Proper use of dipped headlamps

Daytime use of headlights - why bother?

It’s November and the gloomy days are coming thick and fast. Now is definitely the time to reacquaint oneself with the switch or stalk to operate the lights on the car.

Should be obvious? Well no.  In this country we seem to have a real issue with turning on lights during less than optimal driving conditions. On these dark days, it is particularly obvious.

Why should I bother?Read more


Suzuki Swift

Suzuki Swift: Unsung Hero?

The supermini class is a busy one. It’s packed with supermini superstars well-known among the Irish public like Fiesta, Micra, Corsa, Ibiza, Clio, Polo and Yaris.

There’s one supermini that in my opinion goes under the radar. It still sells but it doesn’t get namechecked very often when we talk about superminis.Read more


learner drivers

Help! There's a Learner Driver In Front

Learner drivers. How do you feel about them?

Do you grimace when you see one pulling out in front of you? Do you give any car bearing an L sign a wide berth?

Or do you practice some patience, adjust your speed and give them space? Empathise with them about their plight and reminisce about your own experience of learning to drive?Read more


five gorgeous coupes for less than 25000 euro

Five Gorgeous Coupés for Less Than €25000

So here’s the brief to find a brand new gorgeous coupé for less than €25,000:

  • Budget of €25,000 to buy a mid-sized hatch with more style and a sportier feel than a standard five door hatchback.
  • Must be refined, economical and comfortable enough for long journeys.
  • Drive solo most of the time but it should still be practical enough to occasionally carry friends or family in the back. And a usable boot please.

SEAT Leon SC

My pick: 1.2 TSI 110bhp SE

SEAT Leon SCThe SEAT Leon SC or “Sports Coupé” is a teeny bit shorter and lighter than the more family oriented five door Leon but still has the same generous 380 litre boot. While the design is not radically different from the five door, the SC has a sleeker profile with neater rear styling. The Leon boasts shared underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf and as you would expect with such provenance, the Leon SC drives well with tidy handling and responsive steering. Inside it’s not as plush as a Golf, but it has the same simple and driver-oriented dashboard layout. I've chosen the turbocharged 1.2 litre petrol from the extensive engine line-up because it’s economical, refined and surprisingly punchy. It’s a real bargain at just €22,000 in SE trim including must haves like air con, 16” alloy wheels, Bluetooth and cruise control as standard.

Renault Mégane Coupé

My pick: 1.5 dCi 110bhp GT Line

Renault Megane CoupeThe Mégane range got a facelift earlier this year and the Coupé has benefited from this too. It’s a beautiful coupé to look at with curves in all the right places. A stiffer, lower suspension ensures that the Mégane Coupé has a much sportier feel to it than the five door hatchback. The 1.5 dCi diesel is a well-proven engine that’s smooth and refined, combining power and economy with CO2 emissions of just 90g/km. The boot is a good 344 litres but the width of the opening makes it quite awkward to access. I’ve chosen the slightly more expensive GT Line trim because it’s within budget and adds enough subtle updates to the inside and outside of the car to make it a bit more special. There are lots of goodies on this model including LED Daytime Running Lights, cruise control, dual zone air con, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, leather steering wheel, 17” alloy wheels, sat nav, auto lights and wipers, and leather and cloth seats.

KIA Pro_cee’d

My pick: 1.6 EX

KIA Pro_cee'dKia cars could no longer be accused of being bland and the Pro_cee’d is no different. It’s got a sleeker design than the Cee’d five door hatch and it’s lower too - always a good place to start when looking for a sporty coupé. Like a lot of these cars at this price point, it’s not quite as sporty to drive as the looks might suggest but it is one of the most comfortable and the diesel engine is strong and competent. The cabin is smartly finished with bits of gloss black adding a bit more glam and the centre console is driver-oriented, not too unlike that of the SEAT. It’s also got a 380 litre boot and lots of equipment including 17” alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, fog lamps, LED Daytime Running Lights, air con, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and hill start assist.

Opel Astra GTC

My pick: 2.0 CDTi Sport

Opel Astra GTCThe five door Astra might scream “family” but the Astra GTC I can confirm does not. Phew! It’s lower and has a sexy new body that’s sleek, fluid and full of sporty promise. Opel has tweaked the suspension to improve the handling and the car has a wider track so it hunkers down on the road really well. It’s a solid, well put together car and this quality is particularly obvious in the cabin. The boot is 380 litres and cabin space is quite generous too for a coupé. I think the 2.0 litre CDTi 163bhp diesel is the best option even though it is the most expensive choice. It’s smooth, refined and has plenty of poke. Sport models come with air con, Daytime Running Lights, cruise control and 18” alloy wheels but Bluetooth has to be added as an option.

Wildcard: Hyundai Veloster

My pick: there’s only one – the 1.6 GDi

Hyundai VelosterThese are rare on Irish roads – if I'm to guess it’s because it only comes with a 1.6 litre petrol engine that most Irish buyers will run to avoid. For sure it’s more expensive to run than rivals, but what you get is an interesting coupé that’s a bit more practical than most thanks to its “2+1” door configuration (that’s one extra door on the rear passenger side). The boot is 320 litres but a good shape for a coupé. The dashboard layout and cowled instrument dials design is not too dissimilar to what you will find in a Focus but it’s classy and special enough to make us want to drive this coupé. The 1.6 petrol won’t blow you away with performance but it’s sweet to drive and the stiff suspension provides neat handling for a bit of fun. The spec is very good including 17” alloy wheels, auto lights, fog lamps, auto air con with climate control, LED Daytime Running Lights, rear view camera and parking sensors, cruise control, Bluetooth, not to mention sporty additions to the exterior like twin exhaust and bonnet vents. We like!!

How do these five gorgeous coupés compare on price and running costs for the models chosen?

 

SEAT Leon SC 1.2 TSI SE Renault Megane Coupe 1.5 dCi GTline Opel Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi Sport Kia Pro_ceed 1.6 EX Hyundai Veloster 1.6 GDi
Price €22,000 €24,990 €23,995 €23,950 €24,995
Power 110bhp 110bhp 165bhp 128bhp 140bhp
Fuel Petrol Diesel Diesel Diesel Petrol
Official Economy 58mpg 81mpg 59mpg 66mpg 48mpg
Road Tax €200 €180 €270 €200 €280

 

Caroline Kidd


Opel Calibra

Remembering the Opel Calibra

I was just a nipper when the Opel Calibra came out. I remember visiting the local Opel dealer with my mum and dad in the early nineties to look at a new Astra and seeing the Calibra in the showroom, all sleek and low slung.

I suppose it was the antithesis of the family hatchback my parents were looking for and it had such amazing presence parked up amidst all the Corsas, Astras, Vectras and Omegas. It was a car for grown-ups and I suppose it was a halo car of its time – the only car in the Opel range for sports car enthusiasts!

Opel Calibra

Read more


city driving tips

Alternative Guide to City Driving

Here's my alternative guide to city driving. These are the only tips you will ever need for city driving. Read more


fuel station filling station etiquette

Filling Station Etiquette

Fueling up should be easy but often a trip to the pumps  leaves me feeling more empty than my car was on the way in.  It amazes me how I can find more idiots per square metre in the vicinity of a fuel station than anywhere else on my journey.Read more


Opinion: Distracted Driving

Are we so addicted to staying connected that we will risk our lives and others for the sake of a paltry text or tweet?

When you get in behind the wheel do you drop your phone into the side pocket and leave it there? Or is that familiar ping just too hard to resist?Read more


Fiat 500

Bon Voyage! Choosing The Best Rental Car

Summer time means holidays and that might mean renting a car abroad to get off the beaten track and see places that you would never visit if you were to rely on public transport alone.

Renting a car abroad can be amazing fun. It can also be amazingly stressful with a myriad of rules and regulations for driving in a foreign country to get your head around before setting off. Driving in a left hand drive car on the “wrong” side of the road on unfamiliar roads can also be like learning to drive all over again.

While we may dream of exploring Europe in a Mercedes C 63 AMG Coupe, the reality is that most of us will be picking the cheapest car on the list.

Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé
Choosing a rental car: how about this white Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé?

Take my sister for example. She’s planning a driving holiday around Northern Italy and is finding herself charmed by the cheap and cheerful Fiat 500. I’m telling her that the Fiat 500 will be perfect for “escaping” from the central Milan rental car pick-up point, but out on the motorway I’m not so sure if this charismatic Italian will be the best companion.

You see a Fiat 500 is great for driving around city streets and parking where space is at a premium. But comfortable motorway cruiser? I don’t think so. The last time I drove a Fiat 500 on a motorway I needed a good lie-down afterwards.

My point is that renting a car abroad is a little bit like buying a car at home but on a smaller scale. Though the car will only be in your company for a few days you still need to think about how you will use the car and what it needs to do for you to make your holiday as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.

So briefly, here’s my short list of things to consider when choosing a suitable car to rent for your next holiday abroad:

  • How many people do I need to carry and will it be big enough to carry their luggage?
  • Will I be using this car for the cross-country/continent road trip of the decade or just for short journeys to the beach and local tourist attractions?
  • Is this car suitable for the type of use? e.g. Is it comfortable? Economical? Spacious?
  • Will I be confident driving it? e.g. Is it compact enough? Is it a manual or automatic?

Enjoy and don’t forget to pack the driver’s licence!

Caroline Kidd


Ford EcoBoost

Petrol vs Diesel

The petrol vs diesel debate is a popular one, isn’t it? Everyone has an opinion on it. Those that buy a diesel car will defend their purchase with gusto. People like me who still potter around in old petrol cars will smugly argue why petrol cars are the best thing since sliced bread - despite being taxed to the hilt as if public enemy number 1 on the road.

Well here’s my tuppence worth - I’m going to tell you why I love petrol cars. Not big thirsty V8s, just normal, small, run-of-the-mill petrol cars.Read more