19 July 2024

Review: Ford Kuga - Trish Whelan, Irish Car

Ford’s Kuga SUV has been a big hit with customers since it was first launched in 2008. This practical car remains a family favourite with some 513 units already sold this year vis a vis the 565 sold for the whole of 2023. And that’s before the 2024 revised Kuga arrives here around mid-May which will have a fresh look, a refreshed model line-up and four powertrains that include two hybrids and a plug- in hybrid. 

The PHEV version has been a best-seller in Europe for some years now and Ford say it will continue to play a key role inspiring drivers to embrace the company’s electric future. The car looks well from every angle, especially from the side view. Size-wise, it is longer and higher than key competitors Kia Sportage and a tad longer and lower than Toyota’s RAV4. 

Also available in a 1.5 EcoBoost petrol engine, and a self-charge hybrid petrol that can travel for up to 900kms on one tank of fuel, my review car was the PHEV version, in the sporty ST-Line X grade. This included a full body styling kit with a unique front and rear fascia and bumper design, body coloured rear diffusor and front skid plate, dark mesh grille and ST-Line badges. The exterior in Solar Silver colour had contrasting black pillars and roof rails, and ST-Line badges indicating the sporty nature of the car as did the red brake callipers. There are six exterior colours to choose from. 

Kuga is a tall car which makes getting in and out a lot easier than in lower styled cars. You sit nice and high and have a good view out of the road ahead. The front pillars are quite thick and I found this restricted forward/side view coming up to roundabouts. The same can be said for the thick rear pillars when reversing the car. However, Kugas come with both front and rear parking sensors and an excellent rearview camera. 

I was able to get a really comfy driving position with the 12-way power adjustments on the ST-Line sports seat. Seats were a mix of suede/leather type upholstery with lots of red stitching. The 12.3-inch digital instrument display has good graphics and shows the important driving info you need, including the state of battery charge and current speed, while the stand-alone 8-inch infotainment touchscreen works well but looks a bit dated. Apple and Android phone connectivity is standard. There are physical buttons for climate control and the circular gear shifter is located on the flat of the central console. You can charge your phone with the wireless charging pad and there are two USB ports in the driver area. 

There’s space enough in the back for three average adults who will have good head and leg room. Rear seats can slide forwards or backwards to boost legroom or to provide additional boot space. These seats can be folded in a 60/40 split. There’s an area below the floor for charging cables and a tyre sealant kit. The tailgate is power operated. 

Standard features are 18-inch alloys, full LED headlamps, front LED fog lights with front cornering, and B&O premium audio system with 10 speakers and subwoofer. A Driver Assistance pack includes a front camera, Adaptive Cruise Control, Intelligent Speed Assist, and Active Park Assist while a Winter Pack provides heated front and rear seats and heated steering wheel. 

The Kuga PHEV is powered by a 2.5 petrol engine that combines with an electric motor to deliver up to 225hp. The engine is matched to a CVT automatic transmission that I found to be smooth and capable which added greatly to my enjoyment of driving the car. It can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds. My average fuel consumption was 6.7 L/100kms. The cabin was quiet as I drove main roads and motorways. The car also proved agile enough about town with a 11.4m turning circle. I really enjoyed driving this Kuga and would have no problems having it as my everyday car. 

Charging the PHEV battery will take 3.5 hrs from a 7kW home wall-box or over double that if you have to use a three-pin domestic plug. The hybrid battery comes with an 8-year or 160,000km warranty. The entry Titanium model is priced from €46,340; ST-Line X PHEV from €48,830. Options took the price to €51,357, plus delivery and related charges.


18 July 2024

VW goes avant-garde stylish, for China

This is the Volkswagen ID. UNYX, and you're not going to see it in Europe, writes Brian Byrne. The electric car is produced in China only for that market by VW, claiming to be the most successful European-based brand there. China is the biggest EV market in the world, accounting for 60pc of global electric car sales.

The ID. UNYX is a sub-brand of high-end and stylish vehicles and will include four more models over the next three years in the company's plan to introduce no less than 34 new models in China by 2030.

The range for the 286hp single motor version is claimed at up to 621km from the 77kWh battery in the China Light-Duty Test Cycle (CLTC), which is considered to be even more optimistic than the WLTP when compared against the arguably more real-world ratings of the US EPA. An AWD version will have an output of 340hp.

The avant-garde styling of the ID. UNYX includes gold VW badging which is associated with high quality, reliability and safety of a Volkswagen in China. 

12 July 2024

Grande Panda revealed at Fiat anniversary

Fiat has officially revealed its new generation of the long-running Panda nameplate, the Grande Panda, writes Brian Byrne. The reveal was at Fiat's 125th anniversary celebration and official opening of the new CASA Fiat museum exhibition in Turin.

A special Giorgio Armani version of the 500e was also rolled out at the event.

The Grande Panda takes its inspiration from the model first seen in the 1980s, which became an exemplar of automotive sustainability and simplicity. The new version will be offered in both full electric and hybrid versions.

The Fiat 500e Giorgio Armani comes in exclusive colours, wood inserts, special logos, signatures of the fashion maestro, and a top level of equipment. 

Review: Peugeot 508 - Trish Whelan, Irish Car

Peugeot’s large 508 saloon has always been a great looking car since first launched in 2010. A few facelifts since then, notably in 2015 and a significant one last year, changed the look from saloon to a coupe-inspired style that combines clean body lines with frameless doors. 

This high-end motor is a sleek, low-slung, comfortable yet practical car that would grace an executive car park or a family’s drive way. 

The 2023 facelift included a new face, the large grille now sweeps across the front, a new signature lighting system with three-claw LED daytime running lights integrated into the headlamps, and Peugeot's new Lion Shield emblem. Lights at the rear have also been upgraded while the Peugeot name is spelt out across the black bar that connects the rear lights. My entry level Allure version sat on very smart looking 17-inch wheels. 

As this is a very low vehicle, tall people will have to bend their heads down low to gain entry. While the car looks like a saloon, it is what’s called a Fast Back which means the tailgate opens up like a hatchback. Step inside, and you’ll discover a really lovely and comfortable cabin with high quality fit and finish and a two-tier dash. You sit down low but this adds to the sporty feel. Seats were clad in a nice mix of fabric and imitation leather and front ones had manual adjustments. I found my driver’s seat extremely comfy. You have to move up a grade for power adjustments and front seat heaters but the manual ones are fine. 

We’ve become accustomed to the automatic gearbox toggle switch selector on the central console in many of the other Stellantis Group brands, and it works really well. Peugeot’s i-cockpit with its compact size steering wheel is still a matter for debate. I find I move the wheel more than in cars with ‘ordinary’ steering wheels. The driver’s instrument panel is clearly visible above the flat topped steering wheel. 

The colourful 10-inch touchscreen is angled towards the driver. Colourful new graphics add their own cheer. But I found this infotainment screen a bit fiddly to use especially for the climate controls but the Home button in a row of silver shortcuts buttons below allows you adjust the dual zone climate control with up and down arrows. Touchscreen functions include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and over the air upgrades. The steering column extends back far and the driver’s screen can be customised to suit your preference. 

I was quite surprised at the amount of good space available in the rear given the sloping roofline. Tall people will find it difficult enough to get into the car, but once inside will have just enough head room to feel comfortable, and enough legroom even when seated behind a 6.2-inch person in front. The transmission tunnel is quite low which allows some foot space for the person in the middle seat. This seat back lowers to reveal two cupholders and a hatch to the boot. There are two USB C-type ports. 

The 487 litres of boot capacity can be expanded to 1537 litres with rear seats folded down. My car didn’t have a power tailgate but had with a bespoke rubber mat and a 12V power socket. The entry level grade is well kitted out with keyless entry and start, all round parking assistance, dual-zone air conditioning, Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, navigation, voice recognition, 180deg rear camera, front collision warning, road edge detection, and blind spot detection. The mid GT spec adds Adaptive Cruise Control, front and rear cameras with touchscreen display and 360deg top view of the area around the car, 18-inch alloys along with aluminium pedals, leatherette and Alcantara seat trim, and power tailgate. The top PSE spec adds Nappa leather, heated seats and massage function, Night Vision, wireless smartphone charger, and an exclusive exterior design. 

Customers can choose from petrol, diesel or Plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) options. Engines are a 1.2 petrol with 130hp, a 1.5 diesel 130bhp, and a Plug-in hybrid4 outputting 180bhp/225bhp/360bhp; all are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. My review car was the 1.5 diesel with a healthy 300Nm torque. The 0-100km/h time of 11:00 seconds doesn’t really show that this is a really good car to drive with progressive acceleration that will suit many drivers for their everyday use and offering a smooth, comfortable drive. 

Each engine type has its own suspension. While the official combined fuel return is circa 5.0 L/100kms, my fuel return after one 60km drive that took in country roads and motorways was a truly remarkable 3.3 L/100kms equal to 85.6mpg. So hurray for this diesel car and its almost 1,000kms or so fuel range which will certainly prove very economical for those who have longer commutes. Priced from €50,295 for the Allure PHEV. Annual tax is from €140-€210.



11 July 2024

New electric Skoda for autumn debut

A new compact SUV electric car from Skoda is due for debut in the autumn, writes Brian Byrne. Names Elroq, the car is in final stages of pre-production testing.

The car will have outputs from 170hp to 300hp and a range of more than 560km (WLTP) is claimed.

The Elroq is the first ┼ákoda model to adopt the brand’s new Modern Solid design language, taking the exterior design of the portfolio even further. Luggage capacity will range from a minimum of 470 litres.

Skoda’s new BEV programme will see the launch of six battery-electric models over the coming years. 

10 July 2024

Ford bringing back the Capri nameplate

Ford is reviving an iconic European nameplate from the 1970s and 1980s as a new electric coupe SUV, writes Brian Byrne. The Capri brings back a legend in the brand's history that was built for 18 years from 1968 and sold 1.9 million units over that time.

There will be two version at launch, a rear wheel drive 286hp and an AWD with 340hp on tap. The claimed range for each, which are long range versions, is up to 627km and 592km respectively, and sprint to 100km/h are 6.4s and 5.3s. A standard range version will be detailed later in the year.

Dimensionally, the new e-coupe is the same length as a Ford Kuga, a little smaller than the Mustang Mach-E, and significantly larger and taller than the original Capri series (not to be confused with the earlier Consul Classic 315 Capri coupe of the early 1960s). 

No firm Irish arrival has been given yet, but there's an expectation for early 2025.

New cars launched by Renault Ireland

Renault has launched two new models in Ireland, the E-Tech Electric Scenic and a new flagship E-Tech full hybrid Rafale, writes Brian Byrne. The brand also rolled out a revised version of their Captur small SUV.

The E-Tech Scenic prices start at €39,995 with four grades and two battery options — the car was voted the 2024 European Car of the Year. The Rafale SUV Coupe, with three grades and a 200hp full hybrid powertrain, starts at €51,495.

The strongly-restyled Captur, which also comes with new generation driving aids, starts at €29,120 for the petrol model, and €33,990 for the full hybrid variant. 

E-Tech Rafale full hybrid.
New Captur.

E-Tech Electric Scenic.