The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!

2020 Nissan LEAF 62 kWh Review

Caroline and the new Nissan Leaf 62 kWh!
Caroline and the new Nissan LEAF 62 kWh!

Caroline drives the 2020 Nissan LEAF 62 kWh.

The Nissan LEAF is one of Ireland’s most popular electric cars and a pioneer of mainstream electric motoring. Within the last year the number of electric vehicles available in Ireland has expanded and the LEAF has been under attack from some new rivals. However the high visibility of the LEAF in Ireland, all generations, is undeniable, and you are definitely likely to encounter one at your local EV charger. The LEAF has clearly penetrated the market here very well.

In 2018, Nissan launched an all-new LEAF hatchback with a 40 kWh battery with more power and a range in the region of 250 km. The car had evolved into something more desirable with modern design technology and safety features. In 2019, the LEAF got even better with the launch of the new longer range Nissan LEAF 62 kWh.

What's new for the 2020 Nissan LEAF?

Priced in Ireland from €37,840, the 62 kWh LEAF crucially has a 25% increase in energy density and 55% boost in energy storage capacity, giving the 62 kWh LEAF a power output of 217 PS and up to 385 km (WLTP) on a single charge compared to the 40 kWh Nissan LEAF. I tested the car in the cold weather of November and with 98% battery power when I picked it up, the range read about 340 km.

The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!
The new LEAF 62 kWh has more range than ever before!

Other new features for the LEAF 62 kWh include the new NissanConnect infotainment system as standard, with Apple CarPlay® and AndroidAuto® for seamless smartphone connectivity. An upgraded navigation system also shows live traffic and nearby chargers. There’s also a new NissanConnect Services app that allows users to send navigation routes and preset air conditioning or heating.

Nissan so far has ignored the electric crossover/SUV trend and the LEAF remains a classic hatchback with the latest Nissan family face. The new battery retains a similar shape and size to the 40 kWh LEAF battery pack, so there is no detriment to interior space in this upgraded model. Interior accommodation is about average for a hatchback of this size and the boot is a very good size. There are special places to store the cables so the practicality of the space is not negatively impacted.

The interior of the LEAF

Inside, the LEAF 62 kWh has the same dash design as the new generation LEAF we tested in 2018. There is some new digital technology however already the graphics on the driver information panel and infotainment screen are looking a little dated. Still, functionality is okay and it's handy to be able to find nearby charging stations. You also sit a little higher in the LEAF than a standard hatchback because of the battery under the floor.

The interior of the new Nissan LEAF
The interior of the new Nissan LEAF

In Ireland, the new 62 kWh Nissan LEAF starts from €37,840 in SV grade with a high specification including Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Recognition, Intelligent Trace Control, Moving Object Detection, Intelligent Lane Intervention, e-Pedal with regenerative function, front and rear parking sensors, Around View Monitor, 17″ alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and LED rear signature lights.

The range-topping SVE 62 kWh LEAF is available from €40,500 and includes ProPilot, Bose Audio System, Intelligent Auto LED headlights, heated leather steering wheel and leather heated seats front and rear.

Driving the Nissan Leaf 62 kWh

On the road, the Nissan LEAF is nippy with 217 hp at its disposal. It handles well through corners and is smooth, refined and of course, quiet, on the move.

The extra range of this 62 kWh model is very welcome. The CHAdeMO type rapid charger is 50kW / 100kW compatible and will get you from 20% to 80% charge in about 90 minutes (50kW). Charging at home takes about 12 hours.

The new LEAF 62 kWh is still eclipsed by some rivals like the Kia e-Soul in terms of the range and how far it will go on one charge.

The Nissan LEAF is the original mass market electric vehicle, famed for its accessibility and affordable entry into electric motoring.

However, the new LEAF 62 kWh requires considerable investment and in range alone, there are some better competitors in this space.

LEAF buyers now have more options. Not everyone wants a crossover or SUV. Hatchback lovers still exist. The game is moving rapidly for EVs. The LEAF 62 kWh keeps up for now.

LEAF 62 kWh available from €37,840
LEAF 62 kWh available from €37,840

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Nissan LEAF 62 kWh SVE
Price:
€40,500
Battery: 62 kWh
Power: 
217 hp
Torque:  340 Nm
0-100km/h: 
6.9 seconds
Top speed: 158 km/h 
Range (WLTP):
385 km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!

Ford Focus Active Review (2019)

Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!
Caroline and the new Ford Focus Active!

Caroline drives the new Ford Focus Active!

Ford has expanded the Focus range in Ireland with the arrival of the new Focus Active. Priced from €25,344, the Focus Active aims to bring crossover style to the compact class.

To that end, the Focus has been raised by 13 mm and styling has been tweaked for a more rugged look – grey skid plate front and rear, roof rails, new plastic cladding, dark grille with unique mesh pattern and special alloy wheel designs.

Inside, the Focus Active has unique seat upholstery, new trims and 'Active' scuff plates. The Active version also has two new drive modes, perfectly tuned for adventure – ‘Slippery’ and ‘Trail’!

The Ford Focus Active hatchback is crossover inspired
The Ford Focus Active hatchback is crossover inspired

What are my options?

In Ireland the Focus Active is available as a hatchback or estate (from €26,414) and engines include Ford’s acclaimed 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and 1.5-litre TDCi diesel. My test car was a Ford Focus Active 1.5 TDCi with a 6-speed manual gearbox, priced from €27,353.

Standard equipment includes 17" 5-spoke two tone painted aluminium wheels, pre-collision assist, electronic parking brake, keyless start, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights with cornering lights, air con, cruise control, radio with 8" touchscreen display with DAB, Ford SYNC 3 with Voice Control, plus Bluetooth® and USB connectivity, navigation and six speakers.

Visually the the new Focus Active does carry a strong appearance and image thanks to the styling tweaks and slightly raised ride height. However, unfortunately this character hasn't found its way much into the interior of the car. It's rather plain inside. Changes are negligible though the Focus has a fine cabin with the latest technology features and seamless integration with smartphones. The car is nicely sized and accommodating, having improved interior space over the previous generation of the Focus.

The interior of the new Ford Focus Active
The interior of the new Ford Focus Active

Driving the new Ford Focus Active

Ford has modified the chassis of the Focus Active with unique springs, dampers, stabiliser bars, and front and rear knuckle geometries, to account for the raised ride height of the vehicle. On the road, the Focus Active still feels like a Focus though it's not quite as sharp with a less sporty, hunkered down feel through corners. Still it's athletic and good to drive - comfortable and smooth on the motorway, compact and agile around town. The 1.5-litre diesel performs well with 120 hp providing adequate rather than blistering power. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at an economical 5.1 l/100km.

Ford has also added a little more capability for adventurous souls. In addition to the Normal, Sport and Eco Selectable Drive Modes equipped as standard on all Focus models, the Focus Active now introduces Slippery mode, which adjusts ESC and traction control settings for increased confidence on surfaces with reduced grip such as mud, snow and ice. There's also a new Trail mode, which helps maintain momentum on soft surfaces such as sand.

The Ford Focus range now offers a number of different ‘flavours’, like the classic Titanium, the sporty ST-line and now the outdoorsy Active.

The crossover makeover has worked very well on the new Fiesta Active, with a great presence and spec at good value pricing.

However, for the Focus it has sacrificed a little of its sporty edge in the process. No surprises then that the ST-Line is still my favourite Focus!

The car follows market trends with crossover-inspired styling. In this regard, the Active makeover departs a different look for the Focus that is bound to garner it a few fans.

The Focus Active is available from €25,344
The Focus Active is available from €25,344

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus Active 1.5 TDCi
Price:
€27,353 (Range from €23,364)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP):
4.5-4.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
93 g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year

 


The new Mercedes-Benz CLA!

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA180 Petrol Review

The new Mercedes-Benz CLA!
The new Mercedes-Benz CLA!

Caroline drives the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA!

The new Mercedes-Benz CLA is yet another addition to Mercedes-Benz recently updated line of compact cars. A spin-off of the new A-Class, the CLA is a stylish and prestigious four door coupé priced from €34,110 in Ireland.

The new CLA drips with style and kerb appeal. While Mercedes has also recently launched a new A-Class saloon, the CLA is an altogether more elegant looking car. To accommodate the new A-Class saloon, the CLA has moved up a gear to occupy a more salubrious position.

Despite relatively compact dimensions, it has presence and yeah, it looks expensive! The designers have done a wonderful job with the proportions and features like the frameless doors give it exclusivity.

The interior of the new CLA
The interior of the new CLA

The fantastic interior of the new CLA

Inside the CLA carries the latest Benz interior, which is a very good thing. According to Mercedes-Benz, all elements are arranged according to the themes of ‘high tech’ and ‘youthful avant-garde’. Sounds good to me. It follows the dashboard theme of the A-Class but with some more stylish mods. There is a sportier and even more sophisticated vibe.

My AMG Line test car had a dual tone colour scheme of black and beige with sporty seats all round. There is excellent technology at your fingertips with the MBUX infotainment system and the widescreen display is completely free-standing. crystal-clear digital screens. It all works together very well. Mercedes is totally winning at compact premium car interiors right now.

The new CLA is available in three trim lines: Style, Progressive and AMG Line. Standard equipment includes active lane keeping assist, cruise control, heated front seats, keyless go, leather multifuction steering wheel, MBUX multimedia system, 7” screen, reversing camera, auto lights and wipers, climate control and 16” alloys. My AMG Line test car had aluminium pedals, sports seats, leather, 18” alloys, and AMG bodystyling for the ultimate sporty look.

The new platform beneath the CLA has stretched out more space making it a better buy and interior space is okay for four adults. The boot is 460 litres and practical enough for this type of car. A slightly more practical CLA ‘shooting brake’ is available from €35,930.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA sits on a new platform and is bigger inside
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA sits on a new platform and is bigger inside

The new CLA is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines. The bestselling model in Ireland is expected to be a CLA180 petrol version priced from €34,110 and a CLA180d automatic version priced from €37,300.

Driving the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA

My test car was a CLA180 with a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine putting out 136hp. This engine is also available with 163hp (CLA200) and other derivatives include CLA 220, 250, 200d, and 220d. For a small capacity engine it is very impressive and is more than capable of the job in the CLA. It doesn’t get too noisy and it works well with the 7-speed automatic gearbox. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.2 l/100km.

A wider track and a lower centre of gravity are the two key features that give the CLA the sportiest driving characteristics of all models in the new generation of compacts from Mercedes-Benz. The technical specification includes a decoupled multi-link axle at the rear for reduced noise and vibration, a Direct-Steer system as standard and hydromounts at the front. A stabiliser bar with a larger diameter reduces body roll. An active adaptive damping system is available, giving the driver the choice between comfort or a more uncompromising sporty tuning. The ESP® has been specially adapted to the CLA’s potentially high cornering speeds and handling performance.

On the road the CLA is agile and sporty to drive. The A-Class pedigree is good anyway but the modifications make it even more enjoyable, though the ride can be a bit more harsh over rough surfaces.

Would you buy it?

The Mercedes-Benz CLA is a highly desirable car with drop dead gorgeous looks, high quality cabin and fun driving character. You do pay a premium for the sexy coupe design and prestige of this model and it’s not really any bigger or more practical than an A-Class. But it is oh so seductive and fun to drive. Easy to recommend if you are looking for something a little bit special in this price range.

The CLA is available from €34,110
The CLA is available from €34,110

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz CLA180 Coupe
Price:
€40,527 (Range from €34,110)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
136 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9 seconds
Top speed: 216 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP):
5.4-5.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
123 g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year

 


The new Skoda Scala!

2019 Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI Petrol Review

The new Skoda Scala!
The new Skoda Scala!

Caroline drives the 2019 Skoda Scala!

The Skoda Scala is Skoda’s new five door hatchback that slots in below the popular Octavia and replaces the Skoda Rapid. This time round, Skoda has been keen for their compact offering to attract a younger and more style conscious buyer. Cue the new, more romantic name (Scala!) and a smart new design inside and out.

Priced from €23,650, the 2019 Skoda Scala is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines and two trim levels at launch. Skoda has made a name for itself as a brand that offers more for less. And the Scala range is keenly priced. For example, the car I had on test was the high spec Style model and with the excellent 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engine, this car retails from €25,650.

It’s also one of the most spacious cars in its class, measuring 4.4 metres in length, but the wide and low stance hides the length. The front is classic Skoda with LED headlights available on the Style model. But even mid-range cars get LED taillights with dynamic indicators, which is quite a salubrious touch. The Scala was also the first Skoda to have S K O D A spelt out in individual letters across the rear! Ambition models get 16” alloys, while Style gets 17” inch alloys.

The interior of the new Skoda Scala
The interior of the new Skoda Scala

Inside the new Skoda Scala!

Slip inside the new Scala and you are met pleasantly with a new generation interior. The design is simple and elegant with an excellent infotainment system. The graphics on the 6.5”, 8.0” or 9.2” colour touchscreens are modern and the system easy to use, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and wireless phone charging available. These sort of features are exactly what the younger market is looking for in a new car. Perceived quality is good too and the Style model has a stylish pearl-effect dash panel insert.

Standard equipment includes air-con, cruise control, electric windows, rear parking sensors and a 6.5” colour touch screen unit. The Image Package, which consists of the glass tailgate, will be provided as standard from Ambition. The Style model adds dual zone climate control, rear view camera, keyless entry, auto lights, rain sensor and 8” infotainment unit.

Inside the new Scala feels roomy, particularly for rear seat passengers, with large rear footwells. Boot capacity is 467 litres so it’s one of the best in class.

Engine options for the new Skoda Scala include 1.0 TSI 115bhp and 1.5 TSI 150bhp petrols, and a 1.6 TDI 115bhp diesel. Both manual and DSG automatic transmissions are available. The diesel is available from €26,475. A lower powered 1.0 TSI 95bhp petrol unit will be offered at a later date with pricing to be confirmed.

The Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines

On the road in the 2019 Skoda Scala

The 1.0-litre petrol engine has a small capacity on paper but it works well in the Skoda Scala. It’s smooth and reasonably refined on the move and doesn’t feel underpowered even with a few passengers on board! Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.0 l/100km.

The new Scala is the first Skoda based on the Volkswagen Group’s new MQB A0 platform. Skoda has made comprehensive adjustments to the platform for the new Scala, which include using the longest possible wheelbase and rear overhang. The controls are light but the Scala is agile and fun to drive without trying too hard to be sporty.

The Skoda Scala moves Skoda’s compact offering up a gear. It is a nicely designed car, smart and understated. It feels modern inside and delivers for the target market with the latest generation infotainment allowing quick and seamless integration with smartphones. The Scala also carries the Skoda value proposition of being generously sized for carrying passengers and their things. The Scala is a great addition to the Skoda range and is a simple and stylish hatchback in the great tradition of Skodas!

The new Skoda Scala is available from €23,650
The new Skoda Scala is available from €23,650

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI Style
Price:
€25,650 (Range from €23,650)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.8 seconds
Top speed: 201 km/h
Fuel economy:
5.7 – 6.5 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
113 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

 


The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon Review

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

Mercedes-Benz continues to grow the brand’s family of compact cars with the addition of the new A-Class Saloon. The follow-up to the all-new A-Class hatchback that arrived in Ireland in summer 2018, the A-Class is now available for the first time as a saloon.

Priced from €31,445 in Ireland, the saloon carries about a €1000 premium over the A-Class hatchback. However, it is a visually more impressive car. Low, lean and sporty, the A-Class wears its dimensions perfectly, with short front and rear overhangs.

The separate boot has a volume of 420 litres and is larger than the boot in the hatchback. The new A-Class saloon is available in three trim lines – Style, Progressive and AMG Line. At launch, there’s an A180/A200/A250 (petrol) and A180d (diesel). The diesel model is available from €34,220.

Like the A-Class hatchback, the new A-Class Saloon features the latest in Mercedes-Benz technology and design. The interior of the car is a great expression of Mercedes-Benz values in compact form. But there is a definite more youthful and sportier vibe than in the larger saloons, estates and SUVs. My AMG Line trim car had beautiful Alcantara seats and door panelling, as well as sporty red stitching and detailing.

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

The cabin experience in the new A-Class is one of the best. The floating dashboard concept is elegant and modern. A 7” digital instrument panel for the driver comes as standard and is joined by a 7” or 10.25” screen for the infotainment. A touchpad controls the infotainment as well as voice control through the intelligent MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience infotainment system that responds to ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice commands!

Standard equipment includes 16″ alloys, air con, active lane keeping assist, digital instrument cluster, MBUX multimedia system with touchscreen and touchpad, cruise control, Dynamic Select, heated front seats, reversing camera and part leather upholstery.

Progressive adds more chrome and carbon fibre effect trim to the cabin, automatic climate control, 17″ alloys, LED headlamps, visible tailpipe trim elements and rear apron with trim in chrome.

AMG Line adds a sport steering wheel, brushed stainless steel pedals, direct-steer system, aluminium trim, sports seats, 18″ alloys, AMG bodystyling and diamond radiator grille with chrome pins.

The new A-Class Saloon is priced from €31,445
The new A-Class Saloon is priced from €31,445

How practical is it?

Mercedes-Benz has improved interior space in this generation of the A-Class. There is more head, elbow and leg room. The rear still best serves two adults rather than three but it’s a nice way to travel for sure! The boot is larger than that in the hatchback and has a large opening for a saloon making loading and unpacking easier.

Engine options for the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon include two four-cylinder petrol engines of 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre capacity, and a new 1.5-litre diesel. Power outputs range from 116 to 224 hp. A 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic gearbox are available, depending on model choice.

My test car was an A180d Automatic AMG Line with a list price of €37,889. The 180d uses a 1.5-litre diesel engine, which produces 116 hp and 260 Nm of torque. It can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 10.5 seconds though it needs to be revved a bit to make such brisk progress. In that regard, it can get noisy though it’s quiet at a cruise. It is extremely efficient however and over a week of driving I averaged 4.9l/100km.

Rear legroom in the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon
Rear legroom in the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

Driving the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

There is some audible road noise but it is a comfortable car for the most part. The A-Class is one of the most fun to drive models in the entire Mercedes range and it’s no different in the saloon, being nimble and sporty. Dynamic Select offers different drive programs including Eco, Sport and Comfort with setting options for the engine, transmission, chassis and steering.

The compact models in the Mercedes-Benz range are about attracting more customers to the three-pointed star brand and giving the brand a more youthful image. The A-Class Saloon absolutely delivers on that. It’s sporty and desirable with great road presence.

The stunning interior is one of the car’s best assets and is packed full of the latest technology features and infotainment. The A180 d offers great economy but the A200 is a slicker engine that suits the refined image of the car better. But regardless of engine choice, Mercedes is on to a winner with this car and I expect in time the saloon will outsell the hatchback.

The Saloon is a cool and sporty derivative of the A-Class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz A180d AMG Line Saloon
Price:
€37,889 (Range from €31,445)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
116hp
Torque: 260 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.6 seconds
Top speed: 206 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.1-4.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
110 g/km
Motor tax: 
€190 per year


The new Mazda3 is now on sale in Ireland priced from €26,295

2019 Mazda3 2.0 Petrol Skyactiv-G Review

The new Mazda3 is now on sale in Ireland priced from €26,295
The new Mazda3 is now on sale in Ireland priced from €26,295

Caroline drives the new Mazda3!

Mazda has recently launched an all-new generation of the Mazda3 hatchback and saloon. Since I began testing cars, the Mazda3 has always been one of my favourite cars in the compact class for its stylish looks, high quality cabin and fun, sporty drive.

But it was time for a change. Reflecting the current move in the industry to integrating hybrid technology to boost efficiency, the news is that Mazda has also launched the Mazda3 with mild hybrid technology. There’s also a revolutionary new petrol engine due to arrive shortly (‘Skyactiv-X’) that promises the free-revving performance of a petrol engine with the response and fuel economy of a diesel.

Mazda has gently progressed the styling of the Mazda3 with stunning results. The curvature of the sheet metal around the rear quarters of the hatchback is particularly interesting. The new Mazda3 is clearly one of the style icons of its class!

The Mazda3 2.0-litre petrol engine now features mild hybrid technology to boost efficiency and reduce emissions
The Mazda3 2.0-litre petrol engine now features mild hybrid technology to boost efficiency and reduce emissions

The interior of the new Mazda3

Inside, the interior has progressed to a more cohesive and stylish design. The material quality is excellent and the new digital instrument panel is modern and easy to read. The infotainment has also been updated and improved with a new screen and rotary controller on the centre console. In terms of space, the new Mazda3 will seat five and is reasonably spacious in the rear for this class of vehicle. At 351 litres, the boot is about average for the compact class.

For Ireland there will be a choice of four trim levels for the hatchback: GS, GS-L, GT and GT Sport. Standard equipment includes air con, an 8.8-inch colour entertainment screen, 7-inch digital dashboard, window projected colour Active Driving Display, 16” alloys, LED headlights with High Beam Control, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring with rear traffic alert, E-Call and Lane Keep Assist. Every model in the line-up also features navigation, Apple CarPlay™/Android Auto™ and an eight speaker audio system.

GS-L includes a reversing camera, smart keyless entry and heated front seats, while the GT model is equipped with 18” alloy wheels and a black leather interior. At the top of the range the GT Sport sees an enhanced cabin with additional chrome detailing, a frameless rear view mirror, rear privacy glass and Bose® twelve speaker audio system.

At launch the new Mazda3 is available with the 2.0 Skyactiv-G petrol (122hp) and the 1.8 Skyactiv-D diesel (116hp). These are not new engines, but the 2.0-litre petrol now has support from a 24 volt mild hybrid system and cylinder deactivation to improve efficiency. The new 2.0-litre petrol Skyactiv-X will join later with 180hp. Manual and automatic gearboxes are available.

My test car was a Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-G GT Sport with a list price of €30,795.

The interior of the new Mazda3
The interior of the new Mazda3

On the road in the new Mazda3

The new Mazda3 has been built upon a new vehicle architecture that promises better handling, ride comfort and refinement. According to Mazda, every element of the car - the seats, body, tyres and suspension - has been developed with “a human centred approach” to ensure that Mazda’s famous ‘Jinba Ittai’ sense of oneness between car and driver is more finely balanced than ever before.

A torsion beam rear suspension has been used to improve refinement over a variety of road surfaces and we can say that is has worked because road noise is gone in this new generation. The Mazda3 is comfortable for the most part but doesn’t take the edge off potholes, manhole covers and other bumps and ridges in the road surface you will encounter around town. The car feels sporty and flat through bends and the steering is also well-weighted.

Bucking the trend for small turbocharged petrol engines, the 2.0-litre petrol in the Mazda3 is a naturally aspirated affair because Mazda believe this is still the best way to get good fuel efficiency from a petrol engine. It is certainly more efficient than what one might think for an engine of this capacity. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.6l/100km, while motor tax is €200 per year. However, it does deliver its power differently and I did miss the in-gear punch of a turbo unit. It can feel a little more lazy, though it is very quiet and refined on the move!

The new Mazda3 is positioned near the top of the compact class in terms of price but it comes with a high-quality interior and plenty of standard equipment. The Mazda3 offers an excellent drive and cabin experience. Engine choice is a little bit left field in the Mazda3 range but in terms of power and efficiency, perfectly acceptable.

The new Mazda3 is a sophisticated machine that looks good just about anywhere!

The Mazda3 is a stylish and sporty hatchback for the compact class
The Mazda3 is a stylish and sporty hatchback for the compact class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-G GT Sport
Price:
€30,795 (Range from €26,295)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol mild hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 213 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.4 seconds
Top speed: 197 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
142 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650

Skoda Scala First Drive Review

The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650
The new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland priced from €23,650

The all-new Skoda Scala has just arrived in Ireland. It’s Skoda’s new five door family hatchback that slots in between the Fabia and the Octavia. It effectively replaces the Rapid. Caroline went to the Irish press launch to test drive the new Scala. It’s on sale in Ireland now priced from €23,650.

Styling

The Skoda Scala is a straightforward, five door hatchback. It’s actually one of the largest cars in its segment measuring 4.4 metres in length, but the wide and low stance hides the length. There’s little extravagant flourish to the styling of the Scala but it is the first Skoda to have S K O D A spelt out in individual letters across the rear! Mid-range cars get 16” alloys and LED taillights with dynamic indicators, while top of the range Style models have 17” wheels and full LED headlights.

Interior

The Skoda Scala has a new generation interior for a compact Skoda. That means that there has been a step up in quality and design. The Scala is the first car in the Volkswagen Group family to receive the third and most advanced generation of infotainment systems known internally as MIB3. The benefits of the new MIB3 units include a much cleaner cockpit as former infotainment, and air-conditioning buttons move to controls operating from very sophisticated looking 6.5”, 8.0” or 9.2” colour touch screens. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless phone charging available. The cabin is a mixture of soft and hard plastics with the Style model getting a particularly stylish pearl-effect dash panel insert.

Practicality

It’s one of the longest cars in the class, so it’s also generously sized inside for a five door family hatchback, particularly for rear seat passengers. The rear footwells are impressively large. Boot capacity is 467 litres so it’s one of the best in class.

Engines

Engine options for new Scala include a 1.0 TSI 115bhp and 1.5 TSI 150bhp petrols, and a 1.6 TDI 115bhp diesel is also available with both manual and DSG automatic transmissions.  A lower powered 1.0 TSI 95bhp petrol unit will be offered at a later date.

The interior of the new Skoda Scala
The interior of the new Skoda Scala

On the road

We took a Skoda Scala 1.0-litre TSI for a drive around Kildare. It’s smooth with light controls for an easy, affable driving nature. The 1.0-litre petrol does the job here without feeling under pressure on our test route across motorway and rural roads. My first impressions were that the Scala doesn’t feel as sporty on the road as a Ford Focus for example and there was some audible road noise coming into the cabin, but it certainly feels up to class standards.

Equipment

At launch the Scala will be available in Ambition and Style specifications with an Active entry version to be added by the end of 2019. The Ambition equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, dynamic rear LED indicators, air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, rear parking sensors and a 6.5” colour touch screen unit. The Image Package, which consists of the glass tailgate, will be provided as standard from Ambition. The Style model gets 17” alloy wheels, full LED headlights, dual zone climate control, rear view camera, keyless entry, auto lights, rain sensor and 8” infotainment unit.

Pricing

The Scala range starts from €23,650 for the 1.0 TSI 115bhp. Diesels start from €26,475. When the Active model arrives, it will undercut these.

Rivals

Skoda points to the Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30 and Kia Ceed as key rivals for the new Scala.

Verdict

The Skoda Scala replaces the Rapid and goes more upmarket in the process. The Scala is aimed at a younger buyer looking for a more stylish vehicle and it certainly offers a very smart new generation interior with the latest in infotainment and connectivity. The Scala carries the Skoda value proposition of being generously sized for carrying passengers and their things. I look forward to bringing you a full road test report later in the year!

The Skoda Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Skoda Scala is available with petrol and diesel engines

Caroline Kidd

 


The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid Review

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

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback!

Late last year, Toyota Ireland promised a ‘hybrid invasion’ in 2019. It’s not surprising they were feeling confident – this year new cars from the Toyota brand have been arriving thick and fast, including the new generation of the RAV4 Hybrid and the return of the Camry.

But 2019 has also seen the arrival of a new generation of the Toyota Corolla, one of Ireland’s best-loved cars. The Corolla family – hatchback, saloon and estate – are all available now as hybrids. It was time I took this new Toyota Corolla Hybrid for a test drive!

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.

Available from €24,380 with a 1.2-litre petrol engine or from €26,370 as a petrol electric, self-charging hybrid, the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is pitched as the compact, sporty one within the new Corolla family. Certainly, the new Corolla Hatchback 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

Equipment and interior

The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is offered in Ireland in three grades: Aura, Luna (from €26,995), Luna Sport (from €29,620) and Sol (from €30,115). Standard equipment includes 16″ alloys, Toyota Safety Sense including adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist, LED headlights/fog lights and 8″ Toyota Touch. My Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Luna Sport model had a list price of €29,620 and features included 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 and a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment. However, technology buffs may be disappointed with the lack of 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

On the road in the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

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 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 without compromising ride and comfort, as well as 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 122hp. However, the hatchback is also available with a more high performance 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain with 178hp. It retails from €32,915.

I was immediately impressed by the smoothness and refinement of the new Toyota Corolla 1.8-litre 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 it?

The Hatchback feels agile and dynamic on the road with fluid and direct steering responses and good body control through corners. Over a week of driving the hybrid delivered fuel consumption of 4.5/100km, while 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 again 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 Toyota Corolla has been one of the most anticipated new cars of 2019. It’s now a stylish and desirable hatchback on par with rivals in terms of interior finish, technology and its ability to engage the driver. Rear legroom is a little tighter compared to the Saloon and Touring Sports, but the Corolla is dubbed as the sporty one and the shorter wheelbase does make it feel more dynamic on the road. Toyota has also improved the hybrid powertrain and 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 Hatchback 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 €24,380)
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 new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid Review

The new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
The new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Caroline drives the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports!

The Toyota Corolla is one of Ireland’s best loved cars and is now in its 12th generation. 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 a whole new generation of models including C-HR and Prius, and now in 2019, Camry, RAV4 and the new Toyota Corolla family.

The new Toyota Corolla is now available in Ireland as a saloon, hatchback and estate (‘Touring Sports’). I recently took the Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid for a test drive. Available from €28,420, the Corolla Touring Sports comes exclusively as a petrol electric, self-charging hybrid. In this new generation of Corolla it uses a revised 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain putting out 122hp.

The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is available from €28,420
The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is available from €28,420

Sporty and stylish family car

In the metal, the new Corolla really makes a style statement. The Touring Sports is particularly successful in my opinion. In fact, the hatchback, saloon and estate have all been given an individual look because the new platform gave the designers the freedom to do that.

The Touring Sports is available in the entry Luna trim and in Sol trim with a bit more gear (from €31,990). But even the entry model comes exceptionally well equipped with 16” alloys, LED headlamps/fog lamps, 8” Toyota Touch, rear view camera, dual zone climate control, and Toyota Safety Sense with adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist.

For the extra spend, Sol adds 17” alloys, a chrome window frame, rear privacy glass, rain sensor, Smart Entry & Start, navigation, textured chrome inserts to the interior, grey lower dashboard, ambient lighting, heated front seats and driver lumbar support.

The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
The interior of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Inside the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

The design and quality of the interior of the new Toyota Corolla has improved dramatically. There are plenty of soft touch materials and a number of technology features including the digital instrument panel and central touchscreen for the infotainment, though technology buffs will be frustrated by the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The interior of the car is nicely spacious too with decent accommodation for the compact class. The estate is the obvious choice in this new trio of Corollas if you need more space and a bigger boot. The boot aperture opens wide for easy loading with a low, flat load lip. At 598 litres, there’s also 237 litres more boot volume than in the hatchback.

Boot space in the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
Boot space in the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Driving the 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

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 promises a more rewarding driving experience 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 without compromising ride and comfort, as well as reducing high frequency vibration for an increased feeling of quality.

I was immediately impressed by the smoothness and refinement of the new Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 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.

The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a stylish and practical estate car
The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a stylish and practical estate car

How fuel-efficient is the new Corolla?

The Touring Sports has adequate power for driving and overtaking manoeuvres. However, as a hybrid it really needs to deliver on fuel efficiency. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.6 l/100 km, and I saw a return of over 60 mpg on some journeys. The hybrid system works particularly well in town and promotes a more relaxed mode of driving that helps to deliver on efficiency. Low emissions mean that motor tax is €180 per year.

There has been much anticipation for this new generation of the Corolla. But until we drive it we can never be sure if it will deliver on all that is promised. However I’m happy to report that the new Toyota Corolla has improved considerably in just about every way, and it’s also got super competitive again in the compact class.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a very handsome vehicle and the most practical member of the new Corolla family. It's genuinely efficient, spacious and pleasant to drive making it a great family car.

No more boring cars!

The 2019 Toyota Corolla is a car transformed
The 2019 Toyota Corolla is a car transformed

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Sol
Price:
€31,990 (from €28,420)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
122 hp
Torque: 142 Nm
0-100km/h: 
11.1 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.5 – 5.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
87g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year

 


The new Kia ProCeed!

2019 Kia Proceed 1.4 GT Line

The new Kia ProCeed!
The new Kia ProCeed!

Caroline drives the 2019 Kia ProCeed!

Over the last few years, Kia has really put itself on the map as one of the most modern and progressive car manufacturers. Not content with raising standards across their range of hatchbacks, SUVs and saloons in recent years, the ambitious Korean brand has also pushed itself into new segments. Last year it was the stunning Kia Stinger GT stealing all the headlines for its evocative design and high-performance engine. This year it’s the return of the Kia ProCeed. But not as we know it!

The Kia ProCeed entered the market a number of years ago as a sporty, three door hatchback. But there is no longer much of a market for cars like that. So Kia has reimagined the ProCeed as a “shooting brake” to coincide with the new generation of the Kia Ceed family that arrived in Ireland in 2018.

The Kia ProCeed is a prestigious "shooting brake" for the compact class
The Kia ProCeed is a prestigious "shooting brake" for the compact class

The 2019 Kia ProCeed

The new Kia ProCeed is a cross somewhere between an elegant hatchback and a practical estate. It now sits at the top of the Ceed range, with a list price of €28,946. For reference the Ceed hatchback range kicks off at €22,695 and the SW range at €25,295.

However, the Proceed range is very simple in Ireland in that Kia Ireland is offering just one model with a high specification – GT Line. The 2019 Kia ProCeed GT Line has a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine under the bonnet putting out 140hp. A six speed manual gearbox comes as standard while there is a 7 speed automatic version available for €30,445.

The interior of the Kia ProCeed
The interior of the 2019 Kia ProCeed

Stylish and practical

The 2019 Kia ProCeed is a design-led concept merging style and practicality. The ProCeed is lower and longer than both the Ceed five-door hatchback and Sportswagon and so carries its own unique identity within the Ceed family. In fact it’s quite unique in the family car segment with a striking raked back silhouette, sharing only its bonnet and front wings with the Ceed five-door.

The ProCeed name is spelled out in capitals across the centre of the tailgate, beneath LED tail-lights which span the width of the tailgate, giving the car a unique light signature. The ‘tiger nose’ front grille is finished in high gloss black with satin chrome, with matching high gloss black door mirrors and side sill mouldings. The air intake has a lower lip with black accent, and the rear spoiler is body coloured with high gloss black trim.

The ProCeed is every bit the head turner especially finished in Infra Red, but it’s also versatile with a 594 litre boot. The boot is bigger than in the Ceed hatchback and just a few litres shy of the SW in that regard. It’s also easy to load and access the space too. The sloping roofline means that in the rear, there is some impact on headroom, but otherwise this is a competively sized car for the compact class.  

Rear seating in the Kia ProCeed
Rear seating in the Kia ProCeed

The interior of the Kia Proceed

The interior is almost a carbon copy of the Ceed on which it is based, though the ProCeed does have a black headliner, special upholstery and a D-shaped sports steering wheel. It’s a comfortable cabin with some stylish brushed chrome and gloss black to add interest. Considering the premium buyers pay for this model, it would be nice to see some more higher quality materials or a more individual design. A small frustration really.

Standard equipment on the ProcCeed GT Line includes 17” alloys, automatic headlights, front projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights with a full-width LED brake light, front fog lights, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, rear privacy glass, wireless phone charger, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Lane Keeping Assist with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist.

The Kia ProCeed is available from €28,946 in Ireland
The Kia ProCeed is available from €28,946 in Ireland

Driving the Kia ProCeed

Kia has made a few changes to the ProCeed under the skin for a sportier and more engaging drive. This has been achieved by using stiffer front and rear springs to increase body control and improve steering inputs, and softer front and rear anti-roll bars to keep its inside wheels in contact with the road, even under hard cornering. 

On the road the ProCeed immediately feels tauter and more engaging with loads of front end grip and minimal body roll making it a very accomplished car to drive. There is a firmer edge to the suspension but it’s by no means uncomfortable. There was quite a lot of audible road noise however on our test drive.

The 1.4-litre engine does perform well in the ProCeed with good power and performance, reaching 100kmh in just 8.8 seconds from a standstill, and smooth power delivery through the six speed manual gearbox. There is no diesel engine available in the ProCeed in Ireland so running costs will be a little higher. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption was 6.9l/100km and motor tax is €280 per year.

The new ProCeed is design triumph for Kia!
The new ProCeed is a design triumph for Kia!

Verdict

The new Kia ProCeed makes a style statement, while also being practical, so it's a compelling alternative to the family hatchback or SUV. The ProCeed does command more investment over the Ceed hatchback and SW, but it’s a prestigious vehicle and fun to drive also. Another stunning and ambitious car from Kia!

Model tested: Kia ProCeed 1.4 T-GDi GPF Petrol 140 hp 6MT
Price:
€28,946
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140 hp
Torque: 242 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.8 seconds
Top speed: 209 km/h
Fuel economy:
45.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 
132g/km
Motor tax: 
€280 per year