Skoda Karoq Ireland Front

The 2018 Skoda Karoq Launches Into Ireland

The Skoda Yeti was ever so popular in Ireland since its launch back in 2009. Although it wasn’t to my taste, they sold a mere 479 Yetis within the first year. For some reason, Skoda Ireland have decided to replace the popular, quirky Yeti with the Karoq. Now that the 2018 Skoda Karoq has been launched in Ireland, I gave it a quick blast to see what it’s like.

Skoda Karoq Ireland

In terms of looks, it’s nothing out of this world unlike the Yeti. Frankly, it looks like a downsized Skoda Kodiaq. However, this is no bad thing. The Karoq’s bubbly body replaces that of the Yeti’s square and boxy one. It’s wider and 160mm longer than the Yeti translating to more cabin space inside – 40mm more elbow room to be exact! In terms of the boot, it measures in at 521 litres, 105 litres more than the Yeti. Although, if you take advantage of Skoda’s VarioFlex seats this can be upped to 1,810 litres. The VarioFlex rear seats option is new to Skoda and means you can fold the seats in a convenient manner or completely remove them from the car.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Boot

As for the mechanics, the Skoda Karoq will be available from launch with four engines – two diesel and two petrol. The Karoq will get Volkswagen’s new 1.5TSI (150hp) and the popular 1.0TSI (115hp). The diesel options are the 1.6TDI (115hp) and the 2.0TDI (150hp), which I drove at the launch. Each engine can be had with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic. If you opt for the 2.0TDI, it can be had with 4×4 only.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Interior 2

From the brief drive I had in it, the 2.0TDI 4×4 felt very sure footed on the road. One of things I disliked about the Yeti was that it didn’t feel confident on road and felt vague to drive. The Karoq, however, feels well rounded. The steering was light when you wanted it to be but precise in the corners of the backroads of Co. Meath. The 2.0TDI wasn’t loud on the motorway but there was some wind noise coming from around the wing mirrors. DSGs can be a hit and miss, I find. However, the Karoq’s 7-speed shifted smoothly and efficiently.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Side

As for the price; the 2018 Skoda Karoq starts at €27,715 due to Skoda getting rid of the lowest trim level. This is a good thing though because you are getting a lot of standard equipment on the Ambition trim. Coming as standard are 17-inch alloys, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Skoda Connect, rear parking sensors and Climatronic air conditioning. If this isn’t enough, jump up to the Style trim for an extra €2,600 and get a 9.2-inch infotainment system, sat nav, rear view camera and 18-inch alloys. Although, it will be interesting to see how many people will just opt for the Karoq’s bigger brother, the Skoda Kodiaq, seeing as it is just an extra €1,080 for it in Active trim level.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Rear

Can it win over Irish buyers from the likes of the 2018 Nissan Qashqai? Keep an eye on the site for a more in depth review of the Karoq in the coming months. Until then, you can read some other Skoda reviews on the site here; Skoda Car Review Ireland.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Front

One Million Mile Lexus Front

The Dream Road Trip in the Million Mile Lexus

Last Summer, I hopped on a plane from Ireland to America where I spent almost four months exploring, meeting lifelong friends and earning money (and then spending it just as quick). But, the highlight of the whole Summer was driving 1,400 miles through California in something rather special – a Million Mile Lexus.

In 1996, Lexus built a white LS400 with cream leather interior. One lucky and eager customer went to the dealership, signed a piece of paper and parted with their hard-earned cash for this luxury saloon. Today, this Lexus still exists and has now clocked almost one million miles. Enter, the Million Mile Lexus.

The Journey to One Million Miles

Some of you may have heard of The Smoking Tire or Matt Farah. Matt, like me, is a car enthusiast and motoring journalist. He has an impressive car collection consisting of a modified Fox-Body Ford Mustang, a Ford Focus RS, an R129 Mercedes SL500, and amongst others, the first generation Lexus LS400. He bought the car over three years ago for $1,500 with roughly 897,000 miles on it. Now sitting on almost 970, 000, he lends the car to his family and friends to clock up the miles to get to one million.

Matt is the fifth owner of the car. He informed me that the second or third owner did the majority of the miles clocking up nearly 720,000. The fourth owner was not so kind to the car by only doing an oil change every now and then leaving Matt to pick the pieces when he bought it. None the less, he drove it from Florida to Los Angeles in 2014 without fault and christened the car The Million Mile Lexus.

I collected the car early on a Sunday morning. I took an Uber from LAX to Culver City where I agreed to meet Matt. He rocked up in the loudest and sickest Fox-Body Mustang I’ve ever seen. Not many people put love and attention towards the Fox-Body but this thing is menacing! But also behind the gate was the 1996 Lexus LS400 that I was going to cover the next 1,400 miles in. But it wouldn’t be much of an adventure without a rocky start, would it?

The First and Second Hiccup

No, so first up was the battery. The car was sitting for less than 24 hours having been with Matt’s friend for a couple of weeks. But despite that, the car still wouldn’t start. A quick jump start and the V8 bursts into life. Matt told me that the brake lights stick on when the car is parked due to a faulty switch. The way around it? Pretty much bounce on the brake pedal as if it was a trampoline until the red hue of the halogen bulbs has disappeared. All in the name of one million miles, right?

Anyway, I was on my way… almost. I spent couple of days around Venice Beach and doing the Irish proud by getting so sunburnt that I was still paying for it almost two weeks later. This could be considered the second hiccup but instead the second came in guise of a parking ticket. I would like to thank LA for having dedicated days for street cleaning. My fault though because the signs are plastered all over the street telling you to not park your car during the allotted times. Ah, sure look!

Let’s start this Road Trip!

$75 later and I finally started my journey towards San Francisco on Wednesday. I decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), because when in California… I knew that there were a couple of spots along PCH that had been affected by a landslide in May 2017. Knowing this, I continued to cruise along it for as far as I could. My thinking was that I could just detour close by and jump on the 101, like Google Maps was screaming at me since I left Malibu. But much to her despair, I kept on the PCH until San Simeon. It was here that realisation hit me in the shape of a flashing, orange sign. Said sign was informing me that there was a road block 20 miles up the road without a detour. I gave in to Google Maps at this stage and headed back 10 miles towards the 101. It was now approaching 7pm. The next four hours were spent sitting on cruise control and scrolling Spotify for something to keep me alert.

These four hours were probably the most comfortable hours of my life. Although sitting on galactic mileage, the interior only suffers from minimal wear and tear. 21 years of entering and exiting the Million Mile Lexus, the leather on the door was telling its tale through a worn and torn patch in the leather. The centre console cubby hole is filled with broken phone cables, cassette tapes and numerous empty rolls of Sellotape, probably holding more than a few interior bits together. The Belkin cassette adapter pumps music through the speakers keeping me alert throughout my journey.

This 5-speed auto is at home on the motorway, even if the cruise control is a bit temperamental when wanting to stay on or not. The auto “slush-box” is mated to the 245hp, or 264hp I’m not entirely sure which version I had, 4.0 V8 petrol which lets off a majestic rumble when you pull off. In Ireland, it is understandable that these cars are gently dying off because of our tax system. If the Million Mile Lexus lived in Ireland, the owner would have to put up with €1,809 tax bill.

After rolling into San Francisco at 10pm, a much needed beer was had and then it was off to bed, or couch rather. Thankfully the friend who I was staying with was near to Haight and Ashley, well known for its 60’s movements. Finding things to do in the city was not hard to come by. I only had the day in SF before I moved on so I planned nothing and just strolled around the city aimlessly. That night was interesting spending it in a Tiki Bar drinking some flaming and strong rum based drinks.

Bye Bye San Francisco, Hello Lake Tahoe!

The next morning got off to rough start, for me not the car. Armed with a bucket load of coffee, I headed across country towards Napa Valley. Unfortunately, but thankfully for my liver, I did not get to do any wine tastings but I did drive by countless vineyards and just took in the scenery in general. Having become found of wines like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was cool to see one of the most well-known regions for these wines.

I rolled into Lake Tahoe at 6pm that night to an Airbnb that looked like it was out of a horror movie. The only reassuring thing was that there were other houses beside it who would be able hear my screams, if needs be…

I spent the following day doing outdoorsy things because otherwise I’d feel guilty. I rented a mountain bike and explored the coast of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. Having gone from living in Chicago for three months and then spending a week in California, I immediately regret not coming to Cali sooner. Illinois has Chicago. California has San Diego, LA and San Francisco and between these major cities, scenery that puts the “Windows” screen saver to shame.

After a day of exploring Tahoe, a flight to NY beckoned so it meant that I had to drop the Lexus back to LA. Heading down the mountain from Tahoe put the brakes to the test. Stopping every 20 to 30 minutes became the norm as I let them cool down. 8 hours on the 395, a road that can only be described as one of the most beautiful highways in the world, and I was finally back in Santa Monica.

Farewell Million Mile Lexus

I dropped back the Million Mile Lexus to Culver City early on Monday morning. As I turned the key for the final time, the V8 settled down and went back to sleep. A sincere thanks to Matt for letting me enjoy the journey through California in the Lexus, it genuinely wouldn’t have been the same in any other car. Character is the fore front of this car and it doesn’t deserve a better owner than Farah himself. Thanks Matt, I’ll be back. Don’t you worry!

Reflecting back on my week, I saw a state that I could only dream was as actually beautiful as it is. I’ve wanted to go to California for a very long time and being there only made the experience better, it did not disappoint. I could have pestered the PR people from GM, BMW or Audi, and not have got anywhere. Or I could have taken a car that has seen America countless times and has a history to go with it. The Million Mile Lexus was flawless throughout my 1,400 miles with it. I dropped it back with 967, 316 miles on the clock. Except for the battery at the start of the trip, the car did not once splutter. After driving it, why everyone doesn’t have a Lexus LS400 on their drive way is beyond me. Buy one!

2018 Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Review

Estate cars are, or used to be until SUVs became the norm, an Irish love affair. My father still longs for an estate whenever he is in the market for a new car. Sure, we all love a fast estate too right? Well, let me introduce you to the 2018 Opel Insignia Sports Tourer. Although it’s far from fast, it’s handsome, practical and affordable. Should you make it a priority buy for 2018?

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Ireland

Ugly Saloon but Pretty Estate? 

I drove the 2018 Opel Insignia Grand Sport last year. I thought Opel had done a good job but I was still unsure of the styling, mainly the front overhang. This is sorted out in the estate version though with the rear end being much fuller, naturally. The car still has sleek, sweeping lines given its estate boxiness. The rear doors are long and extended, this translates to great legroom in the rear for passengers. The face is in line with the rest of Opel’s 17-long car family. The wide grille sits comfortably between the optional Intellilux LED Matrix headlights.

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Ireland

Is It BIG Enough?

Inside, I’m immediately cocooned by the low seating position and the raised centre console. The leather seats are comfortable and supportive. Although I didn’t do any long journeys, I could tell that the seats would be a pleasant place to spend some miles. However, the road noise might be a problem. The space to the rear is very good, not on par with the Skoda Superb but it would be a close second. The infotainment up front is typical Opel but this is no bad thing. Standard across the range is Opel OnStar. This safety feature-cum-concierge service allows you to call Opel’s call centre if you are experiencing problems with the car or if you simply need to find the closest petrol station.

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Interior

An estate is all about practicality, especially when it comes to the boot. The Insignia Sports Tourer has 560 litres on tap which can be extended to 1,665l with the rear seats collapsed. Compare this to the Skoda Superb Combi and it will give you 100l more for the former and almost 300l more for the latter. Up front, the centre console has two spacious cup holders, a choice between a centre console cubby and a large glove box for your phone and not to mention decent sized door bins.

No More Dreadful Notchy Gearshifts

As for the drive, I was pleasantly surprised. I had gone from driving the 2018 Opel Crossland X the week prior to the Insignia and couldn’t get over that the two cars came from the same company. The Crossland’s notchy and characterless gearshift was replaced with a smooth 6-speed manual mated to the 1.5 petrol in the Insignia estate. The new petrol unit produces the same 140hp as the old 1.4 unit but has upped the torque to 250Nm. Having a petrol in this size car was very refreshing and I didn’t notice the lack of a diesel.

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Boot

I mainly spent the week doing suburban and urban driving. The large size of the car didn’t put me off driving in the city. In the test car, there were safety features such as front and rear parking sensors and pedestrian recognition. This helped while negotiating the tight Dublin streets.

€9,000 Worth of Options…

The test car I had was priced at €39,585 including more than €9,000 worth of options, quite excessive. The 2018 Opel Insignia range starts at €27,350 for the Grand Sport and €28,550 for the Sports Tourer. Would I have the Insignia over the Skoda Superb? For the refreshing interior over the Superb, yes. The Skoda uses a lot of Volkswagen parts so it doesn’t feel as special or as unique. But if it’s all about space, then the extra 100l shouldn’t be overlooked.

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Ireland

Would I Buy One?

Overall, the 2018 Insignia is a very good attempt for Opel. They are moving in the right direction, especially shying away from the diesel. Only time will tell for what the PSA buy over will have in store for the German brand. But, I would put the Insignia Sports Tourer high up on my list of cars to consider for 2018.

Opel Insignia Sports Tourer sunroof

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland

2018 Mazda CX-3 – New Car Review Ireland

My parents are in the market for a new car. The car they’re replacing? A 2.0TDI 2008 Audi A4. But, along with the rest of Ireland, they are being persuaded towards a compact SUV. The compact SUV in question? The 2018 Mazda CX-3. As we know the crossover market, particularly in Ireland, is overcrowded. Can the Mazda CX-3 cut the mustard?

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland front

It’s no secret that I think Mazda is a hugely under-rated brand, especially for their design efforts. The CX-3, along with the rest of the line-up, has the magic touch of KODO design. This is Mazda’s design language which makes all of its cars seem a more grown-up than they actually are. The 2018 Mazda CX-3 measures just 4.2m in length but the wide face with indented grill makes it look a lot larger and more full than it is.

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland front

The compactness of the CX-3 plays in its favour in terms of driving but not for the interior, from the rear passengers point of view anyway. For once, I had a lot of back seat time in the Mazda CX-3 as the ‘rents chauffeured me around. Head room is good for someone like me, 6 foot-ish, but leg room was not on my side. Up front, it’s a typical Mazda affair. Mazda’s infotainment, Mazda Connect, s in full swing with Bluetooth connectivity and sat nav. The iDrive-esque system is easy to use but I think the CX-3 could be the complete package if they offered Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. As you might have gathered from some of my other reviews, brown leather wins every… single… time! So, thank you Mazda Ireland for the comfortable brown leather and alcantara supportive seats.

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland interior

As for the drive, I honestly already had it in my head that the Mazda would drive well. Every Mazda product I have driven before has not disappointed – from the Mazda MX-5 all the way to the 2018 Mazda CX-5. If I was to describe the CX-3’s drive in one word it would be tight. The 6-speed manual’s notchy gearshift compliments the weighty and precise steering well.

Although you might expect a car like this to have vague steering, you point the CX-3 in the right direction and it will bring you there. The 2.0 petrol’s song sounds familiar to the MX-5. It is surprisingly raspy. The naturally aspirated 2.0 petrol produces just 120hp and 204Nm but never did I feel as if the crossover was underpowered. On the motorway, it isn’t the cream of the crop when it comes to steadiness but I couldn’t see a long journey to Cork, which my parents would regularly do, being much of a chore. The cabin is also quiet so don’t expect to arrive fatigued. As for boot space, it is 350 litres which is down 80l on the 2018 Nissan Qashqai and almost on par with the 2018 Opel Mokka X.

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland back

The petrol engine returned an average score of 7.4l/100km throughout my 10 days with the car. The SUV covered almost 500km between my parents and I.

So the burning question – Did my parents like it enough to buy? Well put it this way, my Dad has been on Mazda.ie speccing up CX-3s ever since I handed it back. Yes, I would like the Mazda CX-3 to have a better infotainment or possibly more power from the 2.0 petrol if I found myself in the situation of a good hoon. However, my parents don’t need or want either of them. There is the right level of luxury and comfort there for them to enjoy without spending money they don’t have. All €28,595 and brown leatherness of the CX-3 is 100% worth it.

2018 mazda cx-3 ireland rear