RIP diesel…it’s been an amazing ride

Searching the garage last Monday I found a small cobweb covered box on a ledge under a broken window. I instantly knew what it contained.

Over the years, at different car launches, I had been given many small boxes containing tiny, Dinky-like models.

Most of it I gave away to charity shops, friends, relatives, or sometimes strangers who drove that new model. But this one I kept. It was a car that I loved. But it was his time and changes had to come. So let’s digress for a moment.

This is it, where the ending of the game begins. Some 125 years after the first successful tests of a diesel engine, the exit door looms large.

So far this year it has lost almost 30% of its share of the Irish new car market to languish in third place, with electric, plug-in hybrid and direct hybrid vehicles taking the top spot at 44%, pure petrol with 27.2 and diesel bringing in the rear at 26.4pc.

This time last year, diesel led the pack with 36.5pc. At this rate, the name will soon be better known as a clothing brand than the main car powerplant it was.

Of course, much of it was the fault of some of the top sellers of diesel vehicles. They have a “door” of their own. There was high-level crookedness and misleading about declared emissions from a wide range of vehicles, especially in terms of deadly NOx.

While Volkswagen was the main player in Dieselgate, it was found to have spread to much of the auto industry.

Around here, there was confusion.

As in many countries, sales of diesel cars in Ireland took off after 2008, when a large number of “Clean Diesel” cars were announced and a tax system based on CO2 (but not NOx) emissions came into force.

Many people found that they could tax massive diesel SUVs cheaper than small gasoline cars. However, in 2014, when the European Protection Agency, together with US authorities, began to investigate discrepancies in road tests, against those carried out in the manufacturers’ laboratories, the can of worms began to be discovered in all its contraction. , messy splendor.

Unfortunately, it was already too late for many buyers; they had been forced to buy diesel cars that were not suitable for the low mileage they were doing. Increasingly, authorities around the world began to place restrictions on diesel vehicles entering certain areas.

While the tide has turned in much of the developed world, it was only in the last year that this country’s love affair with the Rudolf Diesel engine began to wane. What started as a gradual walk turned into a panicked run, which is not fun for the woman or man on 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 campaign against the use of lead in gasoline due to the enormously harmful effects on children. That it took until the year 2000 before it was withdrawn in Europe is a terrible indictment on the developed world and the weakness against fuel and vehicle lobbyists.

However, while everyone would like to go green and switch to electric and hybrid vehicles, most cannot afford it; and for the average Josephine Soap in the country, who has to do many kilometers every week, diesel is the cheapest way to get around, even at €2 a litre.

Just as we were pushed to use diesel after 2008, it is important to contextualize the consequences of the push towards electric vehicles. The detrimental effects of mining lithium and other metals for electric and hybrid vehicle batteries must be taken into account, and we are only gradually starting to see manufacturers trying to bear the real cost of producing electric vehicles. Polestar, Volvo’s all-electric arm, is one of the first to promise such an opening.

In the meantime, let’s go back to that little cobwebbed box in the garage. It probably dates back to 2009, when Skoda launched the Yeti as its first real 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 family Saab 95 and the incredibly respected Subaru Forester. It seemed tough in a reasonably compact body with a very accommodating interior space.

As the world was then, most sales in Ireland were of the diesel version.

The Yeti, like its name, showed a royal character. Sadly, its life, unlike the legendary monster in the Himalayas, was short and at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was announced that it would be replaced by the Karoq, a more subtle and smoother-looking SUV that wouldn’t scare the heck out of people as much. horses. .

By some almost divine coincidence, there was a revamped version of the Karoq in the garage, a meter away from the little cobwebbed Yeti. Initially it took me time to get used to the car, but now I see it as a worthy successor.

Granted, it may look like a lot of other SUVs, especially from the Volkswagen stable, a bit smaller than the VW Tiguan and a bit larger than the Seat Arona. It provides an incredibly good family ride with plenty of easily accessible space throughout. It is a thoughtful car, with excellent storage solutions.

Even with the optional full-size sunroof on the test car, it had plenty of headroom, both front and rear.

The most important thing is that you drive well. It is not a car for emotions but for competition.

On Sunday we went down to our beloved Donadea forest with the dogs to spend two quiet and reflective hours among 40 shades of vegetation. After some detours on the way back, we had done more than 100km and consumption was below 5l/100km.

I forgot to mention that while there are plenty of good petrol versions of the Karoq, the test car was a diesel. But you wouldn’t have noticed. It showed how well diesel engines have improved. Prices for the Karoq start at €33,750, but this will be its last iteration.

There is no hybrid or EV version planned. It’s a very honest car and it’s a good way to say goodbye to diesel.

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If it’s a goodbye to diesel, you’re welcome back to Bloom at Phoenix Park next weekend, although I do resent how my favorite ride with Ziggy and Dooey is cut short for a month with all the prep work.

However, I will go down to see the new Kia Niro on display. It will be worth taking a look at as EV, PHEV and hybrid have a good future.

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