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
€33,550 (Range starts at €31,450)
1.8-litre four cylinder petrol and electric motor
 10.6 seconds
CO2 Emissions:
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.


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


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.


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


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


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
€41,595 (Base 508 SW from €29,790)
2.0-litre turbo diesel
8.9 seconds
61.4mpg (4.6/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
Tax band: 
A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd

Peugeot 508 RXH Ireland Review

opel insignia irish review

Opel Insignia 2.0-litre 170bhp Review

The Insignia, Opel’s flagship model, was launched back in 2009 and revamped in 2013, so as we come into 2016 it should be starting to look a little long in the tooth.

Yet at least on the surface of things it remains one of the best looking big cars out there and it’s a big seller for Opel. You may have noticed that there are a LOT of Insignias on Irish roads.

Diesel power is big at this end of the market and in 2015, Opel launched a brand new 2.0-litre CDTi ‘whisper diesel’ that meets the stringent Euro 6 emission standards. Power is upped from 163bhp to 170bhp, there’s more torque and improvements have been made in terms of efficiency and refinement.

This was my second time to experience Insignia, the first being in 2014 with the old 2.0-litre diesel and a white blinged up SRi model. This time my test car was a more demure black in classy Elite trim, with the 2.0-litre 170bhp diesel matched to an automatic transmission. What a great way to ease myself into the new year.

opel insignia irish review
The Opel Insignia has a strong, premium presence on the road

So what about that engine? Fire up the 2.0-litre, and there is little intrusion into the cabin from the new power plant. On the road, the engine does its job quietly and confidently, but you just have to tap the accelerator for an added boost of power that comes quickly and smoothly. The car will hit 100km/h from a standstill in 9.4 seconds and in official tests returned 63mpg. Emissions of 118g/km put it in tax band A with annual motor tax of €200. Go for the automatic and the emissions rise to 147g/km so you’re looking at a heftier €390 for motor tax. Other engine options for the Insignia include a 1.6-litre CDTi (136bhp) and a 1.4-litre turbo petrol with 140bhp.

The Insignia grips the road well through the corners and there’s a hefty feeling to the steering that gives a reassuring and sporty feel going around bends.  While the car grips, there is a fair bit of movement of the car’s weight over the suspension and SRi models fitted with sports suspension are tighter in this regard in my opinion. Comfort levels are high and the Insignia feels stable on the road but I would say avoid going for huge wheels. The 20” wheels added as an option on my test car are too much of an indulgence and the road noise they add is not worth it.

The interior layout still looks modern and current as the car ages and the quality is generally very good. The cabin is solid and comfortable, spacious enough for five and their luggage (boot is 530 litres) and there is so much equipment that can be added to your Insignia. There are no less than 5 equipment levels with S and SC being the more basic ones, SE and Elite the more premium ones and SRi the sporty one.

opel insignia irish review
Opel Insignia interior

SC and above have the IntelliLink infotainment system with 8” touchscreen and Apple CarPlay through smartphone connectivity. This system also comes with a sat nav. New for 2016 is Opel OnStar on SRi, SE and Elite, which is a useful personal assistant that you can call anytime from the car, for example if you have a fault and need to run a diagnostic check, find a place of interest nearby or in the event of a serious collision this service will call the emergency services.

All cars have alloys, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, air con,  electric parking brake, hill start assist, and electric front windows and mirrors. SC adds IntelliLink, multi function steering wheel, climate control and Bluetooth and digital radio. SRi adds a sporty OPC-inspired styling pack, OnStar, lowered sports suspension, bigger alloys, electric rear windows, front fog lights and rear privacy glass. SE adds auto lights and wipers and self-dimming rear view mirror, while Elite models have leather upholstery and heated front seats, bi-xenon headlights, 8 way electrically adjustable driver’s seat with memory function, front and rear parking sensors and electric folding mirrors.

The Insignia is arguably one of the cooler choices in this class with a strong premium presence on the road that’s more sleek and coupé like than many of its frumpier rivals. It’s not the most dynamically exciting car in the class but it’s not sloppy either, and is more than up for the job of long motorway cruises keeping everyone on board happy and comfortable. The new 2.0-litre diesel really majors on power, economy and refinement and despite the years advancing, the Opel Insignia still makes a great choice of big car.

opel insignia irish review
The new 2.0-litre diesel majors on power and refinement

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Opel Insignia 2.0-litre CDTi 170bhp Elite Automatic (Hatchback)
€38,450 (Range starts at €24,995)
2.0-litre diesel
9.4 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 
Motor Tax: 
€390 per year

Audi A4 Irish Car Review

Audi A4 2.0-litre TDI 150bhp Review

Watch my video review or scroll down to read a review.

If there has ever been a reason to dress a little smarter and to make a bit more effort with my appearance when leaving the house, it’s when there’s an executive car sitting on my driveway to test.

So naturally I put my best foot forward for the Audi A4. This is such a classy and sophisticated car, and while the default opinion seems to be to criticise Audi every time they release a new car that looks pretty much the same as its predecessor, it’s impossible not to look approvingly at the new A4. The surfaces are so perfectly formed, every crease and line is cut like an expensive tailored suit. It’s strong, Germanic and unmistakably Audi. That’s what the people want.

Audi A4 Irish Car Review
The new Audi A4

Things only get better when you sit inside. The A4 has a brand new interior that’s very fitting of an executive car. It is beautifully light and simple, but so intelligent and artistic in its design. There are a mixture of surfaces and materials, and all are really quality and feel great to touch. Infotainment is provided via the MMI system that can be operated using steering wheel mounted controls, a rotary dial on the centre console, conveniently placed shortcut buttons or by voice. You can upgrade to the Audi Smartphone Interface (€426) for access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to allow smartphone contents such as navigation, telephone, music and selected third-party apps to be accessed and viewed through the car’s infotainment system.

The new A4 is built on a new platform with lightweight construction, and weight saving and efficiency were engineering priorities during development, but a longer wheelbase also makes the A4 a bit more spacious inside. The boot is a competitive 480 litres but because it’s a saloon, access to the deep recesses is a bit restricted! The Avant estate has a more cargo friendly aperture and 505 litres of space.

Audi A4 Irish Car Review
Audi A4: My test car had optional LED headlights

A 1.4-litre turbo petrol with 150bhp is the entry point into the A4 range and there’s also a 2.0-litre petrol with 190bhp. The 2.0-litre diesel comes in two power outputs (150 or 190bhp) and there are two range topping 3.0-litre V6 diesels (218 and 272bhp) for purists. There are manual and automatic transmissions, and of course the option of quattro all-wheel-drive. The A4 has the best drag coefficient in its class at 0.23 and small design tweaks like moving the position of the side mirrors mean that the A4 can slice through the air for maximum efficiency.

My test car had the entry level diesel (2.0-litre with 150bhp) and it’s got enough power to keep your average driver happy. Emissions vary depend on wheel size across the different trim levels, but my S Line model on optional 19” alloys still falls into tax band A with motor tax of €200, and in official tests returns up to 70mpg.

But what’s it like to drive? Audi has shaved up to 120kg off the A4’s weight and on the road for a big car it feels remarkably light. In terms of steering and handling it’s precise and predictable; you turn into a corner and it grips. But there’s still a bit of magic missing to fully engage the driver. The thing is you don’t need to be pushing this car all the time to enjoy it and a relaxed but confident pace leaves little to complain about.

Audi A4 Irish Car Review
Audi A4: An exquisite interior!

Ride comfort has been much improved and the softness matches this car’s luxury feel. It’s also exceptionally quiet in the cabin and you can spec something called “acoustic glazing” for the windscreen (€214) if you want to really cocoon yourself from the outside world. My test car was fitted with it and travelling in the cabin was like being in your own studio.

There are three trim levels for the new A4: Attraction, SE and S Line. Standard spec on entry level Attraction models includes alloy wheels, keyless start, rear parking sensors, climate control and electric lumbar support but step up to SE for cruise control, twin leather upholstery and navigation. Top spec S-Line models have a lowered sports suspension and special S-Line styling. Pricing starts at €35,800 for the entry level 1.4-litre petrol in Attraction trim. SE models start at €37,750, while S Line models start at €41,250.

Head to the options list and you could transform your A4 into a technological tour de force very quickly but it all comes at a cost. Much has been made of Audi’s virtual cockpit, a 12.3 inch LCD screen that replaces traditional instrument dials in the driver’s line of sight. It’s exciting to look at but must be added as a cost option for €2500 as part of the Technology Pack.

Audi A4 Irish Car Review
Audi A4: Refined and comfortable

Other technological highlights include optional Audi Matrix LED headlights, the Bang & Olufsen Sound System with 3D sound, the Audi phone box with wireless charging, the head-up display, and new driver assistance systems and Audi connect services. The Business Package adds driving aids like lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition for €2,100.

But options or no options, the Audi A4 will leave an impression. It might not look all that different from the outside, but Audi has made their A4 even more desirable than before with an artistic cabin that’s a reason to elevate this car above its rivals. The A4 is a dream to drive, with the quality, comfort and refinement that marks a true premium driving experience. The A4 is back and it’s ready for business.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Audi A4 saloon 2.0TDI 150 S Line
€44,200 (Range starts at €35,800)
2.0-litre diesel
8.9 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack irish car review

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Review

Watch my video review or scroll down to read a review:

Four wheel drive estate cars are niche products, the preference of upmarket folk who live in the country or in a salubrious suburb of our capital city. With the SUV boom and the clamour for tank-like proportions on the road, the estate car has found itself pushed out so far that you’re almost a quirky type if you choose to go the long and lean route. Drive an estate car? You’re the new alternative.

However Volkswagen really does have this small market nailed with the new Passat Alltrack, which has arrived here for the first time in the model’s history. It’s a four wheel drive version of a standard Passat estate, and will take you from the road to the rough in a lot of style and comfort.

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack irish car review
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is now on sale in Ireland for the first time

Go for Habanero Orange, a vibrant orange exclusive to the Alltrack, and there’s no mistaking the fact that the Alltrack is a bit special. Grey plastic cladding along the car’s lower extremities, a raised ride height, silver roof rails and the twinkle of some chrome, give the Alltrack an imposing presence.

Inside it’s the big, comfy, robust car you want it to be, with a sleek interior design and premium finish. The boot will carry 639 litres with the rear seats up, expanding to 1769 litres with the rear seats folded down. In terms of equipment it’s got all the essentials as standard including adaptive cruise control, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, a touchscreen infotainment system including navigation, heated front seats, air conditioning, alloy wheels and front fog lights.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre diesel with two different power outputs depending on which gearbox you go for. It’s 150bhp with the manual, but I tested the higher powered version  with the DSG automatic transmission and 190bhp.

I did three motorway trips in three days in the Passat Alltrack and each time I stepped out of the car I felt like getting back into it and heading out on the road again. There was just not enough time to do all the driving I could have done in this. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful and smooth car to drive, and with four wheel drive, it puts its power to the road with little fuss, even in the most dismal of weather. The extra height and weight is apparent – there’s lean in fast corners - and you don’t exactly feel light on the road, but it’s a small compromise for all this comfort.

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack: A big, comfortable cabin with a classy interior design and finish

And what should happen if you do venture off road? A drive selector allows you to toggle between normal, sport, eco and off-road modes, the latter includes a hill ascent and hill descent control to help you look awesome at off-roading. The Passat Alltrack has a towing load of up to 2.2 tonnes but you could make life easier by heading to the options list and selecting the foldable trailer hitch that can be operated easily from a switch in the boot. There's also an optional trailer assist feature to help park a trailer.

A car like this does not come cheap. The Alltrack range starts at €40,940, while the higher powered DSG starts at €46,755. Running costs are going to be a bit higher when compared to a conventional Passat, with official figures suggesting a return of up to 55mpg for the DSG, and motor tax of €280 per year.

As a four wheel drive estate car, the Passat Alltrack is a niche product, and if you’re just looking for a big estate car, a standard Passat estate will probably do the trick and save you some money too.

But if you do have that need for four wheel drive, whether for poor road conditions or driving on muddy tracks or through wet fields with maybe a caravan in tow, the Passat Alltrack really is the full package of comfort, space, power, refinement, utility and style.

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack: Four wheel drive as standard with a number of driving aids to help you out off road

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Business Edition
€48,355 (Alltrack range starts at €40,940)
Engine & Transmission: 
2.0-litre TDI 4MOTION DSG
7.7 seconds
CO2 emissions:  
Tax band: 
B2 (€280 per year)

Ford Mondeo Review Irish Car of The Year 2016

Ford Mondeo Irish Car Of The Year 2016 Review

Ford Mondeo Review Irish Car of The Year 2016
Ford Mondeo: Irish Car of The Year 2016

The Ford Mondeo has been awarded the prestigious title of Continental Irish Car Of The Year 2016 by the Irish Motoring Writers' Association (IMWA).

I drove the Ford Mondeo Estate and Hatchback earlier this year, but it’s the Hatchback that’s the subject of my review here.Read more

Skoda Superb

Skoda Superb 2.0-litre 150bhp Diesel Review

Skoda Superb
The new Skoda Superb

The Superb is the flagship model of the Skoda range, and is back for a third generation on a new platform and with a striking new design.  The brand has had high aspirations for its cars for many years now, and the new Superb really looks like the car that can deliver on these aspirations. Read more

Ford Mondeo Estate car review

Ford Mondeo Estate Automatic 2.0L TDCi Diesel Review

The Ford Mondeo is back with a new look, new interior, more technology, and being all new from the ground up, it should be even better to drive than before.

Here I test drive the new Mondeo in estate format (or Wagon as Ford refer to it as). The estate is a great option if you need a more practical boot than what the Mondeo hatchback offers, or if you like the looks and image that goes with an estate car.

Scroll down for the review or watch a video of the new Ford Mondeo estate:Read more

Opel Insignia SRi Limited Edition

Blingin' Opel Insignia SRi Limited Edition

Opel Insignia - boring repmobile? Well not the Opel Insignia SRi Limited Edition. It takes styling cues from Opel OPC branded performance models, adds a sports suspension AND there's even a button on the dash to make the car even more sporty. Wow!Read more