Volkswagen up! – Review

First was the Lupo, then came the Fox and now we have the Volkswagen up!, VW’s continuing attempt at a city car and its a pretty decent one at that too. Specced in the High up! trim, this full fat city car has everything you’ll need.

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen High up!
Engine: 1.0TSI petrol – 90hp and 160Nm
Transmission: 5-Speed manual, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the up! range start at €11,875. Price as tested – €18,292.

Styling

Finding a young, cool and funky car on the Irish market is becoming easier and easier. For example, the new Citroen C3 ticks a lot of boxes in terms of  uniqueness. The facelifted up! fits right into this category too, especially in High trim level. The test car I had was painted in Honey Yellow Metallic. Personally, I love the colour. It reminds me of my first car, Samantha. But it got a lot of criticism from a more..em… mature crowd that I met during the week. It was even referred to as “monkey-piss”…I disagree! The colour fits the car nicely and with the black roof and side decals, the scheme suits the car perfectly. The optional 17-inch Polygon alloy wheels add to the youthful look of the city car too.

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Interior

The interior is not as flamboyant as the exterior, its quite the opposite. Grey cloth seats and a grey and black dash great you as you open the door. The tops of the door cards throughout the car do remind you of your alternative colour choice as they are exposed painted metal.

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The dash has a silver plastic insert with a square pattern printed on it. Just to remind you of what you are driving, “up!” is written across the passenger side part of the panel. At night, the dash is complemented by a white hue of the ambiance lighting.

Rear space, in this 5 door version, is not the up!’s forte but for the short journeys that it was made for, it is sufficient. The boot floor is flexible to allow for a deeper boot space or a lip-level floor. Handy for large or heavy objects.

This is nit-picking now, but there are downsides to the interior. Some buttons, like the window buttons on the door, don’t light up so they can be difficult to locate at night. The sun visors(God, that lark again?…) are a little distracting as there is no cover for the mirror. You’ve no option but to keep checking yourself out. Distracting, I know… Then there is the usual plasticy plastics, too scratchy and too many of them. This gives the impression that the interior is lacking some quality.

On The Road

Three-cylinder engines get a lot of hate based on their rattly and excessive engine noise but I love a good 3-cylinder. The up! was no exception. The test car I had was the higher power output of 90hp but a 60hp and 75hp variant of the 1.0TSI are available too. This 1.0 petrol is the only engine available in the range. None of this small capacity diesel nonsense here, thankfully!

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The engine is quick to get to 60-70km/h. After that, you are on your own. But this is all that is needed of the little turbo, a quick get away from the lights. The up! weighs in at bang-on 1,000kg, the 0-100km/h time on paper is 9.9 seconds.

The up! measures at 1.6 metres in width and 1.5 metres in height. Although this might help with aerodynamics, there is some, but not too much, body roll in the corners due to its height. Steering is accurate on a backroad but nothing that will blow you away. Its perfect for navigating the city streets.

Practicality/Boot Space

As I spoke about earlier, the boot is quite versatile. The floor is removable so what looks like a shallow boot when you open the door first, is actually quite deep. It measures between 251l and 959l with the rear seats folded. Up front, there is enough door pocket space, enough cup holders and a decent sized glove box to keep occupants happy.

Equipment

On the High up!, as standard comes; rear parking sensors, cruise control, a space saver spare wheel and a 6-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connection.

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This up! included the 171 Innovation Pack. This includes a phone cradle for phones with a 5.5 inch screen or bigger. This pack allows for Maps & More app compatibility. This App acts as a Sat Nav from the screen of your phone, gives live driving data such as fuel economy and allows the use of Deezer or Spotify. Its available on both Android and iOS.

Running Costs

Throughout my week of mainly suburban and city driving, I averaged  between 5.3-5.8l/100km. The 90hp up! emits 108g/km of CO2 so leaves you with a tax bill of €190 per year.

Pricing

Pricing for the up! range starts at €11,875. The price of my test car, a High up! 90hp 5 door is €18,292 including some extras. 

Competition

SEAT Mii/Skoda Citigo – They must be mentioned seeing as they are all the same car, basically. The starting price of the Citigo is €10,995 and the Mii is €10,445. Although neither the SEAT or the Skoda offer a 90hp variant. Other than a slightly fresher face, all you are paying for in the up! is the badge, unfortunately.

Mazda2 – More so a competitor for the Volkswagen Polo but the Mazda2 works just as well around town as the up! does. The Mazda2 is a great little car. Featuring Mazda’s KODO design, it looks more mature than the cheerful up!. Its boot measures at 280l so its more spacious in the boot than the up!. It is also a slightly better drive. It is lighter and its weight is spread out more evenly so is better in the corners. But, it is pricey with the range starting at €15,995.

Opel Karl – The more sensible choice in terms of, well, everything really. The Karl is quite a bland car. It doesn’t offer the same funkiness as the up! does but has a comfortable interior. If hanging out in the background is what you are after then the Karl is the better choice. It has a similar starting price tag as the up! starting at €11,995. So with the up! offering more, is it better value?

Conclusion

I still stand to say that the up! is the almost perfect city car. Its small, flexible and nippy. If you have near €20,000 to spend on something to get you around town, then the High up! is a decent choice. Don’t mind the haters, Honey Yellow is not the same as “monkey piss”. Anyway, if you opt for this yellow metallic colour, that will be owning a yellow car ticked off your list.

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Audi A3 Saloon – Review

I believe that there is an Audi A3 for everyone. You have the 3-door Hatchback, the Sportback, the Convertible and then there is the Saloon. The A3 Saloon has been part of the A3 family since 2013 and, personally, I think it is one of the best looking cars on the market.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Audi A3 Saloon S-Line S-Tronic
Engine: 1.6TDI diesel – 110hp and 250Nm
Transmission: 7-Speed S-Tronic automatic, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the A3 range start at €26,960. Price as tested – €42,351.

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Styling

The A3 Saloon doesn’t just look like an A4 that shrunk in the wash, it has its own unique face that sets it apart from its much bigger, older brother. Up front, the facelifted A3 has a angular lines, such as the grill and creases down the side. The rear end is muscular and handsome, unlike the Sportback which is quite droopy looking.

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I’m a sucker for red cars and the A3 in Tango Red is just right in so many ways. Standard on 18 inch alloys and with black leather/alcantara interior, this is one nice combo.

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Interior

Not a whole lot differs from the Saloon and the Sportback up front. The same leather and alcantara seats as seen in the Sportback are present in the Saloon. The seats are comfortable and easily adjustable to suit the driver perfectly. The cockpit is well laid out and everything is easy to use.

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The Virtual Cockpit was also shown off in my test car which is very cool. Check out my review of the Audi A4 for a more in depth look at it.

The Saloon is almost a centimetre and half longer than the Sportback but this accommodates for the longer boot. I found that space in the rear was quite cramped for someone of my size, 6 foot. The sloping roof didn’t help with head room and with the driver seat in my driving position, ample leg room was a problem too.

On The Road

The 7-Speed S-Tronic gearbox is a sweet spot for the Audi range, every Audi I’ve driven with it has been very smooth and easy to drive. Having gone from driving a Skoda Octavia RS with the 6-speed DSG to this S-Tronic was like night and day. The gear changes are seamless from the Audi, it feels as if you are gliding along rather than driving. It is a very smooth gearbox. Power delivery was very good too, not once did the engine feel sluggish given its relatively low power output of 110hp. However, I couldn’t help but think that if the car was equipped with a manual gearbox, it would be a whole different story, for the worse that is.

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As standard on the S-Line is Audi Drive Select. This allows the driver to select from different driving modes. Comfort or Efficiency are perfect for around the locality or town.  Stop/Start makes for a jerky start when in use around traffic though. Select Dynamic mode on a windy road and the car feels a lot more sporty. The steering becomes weightier, gear changes quicker and the throttle more willing. It lets you have fun with the 110hp and 250Nm.

For a 4 cylinder diesel, the engine sounds throaty, which I liked. It wasn’t enough to intrude the cabin but you could hear it in the background which added to the experience in Dynamic mode. Although, and I have no clue why, but my test car was optioned without the S-Line suspension, which comes as standard in S-Line trim. Even without the harsher suspension set-up, the ride could be quite stiff which was especially noticeable on a bad road surface.

Practicality/Boot Space

The reason why most customers would opt for the Saloon, other than the more handsome looks, would be for increased boot space. The Sportback‘s boot space equals 380l whereas the Saloon’s is 425l. Although with the rear seats folded in the latter, it is 880l compared to 1,220l in the former.

Equipment

As with most Audis, technology is their thing, but it does come at a price. My test car had MMI Navigation(€1,062) fitted. This system is good and easily customisable. But, not that anyone uses them, it does not recognise Eir codes. As standard is a retractable 5.8 inch colour display off of which the infotainment and settings work. When using the Sat Nav, the user can have their navigation on the Virtual Cockpit in front of them and have the radio options on the screen, for example.

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Also an option is Audi Connect. This allows the car to turn into a WiFi hotspot for up to 8 devices. Handy if you are up and down the country for meetings and need to send emails along the way. Although, I can’t see your passengers thanking you for dragging them around the country with that rear space, or lack there of. Maybe just pile the lads into the car and go cruisin’, you can Snapchat the whole thing…

Back to expensive options; an auto dimming rear view mirrior, €362. Anti-theft wheel bolts, €36. Interior light package, €238. Come on Audi, really?

Running Costs

The 1.6TDI unit emits just 98g/km of CO2 which means the car is €180 per year to tax.

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Throughout my week of motorway driving but primarily city/suburban driving, the A3 averaged 6.2l/100km. In the Sportback I averaged 7.1l/100km.

Pricing

Pricing for the A3 range starts at €26,960. The Saloon starts at €29,810. Price as tested is €42,351, including €3,551 worth of options. 

Competition

Mercedes-Benz CLA – Arguably prettier, the CLA is the most direct competitor for the A3 Saloon. With a starting price of €27,705 and a boot size of 470l, it is both cheaper and, technically, more spacious than the Audi.

Skoda Octavia Laurin & Klement – An odd choice but price-wise, the Octavia is a strong contender. Priced from €35,000 in this trim level, the L&K offers a very comfortable and spacious interior. Read my review of the Superb L&K to find out what the L&K package offers.

Volvo V40 – Although they are nothing alike looks-wise, the V40 is a very good car for the money. The V40 starts at €28,245 so is around the same as the A3. Also receiving a facelift in 2016, the V40 is just as fresh on Irish roads as the Audi is.

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Conclusion

Out of the A3 family, the Saloon is the one to have. Although, be prepared to have complaining passengers in the rear due to the lack of rear leg and head room. But just like the Sportback, equipped with the right option and the right engine, the Saloon is one hell of a car. Oh, and there is an RS3 Saloon on the way…

Volkswagen Passat GTE – Review

Its funny how opinions can change so quickly and dramatically. Just before writing this review, I set the review for the Passat Business Edition live and, if you have read it, you’ll know that I wasn’t a big fan. But the Passat GTE is a whole different car, its surprising that the two come form the same family because they are opposites. Have I caught your attention? Good, read on…

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen Passat GTE
Engine: 1.4 TSI Petrol  engine combined with an electric motor. Total power output is 220hp and 400Nm.
Transmission: 6-Speed DSG, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices start at €41,565 for the Passat range. Price as tested – €45,117.

Styling

Its sometimes subtle differences that make the most impact, this is especially evident with the GTE.  The GTE has a sportier front bumper, daytime running lights replace the fog lights and, more noticeably, a little door on the grille. I will talk more about that later.

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Finished in Tungsten Silver metallic paint and with the 18 inch Dartford alloy wheels, the GTE has more a youthful look all round. GTE badges are dotted around the exterior such as the front wings and the grill.

Interior

Inside, the GTE doesn’t look much different than a regular Passat. As standard are cloth seats with a blue tartan-like pattern. Leather is optional but this takes away from the GTE experience. Much like equipping a Golf GTI with leather rather than the standard cloth with red throughout it.

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Blue ambient lighting in the doors sets the calm tone that comes with driving the GTE. Blue features quite a lot throughout the interior, such as the seats, gear shifter and the stitching on the three-spoke steering wheel.

On The Road

What is the GTE like to drive? Think of it as a Passat on steroids, electronic steroids. In regular, normal driving mode the GTE is a sensible, frugal saloon. Its every bit as comfortable as the Passat TDI I drove recently.

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But, press the curious-looking GTE button beside the gear lever and you are in for a treat. The GTE mode makes use of the electric motor and petrol engine allowing the 220hp to be released in an abundance of torque and a synthetic petrol engine sound. Steering becomes heavy and the throttle a lot more willing. On the back roads, GTE mode is most fun. The what is a large family saloon becomes almost hot hatch-like, almost. The car can be quite skittish. What I mean is, in either electric or GTE mode there is quite a lot of wheel spin due to the great deal of torque.

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For a car that measures at just under 4.8m, it is surprisingly nimble in the corners. There is plenty of feedback from the steering in GTE mode. In the normal driving mode, steering is light so is perfect for negotiating city streets or car parks. 

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That little door I was talking about earlier? Well the GTE is a plug-in hybrid. The little door reveals a socket that is used to charge the battery for electric and GTE mode. In all electric mode, the car can get up to 50km. The car can also be charged through the use of regenerative braking. This is particularly handy in the city. Naturally, the car also has a hybrid mode too. I didn’t get the chance to use the on-street charging stations scattered around Dublin but I did charge it form the mains at home. To get to a range of up to 42km, it took 2 hours to charge. In that time, I got my own car cleaned and got some work done so you can make use of that time efficiently.

Practicality/Boot Space

Considering that most of the GTE’s rear floor pan houses the batteries, it still has a 402l boot. This is 184l less than the regular Passat.

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As the interior is not much different than the regular Passat, practicality is sufficient. There are cup holders up front, a decent sized glove box and appropriately sized pockets in the doors.

Equipment

Standard on the GTE comes a 6.5 inch touch screen off which the infotainment system works, auto headlights and start stop technology with regenerative braking. I’m a simple man, me. The simple things stick to me and Volkswagen have one of the best and most logical sun visors I’ve ever seen. Yes, sun visors. They extend from the side so that the whole width of the passenger window is covered when it is pulled to the side. Genius, I know!

Running Costs

This is an interesting one. Due to the dual motor between petrol and battery, the GTE will give two different readings. It takes into account driving on petrol only, electric only or hybrid. I managed to achieve an average figure of 7.6l/100km and 1.4kWh/100km.

The car emits 40g/km of CO2 so is €170 per year to tax.

Pricing

Prices for the Passat range start at €27,930 with the GTE starting at €41,565. My test car was priced at €45,117. This included some extras, the metallic paint for example. 

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Competition

Electric and hybrids cars are yet to become mainstream on the Irish market but they are gradually making an appearance. Therefore, there is a shortage of direct competitors for the GTE.

BMW 330e – BMW’s rival might be more powerful, a step up in terms of luxury and more compact but it does come at a cost. The BMW 3-series iPerformance starts at €47,680.

Mercedes-Benz C350e – The Mercedes and BMW are more direct competitors than the Passat in terms of luxury and comfort. The C350e has 279hp coming from a four-cylinder 2.0 petrol engine and an electric motor, similar to the Passat. Boot space equals 335l.

Conclusion

Seeing as there is no GTI or GTD version of the Passat, the GTE is the way to go in terms of sporty saloons for the Passat range. Although, buying a hybrid and fully electric vehicle should depend on your lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time in the city or near charging points, then the GTE will make sense. If you enjoy the odd hoon when you come across a backroad, the GTE is for you. If you think the regular Passat is a bit too serious, then the GTE is for you.

Eventhough a €5,000 grant is included, the GTE is still pricey. Make sure you can justify it before you book that test drive.

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Renault Megane Grand Coupe and Scenic – First Drive

Renault Ireland welcomes the new Megane Grand Coupe, Megane Sport Tourer, Scenic and Grand Scenic to the Irish market.

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The Renault Megane Grand Coupe

The term Grand Coupe and Sport Tourer are becoming the norm for manufacturers now. They give that slight bit more elegance to the name of a car than saloon or estate do, which both terms actually mean. The Megane Hatchback, which I drove last year, is a good car except for the engine. I really dislike that 1.5 dCi 110hp engine, its lifeless. So I was happy to hear that the Grand Coupes at the launch event all had the 1.6 dCi 130hp engine, not that I would have thought it made much difference. It did! It is surprising what 20hp can do. The GC felt full of life and handled much like the hatchback, even though the chassis is just short of 60mm longer.

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This 60mm makes a difference for rear passengers, they have the extra leg room which naturally means more comfort. The car I drove was in Signature Nav spec so had a full black leather interior as standard. The Signature Nav trim level also includes 18 inch alloys, Sat Nav and LED headlights as standard.

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The Megane GC, which replaces the Fluence, prices start at €21,990 with the Signature trim level starting at €27,290. Four trim levels are available; Expression, Dynamique, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. Each model comes standard with a 6 speed manual but for an additional €1,700 to each model, a 6-speed automatic can be equipped. No petrol models will be available in the Megane GC. Although, a 1.2(130hp) and 1.6(205hp) petrol is available in the Hatchback and the Sport Tourer. Keep an eye out on the site over the next month for my review of the Megane GT with the 205hp engine.

The Renault Scenic

I know, I know, who wants to hear about family cars on a site run by a young motoring enthusiast? But to be fair, I have been doing quite a mix of reviews over the past year so its not exactly outside of the norm.

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As far as MPVs go, the Scenic is certainly a looker. It stands out amongst its competition with its sleeker body design and, as for the car I drove anyway, more interesting choice of colours. At the moment it is in the running of being one of the best looking cars on sale on France’s equivalent of Top Gear, Turbo.

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The Scenic is available from  €26,000 and €28,400 for the Grand Scenic. The car I drove had the 110hp 1.5 dCi engine which, much like the Megane Hatchback, was dull to drive. The MPV is not beaten on looks and space is not half bad either. The boot measures at 572l.

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Expect to see more Renaults on the road this year as Renault Ireland predict that the Megane will reach the top 3 of new cars registered. It says that there is a Megane for everyone. What do you think of the line-up? Would you be tempted by a new Renault?

Volkswagen Passat – Review

Many automotive manufacturers pace themselves against the German giant, Volkswagen. In 2016, Volkswagen registered 15,411 new cars on Irish roads. Volkwagen also own Skoda, who produce the Superb. The Superb is based off the Passat. As you can tell from my review of the Superb, I love it. But have VW shot themselves in the foot by making such a good car from their competition?

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen Passat Highline Business Edition
Engine: 1.6TDI Diesel, 120hp and 250Nm.
Transmission: 6-Speed manual, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices start at €27,930 for the Passat range. Price as tested – €36,264.

Styling

frontt-minIf you are after something that will stand out of the crowd and impress the people in traffic around you, look elsewhere. As far as saloons go, the Passat is quite bland. Painted in Reflex Silver Metallic (€854) and in the Business Edition trim, as my test car was. Although, the Passat is a huge upgrade over the previous gen looking sleeker and more streamlined.

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Interior

Step inside and you are greeted with half leather, half alcantara seating. This is what the Passat is good at. The seats are comfortable and supportive, perfect for long journeys.

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The centre console features a touch screen infotainment system, a usual affair from the boys at VW. The Highline Business Edition gives you Sat Nav as standard. It is an easy to use system with some cool features. For example, when you bring your finger close to the screen, the buttons unhide themselves. Nifty! The sound is good from the standard speakers.

back-minLeg room is good in the rear although it features quite a big transmission tunnel so middle passangers will not be as happy. The Skoda Superb would be more of a comfortable choice all round.

 

On The Road

Get it onto the motorway and you’ll be doing fine. The Passat is made for long, motorway miles. It is a comfortable ride.

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The 1.6 diesel engine lacks power and feels a bit sluggish around the city. You would be better off going for the more powerful 2.0TDI 150hp engine, or even the 1.4TSI 150hp petrol if you have no need for a diesel. It is a noisy engine too. Although you will be sitting comfortably, you might want to turn up the radio to block out the excessive road noise that bombards the cabin.

Practicality/Boot Space

The Passat has a 586l boot. This is compared to the Superb’s 625l, the Opel Insignia’s 540l and the Ford Mondeo’s 429l.

Inside, there is lots of storage; cubby holes, a sizable glove box and decent sized coffee cup holders. Good job, VW!

Equipment

As standard on the Passat Highline Business Edition comes with; Sat Nav, an 8 inch touch screen infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and heated front seats. Also, a full sized spare wheel, a rarity these days.display-min

Running Costs

The 1.6TDI produces 105g/km which equates to a €190 tax bill. Throughout my week with the car, I averaged 4.6l/100km, an impressive figure all the same.

Pricing

The Passat range starts from €27,930 with my test car coming in at €36,264. This is compared to the Ford Mondeo which has a starting price of €28,845, the Opel Insignia comes in at €24,995 and the Skoda Superb at €27,500.

Competition

Opel Insignia: Opel’s offerings lately have been a bit hit and miss but the Insignia seems to be popular for the brand. What with 1,495 cars registered in 2016. With a new Insignia on the way, VW should keep an eye out for its German rivals.

Ford Mondeo: The Mondeo has been a popular choice amongst Irish buyers over the years and now with the Vignale variant, the brand is trying to be a bit more upmarket. Although, it is pricier than the Passat.

Skoda Superb: Volkswagen, you may have shot yourselves in the foot here. The Superb is such a great car! Its prettier, roomier and more affordable. The Superb is a great car and ticks many boxes.

Conclusion

Exciting, no. Inspiring, no. Comfortable, yes. Efficient, yes. These words sum up my experience of the VW Passat Business Edition. If you are looking for a frugal, diesel, motorway muncher; it will work wonders for you. But don’t expect it to blow your socks off. Right, I’ve a sales meeting at 2.30 in Cork. Until next time…

Photography – Darragh McKenna

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