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RIP Diesel… it was one hell of a ride

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When I was searching the garage last Monday, I came across a small box of cobwebs on a ledge under a cracked window. I knew immediately what it contained.

Over the years I’d gotten many such little boxes of tiny Dinky-like models at various car shows.

I have given most away to charity shops, friends, relatives or sometimes strangers who drive this new model. But I kept these. It was a car I loved. But it was of his time and changes had to come. So let’s digress for a moment.

The endgame begins here. Around 125 years after the first successful tests of a diesel engine, the exit door is looming large.

Year to date it has lost almost 30 per cent of its share of Ireland’s new car market and sits in third place, with electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and pure hybrids taking first place at 44 per cent, pure petrol at 27.2 and diesel at the top Back at 26.4pc.

This time last year, diesel led the pack with 36.5 percent. At this rate, the name will soon be better known for a clothing brand than the auto-fuel big it was.

Of course, much of this was the fault of some of the big diesel vehicle sellers. They have their own “gate”. There has been high-level squirming and deception about the declared emissions of a wide range of vehicles, particularly in relation to the deadly NOx.

While Volkswagen has been the key player in Dieselgate, it has been found to have spread throughout much of the auto industry.

There was confusion over here.

As in many countries, diesel car sales in Ireland had increased sharply after 2008 when a whole range of ‘clean diesel’ cars were announced and a tax regime based on CO2 emissions (but not NOx) came into force.

Many people found they could tax massive SUV diesels cheaper than small gasoline cars. However, when the European Protection Agency, along with authorities in the United States, began investigating discrepancies in tests on the road from those in manufacturers’ labs in 2014, the can began to be discovered with worms in all its coils, untidy splendour.

Unfortunately for many buyers it was too late; They had been pushed into buying diesel cars that were in no way suitable for the low mileage they drove. Increasingly, authorities around the world began imposing restrictions on diesel vehicles entering certain areas.

While the tide was turning in much of the developed world, it was only in the last year that this country’s love affair with the engine of Rudolf Diesel began to wane. What started as a slow walk has turned into a panicked race, no fun for the woman or man in the street.

It is absolutely necessary to reduce emissions. Living on a main street in Phibsborough I know how dirty the air can be. Also in the 1970s, I was proud to work for a newspaper that was the first to speak out against the use of lead in petrol because of the massively harmful effects it had on children. That it took until 2000 to be withdrawn in Europe is a terrible indictment of the developed world and weakness to fuel and car lobbies.

But while everyone would love to go green and switch to electric vehicles and hybrids, most cannot afford it; and for the average Josephine Soap across the country, who has to travel many miles every week, diesel is the cheapest mode of transport – even at €2 a litre.

Just as we were pushed to use diesel after 2008, it is important to put the consequences of EV adoption into context. The adverse impact of mining lithium and other metals on EV and hybrid batteries needs to be considered, and it is only gradually that we are seeing manufacturers attempt to admit the true cost of producing EVs. Polestar, Volvo’s all-electric offshoot, is one of the first to promise such openness.

In the meantime, let’s go back to that little cobweb-ridden box in the garage. It probably dates back to 2009 when Skoda launched the Yeti as their first true entry into the SUV market, and I loved it.

That’s why I kept the small model. The Yeti’s rugged looks reminded me of my old Saab 95 Estate and the incredibly respected Subaru Forester. It looked tough in a reasonably compact body with very adaptable space inside.

As was usual at the time, most sales in Ireland were of the diesel version.

As its name suggests, the Yeti showed real character. Unfortunately, unlike the fabled Himalayan monster, its life was short and it was announced at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show that it would be replaced by the Karoq, a more nuanced, softer-looking SUV that wouldn’t scare the horses as much.

By an almost divine coincidence, there in the garage, a meter away from the tiny spider web-encrusted Yeti, was a reworked version of the Karoq. At first it took me a while to warm up to the car, but now I see it as a worthy successor.

OK, it may look like a lot of other SUVs, especially from Volkswagen, a little smaller than the VW Tiguan and a little bigger than the Seat Arona. It offers incredibly good family motoring with lots of very accessible space. It’s a well thought out car with excellent storage solutions.

Even with the test car’s optional large sunroof, I had plenty of headroom both front and rear.

The main thing is that it works well. It’s not a car for thrills, it’s for competence.

We took the dogs down to our beloved Donadea forest on Sunday for a good two hours of calming, contemplative time amongst 40 shades of green. After a few detours on the way back we had covered more than 100km and consumption was less than 5l/100km.

I forgot to mention that while there are many good petrol versions of the Karoq, the test car was a diesel. But you wouldn’t really have noticed. It showed how well diesels have improved. Pricing for the Karoq starts at €33,750, but this will be their final iteration.

No hybrid or EV version is planned. It’s a very honest car and a good departure from diesel.

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If it says goodbye to Diesel, it’s welcome back to Bloom at Phoenix Park next weekend, although I’m annoyed at how my favorite month-long walk with Ziggy and Dooey is being disrupted with all the prep work.

Still, I’ll go down to see the new Kia Niro. As an EV, PHEV and hybrid, it will be worth checking out and has a bright future.

https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/rip-diesel-its-been-one-helluva-trip-41697133.html RIP Diesel… it was one hell of a ride

Fry Electronics Team

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