Archive for July, 2010

Kia Cee’d 1.6d Estate 2010

Posted: July 31, 2010 by smokerspack in Estate, Family car, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Ever since I heard about Lewis Opel closing its doors in Portlaoise I’ve been thinking about why there are car dealers still going out of business when there’s a supposed upturn in the car industry. When a car dealer sells a new car, even with the scrappage scheme, the dealership makes very little money, sometimes only a couple of hundred euro. The real money comes from the trade in, but in the case of a scrappage scheme there is no trade in. So with all these new cars being sold there’s no second hand cars for the dealers to make a bit of money out of. A big main dealer can’t run on new cars alone, and with no second hand cars in stock they quickly run out of options.

There’s another side that’s been pointed out to me by Shane Teskey of Motorcheck, with the huge drop in people trading in a car for resale there’s going to be a shortage of decent used cars on the dealers’ forecourts, the car industry might not be far out of the woods just yet.

Onto today’s car, the Kia Cee’d, not just any Cee’d, the estate one. The Korean car company Kia was at one point a bit of a joke within the car industry, they made cars that were made of a very thin metal, totally uncomfortable, very vague steering didn’t help matters. When the Cee’d replaced the Cerato the joke wore very thin indeed. The Cee’d with its “Tiger nose” started to look like a reasonably priced decent alternative to the class leaders. This trend has meant that Topgear has made is part of their show, putting it in as the reasonably priced car, last week we saw none other than Cameron Diaz drive it and Tom Cruise try his best to turn it over.

This estate or SW as Kia call it, I’m driving today isn’t quite as sporty as its hatchback brother but it isn’t a bad looking car, it’s also the last of the outgoing model.

The boot space is 534ltrs with the seats up and 1664ltrs with them down, there’s a flat floor and no boot lip so getting things in and out is easy, there’s a bit of intrusion from the wheel arches but other than that it’s a good square shape. The back seat has plenty of room for 3 adults, the optional half leather seats are in this model and they are comfy.

Up front the plastics used are a little harsh, and there’s a bit of a tinny sound when you shut any of the doors, that said this car is built to a price. The equipment level is great, air con, iPod connector, CD player, electric windows all around. The steering wheel controls are a little fussy for me, there’s just too many big buttons but that’s a minor niggle.

The 115bhp 1.6lt CRDI engine is quiet enough and get’s the car around, there’s plenty of power in it too, you should have no problems loading the car to the hilt and setting off. There’s a 5 speed gear box that seems happy enough at any speed, shame there isn’t a 6th gear for motorway cruising, still you can get a combined figure of 57mpg. The steering is on the vague side of light, the steering wheel leather is too smooth and gets a little slippy, and it needs some finger bumps on the back.

Driving the Cee’d gives you a nice feeling, the cabin is a good place to be, it’s bright and comfortable, although the drivers’ seat squab is a little short for me but then I have long legs. The gear shift is short and there’s lots of torque throughout the rev range, the suspension is firm enough without being harsh. I rather like the Cee’d, it’s functional without being too fussy, it’s not over styled and you could get a ton of stuff plus the kids on the back without any trouble.

There are two really big factors in this car to think about, the biggest being the 7 year warranty, if you bought this car today, you would still be under warranty in 2017, there are no other brands out there that come any where near that, it shows the confidence of the Kia brand. The other factor is the price, at €18,750 for an ex-demo model to this spec it’s a cheap estate. You do have to compromise on the quality of the plastics used but if you consider all the factors, you can buy a 2010 estate car with all the extras, only €156.00 tax a year and a 7 year warranty for the price of most European hatchbacks and that can’t be a bad thing.

The car I drove is available from Portlaoise Kia, you can see it here on Carzone


There has been so much news lately that I’m going to put it in one report, so here goes.

Nissan have opened the order books for the Leaf, “to make a reservation, customers simply need to go to and place their order. The quick and easy process requires a fully-refundable deposit of €232. These ‘early adopters’ will also be given an opportunity to test-drive Nissan LEAF thoroughly by December, at which point they will need to formally confirm their order.” There will also be a roadshow tour of Ireland where you can test drive the Leaf at the following locations:

–          Dundrum Shopping Centre, Dublin – Friday, 6th August 6th and Saturday 7th August

–          Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Cork – Friday 13th August

–          Headford Road Shopping Centre, Galway – Sunday 15th August

Come along and have a look, Smokerspack is trying to get their hands on one for review but we’ll let you know on that.

Volkswagen group have issued a warning over suspect brake pads, there has been a seizure of counterfeit pads, in a statement they said “An examination of the brake pads revealed that the potentially dangerous counterfeit parts failed to meet the required breaking friction levels. The test concluded that the fakes would not obtain R90 approval – the European legal standard for brake pads.”

There are some telltale signs to look out for if you’re buying pads in the near future:

The fake box label indicates that the product is a “Wasserpumpe” and not brake pads. Wasserpumpe is German for water pump

·         Printing error on fake box reads Fonnel Q but should read Formel Q

·         The backing plate of the fake pads are engraved with “TAXTE” or “TEXTA, whereas the genuine product are engraved with “TEXTAR”

·         No fitting instructions included in the box

·         Tamper proof box seal missing

·         The fake parts do not have a batch code and production date

·         The performance of the fake product is significantly lower than the genuine brake pads

If you think you might have gotten suspect brake pads then head to your local dealer and have them inspected, don’t take chances with brake pads folks, get them done properly.

Update on brake pad warning: It’s my understanding that your local VW/Audi/Skoda/Seat dealer will check your pads for free, this is unconfirmed by the press office but as soon as I hear anything I’ll let you all know.

Citroen have released pictures of their rally cars taking flight, the images are huge but worth a look, you’ll find them all here some great full size pictures for those of you who need a new desktop background.

Mini are pushing to get back into the World Rally circuit in selected rounds from next year, in 2012 they are going to take on a full year of racing. Prodrive is working with Mini to develop the Countryman WRC, they are using a 1.6 4 pot Turbo from BMW motorsport coupled to a 4 wheel drive system should make for an interesting drive set up. The quirky estate Mini should be a fun car to drive, I can’t wait to see it go, ‘till then here’s a picture.

The Zoe

I got up this morning knowing that I would have to go along to the ZE (Zero Emission) road show that Renault was putting on. Mostly these kind of shows are about a car company blowing its own trumpet and saying that the car they are about to bring out is the best thing since Christopher Columbus discovered America, or they just try to “sell” their product to the waiting press. What I got was something completely different, Renault were genuinely proud of the products that were on display, it was like they had all helped bring this range of cars to the Irish road and I was about to drive their little babies.

It takes a monumental effort to bring one car to the road, but it takes real passion and dedication to bring an entire range out, and then equip them all with electric engines, you have to admire a company willing to take a plunge like that, nonetheless Renault are well on the way to achieving just that.

While most other car companies are bringing out just one electric or hybrid car Renault are going for 4 of them with plans for more. It’s a rather large gamble, the Renault – Nissan Alliance are investing 4 billion into the zero emissions programme, there are 1000 staff at Renault and another 1000 at Nissan working solely on electric vehicles.

Affordability is the key word of the day, “Renault’s  aim  is  to  market  electric vehicles  at  prices  comparable  with  those  of  a  diesel-powered  car  of  an equivalent size and equipment level. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of electric vehicles will be similar to that of internal combustion-engined vehicles from launch.” Inside of 18 months Renault aim to have the entire infrastructure in place that’s needed to run electric cars, this includes an agreement with ESB for charging stations, workshops and spare batteries.

The Fluence

Of course driving the car will take a bit more planning than driving its fossil fuel alternative, there’s the little matter of recharging the batteries. The range of the Fluence and Kangoo is 160kms, with passengers and things in the boot that will be less just as it is for any car, the more weight you carry the worse the MPG. There will be 3 ways to get a full tank of electricity. Standard charge of 6-8 hours, using a fast charge station will get an 80% charge in 20 minutes and the ability to swap your empty battery for a full one in 3 minutes, you won’t need a set of spanners, your dealer will look after that.

After a short speech given by the charismatic Eric Basset the MD of Renault Ireland we were let loose with the cars, we were reminded that these are prototypes and are worth a million Euro each. Trying not to think about crashing a million Euro I hopped into the drivers seat of the Fluence ZE, the first thing I noticed was that there were no lights, bells or screens telling you where the power is coming from, it’s just an automatic car, it even has a standard key. Foot on the brake, turn the key and…..nothing, some of the dials moved on the dash but no noise, an eerie silence so I selected D, let my foot off the brake and the car rolled forward. This being an electric car there is only two gears, forward and reverse the technical name for the transmission is direct drive, with reducer and forward/reverse inverter. The motor produces 70kw/95hp with 226nm of torque, it may not sound like much but the power is there all the time, no waiting to get the revs up, if you push the accelerator to the floor you get all the power all the time. Even though it can rev up to 11,000rpm there’s just a faint whirr of a fan while the speed climbs constantly, when you lift off the batteries begin recharging, there’s a small dial on the dashboard telling you if you’re using power or recharging, on the road it feels like a Renault, soft and comfortable even with the 250kg battery in the back, which will be moved under the floor for the production model which means a 300ltr boot. It’s just like any saloon car to drive, and that’s the key, this is a real car a normal car, not a gimmick it’s a car you can use every day for albeit short journeys

The Kangoo van was also available for driving; it looked just like any Kangoo van on sale now except for the charging port on the front of the car. Reversing it was a little scary because the car makes no noise you become acutely aware of anyone standing or walking behind the van they won’t hear you moving. Strange as it may seem, Renault are researching sounds that can be used when the cars are going less than 70kph, there is talk of an MP3 player being put in so you can choose your own sounds but I doubt that will happen, much more likely is car sounds being played through a speaker. The batteries are already under the floor of the Kangoo the cargo space is between 3 and 3.5 meters cubed and it can carry 650kg.

There are two more cars in the range, The Zoe which will be a hatchback of similar size to the current Clio with a range of 200kms, finally the weird looking Twizy which is going to be an urban car, by the way the pictures you see here of the Twizy is the finished article, the Zoe will look different but the basic shape will remain, both of them will be released in 2012.

There’s still a huge amount of work for Renault to do before you’ll see these cars in the showrooms, but they seem committed to the project with good firm dates in mind. Renault are set to produce a range of electric cars for every taste, they are really trying hard to cover all the bases. What was a niche market Renault are now opening up to be a main stream segment, this is Renault in full attack mode and it’s great to see. Expect to hear a lot more about Renault’s electric future in the coming months, until then you can read the full Renault ZE Press release and get all the latest info from the ZE website There’s loads more pictures here



Last night Topgear really let us know just how good Topgear can be. The slowest man on TV (James May) becomes, briefly, the fastest man in the world. Richard got very sideways driving down a ski slope in a Tuareg. The Americans invaded and completely murdered the track times, I really did think Tom Cruise was going to be killed on Gambon corner, they turned out to be the best guests Topgear have ever had.
Then Jeremy topped off the whole show with a homage to Ayrton Senna, it was a fantastic piece of film making for a fantastic driver, it gives an insight to just how good the Topgear production people can be, and the shear effort that goes into each series.
Sad part, there’s only one episode left this season, what do we do now folks??

Episode 5: the post-show discussion Well, there you go. Jeremy on Ayrton Senna, James in the fastest car the world has ever seen, snowy speed-based Swedish fun with Richard, and those two American film-stars who definitely know how to handle a cheap Korean hatchback. Let us know what you thought of this season’s penultimate show. I think it’s fair to say we were pretty happy with this one. If you missed it, it’s on iPlayer right now (if you’re in the UK). It’s been a busy week, so … Read More

via Transmission – BBC Top Gear

I’ve been away for a few days messing around with filming video reviews for the site, it’s going to take a bit of practice and a crew would be nice, so if any of you want to get involved with videoing some cars then let me know.

The most overused word to describe a VW Golf (or Rabbit for you Americans visiting the site) is benchmark. Yes I suppose it is in many ways, the Golf has been with us since 1974 and back then VW had been at the forefront of the Hatchback segment, the Golf lost it’s way in the late 90’s, it was a fat lumpen thing. Everything changed in 2003 when the mark 5 was released, a whole new car came out and everyone fell in love with the new Golf. But there were some files in the ointment, build quality wasn’t what it should have been and there were some electrical issues, but VW overcame all that untarnished, it still has that classy and classless appeal, every other car brand wishes they had a Golf in the line up, a car that you’re happy with whether you’re a crazy petrol head or a tree hugging eco-mentalist.

From the outside the 2008 Golf still looks sharp and tough, it sits nicely on the comfortline alloys, they give it a solid look, the metallic gray paintwork is in top class condition. The boot space is 350ltrs but it looks much bigger as the hatch opening is almost square, there is a bit of a lip into the boot but nothing worse than any other hatch of its size. In the back seat there’s loads of leg and head room, the rear seat folds near flat and does 60/40 split, there’s also an armrest in the middle that has a second opening for long loads to poke through. The cabin fit and finish is far superior to the first of these models, everything has a long lasting feel to it, there’s a reassuring thud from the doors as you close them.

There are loads of toys to play with, the stereo for instance, it has CD and MP3 plus an iPod, USB and AUX connector, my Creative Zen worked fine from the steering wheel mounted controls. There’s also auto dimming rear view mirror, auto lights and a decent trip computer and air con. The driver seat is a bit hard for my liking, the only real problem I can point out is the lack of an arm rest in the centre, it is rather annoying on a long drive, however you can order it from the dealer as an option, and you can even get it on Amazon.

The 1.9Tdi 105bhp diesel engine in the Golf is noisy when you start it from cold, but they are all like that, once a bit of temperature get into the engine it soon quiets down. 105bhp doesn’t sound a lot but when the turbo cuts in there’s more than enough power to get you where you want to go, but due to the lack of high revs the 0-100kph is 11.3 seconds, so all the power comes in one great big lump and then you have to change gear. It’s efficient though, 57mpg combined is the official figure but I reckon if you drove like a hippy you’d get more than that.

On the road the firm ride is good over the bumps but the hard seat gets uncomfortable after a while. On the motorway the cabin is very quiet and a pleasant place to be, at 120kph the engine is barely audible and there’s cruise control too, however I think it could do with a 6th gear.

When you get onto the back roads, or even a round about you will find a lot of under steer, it’s dramatic under steer too. The traction control light seems to come on every time you point the nose of the car at a corner which kills the fun, when you drive normally you won’t notice it so much but if you push the Golf a bit it will become a pain.

Although VW seem to have solved a lot of the problems there are still some left. The Golf is still a great car, there are loads to like, the big boot, great MPG, low road tax (€156 per year), the classless but stylish looks, equipment levels and the solid feel. But the under steer and the hard seats rather spoils the otherwise great package for me, when it arrived on the market in 2004 the Golf was the best hatch you could buy, but everyone else has caught up on the mark 5. As a complete package the Golf still wins against all comers but there’s great alternatives out there, have a look at the Seat Leon, Renault Megane and Audi A3 for a start. Chances are you’ll read this review and still go buy a Golf, the reason is simple, it’s still the best of the bunch.

The car I drove is immaculate and available for test drive in Portlaoise Kia (but not for long I expect), it had just come into stock so there’s no pictures on it’s Carzone page but I’m sure they will be along soon.

Let me start off by saying, this is not a how too guide, there are plenty of them on the web as it is. This article is about finding out if it’s worth looking in the UK for a used car, and will it really save you any money.

There’s a lot of anecdotal information floating around about people who saved thousands by going to the UK and getting the car they wanted (with a higher spec in some cases) and bringing it back to Ireland. A number of years ago there were loads of Japanese imports on the forecourts of every small dealer in the country, huge container loads of them came out of Japan bound for our shores, but Ireland fell out of love with imports, some were hard to get parts for, and European manufacturers were turning out both reliable and stylish cars. Ireland started to get more money and we got a thirst for that golden word in cars, status. Once Irish people started going to the UK and Northern Ireland to buy their cars our fate was sealed, the Government moved to protect what was a huge income for the State, car sales. Vehicle registration tax (VRT) was introduced, which is a tax that completely goes against all of the core values of the open market that we all bought into when we joined the EU in the first place. The Irish Government was very smart though, the VRT is not applied directly to the car, and instead it’s applied to getting an Irish registration plate. VRT is a complicated tax and since 2008 it’s based on the Co2 emissions of the car, previous to that it was based on the open market selling price of your chosen car in Ireland. If the car you want is from 2007 or before it’s impossible to say what the VRT is going to be it depends on market values, engine size, year, model and roadworthiness condition of the vehicle.

Knowing all this, I gave myself a budget of €22,000 to track down a car in the UK and price it against its Irish counterpart. That’s about £18,500 according to, your bank will give you a different rate on the day you change your money so be aware that you can only use today’s exchange rate as a guideline.

With my budget I selected a BMW 520d SE automatic 2007, might as well get something nice.

Here are the two cars:

The spec seems to be about the same, the Irish one has little fewer miles, now on with the money bit.

The UK one is £12,481 which is €14,800, I need to budget about €1000 euro for flights, boat, inspection, lunch, diesel and other sundries. That means €15,800 which is under budget so far, but the big one is the VRT when I return. Pending an inspection the VRT on the BMW is €5198, so that’s a grand total of €20,998 and presuming I don’t have to do any mechanical repairs to the car that beats the Irish price by €4992! So why don’t we all run over to the UK to buy our cars then?

The variables are the problem, the exchange rate you see above is the current one, but the price you get from your bank might be wildly different. The prices of the cars I’m using are the full quoted price, if you walk into any dealer in Ireland with €22,000 in your pocket and no trade in the price becomes negotiable. The warranty on your car is in Ireland and covered by Irish law.

All the problems aside there is some value in the UK/NI market, but you need to be aware of the problems, below is a list of advice if you intend to import your own car from the UK.

  1. Get your facts right. Check the prices in Ireland and UK for your chosen car.
  2. Factor in VRT and travel expenses to the budget, don’t forget emergency funds in case you miss the ferry and have to stay somewhere.
  3. The VRT to pay is variable, which means it might go up or down from when you use the web site. If you select the BMW SE model and you bring back an M-Sport model the price will almost certainly go up. Don’t make mistakes it might cost you thousands.
  4. Talk to your Irish dealer first. It might seem stupid but you never know what kind of deal you could strike if you just ask; it will only cost the price of a phone call.
  5. Only use a big dealer in the UK, you don’t want to be wandering around some housing estate looking for someone selling a car, most main dealers will pick you up at the airport if you ask.
  6. Get your checks done before you go. can check the UK cars history for €35, whoever you use just do it.
  7. Get the RAC/AA to check over the car before any money changes hands, don’t bring someone who “knows” about cars, don’t “use the force” or chant something, just get someone independent to do the check.
  8. Test drive the car, a nice 20 minutes can tell you loads, make sure everything works, press every button in the car.
  9. Know the price before you go. Don’t wander around with a pocket full of cash, pay a small deposit with a credit card (refundable) and use a bank draft for the balance. Ask about a service and a full tank of fuel, get something for free.
  10. Give yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to pick up a load of speeding tickets on your way to the ferry.
  11. Don’t forget insurance, get it transferred to the new car for the drive back.

It’s not all that hard to import a car, and if you look hard you’ll find the car you’re looking for. If the VRT wasn’t there we would all be driving cheaper cars that would have the same spec as the UK models but, alas its going to be with us in one form or another for the foreseeable future, they might change it to some sort of environmental tax but there’s no sign of our greedy little island ever giving an even playing field when it comes to the free movement of goods in the EU.

Both the dealers and the cars were chosen at random, I cannot recommend either the dealers or the cars I’ve chosen for the examples above as I don’t know them. Do your own research on the best dealers to use but as always, shop local but shop smart.

Links: (Need a postcode? BT11AA should work) (really worth a read) It’s old now but still worth a read

Questions or comments to

Volvo V60 teaser video

Posted: July 18, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Uncategorized, Videos

You can see an exciting video of a V60 here Looks nice too

Tonnes of news to get through, so much that we’ve had to alter the site a bit. In future we will host the news section over on blogger, there’s just so much of it the main site is getting swamped.

So in future we’ll post a small section here with a link to the main posting. Have a look at the new Focus driving up a mountain here

So you’ve saved your pennies, you’ve done your research, you’ve read the reviews and now your ready to start looking at second hand cars. Don’t rush in, don’t buy on the spur of the moment, you could save thousands by reading through this list of tips.

I am in and out of used cars all the time, there is rarely a day that I’m not driving some sort of car from bangers to luxury models, so here’s my list of top things to do when you decide to buy that perfect used car. Presuming you’ve settled on a car you like, you have cash in your pocket what should you do now?

  1. Before you spend any money, use your eyes. If the car has 50,000 miles on the clock then there should be very little ware on the surfaces. Look at the drivers’ seat for signs of fraying/tearing, check the steering wheel and pedals for the same. Look at the shut lines, with the doors closed all the gaps between panels should be even. Look down the side of the car; it should be in a straight line, if it’s not then it may have been crashed.
  2. Does everything work? If there’s a button on the dash press it, make sure it’s all working, the same for electric windows/seats, everything in the car should be working. You would be surprised how many people buy a car and only on the way home do they find out the radio isn’t working!
  3. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking at, look under the bonnet, it should be reasonably clean, no oil spills anywhere.
  4. Test Drive! Don’t be worried about going on a long test, pick a test route that encompasses main roads, motorways and if possible some bumpy bits too. Listen for strange noises from around the car, rattles can usually be fixed but bangs and shakes can be a symptom of something much more sinister.
  5. Even if all the above goes well don’t buy the first car you see, it may be the car you’ve been after but as the saying goes “buy in haste, repent at your leisure”. Take your time, the only one putting you under pressure to buy now is you, go away and think about it.
  6. Take the registration plate, the mileage and get a history check done. Someone like will be able to help you with everything; €35 for a full check is small money to pay to know the cars details.
  7. How much is your insurance and road tax going to be? Can you even get insured on the car? If you’re 19 and looking to buy an Evo 8 then you might have trouble getting insured, the dealer won’t refund your money just because you can’t get insurance.
  8. Get a mechanical inspection done, you can get this done through the AA or you can use a local mechanic. Prices vary for this service but you’ll get what you pay for. Don’t rely on someone who “knows stuff” about cars, get it done properly it could save you thousands in the long run.
  9. Use the internet, trawl through the forums to see if there’s any information about the car you’re buying. has a very busy motors section where you can ask users what they think about the car and its known problems.
  10. Once all the above is good now is the time to talk to the sales man. If you are trading a car the only price that matters is the cost to change, that’s the price difference between the car you’re trading and the one you’re buying, get ready to haggle that price, every penny you save is worth haggling over. Try asking for extras like floor mats or free 1st service, you never know until you ask.
  11. Talk about warranty, how long is it and what does it cover. Some warranties will only cover the engine and gearbox, others will cover mechanical faults. None of them will cover wear and tear items like wipers or tyres. It’s very important you get this information in writing as a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
  12. If you’re still not happy with something then walk away, there’s plenty more cars out there for sale.

If you follow all the above you should get a decent reliable car, but use your head and remember drive as many cars as you can before you decide what to buy.

Next time I’ll talk about importing your own car from the UK, and if it’s really worth the hassle.