PARIS INSIGHTS INSIGHTS
Honda’s latest hybrid was a hit, but there were plenty of head-turning models, writes PAUL GOVER
FERRARI was upstaged by Honda on the opening day of this year’s Paris Motor Show. Plenty of gawkers were about when the wraps came off the Italian company’s latest super model, the California, but the real interest was reserved for the Japanese brand’s new Insight hybrid.
Even the bosses of Ford and General Motors made the long trek from the glitzy concepts on the Italian and French stands, where the Alfa Romeo MiTo and the new Renault Megane looked great, to see what Honda is planning for its hybrid future.
It was that kind of show. Paris always produces plenty of goodlooking cars and there was even a concept from Australia, the Chevrolet Orlando SUV, to keep things interesting.
The slab-sided Orlando was a truly global effort. It was designed in South Korea, then built in the top-secret dream factory at Fishermans Bend before being air-freighted to the French capital for show day.
The interesting thing about the Orlando is that it is built over the mechanical package of the next Holden Viva, which was revealed in Paris as the Chevrolet Cruze.
It’s a world car that will be tweaked for different needs in different companies, like so many of the cars in Paris.
An A-to-Z run through the stands reflects the usual contenders from Alfa to Volkswagen, but this year’s hopefuls were sharply divided between concepts and real production cars.
And some, like the Mini Crossover and BMW’s X1, were unveiled as show cars but will clearly make it to production in the near future.
Surprisingly, there was nothing new on the Chinese expansion plan, though Russia’s national carmaker, Lada, had a sports-car concept that redefined the meaning of ugly. Not worth a look.
In the dream factories, the Insight — which will be ready for the road next year and will lead a new generation of Honda hybrids — was the first choice for relevance.
And, despite its obvious visual link to the Toyota Prius — ‘‘optimum aerodynamics’’ says its creator — it looked good.
So, too, did the Mini and the X1, and the newest from Mercedes, the ConceptFascination, which points to the look for the next E-Class.
Aston Martin had a preview of its forthcoming Project One-77 supercar, but it was a model and only the rightfront corner could be seen. The rest was wrapped in a car cover.
With the A1hybrid, Audi showed its thinking on a new city car to sit below the A3. It should be in showrooms inside two years. And the Volkswagen Group made an impact with everything from the new Seat Ibiza to the wicked Lamborghini Estoque.
Over with the locals, Citroen had a luxury hybrid called the Hypnos, played games with the Gran Turismo people for the GTbyCitroen, then got real with the C3 Picasso people mover that will be on the road in the middle of next year. EUGEOT had two concepts and a production car, with the Prologue and RC HyMotion4 to lure dreamers and the good-looking 308 CC to tickle customers.
But Renault did best with the greatlooking new Megane, with the coupe really doing a stunning job and showing the potential the brand has been able to achieve— so far, anyway — in Australia.
Mazda had its teaser for a forthcoming 1, called the Kiyora, and the facelifted MX-5, which has a new nose and not much else.
Still, there was plenty of stuff in Paris that will be important for Australian buyers.
Mitsubishi had a new Colt that looks much funkier, Suzuki had the baby Alto, which will need a sharp price to overcome its eighties styling, and Ford had everything from the allnew Ka to the Fiesta to the S-Max and Kuga— and new Australian president Marin Burela — to point to a future beyond the Falcon.
If Ford can get its Paris stars into action in the next two years it could be transformed into a Down Under success story. VEN Volvo had news, with a line-up of eco-friendly models that will wear a DRIVe badge to advertise a CO2 performance of less than 120g/km.
And the Swedish company confirmed plans for a front-drive version of its new XC60 SUV.
Sadly, there is no chance of the good-looking new Seats making it to Australia — even with Audi-style quality thanks to a recycled A4 now called Exeo — though the updated Skoda Octavia will be an arrival next year.
What else? More, more and more. Everywhere you looked in Paris there was a potential contender for Australia, though there are still more questions than answers.
Saab rolled out the latest in a toolong line of concepts, the 9-X Air
Econvertible, but there was still no sign of the much-needed replacements for the elderly 9-5 and 9-3.
This week the motor show focus switches to Sydney, where Ferrari again has the California as its star.
And, just like Paris, the open-air action will be a two-sided fight, with Lexus showing the four-seater IS Convertible ahead of local sales midway through next year.
the new Renault Megane turned heads; (above left) the Ferrari California; and (left), the Honda Insight. Things to come: (top) a look at the sleek future with the Mazda Kiyora and (above) the shape of the future in French motoring with the Renault RC.
Paris is burning: (above) the Dodge ZEO has been turning heads in the French capital; and (below) the Audi RS6 proved a drawcard for spectators.