The new MG 5 on test for Changing Lanes!

MG5 Estate Review (2021)

The new MG 5 on test for Changing Lanes!
The new MG 5 on test for Changing Lanes!

MG returned to Ireland at the end of 2020 with a new suite of electrified vehicles. Under a new distributor, the brand has launched three new models here - the MG ZS electric SUV previously reviewed for Changing Lanes, the MG HS plug-in hybrid SUV, and now this, the MG5, an all-electric estate car for the Irish market.

An estate car! We don't hear much about them these days as the market is obsessed with SUVs and crossovers. Yet estate cars were always the default choice for buyers seeking a lifestyle vehicle that can fit the dog and some gear, while giving a more 'active' image than a saloon or hatchback.

But SUVs these days seem to capture most of that market - though it's debatable how well they fit the brief for space and practicality.

What's so special about the MG5?

The new MG5 is discreet to look at but underneath there's an electric powertrain that is good for up to 345 km. There are no other electric estate cars on the market at the moment making the MG5 a unique proposition right now.

The MG5 sits quite low for an electric car, with the water-cooled battery pack integrated into the car’s chassis. There are dynamic benefits here too, with the low centre of gravity influencing how the car feels on the road.

With pricing starting from €27,645 for the Excite model and from €30,895 for the Exclusive model with more equipment on board, the MG5 remains affordable in today's EV market, with affordability and value being key drivers of the MG brand relaunch in Ireland.

The MG5 is on sale in Ireland now priced from €27,645
The MG5 is on sale in Ireland now priced from €27,645

What's it like to drive?

The MG5 on test used a 52.5 kWh battery with up to 345 km (WLTP) of range available, and a 115 kW motor, equivalent to 156 hp. The performance figures are good and the MG5 feels swift and responsive on the road. It is agile and simple to drive with a very conventional layout to the controls used to operate the vehicle and monitor its progress. The low centre of gravity means it feels planted at all times, behaving in a natural way in response to driver inputs.

The car is comfortable in driving on its 16" wheels and will cruise happily on the motorway. In that way it can't be faulted. The MG5 is predictable in charging and there are no massive drops in range when you get it out onto the motorway.

Ownership of the electric MG5 of course will mean acquainting yourself very quickly with charging. With a 7 kW wallbox installed at home for example, a full charge can be got in about 8.5 hours or overnight. The MG5 is also equipped with a CCS charging port so can avail of fast charging, gaining 80% in 50 minutes from a public fast charge point, charging at 50 kW. Charge points are easily accessed from the front of the car behind the MG badge.

The interior of the MG5
The interior of the MG5

What's it like inside?

Inside the MG5 there is a traditional dashboard layout with all the controls logically laid out. The cabin is nicely appointed for the price point of the vehicle. The layout and design is more traditional than avant garde, but we do like the neat rotary gear selector on the centre console.

Standard equipment includes the 8" colour touchscreen and Android Auto/Apple Car Play. Our MG 5 Exclusive had plenty of nice features like heated front seats, automatic air conditioning, leather covered steering wheel, rear parking camera and leather style upholstery.

There's a natural sense of practicality to the MG5 because it's an estate car. Rear legroom is good for the C segment also, and there's plenty of headroom from that tall roof line. Buyers will be pleased to note that there's 464 litres of space available up to the luggage cover, or 578 litres up to the roof. Other advantages include a wide loading area. There is a bit of a lip between the boot opening and the boot floor - a flat loading area would have been an even greater advantage and more practical for an estate car. The rear seats also split fold 60:40 for even more space.

Practicality is a key feature of the MG5 estate
Practicality is a key feature of the MG5 estate

Did you like it?

At the time of writing, MG has updated the MG5 range with a model with a larger capacity battery - 61.1 kWh giving an estimated range of 403 km (WLTP). This model goes on sale priced from €29,645. It features fast charging capability with the ability to reach an 80% battery charge in just 40 minutes via a 100kW CCS rapid charge point.

MG is already making impact with six dealers appointed around Ireland and over 300 cars sold in their fledgling year in this market. Affordability is a key driver, but the cars are getting out there.

While the MG ZS follows the trend for SUVs and crossovers, the MG5 seeks to offer buyers an alternative with a well-kitted out estate car.

It's fair to say the MG5 lacks some contemporary style, but it is a practical car that works very well as intended as a cheap to run electric car with a surprisingly enjoyable cabin and driving experience that should help it find good homes!

The MG5 is a new electric estate car from the MG brand
The MG5 is a new electric estate car from the MG brand

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: MG 5 EV Exclusive
Price: 
€31,595
Battery:
52.5 kWh
Power: 156 hp
Torque: 260 Nm
Top speed: 185 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.7 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year


The Citroen C4 is on sale in Ireland now

Citroen C4 (2021) First Drive Review

The Citroen C4 is on sale in Ireland now
The 2021 Citroen C4 is on sale in Ireland now

The Citroen C4 and electric Citroen E-C4 have arrived in Ireland - here to reinvent the hatchback! With a new SUV-inspired design and an electric model available from launch, the new C4 is certainly worth a headline or two. The range will go on sale in Ireland from a very competitive €24,740 for the C4, or from €31,730 for the E-C4 with a 50 kWh battery and up to 350 km range (WLTP). Caroline was at the press launch in Dublin to find out more about the new C4 range and bring it for a first drive on Irish roads.

Styling

The Citroen C4 has evolved in many directions over recent years but it seems to have finally found a sweet spot in this new generation. It's pitched against family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, but it clearly takes a whole new design direction to this class of vehicle. From the outside it is tastefully designed with some SUV-inspired styling. It has the height and ground clearance of a crossover. A bright colour palette and many customisation options add to the fun and colourful image of this car. Could be a huge success on looks alone.

Interior

Inside it feels more like a hatchback. But an airy one with lots of expansive glazing and a high roof line. The new generation interior is pared back but big on digital. The 10” colour touchscreen infotainment screen comes as standard with a digital instrument cluster for the driver too.

The interior of the new Citroen C4
The interior of the new Citroen C4

Practicality

The C4's dimensions mean it feels more spacious inside than other hatchback rivals. There's loads of headroom and the footwells are generous for this class of vehicle. Boot volume is 380 litres, which is on par with rivals.

Engines

The new C4 will be available with petrol and diesel engines, or with an electric powertrain in the e-C4. Engine options include the  PureTech petrol engine with 100, 130 or 155 hp or the BlueHDi diesel with 110 or 130 hp. 6-speed manual and EAT8 automatic gearboxes are available for both engines.

The E-C4 uses a 50 kWh battery to produce 136 hp and a range of up to 350 km (WLTP). Charging to 80% battery power is possible in 30 minutes at 100 kW, while an 11 kW 3-phase charger will charge to 100% in 5 hours. The car can be charged from a 32-amp domestic wall box in 7.5 hours. E-C4 customers that move their energy account to Energia will also receive a free home charger plus 20% off their electricity tariff, while a 30% discount will apply if a wall box is already fitted to the home.

Driving it

On the road the Citroen C4 is affable, soft and comfortable. Well it should be - comfort is a strong theme these days at Citroen! The new Citroen C4 uses the Citroen Advanced Comfort® programme featuring suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions and Advanced Comfort Seats to ensure the renowned Citroen driving comfort. Steering is very light making it ideal for town and tight manoeuvres. It can hustle through corners confidently enough, but with the set up of the car it's more about comfort than sportiness. The E-C4 impressed on a short run, though we didn't get to fully test the battery power and range of the car. The 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine with 130 hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox is a reliable companion to the new C4, with plenty of performance and competitive efficiency for this class of vehicle.

The new C4 range goes on sale from €24,740
The new C4 range goes on sale from €24,740

Pricing

The entry point into the C4 range is the 1.2 litre Puretech petrol with 100 hp in Feel trim for €24,740. Step up to the same engine with 130 hp in Feel Pack trim with more gear for €27,620. Flair models start from €29,190 and Flair Pack from €33,640.

Diesels start from €26,790.

The E-C4 starts from €31,730 including Government grants and VRT relief.

Equipment

The C4 and E-C4 are available in four grades for Ireland: Feel, Feel Pack, Flair and Flair Pack. Standard equipment is good including 18” alloys, automatic LED headlights, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rear parking sensors and camera, lane keep assist and automatic air conditioning.

The Feel Pack adds Citroën Connect Nav, Citroën ConnectedCam, Citroën Smart Pad support and Head up display.

Flair models have diamond cut alloy wheels, speed sign recognition, blind spot detection, front parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry/start.

The E-C4 has a range of up to 350 km (WLTP) from a 50 kWh battery
The E-C4 has a range of up to 350 km (WLTP) from a 50 kWh battery

The range-topping Flair Pack adds the EAT8 gearbox as standard, Citroën HiFi System, leather interior, heated seats and highway driver assist.

Unique to the E-C4, standard equipment includes a mode 3 charging cable for on-street charging, while the My Citroën app allows for pre-condition of cabin temperature and remote charging options. The E-C4 Flair Pack trim also adds a heated steering wheel.

Summary

Citroen cars in Ireland now have a new distributor and with the new C4, there's certainly energy and momentum in the brand again for the Irish market.

The Citroen C4 appears to tick many boxes but has the visual appeal and stance of an SUV that is sure to gain it some attention on the forecourt.

Slotting between the refreshed C3 supermini and C3 Aircross on the compact side, and the C5 Aircross on the larger side, the C4 brings a full battery electric vehicle to the Citroen range for the first time.

Spacious, friendly and well-priced, the new C4 could change everything for Citroen in Ireland.

We look forward to bringing you a full road test review later in the year!

Caroline Kidd

The Citroen C4 is a friendly and spacious family car
Copyright William CROZES @ Continental Productions

The 2021 Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes!

Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Hybrid Review

The 2021 Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2021 Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Renault Megane Sport Tourer Hybrid!

In late 2020, Renault launched a suite of new hybrid models in Ireland with some familiar faces – Clio, Captur and Megane! Hybrid is hot right now, and the technology holds much promise for Irish motorists.

Hybrid is a new direction for a brand that went electric for the first time with the launch of the Renault Zoe electric supermini back in 2012. With a strong customer base to work with in the Irish market, the French brand now adds petrol electric hybrids to the mix of diesel and petrol in key model ranges like the Captur and Megane.

What's new for the Megane in 2021?

The Renault Megane has also had some work done for 2021 to keep it fresh. The grille and bumpers have been updated, all the lights are now LED – front, rear, and fog - with dynamic indicators at the rear for the first time and new door-handle lighting.

The Megane is offered in three variants – hatchback, saloon (‘Grand Coupe’) and estate (‘Sport Tourer’). The hybrid debuts in the Megane Sport Tourer, though the hatchback will also soon be available as a hybrid too.

Plug-in hybrid power debuts for the first time in the Megane range in 2021
Plug-in hybrid power debuts for the first time in the Megane range in 2021

What's so special about the Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Hybrid?

Here we find the practical and efficient Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH plug-in hybrid on test for Changing Lanes. The Sport Tourer is the one with the big boot and a good looker for those in the market for a compact estate car.

Priced at €30,490 in Iconic trim, or at €32,490 in the new sporty R.S. Line trim, the new Sport Tourer E-TECH brings hybrid to the Megane range for the first time. It uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine, two electric motors, and a 9.8 kWh battery. Power output is a healthy 160 hp making it the most powerful, while the automatic transmission adds to the high spec feel. In fact, it’s already shaping up as a good buy.

The beauty of the Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH is not just its good looks, but also the ability to plug it in and charge up the battery to experience driving on battery power alone up to 50 km.

Is it nice to drive?

And even when the battery power runs out, you have here a very efficient car with my fuel consumption averaging at 5.2 litres per 100 km over a week of driving. An official CO2 figure of 30 g per km means that this car is just €140 to tax per year.

The battery will charge in 3 hours from a wallbox or in just over 4 hours from a domestic 3-pin socket.

Inside the new Megane E-TECH Hybrid
Inside the new Megane E-TECH Hybrid

E-TECH powertrains use advanced technology influenced by the Renault DP World F1 team, including a multi-mode clutchless gearbox for smooth and swift responses.

With 160 hp available, the Megane Sport Tourer responds confidently to the throttle. The car feels natural on the road and remains a tidy handler through bends. It’s not a sports car, but overall feels very accomplished. There are no paddles to operate the automatic; but smooth shifts prevail most of the time. It’s highly commended for comfort too, which seals the deal for this test driver!

Is it practical?

Yes! Just look at it!

The Renault Mégane Sport Tourer sits on a longer wheelbase to the hatchback, making for a much more comfortable seating experience for rear seat passengers. There’s good headroom and the rear footwells have enough depth to be comfortable for long legged folk.

The boot is square with a low loading sill making it ideal for lifting things in and out more easily. Yet overall capacity is down to 447 litres to accommodate the battery. It’s still ‘big’ when you open the lid and look in – but a petrol or diesel Megane Sport Tourer will beat it for outright capacity. There is space beneath the boot floor to keep charging cables stowed away tidily.

The Megane estate hybrid is a practical and efficient car
The Megane estate hybrid is a practical and efficient car

Inside the Renault Megane Sport Tourer

Renault has also updated the Megane’s interior somewhat for 2021. No more need to complain about the fiddly ventilation controls. Renault has added in some shortcut buttons, dials and switches to alter fan speed and temperature the old-fashioned way. Much welcome when you are on the move.

The 7” touchscreen is fitted as standard to the E-TECH Iconic, with the more impressive 9.3” portrait style as standard on the R.S. Line model. There are a lot of hard plastics in here but generally it’s a solid effort from Renault. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also come as standard for more seamless access to media, contacts, and maps. There’s a magnificent 10.2-inch digital display for the driver.

The E-TECH Iconic has a good level of standard kit as well including cruise control, rear parking sensors and camera, dual zone climate control, 16” alloys, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beam and ambient lighting.

The Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH hybrid retails from €30,490 in Ireland
The Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH hybrid retails from €30,490 in Ireland

Did you like it?

The Renault Megane Sport Tourer is nice to drive and very practical. This is a good looking car, with the practicality of an estate-style boot – regardless of the space being impeded somewhat by the battery, the boot floor is flat, the opening wide.

Considering the spec of the car, Renault Ireland has kept this particular model well-priced to keep it a real viable option in the Megane range.

This car marks a debut for plug-in hybrid in the Megane range, so the first Megane that can be charged up and ran using battery power for a limited range of up to 50 km. But Renault’s technical wizardry means that whatever way you run the Megane Sport Tourer, it’s very efficient.

Super comfortable on the road, this is a great car! Now check out my review of the latest Renault Megane 1.5 dCi hatchback.

The Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH is on sale now
The Renault Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH is on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Megane Sport Tourer Iconic E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid 160 Auto
Price: 
€30,490
Engine: 
1.6-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 160 hp
Torque: 349 Nm
Top speed: 111 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
30 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The new Mazda3 100th Anniversary on test for Changing Lanes!

Mazda3 100th Anniversary Edition Review

The new Mazda3 100th Anniversary on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Mazda3 100th Anniversary on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the Mazda3 100th Anniversary Edition

The Mazda3 is one of our favourite cars here at Changing Lanes. The latest generation of the Japanese hatchback launched in Ireland in 2019 with a sensuous new look and sophisticated interior. It heralded the start of exciting new technology from the brand including mild hybrid technology and the world’s first compression-ignition engine. Doesn’t that sound exciting?

What's so special about the Mazda3 100th Anniversary?

Now to celebrate 100 years of the company, Mazda has launched a series of 100th Anniversary models. And in this review we will take a closer look at the Mazda3 100th Anniversary to see if it’s any good!

Inspiration for the special edition’s striking colour scheme came from the Mazda R360 Coupe from 1960, which was the brand’s first ever passenger car.

Finished in white pearl with special anniversary badges throughout and black alloy wheels, the Mazda3 100th Anniversary stands out for all the right reasons. This model is a design triumph regardless with beautiful curvature to the model around the C pillar that is just not what you expect from the family hatchback class. The Mazda3 is a true trendsetter.

Special edition Mazda3 takes inspiration from the Mazda R360 Coupe from 1960
Special edition Mazda3 takes inspiration from the Mazda R360 Coupe from 1960

Inside the 2021 Mazda3 100th Anniversary

Open the door and you are welcomed by a bespoke interior of red leather and matching red carpets. I was dazzled and it wasn’t just the red carpet effect! There is a soft cream panel to accentuate the width of the dashboard. The Mazda3 cabin wraps around you perfectly. It’s a true driver’s car. Infotainment is provided via a slick looking 8.8" screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, with a multimedia controller on the centre console.

This hatchback will seat five and space inside the vehicle is competitive for the class, well should we say premium compact class? Because that’s how this car feels. And with a list price of €37,220 for this car with the 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv-X M Hybrid petrol engine, this model in particular will certainly sit among high end hatchbacks.

But deservedly so. The e-Skyactiv-X also offers considerable power, poise and play in the Mazda3 100th Anniversary. Mazda’s revolutionary Spark Controlled Compression Ignition engine has been improved for this model year with a bit more power (186 hp) and torque (240 Nm), while overall efficiency has been improved. Being a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol affair, it does deliver power differently to the road than say one of those small capacity engines with a turbo.

The interior of the Mazda3 100th Anniversary
The interior of the Mazda3 100th Anniversary

On the road in the Mazda3 e-Skyactiv-X!

Spend some time with this car though and you will find Mazda’s own little brand of fun and wizardy going on. It’s a super sweet car to drive, nicely balanced on the road, a lightness to the controls, yet the ability to be wrangled in and out of corners with a distinct and precise feel. It never feels hugely fast, but you learn to work with the neat distribution of power through the gears and it becomes a satisfying and interesting hatchback to drive. Mazda afficionados will love it!

Mazda has improved the fuel efficiency of this engine and over a week of driving we averaged 6.2 litres per 100 km, which is marginally better than the figure we returned when testing the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X in 2020. CO2 emissions are down 7 g to 120 g.

This is a unique and fun hatchback with some very clever engine technology. Improvements to efficiency are welcome; power and torque improvements are less obvious but this car performs well on the road regardless, with a distinct driving character from its 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine.

So that’s a wrap on the new Mazda3 100th Anniversary Edition. A stunning car, albeit at a price.

But the Mazda3 has been knocking at the door of premium for a while now.

The Mazda3 is refined and fun to drive!
The Mazda3 is refined and fun to drive!

Model tested: Mazda3 100th Anniversary Edition e-Skyactiv X
Price: €37,220
Engine: 
2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine
Power: 186 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
Top speed: 216 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
120 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd

 


The new SEAT Leon on test for Changing Lanes!

SEAT Leon (2021) 2.0 TDI Review

The new SEAT Leon on test for Changing Lanes!
The new SEAT Leon on test for Changing Lanes!

SEAT has achieved great success in Ireland with its new range of SUVs like the Arona and Tarraco, but it’s the SEAT Leon you could say that put the brand on the map in the first place. Produced since 1999, it's now in its fourth generation with more than 2.2 million sales worldwide.

Volkswagen Group membership has been good for SEAT with access to top quality powertrains and technology taking the brand from zero to hero. But SEAT has found a way to differentiate itself and it’s always been about designing with more emotion. They are happy to embrace their ‘Created in Barcelona’ colours and there is nothing Ireland likes more than a little bit of Spanish sunshine, something we are all missing right now.

The new SEAT Leon designed, developed and built at SEAT’s facilities in Martorell, Barcelona, at least brings some glamour and good will to the dealer forecourt. The new generation SEAT Leon arrived here in 2020, and goes on sale priced from €24,275. The brand cites it as their most advanced car ever. It was time for Changing Lanes to discover this car in more detail. Because photographs can only tell you so much.

The Leon goes on sale in Ireland priced from €24,275
The Leon goes on sale in Ireland priced from €24,275

What's new for SEAT Leon in 2021?

Based on the latest MQB Evo platform from the Volkswagen Group, the new Leon has moved on again in terms of design, powertrain and technology. Electrified powertrains feature for the first time in 2021 with a new plug-in hybrid promising an electric range of up to 60 km using just the energy stored in the vehicle’s battery.

On approach for the first time, the new SEAT Leon is undoubtedly a sharp dresser, marking an exciting evolution of the brand’s design language. It looks bolder than the previous generation of the car, ready to stand out and be counted among C-segment hatchbacks.

The car is characterised by a new nose, longer bonnet, more deep set LED headlamps, smooth flowing surfaces and the perfect mix of curves and edges. That’s all nice but it’s the ‘coast-to-coast’ rear light signature where it’s really at with this car. Design flourishes like that require some thought and application, but go a long way to give the Leon a more distinct character - whether on the road or in the car park.

Inside the 2021 SEAT Leon
Inside the 2021 SEAT Leon

Inside the 2021 SEAT Leon

Inside there's an all-new cabin design. Out with the old and in with the new. Everything at eye level looks glossy and slick, wrap around ambient lighting creates just the right mood, while the latest digital technology brings the Leon up to date with the best in class. There are some cheaper plastics in the doors and the centre console, but the overall impression is good.

The cabin has been ergonomically designed to increase comfort, and decluttering Marie Kondo would be proud of, with a large scale reduction in the number of physical buttons on the centre console. You have to really look for them. And you still won't find them. That's because everything is now controlled via the super glossy touchscreen, including ventilation. The focus is now on the main infotainment screen, for better or for worse. The SEAT Digital Cockpit brings together a high-resolution 10.25-inch configurable driver instrument cluster and 10-inch infotainment system.

The digital instrument panel works perfectly, a responsible digital upgrade for the times we live in. The touchscreen to the driver’s left looks impressive with bright, colourful graphics and menus accessed via some simple swipes. But a few more buttons for the ventilation controls for example are just more convenient when you are on the move. The tapping and swiping can be frustrating when you just want to turn the air con on. The system does pair seamlessly with Android Auto and even offers wireless connectivity with Apple CarPlay.

Away from the vehicle, users can access their vehicle’s data remotely via SEAT Connect, as well as manage the battery charging and control the electronic air conditioning in plug-in hybrid models.

A digital transformation for the new Leon
The new SEAT Leon is available with a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines

Is it practical?

The Leon’s new platform has reaped dividends for interior space. The Leon will seat five and the increased wheelbase translates to more legroom for rear occupants. The space in the footwells in the rear is undoubtedly among best in class.

The boot volume remains the same in the hatchback as the previous generation of the car, but it is a competitive 380 litres.

There is also a Leon Sportstourer available with even more boot space - 617 litres - and numerous other practical features like a low loading sill and split folding rear seats.

What are my options?

The new Leon is available in six trim levels: SE, SE Plus, Xcellence, Xcellence Plus, FR and FR Plus.

Standard equipment includes 16" alloy wheels, keyless start, LED headlight technology with automatic high beam, electronic parking brake, an eight-inch infotainment system, cloth upholstery, leather steering wheel and gear stick, adaptive cruise control and SEAT Connect technology.

SE Plus adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear view camera, auto wipers and dark tinted rear windows.

The FR trim model on test adds sporty front and rear bumpers, 18" alloy wheels, dual exhaust pipes and a unique suspension set-up. Inside the cabin, FR includes leather multifunction steering wheel with red stitching, drive modes, three-zone air conditioning, wireless charging and two additional USB points in the rear.The FR trim also brings full-LED technology to the rear of the vehicle including the coast-to-coast light and LED dynamic indicators (front and rear), and illuminated front and rear aluminium door plates.

Boot space in the new SEAT Leon
Boot space in the new SEAT Leon

Leon petrol, diesel and hybrid for the first time

The new SEAT Leon is offered with a full complement of engines in 2021: petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI), mild hybrid (eTSI) and plug-in hybrid (eHybrid), with 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic DSG gearboxes available. Petrol options include the 1.0-litre TSI with 110 hp and a 1.5-litre TSI with 150 hp. The diesel options include a 2.0-litre TDI with 115 hp or 150 hp with a DSG gearbox. New to the range is the mild hybrid petrol engine – 1.0 eTSI (110 hp) DSG and 1.5 eTSI (150 hp) DSG.

Petrols are available from €24,245, while diesels are available from €25,995. The mild hybrid petrols are available from €26,815. The technology uses a 48 volt starter-generator and lithium-ion battery to allow the car to coast with no pedal input from the driver with the engine switched off, while retaining all key electric functions, such as power steering. It also harvests energy under deceleration and provides electrical torque assistance during acceleration. Clever!

The model on test was a SEAT Leon 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 150 hp and DSG gearbox. In FR trim, this car has a list price of €31,990. The diesel engine introduces a new Selective Catalytic Reduction system that includes dual AdBlue injectors to significantly reduce NOx emissions compared to previous generation diesel engines and meet the latest emissions standards.

In February, the brand also announced the arrival of the all-new SEAT Leon eHybrid. This plug-in hybrid uses a 1.4-litre petrol engine, 13 kWh battery and electric motor to produce 204 hp and can be driven on electric power alone for up to 60 km using just the energy stored in the vehicle’s battery. This model is available from €34,990, including Government grant and VRT relief.

SEAT has added a plug-in hybrid to the Leon range for the first time
SEAT has added a plug-in hybrid to the Leon range for the first time

Driving the new SEAT Leon

The 2021 SEAT Leon uses the MQB Evo architecture that provides an inherently strong and stiff safety cell, which allows the integration of some of the most advanced driver assistance systems available, including Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control and Emergency Assist 3.0, to make it the safest car that SEAT has made to date.

The new exterior has been specifically developed to enhance the vehicle’s overall efficiency with improved aerodynamics – the drag coefficient has improved by around 8% compared to the previous generation.

On the road the new Leon feels lighter and more precise than ever before. FR models sit about 15 mm lower than other models in the range and with the aid of big wheels, this car will take on the road with impressive stability and control. The trade off is a firm suspension that picks up more imperfections in the road surface. The Leon is good but not the most refined car in its class, bringing some audible wind and road noise into the cabin.

The 2.0-litre diesel is a joy to drive with great flexibility and power meaning that overall it returns an impressive 5.0 litres per 100 km because it's just never under pressure. It works well with the DSG automatic gearbox, making long distance or stop start driving in town really simple and straightforward.

The SEAT Leon is practical and fun to drive
The SEAT Leon is practical and fun to drive

Did you like it?

The new SEAT Leon makes a strong statement with an elegant sporty design and seriously upgraded cabin. It's now happy to stand out, but with the technology and powertrains to back it up.

The engine range is extensive, now offering petrol, diesel and hybrid for the first time.

The Leon still offers value in its class, with cars well specced from base. The FR and Xcellence trims add more visual chutzpah, but beware of the FR's firmer suspension. It looks good and is fun to drive, but it's not the most comfortable hatchback you could ever buy in this configuration.

Let's not overlook that this is a genuinely spacious hatchback, more accommodating for carrying passengers than some rivals. SUVs have put the squeeze on the classic hatchback, even within the SEAT range. But the Leon's simplicity and style should earn it some fans. Those that choose to discover the Leon will find a very capable and practical hatchback.

The 2021 SEAT Leon is on sale now
The 2021 SEAT Leon is on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: SEAT Leon 2.0TDI DSG FR
Price: 
€31,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 360 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.6 seconds
Top speed: 218 km/h
Economy (WLTP): 4.6-4.9 l/100 km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 119-132 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year

 


The 2021 Renault Mégane on test for Changing Lanes!

Renault Mégane (2021) Review

The 2021 Renault Mégane on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2021 Renault Mégane on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Renault Mégane!

The Renault Mégane – famous for its sensuous curves and look-at-me lights. But could there be more to this French hatchback? It was time for Changing Lanes to rediscover the Renault Mégane!

The Mégane is a strong pillar of the Renault brand for 25 years. 7 million cars sold worldwide, 4 generations, 3 records on the prestigious Nurburgring track for the high performance models. My test drive coincided with the launch of the facelifted version of the Renault Mégane.

I have of course some very coloured history with this current series of Mégane. Launched back in 2016, I drove the new generation Mégane hatchback soon after its debut in Ireland. That was followed by the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé, 'the one with the separate boot'. But the pièce de resistance was the high performance Mégane twins – the Renault Mégane RS and the Mégane RS Trophy.

See how I remember all these details vividly? That’s because the Mégane always leaves an impression...

Renault has updated the Mégane for 2021
Renault has updated the Mégane for 2021

What's new for the Renault Mégane in 2021?

Now in 2021, the Renault Mégane is back with a suite of updates to keep it competitive in the C-segment, the one where the traditional family hatchbacks reside.

Some minor tweaks to styling for example. Nothing too serious. The hallmark sensuous design, dynamic lines, and bounteous rear are still there. There are new front and rear bumpers, and a sleek new front grille. The headlamps, tail lights and fog lights are now all LED, with dynamic indicators at the rear for the first time and new door-handle lighting, a touch more synonymous with premium cars.

New 16- and 18-inch wheels are also available as an option, as are new colours: Solar Copper, Baltic Grey and Highland Grey.

There’s also an exciting new trim level - R.S. Line - which replaces the previous GT Line. Inspired by the high-performance R.S. Méganes, it adds an F1-style front blade running the width of the front lower bumper of the car, R.S. Line bumper at the rear with dual chrome exhaust pipes, R.S. Line badging, and custom 17" alloy wheels.

There is great choice in the range with saloon, hatchback and estate models available.

Inside the new Renault Mégane R.S Line
Inside the new Renault Mégane R.S Line

Inside the 2021 Renault Mégane

The latest Renault Mégane also offers a revamped and modernised interior. 7" and 9.3" screens are available for the multimedia system, as well as a magnificent 10.2-inch digital display for the driver. The Mégane’s interior has plenty of hard plastics about but there’s enough visual appeal to keep it interesting, while some new upholsteries and materials have been added.

Renault has also used the 2021 update as an opportunity to address some of the concerns we had about the tricky access to the ventilation controls through the touchscreen in previous versions of the car. There are now dials to control these functions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also come as standard for more seamless access to media, contacts and maps.

R.S. Line models stand out for lovely sport seats with additional lateral support that give you a real hug. There are also some carbon-look inserts, a perforated leather steering wheel stamped with the double R.S. diamond, and aluminium pedals. All in all, Renault has done a great job to make this cabin feel modern and sporty.

The latest Mégane is equipped with new driver-assistance systems for the safety and comfort of all passengers, including the Highway & Traffic Jam Companion, a Level 2 autonomous system that ensures comfort and peace of mind while driving.

The Mégane is a classic five seat hatchback, but it's not among the most spacious in its class for rear legroom. In fact the Mégane Grand Coupé and Sport Tourer sit on a longer wheelbase so feel more accommodating in this regard. The boot volume is a healthy 394 litres.

The Mégane Hatchback goes on sale in Ireland priced from €24,290
The Mégane Hatchback goes on sale in Ireland priced from €24,290

Petrol, diesel or hybrid?

Exciting times at Renault as the brand launched more hybrids and plug-in hybrid across the range in 2020. Now the Mégane also benefits from this technology, with all-new plug-in hybrids available for 2021. The plug-in hybrid Mégane Sports Tourer is already on sale here, but a plug-in hybrid Mégane Hatchback will arrive shortly.

The Mégane is also offered with petrol and diesel engines. The petrol range is built around a 1.3-litre turbo petrol with 140 hp and matched to a six-speed manual transmission or dual-clutch seven-speed EDC automatic transmission. The diesel range uses the tried and tested 1.5-litre turbo diesel, which continually impresses us at Changing Lanes. Such frugality! A six-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission is also available with this engine.

Renault has refined their 1.5-litre diesel engine over the years and improved its efficiency even more. Running costs are low. Motor tax is €190 per year and over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 4.9 litres per 100 km.

Power output might look modest at 115 hp but it’s no hassle at all behind the wheel. It just performs and returns the sort of efficiency that makes you stop for a minute to appreciate the modern diesel engine.

The Mégane is available with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines
The Mégane is available with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines in 2021

What are my options?

Pricing starts from €24,290 for the hatchback. Buyers will pay about a €1000 premium for the Grand Coupé and Sport Tourer. There is good enough reason for this as the Grand Coupé and Sport Tourer sit on a longer wheelbase so offer more legroom in the rear.

We will focus on the hatchback pricing to give you some context here. There are three trim level: Play, Iconic and R.S. Line. Play models kick off from €24,290, Iconic from €26,690, and R.S. Line from €28,690, all prices quoted for the 1.3-litre petrol engine. Diesels start from €26,290.

Standard equipment includes rear parking sensors, automatic dual zone climate control, 7” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and LED headlights/fog lights.

The Iconic trim line adds items such as lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic high/ low beam, ambient lighting, driving modes, power door mirrors, 16” alloys, and leather steering wheel.

The Renault Mégane R.S. Line is sporty and fun
The Renault Mégane R.S. Line is sporty and fun

Did you like it?

To sum up. Can the Mégane cut it in 2021?

Yes it can. The Renault Mégane looks good anywhere. The R.S. Line is beautiful to look at with lots of sporty details. It’s a car you park and then keep looking around to admire its beautiful curves and stance. Priceless.

Inside the Megane puts on a good show for driver and guests. The facelift and addition of the R.S. Line breathes new life into it. The digital instrument panel has had a lift with new graphics, and the portrait-style touchscreen on top spec models looks slick in the centre of the dash. Renault keeps the pricing competitive also.

The Mégane tackles the road with confidence without any particular sparkle in any one area. Steering weights up nicely in corners, with good body control allowing you to accurately place the car on the road. It’s comfortable on the motorway and the large alloy wheels only really protest over rough surfaces around town or on rural roads. As a diesel hatchback, the Mégane is simple, uncomplicated and efficient means of getting around, with a little bit of flair. The 18" alloys on our test car gripped the road exceptionally well.

Swift and supple. The Mégane makes you feel good behind the wheel. These days that’s a simple pleasure to lift the most boring days.

Caroline and the 2021 Renault Mégane!
Caroline and the 2021 Renault Mégane!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Mégane Blue dCi 115 R.S. Line
Price: 
€30,690
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 260 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.1 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Economy (WLTP): 6.8 l/100 km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 119 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year


The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Which Is Better?

The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?
The BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: which is better?

BMW 1 Series vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Which is better?

In this comparison review, we are going to take a closer look at two of the hottest premium compacts on sale in Ireland right now – the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class! In 2018, Mercedes-Benz launched a new generation of the A-Class, while in 2019 it was the turn of BMW, with a new 1 Series hitting dealer showrooms.

Both cars mark an entry into the ranges of their respective brands. Premium compact hatchbacks are an opportunity for aspirational buyers to get on the ladder of their favourite premium brand. Get them hooked and it's likely they will stay a fan forever, migrating to larger models as their lifestyle and earning power changes.

While the A-Class is now available as a hatchback and as a saloon, here we will examine it in hatchback form as the direct rival to the BMW 1 Series hatchback.

The new BMW 1 Series is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €32,891
The new BMW 1 Series is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €32,891

Nice to look at?

Both the new BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are attractive cars in the metal, with high class kerb appeal. BMW styling has turned into something quite controversial in recent years and the 1 Series hasn't been immune from criticism for its larger than life grille. But it is a significant improvement over the car it replaces, and brings it more in line with larger BMWs like the popular 3 Series and 5 Series. In fact at Changing Lanes we are a big fan of that rear styling. The appearance changes depending on trim level, with the M Sport models really looking the best. They sit lower on the road with a more aggressive body kit and 18” alloys, as well as satin aluminium struts in the kidney grille.

Over in the Mercedes-Benz camp the A-Class avoids controversy with a handsome compact exterior. A slimmer and lighter appearance adds even more desirability to the latest generation of the A-Class. Like the BMW, different trim levels give the car a different look. But the AMG Line models have sporty flair that really suits the new generation Benz compact, with a sportier styling kit and 18” alloy wheels.

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €31,080
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is on sale in Ireland in 2021 priced from €31,080

So which car has the best interior?

While exterior looks are a personal preference, inside is where the battle is really fought these days for the hearts and minds of buyers. Even in the premium compact class, the race to include as much digital technology and connectivity is on. Big time. It's a race both our featured brands here do very well, but with their own unique style.

When the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class arrived in 2018, the brand was debuting the all new MBUX infotainment system that has since been rolled out to other models in the Mercedes range. The twin screen layout was new and exciting, with the system responding to novel voice commands of 'Hey Mercedes'. It has aged very well. In fact the whole A-Class interior is still a joy to behold in 2021 as one of the best premium compact interiors of its generation! Material quality is excellent and the design is super stylish. One just feels expensive inside the new A-Class. It's a very satisfying place to sit. The widescreen digital effect comes from two high-resolution displays, 7 inch as standard or optionally extra large at 10.25 inch.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 1 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 1 Series

Over in the BMW 1 Series, there has also been a significant revamp of the interior. With a strong influence from the larger 3 Series, the cabin is of fantastic quality. There are impossibly glam back lit trim elements among the driver-oriented cockpit, with all of BMW’s latest digital technology at your fingertips. It’s in its best iteration with the BMW Live Cockpit Professional incorporating a digital instrument panel and 10.25” Control Display. Another neat feature is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which allows you to alter the car’s settings, ventilation or find a list of local restaurants for example using a simple summons of ‘Hey BMW’. I wonder where they got that idea from...

How practical are they?

Much has been made of the 1 Series migration to a more space efficient front wheel drive layout. While many may lament the loss of BMW rear wheel drive from the 1 Series range, practicality does matter at this side of the market and the new platform reaps dividends in the new 1. Now adults will be able to sit more comfortably in the rear with much more competitive legroom than ever before. There is also more boot space. The boot capacity has been improved by 20 litres to 380 litres, now with a wider opening. An electrically operated tailgate is optionally available for the BMW 1 Series for the first time.

The new A-Class has a longer wheelbase than the previous generation of the car to improve interior space. There’s also more shoulder, elbow and headroom. The BMW and the Merc have a largish transmission tunnel and relatively narrow middle seat meaning both are more comfortable for two people. The A-Class boot has a capacity of 370 litres in the hatchback, while rear seats fold 40:20:40 as standard. It's 60:40 split as standard on the 1 Series. It's hard to split these two on interior space. Take one for a test drive and see if you can get comfortable!

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

Engine options

In Ireland, the new BMW 1 Series is sold with petrol and diesel engines at the time of writing. They include the 118i petrol (136 hp), 116d diesel (116 hp), 118d diesel (150 hp) or 120d diesel (190 hp). Manual and automatic transmissions are available. There's also the high performance 128ti with 265 hp and the M135i xdrive with 306 hp. At Changing Lanes we had the opportunity to test the new 118i, powered by a new three cylinder turbo petrol engine for the 1 Series. Power is a modest 136 hp but it's actually a sweet entry into the range.

The latest A-Class range includes two new four-cylinder petrol engines (1.3-litre A200 with 163 hp and 2.0-litre A250 with 224 hp) and a new four cylinder diesel (1.5-litre A180d with 116 hp). Manual and automatic transmissions are available. An entry level A160 with 109 hp is available too. You can also buy high performance versions of the A-Class: A35 (306 hp), A45 (387 hp) and A45 S (421 hp). At Changing Lanes we had the opportunity to test the A200 model powered by a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine pushing out 163 hp. A nicely refined engine with a pleasant thump of power.

An A250e plug-in hybrid is to join the A-Class range in Ireland in 2021.

Why not try these for a test drive?

BMW 118i M Sport Auto. Priced from €40,202 (January 2021)

Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line. Priced from €42,888 (January 2021)

The new BMW 1 Series is available with petrol and diesel engines
The new BMW 1 Series is available with petrol and diesel engines

Driving them

Buyers should expect high end refinement and driving dynamics from such esteemed company.

Let's start with the new BMW 1 Series. The new 1 Series is up to 30 kg lighter than the car it replaces but more rigid. Is it enough to make up for the loss of rear wheel drive from the classic BMW compact? There's some help from ARB technology taken from the electric i3 and it is used in the new 1 Series for the first time in a combustion engined BMW. On the road this means that the 1 Series exhibits excellent stability and balance in cornering. There's an impressively tight turn in but the car lacks the outright sparkle and playfulness of the 3 Series for example. The steering just doesn’t translate the same sensations to your fingertips. Overall refinement is excellent and this car covers the tarmac well, despite the M Sport treatment giving a tad firmer ride. Long distance motorway cruising is very pleasant behind the wheel of the 1 Series. The 118i also does a fine job here for a three cylinder petrol engine. The engine feels lively enough and smooths out well at speed, with decent enough fuel economy. Gear changes through the new 7-speed automatic are well judged.

The new generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is also front wheel drive, however it doesn't have the same reputation as BMW for sporty handling. Yet the new A-Class turns out to be a delight to drive, especially with one of the lively petrols like the A200. In fact the steering is so sharp and the body control so good that it's a very fine line between this and the new 1 Series.

Both cars come with their own version of driving modes as standard equipment.

Mercedes-Benz will add a plug-in hybrid to the A-Class range in 2021
Mercedes-Benz will add a plug-in hybrid to the A-Class range in 2021

Pricing and Equipment

The BMW 1 Series is available from €32,891 and comes in three trim levels: SE, Sport and M Sport. The entry level SE model has 16" alloys, air conditioning, multifunction steering wheel, front collision warning, lane depature warning, Drive Performance Control, cruise control and 8.8" control display with touch function and iDrive controller.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is available from €31,080 and comes in Style, Progressive and AMG Line trim. Standard equipment includes 16" alloys, air conditioning, cruise control, digital instrument cluster and media display with touchscreen and MBUX infotainment, Dynamic Select, heated front seats, multifunction steering wheel, Active Lane Keeping Assist, part leather/cloth seats, and reversing camera.

So which are you buying?

Another tough call. Both the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are a cut above your average hatchback with premium design, refinement and driving dynamics. And you will pay dearly for it too with the most desirable M Sport and AMG Line models asking for serious money.

The new BMW 1 Series has come on leaps and bounds for this new generation of the car. While we might shed a tear for the loss of the rear wheel drive, at least now the 1 Series can properly compete as a versatile hatchback. Inside the interior is such good quality, it's properly matured and feels like a bigger car. There is just one petrol engine at the entry to the range, but it does punch above its 136 hp. There are also a number of diesels to choose from.

The BMW 1 Series more competitive than ever
The BMW 1 Series more competitive than ever but is it enough?

Over at Mercedes, the new generation A-Class has spawned a number of derivatives like the CLA and GLB from its compact underpinnings. Each time we drive another derivative it's a reminder of what a wonderful car the new A-Class is. The interior is fantastic modern contemporary and hasn't aged at all. Mercedes' new petrol engines are also winners, particularly the A200.

It's for these combined reasons that this reviewer would be heading in the direction of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the premium compact space. Perhaps the 1 Series has lost the edge in the driving dynamics that would lead to a decisive YES, like the one we give the 3 Series in the class above. Did we have a bad time in the 1 Series? No not at all and we could really appreciate that beautiful tight turn in. The classic sensations just weren't there. But that cabin is wonderful. Front grille? Not sure.

The gap has indeed narrowed to the A-Class as the new generation of the car feels pure and agile, and the A200's 163 hp petrol engine is really fun in the A-Class. Then there's the cabin and the looks, so quietly sophisticated. Altogether it makes the Mercedes-Benz A-Class a winning package.

The new A-Class excels for its style, design and quality
The new A-Class excels for its style, design and quality

Want to find out more? Read our detailed review of each model compared here:

BMW 1 Series

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Looking for something a bit bigger? Check out our twin test of the BMW 3 Series vs Audi A4!

Caroline Kidd

 


The 2020 BMW 1 Series

BMW 1 Series (2020) Review

The 2020 BMW 1 Series
The 2020 BMW 1 Series on location in Ireland

Caroline drives the new BMW 1 Series!

Created as a stylish hatchback for the first time back in 2004, the BMW 1 Series was a prestigious first step on the BMW ladder for many young, aspirational buyers. The 1 Series packaged the quality, prestige and exciting driving dynamics of a classic BMW saloon into a compact hatchback that marked a more affordable entry into the BMW range.

BMW is not unique in this respect, every year the 1 Series squares up to the equally smart Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3. Competition is high in the race to capture the hearts and minds of well-heeled young professionals. Style and premium features are a given but in recent years this race has intensified as digital natives become the target audience.

So enter the latest generation of the 1 Series. Pricing kicks off from €33,864 in Ireland, putting it in premium territory. Yet the brand has reworked the 1 to make it a better prospect, at least in practical terms, and this feels like new beginnings for the prestigious German hatchback.

For a start the 1 has switched from a sporty rear wheel drive layout to a less exclusive front wheel drive layout. The key positive to this is that a front wheel drive layout makes it easier for designers to create more space inside the vehicle. The 1 Series now shares a platform with other front wheel drive BMW Group products like the MINI Countryman and the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

The new 1 Series goes on sale in Ireland
The new 1 Series goes on sale in Ireland from €33,864

The BMW 1 Series range in Ireland

Being related to an MPV doesn't sound exceptionally glam, but you can be sure BMW has some tricks up their sleeve for the sporty 1. But first, there is lots on offer in the 1 Series range - from demure diesels to rip roaring performance petrol variants. In Ireland, the new 1 Series range is made up of three trim levels – SE (from €33,864), Sport (from €35,245) and M Sport (from €37,715). You can choose from the 118i petrol (140 hp), 116d diesel (116 hp), 118d diesel (150 hp) or rev it up with a more powerful 120d diesel (190 hp) or the top of the range M135i with 306 hp and all wheel drive (from €52,850).

In terms of design, the new 1 Series has a different vibe to what has come before. It looks bigger and has all the hallmarks of the brand’s new design language. Angles here and there, a larger BMW kidney grille at the front and an epic rear end with new horizonal light clusters. The new 1 Series looks its best in M Sport trim, which sits lower on the road with a more aggressive body kit and 18” alloys as well as satin aluminium struts in the kidney grille.

What’s it like inside?

This car feels young, fresh and current inside, and trendsetters will love it. The new interior takes all the best bits from the larger 3 Series with a few new additions such as glam backlit trim elements. Quality is very impressive for a compact, making this feel like a car from the class above. It’s an interior very worthy of the BMW badge. You sit quite low among a driver-oriented cockpit with all of BMW’s latest digital technology at your fingertips. It’s in its best iteration with the BMW Live Cockpit Professional incorporating a digital instrument panel and 10.25” Control Display. Another neat feature is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which allows you to alter the car’s settings, ventilation or find a list of local restaurants for example using a simple summons of ‘Hey BMW’.

Inside the new BMW 1 Series
Inside the new BMW 1 Series

Some purists might baulk at the new space saving front wheel drive layout but it has reaped dividends for interior space inside the vehicle. Now the BMW 1 Series can attract family buyers because there is more space in the rear and the boot. Access to the rear is easier and there is extra kneeroom, headroom and elbowroom available. The boot capacity has been improved by 20 litres to 380 litres, with a wider opening than before. An electrically operated tailgate is now optionally available for the BMW 1 Series for the first time.

On the road in the new BMW 1 Series

BMW has shaved up to 30 kg off the weight of the new BMW 1 Series compared to its predecessor but increased the rigidity. This is thanks to an aluminium bonnet and boot lid, combined with high-strength steels. Much has been made of the switch to a front wheel drive layout. But BMW engineers have worked hard to ensure the 1 Series drives like a classic BMW saloon. ARB technology first used in the BMW i3 comes as standard on the 1 Series to improve traction, reduce wheel slip and understeer. In fact, it’s the first time it has been used in a combustion engine BMW.

The result is good. The 1 Series can take on corners with gusto, with an impressively tight turn in and stability while doing it. It is a very good front wheel drive hatchback. It lacks the dynamic fluidity of a rear wheel drive BMW, for example the larger 3 Series, because the steering just doesn't translate the same sensations to your fingertips.

Overall refinement is excellent and this car covers the tarmac well, despite the M Sport treatment giving a tad firmer ride. Long distance motorway cruising is very pleasant behind the wheel of the 1 Series. The 118i does a fine job here for a three cylinder petrol engine. Modifications to this 1.5-litre petrol engine have cut CO2 emissions by 29g/km, at the same time boosting maximum power output by 4 hp to 140 hp. The engine feels lively enough and smooths out well at speed. Gear changes through the new 7-speed automatic are well judged. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.5l/100km, which is decent enough for a petrol engine.

The new M135i with 306 hp and all wheel drive!

Did you like it?

The BMW 1 Series has grown up, becoming a better prospect despite a somewhat more muted drive. The rear wheel drive playfulness is gone but BMW has created a good front wheel drive hatchback. The boost in practicality and space inside the vehicle just makes so much more sense for buyers and it can now function as a respectable family hatchback.

The biggest surprise for me with the new 1 Series is how well the new generation BMW interior fits in here. The cabin experience is now one of the most successful features of this car.

While there are a good selection of trims and engines available, the 118i M Sport is a nice spot in the range combining a sporty look with affordability and quiet petrol power.

The 1 Series has always been an aspirational car that gets you on the ladder and theoretically *should* convert you to BMW for life. For that BMW has created a fine hatchback for the 2020s that its younger buyers will love!

The BMW 1 Series is a smart and stylish premium hatchback
The BMW 1 Series is a smart and stylish premium hatchback

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 1 Series 118i Automatic M Sport
Price: 
€37,715 (from €33,864)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140hp
Torque: 220 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.5 seconds
Top speed: 213 km/h
CO2 emissions: 122g/100km
Motor Tax: €270 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


The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250

Honda Civic (2020) Review

The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250
The Honda Civic Hatchback is available from €24,250

If you are interested in finding out more about the Honda Civic 2020 range, check out our Irish road test review of this Civic Diesel model. In 2020 Honda revamped the popular Civic with some exterior styling enhancements and improvements to the infotainment system and materials used in the cabin.

Did someone tell you diesel was dead? Well Honda Ireland certainly doesn’t think so. The brand cheekily launched their new Honda Civic Diesel to the media in 2018 with the tagline ‘Never Say (Die)sel'. And after driving the new Honda Civic Diesel, I can say that it’s no surprise that Honda are confident that this car has plenty more mileage left in it!

In 2017 Honda launched the new tenth generation Civic to widespread acclaim, with the car collecting the Continental Tyres 2018 Irish Compact Car of the Year Award. The new Civic was launched with two new petrol engines: Civic 1.0-litre and Civic 1.5-litre, which are good engines, but we were promised a diesel at a later date. Civic Diesel has now been on sale in Ireland since 2018.

The Honda Civic Saloon joined the range in 2018 boasting an even more elegant design, large boot and comfortable cabin. The brand also sells the raucous Honda Civic Type R in Ireland with an inspiring 320 hp.

Manual and CVT automatic gearboxes are available, while Honda has since added the option of a 9-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to the diesel range.

The interior of the Honda Civic Diesel
The interior of the Honda Civic Diesel

Does the Honda Civic Diesel make a good family hatchback?

The Honda Civic does a lot of things right. Honda has toned down the styling to make it more palatable. But it’s still very sporty and avantgarde for the compact segment. The Civic is genuinely spacious inside and buyers get a lot of ‘bang for their buck’. The boot is 478 litres, one of the biggest in the class, and the rear foot wells are large also. Up front it feels like a larger car too when compared to many rivals.

Inside new Civic, Honda has toned down the confusing dash layout and screens of the previous model. Instead they have opted for a more ordinary and conventional appearance. It's all the better for it. The material quality and build is very good, though a Volkswagen Golf is more premium feeling.

Pricing and equipment for new Civic

In Ireland the Civic range kicks off at €24,250 for a 1.0-litre petrol hatchback, while the Civic Diesel range kicks off at €26,425. The Saloon is pitched higher in the range, with pricing starting from €27,385. Standard equipment includes 16” alloys, Bluetooth, parking sensors, and automatic air conditioning. Impressively, the Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment comes as standard including traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking system.

The Honda Civic has been lightly updated for 2020
The Honda Civic has been lightly updated for 2020

My test car was a 1.6 i-DTEC Smart Plus hatchback retailing at €28,895. It's not the cheap option for sure but there's more equipment including 17" alloys, Honda Connect infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual zone climate control, rear parking camera, privacy glass, fog lights, driver lumbar support, auto wipers and leather steering wheel.

What's the new Honda Civic Diesel like to drive?

The Honda Civic Diesel is also one of the best diesel hatchbacks to drive and very efficient. Over a few days of driving my fuel consumption was 5.3 litres per 100 km and motor tax is just €180 per year. The diesel engine suits the Civic perfectly. There is great flexibility in the engine allowing for very smooth driving, while it has plenty of power to make the most of the Civic's agile handling and sporty steering. The Civic Diesel is refined on the move and not at all laboursome to drive, even with a 6-speed manual gearbox.

At Changing Lanes we have been a fan of the new Civic since we first drove it at the European press launch in February 2017. Since then we've been able to sample a variety of models across the Civic range. This compact car always impresses for its strong build and quality, and fun to drive qualities. Yet put a diesel in it, and you have one of the best iterations of this car yet. The Civic's sporty looks are not for everyone but don't let it put you off. This is still one of the best hatchbacks on the market.

The new Honda Civic Diesel is not the cheapest diesel family hatchback you can buy, but on the whole in terms of space, equipment and safety features, it is good value. This is a fuel sipping hatchback that’s also great fun to drive. The Honda Civic Diesel has miles more life in it. It’s a fantastic diesel hatchback.

The new Honda Civic Saloon
The new Honda Civic Saloon

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Smart Plus
Price: 
€28,895 (Range from €24,250)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120hp
Torque: 300Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.1 seconds
Top speed: 201km/h
Claimed Economy: 
3.5l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
93g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year