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


Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Review

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland
The new Opel Astra Sports Tourer

After the arrival of the new Opel Astra here in late 2015, the Opel Astra Sports Tourer has recently landed in Ireland. “Sports Tourer” is the posh name but what we’re really talking about here is an estate car and it makes a great buy if you need more boot space and practicality than what a standard Astra hatchback can offer.

The new Astra Sports Tourer also happens to be a very handsome car in the metal. True, the test car (pictured) was a top of the range Elite model and came with gorgeous optional 18” ‘Twister’ alloys (€550), but there’s no denying that even in basic form, the new car has a lovely, elegant shape.

The new Astra has also seen a huge step up in design and quality over its forebear, and the quality in the cabin is up there with the very best in the class. The Astra I think actually has an advantage here because the dash design not only feels well-made and all the materials are of good quality, but it’s also interesting to look at and nice to interact with. The Intellilink infotainment system is standard from SC trim upwards and the touchscreen gives the cabin a slick appearance, while also allowing easy integration with smartphones and access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps.

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland
Interior of new Opel Astra Sports Tourer

Entry level S cars get air con and Bluetooth but step up to SC and you get additional 16” alloy wheels, cruise control, four electric windows, steering wheel mounted audio controls and Intellilink. While SC and sporty SRi trim will probably tempt buyers most in this segment, the Elite model on test was a great showcase of how sophisticated the Astra can be should you wish to spec it up, with standard features including leather seat trim, dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel, electric parking brake, heated front seats (also with a cooling function!) and heated outer rear seats, on top of the safety tech like lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and Opel OnStar that are standard from SRi trim up. A cool option fitted to the test car was the electric tailgate that can be released from the key or by waving your foot under the rear bumper (€500).

It’s an estate car so of course the boot is the key selling point here because it’s 540 litres compared to 370 litres in the hatchback. It’s ideal for regular use because it’s got a low flat loading area and great shape for stacking your cargo or housing your canine friends on trips to the beach or park. For your human friends, there is seating for five and the space on offer is good. In the back, head and leg room gives the impression of a large, roomy car and even the middle passenger gets a relatively flat space to put their feet.

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland
Extra cargo space in the Opel Astra Sports Tourer, with a low, flat sill for easy loading

The great advantage of compact estates like the Astra Sports Tourer is that while they house generous cargo space they are also, well, compact, so you can get around easily and they are not a nuisance to park. The Astra Sports Tourer is a supremely confident drive and there is very little to complain about behind the wheel as the suspension does a great job of anesthetising the bumps and ruts of Irish roads, while the car handles with a great level of panache too. The steering is light and easy, but the grip from that front end makes itself tangible at the rim so placing the car on the road and dipping in and out of corners is actually quite fun. Compared to the hatch, the extra bit of bulk at the back makes the car feel slightly less dynamic if you’re pushing hard through tight corners because there’s more lean.

The Astra Sport Tourer is complemented by a range of petrol and diesel engines, with the best for economy returning as high as 78mpg. The engine line-up for the Sports Tourer is the same as the hatchback and includes three petrols (1.4-litre 100PS, 1.0-litre turbo 105PS, 1.4-litre turbo 150PS), and a 1.6-litre diesel with two different power outputs (110PS and 136PS). My test car had the 1.6-litre (136PS) diesel and it’s a fine specimen of the genre – super smooth power output through the 6 speed manual gearbox and excellent refinement with no annoying harshness, even stopping and starting around town. There’s also more than enough power and the car pulls strongly with great flexibility in all the gears, while returning up to 72mpg.

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland
A range of strong engines for the new Opel Astra Sports Tourer, with the most efficient returning up to 78mpg

Estate cars have never really been big sellers in Ireland and certainly over the past few years many hatchback buyers have strayed further from this territory in the car showroom, migrating to similarly priced crossovers and SUVs rather than estates.

But the Opel Astra Sports Tourer certainly makes a great case for the humble estate, with a fine blend of practicality, smooth driving character and a level of refinement that would make many similarly priced SUVs and crossovers appear like false value.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Opel Astra Sports Tourer Elite
Price: 
€29,195 (Range starts €21,195)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
136PS
0-100km/h:
10.1 seconds
Economy:
72mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
104g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Opel Astra Sports Tourer Car Review Ireland
Opel Astra Sports Tourer: Fine blend of practicality and mature road manners

Peugeot 308 GTi ireland review

Peugeot 308 GTi 270hp Review

Peugeot 308 GTi ireland review
The Peugeot 308 GTi

Peugeot know a thing or two about building a performance car and their sporty hatchbacks have been getting petrolheads all in a lather for over 30 years.  Cars like the Peugeot 205 GTi and 306 GTi-6 belong to the annals of greatest cars of all time, and these cars still have the capacity to strike up an emotional response in adults akin to those otherwise reserved for recollections of since departed dear friends and relatives. Great cars like great people leave lasting impressions.

So what of the new Peugeot 308 GTi? What to do with the weight of expectation on your broad shoulders?

Before meeting the Peugeot 308 GTi for the first time, it was reassuring to see that this car is now officially the “Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport” because we know that Peugeot Sport has already done some great things, like smash the record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb with a rally spec 208, and won the Dakar Rally in a monster spec 2008.

But could the brains behind these victories take a supermarket spec 308 and turn it into one of the best hot hatchbacks on the market right now?

Watch my video review or scroll down to read the rest of the review:

Step 1: Make it look the part. The 308 is one of the better looking hatchbacks out there so this would be easy. The new 308 GTi looks pleasingly beefy, especially from the back where two larger than life exhaust pipes declare this car’s intentions. Still there’s nothing brash here: a modest body kit, new upright grille with inset Peugeot lion, ultra-light 19” aluminium alloy wheels on the 270hp model (18” alloys on 250hp model), red Peugeot Sport-branded brake callipers, and of course the all-important GTi badging. It does look good and you can spec the 270hp model with a Coupe Franche red and black split paint job if you really want to make it shout a bit louder (but good luck trying to explain this choice to bewildered bystanders!).

Inside, the cabin feels cosy and driver focused. There’s more red detail and GTi badging, and look up, down, left, right, and you’re met with good design and quality that makes the nearly €40,000 price tag not seem like a rip-off. While you’re paying for the sophisticated engineering that goes into bringing a car like this to your driveway, there’s no reason why you should have to slum it and this car delivers. You’ll be pretty comfortable and secure too in your Alcantara trimmed seat with massage function.

But why you’ll need a massage function when I tell you the next bit, I don’t know. Power comes from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and there are two variants – one with 250hp and the other with 270hp, with a six speed manual gearbox as standard. That’s 270hp from a 1.6-litre engine in a front wheel drive hatchback!  There’s obviously no time for relaxing!

Peugeot 308 GTi ireland review
Peugeot 308 GTi has a quality cabin with some sporty flourishes

The Peugeot 308 GTi 270 feels very fast on the road.  No kidding. 330Nm of torque will pull you to 100kmh from a standstill in just 6 seconds, and you can go all the way to a top speed of 249kmh. The 270 model is not just a power update, there are also bigger front brakes and the addition of a limited slip differential to improve cornering grip.

Find a series of corners and this car will show you what it’s made of. The Peugeot 308 GTi 270 is like an athlete in the way it moves and on the road when you’re pushing, it feels as if every inch of the car has been tuned for performance. That comes across to the driver as a firmness, a sort of muscularity that’s absent from your average daily runabout. But you need it because otherwise this car would be difficult to control, and frankly, dangerous. The big fat Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and limited slip differential work to make this car really clinical and precise corner after corner.

If there is one area that could be better, it is the steering. It is much improved over the set-up in a standard 308, feeling meatier and more natural as you turn in for the corner but it’s still lacking that extra little bit of feedback of the very best set-ups.  Not acute – it’s not like you’re going to be drifting around the place wondering if the front wheels are connected to the steering wheel at all. There’s loads of grip but the steering could just do a better job of communicating it through to the rim.

For bouts of spirited driving, there is a Sport mode that sharpens up the throttle response and feeds some augmented engine noise into the cabin, but this car is fast whatever you choose to do with it. So much so that there’s that little element of menace to it, like the lion could bite you if you didn’t respect it (if you were a Golf GTI fan for example). In Sport mode, it does seem to dump all its power to the front wheels very quickly with a scream from the engine, so the car demands all your concentration. But it is so enjoyable to drive this car fast through some corners and this is when you see the magic of what the engineers have done.

Peugeot 308 GTi ireland review
Peugeot 308 GTi: Styling has been suitably beefed up

For all this car’s beastliness, it does that great hatchback thing of being a really easy car to live with - seating for five, a decent boot for everyday life, and reasonable running costs.  Rear legroom is a bit tight by class standards but the boot is one of the best - 470 litres with a practical shape and low loading sill. Emissions of 139g CO2 put the car in tax band B and motor tax is €280 per year, while this model returns up to 47mpg (I averaged an acceptable 39mpg). The beauty of this car is that when you’re not pushing it, the 308 GTi is like any other normal, friendly hatchback. Okay, there’s a firmer edge to the ride so you feel the road underneath you more, but this car is excellent in terms of refinement when you just want to cruise, with road, wind and engine noise well suppressed.

The Peugeot 308 GTi starts at €36,990 with the 270hp model coming in at €39,990. Considering the power, the engineering and the level of equipment and quality of the cabin, that actually looks like good value. Standard equipment includes cruise control, dual zone climate control, four electric windows, electric handbrake, keyless start, auto lights and wipers, touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth and navigation, parking sensors and rear view camera, and massage function on the front seats (though we’ve established that you probably won’t need that very much!).

Of course the Peugeot 308 GTi does not stand alone, with a number of equally well-qualified competitors vying for your attention.  This can be a tough segment to make an impact in and for a lot of performance car buyers, it goes down to allegiance to a particular brand. And if your allegiance is not to Peugeot, that’s a pity because despite one or two little niggles, the 308 GTi is the real deal. It’s got the looks, the quality you expect from a €40,000 car, incredible power, agile handling, a little bit of menace to keep you senses sharp, and the GTi badge is legendary, and whether it’s fair or not, that sort of pedigree accounts for a lot in this market. If you’re the kind of driver who values the journey more than the destination, the 308 GTi is the car.

Peugeot 308 GTi ireland review
Peugeot 308 GTi: Good value considering the level of standard kit, pure power and sophisticated engineering

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Peugeot 308 GTi 270
Price: 
€39,990 (Range starts €36,990)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
270hp
0-100km/h:
 6 seconds
Economy:
47mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
139g/km
Motor Tax: 
€280 per year


mazda3 review ireland

Mazda3 GT 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-D Review

mazda3 review ireland
The Mazda3

The current Mazda3 has been on sale in Ireland since 2014 but has new pep in its step with the addition of a 1.5-litre diesel to the range.

Mazda3 was first launched with a 1.5-litre (100PS) petrol engine and a 2.2-litre (150PS) diesel engine, but the new engine (already seen in CX-3 and Mazda2) is now the most efficient in the range. It will also likely be more pleasing to Irish buyers who tend to feel more comfortable with a smaller capacity engine.

It’s efficient for sure. Mazda say the engine will return up to 74.3mpg with emissions of just 99g CO2, and the car proved frugal during my test drive. But thankfully the Mazda3 is no bore, and the 105PS engine has enough zip to exploit the Mazda’s excellent handling.  This car feels light and agile on the road, aided by a sweet shifting 6 speed manual gearbox and well-judged steering that means that corners can be taken on in one fluid motion that is extremely satisfying to the driver. While there is road noise at high speeds and the whisper of diesel gurgle when hopping on the accelerator, the Mazda3 never feels anything less than a smooth and sophisticated car.

The interior is mature but stylish and easy navigable, and the Mazda ‘MZD Connect’ infotainment system with touchscreen and rotary controller operates like something lifted from a more expensive car.

mazda3 review ireland
The Mazda3 has a stylish interior that is extremely well-finished

The Mazda3 will seat five and rear space is competitive for the class. The boot is 364 litres, which is a little off the very best in the class. And while there is a great bottle shaped space in all four doors, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t conventional door pockets!

Yet door pockets or no door pockets, I couldn’t help but be hooked by the Mazda3. It’s a stylish presence in this segment and without the ubiquity of say the Golf, Megane, Astra, Focus, it feels more exclusive. The entry price into the range is a bit higher than some key rivals with prices for petrol models starting at €22,995, and diesels at €24,695, though standard specification is good including 16” alloy wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel, electrically adjustable and folding door mirrors, air con, keyless start, front and rear electric windows, Bluetooth, 7” colour touchscreen and multimedia system and hill hold assist.

Executive SE (from €26,195) adds the likes of front fog lights, auto lights and wipers, bi xenon headlights, LED rear lights, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, dual zone climate control and cruise control. The GT model on test (from €27,395) had an updated interior with silver dashboard decoration panel, 18” alloys, head-up display, reversing camera, heated front seats and keyless entry.

mazda3 ireland review
The Mazda3 is a car that resonates with head and heart

The addition of the new 1.5-litre diesel to the range means that the Mazda3 can square up nicely to rivals in terms of engine size and despite being a really efficient unit, the Mazda3 is no bore.

However the Mazda3 is a car that really appeals for its grown-up good looks and stylish interior. Hatchback buyers are spoilt for choice but this one really does resonate with the head and the heart.

Model Tested: Mazda3 1.5 SKYACTIV-D GT
Price: 
€30,290 (Range starts €22,995)
Engine: 
1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
105PS
0-100km/h:
11 seconds
Economy:
74.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
99g/km
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year

Caroline Kidd


Opel Astra Review

New Opel Astra 1.6 CDTi Review

The new Opel Astra is one of the most eagerly anticipated new cars of the year and arrives here with ambitions to disrupt the compact class.Read more


Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review

Volkswagen Golf Estate
The Volkswagen Golf Mk 7 Estate

The Volkswagen Golf Estate hasn’t been sold in Ireland since 2004 but now it’s back in the current Golf Mk 7 range.

So what happens when you add a big boot to one of Ireland’s favourite hatchbacks?

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review of the new Golf Estate:

Design

The Golf Estate has the look of a ‘sensible’ car. Like the Golf hatchback it’s based on, it doesn’t do too much to draw attention to itself and is one of the plainer looking estate cars among its rivals. Highline models look the best with 17” inch alloys and silver roof rails as standard.

Sit inside and you will be hard-pressed to find an interior in this segment as brilliantly crafted as the one in the Golf Estate. The cockpit and controls are all intuitive to use, the quality is really good, and the brushed silver effect on the dash inserts and around the doors on my mid-range Comfortline test car add an element of style.

Aesthetics aside, the USP for the Golf Estate is its big, square boot. With the rear seats in place, there is 605 litres of cargo space compared to 380 litres in the Golf hatch. It’s very cargo friendly with a wide opening and low loading sill, and you can let the rear seats down with a simple pull of a lever in the boot.

Volkswagen Golf Estate
Plain to look at compared to some of its rivals, but the Golf Estate's styling will age well

Driving

If you need more versatility from your car, the great thing about going for an estate over an MPV or SUV is that the estate is so car-like on the road.

The Golf Estate is no different. It’s a satisfying car to drive and feels agile and dynamic despite that bit of extra bulk on the back. There are reassuring amounts of grip so you get that sensation going around corners that it’s hunkering down on the road for you, and the steering responds quickly and accurately to your inputs.

The engine line-up is very straight forward for the Golf Estate. The backbone of the range is the 1.2 TSI petrol engine and 1.6 TDI diesel, both producing a respectable 110bhp. Lower powered versions of both engines are available on the entry level Trendline model and a 2.0 litre TDI diesel with 150bhp is available on Highline, the very top level trim. Volkswagen’s DSG 7-speed automatic gearbox is available on select engines too.

My test car had the 1.6 diesel with 110bhp and the DSG automatic gearbox, which turned out to be a lovely combination. The DSG gearbox made progress smooth and effortless, while the 1.6 TDI provided enough power and torque to feel swift, with much of the noise suppressed thanks to a well-insulated cabin.

Volkswagen Golf Estate
Volkswagen Golf Estate: Brilliantly-crafted cabin

Economy

The 1.6TDI DSG automatic returns up to 70mpg with an annual motor tax bill of €190.

Equipment

There are four trim levels for the Golf Estate: Trendline, Comfortline, Lounge and Highline. Entry level models have four electric windows and mirrors, aircon, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen infotainment system with CD player, though you need to step up to Comfortline for 16” alloy wheels. Additional equipment on Comfortline includes fog lights, cruise control and a larger touchscreen for  infotainment. Lounge has its own unique 16” alloy wheels and ‘Lounge’ interior including a panoramic sunroof. Highline gets a visual upgrade with silver finish on the roof rails and 17” alloy wheels, parking sensors and dual zone climate control. Volkswagen Ireland currently has a number of offers where you can spec up your car for less money.

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review
Volkswagen Golf Estate: Boot is 605 litres compared to 380 litres in the Golf hatch

Verdict

So we’ve established that the Volkswagen Golf Estate has a really big, practical boot that makes it more user-friendly than the Golf hatchback.

But in terms of compact estate cars, they all have that, and if you want to crunch the numbers you’ll find that the Golf Estate doesn’t even have the biggest boot in the class.

It’s also one of the plainer looking cars among its rivals, and it won’t be the cheapest to buy either.

But what makes the Golf Estate stand out from the crowd is that touch of class and air of refinement. For a start, there’s the classy, well-finished cabin that won’t irritate you.

Then on the road, the Golf Estate never puts a foot wrong. Precision and driver engagement don’t need to be sacrificed now that you need a ‘sensible’ car.

But if driving dynamics don’t impress you much, the level of comfort and refinement will; the Golf Estate simply feels like a bigger and more expensive car than what it actually is. It’s just a lovely car to drive and spend time in.

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review
Volkswagen Golf Estate: A refined load-lugger that's also good to drive

Model Tested: Volkswagen Golf Estate Comfortline
Price: 
€28,825 (Range starts €22,575)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11 seconds
Economy:
70.6mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
102g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd