5 August 2021

Myth and Science at The Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway in County Antrim is a geological fact that triggered the tale of two giants, Finn MacCool and a rival across the sea in Scotland, Benandonner. The unusually-shaped columns of basalt rock were formed many millions of years ago in a river valley when the now island of Ireland was a part of a larger continental mass.

A Kilcullen Diary production by Brian Byrne, in association with Irish Car+Travel Magazine.


4 August 2021

Megane PHEV now available in hatch format

Renault's Megane plug-in hybrid is now in dealerships in hatchback form, writes Brian Byrne.

Priced from €32,240 including SEAI grant, the latest version complements the previously-released Sports Tourer version.

The hatchback is available in two grades and when used to its optimum can return a combined fuel consumption of 1.2L/100km.

Mercedes develops multi-adapter charging kit

Mercedes-Benz has created a multi-adapter charging kit for electric vehicle owners who travel a lot and need access to different kinds of charging systems, writes Brian Byrne. The Flexible Charging System includes various adapters for household sockets and industrial sockets as well as for public charging points and wallboxes.

The system features an integrated Type 2 connector, so allowing the vehicle to be charged at up to 22 kW from any AC source. The retail price in Germany is €1,225.

With the EQC, EQA and EQV, as well as the EQS due to be launched in the summer, Mercedes-Benz is currently offering four models with zero emissions. In addition, more than 20 variants of Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be available as plug-in hybrids by the end of the year — from the A-Class to the GLE, from saloon to estate, with petrol or diesel engines.


Car sales up, and down

More new cars were registered in July 2021 than in the same month in 2019, the pre-covid baseline that offers a more accurate reflection of the state of the industry, writes Brian Byrne. At 26,483 units compared to 24,681, the July positive news is tempered by the year to date figure of 90,342 units, which is 14.3pc down on the same period in 2019.

Year to date registrations for light commercial vehicles at 21,814 represents a 9pc increase on 2019. YTD imports of used cars are down 34.25pc on 2019. With 6,233 new electric cars registered so far this year, that represents a 134pc increase on the same period in 2020.

In market share terms, Diesel now accounts for 34.43pc, Petrol 32.62pc, Hybrid 16.56pc, Electric 6.90pc and Plug-in Electric Hybrid 6.98pc.


3 August 2021

Mount Usher Gardens - a dream that became a treasure

In 1868, a Dublin businessman took over the lease on an acre of land and a mill at Mount Usher near Ashford, in Co Wicklow. Today, thanks to generations of the Walpole family, and since 1979 the work overseen by then new owner Mrs Madeleine Jay, the Mount Usher Gardens are spread over 20 acres and host some 5,000 species of plants and are a botanical treasure.

A Kilcullen Diary production by Brian Byrne, in association with Irish Car+Travel Magazine.


30 July 2021

Mercedes-Benz teases EQE ahead of Munich debut

Mercedes-Benz has revealed teaser images of an EQE electric car to debut at the Munich Motor Show in September, writes Brian Byrne.

The battery equivalent of the E-Class will be one of five electric models on display at the carmaker's stand in the event, which replaces the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The EQE will come with a similar 'Hyperscreen' option as features on the recently-debuted EQS. Details are not yet available, but the car should have a range of up to 640km and the ability to add 240km of charge in 15 minutes at a suitable charge point.


Volkswagen debuts small SUV coupe for Europe

Volkswagen has debuted its Taigo SUV coupe for Europe, in advance of setting a date for sale, writes Brian Byrne.

The Taigo, based on a car launched in Brazil last year, will sit with the new Polo and the T-Cross crossover in this part of the world.

Depending on market, engine choices are 3- and 4-cylinder petrol units ranging from 95hp to 150hp, with manual and automatic transmissions.

Review: Hyundai i20

Before the 120 there was the Hyundai Getz, writes Brian Byrne. And I seem to remember that most times I had to hire a car while on holidays in those days, the Getz was the rental industry's small car of choice. There was a good reason — it was simple, reliable, and pretty tough. For me, as their customer, it never let me down.

Driving the third generation of the Getz's successor, I felt the same way about it. Tidy in size but with enough capacity, reliable because the powertrains are derivative of engine tech that is tried and proven, and I found it to be pretty tough on some of the more marginal roads at the edges of my home area.

Through its three iterations since 2009, the i20's looks have been evolving. This latest is very attractive in its class, and Hyundai have a name for the theme — Sensuous Sportiness. I see what they're getting at … though the performance is pretty ordinary, the car looks the sporty part. A sculpted wedge, the waistline dropping forward from a stylistically intricate rear treatment. A front with an edge to its grille styling. The 'eyes' lights have a purposeful gaze. I got comments whenever I drove up in the car. All good. Those 16" alloys probably helped. And the contrasting black roof.

It's all new inside too, and smartly done. The horizontal ridged detailing along the dashboard adds a sense of width. A fresh treatment of the main instruments in a mix of white and Hyundai's trademark blue theme are a very good modern take on traditional. The centre screen has big real buttons on either side. (There's noting more frustrating than trying to tap small virtual buttons while driving. Yeah, yeah, you heard me before. You'll continue to do so.)

The linkage to your smartphone of choice is now totally wireless, with no need to hook a charging lead up for using the Apple or Android systems. This is progress: such leads generally loop around stuff and are untidy.

The i20 has always offered decent travelling for four people The inside space is much the same as the previous car, and that's enough. Even for me, getting in and out of the back was easy, and my remaining hair stayed clear of the roof. I also had ample knee room behind someone of my own size up front. This is a small car that doesn't stint on space.

The engine is the familiar 1.2 inline four which has been a staple of the petrol option in i20 through its generations. Gaining a little in power along the way. I suggested already that the car doesn't do blistering performance, but the 84hp is adequate and matches nicely most use this car will have. The 5-speed manual is a masterclass in good feel and operation.

This car comes with a solid suite of driver assist programmes as standard, including Lane Keeping Assist and one that reminds you when the car stopped in front moves away. I turn most of them off. Too many beeps and nudges, for those of us who find this annoying it's an issue right across the industry.

I have a quite testing circuit of varying roads in my own county, and it was on some of these where I felt the latest i20 will likely live long on even the most neglected of road surfaces. Quite impressively strong and capable, actually.

It's partly the state of the market, partly where the car's segment sits, but Hyundai in Ireland is offering just two grades, and two engines … the one driving mine and a 1.0 three-pot with automatic transmission.

All in all, my week with the car was a very satisfying experience. I'd be very happy renting one whenever we get to leave this island for holidays again.

PRICE: From €17,495; Review car €19,995. WHAT I LIKED: The style lifts the spirit.


Tesla Model 3 second-biggest seller in June in Europe

The Tesla Model 3 was the second-best selling car in Europe in June, behind the Volkswagen Golf, writes Brian Byrne.

According to automotive data specialists JATO Dynamics, the electric car's sales performance in the month brought it to the top space of electric vehicles this year, with 66,350 units.

The Model 3 was the top-seller in Austria, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, and hit the top 10 in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden.


29 July 2021

New DS models launch on Irish market

A new generation of the DS Automobiles DS 3 Crossback small SUV has been launched in Ireland at a starting price of €28,990, writes Brian Byrne. The car is available with petrol and diesel engines, and an all-electric powertrain.

The DS 3 has a distinctive styling outside and in, based on a 'diamond' design ethos, and features Matrix LED headlights, flush door handles that deploy when the keyfob is activated, and a full suite of driver assist and safety systems.

The electric version has a 320m range and the ability to charge from zero to 80pc in 30 minutes at a 100kW public fast charging point. The petrol engines output 100hp/130hp and a 155hp with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The diesel is 110hp.

The company has also launched a 300hp plug-in hybrid version of its DS 7 large SUV (below), complementing the 130hp petrol and diesel engines. The DS 7 pricing starts at €42,695.

A completely new DS 9 large saloon and a new DS 4 will be launched towards the end of the year, filling out the DS Automobiles range with all-new cars.