Archive for the ‘Hatchback’ Category

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 for more information


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.

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

Renault are working very hard at the moment, and it’s not just the designers, every segment of the company are pulling out all the stops to push the brand forward. This “work hard” attitude is something I admire in any business. I work hard, there have been nights when I’m still working on something at one or two AM, that’s because I love what I do. The same must apply somewhere in Renault, someone near or at the top has surrounded themselves with people who love their jobs.
The new model Megane is the result of that love of the job, I remember the concept pictures of the Megane somewhere back in 2008, they looked fantastic. Obviously the car I’m driving looks nothing like the concept but ce la ve.
The current model comes in a variety of body styles from coupe to estate (called grand)and it’s the estate version that I’m driving at the moment.
When you think estate most of you will think of big agriculture type cars, well it’s not that kind of car, it’s far cooler than that. It looks like the designers were let loose and they came up with madness, then the Euro laws got involved and out of the two a very handsome sporty estate was born.
The long bonnet reminds me somehow of my Fathers Renault 12 TL, it looks nothing like it, it just reminds me of it. Sweeping down the sides there are some interesting quirks in the creases just before you reach the most interesting wrap around rear end on any car in it’s class. The boot lid looks one piece with the rear panels, it’s not, it splits to reveal a 486 ltr boot, more about the boot goodies later.

The back seat is big and comfy, there’s loads of head and leg room. If you don’t fancy carrying three people in the back then you can always drop the centre armrest which has some nifty cup holders build in.
From the drivers seat the car feels low and sporty but very comfortable. The steering wheel is weighted nicely to top dead centre, there is only one problem in here and it’s the gear shift, it feels too clicky. The gear stick feels like it’s attached to the gearbox with some plastic left over from the dashboard. It’s only a five speed box too, and that’s a shame, the gearbox in the Fluence felt fine I don’t know why they put a different box in the Megane. Other than the shift there’s nothing wrong in the cabin, everything is where you’d expect it to be in a Renault. This being a Tom Tom edition you get lots of toys, sat nav, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth and mp3 connection are all standard. Shame there’s no USB connection in mine but I’m sure it’s an option.

Out on the road the ride is firm but responsive, for an estate there’s no sign of a bouncy rear end that you get in most of the competition. The handling is very good too, even when you push it the Megane just keeps on holding the road. The 1.5dci 86bhp engine is solid and in the Megane it seems very quiet, at motorway speeds the lack of a sixth gear starts to show through, the rev’s sit at 2800rpm at 120kph, while that’s not bad it would be a better, more economical cruiser if there was another cog to get too.
Now we have to go onto a topic that will bore some of you, the boot. For those of you who are already yawning at the thought of me talking about boot space here’s a brief version, it’s big.
For those that are still reading let me explain, you buy an estate car to gain room over the hatchback version, so the boot space is very important. Even though the rear of the car is rounded on the outside, the boot opening is square and flat floored. There’s tonnes of space for any shape item to fit in there, there are some features in the boot too. There’s a flap near the opening that you can pin up allowing the whole boot to become a sort of bin, under that flap there’s more storage for drop in items, there are shopping hooks in the back too, they are set a bit too far back but nonetheless they are useful to have in the big flat boot. With all the seats dropped it’s 1600ltrs which is a decent size for any estate.
The Grand Megane is a very capable car, it’s adaptable, spacious and very stylish, the only flaw that I can find is the gearbox, it’s just too plastic feeling and it could do with another gear, if Renault would take the gearbox from the Fluence into the Megane be as near perfect as any car can be, in fact it’s so good my other half wants one.
If you’re interested in trying a Megane for yourself then log onto to find your local dealer.

Prices look like this, you should get the 106bhp Tom Tom with a 6 speed box it’s worth it.

RRP Trade-in allowance Renault scrappage for cars +8years old Government scrappage for cars +10years old Version from
1.6 16V 110 ETH ROYALE ECO 170 g/km €19,690 €3,300 €1,500 €0 €14,890
1.5 dCi 86 ROYALE 118 g/km €21,100 €3,300 €1,500 €1,500 €14,800
1.5 dCi 86 DYNAMIQUE 118 g/km €22,500 €3,300 €1,500 €1,500 €16,200
1.5 dCi 86 TOMTOM ED 118 g/km €23,600 €3,300 €1,500 €1,500 €17,300
1.5 dCi 106 TOMTOM ED 120 g/km €24,700 €3,300 €1,500 €1,500 €18,400

Let me know what you think, don’t be afraid; comment below.


I spend so long on the internet using, Twitter, Facebook and all sorts of mediums I tend to forget that there’s real people behind the little text that you see on the screen. The lads who hang out in what I understand to be the second most popular section of Ireland’s most popular forum site decided to meet up and see what we all look like.

The Motors section on Boards has a huge amount of traffic asking questions that range from what kind of car should I buy to what the timing should be on 97 Carina. All of which will get an answer, it’s a fantastic resource and it’s free.

There was a huge range of cars there today, along with a huge range of people from all the age ranges, it was lovely to see them for the first time, I have been chatting to them on-line for a long time now and finally I got to put a face and a name to the on-line persona.

Thanks to all that made the effort to turn out today, it was nice to meet you all.

With its futuristic styling, both inside and out, the FN2 CTR looks every bit the modern hot hatch and despite a misshapen rear end it stands up well against competitors such as the Ford Focus ST, Renaultsport Megane R26 and Opel OPC.
Styling wise it is much more exciting than the class leading Golf GTI which is the most conservative car of the bunch. But how does the FN compare to not only its rivals but also its predecessors? Does it live up to the high
standards set by Honda for their range topping cars and more importantly does it deserve to wear the exalted Type R badge?

Well let’s start with that styling. From whatever angle to look at it from, bar straight at the rear end, it is a much more aggressive looking car than the EP3 that came before it, especially if the deeper valances were ticked on the
options box. The overall shape of the car was inspired by the classic teardrop and in profile you can definitely see those influences.  There are a number of nice exterior touches such as the rocket shaped door handles, rear spoiler
integrated into the window and of course the twin triangular shaped exhausts that emit a sweet rasp once this car hits that magical Vtec.

Inside is much of the same. The Type R monogrammed seats are figure hugging and supportive making you feel more confident as you put the car through its paces. The emm larger gentleman may find them a bit too figure hugging though. Fans of the EP3 may lament that the gearlever has reverted back to its more natural position but for the rest of us this is a good thing as the previously dash mounted lever was something of an acquired taste. The dashboard is a wrap around affair that really cossets the driver, making them feel more involved

and it is adorned with all manner of buttons and gizmos that purists will say do not belong in a Type R. Dual zone climate control is a standard feature as too is Honda’s nod to traction control – Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). Only
the limited edition Championship White Edition is graced with a good old fashioned LSD. The materials used are tactile and nice to touch with brushed aluminium used for the gearlever and pedal and perforated leather for the
steering wheel which sits in front of the Gran Turismo style digital speedo.

A lot has been made about the changes in the suspension set up in this car over previous Type R’s. Gone is the double wishbone setup of old in favour of the less complicated and cheaper to produce torsion beam suspension. I have to say
when driven normally you are hard pushed to tell any difference – if anything the FN2 is a more comfortable ride than the more hard edged EP3 or EK9 which tended to jar the bones anytime you went over a cats eye. It feels much more
civilised at speed aswell which only encourages you to make the most of the 201bhp K20 Z4 under the bonnet. The power delivery of this unit is much more linear than that of the old K20 in the EP3 with the needle just spinning
headlong towards the 8,200rpm redline. Strangely though there is no discernable Vtec engagement point – it just keeps going as if nothing has happened. With the extra sound deadening under the engine bay you can’t even hear the usual Vtec wail and the only way to tell is to look down at the speedo and then weigh anchors because you are undoubtedly going to be in trouble with the law if you continue.

It is when you are really pushing the car along, through the stomping ground of Type R’s – the back roads that you begin to notice the inadequacies of that torsion beam suspension. Ninety per cent of people will probably go through
their Type R ownership without noticing it but there are those few, who having cut their teeth on a DC2 or EK9, will push the car to its limits. The trouble area comes under hard braking for corners when the weight of the car is
redistribute to the front. Freshly lightened the torsion beamed rear end starts to get very jittery and only an experienced driver will be able to keep it out of the hedges.

Overall the FN2 is undoubtedly a superior car to the EP3 in almost every way. In everyday use it looks better, drives better, comes better equipped and is generally a better drive. That is its downfall though. Type Rs of old were
uncompromised hot hatches with hollow fibre carpets to save weight, devoid of creature comforts that may distract from the driving experience and designed to spend their lives on the edge. The FN2 is just too civilised – it’s like a
watered down Type R or one where the R no longer stands for Racing but instead for Refinement. A Type R should not have dual zone climate control, built in sat nav, cruise control and VSA. It should be a bare bones racer that makes no
apologies for what it is and what it does. Unfortunately Honda seem to be using the name as a marketing badge nowadays, a fact further confirmed by the news that the company plans a diesel Type R! There is no doubting that the FN2 is a great car – it just doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

Paul Healy

The sun has been shining all week, there is no more beautiful place on earth than Ireland on a sunny day, but all this sun can mean only one thing, the kids are back at school. Yes, whenever the people who make the most of the sun have to go into their rather dull dilapidated school buildings the sun comes out to play. I went to Japfest in Mondello Park on Sunday, it turned out to be a great day for everyone, there were loads of things to do and see, plenty of action on the track, the smell of tyre smoke hung in the air.
The car that took me there was the little Punto, it has been brilliantly styled by the Italians; it looks modern and above all cute. It seems to be an update of the Punto Grande, the Evo badge has nothing to do with performance, just that the car has evolved into….another car.
The interior is solid and really well built; all the surfaces that you touch are soft and plesent. The Drivers’ seat is a little on the short side for my legs and the upright of the seat is firm, that aside it is a comfy little car for the driver. The back seat is tight though, there’s just about room for two adults back there. One note for you, I couldn’t get a rear facing child seat in the back without moving the drivers’ seat forward, you can’t put the child seat in the front because there’s no way to turn off the airbag, not big problems but just something that annoyed me.
Something else that annoyed me greatly is the MP3 player, its part of the Blue&Me system. It won’t play from a Creative Labs Zen, or at least I couldn’t make it work, it seems to be iPod or USB stick only. What annoyed me is that it took ages for any song to start playing and when you got out of the car after listening to a few songs, when you start the car again it would start playing from the beginning of the song list again, also it would play a whole song and instead of going to the next song it would just play the same song again, it frustrated me enough that I just listened to the radio. If you have an iPod its fine, just plug and go. The rest of the Blue&Me is fine, the hands free and voice control work perfectly if a little slowly.

The engine in my test car is a 1.2 petrol 8 valve, it outs out 65bhp and it needs every one of them, it’s a tad underpowered. There’s a sporty feeling to the handling, there’s no hint of under steer when you’re on the back roads, but the lack of power from the engine means you won’t be going fast enough to worry about corners. Out on the motorway the steering becomes very light and I might say vague, even at low speeds the steering is light, but you can make it lighter with the city button on the dash. There’s also cornering lights, when you turn a corner with your head lamps on the spotlight on the relevant side comes on to light up a bit more of the road, it’s a good touch and useful too, the down side, it’s part of what Fiat call a style pack that gets you said lights, 15” alloys and metallic effect side mouldings and bumper inserts for €495.
It’s around town where this car comes into its own, the light steering, gearbox and clutch makes town or city driving very easy, there’s great visibility out of all sides and a flat rear makes it easy to park.
At the beginning of the week the Punto annoyed me, the lack of power and MP3 problems, but crucially by the end of the week the little Evo had won me over. It feels like it’s been made and styled by humans, the little quirks just serve to give it a bit of personality, it’s a fun little car that will give you something to talk about.
The Punto Evo range starts out at €13,959 and goes up to the Eleganza model at €18,095. The model I drove had the Style pack, metallic paint making it 15,915 but with scrappage and eco bonus you could pick it up for around €12,500. There’s plenty of competition out there for the Punto but none have quite the same personality.

Visit for further details, and check back for a video review of the Punto this week.

Small cars, by which I mean snack-box size have to be good at a number of things,
they need to handle like a house fly who just got the whiff of a bowl of sugar, enough
room for some shopping in the boot, be able to carry 4 people and be comfortable for
the driver. That to me is super-mini class, there’s more stuff you can ask of the small
car segment but if it can do my little list I’m happy.
The Clio is in this segment even though it’s gotten bigger over the years, it’s
borderline hatchback now, and if it gets any bigger Renault may do away with the
Megane altogether. Last week I was handed the keys of the little Clio and my first
thought when I saw it was “If that car was a woman, it would have a fat ass” which
was a strange thought to have about a car, but nonetheless around the rear of the car
there is a fat bit that sticks out at the bottom of the hatch. Don’t get me wrong here,
it’s a pretty car, but in the same way that once you see Jlo dancing you just can take
your eyes off her bottom, even though it makes her look a little out of proportion.
The Clio has grown up, both in terms of styling and use of materials, no longer does
the dashboard look like it’s made of bakelite and might just crumble at the next set of
traffic lights, now it seems to be made out of touchy feely materials, it’s really well
put together.

The drivers’ seat is very comfortable, the French know how to do comfort in a seat
and they have done it with the Clio, it didn’t seem to matter where I put the seat, I
still found it lovely. The back seats is a little on the tight side, but you’ll still get two
adults into it. The dash lay out is fairly ergonomic but Renault still use that overly
complicated radio, it’s just too fussy, having one button that simultaneously turns off
the power to the radio, sat nav and the blue tooth is just annoying.

The same can’t be said for the climate control, there’s three buttons that matter, Auto, hotter and colder
and it has them all right there in front of you, perfect. The radio and hands-free can
be controlled from a stalk on the right side of the steering wheel, the trouble with that
is you can’t see it when you drive in a straight line so you have to guess what button
does what, now I know you’ll get used to it but what’s so wrong with putting the
controls on the steering wheel? The USB/Aux connector meant that I could control
my Zen from the radio controls, and that my MP3 library gets displayed on the big
sat nav screen, which was nice. Other than some niggly points there’s nothing to
complain about in the cabin. The boot space is good too, 255ltrs but there’s a big lip
to get over, the up side is a deep boxy shape boot that can handle fairly big loads, if
you drop the seats you’ll get 1028ltrs and that’s a lot for a car this size.
The little 1.2ltr engine isn’t powerful, there’s only 75bhp but it is a fizzy little thing,
there’s a nice engine note when you rev it, it’s the kind of engine you push until
there’s little dents in the bonnet from the valves hitting the inside before you change
gear. If you drive it properly you’ll easily get over 40mpg, if you look at my video
here you’ll see me demonstrate that fact.

On open road the Clio is very quiet and pliant over all surfaces, the suspension set up
is just right for Irish roads, once you show it some corners the whole car comes alive.
The little engine roars what life it can give and I promise, on a dry road you would
think the car was on rails. There was no traction control on the Tom-Tom model I
drove, it is an option, to be honest I didn’t need it all week, there wasn’t a hint of
under or over steer the car passed all handling tests I could throw at it.
The Clio manages something that many other car makers would like to achieve, that

sense of style and substance all wrapped up in a little car that’s cheap to tax (€156 a
year), cheap to insure, cheap to buy and most important cheap to run. Gone are the
days of Papa and Nicole, this is a grown up super-mini with plenty to offer to the first

time buyer and the retired couple, let alone as a second car in the family. Go to your
local Renault dealer and get a test-drive, you might find that Gallic charm too.

Renault S.A. Logo

Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to find out if you can really achieve the figures that car makers put out with every new car, so I put one maker to the test, Renault…..

Some of you have reported problems with viewing the video from you tube so here it is hosted on Vimeo