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