Why petrol hatchbacks are making a comeback
Despite our love affair with saloons, hatchbacks still make up to 42pc of Irish car sales and the most widely bought car this year is the Volkswagen Golf. As diesels continue to grab the headlines for all the wrong reasons, there are many compelling reasons to buy petrol instead.
This year, petrol cars are making a comeback, the market is actually growing much faster than diesel due to better a choice and more efficient engines. To give a snapshot of what is available, we look at three new entrants to the hatchback market.
Kia c'eed 1.0 petrol: The second-generation cee'd has been refreshed and while you have to look twice to spot the exterior changes, it has a more imposing road presence - but is still all very familiar, with Kia's signature 'tiger-nose' grille, along with wrap-around headlamps and integrated fog lamps. Also new for 2015, upgraded models now come with a new GT Line that is available on two of the three cee'd body types - five-door cee'd and three-door pro-cee'd - and promises the sporty looks and dynamics of the GT models with the versatility of the conventional cee'd model family.
A new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is also available and stylish new 16- and 17-inch alloy wheel designs are offered across the range.
It is under the bonnet, however, where the real changes have been made. Our test car was powered by a new three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 120bhp and 172Nm torque. According to Kia, it will return 4.9l/100km (60mpg) and CO2 emissions are just 109g/km.
On the road, the cee'd is much improved and the suspension soaks up bumps and potholes nicely. It handles corners really well and, while perhaps still not quite as sharp as Ford's Focus, the level of refinement and smoothness is as good as any rival. The engine is much punchier than the official figures suggest and has none of the droning whine we expect from these turbo-charged, tiny petrol engines.
Prices for the 1.0 litre petrol turbo start at €20,650 and our GT press car came in at €22,550.
Citroen C4 1.2 Puretech 130 S+S Flair: Updated earlier this year, exterior changes may be minimal, but inside the C4 has a modern interior and under the bonnet there is a range of new and very efficient engines. The PureTech 110 petrol engine is new and with 130bhp and 240Nms of torque, it offers plenty of performance. The running costs are similar to those of a diesel and has a claimed 4.8l/100km (60mpg), with just 110g/km of CO2.
On the road, it is good to drive and while it is not a car for setting scorching Nurburgring lap records, it is ideal for commuting and the school run. Engine noise is noticeable when the car is idling but once up to a reasonable speed, it is refined but the gears need to be worked to get the best out of it.
Despite the revamp, the C4 is showing its age but the addition of the new 1.2 petrol makes it more appealing than before and it still competes on traditional Citroën strengths, such as comfort, innovation and value. Our press car was the Flair spec, with a price of €23,445, but the entry level C4 starts at €19,995.
Toyota Auris 1.2 turbo petrol engine: Refreshed for 2015, the new exterior is smarter, with updated headlamps, grille and new LED lights. Inside, the interior is of much better quality and a new (7ins) integrated touch screen is a welcome addition. The latest Auris now comes with a choice of five engines and while over half of buyers are likely to opt for diesel, the 1.2 petrol turbo is new to the range and is certainly worth considering.
It's a four-cylinder unit that produces 116bhp and 185 Nms of torque. On the road, it is punchy yet refined and promises diesel-like emissions and fuel consumption.
On a mix of motorway and city driving, Toyota reckon you'll get 5.4 litres per 100km (52.3 mpg) and emissions are 125g/km. Handling has improved significantly, compared to the previous model, and the steering gives better feedback.
It's still not a car you would buy for the driving dynamics but it is smooth, refined and easy to drive.
Prices start at €20,750 for the 1.3-litre petrol and at €22,250 for the diesel. Our test car was priced at €24,500.