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LATEST CAR REVIEWS

New Octavia bigger and better all round – and is not just for farmers

When the Skoda Octavia came to Ireland in the 1990s it quickly became a hit in rural areas especially. There was an apocryphal story – which doesn’t mean it wasn’t true – that farmers liked it ‘because on a Wednesday I can put four sheep in the boot and bring them to market’.
I’m from rural Ireland. Just.
Just at the edge of The Pale.
So I know a lot of farmers – and know the story might well have been true.
I reminded a Skoda Ireland man about it at the reveal here in Prague on Monday night of the new generation Octavia.
“He could put five in this one,” he quipped.
And he could.
And if he bought the Combi wagon variant he might lose a small flock in there and have to send for Bo-Peep.
But seriously…
The new Octavia looks like being a seriously good car, when it arrives in Ireland for next July. Nearer that date, I expect that we will get extensive details of specification levels and pricing structure.
It’s longer, wider and there is more of that important sheep-pen space – sorry, cargo room.
There is a big up-shift in style, both inside and out.
And there is a big tilt at premium feel throughout.
Sure, they trot out the top spec at reveals such as Monday’s – now largely replacing motor shows.
But there is underlying stuff that will not change.
There is an elegance that gives the hatchback a distinctive coupe line.
There is a Combi wagon with an elegance that is likely to help keep that version in its place as Europe’s top estate.
In Ireland, I’ll already bet a packet of chocolate buttons that the wagon version will eat into sales of the exceptional Superb estate.
Soft touch surfaces and a range of trims for different grades won’t diminish the essentials.
Such as a dual-level dashboard that tastefully carries the multimedia screen.
The availability for the first time in an Octavia of a head-up display isn’t an essential.
Better will be the availability of LED matrix headlights which adapt to oncoming night traffic without compromising the driver’s visibility.
There’s more passenger room. Always an Octavia characteristic, it’s just getting better.
They can have lighting to suit their mood, with a range of LED ambient colours.
There are changes coming under the bonnet. A new plug-in hybrid option; mild hybrid boosting of fuel economy on other petrol engines.
Diesels – they’re not going away, you know – which Skoda says now emit a mere 20pc of the level of nitrogen oxides as previously.
Remember, it was NOx that brought everyone back to their senses about diesel.
The new Octavia will also be getting all the latest driver assist options.
Sense is getting in here too; nobody’s talking about levels of autonomous driving at the moment. Just keep your hands on the wheel; the car will tell you quickly if you don’t.
Skoda’s Irish market split has shifted over recent years. That original rural bias is no longer prominent.
City drivers are seeing the value of Octavia that taxi drivers have long known.
A big in-its-class car that is comfortable, reliable and holds its value.
Currently the second best-seller in its segment, after Toyota’s Corolla, the average owner age is around 48.
Skoda buyers in Ireland are teachers, engineers, professionals in law and other disciplines. And, no doubt, those farmers who always know value when they see it.
The new Octavia will come with an umbrella, a trend begun by the much-loved large Superb.
But it will also come with a brush.
No, not for hair. It is to clean your shoes if you happen to be getting into the car from mucky roads.
Could be great, too, for cleaning out after the sheep.

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How the 2020 factor will boost new-car buying

More people are likely to buy a new car next year than had been expected – thanks to a reasonable Budget and the 2020 reg-plate factor. And one-in-10 of all new cars bought are likely to be electric or have an electric element as greater numbers come on stream.
But a key element in expecting more new-car buyers is the anticipation that fewer will buy older second-hand imports following the imposition of a NOx tax on UK models. Some older imports could be hit with a €1,500 price hike.
As fears of a harsh Budget have dissipated, many in the motor industry now believe dealers can win back new-car sales to replace a percentage of the used imports that would otherwise have been bought.
Among those acknowledging some optimism is Renault Ireland chief Paddy Magee.
He bases his, albeit guarded, forecast on the fact that as a country we replace around 10pc of the total number of cars on the road (called the national fleet) every year. That comes to 210,000-215,000 between new cars and used imports.
If the latter numbers fall due to higher prices there is every chance a percentage of would-be buyers will opt to purchase new.
Of course, they could also decide to buy nearly-newer in the UK.
Alongside the possibility of a swing to more new cars, is also the reality that a percentage of people have waited to get a 201 registration plate. And there will be a reasonable level of PCP renewals.
All of which points to a better 2020 than was envisaged five or six weeks ago.
On the topic of electric cars, Mr Magee, speaking at the Irish launch of Renault’s new Clio, forecast that as many as one-in-five (20pc) new cars bought in 2022 will be ‘electrified’.
He pointed to the huge growth of EV buying in the commercial sector, especially.
He cited An Post as a prime example of a company making a major drive towards EVs.

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Here’s how not to buy a secondhand car – we broke all the rules

We broke almost every single rule about buying a secondhand car last week. Someone needed a set of wheels in a hurry.
Lots of trawling sites and consulting ultimately narrowed the focus to a nice-looking 10-year-old Volvo V50.
Due to circumstances and schedules, we couldn’t get to see it until after 7.30pm.
The seller was straightforward and frank. I could see him looking at the new BMW 3-series Touring I was testing for next Saturday’s Review column in the Irish Independent. I wouldn’t blame him for thinking strange thoughts.
As soon as I could, I told him in no uncertain terms we’d look at it but our potential buyer, or someone on his behalf, would need to see it in daylight. He agreed: the first rule is buy in daylight.
So we chatted. I let on I knew what I was doing, lifting the boot cover (space-saver spare wheel), raising the bonnet and staring into the equivalent of a dark, shadowy abyss, looking at the wear on the pedals, sitting in and generally foostering while seller and potential buyer and wife had a good ould chat – only half of it had to do with the car.
After a while our would-be buyer drove it. His wife and I sat in the back.
Both really liked the car and said so a few times. I tried to shush them. How not to show your hand eh?
Slowly we built up a profile of the car. It had been involved in a crash six months after being bought from new.
It cost €10,000 to leave it in what to me looked to be excellent condition.
But it was dark night. How could I know?
As far as I could see there was no uneven tyre wear to suggest a problem with body alignment. But it was dark.
The service history was available; regular as clockwork we were told.
It looked a well-kept car with leather seating and some decent spec.
The 1.6-litre diesel had nearly 100,000km up. The asking price was €5,000.
On we drove. They both liked it. And said so. Again.
But no, the timing belt hadn’t been changed. It would need to be soon.
The NCT is due early next year too. They had only recently fitted a new clutch but the seller admitted it would need brake pads soon as well as the timing belt and water pump.
That’s a lot of money I said, warming to the prospect of knocking off a good few hundred euro.
He agreed there was money to be spent. His rock bottom price? €4,000.
We said we’d think about it, get someone to have a look in daylight and bade him farewell.
Nothing would do my buyer but seal the deal almost as soon as we got back.
Why? He instinctively trusted the seller.
I did too but that’s not the point; indeed it’s a danger – buyer beware always.
Please do the opposite of much of what I’ve just outlined if you’re buying.
Fingers crossed for the Volvo.

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Renault’s Clio supermini to cost from €16,690 as more buyers downsize

Renault unveiled its new Clio here this week amid signs that more people are downsizing to smaller hatchbacks from larger saloons. The fifth-generation Clio (it insists it is “100pc new”) looked and felt fresh and smart as I sat in for a lively, taut drive during a brief spin near Castledermot on Monday.
The sharp drive is due, in part, to a decent suspension, but also to the new 100bhp petrol engine under the bonnet (up 10bhp on the TCe 90 it replaces).
The new car will cost from €16,690 for the entry-level Expression. Standard spec includes EasyLink, 7ins touchscreen (9.3ins with higher spec), LED headlights, air con, electric windows and a spread of ADAS elements. ADAS (Advanced Driver’s Assistance Systems) includes Automatic Emergency Brake System with pedestrian protection and Lane Keep assist.
They are essential if a car is to be awarded five stars, as the Clio has been, in the EuroNcap tests.
It reckons most buyers will opt for the Dynamique trim level; it has the new EasyLink system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It costs from €18,690.
Or you may go for higher Iconic spec (plus €1,300) with EasyLink, built-in navigation, Google address search too. Between the two trims it anticipates 90pc of sales.
Range-topping RS Line gets exterior glitz treatment (17ins alloys and 9.3ins EasyLink screen).
The car overall has a better-quality interior while the exterior looks have been tweaked a little.
It’s a tad shorter (yet roomier inside) and a little wider.
It reckons there has been a Clio sold every minute since it started making the car back in 1990.
With so many dipping into the supermini market from larger saloons that frequency of purchase looks assured.

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