The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Review

The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

Caroline drives the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.

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

Four wheel drive estate cars are niche products. They are 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. It will take you from the road to the rough in a lot of style and comfort.

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.

The interior of the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
The interior of the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

How big is the Passat Estate inside?

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, and expands to 1769 litres with the rear seats folded down. In terms of equipment it’s got all the essentials as standard. There's 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. 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. 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.

What can a Volkswagen Passat Estate tow?

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.

Towing power and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
Towing power and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

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. Official figures suggest 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. 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.

Caroline Kidd

The Alltrack is the ultimate Passat Estate!
The Alltrack is the ultimate Passat Estate!

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Business Edition
Price: 
€48,355 (Alltrack range starts at €40,940)
Engine & Transmission: 
2.0-litre TDI 4MOTION DSG
Power: 
190bhp
0-100km/h:  
7.7 seconds
Economy: 
55.4mpg
CO2 emissions:  
135g/km
Tax band: 
B2 (€280 per year)


The 2015 Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo Irish Car Of The Year 2016 Review

The 2015 Ford Mondeo
The 2015 Ford Mondeo

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. I also made a video earlier in the year, and now seems like the perfect time to publish it on the back of the Irish Car Of The Year Awards.

But before you watch the video, first let’s talk about our winning car.

The Ford Mondeo has been around for years, has won three Irish Car Of The Year awards and holds a place in popular culture thanks to ‘Mondeo man’.

Yet in recent years, like most of its compatriots, the Ford Mondeo has been under pressure from trendy newcomers that go under the title of ‘crossover’ or ‘SUV’ and even ‘MPV’ (the shame).

But sometimes it’s old timers like the Mondeo who have it right all along, and the new Mondeo that arrived here in late 2014 is arguably more desirable now than it’s ever been in its long illustrious past.

What's new for the 2015 Ford Mondeo?

Though the new Mondeo is all-new from the ground up, the profile has changed very little. But it’s the changes at the front that lift the Mondeo into a new dimension. I may have been a little critical of Ford’s new wide old gaping grille at first but having driven most of the current facelifted range – Fiesta, Focus and now Mondeo – and gauged the reaction, both my own and that of the public, I can tell you that it’s the best design move Ford has done in years. The Mondeo goes from a nobody into a somebody in one fell swoop. Bravo Ford!

The interior is new too and while it’s an improvement on the old car – more stylish, improved quality, updated infotainment - it’s probably the Mondeo’s weakest link too. It just doesn’t feel as premium or stylish inside as the Volkswagen Passat.

Ford Mondeo Interior
The interior of the 2015 Ford Mondeo

There are three trim levels for the Mondeo on the Irish market: Style, Zetec and Titanium. While Style models keep the cost down (range starts at €27,645), they do without alloy wheels and cruise control. Ford’s new Sync 2 infotainment system with touchscreen and voice control is standard on top spec Titanium models, along with keyless entry and start, lane departure warning system, high beam assist, traffic sign recognition, parking sensors, ambient lighting and 17” alloy wheels.

For an extra €200 you can opt for inflatable rear seatbelts that reduce the risk of severe head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers in a collision. The cabin and boot space are not class-leading, but still very comfortable and accommodating.

What are my options?

There’s a range of engines available for the new Mondeo, and the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox. An entry level 1.6-litre TDCi (115bhp) diesel provides a lower price point into the Mondeo range. Yet it doesn’t feel underpowered and will return 67mpg - marginally better economy than a more powerful 2.0-litre (150bhp) diesel. Rounding up the range is a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost (160bhp) petrol. But diesel tends to be the big seller in this segment.

The Ford Mondeo is a popular used car buy
The Ford Mondeo is a popular used car buy

On the road in the Mondeo 1.6-litre diesel you won’t feel the same big punch of torque when you accelerate as you do in the larger diesel. But there is still enough power for comfortable overtaking. The refinement is really impressive, and the Mondeo wafts along with minimal intrusion from wind, road and engine noise. Combined with superb grip, body control and steering, the Mondeo offers a premium and exciting driving experience. It's remarkably agile and feels like a car half its size going around a corner. The quick, precise steering and elastic body control makes the Mondeo a fun drive down a country road.  Where others would crumble, the Mondeo just gives you that extra bit of confidence behind the wheel to squeeze a bit more performance from the car. You'll feel like a better driver than what you actually are. What’s not to love?

The heyday for big cars like the Mondeo, Passat et al. may be over with the fashion for SUVs and crossovers, but make no mistake, the Mondeo is a fine example of the genre.

Model Tested: Ford Mondeo 1.6 TDCi Titanium Hatchback
Price: 
€31,645 (Range starts at €27,645)
Engine: 
1.6-litre four cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 
115bhp
0-100km/h:
12.1 seconds
Economy: 
67.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
109g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd


The very popular Skoda Superb - Ireland loves it!

2015 Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI Diesel Review

The Superb is the flagship model of the Skoda range. It's 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. The new Superb really looks like the car that can deliver on these aspirations.

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review:

With styling inspired by the Skoda VisionC concept car, the new Superb is more dynamic looking than before. It is a genuinely handsome car. It’s a bit taller, wider and longer when compared to the car it replaces, but it carries its size with grace.

The high-end feel is not limited to just the way the new Superb looks from the outside. The cabin has a high-quality finish and a simple, attractive design. At night, a little strip of ambient lighting around the doors and dash adds wow factor (blue, white or green, depending on your preference!).

Inside the 2015 Skoda Superb

There are neat touches everywhere like the umbrella in the driver and passenger door on some models, a cupholder that grips a bottle so you can open it with one hand, an ice scraper inside the fuel cap, and Velcro shopping dividers and a removable torch in the boot. The Superb is a good example of the Skoda ‘Simply Clever’ tagline!

The new car keeps the spectacular class-leading legroom and boot space that the Superb has become known for.  You really have to see it to believe it. The boot is now 30 litres bigger compared to the old car and packs in a huge 625 litres with the rear seats up.

And there’s only one word to describe rear legroom and that’s “stately”!

There’s an extensive engine range including 1.4-litre (125bhp) and 2.0-litre (280bhp) turbo petrols and 1.6-litre (120bhp) and 2.0-litre (150bhp or 190bhp) turbo diesels. Manual or automatic gearboxes are available and there’s also the option of four wheel drive.

My test car was powered by the 2.0-litre diesel with 150bhp. It’s got plenty of pull in it for a big car like this, breaking the 10 second barrier in a sprint from 0 to 100kmh. It will do it in 8.8 seconds with a manual gearbox. It’s a bit grumbly under hard acceleration, but settles down well for cruising.

Driving the Skoda Superb

On the road there is a bit more road noise getting through to the cabin than what I would expect from a large car like this. But it is very comfortable and assured for long trips on the motorway. The handling and steering response do not feel particularly sporty. But the Superb does feel very predictable and safe in the corners.

The 2.0-litre diesel (150bhp) will return up to 69mpg with a manual gearbox and costs €190 to tax per year.

There are four trim levels: Active, Ambition, Style and L&K. Equipment levels are high. Entry level cars get electric windows and mirrors, emergency city brake, cruise control, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen. Though you will need to go up to Ambition for alloy wheels. The Style model I had on test has a whole lot of kit typically associated with a more luxurious car. It included a full leather interior, electrically adjustable, heated front seats, parking sensors, rear view camera, tri zone climate control and an 8” touchscreen including navigation. All cars have Bluetooth phone connectivity and touchscreen infotainment systems. These get bigger and more advanced as you up the trim levels. From Ambition trim up, the Superb comes equipped with "Smartlink". It allows for mirroring of your phone screen and access to selected apps on the infotainment system.

The 2015 Skoda Superb is also a popular used car buy
The 2015 Skoda Superb is also a popular used car buy

Is the Skoda Superb any good?

Skoda has really upped the ante with the new Superb. 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. For a start it looks the part of a more expensive, premium car - the clean lines, sleek profile and the commanding gaze from that new front end.

But most of us spend more time inside our cars than admiring them from afar and luckily the Superb will do a good job of making you feel special and comfortable behind the wheel. The interior is well-made, there’s not a whiff of budget, and it’s classy in its simplicity of design. Comfort levels are high and even base level cars are well-equipped – but start to go up the trim levels and the equipment is really piled on.

On the road, the Superb’s mature road manners will reassure that the car’s affordability is not sacrificed to poor driving dynamics, and the only inkling that the Superb might not be as premium as it aspires to is a bit more road noise coming into the cabin for it to convince as a truly premium driving experience.

Would you buy it?

But the big selling point for the Superb is that it’s such good value. For an entry price of less than €30,000, you get so much car - so much rear leg room, so much boot space, and plenty of equipment. The fact that this car has a high-end cabin and is sleeker and more striking to look at than before...well that’s just the icing on the cake!

Model Tested: Skoda Superb 2.0-litre TDI (150bhp) Style
Price: 
€35,895 (Range starts at €27,895)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:
8.8 seconds
Economy: 
68.9mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
108g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd


The Ford Mondeo Estate from 2015

Ford Mondeo Estate (2015) 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:

The first thing that gets you with the new Mondeo is the new trapezoid grille – it’s mightily impressive and gives the car a real premium presence. The silhouette is beautifully sleek, while new tail lights at the rear finish things off nicely. The silver roof rails add to the trendy lifestyle image.

Inside the 2015 Ford Mondeo Estate

Inside, the interior of the new Mondeo has gone upmarket with a new centre console design and a visible improvement in the quality of the materials used. It's usurped by arch rival, the Volkswagen Passat, in terms of quality and aesthetics; still it’s very comfortable behind the wheel and everything is at hand. A new Sync 2 infotainment system ramps things up a notch for the Mondeo, as does the digital element to the instrument dials, and other great tech on board my Titanium trimmed car, like a lane departure warning system and traffic sign recognition.

The Mondeo estate is very spacious inside and rear seat passengers can really stretch their legs out. There is more rear headroom in the estate compared to the hatchback. But this is an estate car so it’s all about the boot space. The boot is actually slightly larger in the hatchback at 541 litres vs 500 litres in the estate.

The interior of the 2015 Ford Mondeo Estate
The interior of the 2015 Ford Mondeo Estate

But the boot in the estate has a much more practical shape, with great width and depth, which makes it a winner if you have a lot of stuff to carry around regularly. The estate version trumps the hatchback in terms of capacity when you let the rear seats down – 1605 litres vs 1437 litres in the hatchback.

On the road in the 2015 Ford Mondeo Estate

Did you think an estate car would be dull and boring to drive? Well the Mondeo estate will banish any of those thoughts as soon as you slip behind the wheel.

Despite my test car weighing just over a tonne and a half, it feels agile and light on its feet (or should that be wheels?).  It’s not a labour to drive it – it’s actually quite a thrill. The Mondeo grips the road so well and there is no real wallow of its body weight in the corners.

My only niggle, and it’s a small one, was that I became aware that the steering was a tad light at speed, I would like a bit more heft to it to enhance that connected to the road feel.

It’s poised and controlled on the motorway, a country road or in town – I think you can throw anything at the Mondeo and it won’t let you down. The sound insulation has also been improved, which does a good job of isolating you from road, wind and engine noise.

There are three engine choices for the new Mondeo – a 1.6 litre diesel with 113 bhp, a 1.5 litre EcoBoost petrol with 158 bhp, and a 2.0 litre diesel with 148 bhp. There’s an option of an automatic gearbox with the 2.0 litre diesel and that’s the car I was driving.

Ford’s Powershift automatic transmission is a dual clutch system, so essentially there are two clutches: one looks after even gears, and the other looks after the odd gears. This makes the gear changes that bit quicker and smoother.

The Ford Mondeo Estate is an excellent buy!
The Ford Mondeo Estate is an excellent buy!

Should I choose a Mondeo automatic?

With the automatic gearbox, the 2.0 litre diesel will sprint to 100kmh in 10 seconds. It’s a powerful engine, well up for the job, and refined too; there’s a bit of diesel gurgle when you put your foot down hard on the accelerator, but it’s not unpleasant.

An automatic gearbox is handy but bear in mind that it’s more expensive to buy than the manual version, and the CO2 emissions and mpg are impacted. The 2.0 litre diesel in the Mondeo with the automatic transmission costs €270 to tax and returns up to 59mpg, while the same engine with a manual gearbox will cost €200 to tax per year and return up to 63mpg.

There are three trim levels for the Mondeo on the Irish market – Style, Zetec and Titanium. Zetec and Titanium have most of the goodies with alloy wheels, fog lamps, dual zone climate control, four electric windows and cruise control.

The Titanium model has a little more tech on board, with a digital element to the instrument dials, a lane departure warning system, traffic sign recognition, parking sensors and Sync 2, Ford’s updated infotainment system that comes with an 8” colour touchscreen. My test car had the option added of Ford’s new inflatable rear seatbelts for €200 that inflate in a collision to reduce head, neck and chest injuries in rear seat passengers.

Is the Ford Mondeo Estate a good car?

The Mondeo has gone upmarket with its clean, simple interior, classy looks and lots of great tech on board. The interior does not have the classy finish of a Passat, but it’s still a step up for the Mondeo and the Sync 2 system is definitely worth speccing to improve the overall interior look and functionality.

The Mondeo estate is a great choice if you need a more practical boot than what the hatchback can offer, but still want a really good driver’s car. It’s dynamic and sporty looking too, but that’s not a smokescreen – it’s a genuine fun car to drive with great grip and body control. Despite its size, the Mondeo estate is an easy car to drive and manoeuvre (though parking sensors do help!) and it was this agility that impressed me the most.

The Ford Mondeo Estate from 2015
The Ford Mondeo Estate from 2015

The automatic transmission made this car a dream drive, with smooth, quick shifts and plenty of poke from the 2.0 litre diesel to pick up speed seamlessly.

So to sum up the new Ford Mondeo Wagon Automatic: it’s the automatic for the people!

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Ford Mondeo Wagon 2.0 TDCi Titanium Automatic
Price: 
€37,795 (Range starts at €27,645)
Engine: 
2.0 litre four cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 
148bhp
0-100km/h:  
10 seconds
Economy: 
59mpg (4.8l/100km)
CO2 Emissions:  
128g/km
Motor Tax: 
€270 per year