Renault teams with Irish Restaurant Awards 2017

Renault Ireland and The Restaurant Association of Ireland have announced Renault Ireland as the official car partner of the Irish Restaurant Awards 2017, writes Trish Whelan . The Irish Restaurant Awards (RAI) will travel around the country driving new Renault models for a series of regional events this March to announce county and regional award winners across 15 different categories. County winners will be announced at four regional events with over 600 guests expected to attend each. This year’s host counties for the events are Kilkenny, Fermanagh, Limerick and Sligo. This year over 80,000 individual nominations were cast online from 11-25 January. Pictured above are Ciara Doyle (Business Development & Sponsorship Manager, Restaurant Association of Ireland), and Liz O’Gorman (Marketing Manager Renault Ireland) with two chefs from The Radisson Blue St Helen’s, Stillorgan Road, Dublin. Speaking on the quantity of nominations received, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

Review: Kia Optima Sportswagon

It's a pity that the SUV trend has taken over from estate cars, and also that the medium-large saloon is a declining segment, writes Brian Byrne. Because these are the formats which I think produce some of the nicest and most practical cars.

Indeed, most makers of estate cars now find some different way of describing them. So we have Sportbrake, Tourer, Sportswagon. Such as the first Kia Optima Sportswagon. One of the nicest of the latest batch, actually.

First, though, let’s take a look at the segment, where the medium-sized car now represents roughly 10pc of all car sales. Dominated in order by the top five models, VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Toyota Avensis and Opel Insignia.

It’s hard for the smaller makes to impact here. In Kia’s case, a registration of some 425 Optimas this year is respectable against a total of 14,500 or so medium cars in the mass-market arena. But it’s still a tough push, and they’re very glad to have the Sportage SUV as their very popular top seller.

Now to the Optima Sportswagon. Estate style cars in general are only around 8pc of sales in Ireland (though much more popular in other, larger markets in Europe, like Italy, and Germany). In the medium car segment here, the proportion is possibly a little higher, maybe 11pc. So, it’s still worth having a presence there.

And the new Optima wagon is really good in the presence department. The edgily elegant front end is now familiar to those of us who notice the Optima saloon in its latest version. But from the A pillar where the roof rails set a new line to the estate rear, the designers have done a really good job of providing an attractive alternative to the saloon. In particular, the kick-up from the waistline to the tailgate nails nicely what’s often a difficult transition in style terms.

Inside, with just a single grade available here, the specification is high. Dual zone aircon, cloth and leather seat trim, auto cruise control, sat-nav with TomTom wifi services, and a six-speaker sound system are just parts of the deal.

The dashboard and instruments style is straightforward, most of the important information being given in front of the driver, as it should be. Hallelujah for the retention of switch and knob controls, probably reflecting the very important American market for the Optima, where they prefer simplicity. But the finish of the trim is high, and the clarity of the instruments graphics outstanding.

You drive cars of this size easily. Not for the sound and fury, but for their relaxing qualities in a traffic environment that particularly in Europe tends to be intense and stressing. The Optima scores nicely in this need, and in all my journeys it was a pleasant experience. The 1.7 diesel is well insulated from the cabin, and murmurs in the background. The manual gearshifter is sweet and precise, as expected from all makers these days. Steering, braking, and all general driving activities are exactly as they should be in this car.

The space with the wagon format offers 552L of cargo capacity with all seats in use, and that can be modified in a wide range of ways because all three rear seats can be individually popped down, easily by one-touch levers. There’s a safety barrier net to keep stuff from wandering in the back.

It’s a really nice family car, with lots of capacity and an elegance in a traditional wagon that the SUV format will struggle to achieve. For sure, the preferences that there are in Ireland at the moment, mean that the Optima Sportswagon won’t be flooding onto our roads in massive numbers. But I reckon those that do roll out of Irish Kia showrooms will be very much appreciated by their discerning owners.

The price is €29,950, plus charges.


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