Alfa Romeo Mito – Review

The Fiat 500, the Audi A1, the Mini Cooper; the first names that spring to mind you look for a youthful, small supermini. But what about Alfa Romeo’s offering, the Mito? Translated to English, Mito means myth. So, can the Mito hold its own against its rivals? Or is it, well, just a myth?

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Alfa Romeo Mito Super Sport
Engine: 1.3JTD Diesel – 95hp and 200Nm
Transmission: 5-Speed manual, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Mito range start at €18,295. Price as tested – €22,366.

Styling

The Mito, much like its older brother the Giulietta, has got that Italian flair. Its sophisticated yet endearing, elegant yet fun design has been a hit since 2009. Receiving a facelift in 2013, the current Mito has a bold, 8c-esque face. Its bubbly head lights brighten up the front end of the Mito with the Alfa triangular grille very much in place. The chrome surrounded grille is complemented by titanium grey headlamp and tail lamp surrounds. The test car was finished in Alfa White (€350) with grey 17-inch “Turbine” alloy wheels. Swap the Alfa White paintwork for Blue Tornado and you will have yourself one fine looking Mito.

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Interior

Pull the titanium-coloured door handle and open, what feels like, the very sturdy, quality built door and you are greeted with black leather, sports seats in this Super Sport trim. What lets down the comfortable seats is the excessive use of scratchy plastics on every surface.

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The steering wheel feels chunkier and sturdier than that of the Giulietta making it feel more driver focused. The dash is well laid out resulting in everything being within easy reach of the driver.

Alfa’s 5-inch UConnect infotainment system blends well into the dash and is quick and easy to connect your phone up to.

On The Road

Much like the Renault Megane, I wanted the Mito to be a good car to drive. It looks very pretty but eventually, this is where the niggle lies. The engine. I am trying to think of a word that will let the engine down nicely, but I can’t. Its at that level of disappointment. Yes, ok, I did say similar things about the Guilietta because I feel that a diesel doesn’t belong in an Alfa, thats just me. I’m a petrol head, I’ll admit it. But, I do give credit where it is due but I cannot in this case.

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The tiny 1248cc engine is gutless and noisy. Standard across the range, comes Alfa’s DNA switch. Dynamic is the only mode to have it it in if you want to get anything out of the 95hp motor. Leave it in Natural and you will forever be waiting for the turbo to spool up enough to get you off the mark. The only ounce of power that makes it feel at all adequate is when the torque finally kicks in gets you moving. Even at that, you are jolted forward and high up the rev range where you find yourself needing to change gear again.

No car should have to put up with a small displacement diesel. As a result, Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat Chrysler boss, recently said at the Geneva Motor Show that the FCA group will see an end to them soon. If only he could had realised sooner.

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The Mito weighs in at 1,225kg which is chunky 245kg heavier than its Italian cousin, the Fiat 500, weighing in at 980kg. Although, a redeeming feature of the Mito is the gear change. Gear shifts are engaging and make the driver want to push the car. The DNA switch does tighten up the steering slightly but the body roll restricts you once again. The little Mito wants to let loose out on a nice, twisty and winding road but just can’t catch a break.

Practicality/Boot Space

Continuing with the petite sizing, the boot measures in at 270l and with a high loading lip, it does not allow for ease of access for larger loads. Though comparing this to the Fiat 500’s 185l, it does not seem so bad.

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Up front there are enough cup holders, decent sized door pockets and an average sized glove box.

Equipment

The UConnect system, equipped as standard across the range, is easy to use once you get your head around it. My phone connected up nice and simply, unlike in the Giulietta.

Running Costs

The Mito averaged a fuel consumption figure of 5.4l/100km. Atleast its frugal! The tax bill equates €180 per year due to the CO2 emissions of 89g/km.

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Pricing

Prices for the Mito range start at €18,295. The price as tested was €22,366, including options.

Competition

Fiat 500 – Driving an original 50’s Fiat 500 is as close to Italian culture as you’ll get without being sat in an espresso bar in Rome itself. When Fiat decided to revive the name in 2009, it took the world by storm. Its cutesy, retro looks worked for the brand. So much so, that the Mito is that bit more exclusive on the road.

Mazda2 – I have said it before and I will say it again, Mazda have it just right in terms of styling at the moment with the KODO design. The KODO design gives the Mazda2’s small size the benefit of looking like its older brother, the Mazda3. The Mazda2 is priced from €15,995 so starts off more attractively than the Mito. It feels better built and has a nicer laid out interior than its Italian rival too.

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Opel Adam – Both the Adam and Adam S offer the necessities of a city car. The Adam provides enough customisation options while the Adam S offers enough performance on top of that. The Adam range starts from €15,795.

Conclusion

Like father, like son is a fitting statement for the Alfa brand. As much as I like the seductive looks of the Mito, it is let down by the interior and engine. Much like with the Giulietta; if it was specced right, particularly with the right engine, you may have something that you could be proud of. But Marchionne, get rid of the small displacement diesels, ASAP.

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Nissan Juke – Review

The Juke received a facelift in 2014 after it first being introduced to Irish roads in 2010. It has since received mixed reviews from both owners and journalists in terms of styling mostly. But nonetheless, Nissan have still over registered 6,000 Jukes on our roads since its launch. So, what makes this compact cross-over so popular?

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Nissan Juke SVE
Engine: 1.5 Diesel – 110hp and 260Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed manual, front-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Juke range start at €19,995. Price as tested – €25,795.

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Styling

This is where it got a lot of hate. The Juke is not the worst looking car on the road but one part I do really dislike, and always have, are those hideous lights. There are three tiers of front light; placed on the corner of the bonnet, massive circular ones below that and then the fog lights. In my opinion, the only car that can pull of the two top tier lights featuring a large circular one, is the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Nissan, leave them to it and clean up that front end.

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Down the side, the disproportions continue. The two bulging arches house the 17-inch alloys. The arches continue too high up the panels and just look too broad therefore making the wheels look too small for the car. Alfa Romeo-like rear door handles make an appearance.

Around the back, it begins to look acceptable. Single unit, angular lights shape the rear end. The bottom of the rear bumper houses the rear brake light and two deflectors either side. A singular exhaust with chrome trim completes the sporty look the Juke is aiming to achieve.

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Interior

Inside, the Juke is typically Nissan. You can see they have tried to spice things up with the introduction of glossier plastics, namely the centre console and the infotainment system housing. The centre console piece can be painted in the same colour as the exterior. Just imagine the extravagance of a yellow Juke…

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The driving position lets you sit higher off the road so you feel that extra ground clearance. The three spoke steering wheel gives the impression that the Juke is trying to be a sportier and more youthful Nissan. In the rear, it is somewhat bland with not a whole lot going on. It is claustrophobic too with very little head or leg room and, on the SVE model, privacy glass as standard.

The infotainment system is quick to connect to and easy to use. Although, the speakers aren’t of best sound quality. When switching between driving modes and climate control, the same buttons are used but the lights behind the dash change. For example; the AC button becomes the Eco button, the climate control off button becomes Sport, etc. That is a nice touch.

On The Road

Honestly, the Juke is not that horrible for the driver on the road. You might be impairing oncoming drivers by the odd looks however. Yes, there is wind noise and road noise on the motorway and at higher speeds but this is not a surprise for the Juke’s class of car. Gear change is not half bad and the position of the gear lever is within easier reach of the steering wheel, it feels almost like a cockpit more than a small-crossover’s cabin. Body roll is present but, again, not surprising.

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The Juke was equipped with the 1.5dCi 110hp motor, which I despise. Read my Megane review if you don’t believe me. But unlike the Megane, this engine suited the much smaller Juke. It weighs just over 1,230kg so the engine didn’t feel as if it had a large load to lug around. Although, it was not as frugal as expected in such a car. I averaged a very average 6.0l/100km.

The Juke is built for the city and for the suburban runaround which is why visibility should be a positive for it. The Juke is let down a lot due to the large A and C pillar, in particular. The rear window is not the worst even though it looks it from the outside. On the SV and SVE models, reversing cameras come as standard so this is not a worry.

Practicality/Boot Space

This is where the first gen Juke got such hassle. The boot space was only 251l. So this time round Nissan have listened and the face lift (2014 onwards)  has an extra 103l increasing it to 354l.

In the cabin, there are sufficient door pockets, cup holders and a decent size glove-box.

Equipment

The Juke I drove was the SVE, the highest trim level. As standard it features; cruise control, bluetooth connectivity, keyless engine start, leather seats, 17-inch alloys, reversing parking monitors and blind spot recognition.

Running Costs

The Juke returned a rather average 6.0l/100km. So the 1.5dCi isn’t very frugal, but it is only €190 per year to tax.

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Pricing

Pricing for the Juke starts at €19,995 with the SVE starting at €23,845. The price as tested was €25,795.

Competition

Toyota C-HR – Fresh off the press is the new Toyota C-HR. Winning buyers over already with over 1,100 registrations since its launch, the C-HR is a very well penned car. It looks unique with definitive and angular lines throughout. Both petrol and hybrid options are available from Toyota. Prices for the C-HR start at €26,895.

Mazda CX-3 – Although not as bold as the CH-R in terms of design, the CX-3 definitely gives the Juke a run for its money. Mazda have it just right at the moment in terms of styling, in my opinion. The CX-3 offers a boot space of 350l and a starting price of €20,995.

Renault Captur – The Renault-Nissan alliance allows for the two brands to share some components, such as the engine, so the Captur features a similar line-up in that respect. However, the Renault is more practical with 377l of boot space on tap. Prices for the French rival start at €19,790.

Conclusion

There is no denying that the Juke is a popular car amongst Irish motorists due to the sheer volume of them on the road. It is cheap and youthful looking compared to some of the bland cars on the road. But I struggle to see the attraction other than the price. Rivals offer a better overall package. Nissan; I’d keep an eye on Toyota, the C-HR is really onto something there.

2017 Audi Q5 – Launch

Audi Ireland officially launched the new Q5 to the Irish market today.

Design

The old Q5 was a hit amongst Irish buyers. It looked good for a crossover and offered a typical good quality Audi interior. The new Q5 should most certainly not be overlooked going by the design alone. Think of it as a baby-Q7; mature, strong and definitive design lines give the Q5 a sports-coupe like stance. The interior still offers all the technology typically offered by Audi.

Engine and Transmission

The Q5 is not focused towards the driver. This is apparent. The steering feel is quite bland but light so is good around town. The 2.0TDI with 190hp and 400Nm is featured here. Power delivery is good and gear changes are smooth due to the 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox.

Driving

The Q5 is easy to maneuver all round. I took it into housing estates, through town and onto a straight, open road and it felt at home in all environments. Although there was quite a lot of road noise at both low and higher speeds that intruded the cabin.

Overall, the driving experience is good. For the size of the Q5, it doesn’t feel anything like what you might expect. Steering is light and power delivery is good from the engine.

Pricing

Prices for the Q5 range start at €47,500.

Conclusion

The new Q5 is an improvement over its predecessor, Audi have not shot themselves in the foot, that is for sure. In saying that, the cabin could be a little more refined. But sure, you have all those gadgets to keep you distracted anyway!

2017 Audi A5 – Launch

Audi Ireland officially launched the new A5 to the Irish market today. On offer from the range were the Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet. A Cabrio on a rainy day in Ireland? Ah sure!

Design

I was never a fan of the old A5. I felt it aged very quickly and was just a re-bodied A4, which it essentially was. Not much has changed in terms of the re-body because the A5 is still based on the A4 but the fresh look is well needed. Starting with the Sportback, the proportions are much better than the outgoing model. The rimless windows on the doors and angular lines give it a proper sporty and muscular look. Its a handsome car, do you agree?

The Coupe and Cabriolet are both similar and even better proportioned. Both feature a muscular and angular face giving the car a mature and furious look.

Engine and Transmission

The engine I drove was the 2.0TDI, in each of the cars. It was the 190hp diesel with 400Nm mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox. I am well acquainted with this ‘box at this stage and it is still as good as ever. It drove it to extent in the Audi A3 Sportback and Saloon Gear changes are quick, seamless and efficient.

The engine, with 400Nm and 190hp on tap, is quick and pulls very well. Around town, never does the power feel like it is too much.

Driving

On the road, the A5 coupe and Sportback felt well planted and steering feel was good. In Dynamic mode, the steering is weighted up a little bit and it feels that little bit more responsive. The Cabrio felt a little wallowy, especially noticeable after driving the Coupe and it back-to-back.

Pricing

The A5 Coupe range starts at €46,660, the Sportback from €48,750  and €60,730 for the Cabrio.

Conclusion

This is a quick look at the A5 range. A more in depth review will be had once I get my hands on it for longer, which I am looking forward to. So in summary; the new A5? It gets a thumbs up from me!

Volkswagen Amarok V6 – Review

Volkswagen have got rid of the 4-banger diesel that powered the monster that is the Amarok. They have replaced it with a 3.0 V6 motor and I can assure you it only adds to the appeal of this already very good pick-up. A lazy V6 burble paired with mature and strong styling; whats not to like?

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen Amarok V6 Highline
Engine: 3.0 V6 Diesel – 224hp(244hp on overboost) and 550Nm(580Nm on overboost)
Transmission: 8-Speed DSG Automatic, four-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Amarok range start at €37,450(incl. VAT). Price as tested – €52,240.

Styling

Ever since the Amarok came to market in 2011, it has always appealed to me. Its proportions are just right and this continues with the new one also. Its distinctive VW front end is square but with its bumper high up giving it extra clearance. Around the back, the test car I had was optioned with chrome styling bars and a loading-bed cover in the same colour as the body, Reflex Silver.

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In Highline trim, the Amarok V6 comes standard with front chromed surrounded fog lights and bi-Xenon head lights with LED daytime running lights. This 2,243kg beast sits on these 18-inch Manaus alloys.

Interior

As a work vehicle, the Amarok’s interior is good. The plastics are easy to clean and don’t scuff easily. There are three 12V sockets placed around the cabin, enough to charge your phone, Sat Nav and one extra. The 6.3-inch touch screen that houses the infotainment system is easy to use, it is the usual system found in most Volkswagens. The half leather, half alcantara seats are comfortable, much like the ones found in the Passat.

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But, methinks Volkswagen are targeting the Amarok V6 towards families or outdoorsy people; the kind you find waking up at 5am on a Saturday morning to trek up the mountains for a day of hiking. But given this scenario, the Amarok’s interior leaves a lot to be desired. The infotainment system works well but given the pick-up’s price, there is no Sat Nav as standard on the Highline trim. The cabin is also quite monochrome. Dark grey and black fill the plasticy cabin. This could be compared to the Touareg which features a more comfortable and, at least in comparison to the Amarok, exciting ambiance. Space for passengers up front is ample but legroom in the rear is less generous.

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But why do I think Volkswagen are shifting their target market? Well one of the reasons is because of the way it drives…

On The Road

When you think of a pick-up, agile and steady don’t exactly spring to mind. But as for the Amarok V6, those words are somewhat acceptable. Pick-ups tend to be very bouncy and unsteady on the road unless a sufficient weight occupies the loading-bed. The Amarok felt very good on the road and I can assure you, not once did anything bigger than a laptop bag go into the loading bed. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Amarok kept its own on the badly surfaced roads of Wicklow.

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Naturally, the Amarok’s suspension is soft so there is lots of body roll. It is particularly noticeable when braking hard, you feel yourself being pushed forward by the weight behind you on the wallowy suspension. But this comes with a comfortable ride meaning the Amarok V6 soaks up the bumps well and glides effortlessly on the motorway.

Volkswagen offer a range of power outputs for the V6 varying from a 163hp to this one, the 224hp. The 224hp unit is complimented by a 20hp and 30Nm overboost for 10 seconds when the throttle is at 70% or over. This is certainly felt when you plant your foot to the floor. All 580Nm throw you back into the seat, all 6-cylinders burst into life and you are propelled to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds. The 8-speed DSG automatic eats through the gears seamlessly leaving you cruising on the motorway quietly. Although, my brain cannot comprehend a modern-day 163hp V6. The first word that comes to mind is sluggish.

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Practicality/Boot Space

The Amarok’s loading bed is 1.55m by, at its widest point, 1.62m. It also has a 12V socket, completing the pick-up’s four 12V socket collection. Compare this bed size to a Mitsubishi L200 which offers 1.52m by 1.47m and the Nissan Navara with 1.58m by 1.13m.

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Inside, the Amarok doesn’t offer much space for all those invoices and empty coffee cups. The glovebox is small and narrow but there is a cubbyhole/shelf on top of the dash which has a 12V socket. There is a small cubby hole under the drivers seat and the door cards have enough room in them for a big bottle of water and other bits. 

Equipment

The Amarok V6 comes standard with Volkswagen’s 4motion technology. This is a permanent four-wheel-drive system that can be controlled in the cabin for different terrains. Also featured is hill decent control. This is much like adaptive cruise control where speed and braking is monitored but for creeping down hill. Off-Road ABS observes braking when on loose terrain therefore increase braking efficiency on this type of ground.

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Running Costs

Throughout my time in the Amarok V6, I averaged 10.0l/100km, this is on par with the Touareg. Much unlike it’s cousin, in a Dublin City traffic run I averaged 14.4l/100km, not 19.2l/100km.

The Amarok V6 is a commercial vehicle so qualifies for commercial tax. This equals €333 per year despite its engine size of 2,967cc which would put it in the bracket of €1,494. This is what you would pay if you were taxing it as a private vehicle.

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Pricing

Prices in Ireland for the Amarok range start at €37,450(incl. VAT). Price for the test vehicle is €52,240. This starting price is compared to €34,995 for the Nissan Navara and €36,500 for the Toyota Hilux. 

Competition

Nissan Navara – Based off my time in the X-Trail, Nissan’s interior quality is just not there. There are a lot of cheaper plastics and, at least for the X-Trail‘s sake, lots of road noise. The ‘Rok also has a higher towing capacity of 3,500kg compared to the Navara’s of 3,200kg. But, the Nissan is cheaper and there was no denying the bang-for-your-buck in the X-Trail equipment wise.

Toyota Hilux – The Hilux has been the go-to pick-up for quite a while now and has been known for its sturdiness. It certainly puts up against the Amarok in terms of looks with its slimmer and curvier looking body. Although still stuck with a 2.4l diesel and only 150hp, the Amarok is more powerful. It’s 400Nm is a long way off the 580Nm the ‘Rok has to offer and it also only has a towing capacity of 3,200kg.

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Volkswagen Touareg – Controversial but a serious contender for the right lifestyle buyer considering the ‘Rok. Although the Touareg has a towing capacity of only 2,880kg, both VW brothers are as fuel efficient as each other. The Touareg has 40 more hp and 40 more Nm, neither figures taking the overboost into account. The Touareg also has a more comfortable interior so might be easier to deal with everyday. But, the Amarok is so much better in every way. It looks better and is easier to navigate through the city. The Amarok wins this battle for me.

Conclusion

The Volkswagen Amarok’s updates are certainly for the better with this new V6 having such bearable snags. Having VW turning this almighty ‘Rok towards lifestyle buyers, could this be the ultimate pick-up for sale right now?

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