Choupette Lagerfeld Opel Corsa

Opel’s Next Top Model Choupette!

Move over Claudia, there’s a new top model in town. She’s blonde with radiant blue eyes and no stranger to the world of fashion, with a Vogue cover already under her belt.

It was only last week, that Opel brand ambassador Claudia Schiffer helped to launch the new Opel Corsa at the Paris Motor Show.

But just a week later and competition has surfaced with the bonnet of the Corsa this time being adorned by a feline called Choupette.

Choupette is fashion designer and photographer Karl Lagerfeld’s famous cat. She’s a Birman pedigree puss and has over 42,000 followers on Twitter, describing herself in her bio as “Karl Lagerfeld’s spoiled pussy”.

Karl, who photographed Choupette and the Corsa for Opel’s 2015 calender, said, “Choupette did a great job – just as I would expect from a star. She was relaxed no matter whether she was behind the wheel or on the roof of the Opel. She was by no means tense. However, she did sleep for twelve hours after we had finished.”

Choupette declined to comment.

The new Corsa arrives in Ireland in November and is available from €14,895.

Caroline Kidd


Things That Go Bump In The Car Park

It’s very easy to spot the car owners in a car park that really take care of their car and want to protect it from bumps and scrapes.

They will be parked in some deserted corner of the car park like along the back wall, or straddling two spaces, eliminating the possibility of some careless car owner getting in nice and tight beside them.

It might seem crazy and over-protective – sure you can’t live your life worried about your car getting scratched? But to these car owners it’s completely rational to do laps of the car park to find the space with the least ‘contact’ potential. I should know I’m one of them!

Because of course parking really can be a contact sport. A few knocks from a car door or a runaway trolley impact can leave their mark.

In a genius move, Citroen has equipped their new C4 Cactus with “Airbump” technology in the areas of the car most prone to bumps and scrapes. The air pockets sit under a flexible skin of a rubbery type material and absorb small bumps and provide a bit more resistance to scratches.

A cactus survives in a harsh environment like a desert with high temperatures and little moisture. The C4 Cactus is aptly named then – this time surviving the harsh environment of the car park.

It’s a bit like bubble wrap - but for cars. What a brilliant idea for a car that’s been built to negotiate the urban jungle and will spend lots of time getting knocked in car parks?

The aesthetics of the airbumps suit the character of the C4 Cactus but I doubt BMW will be looking into airbump technology anytime soon to swathe across the side of an M3.

For the car proud, we still await some sort of scratch resistant paint and ding repellant bodywork (!). Of course the simplest thing would be if everyone could have a bit more respect for other people’s cars in the car park. Wishful thinking. Sure it’s only a car, why are you worried?

What is your strategy in the car park for protecting you car from bumps and scrapes?

Caroline Kidd

Caroline Kidd Ford Kuga

The Ford Kuga That Could Park Itself

I’ve seen videos and TV clips of cars parking themselves loads of times. The driver lets go of the wheel and it starts twisting and turning all by itself. The driver still operates the accelerator and brake pedal but the car does the hard part – getting the angle right to manouevre into the space and saving you all that arm work. It’s very cool to watch.

It’s even cooler when you are the one in the driver’s seat and you are putting all your trust in the car to park itself. I couldn’t get enough of watching the wheel twisting like crazyinto a space when test driving the Ford Kuga recently. It was AMAZING.

It was really cool for my passengers to watch too even though I don’t think my mum trusted it; she was too busy frantically looking over her shoulder to see all that cool wheel action going on. But then again, I had picked a spot beside a harbour so it’s no wonder she was a bit frantic about the fact that we could end up in the water if the sensors went a bit haywire.

I think automatic parking might be the best invention ever. Before I was brave enough to try out the Active Park Assist on the Ford, I definitely did avoid parallel parking on busy streets in town. I knew that the Kuga would fit but I didn’t feel like screwing around for ages and then the embarrassment of having to drive off if it didn’t work out. My local town is small and the Kuga was white, massive and sporting a Cork reg so it stuck out like a sore thumb and I couldn’t really go incognito.

I’m not bad at parking but I definitely want this park assist feature on my next car.

Caroline Kidd

driving selfie

1 in 4 young drivers have taken a “selfie” while driving

“Selfie” was the number 1 buzzword of 2013 and the craze for taking self-portraits with a smartphone and sharing them on social media shows no sign of abating in 2014.

But a driving selfie craze that comes with its own hashtag for sharing on social media is an alarming development and this year there has been a number of car accidents resulting in injury and even death where drivers are reported to have taken “selfies” shortly before tragedy struck.

A recently published survey by Ford gives some insight into the extent to which young people are interacting with their smartphones while driving with the survey of just over 7000 Europeans aged between 18 and 24 finding that 1 in 4 young people have taken a “selfie” at the wheel.

Nearly half of young drivers admit to having used their smartphone to snap a photograph behind the wheel and 1 in 4 have posted an update on social media or checked social media sites while driving.

The irony of it all is that nearly all drivers surveyed agreed that the activities were dangerous.

Driver distraction from in-car technology or mobile phones has begun to come under greater scrutiny as our cars offer us ever more options to stay connected on the move.

Ford has found that snapping a “selfie” at the wheel can distract a driver for 14 seconds, and checking social media channels can distract for 20 seconds – long enough for a car travelling at 100 km/h to cover the length of five football pitches.

In a series of videos released by Ford to highlight the risks of using smartphones behind the wheel (below), the message is clear - don’t let a selfie be the last photo you take.

Caroline Kidd


Why Good Tyres Are Important

Underestimate the value and importance of a good set of tyres on your car at your peril.

They can affect the safety of your vehicle, the handling, performance, fuel economy, interior noise, ride and comfort, and of course the look of the vehicle. Anyone who has ever lurched over a bumpy road on a pair of 18” inchers will know all about how they can affect ride and comfort.

Continental Tyres estimate Ireland’s tyre market for cars, 4x4s and vans to be at two million units per year, and logically enough it is subjected to the same fluctuations in sales as seen in the new and used car market.

Part Worn Tyres

At an Irish media briefing, Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland warned how the unregulated sale of second-hand or part-worn tyres is accounting for a larger section of the tyre market in Ireland.

This is of concern because there is no way to know what hidden damage may have been caused to the tyre in its previous life. Experts in the UK say that the majority of tyres that are offered for sale as part-worn are tyres that have come from 'End of Life Vehicles' - cars and vans that have been involved in accidents. You do not want damage to the piece of rubber that is the only contact between your car and the road.

It was also pointed out that a lot of the tyres that are sold as part-worn are winter tyres from European countries. If these tyres are put on the same axle as the existing standard tyre, the car will automatically fail the NCT as the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has ruled that winter and summer tyres cannot be mixed across the one axle.

Tyre Size

On a lighter note, we were given some insight into some other tyre market trends including popular sizes. The 205/55 R16 remains the most popular tyre size in the Irish market with a 25% share. It’s no surprise that this size tyre is found on Irish bestsellers like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.

When looking at rim size, 14" and 15" continue to decline as cars like those in the supermini segment that traditionally had these smaller rims move towards a 16” inch rim as standard.

16" and 17" rims are still the most popular but larger rims like 18”, 19” and 20” are seeing more growth. Seems we all love the aesthetics of larger wheels but remember a larger wheel may look great but not be the best for comfort and performance!

Tyres For Hybrid Cars

Without the noise of a traditional petrol or diesel engine doing its thing, drivers are more aware of road noise in their near silent electric and hybrid vehicles.

Continental Tyres has taken the Conti.eContact, originally launched in 2011 with electric vehicles in mind, and refined it to meet the needs of hybrid models.

They have reduced the rolling resistance of the tyre thanks to a newly developed Green Chili compound and the tyre is altogether narrower than what you would normally fit to the diesel or petrol equivalent model of a car. At the same time the tyre can maintain the highest level of handling and braking performance when pushed to the limit. And Continental Tyres promise less audible road noise coming into the cabin of the car.

Beware the part-worn and second hand tyre, buy the best tyres you can afford and when pimping out your car remember a big tyre might look great but it can adversely affect the car’s performance and ride comfort!

Caroline Kidd

The 2014 Smart ForTwo city car

Smart ForTwo (2014) World Premiere

The 2014 Smart ForTwo city car
The 2014 Smart ForTwo city car

Smart by name and smart by nature. The smart fortwo set a new standard for small and smart urban mobility when it was launched in 1998. Since then over 1.5 million have been sold.

The new smart fortwo has just received its world premiere and while the concept remains the same
- a small two-seater with the engine in the back for urban dwellers - the new car promises more space, more colour and more equipment.

At 2.69 metres , the new one is just the same length as the old one so it’s great they haven’t gone bigger like so many others do (looking at you Mini!). It would defeat the whole concept if they did. The smart is about small transport for urban centres for individuals (and occasional passenger).

Short overhangs, minimal length, good economy, tight turning circle, rear fitted engine for extra mobility and space inside make it a great car for parking and driving in congested cities.

If you travel to any European city you will find smart cars everywhere; two or three squashed crossways into a parking space, perched on pavements and anywhere you never expected to see a car parked.

The smart car never really caught on in Ireland but you do see the odd maverick bopping around the city in one.

The previous model was somewhat noisy, the ride was on the firm, uncomfortable side, and the semi -automatic gearbox was jerky and altogether not the smoothest car to drive. It remains to be seen if these issues will have been ironed out.

While many may laugh at the smart’s tiny dimensions and dinky looks you can’t deny its charm. For urban trendsetters it was a way to embrace urban mobility and exert personality over a car. The smart is a trendy, colourful and funky car and the colour contrasts between the tridion safety cell and bodypanels is another characteristic feature of the smart brand that has been retained in the new one.

A series of special editions and variants like the smart cabrio and Brabus tuned version have kept the smart car fresh and relevant since its launch in 1998. Here's a look at some special moments in the smart's sixteen year history.

Caroline Kidd

Toyota Aygo

Toyota Aygo (2014) Launched

City cars are cheap to buy, cheap to run, easy to drive and great cars for young drivers. But some of them are just plain boring and not so great to drive.

Luckily the latest generation of city cars come with lots of options for customisation so we can stamp a little of our personality onto our cars.

And underneath the flash exterior, you will find that small cars punch well above their weight in terms of comfort and driving dynamics.

The latest city car to arrive here. It's the new Toyota Aygo. It’s available as a 3- or 5-door, it comes with a 1.0 litre 69bhp petrol engine and it’s priced from €12,625. How’s that for cheap and cheerful?

Believe me it is cheerful because in what must be a first for Toyota, they are joining the customisation crew like the Opel Adam, Mini and Citroen DS3 and soon to arrive Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1.

There are four customisation packs to choose from: OUTstand, OUTglow, INspire and INtense! There are a number of bits and pieces in and around the car that can be customised depending on what pack you go for.

You can change the colour of the ‘x’ part of the front grille, the ‘x-tension’ side panel above the wheel arch, the rear diffuser below the number plate at the back and front and rear bumper inserts. There are also roof stickers that can be added, choice of 18 different alloy wheel variants and you can even choose the colour of the alloy wheel centre caps.

Inside the colour of the air vent and gear knob surrounds and dash inserts can be customised.

How will you spec yours?

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Can Super Mario Help Mercedes-Benz Sell More Cars?

Super Mario is starring in a new ad campaign in Japan for Mercedes-Benz. The bizarre advert features Mario bopping along in a Mercedes-Benz GLA through an 8-bit Mushroom Kingdom before switching to a live action sequence. It’s all part of a campaign to launch the new compact SUV in Japan. With rugged looks and raised driving position, the Mercedes-Benz GLA is obviously a perfect car for action hero Super Mario!

Super Mario
Super Mario

It’s a long way from slick ads for big, luxury saloons but it’s no secret in the industry that Mercedes-Benz wants to attract younger buyers to the brand. The GLA will join the new A-Class hatchback and CLA coupe in a hunt for a slice of that market. For kids who grew up in the Eighties and Nineties, Super Mario is a household name so who better than the man himself to promote it?

Caroline Kidd

Subaru Impreza WRX

Cars That Just Have To Be Blue!

After years of lacklustre performance in the sales charts it looks like the blue car could be about to make a comeback, and in recent months many manufacturers have made a point of choosing a blue hue to showcase their new models.

But it never really went away as these four iconic blues demonstrate below. Like a red Ferrari, there will always be cars that just have to be blue!

Some of the best blues of the last twenty years
Some of the best blues of the last twenty years

Caroline Kidd

Renault Twingo

How Do You Design A City Car For 2014?

At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, it was all about the city car. Among the hybrids, supercars and out-of-this-world concepts were the latest breed of city cars. 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the city car.The Peugeot 108, Toyota Aygo and Citroën C1 are coming here later this summer. All three cars share the same underpinnings, but each will be wearing a different set of clothes to distinguish them from eachother.

The Renault Twingo is also arriving this year. The big surprise with the Twingo is that it’s going to have the engine in the back rather than the front. This seems radical for a city car, but Renault is promising more fun and agility with this configuration.

I am VERY excited to drive some of these new city cars. In the meantime, it’s always interesting to get an insight into the design process of a modern city car.

Ahead of the arrival of the Peugeot 108, the Design Director for the new 108 has been speaking about how the 108 begins a fresh chapter in Peugeot’s small car design story. The 108 is the next car in the “1-oh” series , carrying on from the 106 of the 1990s and the 107 of the Noughties.

The new 108 is longer, lower and more aerodynamic than the 107 it replaces. “The 107 had a very cab-forward ‘mono-volume’ silhouette, which at launch in 2005 was very modern,"  says Ivo Groën, Peugeot 108 Design Director. "We wanted to reduce the glass and increase the sculpting of the body, and at the same time give it a timeless elegance.”

The new 108 has a more premium and sophisticated feel to help differentiate it from its siblings from Citroën and Toyota, and to complement Peugeot's intent to move the brand upmarket. It has its own interpretation of Peugeot’s ‘floating grille’ and lion claw effect rear lamps that can be seen on other Peugeots in the range like the 208 and 308.

Peugeot is also responding to the needs of the smartphone generation with a 7” touchscreen on all but entry level 108s that millenials are sure to love. “Connectivity was a key point for 108, which wasn’t the case with the 107 because no one had a smartphone. For 108 it’s about your smartphone but in the middle of the dashboard,” says Groën.

With options for personalisation, the 108 is following the trend for fun city cars like the Opel Adam, MINI and Fiat 500, that can say a little bit about your taste and personality. This is great but approach the options list with caution. The two tone paint finish on our pictured 108 might be a step too far!

Peugeot 108
Peugeot 108

Caroline Kidd