Part One – Green Car
Kia’s Niro is the Korean Car maker’s first hybrid. This crossover sits between the Sportage and the Cee’d hatchback in their line-up. With chunky styling and a high ride height that aids visibility the body cladding gives it a tough muscular look. Despite the styling however, there’s no four-wheel drive option so think of the Niro as more of a high-riding family hatchback than an SUV. Inside the layout will be familiar to any Kia owner and it is well built with good quality materials used throughout. The dash is clean and all the controls are easy to access. Aimed at family buyers, there is plenty of space and it is satisfyingly roomy both front and back. And while there’s no cunning third row of seats waiting to spring out of the floor fold the rear seats down and you get a very decent 1,425 litres. A plug-in version of the Niro hybrid is also available and is powered by a 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine with a 8.9kWh battery pack and a 43.5kW electric motor. This wizardry means CO2 emissions of just 29g/km and a zero-emissions, pure-electric driving range of 58km along with a very frugal 1.3 litres per 100 km.
Prices start from €29,094 for the hybrid and €35,995 for the PHEV.
Volvo XC60 T8 Hybrid
Crowned World Car of the Year 2018, the new XC60 is safer, roomier and more advanced in every area you can imagine. In terms of styling it borrows heavily from the design philosophy already applied to the XC90, S90 and V90 and exterior inspired cues include the Thor hammer-style front lamps, sculpted sides and vertical tail lights. Inside there is hip Scandi style in bucketfuls and it is beautifully finished throughout. Powering the range is a choice of petrol or diesel engines along with a 400hp fuel sipping petrol electric hybrid. According to Volvo the hybrid can achieve 2.1 l/100km with CO2 of just 49g/km. As you might expect from Volvo, the XC60 has more safety measures than a bungee jump and is crammed with active and passive features. Prices for the hybrid start at €68,450 but its worth remembering you’re paying not just to go from A to B, but one of the best kinds of luxury, a feeling of smugness.
Prices start from €68,450
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
It may look like a regular Outlander but the Outlander PHEV was the world’s first four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or PHEV in short. Interior space is good with plenty of room in the rear for three, there is no seven seat option with the hybrid due to the extra space needed to accommodate the battery. Powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with two 60kW motors, the combined fuel economy is a staggering 1.91 litre per 100 km with carbon emissions of just 42g/km. Realistically, those mpg figures would only be achieved if the car was used for short commutes, but in real driving terms, the car is still highly efficient and can drastically reduce running costs. There are three ways to charge the Outlander PHEV; at home using a 3 pin plug will take around 4.5 hours or if using an on-street ESB charge point and a 16 Amp charge cable it takes just 4 hours while a quick charge station will charge the Outlander to 80% in just 25 minutes.
On the road the focus is firmly on comfort and economy rather than performance but it is smooth and responsive and silent. Tread delicately at low speeds and it will glide around under electric power alone and so quietly you’ll forget you’re in a car. If you are looking for the full SUV experience, including four-wheel drive and do your bit for the planet the Outlander PHEv is hard to beat.
Prices for the PHEV start at €49,900
With a more sleek and aerodynamic exterior the Leaf is not as radical a design change as the new Micra but it’s certainly a big improvement on the previous version.
Nissan is hoping to win over a new generation of customers with its much improved driving range and roomier interior. The new model has a range of 378km based on the NEDC test but the new and more reliable real-world motoring WLDT test reduces this to a realistic 270km still a significant improvement on the 190km on the previous version. With a quick charger 40KW battery can be brought up to 80% capacity in 40-60 minutes, but home chargers would take 8-10 hours. Inside it is spacious enough for four adults to sit inside comfortably while the boot is a decent 435 litres. And it is packed with technology including the e-Pedal that allows the car to be driven with just one pedal. Also new is Nissan’s autonomous drive technology ProPilot designed to make everything easier, from dealing with traffic jams to keeping your distance on the motorway. Good to drive and well priced, if you are considering an electric car it would be worth spending a day test driving the new Leaf.
Prices for the Nissan Leaf start at €26,290
With a sleek coupe-shape roofline, bulging wheel arches and sharp creases, the funky C-HR is certainly the one to stand out in the supermarket car park. Inside it’s surprisingly roomy, even in the back, although kids may find their vision slightly compromised by the upward-sloping rear windows and tall passengers may find it a little too snug.
The boot offers a reasonable 377 litres of space. The cabin looks great and is really easy to use, with everything buyers demand, including an 8in touchscreen for sat-nav, reversing camera and a full range of infotainment features. The 1.2 petrol is so good to drive, the ride is firm and assured and the steering accurate while the suspension absorbs bumps nicely and keeps you cosseted from wind and road noise. A 1.8 litre petrol-electric hybrid is also offered that will save you plenty of trips to the pumps by returning 3.8 litres per 100 km. Stylish, lively and green, the C-HR will appeal to the young and the young at heart, injecting some real fun both into the brand and the compact SUV sector.
Prices for the C-HR hybrid start at €29,350
29th May, 2018