Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland

Volkswagen Passat GTE On Sale In Ireland

Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland
The new Volkswagen Passat GTE

Volkswagen has added a plug-in hybrid to the Passat range in Ireland. Pricing for the new Volkswagen Passat GTE starts at €41,450 for a saloon and €43,715 for an estate, including SEAI grant and VRT rebate.

The Passat GTE is powered by a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor, and the power output of the two sources combined is 215bhp. GTE models comes with a DSG automatic gearbox and emissions of 39g CO2 mean that the car qualifies for motor tax of just €170.

The car can be driven in pure electric mode for a limited range of a claimed 50km and for longer journeys, the car will operate as a hybrid drawing power from the TSI petrol engine and the electric motor. The lithium-ion battery that provides the e-motor with electricity can be charged at home or at work via a charging cable connected to a mains socket, while some energy is also fed back into the system while driving.

With the 50-litre tank full of fuel and the battery fully charged, the Passat GTE has a theoretical range of more than 1,100 kilometres.

C-shaped LED daytime running lights and a blue bar across the radiator grille that extends into the headlights distinguish the Passat GTE from the rest of the Passat range.

There are special GTE features inside such as an instrument cluster with power meter and an infotainment system that displays information to the driver about each drive system. Many of the Passat GTE's functions can optionally be controlled and monitored via smartphone using the 'Car-Net e-Remote' app. These include charging the battery, activating the air-conditioning functions or seeing where the car was last parked.

The Passat GTE is available from selected Volkswagen dealers: Frank Keane Volkswagen, McAllister Volkswagen, Pierse Motors Limerick, Frank Hogan Limerick, Connolly’s Sligo, Newmarket Motors, Blackwater Motors Cork, Wexford Volkswagen and Sheehy’s Naas.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: Plug-in hybrid vehicle with pure electric range of up to 50km

Caroline Kidd

suzuki baleno ireland

2016 Suzuki Baleno Irish Launch

Suzuki has just launched the new Baleno in Ireland, with pricing starting at €17,995. The Baleno will join the Celerio and Swift in Suzuki’s small car range, but fills the gap for a compact car with more interior space and a larger boot, while retaining attractive low pricing.

The Baleno sits on a new platform that’s been developed with a focus on lightness, but also rigidity. The new car debuts a very on trend 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engine with a healthy 110bhp output. Suzuki claims that the new 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine has the same level of power and torque as a much larger capacity naturally aspirated engine (1.8-litre). A 1.2-litre petrol ‘mild hybrid’ version with 89bhp is also available.

The new Baleno looks good in the metal and delivers on its ‘big’ small car promise – inside two adults can sit comfortably up front without feeling like they’re sitting on top of one another and the rear legroom is very generous too. The boot is 320 litres, which is on the larger side of what’s normal for this class.

On the road, the Suzuki Baleno quickly shows what a fun small car it is to drive, with a lot of that character coming from the new 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. At the Irish launch, the Baleno floated around corners with a bit of zest.  It feels agile but planted to the road surface, and light, precise steering made easy work of the twists and turns of the Co. Down test route.

The 1.0-litre engine is lively with plenty of power for overtaking, and the refinement appears very good. Emissions of 105g CO2/km put the car in this configuration in tax band A3 (€190 per year), while the claimed economy is 63mpg. On a shorter test drive, the mild hybrid was not as lively to drive, though running costs are marginally cheaper.

suzuki baleno ireland
Interior of the new Suzuki Baleno

Equipment and engines for the 2016 Suzuki Baleno

Equipment levels are very good from base. The entry model (1.0-litre Boosterjet SZ-T) at €17,995 is definitely a car you might want to buy. Standard equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, air con, electric mirrors and front windows, remote central locking, touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay access, auto lights, front fog lights and rear privacy glass.

The 1.0-litre Boosterjet in the top SZ-5 trim comes in at €19,495 and adds more including Radar Brake Control, keyless entry and go, electric rear windows,  and even adaptive cruise control. The mild hybrid (SHVS 1.2 Dualjet SZ5) has a list price of €18,995, while the 1.0-litre Boosterjet SZ5 with an automatic comes in at €22,495.

The new Suzuki Baleno will go on sale in Ireland next month.

Check out our latest Suzuki review, the Suzuki Vitara.

Caroline Kidd

Jaguar F-Pace SUV Irish Launch

The 2016 Jaguar F-Pace
The 2016 Jaguar F-Pace

The new Jaguar F-Pace has arrived in Ireland. Like a lot of people I gasped a little bit when I heard Jaguar would be making an SUV – the first ever for the brand. Jaguar, long the purveyor of luxury saloons and sports cars, was about to put a toe into one of the most lucrative and popular segments of the market, but hardly the sexiest.

Yet I gasped again when I saw the pictures of this new Jag. The F-Pace was a thing of pure beauty even on the pages of a magazine – large, yes – but with styling every bit as evocative as a sports car.

The F-Pace must be one of the most anticipated new cars of recent years. It’s finally landed in Ireland. The F-Pace is classed as a premium mid-size SUV and Jaguar Ireland is pitching it as the ‘practical sports car’.

As such, the sporty BMW X4 and Porsche Macan are the core competitors, though the F-Pace has a considerably lower entry price – 2.0-litre diesel RWD models with a manual gearbox start from €44,100, AWD models from €47,800. Models with automatic gearbox or high performance V6 engines are pricier.

Driving the Jaguar F-Pace

On a test drive, the F-Pace felt sporty and engaging. Even four wheel drive models operate as rear wheel drive vehicles in normal driving circumstances for more agility and fun behind the wheel, only switching to four wheel drive when the car senses the extra traction is needed. The F-Pace has an 80% aluminium structure to keep the overall weight of the car light, but rigid. Torque vectoring comes as standard, which improves cornering performance.

Engine options include the 2.0-litre 180PS Ingenium diesel, 300PS 3.0-litre V6 diesel and 380PS 3.0-litre V6 petrol from the F-Type sports car. The 2.0-litre diesel will meet the needs of most buyers and on a test drive it was quick, smooth and quiet. Mated to a manual transmission on RWD drive models, emissions are just 129g CO2 per km (motor tax €270 per year).

The F-Pace is on sale in Ireland now
The F-Pace is on sale in Ireland now

Inside there is seating for five and a huge boot of 650 litres. The cabin is modern luxury with a sports car feel. There are four trim levels – SE, Prestige, Portfolio and R-Sport – and standard equipment levels are high including 18” alloys, keyless start, cruise control, halogen headlights with daytime running lights, front fog lights, space saver spare wheel, four electric windows, dual zone climate control, analogue dials and 5” TFT full colour display, rear parking sensors, hill start assist, autonomous emergency braking, emergency brake assist, lane departure warning and electronic hand brake.

Anything else?

At the launch, the All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) was demonstrated. To make the most of the available grip, ASPC automatically controls the throttle and the brakes, enabling the vehicle to pull away smoothly: the driver just has to steer. ASPC functions between 3.6km/h and 30km/h, and the driver selects the desired speed using the cruise control switches. ASPC is compatible with rear- and all-wheel drive and is ideal for nervous or inexperienced drivers in low grip situations.

With sales of just under 500,000 cars globally in 2015, the F-Pace will boost Jaguar’s fortunes even more. Closer to home, the new F-Pace gives Jaguar Ireland access to a new burgeoning segment, where their sister brand Land Rover is already reigning supreme with the Discovery Sport.

It’s a segment rife with competition from Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, but the Jaguar’s competitive pricing, good looks and sporty pedigree give it every chance of success.

The F-Pace is in Jaguar dealers now.

Caroline Kidd

Ford Mondeo AWD ireland

Ford Ireland Launch Further All Wheel Drive Options

You can now buy a Ford Mondeo, S-MAX. and Galaxy with all wheel drive. This ‘intelligent’ new system can help drivers tackle off-road terrain, improve grip on slippery roads, and even optimise performance for track driving.

At a test drive event in Mondello Park, Ford Ireland demonstrated how the new ‘Intelligent All Wheel Drive’ (AWD) system improves traction on models such as the Mondeo and S-MAX..

When equipped, this new system delivers a seamless transition of torque between all four wheels to provide a more secure footing on the road especially in slippery conditions. Intelligent All Wheel Drive measures how the car’s wheels are gripping the road surface and can adjust torque delivery up to 50/50 between the front and rear wheels in under 20 milliseconds – twenty times quicker than it takes to blink. By only delivering torque where and when it is needed, Intelligent All Wheel Drive has minimal impact on fuel-efficiency and CO2 emissions compared with permanent four wheel drive systems.

The Ford All Wheel Drive range in Ireland

Ford now offers 8 out of 17 vehicle lines in Europe with all wheel drive or four wheel drive technologies, compared to just three models in 2012. Models include the Focus RS high-performance hatchback, the Ranger pick-up, new Ford Edge and Kuga SUVs, Mondeo range including Vignale, Galaxy and S-MAX. The Ford Transit also features a unique Intelligent All Wheel Drive system, offering class-leading traction and dynamics and featuring a selectable all wheel drive lock mode for optimised grip in extreme conditions.

The company expects to sell 139,000 all wheel drive and four wheel drive vehicles across Europe in 2016 – a 120% increase compared to 2014.

The new Mondeo AWD range starts from €34,895 for Zetec 5-door AWD 2.0 litre TDCi 150PS from (€31,695 for similar FWD model). S-Max AWD range starts from €42,185 for Zetec 5-door AWD 2.0 litre TDCi 150PS (from €38,985 for similar FWD model). Galaxy AWD range starts from €45,285 for Zetec 5-door AWD 2.0 litre TDCi 150PS (from €42,085 for similar FWD model).

Have a read of our Ford Edge Review.

Caroline Kidd

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016)

Mercedes-Benz E-Class On Sale (2016)

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016)
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016)

Mercedes-Benz is on a mission to overtake BMW and become the world’s number one car manufacturer in the luxury market by 2020. New product is a key part of that strategy: 8 new models and 6 facelifted models were launched in 2015 and there are more new cars on the way this year.

One of those, the new E-Class, has just arrived in Ireland. Now in its tenth generation, the E-Class has grown in length by 43mm and has a 65mm longer wheelbase compared to the outgoing model. It remains a sleek, elegant car and is instantly recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz – that’s regardless of whether you go for the traditional louvered grille and body mounted star, or grille with large inset star (yes you can choose).

The new interior is pure class from top to bottom and Mercedes-Benz has mixed the traditional executive feel well with the style and technology demanded by today’s premium car buyer.  An 8.4 inch touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard and can be controlled via a dial on the central console and by innovative new touch-sensitive finger swipe buttons on the steering wheel. Two high-resolution 12.3 inch display screens are available as options and are also a first for the segment.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Interior is pure class

What's new for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The new E-Class debuts new driving aids, safety equipment and exciting tech that will give buyers a taste of autonomous driving – the optional Drive Pilot allows the car to cruise effectively on auto pilot with the car controlling speed, braking, acceleration, gear changing and even overtaking.

Mercedes-Benz has invested heavily in a new diesel engine family and the E-Class debuts with this new four cylinder 2.0-litre diesel. The new diesel engine, badged E220d, is a significant improvement in terms of power, economy and noise suppression over the outgoing 2.1-litre diesel. There’s more power (194bhp) and CO2 emissions have been lowered to just 102g, so the car will prove economical for owners (motor tax of €190 per year and a claimed fuel economy of 72.4mpg). Later in the year we will see the arrival of a lower powered version of this new engine (154bhp).

Anything else?

There are three trim levels for the new E-Class on the Irish market (Avantgarde, Exclusive and AMG Line), and all cars comes as standard with a 9-speed ‘9G-Tronic’ automatic gearbox.  You can mix the design lines, for example select an Avantgarde spec car but choose an AMG Line exterior for a sportier look.

Pricing for the range starts at €52,850 for an E220d Avantgarde Automatic, an €850 price reduction over the outgoing model but with more standard kit including parking assist, heated front seats, full leather upholstery, reversing camera, LED lights, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, ambient lighting, climate control and cruise control. Exclusive models start at €55,210 and AMG Line versions at €57,650.

The lower-powered E200d will have an entry price of €50,550.

The saloon will be joined by an E-Class estate later in the year, and there is also an E350e hybrid in the pipeline.

Read a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Review.

Caroline Kidd

Chill Insurances ChillDriveSafely eBook driving tips

Featured In New #ChillDriveSafely eBook

Chill Insurance has just launched a new eBook as part of a #ChillDriveSafely campaign. The Ireland's Most Beautiful Drives eBook features some of Ireland's best drives chosen by bloggers and top tips for car care and driving in a variety of different weather conditions including ice, wind, rain and fog - typical challenges for those of us living on the fringes of Western Europe.

The company asked a number of car experts and bloggers to contribute to the eBook. I was asked for my top tip for keeping the car unfrozen and it’s included in the eBook.

I’m interested in clever car hacks that save me time in the mornings so my number 1 tip to stay ice-free is to park the car in the direction of the morning sun. Because you know I’m a bit lazy (!!!) so anything that gives my car a headstart on defrosting is worth it and saves me running around in a fluster in the morning.

With the milder weather that spring has brought, my tip might look a bit redundant but come next winter, smart guys and girls park their cars in the direction of the morning sun.

Remember stay chilled, not frozen!

You can view and download the eBook for free here: Ireland's Most Beautiful Drives eBook

Caroline Kidd

The 2015 Fiat 500 has been updated

2016 Fiat 500 Arrives In Ireland

The 2015 Fiat 500 has been updated
The 2015 Fiat 500 has been updated

Fiat launched the new 500 to the Irish media on Monday at Weston Airport in Lucan, Co. Dublin and they’re billing it as ‘the icon reloaded’.

On the surface of things it doesn’t look much different from the petite 500 remake that first arrived here in 2008.

But according to Fiat, there are 1,900 new components to enhance and refine an already very successful 1950s-inspired retro recipe.

How successful exactly? 1.5 million have been sold in over 100 countries since launch in 2007 and sales have increased year on year - even as the car has aged. From an Irish perspective, the market may be small for 3-door city cars like the 500, but just under 2000 of them have found homes here.

The marketing for the Fiat 500 is very much aimed at the young, social urbanite, yet interestingly Fiat’s own sales data shows that the average customer is a bit more middle-aged  - 45 to be exact – but predictably female.

What's new for the next Fiat 500?

Image and styling are naturally very important to Fiat 500 buyers and with the success of the current model, Fiat decided not to get too creative in the design studio when it came to updating the car. The most noticeable changes to the styling are the addition of new LED daytime running lights in a circular shape (like the zeros of the 500 logo), new bumpers with squarer edges, and a 3D-effect grille with chrome-like buttons on the Lounge version.

At the rear there are new 'empty' tail lamp clusters with ring-shaped illumination and body-coloured centres.

There are new alloy wheel designs and two brand new colours, “Glam Coral” pastel and “Avantgarde Bordeaux” metallic, which bring the total number of colours available to 13.

New ‘Second Skin’ personalisation options have also been added to the 500 range. These are factory-fitted themed graphics that add more wow factor, for example “Comics”, which has a cool two-tone appearance of black-yellow or black-red.

Inside the updated 500

The interior still has the retro vibe with coloured dash panels and large round instrument binnacle. There’s more choice inside in terms of colour schemes and seat fabrics, though some of it is dependent on the trim level of the car. The Uconnect infotainment system is now standard across the range, with steering wheel-mounted audio controls and USB / Aux-in ports on all cars.

Available as a hatchback or cabriolet, there are three trim levels for the Irish market: Pop, Pop Star and Lounge. Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, Uconnect, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and LED daytime running lights. An electric roof with heated glass rear screen is standard on the cabriolet.

Step up to Pop Star for air con and alloys, and to Lounge for a panoramic fixed glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and front fog lights. Lounge models also have a more advanced Uconnect system with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, voice recognition and an SMS reader for reading text messages.

What are my engine options?

In terms of engines, there is a choice of three petrols and one diesel: a 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol , 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo petrol with 85bhp or 105bhp and a 1.3-litre 95bhp turbo diesel.

At the launch I sampled the 1.2-litre 69bhp and TwinAir Turbo 105bhp. The TwinAir is predictably quick but it likes to let you know it’s working, so the noise will be either irritating or endearing. The 1.2-litre feels flatter through the gears, and the lack of power could get frustrating out on bigger roads - but it’s fine at low speeds around town.

The key to the Fiat 500 is pricing. The hatchback range starts at €13,450 for the 1.2-litre petrol in Pop trim. The Pop Star range starts at €14,400 and Lounge models at €15,800. The cabrio is available from €16,450.

Yes the Fiat 500 is a small car with a small boot. But in terms of pure desirability, presence and style, you won’t find many that move in such fashionable circles and can match that sort of pricing.

Caroline Kidd

Watch out for a full road test of the Fiat 500 coming soon!

Ford Mondeo Irish Car Of The Year

Continental Irish Car Of The Year 2016 Winners!

On Friday 20th November, the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association (IMWA) and guests gathered in Dublin to announce the winners of the Continental Irish Car Of The Year (ICOTY) 2016 awards. Rosemary Smith, ex-rally driver, announced  our overall winner for Irish Car Of The Year 2016…the Ford Mondeo!

The overall results, with weighted scores, were as follows:

  1. Ford Mondeo - 148 points
  2. Volvo XC90 - 147 points
  3. Mercedes-Benz GLE - 144 points
  4. Kia Sorento - 144 points
  5. Skoda Superb - 140 points

The category winners were as follows:

Irish Small Car Of The Year – Opel Corsa

Opel Corsa Continental Irish Small Car Of The Year 2016
Opel Corsa: Continental Irish Small Car Of The Year 2016

Irish Compact Family Car Of The Year – Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V Continental Irish Compact Family Car Of The Year 2016
Honda HR-V: Continental Irish Compact Family Car Of The Year 2016

Irish Medium Car Of The Year/Irish Car Of The Year – Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo Irish Car Of The Year
Ford Mondeo: Continental Irish Medium Car Of The Year 2016

Irish Large Car Of The Year – Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento Continental Irish Large Car Of The Year 2016
Kia Sorento: Continental Irish Large Car Of The Year 2016

Irish Executive Car Of The Year – Volvo XC90

Volvo XC90 Continental Irish Executive Car Of The Year 2016
Volvo XC90: Continental Irish Executive Car Of The Year 2016

Irish Performance/Sport Car Of The Year – Audi TT

Audi TT Continental Irish Performance/Sport Car Of The Year
Audi TT: Continental Irish Performance/Sport Car Of The Year

The Irish Motoring Writers’ Association judges awarded points on the basis of criteria ranging from design, comfort, safety, economy, handling and performance, as well as driver satisfaction, value for money and technical innovation. The awards are in their 39th year.

John Galvin, IMWA Chairman said: “The Irish motoring writers have selected an exciting model and no doubt the 2016 Irish Car of the Year accolade will provide a huge boost to the popularity of the Ford Mondeo in the Irish market, particularly in the context of the current competitive economic environment.”

The Ford Mondeo succeeds the Nissan Qashqai, which took the title last year.

Caroline Kidd

The new Jaguar XF

Jaguar XF (2015) Arrives In Ireland

The new Jaguar XF
The new Jaguar XF

Jaguar Ireland launched the new XF to the Irish media last Thursday at Carton House, Co. Kildare. The Jaguar XF is the brand’s executive saloon and a rival to the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and comes hot on the wheels of the new XE compact executive saloon launched earlier this year.

When the first generation of the XF was launched back in 2007, it was a radical step forward for Jaguar, the most obvious deviation from Jaguars of old being the bold design that finally threw off any remnants of a fusty old image and a certain 1980’s TV detective.

The new Jaguar XF builds on that and it might be a predictable thing to say, but the new XF is indeed even better-looking than before.  Muscular, elegant, sporty – it’s a car you can’t wait to drive.

Inside the new Jaguar XF

Slip in behind the wheel and it’s a blend of old and new. The cream leather seats and interior finish in the Prestige trim car I drove at the launch give the old school luxury feel, but decorative metal dash inserts scream modernity. There are loads of nice design touches on board like the rotary gear selector that rises up from the centre console on start up, and an 8” touchscreen in the centre of the dash that controls infotainment and navigation.

A quick look around the XF before setting off reveals a large, spacious car. The wheelbase is 51mm longer than before, but the XF is actually marginally shorter and lower than the car it replaces. The boot is 540 litres and rear passengers get 15mm more legroom, 24mm more kneeroom and up to 27mm more headroom compared to the outgoing model.

Inside the Jaguar XF
Inside the Jaguar XF

The construction of the old XF was steel-based, but the new XF is now 75% aluminium, which makes the body stiffer and lighter. Jaguar engineers say that they have saved 190kg in weight, the knock-on effect being improved driving dynamics and efficiency.

Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel has also been added to the range in two different power outputs, 163PS or 180PS, available with a manual or automatic transmission.

The 2.0-litre petrol (240PS) automatic, 3.0-litre V6 diesel (300PS) automatic, and a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (340PS and 380PS) automatic complete the XF range. The 2.0-litre diesel has attractive low emissions and running costs - in its lowest power output and with a manual gearbox, it will return up to 70mpg, and has emissions of just 104g CO2/km.

Driving the new XF

I took the 2.0-litre 180PS automatic for a drive at the launch and from the get-go it’s an exciting car to drive. The XF has a rear wheel drive layout so there is near 50:50 weight distribution over the front and rear axles. It grips the road well and initial impressions are that it's very agile and very powerful, with accurate steering that's noticeably weighty.

For the Irish market, there are four trim levels - XF Business Edition, XF Prestige, XF R-Sport and XF Portfolio – with the entry level 2.0-litre (163PS) diesel manual priced from €43,205. Prestige models start at €45,995, R-Sport start at €47,240 and Portfolio start at €49,280. The XF 'S' sits at the very top of the range with the 3.0-litre V6 380 PS petrol engine borrowed from the F-Type and a list price of €92,350. Only for purists!

Standard equipment includes cruise control and speed limiter, rear parking aid, electric windows and mirrors, 8” touchscreen infotainment and navigation, dual zone climate control, tyre pressure monitor, 17” alloys and lane departure warning system. New XFs come with ‘Jaguar Care’ - a three-year warranty, unlimited mileage servicing and roadside assistance package.

Lighter, more efficient, more space, exciting to drive, better-looking and all without a whiff of 'old money' - if you are in the market for a mid-size executive car, the new Jaguar XF might surprise you!

Caroline Kidd

Honda Jazz small car review round up

New Honda Jazz and HR-V Arrive In Ireland!

Honda Jazz small car review round up
Honda Jazz receives Irish launch

There’s nothing quite like some shiny new cars to start the week, and when two come along together, it’s even better.

It must be a treat for Honda Ireland too and their associated Irish dealer network. With 2015 already bringing revised Civic and CR-V models, the arrival of a new third generation Jazz, and all new HR-V compact SUV, will add further options. For petrolheads, there’s a Civic Type R on the horizon, and the NSX must not be too far away either.

Honda Jazz – the ‘Little Giant’

The Jazz is an interesting one because while it’s classed as a B-segment supermini (Yaris, Fiesta and Corsa territory), it really packs a bigger punch in space and utility. In terms of interior space, the Jazz is roomy and comfortable, and rear knee and legroom has been increased by as much as 10cm.

However, the boundary blurring between the Jazz and the C-segment above is really obvious when you look at the figures for boot capacity. The boot in the Jazz is 354 litres. To put that in perspective, the Ford Focus has 316 litres, and a Volkswagen Golf has 380 litres.

There’s more than just a whiff of supermini/MPV blend to the Jazz, though it still manages to pull off the sleek silhouette of a hatch. The addition of Honda’s 'Magic Seats' allows the rear seats to be configured in a variety of ways, adding an extra injection of versatility to the Jazz.

The cabin is solid and well-built, and polished chrome trim accents add a touch of class. The new Honda Connect infotainment system is standard from ES trim level up and includes a 7” touchscreen in the centre of the dash.

The Jazz has a new platform, new suspension components and damper system, new steering, and is lighter than before. On a small drive, it still has that ‘easy to drive’ quality, but good road-holding ability makes it feel safe and stoic in the corners. Like the Civic, the Jazz has Honda’s Agile Handling Assist to improve the handling at speed.

Power comes from a new 1.3-litre petrol engine (102bhp) with a six speed manual gearbox that will return up to 56.5mpg, with annual motor tax of €200. A new CVT automatic transmission is also available, and in that configuration, the emissions are slightly less and the mpg return slightly larger.

Honda HRV
The Honda HR-V was first launched back in 1999 with the tagline 'the Joy Machine'

With a starting price of €17,395, the Jazz has a higher entry level price than some key rivals. But bear in mind the Jazz has five doors as standard and is very well-equipped. Even the ‘base’ model (SE) gets air con, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls, auto lights/wipers, electric windows and mirrors, city brake assist and LED DRLs.

For €19,345, you can step up to ES trim, which adds 15” alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, alarm, folding mirrors and the sort of safety kit I’m more used to seeing in a D-segment saloon – forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and high beam support.

The flagship EX model starts at €20,400 and adds keyless entry and start, 16” alloy wheels, reversing camera, climate control, leather steering wheel, front fog lights, privacy glass and six speakers.

The new Jazz is €800 more than the car it replaces, but with more kit and more power, it makes a strong case for itself.

Honda HR-V – the “Joy Machine” reinvented

Built on the same platform as the Jazz, the HR-V is the more ‘lifestyle’ of the two cars. Aimed at the crossover market, it has the good looks, and inside effort has been made to add a European finish to traditional Japanese form and functionality. It’s largely a success with soft touch plastics, chrome detail, and lashings of gloss black combining for a cabin that’s as pleasing to look at, as it is to touch.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre i-VTEC (130bhp) petrol engine or a 1.6-litre i-DTEC (120bhp) diesel engine, with the option of a CVT automatic transmission on the petrol powered HR-V. Depending on specification, the petrol engine returns around the 50mpg mark (up to 54mpg with the CVT gearbox), while the diesel will return up to 70mpg.

The petrol range starts at €23,995 for entry grade SE trim, with 16” alloy wheels, Bluetooth, city brake assist, climate control, cruise control, alarm, auto lights, electric windows and mirrors, and steering wheel mounted controls.  The same model with the diesel engine starts at €25,995.

ES adds 17” alloy wheels, Honda Connect infotainment system, front and rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control, auto wipers, electric folding mirrors, rear centre armrest, front fog lights, 6 speakers and the dynamic safety pack (forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and high beam support), all for an extra €2600. EX adds more trim again for an extra €4300 including leather upholstery, panoramic glass roof, Garmin navigation, heated front seats, reversing camera, roof rails and keyless entry and start.

Just like the Jazz, the HR-V packs in a good deal of interior space within a compact profile, but the ace card here is a 470 litre boot and of course the 'Magic Seats' that allow new possibilities for load carrying in the back by folding the seats up (cinema style!).

The HR-V is front wheel drive only. On a short drive, the HR-V feels agile and planted. Honda have done their best to make the body as rigid as possible to reduce body roll, which can be a problem in high riding cars, but the HR-V holds itself well through the bends with accurate steering.

Only time will tell if the HR-V can do enough to ‘disrupt’ the crossover market to really draw buyers away from competitors, but for those looking for a compact lifestyle vehicle within the Honda stable, the good-looking HR-V should well hit the spot.

The Honda HR-V
The Honda HR-V

Caroline Kidd