Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland Review

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review

The Volkswagen Passat is one of Ireland’s favourite big saloons and it has been for many years. Diesel dominates in this segment but it’s not the only option.

Volkswagen has added a plug-in hybrid to the Passat range but it’s not just some lethargic afterthought to play second fiddle to its diesel brethren: the new Volkswagen Passat GTE is more of a flagship model with sporty performance and the promise of low running costs.

Available as a saloon or estate, the Passat’s already handsome presence is enhanced with a number of cosmetic changes to distinguish the GTE from the rest of the range. At the front there are C-shaped LED daytime running lights and a blue bar across the radiator grille that extends into the headlights, while 18” alloy wheels with blue brake callipers complete the look.

The blue theme continues inside with complementary detail on the seats, around the gear lever, and on the steering wheel. The traditional speedometer is joined by a power meter for the hybrid system. The cabin has all the quality and comfort of a standard Passat and equipment includes cruise control, parking sensors, dual zone climate control, ambient lighting and a 6.5” touchscreen with navigation. There is seating for five and generous legroom in the back, but boot space is down to 402 litres to accommodate the battery.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: Plug-in hybrid combines a petrol engine and an electric motor

The Passat GTE follows in the footsteps of the Golf GTE by combining a  1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric motor to improve performance and reduce running costs. The power output of the two sources combined is a healthy 218hp, while the 0-100kmh sprint is done in 7.4 seconds utilising the maximum 400Nm torque available. It is definitely not slow as one might expect of a ‘green car’.

But Volkswagen do tout this car as “the best of both worlds” so what of those green credentials? It can’t all be about performance, though that is impressive. Emissions of 39g of CO2 per km mean motor tax is just €170 per year. The claimed economy is a whopping 138.3 mpg, but that depends very much on how you drive this Passat.

The Passat GTE can potentially be a very cheap car to run because it can operate as a pure electric vehicle for a range of up to 50km, which is ideal for short commutes or when driving at low speeds around town. Otherwise the GTE acts as a hybrid so it draws power from both the petrol engine and the electric motor as appropriate. It’s definitely worth keeping the battery topped up, via the domestic mains supply or a public charging point, because the car becomes less efficient when forced to operate from its petrol engine.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: A 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox comes as standard

This car has a lot of driver appeal. When you request the power, the delivery is strong and super smooth through the 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox and any transitions going on between the different power sources are completely seamless. Volkswagen has added a GTE button, which acts as a sort of sport mode, altering the acceleration and steering for a sportier, more performance-oriented drive that’s enhanced by some piped engine noise into the cabin.  It rumbles like a V8 with a heavy right foot, which is quite surprising when coming from a hybrid!

The Passat GTE is too heavy to be an outright sporting saloon but it’s still pleasingly agile for a large car and Volkswagen has added an XDS electronic differential lock to improve cornering grip. This really works for confident cornering at speed and you can take a tight line with loads of grip.

Yet performance aside, the best thing about the Volkswagen Passat GTE is that it’s naturally a really comfortable and relaxed cruiser. The near silence of the hybrid system in operation just highlights even more how upmarket and refined this current generation of the Passat is.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Review Ireland
Volkswagen Passat GTE: Can run on electric power only for a range of up to 50km

The only problem with the Volkswagen Passat GTE is that it is expensive to buy. The saloon starts at €42,430 and the estate at €44,720 including the SEAI grant and VRT rebate. You could pick up a diesel Passat for significantly less than that and depending on your lifestyle, the GTE won’t work out any cheaper to run.

Hybrids are a more mainstream  car choice now and there are other large hybrids available from other brands so the Passat GTE is not alone in this respect. The beauty of the Passat GTE is that it’s a properly premium offering and Volkswagen hasn’t messed too much with the Passat DNA bringing this hybrid version to market.  So it’s not weird looking and for the right buyer, it brings all the comfort, interior space and refinement that makes the Passat so popular. There’s still a novel value to the Passat GTE – innovative technology, the ability to drive as an EV and a sporty side – and that makes the list price not look so bad.

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE 1.4TSI
Price: 
€42,430 including SEAI grant and VRT rebate
Engine: 
1.4-litre turbo petrol & electric motor
Power: 
218hp
0-100km/h:  
7.4 seconds
Economy: 
138.3mpg
CO2 emissions:  
39g/km
Motor tax: 
€170 per year

Caroline Kidd


Volkswagen Tiguan Review Ireland

Volkswagen Tiguan Review (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caroline Kidd


Volkswagen Golf SV review ireland

Volkswagen Golf SV Review (2016)

Volkswagen Golf SV review ireland
The Volkswagen Golf SV

In the mid-noughties, Volkswagen hopped on the trend for small MPVs and launched a five seat MPV version of the Golf. The early incarnations were called the Golf Plus; this small MPV has now evolved into the Volkswagen Golf SV.

Think of it as a plus size version of the popular Golf hatchback. Compared to a standard Golf, the SV is higher, longer and a bit wider, but the Volkswagen family DNA is still plain to see. The Golf SV is conservatively styled to blend in rather than stand out, and looks like a slightly smaller Touran MPV.

Inside, the interior borrows heavily from the Golf, sharing a lot of the same switchgear and the same basic dash layout. The centre console is dominated by a touchscreen that is one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems on the market. The material quality is good around the cabin but there is nothing really memorable about the interior. Yet the controls are all so perfectly placed and logical to use that the Golf SV is a car you soon feel at home in, even if it is not the most sensuous of homes.

But within the confines of the Golf SV's boxy body what you will find is comfortable 'living space'. The interior of the Golf SV is much more spacious than a Golf hatchback. There is a lot of extra headroom and a longer wheelbase means that there is really excellent legroom in the back. This car really scores as bright, family friendly transport, provided you have three kids not five, because this is strictly a five seater. You will need to step up to a Touran if you need those extra two seats.

Predictably for a car aimed at families, there are loads of clever storage spaces, pull down tables on the back of the front seats, and two Isofix child seat fixtures on the rear bench. The boot is 500 litres compared to 380 in the Golf hatch and can be expanded to 590 litres by sliding the rear bench forwards. There is a low sill that makes it easy to load and the boot is square in shape.

Volkswagen Golf SV review ireland
The interior of the Volkswagen Golf SV

The engine line-up for Ireland is made up of the 1.2-litre TSI petrol (85hp or 110hp), the 1.6-litre diesel (90hp or 110hp) and a top of the range 2.0-litre diesel (150hp). There are 5- and 6-speed manual gearboxes and a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The 110hp 1.6-litre TDI is the most efficient with emissions of 101g/km placing it in motor tax band A3 with annual motor tax of €190.

I tested the 1.6TDI with 110bhp and it’s nippy enough for the Golf SV. My test car had the 7-speed DSG gearbox and it was a reminder of just how good Volkswagen’s automatic gearboxes are. With this combination, the Golf SV is a smooth and relaxing drive. An on-throttle engine drone at high speeds is the only irritant.

Elsewhere, this is safe, predictable motoring. You sit high in the car, and there is great visibility all round. On the road, the Golf SV doesn’t feel as tight as a standard Golf and there is more body roll in the corners, but the steering is direct and accurate and there is good grip from the front end so it's still a nifty mover. The suspension also does a good job of isolating occupants from the worst of the bumps and uneven surfaces and this is largely a smooth way to travel.

In Ireland there are currently three trim grades for the Volkswagen Golf SV: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. Standard equipment includes electric windows, air conditioning, 5-inch touchscreen radio with Aux-In, SD card slot and Bluetooth, and an electronic parking brake with hill hold. Comfortline specification adds a leather multifunction steering wheel, 16” alloy wheels, drawers under the front seats, a larger 6-inch touch-screen radio, cruise control, front fog lights, front comfort seats and lumbar support, a rear centre armrest with load-through provision and a black radiator grille with chrome strips on the fins.

Volkswagen Golf SV review ireland
Volkswagen Golf SV: Plus-size five seat family transport

The top of the range Highline specification adds 17” alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, chrome strips on the side windows, rear privacy glass, ambient lighting, Alcantara trimmed seats, and a sports suspension. Volkswagen Ireland offer a number of 162 Innovation Packs, which add more equipment for just €162. Petrol models start at €23,025, while diesels start at €25,225.

The Volkswagen Golf SV is not glamourous or sexy, but it's big and honest. The boost up, out and at the back makes the Golf SV a very practical means of transporting a small family and their things.

Though some driving fun and style is compromised over a hatchback, the Golf SV is still a quality offering in this segment with decent refinement and on road driving manners.

Whether it's petrol or diesel you're after, there is an engine here that will prove frugal and capable, and Volkswagen's DSG automatic gearboxes are some of the best specimens should you wish for a super easy driving experience behind the wheel.

The Volkswagen Golf SV does little to excite but it’s got the bases covered as a dependable family car.

Caroline Kidd

Model Tested: Volkswagen Golf SV Lounge 1.6TDI 110hp DSG
Price: 
€29,450 (Lounge trim discontinued, this is price for a similarly specced Comfortline)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11.3 seconds
Economy:
69mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
106g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year


Volkswagen Sharan Ireland Review

Volkswagen Sharan Review

Volkswagen Sharan Ireland Review
The Volkswagen Sharan

Volkswagen has recently reintroduced the Sharan to Ireland and it’s one of the few MPVs on the market that is a genuine seven seater (i.e. adults welcome in row 3), and a blessing for large families. I recently reviewed the Volkswagen Touran; the Sharan is like a bigger Touran and sliding rear doors make it even more practical.

The Sharan won’t win any beauty contests but then again none of its competitors are likely to either. Aside from looking quite huge when stationary outside your house or in the car park - where it really does dwarf small hatchbacks – the styling won’t draw attention to it and that’s probably best.

Inside, the Sharan hasn’t had the same upmarket makeover as the new Touran and looks a bit more plastic. But it's the quality that we expect from Volkswagen and will stand the test of time. The seats are really comfortable, and there are storage places in every row, all the way to the very back! They’re under the seats, in the roof, on top of the dash, behind the seats…yeah no problems on storage.

Volkswagen Sharan Ireland Review
Volkswagen Sharan: Interior is quite plain but of good quality

How practical is the Volkswagen Sharan?

Passenger space is brilliant as expected. My test car had electric rear sliding doors, which made access to the back really easy.  In row two, there are three individual seats with Isofix child seat fixtures and each can be slid forward or back independent of the others. This is good because you can use this to make more legroom for passengers in row 3. Access to row 3 is simple with a quick pull of a lever and once back there, it would be comfortable enough for your average adult, though these seats tend to be where the children sit anyway.

With row 3 seats in place, this is usually where MPVs struggle for boot space but Volkswagen has squeezed 300 litres into the Sharan. When the seats in row 3 are folded down into the floor, what’s left is enormous – 711 litres.

Volkswagen Sharan Ireland Review
Volkswagen Sharan: Sliding doors allow easy access to rear seats

While space and practicality are a priority, the Sharan also happens to be a nice MPV to drive. For sure it’s big, but on the road it is as easy to drive and place on the road as a Golf. The controls are all light, it’s smooth to drive, and the cabin excludes most of the engine and road noise. The handling and grip are good for a large MPV – not sporting, but good enough to get from A to B quickly and safely.

What are my options?

There is just one engine for the Sharan and that’s the 2.0-litre 150bhp diesel. It has adequate power for this large MPV and the refinement of the engine is very good. With the manual gearbox it will return up to 56mpg, with emissions of 130g CO2 per km putting it in tax band B.

There are a choice of two trim levels, Comfortline and Highline, and the option of an automatic gearbox. Comfortline models are priced from €42,000 and come with 16" alloys, a leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, 3-zone climatronic air conditioning, four electric windows, touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth, parking sensors and front fog lights.

Highline models start at €46,760 and include leather trim, heated front seats, 17" alloys, Adaptive Cruise Control including city emergency brake functions, Front Assist and keyless entry and start. Currently a navigation system, rear view camera and electric rear sliding doors can be added for just an extra €161.

Volkswagen Sharan Ireland Review
Volkswagen Sharan: A versatile family car that's good to drive too

Is it a good family car?

The Volkswagen Sharan’s versatile interior and sliding rear doors make this an excellent family car, and it’s one of the few cars on the market that can transport seven full-size adults. Yet rather than feeling like a slightly more plush mini-bus, the Sharan goes about its business with serious polish and refinement.

Seven seat motoring ain’t all that bad.

Model tested: Volkswagen Sharan 2.0-litre TDI 150bhp Comfortline
Price: 
€42,900
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:  
10.3 seconds
Economy: 
56mpg (5.0/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
130g/km
Tax band: 
B1 (€270 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Volkswagen Passat GTE Ireland

Volkswagen Passat GTE On Sale

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


Volkswagen Touran ireland review

Volkswagen Touran Review

Caroline reviews the Volkswagen Touran.

There comes a time when only an MPV will do. Seven seats, doors that open wide, a high seating position, ease of access and cubby holes where you didn’t know cubby holes could exist. If these things make you excited then you’ll really want to stick around and read more about the new Volkswagen Touran.

This car has practicality at its core.  You don’t buy an MPV because you like the way it looks, though it helps if it’s somewhat attractive. No, you buy it because you need a bus to ferry your kids. The Touran is not the prettiest MPV. But the updated styling does look more upmarket on the outside compared to the car it replaces. And it’s spacious and family-friendly on the inside.

All Tourans for the Irish market come with seven seats as standard. Though leg room is tight in those extra two seats, so they are more suited to children. The extra seats fold neatly into the floor when not needed to reveal a large, square boot (743 litres) that can be easily stacked to the roof. With the third row of seats in space, boot space is minimal at 137 litres, but there is still room for a few bags.

Inside the Volkswagen Touran

Interior space has been improved thanks to a longer wheelbase and there is also a bit more headroom all round. There are three individual, full-size seats in the second row and five Isofix fittings (second and third row). The second row of seats can be slid forward and back individually to give those in the very back a bit more leg room. There are kid-friendly features like pull down trays behind the front seats. Large windows mean everyone gets a good view out, and there are big door pockets among the total of 47 storage compartments that are in the new Touran.

The Touran is also super plush and in terms of fit and finish, it’s a match for any premium rival. The driving is easy behind the wheel of the Touran. All the controls come easy to hand, the seats are comfy and supportive, and visibility is great all round from all that glazing. The square shape of the car make it easy to manoeuvre and park.

The interior of the Volkswagen Tiguan
The interior of the Volkswagen Tiguan

On the road the Touran belies its size. It’s agile, grips willingly and the steering is really good. So you can confidently get in and out of those corners with relative stability for something so big. It would be a bit much to say it’s fun to drive but driving this daily won’t be a drag.

Above all it’s smooth and comfortable. The 2.0-litre diesel with 150bhp in the test car is perfect for tugging a full family on board. It’s a bit noisy under hard acceleration but settles down well for cruising. Road and wind noise is well suppressed to make it mostly a serene cruiser. Other engine options include an entry level 1.2-litre TSI or 1.6-litre TDI, both with 110bhp. The diesels have similar economy figures - up to 64mpg and €200 for annual motor tax for both the 1.6- and 2.0-litre.

What are my options?

There are three trim levels (Trendline, Comfortline and Highline) and petrol models start at €29,725. Diesel models start at €31,970.  A six speed manual comes as standard with the option of a seven speed DSG automatic transmission on diesels.

The new Touran has a five star EuroNCAP safety rating and safety equipment includes a forward collision warning and city emergency brake as standard. A fatigue detection driver alert system is standard from Comfortline trim.

Trendline models come with 16” steel wheels, 5” Composition Colour radio system, air con, Bluetooth and media-in jack with USB charging. Comfortline adds 16” alloys, front fog lights, parking sensors, 6.5” Composition Media radio system with CD player and 8 speakers, cruise control, and a folding front passenger seat for extra practicality. Highline models have Adaptive Cruise Control, 17” alloy wheels, sports suspension, 3 zone climate control, and a multifunction display in colour.

The ‘161’ pack was added to the test car and for €161 includes a panoramic sunroof, Park Assist and Light Assist on the Highline model. There are a host of optional extras available too. There's a rear view camera for €249, lane assist for €579, navigation system including Car-Net for €811 and two integrated child seats in the 2nd row of seats for €513.

Did you like it?

The new Touran has taken a leap forward in quality and sophistication. A versatile, spacious interior with two extra seats in the very back might be all you think you need. The Touran gives you that but also manages to be good to drive. Some rivals have more flair in terms of style and some are that bit more exciting to drive. But the Touran has an edge on rivals because it feels like a truly premium offering in the mid-size MPV segment.

Volkswagen Touran ireland review
Volkswagen Touran: A large, flexible family car

Model tested: Volkswagen Touran 2.0-litre TDI 150bhp Highline
Price: 
€38,485 (Range starts at €29,725)
Engine: 
2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
150bhp
0-100km/h:  
9.3 seconds
Economy: 
64mpg (4.4l/100km)
CO2 emissions:  
117g/km
Tax band: 
A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd


The Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid

Volkswagen Golf GTE Review (2015)

Caroline drives the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTE.

Here’s an interesting one - the new Volkswagen Golf GTE. The Golf GTE is Volkswagen’s new plug-in hybrid and it promises the best of both worlds – GTI-like performance but with less fuel consumption and low emissions.  Could it be possible?

Scroll down to read a review or watch my Golf GTE video:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM5Uu3Hb0Is]

The Golf GTE certainly looks the part of a hot hatch and it is branded as an equal to the GTI. The usual GTI badges are replaced by GTE ones and where red is the accent colour for the GTI, blue is used to highlight the GTE’s electric mobility.

The GTE sits on low profile, five spoke 18” ‘Nogaro’ alloy wheels with lovely blue brake callipers poking through the spokes. A twin exhaust and LED lights front and rear mark it out as a performance Golf. From a distance however, the most distinguishing features are the C shaped LED daytime running lights below the front headlamps.

Inside the 2015 Volkswagen GTE

The Golf GTE’s cabin takes the simple, classy layout of its sister cars but adds a touch of uniqueness with the blue theme continued inside. The famous GTI tartan is checked with blue not red, there’s blue stitching on the steering wheel and around the gear stick. There's also some really cool blue ambient lighting at night. It does feel a bit special and like all Golfs, the quality is really good throughout. Interior space is good for the class. However because the Golf GTE has a battery on board, the boot is significantly smaller than in a standard Golf . It's down from 380 litres to 272 litres, which is more supermini territory.

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTE gets its performance credentials from an electric motor and a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine paired to a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The maximum power output of those two sources combined is 204hp, compared to 220hp from the GTI’s 2.0-litre TSI. The GTE will hit 100km/h from a standstill in 7.6 seconds (6.5 seconds in a GTI) and go on to a maximum speed of 222km/h.

The interior of the Volkswagen Golf GTE
The interior of the Volkswagen Golf GTE

Though slightly down on power compared to the GTI, the GTE has the same 350Nm of torque. It can keep up with its fellow GT cars while emitting just 39g CO2 per km. To buy a GTE over the GTI those economy figures have to be strong. Motor tax for the GTE is just €170. An amazing 166mpg was returned in official tests but don’t get carried away. Fuel economy will vary a lot depending on your driving style, the distance travelled and how often you drive on electric power only. And considering how much fun this car is to drive when it’s in full on attack mode, you might find yourself at the pumps more than you wished if you don’t practice some restraint. I did.

How does it work?

So how are you going to get the best from this car? The GTE is a plug-in hybrid so you can operate this car as an electric vehicle. This will be the most economical way. The GTE can be charged at home via a three point plug (approx. 3 hours 45 minutes for a full charge) or from a special car charging wall box (2 hours 15 minutes).

The snag is that on a full charge there is a limited range of up to 50km. But if you have a short commute or tend to drive mostly around town, you could charge this car every night. Then drive on electric power only and very rarely visit the pumps. The battery can be replenished somewhat while driving because every time you brake or lift off the accelerator some energy is restored into the battery.

But should you want to head out of town, the great thing is that you can operate this car as a hybrid. You will draw power from the petrol engine and the electric motor so there’s no such thing as range anxiety when driving the GTE. You can move between electric and hybrid mode in the Golf GTE with just the press of a button. The Golf GTE is to be commended for how seamless the power change is. This car is so smooth but if you would like more information about the cool stuff that’s going on underneath, there are a number of driver information screens and gauges to keep you informed.

Charging the Volkswagen Golf GTE
Charging the Volkswagen Golf GTE

On the road in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTE

Put your foot down hard on the accelerator in hybrid mode and the GTE takes off swiftly. But there’s no particular drama about it in this mode. It just feels like a quick hybrid. There has to be more of an element of performance to the GTE and there is. That’s what the magic GTE button is for. In this mode the electric motor and petrol engine work together, but with a bias towards performance rather than economy. You will drink fuel in this mode like any good old fashioned fossil fuel burning hot hatch.

The throttle response gets sharper, the steering gets a bit heavier. The ride firms up, the DSG gearbox changes gear quicker and stays in lower gears ready to accelerate on demand, and you also get a more sporty soundtrack. It’s artificial but as fake engine noises go, it does sound good.  The biggest surprise is just the boost of power you get when you put your foot to the floor in GTE mode. It is brilliant fun.

Is it any good?

Ok, so the GTE is a heavier car than the GTI because of the extra weight of the battery and it’s got a bit less power. But this is still a fine car to drive. There’s a lovely natural feedback to the steering, there’s that instant torque hit. It’s got the same XDS electronic differential lock as the GTI and GTD to improve traction and reduce understeer during fast cornering. You can confidently carry speed into a corner in the GTE - it feels flat, balanced, and there’s great traction out of the bends.

The Golf GTE is available in Ireland now
The Golf GTE is available in Ireland now

So how can we sum up the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTE? It’s an interesting prospect - a car that can be ran virtually cost free in EV mode but let loose for bursts of noisy, fuel gulping fun at the touch of a button.  Yet aside from those bursts of acceleration in GTE mode and that bit of extra noise, there’s nothing particularly menacing about the Golf GTE. So if you want your hot hatchback to scare you look elsewhere. But this is a fantastic piece of machinery and the real beauty of this car is the options it gives you, its different personalities and the ease of which it moves between them.

Read our latest review of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTE.

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTE 1.4TSI PHEV 5-door DSG
Price: 
€38,930 including grant and VRT rebate
Engine: 
1.4-litre turbo petrol & electric motor
Power: 
204hp
0-100km/h:  
7.6 seconds
Economy: 
166mpg
CO2 emissions:  
39g/km
Motor tax: 
€170 per year

Caroline Kidd


The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Review

The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

Caroline drives the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.

Watch my video review or scroll down to read a review:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLwHS4n21B8]

Four wheel drive estate cars are niche products. They are the preference of upmarket folk who live in the country or in a salubrious suburb of our capital city. With the SUV boom and the clamour for tank-like proportions on the road, the estate car has found itself pushed out so far that you’re almost a quirky type if you choose to go the long and lean route. Drive an estate car? You’re the new alternative.

However Volkswagen really does have this small market nailed with the new Passat Alltrack, which has arrived here for the first time in the model’s history. It’s a four wheel drive version of a standard Passat estate. It will take you from the road to the rough in a lot of style and comfort.

Go for Habanero Orange, a vibrant orange exclusive to the Alltrack, and there’s no mistaking the fact that the Alltrack is a bit special. Grey plastic cladding along the car’s lower extremities, a raised ride height, silver roof rails and the twinkle of some chrome, give the Alltrack an imposing presence.

The interior of the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
The interior of the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

How big is the Passat Estate inside?

Inside it’s the big, comfy, robust car you want it to be, with a sleek interior design and premium finish. The boot will carry 639 litres with the rear seats up, and expands to 1769 litres with the rear seats folded down. In terms of equipment it’s got all the essentials as standard. There's adaptive cruise control, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, a touchscreen infotainment system including navigation, heated front seats, air conditioning, alloy wheels and front fog lights.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre diesel with two different power outputs depending on which gearbox you go for. It’s 150bhp with the manual, but I tested the higher powered version  with the DSG automatic transmission and 190bhp.

I did three motorway trips in three days in the Passat Alltrack. Each time I stepped out of the car I felt like getting back into it and heading out on the road again. There was just not enough time to do all the driving I could have done in this. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful and smooth car to drive. With four wheel drive, it puts its power to the road with little fuss, even in the most dismal of weather. The extra height and weight is apparent – there’s lean in fast corners - and you don’t exactly feel light on the road, but it’s a small compromise for all this comfort.

What can a Volkswagen Passat Estate tow?

And what should happen if you do venture off road? A drive selector allows you to toggle between normal, sport, eco and off-road modes. The latter includes a hill ascent and hill descent control to help you look awesome at off-roading. The Passat Alltrack has a towing load of up to 2.2 tonnes. But you could make life easier by heading to the options list and selecting the foldable trailer hitch that can be operated easily from a switch in the boot. There's also an optional trailer assist feature to help park a trailer.

Towing power and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
Towing power and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

A car like this does not come cheap. The Alltrack range starts at €40,940, while the higher powered DSG starts at €46,755. Running costs are going to be a bit higher when compared to a conventional Passat. Official figures suggest a return of up to 55mpg for the DSG, and motor tax of €280 per year.

As a four wheel drive estate car, the Passat Alltrack is a niche product. If you’re just looking for a big estate car, a standard Passat estate will probably do the trick and save you some money too.

But if you do have that need for four wheel drive, whether for poor road conditions or driving on muddy tracks or through wet fields with maybe a caravan in tow, the Passat Alltrack really is the full package of comfort, space, power, refinement, utility and style.

Caroline Kidd

The Alltrack is the ultimate Passat Estate!
The Alltrack is the ultimate Passat Estate!

Model tested: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Business Edition
Price: 
€48,355 (Alltrack range starts at €40,940)
Engine & Transmission: 
2.0-litre TDI 4MOTION DSG
Power: 
190bhp
0-100km/h:  
7.7 seconds
Economy: 
55.4mpg
CO2 emissions:  
135g/km
Tax band: 
B2 (€280 per year)


The Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review (2015)

The Volkswagen Golf Estate
The Volkswagen Golf Estate

The Volkswagen Golf Estate hasn’t been sold in Ireland since 2004 but now it’s back in the current Golf Mk 7 range.

So what happens when you add a big boot to one of Ireland’s favourite hatchbacks?

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review of the new Golf Estate:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbF1svTcfsE]

The Golf Estate has the look of a ‘sensible’ car. Like the Golf hatchback it’s based on, it doesn’t do too much to draw attention to itself and is one of the plainer looking estate cars among its rivals. Highline models look the best with 17” inch alloys and silver roof rails as standard.

Sit inside and you will be hard-pressed to find an interior in this segment as brilliantly crafted as the one in the Golf Estate. The cockpit and controls are all intuitive to use, the quality is really good, and the brushed silver effect on the dash inserts and around the doors on my mid-range Comfortline test car add an element of style.

The interior of the Volkswagen Golf Estate
The interior of the Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate Boot Space

Aesthetics aside, the USP for the Golf Estate is its big, square boot. With the rear seats in place, there is 605 litres of cargo space compared to 380 litres in the Golf hatch. It’s very cargo friendly with a wide opening and low loading sill, and you can let the rear seats down with a simple pull of a lever in the boot.

If you need more versatility from your car, the great thing about going for an estate over an MPV or SUV is that the estate is so car-like on the road.

The Golf Estate is no different. It’s a satisfying car to drive and feels agile and dynamic despite that bit of extra bulk on the back. There are reassuring amounts of grip so you get that sensation going around corners that it’s hunkering down on the road for you, and the steering responds quickly and accurately to your inputs.

The engine line-up is very straight forward for the Golf Estate. The backbone of the range is the 1.2 TSI petrol engine and 1.6 TDI diesel, both producing a respectable 110bhp. Lower powered versions of both engines are available on the entry level Trendline model and a 2.0 litre TDI diesel with 150bhp is available on Highline, the very top level trim. Volkswagen’s DSG 7-speed automatic gearbox is available on select engines too.

The Golf Estate has a very practical boot
The Golf Estate has a very practical boot

What's the Volkswagen Golf Estate diesel like?

My test car had the 1.6 diesel with 110bhp and the DSG automatic gearbox, which turned out to be a lovely combination. The DSG gearbox made progress smooth and effortless, while the 1.6 TDI provided enough power and torque to feel swift, with much of the noise suppressed thanks to a well-insulated cabin.

The 1.6TDI DSG automatic returns up to 70mpg with an annual motor tax bill of €190.

There are four trim levels for the Golf Estate: Trendline, Comfortline, Lounge and Highline. Entry level models have four electric windows and mirrors, aircon, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen infotainment system with CD player, though you need to step up to Comfortline for 16” alloy wheels. Additional equipment on Comfortline includes fog lights, cruise control and a larger touchscreen for  infotainment. Lounge has its own unique 16” alloy wheels and ‘Lounge’ interior including a panoramic sunroof. Highline gets a visual upgrade with silver finish on the roof rails and 17” alloy wheels, parking sensors and dual zone climate control. Volkswagen Ireland currently has a number of offers where you can spec up your car for less money.

Did you like it?

So we’ve established that the Volkswagen Golf Estate has a really big, practical boot that makes it more user-friendly than the Golf hatchback.

But in terms of compact estate cars, they all have that, and if you want to crunch the numbers you’ll find that the Golf Estate doesn’t even have the biggest boot in the class.

It’s also one of the plainer looking cars among its rivals, and it won’t be the cheapest to buy either.

But what makes the Golf Estate stand out from the crowd is that touch of class and air of refinement. For a start, there’s the classy, well-finished cabin that won’t irritate you.

Then on the road, the Golf Estate never puts a foot wrong. Precision and driver engagement don’t need to be sacrificed now that you need a ‘sensible’ car.

But if driving dynamics don’t impress you much, the level of comfort and refinement will; the Golf Estate simply feels like a bigger and more expensive car than what it actually is. It’s just a lovely car to drive and spend time in.

The Golf Estate is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Golf Estate is available with petrol and diesel engines

Model Tested: Volkswagen Golf Estate Comfortline
Price: 
€28,825 (Range starts €22,575)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11 seconds
Economy:
70.6mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
102g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd


The Polo is available with petrol and diesel engines

Volkswagen Polo (2015)

The Polo is available with petrol and diesel engines
The Polo is available with petrol and diesel engines

The Volkswagen Polo is one of the perennials of the supermini class: it’s been around for years, and typically it’s been a reliable, if somewhat conservative, choice of small hatchback.

Read my review below of the 2015 Volkswagen Polo diesel or switch to a review of the new Volkswagen Polo petrol.

Volkswagen hasn’t strayed too far away from its winning formula with this latest model, which has been with us since 2009 but received a small refresh in 2014 to keep it competitive:  some tweaks to the exterior, interior, equipment, steering and engine line-up.

Changes to the exterior of the Polo are very subtle so I’m not going to go into them in detail, but the Polo is a good-looking car in a simple way, and the styling will always be more grown-up than cute.

There are up to 14 body colours to choose from, including some exclusive to Cross Polo and Lounge models. The Cross Polo and Polo BlueGT add something different to the Polo range in their own unique way. The Cross Polo works the crossover look with a raised suspension, silver roof rails, different bumpers, 17” ‘Canyon’ alloy wheels and silver door mirrors.

On the sportier side of things, the 150bhp Polo BlueGT has a lowered suspension, front and rear spoiler, sporty multispoke 17” ‘Montani’ wheels and twin exhaust.

Inside the 2015 Volkswagen Polo

But regardless of what body style you go for, a key selling point for the Polo has to be its cabin. The Polo brings small car interiors to another level with a really well-made dash, that looks and feels like something from the class above. In the same vein as the outside of the car, it’s conservative rather than fun or quirky, but it works. A 280 litre boot is not class-leading but it's still competitive in this segment and cabin space is good - rear passengers are well accommodated for and should have no problem stretching out.

Inside the 2015 Volkswagen Polo
Inside the 2015 Volkswagen Polo

Availability differs across trim levels but there’s a good selection of engines for the Polo: non-turbo 1.0-litre petrols (60/75bhp), a 1.2-litre turbo petrol (90bhp), a 1.4-litre TDI diesel (75/90bhp) and a range topping 1.4-litre turbo petrol (150bhp) with innovative active cylinder management to improve fuel economy, while also offering sprightly performance. Volkswagen’s DSG automatic transmission is available on select engines.

My test car has the brand new three cylinder 1.4-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel. A diesel is not an obvious choice for a small car, but with this under the bonnet, the Polo makes a good case for itself as a commuter car. It’s very frugal with an official economy of just under 80mpg, and despite having a mere 75bhp, it doesn’t feel underpowered and it will still pull away and gather speed quickly.

The Polo is very well insulated from engine, wind and road noise and there’s no vibration coming through the seat or the pedals from the three cylinder diesel. You do hear the engine on start up, and when you accelerate hard, but I don’t find the tone too rough or irritating, and you’re not aware of it at all at speed.

Driving the Volkswagen Polo

A comfortable and compliant ride is another reason why you will enjoy taking the Polo on long journeys. It’s a good car to drive in other ways too: the steering is light, but you still feel connected to the road, and the Polo holds itself well through corners. It has that lucid quality I’m a fan of - it’s willing to change direction quickly with enough grip to inspire so you can have a proper go at the back roads (and roundabouts in town). Such fun!

The claimed economy for the 1.4-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel is up to 78.5mpg. The CO2 emissions are just 93g/km so annual motor tax for this model is just €180.

Watch Caroline reviewing the Volkswagen Polo.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnCvRtQRFP4]

There are five levels of trim for the Polo: Trendline, Comfortline, Lounge, Cross Polo and BlueGT. The test car is in quite a luxurious Lounge trim so equipment includes alloy wheels, front fog lights, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, cruise control, air con, rear view camera, parking sensors and a 6.5” touchscreen displays and controls infotainment, navigation, and vehicle data and settings. Smaller touchscreen radio/CD systems (5"/5.8") are standard on the lower two trim levels. City emergency brake is standard on all models.

The Comfortline model that slots in below Lounge has a lot of the ‘must have’ equipment and will save you some money too, while Volkswagen Ireland has a number of offers where you can spec up your car for less money.

Did you like it?

Is the Polo classic or just a bit too conservative? I think it boils down to personal taste. It’s easy to criticise the Polo as dull or boring: the styling is attractive but safe, the interior is solid but plain…

But to dismiss the Polo for being the safe, conservative choice would be very short-sighted because its charm lies in its capability – it’s willingness to get on with the job without drawing much attention to itself. This competency is very attractive in a small hatchback.

There’s a great selection of engines and trims for the Polo, so it can be the basic urban runaround, the motorway cruiser, or even a ‘hottish’ hatch in BlueGT trim. The Lounge model on test moves into the realm of premium small car with all the kit you could ever need and a sophisticated presence in exclusive Crypton Grey with multispoke 16” alloys, though the €20,985 list price reflects that too.

The small hatchback market is a crowded one but I think the Polo does enough to stand out because it does such a good job of masquerading itself as a bigger car – the cabin space, the interior finish, the refinement, the finely-tuned road manners – but with suitably small engines that also tick the efficiency box. Throw in some classic VW styling and the Polo is the small car that never goes out of fashion.

The Volkswagen Polo is the small car that never goes out of fashion!
The Volkswagen Polo is the small car that never goes out of fashion!

Model Tested: Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TDI 5dr Lounge
OTR Price: 
€21,760 (Range starts at RRP €15,410)
Engine: 
1.4-litre three cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 
75bhp
0-100km/h:
12.9 seconds
Economy: 
78.5mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
93g/km
Motor Tax: 
€180 per year

Caroline Kidd