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Drivers hit by fuel price hikes but pay less than many in EU

Ireland is not Europe’s most expensive country for petrol or diesel – despite some claims to the contrary.But we can be forgiven for thinking we are after fuel prices appeared to take a sharp upward curve in the past week.Motorists are now paying an average of 150c a litre for petrol – up from 138.1c in January.An Irish Independent analysis of fuel price data shows we are far from being the cheapest in Europe – but still some way off being the most expensive.There is no doubt the higher prices are reflecting the reality that oil has risen to $80 a barrel and more.According to latest figures from GlobalPetrolPrices.com, Irish motorists are paying an average of 150c/litre for petrol.The AA here shows petrol prices averaging 145.9c a litre (based on late September data). Some examples on Pumps.ie are showing closer to the AA average.Regardless, prices have risen significantly since January last when petrol cost 138.1c/litre and we paid an average of 127.3c for diesel.The corresponding prices for January 2017 show an even more dramatic upward curve with petrol on 126.5c/litre and diesel costing 112.8c/litre (AA figures).Despite the increases, what we pay for fuel is still in the mid-range of European prices.Using the global prices index as a comparative tool, Austria’s average petrol price is shown to be 133c/litre which, along with Spain (135c), is a lot less expensive than here. The UK (148c) and Belgium (149c) are similar to ours.We’re slightly less expensive than Germany (152c) as well as being lower than Sweden (156c), Portugal (161c), Italy (164c), Denmark (165c), the Netherlands (169c) and Norway (180c/litre).Diesel prices here are averaging around 140c/litre according to both the AA and the GlobalPrices data. That makes us more expensive than Spain (128c), Hungary, Germany and Austria (all on 131c/litre).We are much the same as the Netherlands (140c/litre) with Portugal (143c) slightly ahead while Finland, Greece (147c each), Italy, UK (153c), Denmark, France (154c), Belgium (156c), Sweden (163c), Iceland (169c) and Norway (171c) are all costlier.GlobalPetrolPrices.com says it publishes the most reliable data on retail fuel prices around the world and tracks more than 150 countries on a weekly basis.Retailers here were being blamed for pushing petrol up to, and above, 150c/litre in anticipation of a Budget rise. But that wasn’t necessarily the case at all, according to the AA’s Conor Faughnan.”Lots of people are convinced garages put up prices in advance of Budget increases but it is more that people are becoming aware of higher prices,” he said.Price increases did not mean major profits for retailers, he said. The 4c/5c per litre they get is dwarfed by the Exchequer’s take. It comes to 88c on every litre of petrol (costed at 145.9c/litre) – which helps explain why the pre-tax price of a 145.9c/litre of petrol is 57.8c and 63.8c for diesel.

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Mazda put more ‘6’ appeal into ­latest saloon, but is it enough?

I won’t be repeating the route and purpose of this test drive for a while, I think. Let me just say that as stag parties go, it was memorable. I’ll say no more. I certainly learned a thing or two about a few people, about myself and, more importantly at this juncture, the car I was driving.It was pure coincidence that I had the new Mazda6 in top, top spec with brown leather upholstery contrasting the snowflake white metallic exterior. It looked the part, but could it act the part? The narrow roads, twisty uphill bends around Carlingford, Newry and points in between posed a nice challenge for the car. And me for that matter, bearing in mind that passengers at such events can be of a delicate disposition betimes; judicious driving was warranted.It was a joyous couple of days despite my intermittent flu misery but now and again a drip of reality intruded on the car front. Family/fleet saloons, such as the Mazda6, are not being bought in the numbers of yesteryear. Indeed, they have slid rapidly down the sales graph. People are flocking to compact SUVs and Crossovers instead. Questions hover on the future of such saloons like a stag-party hangover.And while 48 expertly fried sausages, copious quantities of tea, coffee and sliced bread were capable of dispelling the aftershock of high-level alcohol consumption (in most cases), it looks like it will take a seismic about-turn in tastes and preferences to effect change for the likes of the ‘6’ and its distinguished ilk.I am always intrigued, and sometimes frustrated, by Mazda. Their cars are among the most under appreciated on the market. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because they rarely appear – I stress appear – to do anything really dramatic. They tend to take their time, changing thousands of little things on a phased basis. Only for the 182-reg plate on my test car, I would have struggled to swear this was a new version.I didn’t pick up on many of the tweaks from the side or rear. I find that downright frustrating. A facelift, in this day and age, should be instantly discernible to the most casual of glances, if only so people can recognise that the neighbours – or you – have a new-generation car.But, as I say, they have their own ideas and go about things their way. In this case they are trying to move the ‘6’ further upmarket. Certainly the prices are nudging that way, too (around €2,000 more in general, much of it down to extra spec, etc).They want Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-Class buyers to consider the ‘6’ as an alternative. That’s a big ask and I’m not sure if it can be answered. A Merc or a Mazda? Suit yourself. You probably get more for your Mazda buck in terms of spec but those with dosh tend to pay for posh. Yet it is easy to see why Mazda are striving in that direction: as I’ve said, mainstream ‘budget’ fleet and family cars are not being bought in big numbers any more.Anyway, of all the areas of perceptible change, the front yields a few more items to notice; the new grille and light arrangements brighten it up. The rear? It’s changed, they say, but I’m dammed if I could see much of it.On the other hand, there is an impressive menu of technical/driver assist and comfort technologies on board. And I think they’ve done a great job with the cabin. It’s ‘upmarket’, comfy and smart now while I found it reasonably easy to use the instrumentation. There was a nice cosseted feel to the whole drive.Important too, given the target audience, that the chassis and suspension have been tuned to a sportier mode. It’s a much more refined ride, for sure, though it won’t raise the hair on the back of your neck.When I finally parted with my jaded passengers, I took the opportunity to let it loose a little; pushed the ‘6’ a bit harder (the 2.2-litre diesel was outstanding). It wasn’t exhilarating but I have to say it was a markedly good drive, taking poor roads, twists and turns with greater ease and poise than I remember from the previous one.This ‘6’ I had is a surprisingly good package now with a proper feel of ‘upmarket’ about it.But – and this is key – will people buy it or an SUV/Crossover (Mazda’s own excellent CX-5 for example?). I’m afraid the latter is the more likely answer.That’s a real pity because the ‘6’ and a few of its kind are much better cars to drive than their more fashionable brethren.In a way, that’s a bit like being at a good ‘stag’: when people are of a mind to do things, it can be quite difficult to persuade them not to.Facts & FiguresMazda6 2.2 diesel saloon:184PS, 133g/km, road tax €280, 6spd auto.Price: Platinum+ €45,145. From: €31,945.Key spec includes: Nappa leather interior, 11-speaker BOSE system, dual-zone climate control, radar cruise control, driver attention alert, adaptive LED headlights, 360-degree view camera, 19ins alloys, sunroof, heated seats (front ventilated); MZD Connect, CD, 8ins t/screen.

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BMW unleashes price blitz to battle effect of imports

BMW has unleashed a price-cut blitz in an attempt to counter the effects of surging second-hand imports and the impact on prices of the tougher new emissions test regime.The company has cut an average of €3,296 (5.1pc) off its new-car prices across the BMW and BMW i (electric) ranges.It is also bringing down the price of a new MINI by an average of 3.9pc, or around €850.The managing director of the BMW Group in Ireland, Paulo Alves, indicated that the reason behind the price cuts was to encourage people to buy new Irish cars rather than used imports.He said the pricing strategy was designed to make it “more compelling for customers to stay in BMW’s Irish network and offset currency fluctuations”.He pointed out that the cuts were coming at a time when the motor industry is facing increasing car prices due to the tougher new emissions tests.The WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) is tending to register higher CO2 results under more real-world assessments.That is leading to a relatively high proportion of cars falling into higher road-tax and VRT bands.Mr Alves said that all BMW and MINI models sold in Ireland have been fully compliant with the new test regime for some time. It has been in force since September 1.When asked by Motors, the company insisted all BMW models remained unchanged in terms of spec and equipment.The latest twist to the tale of the Irish market echoes a previous attempt by BMW to battle UK imports where it matters – on price. Key rival Mercedes has also deployed a price-reduction strategy for some time too.It is a reflection of how used imports are eating into new car sales here and how concerned executives are at the burgeoning numbers coming in. Experts are forecasting that as many as 100,000 used imports will be registered here for 2018.The new BMW drive is also, obviously, a major play for market share and a signal of intent for an intense 191-reg campaign from January 1.The company is expected to reveal details of its campaign on Monday.Examples of the reductions include a €2,450 cut in the price of the new 3 Series saloon 318i Sport from €43,610 to €41,160; the new 5 Series saloon 520d SE auto is down €2,390 to €51,180; the X3 xDrive20d Auto is down €2,590 to €55,230, and the new X5 xDrive 30d xLine Auto from €6,060 to €87,390.The MINI 3dr hatch 1.5-litre Cooper Classic, meanwhile, is down €1,050 to €24,905.First deliveries of the new 3 Series are expected in March. The new X5 debuts here on December 1 and the new 8 Series Coupe is due next month. Like the 3 Series, the new Z4 open-top two-seater is also scheduled for March arrival.Meanwhile, MINI has simplified its range with three styles for each model; Classic, Sport and Exclusive. They are also introducing two optional packs called Comfort and Comfort Plus.Prices do not include delivery or related charges.

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Tesla’s big remote update; Ford get on hybrid wagon

We tend to think of electric cars as simply zero-emissions vehicles that get us from A to B, mostly over shorter distances. We often overlook the fact that they facilitate several other elements too.
One now being increasingly used is the ability to have software updates sent ‘over the air’. In other words, your car’s ability to do certain things, or new things, is expanded without needing to have anything done physically.
Here’s what Tesla told us earlier this week on that front: “Every single Model S, Model X and Model 3 ever built will receive new features and improvements from Software Version 9.0.”
No need to go to the garage or have bits added or replaced. Your Tesla just gets upgraded; full stop. I like their phrase that it is a reminder when owning one of those cars that it will “only get better over time”.
After the latest update, they say you’ll wake up with a car that is “smarter, safer and more intuitive” than before.
It is their most substantial update yet and means the user interface is simplified, as well as there being new elements.
Nice to know that by using the firm’s app you can start a vehicle software update without having to be in your car at all.
Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles built with Hardware 2.5 (from August 2017) now let you record and store video.
There is also a new application launcher that brings all your apps together in one place (calendar, web browser, rear-view camera, phone, charging etc). All eight external cameras from their Full Self-Driving hardware in each model are now active too.
On a lighter note, the company has added some “hidden features” to the cars’ large central display screen.
For example, some classic arcade games from Atari can be discovered when the car is in ‘Park’. Should be fun as when you find them they change the controls on the steering wheel and touchscreen to that of a games console.
On a more serious note, the firm cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – the US safety body – as confirming that the Model 3 (supposedly due here next year) is the safest car it has tested.
It follows the Model S and Model X in achieving the “lowest probability of injury” of any vehicle tested.
FORD will launch a wagon version of the Mondeo with their petrol-electric hybrid system next MarchThey say the wagon body style was developed exclusively for European customers. Full spec and pricing will be announced closer to sale date. As I say, the firm already has a hybrid saloon on the market.
Ford claims to be planning 16 full-electric vehicles up to 2022 as part of a 40-strong “electrified vehicles” schedule.
The 187PS hybrid powertrain combines an electric motor, a specially-developed 2-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine to drive the wheels, and a generator for regenerative charging of the 1.4 kWh lithium-ion, air-cooled, recyclable battery behind the rear seats. Transmission is continuously variable.
The company claims 4.4l/100km and emissions from 101g/km.

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Transit driven to new levels

Pope Francis opted out of luxury travel during his recent visit here when he spurned opulence for a more modest Skoda Rapid. But members of his elite bodyguard, the Swiss Guard, luxuriated in an eight-seater Ford Tourneo Custom with conference-configured leather seats and carpet comfort, chauffeured by a special garda driver to Knock shrine and the various venues around Dublin during the whistlestop visit. His Holiness is known for his love of the simple things in life and would appreciate the story of how the humble Transit van has morphed into a top-line transporter for the rich, and some famous, over the past two decades.
In 1995, Ford saw an opening in the growing hospitality market and over the years converted a van into a minibus. A new name was needed and the Tourneo emerged in various sizes to become a common sight on taxi ranks and a popular shuttle transport for top hotels. The better appointed versions rose in status and were branded as the Tourneo Custom in 2013.
What you get in the Tourneo Custom is comfortable group travel for eight or nine people for an asking price of €50,139 for the eight-seater LWB version in Top Titanium level trim with the option of leather seats, €900; LED lights, €400; SatNav with Ford SYNC, €765; and metallic paint, €615. Entry level Trend versions are priced from €46,601.
Power comes from a 2-litre TDCi 130bhp diesel EcoBlue engine which has 162g/km of Co2 emissions with an annual road tax of €570. There is a clever six-speed manual transmission with a switch on the gear lever to convert it into a full automatic which is quite frugal if the rev needle is kept in the region of 2,000rpm. The engine is now 13pc more fuel-efficient and low-end torque is up by 20pc in the new engine setup.
Bumpy roads and tight turns will show up with some turbulence in the cabin but otherwise this is a very comfortable transporter with a huge amount of luggage space. Even a party of girls on a hens outing or a shopping trip would be hard put to fill it. Conveniently, there is a running-board type of step underneath the panel sliding doors which helps make for a dignified entry and exit as you sit high on big wheels.
Seats can be folded to give limousine-like space or removed for lifestyle weekends if extra equipment is needed. There are six USB ports, a 10-speaker audio system and noise levels are acceptably low.
The driver gets lots of help. Speak to the 8in touch-screen and you will be directed to “coffee,” “fuel,” or “parking,” while an Intelligent Speed Limiter recognises speed signs and will keep you within the law. Other aids include Cross Traffic Alert and a Pre-Collision Assist system.
A good all-rounder for large families and lifestyle customers.

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