Renault Megane – Review

A lot of cars on sale in Ireland at the moment aren’t very exciting to look at. Most manufacturers seem to be playing it safe when it comes to design. But among the usual dreary and bland suspects lies the Renault Megane. Renault have tickled my fancy in terms of design. But, is that all it is? A piece of art? Or is it good to drive too?…

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Renault Megane GT Line
Engine: 1.5 diesel. 110hp and 260Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual, front-wheel drive
Price: Prices starts at €19,490 for the Megane range. As tested – €27,130

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Styling

Its no secret that the Megane is a pretty little thing. Although no longer “shaking that ass”, the French hatchback is a  well proportioned car. My test car was finished in Iron Blue. DSC_0014The five door hatchback Megane packs lots of distinctive curves and lines into the bodywork. However, the recently debuted Grand Coupe doesn’t have the same sex appeal as the hatch. Renault has taken the face from models like the Clio and Kadjar and adapted it to suit the Megane. This results in a handsome, angular and full front end.

Interior

I was equally impressed with the interior as I was with the exterior. DSC_0026When you open the door to the GT Line, you are met with huge, body hugging bucket seats. They are black cloth with a contrasting blue line through the centre.

The centre console is a flat surface with the 7 inch touch screen for the R-Link system taking dominance. Interior lighting is a feature in the French hatch. You can change thepjimage colours on the door panels and the instrument cluster. You can also change the design of the instrument cluster to your liking.

The seating position is comfortable and for a driver my height (six foot), there is enough leg room in the rear.

 

On The Road

Now, I have been singing the Megane’s praises up until now. But Renault, you have let me down. The 110hp 1.5 diesel unit is…well, appalling. Its slow, noisy and sluggish. One word Renault need to consider, torque. Torque, torque, torque…It is non-existent. Every time you pulled off from the lights, there was nothing there. When you put the car into Sport mode, it brings it to life a little bit but nothing too impressive.

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The handling is not half bad for a family hatch. Once put into Sport, the steering is tightened up and the throttle revs a little more freely. To get the most out for the 110hp and 260Nm, stick it into Sport. The dashboard and interior lighting glows red when put into Sport too so that is a bonus…I guess…

Practicality/Boot Space

Opening the boot and you greeted with 384l of space. Fold the seats to increase this for larger loads. Having this space is all well and good but the high loading lip doesn’t help when getting heavier loads in or out of the boot.

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In terms of storage space up in the cabin, there isn’t much to shout about. There are the usual door pockets up front and in the rear. The glove box is of decent size too.

Equipment

The Megane GT Line comes standard with R-Link 2. DSC_0019It has Sat Nav, Bluetooth connectivity and a radio visible from a 7 inch touch screen. It sounds good, yes? Well I wouldn’t know…No matter what I did, I couldn’t get my phone to connect to the system. I’m starting to sound like a broken record now at this stage when it comes to car connectivity but I still believe that I’m OK when it comes to technology… or am I?

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Running Costs

The car emits 101g/km of CO2 so costs €190 per year to tax. Throughout my week of mixed motorway and city driving, I achieved fuel consumption of 5.4l/100KM.

Pricing

Prices starts at €19,490 for the Megane range. The GT Line I tested was priced at €27,130.

Competition

Opel Astra – The Opel Astra holds the title of European Car of the Year 2016. However, the Megane looks better, is cheaper and has a bigger boot. One point to the Frenchies

Volkswagen Golf – A typical benchmark for any family hatch now. I have said it time and time again, everyone has a Golf. They’re getting boring at this stage. So for that reason alone, another point to the French!

Mazda3 – Ah yes, a real contender for the Megane. The Mazda3 is a great car all round; it drives well, looks great and has a comfortable interior. The Megane is cheaper and, to be honest, I’d rather be seen driving an Iron Blue Renault Megane rather than a Soul Red Mazda3. Megane, you are cool. Another point for you sir.

So the Megane wins against its competitors here.

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Conclusion

Lets cut to the chase, I like the Megane. The French have made a good car but by fitting that 110hp diesel just ruins it and doesn’t excite the inner child in you. Renault, there is no harm in making your good car even better by giving the engine more power. Being a petrolhead, I am most definitely excited by the GT (200hp hot hatch). But, will the engine just be a let down like this one?

Skoda Octavia RS – Review


I’m a huge fan of hot hatches. When I got the opportunity to test the Skoda Octavia RS range, I grabbed it with open, greedy arms and got two of them! If you’re after a diesel or a petrol hot hatch, look no further. I’ll guide you in the right direction.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Skoda Octavia RS – 4×4 TDI and the 230 TSI
Engine: 2.0 TDI 4×4 diesel – 184hp and 380Nm
                  2.0 Petrol TSI  – 230hp and 350Nm
Transmission: Diesel: 6 Speed automatic (DSG), Four Wheel Drive
Petrol: 6 speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Octavia range starts from €18,995. The RS starts from €33,495. As tested – €40,817 for the diesel and €36,766 for the petrol. Both including options. 

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Styling

The RS doesn’t look a whole lot different than the regular Octavia. It comes in two body styles; a hatchback or Combi. DSC_0028The hatchback features a spoiler on the boot. The RS has twin, rectangular exhaust pipe trim built into the rear defuser.

A lot of the chrome trim featured on the regular Octavia has been replaced with black trim, like on the front grille.

DSC_0009The petrol is very limited in terms of options and colours. You can only choose from four colours in the petrol and one style of alloy wheel. Whereas, with the diesel you can choose from 11 colours and four styles of alloys. Its like Skoda want you to buy the diesel…

Top tip; if you see a Race Blue or Rallye Green RS on the road or one with 18 inch alloys, it a diesel. That is how easy it is to spot the difference!

Interior

Once you open the door to the RS, you are greeted with sportiness. You slump into the rigid yet surprising comfy leather bucket seats and grip the D-shaped steering wheel. DSC_0012Yeah, this is nice. Black and red surrounds you; from the black headliner to the black carpets to the black and red trimmed leather seats. Faux-carbon fibre effect trim lines the doors, divides the dash and surrounds the gearshifter. I can’t wait to turn the key.

On The Road

I finally turn the key and I hear the engine rubles into life. This can one of many ways; I can either love or hate a diesel automatic or I can either love or hate a manual petrol. Before I pull away, I know which one will be the winner in my mind.

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I select Drive and pull away. I’m driving the RS Diesel 4×4. The only performance diesel I have driven before this is the Audi A7 bi-turbo. The two can’t be compared. Although the Octavia is quick and agile, it was still a bit boring. The 184hp unit is rattly and can still be heard from inside the cabin. The 6-speed DSG is not suited to the engine unless you hate cars and driving, in which case you should not be buying a RS. The grip from the four wheel drive system is good, though, if only it was offered on the petrol chassis…

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On the otherhand, once you select the first out of 6 gears on the manual transmission of the RS 230 petrol, its a different kettle of fish altogether. There is a synthetic engine sound pumped through the cabin but it just adds excitement. From going around a round about to pulling away from traffic lights, the noise is just addictive. The 230hp engine is both powerful and torquey. If I had to go for the DSG, I would try it mated to this engine, blipping up and down with the paddle shifters would make it kind of fun.

Practicality/Boot Space

Although the Octavia has been given the RS treatment, this does not mean it has skimped out on practicality. The RS still features a 590l boot and the rear folding seats can increase this to 1,580l. I can vouch for this flexibility in boot space as I made a trip to Ikea. A whole office furnishings fitted into the Octavia with ease.

Equipment

The Skoda shares a similar infotainment system with the Volkswagen range.  The RS comes with an 8-speaker Bolero set up. This includes a 5.8 inch touch screen to navigate the tuneage you’ll be banging out!

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Front and rear parking sensors, full leather and RS door scuff plates come as standard on the car.

Running Costs

The vRS petrol emits 142g/km of CO2 so falls under tax band C coming in at €390 per year. The diesel on the other hand is slightly more environmentally friendly emitting 129g/km of CO2 and falling under tax band B1 coming in at €270 per annum.

As I mentioned above, the diesel is slightly thankful to the environment, it is also more friendly on your pocket too in terms of fuel economy. Throughout the week, driving both in the city and on motorways, I averaged 6.6l/100km. In the petrol, doing similar driving, I got 8.1l/100km.

Pricing

Prices start at €33,495 for the RS diesel with the 4×4 version coming in at €38,795. The petrol version starts at €35,995. Add €1,000 to each price for the Combi equivalent.

Competition

Volkswagen Golf GTI/GTD – The most obvious of choices. The RS is more exclusive than the GTI/GTD and is better priced. Although, arguable the GTD is better looking.

Peugeot 308 GTi – The Peugeot looks better, sounds better and is more powerful. Prices start at €37,195 for the 250hp. Although, it lacks a diesel version and isn’t as practical as the RS.

Ford Focus ST – The Focus ST is overlooked especially with the new RS getting all the attention. Prices start at €37,900 and it has both a petrol and diesel variant so is a direct rival for the RS. Although, is it getting a bit boring looking or is that just me?

Conclusion

The petrol one is the one to have. It sounds so much better and there is only 30Nm difference between the two. If you are worried about fuel economy, then why would you be buying a RS in the first place? The Octavia RS is a great car and is worth every penny. Yo Skoda, when can we have a 4×4 petrol version?

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Mazda 3 – Review

In recent years, Mazda has become a stand-out-from-the-crowd brand. This is reflected in their pricing as they are marginally more expensive than their rivals. I tested the Mazda3 recently and I’m saying straight out, I was very impressed. What makes it such a great car you ask? Read on…

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Mazda 3
Engine: 1.5 diesel – 105hp and 270Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Price: The Mazda 3 range starts from €22,995. As tested – €30,290.

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Styling

Kodo design is Mazda’s design language. It first featured on the Mazda6 and has now made it to the rest of the model line up, DSC_0062including the Mazda3. Kodo design has helped make the Mazda3 stand out from the crowd. Compared to most of its rivals, it doesn’t look generic or boring. It has an angular face and fold lines going down the side of the body. It is angular and square.

Interior

If you were to sit in each model in the Mazda line up, you will see that each one is either a scaled-up or scaled-down version of the next one.

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The cream leather is nice touch of class for the interior of the DSC_0067Mazda3 but a very similar interior featured in the Mazda2 I had a couple of weeks ago. It makes the 3 feel that little bit special. It is a very nice and comfortable place to be. The instrument cluster and infotainment system is nicely laid out. I liked that the tachometer showed DSC_0078dominance in the instrument cluster. To the left and right were different displays of trip data, fuel consumption and other driving and vehicle information.

The infotainment is simple but it works . It is very easy to use thanks to its BMW iDrive-esque dial. Buttons that surround it allow you to switch to the Sat Nav, the home screen and the radio/media outlet.

 

Practicality

The car has a spacious interior with the usual cubby holes in the doors, arm rest and glove box. Although, the door’s cubby holes were enclosed to only make space for a bottle.

The boot in the 3 is 364 litres. This is compared to the Opel Astra’s 351 litres, the Ford Focus’s 316 litres and the Volkswagen Golf’s 380 litres. So it fits more than just the weekly shop. The seats also fold down flat increasing the space to 1,263 litres.

On The Road

The Mazda is an easy car to drive. It weighs about 1300kg but doesn’t feel all that heavy. The clutch is light which makes for easy parking. Gear change is smooth, unlike the Astra which is notchy.

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Overall the 1.5 SkyActiv-D engine is quiet, it was pleasantly surprising. The diesel unit is 105hp and 270Nm. I found the power lacking when on the motorway and overtaking. To get the most out of the engine, I had to drop down 2 gears before I overtook which led to a very noisy cabin. Also apparent on the motorway is tyre noise.

The car drives well. It has weighty enough steering where you want it to and the body roll is controlled nicely. Not so much a sports car but does the job when you want it to. It is comfy too. Especially with its leather trim.

Equipment

The infotainment system and equipment level in the Mazda 3 is sufficient. It is basic and what one would need but is not ground breaking and doesn’t overly excite the tech nerd in me. DSC_0080In this trim, it comes standard with Bluetooth, Mazda MZD Connect, Dual zone air conditioning, LED Daytime running lights, Bi-Xenon dusk sensing head lights and Cruise control to name but a few.

Running Costs

The car produces just 99g/km of CO2 so is in tax band A2 of €180 per year to tax.

Competition

Opel Astra –  Good quality interior but only in Elite Trim. The Mazda 3 has a bigger boot and is better looking overall.

Volkswagen Golf – Build quality is good and is the first choice in this segment. Although as I’ve said before, they’re a too common. The Mazda3 adds some exclusitivity.

Pricing

Prices start from €22,995 for the Mazda3 range. The car as tested was €30,290 including options.

Conclusion

The Mazda3 is great car overall. It is comfortable, spacious and looks good. Even if the price tag is a little hefty, I think it is worth it. You get a lot for your money.

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