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LATEST CAR REVIEWS

Mitsubishi’s new L200 has the style to pick up more customers

WHEN one vehicle is responsible for a substantial part of its earnings, a carmaker has to mind the model. That is especially the case if it is a pick-up which, in this part of the world anyway, is a marginal segment for most automakers.
It’s not marginal for Mitsubishi, who have been making one-tonne pick-ups since 1978.
The L200, their second-biggest seller globally, is designed for work in some of the toughest environments.
Mining sites in Indonesia and Chile are just two among 150 markets where the L200 operates daily in the harshest of conditions.
So driving on gravel roads into the high mountains of southern Spain recently wasn’t exactly going to have the sixth generation L200 break into the pick-up equivalent of a sweat.
Still, it was a drive where I appreciated having a sure-footed and competent off-road vehicle under me.
And it has just, technically, gone on display for sampling in Ireland.
Dealers have only recently received their demonstration models. Prices start from €35,000 for the entry Business grade.
The best-selling L200 here is expected to be the Intense grade, priced at €37,850 (manual) and at €39,950 for the new six-speed automatic.
A new Instyle grade tops the range. It includes leather seat trim and other extras at €41,935.
With a new engine, a broad array of driver assist technologies and a completely new styling they hope to return the L200 to the top-three position in pick-up sales here.
General spec includes a “bird’s eye” monitor camera system, LED headlights, enhanced ‘Superselect’ AWD and 18-inch alloys.
Changes include new headlamps which are designed for better night visibility.
There are more substantial bumpers, but good approach and departure angles of the fifth generation model are retained.
The new pick-up is 40mm taller and marginally longer than the previous L200.
It is claimed to have the best turning circle in the class as well as the best cabin space.
It is powered by the new 150hp 2.2-litre diesel. The Superselect AWD has four settings for different terrains. An optional electromagnetic rear differential lock is available on all grades.
Increased spring rates and larger shock absorbers on the front suspension make it more comfortable to drive. The leaf-spring rear suspension has been retained to provide better cargo capacity, but now has an extra sixth leaf.
Inside, there’s a more integrated set-up of controls and instruments with more colourful graphics.
There’s extensive use of soft-touch materials while the seats have larger side bolsters.
And there is more storage while four USB sockets are standard.
Overall, the L200 is a big advance on the fifth generation and will put Mitsubishi strongly back in contention for more sales in this highly-competitive segment.

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X-rating a plus for Kia Ceed

It is always fraught recommending cars to family, friends and colleagues. It is even more so when one of the latter’s brilliance and exacting standards are only matched by what can be described politely as challenging moodiness. That he was a great friend and sat next to me complicated the process.Luckily we never fell out during nearly a decade after he bought, with my recommendation, the family hatchback known then as a Kia c’eed and which has now morphed into the more sensibly named Ceed.In that time Kia has become an increasingly bigger player in both the new and second-hand market. The company’s seven-year warranty has been a big factor but that would count for little if the cars themselves – ranging from city vehicles such as the Picanto to its well known SUVs like Stonic, Sorento and Sportage (the country’s 12th best-selling vehicle this year) but all the time pivoting on the Ceed – weren’t really up to the job. Excellent EVs like the Soul and Niro have given the marque a funky modern face.Since the first c’eed was launched in 2006, the Korean marque has more than doubled its sales in Europe, fulfilling its mission statement that it could engineer and design a car that appeals to European drivers. It was created in Frankfurt, tested on roads in the south of Spain and the north of Sweden, and built in an all-new plant in Slovakia. More than 1.4m versions have been built and sold in Europe since its launch 13 years ago. It has also won 10 European design awards.Now Kia is merging its SUV expertise and Ceed family appeal to ride the wave of the urban crossover popularity in the XCeed, a very tasty vehicle with the requisite cladding, raised height, stance and design tweaks but keeping the handling and packaging of a hatchback.It arrives later this month and costs from €26,245 with mainly petrol engines until a plug-in hybrid version arrives in the new year. The company is expecting great things from the XCeed with probably more than 1,100 being sold next year of which 500 might be the PHEV, which will be high spec and have a starting price of the early €30ks.Last week, the XCeed was launched in the French port of Marseille and proved to be a very attractive proposition. Slightly longer and wider it is a lot more imposing than the standard Ceed while not being the height of a Sportage. That is replicated inside, where driver and passengers get a more commanding view of the road. The car is virtually all new with only the front doors inherited from the hatchback. Despite a coupe look to the back of the XCeed, headroom was adequate.The turbocharged engines give good progress and are efficient without being ground-breaking.The launch came days after James Brooks, the likeable long-serving head of Kia Ireland, went on “gardening leave” after being headhunted by the Gowan Group to lead the revitalising of the Opel marque here, of which Gowan has taken control.Aidan Doyle, marketing guru of Kia Ireland, said it addressed the “growing desire for cars which offer more emotion and dynamism than an SUV, both in terms of the way a car looks and drives. Yet these customers don’t want to lose the practicality that a larger car offers them.”It is worth checking the XCeed out. You won’t lose any friendships over it.

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