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Small, but perfectly formed

Campbell Spray ferries rugby fans in the new Hyundai and catches up with a car which was once Ireland's No 1 supporter

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 The Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10

When the Welsh team comes to the Aviva, my life gets busier. For each alternate year, since 1980, I have been hosting friends who hail or once hailed from the principality. At one time they came in almost busloads; now they come in twos and threes and I can put them up in my own home rather than have them scattered around Dublin.

It is good to meet them at the airport and hopefully return them there in good spirits even when, like this year, they lose. Last weekend, I met flights from Manchester and Cardiff, as well as one from London because my rugby-mad son was flying back for the match.

Often I try to book a test car that will give my friends a bit of a thrill, or it might be me just showing off a bit. However, the chips fell differently this year and my scheduled vehicle was the new Hyundai i10.

I have known the i10 for a long time. My wife has bought two of them and is still driving a 2012 version, while the last model was the Sunday Independent Car of the Year and would have had the award in perpetuity if I could have strong-armed my other judges. As one of my colleagues on another paper recently wrote, "the i10 is all the car you ever need".

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The Opel Corsa, out to regain some of its former glory

The Opel Corsa, out to regain some of its former glory

The Opel Corsa, out to regain some of its former glory

The new version is even bigger than the last and will take three - with a bit of a squeeze - in the back. It is a city car but equally feels confident on the open road. While the people I picked up from the airport weren't of the Devin Toner build, they could all hold their own on the rugby field.

The little bit of extra room in the new i10 suited them very well and the ride is now much better - as is the overall comfort and technology, including an eight-inch touchscreen.

The range of safety aids on the test car was very impressive. The engine is still the reliable 1.0-litre petrol unit which powered the previous model and you have to plan your overtaking well. There is also a 1.2 engine in other markets.

However, once up and going, the i10 is very capable, even on the fair bit of motorway driving I did. The style has developed very nicely over the last decade so this third-generation model has real presence.

Prices start at €14,745 for the Classic version and rise to €17,245 for the De Luxe Plus. Delivery and metallic paint is extra. However, all Hyundais have a five-year warranty. There is an automatic version, but it is rather crude and I was disappointed in it and you will be, too. The i10 is the country's best-selling city car, and I don't see any reason why the new version shouldn't keep that crown.

In a much bigger sector than the i10 is the new Corsa, which hopes to begin the resurgence of the Opel brand in the country. The very impressive James Brooks is the new managing director - previously MD at Kia Ireland - and he has been joined from Peugeot by the equally outstanding Emma Toner as marketing director.

Now under the umbrella of the Gowan Group, who also hold the Honda and Peugeot franchises here, Opel aims to regain some of the love that made it a top-selling marque in the country at the time it was backing Jack Charlton's massively successful national soccer team as "Ireland's Number One supporter". This began in 1986 and continued through the glory years at the end of that decade and through the next.

The new Corsa is very much like the Peugeot 208 which has also been launched. Both models will be available with petrol, diesel and electric propulsion with the same internal space.

Asked why people should go Opel rather than with the French pug, with whom they share premises, Dara Quane, the PR and dealer brand manager, talked of the Corsa's German heritage, switchgear and more solid feel on the road.

This is the sixth-generation Corsa since the first one was launched in 1982, and in the following 38 years, 13.6 million have hit the roads. It is also the first all-new model in 12 years.

While it has roughly the same dimensions as its predecessor, it is a bit lower, has 108kg less weight, and is much more economical and cleaner. Across the new Opel range there will be fewer options, the range will be simplified and, according to Brooks, the company is moving away from volume at any price and will move to protect residual values at all costs. He also declares that "safety is not an option".

The Irish company now has its own warehouse for the first time in 30 years.

The Opel Corsa is the first of a number of new models which will include a plug-in hybrid and other electric models.

Priced from €17,975, plus delivery related charges, the Corsa is already an international award-winner, crowned AutoBest Best Buy Car of Europe 2020. Higher spec models could hit €25k.

The Corsa-e arrives in April and its 134bhp unit returns an electric range of up to 337km (WLTP) and retains the same internal space and comfort as its petrol and diesel sisters.

Together with the Opel Grandland X plug-in hybrid, the Corsa-e's arrival in 2020 marks the start of an Opel electrification-offensive with the Vivaro-e van, and electric Opel Combo Life, Combo Cargo and Zafira Life to follow. Indeed, all Opel models will have an electric version by 2024.

In 1983, an Opel was the first car I had to test in this country. In the last few years I heard very little from the marque. I think that is all going to change. It will be a long, hard road back, but the first steps have been taken.

***

I am sorry that my former colleague Shane Ross lost his seat in the General Election and will step down as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the new government is formed.

Much as he was disliked by certain interests, Shane was an excellent Transport Minister and made great strides in bringing about safer roads. He doesn't deserve the abuse or ignorant crowing that happened.

There will be families that won't suffer tragedy and people still alive in the future because of Shane's persistence in bringing in new legislation on drinking and driving and other matters. Shane should be thanked, not ridiculed.

Sunday Independent