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

Mazda MX-5 RF: First drive

When it comes to design, Mazda was already playing in the Premium League but the carmaker took on a new direction when designing its MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) hardtop which is a very different sports car to the MX-5 Roadster Coupe that it replaces and which had actually outsold the Soft Top towards the end of its lifecycle, writes Trish Whelan.

The biggest change to the MX-5 is in the roof. The intention had been to make the retractable hardtop disappear entirely when opened, but this had proved difficult to solve necessitating a completely different approach. 

“We freed our ways of traditional thinking and took on a new challenge,” the MX-5’s previous programme director Nobuhiro Yamamoto told us during a presentation on the new car.

The result of their endeavours is stunning fastback styling and a teardrop shaped cabin that is also well up the Luxury League. 

This is what Mazda call Jinba Ittai which is Mazda’s goal of achieving perfect harmony between a horse and rider (Drive Together). We were advised that it’s all to do with comfort, safety, C02 emissions and with connectivity - making occupants feel ‘at one’ and very relaxed in the car. 

Once inside, you do get the feel of a very relaxed environment and the anticipation and feel of a quality drive. It’s easy to see that the car is aimed at a ‘more sophisticated customer’ with a higher quality interior space with tan leather for the leather seats (RF GT Option), and a 4.6 inch, full colour TFT LCD in the instrument cluster. The seats are of a very high quality leather and come with alcantara in the centre cushions. They hold you in snugly. 

However, the RF’s roof is very different in that it consists of three sections and a back window. 

The roof is made from aluminium, steel and plastic buttresses which lift to allow the roof and the mechanisms to lower and then they return to their proper position. Aluminium is expensive to use but helps keep the car's weight down. The front roof, trunk lid, front fender, front seat back bar, and the front suspension are all made from aluminium. 

This car has 127 litres of boot space which is only 3 litres less than the Soft Top and can fit two aircraft permitted carry-on trolley cases. We found no glovebox in the cars we drove but there was a storage box at the back between the seats for small items. 

While the day was bitterly cold, and we were given woolly caps to wear when driving with the lid down, the large wind blocker meant I didn’t need to wear it when driving up mountain roads. However, along faster roads, not to mention motorways, it was essential to raise the roof to keep the wind and noise out. It means you’d have to know your route to be able to slow down to raise the roof especially before entering a motorway. With the top closed, the cabin offers the quietness of a fixed-roof coupe. 

Besides traditional Soul Red, the model at one of the presentations sported a new colour, Machine Grey metallic only available on the RF version which showed off the dramatic design of the car with lights catching the various curves and transforming areas of paintwork to a matt or even a black finish - all to do with the reflection of the lighting. The red exterior colour seemed rather dull in comparison. 

Our first drive was in the 1.5, 131hp engine car which handled beautifully along the roads we travelled but which had to be worked really hard along part of our first test drive route which took in pretty stiff mountain climbs with hair pin bends, on very narrow roads with big drops and with little or no protection at the sides. Quite scary, really. This engine has a combined fuel return of 6.1 L/100kms and does 0-100km/h in 8.6 secs. 

More to my liking was the sportier 2.0 with 160 horses and 200Nm of torque at 4,600 rpm that will allow the car appeal to a wider market here in Ireland. I particularly enjoyed the engine’s sharp response and the short throw of the 6-speed gearbox. Mazda claims a 6.9 L/100kms combined fuel return for this engine size. It can sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds. 

Mazda Ireland expect Irish MX-5 RF sales to be split 50:50 between both engine sizes. No automatic version will be offered. 

The car comes with a lot of high-end safety technologies including a really good Blind Spot Monitoring feature which proved essential when navigating through heavy traffic in Barcelona city centre with motorbikes coming at you from all directions, weaving their way around cars, and at speed. 

A Bose sound system lets you listen to quality music and also allows you hear the sat nav lady giving route instructions through the headrest.

Mazda Ireland already have many pre-orders for the RF and look forward to having a new allocation in March. They are aiming to sell 40-50 units in a full calendar year.

"The MX-5 has a strong fan base in Ireland and I would see people who have driven the car over the years moving to the new RF, particularly as it offers the sporty new 2.0 engine and is more masculine looking. But there are those who will still prefer the Soft Top," Avril Brophy of Mazda Ireland said at the launch. 

I’m very much looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the RF on Irish roads after the car drives into Mazda showrooms next month.  

Pictured below at the MX-5 RF launch in Spain are Avril Brophy, Marketing & Communications Manager; and David Bannon, PR, Events & Retail Activation Specialist; Mazda Motor Ireland. 


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