31 March 2023

Renault 5 revival in train as an EV

The revival of the iconic Renault 5 next year as an electric car is currently under way in the form of testing of the new platform on which it will be the first car, writes Brian Byrne.

Renault reckons that the manufacturing cost thanks to the new platform's efficiency will be 30pc lower than for the Zoe, the equivalent EV being produced by the company at the moment.

Nine prototypes are being exhaustively tested at Renault facilities in Arvidsjaur in Swedish Lapland and at Lardy outside Paris and Aubevoye in Normandy.

The new car's battery design will also take up less space than an equivalent in use today.

The original Renault 5 was produced between 1972 and 1996 with more than 5.5 million units produced. 

30 March 2023

Naas Renault dealer is EV Dealership of the Year 2023

Eithne Mallon O'Brien (Joe Mallon Motors), William Walsh (CEO, SEAI) and Aoife O'Grady (Head of Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland at the Department of Transport) at the ZEVI Electric Vehicle Dealership of the Year Awards.

Car dealership Joe Mallon Motors of Naas, Co Kildare, has been named the National winner of the ZEVI Electric Vehicle Dealership of the Year award at the SEAI Energy Show in the RDS, writes Trish Whelan.

The Renault dealership was selected by a panel of experts who assessed each dealership's performance across a range of criteria amid tough and challenging competition. Some 124 car dealerships from 24 counties participated in this year’s awards. 

Four regional finalists were previously announced at the Society of the Irish Motor Industry Awards in February for their demonstrated commitment to best-in-class customer experience. A panel of experts assessed each dealership's performance across a range of criteria, including showroom visibility of EVs, salesperson knowledge of EVs, sales approach, EV training, sales trends, and website presentation.

Zero Vehicles Emissions Ireland (ZEVI) is an office within the Department of Transport. 

Alfa Romeo Tonale on sale here

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale has gone on sale in Ireland at a starting price of €49,995, writes Brian Byrne.

The compact crossover is available with mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, and in two grades along with a 'Speciale' extra launch version. 

All versions are automatic, with outputs of 160hp and 280hp respectively, the latter being AWD thanks to the electric motor on the rear axle. 

The PHEV includes a 15.5kWh battery thats some 36pc bigger than that used in the Jeep Compass PHEV, to which the Tonale is closely related.

The car kicks off the new Irish distribution by Gowan Auto, based in a purpose-built HQ at City West, Dublin. Currently there are three Alfa Romeo dealerships, in Dublin, Cork and Waterford. Plans are to increase this to a network of eight.

Two other models are currently available, the Giulia large sedan and the Stelvio SUV which sits above the Tonale.

29 March 2023

Review: Peugeot 308SW Hybrid - Brian Byrne, Irish Car

It's the small things that make you feel good or bad about a car, writes Brian Byrne. I recently wrote about how difficult it was on one model to disconnect driver assistance features that annoy me. If you have to do it by navigating a touch-screen, it's no good. But there are carmakers who get it right.

That was a thought when I got into a Peugeot 308 SW estate for another take on a car I have liked since it was launched here last year. While the driver assists, including the dratted lane-keeping, are default from start, there's a button on the steering wheel to disconnect-reconnect them. It's even labelled 'Assist'. Simple. Thoughtful. Designed by drivers instead of screen-time addicts. Any carmaker who doesn't do it this way should look at the current Peugeot, Citroen, DS, and Opel compact models. And learn.

This latest 308 is the third generation of that car. The style details are right on message with the latest overall Peugeot look. A sharp-looking front end with deep-set slim headlamps slightly frowning over a grille design that manages to upshift the perceived size and premium sense of the car. The hatchback version is itself quite roomy, but the wagon not only adds cargo capacity and is significantly longer overall but also has a longer wheelbase, giving even more space to those in the back seats. Equally important to my perspective, the SW proportions and profile make it visually one of the most beautiful compact offerings currently on the market. 

The interior dashboard and instrumentation is a Peugeot familiar, their 'i-Cockpit' layout of small steering wheel with the driving instruments in the sightline above it rather than through it has become something of a trade-mark. It works for most people, though I think for shorter drivers there can be some issues. And I have found that when I get back into a car with a 'normal' wheel-instruments layout that I almost prefer it. Still, there's not much can be faulted with the overall design and detail, and the centre infotainment screen setup is as good as such things can be.

The quality level of seats and trim is right up with the best in the class, mass market or premium. And long gone are the days when ordinary motorists had to put up with compromises in seat comfort. The boot capacity is over 608L, cut a little to 548L when the hybrid powertrain is chosen but still a serious load carrier.

My review car had the 180hp lower-power version of two plug-in hybrid engine options. Other choices are a 225hp PHEV, a 1.2 130hp petrol and a similar power 1.5 diesel. All 308s are automatic. The claimed EV range of the PHEV is up to 60km, but unless all your driving is urban with a lot of in-traffic regeneration, I'd take 20pc off that. With no battery range left the car drives in a standard hybrid way, and I found it offered a decent 5.5L/100km overall on what would be a mixed roads commute. That's respectable. My car's powertrain was quiet, with almost imperceptible changes both through the auto gears and in switching between EV and petrol. A neat trick from this stable is that the digital speed indication glows blue when the engine is in electric mode.

As it happened, I drove both formats back to back and on the road I thought the extra length and wheelbase added to the ride quality over what is already really good in the hatchback. But really, that could have been imagination, because both offer top comfort anyhow. 

PRICE: 308 SW starts at €32,765; review GT spec level car €48,495. WHAT I LIKED: I've always loved wagons and this is a perfect compact example. 

BMW i5 scores high in winter testing

BMW has been winter-testing what will be the first all-electric 5 Series sedan, writes Brian Byrne.

The i5 had already been journeyed in Arctic conditions a year ago, but this latest round of extreme weather in Sweden last month  has been fine-tuning powertrain and chassis control systems using frozen lakes test areas,

BMW says the results show the car performs 'at least as proficiently' as any conventionally powered vehicle in such conditions. 

Kia reveals more of EV9

Kia's next all-electric model the EV9 SUV will be launched in Ireland in the last quarter of this year, writes Brian Byrne.

The car will have a three-row seating configuration and  in details just released will have a target range of 541km, with the capability of ultra fast charging at suitable 800-volt stations.

A feature of the EV9's connectivity will be the option for owners to buy specific extra features with over-the-air software upgrades. 

The EV9 is designed to offer Level 3 driver assistance in the future for suitable markets.

More details on the Irish price and specifications in advance of launch here. 

28 March 2023

New Ford Ranger variants upcoming

Ford is now offering two Ranger pickup variants with enhanced offroad capabilities, writes Brian Byrne.

The Ranger Wildtrak X and Ranger Tremor will be available to order from next month, with deliveries expected in European markets from August.

Both will come with higher ride height and wider track than the standard Ranger versions, as well as special suspension components including Bilstein high-performance dampers, and a 'Trail Turn Assist' which reduces turning radius in tricky offroad driving.

The Ranger Tremor has visual differences as well as seats and floor materials designed to weather tough conditions.

Both Ranger Wildtrak X and Tremor can be specified with Ford’s innovative new Flexible Rack System, a folding roof rack and adjustable sliding rear load hoop that allow long items to be carried above the roof rather than wedged between the tailgate and cab.  Flexible Rack System is now also available as an option for Ranger Wildtrak series.   

Mazda upgrades Mazda2

Mazda has updated the exterior and interior of its Mazda2 small car for 2023 and established a new grade structure, writes Brian Byrne.

The exterior changes include a new grille and bumper, while there are new instrument panel, air vents and door trim finishes inside.

New grades are Homura and Homura Aka special edition models with distinctive exterior and interior visual elements.

The upgraded versions are due in European markets from June of this year. 

23 March 2023

Gowan Auto consolidates nine brands in one space

A new state-of-the-art headquarters in Dublin's Citywest has been unveiled by Gowan Auto, following the consolidation of nine major motor brands and the completion of a phased relocation of 129 staff. 

Gowan Auto is the exclusive importer and distributor of Alfa Romeo, Citro├źn, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Honda, Jeep, Opel, and Peugeot in the Republic of Ireland. The company has united its suite of car brands, teams and expertise and presented its expansive office space, to include a 110,000 sq ft parts warehouse, a contemporary training academy, and an extensive marketing showroom.

Gowan Auto, a member of the family-owned holding company, the Gowan Group, has made a significant commercial investment in the new Citywest premises, to future-proof the business and to meet its dealer partners' sales, parts, technical and aftersales needs, more readily. 

The complex is equipped with 26 electric vehicle chargers, 123 car parking spaces, seven meeting rooms, and two training classrooms in the Gowan Academy which offers Gowan Auto dealers access to dedicated technical, sales, finance, marketing, and digital expertise, to enable in-depth training across all facets of the business.

The new marketing showroom, the Gowan Gallery, is a multi-purpose event space that has been designed for each brand to hold conferences, events and launches, and to welcome dealers and fleet guests.

The introduction of shared services across the brands has ensured greater efficiencies, with the dealer networks now accessing centralised IT support, enhanced customer care, warranty, technical, parts, and finance teams.