Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan looks at three newcomers to Irish roads including the 2020 Renault Clio, the Mazda Cx-30 and the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq.

2020 Renault Clio from €17,195

orange-coloured Renault Clio 2020 model.

The new Renault Clio’s TV advertising campaign broke pioneering new ground. The decision not to portray the new car in some clichéd Parisian scene but as a love story over thirty years was a triumph.

Performance is satisfactory enough and crests the 0-100km bar in just under 12 seconds

It’s notable that the pioneering message didn’t filter down as largely into the new fifth-generation Clio. Looking much like the previous car it sits atop a new Renault-Nissan platform (shared with Nissan’s Duke) it gets a stretched wheelbase from the previous car by up to 43mm.

The Irish range of Renault Clios is the Expression, the Dynamique, Ionic and RS Line ranging in prices from €17,195 to €22,295.

I drove the Clio TCe 100 five-speed manual in Valencia Orange it looked confident with a prominent front grille, this is a good-looking supermini from any angle. I liked the Clio’s hidden rear door handles that are placed high on the left side of the rear window that fools you into initially thinking this is a three-door hatch. My TCe 100 was fitted with a 999cc petrol three-cylinder engine with a 74hp and 95Nm torque offset by a 1,148 kerb weight. Performance is satisfactory enough and crests the 0-100km bar in just under 12 seconds. The engine proved peppy but needs to be driven that degree harder to extract the best performance and pitting it against a Ford Fiesta it feels more of a chore than in the rival’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost.

The Clio’s ride and handling is underpinned by torsion-bar suspension that manages urban roads imperfections well and has more depth of suspension damping than the Fiesta. Faced-off against the Ford, the Clio’s steering offers good feedback – even if it’s a little vague at the straight-ahead point – but never feels anywhere as good as the small blue oval.

And how could it? The Fiesta’s scalpel-sharp steering is now legendary and raises the bar for crisp responsiveness in a supermini. Renault says the Clio’s interior has been vastly improved. I’d beg to differ. Apart from a long strip of fake carbon soft mouldings on the dashboard there are precious other parts the cabin that hasn’t been manufactured from hard plastic.

Volkswagen’s Polo shows how it can be done for around the same price. There have been reports citing issues with the infotainment system but they weren’t replicated on my test and responded quickly to commands without any latency. The gearbox is precise enough but again it feels less accurate than the Fiesta or the Polo. These things are crucial when living with a car from day-to-day over a period of years.

Standard equipment is strong with daytime LED running lights/headlights, power heated mirrors, hill start assist, emergency braking/pedestrian/cyclist detection, lane keep assist/lane departure warning, cruise control, manual air conditioning, 1 x USB, 4.2” TFT infotainment screen. The Clio is a likeable car. All Renault needs to do is pay better attention to the quality and how precisely the controls work and it would be getting a stronger report card.

You’ll like: Ooh la la looks. Good interior space. Comfortable ride. Good visibility and practicality.

You’ll grumble: Ooh, that interior. Gearbox. Engine lacks character.

2020 Mazda CX-30 from €29,495

Red Mazda SUV on road.

Before we get to Mazda’s engineering and engine technology please give a moment to admire the new Mazda CX-30. What a pretty thing it is.

Passing out Aston Martin is never possible on the road but while stationary the CX-30 is a beguiling creation

Blessed with lithe proportions tightly stretches Mazda 3’s platform body it merits an equally glowing discussion alongside Aston Martin’s new DBX and to my eyes even pips the Aston with better resolved rear proportions. Passing out Aston Martin is never possible on the road but while stationary the CX-30 is a beguiling creation.

If you insist your interiors are designed with minimal buttons and high quality surfaces with supremely cushioned seats you’ll like the CX-30 very much in indeed.

The CX-30 sits in between the CX-3 and CX-5 crossover SUVs. It punches hard against many rivals like the Toyota C-HR and Peugeot 3008 and on visual appeal alone it has the two of them beaten. Not so fast, though.

My car came with a 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol four-cylinder engine with 122ps and 213Nm torque (that’s the pulling power of the engine when you accelerate in high gear) and on the scales it tips in at 1,409 kg kerb weight. Sounds innocuous enough but in practice, Mazda’s dogged approach to novel engineering solutions trips itself up with this petrol engine.

Mazda’s claimed acceleration times of 0-100km look poor in 10.6 seconds. And when I tested the car it felt slower and struggled over the Wicklow mountains test route that I use. If you’re keen to have one of the prettiest crossover SUVs on your driveway avoid the petrol and buy the diesel powered Skyactiv-D. What about the Skyactiv-X engines, then? I had a short opportunity to drive the Mazda 3 with the new Skyactiv-X engine.

The promised increase in performance and torque is present but not to the extent that it proves a promised game changer. Drive one yourself to find out. Top tip, if you’re buying a new Mazda CX-30 go for the diesel engines, for now. Get that right and you’ll have found the sweet spot in the CX-30’s range.

You’ll like: So much to like Mazda 3 – stunning looks and interior. Accurate steering mimics MX-5 nimbleness.

You’ll grumble: Avoid the standard petrol engine and for now the forthcoming Skyactiv-X.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq from €34,850 (includes VRT exemption €5,000, €745 residual VRT paid by Hyundai and SEAI grant €5,000)

White Hyundai electric vehicle.

It may be a bit early into the year to pull off a memorable surprise in its all-new 100kW Hyundai Ioniq Electric. But it is a notable one. Starting from €34,850 after grants my notes were littered with a chronological list of positives. Cast your eye over the car for the first time you’d be hard pressed to understand what all the fuss is about.

The car’s strongest appeal is how little it irritates and how well it calms the driver when stuck in gridlocked traffic like on Dublin’s dreaded M50

The all-new Ioniq Electric is a five-door fully electric car with no petrol or diesel power back-up. Parked on the street it would get as much warm admiration as finding Granddad’s old trousers in the attic. Take a look at the front grille. I’m not alone in believing it looks a bit cheap. That’s ruse that Hyundai is playing because the rest of the Ioniq Electric is quietly tremendous.

Firstly, to the electric range: Hyundai claims 312Km on one single charge and though it’s well short of Kia’s eNiro small crossover but it didn’t deplete the battery too quickly in January’s soggy weather.

Jump inside the Ioniq Electric and you sit higher than you’d expect with a good view over the bonnet and side windows. Rear visibility is fine due to the split rear window aperture. Only the high-sided c-pillar causes any obstruction but it is minimal. It seems Hyundai were set on making the car salesperson’s job as easy as possible.

The Ioniq Electric is filled, literally to the brim, with standard equipment that would fill a large part of this review if included. Go online and look for yourself. The placement of controls and buttons is sensible and the supplementary locating of buttons on the centre console makes it easy to set your car up easily in seconds. Nothing inside the cabin is unconventional and I found it a very easy car to simply jump into and set off to the shops or the gym. As an electric car, it holds few surprises – it’s smooth and silent and perhaps rivals add an extra amount of sparkle for the keenest drivers. For the rest of the time, and for most of us, the Ioniq Electric is brilliantly normal.

The car’s strongest appeal is how little it irritates and how well it calms the driver when stuck in gridlocked traffic like on Dublin’s dreaded M50. I liked the little things that Hyundai have added – there’s the “leading vehicle is driving off” alert that chimes when stationary in traffic and the car ahead pulls away. If you’re sitting in traffic daydreaming of sunny Spain or Portugal it’s a very useful feature.

In summary, the Ioniq Electric does everything you’d expect from a five-door saloon EV and though it’s a bit dull to look at it managed the unachievable – I struggled to find one area of the car that necessitated improvement. From €34,850 it makes a tremendous all-electric car buy and it earns itself a top recommendation.

You’ll like: Almost faultless. Commendable, if not extraordinary, electric range. Easy to live with. Smooth, calming.

You’ll grumble: Could look a little less beige. Nothing else.

Published: 4 February 2020

Recommended