The new Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 on test for Changing Lanes

Renault ZOE Z.E.50 (2020) Review

The new Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 on test for Changing Lanes
The new Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the new Renault ZOE Z.E. 50!

The Renault ZOE debuted in Europe back at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, making the ZOE one of the veterans in this modern era of electric mobility. Now in 2020, Renault is back with a new generation of the car – the Z.E. 50, a name which reflects the car’s new battery size. In fact, this is a car that has been consistently tweaked and improved over the years since its launch. And unlike the sales curve of a traditional car, ZOE has increased sales gradually year after year.

In the last six years of Changing Lanes I’ve also seen a gradual shift that means that modern electric cars like ZOE now find themselves in the most receptive market in their history. The number of electrified models in my test schedule has accelerated since 2018. In late 2019 we saw an electric car take the title of Irish Car of the Year for the first time. Media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that when you press pause on the economy, the environment benefits and air quality in cities improves. The idea of zero tailpipe emissions has never been more appealing. Just like smoking, cars with combustion engines could now become very unfashionable very quickly.

The Renault ZOE is already the bestselling electric car in Europe. With this car’s compact size and affordability, it’s easy to see why. Yet ZOE no longer has a monopoly on the compact electric vehicle space. New entrants like the Opel Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208, MINI Electric and forthcoming Honda e, mean that the ZOE will find itself coming under ever more scrutiny.

The 2020 Renault ZOE has a number of new features
The 2020 Renault ZOE has a number of new features

What’s new for the 2020 Renault ZOE?

In Ireland the Renault is the cheapest way into an electric vehicle with this new ZOE coming in a whisker below the starting price of its closest rivals with a sticker price of €26,990 after Government grants and VRT relief. That’s still considerably more than a 1.0-litre petrol Renault Clio for example, but let’s not forget the incentives, zero tailpipe emissions and savings you can make on running costs with an electric car. The new 52 kWh battery replaces the 41 kWh of the previous generation of the car, yet doesn’t take up any more space. It offers 25% more range than the Renault ZOE Z.E. 40, and is officially rated at 395 km (WLTP).

New safety technology has been incorporated into the ZOE’s platform along with a new regenerative braking ‘B Mode’. A 100 kW engine joins the range with 135 hp, giving the ZOE more maturity when it comes to motorway driving.

The ZOE’s versatile standard 22 kW AC Chameleon charger remains but there is 50 kW DC fast charging for the first time in the form of a new CCS adaptor, available as an option.

New paint colours include Celadon Blue (pictured), Flame Red and Quartz White. There’s also a brand-new interior that takes many cues from the new Clio, which improves the quality and technology of the vehicle considerably. We also welcome a new electronic “e-shifter” gear lever and automatic parking brake with auto-hold function.

Inside the new Renault ZOE
Inside the new Renault ZOE

What are my options?

Let’s take a closer look at the Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 range in Ireland to find out what’s available. There are three trim lines – Play, Iconic and GT Line. Two motors are available which give a different power output - the R110 motor (108 hp) and the new R135 motor with greater performance (135 hp).

The entry model into the range with that appealing sticker price (€26,990) has the R110 motor and in built 22 kW Chameleon charger. Equipment on this vehicle includes an impressive new 10-inch TFT instrument cluster, 7” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlamps, automatic lights and wipers, air conditioning, electric door mirrors, and cruise control.

The Iconic model is available from €28,990 with the R110 motor or from €30,990 with the R135 motor and opens up the option of the CCS adaptor.

The GT Line is the top of the range model and comes as standard with the R135 motor, available from €31,990. Visually this model gets more bling with tinted rear windows, 16” diamond cut alloy wheels, chrome stamped grille. While inside there is special part recycled, part synthetic leather seat upholstery. Equipment updates include rear parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beam, traffic sign recognition,  9.3 inch portrait touchscreen, climate control and a wireless phone charger.

CCS fast charging is available for the first time in the 2020 Renault ZOE range
CCS fast charging is available for the first time in the 2020 Renault ZOE range

How practical is new ZOE?

The ZOE was designed from the start as an all-electric vehicle. Over the years, the brand has improved battery capacity without taking up more space inside the vehicle. In fact for a five door electric supermini, the ZOE does a good job. The boot is deep and has a capacity of 338 litres with a practical hatchback opening style. Up front the ZOE is roomy for two adults with lots of headroom and elbow room. It’s smaller in the back, feeling more suitable for two across the rear bench. However, Isofix child seat fixtures on outer rear seats and the front passenger seat boost practicality for young families or grandparents.

What’s it like inside?

The 2020 Renault ZOE debuts a brand-new interior. Quality has improved a lot making it feel like a more mature car in line with the Clio. The digital display for the driver is new and much more modern than what has come before. It displays information about things like your speed, range, power and efficiency. The new ZOE also benefits from Renault’s latest infotainment system that syncs easily to Apple and Android smartphones. There is no height adjustment lever on the driver’s seat but the steering wheel does adjust for reach and rake. There is also a more sophisticated gear selector to your left than what has come before.

Rear seating in the new Renault ZOE
Rear seating in the new Renault ZOE

Charging the Renault ZOE

For the first time, the ZOE will now be able to use Ireland’s fast charge network. A CCS adaptor is available from the Iconic level trim. It facilitates ZOE to charge at 50 kW at a fast charger on the ESB public charging network for example. After 30 minutes you could be on your way with an extra 145 km of range.

But don’t overlook the standard 22 kW AC Chameleon charger, which is actually a little bit of genius in its own regard. You can use any of the ESB’s more plentiful Type 2 chargers, often in town, and charge at 22 kW AC, and get a full charge in 2 hours and 40 minutes. I’ve seen this in action and in about an hour you can get 40% extra charge. A 7 kW wallbox unit at home for example charges the new ZOE in 9 hours and 25 minutes.

Driving the 2020 Renault ZOE Z.E. 50

The ZOE’s compact dimensions and electric powertrain work well together, particularly in the urban environment. You will be nipping around in no time and it’s here you really feel the benefit of ZOE's cool, linear acceleration. My test car had the R135 motor with 135 hp and you notice that extra zip. The electric motor gives instant response from a press of the throttle. The new B mode is a more aggressive regenerative braking system that allows near one pedal driving. This is because when you lift off the accelerator the car brakes itself quite rapidly so you can modulate the car's responses with just the accelerator pedal very easily.

I’ve tested the ZOE a few times in the last few years but this model seems to adapt to high speed motorway driving much better than before. This is down to improved refinement in the cabin and the higher powered motor.

You sit quite high in the ZOE, great for visibility but this car is not a sports car. The steering and handling does pass as feeling natural most of the time so there’s still all of the fun of driving a small car.

The new ZOE is available from €26,990 in Ireland
The new ZOE is available from €26,990 in Ireland

Did you like it?

The Renault ZOE has grown up again. The relative affordability of this car is important at a time when buyers will still find themselves paying a premium for a more environmentally friendly electric car. The ZOE now has a more mature feeling interior, while new technology features like the digital instrument display for the driver make for a much more modern and appealing driving experience.

CCS fast charging is a timely addition to the range, but it's not included as standard. Though there are benefits to upgrading to a higher spec ZOE with CCS, the appeal of the 22 kW on board charger should not be overlooked. It really does make charging quicker from the more plentiful Type 2 ESB chargers that you are more likely to encounter in Irish towns.

More range is always an advantage as it adds more flexibility and versatility to the routines of an EV owner, less time charging and more anxiety-free driving. Over 300 km is definitely feasible from new ZOE, especially if you stick to low speed city driving. What’s more, the higher capacity battery doesn’t drop kilometres from your range rapidly the minute you arrive on the motorway and squeeze the accelerator hard.

Like many manufacturers, Renault is moving fast now into electrifying popular models in their range. New hybrid versions of the Clio and Captur are expected this year. For buyers committed to full electric motoring, ZOE remains a charming tried and tested, tweaked and honed formula that balances affordability with practical charging and comfortable range.

Now watch my video for a closer look at the new ZOE's best features!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 R135 GT Line
Price: 
€31,990 (Range from €26,990)
Engine: 100 kW
Power: 
135 hp
Torque: 245 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 140 km/h
Motor Tax: €120 per year


The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland

Toyota Corolla GR Sport (2020) Review

The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland
The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

2019 saw the arrival of the all-new Toyota Corolla to Ireland. The Corolla’s arrival was heralded by three new derivatives – hatchback, estate and saloon – with hybrid a key part of the brand’s mission in the compact segment.

The new Corolla has been an indisputable success in Ireland and is the 2020 Continental Tyres Irish Medium Car of the Year.

What’s so great about the new Toyota Corolla?

Well there are three distinct models all with fuel sipping hybrid powertrains built upon Toyota’s more agile and dynamic TNGA platform. All feature modern interior design and there are even optional two tone paint finishes that take even more years off the Corolla. This car has never looked better. Now Toyota sees even more potential with this car, introducing a sportier hybrid powertrain and new GR Sport trim level, exclusive to the Corolla Hatchback.

It’s wonderful to watch the Corolla explore its new, more fashionable position in the market. It's even better to experience this car from the driver’s seat. I couldn’t quite believe that I was picking up a sporty Corolla. For too long Corolla stood for sensible, reliable transport. But it was hardly a car that you really, really desired to drive, over say a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Now all that has changed.

Toyota has big plans, not least a rumoured full on Corolla GR performance hatchback in the next few years, a follow up to the rapturous Yaris GR. The GR Sport is a trim level where you get sportier visual updates to the car inspired by high performance models. To recap GR stands for the wonderfully named Toyota performance division ‘Gazoo Racing’. The Corolla GR Sport is just the second model to join the European GR Sport line-up following the introduction of the Yaris GR Sport in 2019.

The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland's bestselling car
The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland's bestselling car

What features does the Corolla GR Sport get?

The Corolla Hatchback range starts from €26,390 in Ireland and now exclusively uses a petrol electric hybrid powertrain. There are two hybrid powertrains to choose from - the 1.8-litre with 122 hp that we tested last year in the Corolla Hatchback - and the more powerful 2.0-litre hybrid with 184 hp tested here in GR Sport specification. This top of the range model has a list price of €35,053. The GR Sport trim level is also available with the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain. It retails from €32,485 in this configuration.

The GR Sport makeover looks really good on the Corolla. It’s a handsome hatchback anyway but sporty features look genuinely comfortable here. The Toyota Gazoo Racing influence comes in distinctive styling elements like a new honeycomb mesh pattern front grille with piano black surrounds, lower skirts, and sills. At the rear there is a silver insert in the lower bumper, creating the look of twin tailpipes and a diffuser. A black roof comes as standard matched to a choice of five body colours. Wheels are 18” black alloy with a contrasting bright machined finish to the tips of each spoke and red GR centre caps. There is also rear privacy glass and bi-LED headlights. The finishing touches are black backgrounds for the Toyota emblems on the bonnet and boot lid, and official GR badging.

What's it like inside?

Inside the GR Sport has a few bespoke features too. There are lots of soft touch black panel finishes. Red stitching on the gear selector, steering wheel and seats adds a nice contrast. The seats have a sports design with fabric in the centre and leather-effect bolsters. They are comfortable and supportive. The GR Sport also benefits from the same interior technology as the rest of the Corolla range. Infotainment is controlled via a touchscreen that can connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity has just been added to the 2020 Corolla range too.

The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport
The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport

There's a new seven-inch colour TFT multi-information screen. Other standard features include Toyota Safety Sense, smart entry, rear privacy glass, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power-adjustable door mirrors with an auto-folding function.

The Corolla Hatchback will seat five however the Touring Sports (estate) and Saloon have more legroom because of a longer wheelbase. The rear legroom in the hatchback is on the small side for this class of vehicle, especially if there is a tall driver and front seat passenger! Boot space in the 2.0-litre hybrid models is also slightly compromised because the car’s battery is positioned under the boot floor. The standard Corolla Hatchback has 361 litres of boot space, however the 2.0-litre hybrid has less at 313 litres.

On the road in the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

Driving the new Corolla GR Sport was an opportunity to experience the brand’s new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. There’s more power and torque than in the standard 1.8-litre version. It has been engineered to be more responsive and fun to drive. This is all while still retaining a low emission hybrid powertrain.

Immediately the hybrid engine impressed me. It feels faster, more robust, smoother and more mature in drive. Power delivery is on the pedal responsive and with 184 hp, the Corolla 2.0-litre can really take off. The Corolla is a much improved car dynamically. I enjoyed the more powerful set-up in this car with smoother CVT automatic operation. Paddle shift gear changes are also possible. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 7.1 litres per 100 km, while motor tax is just €180 per year.

My verdict on this car is two fold as I’m essentially reviewing two things – the GR Sport spec additions and the 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain.

Last year I performed a number of test drives with the Corolla 1.8 litre and for many people this engine will suffice. It is the one to go for if you are genuinely looking for a fuel sipping car to save on fuel costs as time and time again it returned great economy for me. The 2.0-litre hybrid is more powerful and fun to drive. It feels like a more grown up affair yet fuel consumption does suffer a bit with the more performance bias of the design.

The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla's sporty new character
The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla's sporty new character

I think the GR Sport is a wonderful addition to the range. I adore the sporty look of this Corolla.

Corolla has grown up and got some street cred. The GR Sport explores the Corolla’s cool new character even more!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla GR Sport 2.0-litre Hybrid
Price: 
€35,053 (from €26,390)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 190 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP):
120 g/km
Motor Tax: €180 per year


The new Opel Zafira Life

Opel Zafira Life (2020) Review

The new Opel Zafira Life
The new Opel Zafira Life

Caroline drives the new Opel Zafira Life.

With summer 2020 looking like it will be the summer of the staycation, some car brands in Ireland are already reporting more interest in large people carriers, camper vans and van-based MPVs.

At the Opel camp, the brand's offering in this sector is the Zafira Life. Opel's new van-based MPV is blessed with up to 8 seats, a huge cabin and lots of versatility.

According to Opel, stylish highly equipped shuttles are in great demand in this market segment and that's the philosophy behind this model. Priced from €51,195, Opel Ireland is aiming the Zafira Life at the executive travel side, though the appeal of this vehicle as a holiday van is undeniable right now.

At Changing Lanes, we had an extended test drive with the Zafira Life for over 2 months while Ireland was in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. My weekly shopping trips took place with the Opel Zafira Life and I became very familiar with its features including the electric sliding doors, full leather interior and automatic transmission. Somehow we made it memorable, despite no camping trips or relaxed Sunday drives to the coast. Instead we learnt to navigate near empty roads and supermarket car parks.

The Opel Zafira Life is available in two lengths - Medium and Long
The Opel Zafira Life is available in two lengths - Medium and Long

What's so special about the Opel Zafira Life?

The Opel Zafira Life is hugely versatile and is available in two lengths - Medium or Long. At the moment, the Zafira Life is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with a different power output depending on gearbox - 150 hp with the 6-speed manual gearbox or 180 hp with the 8-speed automatic. My test car was the Long model with 8-speed automatic gearbox and a recommended retail price of €55,695.

The other part of Opel's strategy is to launch Zafira Life in just one high specification 'Elite' trim level. Things that you might consider options all come as standard including the twin electric, sliding doors, head-up display, full leather interior, electrically adjustable heated driver’s seat with massage function, roof mounted rear ventilation controls, seat back tables, rear view childminder mirror, integrated window blinds and panoramic glass roof. There's also a 7” colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cruise control, dual zone climate control, chrome effect front grille, 17” alloys, rear view camera, rain sensitive windscreen wipers, high beam assist, xenon headlights, dark tinted rear windows, side blind spot alert, front and rear parking sensors, keyless open and start, and a tailgate with separate opening window.

The Zafira Life is available with 7 or 8 seats in a number of configurations
The Zafira Life is available with 7 or 8 seats in a number of configurations

What's it like inside?

In standard specification you get two rows of three seats all with child seat fixtures or as a no cost option you can select two individual swivel seats in row 2. As Opel notes, this means that VIP passengers can sit facing each other and enjoy the legroom! The advantage of the Long model is more boot space, especially if you are carrying 7 or 8 people regularly and their luggage.

The sliding electric doors are a real boon as standard and can be operated from the key alone, by just a simple tug on the door handles or released by the driver from a button on the dashboard. There's also a button inside the door frame where passengers can release the doors themselves.

For the driver, there is lots of adjustment in the seat to get comfortable. Door mirrors are large and the rear parking camera and sensors are a great help when manouvering this vehicle in car parks or tight spaces. The image from the rear view camera is displayed on the 7.0-inch screen with 180-degree visibility from the bird’s eye view, which really helps when reversing into spaces.

The dashboard is a typical Opel affair, while on the automatic model, the gear selector is operated from a dial within close reach on the centre console. The infotainment system syncs easily with Apple and Android smartphones, while navigation is also included in the system itself. There's dual zone air con to keep everyone cool on board. While the rear windows do not open, there are extra ventilation controls in the roof at the rear of the vehicle.

My test car also had the IntelliGrip Pack. This useful feature is for extra reassurance on grass or gravel off road for example, by increasing grip without adding the weight of a four wheel drive system. Settings include snow, mud and sand, which can be simply selected from a circular dial just behind the indicator stalk on the right hand side of the dashboard.

The interior of the Opel Zafira Life
The interior of the Opel Zafira Life

Driving the Zafira Life

Though there are van origins to the Zafira Life, it handles well within the confines of this platform. Obviously allowances need to be made in the handling and agility side, but it's comfortable and you quickly get into the groove with it. The automatic transmission performs well and adds an ease to the driving experience. The diesel engine is relatively refined and only gets noisy under hard acceleration. Motor tax is €390 per year while my overall consumption was 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres. So considering the size and weight of the vehicle, this is not bad for touring around Ireland!

Opel is a brand now with the wind behind its sails again. We are seeing more of the fruits of the PSA merger in the brand's line-up and there's more on the way. At the moment, buyers will find a refreshed Astra range in dealers along with the flagship Insignia, Grandland X, and the all-new Corsa and Corsa-e. We can expect to see a new Mokka crossover and Crossland X in early 2021, which should really boost the brand's fortunes.

The Opel Zafira Life fits well now into the brand's lifestyle portfolio, offering a spacious people carrier with wide appeal among families, businesses and let's not forget taxi drivers. There are competitors in this segment with a lower entry price for a more budget offering without the Opel's bells and whistles. Opel has taken a different approach, choosing to launch one singular high spec model with all the options on it, adding greater convenience to customers in the process. Though it lacks the outright polish and agility of a seven seat car-based MPV, the Zafira Life makes up for it with a huge versatile interior and comfortable seating. If you are looking for your own personal tour bus, this could be it!

The Zafira Life on test for Changing Lanes
The Zafira Life on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Opel Zafira Life Elite L Automatic
Price: 
€55,695 (from €51,195)
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 
180 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.4 seconds
Top speed: 169 km/h
Fuel consumption: 
7.0 – 8.1 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
151g/km
Motor Tax: €390 per year


Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!

Ford Mustang Bullitt (2020) Review

Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!
Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!

Caroline drives the Ford Mustang Bullitt.

The Ford Mustang needs little introduction because it's the icon of American muscle cars. The name is enough to get you dreaming of hot dusty highways and dry asphalt, miles and miles of it. The arrival of the latest generation of the Mustang to this continent in 2015 was the first time Ford ever got serious about marketing this car in Europe. It was also the first time the car was produced in right hand drive.

A little history

I remember attending the Irish launch of the car in early 2016 and feeling the excitement that the pony car was in Ireland at last. It arrived here with two engine options that were a cause for lots of discussion. In corner A was the 2.3-litre EcoBoost and in corner B, the classic V8. With that sort of muscle under the bonnet when everyone else is downsizing, neither was attempting to appeal to anyone other than die hard petrolheads. The story continued in 2018, when Changing Lanes enjoyed a memorable launch drive of the facelifted Mustang range in France.

Then in 2019, it was the return of the Mustang with a special birthday edition to celebrate the pony car’s most famous cinema appearance. The Ford Mustang Bullitt in the photos was built to celebrate 50 years of the classic film Bullitt featuring Steve McQueen. Finished in a modern mix of Highland Green just like the original, this special edition V8 would take your breath away even before you start it up.

Physically imposing, long, lean and green, the Mustang Bullitt looks like it’s from another planet among the SUVs, superminis and saloons that make up most of the Irish fleet. You’ve got to love attention because the Mustang is a magnet for it. Priced from €75,155, this is the ultimate Mustang and sits at the top of the range. To recap, you can slip into the Mustang EcoBoost from €53,063 and the Mustang GT from €68,268.

The Mustang Bullitt pictured in the Blackstairs Mountains
The Mustang Bullitt pictured in the Blackstairs Mountains

What's so special about the Ford Mustang Bullitt?

But there's something special about this Bullitt with more presence, power and noise. It’s been debadged and shod with unique 19” black alloys with red Brembo brake calipers and black NitroPlate exhaust tips. At the back the Bullitt logo replaces the GT one. Inside there are some magnificent Recaro sports seats with green stitching that set the exclusive historic ambience. There’s also a Bullitt logo on the steering wheel, and an individually numbered plaque in place of the traditional Mustang emblem on the passenger-side dashboard. As a nod to the original car’s interior, the gear shifter features a white cue ball gearshift knob.

The 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt also benefits from the facelift in 2018 and so gets Ford’s new 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster. It adds a bit more modernity and watch yourself rev out with fun in high definition! The high spec continues with a B&O PLAY audio system delivering 1,000 watts through 12 high-performance speakers. It's Tom Petty's American Girl on full blast down the highway.

Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 engine is non negotiable in this edition. Praise the Lord! It’s the full fat Mustang experience but even better with an Open Air Induction System, uprated intake manifold, 87mm throttle bodies and unique powertrain control module calibration. There’s a massive 460 hp (up 10 hp on a 'standard' V8) and 529 Nm of torque to play with, with a 6 speed manual gearbox as standard. The Mustang Bullitt also introduces new rev-matching technology for seamless gear changes accompanied by a blip of the engine when downshifting. An active valve performance exhaust system enhances the V8’s signature sound.

The interior of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
The interior of the Ford Mustang Bullitt

Driving the Mustang in Ireland

Nothing can prepare you for the rumble of a V8 Mustang. It’s the antidote to all those 1.0-litres and hybrids. It makes noise, lots of it. It drinks fuel like it’s going out of fashion (it is). It makes you feel like a superstar every time. Short errands to the shops are magnificent experiences that leave you feeling like a demi-god, just as you come out to find the car surrounded by kids with smartphones. All eyes on you!

Tuned for European roads and driving style, the new Mustang is a big barge on Irish roads but feels more friendly and dynamic than ever before. The optional MagneRide dampers are a must as they really improve the car’s ability to handle the road with more finesse, making a big car feel dramatically less clumsy and sportier.

I was very pleased to find that the Ford Mustang Bullitt was not just an expensive novelty cosmetic makeover. There's real meat to this car. The engine upgrades and exhaust magic make this the ultimate Mustang on sale in Ireland right now, while the unique look never goes out of fashion.

Of course cars like the Mustang are unfashionably bad for the planet. Even Ford is taking the Mustang name and placing it on the new electric Mustang Mach-e SUV that will arrive in Ireland before the end of the year. But this is one motoring moment you will want to relive again and again. Nothing moves you like a V8 'Stang.

The Mustang Bullitt is available from €75,155 in Ireland
The Mustang Bullitt is available from €75,155 in Ireland

By Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Mustang Bullitt 
Price: 
€75,155
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Power:
460 hp
Torque: 529 Nm
0-100km/h:  
4.6 seconds
Top speed: 263 km/h
Fuel consumption:
12.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
270 g/km
Motor Tax: €2,350 per year

Watch Caroline's video review of the new Ford Mustang Bullitt


The 2016 Ford Focus on test for Changing Lanes!

Ford Focus RS Review

The 2016 Ford Focus RS on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2016 Ford Focus RS on test for Changing Lanes!

This week I’m revisiting my review of the Ford Focus RS. Back in 2017, the angels sang Hallelujah with pops and bangs to herald the arrival of the then new Ford Focus RS in my test schedule. To say I was happy is an understatement. I was THRILLED. I couldn’t think of much else in the weeks coming up to our rendez-vous with bells on.

I was still relatively new to test driving cars and I had just entered my third year with Changing Lanes. The blog had enjoyed a breakout year and now I was riding the crest of a wave where everything I touched turned to motoring gold - cars, press launches, long lunches, and branded biros (lots of them!). I had hit my stride and the cars were coming thick and fast-er. I was typing reviews from dawn to dusk, learning how to take a half decent photo of a car, and expanding every day. I was LOVING it.

Just like those first flushes of love, in the weeks leading up to my date with the new Ford Focus RS, I couldn’t eat without butterflies doing somersaults in my digestive system to the tune of ‘Holiday’ by Madonna. In some ways it was testament to the killer teaser campaign Ford Europe launched in the build up to the arrival of the Focus RS in Europe. It was well played, drip feeding the motoring press with little details, images and videos to whet the appetite and work us all (me) into a frenzy. So much so, that by the time the car did arrive in Ireland, the Focus RS had legend status. Whispers circulated, how good is it, is it really that good? Could it be as good as those early press reviews that were emphatically positive? Really?

Embossed wing of the Ford Focus RS Mk3
Embossed wing of the Ford Focus RS Mk3

But I always make my own mind up about a car thank you very much. I waited patiently for my turn. By the time I got the Ford Focus RS, it had been through the hands of many. It had been drifted, launched, revved to the red line, and all those other things you’d love to do to a Focus RS if you got the keys to it for a week. I know.

The Ford Focus RS was one of the most anticipated new cars of recent years and finally arrived in Ireland in 2016. Developed by a small team of Ford Performance engineers in Europe and the U.S., it was the 30th car to wear the legendary RS badge. It continued Ford’s tradition for high performance road cars heroically, with plenty to justify its ultimate hot hatchback status. Headline features included a sophisticated all wheel drive system and an industry-first ‘drift mode’.

It would be the last halo product of the Ford Focus Mark 3. This car would reach the end of production in 2018 just as a new generation of the Ford Focus was about to receive its European debut. Now looking back, I can see that the 2016 Ford Focus RS was a beautiful swansong. In 2020, it has been widely reported that there will be no new Mark 4 Focus RS.

The 2016 Ford Focus RS has a modified exterior design with a unique front end that features a bold upper trapezoidal grille above a deep front splitter. At the rear, a large diffuser houses twin round high-performance exhaust pipes and, in Europe and Asia, a clear central fog lamp.  The rear roof spoiler is carefully integrated with the car’s silhouette through body-coloured side panels featuring an embossed RS logo. Sigh. Nitrous Oxide was the signature colour, a bright blue with sparkly texture when viewed up close. Unmissable, unmistakable though the RS was also available in some more conservative colours like Stealth Grey, Shadow Black, Magnetic Grey and Frozen White. Wheels were multi-spoke 19-inch RS alloy.

The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus RS
The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus RS

Inside the Ford Focus RS is disappointing. Aside from some super sporty Recaro bucket seats, it is a standard Focus interior except for a few logos and 'blue bits'. Of course, you would be pretty dim to think you were driving a 1.0-litre EcoBoost Zetec on start up. But in fairness there wasn’t much apparel in here to tell you otherwise.

Under the bonnet, the Ford Focus RS shares a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with the new generation Ford Mustang. Here it’s tuned to produce 350 hp and 440 Nm of torque, putting awesome power to the road via a 6-speed manual gearbox. It was the fastest ever RS model, sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and hitting a top speed of 266 km/h. It had the most powerful brake system ever fitted to an RS model, with 350 mm ventilated front discs and aluminium Brembo four-piston monoblock callipers, finished in RS blue. All wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring came as standard, with a dramatic impact on handling and cornering stability.

So, on the road the Ford Focus RS feels refreshingly mechanical and tactile for a modern hot hatchback. Alive and in touch with the driving experience, little small movements on the steering wheel make you feel like a master of your own destiny, just as you slip around another corner at lightning speed. The downside is a very firm ride that just jostles and jostles and jostles, incessantly. Not so bad on short commutes but on the motorway, it could be highly irritating. The Focus RS just isn't interested in bringing you to the shops comfortably. It wants to hit the track. Quick.

Pop, pop, bang, bang, brrp, brrp
Pop, pop, bang, bang, brrp, brrp

Then there is the soundtrack. Every journey is like a performance. Special attention was made in development to make it entertain. I never heard such pops, bangs and burbles from a modern hot hatchback. It is addictive and highly juvenile. You can play your Ford Focus RS like an instrument.

The third generation Ford Focus RS is also the first RS to offer drive modes, with ‘Drift Mode’ being so anti-social that in some territories people wanted it banned. Banned! Launch control also features accompanied by an irate, grizzly popping from the exhaust before the car takes off like an excited bee. Despite the annoying, jostle ride and boring interior you couldn’t credit how magnificently engineered this car is. This car is an icon and will go down in history as one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of all time. A car to dream of driving. I drove it and I still dream of it.

Ford Focus RS: a car to dream of driving
Ford Focus RS: a car to dream of driving

By Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus RS
Price new in 2017: 
€52,875
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
350 hp
Torque: 440 Nm
0-100km/h:  
4.7 seconds
Top speed: 266 km/h
Economy: 
36.7 mpg
CO2 emissions:  
175g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year


The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250

Honda Civic (2020) Review

The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250
The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250

If you are interested in finding out more about the Honda Civic 2020 range, check out our Irish road test review of this Civic Diesel model. In 2020 Honda revamped the popular Civic with some exterior styling enhancements and improvements to the infotainment system and materials used in the cabin.

Did someone tell you diesel was dead? Well Honda Ireland certainly doesn’t think so. The brand cheekily launched their new Honda Civic Diesel to the media in 2018 with the tagline ‘Never Say (Die)sel'. And after driving the new Honda Civic Diesel, I can say that it’s no surprise that Honda are confident that this car has plenty more mileage left in it!

In 2017 Honda launched the new tenth generation Civic to widespread acclaim, with the car collecting the Continental Tyres 2018 Irish Compact Car of the Year Award. The new Civic was launched with two new petrol engines: Civic 1.0-litre and Civic 1.5-litre, which are good engines, but we were promised a diesel at a later date. Civic Diesel has now been on sale in Ireland since 2018.

The Honda Civic Saloon joined the range in 2018 boasting an even more elegant design, large boot and comfortable cabin. The brand also sells the raucous Honda Civic Type R in Ireland with an inspiring 320 hp.

Manual and CVT automatic gearboxes are available, while Honda has since added the option of a 9-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to the diesel range.

The interior of the Honda Civic Diesel
The interior of the Honda Civic Diesel

Does the Honda Civic Diesel make a good family hatchback?

The Honda Civic does a lot of things right. Honda has toned down the styling to make it more palatable. But it’s still very sporty and avantgarde for the compact segment. The Civic is genuinely spacious inside and buyers get a lot of ‘bang for their buck’. The boot is 478 litres, one of the biggest in the class, and the rear foot wells are large also. Up front it feels like a larger car too when compared to many rivals.

Inside new Civic, Honda has toned down the confusing dash layout and screens of the previous model. Instead they have opted for a more ordinary and conventional appearance. It's all the better for it. The material quality and build is very good, though a Volkswagen Golf is more premium feeling.

Pricing and equipment for new Civic

In Ireland the Civic range kicks off at €24,250 for a 1.0-litre petrol hatchback, while the Civic Diesel range kicks off at €26,425. The Saloon is pitched higher in the range, with pricing starting from €27,385. Standard equipment includes 16” alloys, Bluetooth, parking sensors, and automatic air conditioning. Impressively, the Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment comes as standard including traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking system.

The Honda Civic has been lightly updated for 2020
The Honda Civic has been lightly updated for 2020

My test car was a 1.6 i-DTEC Smart Plus hatchback retailing at €28,895. It's not the cheap option for sure but there's more equipment including 17" alloys, Honda Connect infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual zone climate control, rear parking camera, privacy glass, fog lights, driver lumbar support, auto wipers and leather steering wheel.

What's the new Honda Civic Diesel like to drive?

The Honda Civic Diesel is also one of the best diesel hatchbacks to drive and very efficient. Over a few days of driving my fuel consumption was 5.3 litres per 100 km and motor tax is just €180 per year. The diesel engine suits the Civic perfectly. There is great flexibility in the engine allowing for very smooth driving, while it has plenty of power to make the most of the Civic's agile handling and sporty steering. The Civic Diesel is refined on the move and not at all laboursome to drive, even with a 6-speed manual gearbox.

At Changing Lanes we have been a fan of the new Civic since we first drove it at the European press launch in February 2017. Since then we've been able to sample a variety of models across the Civic range. This compact car always impresses for its strong build and quality, and fun to drive qualities. Yet put a diesel in it, and you have one of the best iterations of this car yet. The Civic's sporty looks are not for everyone but don't let it put you off. This is still one of the best hatchbacks on the market.

The new Honda Civic Diesel is not the cheapest diesel family hatchback you can buy, but on the whole in terms of space, equipment and safety features, it is good value. This is a fuel sipping hatchback that’s also great fun to drive. The Honda Civic Diesel has miles more life in it. It’s a fantastic diesel hatchback.

The new Honda Civic Saloon
The new Honda Civic Saloon

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Smart Plus
Price: 
€28,895 (Range from €24,250)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120hp
Torque: 300Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.1 seconds
Top speed: 201km/h
Claimed Economy: 
3.5l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
93g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year


The 2020 Audi Q3!

Audi Q3 (2020) 1.5 TFSI Review


The 2020 Audi Q3!
The 2020 Audi Q3!

Caroline drives the Audi Q3.

Audi’s Q range of SUVs have never been so relevant as they are now. Naturally, Audi has invested considerably in their Q range of SUVs in recent years, with new models like the Q2 and Q8, as well as this all new generation of the Audi Q3 that landed in Ireland in 2019. The arrival of the more compact Q2 in 2017, means that the Audi Q3 is no longer the smallest SUV in the Audi range. In fact, for this generation, Audi has considerably reinvented the Q3 so that it can function better as a family SUV.

In Ireland, the Audi Q3 2020 range kicks off at €39,400. There are a range of petrol and diesel engines on offer, as well as two trim lines, SE and S line. Manual and automatic gearboxes are available as is quattro four wheel drive, though standard models are front wheel drive.

The range has also been extended in 2020 with the arrival in Ireland of the new Audi Q3 Sportback. This new model adds a sportier, more coupé-like rear design in touch with Audi's other Sportback models. It carries a €1000 price premium over the Q3 SUV and the range starts from €40,400. But the more exclusive, niche design certainly makes it an interesting prospect in this mid-size segment. 


The Q3 S line on test for Changing Lanes
The Q3 S line on test for Changing Lanes

What's new for the Audi Q3 in 2020?

The new Audi Q3 debuts with a very smart new look inspired by the brand's latest design language. It's been comprehensively modernised to not alienate the target market, but looks fresh, angular and unmistakably Audi. It's got more definition and stance yet it’s still a relatively compact vehicle in the metal. The new Singleframe grille has an octagonal design and eight ‘don’t mess with me’ vertical bars. The new wedge shape lights use LED technology in all versions and are paired with LED daytime running lights.

Slip inside the cabin of the latest Audi Q3, and it’s hard not to be instantly beguiled by the quality and technology at your fingertips. The cabin experience in the Q3 is one of the best in class. That’s down to how the digital instrument panel (Audi Virtual Cockpit, a 10.25 inch screen within the binnacle), and the new 10.1 inch MMI touch display, fit so comfortably into the cabin with seamless controls. Audi interiors are evolving in just the right way and the new Q3 makes a very pleasant entrance back into this segment.


The interior of the new Audi Q3
The interior of the new Audi Q3

Inside the 2020 Audi Q3

The Q3's dashboard design is modern and cool with lashings of stylish high gloss black, while the material quality is good in just about all the places that matter. There’s also an optional ambient lighting package with 30 colour options for more wow. 

The new Q3 comes with a number of active safety systems including pre-sense basic, pre-sense front, side assist, active lane assist and automatic emergency braking. Standard equipment on SE models includes 18” alloys, Audi drive select, Audi Virtual Cockpit and 10.1” MMI touch display, light/rain sensor, LED headlights, cruise control and manual air con.

S line models (from €43,350) add 19” alloys, S line body kit, S line interior including front sport seats and stainless steel pedals, LED interior pack and full LED headlamps with dynamic rear indicators.

Does the new Audi Q3 make a good family SUV?

The new Audi Q3 is built upon the Volkswagen Group’s modular transverse matrix, which means that the new Q3 has grown in size. It’s longer and wider than its predecessor with a longer wheelbase also meaning that it is now more spacious inside for five people and their gear. In the rear it feels noticeably bigger with a welcome boost in knee room, headroom and elbow room that makes it more competitive in its segment than ever before.

For extra practicality an electrically powered tailgate comes as standard. The new Q3 also has a bigger boot at 530 litres or 675 litres depending on the position of the rear seats and backrests.


The Audi Q3 Sportback has joined the 2020 range with exlcusive styling
The Audi Q3 Sportback has joined the 2020 range with exlcusive styling

Is it good to drive?

According to Audi, the suspension in the new Q3 has been tuned to be more comfortable, assured and responsive, helped by the latest car’s longer wheelbase. S line models have a sport suspension for an even more tightly controlled feel. Progressive steering comes as standard across the range, which gradually becomes more direct as the steering angle increases.

On the road, the new Audi Q3 is remarkably good. The most striking and pleasant feature is the silence and seclusion of the cabin while driving. The refinement of this car is just beautiful. The handling and steering are more than adequate, making progress pleasant and brisk in the new Q3.

The Audi drive select dynamic handling system comes as standard and includes six modes - auto, comfort, dynamic, offroad, efficiency and individual. These settings influence the throttle response, the steering, the shift characteristics of the S tronic and the damper control where this is fitted.

Smooth TSI petrol power

In Ireland the new Audi Q3 is available with two petrol options (150hp and 230hp) and one diesel (150hp). The entry into the range is the 1.5-litre TFSI turbo petrol engine with 150 hp and 250 Nm of torque. This car is now badged 35 TFSI. We call it an entry model, but it's actually very advanced! It uses clever cylinder on demand technology to improve efficiency, which temporarily switches off two cylinders when the engine is at low load. I found it to be exceptionally smooth, sweet and powerful on the road in the Q3. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 7.5l/100km, so high mileage drivers will achieve better economy from the diesel.

The new Audi Q3 sashays into a very competitive market. But this modern interpretation of ‘Audiness’ that now pervades the brand’s newer models like the Audi A6, makes the Q3 instantly desirable. The Q3 has grown up and is now more practical than ever with more space and more presence. The real jewel in the crown however is the latest generation Audi interior that sits so comfortably in the Q3. It strikes a perfect balance between comfort, quality and wow-worthy tech.  

The new Audi Q3 is astoundingly good!


The new Q3 on sale in Ireland from €39,400
The new Q3 on sale in Ireland from €39,400

By Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi Q3 1.5TSI S line S-Tronic
Price:
€43,350 (Range from €39,400)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 250 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.6 seconds
Top speed: 211 km/h
Fuel economy:
7.4-7.7l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
169-176g/km
Motor tax: 
€280 per year


The 2020 Renault Mégane Coupé

Renault Mégane Grand Coupé (2020) Review


The 2020 Renault Mégane Coupé
The 2020 Renault Mégane Coupé

Caroline drives the new Renault Mégane Grand Coupé.

A Renault Mégane saloon has always done well in Ireland, with us being a nation of ‘big boot out the back’ lovers. Saloon sales are on a squeeze from SUVs, but Renault Ireland still believes in the value of the compact saloon in the Irish market. In 2017, the new Renault Mégane Grand Coupé (fancy name too!) arrived in Ireland to join the Mégane hatchback and Sport Tourer (estate).

Renault was right to defy market trends. The Mégane with a boot is now the bestselling model in the compact Mégane range in Ireland, outselling the hatchback and Sport Tourer.

What’s new for the Renault Mégane Saloon in 2020?

Renault Ireland refreshed the Grand Coupé line-up in 2019. There are now three trim levels as opposed to four - Play, Iconic and Signature. And a petrol engine has joined the range for the first time. The new 1.3 TCe 140 engine is available in the Grand Coupé with a 6-speed manual or new 7-speed EDC automatic gearbox.

Renault’s 1.5 dCi engine has also been enhanced in 2019 with increased power at 115 hp and is also available with 6-speed manual and 7-speed EDC gearboxes.

Renault has strapped the Grand Coupé moniker onto the Mégane saloon, which implies that this car has ‘notions’. But it’s not difficult to understand the popularity of this car. It’s a good looking car with design flair and elegant proportions giving it the presence of a larger and more expensive car.

The Grand Coupé range starts from €24,390 in Ireland, which is just a €900 premium over the Mégane hatchback like for like on spec and engine. But buyers actually get a more spacious car because the wheelbase is longer than that of the hatchback. The rear legroom is more accommodating. The boot has a capacity of 503 litres, bigger than the hatchback, with reasonably good access for a saloon. Also since I last tested the car there is now a release button on the boot lid, which is great.

The interior of the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé
The interior of the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

What are my options?

The Play trim level (from €24,390) replaces both the Expression and Dynamique Nav trims. Equipment includes Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto®, 7” touch screen, climate control and parking sensors.

The Iconic (from €26,590) replaces the Dynamique S Nav and has built-in navigation (7” screen), Multi-sense driving modes and the Visio Active safety system.

The sporty GT Line is preserved for the hatch, while the Grand Coupé gets the ‘grander’ Signature trim (from €28,890). This model has leather interior, 18” diamond cut wheels, 8.7” navigation screen and full LED lights.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé has a lot of rasmatazz on the outside but it’s a bit plainer on the inside. The most striking feature is probably the portrait style touchscreen which is quite unique in the segment. The interior is hardly the last word in sophistication with quite a few hard, scratchy plastics, but it’s perfectly acceptable.

Driving the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

The new petrol engine is a great addition to the Mégane Grand Coupé range. It’s a 1.3-litre turbo petrol unit that’s popping up in other Renault models too like the Kadjar. It’s got lots of power at 140 hp and over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.3 l/100km, with motor tax of €270 per year. There is also a 1.5-litre diesel engine with 110hp, which is the best for economy.

On the road the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé 1.3 TCe is nippy and refined. The car moves well through corners with precision and good cruising ability on the motorway too. The gear change feels a bit slack but other than that I really enjoyed my time with this car. The ride comfort seemed more cosseting this time round too.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé is very impressive with this new petrol engine. This is a stylish saloon and while competition is fierce in the compact segment, the Grand Coupé has really hit its stride in terms of spec, comfort and refinement. The figures don’t lie. It’s Ireland’s favourite iteration of the Mégane and the addition of this smart little petrol engine should enhance its prospects even more.


The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé brings considerable style and space to the range
The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé brings considerable style and space to the range

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Megane Grand Coupé Signature TCe 140 GPF
Price:
€28,890 (Range from €24,390)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.7 seconds
Top speed: 203 km/h
Fuel Economy: 
5.7l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
130g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2020) Review


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Caroline drives the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon!

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the icons of the Mercedes-Benz range. It has been endearing buyers of compact executive saloons for over two decades now. Despite an onslaught of new SUVs, saloons remain popular in Ireland and the C-Class is still one of the most desirable.

The current generation of the C-Class Merc debuted in 2014. It quickly gained notoriety for its interior elegance and comfort. Then in 2019, it was time for an update. And that's what we have here - the latest compact Benz saloon ready to take on an executive car park crammed with premium German saloon metal. Testing the mettle of the C-Class for sure, but even in 2020 there's still plenty of reasons to check out the Benz. 

What's new for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon starts from €41,320 for a C180 Avantgarde petrol edition. The latest revamp includes new engines, equipment and trim elements to keep it at the races against key rivals like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. The C-class styling makeover is slim in that all the elegant, compact saloon proportions are retained but with some new trim elements, alloy wheels and headlight/rear light design. 

Available in the classic Avantgarde trim or the sportier AMG Line, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class oozes class and prestige. AMG Line models get standard fit 18” alloys, more aggressive bumpers and a stunning diamond radiator grille with chrome pins. LED headlights come as standard. The C-Class knows how to make an entrance and won't let you down!


The interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
The interior of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Inside the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The cabin of the C-Class is very plush and luxurious with beautiful soft touch materials and design elements. Details like the circular air vents and open pore black ash wood trim add sophistication. The C-Class range gets a welcome technology upgrade in that you can now opt for a 12.3-inch digital cockpit display and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The 10.25 inch screen as part of the Advantage pack is definitely worth considering (€3,417) as it looks a lot more premium and at home than the standard 7” screen. There is also a new multifunction steering wheel with touch-control buttons that respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone.

These changes give a bit more modernity to the cabin of the C-Class. It's certainly feeling more 2020 in here. But competition is stiff with a recently revamped A4 and 3 Series also dripping in quality materials and the latest technology features. All three rival compact executive saloons have a different vibe inside. The C-Class is classic Mercedes with a contemporary twist perfect for a stylish junior executive. 

In terms of space, the C-Class Saloon will seat five. However, the rear bench is best suited to two passengers rather than three because of the large ‘hump’ in the middle housing the transmission tunnel. The boot is a competitive 480 litres and the boot lid lifts electronically from a button on the key or a switch in the cabin. Classy vibes!

For buyers looking for more space, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate is a good buy. It offers stylish looks in the body of an estate car with a large and practical square boot.

What are my options?

There are plenty of nice features to make your C-Class feel a little bit special. Leather upholstery certainly helps and that comes as standard. There's also cruise control, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, keyless start and 17” alloys on Avantgarde models. The AMG Line models are a bit more expensive to buy but add sports pedals, 18” alloys and AMG bodystyling. They certainly improve the kerb appeal of this C-Class model.

Petrol and diesel engines are the main feature of the C-Class range in 2020. Engine options include a 1.6-litre petrol (C180), 2.0-litre petrol (C300), 1.6-litre diesel (C200d) and 2.0-litre diesel (C220d), as well as some sportier variants.


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon has been updated for 2019
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines for 2020

New Mercedes-Benz C200 engine - any good?

One of the most exciting additions to the new C-Class range is the C200 now with 'EQ Boost'. It's a new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine for Mercedes-Benz that uses mild hybrid technology. This is a big trend for manufacturers now across the industry, with the aim to bring down C02 emissions and boost efficiency. A 48 volt on-board electrical system with a belt-driven starter/alternator gives the car a boost in performance and efficiency. The power output is a healthy 184hp and 0 to 100 km/h is achieved in just 7.7 seconds.

We found the new C200 to deliver smooth power through the nine speed automatic gearbox during our test drive. The car was refined at a cruise though when you ask it to work hard quickly, it does get a bit noisier. Over a week of driving the C200 averaged fuel consumption at 8.4l/100km. Motor tax is €390 per year for this model. This shows that in this segment there is still a space for diesel, which would easily offer superior economy for high mileage drivers.

On the road in the C-Class 

My test car featured Dynamic Body Control that alters suspension damping characteristics in three stages. The damping characteristics are tuned more tautly in the two stages “Sport” and “Sport+”. The “Comfort” mode is more comfortably tuned, unevenness is levelled out better and road roar and tyre vibration characteristics are improved. There’s also a Sports Direct-Steer system for more agile and smooth handling.

On the road, the C-Class Saloon glides along the tarmac effortlessly offering a top class comfortable and serene drive. It offers rear wheel drive agility and is flexible through corners, though the sensations reaching the rim are not overtly sporty. I recently drove the Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupé, but I really like the C200 set-up in the Saloon. 

There may be a squeeze on saloons from SUVs but there is likely to always be a market for prestigious, premium saloons like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This facelift has improved and modernised the interior even more, so that the car still feels current. This is a fine luxury motor for cruising and Mercedes-Benz has successfully packaged the essence of the brand in the C-Class, making it a great entry point into the premium saloon market. 


Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
Style and comfort in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz C200 Saloon AMG Line Automatic
Price:
€48,119 (Range from €41,320)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.7 seconds
Top speed: 239 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.0-6.3l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
144g/km
Motor tax: 
€390 per year


The new BMW 3 Series!

BMW 3 Series (2020) Review

The new BMW 3 Series!
The new BMW 3 Series!

Caroline drives the new BMW 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon that doesn’t need much to sell itself. It’s long been hailed as the sportiest compact executive saloon in its class, exalted for its playful rear wheel driving dynamics and high-end build and refinement.

Now the BMW 3 Series is in its 7th generation and it’s a gentle evolution of a familiar and popular car. You don’t mess with an icon like the 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series Video Review

What's new for the 2020 BMW 3 Series?

The new 3 Series was five years in development and BMW says that the focus for this new generation has been sportiness, innovation and design. Proportions have been revised, there’s a wider track and a longer wheelbase. These all impact on the visual appeal of the car and a new design language focuses on clean, precise lines. The design is comfortingly familiar yet modernised in line with the latest BMW ‘look’.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series is on sale in Ireland priced from €44,115. The new 3 Series is available in three trim levels: SE, Sport and M Sport.

Trim elements differ depending on specification and the 3 Series is in its sportiest incarnation in M Sport trim. The car sits 10 mm lower and there are large air intakes at the front as well as a redesigned front bumper, side skirts and rear apron. The kidney grille is finished in high gloss black. The stunning new Portimao Blue metallic is also a unique colour option for the M Sport model.

The interior of the BMW 3 Series
The interior of the BMW 3 Series

The interior of the new 3 Series

Inside the 3 Series gets a smart new interior very fitting of a junior executive car. There is a fine mix of materials and the quality is excellent throughout. The M Sport model adds sports seats to the specification, as well as an ‘M’ leather steering wheel, anthracite-coloured headliner, and full leather interior with heated front seats.

Cabin comfort for passengers has been improved with more shoulder room in the front and extra legroom in the back. Getting in and out of the car is easier for the rear passengers because the door aperture height has been increased. The boot has a capacity of 480 litres, while new partitioning into a primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space.

There’s also a welcome addition of new technology features including a new digital instrument cluster as standard. The M Sport model gets the impressive 10.3-inch central instrument cluster and BMW’s brand new Operating System 7.0 with the Intelligent Personal Assistant.

The entry level SE model has 17″ alloys, LED headlights, BMW Light Carpet, interior ambient lighting, reversing camera, electric folding rear view mirrors, three-zone air conditioning and enhanced acoustic glazing.  There’s also a leather sport steering wheel and BMW Live Cockpit plus, with 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland
The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland

What are my options?

Engine options for the new 3 Series include the 318d and 320d (diesels available from €44,115) and the 320i and 330i (petrols available from €44,155). A new 330e plug-in hybrid is also available from €51,475. A six-speed manual gearbox is also available on some models, as is the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

My test car was a classic 320d M Sport, four-cylinder diesel engine with 190hp and an 8 speed automatic gearbox with a list price of €52,410. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has been upgraded and it now includes multi-stage turbocharging to improve efficiency across all engine speeds. On the road, the new 320d is a gem and one of the best diesel saloons on the market. It’s smooth and refined with plenty of power and torque. Acceleration is brisk with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint achieved in just 6.8 seconds with the automatic gearbox.

BMW has also made significant improvements to aerodynamics reducing the drag coefficient of the BMW 320d for example from 0.26 to 0.23 with measures such as an almost completely sealed underbody, aerodynamically optimised wheels, the use of Air Curtains at the front and the latest generation of active air flap control, which extends across the BMW kidney grille and lower air intake. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.7l/100km and motor tax for this model is €200 per year.

Rear legroom in the new 3 Series
Rear legroom in the new 3 Series

On the road in the new BMW 320d

This all knits very well with the 3 Series’ natural dynamic appeal. BMW set out to improve the handling of the 3 Series even more in this new generation of the car by increasing the track front and rear and making the whole car stiffer and more rigid while also shedding 55kg of body weight. This translates to a tactile feeling on the road that is unmatched by rivals for driver appeal. The steering is meaty and ultra precise while the whole car stays perfectly balanced and aligned through tight cornering.

Despite sporty enhancements for the M Sport model (19” alloys option on test car and sports suspension), by and large the ride is fine, though some way off the slinky ride of an Audi A4. For M Sport models, buyers can specify the Adaptive M suspension that alters damping characteristics between more comfortable and sporty driving modes.

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans. It still sets the benchmark for handling in its class, defining what’s possible from the compact executive sports saloon. The interior gets a welcome addition of new technology features that keep it competitive among rivals. The 320d is a fine example of a diesel saloon with class leading refinement and splendid power. Welcome back 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.
The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 320d M Sport Saloon Automatic
Price:
€52,410
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
190 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
6.8 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.4-4.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
112 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year