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


The new Renault Mégane R.S. is now on sale in Ireland

2018 Renault Mégane R.S. 280 EDC Review

The new Renault Mégane R.S. is now on sale in Ireland
The new Renault Mégane R.S. is now on sale in Ireland

The Renault Mégane R.S. has built up its own loyal following of fans who like their hot hatchbacks the Renault Sport way. With the arrival of the new generation of the Renault Mégane in 2016, we always knew that the full fat, high performance Mégane R.S. was on the horizon. 2017 saw the launch of the 205hp Renault Mégane GT in Ireland to whet the appetite.

But now the halo car of the Mégane range has arrived. Recently Renault Ireland provided me with the Renault Mégane 280 EDC for review. This was my first time to experience Renault Sport engineering so I was duly excited. Even more so when I saw the loud and proud Renault Mégane R.S. in blazing Volcanic Orange. The winter sunshine on my Mégane R.S. photoshoot early in the week gave way to more dull and damp November conditions. Yet I was soon to find out that nothing could dull the spirit of the Renault Mégane R.S. 280 EDC.

The recipe for a French hot hatchback is relatively simple of course – put a high octane engine in a hatchback, tune the car and pad it out with a body kit. But reading about the Mégane R.S. cannot prepare you for the raw energy of getting behind the wheel and feeling the R.S. flex its athleticism beneath you. And then unleash the power…

The new Renault Mégane R.S. loud and proud in signature Volcanic Orange
The new Renault Mégane R.S. is loud and proud in signature Volcanic Orange

Power and control in the Renault Mégane R.S.

This time the power driven to the front wheels comes from a new 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine putting out 280hp and 390Nm of torque. 0 to 100 kmh is 5.8 seconds, going on to a top speed of 255 km/h. There is a wider front and rear track with bespoke front and rear wings, a rear spoiler to improve aerodynamic performance, rear bumper with diffuser and central exhaust, and Brembo® brake callipers for stopping power.

The new Mégane R.S. is available with a manual gearbox or an EDC 6-speed automatic gearbox. It goes on sale in Ireland from €41,995, with the EDC version on test available from €44,995. There’s the option of a Sport or Cup chassis, with the Cup version being the super stiff one, ideal for frequent track users.

One of the unique features of the Mégane R.S. among hot hatchbacks of this class is the ‘4CONTROL’ four-wheel steering system. At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction for extra stability. At low speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions for more agility.

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

On the road in the Renault Mégane R.S.

The Mégane R.S. is naturally quick and exciting to drive. It gets more explosive the harder you drive it and the more you fiddle with the settings. To spice things up there is a Sport mode, a Race mode and a personalised setting ('Perso') where you can set the car up until it's just right for you by altering things like the urgency of the throttle response, suspension stiffness, ESP activation threshold and exhaust note.

And then you begin to approach a corner. Ah now this is where we see the prowess and sheer brilliance of the Renault Mégane R.S. There is nothing left to do other than drive into the corner with intent for this is where you awaken the magic of the Mégane R.S. This car can sniff out cornering lines like no other and stick to them. The steering is not the most tactile unit but it's heavy and direct and gives you absolute confidence to steer into the corner, plant your foot on the throttle and follow the curve.

The engine provides a backing track of powerful grunts and cheeky burbles that add to the cool experience of the Renault Mégane R.S. For me the engine was a real highlight of the car – sweet and strong – though I would prefer the manual gearbox for a more tactile extraction of power. The four wheel steering I'm sure contributes to the car’s handling brilliance, but there were a few times when I felt that it interfered a little too.

The 2018 Renault Mégane R.S. has a new 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine putting out 280hp
The 2018 Renault Mégane R.S. has a new 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine putting out 280hp

In terms of running costs motor tax for this model is €750 per year and my fuel consumption was 9.4l/100 kms over a week of driving. I may have been having too much fun ahem.

Can I use it every day?

There is a firm edge to the suspension but it’s still remarkably comfortable for a performance hatchback. In terms of practicality the Renault Mégane R.S. is now a five door hatchback with space for five (though two will probably be most comfortable in the rear) and a good 384 litre boot. I was impressed with the sophisticated cabin ambience imparted by ambient lighting and the beautiful Alcantara trimmed steering wheel (€350) and sports seats (€1500). The material quality is a mixed bag and I do find the portrait style touchscreen a bit fiddly to use on the move. But overall I really enjoyed being in the cabin of the Mégane R.S.

The Alcantara sports seats add to the sophisticated cabin ambience of the Renault Mégane R.S.
The Alcantara sports seats add to the sophisticated cabin ambience of the Renault Mégane R.S.

Standard equipment includes grey ‘Estoril’ 18” alloy wheels (19” ‘Interlagos’ fitted to test car for €350), rear parking sensors, Multi-Sense driving modes, seven-inch touchscreen with European mapping, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and handsfree keycard with automatic locking.

So what's the verdict?

Over a week of driving the new Renault Mégane R.S. really endeared itself to me. I have a few niggles with the car but my overarching opinion is that this is a passionate high performer that just gets better the harder you push it. The Renault Mégane R.S. is laugh out loud good and moments of pure wicked power and handling talent prove its raison d'être!

Caroline Kidd

Would you like to watch a video review of the new Renault Mégane R.S.?

Model tested: Renault Megane R.S. 280 EDC
Price: 
From €44,995 (Range from €41,995)
Engine: 1.8-litre turbo petrol
Power:
280 hp
Torque: 390 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.8 seconds
Top speed: 255 km/h
Economy: 
40.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 
155 g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year

The Renault Mégane R.S. is wickedly fast and fun!
The Renault Mégane R.S. is wickedly fast and fun!

The new Hyundai i30 N Performance has arrived in Ireland

Hyundai i30 N Performance Review

The new Hyundai i30 N Performance has arrived in Ireland
The new Hyundai i30 N Performance has arrived in Ireland

Caroline reviews the Hyundai i30 N Performance.

The Hyundai i30 N is Hyundai’s new high performance hot hatchback and it's a strong sign of the Korean brand's ambition. Not content with just being a maker of normal hatchbacks and SUVs, Hyundai's N division was set up to create sporty models for the brand.

So enter the Hyundai i30 N, the first N model to reach these shores and the brand's first ever hot hatchback.

Inspired by Hyundai Motorsport's adventures on the rally stages of the world and honed on the Nürburgring, the new Hyundai i30 N makes a ferocious entrance.

Well, the 'baby blue' finish on the test car - it's actually called Performance Blue - might not look all that ferocious but there are enough bits added to give the i30 N a meaty makeover. And that's before you even start the thing up. Because believe me the noise that comes out of that exhaust is far from meek!

To mark it out as a more potent version of the i30, the Hyundai i30 N has 19" alloy wheels, an orange lip spoiler, black side skirts, black roof spoiler, and a rear diffuser with two mighty exhaust pipes peeping out.

The new Hyundai i30 N Performance has arrived in Ireland
The new Hyundai i30 N Performance has 275hp and a lot of attitude!

So what's under the bonnet?

The Hyundai i30 N is a front wheel drive hot hatchback and in its entry guise it has 250hp from a four cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. But Hyundai Ireland is selling the full fat i30 N Performance with 275hp with a list price of €39,995. Yay!

There's 353 Nm of torque with up to 378 Nm available on overboost. That brings the i30 N to 100 kmh from 0 in 6.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 250 km/h, and there's some delicious power exploitation to be had through the i30 N's 6-speed manual gearbox.

But the performance figures only tell half the story.

You start the i30 N and I swear it idles like a rally car. It has one of the best idle notes I've heard from a hot hatchback in a long time. Then before you move - if you can wait that long - there's a chance to fiddle around with some of the different driving modes: Normal, Sport, Eco, N and Custom. My favourite was Custom because I could set the car up to my preferred settings. I loved the detail. I could change everything from the engine throttle response and suspension stiffness to the stability control, rev-matching intensity, steering weight, electronic slip differential and even the exhaust sound!

The interior of the Hyundai i30 N Performance
The interior of the Hyundai i30 N Performance

What's the Hyundai i30 N Performance like to drive?

So then you get going in the Hyundai i30 N Performance and soon you will discover that this is a very good and very addictive hot hatchback. There's drama to the i30 N that is reminiscent of the Ford Focus RS. Pops and bangs on the overun will keep the fun coming while the handling is super tight and controlled through corners. You can pull the i30 N into the corner and commit to the throttle with absolute grip and stability. It's really impressive.

The steering is very heavy even in its 'lightest' setting and it's not huge on feedback either. But it is direct and precise so it does't really distract from what is a very exciting and addictive driving experience!

The ride comfort varies in that it is naturally on the firm side but still very much manageable for day to day driving. There is a customised N mode, where it gets very stiff so that's probably best left for the track.

My fuel consumption over a week of driving was 7.5l/100km.

Is the i30 N a hot but practical hatchback?

In terms of the cabin space and feel, it's pretty much identical to the standard i30, except for some N badging, a sports steering wheel with two large blue buttons to switch performance settings, and lovely bolstered sports seats. There is seating for five like any hatchback of this size though the i30 wouldn't be the most spacious of its ilk in the rear seating; but the boot is a good size at 381 litres.

The Hyundai i30 N is a triumph for Hyundai
The Hyundai i30 N is a triumph for Hyundai

In terms of spec, you get all the accoutrements of the N designation including the body kit, 19" alloys, Pirelli tyres, and sports seats, as well as LED headlamps, dual zone air con, 8" touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, rear parking camera, keyless entry, autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist.

The Hyundai i30 N Performance really surprised me for its commitment to the hot hatchback genre; after driving it I can say that it really can compete with the best of them. It doesn't feel that Hyundai tried to create an imitation of a Golf GTI - the i30 N has its own personality very much inspired by Hyundai Motorsport. While it doesn't have that cosseting comfort and refinement of the Volkswagen, it's so likable and addictive for its raucous and raw personality. Mechanically it feels engineered to excite and believe me it does just that. The Hyundai i30 N Performance is a real triumph for Hyundai!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Hyundai i30 N Performance
Price: 
€39,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
275bhp
Torque: 353Nm
0-100km/h:  
6.1 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Economy: 
7.1l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
163 g/km
Motor tax: 
€570 per year


2018 Volkswagen Golf GTE

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTE Review

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTE
The Volkswagen Golf GTE is the first plug-in hybrid Golf

Caroline drives the Volkswagen Golf GTE.

There’s never been a better time to talk about alternative fuel vehicles and when the world’s most recognisable hatchback starts dabbling in electric and hybrid power, we know there’s something up. While the majority of the over 4000 Golfs sold in Ireland each year are still petrol and diesel models, the current Golf range also features an electric Golf (‘e-Golf’) and a petrol-electric, plug-in hybrid (Golf GTE). It’s the Volkswagen Golf GTE that’s the subject of this review.

The Volkswagen Golf GTE’s hybrid powertrain offers buyers more flexibility than a pure electric vehicle (EV) making it a good transition model for those still a bit anxious about the logistics of relying on battery power only and the availability of charge points for longer journeys. Plug-in hybrids are something of a half-way house though - at the moment they offer a limited range on electric power compared to a full EV. But running costs are potentially very low, without any of the range anxiety that can blight EV ownership.

It also helps that Volkswagen has ensured that their plug-in hybrid Golf is anything but a nerdy ecowagen with dull styling and lethargic performance. Interestingly the brand took the brave step to market the new Volkswagen Golf GTE as something akin to sporty variants of the Golf like the GTI and GTD. It certainly piques interest in the Golf GTE. However, it is expensive and with grants the list price is €40,050. So the Golf GTE is not just pitched like a plug-in hybrid performance hatchback – it’s also priced like one!

The Volkswagen Golf GTE
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTE has a list price of €40,050 in Ireland

The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a stylish, sporty hybrid

Refreshed models of Volkswagen’s popular Mark 7 Golf arrived in Ireland in 2017 and the Golf GTE has received the same cosmetic and interior upgrades. The Volkswagen Golf GTE looks smart and distinguishing features include C-shaped LED daytime running lights, full LED headlights and rear lights with sweeping indicators, a blue strip that runs through the grille and lights, 18" alloy wheels with blue brake calipers, rear spoiler, and GTE badging.

Inside there is the same reassuring quality and layout to the interior as the other models in the Golf range, with GTE models adding some additional blue detailing (as opposed to red in the GTI). The upgrades as part of the Golf facelift have been very successful and the GTE gets a new 8" infotainment system with clear glass touchscreen and a full digital instrument panel. These features really lift the cabin and the Golf GTE is every bit the premium hatchback.

The GTE also has some fabulous sports seats with classic 'Clark' upholstery. Other standard features include dual zone air con, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, ambient lighting, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

The GTE also has an 'e-manager', allowing the driver to preset vehicle charging, as well as interior cooling or heating. These functions can be operated remotely using the Car-Net app on a smartphone.

On a practical note, the Golf GTE offers competitive interior accommodation for a five door hatchback. Unfortunately the Golf GTE has a smaller boot to accommodate the battery, down from 380 litres in a regular Golf to 272 litres in the GTE.

The interior of the Volkswagen Golf GTE
The interior of the Volkswagen Golf GTE

Can the Volkswagen Golf GTE be powerful and efficient?

The Volkswagen Golf GTE combines a 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol with an electric motor to produce 204hp. In terms of power and acceleration the Golf GTE is very lively indeed with 0 to 100 km/h achieved in 7.6 seconds. CO2 emissions are 40g/km so motor tax is just €170 per year.

As a plug-in hybrid the Golf GTE can be charged at home in about 3.5 hours or using the public charging system in about 2 hours. On a full battery in real life terms you will be able to drive on pure electric power for about 30 km. But this electric range is best suited to stop/start urban driving because high speeds on the open road will deplete the battery power more rapidly.

And you need to keep that battery topped up for the overall efficiency of the car, even in the hybrid driving modes. I spent most of the time driving in the basic hybrid mode where the car draws power from the engine and battery as appropriate with a bias towards efficiency. My fuel consumption over a few days of driving was 6.3 litres per 100kms. That's good for a petrol hatchback but I imagine you could do better than this with a less heavy right foot and driving the car more in pure EV mode.

There is also a GTE mode where you can tap into the sporty side of the car. The GTE mode adds weight to the steering and changes the shift timings of the 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox, making the throttle response more urgent, while pumping some augmented engine noise into the cabin! The last point will probably shock some purists but the 1.4-litre TSI doesn’t sound very menacing by itself so it needs a bit of help in that department.

Rear seating space in the Volkswagen Golf GTE
Rear seating space in the Volkswagen Golf GTE

So what’s the Volkswagen Golf GTE like to drive?

On the road the Golf GTE retains its intrinsic 'Golfness' in that it’s smooth and agile, refined and comfortable. As a hybrid vehicle, it’s impressive for its refinement and the ease of which it moves between engine and electric power. Digital displays keep the driver informed on things such as range, efficiency and what part of the system is active at any given time. The Golf GTE is on the heavy side weighing 1,615kg but it still remains flat and balanced through corners. The steering is fluid and precise but there is no real feedback. While the battery boosted acceleration in GTE mode is impressive by itself, the car is lacking a playful edge and the sort of sweaty palm inducing driving dynamics that marks out the best of the hot hatchbacks, including its own stable mate, the Golf GTI.

The Volkswagen Golf GTE performs well as just a regular, efficient plug-in hybrid, if you can make use of that electric range and drive it in a balanced way. The Golf GTE is expensive but it’s more exciting and refined to drive than many other plug-in hybrids on the market, retaining all the basic Golf qualities that make it a car loved by millions.

However, the problems arise when you start to view the Golf GTE through the lens of a performance hatchback because though it's fast, it's not particularly engaging. Still for the right buyer, the Volkswagen Golf GTE is a smart, refined and prestigious plug-in hybrid hatchback.

Volkswagen Golf GTE
The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a smart, prestigious and refined plug-in hybrid

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid
Price: 
€40,050
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol + electric motor
Power: 
204hp
Torque: 350Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.6 seconds
Top speed: 222km/h
Claimed Economy: 
1.8l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
40g/km
Motor tax: 
€170 per year


Honda Civic Type R

2018 Honda Civic Type R Review

Honda Civic Type R
The 2018 Honda Civic Type R

Caroline drives the Honda Civic Type R.

Honda’s Type R badge is legendary, appearing on the brand’s sportiest, most high performance models for over 25 years. After the 2017 launch of the new Honda Civic hatchback, we didn’t have long to wait for the new Honda Civic Type R.

Newly engineered from the ground-up, the new Civic Type R was developed in parallel with the standard Civic hatchback with what Honda claims to be mutual benefits to the dynamics and refinement of both.

It's true that the Honda Civic Type R is working from a good base because in standard form the Honda Civic is a car that's really impressed me in the last year for its space and fun to drive quality.

But the Honda Civic Type R has to be something special. With pricing starting from €51,750, the Type R occupies the same territory as the 350hp Ford Focus RS and 310hp Volkswagen Golf R.

The new Honda Civic Type R is lighter and more rigid with a lower centre of gravity. It uses a front wheel drive layout and the same 2.0-litre VTEC Turbo as the previous generation. Except the engine has been reworked to now produce 320hp (up from 310hp).

The interior of the Honda Civic Type R
The interior of the Honda Civic Type R

What's the Honda Civic Type R like to drive?

The Honda Civic Type R is quick - 0 to 100km is 5.8 seconds - but it makes for a scintillating drive that the numbers can only tell half the story of. In terms of performance it is nothing short of sublime and it has been engineered to put the power to the road with minimal fuss, just glorious noise from the 2.0-litre turbo.

Dual-Pinion Variable-Ratio Electric Power Steering is new to this generation of the Civic Type R. It uses a similar system to the standard Civic, but optimises the variable ratio to deliver a more direct and secure feel at high speed. No matter what the speed, the Civic Type R shows incredible grip and poise through corners with tactile steering that's quick and deft, and the smooth and precise six speed manual gearbox is deeply satisfying too.

There’s also a helical limited slip differential for greater traction during hard cornering. The front wheels are equipped with a high performance Brembo brake package, developed specifically for the car.

Honda has used an advanced Dual-Axis Strut Front Suspension system to reduce torque steer and enhance 'on-the-limit' cornering and steering feel. At the rear, the Type R’s new multi-link suspension enhances ride comfort as well as high speed stability.

New driving modes to enhance driving pleasure

Honda has introduced three driving modes: Comfort, Sport and +R. Each selection tailors the adaptive dampers, steering force, gear shift feeling and throttle response. The Comfort mode is where the suspension is at its most compliant for daily use and I had no issue with ride comfort in this car. Sport mode livens up the throttle response and stiffens things up.

Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R starts from €51,750

But +R is a real revelation not to be missed. Even on a back road, press this button and you will feel like turning up at the gates of Mondello Park. It turns the car into a super stiff, eager, roaring hot hatch that will touch even the coldest of hearts! Truly sublime.

Does that wing do anything?

On the outside, Honda for sure has thrown all the bits at new Civic Type R: huge, grin-inducing, aerodynamic rear wing, brake cooling vents, 20" alloys, lightweight aluminium vented bonnet, and centre mounted triple outlet exhaust. The interior features plenty of red trim to increase the heart rate and the sports seats are really comfortable and supportive.

Like the rest of the Civic range, the new Honda Civic Type R features the Honda SENSING suite of safety technologies including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist System, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Assistance and Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control.

Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R is a scintillating drive

Buyers can also add a GT Pack for an extra €2,200. This pack adds carbon fibre effect sport garnish with red trim, Blind Spot Information including Cross Traffic Monitor, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, Honda CONNECT with Garmin Navigation, wireless charging pad, 542-watt 12-speaker audio system and LED front fog lights.

The new Honda Civic Type R is not discrete: it's old-school, 'look at my massive wing', immature and exciting. But Honda has addressed any refinement or comfort issues from the previous generation and the Civic Type R can be remarkably well-behaved too for daily use...

Yet even at low speeds this is a car that can thrill and excite. It's clear that the Civic Type R has been engineered for excellence - on the road and on the track. A true car for enthusiasts.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Honda Civic Type R GT Pack
Price: 
€53,950 (Available from €51,750)
Engine:  2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
320hp
Torque: 400Nm
0-100km/h: 
5.8 seconds
Top speed: 272km/h
Claimed Economy: 
7.7/100km
CO2 emissions:  
176g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year