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Car torque: Smaller version of large Mini

Smaller version of large Mini

The seventh model in the ever-expanding (in more ways than one) Mini family is the Paceman.

Maker BMW calls the Paceman the world’s first compact sports activity coupe but, to simplify, it is actually a two-door, four-seat version of the Countryman crossover wagon.

As is often the case with Mini, it’s the design detail that matters most: Paceman’s styling claim to fame is that it is the first Mini to feature horizontal tail lights.

Paceman will be available with the same engines and optional four-wheel drive system as the Countryman, although it comes as standard with sports suspension. Paceman will be launched in New Zealand in 2013.

Charge account

Volvo is testing a new fast-charger for electric cars that can completely power up a vehicle in just 90 minutes. It operates six times faster than current on-board devices.

The maker claims that such a device will cure so-called “range anxiety” because, even though an electric vehicle may only be able to travel a small distance on a full charge, it can be boosted quickly by topping up with the new fast-charging system.

Volvo says a quick 30-minute plug-in will give an extra 80km range on one of its electric C30 prototypes.

The new charger is the first to operate on a three-phase supply. It can also be used with a standard supply (such as that from a household socket), with a charging time of eight to 10 hours.

Not so crash hot

Five-star crash-test ratings for new cars are almost a given these days. But the latest results from the Latin New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), a colleague of Australian NCAP, show carmakers are still cutting corners in the design of some models for less mature markets.

The Renault Sandero and Chinese-made JAC 13 were the worst performers in the latest Latin NCAP round of crash testing: both scored just one star. The Volkswagen Clasico also scored poorly, with a three-star rating.

“In Latin American countries there is no regulation of vehicle standards,” ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh says. “Manufacturers are taking advantage of this, selling cars with minimal safety features.”

He says a number of vehicles tested by Latin NCAP had demonstrated major structural differences when compared to the same model produced for a different market.

“In Australia, the Renault Laguna was the first car to achieve the maximum five-star rating back in 2001. So a one-star result for the Renault Sandero sold to markets such as Latin America is difficult to accept.”

Best sales year in its history

More from Land Rover design director, chief creative officer and board member Gerry McGovern: the brand is enjoying the best sales year in its history.

Global sales are up 46% for the 2012 year-to-date, with the biggest increases coming from China (up 84%), Russia (58%) and Europe (53%).

Mr McGovern credited the new Evoque with sparking extra enthusiasm for the Range Rover brand in particular: “Sales have reached 100,000, with 8% of those buyers coming from other brands and 70% being new to SUVs.

“We will continue to look for this kind of white space in the market.”

More by David Linklater

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