First Drive: New Kia Picanto

As it happens, we have a current Picanto at home, so taking the third generation one for a number of drives in the hills behind Sitges was going to be an interesting comparative exercise, writes Brian Byrne.

Evolving from what has been a pretty successful small car for the Korean brand, globally and in Europe, they took a careful look at the buyer profile in the A segment before they went about fixing something that wasn't in any way broken.

And briefly, two thirds of those buyers are female, all are well educated, and generally they earn somewhat more than supermini and compact buyers. The cars tend to be an only car for those in their 20s, a second car for those households where age is in the 50s.

What they like about their current cars are looks, drivability with some emphasis on nimbleness in the city, and economical operation. They're not in the high powered league, but they are willing to spend a bit more on personalising their car.

Of course, that's all research at European level, where what we call the city car segment is significant as a share of the overall market. Here in Ireland, at about 4,000 units a year out of a total of around 140,000, it is useful but not large.

Anyhow, the new Picanto. A completely new car from the current version, which it will replace in Ireland at the end of April.  A new platform, a lighter but stronger structure, a longer wheelbase but not a longer car. Not as wedgy in style, but retaining cues of the current  car in various places, especially the rear.

At the press presentation, the company's marketing boss noted the increasing proportion of crossover/SUVs being bought, and though the Picanto was never going to be one of them, they did figure that their little car needed a stronger image. So the front end has been substantially beefed up in looks, giving it more presence.

Inside, though the car is no wider than before, there is more shoulder room, and the design of the dashboard components makes it seem wider. The main instruments are  large and clear, and a 7" central screen dominated the cars at the international presentation. When the GT Line top end grade comes to Ireland at the end of the summer, that will be part of it.

The 'packaging' of occupants has been further improved by changes to the positioning of airbags in the dashboard, allowing more knee room. And I had the sense that there's a bit more space for the rear passengers than in the current car.

One very clear improvement, though, is the boot space, which has been increased by 25pc to 255 litres. Claiming a best in class here now, that sorts one of the niggles of the current car, especially on weekly shop days. The boot floor too is now a double deck space, so small items can be concealed. In addition, tilting the rear seatbacks forward now provides a flat floor rather than the angled one of the present Picanto, and offers more than 1,000 litres of cargo capacity.

The 1.0 3-pot petrol engine is very familiar to current Irish owners, and this has been retained for the new car, which thanks to being lighter is also a tad more frugal than before. There's also a nice 1.25 four that will be available in Ireland, but only with an automatic transmission.

I had time to drive several times into the hills with both engines, as well as negotiating towns, villages, and zipping along stretches of excellent Spanish motorway. The 1.0 requires a bit of rowing through the gears on steeper climbs, but it is well up for that and was surprisingly fun under pressure. The 1.2 is quieter and a little easier on the same routes, but both motors are well able for whatever is required. In both instances, the 5-speed manual gearbox was a pleasure to use.

There's a 100hp turbocharged version of the 1.0 coming down the line later in the year, which we will have as part of a GT Line specification which makes the car very smart looking indeed.

The longer wheelbase and some improvements to the suspension mean the new car rides and handles a little better too, noticeable in less roll in the bends.

At the moment in Ireland, Picanto is fifth in its segment led by a rampant Hyundai i10. The Kia small cousin is now arguably more attractive in every respect than that one, especially in presence and packaging. There's a real opportunity for the Picanto to improve in its small but growing segment, and I'll be surprised if it doesn't.

Prices from €13,295. The automatic is €16,495, which is a reasonable €1,700 premium on its equivalent EX grade 1.0 manual, and remember for that you're getting more power too. I'd be tempted.

New Jaguar Land Rover showroom opens

Joe Duffy Jaguar Land Rover yesterday opened a new 30,000 sq/ft showroom at Airside, Swords, Co Dublin, writes Trish Whelan.

The official opening of the new €8m showroom was attended by 300 customers, local VIPS and Jaguar Land Rover enthusiasts.

This is the first new JLR showroom to be launched in Ireland, one of a number of new facilities being rolled out across the network over the next 12 months.

Pictured above at the opening ceremony are: Gerard O’Farrell Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Ireland; Marco Santucci, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Europe; Gavin Hydes CEO Joe Duffy Group; and Dermot Fallon, Facilities Director, Joe Duffy Group.

Outlander Business gets 2017 upgrade

Mitsubishi has given its 2-seater Outlander Business commercial vehicle an upgrade for 2017, writes Trish Whelan.

The upgrade includes safety features such as reversing camera and rear parking sensors, as well as new convenience features like touchscreen audio display, rain sensor wipers and interior quality upgrades.

Exterior styling now includes shark fin antennae and chrome beltline mouldings, 16-inch alloy wheels, electric heated & folding door mirrors, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, auto wipers, silver roof rails, privacy glass, rear mudguards and a space saver spare wheel.

The interior comes packed with features a multi-functional leather steering wheel, front armrest, power windows, remote central locking with keyless entry, a touch screen audio display which incorporates radio, CD, USB and Bluetooth; cruise control with speed limiter, Bluetooth hands free with, USB port/iPod connectivity, dual zone air con, a height adjustable driver's seat, and a drive mode selector.

Additional features which also work in conjunction with the audio display are the reverse camera and rear park sensors, making parking and trailer connecting easier than before.

On the safety side, the standard list includes ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution & Brake Assist, Active Stability Control with Traction Control which makes for smooth accelerating and handling; Emergency Stop Signal System, Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, multi-select 4WD (on-demand 4WD Eco & 4WD lock modes), seven airbags, and a tyre pressure warning system.

Outlander has been awarded a maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating, thanks to the new adjustable speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, driver's knee airbag along with front, side and curtain airbags.

There are over 2,000 litres of storage space onboard, and the cargo area capacity to the seat back is 1341 litres.

This is an efficient 4x4, 6-speed manual, 2.2 clean diesel with 150bhp and 380Nm of torque which returns up to 5.3 L/100kms (53.2mpg) and can still tow up to 2,000kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

To achieve the 5.3 L/100kms, the Outlander's Auto Stop & Go technology called Cleartec and a new Eco driving mode engage features across the car that save on fuel consumption. The fuel tank can hold 60 litres.

The car can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds, has an overall length of 4695mm; GVW is 2260kg,

The upgraded Business Up-Grade pack includes leather heated front seats (€1,350), and 18-inch alloy wheels (€1,575) and tyres, as per the 7-seat 4WD Outlander. If both are ordered, the combined cost is reduced to €2,850.

VRT on the Outlander Business is €200, annual road tax €333 and it qualifies for low BIK.

Outlander Business 2.2 DI-D 6MT 2-seater commercial is available from €26,260 ex Vat or from €32,260 inc Vat, and comes with Mitsubishi Motors Ireland's 5-Year Commercial Warranty.

New Picanto at end of April

The new generation Kia Picanto goes on sale in Ireland at the end of April with a starting price of €13,295, writes Brian Byrne.

The third version is an evolution of the current popular city car, with a stronger image and upgraded interior.

Engine options are both petrol, the familiar 1.0 3-cylinder, and a 1.2 4-cylinder, the latter available only with automatic transmission in Ireland.

There will be three grades available at launch, the entry TX, EX and EX ADAS. All but the TX have 15" alloys, projector headlights and LED daylight running lamps, among a high level of specification. The ADAS grade adds leather seats and distinctive trim.

The new Picanto is the same length and width as the outgoing car, but is lower and has a slightly longer wheelbase.

Picanto sales for 2016 in Ireland placed the car in fifth place in a crowded 19-car A segment, a division with relatively small market share here across total passenger car sales.

I've been driving the car in Spain this morning, and will provide a full first impression later.

Rally Champions for Deja Vu Killarney 2017

Following the success of Circuit Deja vu in 2016, Dr Beatty Crawford and Plum Tyndall are bringing their great rally reunion event back to Killarney this Easter, but with a twist as this time they are ‘Firing up the Group B Memories’, writes Trish Whelan.

“We will be celebrating the glory years like when the supercars swept into Ireland in the late eighties to take part in events like the Circuit of Ireland, the Ulster Internationally Rally, the Galway International Rally and the fabulous Kerry stages,” say the organisers.

“The superstars came with the supercars, Bloomquist, Mikkola, Mouton, Toivonen, Vatanen, Rohl, and our locals like Fisher, Cullen and MacHale got the chance to compete against the very best in the world on home soil.”

Group B gave birth to such exotic machines as the Audi Quattro S1 and S2 Sport Quattro S1. Ford’s RS200, and the Ferrari 308. Lancia were major players with their Rally 037 and Delta S4. Opel kept to two-wheel-drive but their Ascona 400 and Manta 400s got results. Nissan had their bulky 240RS, Renault their 5 Maxi Turbo, Porsche a derivative of the 911 and SC RS, and Peugeot developed their highly successful 205 T16. British Leyland were late with their Metro 6R4 which was still being developed when Group B was cancelled in 1986.

Now, the Deja vu organisers will seed the Group B entries and their replicas at the head of the parade on the Sunday Run where they will join the other exotic machines on the non-competitive tour of the great stages.

Pictured above: TV personality, Pamela Ballantine, with Dr Beatty Crawford (left) and Alan (Plum) Tyndall during the press conference to announce that international rally champions will be in Killarney this Easter to participate in Deja vu Killarney, 2017. Pamela will MC the Gala Dinner on Easter Sunday night in Killarney.

These World, French, Middle East, British, and Irish rally champions will all be in Killarney as guests of Deja Vu Killarney when the event relives the golden Group B rallying era of the 1980s on April 15 and 16. 

Skoda to debut its first electric-study VISION

Skoda will debut its first electric-study VISION which has the capability for autonomous driving, at the Shanghai Motor Show 2017, writes Trish Whelan.

The five-door SUV coupe can travel up to 500 kms on purely electric power and meets the level 3 requirements for autonomous driving. This means it can operate independently in traffic jams, go into autopilot on motorways, stay in lane and swerve, carry out overtaking manoeuvres, independently search for free parking spaces and park and leave parking spaces alone - all done by sensors with different ranges and numerous cameras constantly monitoring the traffic situation.

The VISION E will be slightly shorter, narrower and higher than the new Octavia. With a 2,850mm long wheelbase, as well as short overhangs at the front and rear, the designers have created a very spacious interior. 

The electric car can accelerate instantaneously thanks to the system output of 300bhp which is 20bhp greater than the fastest Superb 2.0 TSI 280bhp petrol model currently on sale in Ireland. The top speed is 180km/h.

Skoda will offer five purely electric models in various segments by 2025. It will start as early as 2019 with the launch of the Skoda Superb with plug-in hybrid drive.

Half of drivers back blanket block on mobiles

A new survey of Irish motorists shows that nearly half of Irish drivers (46pc) would support the introduction of technology to disable certain phone functions for the sake of safety, writes Trish Whelan.

Some 26pc of respondents felt that some form of blocking device would be more effective at deterring mobile phone use than the introduction of harsher penalties.

The survey, for Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero initiative - a commitment to reduce road fatalities worldwide - also highlighted that more than half of drivers admit to regularly using their mobile phone while behind the wheel.

Other key findings include more than one-third feel that mobile phone use is ‘normalised’ as so many people are doing it; 23pc of drivers say they find it difficult to be disconnected from their mobiles for any length of time; and 62pc feel it’s OK to use a phone if stopped or in slow moving traffic versus 22pc who said it is illegal to use a phone in any traffic situation.

Making or receiving calls and texting are still the most common activities with 64pc admitting to using a phone behind the wheel. Some 49pc of drivers say they regularly use their phone for accessing their social media profiles while driving.

Head of Continental Tyres Ireland, Tom Dennigan, said their research reveals that drivers know that their use of phones is illegal, distracting and dangerous, yet it is clear that many of them can’t help themselves.

In addition to the need to improve motorists’ behaviour, he said it is apparent that there is a strong desire for technology to help deliver the solution and enhance road safety. “Nearly a half of drivers, 46pc, think the Government should enforce a device to disable web-browsing, emails and the ability to send and receive texts.”

Professor John Groeger, a specialist in driver psychology and author of ‘Sharing the Driving’ for Continental Tyres said there is no such system currently available.

“It is imperative that we find a way to resolve this as the ‘switch cost’ - the critical time it takes us to shift our concentration from a task like reading a text to again be fully engaging in driving, is so important in reducing accidents.”

Irish Ferries 'egg-cellent' Haven offers

Irish Ferries has unveiled a suite of ‘egg-cellent’ family deals at a selection of popular UK Haven Holiday parks, likely to appeal to parents seeking a fun break with the little ones this Easter.

Breakaways at Greenacres and Presthaven Sands in North Wales, Lakelands in the Lake District and Cala Gran near Blackpool start from €548 for 3 nights, €521 (4 nights) and €664 (7nights). Prices quoted are for up to 6 people, staying in a two-bedroom Deluxe holiday home, inclusive of return car ferry crossing.

Coupled with egg hunts and a host of Easter-themed activities, each park boasts activities to suit all the family including heated indoor pools, go karting, bike hire, kid’s clubs, ten-pin bowling, pitch & putt and tennis courts, amongst many others. For bookings and further information call 0818 300 400 or visit

SsangYong to reveal new Rexton

The new generation Rexton will be unveiled tomorrow at the 2017 Seoul Motor Show in Korea, writes Trish Whelan. 

It continues the renewal of SsangYong’s brand identify which began with the launch of Tivoli, and will compete with the traditional off-road SUVs.

SsangYong say it will deliver style, a great driving experience, high levels of safety, and new technology. 

The new model inherits its flagship DNA from the original Rexton, has a robust and authentic SUV styling and the interior has enough inner space for the first and second-row passengers, equally.

It’s quad-frame body is made of advanced high-strength steel and the car comes with nine airbags. 

With a refined and luxurious interior, the new car will feature Apple Carplay and Android Auto with device mirroring, 3D AVM (Around View Monitoring), and a wide 9.2-inch HD screen.

Rexton will be powered by both petrol and new clean-burning diesel engines. Towing capacity is 3,500kg.

New generation Rexton will go on sale internationally, including Ireland, before the end of 2017.

SsangYong cars are manufactured in South Korea by SsangYong Motor. 

TV3’s Anna Daly drives away in new Alhambra

TV3’s Anna Daly has picked up the keys to her all-new 7-seater SEAT Alhambra SE, writes Trish Whelan.

Anna is a Brand Ambassador for SEAT Ireland. 

The SEAT Ireland ambassador’s spacious new car will help the busy mum who welcomed the arrival of her third son just five months ago. 

SEAT’s Full Link technology comes free of charge with every Alhambra SE purchased until the end of March. This connectivity feature brings all smartphone needs safely to the road so Anna and her family can now avail of the media centre’s Read to Me feature which transmits text messages as well as allowing easy access to Spotify, podcasts and satellite navigation.

The Alhambra has received the maximum five-star recognition in the Euro NCAP safety rating. Its safety features include blind spot detection, emergency brake assist and Drive Profile which allows you to adapt your car to your driving mood. The car comes with built-in folding tables in the passenger seats perfect for snack and play time for her boys.

Current finance offers include 3.9pc on the Alhambra SE and 4.9pc on the Alhambra S until 31 March. Deals include a 3-year service plan for €299 saving an owner €400. The Alhambra will now also attract a €2,000 trade-in booster.

SEAT is also gifting each family a free SEAT kids toy car with every Alhambra purchased.

On receiving her new Alhambra SE, Anna said “I now have three little boys so the level of space, comfort and convenience this car offers is absolutely key! Not only can we fit everything from toys, bikes and prams in one go, but its technological features allow me to stay connected with work, family and friends, wherever we go!”

Neil Dalton, Head of Marketing and Product at SEAT Ireland wished Anna and her boys a fantastic journey ahead in their new car. 

Car rental company helps stranded bus users

With the ongoing Bus Eireann strike, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is waiving the standard one way fee for those planning to travel during the duration of the strike, writes Trish Whelan.

Commuters inconvenienced by the strike can rent a vehicle with Enterprise and drop it off at a different location at no extra cost.

The Enterprise Rent-A-Car 'we'll pick you up' policy will continue to stand during this period where Enterprise staff will happily pick a customer up from their preferred location, be it home or at work, and similarly drop them back when they return the vehicle.

George O'Connor, Managing Director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ireland says "This means that for those who wish to rent a car from one of our branches and travel to a different destination, they won't be charged the standard rental fee for dropping the car off at one of our other branches."

Disrupted bus travellers can also avail of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car's weekend special rate starting at €15.99 per day (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) for a small car - Fiat Panda or equivalent which includes basic level insurance cover to include third party costs.

Review: Citroen C3

Citroen started it all with their C4 Cactus, writes Brian Byrne. A major shift in design that would provide owners, and those who simply saw the car on the road, with a reason to smile. Because it was funky as well as being practical in many ways.

Like the airbumps. Designed to minimise damage from other car doors and supermarket trolleys on the bash, they also added a style element which immediately identified the car and the brand.

With the new C3, launched here before Christmas, they have built on that ethos. It's a car that even on the dullest rainy day will cheer you up just to look at it, and to drive in it. The bright, even brash detailing outside and in are infectious ticklers. Just because it's a supermini, it doesn't need to be boring.

The new C3 has airbumps too, in a different shape but offering the same protections. And the same brand recognition value. The bright two-tone colour options — there are darker ones if you prefer — provide an antidote to the Irish winter, as well as making it easier to spot your vehicle in that supermarket car park. The front end treatment is right up to tomorrow, smoothly melding the traditional chevron signature with the latest in lights technology.

Inside, the quirky theme continues. No subtlety about the red beading on the dashboard, doors and seat trim. The suitcase strap door pulls that debuted on the Cactus still a unique touch, and very handy in use. The indent patterns in the door trim which reflect the airbumps outside. A fine big centre screen, and bright, clear main instruments … though I'll still grumble about having to use the screen for heater controls, until they stop doing it.

It's a spacious car for its class, and someone tall like me doesn't have to duck nearly as much getting in as in many cars even in the class above. I liked the driving position, kind of straight up and lots of visibility. As a 5-door car there's easy access to the rear, and plenty of space for a pair of big people or three smaller ones. Good boot too. All in all, a practical package as well as the fun feel factor.

My review car had the HDi diesel engine, one of those very good PSA units with which we are very familiar and which performed in the usual refined and torquey manner. The 5-speed manual proved perfectly suited. The petrol option is that 3-cylinder PureTech, and I'm hoping to spend time with one before the summer. With the €2,400 premium for the diesel, I'm reckoning the award-winning petrol will win back more people to petrol cars in this class fairly quickly.

The car handles as brightly as it looks, and Citroen's traditional emphasis on comfort shows through. It is a car whose visuals make you smile, but it's the comfort that will keep that grin on your face.

The brand isn't finished yet with this theme. The C-Aircross concept debuted at Geneva last week shows where things are going in the compact SUV space for Citroen. Another smile-maker when it arrives, I feel sure.

Meantime, the C3 deserves to make the right kind of waves in Citroen dealerships across the land. Prices from €15,490 to €22,190.

Earliest Mustang coupe going to auction

For those interested in the earliest Ford Mustangs, here's a really fascinating video of the first Mustang Coupe off the assembly line, writes Brian Byrne.

The car is currently owned by a Ford car collector and Mustang historian named Bob Fria.

Bob has painstakingly restored the car, officially a pre-production model prepared as a display car for a dealer showroom, and now it's going for auction in the US.

The short movie is well worth a look.

Moffett masters Midlands

Dominating the Midland Moto Rally in Longford, the second round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) took a convincing win to extend his lead in the national series, writes Richard Burke.
Co-driven by Cork’s Karl Atkinson they finished a minute and 9.9 seconds ahead of the Ford Fiesta WRC of reigning champions Clonmel’s Roy White and his Cork co-driver James O’Brien.  Donegal’s Manus Kelly/Gareth Doherty (Subaru WRC) were 21.1 seconds further behind in third.

Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington (Escort) and his co-driver Andrew Greenan won the Modified section – 55.9 seconds ahead of Donegal’s Brian Brogan and his co-driver Damien McGettigan. 

Stage by stage, Moffett increased his lead as Declan Boyle led the pursuit. However, a number of time-consuming spins cost him vital time, his rally ended when he hit a chicane on Stage 7 and his Ford Fiesta WRC ended up in a field.  

Initially, that promoted Manus Kelly into second but he lost time and a place on the penultimate stage.

Niall Maguire (Subaru) finished fourth with Adrian Hetherington (Escort) fifth, for most of the rally Maynooth’s Ian Barrett led the Modified section until his Darrian stopped with mechanical woes on the penultimate stage.

In the Motorsport Safety Group N category, Cork’s David Guest (Mitsubishi) took a 4.3 seconds win over the similar car of Neil Tohill.

1. S. Moffett/K. Atkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC) 58m. 05.1s;
2. R. White/J. O'Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC) 59m. 15.0s.
3. M. Kelly/G. Doherty (Subaru S12B) 59m. 36.1s.
4. N. Maguire/E. Sherry (Subaru S12B) 1h. 00m. 20.4s.
5. A. Hetherington/A. Grennan (Ford Escort) 1h. 02m. 00.0s.
6. B. Brogan/D. McGettigan (Ford Escort) 1h. 02m. 55.9s.
7. G. McNamee/D. O'Sullivan (Honda Civic) 1h. 03m. 41.2s.
8. D. Guest/P. Robinson (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 04m. 07.8s.
9. N. Tohill/G. Tohill (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 04m. 12.1s.
10. B. Morris/D. Campbell (Ford Escort)1h. 04m. 47.9s.

Provisional Championship Positions after Round 2:  
1. S. Moffett 41 pts.
2. R. White 32 pts.

3. N. Maguire 26 pts.

New E-Class Coupe arrives in Ireland

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe has now arrived in the brand's Irish showrooms, writes Brian Byrne. It is on sale from €52,310.

A 2.0 184hp petrol engine starts off the powertrain lineup currently available, which also include a 245hp version of the same engine, and a 333hp 3.0 V6. A new 2.0 194hp diesel is also available, from €52,995.

The car exclusively offers a choice of two light wood trim packages in open-pore and high-gloss finishes. Interior lighting makes use of LED technology, including optionally available ambient lighting with 64 colour variants.

The Coupe joins the saloon and estate already on sale, and the range will be extended later by a Cabriolet.

Revised SEAT Leon on sale

A revised SEAT Leon is now on sale through the brand's dealerships, with external and internal enhancements and an added powertrain, writes Brian Byrne.

The front changes are described by the designer as 'subtle'and include a wider grille and revised bumper designs. The lights have also been upgraded with greater use of LED technology.

Interior changes include an LED-based ambient lighting system. The car is also claimed to be quieter.

SEAT has introduced further technological options to the Leon, including a pedestrian detection system, adaptive cruise control, parking assist, and automatic headlamp dipping. The traffic sign recognition system has been enhanced.

A new 1.6 diesel with 115hp output has been added to the powertrain range, alongside the 90hp version and the 184hp 2.0. A revised Cupra version will launch in May.

The current range of Leon in 3- and 5-door hatchack and estate formats is available to order from SEAT's 23-strong network from €19,195.

Indian motorcycles back in Ireland

The Indian motorcycle brand is back on sale in Ireland after a gap of around a century, writes Brian Byrne.

The Irish franchise was launched at the recent Motorbike & Scooter Show in the RDS in early March, by Keith Reynolds and Barry Egan of AKB Distribution, under the trading name of Franklin Motorcycles.

Charles Bayly Franklin was a Dublin born engineer who became the chief designer of Indian motorcycles. He had previously operated an Indian franchise in his shop in Dublin while the original bikes were on sale in Ireland.

Pictured below is a typical Indian motorcycle-sidecar combination of the time (photographed in Vancouver, Canada).

BMW will 'chase profit more than volume'

BMW says it intends to concentrate on developing larger models which are more profitable, writes Brian Byrne.

And it says it won't 'push' its smaller cars based on the FWD UKL platform underpinning the latest Minis and the X1 small SUV.

That said, the brand intends to roll out 40 cars over the next two years, both new and revised models. Two of the new ones will be a compact SUV, the X2, and a large X7 SUV positioned ahead of the X5 and X6.

CEO Harald Krueger says the company is more interested in profitability than in the 'sales volume race'.

Last year BMW was overtaken by arch-rival Mercedes-Benz for the first time in more than ten years. The Munich company's profits also fell to its lowest in six years.

Krueger also suggested that small models which don't have a growth potential may be dropped.

Pictured is the new generation 5 Series which has just gone on sale in Ireland.

Electric version of Berlingo Multispace

Citroen has produced an electric version of its Berlingo Multispace van-derived car, writes Brian Byrne.

Dubbed the E-Berlingo Multispace, the vehicle has a range of 170km and is designated by the company as a 'volume' car, alongside its variants powered by petrol and diesel engines.

The batteries are housed in a sub-frame on either side of the rear axle, so the passenger and cargo capacity hasn't been compromised.

There are normal and rapid charging modes, the latter allowing a 50pc recharge in 15 minutes, or 80pc in half an hour.

The E-Berlingo Multispace will launch in its first European markets in May.

Jaguar shows upcoming electric SUV

Jaguar has released this picture of its upcoming electric SUV, the I-Pace, on test, writes Brian Byrne.

The vehicle is based on a concept shown at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The car will be on a dedicated platform which JLR is developing for electric cars, and a production version is expected to be shown before the end of this year.

The company says it will have a 350kms range with electric motors on each axle providing AWD capability, and the performance is expected to be something over four seconds to 100km/h.

Jaguar says it will also be producing further electric cars.

New Alfa Giulia for those who want 'different'

Potential owners with 'an appetite for something different' are part of the target market for the Alfa Romeo Giulia, which sells in Ireland from €39,995, writes Brian Byrne.

MD of Fiat Chrysler Auto Ireland Paul Hunt says the car is aimed at those who want a premium car, 'but not what their neighbour has in the driveway'.

Speaking to Irish motoring journalists today, he said volume aspirations for what is a key model for the brand 'are conservative', but the company is expecting conquest sales from German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as selling to the core base of Alfa Romeo lovers.

The Giulia's key competitors are the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Jaguar's XE, and the Audi A4. The Alfa Romeo strategy is based partly on having the Italian car stand out in terms of specification against these, and also building on the sporting heritage of Alfa Romeo, which goes back to the 1920s.

The original car with the Giulia nameplate was launched in 1962, and was the fastest car in its segment. In its range-topping Quadrifoglio version, the new Giulia is also the fastest car in its class ... albeit costing almost €100,000.

The engines in the new car are all brand new — 2.2 diesels in 150hp/180hp versions, a 200hp 2.0 turbo petrol, and the 510hp 2.9 V6 with a stunning 3.9s sprint capability to 100km/h. In RHD markets the car is only available with a 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

There are four grade options, the entry plain Giulia, the Super, Super Sport, and Super Lux. The price 'walk' from entry to Super is €2,000, while a special promotion of €171 extra to that for either Super Sport or Super Lux offers sporty or luxury trim and fittings extras.

A 2.9pc APR finance offer with a 30pc deposit on the ordinary grades provides PCP payments from €436p/m.

Alfa Romeo has six dealerships in Ireland. Paul Hunt said the brand will be focusing on raising the standards within the existing network for the moment, rather than expanding it. He added that the dealerships will be selling both Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands.

Review: BMW 3 Series Grand Turismo

With the trend towards providing coupe variants of mainstream saloon cars now firmly established across the main premium brands, BMW has for...