Posts Tagged ‘Autos’


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


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


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

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


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIAT 500C 1.2 LOUNGE

COLOUR: Funk White Pearlescent

INTERIOR: Red Leather (with matching Red Roof)

OPTIONS:

Pearlescent Paint

Leather Trim

Xenon Headlamps with washers

Vehicle Dynamic Control

Interscope HiFi System

Total cost of Fiat 500C  €22,600

Want to see the smokerspack test in video? Right here

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


Sunday I was treated to sight in Portlaoise that’s a must for every petrol head, Drifting. The smell of burning tyres and petrol fumes excites me and watching cars go sideways in a controlled environment is even more exciting.
For €50 the drivers bring their drift cars to Clonminam Industrial Estate in Portlaoise where a man has re-invented his business model from being a container depot to a Market on Saturday and a Drfit track on Sundays. Martin Kealey has a 2 acre tarmac yard that used to be full of shipping containers and now some of those containers serve as crash barriers.
It’s a fantastic resource for a growing sport, I spoke with one of the drifters who called himself Don Juan, he had brought 16 sets of tyres between two cars. “€50 that’s nothing, we get to use the cars the way we want to, it’s great practice.” Don is looking for a sponsor too help out with the costs of running a drift car, he wants to enter the races and from what I can see he looks well placed to win some too, great car, great driver.

Here’s some pictures and a short video of some action. It’s €5 in for spectators, there’s a food van, seating area, toilets and parking. It’s worth a trip just to see these guys in action.



FORD pulled the dust covers off their new Mondeo in Munich last week and first impressions were pretty much what you’d expect from a mid-life tweak.
Looking at the giant saloon in the glistening sunlight one found it hard to figure out where the newness began and the old traits remained.
In fact, you’d have to park the 07 debutant beside the new rookie to compare notes.
It’s only then that you see the subtle changes to the grille and front bumper – including the sexy daylight running LED lights above the fog lamps.
The bonnet get a couple of sexy creases too, improving the lower line of the whole chassis giving the whole car a sportier feel.
But this whole project was not just about cosmetic changes.
No, the beauty here really is skin deep and it’s what happening under the hood is what all the fuss is about.
Leaner, Meaner, and above all ,Greener were the buzz words when the Blue Oval engineers gathered to rip their fleet leader asunder and rebuild her bit by bit.
The result?
A luxury saloon that has leapt from one Tax and VRT band into a lower one meaning it is cheaper to buy and run.
That’s a welcome bit of relief for cash-strapped families and companies alike as the BIK (Benefit In Kind tax on those with company cars) won’t be just as bad.
In terms of green backs, it will see all models which go on sale next month all now in Band B – which means Road Tax has been significantly reduced from €600 on the old 07 model to a minuscule €156.
The good news doesn’t end there – because the emissions have been reduced across the board the list price has also shrunk.
The extensive fleet will now start at a mega reasonable €26,000 – a saving of €650.
That’s an amazing achievement when you consider three years ago 80 per cent of the Irish line-up were in Band E or higher.
The new model goes on sale at the end of this month so Ford Ireland, under Chairman Eddie Murphy, are expecting a brisk January sales period.
“We are really delighted with the new revised Mondeo and are really excited about the great value proposition that the new line up will provide.
“Thanks to the great driving quality, Mondeo has been a favourite with with Irish motorists since its launch and we are sure this latest model will again prove hugely popular, said Eddie at the Munich launch.
So which models are coming here and what spec can we expect on them?
Well, the engine line up will be three diesels, comprising of a 2-litre TDCi 6-speed manual power-plants.
The ranging performance on these engines are a 115bhp, 140bhp and 160bhp – returning a jaw-dropping 53mpg.
Unfortunately this motoring journalist didn’t get a chance to test the lower powered carriages but if the 2.2-litre 200bhp oil burner is a yardstick then we’re in for a real treat.
It handled superbly and was as comfortable devouring mile after mile of autobahn at, erm, above average speeds as it was on the twisty Bavarian countryside.
The only complaint was in city traffic the car stalled twice causing panic.
The start/stop button only activates when the handbrake is on, the car is in neutral and everybody is calm.
Try staying calm when an artic is hurtling up behind you, the lights are green and Yorkie boy thinks you are actually moving!
The new Mondeo is the most technologically advanced model to date, and is packed with next generation driver assistance features – some of which are are already proven in the new S-MAX and Galaxy models.
Some of the more expensive goodies include high-tech features, like Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert (vibrating steering if you nod off) and Auto High Beam and rear view parking camera.
The entry level STYLE comes with the following;
16 inch alloys; Colour coded bumpers and door handles; Electric mirrors with built-in indicators; Air Con; Front fogs; Bluetooth voice control; 7 airbags including a knee airbag: The ZETEC: all of the above and 17 inch alloys; Parking sensors front and rear; Dual Zone Climate Control; Cruise control; Speed Limiter; The TITANIUM: All of the above daytime running LED lights; Sony Sound System; Covers + Instrument Panel: Automatic Headlights and Wipers.


Renault Kangoo 17

Image by 650cc via Flickr

RENAULT ANNOUNCES IRELAND’S FIRST EVER VAN SCRAPPAGE – NEW KANGOO FROM €8,990*, TRAFIC FROM €12,990* AND ALL NEW MASTER FROM €14,490*

Do you own a van that’s 5 years old? If your can answer yes to the above then get thee to a Renault Dealer.

This is a first for Ireland, no one else is looking to scrap your old van, Renault’s ‘scrap my van’ offer applies to light commercial vehicles aged 5 years and older, registered on the 31st January 2006 or before.

It’s a great offer from Renault, if your able to take advantage of it have a look at the pricelist below or head over to www.renault.ie

PR Renault Vans Price List


So you have two kids, a dog and all the associated equipment to keep both species happy but you can’t fit it all in the hatchback, MPV cars are too expensive for you, what do you do?
The solution is simple, buy a van and install some back seats. This may sound a little extreme but that’s exactly what Fiat have done to the Doblo. They found that there’s another market out there for vans, no longer does it have to be the exclusive of builders and couriers, now families can can have the big, slightly embarrassing box outside the front door too.
The mighty Doblo can solve all your problems, need to move five people and a couple of washing machine? If your answer is yes, then you need help, but if the answer is maybe the the Doblo is for you.
Yes there is something deeply uncool about driving around in a van but yet Fiat have done a good job on the looks, they haven’t tried to cover up the fact that you’re in a van, instead they have embraced it. The boot lid is one example, it’s huge, it’s so big you could land a small helicopter on it. The front is pleasant to look at, there is something cute about the whole package.


Looks aren’t the biggest concern when you’re buying a car like this, practicality is all that matters, the Doblo has that in spades. With all five seats in place there is a massive 790ltrs of boot space, if you fold the seats away there’s 3,200ltrs and that means I can lie down in the back of the car, or you can take most of Ikea home with you. The boot opening is square and tall so it can take any shape of item you like, there’s a boot cover that can take 70kgs of weight on it too. In the back seats there’s easily enough room for 3 adults.

In the front seats you get a decent amount of equipment, cruise control, blue & me, a place for a Tom Tom, climate control and some cup holders. There’s more than enough elbow and leg room in there for any body shape. I should say that Fiat can kit this car out for Disabled use, I think from the seating position it would make a great car for this purpose, the front doors are huge and open wide.

The 1.6 diesel 106bhp engine is very good, there’s very little turbo lag and it pulls well enough. It’s noisy during acceleration but most diesel units are. The 13.4 seconds it takes to get to 100kph is long enough but we are talking about a van here, it’s not meant to be fast. It handles well in the corners too thanks to stability control as standard. It’s on long hauls where this car comes into it’s own, it’s comfy and quiet at speed, in 6th gear at 120kph there’s little or no noise for the engine.

The big winner here is the end user, the model I drove was the Eleganza and it could be sitting on your driveway for €19,095 that’s a lot of car for that price. The Doblo is the most practical car I’ve seen in years, there is something cool about driving around in something so un-cool, it says I don’t care what you thing of what I’m driving, I can carry more stuff than you anyway.

I grew to love the might Doblo in the same way you love a naughty puppy, it’s a Swiss army knife of a car just not cool; yet.


It’s not often I don’t like the look of a car before I’ve seen the one I’m going to spend a week with, the Fluence is one of those cars. I’d seen a few around the roads before I get a chance to drive one myself. The first drive I had of the Fluence was a couple of months back at the Renault ZE road show, I got to take one of the million Euro prototypes out on the roads around Carton house. I was greatly impressed with the electric version, but I wasn’t too happy with the look of the outside. It looks too high off the road, but this car was originally designed to be an electric car, so aerodynamics are playing a heavy roll in the look of the car.

The model I had for testing is the Tom Tom edition, that’s about as high a spec as you can get. There’s built in Sat-Nav, keyless entry/exit and start, dual zone climate control to name but a few, there is also the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had the great pleasure to sit in, you would have to go a few classes above to beat the comfort in the Fluence.

The boot has a great shape, it’s wide at the opening and gets a little narrower, it’s 530ltr can cope with just about any shape, and can happily take two prams and all the stuff that kids need. There’s also two shopping bag hooks that can keep your shopping where it should be; in the bags.

The back seat can cope with 3 adults, or as in my case, one adult and two child seats. Most important is the comfort in the back, there’s loads of leg and headroom, there’s also a pull down armrest in the middle that has cup holders built in.

Up front the dash is made out of fantastic materials, in fact the materials look like they are out of a car well above the Fluence class. Everything is where it should be in a Renault, I still think the radio has too many buttons and the steering wheel stalk is over complicated, but you soon get used to finding the buttons you need most.

My first drive took me on the motorway, the 1.5 diesel unit puts out 106bhp and I find it a little noisy during acceleration but that’s the nature of diesel engines. In the Fluence once you get up to speed you can’t hear the engine anymore, there’s no sound at 100kph and very little at 120kph. Testament to its aerodynamic background, there’s very little wind noise either. On the Motorway the Fluence is sublime, that huge comfy seat, firm suspension and a tonne of elbow room means that this is simply the best long distance cruiser. It’s no slouch in the corners either, for a big saloon it handles really well; you would really want to throw it into a corner before it looses any grip. Even at low speeds there’s nothing wrong in the Fluence, there’s no wobble over flat top speed bumps and it’s easy to park thanks to the good visibility and parking sensors on the rear.

I said in the video that the Fluence was the best car I’d driven all year; I meant it. There’s nothing in its price range with the same room and spec that you can get for the price of €23,500 before any discounts or a trade in. Yes it looks a little odd at first but if you see it in the right colour (black or White) it’s a handsome car. Renault didn’t go about trying to re-invent the saloon market, what they did was take all the good bits from saloons and tweak them, making every thing a little better. For me crucially, it’s original and that makes a huge difference because I don’t like driving around in one of the other Euro-boxes that inhabit Irish roads currently. Here’s the best endorsement I can give the Fluence, I want to order one for next January.


There is nothing in the world like watching some cars go sideways around a race track, there’s something about the smell of burnt tyres and petrol that makes my day, and what a day. You see today I was at Mondello race track for the JapFest, not only was there racing going on but there was a huge display of cars, some were modified and others had been bult from the ground up, if you watch the video below you’ll see a New Zealand man who built his car, it took 12 months and in the video had just been sprayed black, he didn’t get much sleep. The engine is a 1.3 rotary from a Mazda RX7 but being a Kiwi he bolted a supercharger to the top of it.

There was loads more at the track, if you ever get the chance to pop along and see some drifting then make it your business, what these guys can do in a car is voodoo, watch the video…


Mazda have released some pictures of a new car that I hope they build for production, I would love to see one on Irish roads. It’s called the Shinari, “The Japanese word shinari describes the powerful yet supple appearance of great resilient force when objects of high tensile strength, such as steel or bamboo, are twisted or bent. It also refers to the appearance of a person or animal as it flexes its body in preparation for a fast movement, and it is these images that form the basis for the name of this concept car.”

It’s a 4 door, 4 seat coupe and I want one. Here’s some pictures for you to drool over, or set as your desktop should you feel the need to do such a thing