No space in my life for this
Mazda makes great cars so why don't more people buy them? The answer lies in the boot
Taxi drivers can be annoying, especially if they start giving their opinions on everything from my nationality, accent or profession. Other times they can be a mine of knowledge and encapsulate a debate in one sentence.
Take last Saturday. I was picked up by a driver in a new Toyota Prius. We started chatting about the car and the relative benefits of a hybrid. "It's simple," the driver told me. "I look at my pocket. In my last car I was putting €55 worth of fuel in every night. Now I am putting in €40 every second night. So every two days I am saving €70. You can't beat that."
He also loved the way the car was totally automatic. "I'm richer and my life is easier. In this job, what could be better than that?"
The conversation has stayed with me over the past week as the debate about emissions, electric car charging stations and meeting carbon commitments has intensified. The case for moving to electric is becoming stronger, but the reason to switch to hybrid is absolutely compelling. Anybody contemplating buying in the 181 cycle should have at least one such vehicle on their shortlist.
According to reports last week, the European Union has proposed tougher car emissions targets, including a credit system for carmakers to encourage the roll-out of electric vehicles and fines for exceeding carbon dioxide limits.
But the plan faces stiff opposition from nations with big automotive industries, with German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel warning yesterday those stricter emissions rules could cost growth and jobs.
The European Commission's proposal aims to curb greenhouse gases from transport as part of a drive to cut emissions by at least 40pc below 1990 levels by 2030.
The EU's executive is keen for legislation to stimulate European industry to develop electric vehicles, afraid that it is falling behind China, Japan and the United States.
One type of car that will be on a lot of people's minds is the small SUV. As stated last week, these seem to be popping out almost weekly from one manufacturer or another. I can see the advantages of them in giving a slightly more rugged, protected and sporty image to their buyers, even if the most action they will get is in a car park in Phoenix Park. Last week, I was driving the Mazda CX-3 which is one of the more original of the species and is a very fine and sophisticated car all round. Mazda is strangely overlooked as a brand here, although it is one of the most reliable marques out there and has been making fine cars for years.
They are superb second-hand cars if you can get them. As for the CX-3, it had the 2-litre petrol engine and was in GT luxury trim, with everything from a lot of leather and suede, camera, heads-up display, navigation and masses of safety equipment - including Advanced Smart City Brake Support. It feels very high-end and was let down only by the cargo space. This was high off the ground and not very big - a surprise as underneath there is an awful lot of wasted space, which could have been used. However, it seems part of the sound system takes up a big corner.
But the standout aspect of this car, away from the comfort, is that it is a cracking drive and perhaps the best in its sector. It is precise, confident and brings the joy back to driving. With the car's good looks, the whole is a reflection of the company's Koda idea - soul of motion design.
It has "real substance". It's fast, sassy and so well specced. Do something about the boot and I'm hooked. As a fellow writer commented: "It is a beautifully weighted car." And this boot thing could be a deal-breaker for some, which is a pity.
A colleague in the office is having a baby this week. He wants to buy a family friendly car and was impressed by the CX-3. But I had to warn him that by the time he put a pushchair in the boot, there wouldn't be much space for anything else.
There are many rivals out there but this could be the clear leader of the pack if it wasn't for this space issue, otherwise its comfort and refinements are first class. You should get around 40mpg, lower than Mazda claims but good enough. Its reliability is absolutely first class. At €28,595 it is a very good package.
The week before the Mazda, I had been looking forward to driving the new Seat Ibiza as I had been told it was a massive improvement on its predecessor and a real player in the supermini sector. Perhaps so; unfortunately, I was driving the FR version with a very peppy 1.0TSI engine developing 115bhp. Snazzy alloys, sound system and paint job didn't make up for the lack of a few things I like these days such as parking sensors and, ideally, rear-view camera.
However, it certainly could move, was plenty of fun and had a massive luggage area, despite a big lip. But at more than €23k, it isn't even an option and is out of sight of the Ibiza starting price of €14,995.
Rather a wasted week for me, although the lads who delivered the car were really taken with it. Age, no doubt. Seat always seems to have problems with getting the right spec mix. I am still looking forward to the Arona, Ibiza's big sister Crossover. Geraldine's report last week whetted my appetite. Let's hope it can be sated.
The Ibiza is bigger, more stylish and drives better than the old model which aged very fast. But it just didn't do it for me. Here I am at odds with many of my colleagues and the public seems to agree. Sales of Seat are doing well when that of most manufacturers are falling fast. I expect the Ateca and Arona will be big successes next year.
I am pleased that the excellent Peugeot 3008 eventually took overall honours after an earlier split vote with the Skoda Kodiaq in the local Continental Tyres Car of the Year awards. It's another great tribute to Peugeot's marketing guru, Emma Toner.
Hopefully, the award will make up for the brutal scenes at the Irish launch of the 3008 at Castle Leslie when a couple of journalists brawled in the early hours and others had to be ferried back to Dublin the next morning as they weren't capable of driving.
A number of us have been that soldier in the past, but these days it's not acceptable. Grow up.
Next week I am away, but Geraldine Herbert has a full motoring supplement. Enjoy it.