Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!

Ford Mustang Bullitt (2020) Review

Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!
Caroline and the Ford Mustang Bullitt!

Caroline drives the Ford Mustang Bullitt.

The Ford Mustang needs little introduction because it's the icon of American muscle cars. The name is enough to get you dreaming of hot dusty highways and dry asphalt, miles and miles of it. The arrival of the latest generation of the Mustang to this continent in 2015 was the first time Ford ever got serious about marketing this car in Europe. It was also the first time the car was produced in right hand drive.

A little history

I remember attending the Irish launch of the car in early 2016 and feeling the excitement that the pony car was in Ireland at last. It arrived here with two engine options that were a cause for lots of discussion. In corner A was the 2.3-litre EcoBoost and in corner B, the classic V8. With that sort of muscle under the bonnet when everyone else is downsizing, neither was attempting to appeal to anyone other than die hard petrolheads. The story continued in 2018, when Changing Lanes enjoyed a memorable launch drive of the facelifted Mustang range in France.

Then in 2019, it was the return of the Mustang with a special birthday edition to celebrate the pony car’s most famous cinema appearance. The Ford Mustang Bullitt in the photos was built to celebrate 50 years of the classic film Bullitt featuring Steve McQueen. Finished in a modern mix of Highland Green just like the original, this special edition V8 would take your breath away even before you start it up.

Physically imposing, long, lean and green, the Mustang Bullitt looks like it’s from another planet among the SUVs, superminis and saloons that make up most of the Irish fleet. You’ve got to love attention because the Mustang is a magnet for it. Priced from €75,155, this is the ultimate Mustang and sits at the top of the range. To recap, you can slip into the Mustang EcoBoost from €53,063 and the Mustang GT from €68,268.

The Mustang Bullitt pictured in the Blackstairs Mountains
The Mustang Bullitt pictured in the Blackstairs Mountains

What's so special about the Ford Mustang Bullitt?

But there's something special about this Bullitt with more presence, power and noise. It’s been debadged and shod with unique 19” black alloys with red Brembo brake calipers and black NitroPlate exhaust tips. At the back the Bullitt logo replaces the GT one. Inside there are some magnificent Recaro sports seats with green stitching that set the exclusive historic ambience. There’s also a Bullitt logo on the steering wheel, and an individually numbered plaque in place of the traditional Mustang emblem on the passenger-side dashboard. As a nod to the original car’s interior, the gear shifter features a white cue ball gearshift knob.

The 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt also benefits from the facelift in 2018 and so gets Ford’s new 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster. It adds a bit more modernity and watch yourself rev out with fun in high definition! The high spec continues with a B&O PLAY audio system delivering 1,000 watts through 12 high-performance speakers. It's Tom Petty's American Girl on full blast down the highway.

Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 engine is non negotiable in this edition. Praise the Lord! It’s the full fat Mustang experience but even better with an Open Air Induction System, uprated intake manifold, 87mm throttle bodies and unique powertrain control module calibration. There’s a massive 460 hp (up 10 hp on a 'standard' V8) and 529 Nm of torque to play with, with a 6 speed manual gearbox as standard. The Mustang Bullitt also introduces new rev-matching technology for seamless gear changes accompanied by a blip of the engine when downshifting. An active valve performance exhaust system enhances the V8’s signature sound.

The interior of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
The interior of the Ford Mustang Bullitt

Driving the Mustang in Ireland

Nothing can prepare you for the rumble of a V8 Mustang. It’s the antidote to all those 1.0-litres and hybrids. It makes noise, lots of it. It drinks fuel like it’s going out of fashion (it is). It makes you feel like a superstar every time. Short errands to the shops are magnificent experiences that leave you feeling like a demi-god, just as you come out to find the car surrounded by kids with smartphones. All eyes on you!

Tuned for European roads and driving style, the new Mustang is a big barge on Irish roads but feels more friendly and dynamic than ever before. The optional MagneRide dampers are a must as they really improve the car’s ability to handle the road with more finesse, making a big car feel dramatically less clumsy and sportier.

I was very pleased to find that the Ford Mustang Bullitt was not just an expensive novelty cosmetic makeover. There's real meat to this car. The engine upgrades and exhaust magic make this the ultimate Mustang on sale in Ireland right now, while the unique look never goes out of fashion.

Of course cars like the Mustang are unfashionably bad for the planet. Even Ford is taking the Mustang name and placing it on the new electric Mustang Mach-e SUV that will arrive in Ireland before the end of the year. But this is one motoring moment you will want to relive again and again. Nothing moves you like a V8 'Stang.

The Mustang Bullitt is available from €75,155 in Ireland
The Mustang Bullitt is available from €75,155 in Ireland

By Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Mustang Bullitt 
Price: 
€75,155
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Power:
460 hp
Torque: 529 Nm
0-100km/h:  
4.6 seconds
Top speed: 263 km/h
Fuel consumption:
12.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
270 g/km
Motor Tax: €2,350 per year

Watch Caroline's video review of the new Ford Mustang Bullitt


The 2016 Ford Focus on test for Changing Lanes!

Ford Focus RS Review

The 2016 Ford Focus RS on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2016 Ford Focus RS on test for Changing Lanes!

This week I’m revisiting my review of the Ford Focus RS. Back in 2017, the angels sang Hallelujah with pops and bangs to herald the arrival of the then new Ford Focus RS in my test schedule. To say I was happy is an understatement. I was THRILLED. I couldn’t think of much else in the weeks coming up to our rendez-vous with bells on.

I was still relatively new to test driving cars and I had just entered my third year with Changing Lanes. The blog had enjoyed a breakout year and now I was riding the crest of a wave where everything I touched turned to motoring gold - cars, press launches, long lunches, and branded biros (lots of them!). I had hit my stride and the cars were coming thick and fast-er. I was typing reviews from dawn to dusk, learning how to take a half decent photo of a car, and expanding every day. I was LOVING it.

Just like those first flushes of love, in the weeks leading up to my date with the new Ford Focus RS, I couldn’t eat without butterflies doing somersaults in my digestive system to the tune of ‘Holiday’ by Madonna. In some ways it was testament to the killer teaser campaign Ford Europe launched in the build up to the arrival of the Focus RS in Europe. It was well played, drip feeding the motoring press with little details, images and videos to whet the appetite and work us all (me) into a frenzy. So much so, that by the time the car did arrive in Ireland, the Focus RS had legend status. Whispers circulated, how good is it, is it really that good? Could it be as good as those early press reviews that were emphatically positive? Really?

Embossed wing of the Ford Focus RS Mk3
Embossed wing of the Ford Focus RS Mk3

But I always make my own mind up about a car thank you very much. I waited patiently for my turn. By the time I got the Ford Focus RS, it had been through the hands of many. It had been drifted, launched, revved to the red line, and all those other things you’d love to do to a Focus RS if you got the keys to it for a week. I know.

The Ford Focus RS was one of the most anticipated new cars of recent years and finally arrived in Ireland in 2016. Developed by a small team of Ford Performance engineers in Europe and the U.S., it was the 30th car to wear the legendary RS badge. It continued Ford’s tradition for high performance road cars heroically, with plenty to justify its ultimate hot hatchback status. Headline features included a sophisticated all wheel drive system and an industry-first ‘drift mode’.

It would be the last halo product of the Ford Focus Mark 3. This car would reach the end of production in 2018 just as a new generation of the Ford Focus was about to receive its European debut. Now looking back, I can see that the 2016 Ford Focus RS was a beautiful swansong. In 2020, it has been widely reported that there will be no new Mark 4 Focus RS.

The 2016 Ford Focus RS has a modified exterior design with a unique front end that features a bold upper trapezoidal grille above a deep front splitter. At the rear, a large diffuser houses twin round high-performance exhaust pipes and, in Europe and Asia, a clear central fog lamp.  The rear roof spoiler is carefully integrated with the car’s silhouette through body-coloured side panels featuring an embossed RS logo. Sigh. Nitrous Oxide was the signature colour, a bright blue with sparkly texture when viewed up close. Unmissable, unmistakable though the RS was also available in some more conservative colours like Stealth Grey, Shadow Black, Magnetic Grey and Frozen White. Wheels were multi-spoke 19-inch RS alloy.

The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus RS
The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus RS

Inside the Ford Focus RS is disappointing. Aside from some super sporty Recaro bucket seats, it is a standard Focus interior except for a few logos and 'blue bits'. Of course, you would be pretty dim to think you were driving a 1.0-litre EcoBoost Zetec on start up. But in fairness there wasn’t much apparel in here to tell you otherwise.

Under the bonnet, the Ford Focus RS shares a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with the new generation Ford Mustang. Here it’s tuned to produce 350 hp and 440 Nm of torque, putting awesome power to the road via a 6-speed manual gearbox. It was the fastest ever RS model, sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and hitting a top speed of 266 km/h. It had the most powerful brake system ever fitted to an RS model, with 350 mm ventilated front discs and aluminium Brembo four-piston monoblock callipers, finished in RS blue. All wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring came as standard, with a dramatic impact on handling and cornering stability.

So, on the road the Ford Focus RS feels refreshingly mechanical and tactile for a modern hot hatchback. Alive and in touch with the driving experience, little small movements on the steering wheel make you feel like a master of your own destiny, just as you slip around another corner at lightning speed. The downside is a very firm ride that just jostles and jostles and jostles, incessantly. Not so bad on short commutes but on the motorway, it could be highly irritating. The Focus RS just isn't interested in bringing you to the shops comfortably. It wants to hit the track. Quick.

Pop, pop, bang, bang, brrp, brrp
Pop, pop, bang, bang, brrp, brrp

Then there is the soundtrack. Every journey is like a performance. Special attention was made in development to make it entertain. I never heard such pops, bangs and burbles from a modern hot hatchback. It is addictive and highly juvenile. You can play your Ford Focus RS like an instrument.

The third generation Ford Focus RS is also the first RS to offer drive modes, with ‘Drift Mode’ being so anti-social that in some territories people wanted it banned. Banned! Launch control also features accompanied by an irate, grizzly popping from the exhaust before the car takes off like an excited bee. Despite the annoying, jostle ride and boring interior you couldn’t credit how magnificently engineered this car is. This car is an icon and will go down in history as one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of all time. A car to dream of driving. I drove it and I still dream of it.

Ford Focus RS: a car to dream of driving
Ford Focus RS: a car to dream of driving

By Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus RS
Price new in 2017: 
€52,875
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
350 hp
Torque: 440 Nm
0-100km/h:  
4.7 seconds
Top speed: 266 km/h
Economy: 
36.7 mpg
CO2 emissions:  
175g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year


The new Ford Fiesta ST!

2020 Ford Focus ST 2.3 EcoBoost Review

The new Ford Fiesta ST!
The new Ford Fiesta ST!

Caroline drives the new Ford Focus ST.

Hot hatchbacks are rare delights in my test schedule. This January I was lucky to find the Ford Focus ST waiting for me for a review. The early days and weeks of January can have a somewhat lethargic feel. Dark mornings, dark evenings, the promise of spring still not quite there yet. So the new Ford Focus ST put some pep in my step with the energetic 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine under its bonnet pushing out a glorious 280 hp and 420 Nm of torque.

Ford has a fine pedigree manufacturing hot hatchbacks. In fact, I still talk about the 2017 Ford Focus RS to anyone who will stand around long enough to listen, the charismatic swansong of the last generation Ford Focus.

But with the launch of the new generation Ford Focus in 2018, the ST hot hatchback range has also been reinvented. The styling of this car has much improved, with a more mature, refined and lighter appearance. You can still spec your Focus ST in an eye catching shade like Orange Fury but for my test car, Ford picked signature Performance Blue (€1500) on 18” wheels with optional red brake calipers, which is more demure but had a special iridescence to it, especially at night.

Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST
Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST

Interior of the new Ford Focus ST

Inside, the Focus ST also benefits from a new interior design that is more modern and lighter looking with Ford’s new touchscreen set up in the centre of the dash with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. There are special Recaro sports seats and a ST badge on the steering wheel. Other than that, there is not much else to signify this as a fast performance model. A little more drama and atmosphere in here would be nice.

The ST-2 I drove had ST design 18” alloy wheels, front lower grille in high gloss black, front and rear parking sensors, FordPass Connect and partial leather Recaro Performance seats. It was priced from €41,099. It also included the Performance Pack for €1,500 (rev matching, shift indicator, launch control, performance suspension CCD, multi-colour ambient light and red brake callipers).

The ST-3 adds 19” alloy wheels, painted calipers, fixed full LED headlamps, rear view camera, full leather Recaro seats and power 4-way driver and passenger seats. As of January 2020, only one series, ST3, is listed on the Ford Ireland website. The ST diesel with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 190 hp is available from €43,971, with the ST petrol available from €45,838. All come as standard with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s available as a wagon for extra practicality.

Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST
Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST

What’s new for the 2020 Ford Focus ST?

The new Focus ST uses a new generation of Ford’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost all-aluminium engine and is the most powerful ever offered for a Focus ST. Advanced turbocharging technology delivers 280PS power at 5,500rpm and 420Nm of torque from 3,000rpm to 4,000rpm. It is also the most free-revving Focus ST engine ever, delivering 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.7 seconds for the five-door model. A new electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) enhances the cornering and stability of the EcoBoost variant by sharpening responses to changing grip levels and driver inputs.

Selectable Drive Modes technology has also been introduced to the Focus ST for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the vehicle’s character to suit the driving scenario. Ford’s new rev-matching technology that debuted on the new Ford Mustang is also introduced as part of an optional Performance Pack for 2.3-litre EcoBoost manual models, as is Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) that enhances the short long arm (SLA) independent rear suspension configuration for greater refinement.

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

Driving the new Ford Focus ST

This translates on the road to the most refined Ford Focus ST ever, that can slip along effortlessly before crushing corners like the true professional it is. The Focus ST’s six-speed manual transmission enables more urgent gear-changes and provides a sportier feel with a shift-throw reduction of seven per cent, compared with the standard Focus. Delivering smoother, faster downshifts, the technology briefly “blips” the throttle as the driver engages a lower gear – matching the engine rotation speed to that of the gear that is being selected. Damping stiffness has been increased up to 20 per cent at the front and 13 per cent at the rear, and ride height reduced by 10mm, to improve road-holding and response in performance driving scenarios.

On the road, I quickly found Sport mode for I was looking for some more aural delights. There’s some mighty pops and bangs available in that mode. The Focus ST can navigate corners with remarkable speed, grip and precision. It is a true professional.

The Focus ST is an icon. This new refined character is something new for the ST. Too well behaved for the most part perhaps? Depends on what side of the fence you are on. It is a very usable car for every day driving, comfortable yet always ready and able to flex its muscles down a stretch of curvy tarmac.

The Ford Focus ST is a true professional
The Ford Focus ST is a true professional

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus ST-2
Price: 
€41,099
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine
Power: 
280 hp
Torque: 420 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
8.2/100km
CO2 emissions:  
179g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year


The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!

Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Review

The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!
The new Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition!

The Mazda MX-5 turned 30 in 2019 and to celebrate, Mazda has produced a limited edition 30th Anniversary model. Only 3000 will be made and distributed worldwide with just ten of those cars making their way to Ireland. In December I had the pleasure of spending a week with car #16 of that limited production run.

Finished in exclusive Racing Orange paint, the Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary edition is a showstopper. Priced from €40,995, this model now sits at the very top of the range and is a significant investment over the entry level MX-5 (available from €28,195). But it’s special y’know.

Only 3000 models will be distributed worldwide
Only 3000 models will be distributed worldwide

So what's so special about the Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary?

The orange paintwork and 2.0-litre petrol 184 hp engine are non-negotiable. Yes, the MX-5 30th Anniversary edition gets by default the more powerful engine in the range - the 2.0-litre petrol engine has been improved to output more power – up from 160 hp to 184 hp – since we last tested the MX-5 in 2017. This is paired to an ultra-precise and mechanical feeling six-speed manual gearbox. Bilstein dampers, a strut-brace and limited slip differential mean best possible performance from the tiny two seat roadster.

Other special features include exclusive 17" wheels, orange brake calipers with Nissin brakes on the rear and Brembo brakes on the front wheels, and a 30th Anniversary badge displaying the model’s serial number. It’s one very cool looking machine.

The interior of the MX-5 30th Anniversary
The interior of the MX-5 30th Anniversary

What's the MX-5 30th Anniversary like inside?

The black interior has been laced with orange trim for a modern, youthful feel. There’s orange piping on the Recaro seats with Alcantara trim, orange trim around the air vents and on the inside door panels, steering wheel, dashboard and gear lever. The infotainment screen is controlled via steering wheel mounted controls and a rotary controller on the centre console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard.

The cabin of the MX-5 is snug and sporty. You’ve got to enjoy tight spaces. Feet stretched out in front of you on the pedals, press the start button to fire up the engine, left hand on the gear shifter as you slot the car into first gear…there’s a tactile, raw feeling to the Mazda MX-5 that stays for the entire journey.

The Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary is available from €40,995
The Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary is available from €40,995

Driving it

A perfectly balanced chassis translates to lightening quick steering and chassis responses in corners that account for the magic feeling only a true sports car like the MX-5 can give you. This car flows through corners with just delicate movements on the steering wheel and a lightness of touch that's absolutely thrilling when the roads get twisty and you give it a bit more throttle. Sitting so close to the ground means you feel like you're flying all the time. There’s lots of engine noise through the gear changes and the lack of refinement from the fabric roof just adds to the atmosphere.

This is a stiff set-up and can be teeth jangling on very rough roads. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.1 l/100 km, which is remarkably good.

The Mazda MX-5 is a wonderful sports car for people who love driving for the fun of it. It's small, a bit uncomfortable at times...but I doubt you will ever regret buying it other than the day you are asked to do an airport run.

You do pay a premium for the 30th Anniversary model but the orange theme adds a surprising amount of energy. A fantastic birthday makeover for an icon!

Caroline says sayonara from the cabin of the MX-5 30th Anniversary - we have our memories

Caroline says sayonara from the cabin of the MX-5 30th Anniversary - we have our memories

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary 2.0 Skyactiv-G
Price: 
€40,995
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 205Nm
0-100km/h:  
6.5 seconds
Top speed: 219 km/h
Economy: 
6.9/100km
CO2 emissions:  
161g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year

 


The new CUPRA Ateca!

2019 CUPRA Ateca 2.0 TSI Review

The new CUPRA Ateca!
The new CUPRA Ateca!

Caroline drives the new CUPRA Ateca!

CUPRA is making a welcome return to Ireland, this time as its own standalone brand. It’s not long ago since SEAT sold a number of hot CUPRA versions of the Ibiza and Leon in Ireland. But in 2018, CUPRA launched as a singular brand within the Volkswagen Group, with plans for a line-up of tasty new performance models. The first of these to debut here is the amazing CUPRA Ateca.

New CUPRA cars, inspired by SEAT’s award-winning motorsport division, will be available exclusively from Airside CUPRA, Ireland’s only specialist CUPRA dealer.

What is it?

Based on the rather suburban Ateca SUV, the new CUPRA Ateca is anything but suburban. Priced from €49,990, the CUPRA Ateca is powered by the stunning 2.0 TSI turbo petrol engine with 300 HP! Four wheel drive as standard makes the best possible use of that power in an SUV and there’s also a slick shifting DSG gearbox that does nothing to dull down the fun.

Under the bonnet of the CUPRA Ateca, there's a 2.0 TSI petrol engine
Under the bonnet of the CUPRA Ateca, there's a 2.0 TSI petrol engine

The new CUPRA badge is out of this world and is placed around the car. My test car looked fantastic in Black Magic and drew many admiring glances though the car lacks some recognition – most people haven’t a clue what it is other than it looks fast! There’s a special honeycomb grille, glossy black trim, full LED headlights, 19” alloys, four magnificent exhausts at the rear. The CUPRA name is spelt out on the lower grille and at the rear. This car is COOL.

The CUPRA Ateca also has a fantastic interior that’s really well appointed. There’s sophisticated Alcantara trim on the door panels and on the sports seats. Copper stitching and carbon fibre effect trim also feature. A full digital instrument panel is a fine addition and is supported by the 8-inch touchscreen navigation system in the centre of the dash.

Driving the new CUPRA Ateca

The CUPRA Ateca has an independent front suspension setup using MacPherson struts and a multilink rear. The adaptive suspension system – Dynamic Chassis Control – provides a setup that can be adjusted to the driver’s needs from comfort to firm and sporty. The CUPRA Ateca also gets larger front and rear discs, at 340mm and 310mm respectively, giving greater confidence in the SUV.

The interior of the new CUPRA Ateca
The interior of the new CUPRA Ateca

The newly developed seven-speed DSG transmission has been engineered to offer a sportier feel with faster, smoother and more precise changes. The CUPRA Ateca also features launch control. All-wheel drive 4Drive technology analyses road conditions in real time and progressively delivers power at each moment to the wheels that need it. The CUPRA Ateca is clearly smart also!

On the road, the CUPRA Ateca is shockingly quick and fun to drive with the 2.0 TSI giving a fabulous performance here. It pulls hard like a hot hatch with 400Nm of torque and 0 to 100kmh in just 5.2 seconds. The CUPRA Ateca is more than reminiscent of a Golf R. It imitates the hunkered down feel of a hot hatchback well, but in the corners the higher centre of gravity means it doesn’t feel quite as planted. The CUPRA mode is the most hardcore drive setting and gives the car a ferocious soundtrack to match the bad boy looks.

So would you buy it?

The cool thing about the CUPRA Ateca is that it’s still a very on trend and practical SUV. There is seating for five and a generous 485 litre boot. So it can be your not so guilty pleasure.

The CUPRA brand doesn’t have immediate recognition now with its new badging and dissociation from the SEAT brand so that may hold the car back somewhat in Ireland. However within the Volkswagen Group, this is a fantastic machine and very well placed. A petrol powered performance vehicle with all the practicality of an SUV and the engine and performance of a hot hatchback. The CUPRA Ateca is a fantastic debut and signal of intent from the new performance brand.

The CUPRA Ateca is really very good!
The CUPRA Ateca is really very good!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: CUPRA Ateca 2.0TSI DSG 4Drive
Price:
€49,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
300 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
5.2 seconds
Top speed: 247 km/h
Fuel economy:
8.5-8.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
168 g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year

 


The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

2019 Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy Review

The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy
The new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

Caroline drives the new Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy!

The Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy arrived in my life in a blaze of Liquid Yellow glory. This grand event has been preceded by weeks of driving the usual motoring journalist’s blend of SUV, small hatchback and saloon in varying shades of silver, grey and maybe a pop of blue for 2019.

There I was, sitting in traffic in the Mégane R.S. Trophy when I became aware that I was driving the most obvious car in Dublin city. Why was everyone watching me? Suddenly, I felt completely conspicuous and slunk a bit lower into my Recaro seat.

Of course, leaving the car park I had devilishly slipped the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy into Sport mode. Though it was pointless, other than for the gnarly engine note. For the first time, there is a valve in the exhaust of the Mégane R.S. that allows you to adjust how noisy and anti-social your Trophy becomes. And for test purposes it was best to get right into the thick of things.

Through slow-moving city traffic, the Mégane R.S. Trophy felt tense, but well behaved. This was hardly its ideal environment but a few swift starts from the traffic lights, and pops and bangs summoned by lift off from the accelerator, beckoned to this car’s potential. I was driving the EDC automatic version, and on the downshift even at speeds below 50 kmh, there were some beautiful burbles and crackles from the exhaust. I was getting excited for the open road.

The Renault Megane R.S. is the pinnacle of what Renaultsport can offer you in terms of a hot hatch
The Renault Megane R.S. is the pinnacle of what Renaultsport can offer you in terms of a hot hatch

What's so special about the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy?

The Mégane R.S. and I have history. Late last year I had another momentous week with the Renault Mégane R.S. 280 (priced from €41,995), but the Trophy is the more hardcore version of Renaultsport’s crowning hot hatchback (priced from €46,995). The Trophy uses the same 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol unit but power is up from 280hp to 300hp, and torque is up from 390 Nm to 420 Nm in the Trophy EDC automatic. It’s shed some weight and it comes as standard on the stiffer, more track focused, “I’m going to make your jaw rattle” Cup Chassis.

Cosmetically, it’s a beautiful car in the metal, with Liquid Yellow being more like liquid gold. Swoon. The Trophy gets special 19” ‘Jerez’ alloy wheels, red Brembo® brake callipers, increased front and rear track with bespoke front and rear wings and a rear spoiler to improve aerodynamic performance.

The interior of the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy
The interior of the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy

Inside it’s a pretty standard Mégane interior but there are beautiful (optional) Alcantara-finished Recaro bucket seats, carbon grey trim, aluminium pedals and an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel! It’s a sporty ambience but there are quite a few hard plastics, which are harder to stomach considering the list price of the car. But that’s a foible you could aim at rivals also.

Of more frustration is the infotainment system, which is fiddly to use on the move. However, the inclusion of Apple Car Play and Android Auto mean that you can bypass it more simply too. The standard BOSE stereo system is awesome.

The Mégane R.S. Trophy is available from €46,995 in Ireland
The Mégane R.S. Trophy is available from €46,995 in Ireland

But back to the story! What happened when I left the city?

I took the long way home of course, through the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It was midsummer, the sun shone and the tourists decided to pull in to let me have some fun. It turned out to be a fantastic test route. Not only will the scenery take your breath away, but the long straights, tight corners and mixture of road surfaces make the drive interesting too.

Under the skin of the Trophy, the limited slip differential and four wheel steering add up to amazing precision, stability and agility. The torque steer under heavy throttle is eliminated. When you quicken the pace, the Trophy flows so beautifully through corners. In these magic circumstances, I felt “at one with the car”, words I don’t utter lightly. The Trophy is elevated to the arena of the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS with a mechanical and tactile feel behind the wheel that marks out the very best.

Yes, the Trophy is a fine piece of engineering. The ride is firm and for day to day use the firm but less firm Mégane R.S. 280 on the Sport chassis is more comfortable and refined. But the Trophy is beguiling in its own way, with the tension of a true racer and the handling to match. The Trophy is not the fastest hot hatchback of all time in a straight line but sometimes the “slower” way around is more interesting. That’s certainly the case here. A true alternative.

The hot hatch of your dreams in Liquid Yellow
Take the long way home in the Mégane R.S. Trophy!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy EDC Auto
Price:
€49,995 (Trophy from from €46,995)
Engine: 1.8-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
300 hp
Torque: 420 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 254 km/h
Fuel economy:
36.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 
176 g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year


The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

2019 Skoda Kodiaq RS Review

The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!
The new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

Caroline drives the new Skoda Kodiaq RS!

Skoda has recently expanded their ‘Rally Sport’ family of performance models with the launch of the new Skoda Kodiaq RS. While Skoda’s Octavia RS already has a loyal following in Ireland, the trend for SUVs means that the Skoda Kodiaq RS is an obvious and potentially lucrative opportunity for the brand.

What's new?

Skoda has taken their already popular, flagship Kodiaq SUV and given it a high-performance makeover. The Kodiaq RS sits at the very top of the Kodiaq range with a list price of €62,295. Under the bonnet there’s a 2.0-litre, bi-turbo diesel putting out 240 hp and 500 Nm of torque. All Kodiaq RS models come with 4x4 and a DSG automatic gearbox.

The Kodiaq RS has been given the ‘speedy’ makeover in more ways than just one! On the outside there are 20” alloy wheels with red brake calipers, front and rear RS bumpers, and the new RS logo with red detailing. The Kodiaq RS is an attractive SUV with ‘street cred’!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS combines the space of a seven seat SUV with extra performance
The Skoda Kodiaq RS combines the space of a seven seat SUV with extra performance

The interior of the Skoda Kodiaq RS

Inside there are special sports seats with Alcantara upholstery, carbon inserts on the instrument panel, black roof lining and stainless steel pedals. Equipment includes dual zone air con, Skoda’s virtual cockpit display with five different display settings including a new Sports View, interior ambient lighting, parking sensors, rear parking camera and the 9.2” Colombus colour touch screen infotainment and navigation system.

The Kodiaq has a really spacious, comfortable and well-appointed cabin. With five seats or seven for an extra €1000, the Kodiaq RS offers families a lot of space. The rear bench will seat three with large footwells and plenty of head room. Things are tighter in row 3 but for children or occasional use, these extra seats are a bonus. In five seat mode, the Kodiaq RS has a huge 715 litre boot. It’s just a brilliant family car!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS has a sporty and well-appointed cabin
The Skoda Kodiaq RS has a sporty and well-appointed cabin

On the road in the Skoda Kodiaq RS

But is it the performance SUV of your dreams? Certainly, Skoda has given the Kodiaq RS a flagship engine for the occasion. It’s the first time a biturbo diesel has appeared in a Skoda and it’s the fastest diesel production Skoda ever! 0-100kmh is just 7 seconds with a top speed of 220kmh.

However the Kodiaq is a big lump and while acceleration feels brisk it will never take your breath away. Still, the RS handles with considerable finesse in the corners and something called ‘Dynamic Sound Boost’ heightens the excitement on board. Some artificial enhanced engine noise is produced in the cabin and outside of the vehicle and it’s no exaggeration to say that is has a distinct V8 vibe! A little incongruous from a diesel Kodiaq RS but it is fun!

Motor tax for this vehicle is €570 while over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 7.9 litre per 100km.

The Skoda Kodiaq RS is a natural progression for the Skoda RS brand merging the trend for large SUVs with the sporty image of the RS badge. On the road the Kodiaq RS is far from the rip-roaring performance of a hot hatchback but it is fun with a great image bestowed upon it by the RS branding. The Kodiaq RS retains everything we love about the Kodiaq in that it's spacious, practical and comfortable. It is pricey but the range topping diesel engine, high spec and novelties like Dynamic Sound Boost make it great fun for day to day driving!

The Skoda Kodiaq RS is available from €62,295
The Skoda Kodiaq RS is available from €62,295

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Skoda Kodiaq RS 4x4 DSG
Price:
€62,295
Engine: 2.0-litre bi turbo diesel
Power: 
240 hp
Torque: 500 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7 seconds
Top speed: 220 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.4 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
167g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year


The new Ford Mustang Bullitt pictured at Mondello Park

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt First Drive Review

The new Ford Mustang Bullitt pictured at Mondello Park
The new Ford Mustang Bullitt pictured at Mondello Park

The Ford Mustang Bullitt has just arrived in Ireland. This special edition of the Mustang V8 was built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary film starring Steve McQueen. Caroline recently drove the new Ford Mustang Bullitt at the Irish launch of the car at Mondello Park.

Styling

The Ford Mustang Bullitt plays homage to the original Ford Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. The pony has been removed from the grille and at the back the Bullitt logo replaces the GT one. The Mustang Bullitt also features a black grille, unique 19” black alloys with red Brembo brake calipers and black NitroPlate exhaust tips. The car is available in either classic Dark Highland Green or Shadow Black.

Interior

The interior features Recaro sports seats with green stitching, a Bullitt logo on the steering wheel, and an individually numbered plaque in place of the traditional Mustang emblem on the passenger-side dashboard. As a nod to the original car’s interior, the gear shifter features a white cue ball gearshift knob. The Mustang Bullitt also gets Ford’s 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster and B&O PLAY audio system delivering 1,000 watts through 12 high-performance speakers.

Engines

The Ford Mustang Bullitt is powered by Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 engine enhanced with an Open Air Induction System, uprated intake manifold, 87mm throttle bodies and unique powertrain control module calibration. It produces 460 hp and 529 Nm of torque, with a 6 speed manual gearbox as standard. The Mustang Bullitt also introduces new rev-matching technology for seamless gear changes accompanied by a blip of the engine when downshifting. An active valve performance exhaust system enhances the V8’s signature sound.

The interior of the new Ford Mustang Bullitt
The interior of the new Ford Mustang Bullitt

On the road

The current generation of the Ford Mustang has been tuned for European roads and driving style. That means that the steering and chassis all feel more friendly and dynamic. So if you show up at a racing track in your Mustang Bullitt you can actually put on a decent show, while the straight line speed is pretty ferocious also. The MagneRide dampers fitted to this Mustang Bullitt improve things even more, so the car feels less unwieldy. The V8 is nosier in this Bullitt configuration also. Wahey!

Pricing

The new Ford Mustang Bullitt goes on sale in Ireland priced from €73,092.

Verdict

The Ford Mustang Bullitt  benefits from that makeover the Mustang got last year and the MagneRide dampers just make a big car feel less clumsy and more sporty. The Ford Mustang Bullitt is not just a novelty cosmetic makeover; the engine upgrades and exhaust magic make this the ultimate Mustang on sale in Ireland right now.

The new Ford Mustang Bullitt goes on sale from €73,092
The new Ford Mustang Bullitt goes on sale from €73,092

Caroline Kidd


The new Ford Fiesta ST

2019 Ford Fiesta ST Review

The new Ford Fiesta ST
The new Ford Fiesta ST

Caroline drives the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST!

The last generation of the Ford Fiesta ST pretty much reached legendary status as the best compact hot hatchback you could buy. Now Ford is back with a new generation of the Fiesta ST developed by Ford Performance. So has the best just got better?

Pricing in Ireland for the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST starts at just €25,277 for the ST2 and €27,710 for the ST3 as tested here.

This time Ford is getting the party started under the bonnet of the Fiesta ST with a new engine. The 1.6-litre four cylinder turbo petrol engine has been replaced with a 1.5-litre three cylinder turbo engine. There’s a new turbocharger that uses an optimised turbine design to build boost pressure faster and minimise lag for a more responsive driving experience. Power is set at 200hp, while there is a boost in torque to 290Nm. This means that the new ST is good for the 0-100 kmh sprint in 6.5 seconds, going on to a top speed of 232km/h.

On the road in the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST

But numbers are just numbers. How does this new engine feel in the car? Blooming marvellous I’m happy to report.  There may be one less cylinder but the ST’s new 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine performs in a way that certainly does not reek of deprivation. No, it’s responsive, delivering naturally high torque at low rpm and it’s all lavish burbles and pops and bangs as you are carried through the rev range. It delivers the youthful enthusiasm that’s synonymous with a young pup like the Fiesta ST.

The six speed manual gearbox is nice to use and further engages you in the driving experience. There are also selectable drive modes for the first time (Normal, Sport and Track) that adjust the engine, steering and stability controls.

The interior of new Ford Fiesta ST
The interior of new Ford Fiesta ST

In fact the whole experience behind the wheel of the Fiesta ST is one of tactile involvement and track bred athleticism. The best way I can describe the Fiesta ST is to say that it feels like an elastic band through bends – there’s an agility mixed with a tautness that keeps everything just super poised and precise. Granted my test car was fitted with a €950 option pack that added Launch Control (woohoo!) and a mechanical limited slip differential helping to optimise front-end traction during cornering. But on all STs, Ford-patented force vectoring springs support sharper turn-in and responsiveness and improve the stability, agility and responsiveness of the twist-beam rear suspension.

The trade off is a firm ride due to a stiff ST suspension setting that means that the ST can hop around a bit beneath you on what looks like a smooth road. But it’s not so unforgiving as to make it a nightmare for daily use on Irish roads.

Smart and sporty hot hatchback

The ST treatment transforms the Fiesta into a smart hot hatch. There’s a new signature colour called Performance Blue, pictured here. The Fiesta ST in my opinion looks rad in the metal with a lower, wider stance than more basic Fiestas. ST2 gets 17” alloys, while ST3 gets 18” alloys. There’s also halogen projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights, rear LEDs, unique ST-design full body-styling kit, large rear spoiler, dual chrome exhaust.

The Ford Fiesta ST goes on sale from €25,277 in Ireland
The Ford Fiesta ST goes on sale from €25,277 in Ireland

Inside the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST

Otherwise this is a relatively practical small car. The 2019 Ford Fiesta ST is available now from launch in both three-door and five-door body styles. It’s supermini sized – no less and no more.

Inside the most notable addition is a set of fantastic Recaro sports seats. There’s also an ST gearknob and flat-bottomed steering wheel with stitching that is replicated on the leather handbrake lever and gear-lever gaiter. The ST benefits from the new Ford Fiesta interior that debuted in summer 2017. Infotainment is centred around an upright touchscreen with smartphone compatibility.

Standard equipment includes cruise control, keyless start, heated front seats, ambient lighting, Ford SYNC 3 with 8” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, NCAP pack including lane-keeping alert and lane-keeping aid, speed limiter, rear seatbelt minder, rear centre headrest and auto headlamps.

Fiesta ST 3 adds powerfold mirrors, partial leather Recaro performance seats, navigation, keyless entry, rear view camera, rear parking sensors, auto highbeam, driver alert and traffic sign recognition, auto wipers and auto dimming mirror, and leather steering wheel with red stitching.

What are the running costs like?

The Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine features an industry-first cylinder deactivation system for a three-cylinder engine to improve fuel efficiency. It can shut down one cylinder under low load to reduce fuel consumption, for example when cruising on the motorway. Motor tax for the new Ford Fiesta ST is €280 per year. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.8l/100km.

The Ford Fiesta ST now uses a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine
The Ford Fiesta ST now uses a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine

After spending a week with the Ford Fiesta ST, I liked this car the most for its practicality while also offering a great hot hatchback experience with plenty of noise and power. The handling prowess of the new ST is also worth noting. Ford know how to make hot hatches that appeal to that primal part of the human condition that loves raw power, noise and agility.

It's good news that the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST is also improved on the aesthetic side of things, and it gains from a larger interior and improved quality and finish.

Losing a cylinder has not damaged the ST in my opinion; it's actually made the car even more beguiling. Rivals like the Polo GTI and 208 GTi are good, but they just don't quite have the same level of primal appeal as the Fiesta ST.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Fiesta ST3
Price: 
€27,710 (€29,100 as tested with options)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
200 hp
Torque: 290 Nm
0-100km/h:  
6.5 seconds
Top speed: 232 km/h
Economy: 
6.0l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
136g/km
Motor tax: 
€280 per year

The 2019 Ford Fiesta ST is rapturous good fun!
The 2019 Ford Fiesta ST is rapturous good fun!

The new Suzuki Swift Sport

2019 Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 Boosterjet Review

The new Suzuki Swift Sport
The new Suzuki Swift Sport

Caroline drives the 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport!

Suzuki is well-known for making fun small cars. If you are looking for the most potent car that the brand currently offers in Ireland, then look no further than the Suzuki Swift Sport. Powered by a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and putting out 140hp, the Swift Sport is a hottish hatchback occupying the sportier end of the supermini spectrum. And while 140hp is hardly revolutionary in a small car, there is plenty in this package to entertain.

Priced from €22,995, the Suzuki Swift Sport crowns the Swift range. Suzuki has given the Swift a sporty makeover in this iteration and it presses all the right buttons. The Sport sits lower and wider than the standard Swift and has a special grille, bumpers, black aerodynamic under spoilers, 17” alloys, dual tailpipes and a roof-end spoiler. LED headlamps come as standard. The Swift Sport is available in six colours, including Champion Yellow, exclusive to the Sport. This reviewer was happy to pick up the Swift Sport in more demure Speedy Blue metallic!

The interior of the 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport

Inside, Suzuki has added more red trim to the Swift's cabin and some new sports seats. Hard plastics prevail but the build is good and there is nothing offensive about the straightforward interior design.

The interior of the new Suzuki Swift Sport
The interior of the new Suzuki Swift Sport

The tachometer has a red dial face and the speedometer is coloured silver. Infotainment is provided via a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation also comes as standard. There is impressive safety equipment on board including Adaptive Cruise Control, Dual Sensor Brake Support, high beam assist, keyless entry and start, and Lane Departure Prevention, auto air conditioning, DAB radio, rear privacy glass, touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, electric windows, front fog lamps and rear view camera.

The Swift Sport has five doors for practicality and reasonable interior space for a small car. The boot is on the small side for this class of vehicle at 265 litres.

Under the bonnet of the Suzuki Swift Sport is a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine
Under the bonnet of the Suzuki Swift Sport is a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine

So what about that engine?

Suzuki has planted the brand's new 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo petrol engine under the bonnet of the Swift Sport, producing 140hp and 230Nm of torque. The Swift Sport uses a 6-speed manual gearbox. 0 to 100kmh is 8.1 seconds and the Sport can reach a top speed of 210km/h. CO2 emissions of 125g mean motor tax will be €270 per year and over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.9l/100km.

The 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport is built on a light but rigid new platform and weighs just 975kg. The Suzuki Swift Sport revs happily and takes off with aplomb without frightening anyone with sheer speed. The six speed manual gearbox is delightful to use and the Swift Sport rocks in and out of corners with loads of tactile grip and precision. The engine noise in the cabin makes the driving experience feel all the more frantic! On longer runs on the motorway, the refinement and stability of the Swift Sport was impressive. There is a firm edge to the suspension but only the very roughest roads transmit their worst to cabin occupants.

The Suzuki Swift Sport is a fun and stylish small car
The Suzuki Swift Sport is a fun and stylish small car

The Suzuki Swift Sport doesn’t have the outright power and menace of the Ford Fiesta ST or the Volkswagen Polo GTI but it’s cheaper to buy and loaded with equipment. For supermini buyers looking to stretch the budget for something sportier and a bit different, the 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport ticks many boxes. It's more fun than it should be considering the 140 hp power output and price. The Swift Sport is a stylish and fun small car with a sort of back-to-basics feel that will have you taking the long way home.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Suzuki Swift Sport
Price: 
€22,995
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140hp
Torque: 230Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.1 seconds
Top speed: 210km/h
Economy: 
5.6l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
125g/km
Motor tax: 
€270 per year