MINI One D Clubman Review Ireland

MINI Clubman Review

The MINI brand has become synonymous with quirky cars that defy the norm, and the MINI Clubman has to be the quirkiest of them all.

From the front, it’s pure MINI hatch: a friendly face with round circular headlamps and slatted grille that’s become a MINI hallmark since the car was relaunched back in 2001.

Then you look at the side profile and you realise this is quite an elongated MINI. The Clubman is bigger than the previous model and is longer and wider than the MINI 5-door Hatch. Could it be a MINI estate?

Not quite. Once you open the quirky rear split doors at the back, you’ll find 360 litres of space, which is more similar to what you’ll find in most respectable family hatchbacks.

Yet you’ll struggle to find a family car as offbeat as the MINI Clubman. The cabin is full of more razzle dazzle: gloss black finishes, toggle switches and a touchscreen set in the centre of the dash surrounded by a strip of lighting that changes colour like a chameleon.

MINI One D Clubman Review Ireland
The interior of the MINI One D Clubman

On the practical side it can be hard to find the controls you’re looking for quickly in the gloom because all those black and glossy surfaces make it more akin to being inside a murky nightclub at 2am trying to find the exit after one too many, and that’s just to fiddle with the ventilation controls. But no one does car interiors like MINI so love it or hate it.

There is seating for three in the back and while the outer seats are comfortable with good legroom, the middle seat is a hard, uncomfortable perch with poor legroom.

Standard equipment on the MINI One D Clubman includes MINI Navigation, sport leather steering wheel with multi-function controls, cruise control, 16” alloy wheels, front fog lights, automatic lights and wipers, manual air conditioning, and MINI Connected services.

MINI offers the Clubman with a range of petrol and diesel engines, from small and efficient 1.5-litre three cylinder units, to larger four cylinder units, all turbocharged.

New to the range is the One D Clubman, which is an entry level three cylinder diesel with 116hp. Emissions are just 99g CO2 on standard wheels so motor tax is €180 per year. It’s also the most efficient in the range, returning a claimed 74mpg, though this reviewer achieved around 56mpg. At €30,657, the One D is one of the more accessible models in the Clubman range.

MINI One D Clubman Review Ireland
The MINI Clubman has a range of petrol and diesel engines, all turbocharged

On the road, there is a coarseness to the three cylinder diesel at low speeds around town and when you rev it hard, but refinement smooths out more at speed. For a low capacity engine, the One D is not slow. There’s 270Nm of torque available and 0-100kmh is achieved in a respectable 10.4 seconds. The manual gearbox in the test car made this car less enjoyable to drive as there is a notchy feel to it: the gear changes could be more fluid.

Much of the MINI’s agile and engaging driving character is retained in the Clubman: there’s loads of grip when you push the car and it dips and dives into corners with the utmost accuracy. The steering is a tad light compared to the MINI Countryman, but that’s a small niggle. There is some more pronounced body roll as you push hard into corners but it’s progressive and the car grips hard so it’s never a cause for concern. I noted some road noise at high speeds on the motorway and the car is quite firmly sprung so you will also detect movement underneath you as the car reacts to the road surface.

If you think of the MINI Clubman as a rival to a premium hatchback like the Audi A3, it makes most sense as the space in the car is adequate but not huge. There are some frustrations to the One D Clubman: comfort and refinement could be better considering it is positioned as more 'premium', and the split rear doors are cool but obscure visibility. However, the Clubman is fun to drive and just doesn’t look like anything else on the road. For those trying to retain their youthful edge well into adulthood, the MINI Clubman is a quirky, offbeat choice of family car.

Caroline Kidd

MINI One D Clubman Review Ireland
The MINI One D Clubman is a quirky, offbeat family car

Model tested: MINI One D Clubman
Price: 
€30,657 OTR (€36,929 as tested)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
116hp
Torque: 270Nm
0-100km/h:  
10.4 seconds
Top speed: 192km/h
Economy: 
72.4mpg
CO2 emissions:  
102g/km
Motor tax: 
€190 per year

If you are looking for an alternative premium family car in the same price range as the Clubman, you might also like this review of the Audi A3 Sportback.


2017 Toyota Corolla Ireland Review

Toyota Corolla Review

The Toyota Corolla is one of the old perennials of the motoring world. It’s been around for over 50 years and 44 million have been sold worldwide. In Ireland, we love the Corolla: it’s consistently one of the top 10 bestselling models here.

Just what is it about this rather innocuous four door saloon that has made it so popular and immune from changes in consumer buying habits? Even the SUV can’t kill off the Corolla.

What's new for the Corolla in 2017?

We will get back to that but first let’s look at what’s new with this 2017 model. The exterior styling has been freshened up at the front and the back but most people will still recognise this car as the Corolla that launched in 2013. There are new LED headlamps at the front and a revised front bumper with a large lower grille. At the back there are new LED light clusters and new chrome trim that gives the rear a look of more width.

Inside the dashboard layout has also been revised. It’s easy to navigate and a centrally mounted 7” touchscreen adds modernity, standard on all but the base model. There is a good mix of materials with some soft padding along the dashboard, but hard plastics feature a lot. Still the quality is good and there is little to complain about behind the wheel.

2017 Toyota Corolla Ireland Review
The interior of the 2017 Toyota Corolla

Is the Toyota Corolla good value?

The space in the car is excellent, and rear passengers are exceptionally well catered for with lots of legroom. There is no high transmission tunnel, which has really optimised space for the middle seat passenger and that makes the Corolla perfect for carrying three in the back. The boot is 452 litres, and though naturally the saloon boot style makes access more difficult, the opening is still quite wide and practical for a saloon.

The Toyota Corolla is well-priced, with the range starting at €21,995. In Ireland there are three trims – Terra, Luna and Sol – with standard features including cruise control, air con, Bluetooth and 16” steel wheels. Luna models (from €23,365) add the Toyota Safety Sense suite of safety equipment including a pre-collision system with pedestrian recognition, lane departure alert and road sign assist, as well as the Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system, rear view camera, auto lights and 16” alloy wheels. Sol models (from €26,750) add climate control, heated front seats, rear privacy glass and 17” alloys.

2017 Toyota Corolla Ireland Review
The Toyota is a good value, large family car

There are manual and automatic gearboxes, and a choice of 1.3- or 1.6-litre petrols, and a 1.4-litre diesel. The 1.4-litre diesel has just 90hp but offers ample power for the Corolla and is especially efficient, returning as high as 67mpg for me on some trips. The diesel gurgles away but it never gets too loud in the cabin. Elsewhere, the Corolla is a relaxing drive. The steering is light and the handling is not sporty but it is more than adequate. The long wheelbase makes the car very comfortable, especially on the motorway, though rougher surfaces do make themselves known in the cabin and there is some road noise.

The verdict on the new Toyota Corolla

It’s easy to understand the success of the Toyota Corolla because it’s a great sized car, reasonably priced and it’s solid to drive. The Corolla is not the sort of car you desire but it will be a great friend that won’t let you down.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla 1.4D-4D Sol
Price: 
€26,750 (Range starts at €21,995)
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
90hp
Torque: 205Nm
0-100km/h:  
12.5 seconds
Top speed: 180km/h
Economy: 
71mpg
CO2 emissions:  
104g/km
Motor tax:
€190 per year

If you are looking for a spacious, good value family car, you might also like this review of the Skoda Octavia.

To find out more visit www.toyota.ie


Fiat Tipo Review Ireland

Fiat Tipo Review

Since the demise of the Fiat Bravo, Fiat has been missing from the popular C-segment. To fill this gaping hole in their portfolio, Fiat has gone back in time to resurrect the Tipo name and launch a new compact car trio: say hello to the new Fiat Tipo estate, saloon and hatchback.

Fiat is not trying to evoke nostalgia for 1980's hatchbacks with retro design cues and PR spiel about resurrecting a classic. The 2017 Fiat Tipo is designed to be a budget compact car, that will give buyers ‘more for less’.

To that end, Fiat are launching the new Tipo in Ireland at superbly good value pricing. The saloon starts at just €16,745, the hatchback at €17,995, and the estate (station wagon) at €19,245.

It screams bargain. But is it just too good to be true?

Fiat Tipo Review Ireland
The Fiat Tipo is available from just €16,745

The Fiat Tipo is certainly very presentable from the outside. There is nothing of the flamboyant Italian about it, which is a little disappointing if you like that sort of thing, but it has a reassuringly steady, sensible design that will appeal to the masses. You won’t stand out but you could do far worse.

The cost saving measures to bring this car to market at such low pricing are revealed a little more when you get inside. The design makes it easy to interact with the controls and switches, but there is an abundance of cheap, dull-looking plastic. There is some more shiny material on the inside of the doors, but that’s not really a success either. Altogether it’s more functional than plush. A 5” Uconnect touchscreen with Bluetooth connection and navigation sits in the centre of the dash but it is a bit on the small side.

The Tipo redeems itself being generously sized for its stature. The rear legroom is very good for this class and though the middle seat is not the most comfortable place to sit, the legroom is not impinged by any clumsy high transmission tunnel, and headroom is also very good all round. The boot is 440 litres in the hatch, 520 litres in the saloon and 550 litres in the estate model, all large volumes for this class of car.

Fiat Tipo Review Ireland
The interior of the new Fiat Tipo

The engine range is also quite extensive. The petrol Tipo range comprises of a 95hp 1.4-litre, a 120hp 1.4-litre turbo and the 1.6-litre 110hp ‘e-TorQ’ that comes with an automatic gearbox. There are two turbo diesel engines for new Tipo: a 95hp 1.3-litre and a 120hp 1.6-litre.

My test car had the 1.6-litre diesel with 120hp and a 6 speed manual gearbox. It’s got bags of power and there’s always more in reserve so even in sixth gear on the motorway a squeeze of the throttle yields quick acceleration without having to drop a gear. Motor tax is €180 per year while this engine will return a claimed 76.3mpg in the estate version. There is a coarse edge to the engine note under hard acceleration and when taking off in first and second gear, but once cruising noise is not an issue.

The Tipo holds the road well. The steering is too light for the car to be hugely engaging to drive but there is enough resistance to cover ground quickly and safely, and it doesn’t lean too much in the corners. Refinement on the motorway is good: road and wind noise are kept to a minimum.  Ride comfort is less impressive because there is a constant little quiver underneath you even when the road ahead looks smooth.

Fiat Tipo Review Ireland
The Fiat Tipo doesn't hide its budget beginnings, but it's impossible to ignore if you are looking for a compact car

Available in three trim levels, Pop, Easy and Lounge, entry level cars come with air con, Bluetooth, and four electric windows, while Easy trim adds 16” alloys, 5” Uconnect touchscreen, cruise control, front fog lights and rear parking sensors. As an introductory offer, Fiat Ireland are offering the Easy trim cars at the same price as the Pop version.

The Fiat Tipo lacks the polish of more expensive rivals, never really shaking off the budget beginnings, but it’s not trying to be anything other than a sensible car. Aspirational types should look elsewhere, but the high standard spec, sub-€20,000 pricing and generous interior space makes the Fiat Tipo impossible to ignore if you are looking for a compact car that’s good value for money.

Model tested: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon Lounge 1.6 120hp
Price: 
€23,495 (Range starts €16,745)
Engine:
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 120hp
0-100km/h:  
10.1 seconds
Economy: 
76.3mpg
CO2 emissions:  
98g/km
Motor tax:
€180 per year

Caroline Kidd


Hyundai Ioniq Electric review ireland

Hyundai Ioniq Electric Review

For buyers looking to explore how an electric vehicle could cut their motoring costs, the arrival of the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric is very good news indeed.

With a practical five door hatchback shape and a theoretical electric range on one battery charge of 280km, the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric is well-positioned to attract buyers in Ireland looking to switch to zero emissions motoring.

The Ioniq is a real innovation for the Korean brand and it’s the world’s first-ever car to offer a choice of three efficient and low emission powertrain options in one body type: electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid.

But while the hybrids use a petrol engine with the support of an electric motor and battery to produce power, the Ioniq Electric runs on pure electricity only. It’s as simple as plugging in your car as if it were a huge smartphone.

The range on one battery charge is a key consideration when buying an electric car, as is your ability to manage that range around your lifestyle. Hyundai’s claimed electric range of 280km outshines current versions of similarly sized rivals like the Volkswagen e-Golf and the Nissan Leaf. 190km is more realistic in day to day driving, and that too will depend on whether you’re driving at low speeds around town or driving at high speed on the motorway.

Electric vehicles do make a lot of sense for urban dwellers or people with short commutes who can charge up at home and then again when they reach their destination. Ioniq Electric is agile, easy to drive and the instant torque from the electric motor allows for smooth, quick progress at low speeds around town.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric review ireland
The interior of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The range drops more quickly on the motorway, which can lead to some tense moments in the cabin. For example my first journey in the Ioniq Electric was a 100km trip that included a significant chunk of motorway driving.

I reached my destination with 27% battery charge and an estimated 42km of range left. The rest of my week was spent doing short trips in and out of town with recharges from the domestic mains supply (about 10-12 hours for a full charge) and this was far more manageable and appropriate for living with an Ioniq Electric.

During my time with the car, I did find myself thinking a lot about the length of my journeys and adapting my driving style to include more gentle acceleration to conserve battery power. Driving electric is not without compromise and long journeys really will have to be planned around charge point access in towns and motorway service stations.

The Ioniq Electric operates in near silence with just a whoosh from the tyres but the road noise is never really a problem and it is a relaxing, capable drive. The low down weight of the car from the battery makes it steady through bends but it’s not sporty or particularly exciting to drive. For a boost in throttle response there is a sport mode but best keep away from that if you’re holding onto your battery power.

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is priced at €28,495 and that includes the government grant of €5000 for electric vehicles. Motor tax is just €120 per year. The Ioniq Electric comes with a high level of equipment including 16″ alloys, twin LED headlights, dual zone climate control, auto lights, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rear parking sensors and rear view camera, wireless phone charging pad, 8″ touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth, navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and keyless entry.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric review ireland
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is a zero emission vehicle with a theoretical pure electric range of 280km, though 190km is more realistic in day to day driving

Hyundai has given Ioniq a quite conventional interior, so it is easy to interact with the controls and switches. It will not be much of a culture shock for anyone switching to an EV for the first time and the central touchscreen displays clearly information regarding the battery power, range and even a list of nearby public charging points and their distance. The Ioniq will seat five and the interior space is reasonable for a car of this size. The boot is 350 litres but it is quite shallow, though the hatchback opening and ability to fold down the rear seats boost practicality.

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric opens up the field a little more in terms of what’s on offer to EV buyers. The roughly 190km usable electric range gives it an edge on electric vehicles that currently occupy this end of the market. The Ioniq Electric won’t set your pulse racing with dynamic driver appeal but this is a conveniently sized, well-specced, and nicely styled car that is a viable option for anyone seeking to switch to electric motoring.

Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Price: 
€28,495
Power: 
120hp
0-100km/h:  
10.2 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
0g/km
Motor tax:
€120 per year

Caroline Kidd


2017 Honda Civic

Honda Civic First Drive Review

There’s a new Honda Civic landing in Ireland next month. This is the tenth generation Civic and is the result of one of Honda’s most ambitious new model development plans in the brand’s history. Honda speak about a ‘dynamic rejuvenation’ of the Civic, and are boldly aiming for the best in class.

Part of the Civic’s new character is a sportier design. Even entry models into the range look ready for the track with pronounced wheel arches, an aggressive noise, slim, swept back headlamps and large intakes set in the bumpers front and back. There is no hatchback out there that looks like this, so the Civic really has the capacity to stand out and be noticed.

New Civic has been engineered with a renewed focus on rewarding driving dynamics and sits on a new lightweight platform. 16kg has been shaved off the body weight, while the overall rigidity has been stiffened by 41%. The centre of gravity has been lowered and the driver now sits lower in the car. The suspension set-up has also been tweaked for a better balance between comfort and tight handling. There are MacPherson struts at the front and a new independent multi-link rear suspension at the back.

2017 Honda Civic
The new Honda Civic has been engineered to deliver a more rewarding driving experience

The new Honda Civic is longer, wider and lower than the car it replaces, and the new platform has boosted interior space. Front shoulder room has been increased by 10mm, and space between the front seats has increased by 30mm. There is 95mm more legroom in the back.

The interior design has also been vastly improved with a simple, horizontal design and some more plush cabin material finishes. The second generation Honda Connect infotainment system is standard on all but the base model, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For this new model launch, Honda is debuting two new turbo petrol engines. The new 1.0-litre VTEC Turbo is a three cylinder unit producing 127hp and is likely to be popular for its low entry price into the Civic range, low emissions (110g CO2) and good fuel economy (up to 4.8l/100km). A larger 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo will also be available at launch. This four cylinder unit produces 180hp, with emissions of 133g of CO2 and fuel economy of up to 5.8l/100km. A 1.6-litre diesel will join the Civic range at the end of the year and a high performance Type R is also on the way.

At the European launch in Barcelona we had the opportunity to sample both engines with 6-speed manual and CVT automatic gearboxes.

2017 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic has a new interior with a better design and improved quality

The 1.0-litre (from €23,750) is one of the most powerful 1.0-litres in its class and is responsive to the throttle with reasonable refinement, though it does get noisy under hard acceleration. The four cylinder 1.5-litre engine (from €28,550) feels more even, flexible and refined, though the extra premium for this engine means it’s likely that the 1.0-litre will find more buyers. Yet it is a joy to drive, and transforms this car into something more of a warm hatch. The CVT gearbox has been improved for this generation Civic, but it is more successful when paired with the 1.5-litre engine, becoming noisy and strained at low speeds in the 1.0-litre VTEC. The 6-speed manuals work well and are pleasant to use.

On the road, the Civic feels more than ever like a real driver’s car with more agility in corners and direct steering that makes it good fun to drive. The suspension is well-tuned for comfort yet the car feels utterly composed and balanced through corners. The adaptive dampers on the 1.5-litre model driven at the launch improved things even a little more. Honda has added more sound insulation around the car and refinement at cruising speed is excellent.

When the new Honda Civic goes on sale here next month, Honda will be leading the way in terms of the suite of safety equipment that is standard on the car. Honda Sensing includes sophisticated safety tech that puts the car head and shoulders above rivals including a collision mitigation braking system, a forward collision warning, a lane keep assist, a lane departure warning, a road departure mitigation, intelligent speed limiter, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and low speed following.

For the Irish market, both the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre engine will be available from launch. The 1.0-litre starts at €23,750 for ‘Smart’ trim but comes well equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, Bluetooth, parking sensors, climate control and 16” alloys. For €26,250, buyers can upgrade with a Smart Plus Pack that adds the Honda Connect infotainment system with navigation, rear parking camera, dual zone climate control, 17” alloys and front fog lights.

2017 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic will be available in Ireland from €23,750

The entry price for the 1.5-litre turbo petrol is €28,550 in ‘S Design’ trim and includes the Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment. This car looks sportier with a centrally mounted double exhaust, 17” alloys and extra sills on the front, rear and sides. LED headlights are also included as standard along with Honda Connect, rear parking camera, and dual zone climate control. The GT Pack (€30,750) adds adaptive dampers, a glass roof, keyless entry and start, heated front seats and a blind spot monitor with cross traffic monitor. There is also the option of a Prestige Pack (€32,550) that is a more ‘luxurious’ version and does without the double exhaust.

Honda Ireland are keen to use this new launch as an opportunity to reposition Civic in the market and urge buyers to rethink what they know about Civic, probably Honda’s most synonymous and well-known brand within their product range, but one that has been outshone by rivals of late. But from our time driving the car in Spain, we can say that the Honda Civic has evolved into something very likeable indeed.

Caroline Kidd


Audi A3 saloon review ireland

Audi A3 Saloon Review

Audi pioneered the concept of a premium hatchback with the launch of the A3 back in 1996 and they’ve been refining the A3 ever since to make it a premium compact bestseller. A saloon is a more recent addition to the A3 range, but a considerably handsome one.

Now on its third generation, the latest model has had some mild styling tweaks and the addition of new driver assistance systems and engines. Available as a saloon as tested, a 3 door or 5 door Sportback, all models now have a broader single frame grille and new lights front and back. The A3’s classy silhouette is retained and S Line models look particularly good with sportier bumpers and 18” alloys.

The interior design of the Audi A3 is beautifully simple and minimalist. The materials used throughout are top quality and the ‘virtual cockpit’ that replaces traditional instrument dials is now available for the first time in the A3. It’s a €2,450 option but comes as part of a tech pack that includes Audi Connect with SIM card, phone box with wireless charging and MMI Nav Plus. It adds the wow factor and it is very simple and intuitive to use.

The compact premium saloon
Interior of the Audi A3 with virtual cockpit

The interior space in the A3 saloon is competitive for a compact saloon of this type, though rear headroom is more accommodating in the hatchback. The boot is 425 litres, which is actually larger than that of the hatchback, but the space is more difficult to access because of the narrow opening.

The A3 range kicks off with the 3 door priced at €27,810, the five door at €28,810 and the saloon at €29,810. Standard equipment includes 16” alloys, four electric windows, air con, and a folding infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a rotary controller. SE trim adds 17” alloys, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, cruise control and rear parking sensors. S Line trim includes sportier bumpers, LED lights front and rear, 18” alloys, Audi Drive Select, and a flat bottomed steering wheel.

Audi A3 Saloon Ireland Review
LED front and rear lights are standard on S Line models in the Audi A3 saloon range

There are petrol and diesel engines with power outputs from 110 to 184hp and Audi has just added a new three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine to the A3 range. The best for economy is the 1.6TDI that’s capable of returning up to 74mpg. On the road, the refinement of this engine is impressive and the 110hp is plenty to confidently cruise and overtake. The Audi A3 is a smooth and agile drive, with virtually no body roll in the corners. It’s quiet in the cabin with road, wind and engine noise well-suppressed. You can deselect the sports suspension on S Line models, which is probably advisable because the normal suspension has a firm enough edge to it.

The Audi A3 saloon is Audi’s first compact saloon but it’s a great addition to the A3 range. If an Audi A4 is out of reach price wise, the A3 saloon is definitely worth a look. The car is not cheap to buy and can get very expensive very quickly, but the quality and refinement is top notch – it’s a class act.

Audi A3 Saloon Ireland Review
Audi A3 Saloon: A class act

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A3 Saloon 1.6TDI S-Tronic S Line
Price: 
€38,800
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:  
10.7 seconds
Economy: 
76mpg
CO2 emissions:  
98g/km
Motor tax:
€180 per year


Skoda Octavia 1.0-litre TSI Review Ireland

Skoda Octavia 1.0-litre TSI Review

It’s fair to say that the Skoda Octavia is a bit of an Irish favourite, with the car consistently being one of the top selling models in Ireland. The Octavia’s generous interior space and value for money pricing makes it an irresistible package for Irish car buyers.

Skoda recently introduced a new 1.0-litre TSI engine to the Octavia range that will replace the 1.2-litre TSI 110bhp that was previously available. Reducing engine capacity in favour of turbo charging has become a popular trend in petrol technology, and this new engine is no different. The 1.0-litre turbocharged unit packs 115bhp and it’s also more efficient, returning up to 63mpg compared to 58mpg in the 1.2-litre TSI it replaces. CO2 emissions are down from 114g to 103g, so motor tax is €190 per year.

Of course, Ireland is still a diesel-loving country so Skoda also offers the Octavia with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels. In terms of power, the closest would be the 1.6-litre diesel with 110bhp. But petrol engines make a lot of sense for low mileage and/or urban drivers.

Skoda Octavia 1.0-litre TSI Review Ireland
The interior of the Skoda Octavia - hard to fault for good quality and simple intuitive design

There is also something very pleasant and refined about a petrol engine. On the road, the Octavia 1.0 TSI is impressively smooth and refined, though when you do rev it hard you may be reminded of your granny’s old supermini. It pulls hard from about 2500rpm – that’s the sweet spot when it feels just as nippy as a diesel, though when you hit the accelerator it’s not immediately responsive. But once it starts spinning, the Octavia 1.0 TSI will make you smile. There is 200Nm of torque on offer compared to 250Nm in the 1.6 diesel Octavia, but the petrol is marginally quicker in a sprint to 100kmh if you’re interested in that sort of thing. So it can keep up with the best of them! Real world economy during my test drive was 47mpg.

Elsewhere, this is solid if not particularly exciting motoring. The steering has a good weighty feel to it but there is not much in the way of feedback and the car feels a bit heavy and stodgy in the corners. Ride comfort is generally good though not as supple as the very best in this regard. The Octavia is a class above in terms of interior space, with large rear footwells and a massive 590 litre boot. There is also something very reassuring about sitting into the cabin of an Octavia. Everything is in its right place and Skoda has really stepped up the quality in recent years, so it’s far from budget feeling.

Skoda Octavia 1.0-litre TSI Review Ireland
The Skoda Octavia is a great value car that's big on space

There are currently four trim levels offered in Ireland: Active, Ambition, Style and L&K. Pricing starts at €18,995 for a very basic model. More realistic are Ambition models starting at what is still a very reasonable €22,880. Those cars include air con, cruise control, 16” alloys, four electric windows, rear parking sensors and a 6.5” touchscreen. Style models like the one on test start from €24,235 and include a rear reversing camera, dual zone climate control, rear LED lights, and a sports steering wheel. Diesels starts from €22,300.

The Skoda Octavia is clearly excellent value for the space on offer when compared to rivals. It’s not the most exciting car among its rivals, being quite conservatively styled and it won’t thrill you behind the wheel either but the 1.0-litre TSI does a great job here and gives the Octavia some real character.

Caroline Kidd

 

Model tested:  Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI Style
Price:
€25,730 (as tested including Sport Pack at €1,495)
Engine:
1.0-litre three cylinder turbo petrol
Power:
115bhp
0-100km/h: 
9.9 seconds
Claimed economy: 
63mpg
CO2 emissions:
  103g/km
Tax band:
€190 per year


Audi A3 Sportback Review Ireland

Audi A3 Sportback Review

Scroll down to watch my video review

Audi pioneered the concept of a premium hatchback with the launch of the A3 back in 1996 and they’ve been refining the A3 ever since to make it a premium compact bestseller. Now on its third generation, the latest model has had some mild styling tweaks and the addition of new driver assistance systems and engines.

Available as a saloon, 3 door or 5 door Sportback, all models now have a broader single frame grille and new lights front and back. The A3’s classy silhouette is retained and S Line models look particularly good with sportier bumpers and 18” alloys.

The interior design is beautifully simple and minimalist. The materials used throughout are top quality and sitting into the A3 is a special experience. This car is certainly worth the ‘premium’ tag. The virtual cockpit that replaces traditional instrument dials is now available for the first time in the A3 as part of a €2,450 tech pack that includes Audi Connect with SIM card, phone box with wireless charging and MMI Nav Plus.

The 5 door Sportback model is very practical with a 380 litre boot and the interior space is good for this size of car, with large footwells in the back. Standard equipment on Attraction models (from €28,810) includes 16” alloys, four electric windows, air con, and a folding infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a rotary controller. SE trim (from €30,160) adds 17” alloys, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, cruise control and rear parking sensors. S Line trim (from €33,460) includes sportier bumpers, LED lights front and rear, 18” alloys, Audi Drive Select, and a flat bottomed steering wheel.

Audi A3 Sportback Review Ireland
Interior of the Audi A3 with virtual cockpit

There are petrol and diesel engines with power outputs from 110 to 184hp and Audi has just added a new three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine to the A3 range. The best for economy is the 1.6TDI that’s capable of returning up to 74mpg.

My test car had the 1.4-litre TFSI and it’s a four cylinder turbo petrol engine with 150hp. It’s also got cylinder on demand technology, which allows it to shut down two cylinders when the engine is under low load to save fuel. It’s a real gem of an engine because it’s super quiet and ultra responsive. 0-100kmh is 8.2 seconds and even with the seven speed automatic gearbox, I returned around 47mpg over a week of driving.

Audi A3 Sportback Review Ireland
The Audi A3 Sportback has a range of good petrol and diesel engines to choose from

On the road the Audi A3 is agile and smooth with natural and intuitive steering and virtually no body roll in the corners so it favours a sporty drive. It’s quiet in the cabin with road, wind and engine noise well-suppressed. The suspension is most of the time very supple and compliant, but the back end of the car has a tendency to bounce a bit when you hit bigger bumps at speed. You can deselect the sports suspension on S Line models, which is probably advisable because the normal suspension is firm enough to keep the car taut in the corners, while being more forgiving for passengers.

The Audi A3 is a cut above your average hatchback but it carries a price tag to match and this car can get very expensive very quickly. The test car came in at a whopping €43,792 with options. It is a delight of a car to drive however and the view from the driver’s seat is particularly special so with the right engine and spec the A3 is definitely money well-spent – just beware of the options list. The latest facelift may be minor but Audi has refined the package a little more and the A3 remains a class act.

Audi A3 Sportback Review Ireland
Audi A3 Sportback: A class act!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 1.4TFSI S-Tronic S Line
Price: 
€37,390 (5 door range starts at €28,810)
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:  
8.2 seconds
Economy: 
58mpg
CO2 emissions:  
115g/km
Motor tax:
€200 per year


Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0-litre 150bhp JTD Review

It’s six years since Alfa Romeo first launched the 147 replacement, the Giulietta. Two facelifts later, the latest which is the subject of this review, and the Giulietta is a car that still can hold interest because a) it’s an Alfa Romeo, a brand with mythical status for a lot of petrolheads, and b) it’s still drop dead gorgeous, which is never a bad thing as you’re getting older.

There’s nothing quite like one of these on the road: the long bonnet, plunging v-shaped grille, offset number plate, and a curvy behind signed off with a flamboyant rear light signature. Changes for 2016 include a honeycomb mesh grille at the front like the one on the new Giulia saloon, but the other updates are so subtle that they’re not even worth talking about. Up until the launch of the new Renault Megane a few weeks ago you could say it was the best looking hatchback on the market. Now I’m not so sure, but the Alfa badge still counts for something and keeps it a step ahead of its more mundane brethren.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland
Dramatic styling that is anything but generic is one of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta's key selling points

It’s not such a positive spin however inside the Giulietta. The actual cabin layout is not bad at all and the uConnect touchscreen might be small but it still ticks the infotainment box, so important in new cars these days. There are swathes of gun metal grey dash finishes and Alcantara trimmed seats so it feels almost posh. The quality of the materials at the tops of the door panels and down around the centre console has been improved since I last drove the Giulietta in 2014, but the overall fit and finish falls short of premium.

Another weakness is that the driving position is not immediately comfortable, requiring a fair bit of adjustment and still feeling odd for a good while thereafter until about Day 3 when you’ve adjusted to the Alfa way of doing things.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland
The interior of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Quality has been improved but it falls short of the best in class.

But with pricing starting at €22,950 for petrols and €25,400 for diesels, the Giulietta is in the reach of more mainstream hatchback buyers than say the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, so certainly on lower specced models you could overlook these foibles.

Alfa has used this facelift to shake up the trim levels and you can now choose from Giulietta, Super, Super Sport and Super Lux. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, Bluetooth, air con, electric windows and mirrors, while Super adds front fog lights, cruise control, dual zone climate control, rear parking sensors and some updated styling inside and out. The Super Sport model on test had 17” alloys, sportier bumpers, side skirts, a carbon look dashboard, Alcantara trimmed seats, aluminium pedals, rear privacy glass and a sports suspension. Super Lux adds a leather interior and a larger uConnect system with navigation.

Cabin space is adequate for a five seat hatchback - not the best but not the worst either. The boot comes in at 330 litres so it’s now on the small side for this class falling about 40/50 litres short of the Opel Astra and Volkswagen Golf, but still larger than the Ford Focus.

The engine range kicks off with a 1.4-litre (120hp) petrol engine while 150hp and 170hp variants are also available. There is also a 1.6-litre (120hp) diesel and a 2.0-litre diesel (150 or 175hp). For the first time the automatic gearbox can be specced with the 1.6-litre diesel.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland
There are a range of petrol and diesel engines available for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The diesels are particularly frugal.

The Giulietta has quite a sporty character on the road. There’s a good deal of steering feel and it goes where you want it to without feeling too loose through bends. The suspension has a firm edge to it so there is the odd thud over potholes, ramps and other obstacles, but it’s definitely not uncomfortable.

All Giuliettas come as standard with the Alfa DNA driving mode selector, with three different settings (D for dynamic, N for natural and A for all weather). It alters the throttle response, traction control and steering weight depending on the mode selected. Dynamic mode is the one we’re most interested in but it’s only really useful in certain situations, for example, a boost in throttle response when overtaking. In town or when pulling off, the throttle is just too sensitive in this mode to make smooth progress without doing gigantic kangaroo jumps forward!

But the Giulietta is still fun to drive in the normal setting and the 2.0-litre (150bhp) diesel feels really quick. The engine can be heard at idle and stopping and starting around town but it’s not too bad at all and this is a mostly refined car for cruising in. It also returns fuel economy in real world driving not too far off the claimed economy of 56mpg.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has a sporty character on the road and good refinement

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is a bit of a mixed bag. Whether it’s good value or not depends on the way you look at it. The engines are strong and frugal, it’s a nice car to drive and the Alfa badge and dramatic styling are very seductive. The cabin quality and few ergonomic idiosyncrasies are probably the weakest points for the Giulietta. But the entry level pricing is actually very competitive so if you can live with a few pitfalls you’ll probably still feel like a winner behind the wheel of the Giulietta.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0JTD 150hp Super Sport
Price: 
€30,500 (Range starts at €22,950)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:
8.8 seconds
Economy:
56.5mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
110g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review For Ireland

 


Renault Megane GT Line ireland review

Renault Megane GT Line 1.5 dCi 110hp Review

Renault Megane GT Line ireland review
The new Renault Megane GT Line

Since I first caught glimpse of its curvy behind at the Megane’s world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015, I’ve been itching to drive the new Renault Megane.

Renault, you may have noticed, has been churning out some great designs over the last few years courtesy of design chief Laurens van den Acker – think Clio, Captur and Kadjar.

The new Megane is possibly the best yet. We may eat with our eyes, but for most of us, we buy cars with them too, and the Renault Megane has traffic stopping angles and curves. The new Megane’s distinctive front and rear lighting signatures are permanently lit when the engine is switched on, so there’s always that bit of drama about the Megane.

Together, it’s not a bad look at all for what underneath is a pretty conventional, mass market five door hatchback with a sub €20,000 entry price.

The design team has also done a good job inside the new Megane, and it feels just as fresh and modern as the outside.  A colour digital speedometer is the focal point for the driver and a very neat touchscreen system sits in the centre console for controlling infotainment and viewing vehicle information and settings. The quality of the plastics and materials is generally good around the cabin, and sporty GT Line cars have some lovely blue stitching and blue trim on the doors and dash.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: Cabin design is fresh and modern, with plenty of new gadgets

The cabin space is adequate for this class. Get into the rear and legroom does not seem as generous as in some rivals and the middle seat passenger will feel short changed on space. It looks like cabin space has been lost to the boot because it’s a Golf, Astra and Focus beater at 434 litres, but a high load lip makes loading and unloading of heavier items a bit more difficult.

Power comes from the well-proven 1.5-litre (110hp) and 1.6-litre (130hp) dCi diesel engines. A 1.2-litre (130hp) TCe turbocharged petrol unit is available on the entry level Expression trim. A sporty ‘Mégane GT’ houses a 1.6-litre TCe (205hp) turbo petrol engine developed by Renaultsport, with 4Control four-wheel steering for extra agility, a class first.

The 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel is the most efficient of the range with emissions of just 96g CO2 and fuel consumption as low as 3.7l/km (76.4mpg). It doesn’t have the outright flexibility of a more powerful engine, so overtaking manoeuvres will require dropping gears to get an adequate shove of torque, but it triumphs for its frugality and refinement. Even when under pressure, this is one diesel that never makes a racket.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: The 1.5 dCi is one of the most refined engines in the segment

Under the skin, the new Megane has been engineered to be more dynamic on the road. It's got a little grippy front end and the steering is tactile and direct so you can place the car confidently on the road. It’s not the most fun to drive of its class, but when pushed the Megane doesn’t put a foot wrong. Whether cruising on the motorway or driving in and around town, it’s a quiet, civilised and comfortable car.

The GT Line has a new toy called ‘Multisense’ technology, and it acts like a driving mode selector.  Settings include comfort, neutral, sport and eco, with different steering and throttle response profiles for each. I was most interested in 'Sport' mode but I found the difference was negligible and it didn't really enhance the driving experience that much.

There are five trim lines for the new Renault Megane on the Irish market: Expression (from €19,490), Dynamique Nav (from €23,990), Dynamique S Nav (from €25,290), GT Line Nav (from €25,990) and GT (from €30,690). Petrol models are available from €19,490, while diesels are available from €21,490, and even the high spec GT Line on test with the 1.5 dCi diesel looks like good value, coming in at €25,990.

Standard equipment on Expression trim includes hill start assist, cruise control, electric front windows, air con and Bluetooth. Stepping up to Dynamique Nav looks worthwhile for 16” alloys, electronic parking brake, auto lights and wipers, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic high/low beam, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, electric, folding door mirrors, electric rear windows, digital speedometer, keycard entry and go, dual zone climate control, Multisense system (ambient lighting and driving modes selector), leather steering wheel, and R-Link 2 multimedia system with 7” touchscreen.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: Driving dynamics much improved

So the wait is over and that's the new Megane driven. It's fairly obvious that the new Megane is another design triumph for Renault and brings adventurous design to the C segment, making rivals by comparison look quite conservative in their styling. While the cabin is much improved and the design looks fresh and modern, it's probably the weakest link here when compared to the likes of the new Astra and evergreen Golf because it lacks their refined and premium character, and rear seating space is not as generous as the best in class.

But the Megane pulls a trump card with one of the most refined and frugal diesel engines in the segment, and combined with the Megane’s naturally good driving character, this car is a pleasure for day to day driving.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Renault Megane GT Line Nav dCi 110
Price: 
€25,990 (Range starts €19,490)
Engine: 
1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11.3 seconds
Economy:
76.4mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
96g/km
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year

Renault Megane review ireland