I suppose that, as a car enthusiast, you must be well aware of the Parisian Mondial de l’Automobile and this season’s new car launches (including that Jaguar). What you probably don’t know is that only in France can you buy a Motor Show-branded disposable lighter… However, about those cars…
What did I stumble on then? The hot (cat-shaped) potato was the environmentally-friendly Jaguar C-X75 – with everybody raging about how beautiful it is – except, that is, for those who got to the edge of the Jaguar stand and peered 10metres into the distance to see something, er somewhat ordinary. And silver… nowhere near the ‘wow factor’ I witnessed in Birmingham 22 years ago when the XJ220 was launched.
Sorry, nice the C-X75 may be, but in comparison to Audi’s quattro concept and Renault’s Dezir it was merely an also ran.
Renault what? Dezir. An absolutely blatant French homage to the Audi R8 ironically fitted with Lamborghini-style scissor doors and candy red metallic paint. Hackneyed, yes but you went ‘Ooh’ and pushed to the front like you did as a schoolboy on your first visit to the NEC.
The most exciting, believable fossil fuel burning concept was Audi’s quattro. The knife edge styling seems to look like it went wrong and wilted at the ends of the A5 Coupe but, on the quattro, it’s inch perfect on the eyes, with a little hint of muscle car to the rear three quarter even though it’s unmistakably URquattro when viewed in profile. I want one. You will too.
There were several big draws for the French home market – the Peugeot 508 (which swallows up both the 407 and 607) being a particular looker. Finally, crispness returns to Peugeot rather the super-size me recent efforts. I reckon that, if Chris Bangle had not infiltrated Munich packing a FIAT Coupe, then an alternative-reality BMW 5-Series might well have looked rather like the 508. It just works really well and sits just right on even the skinniest wheels.
Alas, nestle in the driver’s seat and you know it’s a Peugeot… nowhere near the ambience of partner, Citroen’s, C5. You know people will be fighting over the crumbled NLA trim parts and cup holders on an eBay auction seven years from now! Very close PSA so 7/10.
Rival Renault’s Dacia stand, while bereft of Parisians, was besieged by provisional Frenchmen fighting over the Duster. For a mental picture of what you’re getting, compare the Lada Niva to its 1980s rivals like the Shogun or the Discovery. It’s simple, it’s tough, though it feels like a commercial vehicle not a CRV. It will sell on the home market if priced keenly (and in Britain too should it ever be imported). Priced too high and the Tata Safari has a rival…
Citroen was parading the nouvelle C4 and DS4 models – hatchback 9/10ths versions of the C5 and, at a glance, really rather solid looking. Think of the DS4 as a boutique version. With E-Class/Bentley Continental style kicked up rear arches, it’s a particularly pleasing design. Citroen now seems to have particularly coherent range of cars across the range – I hope it does well.
The other big launch? The Evoque. With Tatas hogging all the limelight, the Parisians (and me) couldn’t wait to see the incredible new three-door Evoque (you know the one we had a good look at in Geneva last year) and its five-door sister (except that wasn’t there). Sadly, all the three-door cars were locked-up with smoked glass, bar one that only Nicolas Sarkozy was allowed to sit in – whilst accompanied by a Range Rover minder no doubt brandishing a Tazer. Well, that was my experience…
At least you could stick your fingers in the cutaway Transit engine eh?
Ford chose Paris to launch the ‘Grande Fiesta‘ – sorry new Focus – which looks like a large Fiesta in detail but an existing Focus from a casual glance. How fresh it will appear in 2016 when it bows out is debatable, have we the Escort V (but with a fine chassis no doubt) all over again? The intelligent key operated bonnet is gone too. Available in saloon, estate and hatch varieties with the ‘Halo’ effect created by the ST model. (Who’s Aston-esque frontal aspect might appear to be wearing a brace when a registration plate is fitted – except for viewers in Italy where a small Italian plate enhances any car on the planet.)
For fertile Focus owners, the C-MAX replacement made the fourth variant- if your not fond of children four and five the rear pill box with windows above head height and a heated rear window to burn your head on will appeal, as will the wobbling sliding doors which are just like those on the Peugeot 806 which you always aspired too.
A better bet might be the GM Meriva with its ‘suicide doors’ (but only five seats). Driving position, ergonomics, overall quality are high – more so than the new Astra – until you parked it for the first time. Those rear doors need at least two feet (600mm) of air gap to exit – good luck finding a ten foot wide parking bay every time…
Pick of the newly launched people carriers? Seat Alhambra/Volkswagen Sharan. A solid feel and a rather airy driving position which nearly convinces you that you’re sitting in that executive saloon you really wanted. It even has fold flat seats that actually hold an adult! Check that out next time your in the drop off point at Heathrow.
As an Englishman abroad, the fascination of Lancia always appeals, even more so with boudoir upholstery – FIAT meets agent provocateur. Quilted buttoned leather seats, leather dash tops and cream perforated suede seat squabs – fantastic in a sea of grey and faux alloy trim strips. If your style is less ostentatious then chose Oxblood hide trimmed Alfa instead, the new Giulietta being a pleasant place to sit with a metallic facia on the dash that looks like it belongs on audiophiles’ valve amp.
A feel good factor exudes from within the new Alfa. Exterior wise the crispness that both it and the Lancia Delta have might fade if they became commonplace (which, frankly, is unlikely in Britain). Come 2016, loading Auto Trader’s £1000 ‘buyer beware’ selection on a tatty iPad will be a fun pass time.
Trade up to £3000 on your search and you might be sitting in the new Saab 9-5. A luxury car that feels like a Chevy inside and with worse rear access than a MINI, it can’t fail. Goodbye Saab, say hello to Rover for me…