The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023

Alfa Romeo Tonale Review

The Alfa Romeo Tonale will arrive in Ireland in early 2023 and marks a fresh start for the Italian car brand, now under the stewardship of Stellantis and a new Irish distributor, Gowan Auto.

The Tonale is one of the most important models for Alfa Romeo in years, a stylish new compact SUV to take on the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the Volvo XC40.

While pricing for the Irish market is yet to be announced, we do know a few things about the new Tonale. In Ireland, it will be available as a petrol hybrid and a plug-in hybrid with an electric driving range of up to 69 kilometres.

But what's it like to drive? Caroline travelled to Milan with Alfa Romeo Ireland to drive the new Tonale plug-in hybrid ahead of its official arrival in Ireland.

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023
The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is expected in Ireland in early 2023

Styling

The new Tonale is a classy Italian compact SUV, with flamboyance and flair to its design that makes rivals look positively square. At the front, there is Alfa's characteristic V-shaped grille flanked by a striking set of LED headlights and customary offset number plate, lending the Tonale a serious face should you find one in your rear view mirror. Alloy wheel sizes will be available from 18-inch to 20-inch, with a classic Alfa 'telephone dial' style available. There will be two trim levels for Ireland - Ti and Veloce - with 18-inch alloys fitted as standard. The sporty elegant look is finished off with a dramatic LED light bar at the rear. There's a range of eye-catching metallic shades to choose from, showing off the Alfa's sleek surfacing.

Interior

Inside, the Tonale offers a snug and sporty cabin. It feels quite distinct for the segment, with a driver-focused layout that will have you aching to press the start button - conveniently located on the steering wheel. Quality takes a step up from the Giulia and Stelvio, with most of the touch points feeling good. You will find some cheaper plastics lower down and some of the buttons below the infotainment screen feel a little basic for a premium car. But generally, the Tonale lives up to its billing and feels far more special than anything we've seen from the brand in the last decade. There's a cowled digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a new 10.25-inch touchscreen.

The interior of the new Tonale
The interior of the new Tonale

Practicality

The Tonale is roomy in the back for a mid-size SUV, with good-sized footwells and plenty of headroom too for adult passengers. Petrol hybrids get the largest boot at a competitive 500 litres but plug-in hybrids can only muster 385 litres, which is about the same as many hatchbacks.

Engines

The new Tonale will be available in Ireland with a 1.5-litre petrol hybrid engine with 160hp (front wheel drive) or as a range-topping plug-in hybrid with 280hp and all-wheel drive.

Charging

It will take about 2.5 hours to charge the plug-in hybrid Tonale's battery to full at 7.4kW.

The Tonale is the first ever plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo
The Tonale is the first ever plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo

On the road

The Tonale feels immediately sporty and driver-focused behind the wheel - despite its height. It's one of the sharpest handling mid-size SUVs on the market. The Tonale plug-in hybrid feels agile and athletic though bends, with plenty of grip from the Alfa Q4 all-wheel drive system. The cabin feels nicely insulated, offering good refinement at high speeds on the motorway but it is quite firmly sprung, so can thud over imperfections in the road surface.

There is a classic Alfa 'D.N.A' driving mode selector and the Tonale is at its most comfortable in the Natural (N) setting. But in this mode the steering errs on the light side. So for any enthusiastic driving, you'll want to slip it into the Dynamic (D) mode, where the steering feels better weighted and the throttle response is sharper. The plug-in hybrid's 280hp feels fast with the 0-100 km/h sprint done in just over 6 seconds. But plant your foot on the accelerator hard in Dynamic mode and the engine does thrash a bit.

But in more relaxed driving, the Tonale is a perfectly behaved car that feels great on the road. When running in hybrid mode, it's quite efficient too. But plug-in hybrids are generally at their best when you have the desire and facilities to keep the battery charged and make use of the electric driving range of up to 69 kilometres.

Rear seating in the new Tonale
Rear seating in the new Tonale

Pricing 

Pricing will be announced closer to launch of the Tonale in Ireland. At the moment, Alfa's larger Stelvio SUV goes on sale from about €64,000.

Summary

The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a significant comeback for the Alfa Romeo brand in Ireland and Europe. When it arrives in Ireland in the first few months of 2023, it will be the brand's most competitive model in the Alfa line-up. There's great demand for mid-size SUVs and the Tonale will be a stylish alternative to more established rivals from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. What's more, it's competitive in key areas like practicality and interior technology. It has a snug and sporty cabin, though some rivals do feel more premium. While I'm yet to drive the petrol hybrid entry into the Tonale range, the range-topping plug-in hybrid offers a smooth and powerful drive with the flexibility of driving electric for a limited range. All in all, the Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive compact SUV and the brand's best chance yet to regain a foothold in the Irish market.

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive SUV
The new Alfa Romeo Tonale is a stylish and fun to drive SUV

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Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes

Jeep Compass Review

Read Caroline's Jeep Compass review for everything you need to know about Jeep's mid-size SUV in Ireland.

The Jeep Compass first arrived in Ireland in 2018 as a new mid-size SUV from the iconic Jeep brand. Though Jeep has some very strong roots as an American, four wheel drive specialist brand, the Compass was the brand's most European model to date when it went on sale. With high demand for family SUVs, today the Compass accounts for over 40% of the brand's sales in Europe, alongside models like the Renegade and the Cherokee.

The Compass was certainly one of the brand's most competitive models in recent years, with trendy 4x4 looks and a range of engines to meet the market demand. But 2018 feels like a long time ago now in the motor industry. Much has changed in the intervening years in Ireland and Europe. Jeep is now part of motoring giant Stellantis, and in Ireland it's joined motoring distributor Gowan Auto, who also import Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Peugeot, DS and Opel.

The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes
The Jeep Compass on test for Changing Lanes

Now the Jeep Compass returns with a bit more than just a cosmetic update. Pricing starts from about €43,995 rising to about €54,995. New engines include a 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid and a new plug-in hybrid that can be charged and driven electric for up to about 50 kilometres and a first for Jeep. Times are changing, with many more exciting models on the way, like the first ever electric Jeep - the new Jeep Avenger.

But for now, it's the Jeep Compass that goes up against some of the country's bestselling cars like the Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and the Hyundai Tucson.

What's so special about the Jeep Compass?

The Compass literally 'squares up' to the competition with classic Jeep design cues that lend a rugged look that's full of character and frankly far more authentic than a lot of what is on the market in this segment. There's the boxy proportions, reminiscent of many Jeeps of old, that never take the brand too far away from its roots as one of the world's best manufacturers of tough off-road vehicles.

At the front the seven slat grille is a big statement of intent and makes the Compass unmissable as anything other than just one great big Jeep. Along the side, there are some fabulous squared off wheel arches.

There are up to five trim levels in Ireland and each gives the Compass quite an individual look. Hybrids get a blue finish to the Jeep badge and the new '4xe' logo.

There are few brands quite as iconic as Jeep
There are few brands quite as iconic as Jeep

The entry into the range is the Night Eagle for example, which adds lots of gloss black trim to the exterior and 18-inch black wheels for a cool urban look. The Upland has bronze exterior trim and a black bonnet decal for a bespoke look. There's even a range-topping Trailhawk version, which maxes out the tough off-road look with special off-road bumpers and skid plate front and rear.

On test for Changing Lanes was the Compass S, which offers a clean, sporty look with 19-inch black alloy wheels, body coloured wheel arches and sills, and a black contrast roof.

Plug-in hybrid models are now exclusively four wheel drive, with a 1.3-litre petrol engine to power the front wheels and an electric motor to power the rear ones. It's the most powerful of the range with 240hp and includes a number of tools to assist drivers off-road. You can switch between modes like Auto, Sport, Sand/Mud and Snow and the car adjusts the settings for the best traction. There are also two different 4×4 traction modes for more advanced off-roading - 4WD Drive Lock and 4WD Low.

Inside the Jeep Compass

Having previously tested the Compass when it first arrived in 2018, it's clear that the interior has had a modern revamp since then. The quality of the materials has improved significantly with lots of soft touch materials as well as more modern digital features and more mature design. S models get leather upholstery for a high-end feel.

It's still not quite as stylish or high-tech as some of the best in class but a marked improvement. A new 10-inch touchscreen sits in the centre of the dash, with Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration. There’s also a new digital driver information display, though it's not the best designed when it comes to the size of the graphics and the way information is presented.

Latest Compass gets a high-end feel to the interior
Latest Compass gets a high-end feel to the interior

But all versions do come well-equipped with keyless start, parking camera, cruise control, climate control, and lots of safety features like lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. A wireless smartphone charger is also standard on all but the entry model.

Slip into the back and the Compass feels spacious for its size too. There are large footwells and headroom is good for adults. Like competitors, the middle seat is a bit on the small side but it is comfortable with a flat space in front for more legroom.

The boot is not the largest in the class at 438 litres but it's a bit more than a lot of hatchbacks. And the plug-in hybrid has the same amount of boot space as petrol versions of the Compass. A powered tailgate is also available on some trim levels as standard.

Driving the Jeep Compass

Jeep hasn't tweaked the driving dynamics for this version but they have updated the engine range. It kicks off with the 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine with 130hp and a manual gearbox priced from €43,995. There's also the new 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid that's priced similarly and has the same amount of power but comes with an automatic gearbox instead.

On test was the new plug-in hybrid, which offers the boon of four wheel drive but must be charged regularly to really get the best from it. When the battery is fully charged, there is up to 50 kilometres of driving electric possible but that is still off the pace of some of the best like the Toyota RAV4 and the Kia Sportage plug-in hybrids.

Trailhawk versions max out on the tough off-road look
Trailhawk versions max out on the tough off-road look

On the road, the Compass is swift when you want it to be, but it's not the smoothest or most refined plug-in hybrid available and it can get noisy when you accelerate hard.

Steering is very light, which makes it easy to manouvre around town but out on bigger roads it won't really award the keenest driver. In fairness, as a brand with such a stellar name for making off-road vehicles, sharp handling would not be high up the list of priorities. The Compass suits a more relaxed pace of driving and it's comfortable too for a family SUV.

Did you like it?

The Jeep brand is iconic and the Compass is surely something different in its segment. It does fall a little short of the best in class in some areas. The standard in this segment is very high these days with lots of very capable competitors.

Good news is none of them can compete with the Compass for outright authentic style and desirability. The Compass truly stands out for its classic Jeep styling that looks like it might enjoy going off-road and look good while doing it.

Jeep has always been positioned as a high-end brand and the pricing of the Compass surely reflects that. It might be a bridge too far, but if you're looking for something a little bit different in the mid-size family SUV segment, the Jeep Compass still has plenty of charm.

The Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid is on sale now
The Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid is on sale now

Model tested: Jeep Compass S 4xe plug-in hybrid
Price: 
€54,995
Engine:
1.3-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 240hp
Top speed: 200 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.3 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Review

Read Caroline's Kia Niro review for everything you need to know about buying Kia's new compact SUV in Ireland.

The Kia Niro was first introduced to Ireland back in 2016. It was a bit of a trendsetter at the time, an exciting new model for a Kia brand clearly on the way up.

Not only was it styled as a crossover - customers love them - but it also spawned a successful Niro plug-in hybrid and the jewel in the crown - the electric 'e-Niro'.

Now Kia has had a chance to revisit the Niro and create an all-new version. But electrification remains a key theme with plug-in hybrid and EV versions available, and an upcoming full hybrid.

But has the Niro now got the stylish design it deserves to really cement its position in the Irish market? Let's take a closer look to find out!

The Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Kia Niro on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Kia Niro?

The new Kia Niro plug-in hybrid ('PHEV') tested for Changing Lanes goes on sale in Ireland priced from €39,700 -  and it's notable for having more power and more range in EV mode than the model it replaces.

The attraction of the plug-in hybrid is the all-electric driving range of now up to 59 kilometres. At the core of this car is a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with Kia's second-generation six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

On the road, it's more refined than ever, while savvy buyers who can keep the battery topped up will enjoy very low running costs from Niro ownership.

What's more, the new Niro seems to look the part now of a small, trendy crossover. It's found direction within the brand's new generation of vehicles like the Sportage and EV6.

Kia's design has been evolving over the years and the Niro wears the brand's avant-garde new design language very well to stand out on the road as something a little bit different.

18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights come as standard for a stylish presence.

The new Niro will be offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric
The new Niro will be offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric

Inside the Kia Niro

Inside, there has been a transformation as well. Niro feels more modern and youthful than before, with some very impressive digital displays. A 10.25-inch touchscreen comes as standard and suitably modernises the cabin of the Niro. It's all very simple and intuitive to use, while the cabin quality feels good as well.

In Ireland the Niro PHEV is available in two trim levels, packed with equipment - the K3 (from €39,700) and the K4 (from €42,700).

Standard features on K3 models include heated front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, wireless phone charger, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto with voice control. There are also lots of standard safety features like lane keep assist, lane follow assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot collision avoidance. The Niro is not cheap but that's a high specification.

Opt for the K4, and in addition there's power adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, head-up display, 10.25-inch LCD driver display screen and a powered tailgate.

The interior of the new Kia Niro
The interior of the new Kia Niro

The new Niro sits on a new platform and though it looks compact on the outside, it's surprisingly roomy inside. Naturally, it's not the widest car so three might feel a squeeze in the back. But for two adults or children, it does feel roomy. The boot can muster 348 litres of space in the plug-in hybrid -  some hatchbacks do it better, though it's still a decent usable space. The Niro EV actually has considerably more boot space!

On the road in the Niro PHEV

For this new generation of the Niro, Kia has made some suspension and steering improvements for a more enjoyable and responsive drive. There's also been the addition of more insulation and padding around the vehicle’s structure to reduce engine and road noise.

On the road the Niro PHEV does appear to have grown-up. It feels more driver-focused now despite its efficient powertrain. It's more refined than before so the cabin is more relaxing, and  comfortable for the most part too.

The power output of the hybrid is a healthy 183hp, and the Niro can certainly provide a good pick up in speed when you need it. The previous Niro hybrid felt less inclined to do this. There is still a bias to efficiency, but it's a good one - without charging the battery my fuel consumption was less than 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is very impressive.

Rear legroom in the new Niro
Rear seating in the new Niro

Did you like it?

The Kia brand has real momentum in Ireland with bestsellers like the new Kia Sportage and the EV6. Now the brand has a real chance to make impact in the more compact side of the market, with the new Niro boasting some of the most sought after electrified powertrains on the market right now.

The Niro EV review is coming soon, where I will take a closer look at the new generation model that can travel up to 460 kilometres on one battery charge, and comes to market priced a little more than the Niro PHEV at €41,775.

But for now the Kia Niro PHEV moves the game on for the brand's plug-in hybrid range. Buyers can potentially run the Niro as an electric vehicle with regular charging. But in my experience, this car returns some excellent economy figures when ran even as a standard hybrid - though plugging in regularly is always the best option!

The Kia Niro has moved on a lot from the previous version in terms of design. It seems more comfortable in its skin now, with more kerb appeal. The design might not be for everyone, but it's a stylish and quirky crossover that has purpose.

Inside, the Niro packs in lots of equipment and a latest generation Kia interior with a modern, digital display. What's more, it's a practical offering in the segment.

These cars have excellent technology on board and don't come cheap. The bias here is still towards efficiency and that is something Niro does very well, in a number of different flavours for Irish consumers!

The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid is on sale from €39,700
The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid is on sale from €39,700

Model tested: Kia Niro K4
Price: 
€42,700
Engine:
1.6-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 183hp
Torque: 265Nm
Top speed: 161 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.8 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!

Renault Austral Review

The Renault Austral is the Renault brand's new mid-size SUV and is expected in Ireland in spring/summer of 2023. Along with the recently launched Renault Megane E-TECH electric hatchback and the award-winning Renault Arkana - Irish Medium SUV of the Year 2022 - the aim is to regain the brand’s foothold in the C-segment, Europe’s most popular car segment. Sold exclusively as a hybrid, the new Austral replaces the Kadjar in the Renault line-up.

Caroline travelled to Madrid with Renault Ireland to drive the new Austral ahead of its arrival in Ireland in 2023.

Styling

The new Renault Austral will be one of the best-looking SUVs on Irish roads in 2023. It sports an evolution of Renault's design language seen in the Megane E-TECH, but wrapped up in the stylish, rugged body of an SUV. It's the second Renault model to wear the brand's new logo, which is framed by a striking set of LED headlights. There's a similarly stylish light signature at the rear. A sculpted bonnet adds even more attitude, fast becoming a new signature of Renault cars and SUVs. Alloy wheel sizes vary from 17-inch to 20-inch, most of which are diamond cut. Trim levels for Ireland are yet to be confirmed but it's highly likely that the new range-topping 'Esprit Alpine' version will reach here. Inspired by the sporty roots of Renault's legendary Alpine brand of performance cars, it's available in exclusive Satin Shale Grey matte finish with special badging and numerous design upgrades inside and outside the car.

The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!
The new Renault Austral will arrive in Ireland in 2023!

Interior

The Austral follows the lead of the new Megane E-TECH when it comes to interior design and technology - and then takes it to the next level again. It's very stylish and high-tech inside, built around the large OpenR screen that combines a 12.3-inch instrument display with a 12-inch vertical multimedia screen and uses a Google operating system. Super glossy to look at, but it also works really well. For example, Google apps like Google Assistant, Google Play Store and Google Maps are integrated into it. This technology combines perfectly with the driver display, with a number of different views available - one which turns the whole thing into a mirror image of your route on Google Maps. There's also an excellent head-up display available. Ventilation controls are accessed through the screen but there are some nice tactile buttons below to bring up the menu and adjust the temperature quickly.

We were driving top of the range Esprit Alpine models, which get lots of beautiful Alcantara trim inside and blue contrast stitching. The quality of the interior appears to be even better than what we've seen previously from the brand in the new Arkana for example, so we just have to see will this stay consistent throughout the range when the Austral arrives in Ireland next year.

Practicality

The Austral has been designed as a practical, five-seat family SUV and feels roomy inside. Rear passengers will find knee-room that is on par with the best in class at 27.4 cm. There are practical storage compartment located throughout the interior amounting to about 35 litres of interior storage. Renault has also brought back the 60:40 sliding rear bench in the Austral. That means the rear bench can be adjusted to maximise legroom for rear seat passengers or boot space, expanding capacity from 430 litres to 555 litres.

The interior of the new Austral
The interior of the new Austral

Engines

In Ireland, the Renault Austral will be available exclusively as a hybrid. The new range-topping hybrid uses a 1.2-litre, three cylinder petrol engine, 2 kWh 400V battery and 50kW electric motor, and will put out 200hp in the version that reaches Ireland. In some markets, an Austral petrol mild hybrid will also be available.

The new hybrid is a significant evolution of Renault's hybrid technology and promises better performance and refinement than before, while also reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions - 105 g of CO2/km, pending certification.

On the road

The new Renault Austral is the first Renault to use the CMF-CD platform and also debuts Renault’s third generation four-wheel steering that has been steadily improved over the past 15 years - 4Control Advanced. It won't be standard on every model, but the cars we drove at the launch in Spain all featured it. It improves the car's agility and driver engagement, with a turning circle of just 10.1 metres, rivalling a supermini. The Austral chassis comes in two versions: flexible torsion beam for two-wheel steering models and a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle with 4Control Advanced for four-wheel steering models. With the addition of a steering actuator on the multi-arm rear axle, the steering angle of the rear wheels is now 5°. Combined with the Multisense system, there are also now 13 different setting options, up from three previously!

The Austral will be exclusively hybrid
The Austral will be exclusively hybrid

On the road, the Austral feels immediately sophisticated and powerful. The delivery of power is smoother and stronger than in the Arkana 1.6 hybrid for example. The extra power helps, and the new hybrid offers more refinement too. The Austral weighs about 1500 kg, which certainly makes for a nice experience behind the wheel. Granted all versions we tested featured four wheel steering, but the Austral offered a precise and fun driving experience around the mountain roads above Madrid. It grips willingly, while the four wheel steering and assorted driving modes with varying levels of assistance add to a sense of connection between the car and driver that is rare in the segment. It also rides very well on large wheels, but there is wind whistle around the wing mirrors on the motorway at high speeds. And we can't give a verdict on what front wheel drive models will be like without four wheel steering and the more sophisticated rear suspension.

So is it efficient? During my test drive, I saw consumption as low as 5.3 litres per 100 km and as 'high' as 6.1 litres per 100 km. The Austral hybrid does not need to be plugged in and charged to get the best efficiency from the vehicle.

Pricing and Equipment

Pricing and equipment for the Austral in Ireland will be confirmed closer to launch. The new Austral will slot into the range above the Arkana, which is currently on sale from €30,790 for a petrol mild hybrid and from €33,590 for a 1.6 hybrid.

The new Austral is packed with 32 advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), up from 26 in the Megane E-TECH and 16 in the Arkana. They include a latest-generation head-up display, level 2 driving automation with Active Driver Assist, a 3D camera for 360° vision, full park assist and a detection system that prevents the car from pulling out if another vehicle is overtaking.

Boot space in the new Renault Austral
Boot space in the new Renault Austral

Summary

The new Renault Austral arrives in a segment that has been steadily moving towards hybrid and alternatives to traditional diesel engines that used to reign supreme in this segment. It presents challenges to carmakers to create more efficient SUVs with less emissions, while also being practical and good to drive.

Renault chooses a standard hybrid approach for new Austral, which they propose as a more practical motoring solution for their customers - the relative simplicity of it, efficiency without caveats of daily charging, and it's light, bringing a natural edge to on the road performance and driver engagement.

So far the range-topping versions tested with Renault's third generation four wheel steering shine for that powerful hybrid and smooth, agile drive, while also returning the sort of efficiency that rivals some diesels and small petrol hatchbacks. So much so that I suspect you won't actually miss diesel from the range.

This will be a stylish offering inside and out, with a great cabin experience and step forward in connectivity that means it's light years away from the Kadjar it replaces.

Renault makes a welcome return to the mid-size family SUV segment with the Austral!

The new Renault Austral will be one of the most stylish SUVs on Irish roads in 2023
The new Renault Austral will be one of the most stylish SUVs on Irish roads in 2023

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The new Suzuki Swace on test for Changing Lanes!

Suzuki Swace Review

Read Caroline's Suzuki Swace review for everything you need to know about buying Suzuki's new estate car in Ireland.

Suzuki has launched a series of new models in Ireland this year, expanding into new segments and building their hybrid portfolio.

The Suzuki Swace has just gone on sale in Ireland this summer and is the Japanese brand's first ever estate car. Built as the result of a collaboration with Toyota, the new Swace shares a lot with the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports.

Priced from €30,995, there's just one version of the Swace on sale in Ireland and it comes very well-equipped.

So the Swace is shaping up to be a practical and stylish alternative to an SUV at a great price. In this review we're going to take a closer look at Suzuki's new car.

The new Suzuki Swace on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Suzuki Swace on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Suzuki Swace?

Suzuki has some great cars in their line-up like the Swift and the Vitara. The Swace feels like an entirely different prospect because it shares so much with the Toyota Corolla, which has already been a big hit in Ireland.

On the outside the Swace is a sleek and good-looking estate. The car received many admiring glances during my time with it. In fact the position of the Suzuki badge on the bonnet gives the Swace an ever so slightly more appealing look when viewed head-on compared to the Corolla. LED headlights come as standard as do LED daytime running lights. There's also a big glossy black mesh grille.

Other standard features includes five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, body-coloured door handles, and rear privacy glass. The Swace has the classic elongated shape of an estate car with quite a sporty rear end. At the back, the rear bumper gets a glossy black tip.

Estate cars like the Swace are a great alternative to an SUV. The Swace offers a great sized boot at 596 litres. It's only about 40 litres less than the boot in the Skoda Octavia Combi.

Swace is also fuel-sipping hybrid. And that means a lot these days. During my time with the car, I saw consumption as low as 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres, without trying very hard.

The interior of the new Swace
The interior of the new Swace

Inside the Swace

As we've discussed, the exterior of the new Suzuki Swace lacks originality. Inside it's pretty much the same story. Everything from the steering wheel to the dashboard, switchgear and infotainment comes from the Corolla. That's no bad thing as the design and quality of the Swace's interior does feel a step up from other cars in the Suzuki range.

The touchscreen and digital instrument cluster are borrowed from the Corolla too. The touchscreen comes as standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means you can avoid the dull interface of the native system.

The Swace is only sold in one trim level and the good news is that it comes loaded with comfort features including dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, driver’s seat electric lumbar support, radar cruise control, reversing camera and push button start.

The Swace has a lot to offer anyone looking for a practical family car. The cabin is a bright and spacious with good headroom and legroom in the rear for a compact estate car. The rear bench can even seat three in reasonable comfort with enough legroom for all three passengers. There’s also separate ventilation controls in the back and Isofix anchors on the two outer seats.

The boot offers a lot of flexibility with a low sill, two position floor with reversible waterproof side. You can use the two position floor to create a flat loading sill or place it in the bottom of the boot to maximise the space available. Another handy feature are the switches in the boot to let down the rear seats, expanding the load carrying abilities to over 1600 litres.

The boot in the Suzuki Swace estate
The boot in the Suzuki Swace estate

What kind of hybrid is the Swace?

The Suzuki Swace has the advantage of being a fuel-sipping hybrid - but it's not a plug-in hybrid. It's a petrol-electric hybrid that doesn't require you to plug it in and charge it to return excellent economy. There's a low capacity battery on board that helps the car to run more efficiently, particularly in low speed town driving.

The Swace uses the same 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain as the Toyota Corolla and can return some impressive economy figures. There's a modest 122hp sent to the front wheels through a CVT automatic gearbox.

Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 4.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and that included some motorway runs. It's one of the most efficient cars I've driven in a while.

On the road the Swace is a steady and reliable drive. The automatic transmission makes it all rather effortless, though the CVT gearbox can get noisy under hard acceleration.

Instead, the Swace hybrid is more suited to a gentler pace, where you can enjoy this car for being a comfortable cruiser.

The Swace is on sale now priced from €30,995
The Swace is on sale now priced from €30,995

Did you like it?

In 2022, Suzuki has added a new S-Cross and Vitara Hybrid to the Suzuki range. The Swace is a brand new model and very accomplished.

While the brand hasn't done much to make the Swace stand out from the Corolla, they've taken a good car into the Suzuki stable and not done anything design-wise that would impact what a fabulous efficient car this is.

Suzuki in Ireland is selling the Swace in just one trim level and it's packed with equipment. It's just a few hundred euro less than a similarly specced Corolla estate.

Still, it's arguably got a slightly more appealing, high-tech appearance and will never be quite as ubiquitous as the equivalent Toyota.

And if you love Suzukis, you'll definitely enjoy this new addition to the range because it really has some of the best quality and design wearing a Suzuki badge.

The Swace has broad appeal and certainly offers a good value alternative to an SUV in a sleek and stylish estate car with a big boot.

Practical; efficient; stylish - it's the new Suzuki Swace!
Practical; efficient; stylish - it's the new Suzuki Swace!

Model tested: Suzuki Swace SZ-T
Price: 
€30,995
Engine: 
1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 122hp
Torque: Nm
Top speed:  km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h):  seconds
CO2 emissions:
103g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year


The Audi Q3 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

Audi Q3 Sportback Review

Read Caroline's Audi Q3 Sportback plug-in hybrid review for everything you need to know about Audi's new hybrid SUV in Ireland.

Audi is rapidly moving towards an electric future with the addition of new battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to the German brand's range of cars and SUVs.

The Q family was always the home of Audi's SUVs and now plug-in hybrid joins the Q3 range.

The Audi Q3 is a mid-size SUV that's also available as an even more stylish Q3 Sportback with a sloping coupé-like roof line and distinct rear styling compared to the standard Q3.

In this review we're going to take a closer look at the Audi Q3 Sportback, now available as a plug-in hybrid priced from €51,365.

The Audi Q3 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!
The Audi Q3 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Audi Q3 Sportback?

If you're looking for a classy and stylish SUV, look no further than the Audi Q3 Sportback. It slips into the Audi range above the Audi Q2 and is a premium compact family SUV capable of carrying five people.

At the front, the Q3 Sportback has a big, wide Audi grille that really sets the tone for a fashionable SUV. The Sportback certainly offers a more unique and prestigious design compared to the standard Q3, though you will pay a small premium for it.

It has the same height but the side profile shows off this car's coupé aspirations. The roof slopes elegantly to the rear of the car and around the back, there is a distinct rear end that you will never tire of looking at!

It's a classy car and is available in two trim levels in Ireland, which slightly alter the look of the vehicle. SE models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, roof rails and roof spoiler.

S Line models are sportier to look at with 19-inch alloy wheels and special S Line bumpers.

The interior of the Audi Q3 Sportback
The interior of the Audi Q3 Sportback

Inside there is a classic Audi cabin that is modern and elegant.

Audi sells the Q3 Sportback with a range of engine options. Choose from a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine (150hp), a 2.0-litre diesel (150hp) or the new 1.4-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (245hp). The plug-in hybrid is one of the most powerful of the range. A battery on board means that it can be plugged in, charged, and driven electric for a range of up to 51 kilometres.

Inside the Q3 Sportback

The Q3 has a modern Audi interior that is packed full of digital features. It's a classy cabin with a solid build and upmarket finish that you would expect from a car at this price point.

There's a full digital driver display with crisp graphics and the centre of the dashboard houses a 10-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's lot of gloss black and high quality trim elements. Other standard features include cruise control, dual-zone climate control and lane departure warning.

S Line models have a slightly more sporty cabin ambience with front sports seats, stainless steel pedals, black headliner, S Line badged steering wheel and ambient lighting.

Audi has added a new plug-in hybrid to the popular Q3 range
Audi has added a new plug-in hybrid to the popular Q3 range

The wheelbase is the same as in the standard Q3 so interior space is just about the same. The rear is more suited to two rather than three. Then passengers can enjoy two large footwells. The large transmission tunnel in the middle puts legroom at a premium for a middle seat passenger.The sloping roofline does mean there is a bit less headroom in the Q3 Sportback.

Boot space is also compromised somewhat in the Q3 TFSI e by the hybrid powertrain. At 380 litres that's more akin to the average family hatchback, which may be enough depending on your needs. And we just love the powered tailgate!

Driving the Audi Q3 Sportback Hybrid

The Audi Q3 Sportback TFSI e uses a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, 13kWh battery and electric motor. The total power output is a healthy 245hp making the plug-in hybrid Q3 the most powerful of the range (other than the bonkers 400hp RS Q3!).

There's 400 Nm of torque and the Q3 Sportback will sprint to 100km/h in  7.3 seconds. An automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels.

On the road the Q3 Sportback hybrid feels smooth and agile with plenty of power available under your right foot. It's not the most fun to drive of these mid-size SUVs but does offer a relaxed and refined drive.

The S Line model on test rides on large wheels and a sports suspension and it's fair to say it's not the most comfortable configuration for the Q3 and you will feel some of the road surface beneath you.

Rear seating in the Q3 Sportback
Rear seating in the Q3 Sportback

Power is plentiful but you buy a plug-in hybrid for its ability to be more efficient and save you money on your fuel bills. So does the Audi Q3 Sportback TFSI e deliver?

Being a plug-in hybrid means you can plug this car in and charge the battery in a few hours. Electric driving can be prioritised from an EV mode button in the cabin. Otherwise this car will operate as a hybrid.

Certainly it's most efficient when the battery is charged. There is a limited range of up to about 50 km in the EV mode but that is best reserved for low speed driving around town. Without much charging, my average fuel consumption over a week of driving was 6.7 litres per 100 km.

Did you like it?

The Audi Q3 Sportback becomes an electrified Q model with the addition of a new plug-in hybrid. It gives buyers more options but the old caveat remains: plug-in hybrids are at their best in urban driving where you can make use of the electric driving range. Plugging in and charging should be mandatory to get the best from a car like this.

Otherwise the Q3 Sportback TFSI e offers plenty of power and performance in a stylish SUV-coupé package. This is a car you buy because you love the way it looks. The Sportback loses some practicality to the standard Q3, but not much, and makes up for it with gorgeous, sleek styling.

The Q3 is one of Audi's bestselling models in Ireland. It's not the most exciting car to drive but the classy cabin and power of the Audi badge still make it a highly desirable SUV. Now with a plug.

Gorgeous coupé crossover looks for the Audi Q3 Sportback
Gorgeous coupé-crossover looks for the Audi Q3 Sportback

Model tested: Audi Q3 Sportback TFSI e S Line
Price: 
€53,910
Engine:
1.4-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 245hp
Torque: 400Nm
Top speed: 210km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.3 seconds
Motor Tax: €140 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes


The Nissan Juke Hybrid will arrive in Ireland later in 2022

Nissan Juke Hybrid First Drive Review

The Nissan Juke Hybrid will join the Nissan range in Ireland later this year.

The Juke is one of the brand's most successful models to date with over 11,000 finding homes in Ireland since it first went on sale in 2010. The second generation Juke launched in 2020. Now Juke goes hybrid for the very first time.

Caroline travelled to Milton Keynes with Nissan Ireland to drive the new Nissan Juke Hybrid.

The Nissan Juke Hybrid will arrive in Ireland later in 2022
The Nissan Juke Hybrid will arrive in Ireland later in 2022

Styling

The Nissan Juke Hybrid shares the same sporty crossover design as the rest of the Juke range. The Juke still looks modern and fresh with distinctive styling features including hidden rear door handles for a coupé style and a trendy contrast roof. Hybrid badges now feature on the front doors and the bootlid. The front grille of the Juke Hybrid displays the new Nissan brand logo and also features a strip of black gloss material where it meets the bonnet, a new feature of all electrified Nissan models including the upcoming electric Nissan Ariya. New two-tone 17" alloy wheels and 19" aero wheels will be available.

The Hybrid also gets a few design tweaks to improve aerodynamic efficiency including a new mesh grille with smaller holes. Modifications have also been made to the bodywork below the bumper to improve airflow. A radiator grille shutter has been added, allowing airflow to be automatically adjusted according to cooling needs. The rear spoiler has been restyled for cleaner airflow behind the car. And in front of the front wheels, the air deflectors have been reshaped and repositioned to clean the airflow. The rear axle has gained a cover to smooth the airflow under the car. Magic!

Interior

Inside the cabin, the Nissan Juke Hybrid has a sporty vibe with charismatic circular air vents and plenty of soft touch materials in our test vehicle. Hybrid models have an updated driver display including a power gauge and one for the battery's state of charge. A visual representation of the flow of power can be displayed on the 7" combimeter screen between the two dials. Infotainment is provided via an 8" touchscreen on top of the dash with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's also a new button to activate e-Pedal one pedal driving on the centre console, as well as driving modes and an EV mode. It's a cool and modern cabin for this Juke.

The interior of the new Juke Hybrid
The interior of the new Juke Hybrid

Practicality

The Nissan Juke Hybrid is smaller inside than a Nissan Qashqai for example but it does offer similar space inside to many other compact crossovers on the market. It's possible for two adults to get comfortable in the rear. Headroom could be tight for taller adults but children will be fine. While the standard Juke petrol has an excellent boot volume of 422 litres, the hybrid loses some of that volume to accommodate the battery. It's down to 354 litres but that's still comparable to many hatchbacks.

Engine

The new Nissan Juke Hybrid uses a 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol engine, 1.2kWh battery and a 36kW electric motor. Power is up to 143hp, 25% more than what the 1.0-litre petrol Juke offers. According to Nissan, fuel consumption is reduced by 20% to between 5.0-5.2 litres per 100 km.

On the road

The Juke Hybrid starts in electric mode, moving off silently. Over our mixed test route across town, rural roads and motorway, we saw consumption as low as 5.6 litres per 100 km. It's a standard hybrid so no need to plug it in to get that sort of return on fuel consumption either.

On the road the extra power of the hybrid is apparent compared to the Juke 1.0-litre, offering pleasant acceleration and lively performance. The Juke's automatic gearbox seems to hold onto gears a bit longer than what you expect, no doubt to improve efficiency. There are no paddles or manual mode to override this. Though in Sport mode, the gear changes seem marginally quicker.

Elsewhere, the Nissan Juke Hybrid is a sporty and composed drive, offering lots of grip in cornering, and stability and refinement at high speeds on the motorway. It's compact and agile around town, though the ride seems firm over bumps.

Boot space in the Juke Hybrid
Boot space in the Juke Hybrid

Pricing & Equipment

Full pricing and equipment for the Nissan Juke Hybrid will be released later in the summer. The Nissan Juke 1.0-litre petrol currently starts from €25,745, so expect the hybrid version to carry a premium. Though Nissan Ireland say pricing will be competitive against hybrid rivals like the Toyota Yaris Cross and Renault Captur Hybrid.

Summary

The Nissan brand is gaining momentum again with the arrival of new electric and hybrid models like the electric Ariya and the Qashqai hybrid.

Now hybrid joins the Juke range, giving more options to buyers on the look out for a stylish and fuel-efficient compact crossover.

At Changing Lanes, we were already fans of the latest generation Juke. It's fun to drive and has a cool cabin and quirky coupé-inspired styling.

Thankfully these qualities have been retained in the new Juke Hybrid. It no doubt will be more expensive to buy, but the combination of more power and the ease of the automatic gearbox make it a more sophisticated offering.

The Nissan Juke Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact crossover
The Nissan Juke Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact crossover

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes


The Toyota C-HR GR-Sport on test for Changing Lanes!

Toyota C-HR GR Sport Review (2022)

Read Caroline's Toyota C-HR GR Sport review for everything you need to know about buying the latest version of Toyota's popular hybrid crossover in Ireland in 2022.

The Toyota C-HR has been a great success in Ireland since it launched here back in 2016. A new model for Toyota when it launched, the C-HR's trendy crossover looks and hybrid powertrain have been enough to make it a bestselling car in Ireland in a relatively short space of time.

In 2020, the C-HR was updated slightly inside and out. The range was also widened with the arrival of a new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain offering buyers the option of more power.

Now Toyota has added a new range topping trim level to the range - introducing the new Toyota C-HR GR Sport. It joins the Luna, Sport and Sol trim lines.

The C-HR range starts from €31,025, with the C-HR GR Sport range starting from €38,515.

The Toyota C-HR GR-Sport on test for Changing Lanes!
The Toyota C-HR GR Sport on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Toyota C-HR GR Sport?

Inspired by Toyota's high performance GR Supra and GR Yaris, the GR Sport trim line bestows the C-HR with a list of sporty design enhancements. Just like the Toyota Corolla GR Sport, these enhancements are purely cosmetic.

Toyota's 1.8 litre hybrid (122hp) or 2.0 litre hybrid (184hp) powertrains provide the power, with a natural bias towards efficiency - rather than racetrack performance like those classic GR models!

Still it's a formula that works. The C-HR is a very good looking car anyway, with plenty of interesting design features. The GR Sport adds even more prestige to this popular crossover.

At the front there's a special black background to the Toyota emblem and headlamp housings. The centre bumper and fog lamp surrounds get a glossy black finish, a dark chrome grille and a new, more aggressively styled front spoiler.

There is lots of standard equipment including touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, dual zone climate control, power adjustable driver's seat, and auto fold door mirrors. There's also the full range of Toyota Safety Sense, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and high beam assist.

Around the back of the car the Toyota emblem has a black background. There are more glossy black reflector surrounds, bespoke under-bumper trim garnish and a GR Sport badge.

The Dynamic Grey paint with black roof is exclusive to the GR Sport and the car sits on special 19" alloy wheels.

The GR Sport is the new range topper for the C-HR range
The GR Sport is the new range topper for the C-HR range

Inside the C-HR GR Sport

The C-HR has a very stylish interior and good quality finish. It is one of the most premium feeling cabins of the brand's compact range. You sit that little bit higher than in a hatch and the cabin appears to wrap around you in a sporty way.

The new C-HR GR Sport gets a few special additions including a new silver cabin finish, perforated leather steering wheel rim with red stitching, unique scuff plates, and a GR stop/start button.

There are also new GR-inspired Alcantara seats with leather bolsters and red and grey stitching. They give the cabin a real sporty feel and look great!

The C-HR is classed as a C-segment SUV but it's on the 'cosier' side of the spectrum. There is seating for three in the rear but two will be most comfortable. The coupé-style design of the rear doors and high beltline look great from the outside. But it does mean that it's quite dark and enclosed feeling for back seat passengers.

The boot at 377 litres is more comparable with the average hatchback. Some crossovers and SUVs in this price bracket do have larger boots and are more practical.

The interior of the Toyota C-HR
The interior of the Toyota C-HR

Driving the Toyota C-HR Hybrid

The Toyota C-HR marked a turning point for the Toyota brand when it was first launched back in 2016. It was the first of a new generation of Toyota cars built upon the TNGA platform with more style and dynamism. TNGA changed everything for Toyota, creating a new line-up of cars that have really driven sales for the brand, including the latest Corolla and RAV4.

Toyota already made some dynamic upgrades to the C-HR in 2020 for improved steering feel. The 2.0-litre hybrid also launched with a new suspension design that improves ride comfort. Refinement was also improved with an upgraded Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) pack to further reduce cabin noise.

The GR Sport adds on that with model-bespoke tyres, suspension system and steering tuning to improve how the car performs on the road, while retaining good ride comfort.

The C-HR GR Sport feels good on the road. It is a fun car to drive that handles more like a hatchback. The steering is precise and you feel nicely connected to the car. It can cruise on the motorway in comfort, with good refinement too. Though this model in particular does grate a bit over bumps on rougher surfaces.

Rear seating in the C-HR
Rear seating in the C-HR

What are my options?

There is the choice of two hybrid powertrains for the C-HR. The 1.8-litre hybrid has 122 hp and the best economy of the range. For anyone seeking a bit more power, the new 2.0-litre hybrid in the C-HR delivers 184 hp and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds.

The Toyota C-HR 2.0-litre hybrid feels robust and well balanced in terms of power and its delivery through a CVT automatic gearbox. Refinement has been improved with less noise from the CVT.

There's also a new monitor in the latest C-HR to show what percentage of the time your car is driving in EV mode, i.e. on power from the battery not the combustion engine. This is useful in low speed driving for example. Overall this car is as efficient as promised, with my average fuel consumption over a week of driving coming in at 4.8 litres per 100 km.

Did you like it?

The C-HR is one of Toyota's best models, with a premium finish to the design, interior and on the road behaviour that makes it stand out.

It is a very stylish and fashionable car. It was designed as such. So it's not the most practical or the best value for money of the C-segment SUVs. But still highly desirable.

All models come well equipped, including the entry into the range.The new GR Sport trim enhances the C-HR's individual look with a high end finish. It is in short a lovely car. But it starts to get expensive for what is still a relatively compact car. There is better value to be had elsewhere in the range.

Toyota offers two efficient hybrid powertrains for the latest C-HR. But the 1.8-litre hybrid is a good balance on power and efficiency, and will meet the needs of most motorists.

It’s very easy to see the appeal of the C-HR from behind the wheel. As more hybrids come to market, the sophistication of the hybrid powertrain and Toyota’s experience in this area shines through.

The Toyota C-HR is a trendy and fun to drive crossover
The Toyota C-HR is a trendy and fun to drive crossover

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

Model tested: Toyota C-HR 2.0 Hybrid GR Sport
Price: 
€41,160
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 190 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.2 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 120 g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year


The new Hyundai Santa Fe on test for Changing Lanes

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Review (2022)

Read Caroline's Hyundai Santa Fe review for everything you need to know about buying Hyundai's flagship SUV in Ireland in 2022.

In 2021, Hyundai launched a new version of the popular Santa Fe seven seat SUV in Ireland.

The big news for the launch of this new model is the arrival of a new plug-in hybrid to the Santa Fe range.

With pricing starting from €56,445, the Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid is now the entry into the Santa Fe range. The Premium trim version with more equipment is available from €60,445.

Hyundai will also sell you a diesel Santa Fe from €64,895, with diesel four wheel drive models priced from €69,995.

The new Hyundai Santa Fe on test for Changing Lanes
The new Hyundai Santa Fe on test for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the Hyundai Santa Fe?

The Hyundai Santa Fe is following the move in the industry towards electrification. Hyundai's largest SUV is now available for the very first time as a plug-in hybrid on the Irish market.

But for drivers where diesel still makes a lot of sense, that's available in the range too.

All models for the Irish market come with 7 seats.

The big Hyundai has had some work done beyond powertrain in the latest series of improvements. Everything has been done with the aim of making this popular SUV more premium.

The profile and rear remain almost identical to the generation of the Santa Fe that launched in 2018. But the front end has a new look that is more bold and distinctive than what has come before.

At the rear, there's a new taillight design and a red reflector band has been added to connect the taillights. The rear bumper has also been gently reshaped for a more sophisticated design. The car looks great, with a substantial presence for a flagship SUV.

19" alloy wheels, roof rails and chrome door handles come as standard for the Santa Fe plug-in hybrid.

Hyundai has revamped the Santa Fe to make it more premium
Hyundai has revamped the Santa Fe to make it more premium

Inside the Santa Fe

Inside, the interior of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe has also been significantly updated for a more premium feel.

It works well. There's a new lower dashboard design, a redesigned centre console and a new 10.25-inch touchscreen. There are new shift-by-wire buttons for the automatic transmission. For the first time, the new Santa Fe comes with a Terrain Mode selector in the centre console to switch between different drive modes. There's also a new 12.3-inch fully digital cluster for the driver.

Leather upholstery, parking camera, wireless phone charging, heated steering wheel and heated seats come as standard. The Premium model gets a powered tailgate, around view monitor and panoramic glass roof.

All cars come with a suite of safety equipment including adaptive cruise control and lane follow assist.

In terms of practicality, the Santa Fe has seating for seven, with two extra seats in the third row. The battery pack for the hybrid is positioned beneath the driver and passenger seats, with no impact on cabin or boot space.

As a result of the platform update, the new Santa Fe has 3 cm more leg room in the second row. While there is 4 cm more leg room for passengers in third row. Boot capacity has been increased too, with a total of 571 litres in 5 seat mode.

The cabin is huge, with plenty of headroom and legroom in the second row. The seats in the third row are ideal for children and can be folded down and stored neatly when not in use.

The interior of the new Santa Fe
The interior of the new Santa Fe

Driving the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

The new Santa Fe is the first Hyundai model in Europe to be based on the brand's new, third-generation vehicle platform. The new platform allows for significant improvements in performance, handling, efficiency and safety for the latest version of the Santa Fe.

Steering has been altered for more agile handling. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) performance is improved through reinforced sound-absorbing systems in vibration-sensitive parts of the body.

On the road the Santa Fe is every inch the premium SUV with a smooth and refined drive, no matter the road surface. It handles well for a large SUV, with great visibility all round.

The Santa Fe plug-in hybrid uses a 1.6-litre T-GDi ‘Smartstream’ petrol engine paired with a 66.9 kW electric motor drawing its power from a 13.8 kWh battery. It's available with four-wheel drive and the total power output is 265 PS, while combined torque is 350 Nm. It's paired to a newly-developed 6-speed automatic transmission.

Plug-in hybrid happens to suit the Santa Fe very well, with plenty of power available and a serene cabin experience. This model has the advantage of allowing you to charge the Santa Fe at home for example, and then drive it electric for a range of up to 58 km. This is ideal for drivers who have a short commute perhaps or spend a lot of time driving in and out of town.

Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.8 litres per 100 km, so with regular charging the Santa Fe will really come into its own.

Rear legroom in the Santa Fe
Rear legroom in the Santa Fe

Did you like it?

Hyundai brings the Santa Fe into the big time.The Hyundai Santa Fe is a salubrious and well-kitted out car that feels like a flagship from behind the wheel.

With a well-appointed cabin featuring the latest digital technology features, Hyundai delivers on its ambition to move Santa Fe upmarket. The new interior design is a big improvement over the previous version of the Santa Fe.

Large family seven seat SUVs like this one don't come cheap, but in return the Santa Fe offers fabulous interior space and practicality.

Interestingly the petrol plug in hybrid is now the most affordable entry into the Santa Fe range. With four wheel drive and a healthy power output, it's a feasible alternative to a diesel SUV.

On the road the Santa Fe is smooth and refined, with the hybrid adding a serene quality to this car. For urban drivers, it's a large SUV with a conscience, running happily on electric power for a range that is ideal to exploit in low speed driving situations around town for example.

The brand is on a roll here with the new generation Tucson still Ireland's bestselling car so far this year and the Hyundai IONIQ 5 the bestselling electric car. With seating for seven, the Santa Fe offers even more flexibility in a hotly contested segment of the market.

The Santa Fe seven seat SUV is on sale now
The Hyundai Santa Fe seven seat SUV is on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid Executive Plus Auto 4WD
Price:
€56,445
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power:
261 hp
Torque: 350 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.8 seconds
Top speed: 187 km/h
CO2 emissions:
37 g/km
Motor tax: 
€140 per year


The Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid on review for Changing Lanes

Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid Review (2022)

Read Caroline's Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e review for everything you need to know about buying the new CLA hybrid in Ireland in 2022.

Mercedes-Benz has been adding new hybrids to the brand's range of hatchbacks, saloons and SUVs in recent years. The shift offers buyers even more options when it comes to Mercedes most popular models like the A-Class, GLA, C-Class, GLC, E-Class and GLE, among others.

The all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA launched in Ireland in 2019. It was another step forward for the elegant four door, coupé-like saloon.

Now it's the return of the CLA to Changing Lanes, this time as a hybrid.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid on review for Changing Lanes
The Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid on review for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid?

Mercedes-Benz is completing the range of EQ Power models in the brand's compact-car family with the CLA hybrid, which uses the brand's third-generation hybrid system. Badged CLA 250e, this stylish Mercedes hybrid uses a familiar 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine, battery and electric motor.

The power output is 218 hp making it one of the most powerful versions of the CLA in the entire range. Yet there's also the ability to plug the CLA in and drive it electric for a range of up to 70 km.

The CLA range starts from €45,370 in Ireland for a CLA 180 with a 1.3-litre petrol engine (136 hp). The diesel range starts from €46,935 for a CLA 180d. And now the CLA 250e plug-in hybrid starts from €48,785 in 'Progressive Premium' trim. While in 'AMG Line Premium', it starts from €51,355.

So Mercedes is 'gearing up' the hybrid CLA to make it a compelling prospect in the range.

This is a very handsome car. The CLA carries more prestige in the Mercedes-Benz range than the A-Class for example on which it is based. Described as compact, the presence of the car is much bigger than that when you meet it in the metal for the first time. Frameless windows and that long, elongated coupé look add prestige to this car. The hybrid gets a subtle EQ Power badge and an extra flap for the charging ports. 18" alloys come as standard.

The CLA is available as a hybrid for the very first time
The CLA is available as a hybrid for the very first time

Inside the CLA

Inside, the CLA still blows the competition away with an elegant and exclusive look. The seats are sporty and cosseting. Leather comes as standard. The cabin comes alive at night with cool ambient lighting. The design is just slick and premium.

The hybrid gets the full digital experience - a 10.25" media display and 10.25" digital instrument display as standard, as well as an advanced sound system with ten speakers. The digital screens for the driver and infotainment are effortlessly cool for the compact class. The MBUX infotainment system responds to commands of Hey Mercedes.

The car is roomy up front, but some practicality is sacrificed for style and that sloping roof. Rear legroom is okay for the compact class. There has been a small impact on boot space in the hybrid but there remains a flat floor. There's 390 litres, but the saloon style opening does limit practicality somewhat. There's also a CLA Shooting Brake available, which offers more estate-style load-lugging abilities! It's also available as a hybrid.

The interior of the Mercedes CLA Hybrid
The interior of the Mercedes CLA Hybrid

Driving the CLA Hybrid

On the road, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e performs very well, with high levels of refinement from the four cylinder engine combined with the power and responsiveness aided by the electric motor.

The 8 speed automatic works very well here. The CLA hybrid loses none of the elegance of the CLA in other petrol variants like the CLA 180 we tested in 2019. In fact with start up and take off on electric, this hybrid is even more serene and refined from behind the wheel. It's a real viable option now in the CLA range.

It's efficient too with my average fuel consumption over one week averaging at 6 litres per 100 km. But there is the option to run the CLA 250e more efficiently by charging the 15.6 kWh battery and driving electric for a limited range of up to 70 km. It can be charged at home for example using a 7.4 kW wallbox in 1 h 45 min from 10-100 percent.

Did you like it?

The CLA is a stunning and very desirable car among the Mercedes-Benz range of compact cars. Though as we've clarified, the CLA has a the presence of a larger car.

Inside it's one of the best among rivals with a latest generation Mercedes interior dripping with cool digital technology and connectivity.

Behind the wheel, the Mercedes-Benz CLA offers a comfortable and refined driving experience. There's plenty of power here and the car handles the road well.

The new CLA Hybrid gives buyers more options, offering more power and equipment. With regular charging, this car can be ran like an electric vehicle for a limited range. Ideal for short commutes or urban motorists.

The CLA is still lovely after all these years. Even now with a plug!

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e is on sale in Ireland now
The Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e is on sale in Ireland now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e Progressive
Price:
€48,785
Engine: 1.3-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid
Power: 
218 hp
Torque: 450 Nm
0-100km/h:  6.8 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
CO2 emissions: 
23 g/km
Motor tax: 
€140 per year