UN Global Road Safety Week is on

What can be done to deal with the speed risk factor is the focus of the fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, which started yesterday, writes Brian Byrne.

In Ireland, the event is being organised on an all-island level, in a joint operation by the Road Safety Authority and the NI Department for Infrastructure.

The endeavour will include visits to communities and schools by the RSA National Road Safety Officers, and spreading the dangers of speed message through social media by the DoI in Northern Ireland.

A total of 54 people have lost their lives on the roads in the Republic of Ireland to date in 2017. This is nine fewer up to the same period in 2016. A total of 19 people have lost their lives on the roads in Northern Ireland to date in 2017. This is the same as up to the same period in 2016 and five fewer than at the same time in 2015.

Nissan prototypes cutoff box for handheld temptation

Nissan has revealed a prototype device to discourage drivers from using their handheld phones while driving, writes Brian Byrne.

The Nissan Safety Shield is an under-armrest compartment which is lined by a Faraday cage-type mesh that blocks electromagnetic fields.

cellular, Bluetooth and wifi connections would be unable to work once the phone is placed in the compartment. That would also mean no notifications or alerts beeping from the phone.

Since 26pc of drivers in the UK in a survey said they still use handhelds to check texts, emails, and social media while driving, so getting into the habit of using a shielded compartment would reduce temptation to answer alerts.

It has been illegal to use handlhelds while driving in the UK for 17 years.

Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.

New Micra goes on sale

The fifth generation Nissan Micra has now gone on sale in Ireland at a starting price of €16,650, writes Brian Byrne.

The car is radically different in shape and style and is designed to replace two cars in its segment, the previous Micra and the Note.

It is also aimed at a different potential buyer than the traditional Micra owner, with Nissan targeting a younger profile, partly through offering funky colours and a range of personalisation options.

The new Micra is available with three engines — a 1.0 petrol, 0.9 turbocharged petrol, both of them 3-cylinder, and a 1.5 diesel. The Irish distributor estimates that only 5pc of sales will be diesels, while the 1.0 petrol is likely to be the biggest seller.

Four grade options provide a range of specification levels, all of which include radar-actuated automatic braking, LED running lights, and air conditioning.

The new car has an extended wheelbase and is the widest in its segment. There's a 300L boot capacity.

A first drive article will follow.

New Swift on sale next month

The new generation Suzuki Swift goes on sale in Ireland on 1 June at a starting price of €14,495, writes Brian Byrne.

The car will be available with two petrol engines already familiar from the Baleno, the 1.2 four and 1.0 turbocharged 3-cylinder, with 90hp and 111hp respectively.

There will be three grades, the entry with the 1.2 engine, the mid-range and expected to be best seller with the 1.0 engine, and a top grade with the 1.0 in manual and 1.2 with All-Grip 4WD.

An automatic transmission is available at a cost of €2,000. A mild-hybrid system using an integrated starter/generator that recycles engine heat into electrical power and provides a torque boost at startup and a small-burst boost to acceleration.

All cars have Bluetooth and DAB radio as standard, and the top end version gets a set of safety technologies that include forward vehicle detection and automated braking, active cruise control, and lane departure warning.

This third generation Swift retains the style cues of its predecessors in an up-to-date design, and is shorter, wider, and lower, with a longer wheelbase.

The latest version is 120kg lighter than the outgoing car, offers 20pc more power, faster acceleration, lower CO2 emissions and a 25pc larger boot.

Although the car is entering a very crowded segment, the Irish distributor notes that there's a loyal cohort of previous Swift owners who will help the model get into the top ten sellers in its space.

Suzuki sales in Ireland last year were 43pc up on the previous year, and the highest for eight years at 1,263 units. The company is targeting a 20pc increase for 2017 against 2017.

A first drive report will follow.

Hala Madrid!

All I had ever heard about Madrid were great things, writes Kate Robson. The architecture, the food, the culture, the people.

Cheap flights thus made for a killer birthday gift, especially when two tickets means that the recipient (him) is obliged to bring me along! Excited at the prospect of a few days off work, lots and lots of tapas (me) and two internationally renowned football stadiums (him) it was an eagerly anticipated few days.

Trivago offered some astoundingly good deals for accommodation. Being a chancer I dragged down the price filter to €50, and found loads of value options I ended up booking a room, ensuite, air conditioning, big double bed, flat screen television and best of all ... smack in the middle of the old part of the city. Sounds too good to be true? I thought so ... but as it turned out the accommodation just perfect and located just off Puerta del Sol. One of the most popular squares in the old town, it is truly a beautiful spectacle and offers the perfect people watching spot and my goodness was there a lot of people! Also, like all of Madrid it was easily accessible via the city's underground system, which really is top notch.

On route to Santiago Bernabéu, Matej, although a firm Bayern Munich fan, was like a giddy child as apparently all things football are 'awesome!'. Perhaps I had lost my senses due to too much direct sunlight or perhaps Matej's excitement was contagious. Either way, our trip to Santiago Bernabéu Stadium — the Real Madrid stadium for those like me who didn't know a thing about football — was actually fun! Definitely the highlight of our trip and highly recommended!

Unfortunately, having walked through the midday heat to see the Atletico Madrid stadium, it transpired Paul McCartney was playing there that night. Therefore, it was closed to the public with nothing having been mentioned on their website. Turns out collaborating with Kanye West is not the most unforgivable thing Mr McCartney he has done in recent years!

To be honest, though although Matej was disappointed, I didn't mind too much as Madrid Rio Park was very close by.

Featuring the Arganzuela Footbridge, a stunning piece of contemporary architecture, the park was high on my list of things to do. Away from the city center it is filled with locals taking a dip in the river, walking their dogs or bathing in the sun. It is a beautiful garden of peace in an otherwise fast pace city.

Tapas also, as predicted were amazing. After doing some research we heading out in search of a place called Naviego.

Having got lost several times we realised that there are beautiful tapas places on every corner and, not going to lie, we indulged in a few. Definitely would recommend working up a hunger and going on a tapas hunt!

Other things to see and do in Madrid, if you have more time to explore, include exploring the Plaza Mayor in the heart of the city with its cafes and restaurants which line the arches of the magnificent square which has Philip III's statue in the centre. It is a world heritage site.

The main transversal exhibition hall on 1th floor of Museo del Prado. Photo by Schnäggli via Wikipedia.
The Museo Nacional Del Prado, affectionately known as The Prado, is the main Spanish national art museum, located right in central Madrid. It was founded by King Ferdinand VII of Spain in 1819 and now is home to over 7,000 paintings. Goya, Velazquez, Rubens, Fra Angelico, are but some of the artists. Information available from its website, www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum.

Art lovers should also visit the Museo Reina Sofia, to see Guernica, Picasso's mural-sized oil painting on canvas which he painted in response to the bombing of Guernica which is a Basque Country village in northern Spain.

Facade of Las Ventas Bullring in Madrid. Pic by Luis García (Zaqarbal) via Wikipedia.
If you are inclined to sample a bull fight, Madrid's main bullring is Las Ventas which is also used for rock concerts and political meetings, or attend a Real Madrid game at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

As far as a big city goes, Madrid truly is inherently beautiful and perfect for those looking for a short city break!

Review: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

First a cautionary cat tale, writes Brian Byrne. With a 'tail'piece about fur ...

My neighbour knocked on the door the other morning. He'd been out earlier, and noticed that the tailgate of my review  E-Class Estate was open. So he closed it. Good neighbours do that.

But why was it open? And for how long? Well, probably since the night before. All I could surmise was that the button on the keyfob that triggers the tailgate to open electrically had been pressed against something else in my pocket while I was in the house, and raised it.

The cat part? Yes, there were quantities of white car fur on the cargo floor of the car. And there is a white cat in the locality, which probably saw the opportunity of a very comfortable bed for the night and took it up. Fortunately, the review car had as part of the package a mesh barrier so that dogs being transported wouldn't fly forward amongst the passengers under heavy braking. So the sumptuous leather seats on the car weren't accessed by the cat, its claws, or its fur.

That fur, either the cat was moulting fairly heavily or the fabric of the cargo area mat tugged it out. Whichever, it was very difficult to remove from the carpet afterwards. The mat is reversible, with a rugged hard surface on the other side, which is probably what you would do if you were carrying the family pet in the back.

However, the technical problem remains with such high-tech keyfobs. Something similar happened to me earlier in the year, sans cat, with a BMW so equipped. Fords with electric tailgates require specifically two clicks of the button before they operate, and that might help. Anyhow, now I make a point of going out to check such cars before I retire.

That's a long intro to a review about the E-Class Estate. But you do know now a number of things about how it was equipped, so not wasted. It is one fine car, extending the Irish Car of the Year 2017 accolade it was awarded by Ireland's motoring journalists.

The estate really looks good, with very nice proportions and a sleekness which one doesn't get from the SUV-style cars that have essentially replaced the format in public preference. I like estate cars, especially if they are as elegant as this one.  The picture tells more eloquently than I can in words, so I'll leave the exterior style at that.

The interior is generally as the saloon with which many new owners over the last dozen months or so are familiar. Very much a shift into the latest in dashboard and instruments design, with a 12.3” screen in the review car providing the information for navigation and entertainment as well as management of various functions. Full marks, though, for retaining the operation of temperature and other climate controls to switches. The usual remote controls on the steering wheel are tidy and useful. There was a proper windscreen head-up display, which I found very handy to keep my travel within speed limits.

There's lots of colour in the latest main instrumentation from Mercedes-Benz and it is very pleasing for that. The car also had a cool line in ambient or 'mood' lighting which proved very pleasant at night.

I can't fault the driving experience in any current E-Class and the Estate is no exception. With a couple of extended trips as part of my time with it, the car proved to be exactly as I expected, untiring and practical and with that sense of premium elegance which is the hallmark of the model.

For the technicals, the review car was powered by the 194hp version of Mercedes-Benz's excellent new 2.0 diesels. It comes with automatic transmission as standard, purringly seamless in operation and a perfect match for the motor. A 7.7s sprint to 100km/h is possible, but most of the time you wouldn't bother to try for it, as this is swish motoring.

'Swish' though can have a price. So, the car was in AMG trim, which brings quite a lot of standard spec in its own right including electrically folding rear seats, electrically operated front seats with extensive lumbar support options, and an active park assist with camera.

That specification sets the car's price at €56,310. However, there were extras valued at over €21,000 on the review car, the most costly being the 12.3" screen pack with the head-up display and traffic sign recognition, for €5,721. There was a panoramic electric sunroof for €3,229. And more, but I'll leave it at that because every buyer will have his or her own preferences on extras choice. The roll-out price of the car which the white cat so enjoyed was €77,434, but with the very successful 10pc discount promotion the company is running here, that comes down to €69,691. Road Tax is €200.

I suspect I'd have enjoyed it just as much at the base price.

Next Corsa will have gallic underpinnings

Two years ahead of the arrival of the new generation Corsa, Opel has decided that it will use Peugeot-Citroen underpinnings instead of the previously planned GM architecture, writes Brian Byrne.

The turnaround follows the agreement made two months ago by the PSA Group to buy the German carmaker from parent General Motors.

It's understood that the use of the French technology will improve margins on the supermini model, Opel's best-selling car last year.

The first Corsa was produced in 1982 and is currently in its fifth generation. It has been sold in different markets under Vauxhall, Buick, Chevrolet and Holden brands, and with model names that have included Sail, Barina, Vita and Chevy.

Car sales stay down

Car sales year to date are down by 10pc and light commercial vehicles are down by 13pc, according to registration figures for the first four months of the year, writes Brian Byrne.

The top selling car brands are Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan; and the top selling models are Hyundai's Tucson, Nissan's Qashqai, Skoda's Octavia, Ford's Focus and Volkswagen's Golf.

The director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, Alan Nolan, says the year was already on track to be 'unpredictable' and that while the economy continued to strengthen, the consumers are being 'more cautious'.

He added that the industry was continuing to 'entice' consumers with very strong offers, and he noted that even with the lower sterling values as a result of Brexit, virtually no new cars had been imported.

Review: BMW 3 Series Grand Turismo

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