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The future's electric for makers after a bad year

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PLUGGED IN: New Kuga PHEV is fuel-efficient and powerful

PLUGGED IN: New Kuga PHEV is fuel-efficient and powerful

PLUGGED IN: New Kuga PHEV is fuel-efficient and powerful

Yes, 2020 has been a bad year for new car sales; the best of the season is gone and the trade is in shock. But, ever optimistic, the industry is lining up fresh and more efficient models.

Electric and hybrid-powered options are to the fore, with companies such as Fiat producing a baby 500 in EV mode with a claimed range of over 300km, while at the other end of the scale Mercedes Benz will launch a new S-Class with an electric range of 740km.

Skoda, a brand that in the past has relied heavily on diesel, especially in the Octavia model, is on the electric trail in earnest with the newly launched Enyaq, an all-new SUV with the latest in EV technology.

The Nissan Leaf started the ball rolling in a big way here for the family-sized models, but the arrival of Tesla focused the big guns on EV power and now Jaguar is understood to be planning to become a fully electric brand.

Ford has an $11bn (€9.3bn) budget for development of "alternative powered vehicles", and electrification is to the forefront, although the hybrid route has been the first cautious step. The Mondeo was first to get the hybrid treatment but the new arrival, the all-new Kuga, gets the plug-in hybrid treatment.

More stylish lines and longer, wider and lower, it is now claimed to be the largest medium-sized SUV on the market. The big interest here is the efficiency of the PHEV system. Ford claims a pure electric driving range of 56km - enough, they say, to satisfy more than 80pc of all customer journeys. So why buy a vehicle that costs over €33,000 if that is the journey? A hybrid Fiesta would be more in tune with this range of driving.

But the combination of a 2.5-litre petrol engine and a 14.4kWh battery with a claimed range of 85km/L and a power output of 225bhp does illustrate how fuel-efficient and powerful (for long journeys without anxiety) the combination can be.

The PHEV version is only €75 dearer than the lead-in price on the 1.5-litre diesel, which starts at €33,357.

Another new recent launch is the Skoda Octavia, which has always been a popular diesel model here. This is also set to get the plug-in hybrid treatment for sales in early 2021. Skoda is aiming to become the second biggest car brand here and the new Octavia will be a big player with very high spec.

New two-litre diesel engines, which replace 1.6-litre units, are more efficient. A price rise of €1,900 is offset by €3,200-worth of extras as standard. Prices start at €23,950 for petrol models.

Sunday Independent