Opel Astra – Review

Whether its diesel or petrol you’re after, I’ve got you covered. The Opel Astra has won European Car of the Year for 2015. I drove the Opel Astra 1.6 CDTi diesel and the 1.4 Turbo petrol, which one will suit you best?

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Opel Astra Elite & Opel Astra SC
Engine: 1.4 Turbo Petrol  – 150hp and 240Nm & 1.6 CDTi Diesel – 136hp and 320Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Astra range starts from €19,995. The Elite starts from €26,995 and the SC starts from €24,495 for the 1.6 CDTi manual Start/Stop. Both cars came in at €30,695 and €23,245 respectively, including options.

Styling
Opel’s new styling is a bit like Marmite, its either loved or hated. I like the new look of the Astra, DSC_0013its proportioned much better than the out going model. The 1.4 Turbo was painted in Emerald Green which suited the car very well. It gave it a touch of class. The 1.6 CDTi was at the other end of the scale with the Cool Beige paint job, pretty boring.

Interior

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On the inside, Opel have kept practicality in mind. It is spacious up front and is rather comfy with the leather seats in the Elite trim. DSC_0040However, the SC trim levels cloth seats don’t support the occupants enough and you feel as if you are being thrown around the car when cornering. The equipment on the Elite trim level is good too. The heated leather seats help give the interior a more quality feel. Rear heated seats even come as standard.

The electrically adjustable seat is a nice touch. Although when I say seat, that is it. DSC_0036In the Elite trim, only the drivers seat is electronically controlled meaning the passenger has to do with just the regular manual handle. The dashboard and interior plastics are typically Opel. There is still the overuse of the dreaded scratchy plastics and the shiny surfaces reflect the sun which distracts the driver.

Standard Equipment
The 1.4 Turbo was in the Elite trim level and the 1.6 CDTi had the SC trim. As standard on the SC are cloth seats, DSC_0047R4.0 IntelliLink, cruise control and air con. The Elite trim, the top trim level, adds heated leather seats, Navi 900 IntelliLink system and dual climate control.

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Practicality/Boot Space
The boot space is a rather average 370 litres, 10 litres less than the Volkswagen Golf. The boot is easily accessible and is plentiful for a weekend away for you and your 3 to 4 passengers. Although for this long road trip, I would not recommend the 1.4 Turbo petrol as it is too thirsty….nor would I recommend the 1.6 CDTi diesel as it is too noisy…

On The Road
In terms of driving the Astra is not going to excite many. There is body roll in the corners so it is not going to win any races but thats not what it was built for. DSC_0003However, it is comfy around town. The diesel has 136hp and 320Nm while the petrol has 150hp and 245Nm. As tested in the Mokka, the 1.6 CDTi diesel which Opel claim to be whisper quiet, is definitely not so. It is loud at low and high speeds and even on the motorway. The 1.4 Turbo also sounds like a diesel, especially upon start up. I averaged 7.0l/100Km in the 1.4 petrol while I got 4.8l/100Km in the 1.6 diesel.

Competition
The Volkswagen Golf is a strong contender for the Astra and I can’t say that the Astra is better than it.DSC_0028 The interior quality is much better in the Golf with a nicer layout and better materials used. It is also more refined. I have driven the 2.0 TDI Volkswagen engine and it is much quieter and more refined than the 1.6 unit in the Opel.

Pricing
The Astra range starts from  €19,995. The SC starts from €24,495 for the 1.6 CDTi manual Start/Stop and the Elite starts from €26,995. Both cars came €30,695 and €23,245 respectively, including options.

Conclusion
Opel, I wouldn’t boast about winning the European Car of the Year award for too long. Volkswagen are onto you, you’ll be soon left in the rear view mirror.

Skoda Suberb L&K – Review

Forget about a well specced Audi A4/A6 or BMW 3/5 Series, the Skoda Super L&K will do just the job.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement
Engine: 2.0 diesel – 150hp and 340Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic (DSG), Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Superb range starts from €26,995. As tested – €43,105.

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Styling

You would be an extremely observant person to be able point out the L&K from a regular Superb from the outside. DSC_0033My test car was finished in Candy White and had 19 inch multi spoke alloy wheels. The Superb is based on the Volkswagen Passat but it looks much longer.
The Superb hatchback has nice lines thanks to its slopping roof line.

Interior

This is the L&Ks party piece. The large saloon has brown leather comfort seats. DSC_0041Although they hug you in all the right places.
The brown leather is continued up onto the dash giving it a nice-to-touch feel. Skoda haven’t cut costs and have made the effort to colour the plastic on the door card end brown too. It is a comfortable DSC_0043place to be and would be somewhere where I would be happy to spend a long amount of time.

Rear passengers can be thankful for the amount of leg room. I had passengers in both the new Mercedes E-Class and the Superb in the same day. DSC_0038They each said that they felt more comfortable in the back of the Superb. The seats are comfier and the leg room is a lot more generous.


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Practicality

Whether it’s long motor way miles or the school run you are doing, the Superb is perfect. DSC_0040The rear doors open wide enough for ease of access for baby seats to be slotted into the Isofix points. The seats fold flat so is perfect for any load. The boot space with the seats up is 625 litres and with them folded flat it is increased to 1,760 litres.DSC_0039

The L&K benefits from an electronically operated boot. This can be done with the touch of a button or by waving your foot under the bumper. This is handy if you have your hands full with shopping bags.

On The Road

When you are driving the Superb, you know you are driving something quite large, you are maneuvering a 4.8m saloon. Around country lanes it keeps you on your toes as it is not the skinniest of vehicles.

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The car can be powered by 4 different engines, 2 petrol or 2 diesels. The test car I had was the 150hp 2.0TDI with a 6 speed DSG gearbox. It can be set to sport, eco, comfort or individual. DSC_0044Eco mode is quite clever as it lowers the revs to idle when you are not accelerating. Although, eco is quite slow off the mark, especially at traffic lights. The gear change in any mode other than Sport is very slow and jerky. Volkswagen has a good reputation for its DSG gearbox but the 6-speed doesn’t work very well in the Superb.

Running Costs

The 2.0TDI 150hp emits 118g/Km of CO2 so is €200 to tax per year. I averaged 6.5l/100Km with a mix of motorway and city driving. Skoda is being a bit brave claiming drivers can get an average of 5.4l/100Km.

Competition

Ford Mondeo Vignale – Well equipped, looks good but too expensive.

Audi A4 – Packed with technology and very comfortable. Although options are quite expensive.

Pricing

The Superb range is priced from €26,995 with the L&K starting from €40,105 for the saloon and €41,310 for the Combi (estate).

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Conclusion

The Superb L&K offers oodles of comfort and looks great. Although, it is still just a 2.0TDI under the bonnet and just a VW Passat underneath so is underwhelming to drive. This is not what the Superb was made for the though. It offers such luxury at a budget price. Well done Skoda, you did good.

Mazda 2 – Review

Buying a city car or your first car? About to put a deposit on a Peugeot 208, Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo? Well wait until I tell you about the Mazda 2. No, I’m not mad!

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Mazda 2 GT
Engine: 1.5 Petrol  – 90hp and 148Nm
Transmission: 5 Speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Mazda 2 range starts from €15,995. As tested – €21,240.

Styling

The Mazda 2 is a fresh look for the hatchback market.DSC_0008 It has desinctive lines and looks a lot more grown up than some of its competitors. It is one to take seriously. It features Mazda’s Kodo design. This is what all of Mazda’s models are designed from and they have done a good job.DSC_0017

Interior

If cheap cloth seats are what you’re after, look elsewhere. DSC_0018Mazda have splashed out with the interior of this GT trim level and equipped it with cream leather with a red pin strip down the middle to match the paintwork.

The infotainment system was a bit of a disappointment. First off, the Sat Nav was impossible to work. DSC_0021No matter how many times I tried throughout the week to get it working, I couldn’t figure it out. If only the car had Apple Car Play and I could have used Google Maps instead. The sound system was OK and had plenty of tuning options which actually make a difference. For example, when I turned the bass up and down you could hear the difference.

The space throughout the car was good. Passengers could sit in the back without being on top of the front passengers although the rear seats could be a lot comfier.

The interior was ascetically pleasing but it would not be somewhere I would like to spend a whole lot of time.DSC_0027 It was noisy and this is something that would get on my nerves if I was to live with it day-to-day. The engine and gearbox are the culprits. They could be heard at every movement.

Mazda, please get rid of the carbon trim on the steering wheel and around the dash. Its just tacky and has been done to bits. Please, just let it go!

Practicality

Interior space is on par with its rivals in terms of head and leg room all round. Although, the interior is quite flexible. DSC_0029I comfortably sat 3 young adults and a bike in the car…with all the doors closed and with each of us in a seat. Pretty impressive in my books.

The boot space equals 280 litres. This is on par with the VW Polo and down 5 litres on the Peugeot 208.

On The Road

As far as handling and ride goes for city cars, the Mazda is a good drive. It is in their heritage and they have kept it on. DSC_0004Out of its rivals, it is the one to have based on driving ability.

The car is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5 four-cylinder petrol engine with 90hp and 148Nm. It leaves you wanting A LOT more. It is slow off the mark and needs to be revved a lot to get anything out of the engine. A lower capacity and a turbo would go a long way for this little Jap hatch.

Running Costs

The Mazda 2 falls under tax band A3 (105g/km) so comes in at €190 per year to tax. I managed to average 6.5l/100Km from the hatch throughout my week but it felt as if I had achieved a lot better than that.

Insurance

Based on a 20 year old male student living in Dublin with a licence for 2 years and a 2 years NCB, I got two fantastic quotes to choose from…. €2,112 from Chill.ie and €5,383.33 form 123.ie. Both are fully comp. Honestly, €2,112 isn’t bad for a €21,000 car.

Competition

The Volkswagen Polo – A good reputation and a nicely laid out interior. Although it is a bit too common.

The Peugeot 208 – It has nice and cheery styling but isn’t engaging to drive.

Pricing

This is where the Mazda falls down. Priced from €15,995, the Mazda 2 sounds modest but once you add options, like my test car,DSC_0009 this rises to €21,240. This is compared to a starting price of €15,530 for the Polo and €14,845 for the 208.

Conclusion

The Mazda 2 is a fresh alternative to the hatchback market. Its stylish all round and has a crisp interior. Although, unless you want to dig deep in those pockets of yours you might want to wait until a cheaper one comes up for sale on the second hand market.