Renault Megane GT Line ireland review

Renault Megane GT Line 1.5 dCi 110hp Review

Renault Megane GT Line ireland review
The new Renault Megane GT Line

Since I first caught glimpse of its curvy behind at the Megane’s world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015, I’ve been itching to drive the new Renault Megane.

Renault, you may have noticed, has been churning out some great designs over the last few years courtesy of design chief Laurens van den Acker – think Clio, Captur and Kadjar.

The new Megane is possibly the best yet. We may eat with our eyes, but for most of us, we buy cars with them too, and the Renault Megane has traffic stopping angles and curves. The new Megane’s distinctive front and rear lighting signatures are permanently lit when the engine is switched on, so there’s always that bit of drama about the Megane.

Together, it’s not a bad look at all for what underneath is a pretty conventional, mass market five door hatchback with a sub €20,000 entry price.

The design team has also done a good job inside the new Megane, and it feels just as fresh and modern as the outside.  A colour digital speedometer is the focal point for the driver and a very neat touchscreen system sits in the centre console for controlling infotainment and viewing vehicle information and settings. The quality of the plastics and materials is generally good around the cabin, and sporty GT Line cars have some lovely blue stitching and blue trim on the doors and dash.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: Cabin design is fresh and modern, with plenty of new gadgets

The cabin space is adequate for this class. Get into the rear and legroom does not seem as generous as in some rivals and the middle seat passenger will feel short changed on space. It looks like cabin space has been lost to the boot because it’s a Golf, Astra and Focus beater at 434 litres, but a high load lip makes loading and unloading of heavier items a bit more difficult.

Power comes from the well-proven 1.5-litre (110hp) and 1.6-litre (130hp) dCi diesel engines. A 1.2-litre (130hp) TCe turbocharged petrol unit is available on the entry level Expression trim. A sporty ‘Mégane GT’ houses a 1.6-litre TCe (205hp) turbo petrol engine developed by Renaultsport, with 4Control four-wheel steering for extra agility, a class first.

The 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel is the most efficient of the range with emissions of just 96g CO2 and fuel consumption as low as 3.7l/km (76.4mpg). It doesn’t have the outright flexibility of a more powerful engine, so overtaking manoeuvres will require dropping gears to get an adequate shove of torque, but it triumphs for its frugality and refinement. Even when under pressure, this is one diesel that never makes a racket.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: The 1.5 dCi is one of the most refined engines in the segment

Under the skin, the new Megane has been engineered to be more dynamic on the road. It's got a little grippy front end and the steering is tactile and direct so you can place the car confidently on the road. It’s not the most fun to drive of its class, but when pushed the Megane doesn’t put a foot wrong. Whether cruising on the motorway or driving in and around town, it’s a quiet, civilised and comfortable car.

The GT Line has a new toy called ‘Multisense’ technology, and it acts like a driving mode selector.  Settings include comfort, neutral, sport and eco, with different steering and throttle response profiles for each. I was most interested in 'Sport' mode but I found the difference was negligible and it didn't really enhance the driving experience that much.

There are five trim lines for the new Renault Megane on the Irish market: Expression (from €19,490), Dynamique Nav (from €23,990), Dynamique S Nav (from €25,290), GT Line Nav (from €25,990) and GT (from €30,690). Petrol models are available from €19,490, while diesels are available from €21,490, and even the high spec GT Line on test with the 1.5 dCi diesel looks like good value, coming in at €25,990.

Standard equipment on Expression trim includes hill start assist, cruise control, electric front windows, air con and Bluetooth. Stepping up to Dynamique Nav looks worthwhile for 16” alloys, electronic parking brake, auto lights and wipers, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic high/low beam, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, electric, folding door mirrors, electric rear windows, digital speedometer, keycard entry and go, dual zone climate control, Multisense system (ambient lighting and driving modes selector), leather steering wheel, and R-Link 2 multimedia system with 7” touchscreen.

Renault Megane review ireland
Renault Megane: Driving dynamics much improved

So the wait is over and that's the new Megane driven. It's fairly obvious that the new Megane is another design triumph for Renault and brings adventurous design to the C segment, making rivals by comparison look quite conservative in their styling. While the cabin is much improved and the design looks fresh and modern, it's probably the weakest link here when compared to the likes of the new Astra and evergreen Golf because it lacks their refined and premium character, and rear seating space is not as generous as the best in class.

But the Megane pulls a trump card with one of the most refined and frugal diesel engines in the segment, and combined with the Megane’s naturally good driving character, this car is a pleasure for day to day driving.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Renault Megane GT Line Nav dCi 110
Price: 
€25,990 (Range starts €19,490)
Engine: 
1.5-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11.3 seconds
Economy:
76.4mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
96g/km
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year

Renault Megane review ireland


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


toyota prius review ireland

Toyota Prius Review

toyota prius review ireland
The new Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made history when it was first launched back in 1997 as the world’s first hybrid car. Toyota’s pioneering technology combined a petrol engine with an electric motor to produce a low emission vehicle that had the potential to return excellent fuel efficiency.

The beauty of the Prius was that competitive pricing meant this was the car for everyone, not just a trophy piece of cutting-edge technology for the rich and famous. Ironically it became something of a statement for those very people, not for its exclusivity, but for what it stood for, the eco-credentials that it turns out, you just can’t put a price on in Hollywood.

The Prius didn’t look sexy but even before we knew what ‘normcore’ was the Prius was just cool because it was so ordinary, green and clean. The Prius was the world’s most famous environmentally friendly car before the tech bods starting building cars.

Toyota has bounced back for the fourth generation of the Prius with something that looks very interesting. The styling of the new Prius is inspired by Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car and it really is a talking point. Yet somehow the styling suits the pioneering character of this car – the technology underneath may be less groundbreaking than it was back in the late 1990s but in the company of this new sharp, avant-garde Prius, you feel a little bit like you’re already two steps ahead of everyone else.

toyota prius review ireland
The Toyota Prius is adventurously styled

The headline economy data is also worth talking about. Each new generation of the Prius has delivered improvements in fuel economy, emissions and efficiency. In the new Prius, fuel efficiency is up to a claimed 94mpg and CO2 is down to 70g/km.

Inside, it’s like sitting into a concept car for the first time, but unlike something you might find on a stand in Geneva, New York or Paris, everything here is completely usable and functional. The interior works together so well once you get over the shock of the centrally dash mounted driver information screen and handbrake that’s released by a pedal in the footwell.

Instead you have a small compact steering wheel and the car on test had a head-up display with important vehicle information like your speed displayed in the driver's direct line of vision. It’s futuristic but beautifully clean and simple, and the material quality nods to the premium, not the cheap and nasty. Just to the left in your field of vision is a digital speedometer, and other information displayed about your fuel consumption, range, and a power meter.

The Prius again takes the shape of a practical five door hatchback. In the back you will fit three adults and a low transmission tunnel means the middle passenger has a nice flat space to put their feet. Boot space is up to a generous 502 litres thanks to a smaller hybrid battery located beneath the rear seats and a new rear suspension set-up.

toyota prius review ireland
Toyota Prius: The interior has a futuristic vibe but is completely usable

The Prius sits on a new generation of Toyota’s hybrid powertrain. The new platform has a lower centre of gravity for better handling and stability. The Prius feels agile on the road. The steering is light when you want it around town but it weights up nicely in the corners so you can place the car accurately on the road, and there is no problem nipping in and out of corners on a tight country road.

The most pleasing thing about the way the Prius drives is just how smooth, silent and effortless it is on the move. Underneath there’s a conventional 1.8-litre petrol engine and together with the electric motor the system produces 122bhp. That sounds like quite a modest amount of power for a large car but 0-100kmh is just 10.6 seconds.  You get a boost of torque from the electric motor so the Prius pulls away swiftly from a standstill, and even once cruising, there is always more power to tap into.

The Prius features a CVT automatic gearbox as standard and it mostly performs well, unless you should hit the accelerator very hard to pick up speed quickly where it does get noisy, sounding like it’s holding onto the gear without changing, but this is quite characteristic of these gearboxes.  The car switches between electric and hybrid power independent of any driver input and the process is completely silent and seamless. As you pull off and around town under 30kmh you’ll notice the car runs on pure electric power favourably, which we know is good for your wallet too.

toyota prius ireland review
Toyota Prius: The new model will return up to 94mpg

And what of that economy? On some trips I saw as high as 74mpg, though my average for the week with the car was 67mpg. Not bad considering this is a large car with an automatic gearbox, and that also included some motorway runs.  With a number of gauges and meters to measure how economical you are driving, the car actually encourages you to drive in a more eco-friendly way.

The new Prius range starts at €31,450 in Ireland, rising to €33,550 for the Luxury trim. Standard equipment includes LED lights, 15” alloys, Bluetooth, 'Toyota Touch 2' multimedia system with touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering control, road sign assist, and rear view camera. Luxury models add 17” alloys, keyless entry and start, wireless mobile phone charger, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, head-up display, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota has made a valiant effort with this new Prius and it really does feel like a step forward in the right direction for hybrid power. This car could prove to be very economical to run while still enjoying the benefits of a large petrol car with an automatic gearbox – the smoothness of the drive and the blissful noise-free cabin. The styling of this new car will be divisive, maybe just too unusual for some, but at least in the cabin, the futuristic design makes absolute sense and the number of high tech features on this car as standard makes the Prius seem like very good value.

toyota prius review ireland
Toyota Prius: It's time to rethink how you like your hatchbacks

Since the Toyota Prius was first launched, hybrid technology has moved from the fringes to being a more mainstream choice. Yet in Ireland, large cars like the Prius are typically diesel powered…I think a drive in the Prius will make you rethink how you like your big cars.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Toyota Prius Luxury
Price: 
€33,550 (Range starts at €31,450)
Engine: 
1.8-litre four cylinder petrol and electric motor
Power: 
122bhp
0-100km/h:
 10.6 seconds
Economy:
94mpg
CO2 Emissions:
70g/km
Motor Tax:
€170 per year


The very popular Skoda Superb - Ireland loves it!

2015 Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI Diesel Review

The Superb is the flagship model of the Skoda range. It's back for a third generation on a new platform and with a striking new design.  The brand has had high aspirations for its cars for many years now. The new Superb really looks like the car that can deliver on these aspirations.

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgf4AYOY7m0]

With styling inspired by the Skoda VisionC concept car, the new Superb is more dynamic looking than before. It is a genuinely handsome car. It’s a bit taller, wider and longer when compared to the car it replaces, but it carries its size with grace.

The high-end feel is not limited to just the way the new Superb looks from the outside. The cabin has a high-quality finish and a simple, attractive design. At night, a little strip of ambient lighting around the doors and dash adds wow factor (blue, white or green, depending on your preference!).

Inside the 2015 Skoda Superb

There are neat touches everywhere like the umbrella in the driver and passenger door on some models, a cupholder that grips a bottle so you can open it with one hand, an ice scraper inside the fuel cap, and Velcro shopping dividers and a removable torch in the boot. The Superb is a good example of the Skoda ‘Simply Clever’ tagline!

The new car keeps the spectacular class-leading legroom and boot space that the Superb has become known for.  You really have to see it to believe it. The boot is now 30 litres bigger compared to the old car and packs in a huge 625 litres with the rear seats up.

And there’s only one word to describe rear legroom and that’s “stately”!

There’s an extensive engine range including 1.4-litre (125bhp) and 2.0-litre (280bhp) turbo petrols and 1.6-litre (120bhp) and 2.0-litre (150bhp or 190bhp) turbo diesels. Manual or automatic gearboxes are available and there’s also the option of four wheel drive.

My test car was powered by the 2.0-litre diesel with 150bhp. It’s got plenty of pull in it for a big car like this, breaking the 10 second barrier in a sprint from 0 to 100kmh. It will do it in 8.8 seconds with a manual gearbox. It’s a bit grumbly under hard acceleration, but settles down well for cruising.

Driving the Skoda Superb

On the road there is a bit more road noise getting through to the cabin than what I would expect from a large car like this. But it is very comfortable and assured for long trips on the motorway. The handling and steering response do not feel particularly sporty. But the Superb does feel very predictable and safe in the corners.

The 2.0-litre diesel (150bhp) will return up to 69mpg with a manual gearbox and costs €190 to tax per year.

There are four trim levels: Active, Ambition, Style and L&K. Equipment levels are high. Entry level cars get electric windows and mirrors, emergency city brake, cruise control, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen. Though you will need to go up to Ambition for alloy wheels. The Style model I had on test has a whole lot of kit typically associated with a more luxurious car. It included a full leather interior, electrically adjustable, heated front seats, parking sensors, rear view camera, tri zone climate control and an 8” touchscreen including navigation. All cars have Bluetooth phone connectivity and touchscreen infotainment systems. These get bigger and more advanced as you up the trim levels. From Ambition trim up, the Superb comes equipped with "Smartlink". It allows for mirroring of your phone screen and access to selected apps on the infotainment system.

The 2015 Skoda Superb is also a popular used car buy
The 2015 Skoda Superb is also a popular used car buy

Is the Skoda Superb any good?

Skoda has really upped the ante with the new Superb. The brand has had high aspirations for its cars for many years now, and the new Superb really looks like the car that can deliver on these aspirations. For a start it looks the part of a more expensive, premium car - the clean lines, sleek profile and the commanding gaze from that new front end.

But most of us spend more time inside our cars than admiring them from afar and luckily the Superb will do a good job of making you feel special and comfortable behind the wheel. The interior is well-made, there’s not a whiff of budget, and it’s classy in its simplicity of design. Comfort levels are high and even base level cars are well-equipped – but start to go up the trim levels and the equipment is really piled on.

On the road, the Superb’s mature road manners will reassure that the car’s affordability is not sacrificed to poor driving dynamics, and the only inkling that the Superb might not be as premium as it aspires to is a bit more road noise coming into the cabin for it to convince as a truly premium driving experience.

Would you buy it?

But the big selling point for the Superb is that it’s such good value. For an entry price of less than €30,000, you get so much car - so much rear leg room, so much boot space, and plenty of equipment. The fact that this car has a high-end cabin and is sleeker and more striking to look at than before...well that’s just the icing on the cake!

Model Tested: Skoda Superb 2.0-litre TDI (150bhp) Style
Price: 
€35,895 (Range starts at €27,895)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:
8.8 seconds
Economy: 
68.9mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
108g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd


Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature Review

The Renault Captur is a compact crossover based on the Clio. It’s a bit more practical and spacious, with the chunky looks and extra height of an SUV, and the running costs of a small car.

But in a crowded compact crossover, can the Captur stand out?

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef495wasXeM]

Design

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 SignatureYou bet it can stand out from the crowd, on looks alone anyway. The Captur is deliciously compact in the metal with a very colourful presence. It looks every inch the mini off-roader with a curvy, chunky body, plastic cladding and an array of colour customisation options to choose from, ranging from the bright and bold, to the sleek and sophisticated. You can change the colour of the roof, the alloy wheel inserts and bits of pieces of the interior trim, but Renault has simplified the process by offering a number of tried and tested combinations.

While there are a lot of hard plastics in the cabin, the look is modern and funky as opposed to cheap and nasty, and should prove durable and easy to clean. Models with Renault’s R-Link infotainment system look particularly well with a touchscreen in the centre of the dash. Some models have removable seat covers that you can zip off and wash. So whether it’s chocolate, ice-cream or dog hair, there are no excuses not to have clean seats!

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Renault Captur: Colourful, modern and fun cabin
Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Renault Captur: Boot is 377 litres but there are a number of ways to boost the space

The Captur is 6cm longer than the Clio so feels a bit more spacious inside and the extra height makes it easier to access the cabin and the boot, and provides a good, elevated driving position. The boot is 377 litres, with a useful flat loading sill.

But there’s more. You can slide the rear bench forwards from a lever in the boot, or from the cabin, to increase boot space. The boot also has a false floor so when you place that in the very bottom of the boot, and push the rear seats forward, you’ve boosted the boot space to 455 litres. Let down the rear seats and you have 1235 litres to play with.

Driving

There is a small 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol unit or a 1.5-litre diesel to choose from. Both produce 90bhp. My test car has the 1.5 dCi and it’s a real high point for the car because it’s so refined, you’re not even thinking you’re driving a diesel because it’s so quiet on the move. It’s not hugely powerful on paper and you don’t get shoved back into your seat every time you change gear, but it’s not sluggish either and rarely feels out of its depth.

On the road, the Captur is solid and planted, and with that diesel engine, it’s well set up for motorway driving. The steering and pedals are light so it’s a very easy car to drive and the compact dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre and park. The light controls do work a little bit against the Captur on a rural road because the steering can feel a bit vague as you turn in for the corner, and the body roll will put you off driving fast around them.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Renault Captur: 1.5 dCi diesel engine is impressively refined and cheap to run

Economy

The 1.5 dCi has emissions of just 95g CO2/km so will cost just €180 to tax per year. The official economy for this engine is just over 74mpg.

Equipment

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Renault's R-Link infotainment system

There are three trim levels for the Irish market: Life, Intense and Signature.  Standard equipment is very good including four electric windows, Bluetooth, alloys, daytime running lights, cruise control and climate control. Signature trim has recently been added to the range and the kit list is very impressive – additional rear parking sensors, rear view camera, rear privacy glass, part leather upholstery, heated front seats and Renault’s R-Link infotainment system (includes a navigation system). A red touch pack as standard on Signature trim, adds red trim around the vents and the centre console.

Though there’s no four wheel drive option for the Captur, Signature trim adds Renault’s Grip Xtend advanced traction control system. It features three modes (Road, Loose Ground and Expert) and you can toggle between  them via a rotary dial on the centre console.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Renault Captur: A stylish and practical compact crossover

Verdict

The Captur is not the sort of car that will encourage you to drive fast – it’s more of a comfortable, refined and economical one that you will enjoy on the motorway or around town. It’s a small car but Renault has packaged the space really well with clever design touches, and in a crowded compact crossover market the Captur stands out for its style and customisation – without being weird-looking. So if you don’t fall for the space, you will certainly love the way it looks!

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 90 Signature
Price: 
€23,990
Engine: 
1.5-litre diesel
Power: 
90bhp
0-100km/h:
13.1 seconds
Economy: 
74.3mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
95g/km
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year


Ford Focus 1.0T EcoBoost (125PS) Review

Car Review: Ford Focus 1.0T EcoBoost (125PS) 5 Door Hatch Titanium

It’s hard to believe that the Ford Focus has been with us since 1998 but the ubiquity of all three generations of this car on our roads is evidence of its popularity with the Irish motorist. The Ford Focus is consistently one of Ireland’s bestselling cars but this is no fluke or product of clever marketing – it’s one of the finest handling hatchbacks around and has been since its 90’s debut.

But there has to be more to the Ford Focus than just great handling to ward off the competition in the hotly contested medium sized hatchback segment. And that’s what Ford has addressed with the new Focus, by sharpening up the styling and improving the interior, both areas where the car was starting to lag behind rivals.

You can watch a video review of the Ford Focus belowRead more


Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review

2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review

Review: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDm-2 105bhp Exclusive

Alfa Romeo’s stylish five door hatchback has been spruced up for 2014 with some minor cosmetic surgery, some new colours and alloy wheel designs, and a mild interior update. More equipment has been added to the range and some more efficient engines. The aim is to make the Giulietta more competitive in the hotly contested medium sized hatchback segment.

Though you would be forgiven for thinking that Alfa Romeos have all but disappeared from Irish roads, there is something of an Alfa Romeo revival going on at the moment, with the arrival of the 4C sports car getting petrolheads all in a lather and also some updates to the Alfas with more mainstream appeal – the MiTo city car and the Giulietta hatch. For a car that’s been around since 2010, has Alfa done enough to keep the Giulietta fresh and desirable

You can watch my video review of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta here.

Design

Much of the Giulietta’s charm lies in the way it looks. Alfa’s stylish five door hatchback has some tough competition in this popular segment with the evergreen Volkswagen Golf and the dynamic Ford Focus being the bestsellers. Yet the Giulietta chases them under the carpet in terms of style. The styling is evocative and dramatic all the way from the quirky off set number plate and classic Alfa V-shaped grille at the front, to the sculpted profile and those muscular haunches and distinctive LED rear light clusters at the rear. It’s a seriously classy looking car.

2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review
Alfa Romeo Giulietta: there's drama in that V-shaped grille!

We expect luxury from an Alfa, and inside the Alfa manages to convince with the help of some very tasty tan leather seats fitted to the top spec Exclusive trim model. The seats are new too and are fabulous – very comfortable and supportive. These things matter!

Alfa has upgraded the quality of some of the materials and trims used in the cabin and there is a new steering wheel design. I wouldn’t say that the cabin is the last word in plushness, and you will still find some hard plastics lurking where Alfa thought we would never look (!). Still it manages to come off as classy and posh and the clean, modern design is easy to navigate.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review
The cabin of the Giulietta feels very classy and very posh

Some of the switchgear, like the chunky temperature and fan control dials are borrowed from the Fiat 500L, but they work well in the Fiat and they work well here too. A touchscreen with Bluetooth and digital radio sits in the centre console and comes standard across the Giulietta range. It’s one of the best systems I’ve used – easy to navigate and pair up the phone to.

There are still a few frustrating things about the cabin. The driving position is a bit odd and it took me a while to get comfortable but there is lots of adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel so it’s just a case of taking the time to settle in. The driver’s armrest, standard on higher trimmed models, is hopeless because you can’t access the handbrake easily when you have it in the down position. Also there is no place to rest your foot when you take it off the clutch pedal. But look, I don’t know anyone who didn’t buy a car because there was nowhere to rest their foot when they took it off the clutch!

Space wise, the Giulietta is not the most spacious hatchback in this class but it is adequate. The rear doors don’t open out exceptionally wide but once in the back it’s really cosy and the classy feel continues with the high shoulder line of the car making it feel nicely private back there.

The boot is 350 litres, not the biggest boot in the class but again still perfectly acceptable, though the high load lip doesn’t make it the most practical. But the rear of the car looks so gorgeous, we can forgive it.

2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review

Driving

The test car was fitted with the 1.6 litre 105bhp diesel unit. Other engine choices include a new 2.0 litre 150bhp diesel and two turbocharged 1.4 litre petrols, one with 120bhp and the other with 170bhp - a real gem by all accounts. Sound insulation has been improved but there is still some audible engine, road and wind noise coming into the cabin - but it is not unpleasant. The 1.6 litre engine is punchy, refined and economical with an official economy of just over 70mpg, though 60mpg is a bit more realistic for day to day driving over a variety of roads.

The steering is light around town and then weights up when you get out on the open road. The level of feel is enough to make this car enjoyable to drive and matched to tidy handling and brakes that respond well for smooth control of the car, the Giulietta feels more sporty than sedate cruiser. The ride is not overly firm but there is very little body roll and loads of grip so it will please those who like a dollop of fun with their hatchback. Despite a sports suspension and 17 inch wheels on the Exclusive model I was driving, I still found the car comfortable - thought it was a bit jarring over very rough roads.

All models get the Alfa DNA driving selector that alters the steering and throttle response depending on the mode you select – ‘D’ for Dynamic, ‘N’ for Natural (formerly Normal) and ‘A’ for all-weather. There is a notable difference between Natural and Dynamic. In Dynamic mode, you get this little surge of power and the Giulietta turns into a bit of a racer with razor sharp throttle and weightier steering for more precision. You can have a bit of fun with it. But at low speeds, it’s like trying to control an overexcited dog on a lead - the throttle is just too eager! But it’s definitely fun to experiment with it out on the open road.

Economy

The 1.6 litre diesel comes with fuel saving stop start as standard and CO2 emissions are just 104g/km so you will pay €190 to tax it per year. Official economy is 70.6mpg.

Equipment

There are three trim levels, Progression, Distinctive and Exclusive, which is the one we have here. All cars come with electric windows, LED daytime running lights and tail lights, air con, 16” alloy wheels and the aforementioned touchscreen. Go up to Distinctive trim for fog lamps, parking sensors and cruise control. Top spec models in Exclusive trim get 17-inch alloy wheels,  new leather/micro-fibre upholstery, auto lights and wipers, electric-folding door mirrors, dark tinted windows, an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, a rear arm-rest and electric front-seat lumbar support, sports suspension, sports leather steering wheel with red stitching, aluminium sports pedals and kick-plates, darkened headlight clusters, satin-effect mirror covers and side body skirts.

Verdict

The Giulietta stands out for its style and seductive looks. The seduction continues inside with a classy, well-turned out cabin. Thankfully, the Giulietta does not disappoint behind the wheel either, and those who like a sporting feel will enjoy the tidy handing and that DNA driving selector.

But if we are talking about you spending your money on an Alfa Romeo, we need to talk about reliability. The good news is that the quality has improved in recent years but for extra peace of mind, all Alfa Romeos sold in Ireland come with a five year warranty.

With the petrol range starting at €22,500 and the diesel range starting at €24,500, the Giulietta is not the cheap option. But for those sexy looks, an extra bit of exclusivity and the prestige of the Alfa Romeo badge, the Giulietta is a refreshing alternative in the medium-sized hatchback segment.

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDm-2 105bhp Exclusive
Price: 
€28,250 (Giulietta range starts at €22,500)
Engine: 
1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 
105bhp
0-100km/h:  
11.3 seconds
Economy: 
70.6mpg (4.0l/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
104g/km
Tax band: 
A3 (€190 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Ford Kuga Puts Sport in SUV

Car Review: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi (140PS) Titanium S

Compact SUVs are highly fashionable means of transport. The emphasis tends to be more on the sport side of S-U-V than utility but the four wheel drive Ford Kuga I drove had sportiness and utility.

However, the body kit that came standard on my top of the range Titanium S trim car meant that I stayed firmly on tarmac during my test drive!

So how would I rate the Kuga?

Design

The new Kuga is bigger than the one it replaces and it’s one of the best looking SUVs in this class with a genuinely sporty look to it and the sort of presence that will scare the daylights out of supermini drivers. I had the Titanium S model to test and it seriously ranks up the bling with a body kit and 19” inch wheels. The good news is that lesser specced cars look just as good from the outside.

Ford Kuga Review
Ford Kuga: Enough presence to scare the daylights out of supermini drivers

I may have had a few grievances about the interior of the Fiesta and the Focus but the smartly finished cabin with lots of gloss black and an upgraded stereo make Ford’s busy centre console design much more palatable in the Kuga. There is a real feeling of quality to the cabin and once you close the door it’s instantly comforting and homely (if that’s possible for a car!). The Titanium S model has beautiful part leather trimmed seats that are brilliantly supportive and oh so comfy.There is lots of storage in the car including a cubby in the centre console, large door pockets all round and a large glovebox. If cupholders are a priority - there are two in the front and two in the back. There are also separate fan controls for rear passengers, so everyone on board is well catered for.

Ford Kuga Review
The cabin is smart with lashings of gloss black adding a sophisticated feel

It’s comfortable to seat five with loads of head and leg room and you can recline the rear seats easily too. The boot volume has been increased by 46 litres compared to the old model, bringing the total volume to 406 litres with a mini-spare wheel included, but a Honda CRV and Mazda CX5 have bigger boots if that is a priority. The boot has a practical square shape and a handy low and flat loading sill. You can add a “hands-free tailgate” as an option which opens the boot with just a gentle kicking motion under the rear bumper with the keys in your pocket.

Ford Kuga Review
The boot has a practical square shape and a low, flat loading sill

Driving

There was a time when you could expect a 4x4 like the Kuga to lumber about and be a bit “agricultural”. But from the minute you press the start button this Kuga will impress – it’s so car-like to drive and it will hunker down on the road for you like a hot hatch. We expect nothing less from our SUVs. I drove the popular 2.0 litre TDCi with 140bhp and from the get-go it was a wonderful match for the Kuga - swift, quiet and refined. This is a mightily impressive car on the road, probably the best handling compact SUV that you will find, but the ride is a little harsher than expected. But with handling so tight, we don’t mind. Like all Fords, the steering is excellent too with loads of feel.

Economy

The model I drove was four wheel drive so it is thirstier and more expensive to tax than the front wheel drive model. The official economy figure is just under 48mpg and I averaged 40mpg while I had the car. Annual road tax costs a hefty €390.

Equipment

Zetec models get 17” alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated windshield, cruise control, daytime running lights, rear spoiler, twin exhausts, alarm, trip computer and leather steering wheel with remote audio controls. Titanium trim adds unique 17” alloys, auto lights and wipers, front scuff plates, dual zone air conditioning, driver’s lumbar support, partial leather seats, Sony radio/CD, Ford SYNC connectivity and premium centre console with sliding armrest. Titanium S trim adds a body kit, 19” wheels, roof rails, rear parking sensors and Active Park Assist.

Verdict

Ford is leveraging their new Kuga as a luxury SUV and I was very impressed with the fit and finish of the car. Out on the road it is equally impressive, more like a hatchback than a big, lumbering utility vehicle. Buyers of these sorts of vehicles don’t really care for the utility part of S-U-V. They really just want the space and 4x4 attitude. The Kuga scores for its excellent handling and refinement, tough looks and oodles of space.

Model tested: Ford Kuga Titanium S
Price: €43,370 (Kuga range starts at €33,450)

Transmission: 6 speed manual, four wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 litre TDCi, turbo diesel
Power: 140bhp
0-100km/h: 10.7 seconds
Economy: 47.9 mpg (5.9l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 154g/km
Tax band: C (€390 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Ford Focus vs Honda Civic vs Peugeot 308

This week I'm taking three diesel hatchback rivals from Ford, Honda and Peugeot and pitting them against one another. The diesel hatchbacks I've tested here have broad appeal due to their affordable combination of space, comfort, practicality, economy and performance.

In isolation, the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Peugeot 308 are very good cars, but I've brought together diesel versions of all three to see how they compare.

Peugeot 308
A strong, muscular silhouette and sharp new grille give the Peugeot 308 real kerb appeal

Design

The Peugeot 308 is easily the best-looking car of the trio. It is understated but stylish in a similar vein to German premium hatchback rivals - some may be surprised to find Peugeot’s lion emblem on the front rather than four rings or a three pointed star.

The Civic is very distinct with sharp, angular styling. It looks like no other family hatchback, but that makes it a little bit of a Marmite car – you will love the dynamic styling or else you will be completely turned off by it.

The Ford Focus has been with us since 2011 making it the oldest car here. It’s not a bad looking car – it just looks bland in this company. Higher spec Zetec and Titanium models do benefit from more dramatic alloy wheels and chrome detailing that add more presence.

Silver Ford Focus
Ford Focus

The 308 has the best cabin of all three on the surface of things. It's beautifully designed with a real feeling of quality. The cabin in the Ford just doesn't feel as luxurious unless you go for a higher specced model and the the centre console looks heavy and clumsy. The driving position is really good though and the white illuminated dials with blue needles give it a sporty feel. The Honda has a really well built cabin but an unusual layout that might put some off. The indigo illuminated dials are really striking and the seats are plush - it's no bad place to be.

Practicality

All three offer great shoulder and headroom up front for a driver and passenger to sit comfortably without rubbing elbows every time the driver changes gear. The boot in the Ford Focus is a practical shape and a full size spare wheel is included, but it falls short of class standards at just 277 litres. The Peugeot 308 by comparison has an impressive 470 litres of boot space, and a full size spare wheel has been squeezed in too. However, both the Civic and the Focus feel more spacious than the 308 in the rear. The Honda Civic offers a good balance between interior space and boot space. At 477 litres the boot in the Civic is the largest of our trio, but there is no spare wheel – a tyre repair kit comes as standard instead.

Driving

Honda Civic
Honda Civic: avant-garde looks you won't find anywhere else in this segment

The Focus, 308 and Civic are all very comfortable and ideal for long sprints on the motorway. The Ford Focus is the driver’s car of the bunch with very precise steering, great handling and a real sure footedness about it out on the road. But the diesel engine is the least powerful here with 95bhp and it’s noisy and less refined compared to the similarly sized engines in the Civic and 308, though remember there is a 115bhp diesel available for the Focus too that offers more similar power and performance to the other cars tested here. The 308 is not as engaging to drive as the Focus but the 1.6 litre 115bhp diesel engine is punchy and super refined. The 120bhp Civic is the most powerful car of our trio and it is easy to access the power no matter what gear you are in. It’s smooth and refined to go with it and though it's not quite as fun to drive as a Focus, on balance the Civic is the pick of the bunch.

Economy

Fuel saving start/stop technology is standard on our three test cars. The Ford Focus is the thirstiest car of our trio with manufacturer’s quoted fuel economy of 4.2 litres per km (but that's still over 60mpg!). The Peugeot 308 manages an impressive 3.8 litres per km. The Honda Civic is the most frugal of the bunch at 3.6 litres per km.

Equipment

The Ford Focus we tested was in Edition spec and is the cheapest of the cars we tested. The kit list is a bit sparse but you do get electric front windows and mirrors, alloys, Ford Sync, steering wheel mounted audio controls and air con. You need Zetec trim for fog lamps and Titanium trim for cruise control.

The Honda Civic we drove didn't feel budget despite being an entry level model. In Comfort spec it has Bluetooth, alarm, LED daytime running lights, air con, alloy wheels. four electric windows, hill start assist and steering wheel mounted audio controls. For cruise control and front fog lamps you need to go up to Sport trim.

The Peugeot 308  we tested is the mid range Active trim and  has a really good level of equipment for the money including a touchscreen, Bluetooth, dual zone air con, alloy wheels, programmable cruise control, four electric windows, fog lamps, auto lights & wipers, hill start assist and rear parking sensors.

Verdict

And the winner is...

Honda Civic
The Honda Civic offers great practicality despite Marmite looks and the 1.6 litre i-DTEC delivers on balance between power and refinement

Our three diesel hatchbacks on test each have their own individual merits. The Peugeot 308 has the classy looks, big boot and punchy, refined engine. The Focus has a mature feel to it but the superb handling means it is anything but dull. However, the Focus is starting to look a bit dated now and the 308 is just not as fun to drive. In this company, the Honda Civic just edges ahead with its refined yet powerful and fuel efficient engine, comfort and space, and just enough driver engagement to keep us happy behind the wheel.

Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi EditionHonda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC ComfortPeugeot 308 1.6 HDi Active
Price€22,845€24,195€24,390
Engine1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel
Power95bhp120bhp115bhp
0-100kmh12.5 secs10.5 secs10.2 secs
Fuel economy67mpg78.5mpg74mpg
CO2109g/km94g/km98g/km
Tax BandA3 (€190 per year)A2 (€180 per year)A2 (€180 per year)

Caroline Kidd