48,970.

If we rewind a little, the first generation Audi A5 Sportback debuted in 2009 and it was the German brand’s arrival in a new segment between the classic A4 and A6 saloons. The A5 Sportback and Coupé are derived from the A4 yet have a completely different character. With updated Audi A4 models on sale in Ireland since the end of 2019, it was time for the A5 range to receive a similar revamp.

What's so special about the Audi A5 Sportback?

Elegant, elongated, and sporty -  the Audi A5 has an exclusive coupé-like silhouette with a lowered, tapering roofline. A longer wheelbase with shorter front and rear overhangs also give it an edge over the A4. Slim windows and frameless doors complete the look.

The facelift sees the A5 get a slightly more chiselled appearance for 2020. The front end has more visual impact now the Singleframe honeycomb grille is wider and flatter. At the rear a diffuser insert with trapezoidal tailpipes makes the car appear wider. The Audi A5 Sportback S Line on test for Changing Lanes was sporty by default. But my test car also included the Style Package (€2,205) with 20" wheels, panoramic glass sunroof, multicoloured interior ambient lighting, black styling package (€775) and mirrors (€152).

The interior of the new Audi A5 Sportback
The interior of the new Audi A5 Sportback

Inside the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback

Inside the new Audi A5 Sportback, you are welcomed by an exceptionally well-appointed cabin that has received an on-point technology update for 2020. This car manages to feel different behind the wheel to the closely related Audi A4, with a more sporty and lower driving position. However, it does inherit the same wonderful elegance and classy dashboard design. We love the large MMI touch display in the centre of the dash, angled slightly toward the driver. Ventilation controls use traditional dials below.

The Audi A5 Sportback feels big inside with roomy footwells in the rear. However the large transmission tunnel in the rear means it’s a more comfortable place for two rather than three. But the boot is a great size with a practical hatchback-style opening.

What’s the range like in Ireland?

In Ireland the Audi A5 Sportback is available in SE and S line trim levels. Buyers can choose from a range of TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines with outputs ranging from 150 hp to 204 hp.

The petrol range is made up of the 35 TFSI (150 hp) and the 40 TFSI (204 hp). The diesel range is available with the 35 TDI (163 hp) and the 40 TDI (190 hp). Models are front wheel drive as standard but four wheel drive is available. All A5 models are equipped with an automatic transmission as standard.

The model on test was a 35 TDI S line with a list price of €52,830.

The new A5 Sportback is available from €48,970 in Ireland
The new A5 Sportback is available from €48,970 in Ireland

On the road in the Audi A5 Sportback

According to Audi, the A5's suspension has been tuned with an emphasis on comfort but also with a sporty bias.  A tauter sport suspension is a feature of the S line model. On the road the A5 offers drivers more engagement than the A4 with lots of front end grip and precise, progressive steering as standard. There's no rear wheel drive agility but the Audi will please most drivers, happy on the turn in with plenty of grip to inspire confidence on the twisty stuff.

Audi is beginning to roll out mild hybrid tech across key product lines and the updated A5 is no different. In the quest to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, a belt alternator starter recovers energy during deceleration and stores this in a compact lithium-ion battery. With the A5's four-cylinder engines, the MHEV system is integrated into the 12-volt electrical system.

The 35 TDI in our test car is a 2.0-litre diesel with 'modest' 163 hp, yet feels surprisingly sprightly. Shifts are smooth and urgent through the 7-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. Fuel economy is competitive while motor tax is €190 per year. For most drivers there won't be a real need to upgrade to the 40 TDI. The 35 TDI does a fine job here.

The typical fine Audi ride comfort and refinement was slightly offset in our S line model with optional 20" wheels. However long distance refinement on the motorway for example is done well, with the engine settling down to the background and the car providing occupants with a comfortable, classy setting.

Did you like it?

The Audi A5 Sportback is clearly a gorgeous car and grabs attention with its more exclusive styling. The facelift has given the car a slightly more masculine appearance. It remains very desirable and will be a prized possession on many driveways.

The Audi A5 Sportback is practical and extremely stylish
The Audi A5 Sportback is practical and extremely stylish

Though its roots lie in the A4, the A5 carries a premium yet it is a far more interesting car to drive. It's surprisingly unique with a great driving position and driver-focused cabin. Coupé-styling gives the A5 more presence, while the hatchback-style book makes it almost as practical as an A4 estate.

Inside there is a pleasant addition of new technology, but the cabin has an elegant design that still looks fresh and modern.

On the road the A5 Sportback also differentiates itself with a sporty yet composed drive, robust engines and no great compromise to comfort.

The Audi A5 Sportback gets a very expressive mid-term makeover that makes it one of the most well-rounded cars in its class. At Changing Lanes we love this car's style, quality and versatility.

The Audi A5 range debuts mild hybrid technology for 2020
The Audi A5 range debuts mild hybrid technology for 2020

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI S Line
Price: 
€52,830 (from €48,970)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
163 hp
Torque: 380 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.4 seconds
Top speed: 226 km/h
Fuel economy: 3.7-4.1 l/100 km
CO2 emissions: 98-108 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year


The new Nissan Juke on test for Changing Lanes

Nissan Juke (2020) Review

The new Nissan Juke on test for Changing Lanes
The new Nissan Juke on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the 2020 Nissan Juke.

The Nissan Juke has stepped back into the compact crossover segment in 2020 with a new generation of this popular model. Originally devised as a compact follow-up to the highly successful Nissan Qashqai back in 2010, the Juke was a pioneer of the small SUV, a segment which has now really taken off in Ireland in Europe. The first generation Nissan Juke went on to sell 1.5 million around the world and has been a hit in Ireland too, with this car maintaining high visibility on Irish roads.

What's new for the 2020 Nissan Juke?

Now it’s back with a contemporary new look, new interior and more technology than before. Power comes from a petrol engine, with the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. Customisation is still a feature with colour packs available and a contrasting roof option. The range kicks off from a competitive €21,995.

Touted as a ‘coupé crossover’, design is a key strength of the new Nissan Juke. It stands out in the small SUV/crossover segment for a strong, characterful design that is anything but boring. Split level headlights give the Juke a mature and unmissable road present, with the iconic circular lamps now featuring a Y-shaped LED signature.

A range of 11 body colours are available with 3 contrasting roof colours available. The N-Design grade on test for Changing Lanes (from €26,950) allows customers to personalise the appearance of their car. 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels complement a range of two tone colour options, including a different coloured roof, bumper trims and other highlighted exterior parts.

The Nissan Juke is powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine
The Nissan Juke is powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine

Inside the new Nissan Juke

The 2020 Nissan Juke has an all-new interior and it is a welcome improvement. It’s cool and concise, and befitting of a modern crossover. All but the very entry model have an 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Nissan is offering more style and comfort with ambient lighting and new soft-touch materials on the dashboard, door trim and footwells feel. Monoform seats with a single-piece backrest add a sporty look and can be trimmed in Alcantara® or leather.

The new Juke is now more spacious inside than its predecessor. Rear seat knee room has been increased by 5.8 cm while there is about 1cm more headroom. The boot volume is up by 20% to 422 litres.

The interior of the 2020 Nissan Juke
The interior of the 2020 Nissan Juke

What’s the Juke range like in Ireland?

The new Nissan Juke goes on sale in Ireland with a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with 117 hp. It’s paired with a six-speed manual gearbox or a new seven-speed dual clutch automatic.

There are five trim levels - XE, SV, SV Premium, SVE and N-Design. Standard equipment on Nissan Juke XE (from €21,995) includes 16-inch steel wheels, LED headlights, air-conditioning, a 4.2-inch TFT screen between the dials on the instrument cluster, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, cruise control and hill start assist.

The SV model (from €23,650) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear view camera, a Wi-Fi hotspot, touchscreen and voice control recognition.

The mid-range SV Premium (from €24,650) adds LED fog lights, tinted rear windows, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, and electric/heated door mirrors. Analogue dials are swapped for a seven-inch digital instrument cluster. There’s also an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic climate control, ambient lighting, TomTom sat-nav and a leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob.

Nissan then splits the range into two – SVE and N-Design.  Both models are priced from €26,950 and get 19-inch alloy wheels as standard – but both models are pitched to appeal to two different types of customers. The SVE model is pitched as the ‘tech’ one with equipment including heated semi-leather front seats, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, an advanced driver monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, Park Assist technology and Nissan’s Pro-Pilot system as standard. N-Design is the sporty one with contrasting roof and customisation options.

Design is a key strength for the new Juke in the compact crossover segment
Design is a key strength for the new Juke in the compact crossover segment

On the road in the Nissan Juke

Nissan is launching the Juke with just one engine in this generation – an on-point 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. It is well up for the job and actually a highlight of this new Juke. Running costs are low with motor tax of €200 per year and over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.1l/100km. It is responsive and fun to drive, matched well with new Juke’s new chassis and revised driving dynamics.

This car holds the road well with limited body sway and light, but precise steering. The suspension can pick up some harshness from the road surface but generally this Juke can keep up with the best of them, while showing its fun and agile side too.

Nissan has successfully reimagined the Juke for the 2020s. At Changing Lanes, we love the Juke’s new look and innovative coupé crossover style.

Inside the Juke gets a welcome addition of modernity. It’s not the most upmarket of its rivals but cuts a good compromise between style, quality and affordability.

Boot space in the new Juke
Boot space in the new Juke

Pricing is very competitive and while there is only one engine available, it happens to be a highlight for the Juke. Fun and responsive with low running costs, the 1.0-litre petrol suits the small SUV market very well.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Juke’s ability to entertain behind the wheel. This is a genuine fun to drive small crossover.

The crossover class of 2020 is an impressive bunch but the 2020 Nissan Juke brings its own distinct character to this segment ensuring continued success for this compact model.

The Juke is on sale in Ireland priced from €21,995
The Juke is on sale in Ireland priced from €21,995

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Nissan Juke 1.0T N-Design
Price: 
€26,950 (from €21,995)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
117 hp
Torque: 180 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.4 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 135 g/km
Motor Tax:  €200 per year


The new Audi Q3 Sportback on location for Changing Lanes!

Audi Q3 Sportback (2020) Review

The new Audi Q3 Sportback on location for Changing Lanes!
The new Audi Q3 Sportback on location for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi Q3 Sportback.

The Audi Q3 Sportback has arrived in Ireland, the follow-up to last year's new Audi Q3 SUV. The Sportback inherits much of the Q3's quality, engineering, design and technology - but with a stylish, coupé-like twist. This is an all-new model for the German brand and goes on sale in Ireland priced from €40,400, carrying a small premium over the Q3 it is based on.

The Q3 Sportback's coupé notions add instant character, while the latest Audi technology and infotainment features inside. Power comes from a well-proven line-up of petrol and diesel engines.

Let's rewind a little!

The 2019 launch of the new Audi Q3 was a spectacular hit for the brand in the mid-size SUV segment. The Irish Car of the Year jury rated the Q3 so highly that it went home with the 2020 Continental Tyres Medium SUV of the Year award. Practical, stylish with exceptional good quality and technology in the cabin makes it a car that is very easy to recommend.

Audi has always been one to innovate and in recent years they have delved and dived into new parts of the premium market, to expand their line-up and satisfy customer needs for style and exclusivity. Now they bring more innovation to the mid-size SUV segment with the arrival of the new Audi Q3 Sportback.

The new Q3 Sportback is stylish and practical
The new Q3 Sportback is stylish and practical with a unique SUV-coupé design for the segment

What's so special about the Audi Q3 Sportback?

The €1000 premium you pay for the Sportback over the Q3 gets you a design that looks cooler, more expressive and interesting. There are two trim levels, SE and S Line, with the latter getting a sportier makeover. The Singleframe grille has a sporty honeycomb-effect design, while trapezoidal air inlets also add presence. LED light technology is standard across the range. SE models have 18" alloys, while S Line models get 19" inch alloys, rear privacy glass, and exclusive design for the bumpers, sill trims and diffuser. A roof edge spoiler completes the look.

Compared to the Q3, the Sportback is 16 mm longer, 49 mm lower and 6 mm slimmer. The wheelbase remains the same so there is no compromise in the passenger compartment. The Q3 Sportback will seat five, though the middle seat passenger will have to find their way around the transmission tunnel. There is a 530 litre boot that is easy to load. Audi has done a good job of not sacrificing practicality for style in the design of the Q3 Sportback. The powered tailgate is a premium feature that comes as standard making it super easy to open and close the boot.

The interior of the Audi Q3 Sportback
The interior of the Audi Q3 Sportback

Inside the 2020 Audi Q3 Sportback

Behind the wheel you will find an elevated seating position that makes these crossovers so desirable. The Audi Q3 Sportback interior is beautifully designed to distinguish it from rivals, with superb quality throughout. Technology is a highlight with a stunning looking 10.1" MMI display in the centre of the dash surrounded by high gloss black trim. Together with the air-conditioning control unit located beneath it, the display is ergonomically tilted towards the driver. Various functions are displayed on the MMI Touch display and in the Audi virtual cockpit with its 10.25-inch screen in the instrument binnacle, which is also standard.

What’s the range like in Ireland?

Buyers can choose from petrol and diesel engines, including the 1.5-litre TFSI petrol with 150 hp (35 TFSI), the 2.0-litre '45 TFSI' petrol with 230 hp, and the 2.0-litre '35 TDI' diesel with 150 hp. Four wheel drive quattro models are available, though standard variants are front wheel drive. 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic S Tronic gearboxes are available.

The petrol range starts from €40,400, while diesel models kick off from €42,565.

The SE trim level includes 18" alloys, powered tailgate, 10.1" MMI display and virtual cockpit, automatic lights and wipers, automatic air conditioning and lumbar support.

The S Line models (from €44,350) add 19" alloys, full LED headlamps with dynamic indicators, LED interior light pack, S Line styling, front sports seats, stainless steel pedals, illuminated matt brushed aluminium inlays, black headliner and sports suspension.

The Q3 Sportback is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Q3 Sportback is available with petrol and diesel engines

On the road in the Q3 Sportback

My test car was an Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI powered by the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine with 150 hp. This engine is a marvel in itself featuring cylinder-on-demand technology, which at low and medium loads deactivates the second and third cylinders to reduce fuel consumption.

When combined with the S tronic automatic transmission, it also now features mild-hybrid technology (MHEV). A 48 volt on-board electrical system reduces fuel consumption by recovering up to 12 kW of power during deceleration via its belt alternator starter and feeding this into a compact lithium-ion battery.

On the road the Audi Q3 Sportback is notably agile and refined. The petrol engine delivers smoothly with plenty of power for swift acceleration and overtaking manoeuvres. Steering is well-judged and the Q3 Sportback covers the road well, even on large wheels and sports suspension fitted to S Line models. There is some lean in corners but it is very composed overall.

Rear seating in the Q3 Sportback
Rear seating in the Q3 Sportback

Did you like it?

The Audi Q3 Sportback is elegant and refined on the road, just like the Audi Q3 SUV. In terms of image and style, it edges ahead for this reviewer with a unique coupé-like look for this segment.

The beauty is that Audi has sacrificed very little practicality for this style. So the Q3 Sportback balances the head and heart with plenty of interior space and a big boot.

Inside, the Sportback has one of the best cabin experiences in the class. Equipment levels are good with plenty of technology coming as standard on the vehicle.

The Audi Q3 Sportback adds even more prestige to the Q3 range in a desirable SUV-coupé format.

The Audi Q3 Sportback is on sale in Ireland priced from €40,400
The Audi Q3 Sportback is on sale in Ireland priced from €40,400

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S Line S tronic
Price: 
€46,450 (Range from €40,400)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 250 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.6 seconds
Top speed: 204 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 6.8-7.2 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 154-162 g/km
Motor Tax:  €280 per year


The Mazda2 on test for Changing Lanes in beautiful Soul Red Crystal!

Mazda2 (2020) Mild Hybrid Review

The Mazda2 on test for Changing Lanes in beautiful Soul Red Crystal!
The Mazda2 on test for Changing Lanes in beautiful Soul Red Crystal!

Caroline drives the 2020 Mazda2!

The 2020 Mazda2 is on sale in Ireland priced from €19,755. Mazda’s now well established small car debuts mild hybrid technology for the first time, along with a minor revamp to style and design. Always a little charmer, we were excited to meet the latest edition of the Mazda2.

I first encountered the Mazda2 back in 2016. In fact it was my first time to drive a Mazda. Since then I’ve had the pleasure to explore and discover the rest of the range. I’ve seen Mazda evolve and refine their brand character – sharp as a Samurai sword mix of premium style, quality interiors and top engineering inspired by the Jinba Ittai philosophy.

Mazda is proud of its Japanese heritage yet of all the brands rising from the Far East, Mazda is the one who has most successfully merged the form and function of a Japanese car with a more European style that makes their cars ultimately very desirable this part of the world.

The Mazda2 is on sale priced from €19,755
The Mazda2 is on sale priced from €19,755

What's new for the 2020 Mazda2?

So it is against this backdrop I meet the Mazda2 again. This is not a new generation model in line with the latest Mazda3 and CX-30. It is a revamp but the brand modernises the smallest in the stable with mild hybrid technology. Of course you are no one in the industry right now unless you are experimenting with mild hybrid tech in your combustion engines. It’s part of Mazda’s multi solution approach to reduce carbon emissions in their fleet; furthermore the brand’s first all-electric crossover the Mazda MX-30 is expected in Ireland in early 2021.

But as a nifty urban runaround, the Mazda2 gives us a neat naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine, throws in some mild hybrid tech and what comes out? On paper a very economical small car. We will get to its real world performance later in this review.

The Mazda2 of course pounces into my life in the glorious Soul Red Crystal, which will set you back €870. But there is no other way to make a statement with your Mazda. This colour suits the car’s exquisite surfacing perfectly. You can’t help but stand at different angles and admire the view.

Mazda has updated the front and rear bumpers, front grille, headlights and rear combination lights; but you would be hard pressed to know by looking at it. The grille design gets a new stud pattern while the lower front and rear bumpers feature horizontal chrome trim garnishes. There are also newly-designed 16-inch alloy wheels trimmed with high-gloss paint to heighten the premium appearance of the new Mazda2.

Mild hybrid technology debuts in the Mazda2 for the first time
Mild hybrid technology debuts in the Mazda2 for the first time

Inside the Mazda2

Inside the layout of the cabin remains the same with a super stylish horizontal layout. It’s a very handsome interior made all the more special by neat circular vents and soft touch padding stretching the width of the dash.

For 2020 there are three new, distinctive and individual interior schemes. They incorporate new leather upholstery, door and dash trim, and air-conditioning vent louvres to reinforce the premium visual and tactile quality of the updated cabin. For example my GT model featured an elegant navy blue theme.

Like all Mazdas, the controls feel good quality and premium. There is a different vibe to this Mazda2 than say a Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio. Yet the Mazda2 is now under pressure from contemporary rivals like the new Peugeot 208 for example. It’s nice but starting to feel a bit old fashioned in the cabin and the facelift doesn’t really fix that.

In terms of space, the Mazda2 is neither the biggest or smallest in this class of vehicle, but in terms of rear legroom it's not as cramped as you might imagine for a small car. The boot is 280 litres in total and has some depth to it.

The interior of the 2020 Mazda2
The interior of the 2020 Mazda2

What’s the range like in Ireland?

The range kicks off at €19,755, which is a little more than the cheapest rivals; though Mazda Ireland offers a premium level of standard kit. It’s offered with just one petrol engine with 75 or 90 hp depending on trim level. Trim levels include GS, GS Sport and GT.

GS models have engine start button, LED headlights, 15" alloy wheels and cruise control. The GS Sport (from €21,065) adds features such as automatic air conditioning, 16" alloy wheels as well as MZD Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The top of the range GT model on test (from €22,155) has lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and automatic lights and wipers.

Driving the Mazda2

Mazda has made a few engineering updates to improve the Mazda2 experience behind the wheel. The 2020 Mazda2 also adopts the latest developments in Mazda's Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture to enhance the Jinba-Ittai driving experience. An updated suspension system promises smooth vehicle movement and a comfortable ride - it works. There is also a new front seat design that Mazda says offers ideal occupant posture to reduce head sway and minimise fatigue for easier driving - that’s attention to detail! G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) that debuted on the Mazda3 back in 2019 also features for even more stable vehicle behaviour at speed.

Refinement has been boosted with a thicker cabin ceiling headliner, the addition of back door seal lips and vibration damping material on the inner rear wheel housing. Damper improvements and newly developed tyres also suppress road surface vibration and reduce road noise.

What results is one the most premium, refined and fun to drive small cars in 2020. Mazda makes much of their Jinba Ittai driving philosophy, which roughly translates to the feeling of oneness between a horse and its rider. This is how they want you to feel behind the wheel of a modern Mazda – whether it’s a supermini like the Mazda2 or the MX-5 roadster. I can tell you that you will enjoy driving your Mazda2 even if you’re not sure exactly why!

The controls all knit together exceptionally well. There is no flimsiness to this car. It’s solid…but fun. The gear change is so short and slick and satisfying, just like an MX-5! The car goes around corners like a pro skater, gliding, gripping effortlessly.

The Mazda2 has also had some improvements to the driving experience for 2020
The Mazda2 has also had some improvements to the driving experience for 2020

What's so great about Mazda mild hybrid?

The new Mazda M Hybrid system gives the 2020 Mazda2 MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) capability. It combines electric motor assistance with recovered energy recycling to improve fuel efficiency, reduce CO2 and offer a smoother driving experience after start stop is initiated for example.

There is just one engine available in the Mazda2 - a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with 75 or 90 hp that sees emissions as low as 94 g of CO2 with the addition of mild hybrid technology. This means in Ireland the Mazda2 qualifies for motor tax of just €180 per year. This car is also exceptionally frugal, with it very much possible to beat the 5.3 litre per 100 km official fuel consumption figure!

However efficiency is not the the only story to tell about this car. The engine in the Mazda2 is a bit of an enigma. You will love it for its quiet nature, the fact that it's smooth and efficient; but still long for a bit more drama when you press the accelerator. While rivals now offer more turbocharged small capacity petrol engines in superminis, Mazda goes no-turbo with a higher capacity engine. There is a fundamental difference in power delivery in that there is no low down shove of torque as you would get from a turbo unit that makes you think that you are flying. 0 to 100 km/h in the Mazda is 9.7 seconds, which is decent. But with just 148 Nm of torque available you will find yourself working the gearbox a lot while driving it.

It is fantastic at low speed urban driving, nipping in and around town. You don’t notice any real shortcomings and it is astonishingly efficient. But on motorways you can struggle to maintain a comfortable cruising speed on a long journey without dropping a gear or two to maintain revs.

Did you like it?

The Mazda2 will appeal to anyone who appreciates quality in their small car. This car feels wonderful on the road, fun to drive and refined. The engine available is super efficient and cheap to run, ideal for town or city use, but doesn’t offer the most thrilling performance.

With the spec and build of this vehicle, Mazda offers a good value small car all things considered. There is nothing radically new for this Mazda2, but buyers will find a solid small car with lots of style and class.

The Mazda2 is a super efficient small car with plenty of style and class
The Mazda2 is a super efficient small car with plenty of style and class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda2 M Hybrid GT
Price: 
€22,155 (from €19,755)
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Power: 
90 hp
Torque: 148 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.7 seconds
Top speed: 183 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 120g/100km
Motor Tax:  €180 per year


The new Peugeot 2008 is now on sale in Ireland

Peugeot 2008 (2020) Review

The new Peugeot 2008 is now on sale in Ireland
The new Peugeot 2008 is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the new Peugeot 2008!

The new generation Peugeot 2008 arrived in Ireland earlier in 2020, the follow up to the newly launched 208 in Peugeot's range of compacts. The 2008 small SUV is arguably a bigger star than the 208 supermini from which it was first derived back in 2013, and still shares much of the same DNA that has seen the 208 quickly become an award-winner - bold design, innovative interior and multi energy platform that means customers can choose from petrol, diesel or electric.

What's so hot about the Peugeot 2008 small SUV?

The 2008 was an all new model for the brand in the burgeoning compact crossover segment at launch in 2013. It arrived in Ireland at a time when this trend was taking off and became part of Peugeot's growing SUV family alongside the larger 3008 and 5008. Together these three drove significant growth for the French brand in Ireland. And in the compact segment the Peugeot 2008 struck the right chord with Irish buyers on price, styling, equipment, running costs and practicality.

In 2020, compact crossovers and small SUVs have become unashamedly part of Irish life. So naturally at Changing Lanes we were excited to meet generation 2 of the Peugeot 2008.

The new range kicks off in Ireland at €23,900. Petrol and diesel feature, as well as an all-new e-2008 with electric powertrain. These are exciting times for Peugeot with a growing electrified range. 2020 has already seen the launch of the Peugeot e-208, along with 3008 and 508 plug-in hybrids.

Yet the Peugeot must still deliver a lot to a lot of people in this sweet spot of the market. It’s against this backdrop we meet again and review the all-new Peugeot 2008!

Glorious SUV style and presence is the name of the 2008's game
Glorious SUV style and presence is the name of the 2008's game

What does it look like?

Peugeot has hit its stride when it comes to design, and the 2008 bears all the wondrous design of the current generation of vehicles from the French brand.

The 2008 has clearly grown up inhabiting a new skin more akin to a mini-3008. In fact unless you are a Peugeot design expert you could easily mistake one for the other. That's a triumph for designers and the 2008 wears its proportions exceptionally well. It's equal parts neat and purposeful.

It seems silly even to compare it any more to the 208 as these now are two very distinct looking vehicles. The 2020 Peugeot 2008 frankly looks like nothing else on the road, save for another Peugeot SUV. There are character defining lines all over the car, a large confident front grille bearing the Peugeot lion, and at the rear we see the bold black strip and LED light claw effect that has become a key feature of the brand’s latest models.

Even entry models get LED headlights and alloys. Allure models add roof bars and 17" alloys, while GT Line models have a sportier appearance.

Inside the 2020 Peugeot 2008
Inside the 2020 Peugeot 2008

What's it like inside?

The Peugeot brand has been on a bid to move upmarket in recent years and it’s great to see even the compact models in the Peugeot range all onboard for this. The quality of the cabin is excellent in the 2008. You close the door and feel nicely cocooned in a mature feeling vehicle.

A compact steering wheel sits before you with the digital driver’s instrument panel set above it. To your left you will find the touchscreen with elegant piano style shortcut buttons underneath. This is the Peugeot i-Cockpit. It’s unique for the segment and sits well in the 2008.

Practicality is also on the agenda for the 2008. What results is a nicely sized car for this segment - in fact it's one of the best performing. We were impressed with the rear legroom, size of the footwells and headroom once the doors are closed. Whereas this is a sticky point in the new Peugeot 208, buyers will find a much more accommodating family vehicle in the 2008. Of course you do pay a premium for the 2008 so it's good news that it is a more spacious vehicle. There are also two Isofix child seat fixtures in the rear.

The Peugeot 2008 is also versatile with a two position boot floor on this Allure model. This means that you can position the boot floor in a way that gives you a flat loading area or you can slip it into the very base of the boot to exploit all 360 litres of space available. Peugeot Ireland also includes a spare wheel as standard.

Boot space in the new Peugeot 2008
Boot space in the new Peugeot 2008

What’s the range like in Ireland?

In Ireland the new Peugeot 2008 is offered in four trim levels – Active, Allure, GT Line and GT. The Active model kicks off from €23,900 for what is a well-equipped car - 16” alloy wheels, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, rear view camera, LED headlights, front fog lamps, cruise control, traffic sign recognition, automatic headlights and wipers, and touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The model I had on test was a 2008 Allure, available from €25,850. Equipment highlights include 3D instrument panel, 17” alloy wheels, roof bars, electric folding door mirrors, front parking sensors, rear privacy glass, automatic climate control, passenger seat height adjustment and electric parking brake.

The GT Line version is available from €28,380 with more sporty luxurious features, while the top of the range GT trim, from €34,950 is available on the electric e-2008 and a high spec petrol model.

The petrol range kicks off at €23,900 for a 1.2-litre PureTech turbo petrol unit with 100 hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox. The same engine is also available with 130 hp or 155 hp and an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Diesel cars are available from €25,900 in the form of a 1.5-litre BlueHDi with 100 hp and a 6-speed manual.

The new e-2008 is arriving in dealers this autumn and goes on sale from €31,845.  It uses a 50 kWh battery with a power output of 136 hp.

The new 2008 is built on a multi energy platform - choose from petrol, diesel or electric
The new 2008 is built on a multi energy platform - choose from petrol, diesel or electric

Driving the new Peugeot 2008

My test car was powered by the 1.5-litre diesel, which is a star performer in terms of economy. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 4.8 litres per 100 km, while motor tax is €180 per year for this model. It's also relatively civilised - though the petrol models will be quieter. With 100 hp and a healthy amount of torque available you can make decent progress with 0 to 100 km/h completed in 10.2 seconds.

On the road the Peugeot 2008 brings hatchback-style driving behaviour and character to the small SUV class. The seating position is slightly raised in the style of a crossover. However you always feel at one with the car, and the cabin fits snugly around you. This is a lovely car to drive, with nice handling and steering. It’s not sporty but it is enjoyable to drive. It feels refined and mature on the road, with a comfortable ride that takes it easily from town to motorway.

Did you like it?

The Peugeot 2008 is a very successful compact crossover. In generation 2, it's more appealing with an individual design and improved quality. It’s an attractive prospect within the Peugeot SUV range, being compact, good to drive and practical.

An upmarket interior and quality build means than Peugeot can hit the market at a higher end without any fingers wagging. The 2008 is not the cheapest in the segment but entry level cars still offer great value with good specification.

Choice is another top feature of the Peugeot 2008 range with modern petrols, efficient diesel and the first ever electric e-2008. The diesel offers good economy and is relatively refined for this class of vehicle, yet the petrol engines will offer a quieter cabin experience.

This is another great car from Peugeot offering space, equipment and choice. The 2008 has matured into a fantastic looking small SUV that should have the competition watching closely.

The 2008 has matured into a fantastic small SUV
The 2008 has matured into a fantastic small SUV

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Peugeot 2008 Allure 1.5 BlueHDi
Price: 
€27,850 (from €23,900)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
100 hp
Torque: 250 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.2 seconds
Top speed: 185 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 4.5-4.6 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 118-120g/100km
Motor Tax:  €180 per year


The 2020 Renault Captur now on sale in Ireland!

Renault Captur (2020) Review

The 2020 Renault Captur now on sale in Ireland!
The 2020 Renault Captur now on sale in Ireland!

Caroline drives the new Renault Captur!

The 2020 Renault Captur arrives in Ireland to build on the success of generation #1 of the popular Renault small SUV. Styling has been modernised in line with other models in the Renault range and a brand-new interior delivers more maturity and better quality finish. There are new trim levels and engines, with Captur in Ireland powered by petrol, diesel, and a plug-in hybrid soon to arrive. Customisation remains a key component of the Captur’s approach to the segment. In Ireland the Captur range begins from €21,995. In this Irish review, I’ll be testing the new Renault Captur for the first time on Irish roads!

Captur success story in Ireland

When the first generation of the Renault Captur arrived in Ireland in 2013, compact SUVs and crossovers were still very much a novelty. The motor industry was dipping a toe into this segment, which we were promised would just grow and grow. And so it came to pass. Like our neighbours in Europe, we too have a special grá for these SUV-inspired small crossovers.

Since then we have seen an explosion in the market with every brand worth its salt launching one. However, in a relatively short space of time the Captur has gained notoriety that many can only dream of. The Captur has always worn its colours boldly, a fun, cheerful Clio-based small SUV that quickly became a hit. For a time it was Ireland’s bestselling B-SUV. Such popularity cannot be ignored but the Captur was starting to be eclipsed by newer rivals.

And so enters generation #2 of the Renault Captur! Earlier in 2020, Changing Lanes was very impressed with the new Renault Clio. Now can Renault capture the same sparkle?

The new Captur is available in three trim levels with petrol and diesel engines
The new Captur is available in three trim levels with petrol and diesel engines

What's new for 2020?

Approaching the Captur for the first time and you notice just what a good looking car this has become. It’s matured and has a great presence on the road and in the car park. The Captur knows who it is and really convinces with a stylish, but rugged new shape.

The details really make it – a bold colour palette, two tone roof, plastic cladding and of course a very daring light signature at the front and the rear. You’ll know when you’ve been Captured!

The length of the vehicle has increased by 110 mm, while there is also a higher waistline. It's a true SUV stance emphasised by tough-looking front and rear protection skid plates, chunky protective mouldings that run the length of the lower body, and pronounced wheel arch extensions.

Full-LED headlamps are now standard across the range. Renault’s trademark C-shaped daylight running light signature raises the Captur's game for 2020 and there is a similar C-light signature at the rear.

Inside the 2020 Renault Captur

Inside, Renault has taken the same upmarket approach. The previous generation of the car had a cheaper, supermini feel to it. But now the Captur feels like a stand alone model in the Renault range that doesn’t need to be compared to the Clio. A lot of this is down to the raised seating position and arrangement of the instruments in the car, in what Renault calls the 'Smart Cockpit'. You sit high in the Captur compared to some more crossover-like rivals, and the gear lever is raised in the centre console to your left.

There has also been a huge improvement in quality and technology, which adds even more pleasantries to the cabin of the Captur. There are new 7" and 9.3" touchscreens as well as a digital information display for the driver available. The top of the range S-Edition on test for Changing Lanes is loaded with equipment including ambient lighting to bathe the interior in a soft glow at night. But a special mention must be made for the seats with super stylish upholstery any trendsetter will love.

Soft-touch plastics and satin finishes are used throughout, while the front seats have an entirely new design for more comfort.

The interior of the 2020 Renault Captur
The interior of the 2020 Renault Captur

Is it practical?

Practicality has always been a core strength of the Renault Captur, and this model is one of the best in class for interior space and clever features. The Captur is bigger inside that the Clio, with more headroom and legroom in the rear. Rear legroom has been boosted by 17 mm, thanks in part to re-designed front seats that also benefit from slimmer headrests to improve visibility. The middle seat is small but that goes with the territory of these small SUVs.

The designers have managed to create 81 more litres space in the boot, and its width and depth make it ideal for families. There is also a false floor, which can be moved around in a number of configurations. The pièce de résistance is a sliding rear bench that can be moved to create even more space in the boot (maximum of 536 litres).

What’s the range like in Ireland?

In Ireland the Captur is sold in three trim levels – Play (from €21,995), Iconic (from €23,645) and S-Edition (from €25,645). This is spot on pricing territory for this class of vehicle and the Captur is a substantial car.

Standard equipment on Play models includes 7” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED lights, climate control and 17” alloy-look flex wheels, auto lights and wipers, lane assist, traffic sign recognition and autonomous emergency braking.

Iconic models add keyless entry, navigation, parking sensors, roof rails and the two-tone paint look. The top of the range S-Edition on test for Changing Lanes features a 9.3” portrait multimedia screen, parking camera, part leather seats, auto high beam, and much more.

There are a range of bold colours available for the new Captur including Atacama Orange
There are a range of bold colours available for the new Captur including Atacama Orange

Customers can choose from 11 exterior colours and four roof finishes. The test car was finished in an Alabaster White body colour with a Black Pearl roof. Magnifique!

At launch the Captur is available with a new 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 100 hp or 1.3-litre turbo petrol with 130 or 155 hp. For buyers looking for the best economy there is a 1.5-litre diesel with 95 or 115 hp. Diesel models are available from €23,995. Manual and EDC automatic gearboxes are available. Motor tax ranges from €190 to €270. There is also a petrol plug-in hybrid expected in Ireland before the end of the year, though pricing has not been confirmed yet.

Driving the new Renault Captur

The new Captur is built on a new platform that also underpins the 2020 Renault Clio. Engineers have worked to improve safety and dynamic performance with a strengthened body structure that uses high-tensile steel and structural adhesive for improved bonding of the panels. The new architecture is also lighter and more aerodynamic. Special attention has been paid to reducing noise inside the cabin, with materials providing greater insulation and soundproofing, especially in the engine compartment.

This means that the Captur slips effortlessly from town to motorway, feeling robust and refined. On the road the Captur is set up for comfort, with a compliant suspension that does a great job of making this a relaxed drive. The steering is light and there is not a hint of sportiness to the way this car handles but comfort should be a high priority in this segment.

In terms of engines, the petrol line-up starts with the 1.0 TCe 100 hp turbocharged three-cylinder unit first used in the Clio. It's paired to a 5-speed manual gearbox. Performance can feel a bit sluggish in the Captur 1.0-litre with 0 to 100 km/h in 13.3 seconds, but it's economical and decent progress can be made. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.1 l/100 km and motor tax is €200 per year.

The next step up in the petrol range is the four-cylinder 1.3 TCe 130 with more power and stronger acceleration. It's available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox or optional 7-speed EDC automatic.

The new Renault Captur has many practical features
The new Renault Captur has many practical features

Did you like it?

Renault has made a popular model even better. There’s a pleasant air of maturity to this new Captur. It not only looks better, with a lovely balance between rugged SUV looks and urban style, but this theme runs indoors too.

The Captur’s cabin now feels befitting of a larger car and throws off any feelings of budget. Granted there is more bling as you go up the trim levels, but the cabin experience is undeniably good in the Captur.

The French compact SUV is not the sharpest to drive among its competitors but bites back with a comfortable, relaxed ride that is just as desirable in this class of vehicle. It’s refined and while the 1.0-litre has average performance, it is attractively efficient and cheap to run. This is a nice sized car too offering customers a substantial amount of interior space and clever practical features.

There is great breadth to the range with small petrol engines and efficient diesels, while an on trend plug-in hybrid is on the way shortly, though we don’t know how that will be priced yet. In what's currently available, pricing feels spot on with ‘basic’ cars coming well equipped.

Captur has grown up but still carries cheerful charisma in the B-SUV segment!

Bold styling and a practical interior make the Captur stand out
Bold styling and a practical interior make the Captur stand out

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Captur S-Edition TCe 100
Price: 
€25,645 (from €21,995)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
100 hp
Torque: 160 Nm
0-100km/h:  
13.3 seconds
Top speed: 173 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 133g/100km
Motor Tax:  €200 per year


The new Peugeot 208 on test for Changing Lanes in the Blackstairs Mountains

Peugeot 208 (2020) Review

The new Peugeot 208 on test for Changing Lanes in the Blackstairs Mountains
The new Peugeot 208 on test for Changing Lanes in the Blackstairs Mountains

Caroline drives the new Peugeot 208!

2020 sees the arrival of an all-new Peugeot 208 hatchback in Ireland. Headline features are a radical new look and stunning new interior concept that raises the game for small cars. Peugeot is also making waves with the debut of the first ever all electric, e-208, along with petrol and diesel variants. The 208 range starts from €18,300 in Ireland. Let’s take a closer look.

When Peugeot revealed the new latest generation of the 208 back in 2019, it was a radical departure in design for the French supermini. A slew of awards followed including European Car of the Year and a Red Dot Design Award. In January, the new Peugeot 208 made its debut in Ireland, so it is from an Irish context we review it now.

Peugeot in Ireland has seen their lion in ascent. The launch of the new generation 3008 in 2017 boosted the brand’s fortunes. This award-winner debuted stunning SUV style and innovative i-Cockpit interior arrangement.

What's so special about the new Peugeot 208?

Now these top-drawer Peugeot character traits have worked their way down to the 208. What results is a charismatic small car that brings new levels of engagement and presence to the B-segment. Just like the trendsetter 205 from 30 years ago, the Peugeot 208 disrupts any notion that small cars need be boring.

The new 208 is available with a choice of diesel, petrol or electric
The new 208 is available with a choice of diesel, petrol or electric

The new 208 is a fantastic piece of bold design. It has a strong image from the front with new Peugeot ‘face’ characterised by a distinct headlamp and LED light signature. At the rear, there is real design flair with the black band stretching the full width of the boot lid, P E U G E O T typed out across the boot lid, and '3-claw' LED rear light signature. The GT Line gets charismatic black wheel arches, a nice retro touch inspired by the legendary 205 GTi. There is also GT Line badging in the C pillar and on the rear of the car. Peugeot Ireland is offering Faro Yellow as a no cost option. It gives the car a really special vibe that turns heads wherever it goes!

Inside the 2020 Peugeot 208

Inside, the 208 has a brand new interior inspired by the brand’s larger models. The new generation cockpit sits very well here, translating perfectly to a small car. It feels very premium and stylish with a nice mix of materials. GT Line models have contrasting vibrant green stitching to add energy to the cabin. All new 208s get the Peugeot i-Cockpit arrangement - digital instrument panel, touchscreen with elegant piano key short cut buttons, and a compact steering wheel. We still lament the ventilation controls being wrapped up and controlled via the touchscreen but it's a minor annoyance in a cabin this glam.

But even more impressive is the 3D digital instrument cluster standard from Allure and above, where some information appears closer to you. It is an incredible piece of design and technology to find in a small car. Peugeot is really pulling out all the stops in their bid to move their brand upmarket, With this interior you don’t question it at all.

The 2020 Peugeot 208 is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor. Yet this is still a small car in the traditional sense and all the better for it. Proportions are perfect on the outside. Inside cabin space is competitive for the small car class. It's not the biggest inside but guess what - it's a small car! It doesn't have to be. The rear bench is probably best left to two people. The boot is 311 litres with considerable depth. Irish buyers get a spare wheel, which is becoming a rarity these days. But always very reassuring!

Inside the new Peugeot 208
Inside the new Peugeot 208

What’s the new 208 range like in Ireland?

In Ireland you can choose from three trim levels – Active (from €18,300), Allure (from €21,450) and GT Line (from €23,595). The e-208 is available in all three levels too, but also as a top of the range GT model (from €32,980).

If you want a combustion engine in your 208, you have good choice. There is a 1.2-litre entry level model with 75 hp and five speed manual gearbox. For a bit more power, enjoy the 1.2-litre turbo petrol with 100 hp (6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic) or 130 hp (8-speed automatic). There’s also a 1.5-litre diesel manual available with 100 hp and returning fuel consumption of 4.2 l/100 km (WLTP). The e-208 is powered by a 50 kWh battery with 136 hp and a WLTP range of 350 km.

The range kicks off at €18,300 for the 208 in Active trim with a 1.2-litre petrol engine (75 hp). The 1.2-litre turbo petrol with more power (100 hp) starts from €19,550. Diesels start from €21,750, while the electric range starts from €27,334, including VRT relief and Government grants.

Standard equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, spare wheel, multifunctional leather steering wheel, hands free start, air conditioning, cruise control, traffic sign recognition, auto headlamps, rear parking sensors and 7” touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

My 208 GT Line test car in Faro Yellow with a 1.2-litre 100 hp engine retails from €23,595. Equipment highlights include 17” alloys, frameless electro-chrome rear view mirror, full LED headlamps, LED side indicators, high beam assist, reverse camera with Visiopark 180, ambient lighting, GT Line badge and styling, automatic climate control, automatic lights and wipers, electric parking brake, and electric folding mirrors.

The 2020 Peugeot 208 is available from €18,300 in Ireland
The 2020 Peugeot 208 is available from €18,300 in Ireland

Driving the Peugeot 208

Built on the latest generation CMP platform, the new Peugeot 208 is 30 kg lighter than the car it replaces and comes with improved aerodynamics and reduced roll resistance. On the road, the new 208 feels tighter and more driver focused. The small, compact steering wheel lends a sporty feel but there are few sensations reaching the rim - instead moments of pleasure on a twisty road are delivered by a grippy front end. Refinement is very good for a small car and the 208 will take you from town to motorway with ease. Comfort is a little compromised by the GT Line model but it is the sacrifice you make for good looks!

The 1.2-litre petrol engine deserves a special mention because it is a delight to drive in the 208. It’s smooth and lovely, delivering 0 – 100 km h acceleration in 9.9 seconds. It feels lively and feisty, without ever getting too noisy while you're chasing revs. Over a week of driving, my average fuel consumption was 6.0 l/100 km, so it delivers good small car economy and running costs too.

Did you like it?

The new 208 has already won internationally for its bold design and innovation. Here it will stand out for the breadth of the range and value to be had. With so many options including petrol, diesel and electric, automatic and manual gearboxes, buyers will find the right balance for their budget and needs.

For the first time ever, there is an all electric 208 available. the new Peugeot e-208
For the first time ever, there is an all electric 208 available. the new Peugeot e-208

The Active models are the most affordable in the range, with a good standard specification and smart engines available. Going up the trim levels adds more stand out style and equipment. Particularly the GT Line model on test sits comfortably on par against premium rivals like the Audi A1. There is a market for posh superminis and the 208 is a sporty, stylish and individual contender.

On the road the 208 has been sharpened up, but the interior is the most outstanding feature of this car. The detail and arrangement is so modern and not like anything we’ve seen before in the small car class. The super glam look won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does grab your attention.

The 208 has stayed a small car in the race to be bigger. So if you're after the most comfortable supermini for rear passengers, this isn't it. But if you just want a cool small car, this is it.

2020 has also seen pace gathering in Peugeot’s move to electrification. Not only has the brand launched the first ever electric compact 208, but there are also more hybrids coming to market including the 508 and 3008 plug-in hybrids. The new Peugeot 2008 SUV range in dealers now will also add momentum.

The new Peugeot 208, designed to add energy to the B segment, marks a turning point for Peugeot once again.

The new 208 raises the bar for design in the B segment
The new 208 raises the bar for design in the B segment

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Peugeot 208 GT Line 1.2 Puretech 100 hp
Price: 
€23,595 (from €18,300)
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
100 hp
Torque: 205 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.9 seconds
Top speed: 188 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.5-5/6 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 124-126g/100km
Motor Tax: €180 per year


The new Ford Puma on test for Changing Lanes!

Ford Puma (2020) 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV Review

The new Ford Puma on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Ford Puma ST Line X on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the new Ford Puma!

The Ford Puma arrives in Ireland debuting on-trend mild hybrid technology in an equally fashionable SUV-inspired crossover. Highlights include a new digital instrument cluster, innovative MegaBox for more practicality, and of course some very feline good looks! Engines at launch include petrol and diesel, with a high performance Ford Puma ST expected. The Puma range is on sale now from your local Ford dealer priced from €24,835. Earlier in 2020, I had the opportunity to experience the new Puma for the first time on a memorable road test around Ronda, Spain. Now I bring you my full Irish review of the new Ford Puma at the height of an Irish summer!

The Ford Puma has been one of the hottest new releases of 2020. We have had to wait a long time for an on-trend, B-segment crossover from Ford. The wait is finally over and the Puma pounced at the beginning of 2020. Not only does the Puma debut a cool crossover look but it also heralds the arrival of mild hybrid technology to the Ford range, another hot trend for 2020. Look at you Ford!

So was the new Ford Puma worth the wait?

Ford in Ireland has built itself upon the popular Fiesta and Focus hatchbacks, and in later years the Kuga SUV. Ford’s MPV range including the S-Max and Galaxy are still sought after by large families. But MPVs are no longer the lucrative venture they once were. These days everybody wants an SUV. Ford responded with the well-received Kuga, but the more compact EcoSport was less successful. Ford has moved in the right direction again with crossover-styled Fiesta Active and Focus Active derivatives that sport tough exterior body cladding and elevated ride height.

So now enter the Puma. Ford pitches Puma as an SUV-inspired compact crossover. It is based on the Fiesta with some technical modifications, but it has a visual identity all of its own. And what an identity it is. This car is a fantastic piece of design. It uses the Puma name last seen on a small 2-seat sports coupé back in the 1990s. But it’s not a homage to that car. It’s a smart new move and this Puma will bring Ford to a whole new generation. The Puma has tonnes of attitude in those large headlamps, and muscular body inspired by the powerful big cat it is named after. It’s sporty and sexy, two words that don’t always come easy when you are describing a B-segment crossover. But the Puma is the real deal.

The 2020 Ford Puma combines the trend for compact crossovers with the one for mild hybrid
The Ford Puma combines the trend for compact crossovers with the one for mild hybrid

What's the Puma range in Ireland?

With pricing starting from €24,835, the Puma does carry a premium over a Fiesta for example, and even an entry level Focus. But the appeal here is clear and Ford Ireland is skipping base spec models. That means that you get a well-equipped Puma Titanium from €24,835 with an on-point 1.0-litre EcoBoost mild hybrid petrol engine. This car comes equipped with 17-inch machined alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps with auto high beam, pre-collision assist, 8-inch SYNC with navigation and FordPass Connect modem, keyless start, electronic air conditioning, massage driver and passenger seats, ambient lighting, wireless charging, and cruise control with adjustable speed limiter.

Or you can rev up with a sportier looking Puma ST Line from €26,141 or the added extras of the ST Line X from €27,917. I really love the look of the ST Line car with a more aggressive body kit, large rear spoiler, and ST-Line sports exhaust. Inside there is a smart new 12.3-inch digital cluster, dark sports headliner, flat-bottom steering wheel, and alloy pedals and gear knob. The ST-Line X (model tested) adds 18-inch alloy wheels, B&O Play sound system, partial leather sports trim, and rear privacy glass.

There is also a top of the range ST Line X Vignale now available from €29,134 in Ireland with even more luxurious features.

Inside the new Ford Puma
Inside the 2020 Ford Puma

What’s under that bonnet?

In Ireland the range is very simple with a choice of petrol or diesel engine. The petrol engine is Ford's highly acclaimed 1.0-litre EcoBoost now incorporating mild hybrid technology to make the car more fuel efficient and give more powerful and responsive performance. The Puma’s EcoBoost Hybrid technology combines a small electric motor with a 48 volt battery and provides additional support to the petrol engine when needed.

This engine has a healthy 125 hp and it's so smart it also features Ford’s industry-first cylinder deactivation system for a three-cylinder engine, which automatically switches off one of the engine’s cylinders when full capacity is not needed, such as when coasting or cruising. Irish buyers can get this engine with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic gearbox.

There is also a 1.5-litre diesel with 120 hp, with pricing starting from €26,976.

There's also a hot Ford Puma ST performance SUV expected later in 2020 in the same vein as high performance Fiesta ST and Focus ST hatchbacks. Exciting!

The Ford Puma Titanium kicks off the range at €24,835
The Ford Puma Titanium kicks off the range at €24,835

Driving the 2020 Ford Puma

The Puma uses the Fiesta platform but has a wider track and some other modifications. A new, stiffer twist-beam rear suspension, larger shock absorbers, stiffer suspension bushes and optimised suspension top mounts reduce friction and enhance stiffness throughout the chassis to ensure the Puma handles better than competitors! The Puma is exciting to drive. You notice it immediately behind the wheel. Everything just feels that little bit tighter and more athletic than rivals. It comes alive in fast cornering, backed up by nicely weighted steering that offers more engagement than most. The small car underpinnings and ST Line firmer sport suspension mean that a Ford Focus is more comfortable, but a Puma is cooler.

My test car was powered by the 1.0-litre Ecoboost Hybrid mHEV. I’ve always been a fan of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine as it brings out the best in Ford’s dynamic driving cars. It’s no different here. It’s a lively engine that goes happily about its business. Performance figures are nothing exceptional but it is a pleasant mate for the Puma. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.0/100 km with a mix of urban, motorway and country roads.

Driving modes also come as standard with Sport, Normal, Eco, Trail and Slippery. It gives drivers some extra options though the car performs fine in Normal mode. Sport mode gives a bit more throttle response for example, for overtaking manoeuvres.

Inside the Puma

The Puma takes its interior mostly from the Fiesta. It's nothing too dramatic or stylish but it does have some nice features. There is a really attractive new digital instrument panel for the driver and that's standard from the ST Line trim. An 8" touchscreen comes as standard across the range with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Remember it's based on the Fiesta platform, but is roomier inside with more headroom and legroom in the back. The rear bench however will best be left to two people. The Puma has a good sized boot for this class with over 400 litres available and the added boon of the MegaBox. This innovative feature offers 80 litres of space in the boot floor, making it ideal for carrying tall items for example – such as houseplants or golf clubs (!) – in an upright position. Alternatively you could put the lid across and stow away dirty sports equipment or muddy footwear. A neat feature is a plughole in the bottom of the MegaBox so you can easily clean it out with water!

The innovative new Ford MegaBox
The innovative new Ford MegaBox

Did you like it?

The arrival of the Puma begins an onslaught of electrified Fords on the way to Ireland. The Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid is also new in dealers this summer, and Focus and Fiesta mild hybrids will follow. The exciting new all-electric Mustang Mach-e will be another high profile release with expected pricing kicking off in the region of €50,000.

Clearly I love the new Ford Puma. I've driven a lot of compact crossovers and they all have their best bits. But the Ford Puma expertly fills the need for a good-looking, fun and sporty compact crossover wearing the Ford badge. Ford is raising the game when it comes to design and driving dynamics. Embracing electrification is essential not to be left behind in a fast-paced industry. The Puma stands out now in the Ford range for its strong visual identity and fun image, along with the latest technology and digital features.

On price Ford Ireland appears to be positioning this car against upmarket models like the Peugeot 2008 and Volkswagen T-Cross. This is sophisticated company indeed to pounce upon, but Puma bites back with style and fun in spades. It’s a jungle out there but this Puma can wear its badge with pride!

The Ford Puma is now one of the most desirable cars in the Ford line-up
The Ford Puma is now one of the most desirable cars in the Ford line-up

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Puma ST Line X 1.0 mHEV
Price: 
€27,917 (from €24,835)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
125 hp
Torque: 170 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.8 seconds
Top speed: 191 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.4l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 127g/100km
Motor Tax: €270 per year