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  • Nissan Leaf Diary

    April 27, 2011 @ 10:11 am | by Michael McAleer

    We have just collected the Nissan Leaf for our first experience with the car set free on Irish soil. The car looks good. It is remarkable by how plain and normal it is without the usual promotional material plastered all over it. Painted in black, the Leaf just looks like a normal car, apart from the fact that it really isn’t normal at all. This is very different.

    The electric car seemed like it was the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago – sure, we had seen small, tiddly, glorified milk floats as the first efforts at electrified transportation but none of them could really make the grade.

    Nissan Leaf: About 120km seems to be a realistic range

    Perhaps one of the most talked-about cars of the last year, it has certainly been one of the most anticipated and now it is finally on sale in Ireland. But it is gimmick or is it a real alternative?

    The Leaf is designed as a practical five-door family car, the crucial difference is that there is no combustion engine. The Leaf stores its energy in 48 lithium-ion battery modules with four battery cells inside each module. They fit snugly beneath the floor of the car, meaning there is lots of space in here and there is a low centre of gravity too.

    There is an 80kw electric motor – that is about the same as 108hp in a conventional engine but there is 280Nm of torque, which is about the same as a good diesel. But the power and torque is all delivered instantly – and silently.

    Inside the car doesn’t require any special instruction on how to get going. It works like a standard enough automatic – but there are obviously some differences. For a start, when you start it – there isn’t really any sound – aside from some tyre noise this is about as loud as Leaf gets. Pressing the ‘Start’ button starts the flow of electricity to the motor. Select “D” and away you go……

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    A full charge is going to give you ‘around’ 160km of use and we say around because it isn’t yet an exact science. Having ancillaries such as air conditioning on can effect range and obviously the way you drive it will have an impact too.

    Global research shows that the average daily mileage for 80 percent of the world’s population is under 100km – if you daily round trip is around this figure then you should comfortably be able to use a Leaf without worrying too much about range.

    So what about the practical side of things? Well most people will charge their Leaf at home – it will take about 8 hours on a domestic socket, which the first 2000 electric car customers will get free of charge in their driveway. It will cost you about €2 of electricity to charge a Leaf by this method. If that is €2 for 160km of use, comparing that to a diesel car that might do 800km from a tank it would be like filling the tank of a normal car for a tenner!

    Nissan reckon that it will cost the average Leaf customer just over €230 per year in electricity charges to fill a Leaf – compare that to how much you are spending on fuel.

    Of course, the Leaf isn’t going to be for everyone. If you want to drive the length of the country, even when fast charging points are introduced you are still going to be stopping for extended periods and if you do run out of electricity in an electric car then there is no immediate solution to get you going again. Plus there is the cost. Even with a government grant, this car is €30,000 and that is about €8,000 more than the equivalent Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

    However this car is really well equipped – there are lots of creature comforts thrown in and it feels like a very upmarket car.

    Perhaps the greatest compliment we can give to the Leaf is how incredibly normal it is. It functions perfectly well as a standard car in that it is spacious, comfortable and practical. If you can live with the slight constraints of EV usage then this could be a hugely clever solution to rising oil prices.

    We didn’t bring the Leaf home though. The range wouldn’t have coped with the drive to my home and there are as yet not sufficient fast chargers to make the drive or wait bearable, so we will have to wait a little longer until we try an extended spell with the Leaf.

  • Citroen unveils new DS5 flagship

    April 18, 2011 @ 10:22 am | by Michael McAleer

    The new DS5 is a Gran Tourismo coupe

    With a great deal of fanfare and promises of a new dawn for premium motoring Citroen has unveiled its new DS5 on the eve of the Shanghai Motor show. The new car is arguably the culmination of its relaunch of the DS range and the best looking model to carry the legendary moniker to date.

    The coupe lines merge with a practical rear boot

    Unlike the two earlier models in the DS range, this car is very different in styling and format to its mainstream cousin, the recently launched C5. It’s significantly different in looks as well, more in keeping with the Gran Tourismo coupe format. That means in layman’s terms a car that looks like a proper sports coupe but with the bootspace of 465 litres. The hatchback format is matched to a more muscular stance, in keeping slightly with the more pronounced look of the DS4, described by design chief JP Ploue as the firm’s “little buffalo”.
    In keeping with the innovation at the heart of the original DS it’s not just in design and format that the Citroen offers something new.
    This will be the first Citroen to feature a diesel hybrid format matches a 163bhp 2-litre diesel with a 37bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels. It’s an impressive output when you consider that emissions levels for the car will be just 99g/km.
    Aside from the diesel hybrid, two petrol and two diesel engines will also feature in the range. The diesels comprise the HDI engine from the hybrid putting out 160bhp and a more efficient e-HDI with 110bhp. The petrol engines will offer 155bhp and 200bhp respectively.
    Inside the layout aims to be a serious rival to established German premium rivals, such as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. The central console is split in two: one low down and one above the driver’s head in what Citroen refers to as “pilot style”. The car also features a heads-up display that casts speed and other information into the driver’s line of sight.
    It might be regarded as a niche player given its format and its badge, but the firm believes that it’s the best approach to bring a French brand back into the premium market and give it a real chance to challenge German dominance.

  • Jeep set for Irish Renaissance

    April 15, 2011 @ 1:36 pm | by Michael McAleer

    We are in Italy today to try several new Jeep products and it is the first time that we have seen Jeep under their new owners, Fiat. There is a raft of new product coming, with the Compass, Wranger and Grand Cherokee forming the backbone of the line-up.

    New Jeep Compass: Coming in summer

    The new Compass will be available with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive and a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2-litre diesel. The diesel will have either 136hp or 163hp.

    Prices are expected to start at around €23,000

    Jeep have sold in tiny numbers over the last few years. Two units have been sold this year, two in 2010 and thirteen in 2009. Before that, in 2008, Jeep sold 74 units and in 2007 they sold 76 units.

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    However with this new line-up, and especially with the Compass, Jeep hopes to make up some lost ground. This new car will take on the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, both strong sellers in Ireland and it will be priced accordingly.

  • Audi Q3 revealed

    April 13, 2011 @ 12:28 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Audi has finally released the first images of the new Q3 SUV, which is making its debut at the Shanghai Motor Show.

    Audi Q3: Prices likely to start at €33,000

    The new Q3 is set to go on sale here in Ireland before the end of the year, with a price tag of around €33,000.

    The new Q3 sits on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan and is quite light for an SUV, with the basic version weighing less than 1,500kg thanks to the use of aluminium on the bonnet and tailgate.

    Q3: Similar dimensions to Volkswagen Tiguan with which it shares a platform.

    There will be four different engines offered on the Q3 initially. The petrol units are a 170hp 2.0-litre turbo with either front- or four-wheel drive, and a 211hp version with four-wheel drive.

    The first diesel to be offered will be a 177hp unit, but this will be followed by the engine which will make up the majority of sales in Ireland, the 2.0-litre TDi with 140hp. The front-wheel drive 140hp diesel will return 5.2 l/100km.

    The Q3 is comparible in size to the Tiguan, with similar dimensions and 460 litres of luggage space, which can expand out to 1,365 litres.

    Prices and specification for the Q3 for Ireland will be released at a later date.

  • Kia’s new Picanto driven

    April 12, 2011 @ 3:52 pm | by Michael McAleer

    We are in Spain to try the new Kia Picanto. The A segment isn’t a massive one in Ireland, but the Picanto has always sold well and with good reason, it is a fine little car. Now there is a new one and it has grown up. It is bigger and has much more mature styling, thanks to the penmanship of Peter Schreyer.

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    Some driving impressions

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  • BMW M5 Concept breaks cover after Internet leak

    April 6, 2011 @ 7:58 am | by Michael McAleer

    BMW’s M5 has broken cover slightly earlier than the Munich firm would have hoped for after an Internet site failed to honour an embargo set on the car.

    The Concept M5, which is due to make its public debut at the Shanghai Motor Show was revealed to journalists at a specially arranged preview on April 1st last and it seemed some thought BMW were joking with their April 7th embargo.

    Aside from the images, BMW wasn’t giving too much away yet about the M5 Concept. We do know that gone is the 5.0-litre V10, that is set to be replaced by an eight-cylinder aided by twin turbo chargers.

    Also gone is the SMG gearbox to be replaced by a seven-speed double clutch transmission with Auto Start Stop function and these changes will mean that the car has a reduction in fuel consumption and emission levels by more than 25 per cent. Visual clues of the car’s ability include large air intakes for better cooling and a discreet spoiler and diffuser at the rear. There are also the trademark double tailpipes at the rear.

    Under the skin, the M5 will have exclusive M suspension components that include special wheel suspension systems, specific axle kinematics as well as upgraded brakes. There is also the Active M Differential that prevents wheel spin and can control variations of locking torque between the right and left drive wheels. There are no exact figures on power yet, but BMW are saying that “the newly developed engine has a significantly increased output level” so that will mean an increase in power from the 500hp of the fourth-generation car.

    It is not yet known whether there will be a Touring model sold alongside the saloon version. However all is likely to be revealed when the production version is revealed later this year.

  • New Volkswagen Jetta

    April 4, 2011 @ 5:02 pm | by Michael McAleer

    We are in Wolfsburg, the home of Volkswagen to try the new Volkswagen Jetta which is just going on sale in Ireland. Quite why we couldn’t just try it in Ireland is a little beyond me, but we are here now anyway.

    Volkswagen Jetta: A large saloon to take on the Toyota Corolla

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    VW Jetta Interior: Very like the Golf

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