The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023

Alfa Romeo Tonale Review

The Alfa Romeo Tonale will arrive in Ireland in early 2023 and marks a fresh start for the Italian car brand, now under the stewardship of Stellantis and a new Irish distributor, Gowan Auto.

The Tonale is one of the most important models for Alfa Romeo in years, a stylish new compact SUV to take on the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the Volvo XC40.

While pricing for the Irish market is yet to be announced, we do know a few things about the new Tonale. In Ireland, it will be available as a petrol hybrid and a plug-in hybrid with an electric driving range of up to 69 kilometres.

But what's it like to drive? Caroline travelled to Milan with Alfa Romeo Ireland to drive the new Tonale plug-in hybrid ahead of its official arrival in Ireland.

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023
The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023

Styling

The new Tonale is a classy Italian compact SUV, with flamboyance and flair to its design that makes rivals look positively square. At the front, there is Alfa's characteristic V-shaped grille flanked by a striking set of LED headlights and customary offset number plate, lending the Tonale a serious face should you find one in your rear view mirror. Alloy wheel sizes will be available from 18-inch to 20-inch, with a classic Alfa 'telephone dial' style available. There will be two trim levels for Ireland - Ti and Veloce - with 18-inch alloys fitted as standard. The sporty elegant look is finished off with a dramatic LED light bar at the rear. There's a range of eye-catching metallic shades to choose from, showing off the Alfa's sleek surfacing.

Interior

Inside, the Tonale offers a snug and sporty cabin. It feels quite distinct for the segment, with a driver-focused layout that will have you aching to press the start button - conveniently located on the steering wheel. Quality takes a step up from the Giulia and Stelvio, with most of the touch points feeling good. You will find some cheaper plastics lower down and some of the buttons below the infotainment screen feel a little basic for a premium car. But generally, the Tonale lives up to its billing and feels far more special than anything we've seen from the brand in the last decade. There's a cowled digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a new 10.25-inch touchscreen.

The interior of the new Tonale
The interior of the new Tonale

Practicality

The Tonale is roomy in the back for a mid-size SUV, with good-sized footwells and plenty of headroom too for adult passengers. Petrol hybrids get the largest boot at a competitive 500 litres but plug-in hybrids can only muster 385 litres, which is about the same as many hatchbacks.

Engines

The new Tonale will be available in Ireland with a 1.5-litre petrol hybrid engine with 160hp (front wheel drive) or as a range-topping plug-in hybrid with 280hp and all-wheel drive.

Charging

It will take about 2.5 hours to charge the plug-in hybrid Tonale's battery to full at 7.4kW.

The Tonale is the first ever plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo
The Tonale is the first ever plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo

On the road

The Tonale feels immediately sporty and driver-focused behind the wheel - despite its height. It's one of the sharpest handling mid-size SUVs on the market. The Tonale plug-in hybrid feels agile and athletic though bends, with plenty of grip from the Alfa Q4 all-wheel drive system. The cabin feels nicely insulated, offering good refinement at high speeds on the motorway but it is quite firmly sprung, so can thud over imperfections in the road surface.

There is a classic Alfa 'D.N.A' driving mode selector and the Tonale is at its most comfortable in the Natural (N) setting. But in this mode the steering errs on the light side. So for any enthusiastic driving, you'll want to slip it into the Dynamic (D) mode, where the steering feels better weighted and the throttle response is sharper. The plug-in hybrid's 280hp feels fast with the 0-100 km/h sprint done in just over 6 seconds. But plant your foot on the accelerator hard in Dynamic mode and the engine does thrash a bit.

But in more relaxed driving, the Tonale is a perfectly behaved car that feels great on the road. When running in hybrid mode, it's quite efficient too. But plug-in hybrids are generally at their best when you have the desire and facilities to keep the battery charged and make use of the electric driving range of up to 69 kilometres.

Rear seating in the new Tonale
Rear seating in the new Tonale

Pricing 

Pricing will be announced closer to launch of the Tonale in Ireland. At the moment, Alfa's larger Stelvio SUV goes on sale from about €64,000.

Summary

The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a significant comeback for the Alfa Romeo brand in Ireland and Europe. When it arrives in Ireland in the first few months of 2023, it will be the brand's most competitive model in the Alfa line-up. There's great demand for mid-size SUVs and the Tonale will be a stylish alternative to more established rivals from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. What's more, it's competitive in key areas like practicality and interior technology. It has a snug and sporty cabin, though some rivals do feel more premium. While I'm yet to drive the petrol hybrid entry into the Tonale range, the range-topping plug-in hybrid offers a smooth and powerful drive with the flexibility of driving electric for a limited range. All in all, the Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive compact SUV and the brand's best chance yet to regain a foothold in the Irish market.

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive SUV
The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive SUV

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes

Jeep Compass Review

Read Caroline's Jeep Compass review for everything you need to know about Jeep's mid-size SUV in Ireland.

The Jeep Compass first arrived in Ireland in 2018 as a new mid-size SUV from the iconic Jeep brand. Though Jeep has some very strong roots as an American, four wheel drive specialist brand, the Compass was the brand's most European model to date when it went on sale. With high demand for family SUVs, today the Compass accounts for over 40% of the brand's sales in Europe, alongside models like the Renegade and the Cherokee.

The Compass was certainly one of the brand's most competitive models in recent years, with trendy 4x4 looks and a range of engines to meet the market demand. But 2018 feels like a long time ago now in the motor industry. Much has changed in the intervening years in Ireland and Europe. Jeep is now part of motoring giant Stellantis, and in Ireland it's joined motoring distributor Gowan Auto, who also import Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Peugeot, DS and Opel.

The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes
The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes

Now the Jeep Compass returns with a bit more than just a cosmetic update. Pricing starts from about €43,995 rising to about €54,995. New engines include a 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid and a new plug-in hybrid that can be charged and driven electric for up to about 50 kilometres and a first for Jeep. Times are changing, with many more exciting models on the way, like the first ever electric Jeep - the new Jeep Avenger.

But for now, it's the Jeep Compass that goes up against some of the country's bestselling cars like the Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and the Hyundai Tucson.

What's so special about the Jeep Compass?

The Compass literally 'squares up' to the competition with classic Jeep design cues that lend a rugged look that's full of character and frankly far more authentic than a lot of what is on the market in this segment. There's the boxy proportions, reminiscent of many Jeeps of old, that never take the brand too far away from its roots as one of the world's best manufacturers of tough off-road vehicles.

At the front the seven slat grille is a big statement of intent and makes the Compass unmissable as anything other than just one great big Jeep. Along the side, there are some fabulous squared off wheel arches.

There are up to five trim levels in Ireland and each gives the Compass quite an individual look. Hybrids get a blue finish to the Jeep badge and the new '4xe' logo.

There are few brands quite as iconic as Jeep
There are few brands quite as iconic as Jeep

The entry into the range is the Night Eagle for example, which adds lots of gloss black trim to the exterior and 18-inch black wheels for a cool urban look. The Upland has bronze exterior trim and a black bonnet decal for a bespoke look. There's even a range-topping Trailhawk version, which maxes out the tough off-road look with special off-road bumpers and skid plate front and rear.

On test for Changing Lanes was the Compass S, which offers a clean, sporty look with 19-inch black alloy wheels, body coloured wheel arches and sills, and a black contrast roof.

Plug-in hybrid models are now exclusively four wheel drive, with a 1.3-litre petrol engine to power the front wheels and an electric motor to power the rear ones. It's the most powerful of the range with 240hp and includes a number of tools to assist drivers off-road. You can switch between modes like Auto, Sport, Sand/Mud and Snow and the car adjusts the settings for the best traction. There are also two different 4×4 traction modes for more advanced off-roading - 4WD Drive Lock and 4WD Low.

Inside the Jeep Compass

Having previously tested the Compass when it first arrived in 2018, it's clear that the interior has had a modern revamp since then. The quality of the materials has improved significantly with lots of soft touch materials as well as more modern digital features and more mature design. S models get leather upholstery for a high-end feel.

It's still not quite as stylish or high-tech as some of the best in class but a marked improvement. A new 10-inch touchscreen sits in the centre of the dash, with Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration. There’s also a new digital driver information display, though it's not the best designed when it comes to the size of the graphics and the way information is presented.

Latest Compass gets a high-end feel to the interior
Latest Compass gets a high-end feel to the interior

But all versions do come well-equipped with keyless start, parking camera, cruise control, climate control, and lots of safety features like lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. A wireless smartphone charger is also standard on all but the entry model.

Slip into the back and the Compass feels spacious for its size too. There are large footwells and headroom is good for adults. Like competitors, the middle seat is a bit on the small side but it is comfortable with a flat space in front for more legroom.

The boot is not the largest in the class at 438 litres but it's a bit more than a lot of hatchbacks. And the plug-in hybrid has the same amount of boot space as petrol versions of the Compass. A powered tailgate is also available on some trim levels as standard.

Driving the Jeep Compass

Jeep hasn't tweaked the driving dynamics for this version but they have updated the engine range. It kicks off with the 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine with 130hp and a manual gearbox priced from €43,995. There's also the new 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid that's priced similarly and has the same amount of power but comes with an automatic gearbox instead.

On test was the new plug-in hybrid, which offers the boon of four wheel drive but must be charged regularly to really get the best from it. When the battery is fully charged, there is up to 50 kilometres of driving electric possible but that is still off the pace of some of the best like the Toyota RAV4 and the Kia Sportage plug-in hybrids.

Trailhawk versions max out on the tough off-road look
Trailhawk versions max out on the tough off-road look

On the road, the Compass is swift when you want it to be, but it's not the smoothest or most refined plug-in hybrid available and it can get noisy when you accelerate hard.

Steering is very light, which makes it easy to manouvre around town but out on bigger roads it won't really award the keenest driver. In fairness, as a brand with such a stellar name for making off-road vehicles, sharp handling would not be high up the list of priorities. The Compass suits a more relaxed pace of driving and it's comfortable too for a family SUV.

Did you like it?

The Jeep brand is iconic and the Compass is surely something different in its segment. It does fall a little short of the best in class in some areas. The standard in this segment is very high these days with lots of very capable competitors.

Good news is none of them can compete with the Compass for outright authentic style and desirability. The Compass truly stands out for its classic Jeep styling that looks like it might enjoy going off-road and look good while doing it.

Jeep has always been positioned as a high-end brand and the pricing of the Compass surely reflects that. It might be a bridge too far, but if you're looking for something a little bit different in the mid-size family SUV segment, the Jeep Compass still has plenty of charm.

The Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid is on sale now
The Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid is on sale now

Model tested: Jeep Compass S 4xe plug-in hybrid
Price: 
€54,995
Engine:
1.3-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 240hp
Top speed: 200 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.3 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The new Ora Funky Cat

Ora Funky Cat Review (2023)

The Ora Funky Cat is a new compact electric car expected to arrive in Ireland before the end of the year. The Funky Cat will be available with two different battery sizes and will go on sale priced from €31,995, including the grant for electric vehicles.

Ora is a Chinese car brand that's part of the Great Wall Motor (GWM) group and it's one of the newest car brands to arrive in Ireland and Europe. The IM Group will be responsible for distributing the new Funky Cat in Ireland, adding to their brand portfolio that already includes Subaru.

Caroline travelled to Birmingham to drive the new Ora Funky Cat ahead of its official arrival in Ireland.

The new Ora Funky Cat
The new Ora Funky Cat expected in Ireland before the end of the year

Styling

The Ora Funky Cat is designed as a compact hatchback - but a very stylish one. It might look like a supermini but it's actually similar in size to a Volkswagen ID.3. At the front, there are striking details like the circular headlights, reminiscent of another famous small car! The bonnet has some quite sporty looking detail and there is a sleekness and shine to this car that will surely put a smile on your face. The Ora logo is an enigmatic exclamation mark and appears on the bonnet and the alloy wheel caps. Like every fashionable small car, there is the option of a contrast white roof or black roof, and a palette of colour choices from metallic to pastel. 18-inch alloy wheels come as standard across the range. At the back, there is an unusual fully integrated light bar in the windscreen and a mid-mounted fog lamp finishes off the upscale look. Later in 2023, a GT model will become available with more sporty features.

Interior

Ora pitches the Funky Cat as an upmarket compact car and the interior certainly mostly lives up to that. It strikes a good balance between feeling spacious, but also cosy and well-appointed. A black interior comes as standard, while there is the option of two-tone colour schemes that add a fashionable bespoke look to the cabin of the Funky Cat. Stylish touches include the rotary dial for the gear selection and the chrome switches in the dash. There is some stylish quilting in the doors, suede-style fabric finish to the dashboard, and the quilted leatherette seats are another highlight.

Where the Funky Cat really excels is in onboard technology. There is a widescreen set up behind the steering wheel that incorporates the digital driver display and the touchscreen for the infotainment and voice control that responds to commands of 'Hello Ora'. Wireless smartphone charging is also included as standard as well as high-tech features like a reversing camera, 360 degree surround cameras and even facial recognition to personalise your settings to the car.

The interior of the new Funky Cat
The interior of the new Funky Cat

Practicality

The Ora Funky Cat comes with five doors as standard. It feels roomy up front for a compact car, while the back seat is much more spacious than small electric cars like the Fiat 500e and the Peugeot e-208. The Funky Cat is built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform and the floor in the back is flat giving everyone on board some great legroom. It doesn't feel too cramped for headroom either.

The boot measures 228 litres, which is small for a compact car. It's bigger than a Fiat 500e, but smaller than something like a Peugeot e-208 and significantly smaller than the likes of a Renault Megane E-TECH, MG4 or Volkswagen ID.3. Still, it will work for some lifestyles and you can let the rear seats down. There is also a small bit of underfloor storage for a set of charging cables.

Battery

The Funky Cat is available with two different battery sizes. The range kicks off with the 48 kWh 300 PRO (priced from €31,995) with a range of 310 kilometres (WLTP). The price rises to €39,995 for the 63 kWh 400 PRO+ with a range of 420 kilometres (WLTP).

Charging

The new Cat can charge up to 11kW (AC) and up to 67kW (DC). A standard CCS port comes as standard for all Funky Cats sold in Europe.

The Funky Cat is available from €31,995 in Ireland
The Funky Cat is available from €31,995 in Ireland

On the road

The Ora Funky Cat uses a 171hp motor to send power to the front wheels, making it a secure and swift compact hatchback on the road, no matter which version you go for. There's 250Nm of torque available and the 0-100 km/h sprint can be done in just over 8 seconds, going on to a top speed of 160 km/h. There's certainly power when you want it, and it feels nippy and capable, whether in town or on the motorway. It rides well for a small electric car too, offering a smooth and comfortable drive for the most part. Refinement out on the motorway could be better, with a fair bit of noise entering the cabin at high speeds. Steering provides some feel and there's lots of front end grip. Despite some lean in corners, it remains a fun and agile compact electric car. I was driving the 48 kWh 300 PRO version, which showed about 300 kilometres of range when I got into to it with a full battery. It seems reasonably efficient as well, averaging about 17.4 kWh per 100 kilometres during my time with the car.

Pricing 

The Ora Funky Cat goes on sale priced from €31,995 including grants for the 300 PRO version with a 48 kWh battery and 310 km (WLTP) of range. It's exceptionally well-equipped with lots of high-tech interior features, safety equipment, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The 400 PRO+ version is available from €39,995 including grants with a 63kWh battery and 420 km (WLTP) of range. It has even more luxurious features as standard including heated steering wheel, heated front seats with massage function, powered tailgate and a panoramic glass roof.

Rear seating in the Ora Funky Cat
Rear seating in the Ora Funky Cat

Summary

In Ireland, expect a dealership to open in Dublin very soon where the Ora Funky Cat will be available for test drive, followed by locations in Cork and Galway before the end of the year.

The Funky Cat is a stylish and charismatic addition to the market for compact electric cars in Ireland. It's a car that leads with style and high-tech features as standard, while the interior fit and finish with its myriad of colour options give it an upmarket feel.

Depending on which version you go for, the Funky Cat falls into two arenas when it comes to rivals. At the lower end of the scale it compares well to small EVs, offering bespoke style, a high specification, and a lot more passenger room in the back. The battery range is competitive as opposed to outstanding, but the Funky Cat has enough charm to be in contention.

Go for the more expensive version with the larger battery, and there's a more impressive 420 kilometre range yet the Funky Cat's small boot may hold it back from family buyers in the market for a good value, compact electric vehicle.

Ora is positioned as a more premium brand in the market so for buyers looking for a stylish and well-appointed small electric car that's a little bit different to the competition, then the new Funky Cat is definitely worth a look.

The Ora Funky Cat is a trendy compact car available in a variety of colours
The Ora Funky Cat is a trendy compact car available in a variety of colours

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The Polestar 2 on test for Changing Lanes!

Polestar 2 Review (Dual Motor)

Read Caroline's Polestar 2 review for everything you need to know about buying the new electric car from Polestar in Ireland.

Polestar is one of Ireland's newest car brands, which launched here earlier in 2022. The first car to market here is of course the Polestar 2, a Tesla Model 3 rivalling premium electric car.

Since July, the brand has already registered over 100 new cars here, but expect that to rise quickly with the opening of their first retail location in Ireland in Sandyford, Dublin. Called 'Polestar Space', it's where prospective buyers can view the car and take it for a test drive before starting the online process of buying the car.

The new Polestar 2 goes on sale in Ireland priced from €51,135 after the SEAI grant is applied. There's a choice of standard range and long range batteries, and single and dual motor versions.

The Polestar 2 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Polestar 2 on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Polestar 2?

Polestar was established as a new, standalone Swedish premium electric vehicle manufacturer in 2017. Founded by Volvo Cars and Geely Holding, Polestar cars share technology and engineering with Volvo Cars.

That's good provenance but the most striking thing about the Polestar 2 is surely its design. For the brand's first mass production electric car, Polestar has created a stylish sedan-style vehicle but with some of the more fashionable design cues of this era - without turning it into an SUV.

The Polestar's compact proportions give it grace and elegance, while the raised ride height and more rugged styling features like cladding around the wheel arches and sills give it more presence than your average hatchback. There's a tasteful palette of neutral shades to go with it.

The Volvo family DNA is indeed evident in the design - see those confident lines and upright front grille and rear - but with the prestigious stamp of the new Polestar brand.

Polestar is cool, no doubts. Their enigmatic logo appears in various places around the outside and inside of the car. At the back a full width light bar gives the car its own characteristic style.

19-inch wheels, signature LED light designs front and rear and frameless mirrors make all variants largely indistinguishable from each other.

All in all, it's a cool Scandi alternative to the likes of the Tesla Model 3, BMW i4, Kia EV6 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Polestar 2 is available with the choice of two batteries, and single motor or dual motor
Polestar 2 is available with the choice of two batteries, and single motor or dual motor

Inside the Polestar 2

For anyone familiar with the latest Volvos, the interior of the new Polestar 2 will feel quite familiar. But the design of the Polestar 2 means it feels sportier behind the wheel. The cabin is cosy with quite a high centre console, which enhances the sporty vibe. It feels well made with some nice sustainable materials used also.

The steering wheel bears the Polestar emblem, which also appears in what we think might be the world's most beautiful gear selector! There's a full digital driver display and portrait style touchscreen that's also used in the latest generation Volvo cars. The touchscreen uses a Google operating system - it was the first car in the world to do so. It's a very nice system to use with in-built Google maps and services.

Other standard features include a premium stereo with 8 speakers, front- and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. There are a number of packs that add more equipment.

The Polestar 2 will seat five but it's fair to say that two will be most comfortable in the back. There is a prominent centre tunnel, which gives the car the feel of an elite sports sedan, but eats into legroom. A Tesla Model 3 feels a bit more spacious inside - but not by much.

The boot is a practical hatchback-style opening and offers 405 litres, which is on par with a lot of family hatchbacks and small SUVs. There’s a handy divider that is easy to slide up from the boot floor to separate items. A powered tailgate comes as standard.

Polestar has also include a 41 litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet, which is handy for storing the charging cables.

The interior of the new Polestar 2
The interior of the new Polestar 2

Driving the Polestar 2

The new Polestar 2 is based on Volvo Car Group’s adaptable Compact Modular Architecture platform (CMA), which is also used by the Volvo XC40 and Volvo C40. It shares the same batteries - 69kWh or 78kWh. The best for range is the single motor version with the 78kWh long range battery, with up to 551 kilometres (WLTP) possible (from €56,135).

On test was the Polestar 2 with 78kWh, long range battery and dual motors. It is the most expensive of the range (from €63,850), but offers the best performance of the range with a whopping 408hp and the 0-100 kmh sprint completed in just 4.7 seconds. The projected range is up to 487 kilometres (WLTP).

But the performance of single motor versions is hardly shabby with both offering 231hp and the 0-100 kmh sprint in 7.4 seconds.

The Polestar 2 feels neat and agile on the road, offering a high-end driving experience behind the wheel. It cruises effortlessly at high speeds on the motorway. The ride is good on these smooth road surfaces, though it can feel a bit firm over any bumps or imperfections in the road surface.

All the controls are nicely weighted so it feels natural to drive. One pedal driving is possible, which means the car will gently come to a stop when you lift off the accelerator without having to touch the brake.

You can also adjust the steering feel but it's not quite as entertaining to drive as a BMW i4 or as outright 'fast' as a Tesla Model 3. Still, it's a balanced drive that leaves little to complain about.

Polestar 2 comes equipped with an 11 kW onboard charger, which gives more flexibility in AC charging. DC fast charging is available up to 150 kW, for an 80% charge in 35 minutes. It will take about 11 hours to charge the Polestar 2 at 7 kW from a wallbox installed at home for example.

The Polestar 2 is now available to view and test drive from Ireland's first Polestar Space in Dublin
The Polestar 2 is now available to view and test drive from Ireland's first Polestar Space in Dublin

Did you like it?

The Polestar 2 is one of the most anticipated new cars of 2022 and it doesn't disappoint. It's a very welcome addition to the market, offering a slick design and clever cabin, long range and fast charging. That makes it impossible to ignore for buyers looking for one of the best electric cars on sale at the moment.

Some are a bit more spacious or a bit more fun to drive, but the Polestar is a brand you buy into because you like they way they design cars and how they sell them too.

Single motor versions look like the best value and provide adequate performance, though of course dual motor acceleration is fun! But it's the sophistication of this car's cruising ability and cabin refinement that make it a stylish and capable executive car.

If you sit in and love the cabin of this car, that's probably enough already.

Welcome Polestar!

The Polestar 2 is on sale now
The Polestar 2 is on sale now

Model tested: Polestar 2 long range, dual motor
Price: 
€63,850
Battery:
78 kWh
Range: 487 km (WLTP)
Power: 408hp
Torque: 660Nm
Top speed: 205 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.7 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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

 


The Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Review

Read Caroline's Kia Niro review for everything you need to know about buying Kia's new compact SUV in Ireland.

The Kia Niro was first introduced to Ireland back in 2016. It was a bit of a trendsetter at the time, an exciting new model for a Kia brand clearly on the way up.

Not only was it styled as a crossover - customers love them - but it also spawned a successful Niro plug-in hybrid and the jewel in the crown - the electric 'e-Niro'.

Now Kia has had a chance to revisit the Niro and create an all-new version. But electrification remains a key theme with plug-in hybrid and EV versions available, and an upcoming full hybrid.

But has the Niro now got the stylish design it deserves to really cement its position in the Irish market? Let's take a closer look to find out!

The Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Kia Niro?

The new Kia Niro plug-in hybrid ('PHEV') tested for Changing Lanes goes on sale in Ireland priced from €39,700 -  and it's notable for having more power and more range in EV mode than the model it replaces.

The attraction of the plug-in hybrid is the all-electric driving range of now up to 59 kilometres. At the core of this car is a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with Kia's second-generation six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

On the road, it's more refined than ever, while savvy buyers who can keep the battery topped up will enjoy very low running costs from Niro ownership.

What's more, the new Niro seems to look the part now of a small, trendy crossover. It's found direction within the brand's new generation of vehicles like the Sportage and EV6.

Kia's design has been evolving over the years and the Niro wears the brand's avant-garde new design language very well to stand out on the road as something a little bit different.

18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights come as standard for a stylish presence.

The new Niro will be offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric
The new Niro will be offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric

Inside the Kia Niro

Inside, there has been a transformation as well. Niro feels more modern and youthful than before, with some very impressive digital displays. A 10.25-inch touchscreen comes as standard and suitably modernises the cabin of the Niro. It's all very simple and intuitive to use, while the cabin quality feels good as well.

In Ireland the Niro PHEV is available in two trim levels, packed with equipment - the K3 (from €39,700) and the K4 (from €42,700).

Standard features on K3 models include heated front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, wireless phone charger, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto with voice control. There are also lots of standard safety features like lane keep assist, lane follow assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot collision avoidance. The Niro is not cheap but that's a high specification.

Opt for the K4, and in addition there's power adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, head-up display, 10.25-inch LCD driver display screen and a powered tailgate.

The interior of the new Kia Niro
The interior of the new Kia Niro

The new Niro sits on a new platform and though it looks compact on the outside, it's surprisingly roomy inside. Naturally, it's not the widest car so three might feel a squeeze in the back. But for two adults or children, it does feel roomy. The boot can muster 348 litres of space in the plug-in hybrid -  some hatchbacks do it better, though it's still a decent usable space. The Niro EV actually has considerably more boot space!

On the road in the Niro PHEV

For this new generation of the Niro, Kia has made some suspension and steering improvements for a more enjoyable and responsive drive. There's also been the addition of more insulation and padding around the vehicle’s structure to reduce engine and road noise.

On the road the Niro PHEV does appear to have grown-up. It feels more driver-focused now despite its efficient powertrain. It's more refined than before so the cabin is more relaxing, and  comfortable for the most part too.

The power output of the hybrid is a healthy 183hp, and the Niro can certainly provide a good pick up in speed when you need it. The previous Niro hybrid felt less inclined to do this. There is still a bias to efficiency, but it's a good one - without charging the battery my fuel consumption was less than 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is very impressive.

Rear legroom in the new Niro
Rear seating in the new Niro

Did you like it?

The Kia brand has real momentum in Ireland with bestsellers like the new Kia Sportage and the EV6. Now the brand has a real chance to make impact in the more compact side of the market, with the new Niro boasting some of the most sought after electrified powertrains on the market right now.

The Niro EV review is coming soon, where I will take a closer look at the new generation model that can travel up to 460 kilometres on one battery charge, and comes to market priced a little more than the Niro PHEV at €41,775.

But for now the Kia Niro PHEV moves the game on for the brand's plug-in hybrid range. Buyers can potentially run the Niro as an electric vehicle with regular charging. But in my experience, this car returns some excellent economy figures when ran even as a standard hybrid - though plugging in regularly is always the best option!

The Kia Niro has moved on a lot from the previous version in terms of design. It seems more comfortable in its skin now, with more kerb appeal. The design might not be for everyone, but it's a stylish and quirky crossover that has purpose.

Inside, the Niro packs in lots of equipment and a latest generation Kia interior with a modern, digital display. What's more, it's a practical offering in the segment.

These cars have excellent technology on board and don't come cheap. The bias here is still towards efficiency and that is something Niro does very well, in a number of different flavours for Irish consumers!

The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid is on sale from €39,700
The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid is on sale from €39,700

Model tested: Kia Niro K4
Price: 
€42,700
Engine:
1.6-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 183hp
Torque: 265Nm
Top speed: 161 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.8 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The new Mercedes-Benz EQE on test for Changing Lanes

Mercedes-Benz EQE Review

Read Caroline's Mercedes-Benz EQE review for everything you need to know about Mercedes' new electric saloon in Ireland.

Mercedes-Benz is accelerating their brand towards an electric future with the launch of a suite of new electric cars and SUVs from their Mercedes EQ range of vehicles.

First to market were a new range of battery-powered SUVs - the EQC, EQA and EQB, all previously reviewed on this website.

But Mercedes-Benz has long been the purveyor of luxurious saloons and thankfully 2022 saw the arrival of two electric saloons - the flagship EQS and the EQE.

The EQE is more compact than the EQS with a shorter wheelbase. In terms of external dimensions, it's similar to the CLS in the Mercedes-Benz range.

The new Mercedes-Benz EQE on test for Changing Lanes
The new Mercedes-Benz EQE on test for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the new Mercedes-Benz EQE?

While it could be tagged as an electric E-Class that would not do this car justice. The new EQE is a stand-out model for the brand in its own right, sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design that points to a new breed of Mercedes-Benz.

The wealth of technology underneath can see the EQE cover over 600 kilometres on a single battery charge.

The EQE goes on sale in Ireland priced from €82,010. All version come with a 89kWh battery but vary in power and driven wheels. The entry into the range is the EQE 300 with 245hp, while the EQE 350 on test offers 292hp and 4Matic four wheel drive.

Styling is sleek for aerodynamic efficiency including flush door handles for a smooth silhouette. The EQE sports a futuristic front end in line with other Mercedes EQ models. It's smart and subtle -  a good evolution for the brand towards an electric future.

Various trim lines are available like Electric Art and AMG Line, which alter the look of the car slightly. 19-inch alloy wheels come as standard.

But it's inside where the EQE really shines, with an avant-garde interior that is beautifully appointed.

The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz EQE
The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz EQE

Inside the new Mercedes EQE

Mercedes-Benz interiors are maturing, with a strong digital component to every new model launched. The new EQE takes inspiration from the larger EQS, though the brand's impressive new MBUX Hyperscreen is not yet available here in the EQE.

The EQE might be electric, but Mercedes has not scrimped on quality and the EQE feels suitably posh inside with lots of beautiful, tactile materials used to create just the right ambience for a high-tech electric saloon. Heated front and rear seats come as standard, as does a wireless phone charger.

There's also a full digital display for the driver and a gorgeous MBUX portrait-style touchscreen that we've seen in some other models like the newly-launched Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The interior dimensions are a bit bigger than the current E-Class with a bit more shoulder room and a slightly higher driver position. In the back there is enough legroom for adult passengers, though headroom feels tighter than an E-Class. The boot capacity is 430 litres, which is a bit less than an E-Class - but the saloon-style opening means neither car offers the most practical boot shape.

The EQE is available from about €82,000 in Ireland
The EQE is available from about €82,000 in Ireland

Driving the new EQE

On the road the new EQE shines for both refinement and electric driving range. The EQE 350 offers a smooth delivery of power and rides exceptionally well, making it the perfect long distance cruiser.

It's responsive and agile, though a BMW i4 is a more engaging drive when the roads get a little tighter and more interesting.

Mercedes' battery technology and the EQE's efficiency also make it a great choice of premium electric car. All versions of the car can post a driving range in excess of 500 kilometres on a full battery charge. The EQE proved to be one of the most efficient EVs I've driven in a while, with consumption averaging at 17 kwh per 100 kilometres.

AC charging is available up to 11kW, while DC fast charging is available up to 170kW.

Rear seating in the EQE
Rear seating in the EQE

Did you like it?

These days we tend to see more electric SUVs hitting the roads than electric saloons, but the EQE's aerodynamic design certainly proves to be very efficient and desirable.

Over the coming months an SUV bearing the EQE badge is expected for those that prefer a more rugged design and high driving position.

Mercedes-Benz is famous for executive saloons so there's a lot riding on this EQE. Its beautiful sleek design is enough to garner it a few fans and Mercedes is successfully moving their brand into this new era of electric mobility.

For an EQE that may live on the motorway, the combination of fast charging capability and an excellent driving range makes it a reliable companion.

Inside, the EQE provides a cabin design that will not isolate the brand's current customer base, such is the quality of the finish and the ease of use of the technology on board.

The Mercedes-Benz EQE is an exclusive car but ticks so many boxes for buyers looking for a high-end luxury electric car.

The EQE offers comfort, refinement and excellent battery performance
The EQE offers comfort, refinement and excellent battery performance

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz EQE 350 AMG Line 
Price: 
€85,980
Battery:
89 kWh
Range: 641 km (WLTP)
Power: 292hp
Torque: 565Nm
Top speed: 210 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.4 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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

 


The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!

Renault Austral Review

The Renault Austral is the Renault brand's new mid-size SUV and is expected in Ireland in spring/summer of 2023. Along with the recently launched Renault Megane E-TECH electric hatchback and the award-winning Renault Arkana - Irish Medium SUV of the Year 2022 - the aim is to regain the brand’s foothold in the C-segment, Europe’s most popular car segment. Sold exclusively as a hybrid, the new Austral replaces the Kadjar in the Renault line-up.

Caroline travelled to Madrid with Renault Ireland to drive the new Austral ahead of its arrival in Ireland in 2023.

Styling

The new Renault Austral will be one of the best-looking SUVs on Irish roads in 2023. It sports an evolution of Renault's design language seen in the Megane E-TECH, but wrapped up in the stylish, rugged body of an SUV. It's the second Renault model to wear the brand's new logo, which is framed by a striking set of LED headlights. There's a similarly stylish light signature at the rear. A sculpted bonnet adds even more attitude, fast becoming a new signature of Renault cars and SUVs. Alloy wheel sizes vary from 17-inch to 20-inch, most of which are diamond cut. Trim levels for Ireland are yet to be confirmed but it's highly likely that the new range-topping 'Esprit Alpine' version will reach here. Inspired by the sporty roots of Renault's legendary Alpine brand of performance cars, it's available in exclusive Satin Shale Grey matte finish with special badging and numerous design upgrades inside and outside the car.

The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!
The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!

Interior

The Austral follows the lead of the new Megane E-TECH when it comes to interior design and technology - and then takes it to the next level again. It's very stylish and high-tech inside, built around the large OpenR screen that combines a 12.3-inch instrument display with a 12-inch vertical multimedia screen and uses a Google operating system. Super glossy to look at, but it also works really well. For example, Google apps like Google Assistant, Google Play Store and Google Maps are integrated into it. This technology combines perfectly with the driver display, with a number of different views available - one which turns the whole thing into a mirror image of your route on Google Maps. There's also an excellent head-up display available. Ventilation controls are accessed through the screen but there are some nice tactile buttons below to bring up the menu and adjust the temperature quickly.

We were driving top of the range Esprit Alpine models, which get lots of beautiful Alcantara trim inside and blue contrast stitching. The quality of the interior appears to be even better than what we've seen previously from the brand in the new Arkana for example, so we just have to see will this stay consistent throughout the range when the Austral arrives in Ireland next year.

Practicality

The Austral has been designed as a practical, five-seat family SUV and feels roomy inside. Rear passengers will find knee-room that is on par with the best in class at 27.4 cm. There are practical storage compartment located throughout the interior amounting to about 35 litres of interior storage. Renault has also brought back the 60:40 sliding rear bench in the Austral. That means the rear bench can be adjusted to maximise legroom for rear seat passengers or boot space, expanding capacity from 430 litres to 555 litres.

The interior of the new Austral
The interior of the new Austral

Engines

In Ireland, the Renault Austral will be available exclusively as a hybrid. The new range-topping hybrid uses a 1.2-litre, three cylinder petrol engine, 2 kWh 400V battery and 50kW electric motor, and will put out 200hp in the version that reaches Ireland. In some markets, an Austral petrol mild hybrid will also be available.

The new hybrid is a significant evolution of Renault's hybrid technology and promises better performance and refinement than before, while also reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions - 105 g of CO2/km, pending certification.

On the road

The new Renault Austral is the first Renault to use the CMF-CD platform and also debuts Renault’s third generation four-wheel steering that has been steadily improved over the past 15 years - 4Control Advanced. It won't be standard on every model, but the cars we drove at the launch in Spain all featured it. It improves the car's agility and driver engagement, with a turning circle of just 10.1 metres, rivalling a supermini. The Austral chassis comes in two versions: flexible torsion beam for two-wheel steering models and a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle with 4Control Advanced for four-wheel steering models. With the addition of a steering actuator on the multi-arm rear axle, the steering angle of the rear wheels is now 5°. Combined with the Multisense system, there are also now 13 different setting options, up from three previously!

The Austral will be exclusively hybrid
The Austral will be exclusively hybrid

On the road, the Austral feels immediately sophisticated and powerful. The delivery of power is smoother and stronger than in the Arkana 1.6 hybrid for example. The extra power helps, and the new hybrid offers more refinement too. The Austral weighs about 1500 kg, which certainly makes for a nice experience behind the wheel. Granted all versions we tested featured four wheel steering, but the Austral offered a precise and fun driving experience around the mountain roads above Madrid. It grips willingly, while the four wheel steering and assorted driving modes with varying levels of assistance add to a sense of connection between the car and driver that is rare in the segment. It also rides very well on large wheels, but there is wind whistle around the wing mirrors on the motorway at high speeds. And we can't give a verdict on what front wheel drive models will be like without four wheel steering and the more sophisticated rear suspension.

So is it efficient? During my test drive, I saw consumption as low as 5.3 litres per 100 km and as 'high' as 6.1 litres per 100 km. The Austral hybrid does not need to be plugged in and charged to get the best efficiency from the vehicle.

Pricing and Equipment

Pricing and equipment for the Austral in Ireland will be confirmed closer to launch. The new Austral will slot into the range above the Arkana, which is currently on sale from €30,790 for a petrol mild hybrid and from €33,590 for a 1.6 hybrid.

The new Austral is packed with 32 advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), up from 26 in the Megane E-TECH and 16 in the Arkana. They include a latest-generation head-up display, level 2 driving automation with Active Driver Assist, a 3D camera for 360° vision, full park assist and a detection system that prevents the car from pulling out if another vehicle is overtaking.

Boot space in the new Renault Austral
Boot space in the new Renault Austral

Summary

The new Renault Austral arrives in a segment that has been steadily moving towards hybrid and alternatives to traditional diesel engines that used to reign supreme in this segment. It presents challenges to carmakers to create more efficient SUVs with less emissions, while also being practical and good to drive.

Renault chooses a standard hybrid approach for new Austral, which they propose as a more practical motoring solution for their customers - the relative simplicity of it, efficiency without caveats of daily charging, and it's light, bringing a natural edge to on the road performance and driver engagement.

So far the range-topping versions tested with Renault's third generation four wheel steering shine for that powerful hybrid and smooth, agile drive, while also returning the sort of efficiency that rivals some diesels and small petrol hatchbacks. So much so that I suspect you won't actually miss diesel from the range.

This will be a stylish offering inside and out, with a great cabin experience and step forward in connectivity that means it's light years away from the Kadjar it replaces.

Renault makes a welcome return to the mid-size family SUV segment with the Austral!

The new Renault Austral will be one of the most stylish SUVs on Irish roads in 2023
The new Renault Austral will be one of the most stylish SUVs on Irish roads in 2023

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The Peugeot 308 on test for Changing Lanes!

Peugeot 308 Review

Read Caroline's Peugeot 308 review for everything you need to know about the latest version of Peugeot's popular hatchback to reach Ireland.

The new Peugeot 308 launched in Ireland earlier in 2022 and marks a new chapter for the French brand. Peugeot has chosen the new 308 as the first model to wear the brand's new 'lion shield' logo. Combined with a striking new design, digital interior and a range of on-point engine options, the 308 heralds a new generation of Peugeot cars that move the brand on once again in terms of design and quality.

It's been a long journey but Peugeot has been on the rise for some years now. Models like the Peugeot 2008 and the 3008 have become a regular sight on Irish roads, while the brand has also fully embraced the electric revolution with a range of new electric and hybrid models including the Peugeot e-208 and the 3008 Hybrid.

The Peugeot 308 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Peugeot 308 on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the new Peugeot 308?

The latest generation of the 308 makes strides forward in design, technology and powertrain, with the introduction of a new plug-in hybrid for the very first time. We can also expect a full electric 308 before the end of 2023.

The new 308 goes on sale in Ireland priced from €31,765, which is a bit more than rivals like the Ford Focus or Opel Astra. But the 308 is more upmarket than both when it comes to the finish of the car. And all 308s sold in Ireland now come as standard with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Blessed by good looks, the new 308 has an immediately arresting presence. At the front, the grille is large and impressive, wearing the new Peugeot lion shield logo. LED headlamps and dramatic hook-like daytime running lights add impact. It's a little bit lower than the car it replaces, and appears sleeker and sportier. At the rear, there are new light clusters. Look closely and you'll see that they have a new 'claw' effect signature.

Olivine Green is a signature colour for the new 308 and comes as standard at no extra charge. All versions get alloy wheels, with mid-range Allure models sporting some lovely 17-inch diamond cut alloys.

Inside we see the next generation of the sporty Peugeot 'i-Cockpit', with a glossy new touchscreen and digital driver display.

Plug-in hybrids are the most expensive of the range but you can charge the battery and drive the 308 hybrid on electric power only for a range of up to about 60 kilometres.

But what's the 308 like in its simplest form, with a 1.2-litre petrol engine with 130hp? There was only one way to find out.

The new 308 goes on sale in Ireland from €31,765
The new 308 goes on sale in Ireland from €31,765

Driving the 308

The new 308 sits on a new multi-energy platform that means it can be sold with petrol and diesel engines, as a plug-in hybrid, and as an upcoming electric e-308.

So the 308 offers buyers lots of options, if you like the look of the car. The entry into the range is the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine with 130hp. It's an award-winning engine and one we've tested many times in various different vehicles.

But it suits the 308 exceptionally well, feeling more powerful than what you might expect from a small capacity engine. Nippy and responsive, the 308 offers a new found maturity on the road. It's not the sharpest handling of these hatchbacks - an Opel Astra or a Ford Focus feel a bit more athletic on the road.

But the Peugeot majors on comfort and refinement, offering quite a high-end driving experience from behind the wheel, with the ease of an 8-speed automatic.

It's efficient too for a petrol automatic, averaging about 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres during my time with the car. But if you do a lot of high speed motorway driving, you might be interested in the 1.5-litre diesel with 130hp.

The 308 hybrid uses a 1.6-litre petrol electric powertrain and is available with two different power outputs - 180hp or 225hp.

The interior of the new Peugeot 308
The interior of the new Peugeot 308

Inside the Peugeot 308

The new Peugeot 308 is available in Ireland in three trim levels – Active, Allure and GT. It goes on sale priced from €31,765 for a 308 Active 1.2 petrol automatic with 130hp.

The mid-range Allure model is one of the best equipped and goes on sale from €35,705. But all versions get a new 10-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Allure models also get new 'i-Toggle' switches so you can create easy shortcuts to popular menus, like the ventilation controls for example.

Behind the wheel, the new 308 feels very upmarket and driver-focused. A lot of that is down to the new version of the Peugeot 'i-Cockpit'. You look over a new compact steering wheel at the new digital driver display. The graphics have been updated and there are a number of different views available. The driving position is unique but different, so worth getting in behind the wheel to make sure it's comfortable for you.

The design of the dashboard and centre console is stylish and quite avant-garde for the segment. The material quality also makes it feel a cut above some more mainstream rivals. Allure models get lovely ambient lighting and part-leather upholstery to make it feel more high-end.

The 308 will seat five but a longer wheelbase means there is now a bit more legroom than before. It's not the largest C-segment hatchback on the market, but it does offer adequate seating for adults in the rear. The boot opens to reveal 412 litres in petrol and diesel models, which is good for the segment. But in 308 hybrid models that is reduced to 360 litres. There's also the Peugeot 308 SW estate on sale that offers just a bit more practicality and looks great too.

The 308 offers a great choice of engines
The 308 offers a great choice of engines and hybrid for the very first time

Did you like it?

The Peugeot 308 has grown up and matured. It's one of the best-looking cars in the class, and that's probably a big reason why you will be attracted to it in the first place.

On looks alone, it can compete with other high-end hatchbacks like the Mazda 3 and Audi A3.

While it now commands a higher list price than some key rivals like the Astra and Focus, it's in the cabin where your money goes. The 308 offers a much more salubrious cabin experience, with a cosseted, quality feel throughout. The new i-Cockpit and 10-inch touchscreen look more stylish and modern than many rivals too.

The new 308 offers a great complement of practical power options, while being comfortable and refined. But it makes a lot of sense in its simplest form as a lively 1.2 petrol. The 8-speed automatic adds the premium touch.

The Peugeot 308 has come a long way. It's now one of the most stylish and quality hatchbacks you can buy, and a compelling alternative to the usual suspects in the compact class.

The new Peugeot 308 is a stylish companion to modern life
The new Peugeot 308 is a stylish companion to modern life

Model tested: Peugeot 308 1.2 Allure
Price: 
€35,705
Engine: 
1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 130hp
Torque: 230Nm
Top speed: 210km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.7 seconds
Motor Tax: €200 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The new BMW 3 Series will arrive in Ireland before the end of the year

BMW 3 Series Review (2023)

The BMW 3 Series is an icon of the BMW range with over 16 million sold to date in its 45-year history. The G20 3 Series arrived in Ireland in 2019 and now has been updated to keep it competitive in the compact executive class against rivals such as the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4. Subtle updates to styling and the addition of some new colours enhance the handsome 3 Series, but the most welcome changes take place in the cabin.

Caroline travelled to Munich with BMW Ireland to drive the latest 3 Series.

The new BMW 3 Series will arrive in Ireland before the end of the year
The new BMW 3 Series will arrive in Ireland before the end of the year

Styling

BMW has made a few small changes to the styling of the 3 Series - a subtle refining of the car's classic good looks. Sold in Ireland as a Saloon or a Touring (estate), at the front the kidney grille has been redesigned with a slightly different contour and the addition of new vertical double bars. The grille hasn't grown in size like some other BMW models. Available in Sport or M Sport trim levels, there are some different trim elements depending on which version you go for. The standard full-LED headlights now have smoother edges and feature new inverted L shaped daytime running lights. Boomerang-shaped air intakes at each side of the front bumper add more sporty definition, while the large central intake in M Sport models has a new honeycomb pattern. At the back there is a more pronounced rear apron emphasising the 3 Series’ sporty stance.

Sport models get 17-inch alloy wheels, while M Sport get 18-inch. Top of the range BMW Performance models come with 19-inch alloy wheels and 20-inch are now available through BMW M Performance Parts. The M Sport Pro Pack for M Sport models adds a black kidney grille surround, black chrome tailpipes, red brake callipers with M logo, and a black M rear spoiler for the saloon models. New colours include Skyscraper Grey, and M Brooklyn Grey - exclusive to the M Sport - as well as several ‘frozen’ metallic matte finishes.

The interior of the updated 3 Series - just fabulous!
The interior of the updated 3 Series - just fabulous!

Interior

Inside, the 3 Series cabin has been modernised with the addition of the new BMW Curved Display for the very first time. We've seen this in some other new generation BMWs like the iX and i4, and it's welcome addition to the cabin of the 3 Series. It looks sleek and high-tech, and gives a stunning widescreen effect. Using the latest BMW operating system 8, it now also responds better to voice commands. The climate controls are accessed through the screen - the manual knobs and switches are gone. But a shortcut on the screen means they are easy to access quickly. Other new features include a rocker switch for the gear selection and sporty paddles on the steering wheel are now standard across the range.

Elsewhere, the quality of the interior is excellent. It feels like a luxury car inside with lots of soft-touch materials and a variety of finishes including Sensatec synthetic leather seats in a number of colours.

Practicality

Rear seat passengers can enjoy the new standard fit tri-zone climate control, though that large transmission tunnel makes the rear bench more comfortable for two rather than three. In terms of boot volume, there's actually not much between the Saloon and the Touring, though the Touring naturally has easier access for loading and unloading. Opt for the 330e hybrid, and bootspace is reduced from 480 litres in the standard saloon to 375 litres. Petrol and diesel versions of the 3 Series Touring offer 500 litres of space or 410 litres in the 330e.

Some mild styling tweaks for the latest 3 Series
Some mild styling tweaks for the latest 3 Series

Engines

The 3 Series is available with petrol and diesel engines, some with mild hybrid technology, and as a plug-in hybrid. The 318d entry level diesel is no longer on sale, so the long-standing 320d with 190hp from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder will be your best diesel option. All versions of the 3 Series now come with an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The 330e plug-in hybrid accounts for over 50% of 3 Series sales in Ireland and can be driven electric for up to about 60 kilometres.

On the road

The 3 Series is still a classic rear wheel drive car, but xDrive all-wheel drive is available across the range too. The top of the range BMW Performance models, the six-cylinder M340i (374hp) and M340d (340hp) offer stunning performance aided by a bespoke suspension, M Sport differential, sport transmission, rear-wheel drive focused xDrive, bespoke exhaust system, launch control and a sprint function. The M340i offers milder looks and performance than an M3 but what a car. The 3.0-litre, six cylinder engine is legendary, delivering power with urgency to a beautiful accompaniment of pops and bangs from the bespoke exhaust. The steering is ultra-precise, the car bounds around corners like a true athlete - an elite one.

Back in the 320d Touring, and it was a chance to revisit a more standard 3 Series experience. The 320d offers some of the best economy figures of the range, while offering good refinement on the move. BMW didn't have to tweak the handling - the 3 Series still leaves rivals behind with the level of engagement and agility it offers.

No matter which version you go for, the 3 Series offers class-leading handling, feeling sharp and more driver-focused on the road than rivals. M Sport models come with a sports suspension (except the 330e plug-in hybrid) and do ride a bit firmer than more comfort-biased rivals like the new C-Class.

Rear seating in the 3 Series
Rear seating in the 3 Series

Pricing 

The latest BMW 3 Series starts from €52,440 for the 330e hybrid and the 320i petrol. The 320d now starts from €54,130. The range-topping, high-performance M340d xDrive and M340i xDrive are available from €83,870 and €89,120 respectively. There are two trim level, Sport and M Sport.

Summary

The BMW 3 Series is an icon of the BMW range. You don't mess with an icon but the latest round of styling updates give the 3 Series a sportier and more mature look.

Inside, the 3 Series benefits from the new curved display.  It brings the 3 Series in line with other models in the BMW range and adds a contemporary finish to the cabin. But it's still a gorgeous cabin, driver-focused with lots of good quality materials.

On the road, the 3 Series remains one of the most engaging to drive compact premium saloons. The line-up has been streamlined but the well-placed 330e and 320d should remain high on the shortlist.

Not a major update for the 3 Series but enough to keep it a front runner in its class thanks to its classic good looks, sporty drive and cabin experience.

The BMW 3 Series remains a great choice of compact executive saloon
The BMW 3 Series remains a great choice of compact executive saloon

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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


The Volvo C40 on test for Changing Lanes!

Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Review

Read Caroline's Volvo C40 review for everything you need to know about buying Volvo's new electric SUV in Ireland.

Do you remember a time when Volvo was famous for estate cars? These days it's SUVs that have become synonymous with the Volvo brand - and good ones at that. In Ireland the XC60 is the brand's bestselling model, followed by the Volvo XC40 - a former Irish Car of the Year.

While the brand has truly embraced hybrids for some years now, it was the launch of the XC40 Recharge, the brand's first fully electric model, that has really put them on the path to becoming a fully electric car brand by 2030.

But these days, the market demands SUVs of all sizes and shapes. So Volvo has launched another - the new Volvo C40.

The Volvo C40 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Volvo C40 on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Volvo C40?

The C40 has been designed as an SUV coupé. So it has many of the familiar SUV design cues, but the tapering roofline offers a sleeker and more prestigious look.

SUV coupés are a major trend at the moment in the motor industry. The C40 looks high-end and premium, and carries a little more prestige than a traditional SUV with a boxy rear-end. While it shares a lot with the XC40 Recharge, the C40 manages to stand out as more of a style icon and warrants its place in the line-up.

Large wheels are part of the deal too - 19-inch and 20-inch are available. There's also a trendy black contrast roof, black door mirror caps, sporty boot and roof spoiler, and a distinctive LED rear light signature.

The new Volvo C40 is only sold as a battery electric vehicle. You won't find any fuel versions in the line-up. There are single and dual motor versions, badged C40 Recharge and C40 Recharge Twin respectively.

Single-motor versions go on sale from about €53,730 including the SEAI grant for electric vehicles. They use a 69kWh battery that can travel up to 433 kilometres (WLTP) on one battery charge. It’s available in two trim levels, Plus and Ultimate, and comes well-equipped. Dual motor versions get a slightly higher capacity 78kWh battery that can drive for up to 446 kilometres (WLTP) on a single battery charge. They are available from €61,930 with Core, Plus and Ultimate trim levels, and offer the best performance of the range.

Elsewhere, this car is practical, offering seating for five and a classic Volvo cabin - so that means it's a simple design with lots of clever technology and safety features on board.

The interior of the Volvo C40 Recharge
The interior of the Volvo C40 Recharge

Inside the Volvo C40

You sit high in the cabin of the C40, with a good commanding view of the road ahead. It does feel a little bit sportier behind the wheel than the Volvo XC40 Recharge, but the cabin design is much the same. That means the centre of the dashboard is dominated by a 9-inch portrait-style touchscreen. There are very few physical buttons but the Android operating system works excellently and it's simple to navigate. Google Maps is built into it, and it integrates perfectly with a full digital driver display.

The cabin quality is good, it feels high-end but not as luxurious as what you might expect. Volvo has used a lot of recyclable materials in the cabin, which goes some way to explain why that might be. For example, the fabric seats in my test car didn't seem the right fit for a car of this price.

There's lots of equipment including wireless smartphone charging, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, as well as a fixed panoramic glass roof.

The C40 has the same amount of leg and kneeroom as the XC40 Recharge so it offers decent accommodation, though a Volkswagen ID.4 does feel more spacious in the back. There's a little less headroom because of the sloping, coupé-style roofline - but that's about it. Rear doors don't open as wide as in some other family SUVs though.

Convenience features include a powered tailgate, which opens to reveal 413 litres of space, with some underfloor storage too. That's less than a Volkswagen ID.4 but the C40's trump card is a 'frunk' - a space under the bonnet where you can store the charging cables.

The C40 has been designed as a stylish SUV coupé
The C40 has been designed as a stylish SUV coupé

Driving the C40 Recharge Twin

Driving the C40 Recharge Twin is a lot like driving the electric XC40. They share the same batteries and underpinnings. It's solid and predictable on the road. It's a heavy SUV so there's a limit to its dynamism, but the dual motor version tested offers plenty of grip.

Single motor versions are the most efficient of the range and send 231hp to the front wheels. That should be enough performance for most, but the dual motor version does feel fast on the road when you want it. There's a whopping 408hp, more than a Volkswagen ID.5 GTX, and the C40 Recharge Twin will sprint to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds.

The suspension has been firmed up to cope with the extra weight of the battery, but the C40 is still deemed a comfortable drive for the most part.

DC fast charging is possible with the C40 up to 150kW, so you can add 80% charge in just under 40 minutes at a high-power charging station. From a 7kW wallbox at home for example, it will take about 12 hours to charge the battery to 100%.

Every C40 also comes with a Plugsurfing card that allows you to use over 200,000 charge points across Ireland and Europe with just one access card.

Volvo C40 and XC40 charging
Pure electric Volvo C40 and XC40 Recharge

Did you like it?

Despite offering a more prestigious design and image, the Volvo C40 starts from the same price as the XC40 Recharge, Volvo's other electric SUV.

Just like the XC40, the C40 offers a classy cabin experience and a very user-friendly digital interface. It's the little things, like the integrated Google Maps, that make the C40 a smart companion on any journey.

The C40 looks great and is a prestigious electric SUV. It offers accommodation for five and a boot of over 400 litres, though some rivals do feel a bit more spacious in the back.

Dual motor versions offer excellent performance but the C40 is not dynamic enough for this to be a huge thrill beyond some hefty acceleration in a straight line. For that reason the 'entry level' single motor, front wheel drive C40 looks to be a more sensible option - unless four wheel drive is required.

This is a simple Swede to live with and stands out for its stylish good looks and relaxing cabin among other electric SUVs.

The new Volvo C40 Recharge Twin with dual motors priced from €61,930
The new Volvo C40 Recharge Twin priced from €61,930

Model tested: Volvo C40 Recharge Twin
Price: 
€68,950
Battery:
78 kWh
Range: 446 km (WLTP)
Power: 408hp
Torque: 660Nm
Top speed: 180 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.7 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

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