Say Hello To Archie

As I told you in my Insurance piece, I was planning on buying a new car. Well it went from almost buying an Alfa Romeo 145(Which I still regret deeply) to the want for an Alfa 156 (Don’t even ask…). Then to the serious want for a 4×4, like a jacked up Suzuki Jimny. Then to an old Mini. I went to look at a few Minis but after a while decided that it wouldn’t be fair to run one as a daily due to the amount of motorway miles I do. Then I started looking at the (BMW) MINI Cooper S. I always had it in the back of mind.

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I wanted a hot hatch but wasn’t sure which one. I wanted something different. I didn’t want a Golf GTI because there are so many Golfs around…until I drove one! I drove a couple of DSG MK5s and fell in love. But the helpful, generous and thoughtful Irish insurance companies couldn’t help me out so that idea was scraped when the cheapest insurance quote I could get was upwards of €2,700.

So, that was when I fully made up my mind about buying  a Cooper S. I wanted the R53 Facelift. You have the supercharger and 168hp, whats not to want? However, there was one simple thing holding me back from buying one in Ireland. A multi functional steering wheel/Cruise control. I wanted this simple feature on the car. You would think that that would be easy to find, yes? Well you’re most definitely wrong! Pretty much every car that went up on the Irish classifieds websites were the plain aul 3-spoke steering wheel with no multi-functions. I began to look at UK classified websites.

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Eventually, I found one that was for sale down near London. I arranged to view it, booked my ferry ticket and off we went. Luckily I was in the UK anyway (on a roadtrip with lots of old Triumphs, including my dad’s TR6) so it made the trip more simple.

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We went down to view on a Monday. The heat was unbearable! It reached 34 degrees at one point. Thankfully there was an air conditioned showroom!

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3 hours (and some trouble with my credit card company) later, I was the proud owner of a 2005 Hyper Blue Metallic MINI Cooper S, now named Archie!

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Archie and myself have had some fun times already driving over some great UK roads and attending his first Irish Cars and Coffee. I’ve yet to get his Irish plates but I am in the process of doing so. I will keep you updated on our adventures together.

If you guys have any questions about buying a Cooper S or even buying a car in the UK, you can ask me. I learned a lot from the buying experience and I can tell you what to do and, most definitely, not what to do! A do and don’t post will be written up soon.

Opel Astra Tourer – Review

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Opel Astra Tourer Elite
Engine: 1.6 CDTi Diesel – 136hp and 320Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Astra range starts from €19,995. The Elite Tourer starts from €21,195. As tested – €34,270, including options. 

Styling

As I’ve said in my review of the new Astra Hatchback, I like the new styling of the Astra range. It looks a lot more modern and sleeker than the outgoing model, which I think will age badly.DSC_0027

The same goes for the Astra Tourer. There is only so much that a car manufacturer can do to design an estate version out of an already existing model. Opel have done pretty well when it comes to the Tourer. It continues roof line, similar to the Astra, down the side of the car.  The C pillar has the Adam look about it.

Interior

The interior is very much the same as the Astra Hatch.  The test car I had was in the Elite trim so came standard with leather seats.DSC_0042 They were comfortable so a long journey would not be so bad in them.

The rear space for passengers is as on par with the Hatch, there is enough leg and headroom.  DSC_0047This particular car had an optional sunroof up front. It didn’t do a whole lot for the whole interior as it was only for the front passengers only. The Tourer would benefit from a panoramic sunroof option.

Standard Equipment

In the Elite trim, buyers get leather seats, Navi 900 IntelliLink system, Onstar and USB charging ports galore.DSC_0045

Optional extras included a sunroof (€650), front and rear parking sensors (€250), power tailgate (€500) and a power front drivers seat (€1,000).

Practicality/Boot Space

This is where the Astra Tourer makes more sense over the Hatchback. The Hatchback already has 370l available but the DSC_0040Tourer adds another 170l to make it 540l and 1,630l with the seats down.

This car benefits from an optional €500 power tail gate. This allows the boot to open and close electronically. A similar feature is found on a lot of other cars, like the Skoda Superb for example.

On The Road

The Tourer is similar to the Astra in terms of handling and steering. It is not engaging to drive and lacks spirit, not that many of its buyers will care about this.DSC_0025 It is not what it is made for. Although, it doesn’t feel as if you are lugging around an estate and the parking sensors to the front and rear help when parking.

There is wind noise around the windscreen which can be heard on the motorway. Road noise is present when doing anything over 80km/h which will annoy you when doing long journeys.

Competition

Volkswagen Golf Estate – Bigger boot than the Astra with 605 litres but doesn’t look as good.

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Ford Focus Estate – Better looking than the Astra although it is more expensive than the Astra with a starting price of €23,545.

Skoda Octavia  Combi- Better looking, priced more keenly starting at €20,795 and is much more customisable than the Astra. But are there too many on the road?

Running Costs

The 1.6 CDTi engine emits 104g of CO2 putting in in tax band A3, €190 year to tax. Throughout the week, I averaged 5.1l/100Km. This was combining city and motorway driving.DSC_0041

Pricing

The Astra range starts from €19,995 with the Tourer starting at €21,195. The test car I had was priced at €34,270 including options.

Conclusion

The Astra Tourer is a good car and is a step up from its predecessor. It is priced attractively but again the interior quality is still a let down, unless you go for the more expensive Elite trim level. If you are after a more driver focus estate, consider the Ford Focus Estate. If you are looking for an attractive looking car, the Skoda Octavia Combi is your man. But if you want to be different, then the Astra Tourer is the one to go for.

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Skoda Yeti – Review

The Skoda Yeti is Skoda’s answer to the crossover, an ever-growing, highly competitive segment of the Irish market. With over 400 units registered in 2016, the Yeti is a very popular choice in the Irish market. But, what am I missing?

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo
Engine: 2.0 diesel – 150hp and 320Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Yeti range starts from €23,955. As tested – €31,165.

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Styling

The Yeti is a 1.7 metre tall and  4.2 metre long practical family car. But it looks like it was carved from a block of metal.DSC_0008 Yes, it has soft corners and the nose is curved but it still resembles a rectangle. It is an improvement over the pre-facelift model, for sure, which has aged quite poorly even though the first Yeti is only 6 years old.DSC_0010 The new Yeti has single head lights and fog lights rather than the dual headlights on the first generation car. The face looks neater overall.

 

Interior

The huge exterior design does pay off. The interior is quite spacious. There is plenty of leg and head room in the rear so is not cramped.

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You want storage? DSC_0029Well storage you shall get. There is a cubby hole on the dash which is big enough for a phone and wallet, the arm rest between the driver and passenger can open and fit two bottles of water DSC_0034and the glove box is big enough for the usual small items. There are also pockets in the doors for water bottles and smaller items too.

The Monte Carlo trim gets black, grey and red cloth seats all round. They’re comfortable but look silly. DSC_0037You can tell Skoda are trying to stand out from the crowd and attract younger families with the colour scheme but it doesn’t fit in especially when the exterior is black and white.

Overall the interior is a let down. There are cheap, scratchy plastics throughout the centre console and it is a all just a bit dull. DSC_0030The centre console looks out dated with a lot of buttons. Where there should be sun glasses holder, is just blank bit of plastic covering up the gap.

The build quality is not good either. The test car I had, had just over over 10,000km and already there was an annoying creak from the drivers seat. Not only that but there was a constant vibration from the rear view mirror; while driving or while stopped. With the radio on and with the radio off. Not a great look, Skoda.

Practicality

Now, I can finally sing the Yeti’s praises. This is what it does best. The rear seats split 40:20:40. DSC_0024With the middle seat down, rear passengers benefit from two cup holders and arm rests that are built into the back of the seat. The seats are also easily folded with the pull of a lever at the seat end rather than a button on the top.DSC_0021

The Yeti features Isofix fittings and has large opening doors for ease of access. The boot is large too with a capacity of 405 litres and 1,760 litres with the seats folded.

On The Road

The Yeti isn’t an exciting car to drive. It is not engaging. It handles like a large crossover should although doesn’t have as much body roll as the Opel Mokka, for example.DSC_0007

The car is powered by a 2.0 TDI diesel four cylinder engine. It has 150hp and 320Nm of torque. The engine pulls well and has power where it is needed. Although, a 170hp option would go a long way for the Yeti range. The 150hp diesel is the most powerful in the line up.

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Wind noise is almost non-existent although on the motorway tyre noise is apparent. I felt myself having to speak louder than normal to my passengers just to be heard over the noise. Also on the topic of tyres, the grip is woeful. No other word can describe it. In the wet under normal acceleration, the Yeti tyre spun away from lights or from stand still. The car comes standard on 225/50 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres but these will need to be replaced if you plan on doing any rainy weather driving. Which in Ireland is most of the time. The 4×4 Yeti may have more grip and offer a little more reassurance in this instance.

The Yeti has the 4×4 looks but with the on road capability. While out photographing the Yeti I was off road. It had me wondering how capable the 4×4 version is.

Equipment

The Monte Carlo trim adds a panoramic sunroof, 17 inch black alloy wheels, red striped cloth sport seats and sports pedal set & instrument cluster.

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The panoramic sunroof is great on a DSC_0040sunny day and is easily opened and closed. Although when closed, it makes the interior quite dark. This is the opposite of what it should do. I saw no difference with the blind closed or with it open.DSC_0039

 

The infotainment system has Mirror Link, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. None of which connected to my phone. No matter what settings I played with or how many times I restarted my phone(or the car…). The system is displayed on a Bolero 6.5 inch touch screen. It has buttons surrounding it which makes it look slightly outdated.

Running Costs

This crossover emits 126 g/km of CO2 therefore putting it in tax band B1. This equates to €270 per year to tax.

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Throughout my week with the car, I averaged around 5.3l/100Km on the motorway and 7.2l/100Km around the city. I did manage to get it down to 5l/100Km at one stage which is extremely close to the 4.8l/100Km that Skoda claims the Yeti can average. Another point for you Yeti.

Competition

The Opel Mokka – Opel’s rival is comfier, looks more compact and has a nice seating position. Although, it can’t match the Yeti’s 405l boot capacity coming in at just 362l for the Mokka.

Nissan Qashqai – The Nissan has a sleeker design and a bigger boot capacity with 430l available. However, with prices starting from €25,620, the Yeti is cheaper.

Pricing

The Yeti range starts from €23,955 for the 1.2 TSI petrol Active and soars to €35,685 for the Monte Carlo 4×4 DSG automatic version. The Monte Carlo range starts from €26,995.

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Conclusion

Don’t believe the hype. The Yeti is practical and frugal but that is where it ends. Yes, it looks better than its pre-facelift version but it is still big and bulky. If practicality is all that is on your mind, then fire away. But don’t expect the Yeti to excite you on the backroads or pleasure you on the inside.

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