Archive for June, 2010

BMW 530d (E39) 2003

Posted: June 30, 2010 by smokerspack in Uncategorized

The benchmark, that’s what most people say about all versions of the 5 series, this is what a big saloon should feel like. No other car can carry off the mix of poise, style, looks and driveability. Every other big saloon was compared to the 5 series; no other car of its size could give you an exciting drive down a back road, while still being so stable on a motorway. Many years ago I drove a petrol powered version on the Autobahn at 120mph; there is no feeling like moving this much metal that fast but still feeling safe, only the 5 series could carry that off.
From the outside it looks big and slightly threatening, all the curves and creases are in the right places, the four headlamps and double grill give it a hard man look. The boot space is a little on the small side at 314ltrs, but the opening is big making it easier to get things in.
The interior space is limited too, it’s big enough for 5 adults but it feels cosy. The drivers’ seat is a different matter, there’s plenty of room to stretch out. I always still a little differently in an automatic, because I don’t have to clutch I tend to sit a little further back from the pedals which in this car is no problem, there’s plenty of movement on the runners, it does make the back seat a little tight. The cabin has a fantastic fit and finish, BMW used great materials when they nailed the car together and everything still feels new and tight.
On the road the 3.0ltr diesel unit does a great job of pushing you along, there’s a surge of power up to the red line of 5000rpm, the auto gear shift is smooth too. The engine puts out 190bhp but it feels more. The handling is a case of point the nose where you want to be and the car willingly goes there, it makes you feel like a better driver than you are. For a car of its size it grips like a heavy go-cart, even though there’s a 3.0ltr engine up the front there’s no noticeable under-steer, there is over-steer but that’s fun and totally controllable.
Once you reach the motorway the 5 series turns from sharp handling to big cruiser, it rides the bumps with ease, and it really is a long distance mile muncher, at 120kph (the speedo is in mph) the engine is just ticking over and there’s very little wind noise.
Around town the big automatic makes stop start traffic a breeze, visibility is good for a saloon, it is a bit hard to gauge where the back of the car is when reversing but you would soon get used to it, there’s good fuel economy too in real world driving you get 40-50mpg.
So we have a real driver’s car, a car that consistently appeared high in the list of customer satisfaction and reliability surveys both here and the US, a car that is what I believe a future classic, and right now it’s cheaper to buy than most hatchbacks. The only thing that stops us all buying a 530d is tax, the current tax on this car is €1293 per year and even if it was calculated using the C02 output it would be €1050. It’s a shame to see such a great car waiting for a new owner, it deserves to be driven and this one I’m testing has been cared for throughout its whole life, there isn’t a mark on it. I hope we will continue to see the E39 on the road, it’s a brilliant car, and it would be a shame to loose it because of some tax.
The car I tested is available from Noel Whelan car sales in Portlaoise; you can see it on Carzone.

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Topgear super Sunday

Posted: June 28, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Topgear, Uncategorized

"The Lads" Unofficial title

So the world’s biggest car show returned to our screens last night with the three lads in top form, they reviewed a Bentley, blew up a chimney, drove up a volcano, killed the Lacetti and showed us the new reasonably priced car, a Kia Cee’d; it was brilliant.
In the weeks before the show aired there were promises made on the Topgear web site, we will be better than before, we can change, and we will try to keep the internet happy too. But hang on, I have been watching Topgear since the old type was on TV with Noel Edmunds, Quentin Wilson, Tiff Needell and many others including Clarkson; would drive some car up a road and tell us how it feels. I’ve seen all the new format Topgear as well with Jason Dawe, even Edd China put in an appearance. But when James may joined the pairing of Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson some how the show really caught on.
Over the years they have entertained us with various antics, £10,000 supercars, DB9 races train, Veron races plane, sail across the English Chanel in a car, the list goes on. Every time a new series starts we all wait with baited breath to see what craziness “the lads” will get up too this time. Love it, hate it or just watch it so you can complain about something Clarkson said Topgear is a great entertainer.
It’s the benchmark for all other car shows on TV, 5th Gear, another great car show, do their best but have never quite nailed the right mix of presenters, being hived away on Five doesn’t help their cause but Dave has helped them. TV3 had a go at making a car show, it was called Accelerate. It was announced in the Herald as “Move over Jeremy Clarkson, Ireland is set to get its very own version of Top Gear.” After the first episode the internet came alive with “it’s a Topgear copy” and “Accelerate is crap”. It wasn’t all that bad, it tried to hard, but a rival for Topgear…no.
So you see the problem any other car show has, everything they do either has been done or will be done by the Monster Topgear. This Autumn RTE are trying another car show, testing drivers abilities and rewarding them with an F1 training session, again it was reported in the Herald as “In a bid to rival Top Gear, RTE2 have come up with their own twist on the hit BBC show.” Even the presenter Neil Briscoe (who was the front man for Accelerate) is keen to play down the comparison saying “Ultimately the cars aren’t the centre of the show,” “Ultimately the ambition is to have six members of the public drive different vehicles, and then we’ll take people who scored the best and reward them”. So RTE have come up with “Ireland’s got driving Talent”. If you’re going to start off by comparing yourself to the worlds biggest car show you have to be:
1. Mad
2. Better than Topgear
3. Suicidal
Topgear must be the hardest show in the world to create, especially when you consider the only competition you have is yourself. Andy Wilman does a fantastic job at staying current and adapting the format to suit the feedback, but it’s the three front men who breathe life into the show, it’s the mix of personalities and their passion for all things automotive that has kept Topgear at the top of the BBC2 ratings.
The Topgear phenomenon marches on with live shows, annuals, tee-shirts and The Stig. You can say what you like about the show, like it or not, you can’t knock its marketability.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and the series after that. I do hope Andy and the three lads stop listening to the internet people and just get on with doing what excites them, driving cars and having a laugh.
Long live Topgear.

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Every year that great golden orb in the sky that we call the Sun comes out to play, the days get longer, the temperature goes up, the clothing comes off and summer is announced. Will Smith comes on the radio to lull you into believing its “summer, Summer, Summer time”. Everyone’s need for outdoor activities increases, dogs get to crap further away from home, young kids leave their avatar in the bedroom and come blinking into the sunlight asking “what is it Mammy?” and the answer is “Get out and play!”

It’s also the time of year when you might think of getting a tin opener to the roof of your car so you can catch some more sunshine while you drive, well you don’t have to. There is a huge selection of convertibles out there to choose from; almost every manufacturer makes a convertible version of one car or another. But today, on this bright sunny day my local friendly dealer had a Renault Megane CC out front so I just had to have a go.

It’s not that long ago a convertible had to be a sports car; most of them had two seats, totally impractical and very expensive. They were the kind of car you only saw on the TV; the driver had to have a flat cap and tweed jacket. Leaky roof’s, rain and people shredding the vinyl on the way home from the pub were just a few of the problems. Renault set to change that with the Megane CC, it was among the first to get a folding hard top roof, this was set to be the best of both worlds, a hard top car for winter that opens up for the summer. This was to be an affordable 4 seat hard top convertible, ok I know there isn’t exactly 4 seats in the Megane; the two adults in the back would have to have removable legs, nonetheless there are seats in the back that kids could sit in. The Megane CC is one of the prettiest of the convertibles; from the back it’s far nicer than Peugeot’s 307 and equally as nice as the Focus CC. In coupe mode with the roof up it looks like a Megane saloon with a big bottom, it’s a bit longer at the back to accommodate that glass roof and all the machinery required to fold it away. The boot space is only 190ltr with the roof up, and with the roof down it’s all but inaccessible but these cars are made for style not practicality.

Renault promised to improve their fit and finish and that promise holds true for the interior, everything feels solid and the materials used are good quality. There’s a good air conditioning system and that’s very much-needed with the glass roof up on a sunny day. On the road it’s quiet and soft over the bumps, at cruising speed there’s very little wind noise and Renault have done a good job keeping the engine noise down, even out on the motorway. Back in the town, where this car is at home, it was just like a normal Megane, soft over the speed bumps. The 1.6 110bhp engine does a good job tootling around, the rear window is a little small and with the size of the boot it can be a bit of a job to park, enough of this normal car mode it’s time to drop the roof and catch some rays.

In convertible mode the whole feeling of the car changes, you want to drive everywhere at 10kph, there’s a great novelty to being outside while driving a car. The driving dynamic changes too, the rear of the car feels heavier and there’s a little scuttle shake when you corner. At town speeds with all the windows down the breeze is light, but once you pick up a little speed you need to put the windows up or risk having your hair torn off. Obviously with the roof down parking is a doddle, putting the roof up in a public place never fails to attract a crowd. There’s some admiring looks when you drive around with it down too. All convertibles have something cool about them, even if it is a Renault. There are some flaws, namely the tiny boot, small back seat and poor visibility out the back with the roof up. But these pale into insignificance when the sun shines, the roof comes down, Will Smith sings and the sky becomes the limit of your head room, it’s fantastic.

The car I drove is available from Portlaoise Kia garage, you can see it on Carzone, have a drive on a sunny day, you’ll see what I mean.

Honda Civic 1.8i SES 4 door 2006

Posted: June 26, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, Saloon car, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

It’s seems like forever that Honda has been around, in the late 40’s Soichiro Honda who was as self taught engineer started the Honda motors. He started with motorbikes, and even worked on a piston design that he eventually sold to Toyota, it was so successful he has to build a factory to build the pistons. So when you think of Toyota reliability, remember that Honda pistons once powered the cars. Post world war two, Japan was starved of fuel and there was huge over crowding so Mr Honda decided to make a motor powered bicycle, he picked up some army surplus two stroke engines and attached them to bicycle frames, and from these humble beginnings the Honda name took shape. They still make motorbikes by the bucket load, but who can forget the chicken chaser, the immortal Honda 50.

In the early 70’s the US was going through an energy crisis, all American cars were big fuel guzzling V8’s, but there was no fuel for that kind of car. Honda released the first Civic and it couldn’t have come at a better time, it was small, fuel efficient, cheap to fix and most important cute.

Way back in 1990 the VTEC engine was put into the new NSX, eventually making its way into the whole of the Honda line up. With very few changes the same VTEC engine is in the car I’m driving today, the Saloon Civic. The model I’m driving is the 8th generation of the Civic lineage; the model came out in 2006 and has had a slight face lift in 2009.

It had a striking look in 2006, and it’s still striking now. There’s something very space age about the front, the long slender side gives way to a sharp boot line. Some people (mainly the older generation) shrieked and ran away looking for a Toyota brochure, but most thought it was something different. If you want to stand out in the crowd of euro-boxes then the Civic is for you. The boot is on the small side at 350ltrs and has a little intrusion from the wheel arches, but it can be forgiven that because the cabin is large.

The first thing you notice is the dash board, it’s from the future, there’s sloping lines and curving parts. There really isn’t any other car to compare it too; it’s in a world of its own. The thing is everything is where it should be, it’s intuitive and ergonomic. There’s plenty of room up front, the interior feels bright especially with the sunroof as standard. The back seat is big enough for 3 adults but the centre seat squab is a little high, hence the centre passenger might find the head room a little tight.

When you start up the engine the whole dashboard comes to life, lots of LED lights, you can’t help but notice the speedo right at the top of the dashboard, above the rev counter. It’s a much nicer place to have it than the Toyota or Renault who have it in the middle. In the same section there’s a temperature and fuel gauge, just below there’s a big rev counter with a red line at 7800rpm, that’s a full 1800rpm over most anything else on the road. As soon as you pull away you can notice the difference, being able to hold a gear longer means you spend less time changing gears and that means your going faster sooner. The 1.8 puts out 140bhp and does away with 60mph in 8.6 seconds, that’s impressive for a mid-sized saloon car. The power is delivered right throughout the rev range, the engine fizzes when you get up around 7000rpm even then the power is smooth, and then you change gear and begin all over again.

Once you get over the ability to drive in any gear you can settle down and cruise along. In normal driving the Civic is supple and polite; the engine quiets down to a whisper. But once you reach the back roads, that urge to let that engine rev comes again. The steering is weighty enough to give good driver feedback, and the rev range means you never feel like you’re in the wrong gear. There is a little under steer, but that’s common in front wheel drive saloon cars. At low speed around town the steering is light as is the clutch and gearbox, there’s good visibility from all sides so it’s easy to park.

When I returned from my test I noticed the millage, 130,000kms. It’s testament to the Honda build quality that this Civic felt like a new car, so I was offered a drive in a 2010 model and I have to say it was the same, I couldn’t believe that a 4 year old car with that much millage could be so tight and fresh feeling.

Aside from the small boot and a look that doesn’t suit everyone this is a great car, the VTEC engine just buzzes along making for a fun drive, and the cool dash layout and Honda reliability make for a great package.

The car I drove is available for test in John Adams car sales, Ballymacken, Portlaoise. You can view it on Carzone too.

Ford Focus C-Max 1.6d 2005

Posted: June 25, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, Hatchback, Uncategorized

The Ford Focus is one of the best selling cars on the market; it has been that way for a long time now, it’s roomy and handles extremely well. It also manages to appeal to Parents and modifiers alike, but if you want all that wrapped up in an even more practical package you need a C-Max. The MAV sector as it’s called (Multi-activity vehicle) is a hotly contested area in car sales, most manufacturers bring out some version of big hatch back, but Ford were there since the beginning with the C-Max.

It’s based on the Focus throughout, but it’s longer and taller. The exterior is a nice package, it has a very tidy footprint, with the spot lamps and alloys added it looks almost sporty. The boot space is a massive 550ltr, there’s a low boot lip for easy loading.

In the front it’s got all the common Ford equipment, apart from the stereo in the one I’m driving is a lovely sounding Pioneer, the main difference is the seating position. You are higher up and more above the pedals; it feels more like a van driving position, but you’re behind the steering wheel instead of above it like a van. It’s very easy to find a comfy spot, even if it’s not your preferred spot it’s still comfy. The seat squab is firm but the back of the seat is soft. There’s plenty of storage too, cubby holes everywhere, even on the top of the dash.

The back seat is very smart, in normal position there’s a tonne of room for 3 adults in the back, but when you want to the two outer seats move forward and out. This increases the boot space but more importantly makes the back seat wider. There is also tray tables set into the back of the drivers and passenger seats, all in all the rear of the car are a nice place to sit.

On the road the 1.6ltr diesel does a good job of shifting the car along, it’s quiet too. The driving position means visibility is superb; the 5 speed gearbox is snappy with a light clutch means easy town driving. The C-Max manages to be comfortable on the road without being too firm. Once you get up to speed the cabin is quiet, there’s very little road noise. It’s thrifty too, you will easily get 50mpg in real world driving and that’s very good for a big car.

Out on the motorway you would think you were driving a much bigger car, it’s solid and nippy. Once you get onto the back roads that reliable Ford handling starts kicking in, it turns like a Focus hatchback, the handling is brilliant for a car in this sector. While most of the other MAV cars wallow in the corners the C-Max stays level, with plenty of feedback from the steering you won’t mind travelling fast in it.

Testament to the Ford build quality everything in the cabin still works, there were no shakes or rattles, and that’s saying something usually these kind of cars get treated very hard, the kids in the back can reduce most cars to their component parts in a few months, not so with this C-Max it’s still in great condition.

What seems from the exterior to be a small car is like a Tardis in the interior, the Renault Scenic is the usual benchmark in this category but I think the C-Max is more than a match, the Scenic dated very quickly but the Ford still looks sharp, couple that to the far superior driving experience and the C-Max is hard to beat.

The car I drove is available from Downey’s Auto stop in Portlaoise, for more information contact Gerry on 0578622048, you can also find it on Carzone.

Good news for if you’re buying a Volvo in the near future, the specs and prices are changing on the S40 and V50 range. The top of the range SE Lux model is getting more standard equipment and going down in price. The new S40 1.6d will start at €27,995 for the Es model and €30,095 for the SE Lux, see the table below for all the details.

Volvo S40 & V50 Pricing**

Make Model Description Transmission Type Recommended Retail Price** Road Tax Band
Volvo S40 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe ES Manual €27,995 A
Volvo S40 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe SE Manual €30,095 A
Volvo S40 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe SE Lux Manual €30,095 A
Volvo S40 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe R-Design Manual €31,335 A
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp ES Manual €30,500 B
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp ES Automatic €33,000 C
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Manual €32,600 B
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Automatic €35,100 C
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Lux Manual €32,600 B
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Lux Automatic €35,100 C
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp R-Design Manual €33,500 B
Volvo S40 D3 2.0D 150hp R-Design Automatic €36,000 C
Volvo V50 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe ES Manual €29,845 A
Volvo V50 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe SE Manual €31,945 A
Volvo V50 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe SE Lux Manual €31,945 A
Volvo V50 D2 1.6D 115hp DRIVe R-Design Manual €33,185 A
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp ES Manual €32,350 B
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp ES Automatic €34,850 C
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Manual €34,450 B
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Automatic €36,950 C
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Lux Manual €34,450 B
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp SE Lux Automatic €34,450 C
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp R-Design Manual €35,350 B
Volvo V50 D3 2.0D 150hp R-Design Automatic €37,850 C

Not only are there great reductions in the prices but the 2.0ltr 150bhp engine is a welcome addition, if you put that into a V50 you would have a powerful estate in tax band B. Good move Volvo.
Here’s the list of extras in the SE Lux models.

The full specification for the S40 & V50 SE Lux includes, in addition to all the safety features synonymous with Volvo:

Electronic Climate Control
Full Leather Upholstery
Performance Audio
Illuminated Vanity Mirrors
Aluminum Inlays
Cruise Control
Power Folding Door Mirrors with Puddle Lights
Active Bending Headlights with headlamp cleaning
Dashboard Information Computer
Audio Remote Controls on steering wheel
Leather Steering Wheel, handbrake cover & gearlever knob
Rain Sensor
Autodiming mirror
Front Foglights
Colour coordinated lower body mouldings
17″ Alloys
Passenger airbag cutoff switch
Rear Armrest with cupholders/ storage

Keep an eye on for more info.

New VW Jetta and Crosspolo pictures

Posted: June 23, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

New Jetta


The Cross Polo

The Crosspolo now with added people

These rather funky looking new VW’s are to be released sometime in the coming months, they might be hitting our shores in 2011. I’m waiting for price’s and spec sheets for the Irish market, soon as I have them I’ll put them up. The Jetta looks like competition for the Insignia, and the CrossPolo should send a shudder or two through the Yeti market which is strange because VW own Skoda

Megane Coupé 1.5DCI 2010

Posted: June 22, 2010 by johnos1984 in Coupe, Hatchback, Uncategorized

“Not for me thank you”

In these most frugal of times it difficult to justify the large expenditure that a new car warrants. Huge depreciation, difficulty getting loans and some of the magnificent bargains available on the used car market are just some of the reasons why people have decided not to purchase a new car. However Renault has fought back with some great new car prices and some of the most competitive scrappage deals and warranty cover packages.

Intrigued by their success in a very difficult Irish market I took to the roads in one of their most popular and stylish models available on the market place, the Megane Coupé 1.5DCI (86bhp). The Mégane Coupé has been available since 1997 in Ireland and this is its third incarnation and in my opinion it is by far and away the most stylish model to date. As I approached the car I got a feeling that I was taking the keys of something special indeed. I had chosen the basic model as I suspect this shall be the most popular model on the market place. However after the initial excitement I was left very disappointed.

After sitting into the car I was greeted with hard seats, something I wouldn’t have expected in a Renault. Ok so hard isn’t the worst thing and it is a sports model but I could have forgiven this if I could get comfortable but needless to say I couldn’t. I have always associated French cars with softness and comfort however this was not to be. Fair enough if Renault want to change their image however it just didn’t do it for me. Hard seats could be overlooked however the rest of the interior couldn’t. From the hard plastics on the lower part of the dashboard, to the confusing digital display to the bland utterly bland centre console I was quickly being left with the feeling that the designers had some great ideas but weren’t left to finish what they had started. It’s like Renault is trying to be exciting, modern and price conscience and ends up achieving no coherent design philosophy.

Out on the road things didn’t improve. I’m a big fan of small frugal diesel units and all the benefits that go along with them however the Renault unit failed to sparkle. Above all this was probably the biggest let down in the overall package. If your going to make a sports car at the very least I feel it should be able to move at pace however I felt like I was driving something very lowly out on the open road. This unit also sees service in the Clio, Micra, Quashqai and Tiida ranges of cars to name but a few and there in lies the problem. It is successful in the other units as they are small to medium family cars, performance takes second place. In its current form in the Mégane Coupé it really fails to shine. In other markets larger capacity units are available and these do make a large difference. If you want a small, frugal and cheap to run car my advice is to look at a family hatchback. Not a sports car. This car is very much about the image and unfortunately it really fails to deliver in the performance area.

The ride was one of a mixed bag. The car handled great once i had gotten some speed up from the lethargic engine and showed great promise on backroads and motorways however at low speeds and in town it became very unsettled by bumps and broken road surfaces. To say it was uncomfortable would be going to far but it just never settled down and never really inspired confidence. It just seemed that the chassis engineers thought a warm hatch needed hard suspension and forgot about how brilliantly they could do comfort as well.

The final part of the review is one which I hate to conduct on a sports car, practicality, however people always ask what a car is like to live with. Firstly the boot opening is narrow and there is a high sill but having said that if you need a bigger opening and more practicality buy a bigger car. The doors are very long also so people parking this in narrow spaces take heed; it needs space for you to get in and out. Other than that there is more than enough space inside combined with good storage.

I really wanted to like the Coupé. It has a great package on paper and appears to be the perfect car for the Irish market at this time however I just couldn’t engage with it. It just felt compromised in every area. Admittedly when I went to return the car a more upmarket edition was parked in the garage. I only had time to poke around the interior and it seemed like a far better package. The seats were improved; the dash board plastics seemed better and gladly there was a leather steering wheel. However I quickly found out it had the same engine and that is when I walked away happily I had made the right judgement about this car.

For those who doubt my review consider this: the British market gets a higher powered diesel model and excellent petrol engines. Why are we forced to put up with the poverty spec engines?

Nissan Qashqai 1.5Dci 2007

Posted: June 22, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Family car, Hatchback, Uncategorized

The CashCow, that’s what Nissan should have called this car. The sales of this car have been huge; especially considering the rest of the 4×4 market is all but dead. Nissan had this corner of the market to its self, some would argue that Nissan created this sector, but now everyone else is catching up. Now let’s be straight the Qashqai isn’t a 4×4, you can have that as an option, but near every one of them on the road are 2 wheel drive only. This 2007 model I’m driving this morning is no different.

There’s no doubt where the appeal of this car lies, the looks are inoffensive but impressive too, there is a little happy dog around the front so check on the cuteness list. The big wheels and high ride height make is look butch too, it’s an interesting lesson on how to make a car appeal to every kind of person.

The interior feels spacious and really well put together, there’s a good feel from all the plastics, and it’s very well put together. The back seat is big enough, but there is a little of the 4+1 feel to it, the rear seat squab is a little on the narrow side for 5 adults. There’s an arm rest the in centre back with two cup holders built in. Up front all the controls are well laid out, everything is where it should be. The steering wheel controls are a little fussy; it takes a bit of getting used to where everything is.

Even from cold the 1.5dci engine is quiet, the 6 speed gear box has a lovely direct feeling. With a light clutch and big power steering pump there’s no problem moving the car at low speeds. For a small diesel engine it’s quite free revving, topping out a 4500rpm, there is a little turbo lag but that’s to be expected to get the economy figures up where they need to be.

On the road there’s a nice little turn of speed from the engine, once you get to cruising speed it goes cathedral quiet in the cabin. The ride is lovely too, the driving position is high but it still feels like a car. Very little body roll in any of the bends, there’s plenty of grip too. Even though the Qashqai has a big footprint at no point of the drive did I feel like I was driving a big car, it just feels like a hatchback on stilts.

The boot is big at 410ltrs and it’s just at the right height for loading stuff in, there’s no step to speak of so it’s flat floor.

When the Qashqai first came out there was much debate over what the car really was, and SUV or a big hatchback. Well it turned out that it was neither, it was just a well put together big car; it’s a bit of a mongrel. This is an 07 model which means old road tax, €357 per year. An 08 model is €156 per year but there’s also a difference is the prices being charged, you will pay a premium for the new tax model. It’s debateable whether or not you’ll see the savings back in the road tax over the life of the car. The Qashqai is named after a nomadic tribe that live in Iran, what that has to do with this car I’ll never know. One thing is for sure, this is a very capable car, solid on the road and practical too. Even though there’s a bit of competition out there now there’s still nothing to beat the Qashqai.

Thanks go to Noel Whelan car sales Portlaoise for lending me the car for this test, it was in mint condition, and I believe it’s sold. Please call 0578663896 or keep a watch on the dealers Carzone page.

Mazda 6 Executive 2.0ltr TD SE

Posted: June 18, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, Saloon car, Uncategorized

The recession is over, so say the number crunchers that look at some numbers on a page and tell us that there’s growth, people are spending and there’s some job creation. But talk to real people and they will tell you that the cost of the weekly shopping is growing, and they are earning less than they did last year. With all the politicians fighting among themselves for party position I’m wondering who is running the country.

Never the less we are all buying cars, and eco cars at that. It seems Ireland has fallen in love with diesel cars and low Co2, because of our strange tax system big engine diesels are often cheaper to tax than small petrol car. Ford dealers are jumping for joy as they hold the top two spots for car sales this year so far. The Focus and Fiesta are the most popular cars followed by the VW Golf and Renault Megane. The most telling number in the list of new car sales is 62% diesel, that’s a whopping 37,108 new diesels on Irish roads. Do you think the price you pay at the diesel pump will change?

It’s another diesel I’m testing this morning, a bronze coloured Mazda 6. Mazda has always made honest, reliable cars and in the last few years the design has gotten better. It was always very Japanese in looks and the 6 is no different, it looks a little like a Manga cartoon, there’s a lot going on in both the headlights and rear light clusters. It’s not a bad thing, it makes the car look a little sporty, it’s just not to everyone’s taste. Lots of chrome touches on the exterior just enhance that sporty air.

The boot space is good too at 519ltrs it’s not class leading but big and square, the boot opening is that same oval shape you find on most saloons. The cabin is light open, there’s great visibility from all sides. On the dash everything is simple, just 2 big buttons controlling the air flow and a couple more for the radio, those same controls are on the steering wheel, even the temperature can be controlled without taking your hands off the wheel. There’s a little pop out screen at the top of the dash that tells you the radio station and desired temperature, it manages to be in your eye line without getting in the way.

The plastics used in the cabin are solid, nothing squeaked or rattled. There’s plenty of room in the back, I had a good 4 inches when sitting behind the drivers’ seat. The bench is broad enough for 3 adults but it does lack a little headroom.

The whole interior feels put together like a Japanese Mondeo, and there’s a reason for that. Ford own Mazda so some of the underpinnings come straight out of the Mondeo, Mazda took all the good points from the Mondeo and made them a little more Asian, it works too.

When I started the engine the air con was on full, it was like a gale force wind so no complaints there. After I turned it down to a light breeze I couldn’t hear the engine, I thought it had cut out, but it was just that quiet, even from cold. Pulling away I found the clutch has a big return spring, it nearly pushes your foot off the pedal, which took a little getting used to. The 2.0ltr 147bhp engine has a lot of torque, 184nm may mean nothing to some of you, but it will move the car quickly.

The soft seat and firm suspension is a joy, on the straights everything feels solid, and at motorway speeds there was a little wind noise. Once you’re on the smaller roads the 6 comes alive, there’s plenty of grip and the lovely 6 speed gear box means you can find the right gear easily. The steering is weighty enough so you can feel your way through the bends, kissing every apex nicely.

Around the town its predictable and soft, no problem with my speed bump test here, a light clutch and snappy gearbox made progress easy.

I know the reason I like this car so much, it reminds me of the Mondeo. There are only two reasons for not liking the Mazda 6, that sloping roof line making the head room in the back a bit tight and the badge. Mazda just hasn’t got the premium badge to compete properly in this sector, but then it never cultivated the European look like all the rest of them did. In terms of space, performance and handling there’s little to choose between the 6 and the class leader Mondeo. There isn’t exactly a glut of 6’s on the 2nd hand market, but the ones that are there tend to be cheaper than a Mondeo.

Out of all the cars I’ve tested in this sector namely the Octavia, Insignia, Passat, Mondeo and the Mazda 6 it’s still the Mondeo I would buy with my own money, there’s just nothing to beat it yet. It can do anything you need to do in a car, all wrapped up in a mature but stylish exterior and you have a winner. But if you like everything about the Mondeo except the looks then the Mazda 6.

With thanks to Downey’s Auto stop Portlaoise for lending me the car for a test, the Mazda 6 I drove is for sale on Carzone.