The CUPRA Leon on test for Changing Lanes!

CUPRA Leon e-Hybrid Review

The CUPRA Leon on test for Changing Lanes!
The CUPRA Leon on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 CUPRA Leon

CUPRA turns on a charm offensive in 2021 with a stellar line-up of new models including the Formentor, the brand’s first standalone model, and the new CUPRA Leon. The all-electric CUPRA Born is due here also.

The CUPRA portfolio is expanding, and the brand is finding its feet quickly, offering an exciting suite of cars that major on design and a sporty premium feel from behind the wheel. All good things!

Now it’s time to take a closer look at one of the new arrivals – the 2021 CUPRA Leon. Of course, these two have history, with the Cupra badge strapped to many high-performance versions of the SEAT Leon in previous generations.

The Leon has been tipped over to the CUPRA brand for a shape-up. The results are indeed very impressive.

What's so special about the CUPRA Leon?

Priced from €46,210, the CUPRA Leon on test here is a plug-in hybrid – a sporty one.

This car looks good, very good. The matte grey paint of the test car gives it a real sporty and exclusive image with chrome accents becoming a CUPRA defining feature on the road. The look is completed with magnificent 19” alloys on our test car.

Sporty features include a large front splitter, larger air intakes, side skirts, dark chrome front grille frame and side mirrors that contrast with the body colour. At the rear the plug-in hybrid has two individual tailpipes, a diffuser and spoiler.

CUPRA Leon on sale in Ireland priced from €46,210
CUPRA Leon on sale in Ireland priced from €46,210

The CUPRA Leon e-Hybrid is sold with a 1.4-litre petrol electric powertrain with 245 hp, certainly giving acceleration like a hot hatchback - 6.7 seconds to 100 kmh. But there’s none of the drama or emotion that you might get with a hot hatchback that traditionally uses a combustion engine. It’s more the hot hatchback of the future – the one that is quick but doesn’t make any noise.

If you want the full fat experience, CUPRA will plant a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the Leon for you, with an inspiring 300 hp (priced from €54,245).

But hybrid is for sure where things are at these days. The e-Hybrid has a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It can be plugged in and charged via a 3.6 kW AC wall box charger, taking about 3.5 hours to get a full charge. When fully charged, the e-Hybrid can be driven on pure electric power for a range of up to 59 km, otherwise it works as a hybrid drawing power from both the engine and electric motor. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.1 litres per 100 km, without a whole lot of charging.

Driving the 2021 CUPRA Leon

The new CUPRA Leon is designed, developed and produced in Barcelona at the brand’s Martorell facilities. The chassis and steering have been tuned to make the car more distinct and engaging to drive. The Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system comes as standard - it constantly monitors the road surfaces and driver inputs, making imperceptible changes to the setup in milliseconds for the most engaging drive. The CUPRA Leon’s dynamics can be altered somewhat through the four different driver profiles: Comfort, Sport, CUPRA and Individual.

The CUPRA Leon plug-in hybrid has 245 hp
The CUPRA Leon plug-in hybrid has 245 hp

At the front there is a MacPherson strut suspension and a multi-link system at the rear for a refined ride and sharper handling. There's also Brembo brakes worthy of any performance car! The CUPRA Leon is also 25mm lower on the front axle than the SEAT its based on, and 20mm lower at the rear, meaning a lower centre of gravity for better handling.

On the road, CUPRA’s tuning has transformed the Leon for this occasion. Steering is sharper than the standard Leon from sister brand SEAT. The ride is more soft, premium, yet the handling tighter and more responsive. This one feels like a more sophisticated machine on the road, as it should for the CUPRA badge and price.

What’s it like inside?

Inside the cabin has been glossed over with more CUPRA branding and trim elements. The dashboard and door mouldings are finished in brushed dark aluminium, with copper and dark chrome featuring to define the brand. Illuminated CUPRA sill plates in the front doors complete the look.

The CUPRA Leon is pleasant and sporty behind the wheel with plenty of digital technology in the form of the digital driver instrument display and 10” touchscreen. Bucket seats come as standard setting the right note in terms of comfort and ambience. The Formentor feels a little more special inside, though the cabin design is closely related. It’s still very much a Leon cabin, it doesn’t have the advantage of the Formentor’s distinctness as an all-new standalone model.

The interior of the CUPRA Leon
The interior of the CUPRA Leon

With a five door, five seat hatchback arrangement, the Leon offers standard accommodation for five inside. The car’s platform makes good use of interior space so rear footwells are good for this class of vehicle. However, the Leon’s boot has taken a hit in terms of outright space to accommodate the battery. It is shallower at 270 litres, a bit off the class average. There’s also a CUPRA Leon Sportstourer with a more respectable 470 litres.

Did you like it?

The world is changing rapidly. The hot hatchback must evolve also. The CUPRA Leon performs well as a plush hatchback with plug-in hybrid technology. It’s swift on the road with sophisticated ride over whatever Irish tarmac has to offer.

It looks gorgeous and sporty; the CUPRA badge adds exclusivity and can only grow in recognition now the cars are here, and more good stuff coming.

Yet you will be sorely disappointed if you are expecting thrill, drama, and engine noise! The CUPRA Leon e-Hybrid is too well-behaved for that. The car looks the business but it’s so healthy for the planet when running, it just won’t quite thrill you like Cupra badged SEATs of old!

Still it’s a sign of the times. There is no doubt that this is a desirable car and a pleasant debut for hybrid in the CUPRA Leon range.

CUPRA has transformed the Leon in all the right ways
CUPRA has transformed the Leon in all the right ways

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: CUPRA Leon e-Hybrid 245 hp DSG
Price: 
€46,210
Engine: 
1.4-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 245 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
Top speed: 225 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.7 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
30 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!

BMW 3 Series 330e Hybrid (2021) Review

The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!
The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 BMW 330e!

What happens when you mix plug-in hybrid power with the BMW 3 Series? It’s a question very much worth exploring as the German brand continues to launch a slew of new electrified models on the Irish market.

Badged 330e, the 3 Series hybrid has some history, debuting for the first time in Ireland back in 2016. Yet with an all-new generation of the 3 Series on sale since 2019, and a reworked 330e, it’s game on in the Changing Lanes test garage!

Driving the latest generation BMW 3 Series again is a reminder of a few magical days in 2019 spent with the 320d. A BMW 320d is a bit of a legend in its own right with a four cylinder diesel engine that delivers smart economy and plenty of fun behind the wheel.

What's so special about the BMW 330e?

But the 330e has proven its mettle in the 3 Series range, winning over its own quotient of buyers with its smooth petrol power and ability to plug in and charge up between drives, plus super low CO2 emissions meaning motor tax is just €140 per year.

In the new generation of the BMW 3 Series of course it’s ‘better’ all round. They don’t release these cars without some improvements!

The BMW 330e Hybrid goes on sale in Ireland from €48,894
The BMW 330e Hybrid goes on sale in Ireland from €48,894

Let’s recap on a few of the basics first. The BMW 3 Series range kicks off from €44,453 in Ireland for a petrol 318i, with a diesel 318d from €46,564 and the 320d range from €49,765. The 330e hybrid starts from €48,894.

The BMW 330e uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, battery and electric motor. Power output is a formidable 292 hp while there is 420 Nm of torque to play with. Yipee!

The BMW 330e is handsome. Super handsome. Finished in Portimao Blue and bejewelled with the M Sport trim elements, our 330e test car is sporty, muscular, and sophisticated.

Inside the 2021 BMW 3 Series

Inside the 3 Series has a wonderful interior that puts the driver competently in the centre of the action. This is a real driver’s car. Vernasca leather upholstery makes us feel comfortably executive, while the digital instrument panel, centre screen and iDrive system give the required touch of modernity. Material quality is excellent and this is a great car to spend time behind the wheel of!

The junior executive saloon will seat five with good sized footwells in the rear, though a large transmission tunnel eats into legroom for a middle passenger. Boot space is compromised somewhat in the 330e plug-in hybrid however, down about 100 litres to 375 litres to accommodate the battery.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 3 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 3 Series

Driving the BMW 330e

On the road, the 330e feels snappy and swift. Power delivery gets a professional finish. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a car wearing this badge. The 330e is as happy to cruise as it is to take on some corners. Rear wheel drive agility keeps things light and interesting behind the wheel. There’s plenty of grip and steering is direct. The set up is quite firm in this one, so rougher road surfaces do communicate more into the cabin. But on the smooth stuff, all is well.

Interestingly the car doesn’t feel quite as communicative in your hands as the 320d we tested previously. The electrified powertrain mutes the sensations somewhat. But the instant power delivery of the electric motor is immediately obvious. Boom!

But let’s not forget there is mighty wizardry at play here allowing you to slip this baby into electric mode and stealth mode slide around town on electric power alone for a range of up to 60 km. That’s more than before.

The plug-in hybrid models in the new BMW 3 Series owe their increased electric range to the latest advances in battery cell technology. Their lithium-ion batteries, designed specifically for each model and manufactured by the BMW Group, have a gross energy content of 12.0 kWh.

Using the electric range is best suited to low speed driving in town or short commutes, as the battery power will drain more rapidly at high speeds on the motorway for example. But I was lazy with the charging and still managed to post a good return on economy of 6.4 litres per 100 km.

It takes between 3 and 6 hours to charge the battery to full, depending on type of connection.

The 3 Series is a fun sports saloon
The 3 Series is a fun sports saloon

Did you like it?

BMW’s compact executive saloon gains even more power and flexibility in the 330e. The 330e gives options as we transition to more electrification, but even if you are not a frequent charger, the car performs on fuel like a decent petrol car.

There is an impressive fluidity to this car on the road, aided by the electric motor. Maybe not quite as sharp as a 320d for example. But it is a sporty car with a firm enough set up on the road.

It’s indeed a beautiful car, particularly in M Sport trim. We love the high quality interior, and that very meaty steering wheel.

The 3 Series is a legend and deservedly so!

The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid offering an all-electric drive up to 60 km
The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid offering an all-electric drive up to 60 km

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 3 Series 330 e M Sport
Price: 
€49,082
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 292 PS
Torque: 420 Nm
Top speed: 230 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 5.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
34 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

 


The BMW 5 Series has been updated for 2021

BMW 5 Series 530e Hybrid Review (2021)

The BMW 5 Series has been updated for 2021
The BMW 5 Series has been updated - the brand's most popular model in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2021 BMW 530e!

The BMW 5 Series is unquestionably a stalwart of the BMW range and indeed the entire motor industry. Making a grand entrance comes simply to the 5 Series - it has been doing just that for well over 40 years.

The latest generation of the large executive classic launched here in Ireland back in 2017. That story ended with the 5 Series winning us over with its luxurious cabin and fun to drive character behind the wheel.

In 2020 the BMW 5 Series returned with a few tweaks to keep it competitive in its class. It's the 'facelifted' 5 we find here on test for Changing Lanes.

The 5 Series is BMW’s bestselling model in Ireland and the updated range goes on sale from €53,468 for a 520d diesel or from €53,803 for a 520i petrol.

What’s new for the BMW 5 Series in 2021?

Electrification moves up a gear with a revised 530e in 2021 – the plug-in hybrid 5 Series that’s capable of driving on pure electric power for a range of up to 58 km. It goes on sale from €59,822 and posts some very impressive performance figures while keeping CO2 emissions as low as 40g/km. Plug-in hybrid power is growing in popularity across the motor industry and indeed the BMW range, with many old favourites now getting the addition of a battery, electric motor and plug!

Elsewhere styling has been mildly tweaked and new equipment added. But the 5 Series in 2021 remains a gloriously handsome car that makes you feel like a boss! The BMW kidney grille is now bigger, flanked by slimmer LED headlights with two U-shaped daytime running lights.

The 5 Series goes on sale priced from €53,468
The 5 Series goes on sale priced from €53,468

In Ireland the new BMW 5 Series will be available in SE, M Sport and M Sport Edition trims. The M Sport package features new 19” and 20” wheels, while the new limited M Sport Edition comes with exclusive Individual metallic paint and unique 20” Air Performance wheels.

The front apron of both SE and M Sport cars has also been redesigned with larger and more pronounced air inlets. At the rear, the taillights have been redesigned with blackened glass. There’s also a redesigned rear apron, trapezoidal tailpipe finishers and a sportier mounted diffuser.

Inside the 2021 BMW 5 Series

The quality and comfort inside the 5 Series make it one of the most desirable large premium saloons on the market today. Yes, you will know you are behind the wheel of something expensive. There are many different trims and beautiful interior options you can choose from, which makes every 5 Series feel more individual and nothing short of luxurious! Leather upholstery is standard across the range and the test car had Ivory White Dakota leather. Material quality is just excellent everywhere.

New interior features include a larger 12.3” Central Information Display powered by the latest Operating System 7.0 with rotary controller, including BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant and smartphone integration. The new 5 Series also benefits from the latest camera- and radar-based driving assistant systems, including features like steering and lane-control assistant and active cruise control.

The interior feels large and welcoming with good width across the rear bench for three, through the transmission tunnel takes up a fair bit of space on middle passengers. Wouldn’t it be more realistic for two VIPS or executives?

In the 530e plug-in hybrid, boot space is somewhat compromised to accommodate the 12 kWh battery under the boot floor. But the floor remains flat and there is a decent 410 litres of space regardless.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 5 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 5 Series - luxury limo!

What are my engine options?

The 530e uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, battery and 80 kW electric motor, all combined with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Plug-in hybrid is a big emerging trend in the BMW range with the brand adding many new plug-in hybrids across model ranges in the last 12 months. The 530e plug-in hybrid gets improved for 2021 with more power, torque and better efficiency, while a new 545e has also been added with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. The 5 Series Touring is also available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time.

Other engine options include four and six cylinder petrol and diesel engines with mild-hybrid technology across the board to enhance performance, lower fuel consumption and improve driving comfort.

In 2017 we tested the classic BMW 520d 2.0-litre diesel at Changing Lanes and it never fails to impress with its refinement, power and economy.

Driving the BMW 530e

This time at Changing Lanes, it’s the turn of the petrol electric hybrid 530e. It is one of the most powerful of the range with 292 hp and 420 Nm of torque. This means it feels lively and flexible all the time, with a responsive throttle that marries beautifully with the 5 Series rear wheel drive dance through corners. This is a real thing. BMW make cars do this very well. They have been doing it for years. The 530e is lithe but we think the 520d we tested previously might have taken on the lateral challenges of corners a teeny bit better owing to the traditional combustion engine powertrain sans battery and electric motor.

Power is put to the road in a controlled, stately manner. It's the most fun large plug-in hybrid you will find in the executive car park! This is a super quiet, comfortable long distance cruiser. The steering is meaty with plenty of feedback for a tactile experience behind the wheel. Sport mode livens things up even more but you can optimise efficiency in the Hybrid mode and still enjoy this car.

Ideally, your plug-in hybrid should be charged regularly to get the best out of it and run it on electric power for the range of up to 58 km. Ideal for low speed trips around town. When you get out on to the motorway your battery power will drain fast. But the 530e still posted some very acceptable economy figures for what is a heavy car. Over a week of driving we averaged 6.7 litres per 100 km. And wow was this car good to drive on the motorway! For this generation of the 5 Series BMW paid particular attention to reducing interior noise levels.  The BMW 5 Series is forever stylish and fun to drive!The BMW 5 Series is forever stylish and fun to drive!

Did you like it?

We love the 5 Series at Changing Lanes. It has such class and presence, amazing pedigree and fun rear wheel drive handling.

The BMW handles superbly and feels alive in your hands like none of its competitors. The 530e adds hybrid power to the mix championing a silky smooth transmission and a new degree of silence to driving a 5 Series.

The 5 Series is ageing but still looks good. The interior is high quality with a reasonable digital upgrade helping keeping it up to date with competitors.

Diesel has been the default in this segment for a long time but the 530e is a successful alternative, offering buyers flexibility - but at a premium. We can't see the classic 520d being abandoned any time soon. It posts great economy, especially for high mileage and frequent motorway users. But whatever your preferred flavour of 5, you will find an amazing companion in the BMW 5 Series!

The new BMW 530e on test for Changing Lanes!
The new BMW 530e on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 5 Series 530 e M Sport
Price: 
€66,996
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 292 PS
Torque: 420 Nm
Top speed: 235 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 5.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
40 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!

Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2021) Review

 

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!

Launched back in 2016, the current generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is known as a leader. With over 14 million E-Class Saloon and Estate models delivered since 1946, the E-Class is the best-selling model series in the history of Mercedes-Benz and considered by many as the ‘heart of the brand’.

It's no surprise. This large luxury saloon hit its stride in 2016 with the launch of the tenth generation E-Class, widely acclaimed as the epitome of style, comfort and refinement. But even leaders need to keep themselves sharp with the pace of competition in the motor industry at the moment. So it was time for the E-Class to take a trip to the tailor for a fancy new executive suit.

Hybrid power is a strong theme as is a digital technology upgrade for even more wow factor behind the wheel.

 

 

What's new for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class?

The E-Class is the bestselling model for Mercedes-Benz in Ireland. In late 2020, the brand launched a refreshed version of this executive classic, while also using the opportunity to launch two ‘EQ Power’ plug-in hybrid models on the Irish market – the E 300 e (petrol electric hybrid) and the E 300 de (diesel electric hybrid). The petrol hybrid now has a higher capacity battery, more power and more torque. It hits the market at a time when hybrids are big news and now can drive for longer on electric power - up to 50 km.

The latest E-Class has had a few styling tweaks for 2021. The refresh includes a slight redesign of the front grille and headlamps for a more youthful appearance in line with other models in the Mercedes-Benz range like the A-Class, upcoming C-Class and flagship S-Class that launched here at the beginning of 2021. At the back, there’s a new bumper, split tail lamps and a new boot lid. Full LED headlights and taillights are fitted as standard. Subtlety is the name of the game here but stately presence is non-negotiable.

The E-Class has been updated for 2021 with more hybrid power
The E-Class has been updated for 2021 with more hybrid power

Inside the latest E-Class

Inside comes a well-appointed interior that is still a class example of modern contemporary luxury, something Mercedes-Benz does so well these days. Cabin finish is impeccable as you would expect of a high-flyer like the E-Class. There are new trims for the interior too and a new steering wheel design. Supportive seats with leather upholstery come as standard, ideal for settling in for a long motorway cruise.

The latest-generation MBUX and ‘Hey Mercedes’ multimedia and voice-activated assistance systems also feature. Displayed on two large, high-resolution multimedia screens, both come housed beneath a shared glass cover that creates a widescreen cockpit effect. It’s simply stunning.

Unfortunately boot space suffers in the hybrid to accommodate the battery, down from a very respectable 540 litres - in a diesel E-Class for example - to 370 litres in the E 300 e, with an awkward step in the boot. Otherwise this is a roomy and luxurious large executive saloon that will thrill all on board!

Pricing starts from €53,645 for the E 200 d, while the E 300 e plug-in hybrid range starts from €61,830 with a high level of standard equipment. The E 300 de diesel plug-in hybrid range starts from €63,755.

The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Hybrid power in the E-Class

Mercedes-Benz Ireland expects the focus for the Irish market to be the tried and tested E 200d and 220d diesels, and the new E 300 e/ E 300 de plug-in hybrids. I can attest to the success of the Mercedes-Benz E 220d from previous experience, with diesel still being a reliable choice for power and economy in this class of vehicle.

Yet times are changing with electrification becoming the default way for car manufacturers to bring down emissions and offer customers more flexible, environmentally friendly options.

Powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, combined with a 13.5 kWh battery and electric motor, the new Mercedes-Benz E 300 e puts out a healthy 320 hp and 700 Nm of torque. CO2 emissions are just 37g/km so this model qualifies for motor tax of €140 per year. Times are changing!

Simply gorgeous!
Simply gorgeous!

Driving the Mercedes-Benz E 300 e

On the road the E-Class shows exactly why it’s still a benchmark in its class with excellent comfort and refinement making it an absolute pleasure to drive. It soaks up the motorway miles, moving over the tarmac like the big, elegant saloon it is. There’s a pleasantly positive delivery of power by the E 300 e, made all the more special by the knack of the electric motor to give smooth, linear acceleration, while the 9-speed automatic gearbox never misses a beat. It is beguiling how quiet this car is to drive around town.

The E-Class might look the business but it’s not the most dynamically exciting car in its class. Yet rear wheel drive agility still makes it an interesting large saloon to drive.

While diesel has typically been the go-to in the large premium saloon segment, the new Mercedes-Benz E 300 e returns some impressive economy. Over a week of driving, with some motorway runs included, my average fuel consumption was between 6 – 6.4 l/100 km.

The beauty of this car is that because it’s a plug-in hybrid you can experiment with charging it and driving it on electric power alone, for example when driving around town or on short commutes. In this scenario, there’s up to 50 km of range available. With an on-board charge port with a capacity of 7.4 kW, the battery can be charged in 1.5 hours using a wallbox or in five hours using a conventional domestic power socket.

The Mercedes-Benz E 300 e is available from €61,830
The Mercedes-Benz E 300 e is available from €61,830

Did you like it?

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a fine car and highly desirable for its comfort, refinement, and high-end cabin experience. The updates for 2021 bring a healthy digital and technology upgrade to the car making for an even more glamourous cabin. It covers the road like a dream, making it a fabulous way to travel!

The new E 300 e is a wonderful execution of Mercedes-Benz values – electrified. However, the diesel E-Class is also a highly capable vehicle with great returns on economy. So, whether buyers are ready to pay the premium for new plug-in hybrid technology, and start their own journey to electrification, remains a very personal matter. But either way the E-Class is a magnificent car!

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class - full of mystery and magic!
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class - full of mystery and magic!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 300 e Plug In Hybrid
Price: 
€61,830
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
320 bhp
Torque: 
700 Nm
0-100km/h: 
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 
250 km/h
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
37 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

 


The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes

Volvo XC40 (2020) T5 Hybrid Review

The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes
The Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the new Volvo XC40 T5 hybrid!

This week on Changing Lanes we test the new Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid. Volvo’s compact SUV has been a great success for Volvo and is now the bestselling model in the Volvo range in Ireland since it launched here in 2018. A former Irish Car of the Year winner, the Volvo XC40 has established itself as formidable competition in the premium compact SUV segment.

Launched with petrol and diesel engines, Volvo continues the Swedish brand’s journey to electrification with the arrival of plug-in hybrid technology to the tune of the new Volvo XC40 T5. Volvo already sells plug-in hybrids in other models in the range, including SUVs, so this is a continuation of a similar theme. While an all-electric XC40 is expected in 2021.

What's so special about the Volvo XC40 T5?

In the T5 ‘Twin Engine’, this compact SUV model uses a three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine supported by a battery and electric motor to reduce emissions and give the XC40 the capacity to drive on pure electric power for a short range. This is ideal for city dwellers with short commutes and ability to charge their car between journeys.

The T5 is not only the first hybrid powertrain in the XC40, it’s also the first to be engineered for use in Volvo's CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform and uses a front-wheel drive layout. The powertrain is supported by a new seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission, featured for the first time in a new-generation Volvo model.

While the Volvo XC40 range kicks off from about €38,297, buyers will pay from about €47,700, including grants and VRT relief, for this ability to embrace a modern plug-in hybrid powertrain in their new Volvo SUV.

The Volvo XC40 is the bestselling Volvo in Ireland
The Volvo XC40 is the bestselling Volvo in Ireland

So what do you get for your money?

Power output is an impressive 262 hp, while CO2 emissions are just 48 g CO2 meaning buyers will pay €170 per year at the moment in motor tax. A 10.7 kWh lithium-ion battery on board means that the new XC40 T5 can be driven on electric power only for a range of up to 46 km.

The Volvo XC40 is a fine piece of design. The Recharge branding appears for the first time on the C pillar to indicate the electrified powertrain underneath and there is a recharging outlet positioned under a flap on the front wing.

Inside, the Volvo XC40 is still a masterclass in design in its segment. The layout is simple and stylish, while the quality is just superb. The car comes equipped with digital instrument panel and portrait style infotainment system and it still feels modern, with smartphone connectivity available. Passengers are well accommodated for with large footwells in the rear, while there is also a good-sized boot with 460 litres making it an ideal fashionable family car.

The interior of the Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro
The interior of the Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro

Driving the Volvo XC40 T5

On the road, the XC40 T5 is a dream to drive. Its hybrid powertrain means it runs super silently whether in town or on the motorway. The power delivery is smooth and urgent, with a pleasant kick when you press the accelerator. It’s 262 hp after all! Handling is positive though under hard braking you will feel the weight of the vehicle. Though the electric motor is helping particularly at low speeds in town, where it is most efficient, on the open road you call more on the engine. While the onus is on drivers to charge up to improve the efficiency of the vehicle, without charging regularly I achieved an average fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 km.

The T5 is available in a range of trim levels including R-Design and Inscription with Pro editions of each. Our test car was a beautiful Inscription Pro that comes with luxurious features such as 19” alloys, leather upholstery, heated front seats, ambient lighting, powered tailgate and a show-stopping Orrefors Crystal glass gear selector.

The XC40 plug in hybrid can be driven on pure electric power up to about 46 km.
The XC40 plug in hybrid can be driven on pure electric power up to about 46 km.

So did you like it?

The Volvo XC40 is a proper premium SUV, nothing has changed when you add a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s impressively refined and covers the road smoothly and comfortably, leaving little to disagree with.

It is a pricey vehicle, and plug-in hybrids are still not for everyone. Yet economy returns are promising and charging after each journey will make a lot more sense.

The cabin is comfortable and well appointed with a good use of space. The plug-in hybrid technology hasn’t put the XC40 at a disadvantage when it comes to providing the space and practicality required of the compact SUV segment.

Volvo is pushing electrification strongly in their range, giving buyers more options and settling one’s conscious of driving an SUV in the city. With hybrid power and the ability to drive on electricity only, it feels like the right thing to do for urban dwellers. But if you are not quite sold on hybrid for your motoring needs, the XC40 is still a very good SUV with plenty to discover across the range.

New Volvo XC40 T5 available from about €47,700 after grants and VRT relief
New Volvo XC40 T5 available from about €47,700 after grants and VRT relief

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Pro
Price: 
€50,100 after grants and VRT relief
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
262 hp
Torque: 425 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.3 seconds
Top speed: 205 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 2.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 55 g/km
Motor Tax:  €170 per year


The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid

Hyundai Kona Hybrid (2020) Review

The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid
The new Hyundai Kona Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the new Hyundai Kona Hybrid.

Hyundai hit the jackpot when they launched the new Kona back in 2017. Riding on a wave of success with the popular Tucson family SUV, the Korean brand took a grip on the compact crossover class with the Kona and hasn’t let go since. It’s slipped quietly into a top 5 position as one of Ireland's bestselling cars and trounced all upon the competition.

So what's so special about the Hyundai Kona?

The Hyundai Kona offers buyers an on-trend compact car with rugged crossover-inspired styling and stance. But aside from aesthetics, it also offers buyers impressive choice. In what is still unusual for the compact crossover class, the Kona is now available in Ireland as a hybrid, electric vehicle or with a simple combustion engine (petrol or diesel).

The Hyundai Kona Electric has been a favourite at Changing Lanes since we drove it in 2019. We were impressed with how well the electric powertrain blended with the charismatic crossover and a range in excess of 400 km made range anxiety a thing of the past.

Now in 2020 the Hyundai Kona Hybrid comes to market with a 1.6-litre petrol electric powertrain that means emissions are rated at just 101 g/km. Fuel consumption is quoted by the manufacturer as 5.0 l/100km under WLTP. With the Kona Hybrid, buyers who require a traditional fuel powered car can now reconcile their conscious with a more fuel efficient hybrid.

The new Kona Hybrid goes on sale from €29,050, using a 6-speed automatic gearbox to deliver power to the front wheels. For reference, the Hyundai Kona 1.0-litre petrol manual goes on sale from €21,400, while the diesel range starts from €23,400. At the top of the range, the Hyundai Kona Electric retails from €39,300 including grants and VRT relief.

The Kona Hybrid is cheap to run with lower emissions
The Kona Hybrid is cheap to run with lower emissions

What's new for the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid?

Hybrids are all the rage at the moment. The Kona Hybrid packs this technology into an already successful compact. On the outside a discreet hybrid logo at the rear and new 18" alloy wheels differentiate it from the rest of the combustion engined Kona range. Yet the Kona's rugged good looks are retained, along with distinct front end lighting, robust plastic cladding around the sills, bumpers and wheel arches, and two tone colour combinations.

The Kona Hybrid still rides a little bit higher than a standard hatchback, but drives pretty much like the latter - part of its appeal. It's also a practical vehicle, though being compact by dimensions means that legroom can get tight in the back for taller passengers. Boot space hasn't been impacted and it remains akin to any family hatchback with 361 litres and a flat loading sill.

The interior of the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid
The interior of the 2020 Hyundai Kona Hybrid

Inside the Kona Hybrid

The Hyundai Kona Hybrid has an identical interior to the rest of the Kona combustion engine range. Everything is simple and logically laid out, with a few additional interfaces to relay information to the driver about the hybrid system and power flow between engine, battery and electric motor.

Hard plastics do feature a lot, though the Hybrid does get its own dedicated interior colour pack to add interest to what is otherwise a relatively subdued affair. There are white accents around the air vent surrounds and gear shift bezel, as well as glossy black accents on the door handles and steering wheel.

There is a good level of standard equipment: 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, climate control, electronic parking brake, cruise control, rear view camera and wireless phone charger.

Kona Hybrid on sale in Ireland priced from €29,050
Kona Hybrid on sale in Ireland priced from €29,050

Driving it

On the road the Kona takes off in near silence, benefiting from that electrical assistance from the hybrid powertrain. The dual clutch automatic gearbox makes driving in town easy, while the Kona is naturally agile in that environment. It also performs well on larger roads despite its compact proportions, with decent levels of comfort and refinement.

The hybrid powertrain itself uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine, 1.56 kWh battery and 32 kW motor to deliver a maximum hybrid system power of 141 hp and 265 Nm to the front wheels. The bias in the transmission is to efficiency so it would be foolish to expect exciting performance from this car. But buyers should be more interested in how they can save fuel using the Kona Hybrid and drive in an eco-friendly manner. In that regard the hybrid does deliver and with a patient right foot, we achieved average fuel consumption of 5.4 litres per 100 km. Motor tax for this model is currently just €190 per year.

Hyundai is a brand keen to try new things and embrace trends in the motor industry. In many ways, they are one of the driving forces behind innovation in the motor industry right now, offering alternative technologies to more people, while creating stylish, practical vehicles that sit comfortably among consumers.

At Changing Lanes, we adore the Kona Electric yet the nature of the technology and powerful 64 kWh battery means the price tag still puts it out of reach of buyers of small crossovers.

At the entry into the range, the 1.0-litre petrol Kona will satisfy the needs of many compact crossover buyers at very competitive pricing.

The Kona Hybrid offers cheaper running costs yet the price positioning opens the field to more competition from the family crossover/SUV segment that may see it overlooked for more spacious vehicles. Yet the Kona Hybrid is undeniably an efficient vehicle using the latest hybrid technology, and we look forward to seeing it evolve into 2021.

Once of the few hybrid compact crossovers on the market, the Kona is a stylish and fuel efficient way to travel
Once of the few hybrid compact crossovers on the market, the Kona is a stylish and fuel efficient way to travel

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Hyundai Kona Hybrid with 2 tone roof
Price: 
€29,650
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
141 hp
Torque: 265 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.6 seconds
Top speed: 160 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 101 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year


The 2020 Toyota C-HR on test for Changing Lanes!

Toyota C-HR (2020) Review

The 2020 Toyota C-HR on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2020 Toyota C-HR on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Toyota C-HR.

The Toyota C-HR marked a turning point for the Toyota brand when it was first launched back in 2016. The coupé crossover heralded the arrival of a new generation of Toyota cars built upon the TNGA platform, with more dynamism and style.

The C-HR was a dramatic departure in styling for the brand, and continues to command attention on Irish roads. Now it’s the turn of the 2020 model, mildly facelifted for this model year and also introducing some new features and powertrain options.

The  Toyota C-HR has been a huge success in Ireland and is now the Japanese brand’s 2nd bestselling model in Ireland after the new Toyota Corolla. Priced from €30,370, the C-HR has moved up a gear in 2020 and is now exclusively sold as a hybrid.

However Toyota has also widened the range with the arrival of a new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. It offers even more performance than the 1.8-litre hybrid version that helped the C-HR to establish itself in Ireland over the last four years.

The C-HR is now available with a 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain with more power and performance
The C-HR is now available with a 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain with more power and performance

What's new for the Toyota C-HR in 2020?

The C-HR’s dramatic coupe-like styling and crossover stance remain a stand out feature. For 2020 there is new LED technology in the headlights and rear lights, with the daytime running lights (DRLs) and indicators combined into one frontal projector emitting a single smooth line above the main beam. At the rear, the new combi lamps are connected by a new gloss black spoiler.

There are four trim levels – Luna, Sport, Luna Sport and Sol – with varying levels of bling applied to the car depending on trim level, from different alloy wheel designs to the bi tone roof option. My test car was the Launch Edition finished in exclusive metallic orange and shod with black, 10 spoke 18” alloy wheels.

Inside, Toyota has trimmed the interior with some new fabrics and materials for the 2020 model year. However the cabin remains stylish and contemporary with an intriguing diamond motif theme throughout. It appears in for example the shape of the control buttons for the media system, and even as an embedded pattern in the roof of the car.

The interior of the 2020 Toyota C-HR
The interior of the 2020 Toyota C-HR

Behind the wheel of the C-HR

The driving position in the C-HR is very comfortable, with plenty of adjustment in the seat. There is some elevation to it though overall the driver feels very snug and cosseted in the seat, like a hatchback, as opposed to feeling perched upon the vehicle.

Apple Car Play and Android Auto are now available and there is a large touchscreen as standard. Material quality is good inside with our Launch Edition model getting some black perforated leather trim with diamond pattern and dark brown upper dashboard area.

Other equipment highlights include Toyota Safety Sense suite of safety equipment including traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitor, JBL premium sound system, dual zone climate control, cruise control, ambient lights, parking camera and heated front seats.

The C-HR will seat five with reasonable space for rear occupants. The beautiful coupe style on the outside means that the rear can be quite dark for passengers but there is competitive legroom. A powered tailgate is available and the boot has a capacity of 377 litres.

The 2020 Toyota C-HR is available from €30,370
The 2020 Toyota C-HR is available from €30,370

Tell us about the hybrid

The 1.8-litre hybrid (122hp) is now joined by a higher powered 2.0-litre hybrid with 184hp in the 2020 Toyota C-HR. Fuel consumption is quoted as low as 4.8 litres per 100 km in the entry level 1.8-litre hybrid C-HR. On test, we drove the Launch Edition sold exclusively with the more performance oriented 2.0-litre hybrid.

On the road 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 interruption from the CVT gearbox to ensure a smooth, calm and quiet presence in the cabin. At low speeds in town for example or when parking, the electrical assistance kicks in ensuring that overall, we returned an impressive 5.5 litres per 100 km on our test drive.

Toyota has made some dynamic upgrades for 2020 include a modified EPS tuning for improved steering feel. The 2.0-litre hybrid also gets a new suspension design that improves ride comfort while retaining the Toyota C-HR’s handling capabilities. All variants also feature an upgraded Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) pack to further reduce cabin noise.

As a result the C-HR is comfortable to drive on the road and one of the brand’s most premium vehicles in terms of behaviour. It’s competent on the road and in this class of vehicle it feels responsive and agile in terms of controls and how it responds to driver inputs.

Toyota has considerable experience in hybrid and it shows in the C-HR
Toyota has considerable experience in hybrid and it shows in the C-HR

Did you like it?

The Toyota brand's strong presence in Ireland means the C-HR has established itself quickly in the market as an alternative to the familiar family SUV pack. There are more practical crossovers available in this price range but the C-HR is one of the most premium feeling models in the Toyota range, with design and style going some way to justify its positioning in the market. Add in an ultra trendy hybrid powertrain that genuinely delivers good return on economy and you can understand this car's appeal.

The Launch Edition 2.0-litre hybrid has a hefty price tag (€38,515) but there is better value to be had elsewhere in the range, with the C-HR coming well-equipped from entry.

The 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain will suit most motorists, but at Changing Lanes we did enjoy the power and refinement of the C-HR 2.0-litre hybrid. The addition of Apple Car Play and Android Auto is a welcome technology update and the C-HR's cabin still looks stylish and contemporary in 2020 against the competition.

It's very easy to see the appeal of the C-HR from behind the wheel and we enjoyed our time spent with the car. As more hybrids come to market, the sophistication of the hybrid powertrain and Toyota's experience in this area shines through.

Toyota C-HR is a stylish and efficient crossover
Toyota C-HR is a stylish and efficient crossover

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota C-HR Launch Edition
Price: 
€38,515
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 190 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.2 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.2 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 119 g/km
Motor Tax:  €200 per year


The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

Kia XCeed Plug-In Hybrid (2020) Review

The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes
The new Kia XCeed PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the 2020 Kia XCeed.

Earlier in the year we tested the Kia XCeed diesel; now it’s the turn of the hybrid.

The Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid (PHEV) comes to market with fashionable crossover style and an equally on trend hybrid powertrain. It’s a stylish piece of design for the compact segment but how successful is the hybrid powertrain?

Kia has astounded us over the last few years with a range of exciting and innovative models that puts them ahead of some even more established brands.

The Korean brand has not only stepped up quality and design but has also been an enthusiastic adopter of electrification into their range. The brand already sells two popular electric vehicles in Ireland, the Kia e-Niro and the Kia e-Soul, Irish Car of the Year 2020.

Fashionable crossover style for the new XCeed
Fashionable crossover style for the new XCeed

What's so special about the Kia XCeed Plug-In Hybrid?

Hybrid is also a key feature of the range, debuting here in the Niro range back in 2016 and now extending to the XCeed range and next Kia Sorento.

The brand has had great success in Ireland with its SUVs like the Sportage and moved into the crossover market with the Stonic and now the XCeed. A derivative of the Ceed is a good place to start for the XCeed and it inherits the same underpinnings and interior with some modifications. The XCeed in my opinion is the most desirable of the range with its crossover-style makeover.

The XCeed PHEV has a new closed ‘tiger-nose’ grille to aid aerodynamic efficiency and the charging port is integrated into the left front wing. In Ireland it retails from €28,350 including grants and VRT relief. It is available in just one high specification. Standard equipment includes 18” alloy wheels, dual zone automatic air con, 8” touchscreen with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, rear privacy glass, rain sensing wipers, lane keep assist and forward collision avoidance.

Inside the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV
Inside the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV

Inside the Kia XCeed PHEV

Inside, the XCeed PHEV is comfortable with a well-laid out cabin and good finish. There are some new features for the plug-in hybrid including a charging indicator on top of the dashboard to signal visually to the driver the state of the battery (charging or fully charged).The instrument cluster also displays remaining charge levels, anticipated electric-only range and the flow of energy between the battery pack, engine and electric motor. The ‘Driver Only’ heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is a handy feature to reduce the draw on battery energy from the ventilation system.

There is good space inside the vehicle for a compact with decent legroom in the rear. The Ceed model line-up was engineered from the start to accommodate new hybrid powertrains so the battery pack doesn't interfere with passenger space. The 8.9 kWh battery pack is located alongside the 37-litre fuel tank beneath the rear bench. However the boot is on the shallow side with luggage capacity in the hybrid down to 291 litres, less than the pure combustion engine versions.

How does the hybrid work?

The 2020 Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor and 8.9 kWh battery pack to produce 141 hp and 265 Nm of torque. There is a pure electric range quoted up to 54 km by the brand, though in real world driving this will be a little less. But it does allow buyers to experiment with driving an electric vehicle and means that short commutes or errands can be run on battery power alone, with little dip into that petrol tank. It can take less than 3 hours to charge the battery to full capacity.

Luggage capacity in the new XCeed hybrid
Luggage capacity in the new XCeed hybrid

Kia says that the XCeed Plug-in Hybrid has been engineered exclusively for European roads, with European buyers in mind. The ride and handling characteristics have been tuned for dynamism and driver engagement, with some special tweaks to suspension and steering over the diesel and petrol XCeed range.

The powertrain is paired with a six-speed double-clutch transmission, while regenerative braking technology also comes as standard to recuperate energy typically lost during coasting or braking.

Driving the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV

On the road the Kia XCeed PHEV impressed for its smooth, refined drive. Handling is quite neutral so the car behaves predictably on the road but there isn't much dynamic spirit to it. There are two modes to switch between – Sport and Eco - and both are worth acquainting yourself with.

In Eco mode there is a bias towards efficiency with a duller throttle feel ensuring you optimise your fuel economy. To that end we averaged between 5.0 and 5.5 litres per 100 kms across mixed roads - urban, rural and motorway. That is an impressive return and motor tax is just €170 per year, accounting for the reduced CO2 emissions from the hybrid powertrain.

When you need more throttle response and quick acceleration, for example when overtaking or joining the motorway, the Sport mode is a must.

Kia has invested to bring plug-in hybrid technology to the compact class, and the brand is offering buyers in Ireland an attractive package of price, equipment and fuel sipping hybrid technology in the compact class.

The XCeed occupies a sweet spot of the market right now with styling that is right on point for current trends for crossovers. Adding hybrid to that creates a very appealing prospect. While the hybrid carries a small premium over the entry level petrol XCeed, in return I think buyers will be impressed with the fuel economy and refinement of the vehicle.

The Kia XCeed PHEV offers buyers a fuel sipping hybrid crossover
The Kia XCeed PHEV offers buyers a fuel sipping hybrid crossover

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid
Price: 
€28,350
Engine: 1.6 litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
141 hp
Torque: 265 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.8 seconds
Top speed: 225 km/h
Fuel economy: 4.2 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Motor Tax:  €170 per year


The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland

Toyota Corolla GR Sport (2020) Review

The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland
The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

2019 saw the arrival of the all-new Toyota Corolla to Ireland. The Corolla’s arrival was heralded by three new derivatives – hatchback, estate and saloon – with hybrid a key part of the brand’s mission in the compact segment.

The new Corolla has been an indisputable success in Ireland and is the 2020 Continental Tyres Irish Medium Car of the Year.

What’s so great about the new Toyota Corolla?

Well there are three distinct models all with fuel sipping hybrid powertrains built upon Toyota’s more agile and dynamic TNGA platform. All feature modern interior design and there are even optional two tone paint finishes that take even more years off the Corolla. This car has never looked better. Now Toyota sees even more potential with this car, introducing a sportier hybrid powertrain and new GR Sport trim level, exclusive to the Corolla Hatchback.

It’s wonderful to watch the Corolla explore its new, more fashionable position in the market. It's even better to experience this car from the driver’s seat. I couldn’t quite believe that I was picking up a sporty Corolla. For too long Corolla stood for sensible, reliable transport. But it was hardly a car that you really, really desired to drive, over say a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Now all that has changed.

Toyota has big plans, not least a rumoured full on Corolla GR performance hatchback in the next few years, a follow up to the rapturous Yaris GR. The GR Sport is a trim level where you get sportier visual updates to the car inspired by high performance models. To recap GR stands for the wonderfully named Toyota performance division ‘Gazoo Racing’. The Corolla GR Sport is just the second model to join the European GR Sport line-up following the introduction of the Yaris GR Sport in 2019.

The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland's bestselling car
The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland's bestselling car

What features does the Corolla GR Sport get?

The Corolla Hatchback range starts from €26,390 in Ireland and now exclusively uses a petrol electric hybrid powertrain. There are two hybrid powertrains to choose from - the 1.8-litre with 122 hp that we tested last year in the Corolla Hatchback - and the more powerful 2.0-litre hybrid with 184 hp tested here in GR Sport specification. This top of the range model has a list price of €35,053. The GR Sport trim level is also available with the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain. It retails from €32,485 in this configuration.

The GR Sport makeover looks really good on the Corolla. It’s a handsome hatchback anyway but sporty features look genuinely comfortable here. The Toyota Gazoo Racing influence comes in distinctive styling elements like a new honeycomb mesh pattern front grille with piano black surrounds, lower skirts, and sills. At the rear there is a silver insert in the lower bumper, creating the look of twin tailpipes and a diffuser. A black roof comes as standard matched to a choice of five body colours. Wheels are 18” black alloy with a contrasting bright machined finish to the tips of each spoke and red GR centre caps. There is also rear privacy glass and bi-LED headlights. The finishing touches are black backgrounds for the Toyota emblems on the bonnet and boot lid, and official GR badging.

What's it like inside?

Inside the GR Sport has a few bespoke features too. There are lots of soft touch black panel finishes. Red stitching on the gear selector, steering wheel and seats adds a nice contrast. The seats have a sports design with fabric in the centre and leather-effect bolsters. They are comfortable and supportive. The GR Sport also benefits from the same interior technology as the rest of the Corolla range. Infotainment is controlled via a touchscreen that can connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity has just been added to the 2020 Corolla range too.

The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport
The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport

There's a new seven-inch colour TFT multi-information screen. Other standard features include Toyota Safety Sense, smart entry, rear privacy glass, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power-adjustable door mirrors with an auto-folding function.

The Corolla Hatchback will seat five however the Touring Sports (estate) and Saloon have more legroom because of a longer wheelbase. The rear legroom in the hatchback is on the small side for this class of vehicle, especially if there is a tall driver and front seat passenger! Boot space in the 2.0-litre hybrid models is also slightly compromised because the car’s battery is positioned under the boot floor. The standard Corolla Hatchback has 361 litres of boot space, however the 2.0-litre hybrid has less at 313 litres.

On the road in the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

Driving the new Corolla GR Sport was an opportunity to experience the brand’s new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. There’s more power and torque than in the standard 1.8-litre version. It has been engineered to be more responsive and fun to drive. This is all while still retaining a low emission hybrid powertrain.

Immediately the hybrid engine impressed me. It feels faster, more robust, smoother and more mature in drive. Power delivery is on the pedal responsive and with 184 hp, the Corolla 2.0-litre can really take off. The Corolla is a much improved car dynamically. I enjoyed the more powerful set-up in this car with smoother CVT automatic operation. Paddle shift gear changes are also possible. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 7.1 litres per 100 km, while motor tax is just €180 per year.

My verdict on this car is two fold as I’m essentially reviewing two things – the GR Sport spec additions and the 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain.

Last year I performed a number of test drives with the Corolla 1.8 litre and for many people this engine will suffice. It is the one to go for if you are genuinely looking for a fuel sipping car to save on fuel costs as time and time again it returned great economy for me. The 2.0-litre hybrid is more powerful and fun to drive. It feels like a more grown up affair yet fuel consumption does suffer a bit with the more performance bias of the design.

The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla's sporty new character
The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla's sporty new character

I think the GR Sport is a wonderful addition to the range. I adore the sporty look of this Corolla.

Corolla has grown up and got some street cred. The GR Sport explores the Corolla’s cool new character even more!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla GR Sport 2.0-litre Hybrid
Price: 
€35,053 (from €26,390)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 190 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP):
120 g/km
Motor Tax: €180 per year


Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!

2020 Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 First Drive Review

Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!
Caroline and the new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4!

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is the Opel brand’s first plug-in hybrid. It will arrive in Ireland later in February as the new, all wheel drive, range topper of the Grandland X mid-size family SUV range. Caroline travelled with Opel Ireland to the Black Forest, Germany, to test drive it.

Styling

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is a standard, friendly-looking family SUV, except for one key differentiating feature – the black bonnet that is exclusive to the Hybrid4. While this reviewer is a fan, Opel Ireland thinks it’s a risky move so dealer stock will be monotone only (the black bonnet will be available by special order). There’s a Hybrid4 badge at the rear and an extra flap housing the socket to charge the battery on board.

Interior

The new plug-in hybrid variant carries the same interior as the rest of the Grandland X range, except for a few new buttons and screens to control and monitor the hybrid system. The Grandland X cabin is quite sombre and conservative, but well-built with the latest technology features including the 8" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 can drive like an electric vehicle for up to 59 km
The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 can drive like an electric vehicle for up to 59 km

Practicality

The Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 is a mid-size family SUV with seating for five and competitive rear seating space for this class of vehicle. The battery has been placed under the rear seats and there has been little intrusion to the space in the vehicle as a consequence of the electrified powertrain. Charging cables can be stored in a special compartment under the boot floor and the boot is still competitively sized.

Engines

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with two electric motors to produce an overall system output of 300 hp and 520 Nm of torque, making it the most powerful model in the Grandland X range. An eight speed automatic gearbox comes as standard.

There will also be a front wheel drive only Opel Grandland X Hybrid available from March with 225 hp.

CO2 emissions are as low as 29 g/km.

On the road

The Opel Grandland X starts in electric mode and has a pure electric range of up to 59 km. The driver can select easily between four driving modes on start up: Electric, Hybrid, Sport and AWD.

Once leaving the confines of Basel Airport, I slipped the Grandland X into hybrid mode. In this mode, the car intelligently selects how much electric assistance to give. Over the first leg of my test drive over motorway and then smaller, fast flowing roads through the Black Forest, my average fuel consumption was an economical 4.6/100km.

Opel engineers encourage owners to plug their new Grandland X Hybrid in every day because the best economy is returned from the car when the battery is kept topped up, as common with all plug-in hybrids. For drivers who travel a short commute comfortably within the 59 km, it would be possible to run the car on electricity only, dipping into the fuel tank rarely. Of course there is never fear of range anxiety because you always have the back up of the petrol engine.

Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 has all wheel drive for extra reassurance in challenging road conditions
Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 has all wheel drive for extra reassurance in challenging road conditions

On the return leg of the journey back to the airport, my battery power ran low as we did not charge at our lunch stop. Average fuel consumption was 6.3l/100km over a 100 km journey that included high speed Autobahn driving.

I dipped into Sport mode during my test drive and it turns the Opel Grandland X into a different animal. This performance biased mode gives the driver instant feedback through the pedals. However, this is not a sports SUV, the Opel Grandland X won’t hustle around corners like a hot hatch but it’s a pleasant pop of power in an otherwise demure SUV.

Charging

The battery can be fully charged in around two hours with a 7.4 kW wallbox or about seven hours using a three point plug at home.

Equipment

In Ireland the new Grandland X Hybrid 4 will be available in the high spec Elite trim. Equipment includes 19" alloy wheels, 8" colour touchscreen, leather seat trim, power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, front parking sensors, driver drowsiness system, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane assist and side blind spot alert.

Pricing

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid4 Elite will go on sale in Ireland priced from €47,415. The Grandland X Hybrid (front wheel drive) will go on sale from €36,645 for the entry SC, €39,245 for the SRi and €41,745 for the Elite. All prices quoted here are inclusive of Government grants and incentives amounting to €7,500 for plug-in hybrids.

The interior of the new Grandland X Hybrid4
The interior of the new Grandland X Hybrid4

Rivals

The new Opel Grandland X Hybrid and Hybrid4 will compete against sister brand Peugeot’s 3008 Hybrid4 and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Summary

The new Grandland X Hybrid4 is a pioneering new product for the Opel brand. Along with the new Corsa-e, these models spearhead the brand’s move to electrification that will see the brand’s entire product portfolio with a battery electric vehicle or hybrid by 2024.

The Grandland X is currently available with diesel and petrol engines, and the Hybrid4 marks a new departure, now offering another option for buyers seeking to move to a lower emissions vehicle.

With the standard Grandland X range kicking off at €28,995, the Hybrid4 carries a significant investment. And though huge savings can be made on running costs, some strategy regarding charging at home and at your destination is needed in order to truly see the benefits of a PHEV.

The hybrid system itself is impressive, as are the performance figures for a standard mid size family SUV. But it’s the green credentials of the Opel Grandland X, not the sporty ones, which should truly inspire buyers to own one.

The Grandland X Hybrid4 is available from €47,415
The Grandland X Hybrid4 is available from €47,415 in Ireland

Caroline Kidd