The 2019 Renault Mégane Coupé

2019 Renault Mégane Grand Coupé Review

The 2019 Renault Mégane Coupé
The 2019 Renault Mégane Coupé

Caroline drives the new Renault Mégane Grand Coupé.

A Renault Mégane saloon has always done well in Ireland, with us being a nation of ‘big boot out the back’ lovers. Saloon sales are on a squeeze from SUVs, but Renault Ireland still believes in the value of the compact saloon in the Irish market. In 2017, the new Renault Mégane Grand Coupé (fancy name too!) arrived in Ireland to join the Mégane hatchback and Sport Tourer (estate).

Renault was right to defy market trends. The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé is now the bestselling model in the Mégane range in Ireland, outselling the hatchback and Sport Tourer.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé brings considerable style and space to the range
The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé brings considerable style and space to the range

What’s new for the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé in 2019?

Now in 2019, Renault Ireland has refreshed the Grand Coupé line-up. There are now three trim levels as opposed to four - Play, Iconic and Signature. And a petrol engine has joined the range for the first time. The new 1.3 TCe 140 engine is available in the Grand Coupé with a 6-speed manual or new 7-speed EDC automatic gearbox.

Renault’s 1.5 dCi engine has also been enhanced in 2019 with increased power at 115hp and is also available with 6-speed manual and 7-speed EDC gearboxes.

The Mégane Grand Coupé is available from €23,940 in Ireland
The Mégane Grand Coupé is available from €23,940 in Ireland

Style and space in the Mégane Grand Coupé

Renault has strapped the Grand Coupé moniker onto the Mégane saloon, which implies that this car has ‘notions’. But it’s not difficult to understand the popularity of the Mégane Grand Coupé. It’s a good looking car with design flair and elegant proportions giving it the presence of a larger and more expensive car.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé range starts from €23,940 in Ireland, which is an €1800 premium over the Mégane hatchback. But Grand Coupé buyers actually get a more spacious car because the wheelbase is longer than that of the hatchback. The rear legroom is more accommodating. The boot has a capacity of 503 litres, bigger than the hatchback, with reasonably good access for a saloon. Also since I last tested the car there is now a release button on the boot lid, which is great.

Rear legroom in the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé
Rear legroom in the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

Equipment

The Play trim level (from €23,940)
replaces both the Expression and Dynamique Nav trims. Equipment includes Apple
CarPlay® and Android Auto®, 7” touch screen, climate control and parking
sensors.

The Iconic (from €26,140) replaces
the Dynamique S Nav and has built-in navigation (7” screen), Multi-sense
driving modes and the Visio Active safety system.

The sporty GT Line is preserved for the hatch, while the Grand Coupé gets the ‘grander’ Signature trim (from €28,440). This model has leather interior, 18” diamond cut wheels, 8.7” navigation screen and full LED lights.

The interior of the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé
The interior of the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

The interior of the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé has a
lot of rasmatazz on the outside but it’s a bit plainer on the inside. The most
striking feature is probably the portrait style touchscreen which is quite
unique in the segment. The interior is hardly the last word in sophistication with
quite a few hard, scratchy plastics, but it’s perfectly acceptable.

The new petrol engine is a great addition to the Mégane Grand Coupé range. It’s a 1.3-litre turbo petrol unit that’s popping up in other Renault models too like the Kadjar. It’s got lots of power at 140hp and over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.3 l/100km, with motor tax of €270 per year. There is also a 1.5-litre diesel engine with 110hp, which is the best for economy.

Boot space in the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé
Boot space in the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

Driving the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé

On the road the Renault Mégane Grand Coupé 1.3 TCe is nippy and refined. The car moves well through corners with precision and good cruising ability on the motorway too. The gear change feels a bit slack but other than that I really enjoyed my time with this car. The ride comfort seemed more cosseting this time round too.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé is very impressive with this new petrol engine. This is a stylish saloon and while competition is fierce in the compact segment, the Grand Coupé has really hit its stride in terms of spec, comfort and refinement. The figures don’t lie. It’s Ireland’s favourite iteration of the Mégane and the addition of this smart little petrol engine should enhance its prospects even more.

The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé is available for the first time in Ireland with a petrol engine in 2019
The Renault Mégane Grand Coupé is available for the first time in Ireland with a petrol engine in 2019

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Megane Grand Coupé Signature
TCe 140 GPF
Price:
€28,440 (Range from €23,940)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.7 seconds
Top speed: 203 km/h
Fuel Economy: 
5.7l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
130g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year


The new Volkswagen e-Golf

2019 Volkswagen e-Golf Review

The new Volkswagen e-Golf
The new Volkswagen e-Golf

Caroline drives the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf.

The Volkswagen e-Golf has been at the forefront of Volkswagen’s electric vehicle offering since it was launched in 2014. While next year Volkswagen will launch the first model in their new fully electric I.D. range of cars, the e-Golf has been a most palatable bridge to a future of electric motoring.

And that’s because the Volkswagen Golf is one of the most iconic hatchbacks on the planet. Based on the award-winning Mark 7 Volkswagen Golf, the current generation of the Volkswagen e-Golf compromises virtually none of the comfort, refinement, class and quality of one of Ireland’s favourite hatchbacks. In my opinion, that’s probably the e-Golf’s massive USP as an electric vehicle.

While electric vehicles still account for low numbers on Irish roads, there’s more interest and registrations were up a massive 540 percent in the first two months of 2019 (1127 electric cars registered versus 176 in Jan/Feb 2018). New EV models have arrived in the last 12 months and there are more on the way. So how does the Volkswagen e-Golf stack up?

The Volkswagen e-Golf received an upgrade in 2017
The Volkswagen e-Golf received an upgrade in 2017 with a new battery, more power and more range

How far will the Volkswagen e-Golf get me on a full charge?

The Volkswagen e-Golf received the same cosmetic and equipment tweaks as the rest of the Golf range in 2017. But there was also an increase in the energy capacity of the e-Golf’s lithium-ion battery from 24.2 kWh to 35.8 kWh. The e-Golf now has more power at 136 hp. But crucially the range was boosted to 230 km when measured on the new WLTP. And in real world driving, range is not far off that with between 200 and 220 km, depending on driving style, weather conditions and the use of the fans and air conditioning.

On the outside the only clues to the electric powertrain underneath are some subtle e-Golf badges, unique front C-shaped LED daytime running lights, and a set of aerodynamic 16” ‘Astana’ alloy wheels. A blue signature trim line also runs across the grille and into the headlights. Other than that the e-Golf is the sharp dresser that looks good just about anywhere.

Inside, the e-Golf has a perfectly appointed cabin with dials, switches and screens in all the right places, just like the rest of the Golf range. It’s very easy to slot yourself from a Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI to the e-Golf for example, because the controls are mostly the same. The driver’s instrument panel displays a few different gauges for the EV system, but even these are displayed in a rather conventional way. For example where you might see the level of your fuel tank is now a display of how much ‘juice’ you have left in your battery.

In practical terms, the interior space of the e-Golf remains unchanged as a standard five door family hatchback. However boot volume is down from 380 to 341 litres.

The interior of the Volkswagen e-Golf
The interior of the Volkswagen e-Golf

Pricing and Equipment

Equipment levels are good. Volkswagen Ireland offers the e-Golf in Ireland in two trims: an entry e-Golf priced from €35,995 including government incentives and a more salubrious Executive Edition priced from €39,495.

The glossy 9.2” Discover Pro navigation system with clear glass touchscreen comes as standard. Other highlights include adaptive cruise control, front assist with pedestrian monitoring, rear parking sensors, and dual zone climate control.

The Executive edition adds 17-inch ‘Madrid’ alloy wheels, LED tail lights with running indicators, a full leather interior with sports comfort seats in front, Active Info Display, rear view camera, heated front seats, tinted rear windows and keyless access.

The Volkswagen e-Golf can be charged at home or on the public charging system
The Volkswagen e-Golf can be charged at home or on the public charging system

Driving the Volkswagen e-Golf

On the road, the e-Golf is a slick mover. The cabin ambience is quiet and serene around town but even on the motorway, the e-Golf is a very polished electric vehicle with excellent refinement. The steering and handling is also fluid and precise, so it feels as if the e-Golf owner sacrifices very little in terms of the natural dynamic character of the Golf.

Really your main concern when buying the e-Golf is the range of 200km to 220km and does that make it suitable for your lifestyle? The e-Golf is at its best on those round trips that fall comfortably within the car’s range, or where you can reliably charge at both ends of your journey. At motorway speeds, battery power will dwindle more quickly.

There are three driving modes to the Volkswagen Golf – Normal, Eco and Eco+ - which do effect how much you can get out of a single charge. There is also a ‘B’ mode that can be engaged from the gearbox , which quite aggressively brakes the car when you lift off the accelerator, to recuperate energy.

The Volkswagen e-Golf is available from €35,995 in Ireland
The Volkswagen e-Golf is available from €35,995 in Ireland

Through the touchscreen you can find the nearest charge points easily. When the e-Golf needs charging the battery can go from empty to 80 per cent full in just 45 minutes when a 40 kW DC rapid charger connection is used.

During a week with the e-Golf, local trips were not a problem but I did encounter some issues on longer journeys when I needed to use the public charge points to top up my range to get home comfortably. I encountered frustrations such as faulty chargers, queues at chargers and non-EVs blocking access.

There are numerous incentives and advantages to owning an electric vehicle in Ireland right now. The current generation of the Volkswagen e-Golf with its real world range of roughly 200-220 km is now being outrun by a number of competitors like the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Kona Electric. They are different vehicles but range has to be a number one concern for most drivers.

But if you can work with the e-Golf's range in your daily life, then the quality, refinement and class of the e-Golf offering just feels unrivalled right now in the EV space.

The Volkswagen e-Golf is a lovely car to drive and spend time in
The Volkswagen e-Golf is a lovely car to drive and spend time in!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volkswagen e-Golf
Price: 
From €35,995 with government incentives
Battery: 35.8 kW
Power: 
136 hp
Torque: 290 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.6 seconds
Top speed: 150 km/h
Range: 
230km (WLTP)
CO2 emissions: 
0g/km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


The new Kia Ceed SW

2019 Kia Ceed SW 1.0 Petrol Review

The new Kia Ceed SW
The new Kia Ceed SW

Estate cars have never been big sellers in Ireland but the new Kia Ceed SW (Sportswagon) just might make you fall in love with the estate’s humble practicality. In fact Kia has a decent enough record in the sale of previous generations of the Ceed SW here in Ireland.

Now hot on the wheels of the new generation of the Kia Ceed hatchback that arrived in Ireland in summer 2018, the new Kia Ceed SW goes on sale with its ace card being a huge 600 litre boot within a sleek and elegant body.

Let’s not forget that this is still a compact car. The new Ceed SW is lower and wider with a longer rear overhang than the car it replaces but certainly from the driver’s seat, the car proves to be agile and easy to manoeuvre with good visibility all round and a parking camera as standard.

But space of course is a key selling point for estate cars. The Ceed SW had a fantastic practical boot for its size with a wide opening and flat loading sill that makes it excellent for carrying things.

The interior of the Kia Ceed SW
The interior of the Kia Ceed SW

Inside the Kia Ceed SW

The new generation of the Kia Ceed SW also has a new interior. Fit and finish is markedly improved. There are plenty of soft touch materials punctuated with stylish chrome, while the cabin is kept fresh and modern with the latest Kia infotainment system.

The extra width in the new Ceed SW creates more shoulder room for rear passengers and a 15mm-lower seating position in the rear means that there is more knee and leg room too.

Kia Ireland has kept the new Ceed SW range very simple in that there are just two models available: a choice of 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine (from €25,295) or a 1.6-litre diesel (from €27,595).

The Ceed SW is sold in the K3 trim meaning that the car is well specced by default with 16″ alloys, electric windows, rear privacy glass, auto lights, 7″ touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, parking camera, air con, wireless phone charger, cruise control, keyless entry, lane keeping assist, high beam assistant and forward collision avoidance system.

The Kia Ceed SW goes on sale from €25,295
The Kia Ceed SW goes on sale from €25,295

On the road in the Kia Ceed SW

My test car was powered by the 1.0-litre turbo petrol with a list price of €25,295. The 1.0-litre engine has 120hp and a pleasant amount of power for the Ceed SW. It only really runs out of steam in sixth gear, but that’s more of a cruising gear for the motorway anyway, and the Ceed SW does that with aplomb. Motor tax for this model is €200 per year and over two weeks of varied driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.4l/100km.

Elsewhere, the Ceed SW handles well, just like the hatchback version. The SW’s rear suspension has been subtly tuned to accommodate the longer rear overhang of the boot, and the potential for heavier luggage loads. It’s still fun to drive with good body control through corners and nicely weighted steering. Comfort and refinement are also very good for the class.

The Kia Ceed SW has a very practical boot of 600 litres
The Kia Ceed SW has a very practical boot of 600 litres

After spending an extended break with the Kia Ceed SW, this car really endeared itself to me. I love how practical this car is and that boot is just really great for carrying all sorts of cargo. It’s a nicely equipped car and this generation of the Ceed SW has more cabin comfort and fun driving character. While SUVs and even Kia’s own Sportage will seem like trendier and more desirable options, the Kia Ceed SW would make an excellent family car.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Ceed SW 1.0 K3
Price: 
€25,295
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power:
120 hp
Torque: 172 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.9 seconds
Top speed: 187 km/h
Economy: 
5.3l/100km
CO2 emissions:
120 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

The Kia Ceed SW makes a great family car!
The Kia Ceed SW makes a great family car!

The 2018 Ford Focus has arrived in Ireland

2018 Ford Focus 1.0 Review

The new Ford Focus has arrived in Ireland
The new Ford Focus has arrived in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2018 Ford Focus.

Can you believe the Ford Focus is 20 this year? In 1998, the new Ford Focus came to replace the old Escort and it was like drinking a glass of refreshing cool water at the time, quickly establishing itself for its ‘New Edge’ styling and fun driving character. The Ford Focus is a perennial of the compact class, though the battleground has changed a lot in the past 20 years with the current squeeze on the compact class coming from SUVs.

But as the new 2018 Ford Focus clearly demonstrates, there is still a place in the world for a well-executed hatchback. I was lucky to drive the first examples of the new Focus in France over the summer, yet nothing can compare to driving the car for an extended period on Irish roads. And very quickly I realised that there is still something very safe and familiar about the Ford Focus. It's less like a glass of cool water these days and more like a comforting cup of tea. But as any Irish person will tell you, there are few things in life as good as a strong cup of tea after a hard day!

Available as a five door hatchback or a wagon, this is the fourth generation of Ford’s popular mid-size car. More than 129,000 Ford Focus models have been sold in Ireland since its original launch in 1998, making it one of our most popular cars.

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

What's new in the 2018 Ford Focus?

Ford Ireland has just announced new reduced pricing for the Focus as we approach the 191 registration period with a lead in price of €22,495, which means it looks like good value too.

In styling terms the 2018 Ford Focus has a much slimmer and neater silhouette. It’s far classier and more delicate looking than the car it replaces when you see it in the metal. It’s lower and wider but keeps the same exterior dimensions. Visually it has a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs.

Inside, the interior has also been overhauled for a more modern and clean look. A smart-looking touchscreen sits high in the dash and the ‘clutter’ around the centre console has been removed for a more open and spacious feel.

Cabin space and boot space have also been improved. There is more than 5 centimetres additional length between the front and rear wheels so rear seat passengers get more legroom and all occupants benefit from the wider interior – there’s 6 centimetres more shoulder room in the rear. The rear footwells are a nice size with a relatively low transmission tunnel, while the boot is now a more competitive 375 litres.

The Ford Focus goes on sale in Ireland priced from €22,495
The Ford Focus goes on sale in Ireland priced from €22,495

Engines and equipment for the 2018 Ford Focus

The 2018 Ford Focus goes on sale in Ireland with a 1.0-litre EcoBoost 125hp petrol engine (from €22,495) and a new 1.5-litre EcoBlue 120hp diesel engine (from €24,368). Every model now features Drive Modes as standard that adjust the car’s characteristics to match the driving situation, including Sport, Eco and Normal driving modes. A six-speed manual transmission comes as standard while there is also a new eight-speed automatic gearbox available.

The 2018 Ford Focus is available in four trim levels: Zetec, ST-Line, Titanium and Vignale. My test car was a Ford Focus Titanium 1.0T EcoBoost 125PS with a 6-speed manual gearbox (from €24,495). This model comes with extensive standard spec including front and rear parking sensors, 8” SYNC 3 with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, FordPass Connect embedded modem, keyless entry/start and LED rear lamps.

Standard equipment on the Focus Zetec includes 16” alloys, LED daytime running lights, 6.5” SYNC 3 with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, cruise control with lane-keeping aid and pre-collision assist.

The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is a great match for the new Ford Focus
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is a great match for the new Ford Focus

The Focus ST-Line (from €23,495) adds 17” alloys, ST-Line body kit, twin polished tail pipes, large rear spoiler, keyless start, interior sports trim, sports suspension and ST-Line scuff plates.

The Focus Vignale (from €28,495) adds 18” alloys, unique Vignale body-styling, 8” SYNC 3 B&O Play with navigation, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, full leather seats and armrest, head up display, privacy glass and Vignale chrome tail pipes.

On the road in the new Ford Focus

The new Ford Focus is lighter and stronger than the car it replaces and you certainly feel this on the road. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is a wonderful match for the car – it’s smooth, refined and robust with plenty of power. The Ford Focus purrs along so nicely and it’s comfortable, yet composed through corners with tactile steering. My fuel consumption over a week of driving was 6.1l/100km, while road tax for this model is just €190 per year.

The Ford Focus is a great choice of five door family hatchback
The Ford Focus is a great choice of five door family hatchback

It's fair to say that the Ford Focus just got very competitive again in its class. There is something safe and familiar about the Focus that draws you in, while with a new, modern interior, you will probably want to stay there too. It’s just a nice car to live with day by day.

The improvements in interior design, space and technology are timely and mean that the Focus can be highly recommended without any caveats. There’s plenty to explore in this new Focus range from sporty ST-Line models to stylish and premium Titanium, while the 1.0-litre petrol is still a peach. Good value pricing means the new Ford Focus is just impossible to ignore as a compact family hatchback.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus Titanium 1.0T EcoBoost
Price: 
From €24,495 (Range from €22,495)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power:
125 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10 seconds
Top speed: 200 km/h
Economy: 
4.8//100km
CO2 emissions: 
108 g/km
Motor tax: 
€190 per year


The new Honda Civic Sedan

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Review

The new Honda Civic Sedan
The new Honda Civic Sedan is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the Honda Civic Sedan.

Many Honda enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that a saloon version of Honda’s well-known compact car has now arrived in Ireland. Based on the tenth generation of the Civic that launched in Ireland in 2017, the Civic Sedan, as it is officially known, goes on sale here priced from €24,750.

That’s just a €1000 premium over the equivalent hatchback and the four door Civic Sedan is arguably a ‘grander’ alternative to the Civic Hatchback, with more physical presence from that carefully designed elongated rear end. In fact, the size and shape of this vehicle surely makes it a worthy successor to the Accord, which is no longer sold here.

Mature elegance in the Honda Civic Sedan

Thankfully, the Civic’s fantastic recipe of quality, refinement and driving fun has not been diluted in the saloon version. When you sit into the Civic Sedan you are met with the same mature looking dashboard design. From the driver’s seat, the Civic gives the impression of being behind the wheel of a larger machine. It’s very spacious in the rear with two large footwells and the boot in the saloon comes in at 519 litres, which is 41 litres more than the Civic Hatchback.

The interior of the Honda Civic Sedan
The interior of the Honda Civic Sedan

In Ireland, the Civic Sedan comes in three trims: Smart, Smart Plus and Premium. The Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment comes as standard including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and traffic sign recognition. The popular Smart Plus model (from €27,250) gets features such as 17” alloys, Honda Connect with 7” touchscreen, rear parking camera, parking sensors, dual zone air conditioning, and leather steering wheel.

The Premium model on test (from €31,150) had a blind spot monitor, keyless entry and start, full leather interior, heated front seats, sunroof and premium audio system with 10 speakers.

What engine options are available?

The Honda Civic Sedan is available in Ireland with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 126hp or the 1.6-litre diesel with 120hp. A six speed manual gearbox comes as standard, while there is also the option of an automatic gearbox.

My test car was the 1.6-litre diesel and it is a very efficient unit with motor tax of just €180 per year and my fuel consumption over a week of driving was 5.2 litres.

The Honda Civic Sedan range starts at €24,750
The Honda Civic Sedan range starts at €24,750 in Ireland

On the road in the Honda Civic Sedan

The diesel engine also happens to suit the Civic Sedan very well. There’s loads of flexibility and power and the engine is refined and never gets too raucous. As we've noted in previous variants of the new Civic, the ride and handling of this generation is superb, with the car being both comfortable and fun to drive. The steering is direct and nicely weighted and the Civic goes around corners with aplomb.

The Honda Civic Sedan, especially in diesel form as it is tested here, is very easy to recommend. In Sedan form, the Civic gains an air of grandeur with the presence and style of a larger car. Once inside, it's the quality, space and refinement of the Civic Sedan that seals the deal. I have no problem saying that the Honda Civic is still one of the best cars launched in Ireland in the last 18 months!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Honda Civic Sedan 1.6 i-DTEC Premium
Price: 
€32,950 (Sedan range from €24,750)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power:
120 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10 seconds
Top speed: 201 km/h
Economy: 
3.4l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
91 g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year

The Honda Civic Sedan offers plenty of style and space in the compact class
The Honda Civic Sedan offers plenty of style and space in the compact class

The 2018 Kia Ceed on sale in Ireland now

2018 Kia Ceed 1.0 Petrol Review

The new Kia Ceed is now available in Ireland
The new Kia Ceed is now available in Ireland

Caroline drives the new 2018 Kia Ceed.

A new generation of the Kia Ceed has recently gone on sale in Ireland priced from €22,695. The third generation of Kia’s family hatchback has been produced to strengthen Kia’s presence in the C-segment in Europe. The new Ceed has been designed, developed, engineered and built in Europe and continues the brand’s onslaught of stylish, design-led models.

They say we eat with our eyes - well I’m pretty sure we buy cars with them too and the 2018 Kia Ceed definitely scores high on the desirability stakes. It’s lower and wider than the car it replaces, with a longer rear overhang. Within the confines of the shell of a five door hatchback, there really is not much room to be adventurous, but the Ceed has a satisfying design with Kia’s emblematic tiger nose grille, neat profile, tasteful detail and creases in all the right places.

What's it like inside the 2018 Kia Ceed?

Slip inside the new Kia Ceed and again you are met with an interior that appears considered with style and attention to detail. The hard plastics are balanced with plenty of brushed satin chrome, gloss black detail and soft touch materials for a result that would put some rivals to shame in the style stakes. The ‘floating’ touchscreen looks fantastic set high in the dashboard and connects seamlessly to smartphones.

The interior of the 2018 Kia Ceed
The interior of the 2018 Kia Ceed

The Ceed’s new platform has allowed for a more spacious interior. The wider body means there’s more shoulder room, while a 16mm lower seating position in the rear creates more legroom and headroom for passengers. The boot is now up 15 litres to 395 litres, which is very competitive for this size of vehicle.

What are my options?

In Ireland, the 2018 Kia Ceed will be sold in four trim levels – K2, K3, K4 and K5. Engine availability depends on trim level but Kia Ireland is selling the 1.0-litre turbo petrol (120hp), a new 1.6-litre diesel (115hp) and a new 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine (140hp).

Safety equipment like Forward Collision Assist, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist and Driver Attention Warning are standard across the range, as well as 16” alloys, leather wrapped steering wheel, 7” display, Bluetooth with voice recognition and a reversing camera.

K3 adds equipment including LED headlamps and rear lamps, wireless phone charger, electric parking brake, half leather seats and parking sensors. K4 equipment adds 17” alloys, 8” display, rain sensing wipers and automatic temperature control. K5 models include heated leather seats, front ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, and push button start, blind spot collision warning, and parking distance warning.

The Kia Ceed range kicks off at €22,695 in Ireland
The Kia Ceed range kicks off at €22,695 in Ireland

My test car was a Kia Ceed 1.0 petrol, 6 speed manual, in K4 trim with a list price of €25,695. Diesels in the Ceed range are available from €26,595 while the new 1.4-litre petrol is only available in the top level trim and is priced from €28,595. A ‘mild hybrid’ is promised in 2019.

Is the Kia Ceed nice to drive?

For this new generation of the Kia Ceed, Kia has tuned the ride and handling for European roads and drivers to make it more dynamic and engaging. There has also been a focus on eliminating noise and vibrations from the cabin.

On the road the 2018 Kia Ceed is stable, comfortable and refined. The steering is light when you need it, but the resistance builds as you head into a corner so the new Ceed is fun and sporty in its own way too. The 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine spins nicely, providing plenty of power for overtaking manouvres with 120hp and only running out of puff in the top cruising gear. There is a little vibration through the pedals at idle when cold and it can get noisy when pushed hard, but it is a joyful engine that suits the car. Over a few days of driving my fuel consumption was 7.2l/100km while motor tax is €270 per year.

Would you buy it?

The Ceed consistently ranks alongside the Sportage as one of Kia’s bestselling models in Europe and the new generation of the Ceed is evidence that Kia remain committed to the C-segment hatchback. In terms of style and quality the Ceed has taken another step forward, while the new car is also to be praised for its on the road driving manners. The Ceed remains competitive in space terms too for the class, with engine/trim options that make sense financially. If you are in the market for a new hatchback, there really is no reason not to check out the new Kia Ceed!

The Kia Ceed is a stylish five door hatchback that can compete with the best of them
The Kia Ceed is a stylish five door hatchback that can compete with the best of them

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Ceed 1.0-litre T-GDi K4
Price: 
€25,695 (Range from €22,695)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power:
120hp
Torque: 172 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.1 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Economy: 
5.4 to 5.6 100km
CO2 emissions: 
127 g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year


The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Review

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Caroline drives the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has been the entry into the Mercedes-Benz range for 20 years. The A-Class started out as something of a mini MPV but morphed into a sleek, low slung hatchback in 2012. Now the A-Class is back for a second iteration in hatchback form and it’s looking better than ever. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class has also seen a revolution in technology, so things are looking very shaky indeed for 'old' rivals like the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series.

Pricing for the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class range starts from €31,600 in Ireland placing the A-Class truly in the premium end of the hatchback market. But is it worth it? Is the new A-Class really a cut above?

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class brings its A game in the looks departments. Designers at Mercedes-Benz sharpened their pencils and got to work at making the new A-Class more chiseled and masculine than the car it replaces. The AMG Line models look particularly good with a sportier styling kit and 18” five spoke alloy wheels.

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

What's it like inside the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class?

Things really get exciting when you slip inside the new A-Class. There’s a completely new interior and in terms of technology, style and premium finish, rivals like the A3 and 1-Series just don't serve up the same experience anymore. There's a fine mix of materials and striking new design elements like the sporty turbine effect air vents. The digital screens and instrumentation look amazing and the steering wheel is a masterpiece itself. It just makes everything else in the class seem really dated. The new MBUX infotainment system responds to commands of 'Hey Mercedes', but the swipe and tap controls on the steering wheel still do a neat job of controlling the infotainment system for this driver.

Ok, so that’s all very impressive but is the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class any good at carrying people? Typically your premium hatchback is style over space but the new A-Class has a longer wheelbase to improve interior space and there’s more shoulder, elbow and headroom. In the rear the legroom is looking a little more generous, though a large transmission tunnel and relatively narrow middle seat mean that this is still more of a place for two than three. The boot is now 29 litres larger than before at 370 litres, which not far off what you will find in a Volkswagen Golf.

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

What are my engine options?

There are also some nice engine options for the new A-Class including two new four-cylinder petrol engines (1.3-litre A200 with 163hp and 2.0-litre A250 with 224hp) and a new four cylinder diesel (1.5-litre A180d with 116hp). 6 speed manual and 7 speed dual clutch automatic gearboxes are available. An A160 and A160d will join the range later.

My test car was the new A200 model, which has an amazing 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine pushing out 163hp. The refinement is excellent, the power delivery with the automatic transmission simply amazing, and it has the ability to shut down two cylinders under low load to save fuel. My overall fuel consumption over a week of driving was 6.4l/100km and I was really enjoying this car! Motor tax for this model is €270 per year. The new A-Class also has selectable driving modes, including a sport mode that adds more urgency to the throttle response - though it's rarely needed.

So how much does this all cost?

Well the A200 AMG Line Automatic on test had a list price of €37,690, though petrol models start from €34,235. There are three trim levels - Style, Progressive and AMG Line - and the range kicks off currently at €31,600 for an A180d automatic in Style trim. 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.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class range starts from €31,600 in Ireland
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class range starts from €31,600 in Ireland

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.

What's the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class like to drive?

On the road the new A-Class feels fun and sporty. The steering is light but precise and the car feels neat and agile through corners. Refinement and comfort are generally good though this sporty model had audible road noise at high speeds on the motorway and the sports suspension picks up more of the road surface beneath you. The A200 offers exciting performance while being reasonable to run as well.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class packages the quality and style of Mercedes-Benz with a surprising fun to drive character that makes it a must for a test drive! The new A-Class comes to market with impressive new technology, interior quality and design and all this makes rivals like the A3 and 1-Series feel a bit less salubrious than what they once were. Technology lovers will enjoy the new interior and infotainment, while the new engines are pretty much faultless too.

The baby Merc doesn’t come cheap and 'less premium' rivals would be more practical and comfortable. But for style and prestige in the compact segment, it doesn't come much better than this.

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sets new standards in the premium hatchback class
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sets new standards in the premium hatchback class

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line Automatic
Price: 
€37,690 (Range starts at €31,600)
Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
163hp
Torque: 250Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.0 seconds
Top speed: 225km/h
Economy: 
5.2-5.6 l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
123g/km
Motor tax:
€270 per year

Caroline Kidd


2018 Ford Focus

2018 Ford Focus International First Drive Review

2018 Ford Focus
The new Ford Focus at the international press launch in France

It’s 20 years since Ford first launched the Focus hatchback. The Ford Focus is now a household name and is consistently one of Ireland’s bestselling cars. A new Focus is big news.

Now Ford is back in summer 2018 with an all-new generation of the Focus hatchback and wagon. I travelled to Nice, France, to drive the new Ford Focus at the international press launch. The new Focus arrives in Ireland later in July.

Styling

The new Ford Focus is lower and wider than the car it replaces but keeps the same exterior dimensions. Visually it has a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs. The A-pillar has also been pushed backwards and there is no side quarter glass. The new Focus has cleaner and more sophisticated styling overall and is now the most aerodynamic in its class. The Focus comes in a distinct ‘flavour’ depending on what trim you go for: the stylish Focus Titanium, sporty Focus ST-Line and upscale Focus Vignale. There will also be an all-new Ford Focus Active crossover model arriving in Ireland in early 2019. It has rugged SUV-inspired styling that includes a raised ride-height, roof bars and extra plastic cladding.

Interior

Inside, the Focus has a more modern and streamlined dashboard layout with 50% less buttons according to Ford. The dashboard has been pushed forward and the centre console is slimmer and lower. It’s a far more pleasing layout to the eye and the fit and finish has been improved also. A touchscreen is new in the centre of the dashboard and the new system has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Unique features and materials include fine-grain wood-effect finishes and premium leather for Vignale, sporty carbon fibre-effect finishes and red stitching for the ST-Line, and more rugged, textured materials and surfaces for the Active.

The interior of the 2018 Ford Focus
The interior of the 2018 Ford Focus

Practicality

The new Ford Focus feels roomier inside, especially in the rear. There is more than 5 centimetres additional length between the front and rear wheels so rear seat passengers get more legroom and all occupants benefit from the wider interior – there’s 6 centimetres more shoulder room in the rear. The boot volume is now up to 375 litres with a tyre repair kit. The impression of spaciousness is enhanced with a rear door design featuring windows that stretch further back.

Engines

The new Ford Focus will be available in Ireland with an upgraded 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with 125hp and improved fuel efficiency and emissions. There’s also a new 1.5-litre EcoBlue turbo diesel with 120hp. Both are three cylinder engines and meet the very latest and most stringent emissions standards. In Europe a new 1.5-litre turbo petrol and 2.0-litre turbo diesel will also be marketed but these will be special order models for Ireland.

A six speed manual gearbox comes as standard while a new eight speed automatic gearbox is also available.

On the road

The new Ford Focus is lighter and stronger than the car it replaces. The steering is fluid and elastic and the car handles with real verve. There are now two different suspension set-ups in the Focus range. The more standard models get a lightweight twist beam while higher output vehicles and wagons get an independent rear suspension.

2018 Ford Focus
The new Ford Focus will go on sale in Ireland priced from €24,900 for a 1.0-litre petrol in Zetec trim

At the launch in France I drove a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol and 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel on the twist beam, and a 1.5-litre petrol on the independent rear suspension. The 1.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel are both refined units with good flexibility through the rev range while retaining the classic fun-to-drive quality the Ford Focus is famous for. The Ford Focus 1.5-litre had 182hp and ST-Line suspension tuning but it will be a niche car in Ireland. Still for enthusiasts it was nigh on perfect in terms of a controlled, engaging drive and power delivery.

The new Ford Focus now also features Drive Modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) that adjust the throttle response, shift timings, steering, traction control and adaptive cruise control.

Equipment

At launch in Ireland the new Ford Focus will be available in four trims: Zetec, ST-Line, Titanium and Vignale. The Ford Focus Active will arrive in Ireland in 2019.

The Focus Zetec features 16” alloys, LED daytime running lights, 6.5” SYNC 3 touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, selectable drive modes, cruise control, and pre-collision assist including vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The Focus ST-Line adds 17” sport alloys, ST-Line body kit, twin polished tail pipes, keyless start, interior sports trim, and sports suspension.

The Focus Titanium adds front and rear parking sensors, 8” SYNC 3 with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, FordPass Connect, keyless entry and start, and LED rear lamps.

The Focus Vignale adds 18” Vignale alloys, unique Vignale body-styling, 8” SYNC 3 B&O Play with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, full leather seats and armrest, head-up display, privacy glass, and Vignale chrome tail pipes.

Adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist and speed sign recognition are available as an option pack.

The new Focus introduces FordPass Connect onboard modem technology for customers in Europe, turning the vehicle into a mobile WiFi hotspot with connectivity for up to 10 devices. FordPass Connect also enables Live Traffic updates for the navigation system, and using the FordPass mobile app drivers can easily locate their car, check fuel levels, remotely lock and unlock their car, and even start it remotely.

2018 Ford Focus
The Ford Focus just got very competitive again

Pricing

The new Ford Focus will go on sale in Ireland from €24,900. More complete pricing detail will be issued when the car arrives in Ireland.

Rivals

The new Ford Focus will go up against rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, Renault Megane, Citroen C4 Cactus, Opel Astra and Toyota Auris.

Verdict

The Ford Focus has gone through a timely revolution with a significant technology, interior and space upgrade where the current car was really starting to fall behind newer rivals. Buyers can be confident that they are getting two of the best petrol and diesel engines on offer in this segment while both engines are 'future-proofed' for the forseeable future too. There's plenty to explore in this new Focus range from sporty ST-Line models to stylish and premium Titanium. I look forward to putting the Ford Focus through its paces on Irish roads later in the year.

Caroline Kidd


The 2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf 40kWh Review

The 2018 Nissan Leaf
The 2018 Nissan Leaf

Caroline drives the 2018 Nissan Leaf.

Since its launch in Europe in 2011, the Nissan Leaf has done a lot to make electric vehicles more mainstream. The Leaf’s blend of compact, practical size, affordable pricing and zero emissions, all-electric powertrain has made it the most ubiquitous electric vehicle on Irish roads.

With the second generation of the new Nissan Leaf launched on the Irish market earlier in 2018, Nissan looks set to continue its strong position as a maker of smart electric vehicles for the masses.

Priced from €26,290 (including the €5,000 Government grant for electric vehicles), the 2018 Nissan Leaf offers a significant update over the previous model with new styling, more technology and a higher capacity 40kWh battery.

How far will the new Nissan Leaf get me on a full charge?

The range has increased by 50% to 378 kilometres on the NEDC cycle, which translates to between 250 and 270km in real world terms on 100% battery power. In my experience of driving the car, this makes the Nissan Leaf very convenient in day-to-day driving. Nissan Ireland cites that most buyers will make use of overnight home charging, so having 250km of range each day means a lot of anxiety-free driving.

The new Nissan Leaf now has more power and more range!
The new Nissan Leaf now has more power and more range!

It looks better too

The styling of the new Nissan Leaf is much cooler and more conventional than the outgoing model. The Leaf sports its own version of Nissan's 'V-motion' grille that sits well with the other cars in the Nissan range like the Micra, Pulsar and Qashqai. The grille has a blue colour, which is a new signature feature for Nissan’s electric vehicles. The floating roof and sleek headlamps add more style to what is a good-looking car.

Inside there is a new interior with smart soft touch materials, signature blue stitching and new switchgear. There is a touchscreen for infotainment on all but the entry model with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This system also gives information on active charging, eco-routing, driving range, and nearby charging stations. The driver information screen shows data on the EV system like range and battery power.

Being a five door hatchback, the Nissan Leaf is also a practical electric vehicle. The rear bench will seat three and the boot has a capacity of 435 litres.

Standard equipment includes air con, cruise control, Nissan Intelligent Key, push button start, lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, intelligent lane intervention, cross traffic alert and high-beam assist.

The interior of the new Nissan Leaf
The interior of the new Nissan Leaf

There’s also a 6.6 kW on-board charger and 50kW ChaDeMo rapid charge port as standard, the latter which can give an 80% charge in as little as 40 minutes!

There are other trim levels for the 2018 Nissan Leaf including SV from €28,690, SV Premium from €29,940 and SVE from €32,600.

The model tested was SVE Premium and it has a very impressive list of equipment including a BOSE stereo, parking aids, leather heated front and rear seats, full LED intelligent auto headlights and the ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system.

What's the Nissan Leaf like to drive?

On the road the Nissan Leaf is nippy – power is now up to 150hp – and refined and comfortable across a variety of roads. You soon adjust to this silent motoring and the ritual of plugging in the car at charging stations for a top up where convenient. The Nissan e-Pedal is now a standard feature in the new Leaf and allows the driver to start from a standstill, accelerate, brake and even bring the car to a stop using just the throttle pedal. It’s very useful in traffic and intuitive to use.

The new Nissan Leaf range starts from €26,290 in Ireland
The new Nissan Leaf range starts from €26,290 in Ireland

Driving dynamics have been improved and while the Leaf could not be described as a sporty drive, it does handle itself confidently through corners.

Nissan has obvious expertise in building electric cars with mainstream appeal and pricing, and the new Leaf is the embodiment of that. This is a well-rounded electric vehicle that offers good accommodation in a smart conventional package, yet under the skin the Leaf's electric powertrain is anything but conventional! With more power and more range, there’s never been a better time to check out the new Nissan Leaf.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Nissan Leaf 40kWh SVE Premium
Price: 
€32,600 (Available from €26,290)
Power: 
150hp
Torque: 320Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 144km/h
CO2 emissions:  
0g/km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class First Drive Review

Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The new 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has arrived in Ireland, priced from €31,600. Caroline has been driving the new A-Class hatchback at the Irish launch.

Styling

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has a sleeker and sharper appearance than the outgoing car, while the new grille and headlamps bring the car more in line with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range. The car is visually extended by the longer wheelbase and character line along the side. The new A-Class has all the presence of a smart, compact premium vehicle, with AMG Line models looking particularly good with a sportier styling kit and 18” five spoke alloy wheels.

Interior

The interior is completely new with some striking new design elements like the sporty turbine effect air vents and good quality materials making it a fit for the premium price tag. The new MBUX multimedia and infotainment system is the focal point, and there are a number of different screen combinations available depending on trim: two 7-inch displays, one 7- and one 10.25-inch display and two 10.25-inch displays. The MBUX uses artificial intelligence to learn and memorise instructions – in short it becomes familiar with the driver, making commands more intuitive. It can be operated via voice control and to get its attention all you have to say is ‘Hey Mercedes’ and your command!

Practicality

Inside the new A-Class feels roomier, with more space in the back too. There’s more shoulder, elbow and headroom. The boot is now 29 litres larger than before at 370 litres, which is competitive for the segment.

Engines

Engine options will include two new four-cylinder petrol engines (1.4-litre A200 with 163hp and 2.0-litre A250 with 224hp) and a new four cylinder diesel (1.5-litre A180d with 116hp). 6 speed manual and 7 speed dual clutch automatic gearboxes will be available, as will 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive.

At the launch I drove the A180d Automatic with the new 1.5-litre diesel engine. It’s very impressive with good refinement and plenty of power for this compact model.

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

On the road

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is nicely refined and sporty to drive. The steering is light but precise and the car feels neat and agile through corners. There are a number of driving modes to spice things up a little more, with Sport mode and the 1.5 diesel being a particularly good combination!

Equipment

In Ireland there are three trim levels: Style, Progressive and AMG Line. 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, and 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.

Pricing

At launch, only automatics are available. The A180d Automatic starts at €31,600 and the A200 petrol starts at €34,235. An entry-level A160 Petrol and A160d will arrive later with pricing expected to be around €30,000.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class goes on sale in Ireland priced from €31,600

Rivals

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class will go up against other premium compact rivals like the Audi A3 and the BMW 1-Series.

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz say that the new A-Class ‘raises the bar’ in the compact segment. It comes to market with impressive new technology and improved quality and design that really poses a threat to rivals like the 1-Series and A3. For buyers looking for an entry into the Mercedes-Benz brand, the A-Class packages the quality and style of Mercedes-Benz with a surprising fun to drive character and good standard spec.

Caroline Kidd