2017 Skoda Octavia review ireland

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI 150hp Review

The Skoda Octavia is one of Ireland’s favourite cars and does well with buyers seeking a spacious family car without the high price tag.

But even heroes like the Octavia need a refresh every now and then so for 2017, Skoda has treated the current generation of the Octavia to a facelift with tweaked styling and some other updates to the range.

There’s a new radiator grille at the front and controversially, they’ve split the Octavia’s familiar block headlights. But I get the feeling that Octavia buyers really won’t let the small matter of some split headlights come between them and their next car and elsewhere the Octavia holds a familiar presence on the road.

It's easy to feel at home in the cabin of the Skoda Octavia with its straightforward layout and reassuringly good build quality. The only major changes inside are new infotainment systems in the centre of the dash that look a bit glossier and more up to date. Smartlink+ with Apple Car Play and Android Auto is now standard across the range.

2017 Skoda Octavia review ireland
The interior of the Skoda Octavia

In Ireland the Skoda Octavia comes in three familiar trims - Active, Ambition and Style - and the more salubrious Laurin & Klement. The Ambition model is the sweet spot priced from €22,250, with air con, electric windows front and rear, 16” alloys, cruise control and reversing camera as standard.

Style models like the one on test (from €24,750) have an impressive 9.2” Navigation & Infotainment system as standard, with 4G LTE SIM card slot to enable a high speed Wi-Fi hotspot within the car (data plans sold separately), and a host of additional connected services from Skoda Connect.

The Park Assist feature has been improved for 2017 and Trailer Assist, Predictive Pedestrian Protection, Blind Spot Detect and Rear Traffic Alert are all available as options.

Interior space remains one of the largest in the class with the hatch retaining boot space of 590 litres and 610 litres in the Combi estate.

The Skoda Octavia has a reliable suite of engines on offer too including the 1.2TSI (86hp), 1.0TSI (115hp), 1.6TDI (90 and 115hp) and 2.0TDI (150hp). Manual and automatic gearboxes are available, as is 4×4.

2017 Skoda Octavia review ireland
The Skoda Octavia comes in four trim levels and is priced from €19,750

I drove the Skoda Octavia 1.0TSI earlier in 2017 and while it is impressive for low mileage/urban drivers, the 2.0-litre TDI with 150hp in my test car left little to complain about with excellent performance and economy over a week of driving. There is engine noise making its way into the cabin but it’s muted and the Octavia is just a fantastic companion for travelling long distances.

This car is not allergic to a rural road either and grips well with weighty, direct steering inspiring confidence behind the wheel. The Octavia is generally as comfortable as you want from a family hatchback but it is a bit noisy and harsh over big bumps and ruts in the road surface, especially around town, implying that it lacks that extra layer of refinement and comfort that marks out the very best rivals.

Yet on a whole the Octavia is one very impressive car and there is no arguing with the fact that it is an absolute bargain if you really value the amount of space you are getting for your money because it dwarfs the competition in this regard. Stoic and sensible, the Skoda Octavia won’t be toppled from its position as one of Ireland’s favourite hatchbacks any time soon.

Caroline Kidd

2017 Skoda Octavia review ireland
The Skoda Octavia is one of Ireland's favourite cars and it's easy to see why

Model tested: Skoda Octavia Style 2.0TDI 150hp
Price: 
€29,050 (Range starts at €19,750)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150hp
Torque: 340Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.4 seconds
Top speed: 218km/h
Economy: 
66mpg
CO2 emissions:  
113g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

If you are looking for a spacious family car, you might also like this review of the Toyota Corolla.


Renault Megane Grand Coupe review ireland

Renault Megane Grand Coupe 1.5dCi Review

In Ireland we love our saloons and that’s why car manufacturers can sell cars here that they wouldn’t elsewhere. Renault has recently launched a car here that not all our European neighbours can enjoy. It’s the new Renault Megane Grand Coupe, which sounds rather grand, but isn’t really.

It’s the saloon version of the all-new Renault Megane that arrived as a hatchback in Ireland in 2016 and it is the spiritual successor to the popular but uninspiring Renault Fluence.

Renault has strapped the Grand Coupe moniker onto this model, which implies that this car has ‘notions’. But the saloon style sits rather well on the new Megane and yes, it looks a bit ‘grander’ than the hatchback, which obviously we will love here in Ireland.

The Grand Coupe has an ace card up its sleeve. I grumbled a little about the rear legroom in the Megane hatchback but luckily the Grand Coupe sits on a longer wheelbase, and there is noticeably more rear legroom.

Renault Megane Grand Coupe review ireland
The interior of the Renault Megane Grand Coupe

The boot is also bigger than the hatchback at 503 litres, but obviously the narrow aperture characteristic of the saloon body style makes the space a bit more awkward to access. There is also no release button on the boot lid: you need to press the button on the key or flick a switch in the cabin.

Inside, the Megane Grand Coupe has the same dash design as the rest of the Megane range. A portrait style touchscreen dominates in the centre of the dash on higher spec models. It looks impressive but it can be frustrating to switch between menus. The ambient lighting on my Signature test car is lovely and adds sophistication along with some brushed chrome effect panel inserts, but the plastics on the lower end of the dash are very hard and scratchy.

In terms of price, the Megane Grand Coupe range starts at €21,990, with just a small premium over the hatchback. The trim levels and equipment are just about the same between the two ranges but the sporty GT Line is preserved for the hatch, while the Grand Coupe gets the ‘grander’ Signature trim.

Base models have 16” steel wheels with wheel trims, LED DRLs, manual air conditioning, analogue dashboard, and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.

The top of the range Signature model I drove (from €27,290) has 18” alloy wheels, full LED headlights, hands-free boot opening, leather seats, electro chrome rear view mirror, 8.7” touchscreen R-Link 2, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera.

Renault Megane Grand Coupe review ireland
The Renault Megane Grand Coupe has a bigger boot and more leg room than the hatchback

There is no petrol option for the Grand Coupe but instead there is a choice of 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre diesel engines, and the option of the EDC automatic gearbox on the 1.5. My test car was the 1.5-litre EDC. This is an engine that impressed me in the Megane hatchback and the Captur, and it’s no different here. I was truly surprised at what a great combination this diesel made with the automatic gearbox and the emissions are impressively low too at 95g. The power is more than adequate and this is a pleasant, quiet car on the move. The handling is predictable and the front end grip inspires confidence behind the wheel. All sounds good?

Not quite. The ride comfort in my test car's configuration on 18" wheels was disappointing for a car that really does not need to be this firm.  Bumps and other changes in the road surface transferred too much noise and harshness to the cabin.

But if you can get over the bump bump feeling over anything other than smooth tarmac, the Renault Megane Grand Coupe is a stylish and good value saloon.

Caroline Kidd

Renault Megane Grand Coupe review ireland
The Renault Megane Grand Coupe is a stylish and good value saloon

Model tested: Renault Megane Grand Coupe Signature dCi 110 EDC
Price: 
€28,990 (Range starts at €21,990)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110hp
Torque: 260Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.6 seconds
Top speed: 190km/h
Economy: 
76mpg
CO2 emissions:  
95g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year

If you are looking for a compact saloon you might also like these reviews of the Toyota Corolla and Skoda Octavia.


2017 Volkswagen Golf review ireland

2017 Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Review

The Volkswagen Golf needs little introduction. It’s one of Ireland’s bestselling cars, and in 2016 Volkswagen Ireland sold just under 5000 of them here, only falling second to the Hyundai Tucson.

But even hatchback heroes like the Golf need a refresh every now and then, so the seventh generation has undergone a revision exercise for 2017 to keep it competitive.

On the outside there has been some subtle restyling including new bumpers, new radiator grille, new glass headlight covers that extend further up the wing, and more chrome detailing at the front and back. All models have LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Review Ireland
The interior of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf

Inside, the changes are more obvious. The current generation of the Volkswagen Golf already had a great cabin that was well-built and easy to navigate, but now the infotainment and its surround has been updated. It’s a glossy black affair that does a lot to lift the interior and make it feel more premium. The digital instrument cluster we’ve seen already in the Tiguan SUV now appears for the first time in the Golf. It’s standard on Highline models.

Elsewhere, the Volkswagen Golf is a hatchback that will accommodate passengers well. Rear legroom is good for the class, as is headroom.  The boot at 380 litres is also still competitive in the segment.

Volkswagen has also used the 2017 update as an opportunity to add a new engine to the Golf range. The new three cylinder 1.0-litre TSI is starting to appear across the Volkswagen Group, replacing the 1.2-litre TSI. In the Golf it’s available with 85hp or 110hp. Other engine options include the 1.4-litre TSI petrol with 150hp, the 1.6-litre diesel with 90hp or 115hp, and a 2.0-litre diesel with 150hp.

The Volkswagen Golf needs little introduction. It’s one of Ireland’s bestselling cars, and in 2016 Volkswagen Ireland sold just under 5000 of them here, only falling second to the mighty Hyundai Tucson. But even hatchback heroes like the Golf need a refresh every now and then, so the current award-winning seventh generation has undergone a revision exercise for 2017 to keep it competitive. On the outside, there has been some subtle restyling including new bumpers, new radiator grille, new glass headlight covers that extend further up the wing, and more chrome detailing at the front and back. All models have LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights. Inside, the changes are more obvious. The current generation of the Volkswagen Golf always had a great cabin that was well-built and easy to navigate, but now the infotainment and its surround has been updated. It’s a glossy black affair that does a lot to lift the interior and make it feel more premium. The digital instrument cluster we’ve seen already in the Tiguan SUV now appears for the first time in the Golf. It’s standard on Highline models. Elsewhere, the Volkswagen Golf is a hatchback that will accommodate passengers well. Rear legroom is good for the class, as is headroom. The boot at 380 litres is also still competitive in the segment. Volkswagen has also used the 2017 update as an opportunity to add a new engine to the Golf range. The new three cylinder 1.0-litre TSI is starting to appear across the Volkswagen Group, replacing the 1.2-litre TSI. In the Golf it’s available with 85hp or 110hp. Other engine options include the 1.4-litre TSI petrol with 150hp, the 1.6-litre diesel with 90hp or 115hp, and a 2.0-litre diesel with 150hp. My test car had the new 1.0-litre TSI 110hp turbo petrol engine and it’s a smooth and elegant drive. The engine offers good flexibility and never feels too breathless. If compared to the 1.6-litre TDI 115hp it’s a little down on power and torque, but marginally quicker to 100kmh, at 9.9 seconds. In terms of economy, it will return a claimed 4.8l/100km versus 4.1l/100km in the diesel, but on my test drive I returned closer to 7.0l/100km. The new engine suits the Golf’s refined character very well and makes the most of the car’s agile but precise handling. The lower list price compared to the diesel is attractive too. The new Golf with the 110hp 1.0-litre starts from €22,895, while the 115hp 1.6-litre diesel starts from €24,995 for a five door. My test car in Highline trim had a list price of €27,295. Standard equipment on Trendline models includes four electric windows, 6.5” touchscreen, air con and electronic parking brake. Comfortline models add 8” touchscreen, 16” alloys, adaptive cruise control, dual zone climate control, and forward collision warning. Highline models add 17” alloys, rear privacy glass, sports suspension, parking sensors and the digital instrument cluster. The current Volkswagen Golf may be aging but it remains one of Ireland’s favourite cars. Volkswagen has used this latest update to refine the package a little more, which has been done very successfully with the updates to the infotainment and centre console, and also the introduction of the digital instrument cluster for the first time. For buyers thinking about switching to a petrol hatchback, the new 1.0-litre TSI is one of the best on the market. Model tested: Volkswagen Golf Highline 1.0 TSI 5-door 110hp Price: €27,295 (Range starts at €20,895) Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol Power: 90hp Torque: 120Nm 0-100km/h: 11.1 seconds Top speed: 166km/h Economy: 60.1mpg CO2 emissions: 106g/km Motor tax: €190 per year Caroline Kidd If you are looking for a five door hatchback you might also like this review of the Audi A3 Sportback.
Volkswagen has added a new 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engine to the Golf range

My test car had the new 1.0-litre TSI 110hp turbo petrol engine and it’s a smooth and elegant drive. The engine offers good flexibility and never feels too breathless. If compared to the 1.6-litre TDI 115hp, it’s a little down on power and torque, but marginally quicker to 100kmh, at 9.9 seconds. In terms of economy, it will return a claimed 4.8l/100km versus 4.1l/100km in the diesel, but on my test drive I returned closer to 7.0l/100km.

The new engine suits the Golf’s refined character very well and makes the most of the car’s agile and precise handling. The lower list price compared to the diesel is attractive too. The new Golf with the 110hp 1.0-litre starts from €22,895, while the 115hp 1.6-litre diesel starts from €24,995 for a five door. My test car in Highline trim had a list price of €27,295.

Standard equipment on Trendline models includes four electric windows, 6.5” touchscreen, air con and electronic parking brake. Comfortline models add 8” touchscreen, 16” alloys, adaptive cruise control, dual zone climate control, and forward collision warning. Highline models add 17” alloys, rear privacy glass, sports suspension, parking sensors and the digital instrument cluster.

2017 Volkswagen Golf review ireland
Volkswagen has refined the Golf package a little more, and it remains a great choice of hatchback

The current Volkswagen Golf may be aging but it remains one of Ireland’s favourite cars. Volkswagen has used this latest update to refine the package a little more, which has been done very successfully with the updates to the infotainment and centre console, and also the introduction of the digital instrument cluster for the first time. For buyers thinking about switching to a petrol hatchback, the new 1.0-litre TSI is one of the best on the market.

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf Highline 1.0 TSI 5-door 110hp
Price: 
€27,295 (Range starts at €20,895)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
90hp
Torque: 120Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.1 seconds
Top speed: 166km/h
Economy: 
60.1mpg
CO2 emissions:  
106g/km
Motor tax:
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd

If you are looking for a five door hatchback you might also like this review of the Audi A3 Sportback.


Renault Megane GT Review Ireland

Renault Megane GT Review

The all-new Renault Megane launched in Ireland in summer of 2016 and has been well-received, being a notable improvement on its predecessor. But for power hungry petrolheads, for who a 1.5-litre diesel will just not suffice, there’s the Megane GT and it’s the first of the new generation of the Megane to get the Renault Sport treatment. The Megane RS is yet to arrive, but the GT is a mild hot hatch, wrapped up in a chic French suit.

Priced from €30,690, the Renault Megane GT is a nice half way house with 205hp, sporty styling, lots of equipment, and some exclusive engineering for a more performance-oriented drive.

But at its heart the Megane GT is a five door hatchback so it brings all the comfort and practicality of the standard car. The boot is good for the segment at 384 litres and the car will seat five, though rear legroom is a little behind the class best.

The interior of the Renault Megane GT benefits from some exclusive badging, ambient lighting and blue trim, while Renault’s R-Link 2 8.7” portrait style touchscreen with navigation comes as standard. The infotainment looks impressive but is a little frustrating to switch between different functions.

Renault Megane GT Review Ireland
The interior of the Renault Megane GT

Elsewhere equipment includes 18”diamond cut alloy wheels, GT steering wheel with paddle shift, aluminium sport pedals, full LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, and launch control for quick starts!

The Renault Megane GT is front wheel drive and comes with a seven speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Under the bonnet there’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 205hp and 280Nm of torque. 0-100kmh is 7.1 seconds, and it goes on to a top speed of 230kmh. The power delivery is spirited without being crazy, but enough to add excitement to your average commute.

There are a few different driving modes, and in sport mode you get a sharper throttle response and heavier steering, while it also changes how the automatic gearbox behaves.  The automatic gearbox is not 100% satisfactory because it is slow to react and holds onto the gears too much. Thankfully the gearbox behaves more naturally in normal mode, and you can still change up and down gear yourself using the paddles on the steering wheel.

Renault Megane GT Review Ireland
The Renault Megane GT has 205hp and will hit 100kmh from a standstill in 7.1 seconds with launch control engaged!

The Renault Megane GT also has a stiffer suspension than your standard Megane so the car holds the road better when you’re pushing on through a series of corners and it’s still quite a comfortable car, though you notice the extra firmness over rough and uneven surfaces. Refinement is really good, and the cabin is well insulated from road and wind noise, making it a great companion for daily driving.

The novelty value with the Megane GT is that is has four wheel steering, which you won’t find in any rivals: it’s a class first. At low speeds the rear wheels can turn a little to make the car more manoeuvrable and give it a tighter turning circle. At higher speeds, it increases cornering grip and agility.

It feels a little weird at first and not fully intuitive because you don’t need as much steering lock as you think you do. But show the Megane GT a series of corners and you can see the system's merits. You just need small, quick movements on the wheel to get around corners, and these quick responses are matched with grip almost like a four wheel drive car. You can feel the back wheels hugging the road surface and that allows you to get back on the throttle early and accelerate out of the bend. It's really quite stunning.

No, the Megane GT is not the full hot hatch experience because it’s just not powerful or raw enough for that. But it’s not priced like one either and in terms of comfort and refinement, this car is as easy to live with on a daily basis as a diesel Megane; just less efficient. There are some frustrations to this car, but overall it’s entertaining enough to be tempting!

Renault Megane GT Review Ireland
The Renault Megane GT is not a full-on hot hatchback but the handling really is stunning

Model tested: Renault Megane GT Nav 205 EDC
Price: 
€30,690 (Range starts at €19,490)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
205hp
Torque: 280Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.1 seconds
Top speed: 230km/h
Economy: 
47mpg
CO2 emissions:  
134g/km
Motor tax:
€280 per year

Caroline Kidd

If you are looking for a sporty hatchback you might also like this review of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.


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