Had I told you a year ago that the star of the premier European motor show would be a rear-engined Renault, you might have been, to put it mildly, dubious. However, that’s exactly what happened. Post-Dacia, Renault seems to have found its mojo and the Twingo III was a perfect example of that – fresh, innovative and unconventional.
The original Twingo was well-loved and cheap, like the Mini or Ford Ka; but the second-generation car threw that all away. However, Twingo III looks like it could be a game-changer: cheeky, compact and oddly engineered. It’s also perfectly engineered for pure electric propulsion but is, at present, fitted with what appears to be the three-cylinder Mitsubishi drivetrain (below) as seen in the Smart car. Coupled with a MINIesque use of intelligent and desirable trim options, it has success leaking from every pore.
AROnline’s favourite was the Renault yellow version, with black stripes (a dead ringer for the ‘Boutique’ logo and stripes, seen in the back of 1970s brochures, showing three-bolt alloy wheels and racks full of touch up sticks in Brutalist dealerships). Definitely worthy of further investigation if you’re after a small car…
So, if Renault got it right, how did PSA fare? One half of the Citroen stand buzzed to PSA’s new MINI. Not the C1 (nor its Peugeot 108 half-brother) for certain; a lame attempt at a small car, wholly trumped by Toyota’s Aygo interpretation. No, the buzz stemmed from the C4 Cactus. It shouldn’t stack up – think Streetwise for the Samsung Galaxy generation – but, in the metal, the Cactus gels.
My accomplice in Geneva reckoned that its ‘Antelope Beige’ hue and its rear pillars and footprint screamed ADO16 – he’s right. Gimmicks included deformable rubbing strips and a full bench seat (with a passion-killing handbrake in just the wrong place!) along with a complete social media interface slapped above the heater controls.
Ironically MINI, which premiered the new production-ready Clubman Concept – with a subliminal big screen flashing Issigonis images and talk of a family of cars all of the same theme, got everything wrong. The Clubman, while handsome (even on flat whitewalls) is quite a sizable beast, more a low-level Countryman with an E-type nose grafted on. A fabulous interior will wow if a production version retains its style. So, good looking, but wrong for a MINI, I think. Maybe it might make a nice Glas or even a Triumph, perhaps?
In the ‘Best of British’ category it was a draw – check out the Bentley Continental and Rolls-Royce Wraith interiors to see what I mean. However, the Rolls-Royce Ghost II, with minor improvements, won the contest. After the press conference (given by Aronold Schwarnegger’s voice coach it appeared, but in English), we sampled the Ghost.
When the lottery win comes in treat yourself – easier to park than a Phantom, and you won’t feel a fool driving yourself. The Phantom itself actually had a dress code – pure white leather (with mother of pearl inlays) meant definitely no denim – and they were checking! Impressively, the lounge part of the stand – with chilled glasses for your complimentary champagne – had a cutaway headlining (below).
Wait, though, it gets better!
This showed the 1300 strand fibre optic switch on that Rolls-Royce gives you at dusk, when your suede headliner turns to a quasi-night sky. It sounds awful, but actually works really well giving a calming effect – I’m surprised the concept hasn’t been spotted on anything else yet.
Jaguar Land Rover had a quiet stand centering on special editions – the XXV Discovery celebrates 25 years of production and offered tasteful Range Rover levels of interior tailoring, while the Evoque Autobiography offered perhaps too much tailoring. You pays your money you takes your choice, I guess.
The new F-Type Coupe looked great, though white might not be its best shade. As ever JLR likes an extreme ‘ambassador’, so Explorer Ben Saunders showed off his Arctic support Discovery and Tour de France winner Chris Froome his XF Sportbrake. A proud Ralf Speth seemed itching to spill the beans on the baby Jaguar, though the new baby Discovery got just the briefest of mentions in the press conference.
So, who else impressed? Qoros – for a start-up manufacturer, with Chinese backing they seem to be doing everything right. Qoros seems to make Lancias or Seats better than Fiat or VW. (Indeed, the lacklustre Lancia stand, with nothing but Ypsilons on it, didn’t even get a press conference despite Fiat Chrysler Automobile boss Sergio Marchionne shaking everyone’s hand on the Jeep stand).
Anyway, back to Qoros: SAIC Motor, we love MG so, for the love of God, just copy Qoros lead and reap the benefits. The five-star EuroNCAP-tested Qoros 3 had a stand crawling not with media but with staff from rival marques. That shows when there is a threat in town. The car itself isn’t anything cutting edge, but the full cloud-optimised touch screen that even books a service when your 3’s due one is.
However, the difference here is that it looks like someone born in the 20th century might actually master it – rather than it being too clever for its own good, as was the case with so many of the other marques’ offerings. Think Lexus launch, but in the Golf segment and you’re not too far from to truth. Pleasingly, the cutaway NCAP demonstrator had a Britax car seat fitted – so let’s not forget that GB PLC has fostered a pleasing chunk of the engineering talent behind Qoros.
Well, there you are, nearly – it wouldn’t be Geneva without a gut-turning assault on the eyes. Luckily Carlsson brought along a Gold leaf-painted S-Klasse…