29 September 2016

Paris Motor Show, 2016

Well, the first day at the Paris Mondiale de l'Automobile is over and we're pretty well dazzled with snazzy new metal, bright lights, and facts and figures, write Brian Byrne & Trish Whelan.

As usual, we'll work mainly on pictures to give you a taste of what's happening, and fill out details later on as we digest them.

The first to catch our eyes was, aptly, French, and this is the new Citroen C3 which is coming our way before long. With a unique and very Citroen style, it is intended to challenge in the very important supermini segment. And we think it certainly can put up a challenge, even against the king of the crop, Ford's Fiesta. Apart from the very smart exterior and colour combinations, we were very struck indeed by the quality of the interior, which is way up there compared to anything, especially its own predecessor.

Next in the lists is Nissan's new generation Micra, and this is everything the disappointing current supermini from the Japanese maker has not been. Its styling is such that, along with the C3 mentioned above, there's going to be a ding-dong battle in that segment, with cars that might well draw down customers from the compact family space. The new Micra is larger, has a much better and more roomy interior, and promises to be a thrifty performer too.

Still in the small car stable, Suzuki's new Ignis isn't earth-shattering in style but has a certain understated funkiness. It will join the rest of the expanding range of cars from Suzuki, and will be available with a 4WD option.

Peugeot's big showing is its new SUV-styled 3008 and 5008, and both come with a lot more presence than their preceeding cars, albeit both have been very successful as MPVs for the lion brand. The 5007 is the 7-seater with a very flexible offering of seating. Both cars feature the next generation of Peugeot's i-Cockpit instrumentation and steering wheel ergonomics, in which the all digital display can be tuned to suit the user's graphical preferences.

Apart from its concentration on electric cars progress, about which more later, Renault is showing off its new Koleos larger SUV, to complement its Kadjar and provide something for those who need more capacity. It's a big move up from its predecessor of the same name, which hasn't been sold in Europe for some years. The Koleos will be in Ireland next summer. The company also has a copy of its new pickup, the Alaskan, which will share its important bits with Nissan's excellent Navara.

Dacia hasn't anything new to offer, but the very successful budget brand from Renault has smartened up the exterior details of its range, notably in the grille styling, which is now coherent throughout its models.

It's a big show for Honda, which is giving a lot of space to its key moneymaker model, the Civic, in its latest generation. It looks and is bigger, has a very strong presence, and there's a prototype of a sporty version that looks fabulously stealth fighter mean in colour and kit.

Just as arresting in its own different way is the EX Concept from Mitsubishi, which highlights the evolution of the brand's current styling themes. We figure there are buyers for this small SUV if they build it just the way the concept looks.

Hyundai is determined to cash in on its world rally performances, and the RN30 Concept is a mean and mighty take based on the i30 in a very loose kind of way. A crowd puller, it's likely a production hot hatch for the masses will poke 300hp.

On the other hand, the new i30 'ordinary' hatch debuted at the show follows the i20 in a conservitising of the model, losing the swoops and sculpts of the outgoing car. It might grow on you, but it won't drag you into the showrooms, we think.

The New York concept from Hyundai's premium brand Genesis, however, is an exercise in sleekness perhaps unequalled at the show from the pen of a master, Peter Schreyer. The powertrain is a hybrid, with some 245hp generated from the turbocharged 2.0 petrol engine and its electric motor. An 8-speed automatic completes the drive. The interior reflects the outside, including a seriously interesting instrumentation setup. There will be buyers for a production version of this.

SEAT has only recently gotten into the SUV market with its Ateca — it launches in Ireland on Monday — and it is still the star of its stand at Paris, with a highly tarted version, the Xperience. With AWD and a 170hp diesel, it includes some pretty bright 'offroad' style adornments. We've no doubt it is pretty capable.

With strong contenders in the luxury compact and large crossovers, this UX latest concept from Lexus is a very highly styled look at what they might do in the small SUV field. Maybe they'll do an upmarket version of the parent Toyota's C-HR attack on Nissan's Juke, but the concept is typically Lexus in your face. The interior is conceptually fascinating, including something called 'kinetic' seats. It's hybrid, of course.

There is a lot of interest in Skoda's Kodiaq SUV, which was revealed in Berlin recently but this is the first time that the public will be able to see it in the metal. It's an impressive beast that will show strong competition in the compact-medium crossover space, and this second look confirms our first impressions.

Fiat is always a glamorous stand to visit at shows, and this year's Paris is no exception. There's a lot of interest in the spider version of its 124, which has links to the Mazda MX-5 but is so totally Italian. We liked the boot luggage rack touch.

For more down to earth, the new Tipo — not yet in Ireland — is the key presence in all three formats. It looks well, we know it drives well, and it should bring the Italians back into the compact market if they get their selling right.

The new Land Rover Discovery may turn out to be a serious competitor not only in the true off-road capable large SUV business, but also the luxury crossover space already led by the brand's own Range Rovers. The boxy look is gone, and this will be marketed as a premium 7-seater in its own right, and we're wondering how much in-house sales cannibalising might happen. Much more room than previously, and with a new 2.0 engine option which will also bring in new business.

We're generally not enamoured of the coupe-crossover style, though it seems they sell well in a number of markets for those in the business like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But the former's new X2, bringing in a small car to their X-coupe range, does rather change our minds. It's a very smart and cleverly detailed new car, and may be a popular model on the urban streetscape — which BMW obviously think themselves, given the backdrop to the stand.