Monday 26 September 2016

Lowdown on the best executive cars and large family saloons

Family motoring demands extra space but it doesn't mean you have to skimp on the luxury, writes Geraldine Herbert

Published 24/04/2016 | 02:30

Audi A4
Audi A4
Kia Optima
Lexus GS 300
Mercedes Benz E-Class
Jaguar XF
Mazda6
New Audi A6
BMW 5-Series
Citroen DS5
Opel Insignia
VW Passat
Skoda Superb
Toyota Avensis
Volvo S90
Ford Mondeo

Alfa Giulia: Alfa Romeo's rival to the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series was finally unveiled at this year's Geneva Motor Show and is the first of eight new models due to be launched in Ireland over the next few years. A high-performance version of the car had been previously unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015 - the Giulia Quadrifoglio, a rear-wheel drive saloon powered by a 510bhp V6 petrol engine designed by sister brand Ferrari.

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Along with the Quadrifoglio, there will be two other trim levels (Giulia and Super) and four engines: 200hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol; 150hp 2.2-litre turbo diesel; 180hp 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine and the range-topping 510hp 2.9-litre V6 BiTurbo petrol engine. An eight-speed automatic gearbox will be exclusively paired with the petrol model, while the diesels also get the option of a six-speed manual. Irish pricing and specification details are yet to be confirmed but we expect more information closer to the launch in the last quarter of the year.

Prices starting from: To be confirmed Trims: Quadrifoglio, Giulia , Super Engine: D: 2.0, 2.2. P 2.0, 2.9. NCAP: Not tested

Audi A4: A hugely important car to Audi, the fifth-generation A4 arrived in Ireland just as BMW face-lifted its 3 series and Jaguar launched its all-new XE.

Despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to the model it replaced, there is a new engine line-up, newly developed chassis and, crucially, the A4 is reduced in weight by up to 120kg. Six engine variants underpin the range; two petrol and four diesels. Audi claims fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 21pc.

On the road, the A4 is smooth and refined and while it is not quite as engaging as some rivals, the interior is best in class and oozes quality. A new S4, recently shown at Geneva, will be powered by a newly developed turbo V6 engine with 354bhp and is expected to be on sale here in August. A more rugged version of the A4, the Avant Allroad with greater ground clearance will join the range later in the year.

Prices starting from: €34,950 Trims: S, Attraction, SE Line Engine: P 1.4, 2.0 D 2.0, 3.0 NCAP: 5 Stars

Audi A6: Due to be replaced later this year, Audi's Mercedes E Class and BMW 5 Series rival was revitalised last year with the addition of a new Ultra version designed to be super economical. In the saloon A6 range, buyers get a choice of SE, S line and SE Business trim levels with six-speed manual or seven-speed S-tronic automatic gearboxes.

There is also a range of petrol and diesel units with power outputs ranging from 150bhp to 450bhp. Inside it is beginning to feel its age and on-the-road rivals are more sporty to drive; but that said, the A6 remains a great all-round package that is economical and stylish.

Deliveries of the new A6 will take place in the summer and it promises to significantly improve on the previous model, offering more attractive options and enhanced connectivity.

New technology, like the Audi smart-phone interface, bring customised Apple Car Play and Android Auto environments to the MMI monitor. Other new features in the A6 include the wireless phone charging.

Prices starting from: €53,279 Trims; SE, S Line, SE Business Engine: P 1.8, D 2.0, 3.0 NCAP: 5 Stars

BMW 3 Series: The 3 Series has always enjoyed an army of devoted fans in search of the ultimate driving experience. In the face of ferocious competition from the Jaguar XE and the new Audi A4, BMW's timely facelift of the 3 introduced new engines and a few subtle exterior tweaks to the lights and bumpers.

The interior was also refreshed and it all feels a little better quality than before. Inside, there's more legroom than in previous models, particularly in the rear, and boot size at 480 litres is reasonably good. The higher-powered petrols are designed to appeal to performance-orientated buyers but the heart of the range is the diesel and it is the 2.0-litre turbo that will take the lion's share of sales.

You can also opt for XDrive four-wheel drive or the new petrol-electric hybrid BMW 330e that goes from 0-100 in 6.1sec and on a combined cycle has a claimed average of 148.7mpg, or 1.9 litres per 100kms. The BMW 3 series is fast, nimble and the handling is as good as ever.

Prices starting from: €36,570. Trims: SE, Sport, Luxury, M Sport Engine: P 1.5, 2.0, 3.0 D 2.0, 3.0. NCAP: 5 stars

BMW 5 Series: Despite being due for replacement later this year, the BMW 5 Series is still a great blend of style, luxury, comfort, handling and road holding. It is showing its age however, and the recent arrival of the all-new Mercedes E-Class has only highlighted that fact.

The new model is likely to be powered by a range of new engines and a plug-in hybrid option, along with much of the technology from the flagship BMW 7 Series. In the current range there is a good choice of engines and versions to choose from but the diesels are best suited to the car.

Be warned: options are extensive and expensive. One of the very best saloons around, the 'ultimate driving machine' tagline still applies.

Prices starting from: €45,200 Trims: SE, Luxury, M Sport Engine: P 2.0, 3.0, 4.4 D 2.0, 3.0 NCAP: 5 stars

DS5: The DS5 has shed its iconic chevrons and was the first to be launched by the all-new DS brand. Now with a more comfortable ride and improved road manners, there's a lot to like about this new DS5.

Inside, the interior remains inspired by the world of aviation and surrounds you in a cockpit-style interior of pure luxury. There is an abundance of light and the seating position is comfortable but the controls are fiddly to use and not the most intuitive; there is also a lack of storage space throughout.

There are three BlueHDi diesels engine variations and a Euro 6 compliant hybrid 4x4 drive-train. The DS5 is the true successor to the original 1950s icon, with head-turning looks and futuristic design and is a beautiful, executive blend of estate, coupe and MPV. But it would be a brave buyer that will opt for it over the competition.

Prices starting from: €36,045 Trims: Elegance, Prestige Engine: D 1.6, 2.0 Hybrid 2.0 NCAP: 5 stars

Ford Mondeo: Delayed by almost three years the 'new' Mondeo was finally launched in 2014 and is a sleeker-looking car than the previous version and sports the new Aston Martin lookalike front grille.

Inside it is stylish, but the quality throughout could be a little better. Engines range from 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesels and the powerful 1.5 litre EcoBoost petrol but the 2.0 TDCI Titanium is the best buy. New to the range is the Vignale spec, Ford's premium tier that is aimed at buyers who might otherwise migrate towards Mercedes, BMW and Audi. It comes fully loaded with premium, hand-stitched leather seats, SYNC2 with 8ins touchscreen, active noise control, 19ins alloys and 10-way power seats - but it is hard to justify the more than €6,000 premium over the top of the range Titanium equivalent on the standard Mondeo.

The Ford Mondeo offers a tempting fusion of comfort and performance and still has the best handling in its class

Prices starting from: €27,645 Trims; Style, Zetec, Titanium Engine: D 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 P 1.5 NCAP: 5 stars

Hyundai i40: Face-lifted last year, the i40 is without doubt the most stylish car in the Hyundai range. Designed with Europeans in mind, the coupe-like profile gives it a sporty and very appealing road presence.

Inside it is very spacious, with plenty of room for four or five adults and 525 litres of space. There is no scrimping on equipment: the standard spec includes leather steering wheel, electric lumbar support, Bluetooth with voice recognition, cruise control with speed limiter and 16-inch steel wheels. On the road it is smooth and comfortable and is powered by two versions of the 1.7 litre turbo diesel engine, with a choice of automatic or six-speed manual gear boxes. If you want a good-looking, capable, large family car for a reasonable price, the i40 is hard to beat - plus it comes with Hyundai's very reassuring five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Prices starting from: €28,995 Trims; Comfort, Executive, Executive Plus Engine: D 1.7. NCAP: 5 stars

Jaguar XE: You certainly won't mistake the XE for anything other than a Jaguar. The signature honeycomb grille, distinctive air vents and clean, smooth lines add to the aggressive and sporty stance, while the rear light cluster pays homage to the iconic Jaguar E-type. It is, according to Jaguar, the most advanced sports saloon ever produced, with aluminium making up 75pc of the body.

Inside, it is smart and uncluttered, blending old world with new technology. Space in the front is good but headroom is a little tight and head and knee room are not overly generous for back seat passengers.

Engines include a range of petrol and diesel options, including a 3.0-litre V6 with 340PS. Jaguar's new XE is a serious sports car with sharp steering and great driving dynamics, but it also offers decent fuel economy and low emissions.

The XE is not without its disappointments; the fuel efficiency is not as close to the official figures as we would like, the engine is noisy and it's not quite as practical as some rivals.

Prices starting from: €37,995 Trims: SE, Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport, S Engine: P 2.0 D 2.0 NCAP: 5 stars

Jaguar XF: It may look the same as the previous version but this XF is 83pc new and the svelte athletic body conceals a sophisticated and luxurious tech-laden interior. Sporting the now familiar Jaguar-style grille with a very distinctive coupe-like profile, the new XF weighs 190kg less than before so that means not only better fuel economy but also improved handling.

There is also very clever use of space and the boot, at 540-litres, is a reasonable size.

Engine options include the 163bhp (from 104g/km and 70mpg) and 180bhp versions of the company's 2-litre Ingenium diesel.

But if you need more "oomph" off the line, there are also the range-topping V6 diesel or petrol automatic engines to choose from.

The Jaguar XF may well be one of the best cars we have tested this year, it's sufficiently comfortable for those who like a cosseted drive, yet fast enough for those who yearn for a more sporty option.

Prices starting from: €45,995 Trims: Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport Engine: P 2.0, 3.0 D 2.0, 3.0. NCAP: 5 stars.

Kia Optima: Launched at the end of last year, the new Optima is a huge improvement on the previous model and brings Kia's saloon car up to par with the rest of its range. Inside it is very roomy and the quality is good throughout.

Powering the Optima is an economical and refined 1.7-litre diesel.

There is also the choice between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Compared with the previous version, power is up from 136 to 141PS and CO2 on the manual model comes down from 133g to 120g, with a new annual road tax of just €190. The CO2 improvement on the new seven-speed DCT automatic is down 42 grams, from 158 to 116, and road tax is now just €10 more than the manual version.

This distinctive saloon is well worth a look - it offers lots of space, is very well equipped and comes with a long warranty.

Prices starting from: €27,950 Trims; EX, Platinum, GSE Engine: D 1.7 NCAP: 5 stars

Lexus GS300/450h: The Lexus GS is a large saloon designed with the environmentally aware and tech-savvy car buyer in mind. For 2016, it has been given a major refresh. With hints of the LFA supercar the flared wheel arches, lightening design and spindly shaped grille all combine to give it a dynamic and modern look.

Behind the wheel it's a feast of technology with brightly lit gauges and switches.

The driving position is excellent and it is supremely comfortable. Despite its weight the handling is sharp and responsive - but the steering is a little too numb for our tastes.

Engine options include a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor; it produces 223bhp and CO2 of just 106 g/km and is the one to opt for.

There is also a 3.5-litre V6 on offer in the 450h model, it develops 345bhp, goes from 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds while fuel consumption is 6.1l/100km and CO2 emissions are only 141g/km.

The Lexus GS range combines advanced technology and good fuel economy with guilt-free performance.

Prices starting from: €49,950 Trims: Executive, Luxury, F-Sport, Premium Engine: PH 2.5, 3.5 NCAP: Not tested

Lexus IS300h: Lexus has opted not to include a conventional petrol and diesel option in its IS range and instead it's pinning its hopes on a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with an electric motor.

Inspired by the LF-CC concept, the IS 300h is radically styled inside and out. Far more muscular than before, the exterior won't be to everyone's taste but it is certainly striking.

Inside the cabin is beautifully made, while on the road it is light and nimble to manoeuvre and around corners it's surprisingly sporty.

At speed the IS 300h feels very assured, the steering is nicely weighted. It goes from 0-100 km/h in 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 200km/h.

Switch it to Sport mode and the suspension is firm but not harsh and overall it is very engaging to drive.

CO2 emissions are just 97g/km and official fuel economy figures promise 4.2 litres per 100kms.

The only real downside to this car is the very unappealing CVT gearbox but if you get past that, the IS300h is an interesting alternative to the mainstream German brands.

Prices starting from: €38,980 Trims: Eco, S-Design, Sport, Executive, Premium Engine: PH 2.5 NCAP: 5 stars

Maserati Ghibli: With smouldering Italian good looks, the Ghibli takes design cues from the Quattroporte and is beguiling from any angle.

But beneath this stunning exterior is a cabin that blends Italian styling chic with genuine space for four and a generous 500-litre boot. For serious power, opt for the Ferrari-sourced 3-litre twin turbo V6 that comes with a roar that is simply intoxicating, surpassed only by the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

Befitting such a soundtrack, the Ghibli S reaches 100km/h in 5.0 seconds and has a top speed of 285km/h.

Combined with the smooth, seamless shifting between eight gears the Ghibli handles tight and sticks beautifully to the road on 19-inch wheels.

Fast cars with big engines also use a lot of fuel matched to high emissions and the Ghibli is no exception - according to Maserati it uses about 10.4 litres per 100km or 27.2 mpg on a combined cycle; and CO2 emissions of 242 g/km mean motor tax is €2,350.

On the flip side, the Maserati Ghibli is far more exotic than rival executive saloons.

Prices starting from: £48,980 (Sterling). Trims: Ghibli, Ghibli S, Ghibli Diesel. Engine: P 3.0, D 3.0. NCAP: 5 stars

Mazda6: The Mazda6 saloon was improved for 2015 and is one of the best-looking saloons on the market. Changes to the outside of the Mazda 6 are subtle - it has gained LED headlights, redesigned tail lights and a more striking front grille.

Smoked Grey 19" alloys have also been introduced at Platinum grade.

Inside the dash has been completely revamped and if you opt for the Platinum spec you'll get a head-up display.

Engine options include a 2.0 litre petrol and a 2.2 litre diesel, both with very impressive fuel economy.

Mazda has blended core family saloon must-haves, such as space, comfort and fuel efficiency with its 'zoom zoom' DNA.

The price tag is a little higher than rivals but it is well equipped, extremely reliable and efficient, so long-term running costs will be lower than most of the competitors.

Prices starting from: €29,295 Trims; Executive, Executive SE, Platinum Engine: P 2.0, D 2.2 NCAP: 5 stars

Mercedes C-Class: From whichever angle you view it the C-Class is a very chic car. All the familiar Mercedes design cues are present and this baby saloon of the family is like a miniature S-Class.

Like a day at an exclusive spa, the C-Class is the perfect place to escape the daily grind.

Inside it has everything you would expect from a Mercedes; stylish and modern, the dials clear and elegant and the seats are incredibly comfortable.

Soft leather and leather-effect material drapes everything else. It is also bigger than the previous model with plenty of space, front and back.

Irish buyers get three diesels to choose from, C220, C250 and C300 and three petrol C180, C200 and C250. On the road there isn't so much as a whisper of road noise inside and it is smooth with plenty of oomph for effortlessly overtaking.

The diesel engines are not quite as refined as you might expect but they offer the best blend of performance and low running costs.

Prices starting from: €35,850 Trims: Avantgarde, Exclusive, AMG Line Engine: D 1.6 2.1 P 1.6, 2.0 NCAP: 5 stars

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Despite being the car that defines the Mercedes brand and the best seller in the range, the E-Class has never been what you might consider exciting or entertaining to drive. All that changed with the launch of the new model.

Reassuringly, the E Class does not look that radically different from the outside; a little less angular than before, it now has a more coupe-like roofline with an S-Class-like sophistication and elegance.

Combining practicality with good looks, there is also an extra 65mm in the wheelbase, which means improved legroom front and back.

Under the bonnet is where the greatest changes have occurred and the E-Class is the first to benefit from the new 2.0 litre, four-cylinder diesel that replaces the 2.2-litre.

It delivers a 17pc weight reduction, lower fuel consumption (3.9 litres/100km combined), lower C02 (102g/km), increased horsepower (194 HP), 400Nm of torque and lower road tax (€190).

Also available is an E350d version at €66,900. Further model variants to follow in time will include an E350e hybrid and a powerful V6 E350d.

The new generation E-Class is refined, efficient and the quality is particularly impressive.

Prices starting from: €52,850 Trims; Avantgarde, Exclusive, AMG Engine: D 2.0, 3.0 NCAP: Not Yet Tested`

Mitsubishi Lancer: Not the most exiting car in the Mitsubishi range, the Lancer is safe and solid on the road with plenty of room for up to five people and a good size boot.

It is well-equipped and comes with a decent level of standard equipment, including 16" alloys, front fog lights, and multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel, electric windows, Bluetooth, air con.

Just one engine is offered - a 117bhp 1.6 petrol with 132 g/km. Overall there is little wrong with the Lancer but its best days are well and truly behind it.

An update to the range is due later in the year.

Prices starting from: €18,495 Trims: Intense Engine: P 1.6 NCAP: 5 stars

Opel Insignia: Launched in 2009 and face-lifted in 2013, the Insignia is beginning to feel a little dated. But inside, it comes with generous space for five adults and has a quality build and luggage space of 530 litres. Powering the line-up is a wide range of diesels delivering economy and performance. The Opel OnStar  offers a host of services, ranging from in-car wifi to automatic emergency assistance if you're involved in a collision and is similar to an on-board concierge system. It is available to Insignia customers free for year one and after that the annual subscription is around €99. It is optional on S and SC trims and standard on SRi, SE and Elite trims. In-car wifi for up to seven devices will be available this summer and pricing is expected to be comparable to other monthly internet bundles.

Behind the wheel, the Insignia is all about comfort and while it is not quite as sharp to drive as many rivals and suffers more body roll in corners, it offers good value for money and style in abundance.

Prices starting from: €24,995. Trims; S, SC, SE, Elite, SRi, OPC. Engine: D 1.6, 2.0 P 1.4, 2.8. NCAP: 5 stars

PEUGEOT 508: With plans to move its flagship saloon more upmarket, Peugeot launched the 508 late last year with new equipment, a tweaked exterior and interior design and the latest economical engines. The 508 also comes with a very reassuring five-year warranty. Everything you could possibly wish for and more, including Bluetooth and USB connectivity, air con, cruise control and 16ins alloys is standard 508 and there is a special-order GT model.

All 508s manage to offer a nice fusion of good comfort and an involving drive and it is beautifully smooth and ideal for long journeys.

You wouldn't call it agile on winding county lanes, but it is by no means tiring to drive and it's nimble enough and easy to manoeuvre, so that city driving and parking are a doddle. The 508 has a sufficient dash of French chic to make it stand out from the crowd.

Prices starting from: €27,250. Trims; Access, Active, Allure, GT Line, GT. Engine: D1.6, 2.0. NCAP: 5 stars.

Renault Fluence: The Fluence is all about value for money but this smart-looking car is by no means a cheap cut-price special. As far as interior roominess goes, the Fluence has space for five adults and a decent boot - ideal for everything from luggage to camping equipment. There is just one engine on offer, a 1.6 litre diesel. If comfort and practicality are your key requirements then the Fluence is worth considering. It may not be the most exciting car on the road but it is well priced and running costs won't break the bank.

Prices starting from: €21,290 Trims; Expression, Dynamique, Limited, R-Link. Engine: D 1.5. NCAP: 4 stars

Skoda Octavia: Bigger than the Ford Focus but smaller than the Mondeo, the current Octavia - launched here in 2013 - is longer, wider and far more stylish, both inside and out, than the previous version. Inside, it is the space that really sets the Octavia apart from rivals and the boot measures a whopping 590 litres. Offered with both manual and automatic transmission and seven engine alternatives. All engines come with stop-start technology that significantly increases overall fuel economy. There is also a 4x4 Octavia with a 2.0L diesel and 150bhp output, with impressive fuel consumption due to the Haldex system. The four-wheel drive only engages when needed, so there is no real fuel penalty.

The Octavia has always been a good choice as it offers excellent value for money; opt for the higher trim levels, as basic versions are a little sparse on equipment. If you want something with more performance, the Octavia RS will not disappoint.

Prices starting from: €18,995. Trims; Active, Ambition, Style, L&K. Engine: P 1.2 D 1.6, 2.0. NCAP: 5 stars.

Skoda Superb: Skoda's flagship model lives up to its name supremely. With signature strong Germanic design lines, the exterior is considerably smarter in the all-new Superb, launched late last year. Inside, high-quality materials are used throughout but it is the rear leg room where the Superb really shines - there's plenty of space for two tall adults to stretch out and the boot is huge - in fact, it's nearly easier to climb in rather than reaching to retrieve items from the cavernous space.

Wifi capability for the Superb is available as an option and starts at €87. There is a huge engine range and all are more efficient, from 1.6TDI to a 2.0TDI, while petrol options include a new 2.0 TSI petrol with 280bhp and an optional seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda's Superb is pretty unbeatable as a blend of comfort, space and economy.

Prices starting from: €26,995. Trims; Active, Ambition, Style, L&K. Engine: P 1.4, 2.0 D 1.6, 2.0. NCAP: 5 stars

Toyota Avensis: One of the country's top-selling models, the Toyota Avensis has always been the Captain Sensible of saloon cars. It is without doubt a prudent purchase but it is practical, safe and durable and will accommodate five adults easily and comfortably. Originally introduced in 2009, it was significantly refreshed last year and gained some subtle improvements to the exterior and two new BMW-sourced 1.6-litre and 2-litre diesel engines have been introduced to the range. The line-up also includes two petrol options, a 1.6 and 1.8, and every model has decent equipment.

The Avensis may still not be the most thrilling car on the road but it is sharper-looking, better to drive and offers quality and reliability that are hard to beat.

Prices starting from: €25,995. Trims; Aura, Luna, Sol. Engine: P 1.6, 1.8 D 1.6, 2.0. NCAP: 5 stars

Toyota Prius: There are few cars that can be considered truly game-changing, but the Toyota Prius is one. Now in its fourth generation, the Prius is lighter, stronger and more dynamic than the car it replaces. While still familiar as a Prius, the new car gets distinctive styling, it is now longer and wider and overall a much smarter-looking vehicle.

Inside, the new Prius cabin is more upmarket, with a modern, almost space-age feel. The smaller battery is now positioned under the rear seats which allows for 56 litres of extra luggage space, bringing the boot size to 502 litres.

The new Prius is even greener than before, the 1.8 petrol engine has been tweaked and Toyota reckons you will get 94.1mpg (3litres/100km) and emit just 70g/km of CO2 emissions so road tax is €170.

On the road, it is now much better to drive, is built on a new platform and feels much more agile as the steering is more precise.

The hybrid game may have moved on since the Prius was first launched but it's still the one to beat in the green car market.

Prices starting from: €31,450. Trims; Hybrid, Hybrid Luxury. Engine: PH 1.8. NCAP: Not yet tested

Volkswagen Passat: With the new-generation Passat, Volkswagen finally got serious about its flagship saloon. Before, the Passat was the car of choice if you didn't crave attention or demand a lively drive. But now, along with new styling comes with a host of new technology. There are three diesel engines to choose from but if petrol is your preference, then there are two 1.4-litre engines on offer, a 125bhp or a 150 bhp which uses VW's active cylinder technology. This operates by shutting off two of the engine's four cylinders when they are not required, which means that you'll get a lot more out of your fuel tank.

A Passat GTE plug-in hybrid with its 1.4-litre TSi engine is also available. The petrol engine combines with an 85kw lithium ion battery to produce an impressive 218hp, while returning a claimed combined economy of 1.7l/100km (or 166mpg).

If you want a comfortable, stylish and efficient car, the Passat has a lot to offer.

Prices starting from: €28,410 Trims; Trendline, Comfortline, Highline. Engine: D 1.6, 2.0 P 1.4, PH 1.4. NCAP: 5 stars

Volvo S60: Revamped two years ago, the S60 got a much-needed injection of style. Now sporting a more coupe-like profile, while under the bonnet the new Drive-e engines are now available. For 2016, there are three new diesel engines for D2, D3 and D5, plus increased power for the new 190bhp D4.

Inside, the S60 is the simple and stylish. The Swedish interior is beautifully built and this minimalist design is both practical and functional.

Space is good throughout but overall it is not quite as roomy as some rivals, particularly in the rear. It has Volvo's City Safety System, designed to help avoid a low-speed crash or to reduce its severity, among a host of passive and active systems. Much under-rated by Irish motorists, the Volvo S60 is safe, comfortable and very refined.

Prices Starting From: €36,845 Trims; ES, SE, SE Lux, R-Design SE. Engine: D 2.0, 2.5. NCAP: 5 stars

Volvo S90: The new Volvo S90, a successor to the outgoing S80, will be launched in Ireland this summer. Following in the footsteps of the XC90, the grille and those signature headlights are all familiar but the S90 is a much more sleek and elegant package. As with the exterior, inside the minimalist interior borrows heavily from the XC90, including the large, vertically oriented touch screen.

Safety is key in the S90 and Volvo introduces a world-first function to City Safety - large animal detection - a system capable of detecting large animals such as cattle or horses, night or day. Pricing for Volvo' s flagship model will start at €48,400 for the D4 Momentum Geartronic diesel.

That engine has emissions of just 116g/km, so the road tax is €200 a year. There will be two 2-litre 4cyl diesel engines, a front-wheel-drive 190hp D4 with an 8spd automatic gearbox (116g/km, 64.2mpg), and a 235hp D5 diesel with PowerPulse technology. NCAP: Not yet tested

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