BMW 5 Series Irish Review

2017 BMW 5 Series Review

The BMW 5 Series has been a common feature of Irish roads for many years now and for many it’s the benchmark for a large, premium saloon.

This car’s history stretches back to 1972 and BMW is now back with the seventh generation of the 5 Series. I’ve always had a soft spot for the BMW 5 Series and its M5 derivatives. The gentle evolutionary styling has taken it from the 1970s right up to the present day, but now the 5 Series is more of a technological tour de force than ever.

The front end looks more strong and graceful, and at the back things have improved too. Full LED headlights are standard.

Inside, the cabin of the new BMW 5 Series has been rejuvenated and looks to have caught up with the times with a more modern interface. The quality is excellent…everywhere. The digital instrument cluster has more modern graphics and the iDrive infotainment system has also been revised and feels more intuitive. A high resolution 10.25 inch screen comes as standard. There is still a bewildering list of menus and options to scroll through, but that’s more down to the technological scope of this car.

BMW 5 Series Irish Review
The interior of the 2017 BMW 5 Series

The new 5 Series is 36mm longer than the outgoing model, 6mm wider and 2mm taller. The wheelbase has been extended by 7mm and there is more knee room and legroom. There are large footwells in the back, though the middle passenger will have to splay their legs around a large transmission tunnel – but width ways the car is very accommodating for three. The boot is a competitive 530 litres but naturally the saloon style narrow aperture makes access a bit more restricted.

In Ireland there are three trim levels, with entry models starting at €51,950 for the popular 188hp 520d. SE models start from €55,490 and M Sport from €56,980. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is also available from €60,630. There are also 530i and 540i petrol variants and a 530d diesel with 261hp. A 530e plug-in hybrid is also available from €62,550. All models have an eight speed automatic transmission as standard.

The technology available with the new BMW 5 Series is impressive including gesture control, remote parking and a number of driver assistance technologies that bring the 5 Series closer to fully autonomous driving.  The optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package includes the Lane Keeping Assistant, the Lane Departure Warning system and the Lane Change Warning.

I really enjoyed sampling the Steering and Lane Control Assistant. For short periods of time you can take your hands off the steering wheel and it steers the car to keep it in lane. The idea is to reduce driving stress particularly in traffic.

BMW 5 Series Review Ireland
The 2017 BMW 5 Series

The car I tested was a 520d M Sport and the refinement of the 2.0-litre diesel was very apparent. The engine pulls strongly - with a tap of the accelerator you’re away. BMW has paid particular attention to reducing interior noise levels in the development of the new 5 Series and it really shows. This is a super quiet, comfortable long distance cruiser. Yet on smaller roads, the BMW 5 Series is lithe and agile with beautiful rear wheel drive handling. The steering is meaty with plenty of feedback for a tactile experience behind the wheel.

It’s easy to fall in love with the new BMW 5 Series. This is a quality machine and feels like a modern and cutting-edge business saloon. Competition is fierce in this segment with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90 also highly accomplished cars, but the new BMW 5 Series feels like a true masterpiece.

Caroline Kidd

BMW 5 Series Irish Review
The new BMW 5 Series is a technological tour de force

Model tested: BMW 520d M Sport Saloon
Price: 
€56,980 (€73,223 as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
188hp
Torque: 400Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.5 seconds
Top speed: 235km/h
Economy: 
65.6mpg
CO2 emissions:  
114g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review

Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTD Review

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the car that is meant to reverse Alfa’s fortunes and bring them back to the glory days. With the arrival of the Stelvio SUV in the autumn, Alfa Romeo looks to be finally getting their act together.

To recap, the Alfa Romeo Giulia picks up where the 159 left off as Alfa’s compact executive saloon contender. This is tough territory with the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 being the household names.

Yet the new Alfa Romeo Giulia can argue a good case. The Giulia sits on an all-new rear wheel drive architecture that promises dynamic handling matched with classic Italian good looks. Could this be enough to have them leaving their German saloons in droves for a slice of the panettone?

Up front, there’s no mistaking the deep, plunging Alfa V-shaped grille. The Giulia plays the role of a sporty saloon very well, hugging the ground exceptionally well. The styling is a bit more generic at the back but the Giulia still looks exotic in the company of competitors.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review Ireland
The Alfa Romeo Giulia looks exotic parked beside competitors

Inside, this is the best interior I’ve seen in an Alfa Romeo for years. Alfa seems to have aimed for a more simplistic design, like the one in the new Audi A4. The quality still feels a little behind the best in class in some places. Infotainment is provided via the UConnect™ 6.5-inch display with rotary pad control on the basic model, with an 8.8-inch screen on higher spec models.

There is seating for five though realistically only two will be comfortable in the back because of the large transmission tunnel, but the boot holds a healthy 480 litres.

There is a range of new, all-aluminium engines for the new Giulia. In Ireland, the majority of buyers are going to go for the 2.2-litre diesel with 150 or 180hp, or maybe take a look at the 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 200hp. Petrol models start at €40,395, while diesels start at €39,995. There are also the Veloce and the Quadrifoglio models, but they are more high performance.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review Ireland
The interior of the Alfa Romeo Giulia

Standard equipment is good including 17” alloys, dual-zone climate control, 3.5-inch TFT colour display, rear parking sensors, automatic light/rain sensors, cruise control, leather steering wheel and ignition start button. ‘Super’ models start from €41,995 and add an 8.8-inch infotainment system with navigation, split screen function and DAB radio. There’s also an electro-chromic auto-dimming rear view mirror, a 7-inch TFT display, aluminium door sills as well as leather and cloth seat trims available in three colour options.

Alfa Romeo Ireland is offering the Super Sport and Super Lux trims for the same price: €42,166. The Giulia Super Sport has 18-inch alloy wheels, painted brake calipers, dark tinted privacy glass and Bi-Xenon headlights with LED DRLs. Inside the leather seats are available in three colour options, and there’s a sports leather steering wheel, aluminium pedals, brushed aluminium effect centre console and door moulding inserts, and steering column-mounted gear shift paddles.

The Giulia Super Lux has a rear view camera, adaptive cruise control, power folding exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, Bi-Xenon headlights and 18-inch ‘Luxury’ design alloy wheels.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review Ireland
The Alfa Romeo Giulia has a range of new, all-aluminium engines

My car was the Super Sport with the 2.2-litre diesel with 180hp (€43,966) and it feels more than adequate here with 0-100kmh achieved in just 7.1 seconds. There is some diesel gurgle at idle but it’s very refined at speed. All Giulia’s come with an 8 speed automatic gearbox and it’s a very smooth operator.

The Giulia feels very light and agile on the road and it corners beautifully owing to that new rear wheel drive layout. The steering is also super quick and direct. It’s very quiet in the cabin, as a premium car should be, and the ride quality is excellent too.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia has been one of the most anticipated new cars in years and it is a very seductive car – not just because of the way it looks, but also because it’s really nice to drive as well. The interior lets it down a bit because at this price range it really needs to be of higher quality. But lots of people still love Alfa Romeo cars and on balance the Giulia is still a highly desirable compact executive saloon!

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review Ireland
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a highly desirable compact executive saloon

Model Tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Sport 2.2JTD 180hp
Price:  
€43,966 (Range starts at €39,995)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
 180hp
Torque: 450Nm
0-100km/h:
 7.1 seconds
Top speed: 230kmh
Economy:  
67.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
 109g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd

If you are looking for a compact executive saloon you might also like this review of the Audi A4.


BMW 330e Review Ireland

BMW 330e Review

The BMW 3 Series has been setting benchmarks for years as a fun to drive, rear wheel drive executive saloon, but there comes a time when even the 3 Series has to begin to embrace alternative energy sources.

BMW’s answer is the 330e plug-in hybrid. The 330e combines an electric motor and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy, and can be driven on pure electric power for a range of up to 40kms.

And while BMW went wacky with the i3, the 330e plug-in hybrid goes incognito. There’s a discreet ‘edrive’ badge on the C-pillar and an extra filler cap to allow you to plug the car into a domestic mains supply or a public charging point, but other than that, this is standard 3 Series.

BMW 330e Review Ireland
The interior of the BMW 330e

Inside the cabin of the BMW 330e the only additions are a few extra gauges and buttons for the hybrid system. The 3 Series cabin lacks some of the style and drama of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or the Audi A4, but there’s still little to complain about behind the wheel. Infotainment is provided via a high-resolution colour screen with iDrive Controller. The BMW 3 Series will seat five and offers reasonable passenger space for a car of this size. However boot space is compromised by the battery under the boot floor. It’s down a considerable 110 litres to 370 litres and naturally the saloon shape makes the boot opening quite small and narrow.

BMW has harnessed the electric power to make the 330e a potentially very economical car to run, but also one that is very enjoyable to drive with dizzying power and responsiveness. The 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor team up to produce 252hp and that’s sent to the rear wheels via an 8 speed automatic gearbox. Peak torque is 420Nm and the 330e can move swiftly with 0 to 100kmh achieved in just 6.1 seconds.

BMW 330e Review Ireland
The BMW 330e combines a petrol engine and an electric motor to produce 252hp

Despite the extra weight of the battery on board, the 330e skips around corners like a car half its size and that’s backed up by really responsive and communicative steering. The hybrid system doesn’t just lower emissions; it also really adds to this car’s appeal. When you put your foot down on the accelerator, the power delivery is so strong and even from the electric torque provided by the battery. It’s very satisfying.

The list price for the 330e in Ireland is €41,030 including grant and VRT rebate for hybrids so it does carry a premium over the diesel 3 Series range, which starts at €36,570. There is the potential to make savings in running costs – motor tax is €170 per year and if you do a short commute and can keep the battery topped up you will be dipping into the fuel tank very little. The problem is that the claimed economy of 134.5mpg is widely inflated and most people will not see that in daily use.  It’s important to note that when the power in the battery starts to dwindle, the 330e becomes less efficient.

BMW 330e Review Ireland
The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid can be driven on just electric power for a range of up to 40kms

The BMW 330e’s reason for being might be to provide an alternative more fuel efficient option to the 3 Series range in line with current trends in the industry but the 330e can stand proud because the hybrid system really adds to the performance too. The 330e manages to feel like a genuine sports saloon and the handling balance and electric torque make this a thrilling drive. The 330e won’t suit every buyer as to make this car worth the premium over a diesel and to cut your fuel costs, you really need to be exploiting that pure electric range on a daily basis. But if hybrid is right for you, you will do it in considerable style and prestige in the 330e, while also having a lot of fun.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 330e M Sport Saloon
Price: 
€41,030 (as tested €51,922)
Engine:
2.0-litre turbo petrol (+ electric motor)
Power: 252hp
0-100km/h:  
6.1 seconds
Claimed economy: 
134.5mpg
CO2 emissions:  
49g/km
Motor tax:
€170 per year

BMW 330e Review Ireland
The BMW 330e is a fun to drive, rear wheel drive saloon that can potentially be very cheap to run

BMW 320d Gran Turismo Review Ireland

BMW 320d M Sport Gran Turismo Review

The BMW 3 Series has been setting benchmarks for years as an engaging rear wheel drive, medium-sized saloon but what happens when you take that, stretch it a bit, turn it into a hatchback and give it an, ahem, larger bottom? Well the result is actually a very appealing car indeed. The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo (GT) joins the saloon and Touring (estate) in the 3 Series family and it’s for buyers looking for more comfort and space from their 3 Series.

The 3 Series GT sits taller in the metal than the saloon and estate, and it’s also a bit longer than both. Four doors with frameless windows nod to something more exclusive, while an aerodynamic spoiler that lifts automatically at high speeds makes that large rear look that bit more sporty and dynamic. An electric tailgate comes as standard and opens to reveal a large 520 litre boot, which is actually 25 litres bigger than that in the Touring model.

BMW 320d Gran Turismo Review Ireland
The 3 Series Grand Turismo is the most spacious car in the 3 Series family

BMW has given the 3 Series GT a longer wheelbase so there is more interior space than in the saloon and estate. Rear seating is limo-like with 70mm of additional legroom, while an increased ride height makes entry easier and gives a slightly raised seating position. The cabin quality is excellent with a fine mix of materials. Infotainment is provided via a high-resolution colour screen with iDrive Controller. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, keyless engine ignition, LED headlights for dipped and high beam, and LED front fog lamps.

There are a range of petrol and diesel engines available for the 3 Series GT, as well as manual and automatic gearboxes, and the option of four wheel drive on some models. The entry diesel is the 318d with 143hp, while my test car was the popular 320d with 188hp. Motor tax for the 320d is €200 per year, and the claimed economy is 61.4mpg, though during my test drive I got around 47mpg without trying too hard.

BMW 320d Gran Turismo Review Ireland
The interior of the 3 Series Gran Turismo

The 2.0-litre diesel of the 320d feels at home in the 3 Series GT with responsive power and 400Nm of torque bringing it to 100kmh in 7.7 seconds. It makes for a powerful, refined driving experience and the 3 Series GT is comfortable always. The 3 Series may carry a little extra weight but there is still a beautiful dynamism to this car that belies its bulk. There is some lean in corners at speed but with Sport mode selected things firm up. The steering is the right weight when you want it, and is so, so precise. A 3 Series saloon feels lighter and a bit more athletic, but this 3 Series GT is still a great drive.

The 3 Series GT starts at €46,730 and does carry a premium over the saloon (from €36,570) and the Touring (from €38,940). But the larger dimensions and air of exclusivity about the GT do go some way to justify this and it’s keenly priced against the Audi A5 Sportback, a key rival. Things do begin to get more expensive as you move up the trim levels (SE, Sport, Luxury, M Sport), add the 8-speed automatic gearbox and any other of a number of options. The model on test was a 320d M Sport with 8-speed automatic gearbox and comes in at €53,438 before you hit the options list.

BMW 320d Gran Turismo Review Ireland
The 2.0-litre diesel of the 320d suits the 3 Series GT with responsive power and impressive refinement

Still the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo certainly makes a statement and has its own distinctive character and niche within the 3 Series range. For this car to be worth the premium, you really would need to be making good use of that extra space in the rear and the boot, and bear in mind that a 5 Series is also within reach at this price range. But the 3 Series GT is a unique enough proposition to draw some fans.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 320d M Sport Gran Turismo
Price: €53,438 (as tested €63,016)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 188hp
0-100km/h: 7.7 seconds
Economy: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 120g/km
Motor tax: €200 per year


Kia Optima SW Review Ireland

Kia Optima SW Review

Kia has recently added an estate to the Optima range, and though estates are not big sellers in Ireland, the new Optima estate is arguably better-looking than the saloon. It also boasts more space and a practical interior, so it most definitely is a worthy addition to the range.

The Optima SW (Sportswagon) is a looker and Kia has not strayed too far from the Sportspace concept that preceded this production version. It has tonnes of presence and looks more expensive than its modest €29,950 price tag.

The Kia Optima SW is exceptionally good value because Kia Ireland are making it available in just one high specced trim level (EX) and this is a very large car (no kidding!). The rear footwells are huge and the roofline is high enough to accommodate taller passengers. The boot is huge too of course – 552 litres versus 510 in the saloon, with the bonus of a wide opening and low loading sill. It’s not too difficult to see how the Kia Optima SW would make an excellent family car.

Kia Optima Review Ireland
Interior of the new Kia Optima SW

The interior feels well-built and there are soft touch materials mixed through that add more sophistication to an otherwise quite plain interior. But plain usually means easy to navigate and that applies here too. Infotainment is provided via a 7” touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

Other equipment as standard on the Optima SW includes 18” alloys, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, leather covered steering wheel, dual zone climate control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, parking sensors and reversing camera.

There is just one engine available – Kia’s 1.7 diesel with 141hp. It is perfectly capable in the Optima SW and overtaking manoeuvres can be done quickly and efficiently. Yes, the engine does get a bit coarse at high revs but at a cruise it blends away into the background. This car will cost €190 to tax per year and can return up to a claimed 64mpg.

Kia Optima SW Review Ireland
The Kia Optima SW is available in one trim with a high spec and one engine - a 1.7-litre diesel with 141hp

On the road, this is a large, comfortable car that takes motorway journeys in its stride. But it is not the sharpest car dynamically. The light steering is wonderful in town because it makes it very agile in low speed manoeuvres. It becomes frustrating as you pick up speed on faster roads out of town, where you would long for a bit more weight, and there is also not much in the way of feedback.

It holds the road well enough but naturally that big long body starts to lean if it’s pushed too hard through corners. But so long as you’re not looking for a sporting estate, the Optima gets by just fine at a more relaxed pace.

Kia Optima SW Review Ireland
The Kia Optima SW has loads of space and is well-priced

The Kia Optima SW is a handsome beast that is exceptionally good value for its high spec and large interior and capacious boot. The Optima SW may find its biggest competition coming from its Sportage SUV stablemate because they are similarly priced, but don’t rule out this stylish estate car.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Optima SW 1.7 EX diesel
Price: 
€29,950
Power: 
141hp
0-100km/h:  
10.2 seconds
Economy: 
64mpg
CO2 emissions:  
113g/km
Motor tax:
€190 per year


Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland Review

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review

The Volkswagen Passat is one of Ireland’s favourite big saloons and it has been for many years. Diesel dominates in this segment but it’s not the only option.

Volkswagen has added a plug-in hybrid to the Passat range but it’s not just some lethargic afterthought to play second fiddle to its diesel brethren: the new Volkswagen Passat GTE is more of a flagship model with sporty performance and the promise of low running costs.

Available as a saloon or estate, the Passat’s already handsome presence is enhanced with a number of cosmetic changes to distinguish the GTE from the rest of the range. At the front there are C-shaped LED daytime running lights and a blue bar across the radiator grille that extends into the headlights, while 18” alloy wheels with blue brake callipers complete the look.

The blue theme continues inside with complementary detail on the seats, around the gear lever, and on the steering wheel. The traditional speedometer is joined by a power meter for the hybrid system. The cabin has all the quality and comfort of a standard Passat and equipment includes cruise control, parking sensors, dual zone climate control, ambient lighting and a 6.5” touchscreen with navigation. There is seating for five and generous legroom in the back, but boot space is down to 402 litres to accommodate the battery.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: Plug-in hybrid combines a petrol engine and an electric motor

The Passat GTE follows in the footsteps of the Golf GTE by combining a  1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric motor to improve performance and reduce running costs. The power output of the two sources combined is a healthy 218hp, while the 0-100kmh sprint is done in 7.4 seconds utilising the maximum 400Nm torque available. It is definitely not slow as one might expect of a ‘green car’.

But Volkswagen do tout this car as “the best of both worlds” so what of those green credentials? It can’t all be about performance, though that is impressive. Emissions of 39g of CO2 per km mean motor tax is just €170 per year. The claimed economy is a whopping 138.3 mpg, but that depends very much on how you drive this Passat.

The Passat GTE can potentially be a very cheap car to run because it can operate as a pure electric vehicle for a range of up to 50km, which is ideal for short commutes or when driving at low speeds around town. Otherwise the GTE acts as a hybrid so it draws power from both the petrol engine and the electric motor as appropriate. It’s definitely worth keeping the battery topped up, via the domestic mains supply or a public charging point, because the car becomes less efficient when forced to operate from its petrol engine.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: A 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox comes as standard

This car has a lot of driver appeal. When you request the power, the delivery is strong and super smooth through the 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox and any transitions going on between the different power sources are completely seamless. Volkswagen has added a GTE button, which acts as a sort of sport mode, altering the acceleration and steering for a sportier, more performance-oriented drive that’s enhanced by some piped engine noise into the cabin.  It rumbles like a V8 with a heavy right foot, which is quite surprising when coming from a hybrid!

The Passat GTE is too heavy to be an outright sporting saloon but it’s still pleasingly agile for a large car and Volkswagen has added an XDS electronic differential lock to improve cornering grip. This really works for confident cornering at speed and you can take a tight line with loads of grip.

Yet performance aside, the best thing about the Volkswagen Passat GTE is that it’s naturally a really comfortable and relaxed cruiser. The near silence of the hybrid system in operation just highlights even more how upmarket and refined this current generation of the Passat is.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: Can run on electric power only for a range of up to 50km

The only problem with the Volkswagen Passat GTE is that it is expensive to buy. The saloon starts at €42,430 and the estate at €44,720 including the SEAI grant and VRT rebate. You could pick up a diesel Passat for significantly less than that and depending on your lifestyle, the GTE won’t work out any cheaper to run.

Hybrids are a more mainstream  car choice now and there are other large hybrids available from other brands so the Passat GTE is not alone in this respect. The beauty of the Passat GTE is that it’s a properly premium offering and Volkswagen hasn’t messed too much with the Passat DNA bringing this hybrid version to market.  So it’s not weird looking and for the right buyer, it brings all the comfort, interior space and refinement that makes the Passat so popular. There’s still a novel value to the Passat GTE – innovative technology, the ability to drive as an EV and a sporty side – and that makes the list price not look so bad.

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE 1.4TSI
Price: 
€42,430 including SEAI grant and VRT rebate
Engine: 
1.4-litre turbo petrol & electric motor
Power: 
218hp
0-100km/h:  
7.4 seconds
Economy: 
138.3mpg
CO2 emissions:  
39g/km
Motor tax: 
€170 per year

Caroline Kidd


skoda octavia rs review ireland

Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI 184bhp DSG 4X4 Review

skoda octavia rs review ireland
The Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI

Since the first Octavia RS landed in 2001, Skodas with the RS badge have earned their own loyal following of fans for hot performance at value for money pricing. In the case of the Octavia RS, that also means unrivalled space and practicality. The Skoda Octavia RS proves that practical can be fast and interesting too.

There are also quite a few models to choose from. The Octavia RS is available as a hatchback or estate, there are diesel or petrol variants, manual and automatic DSG gearboxes, and also now the option of four wheel drive on the diesel.

The most powerful of the Octavia RS range is the 2.0-litre TSI petrol with 230hp, but the 2.0-litre TDI diesel’s reason for being is simply that it’s cheaper to run while packing 184hp. It’s still quick, hitting 100kmh from a standstill in 8.1 seconds with a standard manual gearbox, but the four wheel drive DSG model tested here can do the same in 7.6 seconds.

The four wheel drive system and automatic gearbox add weight and impact economy, but motor tax is still significantly less than the TSI, at €270. The official economy is 58mpg (I got 52mpg) so the Octavia RS makes a lot of sense in everyday driving.

skoda octavia rs review ireland
Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI: Will return up to 58mpg

However, this car is not just about economy and the 2.0-litre TDI still serves up the same sort of handling powers as the petrol TSI. The Octavia RS has a sports suspension, and there’s also an electronic differential lock to improve cornering grip. You can really pull the Octavia RS tight into corners with no loss of stability, and the steering is natural and direct meaning that you will be slinging the Octavia RS in and out of them with gusto. The Octavia RS never feels quite as lithesome as smaller hatchbacks like the Golf GTI or Peugeot 308 GTi as there is more roll of its bodyweight in corners. The four wheel drive system is brilliant however - put your foot down hard on the accelerator and this thing just grips and goes forth like a demon! Comfort is also a plus here, there’s a firm edge to the suspension damping but it never slips into uncomfortable territory.

The shadow of the 2.0-litre TSI does hang a bit in the air though. I had the opportunity to drive these two cars back to back and the TSI has the better performance of the two. The two cars ride similarly and there’s very little between them in terms of handling. But there is no mistaking that you’re driving a diesel in the TDI. The TSI is just a more visceral experience because of the fundamental difference in the power delivery and noise of a petrol and diesel engine. There is definitely gains to be had in the TDI 4X4, the first being the almighty shove of torque (380Nm), and also the extra grip and stability from the four wheel drive system.

skoda octavia rs review ireland
Interior of Skoda Octavia RS

Regardless of which model you go for, the RS has beefed up styling that really does sit well on the Octavia including large alloys, rear spoiler, twin exhausts and RS badging on the grille and rear. Inside, there are decorative dash inserts in sport trim, red stitching on the flat bottomed steering wheel and around the gear stick, and some more RS badging. Definitely worth speccing are the optional full leather seats, which really do make the car feel a bit more special. Elsewhere, the cabin has a simple design built around the 5.8” colour touch-screen radio with SmartLink for smartphone connectivity, and you can’t knock the quality of the cabin at this price range.

RS diesels start at just €33,495, which is remarkably good value, not just for all of the above but because the Octavia offers fantastic interior and boot space for the money.  The DSG 4x4 test car comes in at a heftier €38,795, while the 2.0-litre TSI starts at €35,995. Standard spec includes front fog lights, bi-xenon headlights, electric windows and mirrors, dual zone climate control, cruise control, reversing camera and touchscreen infotainment, as well as the RS design features.

Whether you go for a diesel or petrol Octavia RS, you’re getting great value for money; not just because of the power on offer and performance-tuned handling, but because the Octavia RS is a genuinely spacious family car. It’s guilt free pleasure. The TSI has the better performance of the two, but the diesel is the one that won’t break your heart with trips to the pumps, while still offering enough of the speed and handling finesse that makes this car a great daily drive.

skoda octavia rs review ireland
Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI: Fast and spacious!

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI 184bhp DSG 4x4
Price: 
€38,795 (Range starts €33,495)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
184bhp
0-100km/h:
7.6 seconds
Economy:
58mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
129g/km
Motor Tax: 
€270 per year


toyota prius review ireland

Toyota Prius Review

toyota prius review ireland
The new Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made history when it was first launched back in 1997 as the world’s first hybrid car. Toyota’s pioneering technology combined a petrol engine with an electric motor to produce a low emission vehicle that had the potential to return excellent fuel efficiency.

The beauty of the Prius was that competitive pricing meant this was the car for everyone, not just a trophy piece of cutting-edge technology for the rich and famous. Ironically it became something of a statement for those very people, not for its exclusivity, but for what it stood for, the eco-credentials that it turns out, you just can’t put a price on in Hollywood.

The Prius didn’t look sexy but even before we knew what ‘normcore’ was the Prius was just cool because it was so ordinary, green and clean. The Prius was the world’s most famous environmentally friendly car before the tech bods starting building cars.

Toyota has bounced back for the fourth generation of the Prius with something that looks very interesting. The styling of the new Prius is inspired by Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car and it really is a talking point. Yet somehow the styling suits the pioneering character of this car – the technology underneath may be less groundbreaking than it was back in the late 1990s but in the company of this new sharp, avant-garde Prius, you feel a little bit like you’re already two steps ahead of everyone else.

toyota prius review ireland
The Toyota Prius is adventurously styled

The headline economy data is also worth talking about. Each new generation of the Prius has delivered improvements in fuel economy, emissions and efficiency. In the new Prius, fuel efficiency is up to a claimed 94mpg and CO2 is down to 70g/km.

Inside, it’s like sitting into a concept car for the first time, but unlike something you might find on a stand in Geneva, New York or Paris, everything here is completely usable and functional. The interior works together so well once you get over the shock of the centrally dash mounted driver information screen and handbrake that’s released by a pedal in the footwell.

Instead you have a small compact steering wheel and the car on test had a head-up display with important vehicle information like your speed displayed in the driver's direct line of vision. It’s futuristic but beautifully clean and simple, and the material quality nods to the premium, not the cheap and nasty. Just to the left in your field of vision is a digital speedometer, and other information displayed about your fuel consumption, range, and a power meter.

The Prius again takes the shape of a practical five door hatchback. In the back you will fit three adults and a low transmission tunnel means the middle passenger has a nice flat space to put their feet. Boot space is up to a generous 502 litres thanks to a smaller hybrid battery located beneath the rear seats and a new rear suspension set-up.

toyota prius review ireland
Toyota Prius: The interior has a futuristic vibe but is completely usable

The Prius sits on a new generation of Toyota’s hybrid powertrain. The new platform has a lower centre of gravity for better handling and stability. The Prius feels agile on the road. The steering is light when you want it around town but it weights up nicely in the corners so you can place the car accurately on the road, and there is no problem nipping in and out of corners on a tight country road.

The most pleasing thing about the way the Prius drives is just how smooth, silent and effortless it is on the move. Underneath there’s a conventional 1.8-litre petrol engine and together with the electric motor the system produces 122bhp. That sounds like quite a modest amount of power for a large car but 0-100kmh is just 10.6 seconds.  You get a boost of torque from the electric motor so the Prius pulls away swiftly from a standstill, and even once cruising, there is always more power to tap into.

The Prius features a CVT automatic gearbox as standard and it mostly performs well, unless you should hit the accelerator very hard to pick up speed quickly where it does get noisy, sounding like it’s holding onto the gear without changing, but this is quite characteristic of these gearboxes.  The car switches between electric and hybrid power independent of any driver input and the process is completely silent and seamless. As you pull off and around town under 30kmh you’ll notice the car runs on pure electric power favourably, which we know is good for your wallet too.

toyota prius ireland review
Toyota Prius: The new model will return up to 94mpg

And what of that economy? On some trips I saw as high as 74mpg, though my average for the week with the car was 67mpg. Not bad considering this is a large car with an automatic gearbox, and that also included some motorway runs.  With a number of gauges and meters to measure how economical you are driving, the car actually encourages you to drive in a more eco-friendly way.

The new Prius range starts at €31,450 in Ireland, rising to €33,550 for the Luxury trim. Standard equipment includes LED lights, 15” alloys, Bluetooth, 'Toyota Touch 2' multimedia system with touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering control, road sign assist, and rear view camera. Luxury models add 17” alloys, keyless entry and start, wireless mobile phone charger, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, head-up display, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota has made a valiant effort with this new Prius and it really does feel like a step forward in the right direction for hybrid power. This car could prove to be very economical to run while still enjoying the benefits of a large petrol car with an automatic gearbox – the smoothness of the drive and the blissful noise-free cabin. The styling of this new car will be divisive, maybe just too unusual for some, but at least in the cabin, the futuristic design makes absolute sense and the number of high tech features on this car as standard makes the Prius seem like very good value.

toyota prius review ireland
Toyota Prius: It's time to rethink how you like your hatchbacks

Since the Toyota Prius was first launched, hybrid technology has moved from the fringes to being a more mainstream choice. Yet in Ireland, large cars like the Prius are typically diesel powered…I think a drive in the Prius will make you rethink how you like your big cars.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Toyota Prius Luxury
Price: 
€33,550 (Range starts at €31,450)
Engine: 
1.8-litre four cylinder petrol and electric motor
Power: 
122bhp
0-100km/h:
 10.6 seconds
Economy:
94mpg
CO2 Emissions:
70g/km
Motor Tax:
€170 per year


opel insignia ford mondeo comparison test ireland

Opel Insignia vs. Ford Mondeo

opel insignia ford mondeo comparison test ireland
Opel Insignia or Ford Mondeo?

Big cars like the Opel Insignia and Ford Mondeo make great motorway companions for daily commutes, and also work well as family cars – big boots, spacious, comfortable interiors and lots of convenience features and equipment to make a journey on board a pleasant one.

Basics

The Insignia is available to buy in Ireland as a saloon, hatchback or estate (‘Sports Tourer’).  The Mondeo is available as a hatchback or estate. The Opel Insignia currently on sale was launched back in 2009, but was updated in 2013. The Ford Mondeo currently on sale here is a new model that arrived in late 2014. The Ford Mondeo is the current holder of the title of Continental Irish Car Of The Year 2016.

Trims and Pricing

The Opel Insignia comes in five trim levels: S (from €24,995), SC (from €26,895), SE (from €28,850), SRi (from €30,350) and Elite (from €33,550).

The Ford Mondeo is available in Zetec (from €28,845) and Titanium (from €31,445) trim.

Opel Insignia Ireland comparison test
The Opel Insignia

Engines

Two diesel engines are available for the Opel Insignia: a 1.6-litre CDTi (136PS) and a 2.0-litre CDTi (170PS). Diesels start at €27,295. The diesels for the Mondeo are similar in their size: there’s a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel (150PS or 180PS), a 1.6-litre TDCi (115PS) and 1.5-litre TDCi (120PS). The 1.5-litre is a newer engine and the 1.6-litre is being phased out. Diesel models start at €28,845.

Traditionally diesel dominates in this segment but both the Mondeo and the Insignia have a petrol option. For the Insignia, that’s a 1.4-litre turbo unit (140PS) with pricing from €24,995. The Mondeo has a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol unit (160PS) from €32,420.

Options: The Mondeo is available with a six speed manual gearbox or a six speed ‘Powershift’ double clutch automatic gearbox. The Mondeo has always been a front wheel drive car but new for 2016 is the option of all-wheel drive (AWD).  The Insignia is front wheel drive only with no four wheel drive option.

Design

Both cars have an impressive presence. The entry Mondeo has 16” alloys as standard and chrome finished grille, but Titanium models look a bit more premium with a chrome belt line finisher and 17” alloys. The Insignia comes as standard with LED daytime running lights and 17” alloys, but SC and above add a chrome belt line finisher for a more premium look. SE adds 18” alloys. SRi is the one to go for if you love a sporty look because it has a body kit and special 18” alloys.

There are 10 exterior colours to choose from for the Mondeo including the vibrant Ruby Red and Deep Impact Blue, and more subtle hues like Magnetic grey, Moondust Silver and Shadow Black. There are a total of 12 colours available for the Insignia from sporty Power Red and Summit White, to classy shades like Macademia brown, Carbon Flash black and Sovereign Silver.

opel insignia irish review
Opel Insignia Interior

Equipment

Standard spec on the Insignia includes air con, cruise control, leather covered steering wheel, electric parking brake, AM/FM radio, CD player, USB, aux in audio connection, 4.2” colour screen, LED daytime running lights, 17” alloys, electric front windows and mirrors, tyre inflation kit and hill start assist. Standard spec on the Mondeo includes front fog lamps, dual zone climate control, cruise control, leather covered steering wheel, electric parking brake, AM/FM/DAB (digital) radio, CD player, USB, aux in audio connection, 4.2” colour screen, Bluetooth, halogen daytime running lights, 16” alloys, four electric windows and electric mirrors, space saver spare wheel, quickclear heated windscreen and hill start assist.

The SC trim for the Insignia adds climate control and the Intellilink infotainment system that includes an 8” colour touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth connection, digital radio. SE adds Opel OnStar (automatic crash response, Wi-Fi hotspot, destination download to sat nav, smartphone app, stolen vehicle assistance, and remote vehicle diagnostics).

Titanium trim for the Mondeo adds keyless start and entry, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, Ford Sync 3 with voice control and 8” touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, ambient lighting and auto dimming mirror.

Ford Mondeo Ireland comparison test
Ford Mondeo Interior

Interior

The Insignia is the nicer of the two, just feeling that little bit classier and better designed. The Mondeo’s interior is easy enough to navigate around and the Sync infotainment touchscreen looks well in the centre of the dash, though it’s not standard on the Zetec model. Opel’s version is called Intellilink and it’s standard from SC grade. Both cabins are comfortable and come with good levels of standard equipment for convenience, with the option of adding even more comfort features such as heated seats, driving aids and parking aids.

Space and Practicality

Both cars have seating for five and feel large and spacious inside, with good legroom in the rear. The Insignia’s stylish sloping rear roofline impedes a bit on rear headroom but that’s only an issue for tall passengers. The Insignia in hatchback form has 530 litres of boot space, the saloon has 500 litres and the estate ‘Sports Tourer’ has 540 litres. The Mondeo hatchback has 541 litres of boot space, while the estate had just 500 litres.

Running Costs

For the Insignia, CO2 emissions vary across the range from just 99g to 147g. The 1.6-litre diesel (136PS) is the most efficient in the range returning up to 74.3mpg. CO2 emissions across the Mondeo range vary from 104g to 137g. The 1.5-litre diesel (120PS) is the most efficient, returning up to 71mpg.

Ford Mondeo ireland comparison test
The Ford Mondeo

On The Road

These cars are both ideal for long journeys with comfortable, compliant suspensions that smooth out the road ahead. The Mondeo is a sharper and more exciting car to drive when you get off the motorway. It feels more agile than the Insignia and the steering gives the driver more feedback for a fun and sporty drive. Sound insulation is very good in both, and only on larger wheels does the Insignia feel like the less refined of the two due to more road noise.

Read the individual reviews to find out more about how these cars perform on the road:

Opel Insignia 2.0-litre CDTi 170PS (hatchback)

Ford Mondeo 1.6-litre TDCi 115PS (hatchback)

Ford Mondeo 2.0-litre TDCi 150PS (estate)

Caroline Kidd


Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review

Peugeot 508 RXH 2.0-litre 180bhp Diesel Review

Peugeot Ireland has recently added something very special to the 508 line-up: the 508 RXH is part of Peugeot’s strategy to move the brand upmarket and sports a trendy, off-road look (think Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, Audi A4 Allroad and Volvo V60 Cross Country).

The 508 RXH was first launched some years ago as a diesel hybrid with four wheel drive, but this car never made it to Ireland. The car you see in the photos is far more conventional however: Peugeot has gone back to basics and stuck a straightforward 2.0-litre diesel into the body of the 508 RXH and kept to a simple front wheel drive layout. Could there be anything more perfect for the Irish market?

Moving upmarket also means moving the pricing a little out of the mainstream. The 508 RXH has a list price of €41,595, but there is quite a lot going on with this car to justify that price.

In styling alone, the visual upgrades give the 508 RXH considerable more presence and kerb appeal when placed side by side to the standard 508 SW estate it’s derived from. The RXH has a raised ride height, which makes the car physically imposing, while plastic cladding around the wheel arches and sills and aluminium front and rear bumper scuff plates complete the off-road makeover. Characteristic 18” alloys and ‘claw-effect’ LED daytime running lights also announce the arrival of something a bit more special.

Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review
Peugeot 508 RXH: A distinct, premium presence that should hit the spot for style-conscious buyers

The build of the car also appears very good: the doors close with a resounding clunk and the cabin is put together well. The dash has an attractive design with lots of gloss black around the centre console and the plastics on view are of good quality. The spec is extremely good including heated and electrically adjustable front seats, keyless entry and start, electric parking brake and hill start assist, full leather trim, heads-up display, panoramic glass roof, climate control, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, rear view camera and parking sensors, four electric windows, blind spot monitoring…you will want for nothing. Three will fit comfortably in the back and the boot is 550 litres with a low sill, an easy clean plastic floor cover and various hooks and nets to control your cargo.

Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review
Peugeot 508 RXH: The interior is good quality and equipment levels are extremely high

The 508 RXH comes as standard with a top of the range 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel that produces a healthy 180bhp and there is just one gearbox option, a six speed automatic.  The engine produces 400Nm of torque and there is plenty of power and pull so this car feels anything but underpowered. The automatic has a sport and winter mode, and paddles if you want to take over but I just let it do its thing for most of my time with the car. It makes smooth progress unless you ask it to dump all of its power on the road at the one time and then it hesitates a bit before the gear is engaged.

This car makes a great motorway companion and smoothes out the worst of the bumps and rough bits once you get out onto something more rural. The steering has a nice bit of heft to it and gives decent enough feedback so you can place the car quite easily on the smallest of roads. It’s not the most dynamically exciting car as it protests with lean of the car’s body weight when you push it hard into a corner but nobody is selling this car under the pretence it’s a sports estate, and the 508 RXH has enough grip for it to always feel safe and secure on the road. Minimal road, engine and wind noise make this an easy car to get along with on a daily basis.

There is no four wheel drive option but the advantage of the conventional layout is running costs are kept in the region of any other large diesel, front wheel drive car – motor tax is just €200 for the year and the car will return up to 61mpg.

Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review
Peugeot 508 RXH: 2.0-litre 180bhp diesel with a six speed automatic gearbox comes as standard

The Peugeot 508 RXH blends the practicality of a large estate car with some serious kerb appeal:  the RXH makeover lifts the 508 into much more premium company. Of course, there is a price tag to match that but thankfully the build and finish of the car, sheer mountain of equipment, and affable driving character help justify that.

Model tested: Peugeot 508 RXH 2.0-litre HDI FWD
Price: 
€41,595 (Base 508 SW from €29,790)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
180bhp
0-100km/h: 
8.9 seconds
Economy: 
61.4mpg (4.6/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
119g/km
Tax band: 
A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd

Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review