The Fiat 500e on test for Changing Lanes!

Fiat 500e Review

Read Caroline's Fiat 500e review for everything you need to know about buying Fiat's new electric city car in Ireland.

The Fiat 500 has been a huge success for Fiat since it was relaunched as the new 500 back in 2007. It's stayed popular throughout, while only being mildly revised over the years. Various special editions and cosmetic updates have kept it just as desirable as the day it was launched. It's clearly one of the most recognisable small cars on Irish roads.

At Changing Lanes, I've had the opportunity to follow the story of the 500 since about 2013 when I first tested the petrol version and since then I've tested it in many of its different iterations.

The 500 is the quintessential city car and now it's back for a new generation. The big news is that Fiat has taken the plunge and created a fully electric version of the 500 - the new Fiat 500e. Let's take a closer look.

The Fiat 500e on test for Changing Lanes!
The Fiat 500e on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Fiat 500e?

There are two battery sizes available - 24kWh and 42kWh. Go for that Fiat 500e 24kWh and you have one of the cheapest electric cars on sale right now. It's priced from just €24,995 including grants and VRT relief. The catch? The range is just 190 kilometres (WLTP). It might work as a second car or if the car will stay in the city only.

The Fiat 500e 42kWh offers more flexibility with a projected range of up to 320 kilometres (WLTP) and is priced from €29,995.

This is one of the most stylish small electric cars on sale right now. It sits on a new platform. It's a bit longer, taller and wider...but still tiny, measuring less than four metres in length. That makes the 500e the ideal city car, zero tailpipe emissions too. It's easy to park and manoeuvre around tight city streets.

The car has also matured well in terms of design. There's no mistaking it's a 500 but it somehow has more presence and a cooler stance on the road.  At the front, there is a new split lighting design that adds character, while at the rear, there's a big bumper and new lights.

There are three trim levels - Action, Icon and La Prima - with wheel sizes varying from 15- to 17-inch depending on what model you go for. There's even a very striking Red special edition of the car that comes packed with equipment.

So a charismatic small car that also happens to be electric.

The Fiat 500e is available with two battery sizes
The Fiat 500e is available with two battery sizes

Inside the Fiat 500e

The Fiat 500e has a brand new interior that has been modernised in line with this car's new status as a battery electric vehicle. There's a new two-spoke steering wheel and digital instrument cluster for the driver displaying relevant information including the status of the battery.

On all but the entry model there is an impressive 10-inch touchscreen using Fiat's Uconnect system. It has lots of functionality and all versions get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The cabin is bright and airy thanks to large windows and windscreen.

There is quite a lot of exposed hard plastic in the cabin but that's mixed with some nicer materials like fabric trim in the dashboard panel and some lovely eco-leather seats in top of the range La Prima models. Some of the fabrics available across the range are made from recycled materials too.

This is a small car but up front it feels roomy for two people with some handy storage compartments. In the back it's a different story, but children should be fine. There's Isofix on the two seats in the rear but it's hardly a car you buy if you use the back of the car regularly as legroom and headroom are in short supply. There's also Isofix on the front passenger seat.

The boot is about standard for the city car class at 185 litres and is enough to carry a few bags.

The interior of the Fiat 500e La Prima
The interior of the Fiat 500e La Prima

Driving the 500 Electric

Versions with a 24kWh battery have 95hp, while versions with a 42kWh battery have 118hp. Yet there's not much between them in terms of real on the road performance and the Fiat 500e feels nippy and capable. In fact if you're used to driving a petrol 500, the electric version feels so much more responsive and smoother to drive.

The steering is light as you would expect from a city car and the Fiat 500 electric is fun to drive just by being a small car. It's not the most comfortable small car on the market and it does bounce around a bit over any bumps or imperfections in the road surface. It's not a dealbreaker if you like the car, but certainly frustrating over a long journey on a motorway for example. Yet this is a city car and that's where it's really at its best.

In real world driving, 270 kilometres is definitely possible on a full battery and driving at low speeds around town will prolong your range for longer. Fast charging is available up to 85kW getting you to 80% battery charge in about 35 minutes. While it takes just over six hours to charge the 500e to full from a standard 7.4kW wallbox at home.

There are also driving modes included - Normal, Range and Sherpa. The Range mode is like one pedal driving so you can control the car with just the accelerator. When you lift off the accelerator, the car will gradually bring itself to a stop. It makes city driving effortless.

The Sherpa mode is used to conserve your range when you find yourself trying to reach your destination on the last few kilometres of range. It turns off the air conditioning and reduces the top speed of the vehicle to 80km/h.

Fast charging is available for the 500e up to 85kW
Fast charging is available in the 500e up to 85kW

Did you like it?

The Fiat 500e is one of the most stylish small electric cars on sale right now. Fans of the petrol 500 will just love this electric version. It looks better and is even more enjoyable to drive now.

The interior has also had a great revamp and there are lots of nice trims available and cool digital features like the 10-inch touchscreen.

Like all these small electric cars, you will still pay more for one of these than the equivalent small petrol car. The 500 is certainly not the most practical small electric car on sale at the moment. Some others are bigger and nicer to drive too overall.

Yet, the Fiat 500 was always the car you bought because you wanted a small, trendy car to drive around town in. It still very much is, though not as cheap as before. Except now it's ready for the future too.

Model tested: Fiat 500e 42kWh La Prima
Price: 
€33,495
Battery:
42kWh
Range: 320km (WLTP)
Power: 118hp
Torque: 220Nm
Top speed: 150km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes

 


The Peugeot e-208 on test for Changing Lanes!

Peugeot e-208 Review

Read Caroline's Peugeot e-208 review for everything you need to know about Peugeot's electric supermini on sale in Ireland.

Peugeot is fast pursuing the electric dream with a slew of new hybrid and pure electric models. Many of the French brand's key models now offer some sort of electrified option - from the smallest 208 to the popular 3008 SUV and new Peugeot 308 hatchback and estate.

The Peugeot e-208 offers a pure electric drive in Peugeot's compact and stylish small hatchback. It goes up against other small EVs such as the Opel Corsa-e, Renault Zoe and Mini Electric.

But is it any good? In this review we're going to take a closer look to find out.

The Peugeot e-208 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Peugeot e-208 on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the Peugeot e-208?

The e-208 looks good from all the angles. Peugeot's latest models are some of the most stylish out there. The e-208 has a gorgeous design, making it one of the most desirable small electric cars.

There's sporty elegance to the e-208 with a compact stance and distinctive light signature front and rear. If you want a car with 'fangs' this is the one for you - check out those striking daytime running lights at the front. While Peugeot's trademark 'tri-claw' taillights complete the feline theme at the rear.

There are three trim levels available in Ireland - Active, Allure Pack and GT. The GT model on test is surely the sportiest of them all with 17" diamond cut alloy wheels, gloss black around the wheel arches, black roof and a chequered flag effect grille.

Electric badging is subtle - just a small 'e' on the C-pillar and tailgate, and a blue finish to the Peugeot lion on the front grille.

With pricing starting from €28,730 including all relevant grants and VRT relief, the Peugeot e-208 is also keenly priced among small electric cars. Granted it will cost more to buy than petrol and diesel versions of the 208.  And the glorious e-208 GT on test looks great and is packed full of equipment but will set you back €33,285.

The Peugeot e-208 is also one of the most fun to drive small electric cars, with a range of up to 362km measured by industry standards. Though in real world driving, 280km seems more realistic once factors such as the time of year and your driving style are taken into account. For example, certainly at low speeds around town you'll get farther on your battery charge.

The interior of the e-208
The interior of the e-208

Inside the e-208

The cabin of the Peugeot e-208 stands out for its quality, with an upmarket feel that can be hard to find in the very smallest electric cars. There's lots of gloss black accentuating the cabin's stylish design and the beautiful Peugeot i-Cockpit.

In the centre of the dash there is a 7" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though Allure Pack and GT models get a more impressive 10" touchscreen. The ventilation controls are in the screen, but the elegant piano key underneath offer a shortcut to switch between menus quickly. Standard equipment includes automatic air conditioning, push button start and cruise control.

The e-208 is a small car so rear legroom is limited, though it's not impossible to carry adults. With the position of the battery in the e-208, Peugeot has managed to keep interior space and boot space the same as petrol and diesel 208s. The boot is compact too at 311 litres, but you can let the rear seats down for carrying larger items.

Driving the e-208

The e-208 is good fun to drive with agile handling and light steering. The 136hp motor in the e-208 provides enough power and the car moves effortlessly from town to rural roads to motorways.

On short journeys and in town driving the e-208 really shines, with the range of the car offering plenty of comfort between charging. The range diminishes more rapidly in high-speed motorway driving, but with a stop planned for charging, it's still a decent enough performance for the e-208.

And when it comes to charging, the e-208's 50kWh battery is pretty swift at adding the kilometres. With a 7kW wallbox installed at home it will take about 7.5 hours to charge the e-208 to full. Rapid DC charging is also possible using the standard CCS adaptor. Charging at the maximum 100kW, the e-208 can be 80% charged in 30 minutes.

The Peugeot e-208 is one of the best small electric cars
The Peugeot e-208 is one of the best small electric cars

Did you like it?

Electric suits the 208 very well. The Peugeot e-208 is super stylish, with a beautiful interior that feels more upmarket than much of the competition.

The e-208's 50kWh battery offers decent performance, particularly in the town and city environs where these small cars really feel at home. You couldn't find a better companion for city life.

I still think the Peugeot e-208 makes a great introduction to electric motoring. Like competitors, it is more expensive than an equivalent petrol or diesel car but there are many benefits to switching to electric at this time.  The e-208 is a very likeable small car that just happens to be electric too.

Model tested: Peugeot e-208 GT
Price: 
€33,285
Battery:
50 kWh
Range: 362km (WLTP)
Power: 136 hp
Torque:  260 Nm
Top speed:  150 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.1 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year

The Peugeot e-208 is on sale now from €28,730
The Peugeot e-208 is on sale now from €28,730

____________________________

Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes


The Suzuki Swift Hybrid is on sale now

Suzuki Swift Hybrid Review (2022)

Read Caroline's Suzuki Swift review for everything you need to know about buying Suzuki's classic supermini in Ireland in 2022.

The Suzuki Swift is a perennial of the supermini class. It's been around for years, offering a simple and efficient way of getting around. With some considerable style.

And it's not even trying to be a crossover or SUV, leaving that remit to the likes of the Suzuki Vitara, Ignis and S-Cross.

Now in its third generation, the Swift has been updated with revised front-end styling, more standard equipment, and even further emphasis on safety equipment levels across the range.

All models are now also fitted with Suzuki’s enhanced 12V Hybrid system for improved efficiency.

It goes on sale in Ireland from €17,775, making it now one of Ireland's most affordable small cars.

The Suzuki Swift Hybrid is on sale now
The Suzuki Swift Hybrid is on sale now

What's new for the Suzuki Swift?

Not much has changed in terms of design. The Swift still looks great, with a squat and sporty look to it. While most of the rivals appear to be getting bigger, the Swift is not trying to masquerade as anything other than a small car.

The front grille and headlamps have been gently restyled for the latest version. There's also a new colour - Flame Orange Pearl Metallic - which can be combined with a Super Black roof on SZ-T and SZ5 models. All models now have LED headlamps and rear combination lamps as standard equipment.

Suzuki expects the new high specification SZ-L grade to become the volume selling model for the Swift range. That's good news; it's the entry into the range at €17,775.

For that you get Radar Brake Support (automated emergency braking), Adaptive Cruise Control, LED headlights, air conditioning, DAB radio, privacy glass, 16-inch polished alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone link fitted as standard. Under the bonnet there's a 1.2-litre petrol engine, matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox.

There's also the SZ-T from €19,180, and the SZ5 from €21,320.

The new Swift goes on sale from €17,775
The new Swift goes on sale from €17,775

Inside the latest Swift

Inside, the Swift has a straightforward interior that hasn't changed much over the years. For this reason it is starting to look a little old-fashioned in its design.

But all the key equipment is here, including a touchscreen that connects easily to smartphones, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There's lots of hard plastic but it's a solidly built car interior, still with robust Suzuki character.

The car feels roomier inside than what you might expect in the front and the rear. By lowering the seat positions in the original, the Suzuki Swift has a surprising amount of headroom.

Rear legroom is also good for a compact car, though two will be more comfortable than three.

While the cabin is roomier than what you might expect from the Swift's compact stance, the boot is not. It's on the small side at 265 litres, though still practical in everyday use.

The cabin of the 2022 Suzuki Swift
The cabin of the 2022 Suzuki Swift

Is the Suzuki Swift Hybrid good?

Suzuki first introduced its 1.2-litre Dualjet technology (K12C) in 2014. Initially in the Swift, and then in the Baleno and Ignis.

This engine is now replaced by the new K12D Dualjet unit which offers greater fuel economy and even lower CO2 emissions.

The maximum power output for this engine is 83 hp with a torque figure of 107 Nm at 2,800 rpm. The engine has a new dual injection system for more responsiveness and more fuel efficiency.

The self-charging hybrid system is powered by a new lithium-ion battery with capacity upgraded from 3Ah to 10Ah to improve energy recovery efficiency. The upgraded 12V Hybrid system incorporates an Integrated Starter Generator (known as ISG), which acts as both a generator and starter motor. The ISG is belt driven and assists the engine during vehicle take off and acceleration and also generates electricity through regenerative braking.

The Swift is built on a platform that is light and highly rigid. In fact, this car weighs just 911 kg in front wheel drive manual versions, contributing to lower fuel consumption.

The Suzuki Swift Hybrid uses a 1.2-litre petrol engine
The Suzuki Swift Hybrid uses a 1.2-litre petrol engine

Did you like it?

In combination with the latest K12D 1.2-litre Dualjet Hybrid four-cylinder engine, the Swift is one of the most efficient small cars on the road.  Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was just 5.3 litres per 100 km, with plenty of high speed motorway driving included.

Performance is fine, with the Swift feeling nippier than what the 83 hp might suggest. It's ideal in urban environments, and the five speed manual makes it fun to drive, though revs run high in motorway driving. The Swift rides the road well and is comfortable by small car standards too. A new CVT automatic gearbox is also available on SZ-T and SZ5 models.

The Suzuki Swift is one of Ireland's most affordable small cars. It offers a simple and straightforward package, with a genuinely efficient petrol engine that is still responsive and fun to drive. Swift offers value for money as well as high levels of standard equipment.

In a world where cars are getting increasingly complex, the Swift stays refreshingly simple.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Suzuki Swift 1.2 Dualjet Hybrid SZL
Price:
€17,775
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Power: 
83 hp
Torque: 107 Nm
0-100km/h:
13.1 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
106 g/km
Motor tax: 
€180 per year


The MINI Electric on test for Changing Lanes

MINI Electric Review (2022)

Read Caroline's MINI Electric review for everything you need to know about buying the electric MINI in Ireland in 2022.

Even icons like the MINI must face an electric future. The challenge for MINI? To create a fun to drive, all-electric version of the famous hatchback that dilutes nothing of the famed MINI driving character.

We recently reviewed the MINI Hatch for Changing Lanes with a petrol engine providing the power.

Now it's the turn of the MINI Electric. It's the brand’s first battery electric vehicle based on the iconic three door hatchback and goes on sale from €35,715. But with VRT rebate reducing the purchase price, and a further SEAI government supported grant of €5,000 available, the MINI Electric range is competitive.

The MINI Electric on test for Changing Lanes
The MINI Electric on test for Changing Lanes

What's so special about the MINI Electric?

For this new era of electrification, the electric MINI gets a 32.6 kWh battery with an electric range of 235-270 km measured by WLTP industry standards. It's not the best on the market in range for a small electric car, but MINI has a plan.

At a weight of 1,365 kg, this one is just 145 kg heavier than the current MINI Cooper S Hatch with automatic transmission. New suspension technology designed for the electric MINI helps retain and enhance the brand's famed fun driving dynamics.

With a centre of gravity that is at least 30 millimetres lower than in the MINI Cooper S and the reduced weight over the front wheels thanks to the electric motor, the MINI Electric's weight distribution promises a fun to drive small electric car. There's also an innovative Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system on board, which improves traction as you set-off and stability in brake energy recovery mode, as well as when accelerating out of tight bends.

MINI has retained the classic shape and character of the iconic hatchback for this all-electric version. So MINI Electric is everything we love about MINI, with a sporty, fun look and eye-popping colour splashes of Energetic Yellow on the front grille and wing mirrors.

There's also an embossed electric logo on the car’s side scuttles, as well as on the tailgate and front radiator grille. The front grille features the hallmark hexagonal shape but is closed, as the car requires less cooling. There are also some quirky wheel covers available that resemble a three point plug.

The electric MINI goes on sale in Ireland from €35,715
The electric MINI goes on sale in Ireland from €35,715

What's it like inside?

Inside the cabin is once again reassuringly classic MINI. Quality is excellent. There's a boutique feel to the cabin. The large central binnacle houses the infotainment, and is compatible with smartphones via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There's a new digital dashboard with a 5.5-inch colour screen behind the steering wheel, with information on available range and charge level of the battery relayed to the driver. Standard equipment on Level 1 models (from €28,215 on the road) includes sports seats, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, Connected Navigation including Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI), and LED lights front and rear.

Level 2 includes a cloth/leather-look upholstery, additional exterior body colour and wheel options, as well as rear Park Distance Control (PDC), rear parking camera, heated front seats, and Driving Assistance Pack.

Level 3 includes front PDC, Park Assist, Harmon Kardon sound system, head-up display, panoramic sunroof, matrix LEDs and an 8.8” infotainment touch screen. Wireless phone charging is also included, as is leather upholstery, a choice of five alloy wheels and six exterior body colours.

The MINI is super stylish but this is a small car and not the most practical on the market. It's fine up front but rear seating is limited, with not much legroom available. The boot is also small at just 211 litres, but there is no compromise between petrol versions and electric versions. They all get the same interior and boot space. At least it expands to 731 litres when the rear backrests are folded down. Which split fold 60:40 by the way!

The interior of the new MINI Electric
The interior of the new MINI Electric

Driving the MINI Electric

The MINI Electric sacrifices little of the car's bewitching fun to drive character in the pursuit of zero tailpipe emissions. For MINI fans, this electrified model is a dream come true. It may be carrying a battery on board but it still feels light and agile on the road. It's naturally engaging to drive with a swift delivery of power to the road. The electric motor provides 184 hp and 270 Nm of torque. Acceleration is a brisk 7.3 seconds from 0 to 100km/h. The motor is the latest, powerful version of the synchronous electric motor developed by the BMW Group.

The car offers as standard four MINI Driving Modes. SPORT mode has more direct steering and a more rapid power delivery. The MID setting has less aggressive steering, while GREEN mode features more gentle accelerator response. In GREEN+ mode, some comfort functions such as air conditioning are limited or deactivated to save further power and increase range.

You can also select the intensity of power regeneration, which recharges the battery when the driver lifts off the accelerator, preserving energy, and acts as a braking force.

The car comes with both home and public charging cables as standard, designed for AC and DC charging using Type 2 and CCS Combo 2 plugs. 50 kW DC fast charging is available, giving 80% charge in about 36 minutes. The new MINI can get a full charge at home in 4 hours and 20 minutes using 7.4 kW AC charging.

50 kWh DC fast charging is available
50 kWh DC fast charging is available

Did you like it?

Like all MINIs, the MINI Electric is a hoot to drive, sacrificing none of its fun to drive character for battery power.

The downside for the electric MINI is range. Less than 200 km in real world driving just doesn't give enough wiggle room on longer journeys.

In fairness the MINI is a real city car anyway, and a very trendy one at that. So as a second car confined to driving around town it could work very well. It's a more exclusive small car, and it is priced pretty well for a small electric car of this standard that is far nicer to drive than the competition.

This is a premium small car, undeniably stylish and desirable. A status symbol now electrified. MINI Electric makes a successful debut, though battery range will limit its appeal.

MINI Electric is super stylish and fun to drive electric small car
MINI Electric is super stylish and fun to drive electric small car

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: MINI Electric Level 2
Price:
€30,503 (including SEAI grant and VRT relief)
Battery: 32.6 kWh
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 270 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.3 seconds
Top speed: 150 km/h
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


The new Toyota Yaris Premier on test for Changing Lanes!

Toyota Yaris Hybrid Review (2022)

 Thinking of buying a new Toyota Yaris in 2022? Read Caroline's Toyota Yaris Hybrid review for everything you need to know about Toyota's small hatchback.

The Toyota Yaris is one of Ireland's most loved small cars. It's been around for over 20 years and is a consistent top 10 bestselling car in Ireland. In 2020 Toyota launched an all-new generation of the popular Yaris and it was quick to snatch the award of European Car of the Year 2021.

In 20 years, the Yaris has become Toyota’s most important model in Europe, steadily increasing both its sales volume and its market share.

The new Toyota Yaris Premier on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Toyota Yaris Premier on test for Changing Lanes!

What's so special about the new Toyota Yaris?

There's something major happening at Toyota in recent years. It's called TNGA or Toyota New Global Architecture. If you thought Toyotas were boring cars, you need to drive their new generation vehicles.

The new Yaris is the first small Toyota to be built on Toyota New Global Architecture. The GA-B platform is central to the car’s improved dynamic performance, giving a lower centre of gravity and much greater body rigidity. A range of Toyota Safety Sense active safety systems come as standard, including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as Lane Trace Assist and Emergency Steering Assist.

The Yaris Hybrid is more powerful and efficient than before
The Yaris Hybrid is more powerful and efficient than before

The latest Yaris is also a much cooler looking car than the model it replaces. It's a far more energetic and dynamic design. A bi tone roof is available with alloy wheel sizes up to 17" and new LED light technology.

Inside the Yaris

Toyota has transformed the interior of the latest generation Yaris. Quality and design have taken a real step up in line with this car's cooler and more youthful image.

The interior has a more open and spacious feel when compared to the outgoing model. The driving position is better, sportier.

There are more soft touch materials and cool ambient lighting available on some models. There are 7" and 8" touchscreens available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The steering wheel is smaller and sportier. New auxiliary buttons have a greater tactile quality.

The new GA-B platform allowed for a reduction in the car’s overall length, making it the most compact model in its class, but with an increase in its wheelbase for more space and comfort for everyone on board. The new Yaris has more space and elbow room - an extra 20 mm between the driver and front passenger. The boot is nowhere near class-leading but it has some depth and offers an adequate 286 litres of space.

Inside the 2020 Toyota Yaris
The interior of the new Toyota Yaris

In Ireland the Toyota Yaris is available in five trim levels –  Aura, Luna, Luna Sport, Platinum and Premier. The 2022 Toyota Yaris range kicks off in Ireland with a 1.0-litre petrol with 72 hp, while there is also a 1.5-litre petrol manual and a 1.5-litre hybrid auto.

Pricing starts at €20,140 for the Yaris Aura petrol, while the Toyota Yaris Hybrid pricing starts from €23,990 in Luna trim.

How economical is the Toyota Yaris Hybrid?

The new Toyota Yaris uses the latest, fourth-generation Toyota hybrid technology. New components have been engineered to be compact, lightweight and efficient. The focus in the development of this car was not just to make it more efficient, but to also make the car more enjoyable to drive.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid now offers EV driving for longer periods in urban traffic. CO2 emissions have dropped, while it's more efficient than before too. Under the bonnet there's a 1.5-litre petrol electric hybrid powertrain to improve efficiency by 20% and put out even more power at 116 hp. It's quicker and more responsive to the throttle.

Behind the wheel, the new driving position gives you a greater sense of control and connection with the car, supporting the fun-to-drive character of the new Yaris. The car feels more agile and engaging at the wheel. The steering is quicker and more direct. The hybrid delivers the power in a smoother, quieter and more refined way than the previous generation of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid.

While built for efficiency, the Yaris Hybrid feels natural on the road, like any petrol driven small car. A revised suspension set-up means it covers the tarmac better, with a softer and smoother ride. In town driving it can run up to 80% of the time on electric power, with the engine only cutting in when needed. So in urban environments it helps your eco-credentials, while sipping at the fuel.

Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.5 litres per 100 km, with some long distance motorway runs included. So this is a good return on fuel economy for a small car.

The new Yaris is a radically improved car
The new Yaris is a radically improved car

Did you like it?

The new Toyota Yaris is far more desirable than the car it replaces. It has truly blossomed as a small car on the new TNGA platform. It looks great and even quite sporty in higher trim levels like the top of the range Premier model on test for Changing Lanes.

Already an award winner, the new Yaris has been suitably revamped inside and now feels a lot more competitive in its segment with the latest technology and digital features.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid has also been greatly improved. It's much more refined now on the road to drive. The car is more fun to drive than it was before. It's comfortable by small car standards too. It is more expensive to buy than the petrol models in the range, but the car has power and feels good on the road.

Toyota has just welcomed the new Toyota Yaris Cross to Ireland, an SUV spin off of the Yaris sharing much of the same DNA but in more of a crossover style.

The Yaris picks up the baton as a small simple efficient hatchback, with good value and choice available in the range.

It's a classic and reliable choice of small car but the Yaris now feels truly competitive in its class of vehicle and one you can pick with your heart too.

A transformation for one of Ireland's favourite cars.

The Yaris Hybrid is available from €23,990
The Yaris Hybrid is available from €23,990 in Ireland

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Yaris Hybrid Premier
Price:
€27,680
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
116 hp
0-100km/h: 
9.7 seconds
Top speed:  175 km/h
CO2 emissions: 
88 g/km
Motor tax:
€160 per year


The new Hyundai Bayon!

Hyundai Bayon Review (2022)

The new Hyundai Bayon!
The new Hyundai Bayon!

Hyundai broadens the appeal of the brand's small car line-up with the arrival of the new Hyundai Bayon in 2021.

It has been designed for Europe and has been given a European name to reflect that – Bayon is inspired by ‘Bayonne’, the capital of the French Basque Country. With on-trend crossover styling, it is now the most compact of Hyundai’s SUV family – joining the popular Kona, Tucson and Santa Fe.

Responding to trends in the market for crossover-style vehicles, the brand launched the Kona compact crossover in Ireland back in 2017 and it has been a great success with electric, hybrid and petrol variants, starting from €24,395. Hyundai now has a young range of compact cars with the new Hyundai i10 and Hyundai i20 on sale here since just 2020.

Where does the Bayon sit in the Hyundai range?

The Bayon now slips in to the Hyundai range just below the Kona, offering a more crossover-inspired design to traditional small cars like the i10 and the i20, with an attractive entry price of €20,795.

New Bayon on sale in Ireland from €20,795
New Bayon on sale in Ireland from €20,795

Though based on the i20 supermini, the Bayon looks like a more substantial car in the metal with a slightly raised ride height and some characteristic new generation Hyundai design cues like slim headlights and arrow-shaped lights at the rear. It's longer and higher than an i20 with roof rails giving the required injection of attitude for the urban crossover.

Keeping things simple is the order of the day with just petrol power for the new Bayon -  a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol manual or a 1.0-litre automatic. There are two trim levels - Comfort Plus and Executive - with a two tone roof option available for Executive models.

Inside the Hyundai Bayon

Inside the Bayon has a simple cabin design that's easy to navigate. There is lots of hard plastic but at this price that goes with the territory and it feels solid and well made throughout. Simple and functional, drivers will enjoy a slightly elevated ride height behind the wheel.

The instrument cluster is fully digital (10.25") while Executive models (from €22,795) come with an 8" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The interior of the new Bayon
The interior of the new Bayon

The interior of the new Bayon has been designed to be clean, roomy, and well-lit with ambient lighting available as standard on Executive models. This is a small car but there is a good use of space inside the vehicle with rear legroom and headroom decent for a compact. There has been a focus on maximising front and rear passenger comfort and increasing boot space, with 411 litres available, excellent for a car of this size.

Standard equipment includes roof rails, air con and Bluetooth, while the Executive model adds 16″ alloys, heated from seats, automatic air con, 8″ touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger and digital instrument panel.

In Ireland, the new Bayon launched with a 1.2-litre petrol engine with 84 hp and a 5-speed manual gearbox. Motor tax is €200 per year for the Bayon 1.2 manual. The 1.0-litre automatic joins the range in time for January 2022. Motor tax is €210 per year for the Bayon 1.0 automatic.

The Bayon is the smallest crossover in Hyundai's range
The Bayon is the smallest crossover in Hyundai's range

Driving the Bayon

On the road the Bayon feels light and easy to drive. It provides comfort for passengers over a variety of roads and road surfaces.

The 1.2-litre engine is a simple naturally aspirated affair with 84 hp, while 0 to 100 km/h is 13.5 seconds. This makes it ideal for driving around town where it is smooth and free-revving.

The Bayon feels less at home out on larger roads where the revs run high at cruising speeds on the motorway. It is a four cylinder engine so the refinement is good inside the vehicle with not too much intrusive engine noise. It is a cheap car to run. My fuel consumption averaged at about 5.3 litres per 100 km during my time with the car.

Rear seating in the Hyundai Bayon
Rear seating in the Hyundai Bayon

Did you like it?

Hyundai has had a busy year with a number of new product launches including a facelifted Hyundai Kona, new Tucson and Santa Fe. There was also the arrival of the all-electric IONIQ 5.

New Bayon strengthens the compact portfolio while meeting consumer demand for more crossover-inspired vehicles.

The Bayon surprises with its practicality and comfort. It is a simple and straightforward motoring experience in these days where everything seems to be either hybrid or electric.

While those needs are catered for elsewhere in the Hyundai range, the Bayon offers a practical and comfortable small car at just over €20,000. Executive models offer the full digital experience, with even wireless smartphone charging included.

Cheap to run, Bayon is an ideal city car with a little more crossover style!

The Bayon is an ideal city car with a little crossover style
The Bayon is an ideal city car with a little crossover style

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Hyundai Bayon Executive
Price: 
€22,795
Engine: 
1.2-litre petrol
Power:  84 hp
Torque: 118 Nm
Top speed: 165 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 13.5 seconds
CO2 emissions:
 128 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€200 per year


The 2021 MINI Cooper Sport on test for Changing Lanes!

MINI Hatch Review (2022)

The 2021 MINI Cooper Sport on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2021 MINI Cooper Sport on test for Changing Lanes!

Read Caroline's MINI Hatch review for everything you need to know about the MINI range in Ireland in 2022.

The iconic MINI Hatch - reinvented at the turn of the century under the steer of BMW Group - needs little introduction. Styling cues have stayed fresh and relevant over the years with just the slightest tweaks. The friendly round headlights say it all. 20 years old this year.

But is this MINI still relevant in today's market where it's all about how electrified you are?

MINI of course is not immune to market trends and in 2020, the brand launched the all-new MINI Electric in Ireland.

What's new for the MINI Hatch in 2021?

But MINI will still plant a petrol engine in this beauty and in 2021 the MINI Hatch got a comprehensive range of updates, along with the MINI Convertible and five door hatchback variants. It's the MINI, just swankier with a few more embellishments and options.

The MINI Hatch on review for Changing Lanes presents itself in Island Blue with three doors and a new multitone roof with an enthralling colour gradient from San Marino Blue through Pearly Acqua to Jet Black, created with a new painting technique. It's simply wild!

The MINI Hatch has been updated for this model year
The MINI Hatch has been updated for this model year

The MINI Hatch is cool. No doubt about it. After all these years, there's still no car that drips with attitude quite like it. Our MINI Hatch Cooper Sport on test rolls in at €27,903 with a small but funky 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine under the bonnet.

MINI has tweaked the front end with a larger radiator grille with black, hexagonal surround, flanked by hallmark round MINI headlights. The position lights have been replaced by vertical air inlets and the central bumper strip is now in body colour. The wheel arches have new contours and the side indicators have been redesigned to feature LED technology. At the back, the fog light is now integrated into the rear apron as a narrow LED unit. The John Cooper Works pack comes as standard on the Sport model and adds extra badging and more visual chutzpah.

What's it like inside?

Inside it's classic MINI too. No one else in the motor industry does car interiors quite like MINI. It's dark and cool with the central binnacle standing the test of time, now digital with an 8.8-inch colour touchscreen display and Piano Black high-gloss surface as standard. A newly-designed sports leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons is now standard, as is the digital display behind the steering wheel.

This car is oh so cool but it's not hot on rear legroom or even boot space. Carrying rear passengers is the MINI's least favourite thing to do. It's tight back there with just two seats. Some other small cars do boot space better too with the Hatch only managing 211 litres.

Inside the 2021 MINI Hatch
Inside the 2021 MINI Hatch

Driving the MINI Hatch

Behind the wheel, John Cooper Works sports sear bolster you perfectly in the MINI Hatch Cooper Sport. After driving this car we can confirm that the MINI Hatch petrol is most certainly relevant because fun never goes out of fashion.

This is probably the most fun small car you can buy. After all these years, it's still got it. The controls have a bit of weight to them, enhancing the sporty feeling behind the wheel. The MINI buries itself in corners with such enthusiasm, backed up by fabulous grip and precision. The MINI is a car you drive and it loves corners.

The six-speed gearbox is wonderfully notchy, the steering tight and sporty. There are few cars that feel this lively on the road any more, certainly in this price range. Refinement is as good as it should be for a car of this type, yet there’s a natural firmness to the suspension that adds to the atmosphere behind the wheel.

In the Cooper Sport, the 1.5-litre engine is a three cylinder affair with just 136 hp. But it feels lively and engaging and will suit most buyer's needs for power and performance. The 6-speed manual gearbox comes as standard but there is an automatic gearbox available too. The Cooper S models pack a more powerful 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol under the bonnet.

The classic silhouette of the MINI Hatch that never goes out of fashion
The classic silhouette of the MINI Hatch that never goes out of fashion

Did you like it?

The MINI Hatch is still one of the most desirable small cars on the market right now. It never goes out of fashion, even these days. It's not cheap and certainly carries a premium for its style and prestige. But driving it is a reminder why.

Delightfully sporty and fun on the road, this car is all about the joy of driving. Granted it's not the most practical small car on the market either.

Inside the MINI feels just as sporty with a unique interior perfectly 'digitised' for the times we live. MINI remains an icon of premium compact cars.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: MINI 3-Door Hatch Cooper Sport
Price: 
€27,903
Engine: 
1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power:  136 hp
Torque: 220 Nm
Top speed: 210 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
129 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€200 per year

MINI Hatch Cooper Sport is a cut above the rest in the small car market
MINI Hatch Cooper Sport is a cut above the rest in the small car market

The new Dacia Sandero Stepway on test for Changing Lanes!

Dacia Sandero Stepway Review (2022)

The new Dacia Sandero Stepway on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Dacia Sandero Stepway on test for Changing Lanes!

Read Caroline's Dacia Sandero Stepway review for everything you need to know about buying the budget small car in Ireland in 2022. Recently crowned Continental Tyres Irish Compact Car of the Year.

In 2021 the new Dacia Sandero and Dacia Sandero Stepway arrived in Ireland. It's the crossover-inspired Sandero Stepway that's the subject of this review!

With pricing starting from €12,990 for the Sandero and from €15,990 for the Sandero Stepway, these twins remain truly affordable in today's new car market.

With a new platform, there are now more features for the Sandero including new engines including a Bi-Fuel LPG option, a new automatic transmission and new six-speed manual.

The Dacia Sandero Stepway is the more adventurous of this duo with standard features including a raised ride height, roof rails, skid plate and lashings of plastic cladding - mandatory for any hatchback masquerading as an SUV!

What's so special about the Dacia Sandero Stepway?

In truth we love the look of this new Sandero Stepway. Especially in a bright hue like the Desert Orange of the test car. The raised ride height gives it more visual presence whether on the road or in the car park. It has a sort of plucky, robust charm that belies its budget beginnings. In fact the Stepway is already Ireland’s favourite version of the Sandero. It represents over 60 per cent of all sales of the model in Ireland.

Exterior dimensions are similar to the previous generation of the car. But there is a wider track and more pronounced wheel arches, a lower roof, sloped windscreen and smoother lines throughout. All versions feature LED lighting with a new Y-shaped LED signature at the front. And LED-effect four-element lighting signature at the rear. How glam!

The Dacia Sandero Stepway goes on sale priced from €15,990 in Ireland
The Dacia Sandero Stepway goes on sale priced from €15,990 in Ireland

What are my options?

In Ireland the Sandero Stepway is offered in three trim levels - Essential (from €15,990), Comfort (from €17,790) and Prestige (from €19,290).

All models feature automatic headlamps with improved visibility from the LED light units. Other features include emergency brake assist, hill start assist, blind spot warning and park assist.

Standard equipment includes cruise control, manual air con, DAB radio with steering wheel-mounted controls, display integrated into the dashboard computer screen, smartphone holder on the dashboard, 2 front speakers and Bluetooth® connection. While the Prestige model on test had soft feel steering wheel, front fog lamps, power mirrors, keyless entry, automatic wipers, 8″ touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera, automatic air con and 16" diamond effect alloy wheels.

Engine options include a 1.0-litre TCe petrol with 90 hp and a CVT automatic gearbox. Or a 1.0-litre TCe BiFuel version (100 hp) with a petrol and LPG tank for even better value when it comes to running the car.

The interior of the new Dacia Sandero Stepway
The interior of the new Dacia Sandero Stepway

Inside the 2021 Dacia Sandero Stepway!

It's all looking good so far. The interior has also improved in design and quality. The new generation Sandero interior looks a lot more modern with an 8" glossy touchscreen on all but the very entry model. It's compatible with smartphones, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Quality has been improved so Sandero is looking like an even better prospect. Hard plastics feature copiously. But the addition of unique orange detailing on the air vents and orange stitching on the upholstery in the Stepway model brightens the interior. There are also some stylish fabric inserts on the dashboard. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake.

The cabin of the Sandero Stepway feels spacious for a compact vehicle. There’s an extra 42 mm of legroom in the rear. It is one of the most spacious cars in its class. The boot is perfect supermini size too! It has increased to 328 litres. Passengers also have more space to put their belongings, with up to 21 litres of storage space dotted throughout the cabin.

The Sandero Stepway has crossover-inspired styling upgrades
The Sandero Stepway has crossover-inspired styling for a more adventurous look!

What's it like to drive?

The latest Dacia Sandero Stepway sits on a new platform. It has been designed to deliver better handling, greater steering precision, more efficient engines and improved refinement over the previous model. The CMF modular platform underpinning this car combines greater resistance and rigidity with less weight. Sandero and Stepway models are fitted with a new front axle with rectangular suspension arms. They provide more effective shock absorption and enhanced steering.

Anti-roll capacity has been improved and the wheelbase extended for greater cornering stability. The track is 29mm wider on Stepway to improve handling and behaviour on the road. The new engine mount has been improved with a lighter and stiffer cradle to minimise vibrations in the cabin too.

Here’s where the Dacia Sandero Stepway gets really interesting! New engines including a three cylinder 1.0-litre TCe Bi-Fuel petrol engine with an LPG tank. It's matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox.

Dacia is the only car manufacturer to offer LPG and petrol Bi-Fuel options across its entire range of passenger cars. The cars are converted in the factory, guaranteeing safety and reliability. The LPG tank is located in the spare wheel well and filling nozzle next to the petrol filler. LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is sold cheaper at the pump than petrol from some fuel stations around Ireland. The Sandero has 50 litres for petrol and 40 litres for the LPG tank.

The Dacia Sandero Stepway - surprise hit of the year
The Dacia Sandero Stepway - surprise hit of the year

Did you like it?

On the road the Dacia Sandero Stepway feels nippy and agile. It is softly sprung offering a very comfortable driving experience for a small car. It holds the road pretty well too. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.3 litres per 100 km.

The step up in quality and design is much welcome in the Sandero stable. The Stepway is a car that you won't just buy because of the sticker price; it looks really good too with very on-trend crossover-inspired styling cues.

Sandero and Stepway already have a loyal following of fans in Ireland who will be delighted with this new model.

The Dacia Sandero BiFuel is user-friendly despite the name and offers customers a petrol car with a good show of power and the benefit of an LPG tank. If you can top up with LPG locally this is surely a route to more efficient motoring, which should go down very well with savvy Dacia owners!

The Dacia Sandero Stepway is a charming city car with big attitude. It offers incredible value while improved design, refinement and interior quality and technology give it a much-needed boost of modernity. A surprise hit of the year.

Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway on sale now!
Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway on sale now!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Dacia Sandero Stepway BiFuel
Price: 
€19,290
Engine:
1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power:  100 hp
Torque: 160 Nm petrol/ 170 Nm LPG
Top speed:  175 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 11.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
130 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€270 per year


The MINI Convertible on test for Changing Lanes!

MINI Convertible Cooper Sport Review

The MINI Convertible on test for Changing Lanes!
The MINI Convertible on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 MINI Convertible!

Ireland’s heatwave of summer 2021 broke just as I was handed the keys to the Zesty Yellow MINI Convertible. It was probably a good thing, saving me the effort of applying sunscreen. In fact, the overcast skies proved a good match to convertible driving, a slight breeze adding even more atmosphere to what turned out to be an unexpected motoring highlight of the year.

MINI make good cars. I had forgotten just how good. Getting into the MINI Convertible is like discovering a part of you that disappeared when life got serious. It took ten years off me at least. The sheer fun of changing gears, the sporty steering, trendy cabin, and cool, classic good looks that have endeared the 21st century MINI to millions for now over two decades.

Reviving the MINI was a very good decision. Creating a fun and playful car that adults can enjoy whether you’re 25 or 85.

Priced from €34,424 for the day-glo MINI Convertible Cooper Sport on test, it's an expensive small car but actually seems like a bit of a bargain relative to the fun behind the wheel. Let me explain.

The MINI Convertible in Zesty Yellow

The MINI Convertible in Zesty Yellow

What's new for the MINI Convertible in 2021?

The revamp for the MINI Convertible in 2021 includes fresh new design and technology updates.

The front-view is dominated by a larger radiator grille and its black, hexagonal surround, and the hallmark round MINI headlights. The position lights have been replaced by vertical air inlets to optimise aerodynamics and the central bumper strip is now in body colour, rather than black. The wheel arch has new contours, the side indicators have been redesigned to feature LED technology and at the back of the car, the fog light is now integrated into the rear apron as a narrow LED unit. At the rear, LED lights in the Union Jack design are now standard for this market too. Zesty Yellow is an exclusive new colour option for the MINI Convertible.

Sport models like the one on test now offer Intelligent Adaptive Suspension as standard, Piano Black Exterior, additional John Cooper Works badging and Dinamica Leather upholstery. Rear Park Distance Control is also included as standard.

As part of the Piano Black Exterior option, the door handles, side scuttles, fuel cap, MINI logo on the bonnet and luggage compartment lid and model lettering and tailpipes of the exhaust system are now finished in high-gloss black, in addition to the surrounds of the headlights, radiator grille and rear lights.

The interior of the MINI Convertible
The interior of the MINI Convertible

Driving it!

Powered by a 1.5-litre three cylinder engine putting out 136 hp, this MINI Convertible will move you with great intent, with 0 – 100 kmh in 8.8 seconds. Driving the MINI is an experience, the famed go-kart handling a real thing, not a myth. This car is fun and tactile to drive. You must wrestle it a bit, pull a gear here and there, fling it in and out of the corners, with all the enthusiasm of a terrier after its favourite toy down the back of the sofa.

The six-speed gearbox is wonderfully notchy, the steering tight and sporty. There are few cars that feel this lively on the road any more, certainly in this price range. Refinement is as good as it should be for a car of this type, yet there’s a natural firmness to the suspension that adds to the atmosphere behind the wheel.

Is it practical? Well, it will happily fit you and your passenger up front but rear seating is not a strong point. If you regularly carry rear passengers, it’s going to be uncomfortable for them. The boot lid opens niftily, and will stow away a few things, but again awkward to access. But hell, it’s a convertible MINI! The fully electric roof also opens and closes in just 18 seconds. And that’s how long it takes for the real fun to begin!

The impossibly fun and glam MINI Convertible!
The fun and glam MINI Convertible Cooper Sport is powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 136 hp

Inside the 2021 MINI Convertible

The interior is classic MINI – a vibe all its own – one of shiny gloss black, retro switches and that large circular binnacle still doing its job after all these years, just modernised enough for the digital era.

An 8.8-inch colour touchscreen display and Piano Black high-gloss surface are now standard and the audio control unit and function buttons for hazard warning lights and driver assistance systems are integrated more harmoniously into the circular control unit. Chrome elements have been significantly reduced throughout the interior with the two outer air outlets framed by black panels. The internal air vents have been completely redesigned and are now embedded to be flush with the interior surface. There’s also a newly-designed sports leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons. The digital display behind the steering is now standard.

Did you like it?

Yes, yes and yes! The MINI Convertible is flirty and superfluous on the surface. But then spend some real time with it. Find a deserted mountain road, let the roof down and enjoy some good, old fashioned motoring.

This car is an absolute hoot to drive even with the rather basic 136 hp 1.5-litre engine of our test car. It’s about the way you drive the car, the tactile nature of it, something that is gradually becoming rarer in modern cars.

Getting inside is like steeping into a nightclub – all shiny black surfaces and funky lighting. But it’s fun and mischievous, just like the car.

I’d choose the MINI again and again and again.

Behind the wheel of the new MINI Convertible!
Behind the wheel of the new MINI Convertible!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: MINI Convertible Cooper Sport
Price: 
€34,424
Engine: 
1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 136 hp
Torque: 220 Nm
Top speed: 208 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
118 - 123 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€200 per year


The 2021 Dacia Sandero has arrived in Ireland!

Dacia Sandero (2021) First Drive Review

The 2021 Dacia Sandero has arrived in Ireland!
The 2021 Dacia Sandero has arrived in Ireland!

Dacia Ireland has launched a new version of the Dacia Sandero supermini here, with pricing starting from a 'shockingly affordable' €12,990. The latest Sandero and Sandero Stepway sport an all-new design with updated equipment and technology. The more 'adventurous' Stepway with rugged crossover charm is Ireland’s favourite version of the Sandero representing over 60 per cent of all Sandero sales in Ireland. We took the new Sandero and Sandero Stepway on a nifty test drive around Dublin to find out what's new.

Enjoy the latest of our Dacia reviews below with the 2021 Dacia Sandero, on Irish roads for the first time!

Looking for something a bit bigger? Read our latest review of the Dacia Duster.

Styling

Styling of the Sandero twins has been updated. Both cars now look even more modern, and, dare we say it, upmarket. Exterior dimensions are similar to the previous generation of the car but tweaks include more pronounced wheel arches, a lower roof, sloped windscreen and smoother lines throughout. A wider track and flush wheels contribute to the lower, more planted appearance on the road. Machine-stamped panels provide a seamless, higher quality fit. All versions feature LED lighting with a new Y-shaped LED signature at the front, and LED-effect four-element lighting signature at the rear. The Dacia Sandero Stepway gets a more rugged makeover with extra cladding, raised ride height, unique grille with Stepway logo, roof bars and metal skid plates. It's definitely the better looking of the two. Though compact, the Stepway simply has more presence and we can see it gaining even more fans with this latest version.

The Dacia Sandero Stepway has a more rugged crossover appearance
The Dacia Sandero Stepway has a more rugged crossover appearance

Interior

The interior has been revamped with enhanced materials and a new design. The very entry models do feel basic with mostly hard plastics and few frills. But the Stepway model we tested in Prestige trim had a more colourful and plush feel. We were impressed with the new infotainment screen (from Comfort trim up) and some new soft touch materials with interesting patterns. So on the surface this one looked good. The Stepway also adds unique orange detailing on the air vents and orange stitching on the upholstery. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake.

Practicality

The Sandero has not grown in size much but it's roomier on the inside. There's an extra 42 mm of legroom in the rear and it is one of the most spacious in its class. The boot is perfect supermini size too! It has increased to 328 litres and passengers also have more space to put their belongings, with up to 21 litres of storage space dotted throughout the cabin.

Engines

Here's where it gets really interesting! New engines including a three cylinder 1.0-litre TCe Bi-Fuel petrol engine, which can also run on LPG. We tested this model with 6-speed manual transmission at the launch and with 100 hp it feels nicely powerful on the road, more than enough for a Sandero's typical 9 to 5. It's the 'quickest' in the range with 0-100 kmh in 11.2 seconds! The LPG tank is located in the spare wheel well and the filling nozzle is next to the petrol filler. Running on LPG, the new Sandero Bi-Fuel releases on average 11 per cent less CO2 emissions than an equivalent petrol engine but is also capable of travelling more than 800 miles when utilising both petrol and LPG tanks – 50 litres for petrol (the same capacity as the tank on petrol-only variants) and 40 litres for the LPG tank. The manufacturer warranty period, servicing costs and frequency are the same as the petrol versions too.

We also tested the more basic 1.0-litre, three cylinder, SCe 65 (Sandero only), which didn't have a huge amount of zest or energy, but probably does the same 9 to 5 around town pretty reliably. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission. For an indication of performance, 0-100 kmh is 16.7 seconds!

There's also the TCe 90, a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit paired with a CVT automatic transmission.

The interior of the new Dacia Sandero Stepway
The interior of the new Dacia Sandero Stepway

Driving it

With a new platform, both Sandero models for 2021 have been designed for better handling, greater steering precision, more efficient engines and improved refinement. Redesigned wing mirrors reduce wind noise and improve cabin refinement. New Sandero and Stepway models are fitted with a new front axle with rectangular suspension arms that provide more effective shock absorption and enhanced steering. Anti-roll capacity has been improved and the wheelbase extended for greater cornering stability, while the track is 41 mm wider on Sandero and 29 mm on new Sandero Stepway to improve handling and behaviour on the road. The new engine mount has been improved with a lighter and stiffer cradle to minimise vibrations in the cabin too. It's fine to drive but on first impressions it did lack some of the refinement and sophistication of more expensive models like the Renault Clio for example.

Equipment

As the first Dacia models based on the CMF modular platform, the new Sandero and Stepway benefit from more active safety features than before. All models feature automatic headlamps with improved visibility from the LED light units. Other features include emergency brake assist, hill start assist, blind spot warning and park assist.

The Sandero is available in Essence, Comfort and Prestige (Stepway only) trim.

Standard equipment includes 15" steel wheels with covers, cruise control, air con, electric front windows, DAB radio with steering wheel-mounted controls, display integrated into the dashboard computer screen, smartphone holder on the dashboard, 2 front speakers and Bluetooth® connection.

The Comfort model adds 15" flex wheels with covers, front grille with chrome, soft feel steering wheel, satin chrome trim inside, front fog lamps, power mirrors, keyless entry, automatic wipers, 8" touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors and rear view camera.

The Sandero Stepway is available from €15,990
The Sandero Stepway is available from €15,990 in Ireland

Dacia Sandero Pricing For Ireland

ENGINETRIMANNUAL ROAD TAXRRP
All-new Sandero
SCe 65Essential€190€12,990
TCe 100 LPGEssential€200€14,490
TCe 100 LPGComfort€200€16,290
TCe 90 CVTComfort€210€18,290
All-new Sandero Stepway
TCe 100 LPGSTEPWAY Essential€210€15,990
TCe 100 LPGSTEPWAY Comfort€210€17,790
TCe 90 CVTSTEPWAY Comfort€210€19,790
TCe 100 LPGSTEPWAY Prestige€200€19,290
TCe 90 CVTSTEPWAY Prestige€210€21,290

Rivals

The new Dacia Sandero rivals cars such as the Kia Rio, Hyundai i20, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta.

Summary

The new Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway are maturing in the right way with enhanced quality and technology. One can simply not argue with the price. At a time when cars are getting even more expensive to buy, the Sandero remains refreshingly simple and affordable. These cars look and feel better on the road with a new platform bringing more technology to the mix. Some engines offer more zest than others and the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel is certainly one to watch! We look forward to bringing you a more detailed review later in the year.

Caroline Kidd

Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway on sale now!
Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway on sale now!