The festive break meant that two of my children were back here from abroad and we could go and see my great friend Evelyn Rowe in Cavan. They used to visit Evelyn and her husband, Jim, so much in their younger days.
A trip from Dublin to Evelyn’s house near Lough Sheelin is one of the best tests for a car. You have the M3 to take you way past Kells and then a massive change in temperament and surface as you go through Virginia and Ballyjamesduff towards the road to Granard.
At the end of the journey little has changed, although both the former two towns saw much house-building during the boom and a lot of immigration. But it seems not everyone is happy living there; while going through ‘Ballyduff’ there were large signs for a draw organised by the local GAA club to “win a house in Dublin 15”. Perhaps it is the lure of not having to commute.
It’s an odd town, special in its own way, immortalised by Percy French in the song Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff and now with a statue of the composer in the town’s square. At one time, the town, with its commerce built on the meat industry, was said to have the largest pub-to-person ratio in the country.
But I digress. It was good to have the new Kia XCeed for the journey. This attractive urban crossover has a lot of space comparable to bigger SUVs in a hatchback-like package. It sits high on the road, with up to 44mm more ground clearance than the Ceed five-door hatchback.
I liked the car and felt the 1.0-litre petrol engine gave a pretty confident drive in a well-specced package with excellent safety features. There could be a bit more power and a 1.4 petrol model will be available.
Prices start at €26,245, while the top-of-the-range 1.0 petrol model is another €4,000. All models have the benefit of Kia’s seven-year warranty.
The launch of a plug-in hybrid here is imminent and could be popular as it will have an electric range of up to 58km, and, of course, an automatic box which I would have liked for the petrol model.
The XCeed was a head-turner especially in the rather mustard-like colour you see here. It was far more attractive and dynamic than a lot of other SUVs/Crossovers.
Kia has done well in the recent past; picking up awards for its all-electric but rather quirky-looking Soul and e-Niro. The XCeed will only build on that success.
It was a nostalgic trip up to Cavan and we had a great day going to the Crover House Hotel on the banks of the Sheelin for lunch.
It was emotional as we turned into Evelyn’s home to see her beloved 1999 Subaru Forester still sitting in the drive. It was such a brilliant car, ideal for towing horseboxes and all the rough and tumble of life in a very rural location.
Evelyn now drives a VW Tiguan, but her heart still lives in that Forester which was bought three years before Jim, who was like an older brother to me, died.
I see that York is set to become the first city in the UK to ban cars from its centre. The city council wants to end all non-essential car journeys within its ancient walls from 2023 in a bid to bring down air pollution.
However, arrangements would be made to allow the city centre to still be accessible to the elderly and those with limited mobility. There will also be a big increase in public transport.
In November, Bristol council voted to ban privately owned diesel cars from large parts of its city centre during day times.
The plans, which come into force subject to the British government approval next year, will also see a levy on commercial diesel vehicles entering the clean air zone.
Apparently this country is one of only three EU states not to have legislation to allow e-scooters on public roads.
I have an open mind on the whole issue. Many of our roads are unsuitable for the small wheels of the scooters – it is bad enough on a bike.
However, it is important e-scooters are kept off pavements. And a proper regulatory system should be introduced, involving a speed cap, helmets with lights attached, high-visibility vests, and, perhaps, insurance.
Lime is an electric scooter sharing service running schemes in more than 40 cities. It wants the Government to legalise e-scooters for use on cycle lanes and roads with a limit of up to 50kmh.
Speed should be capped at 25kmh. Lime says it has “facilitated” more than 100 million e-scooter journeys since 2017 and adds that they are playing a “significant role” in reducing the number of journeys made by private vehicles in cities.
One thing that has to be fixed is how e-scooter riders should indicate that they are about to turn.
Far too often they just veer off without warning.
Sticking out a hand makes the e-scooter unstable and if there are lights on the foot platform they are just too low.
Some system of having indicators on your protective vest or helmet seems to be the answer.
But before we all take to two wheels or no wheels at all, there are some lovely cars to be tested. If you have never experienced the exhilaration of driving a fast rear-wheel drive thoroughbred like the BMW 3 Series, then you should before you get much older.
There is nothing quite like it and for a while this car gets the juices flowing.
And it is a safe drive as long as you keep within the limits of both car and yourself.
I was driving one a few weeks before Christmas and just couldn’t get enough of it. They are not cheap but there are a lot of second-hand models around.
Or just pretend to be a potential purchaser and take one out for a test drive. You’ll fall in love. Although they are still not ideal for ice and snow, unless you have tyres suitable for the season.
Enjoy the year, stay safe.