Extreme weather testing for all-new MINI Aceman

Home / Auto News / Extreme weather testing for all-new MINI Aceman

Gareth Herincx

3 days ago
Auto News

MINI Aceman

The upcoming MINI Aceman electric crossover has been undergoing final testing in the desert in strong sunlight and temperatures of up to 50 Degrees C.

The Aceman, which has already successfully completed tests at the Arctic Circle, combines “the features of the two most successful MINI models, the MINI Cooper and the MINI Countryman, to create a new vehicle concept”.

MINI Aceman

In addition to driving dynamics and comfort, the test team is focusing on the demanding aspects of an electric vehicle, such as the air conditioning, charging and cooling of the battery in extreme conditions.

The MINI Aceman will bridge the gap between the MINI Cooper and the MINI Countryman and is expected to be unveiled at the Auto China show on 24 April.

Only available as an EV, it will have a modest battery size of 54.2kWh and power will come from a single electric motor at the front axle. Range is expected to be up to 248 miles.

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Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who’s worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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Lexus LBX crowned ‘Car of the Year’

Home / Auto News / Lexus LBX crowned ‘Car of the Year’

Gareth Herincx

3 days ago
Auto News

Lexus LBX

The all-new Lexus LBX has been named What Car? Car of the Year for 2024. The stylish hybrid crossover also took home the Best Small SUV category award.

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford, said: “The title of What Car? Car of the Year is reserved for the model that has moved things on the farthest in the past 12 months, and this year, that’s the Lexus LBX.

“Despite competing in the hugely competitive small SUV market, it’s a better all-rounder than every rival, not least because it’s the first car in the class to combine hybrid efficiency with big-car luxury.”

What Car? Car of the Year Winners 2024

  • Car of the Year: Lexus LBX
  • Small Car, sponsored by MotorEasy: Renault Clio 1.0 TCe 90 Techno
  • Family Car: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Icon
  • Hot Hatch: Mercedes-AMG A45 S Plus
  • Small SUV, sponsored by Solera Cap HPI: Lexus LBX 1.5 Premium Plus
  • Family SUV, sponsored by Quotezone: Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 3
  • Plug-in Hybrid: Mazda MX-30 R-EV Prime-Line
  • Small Electric Car, sponsored by Myenergi: MG4 EV SE
  • Executive Car: Tesla Model 3 RWD
  • Estate Car: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Icon
  • Seven-seater: Land Rover Defender 110 D300 X-Dynamic S
  • Luxury Car: BMW X7 40d M Sport (Ultimate Pack)
  • Small Electric SUV, sponsored by Blackhorse Finance: Smart #1 Premium
  • Family Electric SUV, sponsored by Blackhorse Finance: Kia EV6
  • Reliability Award, in association with MotorEasy: Lexus
  • Safety Award, sponsored by Thatcham Research: Volkswagen ID 7
  • Technology Award, sponsored by Goodwood: Tesla Superchargers V4
  • Tow Car Award, in association with The Camping and Caravanning Club: Kia
  • Readers’ Choice Award: Renault 5

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Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who’s worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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Kia EV9 review

Kia EV9 review

We road test the Kia EV9 – the stellar South Korean brand’s all-new, all-electric flagship SUV

With its concept car looks, long range and effortless drive, the Kia EV9 is quite the statement.

About the same size as a BMW X5, it’s available as a six or seven-seater – the former sporting swivelling middle-row seats.

Kia EV9 review

Priced from £65,025, it’s expensive for a Kia, but you sure get big bang for your bucks. The big question is – will it tempt buyers away from prestige EV rivals from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?

First impressions couldn’t be better. It’s an epic car with a bold, boxy design that focuses on maximising interior space and passenger comfort. And despite its size, the EV9 looks much better in the metal than it does in pictures.

Previewing Kia’s future design direction, the combination of a long wheelbase and completely flat floor creates generous space for all in the three rows of seats.

Kia EV9 review

And even with all the seats occupied, there’s still 333 litres of cargo space – expanding to a superb 828 litres with the third-row seats flipped, or an enormous 2,320 litres with the second and third-row seats folded down.

The Kia EV9 is equally impressive on a technical level. All models in the range come with a large 99.8kWh battery, and there are two electric motor options.

First up is the 201bhp Single Motor model that powers the rear wheels. Or step up to the Dual Motor all-wheel drive EV9, which has 378bhp and a massive 516lb ft of torque. If economy trumps performance on your tick-list, then the former delivers a claimed 349 miles of range, while the flagship model still offers a respectable 313 miles.

Kia EV9 review

Or to put it another way, the Single Motor can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds (19-inch wheels), while the more potent model takes just 5.3 seconds (21-inch wheels).

Ultra-fast charging is standard, meaning 154 miles can be added in just 15 minutes. Or to put it another way, a 10-80% charge will take as little as 24 minutes via a 350kW connection. Naturally, it will also charge overnight at home, if you have a wallbox.

The Kia EV9 is generously equipped too, with a three-screen dash layout combining a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch driver’s display and a 5.3-inch touchscreen for the climate controls. With a few physical buttons thrown in too, it’s as logical and slick as ever – just what we’ve come to expect from Kia.

Kia EV9 review

There’s also wireless phone charging, Apple and Android connectivity, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, LED lights all round, a 360-degree camera system, V2L charging, a power tailgate and a three-pin socket in the boot.

I haven’t even mentioned the long list of safety and driver assistance tech which helped to earn the EV9 a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, or the regenerative braking which is easily adjusted via paddles behind the steering wheel.

The overall build quality is hard to fault, while the interior materials (many of which are recycled) are just the job, though there’s still some way to go for Kia to be challenging the plush interiors of the big German premium brands.

Kia EV9 review

Once you’ve ‘stepped into’ the cabin, it instantly feels spacious and comfortable, with excellent visibility. You don’t feel perched, like some electric SUVs, and there’s plenty of seat adjustment.

I drove the Dual Motor EV9 in GT-Line S spec on a variety of roads around Aberdeen, Inverness and into the Scottish Highlands.

To say progress was relaxed and effortless would be an understatement. It feels big, especially in town and on narrower country roads, but for the most part it’s not an issue and it simply cruises silently along (wind and road noise are hardly noticeable). Ride quality is impressive and the steering is light-yet-accurate.

Gareth Herincx - Kia EV9

Despite its bulk, it manages to stay surprisingly flat in more challenging corners, but it would be an exaggeration to call it nimble. Helped by a low centre of gravity, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a 2.6 tonne car.

As you’d except from the AWD system, traction levels are superb. I didn’t get to try the EV9 off-road, but in addition to the steering wheel-activated Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, there’s also a terrain mode button, giving the options of Mud, Snow and Sand.

There’s no shortage of power either, but if longer range is more important to you, it might be worth going for the Single Motor model.

Kia EV9 review

Freezing conditions probably didn’t help, but after a couple of days with the AWD EV9, average energy consumption was 2.5 miles/kWh, which is a tad disappointing. Nevertheless, that still equates to a tidy real-world range in the late 200s (more in an urban environment), and I’d hope the RWD version would be able to return around 300 miles.

Finally, a quick word about the seating. If you choose the seven-seater (it’s one of the few such EVs on the market), the third row is useable for adults (I managed perfectly well and I’m 5’11”) – partly because the second-row bench can slide back and forth.

Kia EV9 review

And the two individual ‘captain’s chair’ seats, which swivel and recline in the six-seater version, are a great gimmick, and certainly add to the car’s wow factor.

Verdict: The cool Kia EV9 is as impressive as it’s big. A statement car if ever there was one, this striking SUV is competitively-priced, spacious and safe; delivering an effortless drive and useable real-world range.

Kia UK

Kia EV9 review

Renault Austral E-Tech review

Renault Austral E-Tech

There’s no doubt that the Renault Austral E-Tech has serious kerb appeal, but what’s this classy full hybrid like to drive?

Over the years I’ve driven dozens of electric vehicles. And if you can charge from home and you’re open to a change of mindset, there’s every reason to switch.

However, running an EV is not without its issues, thanks to the patchy public charging infrastructure and high price of electricity at rapid chargers.

Which brings me to this week’s test car – the Renault Austral E-Tech. It’s a full hybrid, so there’s no need to plug it in to charge, and in theory it can travel up to 683 miles between fuel stops. No range anxiety there then!

Renault Austral E-Tech

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an EV evangelist, but for many motorists not ready to make the transition to 100% electric or without off-street parking, a full hybrid is the next best thing.

Sure, they are not as kind to the planet as EVs, but the Renault Austral E-Tech can run in EV mode for reasonable distances, emits as little as 105g/km CO2 and can achieve up to 60.1mpg.

And as full hybrids go (its rivals include the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, Nissan Qashqai e-Power, Honda ZR-V and Toyota RAV4), it’s definitely one of the best.

About the same size as another of its competitors (the Kia Sportage), Renault’s stylish replacement for the lacklustre Kadjar is a looker.

Renault Austral E-Tech

Priced from £34,695, the range begins with the Techno, which features 19-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights, flush roof bars and parking sensors with rear-view camera, plus a hands-free key card with keyless entry.

The Techno Esprit Alpine adds 20-inch wheels, black carbon fabric and Alcantara upholstery with blue stitching, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, electric power tailgate, electric driver and front passenger seats with massage function for driver, traffic/speed sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control with lane centring.

Top-of-the-range Iconic Esprit Alpine gets 4Control Advanced four-wheel steering, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, 360-degree Around View camera, panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charging.

Renault Austral E-Tech

So, as you can see, the Austral is well equipped. Additionally, all versions get a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, 9.3-inch head-up display, plus a range of Google services built-in, including Google Maps, Google Assistant (voice control that works), and access to Google Play.

The Austral’s 196bhp hybrid system uses a gutsy new 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, two electric motors and a small 2kWh battery.

Feeling swifter than the official 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds, the Austral can travel in EV mode up to 70mph unless you plant your right foot, in which case the engine kicks in.

And joy of joys, there’s no CVT gearbox, which means the revs don’t go sky high when accelerating. Instead, the Austral E-Tech has a seven-speed automatic transmission (which uses Renault’s Formula 1-derived clutchless technology), driving the front wheels.

Renault Austral E-Tech

Our Techno Esprit Alpine test car also had four-wheel steering, giving the Austral E-Tech a 10.1m turning circle – that’s city car levels of manoeuvrability.

On the move, it allows the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds of up to 30mph, helping to increase manoeuvrability. Plus, at speeds above 30mph, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels, for improved stability.

In fact, there’s a lot of clever stuff going on, including a suite of 30 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

The Renault Austral E-Tech always starts in EV mode, then zips along smoothly, delivering an impressive blend of electric and petrol power, enhanced by impressive cabin sound deadening. If you’re in hurry, there’s a hesitation while the system decides what it’s going to do, but broadly speaking, it’s a very slick.

Renault Austral E-Tech

The ride is firm, but such is the joy of that punchy electrically-boosted powertrain, all is forgiven.

It’s set up for sporty handling, and works well. The steering is on the light side and the four-wheel steering turns in rather too eagerly initially, but you get used to it and after a while your confidence grows.

There’s also decent grip from those big wheels, and when pushed on more challenging roads, body lean is kept in check and it’s more agile than you might expect for a crossover.

There are four levels of regenerative braking accessible via the steering paddles, and after a while, you learn to charge the battery on long downhill runs or when coasting and braking, ready to deploy when needed. And the good news is that 55mpg is relatively easy to achieve, and in town you can get closer to 60mpg or more.

Renault Austral E-Tech

The Renault Austral E-Tech is dark inside – everywhere from the seats to the headlining and door cards. That said, it has a premium feel and it seems solidly put together.

There’s plenty of space up front, even if the lowest driving position is a tad high for taller drivers. Sliding rear seats allow you to juggle space between rear passengers and boot capacity. At its most generous setting, boot space is a useful 555 litres, rising to 1,455 litres with the rear seats flipped down.

So, the Austral E-Tech isn’t perfect, but after a few days it really grows on you. And let’s face it, 600-odd miles out of a tank of petrol is very welcome.

Verdict: The Renault Austral E-Tech is one of the best full hybrid family SUVs on the market. Good-looking, classy, packed with tech, practical and economical, it should definitely be on any family car shortlist.

Renault UK

Toyota C-HR review

Toyota C-HR

We drive the latest version of Toyota’s popular C-HR family crossover – and it’s a big, bold step-up…

If a car could be judged purely on its styling, the second-generation Toyota C-HR would be best-in-class.

And when you consider that its biggest rivals include the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Skoda Karoq, Seat Ateca and Hyundai Tucson, that’s no mean feat.

Toyota C-HR

But before we weigh up the new C-HR’s pros and cons, let’s go back to 2017 when the first generation ‘Coupe-High Rider’ was launched in the UK.

With its radical looks, it was something of a departure for Toyota which was still selling the conservative Auris and Avensis at the time.

The funky C-HR was a chunky crossover with a low-slung roofline like a coupe. Distinctively styled with a big roof spoiler and sloping rear window, it was well-equipped, but it also wasn’t without its issues.

Toyota C-HR

Fast forward to 2023 and the all-new Toyota C-HR is a looker. A more grown-up version of the outgoing model, it boasts a wider stance and the original’s curves have been replaced by sharper lines and solid surfacing.

Once again there’s a heavily raked tailgate, though this time it features a dual-element rear spoiler and a full-width LED light bar below with an illuminated ‘C-HR’.

At the front, it features the new ‘hammerhead’ face of Toyota SUVs, while the ‘hidden’ raised rear door handles are no more (they’ve been replaced by retractable ones, front and rear). Overall build quality, interior materials and technology have also been upgraded.

Toyota C-HR

Priced from £31,290, the new model launches initially with 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines paired with Toyota’s latest fifth-generation full hybrid technology that ups both power and efficiency.  A 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid will arrive in 2024.

The 1.8-litre delivers 138bhp and the 2.0-litre ups power to 194bhp. Official figures put fuel economy at 60.1mpg and 57.6mpg respectively, while CO2 emissions are from 105g/km and 110g/km.

Both engines are front-wheel drive (there’s no AWD option) and a 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid (with an EV range of up to 41 miles) will join the C-HR line-up in 2024.

Toyota C-HR

First impressions count, and the second-gen Toyota C-HR certainly oozes kerb appeal, especially if you choose a two-tone paint-job.

In terms of size, its dimensions are almost identical to the Suzuki S-Cross, which makes it a tad smaller than its main competitors (including the Nissan Qashqai), but bigger than the class below (eg Nissan Juke).

The driving position is on the high side for me, but you soon get used to it because it’s comfortable with a decent amount of support.

Toyota C-HR - Gareth Herincx

There are roomier cabins, not just because the C-HR isn’t as wide as some rivals, but the driver focused set-up with high centre console makes it snug, especially on the passenger side.

The good news is that the 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen (on all but entry trims) combined with the driver’s digital display looks the part and works well enough. And mercifully, the C-HR has some physical controls for essentials such as air-conditioning – unlike some new cars.

There’s reasonable space for passengers at the back, while the cabin as a whole has a classier feel, with more soft-touch surfaces.

Toyota C-HR

Toyota’s also ticked the sustainability box because the seat fabrics are made from recycled plastic bottles and there’s animal-free ‘leather’ on the steering wheel.

Load capacity varies between the two engines – 388 litres (1.8) and 364 litres for the 2.0. Again, not class-leading, but adequate. All models come with 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

Visibility is good ahead, but slightly more challenging behind thanks to those chunky rear pillars and small rear windows. Thankfully, all versions have a reversing camera.

Toyota C-HR

The C-HR has a fairly supple suspension and it handles lumps and bumps well. So, it’s one of the more comfortable SUVs on the market.

Light steering suits its natural urban habitat well, but the C-HR is also a pleasant cruiser. It would be an exaggeration to call it dynamic on twistier roads, but there are good levels of body control and decent grip.

We tested both engines (not the GR Sport grade), and both balance performance with economy, delivering 10.2sec and 8.1sec respectively for the 0-62mph sprint.

Toyota C-HR

The issue with both is that there’s a CVT automatic gearbox which causes the revs to rise and stay high until you’ve reached your desired speed. The din in the cabin soon settles down, but it puts you off driving anything but smoothly.

Interestingly, the more powerful 2.0-litre hybrid engine is a little more refined, so manages to iron out the worst of the CVT better.

Toyota C-HR

The C-HR slips between electric and engine modes seamlessly, and can be driven along for short distances using the electric motor alone, so all in all, the claimed economy figures are very achievable.

Finally, it’s always worth remembering that the C-HR comes with a three-year warranty that extends up to 10 years/100,000 miles so long as your car is serviced annually at an authorised Toyota workshop.

Verdict: The cool new Toyota C-HR is a real step-up from the first-generation model. Easy to drive, economical, well equipped and classy, it certainly stands out from the crowd.

Toyota UK