28 October 2020

New buyers can avail of Toyota's 211 offers

While Toyota dealerships are open for servicing and parts during Level 5 restrictions, customers are encouraged to contact their dealers or check out Toyota’s virtual sales experience when it comes to buying a new model, writes Trish Whelan.

Toyota has announced a range of offers to help drivers on their way to affordable electrified motoring. New Toyota hybrid buyers can avail of finance contributions of up to €3,000, APRs from 2.9pc, trade-in boosters up to €2,500 for non-finance customers and three years’ free servicing as standard.

With these new offers, customers who purchase a new Toyota before 28 February 2021 will benefit from a 3pc VAT reduction with lower VRT from January on the majority of Toyota’s range.

Toyota claim to have the lowest C02 output of any mass market car brand and its hybrids sold in 2019 alone will save over 60,000 tonnes from entering the atmosphere in their lifetime.


19 October 2020

Volkswagen reveals latest Golf GTI Clubsport

Volkswagen has given the GTI Clubsport version of the latest Golf its world premiere, providing the most powerful model in the car's latest generation, writes Brian Byrne.

With 300hp available from its 2.0 turbocharged petrol engine, a new sports running gear integrates the GTI's standard electromechanical front-axle locking differential in the Vehicle Dynamics Manager’s network for the first time. VW's Head of Driving Dynamics, Steering and Control Systems Karsten Schebsdat says the latest Golf GTI Clubsport handles even more neutrally and precisely than the classic Golf GTI.

Standard 18-inch wheels, a special diffuser, lowered body, and wide side sills showcase the car's sporty performance from the outside.


Three new Cupra dealers in Ireland

The Cupra brand of sporty cars from SEAT has announced three dealers for Ireland, writes Brian Byrne.

They join the existing Bright Airside Cupra dealer in Dublin and are James Barry Motors Limerick; Johnson and Perrott, Mahon Point, Cork; and McCoy Motors, Lucan, Dublin.

The current model lineup of Cupra Leon, Leon Sportstourer and Ateca will be joined by the Formentor in December. The Formentor is the Cupra brand's first dedicated model and will be available with a range of seven engine options, including plug-in hybrids.

Cupra was spun off from from being a SEAT performance grade and was launched as a stand-alone in 2018.


Completely driverless cars given permit for San Francisco streets

The first completely driverless cars will be on the streets of San Franciscoin California before the end of the year, following the granting of a permit to the Cruise self-driving technology company, writes Brian Byrne.

The cars will not require a safety driver under the terms of the permit. Cruise is backed by General Motors and Honda for self-driving technology, and the prototypes are adapted versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric car.

The company says it has already completed over two million miles of testing of its technology. Only company people will be allowed in the cars on San Francisco streets for the moment.


18 October 2020

'Distraction is a fact of life', says Volvo, 'technology should be used to help stay safe'

Though screens and similar technology in modern cars can be viewed as distracting, driving safety gurus at Volvo Cars say such technology is a fact of life, and should be used to support people in their daily commute, writes Brian Byrne.

According to Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, 'life as a whole is distracting'. “We know people do not get distracted on purpose, but it happens. You could be late for daycare and somewhat stressed. Or you get behind the wheel after a bad day at work. All this affects you as a driver.”

In a Volvo-organised safety webcast last week, she said the reality is that people want to engage with friends, family, work and entertainment, and everyone responds differently to distraction. “So we want to meet our customers where they are, not where we want them to be. That is why our focus is on using technology in the right way, so we can use it to help you stay safe behind the wheel.”

She gave as an example the advanced voice control on Volvo Cars new Android-powered infotainment system which allows drivers to control the temperature, set a destination, play their favourite music and podcasts or call their mum on her birthday – all while keeping their hands on the wheel. The company's experts believe that distraction should also be addressed via in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver.

With such technologies, if a clearly distracted (or intoxicated) driver does not respond to warning signals and risks a serious, potentially lethal accident, the car could intervene, perhaps by limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service and, as a last resort, actively slowing down and safely parking the car.

Volvo Cars plans to start introducing these cameras on the next generation of Volvo’s scalable SPA2 vehicle platform.


17 October 2020

New Mustang Mach 1 for Europe

A high performance version of Ford's iconic Mustang is to be made available to European customers for the first time, writes Brian Byrne.

The Mustang Mach 1 will have a 460hp V8 under the hood matched to a special 6-speed manual transmission with rev-matching technology for faster downshifts. A retuned version of Ford's 10-speed automatic will also be available.

Retuned MagnetRide dampers and special springs will make the Mustang Mach 1 the best-handling version of the model, both for track and on-road use, according to Ford. Aerodynamic changes have been made to the front and sides to help the car cope with the increased performance potential.

The model is a nameplate derivative first used in the 1960s and 1970s for high performance versions of the car. The new Mustang Mach 1 debuted at the weekend at the Goodwood SpeedWeek event held behind closed doors for a global online audience.

There are no indications of price or availability for Ireland of this limited edition.


16 October 2020

First Drive: Honda e

It's hard to decide whether the new Honda e is futuristic or retro in style, writes Brian Byrne. But it certainly looks distinctive. And it is bigger than the square box style makes it look.

I had an introductory run in the car this week, a short one because the drive event was under Covid limitations. It wasn't enough to offer a proper review, but it made me smile. That's the thing about this little car. It's cheerful. I know it doesn't make sense to ascribe emotions to a hunk of metal, glass and plastic with four wheels, but that's how it is anyhow.

The size is between the Suzuki Swift and Toyota Yaris. In electric car terms, the Honda e is smaller than Renault's Zoe. Honda make no apology for the size, or the relatively short range which we might mention later. The car is designed absolutely for the urban owner. Nipping around city streets, easy to park (it will do it for you), enough boot space for shopping but not for long-distance luggage.

Inside is for four, though the rear doors access is easier for those of us who are trim ... nevertheless, enough headroom there even for the tall. The two up front will have a Starship Enterprise perspective. The Honda e comes with the most sophisticated and widest digital information system in the business. At either end of which are screens instead of exterior door mirrors. As standard that's a first in any class ... they are available in Audi's e-tron and the Mercedes-Benz Actros truck, but not anywhere else that I know of.

I wasn't sure I was going to like them — you just don't get the same distance perception on a screen as you do in mirror glass. But even in the short hour I had with the car, I got used to them. Though not the similar screen system used for the central rear-view mirror, which I quickly flicked to normal mirror. I didn't much like the wood-effect on the dashboard either. It has a very 60s tackiness about it. (Funny, the Tesla Model 3 I drove last year had something similarly unimpressive.)

The car's electric motor is nippy, quick acceleration ideal for city traffic. It belts along happily enough on motorways too, but the shape means it seems a bit noisier than more aerodynamic cars. Honda has set the 'e' firmly in urban settings, so that doesn't matter. The range is given as 222kms. That's short for the current breed of electric cars. But perfectly adequate for city use.

At €30,000 for the marginally lower of two grades, there's no getting away from the fact that it's expensive. Honda never did cheap, anyway. There's also no getting away from the fact that when I left it back, I was in perceptively better form than when I started out. That's going to be a big part of Honda e's attraction, I expect.

You'll be able to order it from November for delivery in January. The Irish importers have 150 units on the way, which they expect will get them through the first quarter.


Renault showcases further electrified rollouts

Renault has revealed details of two new cars and a concept over the last two days, which among other things emphasise the electrification of the Renault and Dacia brands, writes Brian Byrne.

A compact coupe-SUV car coming to Ireland in September of next year is the Arkana (below), which will be powered by the Renault e-tech hybrid system that the company says will operate in city traffic in electric mode more than 70pc of the time.

A concept Megane eVision concept (top picture) previewed a new generation of Renault cars on a new modular EV platform. Due in right-hand-drive in 2022, it will build on the Renault experience over 10 years of design and manufacture of electric vehicles. More than 300,000 EVs have been sold in Europe by the brand in that time.

The Dacia Spring is the budget brand's first all-electric car and is promised to be the most affordable electric car on the market. It is being promoted under three areas — as a solution for the growing car-sharing market, as a private car option, and also in a commercial variant which is aimed at 'last mile' delivery. Unfortunately, at this time there are no plans to sell the car in Ireland.

The event showcased the e-tech technology now available on Clio, Captur and Megane models, which will also underpin the Arkana in mild- and full-hybrid variants. A plug-in hybrid version is coming for the Megane hatchback.

The new models and the electrification programme presentations are part of a Renault eWays event online, running through these two weeks.