Ford Puma, BMW Series 2, Toyota CH-R

Ford Puma, BMW Series 2, Toyota CH-R

We’re well into 2020, and as the dust settles on the frantic first couple of months of the year – where the focus is firmly on sales promotions – we can start looking in earnest at the cars likely to catch the eye of our intrepid Irish Car of the Year jury.

The 2021 Continental Tyres Irish Car of the Year awards don’t take place for another eight months or so (November 2020, to be precise) but as the year unfolds, our jury members will be road-testing all new cars and vans launched in Ireland. Who will succeed the barn-storming Kia e-Soul as our Car of the Year?

Here, in our first ‘Ones to Watch’ feature of the new year, we have a lovely batch of contenders to present, including a spiffy hybrid from Ford, a new addition to BMW’s iconic 2 Series and a high-quality hybrid crossover from Toyota. Read on!

Ford Puma

Landing on our shores back in January, the gorgeous new Ford Puma has been hailed as an SUV-inspired compact crossover, which should sit very well indeed with the Irish buying public.

The Puma always had style, but the 2020 version brings it to a new level with a hugely attractive exterior design – part of Ford’s new ‘design identity’ – that features wing-top mounted headlamps and seriously muscular lines. It was always a great car to look at; now you can’t take your eyes off it.

Inside, the new Puma is taller and roomier with a whopping luggage capacity of 444 litres thanks to Ford’s clever MegaBox storage space. The car is available in a choice of three series (Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X) and comes with an array of tech and spec including pre-collision assist, FordPass Connect modem, keyless start, electronic a/c, massage front seats, wireless charging, cruise control and rear spoiler.

Under the bonnet, Ford’s new big cat uses the company’s renowned EcoBoost Hybrid 48-volt technology, which combines electric torque assistance with a low-friction, 3-cylinder 1-litre EcoBoost petrol powertrain.

BMW Series 2

It’s fair to say that a few eyebrows were raised when BMW announced it was expanding its popular 2 Series range with a new four-door Gran Coupe version, but now that the new family member has arrived in Ireland, what should we look out for?

There’s that new body style, for starters. The new 2 Series is a classically handsome beast, featuring a nice big grille, and an SUV-inspired bonnet that flows and curves towards the rear of the car – which in turn is noticeably tall.

Inside, the new model is all clever touches and luxurious finishing, with a large (Live Cockpit Professional) instrument panel and BMW’s acclaimed version 7.0 infotainment system including voice control. There’s plenty of space, both front and back, with lots of room for knees and elbows no matter where you sit.

As you’d expect, the new 2 Series offers a range of intelligent driver assistance features including Lane Departure, Approach and Warning control systems, Active Cruise Control, Speed Limit Info, plus a first-class package of connectivity and intelligent mobility systems. The new BMW Series 2 is available as petrol, diesel or electric and in a variety of model and equipment options.

Toyota CH-R

The hybrid market is booming in Ireland right now, and Toyota’s lovely new C-HR fits right into the sweet spot.

This is a most eye-catching new coupe, tall and elegant but with a wide, muscular stance – a very pleasing combination. From the face-lifted front end to the sloping rear roof, the CH-R is an attractive model that seems perfectly suited to Irish roads.

Inside, the car oozes attention to detail with a functional 7-inch touchscreen and instrument panel that includes funky diamond-shaped buttons. The interior feels comfortable and roomy, with high quality finishing throughout.

The CH-R is available as a choice of three versions – Sport, Luna Sport and Sol – with a range of spec levels and driver assistance features designed to enhance the experience. Safety-wise, the new Toyota hybrid is very well equipped with Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Auto High Beam, Road Sign Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and more.

 On the road, meanwhile, the CH-R is smooth as silk and seriously economical in the right hands. There’s enough choice in the powertrain range to find a hybrid that suits your needs, and early signs from a discerning market are encouraging: no wonder the new CH-R was one of seven finalists in the overall European Car of the Year awards. How will it fare in this year’s Irish version? Watch this space.

We’ll be back soon with more ones to watch as the automotive year accelerates!