PARIS IN­SIGHTS IN­SIGHTS

Honda’s lat­est hy­brid was a hit, but there were plenty of head-turn­ing mod­els, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Report -

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.

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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.

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