The new Volvo XC90 B5!

Volvo XC90 B5 AWD (2020) Review

The new Volvo XC90 B5!
The new Volvo XC90 B5!

Caroline drives the 2020 Volvo XC90.

Volvo is quickly becoming a leader in SUVs. Taking all the experience the brand garnered building practical family cars, namely estate cars, the Swedish brand has turned their magic touch to SUVs.

The new XC90 spearheaded Volvo’s spectacular revival in 2015 and was the first vehicle to be built on the new Volvo in-house designed and built chassis, using its own in-house designed and built engines. The XC90 was closely followed by the XC60 and the XC40, a family of Volvo SUVs all proving to be formidable competitors in their respective segments.

So what's new for 2020?

And what an experience the Volvo XC90 is. For the 2020 model year, the XC90 has received a refresh with new styling details, more equipment, upgrades to petrol-electric plug-in versions and the Irish debut of a new mild-hybrid powertrain - the B5 diesel mild hybrid tested here.

Priced from €77,970, the XC90 firmly occupies the large premium SUV segment. This is a stunning car inside and out. The XC90 is beautifully designed and makes an elegant statement wherever it goes. Now there are new grille and lower front bumper designs and the air intakes also have a fresh look. New alloy wheel designs have been introduced for 2020. All XC90 versions now come with roof rails and dual exhaust tailpipes as standard.

The interior of the 2020 Volvo XC90
The interior of the 2020 Volvo XC90

R-Design models (from €82,363) get a new black high-gloss finish for the exterior trim, including the door mirror casings, window frames and roof rails. There are also new paint options, including Thunder Grey, Pebble Grey and Birch Light shades.

Inside the 2020 Volvo XC90

The cabin has been designed with a simple layout built around the 9" tablet-like touchscreen with voice-activated control, navigation system and access to the Volvo On Call connected services platform. It's also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The XC90's cabin is a calm, reassuring and comfortable place to be. It is a generous seven seat SUV with great leg- and headroom all round. Even in seven seat mode, the XC90 still seems to have more space to spare, while there's a huge 775 litres in five seat mode.

In Ireland, the new XC90 range is available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription versions along with Pro upgrades for each. Standard equipment includes 19" alloys, LED headlights with active high beam, power-operated tailgate, parking sensors, rear parking camera, leather-faced upholstery, powered driver’s and front passenger seats, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control with ‘CleanZone’ air-quality system,12.3-inch driver’s information display, City Safety, including automatic emergency braking with Steering Support, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Run-off Road Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection.

R-Design highlights include the gloss black mesh front grille, door mirror casings and window surround, sports seats with leather and nubuck upholstery, front-seat cushion extensions, sports leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles, sports pedals, black headlining and 20" alloy wheels with a diamond-cut and black finish.

The new XC90 is available as a mild hybrid diesel or a petrol electric plug-in hybrid
The new XC90 is available as a mild hybrid diesel or a petrol electric plug-in hybrid

What are my options?

Buyers in Ireland can choose from the new 'B5' mild-hybrid diesel with 235 hp or the 'T8 Twin Engine' petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with 390 hp. Every XC90 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

My test car was a Volvo XC90 B5 R-Design with a list price of €82,863. It is a fantastic combination. Volvo’s established 2.0-litre 235hp diesel engine is combined with a 48-volt battery, a KERS kinetic energy recovery system and an integrated starter generator. Volvo says the system improves fuel economy by up to 15 per cent in real-world driving and produces lower NOx emissions than the outgoing D5 XC90 it replaces. It's a supremely quiet and refined set up. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 8.2l/100km.

The other engine option is the XC90 T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain, which has been revised for 2020 with an increase in the high-voltage battery’s capacity from 10.4 to 11.8 kWh. This increases the car’s electric-only driving range to about 46 km.

The Volvo XC90 is priced from €77,970 in Ireland
The Volvo XC90 is priced from €77,970 in Ireland

Driving the new Volvo XC90

On the road the Volvo XC90 is good. Very good! It's a smooth drive with excellent ride quality. Refinement is top notch. The XC90 has surprising agility and has been engineered exceptionally well to make it one of the best, most effortless drivers in the large SUV segment. It's certainly not trying to be sporty but you do feel very much in control and in command behind the wheel of the XC90.

The Volvo XC90 is big, commanding and luxurious. Yet on the road it has the kind of agility associated with a smaller vehicle. The B5 is super refined and suits this behemoth very well. Interior quality and ambience is up there with the best on offer in this segment. Volvo probably wouldn't say this in a press release, but you will feel calmer and more relaxed behind the wheel. I did!

The Volvo XC90 is a masterpiece in the world of large SUVs.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volvo XC90 B5 AWD Automatic R Design
Price: 
€82,863 (XC90 from €77,970)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
235 hp
Torque: 480 Nm
0-100km/h:
7.8 seconds
Top speed: 220 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
6.9-7.5l/100km
CO2 emissions NEDC2:
155g/km (WLTP: 179-195g/km)
Motor tax: 
€390 per year

Caroline in the Volvo XC90!
Caroline in the Volvo XC90!

The new SKODA Kamiq!

2020 Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI DSG Review

The new SKODA Kamiq!
The new Skoda Kamiq!

The new Skoda Kamiq completes an epic SUV trilogy for Skoda. Starting with the popular Kodiaq in 2017, joined by the mid size Karoq in 2018, and now the baby of the bunch – the petite but capable Kamiq! Small SUVs and crossovers are hot property these days and the Kamiq range kicks off at a very attractive €21,300.

The Kamiq is smart to look at, with compact, boxy dimensions. Skoda is quick to lift the car’s aesthetic features – split headlights featuring the daytime running lights above the main headlights, wide radiator grille, rear diffuser, elevated bonnet, front spoiler. Yet my favourite feature was the small dome in the bonnet that can be seen from the driver’s seat. In my eyes this is an unusually charismatic Skoda.

Built on the Volkswagen Group modular transverse matrix (MQB), Skoda has taken the platform and done some wonders with interior space. Compact crossovers can be very, eh, compact, but somehow the Kamiq feels like one of the most generous in the segment for rear head- and leg-room. The boot is also a good size for the segment with a capacity of 363 litres.

The interior of the new Kamiq
The interior of the new Kamiq

Inside the new Kamiq

The Kamiq is also the second new model in the Skoda range after the Scala to debut Skoda’s new interior design. It’s quite chic and minimalist with great infotainment, technology and smartphone integration. The 10.25 inch Virtual Cockpit is an option. Material quality is good for the segment with some nice trim elements.

In Ireland at launch the Kamiq is available in three trim levels kicking off at €21,300 for the 1.0-litre TSI 95 hp Active, from €23,300 for the Ambition and from €25,300 for the Style. Other engine options include a 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol with 115 hp, a 1.5 TSI turbo petrol with 150 hp and a 1.6 TDI diesel with 115 hp. 5-speed and 6-speed manual gearboxes feature as does an excellent 7-speed DSG.

Standard equipment on Active and Ambition models includes the 6.5-inch ‘Swing’ touch screen infotainment system, LED headlights and tail lights, Lane Assist, Front Assist with City Emergency Brake and Predictive Pedestrian Protection, and Multi-Collision Braking.

My Style model has a high specification with equipment including 17” alloys, rear view camera, dual zone climate control, rear privacy glass, rain sensing wipers, leather steering wheel, the 8.0-inch ‘Bolero’ infotainment unit and full LED headlights with AFS and dynamic front and rear indicators.

Smart, fun and functional - the new Kamiq
Smart, fun and functional - the new Kamiq

Driving the new Skoda Kamiq

On the road drivers can enjoy an elevated seating position and light controls for a smooth and agile driving experience. The 1.0-litre 115 hp petrol engine suits this car very well and I was driving it in combination with the DSG automatic gearbox. It’s another stellar performance from this small engine/auto gearbox combination making it ideal for those seeking a small automatic for the city. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.5 l/100km and motor tax is currently €200 per year for this model.

Skoda has landed in the popular compact B-SUV segment with a really strong new model. The Kamiq has the charisma of a small off-roader and it’s a great addition to the Skoda range. It’s spacious inside for its size and the small petrol engine makes it good fun to drive. There’s good value to be had in the Kamiq range with some well-proven engines and gearbox options.

The new Kamiq has everything covered to storm the compact crossover segment!

New Kamiq available from €21,300
New Kamiq available from €21,300

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: ŠKODA KAMIQ Style 1.0 DSG
Price: 
€28,100
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h:  
10 seconds
Top speed: 193 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP):
5.5-6.8l/100km
CO2 emissions:
113g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

 


The 2020 Ford Puma is on sale in Ireland now

2020 Ford Puma First Drive Review

The 2020 Ford Puma is on sale in Ireland now
The 2020 Ford Puma is on sale in Ireland now

The Ford Puma is back but this time as Ford’s new B segment compact crossover. Caroline travelled to Malaga, Spain, to test drive Ford’s new feline. The 2020 Ford Puma joins the expanding Ford line-up of SUV and SUV-inspired crossover models in Europe - including the Fiesta Active, Focus Active, EcoSport, and new Kuga - and is in dealers now, priced from €24,465.

Styling

The new Ford Puma is a fantastic piece of design for the Ford brand in Europe. Proportions are SUV-inspired, the design sleek and sporty, but with a charismatic evolution of the Ford face – big grille and large almond shaped headlamps. It’s something fresh for the segment, with different personalities depending on what trim level you go for - sporty Puma ST-Line or stylish Puma Titanium.

Interior

The Puma’s cabin is based on the latest generation Fiesta interior. Material quality is competitive for the segment and the streamlined dashboard layout is characterised by a standard 8” touchscreen in the centre of the dash with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for seamless smartphone integration. The Puma also introduces a new 12.3-inch digital cluster, which is standard on Puma ST-Line. Other features also include local hazard information displayed in the digital cluster, wireless charging pad, lumbar massage seats and removable seat covers.

The new Puma will be available in two different flavours - ST Line and Titanium (pictured above)
The new Puma will be available in two different flavours - ST Line and Titanium (pictured above)

Practicality

The 2020 Ford Puma is based on the Ford Fiesta but is bigger in all directions. Passenger space is competitive by class standards but most of the gains in practicality are in the boot area. Ford has introduced a new innovative ‘MegaBox’ concept. This 80 litre extra compartment in the boot can be used to stow larger items up to 115cm tall such as household plants on trips home from the garden centre! When not in use a flat floor can be placed over it. Combined boot space is over 400 litres, quite exceptional for the compact class.

Engines

The Puma features mild hybrid technology to improve efficiency and is one of 14 electrified vehicles to be introduced by Ford by the end of 2020. In Ireland the new Puma will be offered with the 1.0-litre EcoBoost mild hybrid petrol engine with 125 hp mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. CO2 emissions are rated from 124 g/km and fuel efficiency from 5.4 l/100 km according to WLTP. There are no plans as yet to import the higher powered 155 hp version to Ireland.

The interior of the new Ford Puma
The interior of the new Ford Puma

EcoBoost Hybrid technology enhances the Puma’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with an 11.5 kW belt-driven integrated starter/generator, enabling recovery and storage of energy usually lost during braking and coasting to charge a 48‑volt lithium-ion air-cooled battery pack. It also acts as a motor to provide torque assistance during normal driving and acceleration, as well as running the vehicle’s electrical parts.

An EcoBlue diesel engine will join the Puma range later, as will a 7-speed automatic transmission. We also anticipate a high performance Ford Puma ST derivative.

On the road

The Puma uses the Fiesta platform but with some modifications. It has a wider track and the rear suspension is stiffer by 50%. On the road the new Puma is exciting and characterful to drive. The steering has a sporty feel that comes alive in fast cornering. Body roll is minimal. Ford gave us a challenging and technical test route in the Ronda region of southern Spain and the new Puma was a delight to drive.

The new Puma is sporty and fun to drive
The new Puma is sporty and fun to drive

Driving modes are included as standard and settings include Sport, Normal, Eco, Trail and Slippery. The Sport model gave the car a bit more zest and the instant throttle response was great for the mountain roads. Comfort and refinement were very good but fuel consumption was a bit disappointing, with my average fuel consumption between 7.3 and 7.7 litres over a 3 hour drive. In fairness the route was very technical with a large part taking place uphill and in third gear so we will investigate this further during more balanced driving at home in Ireland.

Equipment

At launch the new Puma will be offered in three series in Ireland: Titanium, ST-Line and ST-Line X.

Standard equipment for Puma Titanium includes 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 con, massage driver and passenger seats, ambient lighting, wireless charging, cruise control with adjustable speed limiter and rear spoiler.

The Puma ST-Line adds ST-Line sports body kit, large rear spoiler, LED fog lamps with cornering feature, ST-Line sports exhaust, 12.3-inch digital cluster, dark sports headliner, flat-bottom steering wheel, and alloy pedals and gear knob.

ST-Line X adds 18-inch matt black alloy wheels, SYNC Gen 3 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and B&O Play sound system, partial leather sports trim, privacy glass and shark fin antenna.

The innovative new Ford MegaBox
The innovative new Ford MegaBox

Pricing

The new Ford Puma will go on sale in Ireland priced from €24,465 for the Puma Titanium. The ST Line is priced from €26,065 and the ST Line X from €27,865. We can expect the diesel variant to start in the region of €26,465.

Rivals

The new Ford Puma enters a very competitive segment and rivals include the Renault Captur, Hyundai Kona, Volkswagen T-Cross and Skoda Kamiq.

Summary

The Ford Puma feels like a fresh start for Ford, not just in the B-segment but the entire portfolio. The Puma marks the beginning of a serious push to electrification for Ford. The Puma’s good looks should win many fans and it’s now one of the most modern and desirable models in Ford’s range.

While the Puma range is quite narrow at launch with just one engine and gearbox available, this is a fashionable mild hybrid powertrain so it is actually very suitable and apt for the compact class.

The new Ford Puma is at last a very competitive compact crossover for Ford in the busy B-segment.

The Puma is a great addition to the Ford range in Ireland
The Puma is a great addition to the Ford range in Ireland

I look forward to bringing you a full road test later in the year.

Caroline Kidd


The 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER hybrid!

2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER Review

The 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER hybrid!
The 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER hybrid!

Caroline drives the 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER.

Subaru has long been a 4x4 specialist and purveyor of BOXER engine technology that saw the brand become 1990's heroes of rallying with the infamous Impreza Turbo. The glory days of Subaru in motorsport are long gone but the brand has been quietly producing some more sedate, serious crossovers and SUVs since then. The Subaru Forester is probably the one with the greatest following in Ireland, with a reputation for being safe, capable and reliable.

Now Subaru is introducing hybrid powertrains into their Forester and XV range for the first time. The fifth generation, 2020 Subaru Forester will be sold exclusively as a hybrid ('e-BOXER') and is priced from €45,545 in Ireland for the entry XE model, rising to €49,245 for the XE Premium.

What's new for the 2020 Subaru Forester?

The new Forester e-BOXER sits on the new Subaru Global Platform and combines an electric motor with two of Subaru's core technologies, the horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre BOXER petrol engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Styling has evolved rather than taken any dramatic twist. The Forester is quite plain in appearance with a robust look more in tune with the brand’s 4x4 roots.

The interior of the 2020 Subaru Forester
The interior of the 2020 Subaru Forester

Inside there is a new interior with a more modernised dashboard design. The built and quality is excellent throughout. There is an 8" touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which means you can bypass the native system's quite old-fashioned graphics. A second screen above, inset in the dashboard, displays more information to the driver on ventilation, the hybrid system and efficiency.

The XE model is equipped with LED headlights, keyless entry, and electrically adjustable driver’s seat, while the XE Premium model includes 18” alloys, sunroof, leather seats, satellite navigation, power tailgate, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel.

The Forester features some very advanced safety technology as standard including Rear Vehicle Detection, Reverse Automatic Braking, and Driver Monitoring System. For example, the Driver Monitoring System uses a camera and facial recognition technology to monitor the driver's gaze and gives audible and visual warning to the driver to pay attention to the road! Subaru's emphasis on safety has seen the Forester recently named best in class for safety performance by Euro NCAP.

The new Forester is very accomplished off-road
The new Forester is very accomplished off-road

How practical is the Subaru Forester e-BOXER?

The new model is 20 mm wider and 30 mm longer than the car it replaces, improving passenger comfort. There is more elbow room and a longer wheelbase means more legroom for rear seat passengers. The rear bench is wide and comfortable, and its slightly raised position means there is a great view out for all passengers. The boot opens to reveal 520 litres with a plastic floor that’s easy to clean - ideal for outdoor adventures! An electric tailgate for extra convenience is standard on XE Premium.

The Forester has four wheel drive as standard with two off-road driving modes accessible from a dial on the centre console. 'Snow/Dirt' for use on slippery road surfaces such as snow or gravel and 'Deep Snow/Mud' for surfaces where the tyres can become buried, such as deep snow and dry dirt. There's 220 mm of ground clearance and the Forester e-BOXER’s towing capacity is 1,870 kg.

Rear seating in the Subaru Forester
Rear seating in the Subaru Forester

Driving the new Forester e-BOXER

This 2.0-litre petrol engine features mild hybrid technology for the first time. Support from an electric motor has been tasked with the job of improving the Forester's fuel efficiency. The Forester's performance figures are not particularly outstanding with 150 hp and 196 Nm of torque, but on the road this doesn't translate to any great disadvantage. In fact the nature of the CVT gearbox means that gentle progress on the accelerator is rewarded more than any grand showings of aggressive accelerator use.

There are three driving modes with varying levels of support from the battery. At very low speeds, the Forester can be powered by the electric motor alone for example in stop-and-go traffic, where Subaru say a 10% improvement in fuel economy can be seen compared to the outgoing 2.0-litre variant. At medium speeds, the motor and engine work together to improve power and performance. At higher speeds, Forester e-BOXER is driven solely by the petrol engine.

The new hybrid technology is arranged in a symmetrical layout with the electric motor assist and battery pack aligned longitudinally with the heavy motor placed near the vehicle's centre of gravity. The battery and other components are positioned above the rear axle.

The new Forester e-BOXER available from €45,545
The new Forester e-BOXER available from €45,545

Subaru is well-known for its off-road ability but probably less associated with ride quality. So I was really surprised to discover that the new Subaru Forester e-BOXER rides exceptionally well. I did lots of motorway and rural road driving and the Forester was very comfortable in these situations. It handles the road confidently, feeling flat and balanced through corners, while the engine responded willingly.

The Forester favours a less frantic driving style to manage revs from the CVT and promote better fuel efficiency. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 8.2 l/100km, which was disappointing considering the promise of a more efficient Forester. The Forester has a tendency to hold onto revs, which doesn't do itself any favours when it comes to using less fuel.

To summarise the Forester

The careful arrangement of the paraphernalia for the hybrid system and balancing of the weight distribution means that you have a very natural feeling car that rides and handles exceptionally well.

The Forester's strong 4x4 roots give the driver real confidence off-road and while this is by no means a cheap vehicle, Subaru has thrown enough gear and leather at the Forester to pitch it as a more premium SUV.

But it's not a car for show-offs because style is not really part of the Forester's vocabulary. There is a lot of anonymity in this design. Depending on your point of view that's a good or bad thing.

The new Forester e-BOXER is an interesting evolution for the Subaru brand and the brand's perpetuation of the BOXER engine technology translates to one of the most unique behaving cars on the road. Subaru has given the Forester a gentle nudge in the right direction as the global car industry responds to ever tightening emission controls.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Subaru Forester 2.0i e-BOXER XE Premium Lineartronic
Price: 
€49,245
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine + 2 electric motors
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 196 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.8 seconds
Top speed: 117 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
8.1/100km
CO2 emissions (NEDC-2):
154g/km
Motor tax: 
€390 per year


The new Audi e-tron

2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro Review

The new Audi e-tron
The new Audi e-tron in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi e-tron.

Audi has landed into the world of EVs with a big splash in the form of the flagship Audi e-tron SUV. With a massive 95 kWh battery, the e-tron is a technological achievement, a perfect embodiment of the Vorsprung durch Technik the brand is built upon. Progress through technology, the concept of the new e-tron is undoubtedly big, impressive and optimistic. Audi chose to conceive a large family SUV as the brand’s first ever fully electric production model. The new e-tron will spearhead an electric vehicle (EV) offensive for the brand that will see 12 production Audi e-models by 2025.

But the most important question for most EV buyers right now is – how far will it get me on one charge? While Audi quotes a WLTP range of up to 436 km, this reviewer can tell you that during our real world test during a cold spell in December, we travelled a reliable 300 km on a full charge.

What about performance?

In the metal the e-tron looks like the kind of vehicle that will make the ground shake when you start it up. But no twin turbos under the bonnet here. In fact, there is very little under the bonnet at all! Powerful front and rear electric motors energised by a large high-voltage battery, give the e-tron 55 quattro a power output of 402 hp and 664 Nm of torque and the 0 to 100 km/h sprint figure is 5.7 seconds. When you are swapping stats and stories at the EV fast charger, this will be met with a short intake of breath - but performance is not really the story here.

The interior of the new Audi e-tron
The interior of the new Audi e-tron

For sure the e-tron can move quickly. But what is more impressive and frankly enjoyable about this vehicle is the silky smooth refinement of the car. The way the controls feel, how it covers the tarmac so smoothly and effortlessly, all in silence.

Audi says the drive components are installed low and central for the best dynamic ability with the battery system located between the axles in the form of a flat, broad block beneath the passenger compartment. They say that this configuration makes the Audi e-tron’s centre of gravity similar to that of a saloon car. Axle load distribution is perfectly balanced at almost 50:50.

The Audi e-tron is very clever

Audi drive select allows driver to toggle between seven profiles depending on the driving situation, road conditions or personal preferences. The system also influences the standard air suspension with adaptive dampers. The pneumatic springs adjust individually to the road conditions depending on the speed and the driver’s preferences, varying the ride height by as much as 76 millimetres. At higher, motorway speeds on longer journeys the e-tron can sit lower on the road to improve aerodynamics and range. I drove it in the efficiency mode most of the time, with the most discernible difference being a less responsive throttle.

The 2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro is powered by a 95 kWh battery
The 2020 Audi e-tron 55 quattro is powered by a 95 kWh battery

And when it comes to charging the mighty e-tron, there’s up to 150 kw charging, which I can tell you feels like magic. High speed 150 kw IONITY chargers arrived in Ireland in the summer at select Circle K stations and I’m lucky to have one in my area. There are fast chargers and then there are IONITY chargers. For €8 per use, I went from 10% battery power to 100% in 40 minutes. When I hopped back in the range read 314 km. At home with a 22 kw wallbox a full charge can be got in approximately 4.3 hrs or 8.3 hours with 11 kW charging.

Inside the 2020 Audi e-tron

Priced from €89,810 including grant reductions, the new Audi e-tron is an elite piece of kit. Inside, the e-tron is as salubrious as any other member of the Audi range. It features the latest in Audi interior design with a stunning digital cockpit. Material quality is excellent throughout and the space inside the vehicle is also used well. An electric tailgate reveals a boot volume of 600 litres.

Audi Ireland has also just recently announced the arrival of the Audi e-tron 50 quattro, which uses a 71 kWh battery and starts from €64,990 with a shorter WLTP range of 336 km.

The new e-tron 55 quattro available from €89,810 including grant reductions
The new e-tron 55 quattro available from €89,810 including grant reductions

The concept of the Audi e-tron is a true showstopper. Audi’s flagship electric SUV is a fantastic debut with the convenience of 150 kw charging and a genuine 300 km of real world range.

While the stats from the high voltage battery are impressive, the packing of this EV technology means that there is no denying the car feels heavy on the road and you will be acutely aware of carrying your battery when slowing down at a junction or for a roundabout. Dynamically, the e-tron does little to excite.

But the execution of this vehicle’s premium attributes, the attention to detail in the way it's been designed and built, and the smoothness of the cabin and ride is highly seductive. Hell, it’s an Audi after all. You will enjoy this car.

For eco-conscious trendsetters and EV evangelists, the e-tron brings huge bragging rights.

Caroline Kidd and the Audi e-tron
Caroline and the Audi e-tron

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi e-tron 55 quattro
Price: 
From €89,810 (including grants)
Battery: 95 kWh
Power: 
402 bhp
Torque: 664 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 200 km/h
CO2 emissions:  
0 g/km
Motor tax: 
€120 per year


The 2020 Range Rover Evoque

2020 Range Rover Evoque Review

The 2020 Range Rover Evoque
The 2020 Range Rover Evoque

The world’s trendiest SUV enters the new decade. Caroline reviews the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. 

The Range Rover Evoque was a dramatic new model for the Range Rover brand back in 2011, putting the brand on the radar of style setters everywhere with Victoria Beckham undoubtedly becoming the poster girl for the car. The Evoque was a huge success and high on many wish lists.

In 2019 it was time for the Evoque to evolve once again. The game for stylish premium compact SUVs had moved on with plenty of competitors looking to replicate the Evoque's success.

But the Evoque's blend of cool styling and the heritage of the Range Rover brand is a hard one to beat. Designers have wisely not upset the classic Evoque silhouette - high beltline/sloping roofline – instead opting for some subtle but modern refining of the surfaces. The super-slim Matrix LED headlamps are new and the flush door handles slip elegantly out from the car once you unlock it. Yes, this is a car you want to be seen in. It’s cool and stylish with the underlying pedigree of not just the Land Rover brand, but the prestigious Range Rover one too. Believe it’s a baby Range Rover because it really is.

What are my options?

In Ireland the Evoque range kicks off at €42,845. There are front wheel drive and four wheel drive models available with the 2.0-litre diesel with 150, 180 or 240 hp the popular choice in Ireland. A 2.0-litre petrol is available with 200, 250 or 300 hp. Mild hybrid technology (MHEV) now features across the range to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. An Evoque plug-in hybrid is expected soon also. A manual gearbox comes as standard and a 9-speed automatic is also available.

The interior of the new Evoque
The interior of the new Evoque

Trim lines are based around an entry Evoque and a more sporty Evoque R-Dynamic with S, SE and HSE packages available for both.

The car I had on test was a Range Rover Evoque S with four wheel drive and the 2.0-litre 150 hp diesel. It is a sweet spot in the range and is available from €49,285. The Evoque S is instantly luxurious inside with specification including leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear view camera, impressive infotainment, dual zone climate control and cruise control. On the outside there are 18” alloys and LED headlights. The capability of four wheel drive models is second to none as we found out testing the Evoque in Greece in 2019. The 2.0-litre diesel is also well up to the job here.

Inside the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

The cabin is comfortable with many beautiful soft touch materials. It’s reasonably spacious and competitive in terms of size for a compact premium SUV. Built on Land Rover’s new Premium Transverse Architecture, the overall dimensions are near on identical to the previous generation of the car but there is more interior space now than before. A longer wheelbase provides 20 mm extra rear kneeroom. The electric tailgate opens to reveal a generous 591 litres, perfect for impromptu shopping trips or day trips to the mountains.

The controls for the ventilation and four wheel drive system are set on a touchscreen like panel, which you might be at odds to operate when you first slip in behind the wheel. But after a while, it's actually very easy to use and looks so impressive. It's a proper 21st century technology addition! The new infotainment system also looks very well and is an improved unit.

The Range Rover Evoque is available from €49,285 in Ireland
The Range Rover Evoque is available from €49,285 in Ireland

Driving the new Evoque

On the road the 2020 Range Rover Evoque excels first and foremost for comfort and refinement. This is a premium driving experience with no such foibles as wind or road noise to upset passengers. A new, more rigid platform means the Evoque feels athletic in the corners with good handling and supple suspension reacting well to all road surfaces and changes in direction.

The 2.0-litre diesel with 150 hp is ideal for the Evoque and feels lively and powerful.  It mates well to the automatic gearbox, never getting too noisy in the cabin, even under hard acceleration. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 6.6 l/100 km.

The Evoque will slip perfectly from smart city streets to rougher terrain and looks good doing both. The cabin experience is great for passengers with lots of comfort and luxury detailing. There are new powertrains on the way, but the Evoque diesel should still be popular. For buyers looking for a premium mid-size SUV, the Evoque still makes a great case for itself. It looks great and has a fantastic image. Land Rover have successfully brought the Evoque into a new era, with a welcome addition of new technology.

The Evoque matures perfectly. Still utterly desirable!

Caroline and the new Range Rover Evoque
Caroline and the new Range Rover Evoque

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Range Rover Evoque S D150 AWD Automatic
Price: 
€55,995
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 
150 hp
Torque: 380 Nm
0-100km/h:  
11.2 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Manufacturer Quoted Economy: 
5.6l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
149g/km
Motor tax: 
€390 per year


Caroline and the Mazda CX-30 EV Prototype

Mazda MX-30 EV Prototype First Drive Review

Caroline and the Mazda CX-30 EV Prototype
Caroline and the Mazda MX-30 EV Prototype

In 2020, Mazda will launch the brand's first ever electric vehicle, the Mazda MX-30 all-electric SUV. I had an opportunity to preview the new MX-30 in Portugal, and test drive Mazda's new EV technology in a prototype vehicle.

Mazda has set out to bottle up the company's Jinba Ittai - driver and car as one - engineering ethos, and produce an electric vehicle that delivers ‘outstanding driving pleasure’. The MX-30 will be the third new generation Mazda - after the 2019 Mazda3 and CX-30 - when it goes into production towards the middle of 2020.

At Mazda's Technology & Design Forum in Lisbon, we had the opportunity to speak in great detail with the MX-30 European product development team, led by the passionate and articulate Christian Schultze, Director and Deputy General Manager at the Mazda Motor Europe R&D Centre. Schultze has been working with Mazda in Europe since 1990 and told us about the product development that saw the European team in consultation with their Japanese colleagues from an early stage. The MX-30 will be a global car but will launch first in Europe in 2020 and has been developed for this market.

The new Mazda EV prototype in action in Sintra, Portugal
The new Mazda EV prototype in action in Sintra, Portugal

The MX-30 uses the brand's new Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture and employs a number of new technologies and innovations to create the most natural feeling EV powertrain. Electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus) is an evolution of a system already found in Mazda's fleet and promises a feeling of more natural feedback by precise torque control and sound that lets the driver know exactly what the car is doing. Mazda has developed its own bespoke motor pedal concept for the Mazda MX-30 for a more natural feel relative to the driver’s intended amount of acceleration and deceleration. They have also developed special sound or ‘aural feedback’ through the audio system corresponding to the driver’s pedal action that helps the driver to more precisely control vehicle speed and adds to the driving pleasure.

Power will come from a 35.5 kWh battery giving a power output of about 140 hp, torque of 265 Nm and an electric range estimated somewhere in the region of 200 km. Mazda engineers also spoke to us about the possibility of a rotary engine being installed as a range extender.

The test vehicle provided to us in Portugal on a bright December morning was an e-TPV (electric technology proving vehicle) using the chassis and body of a CX-30. The MX-30 and CX-30 are closely matched in size and wheelbase so this was a realistic preview of what the MX-30 is going to feel like on the road.

The interior of the prototype - don't touch the red button
The interior of the prototype - don't touch the red button

I was accompanied by a member of the Mazda event team who briefed me on the vehicle. He was monitoring the technical underpinnings of the car through a tablet and the big red button on the dash you can see in the photos was where he could cut the power to the car, should any warnings or faults appear on the system. Before we set off on the test route on a beautiful mountainous road through the Sintra region, he let me know that the only safety equipment the test vehicle had was ABS - no airbags, no lane departure warning, no ESC, etc. I looked down the ravine to the left and thought...okay... just before I met one of the locals who thought he was driving in my country.

I was so excited to be driving this new electric car from Mazda that feels like no other. The Mazda DNA is very quickly apparent. The steering was natural and fluid, the car willing to play ball among the twists and turns of our test route with a pleasant amount of grip through the front tyres in fast cornering.

The most interesting and frankly, brilliant, innovation here is the aural feedback from the car and sensations through the pedals as you accelerate and decelerate. Electric cars are typically devoid of any feedback through the pedals or controls. Not so with the CX-30 EV prototype. It feels and sounds not much different than a petrol CX-30 in typical stop/start driving. Up and down inclines, I had the opportunity to experience this new technology and I loved it: gurgles and resistance like a good old-fashioned ICE.

We test drove the Mazda EV prototype to preview MX-30's new EV technology
We test drove the Mazda EV prototype to preview MX-30's new EV technology

The nature of the weight distribution of an EV versus a front engined mid size SUV was apparent in the way the car shifted its weight around corners, but it was remarkably good to drive. Certainly I felt the relative 'low' power of the CX-30 EV prototype (140 hp) versus some of the similarly sized EVs I've driven at home, as it doesn't feel quite as lively off the line.

Mazda is persevering to push a 'right sized' battery approach that they claim is kinder to the environment when you look at where battery and EV technology is right now. But there are obvious shortcomings to this approach in an era where many rivals are pushing out EVs with 64 kWh batteries and range in excess of 400 km.

This wasn't an adequate test of battery range and practicality in every day life but from an engineering perspective, what we drove in Lisbon was really promising for the future of EVs and the Mazda brand. It's worth noting that the MX-30 is just one part of Mazda's 'multi-solution approach' to the debarbonisation of transport. The brand is also working on improving engine efficiency with innovations such as Skyactiv-X, the world's first petrol engine with compression ignition, and a new clean diesel coming next year. Mild hybrid technology has already begun to be rolled out in the brand's newest product ranges and Mazda will offer more electric, plug-in hybrid and range extender vehicles in the future.

Caroline KiddCaroline Kidd

 


The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d

Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d Review (2020)

The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d
The new Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d

Caroline drives the new for 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC!

The GLC is Mercedes-Benz mid-size SUV offering based on the C-Class family. The GLC debuted for the first time in 2015 and it was revamped with updates to the styling, interior, technology and engines in 2019.

The range starts from €48,040 meaning that buyers do pay a premium over a C-Class but SUVs are so desirable right now, nobody seems to care. In fact, after spending a week with the GLC it’s not difficult to see the appeal of this vehicle. Visually it’s got a great presence and it inherits all the best C-Class DNA (namely that awesome interior), but with a great injection of practicality.

The chunky SUV styling sits well upon its frame - equal parts rugged and elegant. The AMG Line test car brings its best game face with the divine diamond radiator grille, 19” alloys and AMG body styling pack.

The interior of the GLC
The interior of the GLC

Inside the new Mercedes-Benz GLC

Inside, the interior of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC receives the same updates as the revamped C-Class saloon and estate. This mid-life refresh has been very successful in that it modernises the interior considerably and shows Mercedes’ fine quality and technology off to the very best, including the excellent MBUX multimedia system with ‘Hey Mercedes’ commands. The Advantage pack adds the 10.25” display screen in the centre of the dash – that’s highly desirable. There is a digital instrument panel available but the analogue dials look fine and you can control the infotainment and menus using simple swipe controls on the multifunction steering wheel. Leather upholstery comes as standard.

The GLC feels more spacious and practical than the C-Class it’s based on thanks to more headroom and a raised ride height. The transmission tunnel does eat into space for the middle passenger but it’s by and large a good family vehicle. The boot is competitive for the class at 550 litres and a powered tailgate comes as standard. Woohoo!

New generation Mercedes’ four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with more power and greater efficiency feature also. 4MATIC four wheel drive is available and the most popular models will be the GLC 200d and the GLC 220d diesels.

Rear legroom in the Mercedes-Benz GLC
Rear legroom in the Mercedes-Benz GLC

Driving the new GLC 220d!

I tested the higher powered 220d 4MATIC, which has a 2.0-litre diesel putting out 194hp. The power delivery through the 9-speed auto is deliciously smooth and indulgent. This car is a peach to drive, far more engaging than what you might think. It hustles along effortlessly and is very comfortable and refined. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 6.7 l/100km and motor tax is €280 per year.

The range starts from €48,040 for a GLC 200d, while the 220d starts from €50,160.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC benefits in a big way from this facelift with a beautifully appointed cabin and the latest engines and technology features.

This is a very impressive car on the road, with a ride that is perfectly judged and comfortable to make it a pleasure to drive every day.

The GLC 220d is highly desirable with a pleasant punch of power and silky refinement.

These are expensive cars but Mercedes is offering considerable equipment from entry. The GLC matures impeccably!

The GLC 220d is a fine diesel mid-size SUV!
The GLC 220d is a fine diesel mid-size SUV!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC AMG Line
Price:
€52,660 (Range from €48,040)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
194 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 215 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP):
5.2-6.0 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
140 g/km


The new Volkswagen T-Cross!

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 Petrol Review (2019)

The new Volkswagen T-Cross!
The new Volkswagen T-Cross!

Caroline drives the 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross!

B-segment crossovers are hot property these days, guaranteed success in a market that seems to adore an SUV-like high seating position and more ‘rugged’ styling than the traditional hatchbacks on which they are based.

Volkswagen has now furnished their showrooms with a full complement of SUVs with the eminent arrival of the baby to the clan – the new Volkswagen T-Cross. It slots in below the T-Roc.

Priced from €22,495, the T-Cross occupies that sweet spot of the market where the compact crossovers reside. It’s blessed with good looks and is a far more interesting car to look at than the Polo. Yes such desirability does carry a premium but it’s one that buyers have proven they are willing to pay.

In Ireland the new T-Cross is available in four trim lines and engines include a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine (95hp or 115hp) and a 1.6-litre diesel (95hp). A manual gearbox comes as standard however a 7-speed DSG automatic is available.

The interior of the new T-Cross
The interior of the new T-Cross

How big is it?

The T-Cross sits on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, and is 54 mm longer than the Polo and 138 mm higher. It’s a compact car but by class standards it is generously sized and four adults should be comfortable enough. The boot is one of the best in class, holding between 385- and 455-litres thanks to a sliding rear bench that can be moved by 14 cm.

Inside the T-Cross features the latest in Volkswagen design and technology. Cabin quality is very good, avoiding the cheap and nasty look. Volkswagen’s infotainment screens look and behave very well, with full smartphone compatibility.

Trim lines include the entry level ‘T-Cross’, followed by the ‘Life’ starting at €24,550, ‘Style’ starting at €26,795 and ‘R-Line’ starting at €27,995. The ‘Life’ model has 16” alloy wheels, 8” infotainment system, App Connect, Climatronic Air Conditioning, 2 USB interfaces and Adaptive Cruise Control. The ‘Style’ models adds 17” alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a Chrome package, while the ‘R-Line’ model gains 17” wheels and an R-Line exterior package.

The problem with the T-Cross is that it can get very expensive very quickly. Volkswagen are not after the budget end of the market with the T-Cross. The T-Cross R-line 1.0-litre DSG I was driving starts from €29,895, and at that price it would be in the market with larger cars.

The 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross is one of the best small SUVs on the market
The 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross is one of the best small SUVs on the market

On the road in the 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

Small automatics are getting more and more popular and the T-Cross 1.0 DSG is a fine example of one. A 7-speed automatic gearbox is matched to a small 1.0 litre petrol engine and works amazingly well. It’s a pleasure to drive, smooth and smart with no dim-witted gear changes present here. Motor tax for this model is €200 per year and over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.9 l/100km. The T-Cross is fun to drive, refined and comfortable for what it is.

The Volkswagen T-Cross recently won Irish Compact SUV of the Year at the Irish Car of the Year awards. The judges were unanimous in their recommendation of the new T-Cross. It feels like a larger and more substantial car than the Polo though there is not much between them in terms of dimensions. It’s a more expensive car to buy but Volkswagen has a good track record in selling SUVs. The T-Cross is a highly desirable small SUV and the 1.0-litre petrol engine is a perfect mate for it!

The T-Cross is available from €22,495
The T-Cross is available from €22,495

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI R Line DSG
Price:
€29,895 (Range from €22,495)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
115 hp
Torque: 200 Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.2 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
111 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year

 


The new SsangYong Korando will go on sale in Ireland in December

2020 SsangYong Korando First Drive Review

The new SsangYong Korando will go on sale in Ireland in December
The new SsangYong Korando will go on sale in Ireland in December

The 2020 SsangYong Korando goes on sale in Ireland from December priced from €24,495. We haven’t heard from SssangYong for a while but the brand is building a new presence in Ireland as SsangYong Automotive Ireland under new Country Manager John McKenna. The new Korando builds on the good form seen in the smaller Tivoli compact crossover, which has also undergone an update for 2020. Caroline travelled to Madrid, Spain, to test drive the new Korando.

Styling

The fourth generation Korando was designed at SsangYong’s R&D Centre in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. It’s out with the old and in with the new: the Korando is a car transformed since the previous generation of the SUV with a modern, edgy design language that follows on from the cool Tivoli launched back in 2016. This car has good presence in the metal and is something distinctly different for the busy C-SUV segment.

Interior

Another major transformation has taken place inside the cabin of the new Korando. The simple horizontal layout is easy to navigate and cabin materials look good. Some of our high spec test cars had the “Blaze Cockpit” with a 10.25” full digital cluster and 9” touchscreen unit and ambient lighting with 34 colours. However, this feature will be reserved to top level ELX models in Ireland. No problem, the analogue dials look fine too. An 8” touchscreen is available from mid level EL cars and supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The interior of the new SsangYong Korando
The interior of the new SsangYong Korando

Practicality

The new Korando is longer and wider than the car it replaces with a longer wheelbase of 2,675mm, one of the longest in its class for increased comfort. The extra space is apparent, especially in the rear. Luggage capacity ranges from 408 to 551 litres with all seats in position depending on whether a spare tyre is specified, and there is up to 1,248 litres available with the rear seats folded. The rear seats split fold 60:40.

Engines

In Ireland the 2020 SsangYong Korando will be available with a new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine (163 hp) and a revised Euro 6D-T compliant 1.6-litre diesel (136 hp). 6-speed manual and automatic gearboxes are available. The Korando is a front wheel drive SUV, but all wheel drive models will be available by special order. In Ireland motor tax for the Korando range will vary from €280 to €590.

The Korando has always been a favourite for towing and the diesel automatic has a two tonne towing capacity.

An electric Korando is expected in 2022 with a 61.5 kwh battery and range up to 350km (WLTP).

The new Korando is available with petrol and diesel engines, with an EV planned in 2022
The new Korando is available with petrol and diesel engines, with an EV planned in 2022

On the road

The 2020 SsangYong Korando sits on an all-new platform. Measures have been taken to make the Korando more refined on the road and suppress NVH (noise vibration and harshness). In a first for SsangYong, structural adhesives have been used to improve rigidity.

At the launch in Madrid we had the opportunity to test drive a 1.6-litre diesel automatic and a 1.5-litre petrol manual.

On the road, early indications are that the 2020 Korando is a slicker and more refined vehicle with smooth gear changes and not too much intrusive engine, road or wind noise. The Korando has retained some feeling of an authentic off-roader in that it hardly feels athletic on the road and it leans a bit in corners. There’s actually a compliment in that – while most soft roaders feel like slightly loftier hatchbacks, the Korando feels more like it might seriously like to get its tyres dirty!

Equipment

The Korando will be available in three trim lines in Ireland: ES, EL and ELX. Standard equipment will include 17” alloys, cruise control, electric, folding side mirrors, automatic lights and wipers, manual air con, Bluetooth radio and steering wheel mounted controls.

EL models add equipment such as 18” alloys, 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated, leather steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors and dual zone climate control.

ELX models get 19” alloys, Blaze Cockpit with 10.25” LCD screen, 9” touchscreen, ambient lighting, sun roof, wireless charger and silver roof rails.

The new Korando achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating and safety equipment includes Autonomous Emergency Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, High Beam Assist, Front Vehicle Start Alert, Safety Distance Alert and Driver Attention Alert.

The Korando is now bigger and more practical
The Korando is now bigger and more practical

Pricing

SsangYong Automotive Ireland is yet to release full pricing for the Korando range however it has been confirmed that petrol models will start from €24,495 and diesels from €26,495.

Rivals

The new Korando will go head to head with rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, SEAT Ateca, Skoda Karoq, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008.

Summary

Encountering the new SsangYong Korando for the first time and it’s clear a revolution has been underway at SsangYong. At last the Korando feels like a genuinely competitive product for the C-SUV segment and it arrives with considerable style, meaning that it may garner some fans with its design alone. It’s not just a value proposition any more.

Interior design and quality has also improved dramatically and the Korando is available with all the latest technology and safety features. It’s a nice car to spend time in and offers good value in terms of the space available inside the vehicle.

Modern Euro 6d compliant engines crucially also feel up to the job.

SsangYong Automotive Ireland does face a challenge to build the SsangYong brand in Ireland from a  low base and small dealer presence, but finally the product seems to be on point.

The new Korando goes on sale from €24,495
The new Korando goes on sale from €24,495

Caroline Kidd