Whenever I think of a French car the first thing into my mind is comfort, most French cars are comfortable cruisers or, as in this country, comfortable in traffic jams. The C3 fits this comfort segment very well, the suspension is soft and the seats are big, the cabin light and roomy. The cabin can be made even more light by sliding back half of the roof, the windscreen is huge even with the roof closed but when you open it you can see the sky. It’s a nice touch but on a sunny day it’s too bright, it does make a cool effect when it rains though, you can see the drops sliding up the glass as you drive along, obviously you shouldn’t be looking up when your driving but your passengers can. There’s Air conditioning as standard along with a host of safety equipment but handsfree is an option, it’s something I feel should be standard in all cars these days, let’s face it we all have mobiles. There is an Aux connector in the front which you can order USB should you want it, get USB that’s what everyone uses these now, even Apple.
The cabin layout is artistically spartan, there’s no temperature gauge just a little blue light to tell you the car is cold, a strip of chrome across the middle leads to a monochrome multiple function display. I like the layout, it’s simple and familiar.

Even though there’s no standard handsfree there is cruise control and speed limiter which is lovely along the motorway, for a small car it’s surprisingly good on motorways, the soft set up on the car suits it.
The exterior is grown up, it’s looks like an older brother to the old C3, there’s good Citroen quirks in the lines maybe the designers were let off the leash a bit with the outside, it shows through but I do think the door openings are a little on the small side.

On the road the 1.4HDI engine pulls well enough, it’s quiet too, actually the whole car on the move is silent. Once you reach cruising speed there’s no noise, you’ll struggle to hear the engine at 100kph. Fantastic sound deadening for a small car, around town the steering very light which is nice enough for tight manoeuvres but out on the road it’s too light for any feedback from the wheels, it’s not really a drivers car but it’s not meant to be, this is a family run about and it’s really good at that. I can easily get the two kids and all the normal stuff into the car.
When I got the car first I wasn’t sure about the really light steering and soft suspension but as the week went on I could see the point of this car, it’s a very decent run about, it will happily take the kids to the beach but just as happy about doing a weeks shopping. The C3 has fierce competition though, the b segment is one of the hardest to get right. Citroen have done a good job on the styling and town set up but it’s a little tight with standard equipment, I’d gladly trade the sliding roof for handsfree, rear electric windows and parking sensors.
Still I’ll miss the C3 when it goes back, it’s kind of become a part of the family, a great car for the city.

Prices for the C3 start at €14,900 for the VT. The model I drove starts at €17,900, see www.citroen.ie for more information





On Friday I was treated to an update by the MD of Renault Ireland Mr. Eric Basset concerning the state of play when it comes to the Zero Emission future. As I wrote before on these pages the objective of the Renault project is “affordability” in the electric future of automobiles. To that end Mr. Basset announced the pricing for both the commercial Kangoo and the Fluence.

Back in July this year I got to test both cars which at the time were still prototypes and I was left with the feeling that I’d just seen the future of the city car, well today I see the future of electric transport and it comes from France.

Renault have decided to make a bold move of leasing the batteries that power all of the models, which means you buy the car and rent the batteries, this also means as new batteries come on stream you’ll be able to get upgrades, at the end of the battery life when it needs to be recycled Renault will look after that too.

The pricing for the Fluence is going to be very good, remember that the Fluence ZE is the same car that you see on the roads in Ireland at the moment, the electric version is to be priced around the same level as the current diesel model, it goes like this

RRP: €26,620, the Government will give €5,000 towards the purchase which makes it €21,620 which puts a couple of hundred Euro over the price of the mid range Fluence dynamique diesel. The leasing of the battery will cost €72 per month with a limit of 15,000kms, if you add to that the cost of charging the battery the total cost of ownership should work out the same as a diesel variant.

The Kangoo ZE is €20,000 exc VAT, again the government will give an incentive making the van €15,870, the same lease teems apply on the battery.

It’s a new method for selling a car, it’s all new even the car. It’s the intention of Renault to become a one stop shop even being able to sell insurance.

I have always derided EV cars on two fronts, the first was the purchase price, all of them are far more expensive than their alternative petrol model but Renault has addressed this with the affordability for everyone, the other problem was range.

The range of these cars is no better than anyone else, but Renault unlike every other manufacturer are bit researching and making the batteries, the leasing of the batter makes a lot of sense as currently to purchase one of these battery units runs to some €10,000 or more. Plus batter technology is moving so fast that if you bought a Nissan Leaf right now that can do 180kms and in twelve months time a new battery comes out that can make the Leaf do 250kms, where does that leave you?

With Renault you lease the battery, so when a better one comes along you just head to a Renault dealer and get your battery swapped, plus your old one gets recycled.

There will be 1500 charging stations to be installed country wide and mapping technology is being researched that will allow you to no only plan your route via the charging stations but will tell you if the stations are in use.

Such is the interest in the Renaults that more staff is coming on board to deal with the volume of enquiries, there’s two more models to come yet, the two seat and four wheel Twizzy along with the Zoe a medium sized hatchback that will be unveiled in Geneva this coming March.

I really do thing Renault have hit the nail on the head with the complete package for EV ownership, expect to see lots of these cars on the roads of Ireland.






The other day I had the greatest pleasure of driving a 1963 fully restored E Type, it’s a 3.8ltr Roadster Mark one and it makes the most fantastic noise I’ve ever heard. The Jag is for sale but the owner doesn’t want lots of test pilots turning up for a drive so we here at Smokerspack towers are acting as go betweens. If you’re interested in buying the car drop us an email and we’ll pass it onto the owner who’ll get back to you. Submissions@smokerspack.com with the heading etype please.

Anyway here’s the video:

Eighteen months ago the Greens declared war on the car and its first casualty was the Family.
You see, if you had more than two nippers and a dog or vise versa and couldn’t afford two cars, then a people carrier or MPV was the man for you.
It made so much sense that manufacturers worldwide invested billions, and after a couple of years, we started to warm to this new phenomena – and dare I say it, even like them.
Initially, critics and motoring hacks (myself included) dismissed them as being mini vans which drove, handled and were about as pleasant to be in as, erm, a mini van.
That mindset changed when Ford launched the C-Max in 2003 – which was basically a re-engineered Focus MK II – already a massive hit with Irish motorists catapulting the brand into the best sellers.
Fast forward to July 2008 and the tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, lentil-chomping saviours of the planet came up with a new tax regime which made all MPVs, and the family, Public Enemy Number 1.
The omissions-based VRT/road tax put buying a new MPV so expensive to buy and run that punters were looking at going back to the old two car-car scenario.
Thankfully, Ford have come to the rescue yet again … and this time they’ve brought reinforcements.
Yep, not only do we get a leaner, greener and meaner C-Max but it also get a big brother in the guise of the 7-seat Grand C-Max.
The boys over at the Blue Oval badge have left nothing to chance as the competition in this segment is savage.
They’ve learned that in these much leaner times, buyers, especially those with growing families, are the most diverse and complex.
It’s not a case of one size fits all and, just like the mums who’ll mainly drive them, it will have to be able to multi task.
This choice is not just a car or mode of transport – it’s practically a member of the family.
It will not only have to ferry the little darlings (and neighbours and pals) to school, to ballet, football, discos, it will also have to cope with baby seats, shopping/buggies, the kitchen sink etc.
The brief was simple; make it bigger, better and above all, cheaper.
The result?
Mission accomplished!
To be fair, they had a bulletproof template to build on.
The old model was a true drivers car thanks to its high driving position, great flexibility and of course, being a Focus clone, it was a rollicking good rided.
The same applies here except it’s even better.
The 5-seat C-Max handled like a dream on the winding mountain roads of Nice and she cruised like a luxury saloon on motorways.
Big brother, lost a little of the refined handling thankls to the longer chassis and even higher roof line, but what it lacked in agility it made up for in torque thanks to the 140bhp diesel engine.
But it is the simplicity of the design which will win over any doubters.
Functionality is the key word here.
Take the revamped floor plan in the 7-seater which is genius.
The 2 plus 2 plus 2 arrangement and fold away seventh seats is so much easier.
It also eradicated the old sibling squabble over who doesen’t want to sit in the middle.
Sliding doors on both sides makes parking and getting kids in and out easy peasy.
Seat belt sensors on all the rear buckles means you know all on board are safely secure.
Throw in a power operated tailgate – which at the touch of a button opens and close the boot and you’re in heaven.
One optional extra well worth checking out is the Active Park Assist.
This piece of kit (normally found on BMWs and Lexus) will scan a parking space and if large enough, will actually parallel park the car for you.
It’s a must considering it costs less than €800 and unlike other gadgets, you’ll use it more than once.
Only diesel versions will go on sale here with a 1.6L, 95bhp  proving the most popular as the C-Max in Band A and
Grand Band B. The 2.0L 140bhp are both in Band B while  a 115bhp automatic is in band C for both.
Standard spec on the Activ includes alloys heated windscreen electric windows, CD Rear parking sensors, folding mirrors and rear seatbelt minder.
Other driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Information System, Speed Limiter and Hill Start Assist The new range will be in Irish showrooms later this month, just in time for the January rush  and Ford promise that  a full- and plug-in hybrid models will be here in 2013.
Priced at €23,600, its a bargain considering the outgoing model is the same price, but without all those goodies.

Evening folks, as you know by now I don’t report every bit of news that hits my inbox, instead I take it, read it and give you the best bits. I’ll leave the other sites to fight over the scraps we don’t bother reporting.
So here’s the important bits:

The pink complements George's eye colour

The First ever “Ireland Stands up to Cancer” gala charity ball took place in the new Convention Centre in Dublin on October 2nd 2010 and Fiat donated the brilliant little Fiat 500 1.2 pop which generated €30,000 in ticket sales and was won by Sally Anne Sherry from Ballsbridge in Dublin. There were some very famous faces there too which included Louis Walsh; Norma Smurfit; Aprés Match’s Barry Murphy and his TV presenter wife Flo McSweeney; Restauranteurs SallyAnne and Derry Clarke and Newstalk’s George Hook, pictured below alongside an appropriately pink Fiat 500 show car. All Proceeds to go to the following charities:

All Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group

Friends of St Luke’s Hospital

The Children’s Cancer Fund, Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin

The Marie Keating Foundation

Hats off to all that attended, there was approximately €250,000 raised in total on the night.


Still with Fiat, a huge congratulations goes out to the Fiat Yamaha Team, the Spaniard  rider Jorge Lorenzo won his first World Champion title in the MotoGp class. Fiat have been the official sponsors of the Yamaha team since 2007 and have now gotten a third laurel in a row, the other two were won by Valentino Rossi in 2008 and 2009. See Smokerspack isn’t all about cars (but it is the preferred subject around here)


The Passat Bluemotion, in red, obviously

Sunday Times journalist Gavin Conway took a standard Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion on public roads around Britain and France and got 1527 miles from one tank of fuel, this equates to 89.83mpg which is amazing considering the this is a family sized saloon, to top it all the Guinness World Records Organisation officially recognising this as a world-beating distance! We’ll be putting the Golf Bluemotion to the test in November, expect swearing when we have to drive like dull people, I mean economically…

Aston Martin

A few weeks ago we showed you pictures of the Cygnet, the baby Aston based on the Toyota IQ. Well Aston have announced that they are to go into production with the little car. Not only that but they will tailor fit the car to your specifications. I can’t wait to see the 6ltr V12 version! Only joking, but it would be cool though, hmm where’s my measuring tape?

Car sales news from the SIMI

€129 million increase in Government revenues due to scrappage scheme, €43m in VAT and €86m in VRT. Renault are the big winners so far for their excellent deals, and will push ahead with the commercial scrappage.

The market share for each car makers break down like this:

Make Total % share  
RENAULT 2477 18%      
FORD 1839 14%      
SKODA 1407 10%      
VOLKSWAGEN 1286 9%      
TOYOTA 1265 9%      
KIA 830 6%      
HYUNDAI 761 6%      
OPEL 750 6%      
NISSAN 683 5%      
PEUGEOT 451 3%      
FIAT 417 3%      
MAZDA 373 3%      
SEAT 367 3%      
MITSUBISHI 113 1%      
CITROEN 112 1%      
SUZUKI 99 1%      
CHEVROLET 78 1%      
VOLVO 73 1%      
HONDA 71 1%      
AUDI 58 0%      
BMW 40 0%      
MINI 24 0%      
MERCEDES-BENZ 10 0%      
PERODUA 10 0%      
SUBARU 9 0%      
ALFA ROMEO 6 0%      
LEXUS 3 0%      
DAIHATSU 2 0%      
SAAB 1 0%      
Overall 13,615 100%      

Well that’s it for now folks, coming up is a test review for our favorite drivers car the Alfa MiTo, if you missed it watch the video here. Also to come the Citroen C3 on test this week.

Here is the fastest little car that we’ve seen this year, and it can corner too! Have a look at the ultimate drivers car for under 25 grand

I got a press release today that I thought was one of the best I’ve read all year, I’m very happy to publish it word for word, enjoy.

“Alfa Romeo Ireland Responds to Comments Made by
VW’s Ferdinand Piëch at the Paris Motorshow
The chairman of Volkswagen, Ferdinand Piëch, publically stated his desire to acquire the iconic Alfa Romeo brand at the Paris Motorshow last week. However, we at Alfa Romeo Ireland believes his comments may have been misconstrued. Mr. Piëch, like thousands of other Alfa Romeo fans around the world, may simply have been expressing his desire to own an Alfa Romeo, most likely the all-new Giulietta – a car which Top Gear Magazine says “might just be the best car that Alfa has built in its 100 years of existence.” After all, the Giulietta offers the sort of quality and refinement Mr. Piëch is well accustomed in his products, but with that extra dash of desirability that you only get with an Alfa Romeo.
The 73-year old also seems prepared to wait a long time for his new Giulietta. “Time works in our favour on such a deal,” he was heard to comment. “Ask me again in two years’ time.” However, Alfa Romeo Ireland would like Mr. Piëch to know that although demand for the Giulietta is likely to push Alfa Romeo’s sales beyond 150,000 in 2011 (keeping the brand on target for sales of 300,000 by 2014 as outlined by Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne in Fiat Group Automobile’s five-year business plan announced last April) there are no supply issues with the Giulietta and he can actually have one today if he so wishes. Nor will waiting two years help Mr. Piëch negotiate a better price for his new Giulietta. At €19,995 for the entry-level 1.4 TB 120hp Turismo, the Giulietta is already one of the best value family cars on sale today.
In conclusion, Alfa Romeo Ireland would like to thank Mr. Piëch for his interest and suggests that he visit http://www.alfaromeo.ie to find his nearest dealer, request a brochure or configure the Alfa Romeo of his dreams.”

Hats off Alfa Romeo Ireland, best press release of the year! 

Your questions……answered

Posted: October 8, 2010 by smokerspack in Cocking about, Tips, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

From time to time we here at smokerspack towers we get emails, although we try to answer all of them personally there are a few that we get regularly, so here is a selection of them with our ahem…answers.
What car should I buy with 5000 Euro?
It very much depends on what you want to use the car for, if you have family or your single, between jobs or fancy some track days. Try to be more specific with your question, something like, I have five grand and no girlfriend, what car should I buy to attract the ladies? The answer to that is easy, don’t buy a car. Have a shave, loose the hoodie and get a nice suit, go out on a Saturday night and don’t buy anything illegal, then just tell the first girl you meet that you have five grand and your looking for as good time, job done.
Would you like a bigger penis in three weeks?
No, it took me 38 years to grow the one I have and I like it.
Should I get my car checked before going to the NCT?
Don’t be silly, just go do the NCT and if you fail go get what you failed on fixed and do the retest.
Why don’t you test more cars?
I only have one arse, hence I can only test one car at a time. There’s more tests coming, including a very big one.
When are you going to test a Zonda?
You show me a dealer selling a Zonda and I’ll show you a dealer that’s about to go bust. Smokerspack will test any car that’s on the road in Ireland, but alas some cars are even out of our reach, so far…
I have a warning light on the dashboard, what could it be?
There are loads of warning lights on cars, could be anything from an oil light to an engine management light, go to your dealer and ask what it is, pay the man and he’ll fix it. Or you could look in the deep hole that contains your drivers manual, there’ll be a picture of the light with an explanation of what it means. Type the explanation in an email, send it too me and I’ll explain it to you then.
How hard is it to service my own car?
That depends on the type of engine and car we are talking about. In general terms if you can take the back wheel off a racing bike with gears then you can probably service your own car. Try getting a Haynes manual.
What car would you recommend for a first time learner driver?
Simple, a 1ltr 99 Nissan Micra, you can fit 5 people in it, it can’t go very fast, you won’t care if you scratch it, cheap tax and insurance. Yes it’s a granny car but it beats walking.
I can’t afford to change my car this year, the car I’m driving needs a few jobs doing to it that I can’t afford to do that either, what should I do?
Give up drinking, go on a lean diet and start exercising, because you’ll be walking to work shortly if you don’t get your car sorted. Or you could just work harder.
How do you become a race driver?
I have no idea, why don’t you go to Mondello next time there’s a race on and ask a driver. Better still take your car on a track day and give us all a laugh.
How do manufacturers get so much horse power from small engines?
The assembly plant has a special room where all the workers stand and chant as the engines pass by, they sing to the god of horse power and lo the engines get special powers.
Who were you calling a flute in the Fiat 500 video?
James Last was passing by rather slowly on his bicycle while playing a flute, I was merely telling him to hurry up.

That’s it folks, if you have any questions you like answered, serious or not then please email submissions@smokerspack.com

I have been using the Internet for years now, and for as long as I can remember I have been pricing cars on line and in the last few years you can even buy a car from places like ebay, but the basic premise of buying a car hasn’t changed much in Ireland, we still find a car on a dealer web site and then go along to a showroom where we are coaxed into buying a car. Well things are changing, imagine if you could go online to see over 70 pictures of the car you like, put down a fully refundable 99 euro deposit, go to a warehouse to test drive the car and then drive it home when you pay the balance, no pressure.

Thats what you can do on autodirect.ie, I came across the web site one night when I was looking for a price of a car and it seemed to me as an interesting idea, auto direct take ex-lease cars and sell them to retail buyers at knock down prices.

For those that don’t know, leasing companies buy job lots of cars and lease them to medium and large business as fleet cars. For the most part these cars are really well looked after, only being used by sales and management as company cars. They tend to be serviced on schedule and sold off after a couple of years. The leasing companies sell the cars on and buy new ones, it’s at this point when auto direct get involved, they are effectively middle men between you and the leasing companies, so you get a young, well serviced car for a knock down price. This seemed too good to be true so I decided to visit the warehouse where the cars are stored for viewing.

Normally you would go into a big glass showroom and meet lots of people in suits but there’s little of that here. The idea is you see every aspect of the car online, even down to the tyre condition before you visit the showroom, this is an e-commerce solution at it’s best. It’s much the same as buying anything else on the Internet, except it’s a car.

With all of the stock coming from ex-fleet and no trade in’s Autodirect are in a unique position to be able to cut the prices that they charge down to the bone, but that doesn’t mean cutting corners. All of the cars are inspected by the AA and get a motorcheck.ie report done.

After a quick tour of the offices I was let loose in the warehouse, there isn’t a big glass showroom, all the cars are kept indoors and they are spotlessly clean. There’s a car turntable and professional lighting at the end of the warehouse where a photographer takes hundreds of pictures that are put up live on the site, there’s no mechanics, oil or even dirt anywhere to be seen, the showroom in on the internet, where I’m standing is more of a handover room.

So what’s the cars like? I decided to take an Insignia out for a test drive, I noticed the Vauxhall logo on the front which means this is a UK car, there’s nothing wrong with that, really there isn’t a dealer in the country who hasn’t got a UK car sitting on his forecourt at the moment. The Insignia is like new, the valeting team done a great job, it’s a 2009 but there isn’t a mark on it. The warehouse is way down the back of the Toughers business park between Newbridge and Naas, they have a huge yard that leads out onto a wide open road where you can have a proper test drive without having to get into traffic.

autodirect.ie may have hit upon a new way of selling cars in Ireland, although the method has been in operation elsewhere for some time now. But it does give the Irish buyer a new way to buy a car, I can see no down side for the buyer, the cars are immaculate, cheap and readily available.

If your in the market for a change of car it will cost you nothing to have a look at the web site, compare some of the prices, you never know you might just get the bargain you’ve been hoping for.

There isn’t many cars that are capable of making you smile from the moment you see them, in fact there isn’t many things in the world that can make you smile, let’s face it this country hasn’t got much to smile about, with tax, bank bail outs, job losses it’s not a happy place to be at all.

Well I found the solution to all these problems and it comes with a soft top, the little 500 has been around since 1957 when a post war Italy needed a small, cheap and economical car to get the country moving again. It was very successful, it lasted all the way to 1975 when it was replaced with the 127.

It made a return in 2007 with the new retro model that we see today, now Fiat have taken a can opener and taken the roof off and I promise it will put a smile on your face to see it coming down the road, but it will make you a happy person to drive it.

You see the 500 is no shrinking violet, in fact in the time I was driving it around I couldn’t have attracted more attention if I turned up in a pink Zonda! Even parking it meant that it was surrounded by people by the time I got back. There is a certain Italian style about the whole car but it’s not all mouth and no trousers. The cabin is made out of some great materials and there’s great attention to detail in the styling. The best part of the design is the speedo housing, there’s only one cowl so on the outer ring is all the warning lights, the next ring in is the speedo and inside that is the rev counter. It’s nice to watch the rev needle chase the speedo needle around, in the centre there’s an MFD that can tell you everything from radio channel to average fuel consumption, when the car is stopped you can get into the settings for disabling the air bag and hooking up your phone to the blue and me system, which can be controlled by voice, so you can tell the car to dial a number and I have to say it never got the number wrong even when I spoke very fast, smart system.

On the road the suspension is firm but I would expect that from a car that has the wheel base of a roller skate, the little 1.2ltr engine puts out 68bhp but it doesn’t matter because even when your going slow it feels quick, it’s the size of the car, a go-cart with a roof. It handles like a go-cart too, you point the nose and it goes there, it’s a fun car to drive.

The point of this car is to be different, it does that perfectly, it’s non threatening, cute and most important convertible. The peel back roof is fully electric and can be operated by two buttons near the rear view mirror or the key fob. When it’s fully open it’s breezy enough in the cabin, if you leave it 3/4 open it’s just nice, a diffuser pops up at the front to push the air over the car. On a warm day it’s a lovely place to be when you’re pootling around town, and you don’t have to stop to put the roof up, you can open or close the roof at up to 60kph. When it rains the cloth roof make you feel like your in a tent, the pitter-patter of rain drops is homely while the climate control gives a warm and fuzzy feeling.

In the week I had the car I met many people, there wasn’t one of them who didn’t like the little 500c, on Saturday I met the Druid bike club, even some of the hairiest men thought the car was cool, Sunday I went along to a drift track where people only think about smoking tyres, the 500c still got the nod of approval.

From the moment I saw the little Fiat I started to smile and that smile only went away when I had to give it back, this is the only car that managed to evict my Leon from the garage, I made room for the 500 to sleep. This car has personality, it’s become a member of the family, the kids love to drive along with the roof open looking out at the sky. Sure there are some compromises, size being the obvious one, but I still got both child seat and an adult into the car, ok one of the seats had to be put in via the roof but that’s now a talking point. This is a car that makes you interesting, it shows that your not afraid to drive something different, yes it has only 68bhp but it makes you feel like it’s a sports car and that’s the point; it makes you feel.

Lots of cars make you numb, in time you forget why you bought them, you might even forget what car you drive, but I guarantee you won’t forget the Fiat 500c.

Prices start at €16,195 in the Pop model and €18,145 for the Lounge. The car I drove had these options:


COLOUR: Funk White Pearlescent

INTERIOR: Red Leather (with matching Red Roof)


Pearlescent Paint

Leather Trim

Xenon Headlamps with washers

Vehicle Dynamic Control

Interscope HiFi System

Total cost of Fiat 500C  €22,600

Want to see the smokerspack test in video? Right here

For further details on the Fiat 500 range please see www.fiat.ie or visit your local dealer.