2017 Mazda6 review ireland

Mazda6 Review

2017 Mazda6 review ireland
The 2017 Mazda6

After dropping back the Mazda CX-5, I next picked up a Mazda6 for review. It was interesting to take these two cars back to back because you could consider the Mazda6 saloon now an old-fashioned format. SUVs are very much of the moment, and the CX-5 was certainly very impressive, so how would the Mazda6 follow?

The Mazda6 is one of the best-looking cars in its segment, in particular in the Soul Red signature colour, which shows off the cars flowing lines and elegance to great effect. The Mazda6 has the grandness of a large saloon, and the space to match, with generous accommodation in the front and back. The cabin is robustly made with plenty of soft touch materials that give the Mazda6 an unmistakably premium feel.

For 2017, Mazda has refined the Mazda6 slightly. There is not much to shout about in terms of updates to the design inside and out, but under the skin, Mazda has added something called G-Vectoring Control, more sound insulation and worked on the diesel engine to make it more refined.

In Ireland, the Mazda6 is offered with a 2.0-litre petrol with 145hp and a 2.2-litre diesel (150hp or 175hp). Manual and automatic gearboxes are available.

My test car had the 2.2-litre diesel with 175hp matched to an automatic transmission and it’s close to perfection in terms of power, refinement and the slickness of the automatic gearbox. Though in this combination, the Mazda6 is not cheap – my Platinum trim car has a list price of €38,695 - it’s truly premium levels of refinement in the cabin of the Mazda6.

2017 Mazda6 review ireland
The interior of the 2017 Mazda6

Sitting lower than in an SUV, a saloon like the Mazda6 immediately engages the driver. The Mazda6 is certainly one of the most accomplished large saloons in the handling department. Small movements on the steering wheel control the Mazda6 with ease and the responses are lightning quick. G-Vectoring Control monitors steering and throttle position when you enter a corner under power and for a moment reduces the amount of torque delivered to the front wheels, thereby transferring a fraction more weight onto the front axle which allows the front wheels to turn more precisely. The car grips willingly in corners and body roll is well contained making it a fantastic sporty drive.

On the motorway, the power and flexibility of the 2.2 diesel Mazda6 and the noise isolation in the cabin make it a serene and relaxing experience. The suspension is supple and works well over changeable Irish road conditions.

In terms of pricing, the Mazda 6 range kicks off at €29,295 for a 2.0 petrol and €29,995 for a 2.0 diesel in Executive trim. Standard equipment includes leather steering wheel, cruise control, air con, 7” inch colour screen and front fog lamps.

Executive SE models start from €31,295 and include parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, rear privacy glass, climate control and Smart City Brake Support.

2017 Mazda6 review ireland
The Mazda6 is a super refined and engaging large saloon

Platinum models start from €35,695 and include heated, electrically adjustable, front seats, heated steering wheel, LED headlights and rear lights, Bose stereo, reversing camera and keyless entry.

As a refined long distance cruiser the Mazda6 is faultless, but off the big roads the Mazda6 will engage the driver and flits around corners with style. The improvements in refinement bring the Mazda6 to truly premium levels of ease and comfort, and with the 2.2 diesel under the bonnet, there is power in spades without the diesel clatter. Saloons like the Mazda6 might be an endangered species but the Mazda6 is a joy to drive.

Model tested: Mazda6 2.2 SKYACTIV-D Platinum Auto
Price: €38,695 (Range starts at €29,295)
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
175hp
Torque: 420Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.4 seconds
Top speed: 216km/h
Claimed Economy: 
4.8l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
127g/km
Motor tax:
€270 per year

Caroline Kidd


Alfa Romeo Giulia video review

Alfa Romeo Giulia Video Review

Here's my video review of the much anticipated Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2-litre JTD 180hp!

You can read a full review of this car here.


Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen Arteon First Drive Review

The Volkswagen Arteon has just arrived in Ireland and is a new flagship model for the brand. This five seat ‘fastback’ sits above the Passat in the Volkswagen range. It might look like a logical replacement for the Passat CC, but Volkswagen does not see it as a direct successor, citing it as an entirely new model.

Styling

The styling is indeed a big step up from the Passat and they won’t be confused side by side. The new Arteon has elite styling and is the most avant garde model Volkswagen currently produces. The Arteon has the presence of a large business class ‘gran turismo’ on the road, with graceful coupé like styling. LED headlights and 18” alloys are standard. There are currently six colours available for new Arteon, including the striking Turmeric Yellow, with more to join later.

Interior

Inside, the cabin borrows a little from the Passat, but there is a greater feeling of space and width, and the driving position is more sporty. An 8” touchscreen comes as standard with a glossy black surround, though a larger 9.2” version is also available. An impressive full digital instrument panel (‘Active Info Display’) is standard on all but the base model. Alcantara and leather seats are standard on Elegance and R-Line, with full leather an option.

Volkswagen Arteon
The interior of the new Volkswagen Arteon

Practicality

The passenger space in the Arteon is very impressive and it is bigger internally than a Passat. There are large footwells in the back and the hatchback style boot holds 563 litres.

Engines

In Ireland, the Volkswagen Arteon is offered with a 2.0-litre diesel only with 150hp, 190hp or 240hp. The 2.0-litre TDI 150hp is expected to be the biggest seller and is available with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The other engines are exclusively fitted with DSG. The range topping model is the 2.0-litre TDI 240hp with 4MOTION all wheel drive. The 2.0-litre TDI 150hp falls into tax band A4 with motor tax of €200 per year and the official fuel economy is 4.5l/100km on DSG models.

On the road

I had limited time to test the new Arteon on the road, so I will share my driving impressions after carrying out a longer road test.

Equipment

The new Volkswagen Arteon is available in three trim levels in Ireland: Arteon, Arteon Elegance and Arteon R-Line. Standard equipment includes 8“ touchscreen with navigation and eight speakers, 18“ alloys, ErgoComfort seats, predictive cruise control, park distance control, rain sensing wipers, tri zone climate control and a three year free subscription to Car-Net 'Security & Service', a new concierge system that can call the emergency services should you have an accident and allow you to remotely check data about your car, among other functions. The Elegance model adds leather/Alcantara upholstery, ambient lighting, voice control, Active Info Display and rear view camera. R-Line models add 19“ wheels, sporty ‘R-Line‘ steering wheel and seats, running rear indicators, dynamic headlight range control with dynamic cornering function, and adaptive chassis control on the 240hp model.

Volkswagen Arteon
The Volkswagen Arteon has gone on sale in Ireland priced from €43,295

Pricing

The Arteon range starts at €43,295 for the Arteon 2.0-litre 150hp with a six-speed manual transmission and there is a €2,200 price walk to the DSG version. The 2.0-litre 150hp Elegance model with a manual transmission starts at €45,995. The 2.0-litre 190hp Elegance model comes with the 7-speed DSG transmission only and costs €50,195.  The top-of-the-range R-Line Arteon starts at €47,795 for the 2.0-litre 150hp with the 6-speed manual transmission and rises to €49,995 when a 7-speed DSG transmission is added. The Arteon R-Line with 190hp and the 7-speed DSG costs €51,995 and at the top of the Arteon range, the flagship version is the 240hp 2.0-litre TDI R-Line, which comes with the 7-speed DSG and 4MOTION all-wheel drive as standard, as well as Adaptive Chassis Control. This model costs €55,895.

Rivals

The Volkswagen Arteon is pitched against cars like the Audi A5 Sportback and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.

Verdict

The Volkswagen Arteon has enough prestige and kerb appeal to command its price tag and with generous space and spec, the new Arteon could work out as very good value indeed.

The new Volkswagen Arteon is in dealers now.

Caroline Kidd


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