Volkswagen Tiguan Review Ireland

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0TDI Review

An all-new Volkswagen Tiguan has arrived in Ireland at a time when it looks like we are going crazy for crossovers and compact SUVs. Ireland’s bestselling car in 2016 is so far the Hyundai Tucson, overtaking perennials like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus in the process.

This segment is huge with all the major manufacturers offering some sort of jacked up hatchback in their range. Now Volkswagen is having a second shot with the new generation 2016 Tiguan.

It’s the first Volkswagen Group SUV to be built on the MQB platform, which is shared with the Golf and a host of other VW Group products. Gone are the soft curves of the first generation Tiguan. The new Volkswagen Tiguan is altogether more angular, and even aggressive when viewed straight on. You couldn’t really say any of those things about the previous generation. It’s all classic Volkswagen styling but the new Tiguan has just the right presence for this market – it looks premium and shall we say a cut above the rest? It’s not as avant-garde as the new Kia Sportage or as friendly looking as the Renault Kadjar but something about those crisp lines and classic VW grille is still refreshing in this segment!

Volkswagen Tiguan Review Ireland
Volkswagen Tiguan is sharper all round and looking all the better for it

Inside, there is nothing particularly exciting about the interior design but it is faultless in regard to quality and navigability, with all models receiving a touchscreen infotainment system that’s one of the best in the business. Another highlight is the Active Info Display digital instrument cluster, though it’s not standard on base models. There is seating for five in the Tiguan and generous legroom for rear passengers, while the boot can carry up to 615 litres, which is up 145 litres on the old model.

Powering the new Tiguan range are a 125hp 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol and 2.0-litre diesels with a range of outputs from 115hp to 240hp. Manual and automatic transmissions are available, as well as a four wheel drive option. The petrol comes in at €29,085 on the base Trendline trim, while diesels start at €30,985. Comfortline line models start at €32,960 and Highline models start at €36,870.

Volkswagen Tiguan Review Ireland
The interior of the Volkswagen Tiguan is one of the best in the class with a simple, intuitive design and good quality materials

On the road the new Volkswagen Tiguan is a smooth and agile drive for an SUV, and the 2.0-litre TDI 150hp diesel on test goes about its business with minimal noise intrusion into the cabin. The Tiguan is a hard one to fault. It’s comfortable over Irish roads yet there’s not too much lean in the corners and the steering is spot on too. The overall refinement of the driving experience suggests a well-engineered car. The 2.0-litre diesel with 150hp is a powerful offering in the new Tiguan but the 115hp version is of course cheaper to buy and both versions have similar running costs.

Standard equipment on new Tiguan includes leather steering wheel, 17” alloy wheels, LED rear lights, roof rails, 5” touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth, electric parking brake and hill start assist, electric windows and mirrors, air con and safety equipment including lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and autonomous emergency braking. A mid range Comfortline adds adaptive cruise control, an 8” touchscreen, front fog lights, parking sensors, tri zone climate control, auto high beam and some more styling and interior comfort updates.

The new Volkswagen Tiguan sits at the pricier end of the SUV/crossover market, but make no mistake: this is a quality product that really does justify the premium tag. Whether compact SUV buyers will flock to it in the same way the likes of the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai have captured the hearts and minds of Irish buyers is another story, as those cars are great value for money and do the same job as the Tiguan. Yet the new Volkswagen Tiguan has an all-round polish that just lifts it above the competition and it does it in considerable style.

Volkswagen Tiguan Review Ireland
Volkswagen Tiguan: A polish all round that makes it very desirable if you're willing to pay for it

Model tested: Volkswagen Tiguan Highline 2.0TDI 150hp
Price: 
€36,870 ( Range starts at €29,085)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150hp
0-100km/h:  
9.3 seconds
Economy: 
59mpg
CO2 emissions:  
125g/km
Tax band:
€270 per year

Caroline Kidd


Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Review Ireland

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Launch Drive

A revamped Suzuki SX4 S-Cross will arrive in Irish Suzuki dealers this October, priced from €20,995.

Hot on the heels of the all-new Suzuki Baleno hatchback that arrived in Ireland over the summer, Suzuki are further strengthening their line-up with a major facelift and new engines for the SX4 S-Cross.

Visually the S-Cross now has a more SUV-like stance on the road. Suzuki has raised the suspension by about 1.5cm, and the front end is now higher and more upright with a bold chrome bar grille and new lights front and back.

Inside the basic cabin layout is the same but there is a new soft touch plastic dashboard pad, which looks more pleasing and gives the S-Cross a more high quality feel despite the hard plastics that still feature above and below, and in the door panels. There is seating for five and a 430 litre boot with a low, flat loading sill.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Review Ireland
Suzuki has improved some of the materials in the cabin for a plusher feel

Suzuki has really shaken up the engine line-up to keep up with competitors (and perhaps surpass them too). Gone is the old 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and in come two brand new turbo petrol ‘Boosterjet’ engines: a 1.0-litre (111hp) and a 1.4-litre (150hp). The 1.6-litre diesel (120hp) will still be offered but Suzuki are keen to push their new petrol engines because they are an attractive low entry price into the range, but efficient and powerful for their size. The 1.0-litre will return up to 56.4mpg and emissions of 113g/km CO2 mean that it qualifies for motor tax of €200 per year.

Manual and automatic gearboxes are offered, as well as a four wheel drive option. The old CVT automatic gearbox has been replaced with a new dual clutch system.

At the launch I drove the 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre turbo petrols. The 1.0-litre has adequate power for the S-Cross and is very responsive to the throttle, though the absence of a sixth gear makes it less efficient for high speed cruising on the motorway. The S-Cross 1.4-litre comes with a six speed manual and is in turn even more flexible than the 1.0-litre with a strong surge of power in all the gears. Some road noise was apparent in the cabin at high speeds but the S-Cross performed overwhelmingly as a comfortable and nimble crossover. The steering is light but there was enough feedback reaching the rim for some enthusiastic driving through the long, flowing corners of our test route through North Wales.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Review Ireland
Suzuki is looking for a slice of the petrol crossover market with two new powerful and efficient Boosterjet engines joining the SX4 S-Cross range

Three trim levels will be offered: SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, air conditioning, four electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, electric and heated door mirrors.

Pricing starts at €20,995 for the S-Cross 1.0-litre Boosterjet in SZ4 trim, SZ-T models start from €24,995 and SZ5 from €28,495. The 1.6-litre diesel starts at €26,995.

The new Suzuki SX4 S-Cross will be in Irish Suzuki dealers from mid-October.

Caroline Kidd

 


Jaguar F-Pace Review Ireland

Jaguar F-Pace 2.0-litre AWD Review

Scroll down to watch a video review.

The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first ever SUV and Jaguar are confidently billing it as ‘the practical sports car’.

On the surface at least, the styling of the new Jaguar F-Pace is every bit as evocative as a classic Jaguar sports car, with a level of drama and dynamism that is missing from many rivals. The big, upright grille and slim LED headlamps make a bold statement, while at the back there are many similarities to be drawn with the F-Type coupé. Not a bad thing at all!

Inside I think the F-Pace is best described as ‘modern luxury with a sports car feel’. The centre console has a slick design built around a touchscreen system to control media, Bluetooth connection and navigation. The cabin is awash with contemporary finishes and the overall quality secures the F-Pace’s position at the premium end of the mid-size SUV segment.

Jaguar F-Pace Review Ireland
The styling of the new F-Pace is every bit as evocative as a classic Jaguar sports car

The F-Pace was one of the most hotly anticipated new cars of 2016 and the build-up began long before the car premiered at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Much was made of the F-Pace’s performance pedigree and certainly there is a sense that Jaguar put everything into the development of this car to make it special. The F-Pace has the same lightweight construction as the the XE and XF saloons and so is 80% aluminium. You can really get a sense of that car-like DNA when driving the F-Pace and also in the way you as a driver are positioned in the car in relation to the steering wheel, controls and pedals. The centre tunnel is also quite high for an SUV so it all enhances the sports car feel behind the wheel.

The F-Pace is available in two or four wheel drive and even four wheel drive models operate as rear wheel drive vehicles in normal driving conditions. It is a fantastic SUV to drive. The F-Pace has an athletic and playful character on the road that belies its sheer bulk. The steering is fluid and precise, and torque vectoring comes as standard so you can pull the F-Pace tightly into bends with a great deal of precision and there’s no loss of stability. It’s remarkably flat and balanced through corners for a high riding SUV. The suspension is firm enough to keep it tight in the corners, but there is also compliancy there to keep things mostly smooth and comfortable in the cabin.

Jaguar F-Pace Review Ireland
The interior of the new Jaguar F-Pace

In terms of engines, a 2.0-litre diesel with 180hp is the best for economy. For the more performance oriented buyer there is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel (300hp) and a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (380hp). My test car had the 2.0-litre diesel and an automatic transmission. It’s a quick, quiet and smooth combination. 0-100kmh is 8.7 seconds and motor tax is just €280 per year for the four wheel drive model. The official economy is close to 53mpg, while I returned 43mpg during my time with the car.

Elsewhere, the F-Pace is a spacious five seat family car with large footwells and a 650 litre boot. Pricing starts at €44,100 for rear wheel drive models and €47,800 for four wheel drive models. In Ireland, the F-Pace is available in SE, Prestige, R-Sport, S and Portfolio trims. Standard equipment includes keyless start, cruise control, climate control, four electric windows, electric parking brake, 18" alloys, front fog lights, touchscreen infotainment and a host of safety equipment.

The V6 diesels start at €69,700, while the V6 petrols start at €78,000.

Jaguar F-Pace Review Ireland
Jaguar F-Pace: The 2.0-litre 180hp diesel is the best for economy

The new Jaguar F-Pace lives up to the hype, and really does deliver as a practical, fashionable and quite cool SUV. The 2.0-litre diesel might leave performance oriented buyers wanting but it ticks the boxes for efficiency and competitive pricing, and ensures that this car should easily find its market and really boost Jaguar sales.

But what sets the F-Pace apart is that it is a true driver’s car, and I didn’t think that was always possible with an SUV. The Jaguar F-Pace is an exciting SUV to drive and performs with the poise and intent of a much sportier vehicle. Jaguar has stayed true to their sports car roots in the development of their first ever SUV and it really shows in the new F-Pace.

Now watch my F-Pace video review:

Model tested: Jaguar F-Pace 2.0 AWD Prestige Auto
Price: €56,210 ( Range starts at €44,100)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
180hp
0-100km/h:  
8.7 seconds
Economy: 
53.3mpg
CO2 emissions:  
139g/km
Tax band:
€280 per year

Caroline Kidd


Peugeot 2008 review ireland

Peugeot 2008 Review

Peugeot 2008 review ireland
The new Peugeot 2008

The Peugeot 2008 arrived in Ireland in 2013 when the compact crossover boom was really taking hold, but since then the popular 208-based crossover has proved to hit the right spot for its chunky looks, practical interior and affordable pricing. The 2008 is Peugeot’s bestselling model in Ireland and accounts for just over 10% of the compact crossover segment here. Despite the glut of similar models from the likes of Opel, Nissan, Renault and Mazda, the 2008 has still managed to make impact here on the market.

A mid-life refresh should further strengthen the 2008’s cause, and this summer the 2008 received some updates in the styling department, new equipment, new colours and a new top of the range GT Line trim. A wide range of new ‘PureTech’ petrol engines and proven diesels keep the car fresh and competitive too.

In the metal, the 2008 doesn’t sit that much higher than a conventional hatchback, but it’s enough to give a more raised seating position inside. Some rivals have a bit more height, but the 2008’s more low slung profile has its advantages as we will get to later in this review. A new grille, with large Peugeot lion badge at the centre might not seem all that drastic, but here it actually does give the 2008 a lot more presence, and viewed front on, the 2008 looks more like an SUV than ever before.

There haven’t been any major changes to the layout of the cabin, but it still looks very smart and there is a plush feel to it. Infotainment is provided via a 7” touchscreen on all but the base trim, and the new 2008 retains the Peugeot ‘i-Cockpit’ interior - a compact steering wheel and a head up instrument panel sitting above it. A large raked back windscreen gives the cabin an airy, spacious feel, and a panoramic glass roof on Allure and GT Line trims only amplifies this.

Peugeot 2008 review ireland
The interior of the Peugeot 2008 is smart and of good quality

The Peugeot 2008 packs a lot in for what is still a very compact car. There is seating for five, and despite the compact size, the space inside is good, though like many of its compatriots, the middle seat is a bit squeezed as this car is still not much wider than a supermini. The boot is a big asset here because it’s 422 litres, so significantly bigger than your average supermini, and with a very low sill for easy loading.

Power comes from the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol in three different power outputs (82bhp, 110bhp, 130bhp) and the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel (75bhp, 100bhp, 120bhp). Manual and automatic transmissions are available, including a new 6-speed automatic gearbox. CO2 emissions range from just 90g to 114g/km, and all power trains keep fuel consumption under 4.9 litres/100km.

I tested Peugeot’s 1.2-litre Puretech with 110bhp in the new 2008. It offers more zip than the entry level 82bhp owing to the addition of a turbo, and is very responsive, but refinement is a key quality of this engine. It performs like a larger engine, and there is no loss of robustness here despite its small capacity and three cylinders. While this engine is available with a manual gearbox, my test car had the new 6 speed ‘EAT6’ automatic gearbox and for a small engine, they work well together with smooth power delivery.

Yes the automatic does impact on economy, but this is small according to official figures from Peugeot. They claim 59mpg for this set-up, compared to 64mpg in the manual, but both models still fall into the same tax band (€190 per year), so this is still very economical motoring.  I got 46mpg during my test drive.

Peugeot 2008 review ireland
Peugeot 2008: Off-road looks but small car running costs!

In town, the Peugeot 2008 comes into its own because it is so compact and the steering is light and easy. There is some noise on the motorway but it does well for this segment and is comfortable for the long haul trips. While the steering does weight up out on the open road, it can still feel a bit woolly through fast corners because there is no great sensation of resistance of the tyres against the tarmac as you turn the wheel, so a 208 hatchback is more fun in this regard. But because the 2008 is quite low-slung compared to other cars of its ilk, it’s less top heavy through corners.

Elsewhere, equipment levels are good and entry level Access models including air conditioning, Bluetooth, front electric windows, cruise control, speed limiter, spare wheel and roof bars, while Active trim includes automatic dual zone air conditioning, 7” touch screen, auto lights and wipers, front fog lights, 16” alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors, electrically folding door mirrors and rear privacy glass.

The Allure trim is more luxurious again with a panoramic roof, half leatherette trim, MirrorLink and Apple Car Play, rear view parking camera and some updated styling features.

There’s a new top of the range GT Line with 17” alloys, satellite navigation, aluminium sports pedals, gloss black roof bars, a body coloured spoiler with gloss black trim, and black door mirror shells. While the 2008 is not sold with a 4x4 option, a Grip Control advanced traction system improves traction in snow, mud and sand from a dial on the centre console, and that’s standard on the new trim.

Basic petrol models start at €19,400 for a 1.2-litre 82bhp in Access trim and the diesels start at €20,785 for the 1.6-litre diesel with 75bhp in Access trim. Active models are available from €20,445. Allure models (from €22,400) and GT Line (from €24,835) will stretch the budget a bit more with one of the more powerful engines under the bonnet.

Peugeot 2008 review ireland
Peugeot 2008: Ideal if you're looking for a small, efficient and refined crossover

For any buyer stepping up from a supermini, the Peugeot 2008 brings all the benefits of a compact car, but with more practicality as the boot here has great access and inside the car is a good deal more spacious too. After the facelift, the 2008 is a bit more bold in stance but the appearance of the car is still quite conservative compared to rivals.

The 2008 brings a high level of finish and maturity to this class. The cabin quality is one of the best and the design is aging well, still looking smart and with good functionality through the touchscreen infotainment system. The overall driving experience is one of refinement, and the quality of engines on offer is a big boon for the 2008. If you are looking for a small petrol crossover in particular, the Peugeot 2008 1.2-litre Puretech 110bhp has to be one of the best.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 110bhp Automatic GT Line
Price: 
€26,435 (Range starts €19,400)
Engine: 
1.2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
10.3 seconds
Economy:
59mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
110g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year


Jeep Cherokee Ireland review

Jeep Cherokee 2.2-litre 200hp 4WD Review

Jeep Cherokee Ireland review
The Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep brand is synonymous with tough, off-road vehicles, with a history stretching back to the Willys Jeep used by the Allied Forces in World War II. The famous Jeep name has become a generic name for a 4x4 and these ‘jeeps’ have since broken through into the mainstream - you’re now just as likely to see one on the school run as you are on a farm.

But among the many soft roaders and faux-SUVs, the Jeep brand, just like Land Rover, has instant credibility. Depending on your social conditioning you will think Jeep are cool because a) the Willys Jeep helped win the war for the Allies or b) Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher drove a Jeep Wrangler in Clueless and it was like, OMG, so amazing.

I fall into the latter camp but even I couldn’t probably stand the rough and tumble of a soft-top Wrangler on a damp Irish commute.

Of far more relevance to the Irish market is the Jeep Cherokee, which these days is sporting ruggedly soft roader/crossover looks, yet in 4x4 guise it still has the guts to take you off road.

Jeep Cherokee Ireland review
Jeep Cherokee: The new range topper is a 9 speed automatic 2.2-litre diesel with 200hp

The current Cherokee has been in Ireland since 2014 but the addition of a new 2.2-litre diesel means it’s up for review again. This car has a lot of presence, and it looks quite upmarket and premium, especially in darker colours. There is just enough chrome to be tasteful rather than tacky, some fabulous bling bling polished chrome 18” alloys, and the striking light signature and classic Jeep seven slot grille at the front ensure it stands out from the crowd as something a bit different. The same can’t be said for the styling of the rear, which is much more generic, but overall I think the Jeep’s distinctive looks are one of its biggest assets in this crowded SUV market.

We have to talk about pricing very quickly in this review because in those terms the Cherokee sits at the more premium end of the market, though it would be more comfortable compared to more mainstream rivals. Entry into the range is at €38,350 for a front wheel drive model with a 2.0-litre diesel producing 140hp with motor tax of €280 per year.

Four wheel drive models start at €48,350 with a 2.2-litre diesel with 185hp and a 9 speed automatic gearbox. A higher powered 2.2-litre diesel (200hp) automatic now sits at the top of the range with a list price of €55,850 and motor tax of €390. There is not much between the engines in terms of fuel economy with the FWD diesel manuals claiming 53 mpg and the 4x4 diesel automatics claiming 50 mpg.

The interior has a tough, durable look with some soft touch materials at the top of the dash but too many hard plastics to live up to the premium pricing. It does well in terms of technology – there is a colour TFT digital display with driver information positioned between the rev counter and the speedometer, and a large touchscreen for infotainment and navigation in the centre of the dash. The seats in the Limited trim on test are a highlight - large, comfortable, finished in soft nappa leather, electrically adjustable and with a heating and ventilating function. You couldn’t ask for much more!

Jeep Cherokee Ireland review
The interior of the Jeep Cherokee

There is space for five in the cabin though the transmission tunnel for the 4x4 does protrude into the middle passenger’s legroom. But the footwells are large and the squared off roofline offers good headroom. The boot is a generous 591 litres and an electric tailgate comes as standard.

There are three trim levels for the Irish market – Longitude, Longitude + and Limited – and standard equipment is good from base including alloys, front fog lights with cornering function, silver roof rails, dual zone air con, auto lights and wipers, rear park assist, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, and electric parking brake.

The test car had the 200hp diesel mated to the 9 speed automatic, and no surprises the Cherokee can move pretty niftily with 440Nm of torque available and 0-100kmh taking just 8.5 seconds. You can hear the engine gurgling away at idle though it never gets too raucous in the cabin out on the open road, and the car is well insulated from road and wind noise. This is a comfortable car for the long haul, though the ride can get choppy and less smooth off the beaten track when encountering rough/uneven surfaces.

Refinement is good, but the Cherokee does fall short of the idea of a ‘premium driving experience’. There is always a shadow of the off road to the on road driving manners, like the Cherokee really just wants to get on with the tough stuff. The steering is heavy which makes it less of a breeze for town driving and parking, though it’s direct and good for the turn in during out of town driving. It doesn’t feel very dynamic when presented with a series of corners, and the body lurches quite stodgily should you try to take these cornering manoeuvres on with a bit more zest, yet the grip of the 4x4 system masks most of these ills to a point where the Cherokee gets by as large, comfortable transport for a family with attitude.

Jeep Cherokee Ireland review
Jeep Cherokee: The big car with attitude

4x4 Cherokee’s come with Jeep Active Drive I which is billed as an efficient four-wheel drive system that can automatically switch between front and all-wheel drive when required. The Selec-Terrain system offers different four-wheel drive modes for different surfaces like snow, mud and sand, so you can find the setting that best suits the conditions in front of you and the car will do the rest.

The Cherokee is not cheap. It performs well, if not brilliantly, for a modern SUV. It would be easier to forgive the Cherokee its shortcomings if it wasn’t priced as a rival to the likes of Land Rover, Audi, BMW et al, which have more the aura of refinement and luxury to them. Yet it’s hard not to like this Jeep, it’s well equipped, it’s capable, it looks good, it’s different and it’s a Jeep. An actual Jeep. Like, totally cool.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Jeep Cherokee Limited 2.2l 200hp 4WD
Price: 
€55,850 (Range starts €38,350)
Engine: 
2.2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
200hp
0-100km/h:
8.5 seconds
Economy:
50mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
149g/km
Motor Tax: 
€390 per year


Kia Sportage Ireland Review

Kia Sportage Review

Kia Sportage Ireland Review
The new Kia Sportage

The new Kia Sportage landed in Ireland earlier in 2016. This is the fourth generation of the popular compact SUV and Kia are hoping to build on the success of the outgoing model with improvements in efficiency, performance, refinement and drivability.

Kia did make real progress with this car’s predecessor, the third generation that is a common sight on Irish roads and has made the Sportage a household name in the burgeoning and fashionable compact SUV segment.

This is a brand with real prominence now in Ireland, one of the top ten selling carmakers here, and the Sportage has been a key driver in that growth with over 11,000 sold here to date.

With a strong new exterior design, which manages to both retain a classic Sportage profile but add much more definition and character, the new model certainly does look the part. There is a genuine rugged 4x4 look to the Sportage and it also has the height to indicate the same.

Of course to any petrolhead, the grille and front-end styling is strikingly similar to the Porsche Macan, which I think is a wondrous thing. Kia has pulled off the best bit of copycat styling since Ford started digging an Aston Martin grille.

Kia Sportage review Ireland
The new face of the Kia Sportage with Kia's now trademark 'tiger-nose' grille

Inside you can see the effort that has been made to inject the same sort of contemporary style into the cabin. It’s a mixture of black plastics, metalwork and stitched leather for a tactile finish. The design is simple and modern, and a 7” touchscreen infotainment and navigation system is standard on EX and above.

The Sportage is a five seater but increased exterior and interior dimensions mean that the new car is roomier than before. Rear legroom is generous and even the middle seat passenger can sit quite comfortably without feeling too cramped from either side. Cargo space has also grown from 465 litres to 503 litres and the sill is flat so it’s easy to slide large items in and out of the boot.

Diesels start at €27,995 in LX spec and standard equipment is good including 16” alloy wheels, front fog lights, roof rails, electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, cruise control, and air con. EX models (from €29,995) add 17” alloys, touchscreen, sat nav, reversing camera, driver’s power seat, half leather upholstery, high beam assist and lane keep assist. The top of the range GSE (from €34,495) adds 19” alloys, sunroof, full leather, heated seats, power passenger seat, smart key and xenon lights.

Kia Sportage Ireland Review
A stylish new interior for the Kia Sportage with improved quality

A 1.7-litre diesel is available for front wheel drive models and a 2.0-litre diesel for all wheel drive. The 1.7-litre engine has been reworked to improve efficiency and the new car also happens to have a more aerodynamic design. With the addition of Idle Stop and Go technology, emissions have been reduced and motor tax is now at a low of €200 per year.

Soundproofing has been bolstered to improve in-car refinement and on the motorway the new Sportage is impressively quiet. The 1.7-litre diesel is a bit gruff stopping and starting around town and under hard acceleration, but it is not annoyingly harsh and I found its 115hp adequate power for the car. Despite the Sportage’s imposing presence, the gearing and light steering mean it’s a pleasant SUV to drive around town and suburbia. Updates have been made to the suspension to keep the car tighter through corners and while there is lean if you push it hard, there is loads of grip and it never feels too flaccid. The engineers have definitely had a go at the idea of driver feedback when tuning the steering too. It’s reasonably effective – the steering does weight up on the twisty stuff but does feel a little bit forced and artificial at times. There is some harshness over rough/uneven surfaces, but comfort levels are generally good.

In a market where there are many slightly elevated hatchbacks masquerading as off-roaders, Kia can be commended for managing to pull off the authentic SUV feeling in the Sportage, but at a price and with a level of standard kit that makes this car a great choice if you want ‘bang for your buck’. And that’s before I’ve even written the words 'seven year warranty'. You can see why the Sportage to date has made such an impact on the Irish market. The new 2016 model only improves again what its predecessor started with a more spacious and better finished cabin, and improvements to economy and refinement. And it’s not bad-looking either, is it?

Kia Sportage Ireland Review
Kia Sportage is a comfortable five seater that's well equipped and has the kerb appeal to mix with the big guys

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Kia Sportage 1.7D EX SR
Price: 
€31,095
Engine: 
1.7-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
115hp
0-100km/h:
11.5 seconds
Economy:
61mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
119g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year


The Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V 1.6-litre i-DTEC Diesel Review

The Honda HR-V
The Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V of the late 1990s was fun, stylish, urban and unique – a crossover before we even knew what a crossover was. It reached the end of production in the mid-2000s, but now the HR-V is back except this time it’s been reimagined for the modern compact crossover buyer.

Of course, since the Honda HR-V was last for sale in Ireland there has been a compact crossover explosion, with new entrants from the likes of Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Nissan.

But with striking good looks borrowed from big brother CR-V, the HR-V gets off to a good start.

Inside the new Honda HR-V

Inside the design feels modern and high tech, and the quality, fit and finish inside is really good with lots of gloss black surfaces and stylish strips of chrome. It’s one of the best interiors I’ve seen in a compact crossover. A touchscreen is standard on all but entry level cars for controlling music, radio, and Bluetooth connection. The heating and ventilation settings are also controlled by touch controls. They look good but they are a bit fiddly to use.

Honda HR-V ireland review
Honda HR-V: A stylish and versatile interior

The new HR-V is built on the same platform as the Honda Jazz and Honda has maximised the space available to create a spacious car despite the compact dimensions. There are plenty of useful storage spaces around the cabin and an excellent large boot (470 litres) with low sill and wide opening for ease of use. The HR-V also gets Honda’s Magic Seats innovation, which gives you more possibilities for carrying large and awkward items by flipping the rear seat cushions up.

On the road the slightly elevated driving position gives you that authentic SUV feeling but the HR-V handles just like a car. It feels nicely rigid and controlled through bends and the steering is sharp so you feel in tune with the car as you turn into corners. On less than smooth roads there is noticeable road noise coming into the cabin and obstacles like manhole covers and potholes send a bit of a jolt into the cabin, but they don’t unsettle the HR-V too much. It always feels secure and planted, and by and large this is a comfortable car to while away a few hours in.

Driving the Honda HR-V

You can choose from a 1.5-litre petrol with 130bhp or a 1.6-litre diesel with 120bhp. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes as standard but there is the option of a CVT automatic on petrol models. The test car has the 1.6-litre diesel and it’s a powerful offering for the HR-V with plenty of torque and flexibility through the gears.

It will hit 100kmh from a standstill in 10.5 seconds and returns up to 69mpg with motor tax of just €190 per year. It’s the same engine that appears in other Honda models like the Civic, but it’s disappointing that you’re not as isolated from the engine noise here as you are in the Civic so you will hear the engine working at low speeds around town and under acceleration.

There are three trim levels for the new HR-V - SE, ES and EX. Petrol HR-Vs start at €23,995 and diesel models start at €25,995 but base models are very well equipped. Standard equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, auto lights, climate control, cruise control, electric mirrors and windows, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls, and electric parking brake.

ES adds more including 17” alloys, parking sensors, Honda Connect infotainment system, front fog lights, traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning.

The diesel EX test car has a list price of €33,495 and includes keyless entry and start, navigation, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, rear parking camera, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, roof rails, LED headlights and LED daytime running lights.

Did you like it?

Where the first generation of the HR-V stood out because it was one of the pioneers of the concept of a junior SUV and it did it in considerable style, today the new HR-V looks quite conventional.

Yet the sporty, coupé-like styling, that plush, versatile interior and a drive that’s genuinely engaging for a crossover mean that this new HR-V is a convincing offering in a segment with many players, but few characters.

Read our latest Honda review of the Honda CR-V Hybrid.

The Honda HR-V is an alternative compact SUV
The Honda HR-V is an alternative compact SUV

Model tested: Honda HR-V 1.6-litre i-DTEC EX
Price: 
€33,495 (Range starts at €23,995)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120bhp
0-100km/h:  
10.5 seconds
Economy: 
68.9mpg (4.1/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
108g/km
Tax band: 
A3 (€190 per year)

Caroline Kidd


The 2016 Ssangyong Korando

SsangYong Korando (2016) Review

The 2016 Ssangyong Korando
The 2016 Ssangyong Korando

I first drove the SsangYong Korando back in 2013 when the Korean brand had just relaunched in Ireland with a new line-up of models. Now I’m testing the Korando SUV again, but since we last met, the Korando has undergone a few changes.

On the outside there have been some styling updates (principally a new nose) and the Korando does look the part of the SUV – big, chunky and imposing.

Yet this is actually quite a compact SUV so parking and manoeuvring is surprisingly easy. Inside it’s a spacious five seater and legroom is very good in the back with even the middle passenger getting a generous flat space to put their feet. The boot is large at 468 litres with a flat sill and wide opening for ease of use.

Inside the new Korando

The interior is looking more modern than what I remember but it’s a mixed bag in terms of quality. Effort has definitely been made to make it more stylish (circular strip of chrome around the speakers, gloss black on the door grabs, new centre console design), but there are still a lot of hard plastics around that cheapens it a bit. The touchscreen is a welcome addition but is not standard on the base ES model.

Aesthetics aside, the relaunch of this Korando is about more power and efficiency. The old 2.0-litre diesel is replaced by a new Euro 6 compliant 2.2-litre unit. On start-up, the diesel makes itself known in the cabin and it’s a constant presence as the car is idling, stopping and starting around town or under hard acceleration. However, once at cruising speeds it fades into the background and this car’s noise suppression at speed is very impressive with very little road and wind noise coming into the cabin.

ssangyong korando SUV irish review
SsangYong Korando: Interior has been modernised

Driving the 2016 Ssangyong Korando

It’s a shame about the engine noise because the Korando is actually one of the nicer SUVs to drive around town. The steering is light and the Korando feels compact and agile around city streets and car parks. The driving position is properly elevated too so there is an authentic SUV feeling to it. The Korando does feel a bit slack in corners but the steering gives you enough resistance at speed to place it well on the road. It’s a largely comfortable cruiser, but jostles over rough and uneven surfaces.

The Korando goes against the grain because it favours a big 2.2-litre diesel where most front wheel drive SUV rivals have smaller diesels. The 2.2-litre diesel produces a healthy 175bhp and 400Nm of torque and there’s loads of oomph when you need it quickly.

So if you need that sort of power for towing for example (the Korando has a towing ability of up to 2 tonnes), the Korando is an affordable choice with the passenger range starting at €25,995 for a well-specced ES model that includes alloys, cruise control, front fog lights, electric windows and mirrors, air con, Bluetooth and heated front seats. EL models start at €29,995 and add even more equipment. The Korando is available as front wheel drive or four wheel drive.

Did you like it?

However, while emissions have been improved, the running costs for the Korando are going to be a bit higher compared to less powerful rivals. CO2 emissions are reduced to 139g/km on the front wheel drive model with a manual transmission so this car falls into tax band B with annual motor tax of €280. Fuel economy has also been improved and the Korando will return up to 53mpg.

SsangYong Ireland are aiming their Korando at existing SUV buyers - people who are already sold on the idea of chunky styling and an elevated driving position but are looking for something that’s affordable but with lots of power and towing ability. The Korando is still a little rough around the edges in terms of cabin and ride quality, and the scope of the engine may be beyond the needs of most compact SUV buyers (within the range, the SsangYong Tivoli crossover might be more suitable). Korando’s pricing is reasonable considering what’s on offer but it probably makes most sense in base trim, where the list price of just under €26,000 is appealing for anyone who just needs more power in their SUV for their money.

The Korando is a budget SUV
The Korando is a budget SUV

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: SsangYong Korando EL 2.2-litre 175bhp 2WD
Price: 
€29,495 (Passenger range starts at €25,995)
Engine: 
2.2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
175bhp
0-100km/h:
9.9 seconds
Economy: 
53mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
139g/km
Motor Tax: 
€280 per year


The Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

The Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Land Rover Discovery Sport

Scroll down to read a review or watch my video review:

Land Rover has been on a push in recent years to appeal to a new, more urbane and image-conscious buyer.  They’ve been doing it really well: the sleek and stylish Range Rover Evoque has been a runaway success. But now they’ve turned the attention back to the Land Rover product line with the launch of a new lifestyle vehicle bearing the Discovery name: the Discovery Sport.

Think of the Discovery Sport as a more family-oriented Evoque, with more space and the option of seven seats. But with the same sort of glamour and prestige as the Evoque, and of course Land Rover’s legendary off-road ability. Launched in early 2015, the Discovery Sport line-up has new vigour with the recent addition of Jaguar Land Rover’s new, more efficient Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine.

The Discovery Sport is the obvious successor to the Freelander but it has the modern face of the Land Rover brand. The front is pure Evoque. Gorgeous and curved - with characteristic two-bar grille with hexagonal mesh. The rear styling is again familiar design territory from the Discovery Sport’s Rangier cousins. It’s got the kerb appeal and pedigree, and can definitely turn heads.

The interior of the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Inside the Discovery Sport is a comfortable, luxurious five seater but you can turn it into a seven seater at a €2000 cost option. The space in the third row is small so the seats are more suited to children. In fairness Land Rover do sell their Discovery Sport as a “5+2”. Space in row 2 is excellent, and a seat slide and recline feature adds extra versatility. Boot space is limited when the third row of seats is in place. But with those seats folded neatly into the floor, there’s a spacious 689 litres.

The Discovery Sport positions itself as a premium compact SUV and the interior lives up to that. It’s a utilitarian but stylish design, with plenty of luxury materials and surfaces. I particularly like the way the rotary gearshift dial rises from the centre console when you start the car. A touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard - it has nice graphics and is easy to use.

This is the inside of the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport
This is the inside of the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport

There are four trim levels for the Discovery Sport on the Irish market: S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. Standard equipment includes alloys wheels, electric windows and mirrors, lane departure warning, air con, electronic parking brake, keyless start, and touchscreen. My test car was an SE model and adds equipment like auto lights and wipers, cruise control, dual zone climate control, and rear parking sensors. The top two trim levels add more equipment but the price starts to creep up.  The range kicks off with a FWD eD4 model at €39,050 for S, €45,230 for SE, €51,140 for HSE and €58,310 for HSE Luxury.

Driving the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport

On the road the Discovery Sport feels agile, and yes, sporty. That feeling is enhanced by steering that’s sensitive enough to allow you to tuck the car neatly into corners. If you push the car hard into a corner you will pull back because the body starts to lean. But it doesn’t take it long to right itself again on its springs and really grip the road so you can hit the power quickly to surge out of the corner. The car is excellent on the motorway, with really very little noise getting into the cabin. The seating position is properly high and lofty. It feels like one of the more authentic SUVs from behind the wheel. But in a refined way - there’s no roughness about this beauty!

Land Rover is phasing out the old 2.2-litre diesel that the Discovery Sport was launched with and replacing it with a new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel with either 150bhp or 180bhp. My test car had the new diesel with 150bhp power output mated to a 9-speed automatic (a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard). It feels quick, smooth and extremely refined, returning good economy of 53mpg considering the size and scope of the car. CO2 emissions are 139g/km, which places it in tax band B with a reasonable €280 for annual motor tax.

Like a lot of drivers, off-roading would not be part of my weekly routine. But when driving a Land Rover Discovery Sport it seemed only right to try out my test car’s off-road ability. The great thing about the Discovery Sport is its off-road capability is packaged so well that you don’t need to be Bear Grylls to feel confident off-road in this. The Terrain Response system simplifies things a great deal allowing you to select between grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts, and sand settings for optimal grip and control depending on the surface.

The Discovery Sport makes a great family SUV
The Discovery Sport makes a great family SUV

Did you like it?

I tested the car in early February after some heavy rainfall, over gravel, mud and grass and it was as simple as selecting the setting to best describe the terrain. I found the hill descent control a great tool on a slippery grass/mud slope – again you select it from a button on the dash and then just ease the car forward. The instinct might be to touch the brakes - hit them too heavy and you could slide out of control. During a hill descent, if engine braking is insufficient to control the vehicle speed, the hill descent control will automatically operate the brakes to slow the vehicle.

To sum up the Land Rover Discovery Sport: it’s premium and practical, tough but refined, and is as good to drive as it is to look at. As a compact luxury SUV it doesn’t come cheap, especially once you start moving up the trim levels and maybe add the automatic gearbox and those extra seats. But if you really like the look of the Discovery Sport, you’ll have one of the most desirable, authentic and capable SUVs.

Now click here to read our latest review of the Land Rover Discovery!

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport SE 4WD 2.0 TD4 Automatic
Price:
€50,765 (Range starts at €39,050)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power:
150bhp
0-100km/h:
 10.3 seconds
Economy:
53.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
 139g/km
Motor Tax: 
€280 per year


The new Ssangyong Tivoli

SsangYong Tivoli (2016) Review

The new Ssangyong Tivoli
The new Ssangyong Tivoli

Caroline drives the Ssangyong Tivoli.

SsangYong relaunched in Ireland about three years ago with a line of SUVs and commercial vehicles, but the arrival of the Tivoli compact crossover finally gives the Korean brand a model with more mainstream appeal.

The first thing to note about the Tivoli is that it is the most car-like of the current SsangYong range. Its closest relative would be the Korando SUV, but the Tivoli is less elevated and the look is more stylish and urban. With the addition of a diesel engine to the range, the Tivoli is ready for battle in the compact crossover class with refreshingly distinctive looks.

It may be deemed a ‘compact’ crossover, but the Tivoli is anything but small inside. Rear head and legroom is really good with a low, flat transmission tunnel meaning that even the middle passenger won’t feel short-changed on space. The boot is big at 423 litres but you will be pulling out heavier items over a high load lip.

What's it like inside?

There are a lot of hard plastics in the cabin but different colours, materials and textures are mixed well so altogether it has an inviting look. There are elements of style to it: the silver rimmed instrument dials with pretty coloured illumination, and gloss black on the centre console and door finishes. It does take a bit of time to navigate all the little buttons on the centre console, and they are not the most tactile to operate. A touchscreen infotainment system on the EL test car completes a modern look.

ssangyong tivoli car review
Interior of the SsangYong Tivoli

Since the Tivoli launched here in summer 2015, a new 1.6-litre diesel with 115bhp has joined the 1.6-litre (128bhp) petrol, and it's a far more appropriate engine for the Irish market. The diesel does not have the most subdued engine note and is noisy under hard acceleration, but it’s quick and returns good economy of up to 67mpg, with pocket-friendly motor tax of €190 per year.

The Tivoli feels very car-like on the road and between a heavy punch of torque from the diesel engine, good feedback coming through the steering, and composure through bends, the Tivoli is a good drive. While it’s comfortable on smooth roads, it does bounce and jiggle over rougher surfaces and holes in the road (this is Ireland after all!). The steering actually has three different settings – Normal, Comfort and Sport – and is noticeably heavier in Sport mode, which is ideal for a spirited drive on some of our finest country roads. Comfort lightens up the steering for easy low speed manoeuvres.

How much does the Ssangyong Tivoli cost?

Pricing starts at €19,995 for petrol Tivolis, and diesels start at a very reasonable €21,495, with two trim levels, ES and EL. There is quite a price hike between trim levels though the spec on ES will likely satisfy a lot of people with equipment including 16” alloy wheels, air con, Bluetooth, cruise control, and front fog lamps.

EL models are extremely well equipt, including touchscreen, parking sensors, reversing camera, heated front seats, 18” alloys, leather seats, dual zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, and roof rails. There are manual and automatic gearboxes available for the Tivoli and an all-wheel-drive option from €24,995.

SsangYong Ireland has the ideal product now to go more mainstream as the Tivoli is very stylish and distinct, but with the easy driving, car-like qualities that appeal to the crossover buyer. The engine could be a bit more refined and the ride a bit more accommodating to the worst of Irish roads, but the Tivoli’s good qualities outweigh any less than perfect ones!

Tivoli on sale in Ireland now
Tivoli on sale in Ireland now

Read about the 2020 Ssangyong Tivoli now.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: SsangYong Tivoli EL 1.6L Diesel 2WD
Price: 
€24,995
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
115bhp
0-100km/h:
9.5 seconds
Economy: 
67.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
109g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year