Honda Civic Type R

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
€53,950 (Available from €51,750)
Engine:  2.0-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 400Nm
5.8 seconds
Top speed: 272km/h
Claimed Economy: 
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax: 
€750 per year

Kia Stinger GT

Kia Stinger GT Review

Kia Stinger GT
Caroline and the Kia Stinger GT!

Caroline reviews the Kia Stinger GT.

Kia has built a name in recent years for good value SUVs, small hatchbacks and lately hybrids. Manufacturer of luxury performance vehicles? Not so much. But the new Kia Stinger GT will challenge every perception you have of the Korean car manufacturer.

The Kia Stinger was first previewed as the 2011 Kia GT Concept and it’s the highest-performance production vehicle in Kia’s history. In Ireland the Stinger goes on sale as a range topping GT with a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, but there’s also a more economical 2.2-litre diesel version available.

Designed from the start as a grand tourer or gran turismo, the Kia Stinger GT is a large five door ‘fastback’ sports saloon with a powerhouse under the bonnet in the form of the 370hp 3.3-litre V6. We don’t see many of these anymore, and Kia is really stepping into something new for the brand.

The design is spot on and the Kia Stinger is evocative enough to turn heads with sporty touches like 19” alloys, Brembo disc brakes with red callipers, front air curtains, bonnet vents and wheel arch gills. At the back there are four oval exhaust pipes set in a black diffuser.

The interior of the Kia Stinger GT
The interior of the Kia Stinger GT

Kia Stinger GT Interior

Inside it’s a large car with seating for five and a boot that opens like a hatchback. There’s practicality in this package too. For your information, Kia says the Stinger’s boot can accommodate two full-size suitcases or golf bags, or four or five weekend bags!

The Stinger GT is priced from €66,895, making it also the most expensive Kia you can buy! But this car is aimed at a luxury buyer and I’m happy to say it can deliver on quality and design inside. The quality is a serious step up from anything else in the Kia range. The GT model gets leather seats with lots of soft touch dash materials. The cabin is focused around the driver and the driving position low and sporty. Infotainment is provided via a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Equipment levels are exceptionally good too with a full complement of safety equipment and every comfort feature you could imagine.

Kia Stinger GT
The Kia Stinger GT's 3.3-litre V6 has 370hp

What's the Kia Stinger GT like to drive?

Honed on the Nurburgring, the Kia Stinger GT is the fastest-accelerating production Kia ever with 0-to-100 kph in just 4.9 seconds. This is a heavy car but it feels nothing other than quick and ultra-responsive, while rear wheel drive brings superb agility to the car’s handling.

The steering set-up is noticeably good too with accurate weighting and feedback. The big Kia slips through corners easily and with grace, while the 510Nm of torque will push you back in your seat.

It’s also a refined and comfortable long distance cruiser but bags of fun when you’re pushing on through corners. There are a number of different driving modes to choose from and Stinger is always ready to play with a lively back-end.

It's predictably not cheap to run. If you are at all interested my fuel consumption was 9.6l/100km over a week of driving. The gutteral grunt of the V6 makes trips to the fuel station worth it and V6s really are a dying breed.

Kia Stinger GT
The Kia Stinger GT is a big, powerful car that will give you hours of pleasure

The Kia Stinger GT is a tremendous car from Kia. It’s a first attempt from the brand at luxury performance but a genuinely convincing car that doesn’t disappoint in terms of performance, quality and design, and there’s a real playful side too. Bound to keep drivers enamoured for years.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Stinger GT 3.3 V6
€66,895 (Range from €53,895)
Engine: 3.3-litre V6 petrol
Torque: 510Nm
4.9 seconds
Top speed: 270km/h
Claimed Economy: 
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax: 
€1200 per year

Caroline Kidd testing the Ford Mustang in France

Ford Mustang V8 Review

Caroline Kidd testing the Ford Mustang in France
Caroline testing the Ford Mustang in France

The Ford Mustang arrived in Europe for the first time at the end of 2015, along with the first right hand drive models ever for the UK and Ireland. Now less than three years later, Ford has revised the Ford Mustang V8 and 2.3-litre range, with significant changes to the styling, trims, engines, technology and equipment. I travelled to Nice, France, to find out what’s new for the Ford Mustang V8 in 2018.


The 2018 Ford Mustang has been subtly restyled for a sleeker appearance and is more aerodynamic than before. The bonnet has been lowered a fraction and there are now integrated air vents which look really cool. The Mustang’s headlights, daytime running lights, indicators and tri-bar tail lights now all feature LED technology as standard, with LED foglights also available.  The lower front grille has been redesigned and at the back there is a re-modelled bumper and diffuser. The 5.0-litre V8 has standard quad-tailpipes while the 2.3-litre EcoBoost has twin tailpipes. There’s also a new optional boot spoiler. There are now eleven colours to choose from including three new colours: Kona Blue, Orange Fury and Royal Crimson. Racing stripes in white or black can now be added. There are new 19-inch forged alloy wheels offered in multiple finishes including Nickel, Ebony Black and Polished Aluminium.


They have been a few new additions to the interior. The most impressive is the customisable, 12-inch digital information cluster. New trims improve the quality around the cabin, though the Mustang is still very much the ‘working class hero’ compared to plush coupés from BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. A Carbon Sport interior package is also available across the Mustang range, including suede-effect Alcantara door and seat inserts, plus a carbon fibre instrument panel surround and gear knob. There are optional leather Recaro racing seats available in red, blue or black.

2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé
The interior of the 2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé


As before the Ford Mustang is available as a fastback (coupé) or convertible with a folding fabric roof. Interior space is the same with comfortable accommodation up front and just enough room for two adults in the back. The boot can also accommodate a couple of small suitcases. A fantastic car for a road trip for two!


Ford has made some changes to the Mustang V8 to deliver more power and a higher rev-limit. Power is up to 450hp and there’s 529Nm of torque. The engine has a new dual-fuel, high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection system, which also increases low-end torque. Fuel economy is still no better than 23mpg and the ‘greenest’ model has CO2 emissions of 270g/km! But no one ever bought a V8 for economy. While on the road, the Ford Mustang V8 never feels exceptionally fast (though all models will hit 100kmh in under five seconds), but nothing can prepare you for the visceral growl of a real V8.

Power is now a little down in the 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine to 290hp, but there’s still 440Nm of torque available. This is the more fuel-efficient Mustang but you will unlikely see over 30mpg. CO2 emissions for the Mustang EcoBoost are no better than 199g/km. The engine has a transient overboost function for the turbocharger – triggered under heavy acceleration to provide an extra burst of boost following each up-shift.

2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé
Ford has significantly revised the Mustang for the 2018 model year

On the road

For 2018, the Ford Mustang has a new 10-speed automatic gearbox, while there’s also a 6-speed manual gearbox. On the launch, both were driven with the V8. The automatic performs very well with quick, seamless shifts. There’s also steering wheel mounted paddles. Ford has now added rev-matching technology to the 6-speed manual transmission to deliver smoother, faster downshifts accompanied by a “blip” of the engine.

The Ford Mustang V8 is quite the beast to wrestle around the small twisty roads above Nice. But this time the Mustang feels more manageable and connected to the road than before. The on-road feel is one of greater refinement, sophistication and control. It’s mighty fun to thread that big nose through a series of corners, while the rumble of the V8 provides a menacing soundtrack to your endeavours.

Some of the things Ford has done to improve the car’s dynamic appeal is add a larger front splitter that increases downforce to help keep the front end planted to the ground for greater stability. Rocker shields to the rear of the front wheel arches improve air flow beneath the Mustang, reducing drag by up to 3%. There are also recalibrated shock absorbers to improve stability through corners, and the rear suspension is stiffened with a cross-axis joint to reduce unwanted movement. Thicker anti-roll bars also help the Mustang resist body roll better in sharper turns.

The cars we drove at the launch also had optional MagneRide adjustable suspension and selectable Drive Modes, including a new customisable My Mode option. The MagneRide Damping System electronically controls higher or lower damping resistance, depending on the driving conditions.

There’s also a new Active Valve Performance Exhaust which allows you to adjust the intensity of the Mustang’s exhaust note, including a ‘Good Neighbour Mode’ which can be programmed for quiet morning start-ups!

2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé
Irish buyers will have to wait until December 2018 for the revised Ford Mustang to arrive here


The Mustang’s poor 2-star Euro NCAP rating has been addressed with new safety equipment including Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Aid, Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert.

Ford’s SYNC 3 8” infotainment system features in new Mustang and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto™.

There are also performance car treats like Launch Control and Electronic Line Lock. The latter applies only the front brakes, allowing the driver to spin the rear wheels and warm the tyres while stationary. Line Lock is now also standard with the 2.3‑litre EcoBoost engine.

Two new Drive Modes have been added including Drag Strip Mode, which optimises performance for maximum acceleration standing starts, and My Mode, which enables drivers to select their own preferred settings for performance, dynamics and exhaust sound.


Pricing for the new Ford Mustang V8 in Ireland will be announced closer to launch in December 2018. The current Mustang range starts at €55,500.


Ford has taken this mid-life refresh as an opportunity to make considerable improvements to European-spec Mustangs. Aerodynamics and overall driving dynamics have been improved, and the Ford Mustang now feels more sophisticated and sporty on the road. Aesthetically, it’s still the classic, much-loved American sports coupé – just a little bit sleeker and safer. The technology and equipment upgrades are very welcome and the digital instrument cluster and some of the new trims really lift the cabin quality. The Ford Mustang V8 is far from posh (and it’s still a thirsty brute) but a spruce up does it the world of good.

Caroline Kidd

2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé
The 2018 Ford Mustang V8 Coupé now packs 450hp

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce in Misano Blue

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Review

Alfa Romeo Ireland has dropped a car for Alfa aficionados into the Giulia range. Arriving in a blur of exclusive ‘Misano Blue’ paint, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce attempts to bridge the gap between the standard Giulia petrol and diesel models, and the range topping grand symphony that is the 510hp Giulia Quadrifoglio.

The Giulia Veloce’s long bonnet houses a tuned 2.0-litre turbo petrol that produces 280hp and 400Nm of torque. 0 to 100 kmh is a blink-and-you‘ll-miss-it 5.7 seconds and power is fed to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic gearbox.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a beauty by any book and in Veloce spec it’s lowered, bolstered with sports bumpers and at the back there are two large tailpipes nestled in a rear diffuser. The Giulia Veloce is shod with 18” alloys, and Veloce is written in elegant script above the front wheel arches.

Inside the interior is mostly the same as the standard Giulia. Full leather upholstery comes as standard as does 25W Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, a rear view camera, power folding exterior mirrors, and heated 6-way electric front seats including electric side bolster support. Infotainment is provided via Alfa Connect™ with an 8.8” touchscreen with 3D Navigation split screen function, rotary pad control and 8 speakers. The interior quality is okay but there are some very ordinary materials used in places.

Alfa Romeo Giulia review ireland
The interior of the Alfa Romeo Giulia

On the road the Giulia Veloce doesn’t hang about. Plant your foot to the accelerator and the Giulia Veloce takes off as if it's being being chased by a fleet of Ferraris. The acceleration is smooth, linear and urgent. There is no great accompanying roar from the engine, which I was slightly disappointed by, but it does sound more angry with the DNA switch turned to Dynamic.

The Giulia is a real handling star even in its most basic guise. It's light, agile and floats through corners with real elegance and ultimate precision from small turns on the steering wheel. The ride only shows up its firmness over really bad surfaces so for day to day driving, the Giulia Veloce doesn't carry any compromise.

With pricing starting from €54,495, the Giulia Veloce is a bigger investment over the more basic petrols and diesels in the Giulia range. This is an enjoyable car with sweet steering, handling and acceleration that's pleasingly urgent. Alfa has failed to wow inside the car and I think Veloce buyers deserve a bit more fanfare inside. But the Giulia has a certain magic to it that will never fail to get it noticed.

Caroline Kidd

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce review ireland
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce is on sale in Ireland from €54,495

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 400Nm
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 240km/h
CO2 emissions: 
Motor tax: 
€390 per year

Mazda MX-5 RF review ireland

Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Read Caroline's Mazda MX-5 RF review for everything you need to know about buying Mazda's classic sports car.

The Mazda MX-5 needs little introduction being one of the most iconic and influential sports cars of the last 30 years.

There are few cars that are as fun and extrovert as the Mazda MX-5 roadster. With pricing starting from €27,995, the Mazda MX-5 remains utterly desirable for men and women of all ages.

Recently, I test drove the Mazda MX-5 RF. This model ditches the canvas roof for a more sophisticated folding metal roof. In the brochure the RF may just seem like a more expensive MX-5 – it’s priced from €31,495 – but as I found out during my time with this car, it offers much more for the sports car connoisseur.

My test car was finished in exclusive Machine Grey, which shows off the slick fastback styling to great effect. The RF model is altogether more masculine looking. My GT model was powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol unit with 160hp (from €36,695). The Mazda MX-5 RF is also available with the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with 131hp.

Inside, the metal roof adds more comfort and insulation to the cabin of the Mazda MX-5 RF. The cabin is small and entry and exit can be challenging (!), but once seated there is no doubt you are at the helm of an exciting sports car!

Mazda MX-5 RF review ireland
The interior of the Mazda MX-5 RF

There is the option of tan leather, which adds even more sophistication. There’s no glovebox or door pockets and storage is slim. There is a token 127 litre boot for the shopping or two small suitcases, but this is not a car you buy for space! You buy it for fun!

The dash has a nice layout and the quality is good in the cabin. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, LED headlights, MZD Connect, cruise control and auto aircon. The 2.0-litre GT is differentiated by 17-inch bright alloys wheels and body coloured wing mirrors. GT models also feature rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, smart keyless entry, 9 Premium Bose® Surround-Sound and heated leather seats.

The 2.0-litre engine roars into life when you press the start stop button and the novelty never wears off thereafter. The 2.0 sounds meaty in the diminutive sports car and it’s pure joy extracting every last rev through the short throw of the excellent 6-speed manual gearbox.

The 2.0 GT adds a limited slip differential as well as Bilstein dampers and strut brace. The car moves beautifully laterally through corners with perfect balance and quick responses. The feedback from the steering is nothing special yet it’s impossible not to feel fully engaged with the car. Sitting low means that you feel like you’re flying all the time and there is a wonderful purity and abandon to driving the MX-5 that can brighten up the dullest of commutes.

Mazda MX-5 RF review ireland
The Mazda MX-5 RF is one of the best sports cars you can buy

The hard top gives the feeling of more security in our harsh Irish winters and adds refinement while not diluting any of the fun. The roof folds back electrically when stationary or at speeds below 10kmh.

The addition of a hard top to the Mazda MX-5 RF is no gimmick and adds a more refined and sophisticated character to the Mazda MX-5. The power and execution of this car makes it an absolute must for anyone looking for a genuine sports car.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 RF GT 2.0 SKYACTIV-G
€37,745 as tested (RF range from €31,495)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Torque: 200Nm
7.4 seconds
Top speed: 215km/h
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax: 
€570 per year

Ford Mustang Coupé review ireland

Ford Mustang Coupé Review

At the beginning of 2017 I was lucky enough to test drive the new Ford Mustang Convertible. I didn’t expect to have this car again until at least 2018 when a revised model is set to arrive in Ireland. But when Ford Ireland offered me the chance to get behind the wheel of their pony car again, I wasn’t going to refuse.

This time it was a ‘Grabber Blue’ Ford Mustang Coupé. Under the bonnet sat the 2.3-litre turbocharged four cylinder ‘EcoBoost’ petrol engine. Purists would call this Mustang-lite but the Mustang EcoBoost makes more financial sense for every day driving and to be fair this car is never short of drama.

My initial mortification of driving the most obvious car in Dublin eventually subsided and I began to enjoy this big pony. The week I had the car I happened to be doing a lot of city driving. You couldn’t call the Mustang a city car but soon I was skipping around corners and surging away from traffic lights with aplomb.

The Ford Mustang is cool. It’s impossible not to be seduced by its rawness and brute masculinity. Inside the build quality and design is nothing special but the steering wheel with pony logo, ‘ground speed’ speedometer and retro style buttons just keep reminding you this is a special piece of Americana.

Ford Mustang Coupé
Interior of the Ford Mustang Coupé

On the road, the Mustang feels big and unwieldy at first. Visibility is not amazing to the rear but you soon get used to it. For sure, it’s never going to be as agile as a hot hatch but the handling is good for our European roads. It’s excellent for long distance travel with a refined interior ambience and it’s comfortable too.

The engine makes the car. I don’t know anything that sounds so strong and muscular as the 2.3-litre Mustang EcoBoost. Okay this one would be eclipsed by the Mustang GT with it’s mighty V8 engine (and €2350 motor tax), but Ford has still managed to bottle that classic muscle car sound and feeling in the EcoBoost.

The Mustang EcoBoost has 317hp and 0 to 100kmh is 5.8 seconds but because of the weight of the car it never feels exceptionally fast. But the way the car surges forward when you accelerate hard is pure magic. Pure muscle.

So how much does this all cost? The Mustang EcoBoost starts from €55,500 while the Mustang GT starts from €71,500. Standard equipment includes 19” alloys, sports style, part leather front seats, ambient lighting, xenon headlamps, rear view camera, cruise control, keyless start, Ford Sync 3 infotainment with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and dual zone climate control.

Ford Mustang Coupé
There's nothing quite like the Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang is an absolute icon and it doesn’t take much time behind the wheel to be utterly seduced by the Mustang’s raw charm. An American muscle car on Irish roads might seem ridiculous but the Mustang will brighten up any commute. It’s not the last word in luxury nor a dynamic delight, but its charisma is priceless.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Mustang Coupé EcoBoost
€58,400 incl. options (Range starts at €55,500)
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 434Nm
5.8 seconds
Top speed: 233km/h
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax: 
€750 per year

2017 Volkswagen Golf R review ireland

Volkswagen Golf R Review (2017)

I awaited the arrival of the Volkswagen Golf R with great anticipation. Hot hatchbacks don’t come up in my diary very often but when they do I know to prepare for maximum distraction.

With the Volkswagen Golf R, what was calling me from under the bonnet was the growl of a 2.0-litre TSI. The Golf R is the halo car of the Volkswagen Golf range. While the legendary GTI uses the same engine with 230hp, in the Golf R it receives a healthy power boost to 310hp, along with the addition of all wheel drive.

2017 has been the year of the Golf Mk 7 makeover. The whole Golf range has received some small styling updates and new equipment, while the engine range has also been shaken up a bit with some models like the Golf R gaining more power (10hp) and the introduction of a new Volkswagen Golf 1.0TSI.

The Volkswagen Golf R sits at the top of the range with five door manual versions starting at €45,795 and the DSG equivalent from €47,595. This is a high spec Golf and naturally the interior is beautifully appointed. The infotainment system is new and works seamlessly. Visually the new glossy black surround does wonders for the interior and a digital instrument cluster has been introduced for the first time, standard on Golf R.

Volkswagen Golf R review ireland
The interior of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R

Other equipment highlights include sports seats with alcantara trim, adaptive cruise control, dual zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors and LED lights front and rear.

On the outside the Golf R is a lesson in subtlety. There are sportier bumpers front and back and 19” alloys, but other than that the biggest clue that the Golf R might be housing something powerful are the two sets of double exhausts at the back!

Turn the key in the ignition and the engine of the Volkswagen Golf R roars into life. This car does not hiss and spit at you, and at low speeds around town it feels as calm as a 1.0-litre TSI. The overarching respectability of the Golf’s character means that it’s only when you put your foot down hard on the accelerator that you will officially arrive in hot hatch territory. There are a number of driving modes but my default was the feisty named ‘RACE’ mode because the accentuated engine noise adds a bit more drama to the cabin.

Volkswagen Golf R review ireland
The Volkswagen Golf R comes with 4MOTION all wheel drive and the choice of manual or DSG gearbox

One of the Golf R’s most redeeming qualities is its ability to transport a family and their things in comfort but accelerate like a rocket to 100kmh and carry great speed around corners with no loss of stability. The suspension is amazingly supple for a performance car, shaming some rivals (looking at you Ford Focus RS!). The steering is lightning quick but the feedback is not particularly interesting, so the Golf R in my opinion falls short of rivals like the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS in terms of smiles per mile.

There is an amazing polish to this car and a layer of perfection that is both its greatest asset and its undoing. Yes the Golf R has a wicked turn of speed. Yes it will retain vice like grip through corners and cut the apex perfectly corner after corner. But if you like hissy spitty hot hatches that make you feel like a lion tamer, the Volkswagen Golf R is not for you.

Yet the Golf R is all the things we love about the Golf with tremendous power and cornering stability. If you love Volkswagen quality and don’t want to be jostled around the cabin like a seagull on a stormy sea, then you won't go wrong with a Volkswagen Golf R!

Volkswagen Golf R review ireland
The Volkswagen Golf R now has 310hp

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf R 2.0TSI 4MOTION
Price: €45,795
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 380Nm
5.1 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Claimed Economy: 
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax:
€750 per year

Caroline Kidd

If you are looking for a hot hatchback you might also like this review of the Ford Focus RS.

2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI review ireland

Skoda Octavia RS Review

2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI review ireland
The 2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI

Just a few weeks ago I was enjoying the company of a flashy blue Skoda Octavia 2.0-litre TDI model with 150hp, which I thought was ‘mighty’ fast. Then I turned the heat up a few notches and took the Skoda Octavia RS TDI model on test. This model belongs to Skoda’s Octavia RS family. These are the more performance orientated models in the popular, but relatively conservative Skoda Octavia range.

The Skoda Octavia RS comes in two flavours in Ireland: a 184hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel, and a 245hp 2.0-litre TSI petrol model. The Octavia RS has been updated in line with the rest of the Octavia range for 2017 - cue the split headlamps. But somehow the extra little bit of aggression these impart looks better on the RS model. Twin exhausts, full LED headlights, a spoiler, sportier bumpers, some big wheels (18” standard), RS badging and a red strip at the rear complete the sporty stance. It looks brilliant in Race Blue Metallic.

Inside, there are gorgeous alcantara trimmed sports seats, sport pedals, ambient lighting, more badging and sporty interior trim inserts. The Octavia RS comes well-equipped with dual zone air con, front fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, 9.2” touchscreen with sat nav and in-car WiFi with additional SIM card slot.

2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI review ireland
The interior of the Skoda Octavia RS

What's hot under the bonnet of the Skoda Octavia RS?

Then we come to the engines. The Octavia RS 2.0-litre TSI packs serious power at 245hp with pricing from €39,865. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel model I tested has a more modest 184hp. But it’s of huge interest to the Irish market with a more attractive entry price (from €34,450) and is more efficient for day to day driving returning up to a quoted 58mpg.

On the road, the Skoda Octavia RS TDI is no mistaking a diesel, with a familiar diesel rumble, albeit a sportier one. There is also enhanced noise fed into the cabin. It’s easy to get a bit of roar when just cruising around town so the Octavia never feels just ordinary.

380Nm of torque means acceleration is always brisk, and the Skoda Octavia RS will hit 100kmh from a stop in 7.9 seconds. The Octavia RS TDI is available with a manual or DSG automatic gearbox, and 4x4 is also available. The DSG gearbox gives it a ‘grip and go’ feel, but is a tad hesitant.

2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI review ireland
The Skoda Octavia RS TDI is priced from €34,450 and offers superior economy to the 2.0-litre TSI version of the RS

On the road in the hot Skoda

The Octavia RS has a lowered sports suspension and the steering allows you to take a tight line through corners. It doesn’t feel as light on its feet as hot hatchbacks like the Peugeot 308GTi and Volkswagen Golf GTI. There’s a bit more lean of body weight in the corners. But the enhanced feeling of grip and feedback reaching the rim means that the driver is never any way in doubt about who is in control. There’s a firm edge to the suspension damping but it never slips into uncomfortable territory.

While there are many desirable hot hatchbacks in this segment, with both Ford and Volkswagen offering diesel variants of popular hot hatches like the Golf GTI and Focus ST, neither could compete with the Skoda Octavia RS on space. The boot is infinitely practical at 590 litres and three will fit comfortably in the rear with large footwells.

The Octavia RS TDI is well priced, comes with lots of equipment and follows the Skoda tradition of being more spacious than any rival. This car has presence and you can’t argue with the additional economy that the diesel offers in day to day driving. The Octavia RS TDI will never feel as racy as a purebred petrol hot hatchback. But it’s a great option if you need a diesel car, but want to be thrilled behind the wheel too!

2017 Skoda Octavia RS TDI review ireland
The Skoda Octavia RS is a great value hot hatch that offers more space than rivals

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Skoda Octavia RS 2.0TDI DSG
€36,795 (RS range from €34,450)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Torque:  380Nm
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 232km/h
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax: 
€270 per year

Renault Megane GT Review Ireland

Renault Megane GT Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caroline Kidd

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

Fiat 124 Spider Ireland Review Caroline Kidd

Fiat 124 Spider Review

There was a danger that Fiat were becoming too dependent on cute city cars and cheap hatchbacks but Fiat finally has a sports car back in their range that’s just not sensible at all.  The Fiat 124 Spider is a classic two seat roadster with a folding fabric roof, and is inspired by the 1966 original of the same name.

If the new Fiat Tipo is the practical, sensible part of the Fiat brand, then the 124 Spider is the emotional part. It’s the type of car that will make you part with your cash not for sensible things like value for money or boot space, but because it’s a sexy, low slung roadster that will make you a younger and better-looking version of yourself just by association.

The new 124 Spider shares much of its underpinnings with the Mazda MX5 but all the body panels are different. These two cars look uniquely different, but the Fiat is softer and more retro next to the Mazda’s sharp lines and angled approach. Inside the cabin wraps around you and the quality is good. These two roadsters are made in the same factory in Japan and this is the best quality Fiat I’ve seen. Infotainment is provided via a 7” screen that’s controlled by a rotary dial on the centre console.

Entry Classica models start from €32,395 and include air con, cruise control, and keyless engine start. Lusso models start at €35,195 and add satellite navigation, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seat, automatic climate control, and front fog lamps. Lusso Plus is priced from €36,695 and adds adaptive LED headlamps, auto lights and wipers and a nine-speaker BOSE sound system.

The cabin has a ‘tight’ feel, especially with the roof up, and there is limited storage. There’s no glovebox but there is some small locked storage behind the two seats and the boot has a capacity of a meagre 140 litres.

Fiat 124 Spider review ireland
The interior of the Fiat 124 Spider

The Fiat 124 Spider is all about the driving. You’re positioned low in the car and your legs are stretched out in front of you. You can hear the Fiat’s 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine working every time you change gear or accelerate, so it’s a very raw driving experience and it is quite noisy. You can feel the road underneath you, but the 124 Spider is comfortable for every day use.

The 1.4-litre engine produces 140hp, 240Nm of torque and 0-100kmh is achieved in 7.5 seconds with a top speed of 215kmh. I found the engine to be responsive and the turbo gives you a lovely thrust of power every time you change gear and accelerate.

The 124 Spider has classic rear wheel drive handling so it floats around corners with real grace and elegance. Surprisingly there’s not that much feedback coming from the steering, but because it’s quite a heavy set up you still feel connected to the road.

There are few things in life that hold as much promise as a red, two door, low slung, Italian sports car. The Fiat 124 Spider is not practical, but it’s fast, it’s fun and it’s raw, and that’s the innate charm of this car.

Fiat 124 Spider review ireland
The Fiat 124 Spider is not sensible but it's fast and fun!

Model tested: Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus
€36,695 (Range starts at €32,395)
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 240Nm
7.5 seconds
Top speed: 215km/h
CO2 emissions:  
Motor tax:
€390 per year

Caroline Kidd