Events : Post-Geneva round-up – what’s hot, or not?

Andrew Elphick

Geneva Motor Show header

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…

Renault Twingo III (1)
Twingo III was AROnline’s car of the show – especially in these bright, confident, corporate colours
Renault Twingo III (2)
Compact three-cylinder drivertrain makes it all possible

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.

Citroen C4 Cactus (1)
Bench seat and passion-killing handbrake
Citroen C4 Cactus (2)
Citroen C4 Cactus: a Streetwise for the Samsung generation

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?


MINI Clubman (2)

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.

Rolls-Royce headliner

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.

Qoros 3

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…


Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. MINI got it wrong? Well OK the Clubman is hardly Mini in size, but it hits the market for this of car head on. In that respect they got it absolutely right! Do you really think it would sell better if it was badged as a Triumph? Anyone much under 50 would assume the Motorcycle company had diversified into car production.

  2. The thing is with the Cactus, it’s not really about the bench seat, squishy trims etc, but the fact it weighs so little. Citroen have gone to great lengths to reduce weight and it’s remarkably light and therefore only needs small power plants to power it and thus returns excellent mpg and Co2 outputs.
    The new Twingo looks to be something truly different on the market but don’t bank on much boot space…

  3. A good summary, concentrating on the cars which really mattered – I’d also throw in Jeep Renegade (much more convincing in the metal), the Mazda Hazumi (thinly disguised next generation Mazda 2).

    The new Clubman is the first MINI which could be described as spacious – its principal dimensions must be close to the size of a Rover 75, and its top versions will cost as much as the high-end V6 75s did. So have BMW re-invented Rover under the MINI brand?

    Qoros continues to puzzle. It’s the sort of safe, well-made, nicely appointed, but rather staid car which would appeal to the sort of people who bought the old Volvo S40 and the Honda-era Rovers, yet the target purchasers in its home market are tech-savvy and ‘trendy, active and individual'(their words) 20-somethings. China remains a land of mystery…

  4. Twingo – in comparison it looks retro but any comparison to be made with the rear engined Spiritual? Further vindication of how far ahead of its time it was?

  5. There’s another Twingo connection with BMC / BLMC. It’s made in the former IMV factory in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, which built CKD ADO16s, Minis, and latterly Maxis from 1967-1972.

  6. Did anyone here ever drive the current Smart?
    If yes; you would know that it’s one of the worst handling cars. It redefines the expression plowing ahead. It’s is done delibarately to prevent it from falling over.
    Since the new Twingo is based on an evolution of that same Smart, I fear for the worst…
    And no boot space to write home about either. And the super-light under the bonnet front compartment is non-existing, thus off-limits.
    All show, no go, no stow, just plow?

    And yes, concentrating on the cars which really mattered:
    A gold-plated Carlson Taxi, is really one of them…
    And roof bling-bling.
    Sorry, but for me an utterly useless post…

  7. To no. 8…

    I drive the current smart fortwo with that 3 cylinder engine. Yes, the handling is… unique. But I like it.

    Your facts are wrong. The new Twingo is built on an entirely new platform co-designed by smart and Renault. It will also underpin the new smart forfour due out next year.

  8. Unfortunately, I’m less wrong than you think.
    Please compare the “naked” Twingo picture further up this mail with this one:
    That’s not entirely new; that’s an evolution.

    I hope I’m wrong about the handling, since I genuinely like the Twingo III *and* the concept of it.
    Could be a hoot to drive.
    Could be like a go-cart with a roof.
    Could just as well not be all that…

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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