The Nissan Qashqai on test for Changing Lanes!

Nissan Qashqai Review (2021)

The Nissan Qashqai on test for Changing Lanes!
The Nissan Qashqai on test for Changing Lanes!

The Nissan Qashqai is back in 2021 with an all-new generation model. The Qashqai started the trend for crossovers and quickly rose to fame here, for a time Ireland's bestselling car and a former Irish Car of the Year.

What's new for the 2021 Nissan Qashqai?

Now in its third generation, the Nissan Qashqai has grown up. More visually imposing than the previous generation of the car, it has the kerb appeal of a top SUV. Following on from the 2020 launch of the all-new Nissan Juke, the new Qashqai translates Nissan's new design language and technology to the family SUV segment with great success.

Pricing kicks off from €30,500 for the range in Ireland, with all models powered from launch by a 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine with mild hybrid technology.

The Qashqai fits the brief for a family car better than ever with a new platform yielding a more spacious cabin as well as a number of practical features.

Driving dynamics have also been significantly improved. Qashqai matures for a new era of electrification in the motor industry and will debut more hybrid options in 2022.

The Qashqai is maturing beautifully
The Qashqai is maturing beautifully

Inside the latest Nissan Qashqai

Inside the Qashqai benefits from a new interior that feels a lot more modern than the previous generation of the car. The quality of the materials has also moved up another gear, with a solid fit and finish that will weather family life for many years to come.

Qashqai gets a suitable digital upgrade too with a digital instrument panel for the driver and a slick looking infotainment screen that's smartphone ready. The interior could perhaps do with a more distinctive character with more Nissan brand defining features, but the premium feeling cannot be denied.

Standard equipment levels are very good with the list including LED headlights, auto headlights with high beam assist, rear parking sensors, 8" infotainment screen and wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Safety features include blind spot intervention, traffic sign recognition, Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking.

The SV Premium model on test (from €37,395) includes a wireless phone charger, 9” touchscreen, 18" alloys, panoramic glass roof, rear view camera and rear privacy glass.

The interior of the 2021 Nissan Qashqai
The interior of the 2021 Nissan Qashqai

Is it practical?

The Qashqai has grown in stature, which benefits passenger space too. The new car is a bit wider and has a longer wheelbase than the car it replaces, so you will find good sized footwells in the rear as a result. It feels more spacious inside than the previous Qashqai.

There's also 50 more litres of boot space and the boot has a number of clever features to boost practicality - a false floor that can be used to separate items or give a flat loading sill. A powered hands-free tailgate is also available.

The most impressive feature is refinements to the ergonomic design of the door openings - the rear doors now open to 90 degrees, making it easier to step in and out of the vehicle or manoeuvre child seats into position. Small things but it helps Qashqai function better as a family car than ever before.

Driving the Nissan Qashqai

The 2021 Nissan Qashqai sits on a new platform. My test car was powered by the 1.3-litre mild hybrid petrol engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The overall impression is of agility and comfort on the road. Despite the overall increase in stiffness, the new Qashqai is over 60 kg lighter than the car it replaces.

Front wheel drive Qashqais uses a torsion beam rear suspension layout, upgraded from the outgoing Qashqai to reduce vibration and ensure better bump absorption and a smoother ride, as well as providing better roll control.

Boot space in the 2021 Nissan Qashqai
Boot space in the 2021 Nissan Qashqai

The steering is faster, more defined and responsive thanks to the power assistance motor now moved to directly adjacent to the steering rack. This has reduced the feeling of friction through the steering wheel, but gives a more natural increase in steering effort as more steering lock is applied.

For a large SUV it's surprisingly agile and easy to drive with the manual gearbox, though a CVT automatic is also available (from €36,700). It's very comfortable, even on large wheels. The engine is refined and there is plenty of power from the 156 hp unit. It is very pleasant to drive. Nissan says the manual gearbox has been enhanced for a quicker, more direct and sportier shift feeling, and I can say it certainly felt good from behind the wheel.

This is the only engine option for now. Some buyers might lament the demise of the diesel Qashqai. Certainly my average fuel consumption over a week of driving of 6.8 litres per 100 km cannot rival diesel for efficiency over long distances at least. But the arrival of a new Qashqai 'e-POWER' hybrid in early 2022 will be one to watch, using the petrol engine to generate electricity, while the wheels are completely driven by the electric motor.

The Qashqai is a stylish and practical family car
The Qashqai is a stylish and practical family car

Did you like it?

The Qashqai has been an amazing success in Ireland since it launched here, with over 50,000 already on the road and a further 20,000-30,000 estimated to have been imported here in the car’s 14 year history.

Nissan has sold over 3 million units of the car in Europe since its launch 13 years ago. It's an incredibly important car for Nissan.

The new generation model has seriously grown up with the presence of a larger SUV on the road. At launch the engine range does look very narrow but the 1.3-litre petrol is fun to drive and refined, though the upcoming hybrid should be cheaper to run.

Space matters and the Qashqai has grown in all the right directions. This car is a stylish buy with a well-finished cabin to see it into the next few years. Nissan has upped the quality of this car considerably.

Competition is stiff in this segment but the Qashqai has serious reputation and recognition in the Irish market - it remains a solid and reliable buy in 2021.

The new Nissan Qashqai is available from €30,500
The new Nissan Qashqai is available from €30,500

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Nissan Qashqai SV Premium
Price: 
€37,395
Engine:
1.3-litre turbo petrol
Power:  156 hp
Torque: 260 Nm
Top speed:  206 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.5 seconds
CO2 emissions:
145 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€270 per year


The 2021 Dacia Duster now on sale in Ireland

Dacia Duster Review

The 2021 Dacia Duster now on sale in Ireland
The 2021 Dacia Duster now on sale in Ireland

The Dacia Duster is back with a comprehensive suite of updates to keep Dacia's bestselling compact SUV at the top of its game. Caroline travelled to Paris, France, to drive the latest Duster.

The Duster has been an unbridled success in Ireland and Europe since it was launched. The Duster story in Ireland begins in 2013 and since then over 14,000 of them have found homes here. The second generation model launched here in 2018, to build on the success of the first with more style and modern features.

At the launch of Duster 'Phase 2' in Paris, Christophe Lavauzelle from Dacia Europe referred to the Duster as an 'icon'. True, this unlikely hero has endeared itself to millions in a few short years, with a sort of transcendent charm that seems at odds with the bare essentials beginnings of the Duster.

Dacia also unveiled a new brand identity in Paris that echoes the brand's growing appeal among nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts. This clear direction in a market already in love with crossover-style vehicles will help differentiate the brand further among competitors. To that end an all-new Dacia Duster Extreme will go on sale in early 2022 - a top of the range trim level featuring more rugged, exclusive styling features.

The latest Duster available from €19,990
The latest Duster available from €19,990 in Ireland

Design

Dacia say customers love the chunky, rugged design of the Duster so the facelift sees only minor changes. New light units include Y-shaped daytime running lights, which look more contemporary and seem to fit better, especially at the rear. This new shape also inspired the new 3D chromed radiator grille. Front LED direction indicators debut here for the first time in the Dacia range. There's also a new colour - Arizona Orange - that really makes the Duster pop. Duster’s aerodynamic performance has been improved with the simple design of the new rear spoiler and 16/17-inch alloy rims.

Interior

The main change to the interior of the latest Duster is a new 8" touchscreen with more modern graphics and a glossier finish, replacing the old 7" unit. It lifts the cabin though the Duster interior is still very much a hard plastic affair in line with the brand's more budget position in the market. The USB ports have moved to a neater location further down in the centre console so the cable no longer dangles across the touchscreen. The cruise control buttons have been moved to a stalk on the multifunction steering wheel. There's also new upholstery and new slimmer headrests. Some models also get a new high centre console with a wide retracting armrest housing over one litre of storage and two USB charging sockets for the rear passengers.

Practicality

Dimensions have not changed but the Dacia Duster's boxy shape still makes it great value for the money. Duster will seat five, with the rear footwells offering more space than many more salubrious rivals in the B-SUV segment. The high roofline gives loads of headroom, adding to that feeling of space. The boot is also a good size with up to 478 litres available in two wheel drive models, and 467 in four wheel drive Dusters. Isofix child-seat mounting points are fitted to the outer rear seats.

The interior of the 2021 Dacia Duster
The interior of the 2021 Dacia Duster

Engines

The new Duster is available in Ireland with petrol, diesel and bi-fuel (petrol-LPG) engines. The range kicks off with the 1.0-litre TCe 100 hp bi-fuel engine, which Dacia Ireland pitches as a petrol car - but with the benefits of having an LPG tank. LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is sold cheaper at the pump than petrol from some fuel stations around Ireland. The capacity of the LPG tank on the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel Duster has been increased by 50 per cent, to nearly 50 litres in this latest version. Combined with the petrol tank, the range of the car is 1,225 km! This entry model is two wheel drive only and uses a six-speed manual gearbox. The LPG tank is fitted beneath the floor of the boot, in place of the spare wheel.

There's also the 1.5-litre dCi 115 hp diesel available in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, combined with a six-speed manual gearbox.

With a bit more power, Duster is offered with a 1.3-litre TCe 150 hp petrol, which is two wheel drive only and combined with a six-speed dual clutch automatic EDC gearbox.

The 2021 Dacia Duster in Arizona Orange
The 2021 Dacia Duster in Arizona Orange

Driving it

On the road the Duster is pleasant and confident. It ticks the boxes for the segment - the seating position is high, the ride is comfortable, the steering is light. Duster's all-electric power steering has been recalibrated on medium and high speed driving so from 70 km/h, the steering becomes slightly harder. Still it's not the sharpest performer with lean in corners and rather loose steering but it never really wanted to be, nor does it have to be. All the engines we tested offered plenty of power and adequate performance, with even the entry level bi-fuel option offering a smooth and cohesive drive matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox, defying its somewhat lacklustre performance figures. The automatic also does well with its 150 hp offering a more powerful, confident drive.

We also tested diesel 4x4 models on a special off-road course where the Duster showed off its very impressive ability to traverse difficult terrain. The 4x4 Monitor as standard on these models has a number of 'toys' for extra security while off-road in difficult terrain; lateral inclinometer that shows the angle between the left and right-hand sides of the vehicle; pitch angle, keeping the driver informed during steep descents and climbs; compass and altimeter - a must for any Duster adventures!

The latest Duster features a new type of tyre, no matter which version a customer opts for. The two-wheel drive version is fitted with ‘green’ CO2-optimised tyres as standard, said to give a 10 per cent reduction in rolling resistance. On the 4x4 version, the tyres meet the official 3PMSFA (three-peak mountain snowflake) required performance criteria in snow testing to be considered severe snow service-rated so winter tyres are no longer necessary - not that they are ever really necessary in Ireland!

The Duster is available with petrol, diesel and bi-fuel (petrol/LPG) engines
The Duster is available with petrol, diesel and bi-fuel (petrol/LPG) engines

Equipment

The latest Duster is offered in three trims in Ireland from launch - Essential, Comfort and Prestige.

The Duster Essential has steel wheels, automatic headlights, and black roof bars, while inside there’s a height and reach-adjustable steering column, cruise control with speed limiter, seven-function on-board computer, DAB Radio and manual air conditioning.

Available from €22,090, Comfort adds 16-inch alloy wheels, black-painted heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, body-coloured door handles, front fog lights, and hill descent control. The interior, meanwhile, gains upgraded upholstery, height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, leather steering wheel, electric rear windows, rear parking sensors with rear camera, and an 8-inch Media Display infotainment system complete with Android Auto® and Apple CarPlay®.

At the top of the range, from €23,990, the Prestige adds 17-inch alloy wheels, Grey Quartz door mirrors and roof bars, dark-tinted rear windows, and an acoustic windshield. Inside there's automatic air conditioning, keyless entry, Multiview camera, front parking sensors, blind spot warning system, heated seats, and an 8-inch Media Nav on-board navigation system with wireless smartphone connectivity for Android Auto® and Apple CarPlay®.

The new Duster Extreme limited edition will be available in six different body colours: Glacier White, Pearl Black, Comet Grey, Iron Blue, Arizona Orange, and the exclusive Urban Grey. Orange inserts feature both outside (front grille, side-mirror housing, roof rails, and tailboard) and inside (air-vents, door panels, and centre console). There's also special fabric/TEP upholstery with orange stitching and exclusive black aluminium rims.

Boot space in the Dacia Duster
Boot space in the Dacia Duster

Pricing

Essential models go on sale from €19,990, Comfort from €22,090, and Prestige from €23,990 - all prices quoted for the entry level bi-fuel engine with 100 hp. Four wheel drive versions are available from €28,290 and automatics are available from €27,490. Motor tax ranges from €200 to €270 depending on model.

Summary

Following on from the launch of the Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway earlier in the year, now it's the turn of Dacia's star Duster. This is a series of timely enhancements to see Duster into 2022 and beyond.

The Dacia Duster has capably carved out its own niche in the small SUV segment - in fact there's a certain aura of desirability around those boxy looks that is seeing the brand invest further in the off-road image with the new Extreme version due also in 2022 and the offer of genuinely purposeful four wheel drive models.

Inside the Duster gets a much needed boost in the shape of the brand's latest infotainment system that surely lifts what is a sombre but durable cabin. Dacia Ireland is happy to be able to offer a petrol automatic in the range once again, while the Duster Bi-Fuel offers buyers an entry level petrol with the benefit of an LPG tank - if you can top up with LPG locally this is surely a route to more efficient motoring, which should go down very well with savvy Dacia owners!

Still charming, we shouldn't like it so much, but we do. The updated Dacia Duster is on sale in Ireland now.

The Duster 4x4 off-road showing all the other SUVs how it's done!
The Duster 4x4 off-road showing all the other SUVs how it's done!

Caroline Kidd


The Renault Arkana is on sale in Ireland now from €28,990

Renault Arkana First Drive Review

The Renault Arkana is on sale in Ireland now from €28,990
The Renault Arkana is on sale in Ireland now from €28,990

The Renault Arkana has just arrived in Ireland, and goes on sale now priced from €28,990. This exciting new SUV coupé for the French brand will go on sale alongside the popular Captur and Kadjar SUVs, with Renault's latest hybrid powertrains making up the range. Caroline was at the press launch in Dublin to find out more about the new Arkana range and bring it for a first drive on Irish roads.

Styling

Renault make some of the best-looking cars on the road and the Arkana is no different. SUV coupés used to be something premium brands brought to market to help their customers feel a little more unique and different to their SUV cousins. Now Renault brings this design angle to the mass market with a very stylish Arkana. It particularly 'pops' in a bright colour and certainly easily distinguishable from a Kadjar for example. The side profile is sporty with typical Renault flourish to the LED light signatures front and rear. Tinted windows, chrome trim on the wing badging, 3D rear LED lighting and 17-inch diamond-cut ‘Bahamas’ alloy wheels all feature on entry-level Iconic models, plus body-colour door handles with chrome and black lower door protection.

Interior

Inside there is a new generation Renault interior, which means there is a good fit and finish to the interior, with a significant digital presence in the cabin also. Iconic models kick off the range with a 7.0-inch display with DAB radio and Bluetooth functionality, while S Edition and R.S. Line models have a 9.3-inch portrait screen featuring navigation with live traffic services and weather information, Google address search and 4G connectivity and automatic update services for three years. The 9.3 inch screen is certainly desirable. Arkana S Edition and R.S. Line models also feature a 7.0-inch TFT Driver Information Display ahead of the driver. The interior of the Arkana R.S. Line stands out with special R.S. Line sports seats upholstered in leather and suede-effect, complemented by red stitching that also extends to the door panels, gear lever and central armrest. Red detailing is also found on the leather steering wheel with unique R.S. Line marker. Completing the interior enhancements are aluminium pedals, a carbon-effect dashboard panel with full-width red trim, plus black headlining.

The interior of the Renault Arkana R.S. Line
The interior of the Renault Arkana R.S. Line

Practicality

The Arkana has not compromised space for style and seems adequately sized inside for the C-SUV segment. Based on the CMF-B modular platform, it's longer than the Kadjar and in spite of the coupé profile offers generous interior space to complement the high driving position popular with drivers of Renault’s SUVs. The boot is surprisingly large too, packing in 480 litres on E-TECH hybrids, 513-litres with a variable-height boot floor featuring on petrol versions. For maximum interior space, the rear seats fold, leaving a level, flat load area for bulkier items.

Engines

The Arkana was built to be a hybrid from the start of development and is a key model to push forward the broadened electrification of Renault’s model range. The brand's new E-TECH hybrid powertrain features across every trim level. It uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine, 1.2 kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors, with a power output of 145 hp. Renault Ireland think it will be the engine of choice in the line-up for the majority of customers. It's proposed as the most efficient of the range, returning consumption as low as to 4.9l/100 km (WLTP). Arkana will also be available in Ireland with the TCe 140 petrol engine with mild-hybrid technology. This 1.3-litre engine has 140 hp and fuel consumption is officially rated at 5.8l/100km (WLTP). Both offerings are automatic by default, no manual gearboxes or diesel on offer in this range. 

Driving it

The 2021 Renault Arkana feels immediately mature and confident on the road. The handling is good with a nice flowing character through bends and body roll kept in check. On the motorway it cruises well and appears to be comfortable also, a must for a family car. What was most impressive during my drive, was the power and responsiveness of both engines - if they are as efficient as Renault claim, the brand could be on to a real winner with these models.
SUV coupé style from Renault with the new Arkana
SUV coupé style from Renault with the new Arkana

Pricing

TCe 140 Auto EDC E-TECH Hybrid 145 Auto
All-new Arkana Iconic €28,990 €30,490
All-new Arkana S Edition €31,090 €32,590
All-new Arkana R.S. Line €33,690 €35,190

Equipment

In Ireland the Arkana is available in three trim lines – Iconic, S Edition and R.S. Line. Standard equipment includes EASY LINK 7" touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 17" diamond-cut alloy wheels, rear view camera, automatic air con, cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and full LED lighting technology. S Edition models get 18-inch ‘Pasadena’ alloy wheels, extra tinted windows and slate grey satin front and rear skid plates. Similar to R.S. Line variants across other Renault models, the Arkana R.S. Line is set apart with unique front bumpers featuring full-width Formula One-inspired aerodynamic front blade and honeycomb grille, dark gun metal front and rear skid plates, R.S. Line wing trim, gloss black door mirrors and window trim, and body-coloured door handles with lower door protection finished in black and gun metal. There are also double chromed tailpipes and 18-inch grey and black diamond-cut R.S. Line ‘Silverstone’ alloy wheels, complete with red highlights.

A contrasting black roof is available as an option on S Edition and R.S. Line models. Body colours include Glacier White, Pearl White, Zanzibar Blue, Flame Red, Metallic Black, and Metallic Grey.

R.S. Line models are also available finished in vibrant Valencia Orange.

Summary

The Renault Arkana gives a great first impression with its look-at-me styling and super smooth hybrid powertrains. With SUVs still being the hot spot of the market, it seems there can never be too many available and the Arkana brings a typically premium SUV coupé style to the mass market - with considerable style.

The Arkana feels just as mature inside with the brand's latest interior technology and a comfortable cabin.

One to watch - we will have a full review of this car on Changing Lanes before the end of the year to really put the new hybrid powertrain to the test.

The Arkana was built for hybrid from the start
The Arkana was built for hybrid from the start

Caroline Kidd


The Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250e Hybrid Review

The Mercedes-Benz GLA
The Mercedes-Benz GLA now on sale in Ireland as a hybrid for the first time

Caroline drives the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e.

Hybrid is hot right now, appearing in just about every car manufacturer's line-up. Mercedes-Benz is just one brand who has been steadily rolling out a range of new plug-in hybrids. From the A-Class to the E-Class, there’s a Merc with a plug.

Now Mercedes-Benz takes their compact GLA crossover and fits a very on-trend plug-in hybrid powertrain. Marketed under the ‘EQ Power’ badge, the GLA 250 e combines the brand’s 1.3-litre petrol engine with a 15.6 kWh battery.

The power output is an impressive 218 bhp with the big news being that you can plug the car in and charge to top the battery up for an electric range of up to 61 km. Driving on electric power is an obvious boon for urban drivers who spend a lot of time on short commutes in and around town.

What’s new for the GLA?

But how about the car underneath? Let’s revisit the GLA.

Now in its second generation, the GLA is one of Mercedes-Benz new range of compact vehicles alongside the A-Class, the B-Class, GLB and CLA families. The new model launched in 2020 with improved design and a new cabin. The GLA is pitched as a compact SUV but really it’s more of an A-Class crossover with a fashionable raised ride height and robust styling features. This is a segment that is growing in value for Mercedes-Benz against a sales backdrop of more than 6.5 million units worldwide.

the plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e
The plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e

In Ireland the new generation GLA is available in a choice of two trims – Progressive and AMG Line – with a high level of standard equipment. Powered tailgate, heated front seats, MBUX infotainment system, reversing camera and 18” alloy wheels all come as standard. A host of safety and driver assistance systems are provided in a comprehensive Driver Assistance Package that includes automatic inputs to assist drivers with routine and accident avoidance emergency braking, distance control, parking, steering, lane keeping, blind spot observation, speed limit keeping, driver fatigue alerts, and more.

The new GLA is available with a suite of the brand’s latest four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine series, and now in 2021 for the first time as a petrol plug-in hybrid. Priced from €48,690 for the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e Progressive on test, there is a premium to be paid for the flexibility of this new hybrid technology. For reference, the petrol range kicks off from €41,215 and diesels start from €41,840. Granted those models have less power.

Inside the GLA

The GLA’s interior is a highlight of this new generation compact Mercedes. It’s a contemporary, high-quality look with stylish details among the latest digital technology at your fingertips. Mercedes has been raising the bar in compact premium car interiors for a few years now. There is a new free-standing driver instrument and infotainment display with the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system as standard. It can be operated by voice control using ‘Hey Mercedes’ commands as well as by using touch-control pads mounted on the steering wheel.

The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA
The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes-Benz also set out to improve the spaciousness of the vehicle in this new generation of the GLA. It’s now 100 mm taller with more interior headroom for driver and front passenger and considerably more rear legroom for rear seat passengers. For more practicality, the rear seats can now slide by up to 140 mm. Rear seats split fold 40:20:40. There’s also more boot space with minimal change in volume to accommodate the new hybrid powertrain thanks to a new exhaust system design.

Driving the GLA

The new GLA is a little bit shorter than the model it replaces but track width has been increased by four centimetres to improve handling. The seating position for driver and front passenger is higher and more upright, while all-round visibility has also been improved.

Even with a battery on board the car is agile, with light and accurate steering. Whether cruising comfortably down the motorway or nipping in and out of town, the GLA provides a high class drive though at times the automatic can feel a little jerky in slow moving traffic. Yes the electric motor makes it very responsive. There's a lot of power available so with a bit of modulation on the throttle it can indeed be a smooth drive.

For the first time on a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the combustion engine is started by the electric motor. Starting in silence and continuing that EV drive if you take the time and have the facility available to charge. The GLA can be charged at a 7.4 kW wallbox with alternating current (AC) in 1 h 45 min. However even when running from the petrol engine mostly, the GLA 250 e will average at about 6.3 litre per 100 km.

The GLA has grown up in the right directions
The GLA has grown up in the right directions

Did you like it?

The GLA sits nicely at the premium end of the market for compact SUVs with a smart new look and a very stylish interior that brings all the best features of the Mercedes' new team of compact vehicles.

Style is a personal thing, but with the appetite for SUVs and crossovers, the GLA certainly has a market. It carries some extra distinction over the A-Class hatchback for example, and a higher driving position.

Now Mercedes-Benz adds a plug-in hybrid to the mix. Things get interesting indeed. It’s a powerful car with robust power delivery and the flexibility of EV driving for a limited range. Still there is a premium to be paid, though the gap closes to the more powerful petrol and diesel models of the GLA range.

Worth noting that a new all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQA has also just gone on sale in Ireland from €51,125 with a range of up to 426 km (WLTP)...the GLA 250 e could be a stepping stone in the transition to all-electric motoring or is it time to make the switch? I will have a full review of the EQA on Changing Lanes very soon, which should go some way to answer that question.

The new GLA 250 e is on sale from €48,690 in Ireland
The new GLA 250 e is on sale from €48,690 in Ireland

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e Progressive
Price: 
€48,690
Engine: 
1.3-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 218 hp
Torque: 450 Nm
Top speed: 220 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
31 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The 2021 Peugeot 3008!

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid Review

The 2021 Peugeot 3008!
The 2021 Peugeot 3008!

Caroline drives the 2021 Peugeot 3008 PHEV!

In this review we take a closer look at the new Peugeot 3008 plug-in hybrid – a popular family SUV now with a plug!

The back story? Well, in 2020 Peugeot Ireland brought a series of new hybrid and electric models to market. Peugeot jumps on trends exceedingly well, keeping their range fresh and current in a rapidly evolving motor industry.

The French brand had already witnessed a revival in the market thanks to the launch of a trilogy of popular SUVs and a move upmarket with new design direction and rock-solid quality.

The Peugeot 3008 mid-size SUV is of course a particular highlight of that new lion brand SUV trio – a former Irish Car of the Year and European Car of the Year award winner. Now in 2021 we meet the epic facelifted edition – even better with a hybrid powertrain!

The launch of the Peugeot 3008 in Ireland back in 2017 was the brand’s best manifestation yet of Peugeot’s move upmarket. I had forgotten just how good this car was when it launched, how revolutionary the interior of the car was with its full digital instrument cluster that was standard before many rivals could offer similar.

The Peugeot 3008 has been revised for 2021 with even more style
The Peugeot 3008 has been revised for 2021 with even more style

What's so special about the 2021 Peugeot 3008?

Comfortable and practical, the 3008 competes in the sweet spot of the market where the family SUVs reside. Updated for 2021, Peugeot’s bestseller now has slightly revised exterior styling. What a good-looking car! Surely one of the prettiest SUVs of its size on the road. And the new look gives it enough modernity to stay stylish and relevant.

The updated range kicks off from €32,995 for a 1.2-litre Puretech petrol with 130 hp. The diesel range kicks off from €33,700 for a 1.6-litre diesel, also with 130 hp. The new hybrid range starts from €40,920 with 225 hp. There are three trim levels for Ireland – Active, Allure and GT – with lots of equipment from the entry into the range.

On the outside, the 2021 Peugeot 3008 has a new frameless front grille and gloss black air intakes, while the headlights, daytime running lights and indicators all use advanced LED technology across the range. At the rear, Peugeot’s trademark three-claw taillights and new sequential indicators provide a contemporary look.

Our GT test car looked particularly good with standard equipment including 18” alloys, some exclusive trim elements, alloy roof rails, black roof, and sports front bumper design. Other high-end features include ambient lighting, handsfree start, Alcantara/leather effect seats, and front and rear parking sensors with 180 rear reversing camera.

Inside the 2021 Peugeot 3008
The interior of the 2021 Peugeot 3008

Inside the 2021 Peugeot 2008

Inside, the new 3008 SUV features Peugeot’s next generation digital i-Cockpit® technology with a 12.3-inch digital head-up instrument panel, a compact steering wheel and 10-inch high definition colour touchscreen. It's dripping in class and style, a truly different cabin experience to anything else wafting around the market at this price point. Preeemium!

There is seating for five with good space inside the vehicle. There is plenty of rear leg room and even the middle seat passenger will find a flat space for their feet. However the boot has been trimmed down in size in the hybrid. Standard petrol and diesel models get 520 litres, while the hybrid can only manage 395 litres. A powered tailgate is also available.

The Peugeot 3008 plug-in hybrid on test is quite a machine, combining a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 13.2 kWh battery to produce a healthy 225 hp. This model can be charged up and driven on electric power alone for a range of up to 62 km. Paired with the eight-speed Efficient Automatic Transmission (EAT8), this car feels great on the road. A drive mode selector gives the option of switching between electric, hybrid and sport modes; the car does the rest.

A 3.7 kW single-phase on-board charger is included as standard, with a full charge taking three hours and 45 minutes.

The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid offers buyers even more power and flexibility

The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid offers buyers even more power and flexibility

Did you like the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid?

On the road the 3008 hybrid displays its wonderful pedigree. The hybrid carries a premium over other models in the range but with the power and ease of the transmission, it is a high-end driving experience. The way the hybrid system blends with the automatic transmission adds up to an effortless, serene drive. It’s very comfortable over the tarmac and feels agile from behind the wheel.

Plug-in hybrids are at their best when you are making use of the battery, and charging between journeys to boost the overall efficiency of running this car. Drawing on power mostly from the petrol engine, my fuel consumption averaged at 6.7 litres per 100 km.

Stepping back into the Peugeot 3008 after a few years is a reminder about why this car ran away with so many awards when it was launched. It has a simply stunning interior and the high-end GT model on test feels like a truly premium offering.

The plug-in hybrid adds diversity and flexibility to the 3008 range, though as with all cars of this type, the battery is best used regularly to see a good return on the investment and make the car more efficient to run. The hybrids are now the most expensive of the 3008 range but buyers will still find a good car in the more affordable petrol and diesel models. The facelift gives this car just the right presence. What’s underneath is still a very good car indeed.

New Peugeot 3008 range available from €32,995
New Peugeot 3008 range available from €32,995

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Peugeot 3008 GT PHEV
Price: 
€43,240
Engine: 
1.6-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 225 hp
Torque: 360 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h):  8.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
31 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The Toyota Hilux on test for Changing Lanes!

Toyota Hilux Review

The Toyota Hilux on test for Changing Lanes!
The Toyota Hilux on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Toyota Hilux.

An unlikely partnership between Changing Lanes and the Toyota Hilux. Every so often a gigantic pick-up arrives in my test schedule and all that is left to do is embrace it in the name of diversity and good motoring journalism.

Who would refuse a week with the Toyota Hilux, the king of pick-ups? Hilux is as tough as it gets, a legend that goes on and on. Since its launch in 1968, the unstoppable Hilux has conquered the North Pole, Icelandic volcanoes, the Antarctic and won in the Dakar Rally in 2019.

But what a different experience for this test driver that lives behind the wheel of suburban hatchbacks and SUVs for most of the year?

What's new for the 2021 Toyota Hilux?

For this model year, the Hilux has a new 2.8-litre diesel engine with an increase of 54 hp and extra 100 Nm of torque. Smart phone integration is now standard. There have been suspension improvements for better on-road comfort and handling, and improved off-roading with lower engine idle and a new auto limited slip differential.

More basic versions of the Hilux use a 2.4-litre diesel engine with manual transmission (single cab from €29,860, double cab from €36,805).

Priced from €50,570, the top of the range Toyota Hilux Invincible on test for Changing Lanes was indeed the full fat Hilux of your dreams with an almost luxurious spec for a pick-up and bespoke exterior. But not so blinged up to defer in any way from the Hilux tough appeal and frankly brilliant capability.

The top of the range Hilux Invincible is on sale in Ireland from €50,570
The top of the range Hilux Invincible is on sale in Ireland from €50,570

For me, it was a busy week of mixing cement, felling trees, and visiting sites. Okay not really but surely this is the sort of things Hilux drivers do! But tractors with trailers in a busy harvest would pull in to the side of the road to let me by and ‘get to work’. If I had been driving a supermini this would certainly not have happened!

The Hilux of course screams ‘werk, werk, werk’ with a 1 tonne payload, 3.5 tonne towing capacity, four wheel drive and double cab.

Invincible models have 18” black alloy wheels and other bespoke styling elements, LED headlights and fog lights, and side steps. Yes the Hilux Invincible was truly bigger than me.

Driving the Toyota Hilux

The engineering goal for the latest Hilux was to maintain its legendary off-road capabilities while improving the on-road comfort. No easy task considering the ladder-frame chassis - great for durability and off-roading but not so good for dynamic appeal.

The comfort and driveability of the new Hilux has been enhanced through improvements to the suspension, and power steering systems. On the road, the Hilux performs well for what it is. Still not the last word in comfort on rural roads – it's bumpier than an SUV for example - but things settle down for good motorway cruising. The new 2.8 engine gathers pace well and stays reasonably refined, with the extra power and torque meaning you don’t have to work it as hard to pick up speed quickly. The automatic made the drive so much more enjoyable for this test driver too. My fuel consumption averaged at 8.9 litres per 100 km over my test drive. Still a brute then!

Inside the 2021 Toyota Hilux
Inside the 2021 Toyota Hilux

Did you like it?

The interior of the Hilux is another highlight, well-built and comfortable, with this Invincible model getting leather seats/front heated, parking sensors, automatic air conditioning and 8” touchscreen with smartphone integration. The Invincible model has black metallic and black chrome trim accents, and 'clear blue' front and rear door trim illumination. It’s roomy up front but there’s not a huge amount of legroom in the rear of the Double Cab model.

The pick-up segment is steadily growing in Europe. From 154,000 vehicle sales in 2015, an anticipated segment growth of some 35% will see annual pick-up sales rising to 208,000 units by 2023. Much of this growth may be accounted for by the rise of interest in the pick-up as a dual-usage, both professional and leisure market vehicle.

With its good looks and best-of-the-range engine and transmission, the Toyota Hilux Invincible plays the part well, moving into the high-end, lifestyle market for pick-ups.  The Hilux is the world’s favourite pick-up and it’s easy to see why!

The Hilux is the world's favourite pick-up
The Hilux is the world's favourite pick-up

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Hilux Invincible Double Cab Automatic
Price: 
€50, 570
Engine: 
2.8-litre turbo diesel
Power: 204 hp
Torque: 500 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 10 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
250 g/km

 


Mazda CX30 100th Anniversary Review

The new Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Edition!

Mazda returns with the CX-30, this time in a special birthday suit to celebrate 100 years of the Mazda brand.

To recap the Mazda CX-30 went on sale in Ireland in 2020 as the brand’s new compact SUV in the sweet spot of the family SUV market.

This 100th Anniversary model however is more than a little bit special. When fitted with Mazda’s revolutionary Skyactiv-X petrol engine, it offers the best performance of the range wrapped up in a package of exclusive styling features and the best specification of the entire CX-30 range. All to celebrate 100 years of the Mazda brand!

What's so special about the Mazda CX-30 100 Years?

Priced from €39,165 for the Skyactiv-X petrol model on test, buyers will pay a premium for all this prestige. Our CX-30 was finished in Snowflake White Pearlescent exterior paint and contrasted with burgundy interior carpet and burgundy leather seats. The white-and-burgundy two-tone exterior/interior combination is inspired by high-grade versions of Mazda’s first passenger car: the Mazda R360 Coupe.

This special edition retails at €39,165 for the range topping Skyactiv-X petrol model
This special edition retails at €39,165 for the range topping Skyactiv-X petrol model

Slipping into the Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Special Edition is a treat for sure, with the colour scheme enhancing what is already a beautifully crafted cabin. Mazda’s human-centric approach to design means that everything feels modelled perfectly to the driver. The controls are all intuitively placed and feel great to touch and interact with. This is a real driver’s car from the get-go.

The unique 100th Anniversary badge features on the burgundy floor mats, on the key fob and is also embossed into the headrests like all the best luxury cars. You will find a 100 Years badge on the wheel centres and the side of the car also.

The CX-30 has seating for five but it is not as big inside as the larger Mazda CX-5 for example. Still it feels roomy up front and the boot opens (electrically of course!) to reveal a 430 litre boot. A CX-5 is better value for outright space inside the vehicle.

Other equipment features on this high spec model include 18” alloys, head up display, BOSE sound system, 360° view parking monitor, driver monitoring system, front cross-traffic alert and rear smart brake support.

What's under the bonnet?

For 2021, Mazda has also updated their range topping Skyactiv-X petrol engine, the world's first engine to use compression ignition, and part of Mazda’s ‘well-to-wheel’ approach to reducing emissions in conjunction with other technologies like the MX-30 battery electric vehicle, hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

Renamed e-Skyactiv-X, the updated version delivers increased performance and promises more efficiency. In the CX-30, the latest 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv-X petrol engine produces 186 ps at 6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 240 Nm at 4,000 rpm, an increase of 6 ps and 16 Nm respectively. Efficiency has also been improved, with CO2 emissions dropping by 5g/km.

Inside the Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary edition
Inside the Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary edition

Driving the 2021 Mazda CX-30

Numbers will only tell you so much however. The CX-30 is a fine compact SUV to drive, athletic and supple with a typical premium finish to the driving experience we have come to expect from this new generation of Mazda vehicles.

The 2.0-litre e-Skyactiv-X is a naturally aspirated engine so it delivers its power differently to a turbo petrol engine for example. As the revs build it gets nippier for sure, but it never feels quite as powerful as what the numbers might suggest. This is fine for an SUV of this ilk because it’s not a high performance car - handling is good but it’s not one you are going to seek out corners for.

In fact for many buyers the Mazda CX-30 e-Skyactiv-G with 122 hp will suffice and do the job with good levels of refinement and efficiency. In fact we achieved better fuel economy in that model than in the Skyactiv-X (6.5 vs 7.2 litres per 100 km). The e-Skyactiv-X seems better suited to the Mazda3 and its sportier image.

The CX-30 is a stylish and refined compact SUV for the Irish market
The CX-30 is a stylish and refined compact SUV for the Irish market

Did you like it?

The Mazda CX-30 always impresses for its refinement, design and premium finish. It’s already proven itself as a fantastic addition to the Mazda line-up.

The Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary model is a celebratory affair with a high specification, prestigious interior and high end image.

It is no doubt a delicious car to spend time in. But you certainly pay for this level of prestige for what is still a compact SUV and there is better value to be had elsewhere in the CX-30 range.

Still we admire Mazda’s pride in their heritage. The current suite of anniversary models display a brand at its very best when it comes to design and premium level of finish to rival any German car brand.

These cars prove how well Mazda cars can be built and finished with sensitivity to design that seems to be the only way Mazda knows.

Mazda showing its class once again in the SUV market with the new CX-30
Mazda showing its class once again in the SUV market with the new CX-30

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda CX-30 100th Anniversary Edition e-Skyactiv-X
Price: 
€39,165
Engine: 
2.0-litre e-Skyactiv-X M hybrid
Power: 186 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
Top speed: 204 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.3 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
128 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€210 per year


The 2021 Cupra Formentor has arrived in Ireland

CUPRA Formentor VZ e-Hybrid Review

The 2021 Cupra Formentor has arrived in Ireland
The 2021 Cupra Formentor is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2021 CUPRA Formentor.

CUPRA is hitting its stride in 2021 with the arrival of the brand’s first original model – the dramatically named CUPRA Formentor! The new athletic crossover joins the CUPRA Ateca, CUPRA Leon, and CUPRA Leon Sportstourer, already on sale here from CUPRA’s four retailers in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

With a bespoke design, premium aspirations and electrified powertrains, the Formentor is an exciting new entrant to the Irish market, with a starting price of €37,135. It goes on sale with a range of engines, including plug-in hybrids and high performance versions.

What's so hot about the new CUPRA Formentor?

With the arrival of the Formentor, the CUPRA brand begins to find its niche and make sense. Visually unique and full of impact, the CUPRA badge may not be immediately recognisable, but this new Formentor leaves a lasting impression.

Embracing the most modern powertrain technology from the Volkswagen Group, the Formentor e-Hybrid on test for Changing Lanes leads the way with 245 hp and the ability to plug in, charge and drive on electric power for a range of up to 54 kilometres. The same model is also available with 204 hp. It marries sporty design with cool plug-in hybrid power so effortlessly.

Priced from €50,130 for the top spec VZ Formentor e-Hybrid 245 hp model on test, this is serious money but this is a serious slice of intent from the CUPRA brand. If you love the look of the Formentor, CUPRA will get you on the road from €37,135 with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine under the bonnet.

The CUPRA Formentor’s most powerful trim is the VZ, named in reference to the Spanish word “Veloz”, meaning “fast”. Equipment includes 19 " machined alloy wheels, a glossy 12" touchscreen, aluminium pedals, CUPRA bucket seats, and dynamic chassis control.

The Formentor goes on sale from €37,135
The Formentor goes on sale from €37,135

What's it like inside?

Inside there is a new generation interior that feels suitably unique for the emerging CUPRA brand. It certainly has its own identity to differentiate itself from other VW Group products, but with all the latest technology and digital features that such an association merits for the consumer.

This feels like a true premium car behind the wheel, but with a more youthful and sporty vibe to perhaps anything else you might encounter on the market today in this space. Brushed dark aluminium and copper accents add an official CUPRA feel, while the bucket seats add to the high end sporty vibe.

Quality is a strong point as is the digital instrument cluster for the driver. A few grumbles about accessing climate control functions through the screen and fiddling around for ventilation – but the Formentor is forgiven because it's just so damn unique and interesting inside. You feel like you are stepping out on a new mission every time you press that start button – a mission to save the world!

Formentor can also definitely apply for family car with a spacious interior and generous footwells in the rear. Its height of 1,511mm provides excellent headroom for all passengers while the wheelbase of 2,680mm offers significant legroom for rear occupants and a boot capacity of 450 litres, with powered tailgate available. Preeemium!

Inside the new CUPRA Formentor
Inside the new CUPRA Formentor

What's under the bonnet of the CUPRA Formentor e-Hybrid?

The high-performance CUPRA Formentor plug-in hybrid combines a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a 116PS (85kW) electric motor and 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack, producing a combined output of 245PS (150kW) of power, 400Nm of peak torque and an electric range of up to 54 km.

There are a number of driving modes included for more fun behind the wheel. Comfort keeps things calm and level behind the wheel, ideal for the boring roads or a relaxing trip home. Sport and CUPRA mode ‘rev’ things up, doing all sorts like improving throttle response, tightening up the steering and suspension, as well as changing the sound.

This is not a fire breathing performance car full of drama, pops and bangs. 0 to 100 km/h is 7 seconds but getting there is a more muted experience in the Formentor. This is the way performance cars need to go now so get used to it!

CUPRA will still pop a 2.0-litre TSI in the Formentor for you if you want the old school hot hatch experience. That puts out 310 hp with four wheel drive to keep you glued to the tarmac.

The Formentor marries style, performance and efficiency very well
The Formentor marries style, performance and efficiency very well

On the road in the CUPRA Formentor!

The CUPRA Formentor has been designed and engineered to deliver a performance-orientated drive, with front MacPherson struts and multi-link rear suspension set-up for an intuitive dynamic response in enthusiastic driving! Dynamic Chassis Control comes as standard on the VZ models, which constantly monitors the road surfaces and driver inputs and makes imperceptible changes to guarantee surefootedness in any condition while delivering the most engaging drive. The driver can precisely set-up the vehicle to their preferences, as well as select from four pre-defined driver profiles: Comfort, Sport, CUPRA and Individual.

The Formentor is excellent over the tarmac with a truly premium finish to the ride quality. It’s sharp on the turn in with some lean but driving dynamics are genuinely sporty.

Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.4 litres per 100 km. With more regular charging, the car could be run even more efficiently. It takes between 3 and 5 hours to charge the battery at 3.6 kW.

CUPRA Formentor is available as petrol, diesel or hybrid electric
CUPRA Formentor is available as petrol, diesel or hybrid electric

Did you like it?

Yes I did! The Formentor is exactly what CUPRA needed – the first car uniquely developed and designed for the brand with an on-trend plug-in hybrid powertrain, premium finish and sporty crossover styling.

This car commands a polished image and futuristic presence. Designed as a crossover, but a sporty one, the Formentor does grow on you. Finished in black with copper accents around the exhaust pipes, it’s menacing and different. Striking just the right poise for a fledgling challenger brand that is aiming high.

A great range of engines means that it remains quite an accessible option in today's market.

2021 sees CUPRA add Formentor to its plug-in hybrid line-up, alongside CUPRA Leon e-HYBRID, which will be joined later in the year by el-Born, the brand’s first all-electric model.

The car is great. The challenge is of course building a brand and gaining that recognition, but CUPRA are well on their way now as the Formentor feels truly exclusive and unique.

The CUPRA Formentor VZ on sale now!
The CUPRA Formentor VZ on sale now!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: CUPRA Formentor VZ e-Hybrid 245hp DSG
Price: 
€50,130 including grant
Engine: 
1.4-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 245 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
Top speed: 210 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.0 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
32-35 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The new Opel Mokka SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Opel Mokka 1.2 SRi (2021) Review

The new Opel Mokka SRi on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Opel Mokka SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Opel Mokka!

The Opel Mokka has returned to Ireland in 2021, a rejuventated offering for the popular compact SUV segment in Ireland. Available in electric for the first time, along with petrol and diesel variants, the Mokka’s new face is one that changes everything for the Opel brand.

Priced from €23,295 for a petrol, from €25,095 for a diesel, and from €33,038 for the all-electric Opel Mokka-e, the Mokka is shaping up as a very compelling and competitive offering.

Of course, Mokka has some history in Ireland, launched back in Ireland as a new compact SUV contender in 2012 and revamped in 2016. This car still has good visibility on Irish roads, but Mokka owners will be astounded by the step forward this new version has taken.

What's so hot about the 2021 Opel Mokka?

It’s the design that gets you first. The 2021 Opel Mokka is lighter and sleeker looking, with a genuine sporty bent to it. Opel has found new direction indeed, tapping into their history in motorsport and classic Opels like the Manta and GSi models to add some zest to a new generation of cars.

You cannot miss the striking new grille area. Opel call it the ‘Vizor’ face. It looks like nothing else on the road. This new family look is bestowed upon other models like the Crossland and Grandland SUVs, as well as the upcoming new Astra hatchback.

The Opel Mokka goes on sale in Ireland as petrol, diesel or electric
The Opel Mokka goes on sale in Ireland as petrol, diesel or electric

For style conscious buyers this one hits the mark! SRi models (from €24,795) like the Mokka on test really stand out with 17” black alloy wheels, red exterior detailing and a contrasting black roof! Other trim levels include the SC and Elite.

Standard equipment levels are good including traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, collision avoidance sensor with brake assist, pedestrian detection alert, electronic cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors with rear view camera, air conditioning, 7” colour touchscreen, 7” colour driver instrument cluster, DAB radio and 16” alloy wheels.

Inside the 2021 Opel Mokka SRi

Inside there is an all-new dashboard design that follows the Opel new ‘Pure Panel’ philosophy. Take it as code for simplified, modern and minimalistic, and you will come close to the experience behind the wheel of the new Mokka.

Opel has worked hard to give this car a new personality and the red trim of the SRi model certainly spices things up. There is a full digital experience for the driver with a digital instrument cluster as standard and 7” colour touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. A multimedia system with 10” touchscreen and navigation is also available.

The interior of the 2021 Opel Mokka SRi
The interior of the 2021 Opel Mokka SRi

This is a compact vehicle but in terms of interior accommodation, it’s competitive for this class of vehicle with a decent show of legroom and headroom in the rear. The boot is also smartly sized at 350 litres. The new Mokka is a little bit wider than the car it replaces so there’s plenty of elbow room upfront. Rear seats split fold and there is also a false floor in the boot for added practicality.

What are my options?

Available across all three trims, petrol and diesel engines offer power outputs ranging from 100 hp to 130 hp. The petrol model is a 1.2-litre affair with 100 or 130 hp, and the option of a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic gearbox.

At Changing Lanes we tested the petrol automatic with 130 hp. It performs well with a good show of power and clever automatic that rarely misses a beat.

Buyers will also find a 1.5-litre diesel in the line-up with 110 hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox.

There’s also the exciting new all-electric Opel Mokka-e powered by an 50 kWh battery with 136 hp and a range of up to 324 km.

The very stylish all electric Opel Mokka-e
The very stylish all electric Opel Mokka-e

Driving the new Opel Mokka!

The Opel Mokka is the second model in the Opel range to use the CMP platform from parent company Stellantis, after the launch of the all-new Corsa in 2020. It’s lighter by up to 120 kg on some of the models in the range, while rigidity is up by 15%. It’s clear to see that the new Mokka is a far more efficient design, more aerodynamic with a lower centre of gravity. Opel engineers have worked hard to reduce squeaks and rattles and improve the acoustic quality, with an acoustic pack fitted as standard to further reduce road noise.

On the road, the Opel Mokka has a light and modern feel that makes it easy to handle and steer through any driving situation. It's a much improved car to drive now, refined and comfortable by class standards, with just the odd bump over ramps and the like on our test car’s 17” ‘shoes’! These cars are built to be autobahn-proof and the Mokka can surely hold its own on the motorway, staying in lane simply and confidently.

Did you like it?

Opel is definitely back in the game with the new Opel Mokka. There are more exciting models on the way. Changing Lanes loves a comeback kid and the new Opel Mokka has put its best game face on.

Choice is a key feature of the new Mokka range and Opel is to be commended for bringing such a selection to the compact crossover range. The petrol model on test offers a very good value entry into the Mokka range; the Mokka-e is a compelling option for buyers ready to make the switch to electric.

Mokka has taken a huge step forward. In design and technology, it can really now hold its own. It will stand out and adds a youth and vibrancy back to the Opel brand that was sorely missed.

The new Opel Mokka on sale now from €23,295
The new Opel Mokka on sale now from €23,295

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Opel Mokka 1.2 SRi Automatic
Price: 
€26,295
Engine: 
1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 130 hp
Torque: 230 Nm
Top speed: 200 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.2 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
133-135 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€210 per year


The new Ford Puma on test for Changing Lanes!

Ford Puma Review (2021)

The new Ford Puma on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Ford Puma ST Line X on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the new Ford Puma!

The Ford Puma arrived in Ireland in 2020, debuting on-trend mild hybrid technology in an equally fashionable SUV-inspired crossover. Highlights include a new digital instrument cluster, innovative MegaBox for more practicality, and of course some very feline good looks! Engines include petrol mild hybrid and diesel, with a high performance Ford Puma ST on sale also. The Puma range is on sale now from your local Ford dealer priced from €26,164. Earlier in 2020, I had the opportunity to experience the new Puma for the first time on a memorable road test around Ronda, Spain. Now I bring you my full Irish review of the new Ford Puma EcoBoost Hybrid.

We have had to wait a long time for an on-trend, B-segment crossover from Ford. The wait is finally over and the Puma pounced at the beginning of 2020, remaining a sensational buy in 2021. Not only does the Puma debut a cool crossover look but it also heralds the arrival of mild hybrid technology to the Ford range. Look at you Ford!

So was the new Ford Puma worth the wait?

Ford in Ireland has built itself upon the popular Fiesta and Focus hatchbacks, and in later years the Kuga SUV. Ford’s MPV range including the S-Max and Galaxy are still sought after by large families. But MPVs are no longer the lucrative venture they once were. These days everybody wants an SUV. Ford responded with the well-received Kuga, but the more compact EcoSport was less successful. Ford has moved in the right direction again with crossover-styled Fiesta Active and Focus Active derivatives that sport tough exterior body cladding and elevated ride height.

So now enter the Puma. Ford pitches Puma as an SUV-inspired compact crossover. It is based on the Fiesta with some technical modifications, but it has a visual identity all of its own. And what an identity it is. This car is a fantastic piece of design. It uses the Puma name last seen on a small 2-seat sports coupé back in the 1990s. But it’s not a homage to that car. It’s a smart new move and this Puma will bring Ford to a whole new generation. The Puma has tonnes of attitude in those large headlamps, and muscular body inspired by the powerful big cat it is named after. It’s sporty and sexy, two words that don’t always come easy when you are describing a B-segment crossover. But the Puma is the real deal.

The 2020 Ford Puma combines the trend for compact crossovers with the one for mild hybrid
The Ford Puma combines the trend for compact crossovers with the one for mild hybrid

What's the Puma range in Ireland?

With pricing starting from €26,164 in 2021, the Puma does carry a premium over a Fiesta for example, and even an entry level Focus. But the appeal here is clear and Ford Ireland is skipping base spec models. That means that you get a well-equipped Puma Titanium from entry with an on-point 1.0-litre EcoBoost mild hybrid petrol engine. This car comes equipped with 17-inch machined alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps with auto high beam, pre-collision assist, 8-inch SYNC with navigation and FordPass Connect modem, keyless start, electronic air conditioning, massage driver and passenger seats, ambient lighting, wireless charging, and cruise control with adjustable speed limiter.

Or you can rev up with a sportier looking Puma ST Line from €27,318 or the added extras of the ST Line X from €30,297. I really love the look of the ST Line car with a more aggressive body kit, large rear spoiler, and ST-Line sports exhaust. Inside there is a smart new 12.3-inch digital cluster, dark sports headliner, flat-bottom steering wheel, and alloy pedals and gear knob. The ST-Line X (model tested) adds 18-inch alloy wheels, B&O Play sound system, partial leather sports trim, and rear privacy glass.

There is also a top of the range ST Line X Vignale now available from €31,740 in Ireland with even more luxurious features.

Inside the new Ford Puma
Inside the 2020 Ford Puma

What’s under that bonnet of the Puma Ecoboost Hybrid?

In Ireland the range is very simple with a choice of petrol or diesel engine. The petrol engine is Ford's highly acclaimed 1.0-litre EcoBoost now incorporating mild hybrid technology to make the car more fuel efficient and give more powerful and responsive performance. The Puma’s EcoBoost Hybrid technology combines a small electric motor with a 48 volt battery and provides additional support to the petrol engine when needed.

This engine has a healthy 125 hp and it's so smart it also features Ford’s industry-first cylinder deactivation system for a three-cylinder engine, which automatically switches off one of the engine’s cylinders when full capacity is not needed, such as when coasting or cruising. Irish buyers can get this engine with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic gearbox.

There is also a 1.5-litre diesel with 120 hp, with pricing starting from €28,267.

The hot Ford Puma ST performance SUV uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 200 hp and belongs to Ford's high performance family of vehicles, including the rapturous Fiesta ST and Focus ST hatchbacks. Exciting!

The Ford Puma Titanium kicks off the range at €24,835
The Ford Puma Titanium kicks off the range at €24,835

Driving the 2021 Ford Puma

The Puma uses the Fiesta platform but has a wider track and some other modifications. A new, stiffer twist-beam rear suspension, larger shock absorbers, stiffer suspension bushes and optimised suspension top mounts reduce friction and enhance stiffness throughout the chassis to ensure the Puma handles better than competitors! The Puma is exciting to drive. You notice it immediately behind the wheel. Everything just feels that little bit tighter and more athletic than rivals. It comes alive in fast cornering, backed up by nicely weighted steering that offers more engagement than most. The small car underpinnings and ST Line firmer sport suspension mean that a Ford Focus is more comfortable, but a Puma is cooler.

My test car was powered by the 1.0-litre Ecoboost Hybrid. I’ve always been a fan of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine as it brings out the best in Ford’s dynamic driving cars. It’s no different here. It’s a lively engine that goes happily about its business. Performance figures are nothing exceptional but it is a pleasant mate for the Puma. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.0/100 km with a mix of urban, motorway and country roads.

Driving modes also come as standard with Sport, Normal, Eco, Trail and Slippery. It gives drivers some extra options though the car performs fine in Normal mode. Sport mode gives a bit more throttle response for example, for overtaking manoeuvres.

Inside the Puma

The Puma takes its interior mostly from the Fiesta. It's nothing too dramatic or stylish but it does have some nice features. There is a really attractive new digital instrument panel for the driver and that's standard from the ST Line trim. An 8" touchscreen comes as standard across the range with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Remember it's based on the Fiesta platform, but is roomier inside with more headroom and legroom in the back. The rear bench however will best be left to two people. The Puma has a good sized boot for this class with over 400 litres available and the added boon of the MegaBox. This innovative feature offers 80 litres of space in the boot floor, making it ideal for carrying tall items for example – such as houseplants or golf clubs (!) – in an upright position. Alternatively you could put the lid across and stow away dirty sports equipment or muddy footwear. A neat feature is a plughole in the bottom of the MegaBox so you can easily clean it out with water!

The innovative new Ford MegaBox
The innovative new Ford MegaBox

Did you like it?

The arrival of the Puma begins an onslaught of electrified Fords on the way to Ireland. The Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid is also new in dealers this summer, and Focus and Fiesta mild hybrids will follow. The exciting new all-electric Mustang Mach-e will be another high profile release with expected pricing kicking off in the region of €50,000.

Clearly I love the new Ford Puma. I've driven a lot of compact crossovers and they all have their best bits. But the Ford Puma expertly fills the need for a good-looking, fun and sporty compact crossover wearing the Ford badge. Ford is raising the game when it comes to design and driving dynamics. Embracing electrification is essential not to be left behind in a fast-paced industry. The Puma stands out now in the Ford range for its strong visual identity and fun image, along with the latest technology and digital features.

On price Ford Ireland appears to be positioning this car against upmarket models like the Peugeot 2008 and Volkswagen T-Cross. This is sophisticated company indeed to pounce upon, but Puma bites back with style and fun in spades. It’s a jungle out there but this Puma can wear its badge with pride!

The Ford Puma is now one of the most desirable cars in the Ford line-up
The Ford Puma is now one of the most desirable cars in the Ford line-up

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Puma ST Line X 1.0 mHEV 
Price: 
€27,917 (from €24,835)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
125 hp
Torque: 170 Nm
0-100km/h:  
9.8 seconds
Top speed: 191 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.4l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 127g/100km
Motor Tax: €270 per year