The new MG 5 on test for Changing Lanes!

MG5 EV Review (2022)

Read Caroline's MG5 review for everything you need to know about buying MG's electric estate car in Ireland in 2022.

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 this, the MG5, an all-electric estate car for the Irish market.

Now in 2022, MG has updated the ZS and the MG5 with a new long range battery to give buyers more comfort and convenience behind the wheel.

The MG5 launched in Ireland for the first time in 2021 with a 52.5 kWh battery giving a range of up to 345 km (WLTP).

It's replaced now by the MG5 EV Long Range with a 61 kWh battery that bumps the range up to 403 km (WLTP) - and the price. It's now available from €30,645.

Let's take a closer look.

The new MG 5 on test for Changing Lanes!
The MG5 is an electric estate car for the Irish market

What's so special about the MG5?

Well first of all it's an estate car, and an electric one at that. For the moment it's the only electric estate car you can buy on the Irish market.

We don't hear much about estate cars 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 also 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.

The new MG5 has the classic silhouette of an estate car and is discreet in its styling. It's clearly not as trendy as the MG ZS, which has more fashionable SUV styling. But it's cheaper to buy and gets almost as much range on a full charge.

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 €30,645 for the Excite model and from €33,895 for the Exclusive model with more equipment on board, the MG5 remains affordable in today's EV market.

The MG5 Long Range on test for Changing Lanes
The MG5 Long Range on test for Changing Lanes

What's it like to drive?

The MG5 EV Long Range on test uses a 61.1 kWh battery with up to 403 km (WLTP) of range available. There's a 115 kW motor on board, 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 on 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 9.5 hours or overnight.

The MG5 is also equipped with a CCS charging port so can avail of fast charging, gaining 80% in about an hour from a public 50 kW fast charge point. The charging port is easily accessed from the front of the car behind the MG badge.

From a 100 kW rapid charger, it will take about 40 minutes to charge the MG5 to 80%

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 the rotary gear selector on the centre console is a neat feature.

Standard equipment includes the 8" colour touchscreen and Android Auto/Apple Car Play, auto air con, parking sensors and rear view camera. There's also a full suite of safety equipment 'MG Pilot' including lane keep assist, lane departure warning, traffic jam assist and high beam assist.

The MG5 Exclusive has plenty of nice features like heated front seats, keyless entry and electrically adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support.

However, it doesn't get MG's latest infotainment system as seen in the new MG ZS, which is more modern and responsive. Or a digital instrument cluster for that matter.

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. 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?

Estate cars often get overlooked in favour of SUVs. But the MG5 is a practical family car that just happens to be electric too.

Still, the MG5 lacks contemporary style and does feel a generation behind in terms of its styling and interior. It does without MG's latest interior digital technology and app. But thankfully it's not behind in battery technology and charging.

The new battery in the MG5 gives buyers that little bit more comfort between charges. The MG5 behaves in a predictable way on the road, with high equipment levels and a comfortable ride.

Though the entry price into the range has gone up, the MG5 still offers a lot of car for the money in today's market. It undercuts the more fashionable MG ZS on price.

At a time when it's getting even more expensive to run and own a fuel car, the MG5 is a good value entry into electric motoring.

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

Model tested: MG5 EV Exclusive
Price: 
€30,645
Battery:
61.1 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

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes


The Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid on review for Changing Lanes

Mercedes-Benz CLA Hybrid Review (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the CLA

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

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

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

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

Driving the CLA Hybrid

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

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

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

Did you like it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caroline Kidd

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


The new Opel Astra will arrive in Ireland in June

Opel Astra Review (2022)

Read Caroline’s Opel Astra review for everything you need to know about the new Astra ahead of its arrival in Ireland in June of 2022.

The Opel Astra is one of Opel's core models, with over 9,000 Astras registered in Ireland in the last 7 years. It's been around since the early 1990s and before that it was the Kadett. Together both cars give Opel 86 years of experience in the compact class.

Opel is enjoying a revival at the moment, which started with the launch of the new generation Opel Corsa in 2019 but really accelerated with the arrival of the new Opel Mokka and Mokka-e in Ireland in 2021.

The new Opel Astra continues the trend with on-point electrified powertrains, new design and the latest interior technology features. I travelled to Lisbon in Portugal with Opel Ireland to discover more about the new Astra and drive it for the first time ahead of its arrival in Ireland.

The new Opel Astra goes on sale for the first time as a plug-in hybrid, with petrol and diesel options also available. An all-new electric Opel Astra-e will debut in 2023. Pricing and specifications will be announced closer to launch.

The new Opel Astra will arrive in Ireland in June
The new Opel Astra will arrive in Ireland in June

Styling

Designed, developed and manufactured at Opel's headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany, the new Opel Astra impresses on approach. The Astra's all-new look is characterised by the striking new Opel family face at the front - the Opel Vizor. The blacked out grille area with vents looks ultra modern but surely retro inspired, while there is homage to the Kadett in the black 'gills' in the C pillar to the rear of the car. An optional two-tone paint finish adds even more character. At the rear, the centrally mounted Opel 'Blitz', the vertically aligned high-mounted brake lamp and the slim horizontal LED tail lamps further showcase the new Opel Compass design language. The surfacing of the car looks sheer and taut, shown off expertly in the exciting new Cult Yellow. Each trim level will distinguish the car a little more. SRI will be the sportiest in Ireland, but full specifications are yet to be confirmed for the Irish market.

WATCH A VIDEO

Interior

Inside, the Astra has an all-new interior built around Opel's new 'Pure Panel' design philosophy. Two 10" screens come as standard creating a full digital, widescreen experience - a digital instrument panel for the driver and a second screen for the infotainment system. Smartphones can be charged and connected with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly. Key settings such as climate control can still be operated via physical switches and buttons.

There's also a new steering wheel with a chrome third 'spoke' that adds some distinction to this new Astra. The centre console is quite high, adding a sporty wraparound feel from the driver's seat.

The perceived quality of the cabin is good with soft touch plastic in the important places like on the top of the dashboard and the top of each door. More prominent hard plastic appears in the door panels but it is offset against some more plusher fabrics and trim.

Comfort has been a priority and the Astra’s front seats, developed in-house, are AGR (“Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.” / “Campaign for Healthy Backs”) certified, for optimum comfort and support. They are available optionally in Alcantara or leather.

The interior of the new Opel Astra
The interior of the new Opel Astra

Practicality

The Opel Astra has seating for five. Measuring 4,374 mm long and 1,860 mm wide, it is only 4 mm longer than the previous model, yet the wheelbase has increased by 13 mm to 2,675 mm. The car is roomy up front but rear legroom is not the most generous of the compact class. The new Astra boot has an adjustable floor and offers 422 litres of capacity in petrol and diesel models. However, boot volume is reduced to 350 litres in the Astra plug-in hybrid, though that's still acceptable for the compact class.

The Opel Astra Sports Tourer will arrive in Ireland by the end of the summer and will offer more practicality, while a longer wheelbase should offer rear passengers more legroom. There will be over 600 litres of boot space.

Engines

The new Opel Astra will be available from launch in Ireland with the choice of petrol and diesel engines, and a new Astra Hybrid. A full electric Astra-e will arrive in 2023 with more details expected later in 2022.

The latest generation of the Astra debuts for the first time as a plug-in hybrid with two performance levels (180 hp at launch, 225 hp to join before the end of the year). Both models use a 1.6-litre, four cylinder turbo petrol engine, 12.4 kWh battery and electric motor. The new Astra Hybrid can be charged and driven electric for up to 60 km. Versions with petrol and diesel engines are available with six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions. The petrol line-up is comprised of the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine with 110 hp or 130 hp. There's also a 1.5-litre diesel with 130 hp.

The petrol manual was a blast to drive on the tight, twisty roads along the coast above Lisbon and through the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The diesel automatic offered great refinement and economy, averaging 4.8 litres per 100 km on my test drive.

The plug-in hybrid with 180 hp is currently the most powerful of the range and feels it on the road. There is a silky delivery of robust power, it's super responsive to the throttle and very quiet on the road. On first glance, very efficient to run too, even in hybrid mode.

The new Astra is available for the first time as a plug-in hybrid
The new Astra is available for the first time as a plug-in hybrid

On the road

The new Astra is based on the third generation of the Stellantis Group's EMP2 multi-energy architecture. But Opel engineers have tweaked it to make the Astra feel like an Opel. Some of the team's goals during development were to create a car with handling that is composed as well as dynamic, and “Autobahnproof”, with high-speed capability a primary development objective.

The steering and lateral stiffness of the chassis – McPherson strut suspension at the front, torsion bar at the rear – are designed for high yaw control (damping of the movement around the horizontal axis). Under braking, the new model delivers strong stopping power and remains highly stable in curves as well as in a straight line. The torsional rigidity of the new Astra is 14 per cent higher than that of the previous model.

The team wanted to create a car with sporty driving dynamics to match the Astra's cool new look. And the Astra certainly delivers with fabulous body control through tight, fast corners for a front wheel drive family hatchback. The steering is quick and nicely weighted, firming up at speed for a precise and defined feel that makes motorway driving a breeze. The refinement and acoustic comfort behind the wheel is a big step up for the latest Astra. All cars get laminated glass in the windscreen and the high spec models on test had it in the front passenger windows too. It creates a delightful cocoon inside the cabin.

The Astra has been tuned for composure and dynamism
The Astra has been tuned for composure and dynamism

Equipment

While specifications and trim levels for the Irish market are yet to be confirmed, we do know that the new Opel Astra will have two 10-inch widescreen displays as standard, as well as wireless smartphone charging.

Other top fetaures will vary depending on trim level but they include the latest version of Opel’s adaptive Intelli-Lux LED® Pixel Light for even greater visibility in night driving, already available on Opel’s Grandland SUV and Insignia flagships. Featuring a segment-leading total of 168 LED elements, 84 in each ultra-slim headlamp, the main beam adjusts seamlessly in milliseconds, without glare for other road users. Approaching or preceding traffic is “cut out” precisely.

Assistance systems include front collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and drowsiness detection, all of which are standard equipment in every version. A large head-up display, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function and Intelli-Vision, a camera and radar-based system for easier parking, are also available.

Summary

The launch of the 2022 Opel Astra is a fresh start for the perennial Opel compact car. The new Astra has flourished into a sporty, desirable and distinct hatchback for the compact class.

The Astra's stand-out design and new Vizor face give it real character now among competitors and make it instantly recognisable as a new generation Opel.

Inside, Opel is finding its feet with the new Pure Panel interior design concept. It's the best cabin yet of the new generation Opel cars with a well defined digital set up characterised by the two 10" widescreen displays as standard. With wireless smartphone charging as standard and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the Astra is geared up for the digital generation.

The Astra will offer a tremendous spread of choice for the compact class when it comes to powertrain. With diesel, petrol and plug-in hybrid available from launch, and the electric Astra-e from 2023, this car has a lot to offer. From the simplicity of a petrol manual to the power and flexibility of the plug-in hybrid, Astra is breaking new ground for Opel.

While the popularity of hatchbacks has been dwindling as SUV sales soar, the new Opel Astra offers a sporty, fun to drive alternative that looks great with plenty of options for individualisation. Now we just have to wait for the pricing!

The new Astra is expected in Ireland in June
The new Astra is expected in Ireland in June

Caroline Kidd


The new SEAT Leon Sportstourer PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

SEAT Leon Sportstourer Hybrid Review

The new SEAT Leon Sportstourer PHEV on test for Changing Lanes
The new SEAT Leon Sportstourer PHEV on test for Changing Lanes

Caroline drives the SEAT Leon Sportstourer plug-in hybrid!

SEAT has used the launch of the latest generation Leon as an opportunity to bring the brand's first plug-in hybrid model to the Irish market. Combining a petrol engine, battery and electric motor, the new Leon e-Hybrid range is a nod to the future of motoring, a starting point for the electrification of the SEAT brand.

Hybrid power for the Leon

Available as a hatchback or a Sportstourer estate, the new SEAT Leon e-Hybrid can be plugged in and charged, allowing owners to drive on electric power for up to 60 km. This is designed for drivers who do short commutes or spend a lot of time driving in town and can really make the most of the pure electric range and zero tailpipe emissions that go with it. Yet the back up of the combustion engine is always there.

The e-Hybrid range kicks off from €33,615 in Ireland for the hatchback and from €35,065 for the Leon e-Hybrid Sportstourer tested here for Changing Lanes.

The fourth generation Leon has been designed, developed and produced in Barcelona, at the company’s headquarters in Martorell. It turns out to be a very handsome car on approach for the first time. The Leon Sportstourer is arguably even better looking than the new generation Leon hatchback. Longer proportions give elegance and sportiness to this car. In sporty FR trim and finished in Mystery Blue, it has real presence.

Leon Sportstourer PHEV on sale from €35,065
Leon Sportstourer PHEV on sale from €35,065

Inside the SEAT Leon Sportstourer

The interior of the new SEAT Leon Sportstourer has been designed to be sleek and minimalist. Decorative mouldings surround the dashboard and continue through the front doors. A digital instrument cluster and 10" infotainment screen take centre stage with functionality including natural voice control as well as gesture recognition to simplify user interaction. It also gives information about the e-Hybrid system including what mode the vehicle is running and battery state of charge.

Equipment levels are good with e-Hybrid models, coming in high spec Xcellence and FR trims only. Highlights of the FR model on test include 18" machined alloy wheels, keyless engine start, rear view camera, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beam.

The Leon Sportstourer proves itself to be a comfortable family car with seating for five and the added practicality of an estate-style boot. While the hybrid packaging does impact boot volume in the Leon e-Hybrid models given that the battery pack is located under the boot floor, the Sportstourer accommodates it better with 470 litres available compared to just 270 litres in the Leon e-Hybrid hatchback.

Inside the SEAT Leon Sportstourer

Driving the SEAT Leon Sportstourer PHEV

The new Leon plug-in hybrid uses a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, electric motor and 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack to produce a healthy 204 hp and 350 Nm of torque. Power is put to the road through a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The e-Hybrid system requires more space than a traditional combustion engine but it’s been packaged to maximise dynamics so the chassis isn’t forced to compensate, with weight balanced between the front and rear of the vehicle.

On the road the new SEAT Leon Sportstourer feels quick and sophisticated. The hybrid powertrain suits it remarkably well adding a premium feel to the driving experience. Power delivery is strong and linear while the automatic gearbox never misses a beat. The car handles the road confidently and is comfortable too. My average fuel consumption was a remarkably efficient 5.4 litre per 100 km without any charging. Motor tax is €140 per year.

The Leon e-Hybrid can switch instantly between the different driving modes – whether powered solely by the combustion engine, a mixture of both combustion and electric energy, or only by electricity. The plug-in hybrid version provides an all-electric range of up to 60 km (WLTP) using the energy stored in the vehicle’s battery, for increased efficiency, or to travel around city streets.

The driver can choose to maintain the battery’s state of charge, saving it for situations when zero emission driving is ideal. When the battery is running low, the powertrain switches back to hybrid mode. Once you’re near a power source, the battery can be plugged in and replenished in 3-4 hours using a 3.6 kW wallbox charger.

The Leon e-Hybrid can be charged and driven on electric power around town
The Leon e-Hybrid can be charged and driven on electric power around town.

Did you like it?

The SEAT Leon has always been a core pillar in the brand’s product range, with more than 2.3 million sales since its introduction in 1999. The fourth-generation SEAT Leon hits the market perfectly with modern design and technology, as well as the addition of a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the very first time.

Turns out to be remarkably successful in the Leon. The Sportstourer e-Hybrid makes a very appealing prospect. It's not just gorgeous to look at, but the estate-style design makes up well for the loss in boot volume that comes with the hybrid models.

Buyers will pay a premium in the Leon range for the hybrid models but these are high spec models and a good introduction to electrified motoring. Equipment levels are very good and the Leon e-Hybrid can be a truly efficient vehicle to run.

What's more it feels good on the road, sophisticated and premium, and one you will enjoy driving.

Plug-in hybrid suits the Leon Sportstourer very well
Plug-in hybrid suits the Leon Sportstourer very well

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: SEAT Leon Sportstourer PHEV FR
Price: 
€35,065
Engine: 
1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power:  204 hp
Torque: 350 Nm
Top speed: 220 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.7 seconds
CO2 emissions:
26-28 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid

Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review

The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid
The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid

Thinking of buying a new Toyota Corolla Hybrid in 2022? Read Caroline's review of the latest Corolla hatchback for everything you need to know about one of Ireland's bestselling cars.

Toyota Ireland promised us a ‘hybrid invasion’ , and it has come to pass with popular models like the Corolla and RAV4 now exclusively hybrid. The new generation of the Toyota Corolla, one of Ireland’s best-loved cars, arrived here in 2019 and is available as a hatchback, saloon and estate. Toyota has also introduced a Corolla GR Sport with sporty trim elements. There is also now the option of a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre hybrid engine for even more performance and refinement.

Ever since Toyota Global President, Akio Toyoda, declared "no more boring cars!" from the brand, there has been something of a renaissance underway at Toyota. That’s thanks to Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that is underpinning this new generation of models.

A new SUV based on the Corolla will be launched in Ireland in late 2022 - the new Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.

What's so special about the latest Toyota Corolla?

Available from €27,605, the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid hatchback model is pitched as the compact, sporty one within the new Corolla family. Certainly, the car has undergone a terrific makeover. The new Corolla hatchback is longer and lower than the Auris hatchback it replaces, with a snug, sporty stance on the road. Exclusive to the segment, there are also four optional bi-tone colour schemes available from launch. They combine the body colour with a metallic black finish to the roof, roof front and rear pillars, and the door mirrors.

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback range goes on sale from €24,,380 in Ireland
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback range goes on sale from €24,,380 in Ireland

What are my options?

The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is offered in Ireland for 2022 in four grades: Luna, Luna Sport, Sol and GR Sport. Standard equipment includes 16″ alloys, Toyota Safety Sense including adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist, LED headlights/fog lights and 8″ Toyota Touch.

The Corolla Luna Sport model has a list price of €31,220 and features include rear view camera, Toyota Touch® 2 multimedia system, bi beam LED headlamps, LED front fog lamps, 17” black machined alloys, black contrasting roof, black roof spoiler, rear privacy glass, red dashboard trim and blue ambient lighting.

The design and quality of the interior of the new Toyota Corolla has improved almost as dramatically as the exterior styling of the car. There are plenty of soft touch materials inside. Plus a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment. From 2020 all new Toyota Corollas come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Corolla Hatchback will seat five with reasonable accommodation for the compact class. The Hatchback sits on a slightly shorter wheelbase to the Saloon and Touring Sports. So if rear space is a priority, buyers will appreciate the more spacious feeling in the back of those models. The boot is about average for the segment at 361 litres.

The interior of the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
The interior of the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Driving the Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Toyota has made much of the newly adopted Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-C platform and rightly so. Key concerns for engineers were to make this Corolla safer and more engaging to drive than anything that has come before. The GA-C platform guarantees a more rewarding driving experience. That's thanks to a centre of gravity that is lowered by 10 mm, a multi-link rear suspension fitted as standard across the model range, and a 60% more rigid body shell through the use of high strength steel as reinforcement in key areas. According to Toyota, these contribute to better handling and stability. All without compromising ride and comfort and also reducing high frequency vibration for an increased feeling of quality.

This new generation of the Corolla uses a revised 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain putting out 122 hp. However, the hatchback is also available with a more high performance 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain with 178 hp.

I was immediately impressed by the smoothness and refinement of the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid on the road. The hybrid powertrain means that the car uses a CVT automatic gearbox, but Toyota has considerably improved the refinement of the transmission and also invested in better cabin insulation.

Rear legroom in the new Corolla Hatchback
Rear legroom in the new Corolla Hatchback

How efficient is the Corolla Hybrid?

The Hatchback feels agile and dynamic on the road. Steering responses are fluid and direct. There's good body control through corners. Over a week of driving the hybrid delivered fuel consumption of 4.5/100 km. Low emissions mean that motor tax is €180 per year.

Around town the hybrid frequently dips into EV mode, which makes this hybrid a very efficient solution for drivers who do short commutes and plenty of town and city driving. On the motorway at high speeds, the Corolla will become less efficient. But it has been markedly improved in these circumstances, as seen in my overall average fuel consumption that was rated with about 300 km of motorway driving.

The latest Corolla is a stylish and desirable hatchback on par with rivals in terms of interior finish, technology and its ability to engage the driver. It remains a competitive choice of new car in 2022.

Rear legroom is a little tighter compared to the Saloon and Touring Sports.

The Corolla hatchback is dubbed as the sporty one of the family. The shorter wheelbase does make it feel more dynamic on the road. Toyota has also improved the hybrid powertrain. From my time driving the car, there are certainly savings to be made in terms of efficiency, particularly for urban drivers. There is a lot riding on this new generation of one of Ireland’s best loved cars, but the new Corolla Hybrid has been transformed!

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact car
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid is a stylish and efficient compact car

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Hatchback Luna Sport
Price:
€29,610 (from €27,605)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 142 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.9 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Claimed fuel economy:
3.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
83g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 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