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The Kia Soul is a stylish small MPV that would fit well into any family.

This Kia has Soul

I was due to take Kia’s Soul for a weeks test directly after the launch at Kilmainham last week. It’s always nice to do that because it means you’re among the first journalists to give a new car a proper test. Since there were a few cars available, I asked for anything other than silver, which was good on two counts. The red one I took away had more equipment and the fire-engine red paintwork attracted huge attention while I had the car. In fact, I haven’t had so many comments about a car in a long time and all of them were universally positive. When you come down to it, the new car looks quite similar to the original Soul, but the details have been honed and refined and the result is very pleasing from all angles. From the back, it reminds me of nothing else but a bigger Volkswagen Up, but from other angles, it has an identity …

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Peugeot's Hybrid bike could be part of the answer to future urban transport. In the meantime, it's great fun.

Hybrid on two wheels

Is this Hybrid bike the future solution to urban transportation? Peugeot seems to think it will form at least part of the resolution to crowded cities and polluted air. For shorter journeys, it makes a huge amount of sense. It pedals exactly like a conventional bike but an electric motor, mounted in the front wheel, kicks in to allow hills to be tackled effortlessly. Human power is directed to the rear wheel, so between the two, you have the bike equivalent of four wheel drive. The 250W motor provides assistance up to 24 km/h before it cuts out. Any faster and it would be classified as a motorbike apparently. The range is 60 km, which is entirely ample for a vehicle of this type which would only be suitable for shorter journeys. There are other more conventional looking bikes in the range which have a range of up to 120 km. The bike weighs 22.5 kg, which isn’t bad, considering …

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The interior of the Peugeot 308 SW showing the touch screen which controls most functions.

More space for Peugeot 308

What do you do if your family needs more space than a saloon or hatchback offers and you don’t want an MPV? Simple really, the sensible choice is an estate, providing extra load space without all the baggage, both physical and metaphorical, of an MPV. Peugeot’s latest offering is the Sport Wagon, or estate version of their 308, a car that has just won the European Car of the Year title. Not only do you get extra load space, in this case over 600 litres with all the seats in use, the designers have taken the opportunity to lengthen the chassis, giving most of the extra space to rear seat passengers. This solves a little failing of the standard hatchback, which is a little skimpy on rear legroom. The engines we tried on the launch were the 2.0 litre 150 bhp HDi diesel, coupled with a six speed auto and a very interesting, new 1.2 litre turbo petrol. The petrol …

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Best quarter for car sales since 2008

Figures just released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry for vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year show that new car sales are up by 26% on last year. At almost 50,000 cars sold, the first quarter of this year has outperformed all other periods since 2008. Sales in March are up 23%, reflecting a continuation of the consumer confidence that has been apparent since the start of the year. The Commercial Vehicle market is also positive, with light commercial/van sales up 43% this quarter and up 45% in March alone. Heavy commercial/truck sales are up 40% so far this year and 31% in March alone. Alan Nolan, SIMI Director General commented “Vehicle sales for the first quarter of 2014 remain significantly ahead of last year. Already we have registered over two thirds of total car sales for last year. We are clearly starting from a low base but the most notable point has been the …

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UK truck tax ‘discriminatory’ – Higgins

IRELAND’S  representative on the European Parliament Transport Committee, MEP Jim Higgins has today called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that the new UK truck tax which he described as “discriminatory” does not come into effect on April 1.  “I have discussed the matter with Leo Varadkar over the past number of months, and he has been successful in getting small sections of the A3 near Clones exempted, but it is not enough. The Taoiseach now needs to tell the UK that the charge is going to hurt Irish hauliers, and furthermore that it is discriminatory. The Government should examine the possibility of lodging a complaint with the European Commission on the grounds of discrimination, since the tax will affect Republic of Ireland registered trucks, but not NI registered trucks.” “The Government has to send a clear unambiguous signal to London that this kind of discrimination is not acceptable.”   “We need a proper solution …

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The SEAT Leon Cupra in the hills near Montserrat.

Olé, Olé, Leon

Barcelona may not be the first place you think of when it comes to cars, but the city is home to the giant Martorell plant, which for a long time has been producing SEAT cars. Since 1986, Seat have been majority owned by the Volkswagen group, although during our trip to the factory, the personnel there were anxious to point out that they had a proper research and development department, fully capable of designing a car from scratch and bringing it to production. In fact, the Martorell plant develops entire cars, including the Audi Q5 and whole subsystems for other marques in the group and employ over 1,000 people. We visited the design centre and were met at the gate by a couple of guards who asked us for our phones. They proceeded to put stickers over our camera lenses so that we couldn’t take pictures. Sorry lads, I had a proper camera and a fully functional tablet in my …

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Grainne rallying round despite brain injury

AN Ennis rally co-driver has outlined her delight at having taken part in a 10k charity walk last weekend, just 18 months after a freak accident left her battling for her life. Grainne McEnery said completing Hurley Hoey walk was a massive confidence boost and compared it to “winning the lottery”. She never dreamed she would be capable of finishing two kilometres, having sustained a serious brain injury. “Finishing a 10km was like a dream come true. I walked it in one hour and 40 minutes. When I crossed the finish line I was emotional because it was like I won it. I never thought I would be able to do this. Acquired brain injury has given her a new insight of the challenges other people with disabilities face on a daily basis. Grainne was a passenger in a rally car driven by Mike Quinn from Kerry, which was leading going in the last stage at the Heartlands Rally in …

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The third generation Audi TT made its debut at Geneva.

Air of optimism at Geneva Motor Show

There was a huge amount of new metal at this year’s Geneva Show but no real standout star. Everyone I talked to seemed very bullish about prospects for the new car market this year and there was a palpable sense of optimism in the air, which was a very pleasant change. One of the more significant launches wasn’t even of a car. Apple choose Geneva to launch their new CarPlay system. It’s essentially a very advanced link between your phone and your car and it allows the phone to take over the car’s display and be controlled by the car’s buttons or by voice. As it evolves, it will become the most natural way to interact with your phone while driving. CarPlay is an operating system that can be applied to any iPhone that can run iOS 7 or later and is equipped with a lightning interface – essentially iPhone 5 or later. Right now, the system has been launched …

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