Mondial de l’Automobile – Paris Show – October 2014

There are three major Motor Shows that take place in Europe. One of them, in Geneva, is an annual occurrence, and always has been, whereas the French and German hosted shows take in turns, with Paris being held in early in October in even years, while Frankfurt is always a couple of weeks earlier, in mid September in the odd years. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. This being an even year, that meant that the assembly of all the new production vehicles and concept cars would be seen at the Palais des Expositions, at the Porte de Versailles on the southern side of Paris. I’ve made the trip a number of times before, so have now sorted out the logistics. I find it easier to fly to Paris Orly, and stay at a hotel by the airport, and then a combination of the OrlyVal, an RER train and a tram will drop me right outside the front gate within less than a hour. Booking in advance makes this a relatively low cost visit, with the added advantage that there is lots of see and do in Paris if you want to make a weekend of it. Although nothing like as big as the Frankfurt sight, nor as crowded, I have learned that it can still get busy, so I decided to fly out on a Thursday evening, and attend the show on a weekday. For the first couple of hours, this looked like a Good Idea, as the event was particularly crowded. Gradually it filled up, and during the afternoon, it got difficult for the photographer, so when I saw crowds piling out through the gate from around 4pm, I had thought I would get a quieter end to the day. but no! Thursday and Friday evenings for both weeks that the show is run are designated “late night”, with the Show open til 10pm, so at least as many people arrived from later afternoon as departed, and indeed, when I departed at 9:30pm, it was still impossibly busy in some parts of the event. That does mean that there are a few cars of which I simply did not get a photo at all, as even my patience was insufficient for the throngs to leave some of the cars alone. 2014 probably won’t go down as a Vintage Show, not least because most of the cars making their debut were announced from about July onwards, with very little left until the very last minute, but even so, there was more than enough here to delight and entertain the car enthusiast for many hours, as evidenced by the fact that I stayed for eleven and a half hours! Here is some of what I saw and all of what I photographed:


With the Abarth Punto now out of production, there’s only one basic design in the range until the Abarth version of the joint venture with Mazda is released (if, indeed, it does come to market as an Abarth, as is currently promised). Star of the show was the 695 Biposto. First seen earlier in the year, I understand that the press launch is next month in Spain, so expect to read more about this track-inspired little rocket then. Joining it were a 595C Turismo in one of the new bicolore paint schemes (not to may taste) and a 595 Competizione, also in a new colour, the rather fetching metallic Cordolo Red.

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For many years, Britain had the three wheeler, exemplified by the Reliant Robin, as a “car” with tax advantages, which finally became too insignificant compared to the acquisition cost of the car and its mediocrity, but France has persisted with its special form of light or micro-cars, which can be driven without a full driving licence, and Aixam was one of two marques whose surprisingly wide range of products were on show. Laugh all you like, but these awful things do still sell, and you encounter them put-putting along the roads at speeds which get in every one’s way more often than you would like.

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The Alfa range is still not very extensive, so to augment the current models, a classic 1950s Giulietta Sprint was on show, and very lovely it was, too.

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The 4C Competizione is now in production, and has had very mixed reviews, certainly from the UK press. As well as the fixed head model you can buy,  a concept version of the impending open topped car was also on show.

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The stand was completed with the latest versions of the MiTo and Giulietta.


Unlike some of the other prestige marques, Aston were welcoming at least some people who clearly could not afford their cars (at least for now!) onto their stand, with a succession of children being invited on for a closer look. One corner contained an N430 version of the V8 Vantage, and other cars included a Vanquish as well as a Rapide.

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The DB9 GT3 was on a stand in Hall 2.

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In anticipation – correct, it turned out – of this being one of the busier stands all day,  I headed to Audi  as an early priority. The vast stand had only a sub-set of cars from the very comprehensive range that is now offered, but it was the newest cars that I really wanted to see. And actually, these were the easiest to see, as they were behind a barrier, so once Audi’s own people stopped leaning on them, getting a clear view and photos of these models was not hard. It was the TT Sportback Concept which particularly intrigued me. The press seemed to be a little underwhelmed by this, whereas I had thought it looked quite good in the pictures I had seen. In the metal, I can tell you that I think it looks really good. I know that Audi are agonising over which of the three recent Concepts to put into production. If it were my call, I think I’d go for this one.

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The Spider version of the third generation TT was also making its debut, and a couple of these cars were on show, along with the Coupe model.

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Also blessed with a place on a turntable was the recently facelifted A6. New bumpers and lights are the way to tell the car apart, though there are lots of detailed changes, and the latest generations of ever more efficient engines are under the bonnet, delivering CO2 ratings that best in class (for now). Even the usually Audi-hating UK motoring press seem to be very impressed by this range, and I have to say that my experience of the pre-facelift car in the volume selling 2.0 TDi format suggests that whilst it is not exactly exciting, it is impressively competent in every regard.

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An outdoor display contained another trio of the new TT models, and next to no people, so an ideal opportunity get a better look.

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Crewe-based Bentley Motors had a large stand, but only a small number of cars on it. Access was by invitation, so ordinary mortals, like me, had to content themselves with a viewing from the perimeter. Pride of place went to the new Speed version of the Mulsanne. I’m still not totally convinced by the looks of this model, but there is no denying that it is an impressive machine, and the latest more powerful engine is only likely to enhance the appeal.

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The other cars on the stand included representatives of each of the three other body styles that Bentley currently offer: Continental GT in Speed guise, the GTC V8S and the V8 powered Flying Spur.

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BMW had a huge stand which went the entire length of Hall 5. They had assembled plenty of cars from their cast range, but even though there was also plenty of space around them, right from the start of the day, this was one of the busier places, and it was hard to get a close up look at much of what was on show. A number of  the very newest models were shown up high above the stand, so whilst you could not get a close inspection, at least you could see them.

Either end of the stand had a car behind a security barrier, though it seemed that various show go-ers, some more obviously sales prospects than others were invited to have a close up inspection, much to the annoyance of all the photographers! A the far end of the stand there was a new M4 Coupe, and a special 30th Anniversary M5 was positioned high above it.

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The other end of the stand contained the i8. Maybe thanks to its rather futuristic looks, in a good way, this would seem to be one of the star new cars of 2014, getting lots of attention and for all the right reasons. There is now a waiting list stretching into 2016 for anyone who can find around 100 Grand which is what they cost.

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The i3 was attracting lots of attention, too, though these are nothing like as easy to sell. I’ve only seen a few on the road in nearly 12 months since they went on sale. The limited range, even when the 9 litre petrol “range extender” feature is added, is clearly quite a worry. I could not get near the ones on BMW’s stand, but there was one outside on EDF’s stand, which was much easier to inspect.

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The 2 Series range has grown during the year, from the initial Coupe to include a Convertible and the first front wheel drive model, the Active Tourer. All were on display, and attracting lots of attention.

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Making its first big show debut was the new X6. A cautious evolution of the old model, this one is going to appeal to all those people – over a quarter of a million of them, it turns out – who liked the first iteration. Everyone else will condemn the car as the worst manifestation of vulgar and pointless excess, but if it generates revenue and profit for the corporate coffers to allow BMW to build the sort of cars we do all approve of, like M3s and M5s, then perhaps we should just accept that there are those who just want something like the X6.

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After xDrive and sDrive, learn a new BMW nomenclature. This X5 was badged eDrive. Wondering if its announcement had passed me by, it turned out that this is still a concept, planned for release before long. It is, of course, a Hybrid model.

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I did not get close to many of the other models on show.

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One of my top contenders for “Car of the Year” is the C4 Cactus, which I think looks great. It’s a pity that the press have been less than bowled over by driving it, but their criteria are probably a long way from those of the people who would actually buy one, and I have just read that production is being increased to meet greater than expected demand, which is always a good sign. Several examples were on show, including a concept 2 L Airflow model. This is so named as it has a fuel consumption of just 2 litres/100 km thanks to a number of changes over the standard car including less weight, improved aerodynamics and the use of the innovative HybridAir technology on its 1.2 litre 82bhp engine.

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Rather less appealing is Citroen’s other newcomer of 2014, the C1. A concept “UrbanRide” version was displayed along with a number of production cars.

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The rest of the range were also on show, with C3, C4 and C5 as well as the Picasso based cars.

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The middle of the stand contained a couple of much loved classic models, a 2CV and DS21.

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Citroen have declared that DS will become a brand in its own right, but for now it is still part of Citroen, though it did have its own stand area. DS3, DS4 and DS5 cars were all painted in dark colours and there was not a lot of lighting to illuminate them.

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The DS Divine Concept was the star attraction of the DS part of the stand. I heard several people declaring how beautiful they found it. I beg to disagree.

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Citroen’s motorsport activities were well represented with a DS3 and a C4 Elysée.

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Small commercial vehicles. There is no more to be said, really!

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I was not quite sure what to make of this. It was a rather odd looking electric car, and rather than being displayed on stand by its maker, it was on an insurance company stand, and seemed to be proposed as an alternative city runabout for when your own car was off the road. A bit of research has turned up that Courb is a recently set up French manufacturer of electric cars and this is the second generation C-Zen model. All electric, it has lithium ion batteries which give a range of up to 120 km, and a top speed of 110 km/h.

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The French have really taken to the Dacia marque, so it was no surprise to find this stand was very busy all day long. There was an example of each of the different models in the range: Logan, Logan MCV, Sandero, Dokker and Lodgy. The Stepway version of the Dokker was the new addition to the range.

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No surprise that there was no open access to this stand, or that there were crowds around the perimeter of it all day. Centrepiece was the new 458 Speciale A, the open topped version of the much lauded 458 Speciale.

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The stand also included an example of each of the other models in the range, from the newly turbo-charged California T through the 458 to the FF and F12 Berlinetta.

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World debut for the long awaited 500X, the last model, we are told, that will take the 500 branding. This car shares its underpinnings with the Jeep Renegade, though to look at it, you would not believe it. Several examples of the car were on the stand, and there was a centre piece sculpture as well. Common consent is that this car looks better than the 500L (I agree).

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There were plenty of examples of the rest of the range on the stand, too: 500, 500L. Panda and the Freemont. Conspicuous by its absence was the Punto, though.

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Lots of new metal on the Ford stand,  some of which you will be able to buy in weeks rather than months. In that category comes the new Mondeo which has been a long time coming.  This is a large car, which means it is roomy, and it is nicely finished, but it does have a problem, and that is spelled Passat, which outsells the Ford by a significant margin currently. The high end models are badged Vignale, with no mention of Mondeo. I can’t see that fooling anyone, though, into thinking that this is a separate and more premium model. Ford also need to think again about how to imbue their interiors with something which genuinely looks classy. This one is OK, but not going to trouble Audi or Volvo.

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Next up will be the Mustang. Coming officially to Europe and with right hand drive for the first time, there are still diverging opinions on how much of a bargain this car will be. The first press reports suggest that some fine tuning of the suspension is required, and Ford have said that this will come before the Spring 2015 launch of both Coupe and Convertible models.

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Another American-developed car follows it, the Edge. This SUV will sit above the Kuga in the range.

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Next summer should see a second generation S-Max hit the showrooms. After showing us a concept version in the summer, this is the production car, and it looks exactly the same.

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Smaller vehicles that will find their way heading in the opposite direction across the Atlantic include the Transit Connect models, in Van and Passenger carrying guises. Not exactly things of beauty, these models are extremely practical, and are reportedly rather better to drive than their rivals.

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The facelifted Focus is about to go on sale. To my eyes, the new front is an improvement, replacing the awkward triangular shaped air intakes with the Aston-shaped grille. The interior is better, but still not good enough, and I believe that the driving characteristics have been enhanced as well.

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Similar changes have been applied to the C-Max, though there are several months before you are likely to be able to buy one.

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Other cars on show included the Fiesta, in new Red Edition guise, the B-Max and the truly disappointing EcoSport, a car which received a series of very lukewarm reviews when the press were finally allowed to drive it.

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Honda were at the entrance to Hall 3. They were probably not best pleased as this was the least busy hall, containing the lesser (in sales volume) Aisan marques and the oddities such as Aixam and Ligier. Given the recent sales performance of the marque once known for innovative engineering and producing cars aimed at the enthusiast but now offering a range of dull Toyota-aping appliances, this was perhaps not unfair. Honda hope that this perception will change in 2015 when they launch a new Civic Type R, and to wet the appetite, a concept version was on show on one corner of the stand.

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It was not the only new car, as they were also showing the new HR-V, a sort of Crossover version of the new Jazz. Unremittingly dull, this will no doubt sell to those who have been buying Hondas these past few years, but I can’t see it helping with the image reversal much.

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The larger CR-V gets a mild facelift, too. This car is a hot seller in the US, but struggles in Europe. I believe it is quite a good product, but again, there’s no flair or pizzaz at all.

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Not that Honda’s attempts to inject those elements have been entirely successful, as the latest Civic, shown in Hatch and Tourer (Estate) versions evidences. This rather ungainly looking thing also suffers as it is priced right at the ambitious end of a very competitive class.

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Another impending new model is the third generation Jazz. Slated for release next summer, which will make it a couple of years since the first versions were seen in Japan, this is also an awkward looking car, but no doubt will continue to sell to well heeled pensioners who constitute the bulk of the model’s purchasers.

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A reminder of happier times came from the historic model on the stand, an early Honda Formula 1 car from 1963.

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The World Touring Car Civic was also displayed.

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First European showing for the new i20. The first car to bear this name was a bit of a disappointment following the high standards set by its larger i30 brother, and whilst we don’t yet know what this one is like to drive, it certainly scores highly on visual appeal both inside and out. Its only problem is that Skoda have a new car in this class which I think has it beaten (just), otherwise I would have said that this looked like everything the new Corsa should be and is not!

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The i20 was not the only new Hyundai on show, as tucked away, almost hidden, even, was the latest Genesis. The first one wasn’t sold in Europe, but this one will be. It will not achieve much in volume, though, as the plan is only to offer a large capacity petrol engine, which will make it tax expensive.

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Hyundai have a new van, the H350,  which looks uncannily like the latest Ford Transit and is bound to take some sales from Ford’s stalwart.

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The Intrado concept is said to presage the looks of the next generation ix35. We shall see.

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The current ix35 was shown in a Hydrogen Fuel Cell version as well as the more conventionally engineered models which have been on sale for a while now.

The rest of Hyundai’s range filled this large stand, with the i10 that was refreshed at the start of 2014, the i30 in Hatch and Touring (Estate) guises, the rather odd Veloster, as well as the i40, the Santa Fe and the smaller ix20.

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Final car on the stand was the WRC version of the i20.

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A rather dark stand contained plenty of cars, with the most interesting being the concept Q80 Inspiration, which is said to presage a forthcoming top of the range model.

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Production models on show included the Q50, now offered in 2.0 Turbo petrol guise as well as the 2.2 diesel and V6 petrol, the larger Q70 saloon and the QX50 and QX70 SUVs.

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Confined to the Pickup market these days, Isuzu sell their D-Max based on value and the fact that their product has a reputation for being quite tough. A number of different models were on show, but there was nothing new here.

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Huge disappointment. The car that I wanted to see above all else was the new XE. And Jaguar had three of them on the stand. Wisely, they had put a barrier around the large stand, to stop it getting over crowded (something Mercedes should regret not doing, as you will read lower down this report!), but that did mean that there was not free entry to the stand. It seemed that any snotty and spotty child made it on, but otherwise unless you were a VIP, with a barcode-readable invitation, there was no access. If this is how Jaguar think that they will achieve conquest sales from the German trio, then they have massively misjudged, and the launch event was surely the time to make sure that everyone who might have the car on their short list could get a look. From what I could tell, the XE does indeed look as good as the initial pictures suggested, but as to what the inside is like, I am afraid I have no idea. But I know just how disappointed I am.

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A large and busy stand. The new Renegade is poised to hit the market, so this was another chance to see this Italian built model. I think it could do quite well, combining Jeep-style looks with a smaller size that will be more realistic for Europe than the marque’s traditional offerings.

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A huge stand for Kia, at the far end of Hall 3, and lots to see, all of looking good, in my opinion. Peter Schreyer has really transformed the appearance of the entire range, and with improvements to the interior quality and the driving dynamics, to complement the appealing ownership proposition, all that remains is for brand reputation to catch up with the reality. The latest new model in the range is the third generation Sorento. Such is the rate of change that is only a couple of years since a thorough reworking of the second generation car, and now there is an all new one. This could well snatch the large (to European eyes) SUV crown from rival Hyundai whose Santa Fe did so well in comparison tests a year ago.

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Just going on sale is the EV version of the latest Soul. It joins the petrol and diesel models which hit European markets in the spring. In America, the Soul is a huge hit leading the sub-compact sales charts, but in Europe, this funky box like car has struggled to find favour, even though it is a thoroughly practical car that drives quite nicely.

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Mild facelifts have been applied to the Rio and the Venga, though you may need to look at a picture of the old and new to spot the differences.

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The Cee’d range was new last year, and has now been fully populated with the three door pro-Cee’d, the practical Estate and the GT models which add a touch of sporting to these nicely finished mid-sized cars.

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The Optima has never really hit it off in Europe, proving how hard it is to crack the D segment with a non premium model, and I am not sure that the Hybrid car shown here will do much to change that, even though my experience of driving a regular Optima in the US suggests that this is a very competent product.

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Other models in the range include the small Picanto, the versatile Carens and the car slated to be next in line for renewal, the Sportage.

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The rest of the extensive range were also on show


This was the very first stand I visited, positioned right by the entrance to Hall 4. With three cars parked parallel to each other, and separated from the crowds by a barrier, it was not as hard to see these cars later in the day as some other marques, but even so I appreciated the very clear view I had of the new Huracan, the established Aventador Spider and in between them, the Asterion concept car.

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This once proud marque was confined to a dark corner of the Hall where the Fiat Group was located. Longer term, the only model which will survive is the Ypsilon, but for now, there are a couple of other Lancia badged products, the rather gawky Delta and the Voyager, a rebadged Chrysler MPV.

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Adjoining the Jaguar stand was Land-Rover, and the same access limitations applied. Frustratingly, that meant that I could get no nearer to the new Discovery Sport than I could the XE, which is a shame, as this is a great looking car which I think could do really well. Yes, it is larger and likely to be more costly than the Freelander that it replaces, but it looks very much like the product for our times. I wish it well.

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The rest of this impressive looking range of cars from classic Defender and trendy Evoque to useful Discovery and luxury Range Rover products were also all displayed.

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Ah, Lexus. If you wanted to find a quiet stand in Hall 4, then this was where to come. Although the Americans seem to lap up everything that this brand offers, Europeans are far less convinced that this is the marque for them. A perverse selection of models with tax efficient but costly hybrids and cheaper but tax-penalised petrol models is part of the difficulty, and the anaesthetised driving dynamics that most of them offer don’t help matters. To this can now be added the polarising appearance of the latest cars. We grimaced at the IS Saloon when it appeared, but that’s nothing compared to the latest model, the NX. Some people, for sure, will love the looks of this SUV, but judging by the comments I have seen on various forums and websites and letters in motoring magazines, most are aghast at the mess of surfaces and lines which look like some crashed it from all angles. Apparently, it is also very underwhelming to drive, so don’t bank on this being the car to elevate Lexus’ sales figures that much in countries like Germany (the most Lexus averse of the Europeans) or France.

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I suspect that the next model to reach us, the RC, won’t change much either. This is also blessed with looks that only a mother could love, and although the promise of the RC-F model’s stonking performance sounds good on paper, when the alternative, for similar money, is a BMW M4, I really can’t see this one being a common sight on our roads. That few people were bothering to look at it, even when the rest of the show was heavingly busy says it all.

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The stand was populated with examples of the rest of the range, from the ill-riding CT, to that gawky IS, the unloved GS, the capable but largely forgotten LS and the one that people do actually buy, the RX.

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Like Aixam, Ligier offer a series of diminutive low-powered cars that can be driven without a full driving licence. A vast array of them were on show, and the different models seem to have been designed to look vaguely like a number of “real” cars. Bizarre in the extreme!

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Another stand where you could not access it unless you were “known”. The last couple of shows I’ve been to have had an “open stand” policy, and if Maserati are serious about getting 5 Series and E Class drivers into the Ghibli, they should perhaps have let people on to have a look at the car from closer than the other side of the barrier. Cars on show included the Quattroporte and Ghibli saloons as well as the GranTurismo and GranCabrio cars.

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Star of the stand, though, was the Alfieri concept, an elegant Coupe model which it is said will see production in 2016.

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For the past few years, Mazda have presented the cars on their stand finished either in white or a lovely metallic red. At Geneva, earlier this year, it was explained to me that the colours represented different “generations” of Mazda, with the red for the latest cars and the white the previous iteration. Reflecting the pace of renewal of the models, there were no white cars at all on the stand at Paris, everything was in that same and very attractive mica metallic red which is apparently the most popular colour in the range. That meant no sign of the soon to be replaced Mazda 2, or the Mazda 5. Highlight of the stand was the new MX5. The so-called “ND” version was premiered in early September in advance of sales starting next summer, so this would be the first chance for many Europeans to see it in the metal. I had seen one at the Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach the previous month, so already knew that this is something of a disappointment, looking a bit awkward from every angle. Mazda are still not saying much about the technical specification, other than boasting that it is lighter than the outgoing NC model.

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Whilst the MX5 does not quite hit the spot for me, the rest of the range does. There was a broad selection of 3, 6 and CX5 cars for show goers to have a look at. With their attractive lines and much improved interiors, these look like a solid range of cars which deserve to sell far more strongly than they do. This is certainly my favourite Japanese brand, by a long way.

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This stand was not a success. Lots of cars, and nothing protected by barriers sounds great, but the reality is that it was so busy that it was more like the Tube in rush hour than a place where you could look at cars. By 6pm, though, half the stand had been cordoned off, so that invited guests could have a private party and see some of the cars properly. At least that meant that between waiters rushing back and forth with trays of canapes and glasses of champagne, I could see some of the newcomers. There were two of the Mercedes-AMG GT cars on show, one rather further away than the other.

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The new AMG C63 was also present, though I could only see this from a distance.

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Other cars that I could at least see at this point in the evening were the new C Class, an SLK and the S Class Coupe.

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Centre of attention here was the new 5 Door MINI which is just going on sale around Europe. Whoever designed this clearly used the same sized people as Mercedes did with the CLA, as access through those additional side doors is very poor indeed. the front doors are far too long, and the short little rear doors make getting in and out quite unnecessarily difficult. Once in, there is more space than in the 3 Door (not hard!), so I can see that for families, this is a more realistic proposition, as it preserves all the innate MINI-ness. So if you like that, and are feeling affluent enough, as despite apparently reasonable starting prices, the spec that people will actually buy makes these Golf priced, this will doubtless sell. Whether it will outsell the 3 Door at 3:1, as MINI suggested at launch, though, is less clear.

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The rest of the stand comprised examples of all the other bodystyles, with the third generation 3 Door joined by the second generation cars in Cabrio, Roadster, Coupe, Clubman, Countryman and Paceman formats.

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Also on show was the Supperleggera Concept that was first shown at Villa d’Este in April.

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A number of MINIs were available outside for a short test drive.

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You may be surprised to learn that Mitsubishi sales in Europe are up in 2014. And yet the range of cars that this one respected Japanese maker has is now somewhat restricted compared to even a few years ago. A lot of the success has been down to the PHEV version of the Outlander, which offers all the benefits of Hybrid technology, with none of the penalties, as it is priced not a lot more than a regular diesel model, and the partial hybrid system means that the range is not as limited as a pure electric.

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A concept Outlander S was on show, giving a clue as to what a facelifted model could look like.

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The smaller ASX has been on sale for a while, and so a new version is surely under development. This rather more dramatic looking concept is said to provide some clues as to what the next generation mode might look like.

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The production ASX was on show, along with the iMIEV and the small hatch that is sold as the Mirage in the UK but the SpaceStar in Europe, as well as the Shogun/Pajero and the L200 Pickup.

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Brand new to Europe is the Pulsar, a return to the commercially vital C-Segment hatch market. I’m not convinced that this car “redefines the market” or whatever other tosh the advertising slogan tries to get us to believe, but it is a neatly executed car that should do well. A concept Nismo version was on show as well as the regular models you can buy now.

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Within the last few months, a new Qashqai and X-Trail have been introduced. The former impressed me when I rented one a few weeks ago, and is already a common sight on our roads. The latter, a European version of the US market Rogue, does not seem to have hit quite the same spot, but looked quite promising to me.

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The iDX concept cars were both on show, the Freeflow and the Nismo. Rumour has it that Nissan will put something like these into production before too long.

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A couple of Jukes were parked up outside in the main alley that links the Halls together. With their very bold ochre coloured paint, you could hardly miss them. In case you did, there were some more indoors.

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Also on the stand were the Note and the Micra.

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Big news here is the “all new” Corsa. Apparently it really is all new, even though it looks so like the old one with an Adam-ised front end and a few extra creases in the styling. The interior has been much praised, and whilst it is better than what went before, and better than the low-rent Fiesta, it is not exactly the “wow” that press headline and PR writers would have us believe. I am sure this car will sell well, and we will all get to used seeing them en masse right across Europe.

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Also on show were some new additions to the Adam range. Opel will assert that the car has hit their sales targets, but the reality is that this car does not seem to have captured the imagination of many people, and sales have been pretty insignificant outside Germany. Perhaps the addition of the new 1.0 litre engine, the open topped models and the hotter S models will change all that. Perhaps, but I would not bet on it.

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Opel had a number of Adam models parked up outside which interested parties could take on a short test drive.

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One of the larger stands of the event, as you would expect, and it was always pretty busy, but there was nothing here that was truly new. Many would not have seen the Elixir concept before, and it had been repainted from earlier in the year. This is a striking looking design and gives clues as to what we might see from a marque that is finally rediscovering its mojo after a fifteen year period of producing some very mediocre stuff indeed.

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Other concept vehicles on the stand included the Quartz and the 208 DKR

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Next year should see a production version of the hot 308, shown here in concept R guise. There were plenty of hatch and SW versions that you can buy right now including the warm hatch GT models which have just been launched.

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The 508 has just received a mild facelift. I am not sure that the new rear lights are an improvement, but overall this is an attractive car, even if  few outside France would agree with the French press’ assertion that it beats the BMW 3 Series and C Class Mercedes, as appeared in some of their titles on the bookstands at the time of my visit.

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The 108 has been on sale for a few weeks now, and is starting to appear on European roads. To my mind, this is the most attractive (or rather, least unattractive) version of the joint Peugeot/Citroen and Toyota venture, but it still feels rather cheap inside and is not a car I would choose against many of its market rivals.

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As well as production versions of the 208, there was an example with the innovative Hybrid Air technology and the WRCC car.

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The larger 3008 was also present.

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Another of those marques little known in the UK, PGO produce a range of small cars that combine the size of the Daihatsu Copen with the styling traits of the Porsche 356. They’ve been around for years and seem to have found a steady business with these  models. The Cevennes has been the mainstay of the range for a while, but there were some other ones bearing different names and some slightly unusual styling (!).

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Porsche were next to Lamborghini, and I should have gone there after admiring the Asterion, but instead, I went to the other side of the Hall, and to Audi, and by the time I came back, their large stand was busy, and it just got more so during the day. The one car which I could see easily was the 919 Spider Le Mans car which was set in a display in front of the rest of the stand.

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As if one 919 was not enough, there was a second one in Hall 2, on one of the motoring magazine stands.

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The only cars I could point the camera at were the new Panamera eHybrid and the Cayman GTS.

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Renault has the same contoured stand that has humps and bumps on it as they used in Geneva. It covered a vast area which allowed the local marque to present a lot of cars. 10 of them were the brand new Espace, the only completely new French model at the show. I have to say that a lot of customers who liked the old model may be disappointed with this one.  Whereas previous Espace models have been commodious vehicles, this one seems to have lost a lot of that, with the third row of seats being particularly compact. For now, it won’t come to the UK, but that’s not an irrevocable decision.

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The new Twingo is just going on sale around Europe. At Geneva, all the cars were locked or on turntables, but this show allowed everyone to have a look inside. Sadly, those pert external lines do not translate so well inside, where some nasty sharp edged plastics predominate. There’s not that much room in the back, and the boot is very shallow thanks to the engine being under the boot floor. Even so, I am sure that the French will buy it in quantity.

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This concept sports car is what remains of the proposed alliance between Caterham and Renault.

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Reflecting Renault’s continued commitment to the electric car was their latest concept, the Eolab. This is an attempt to show what the Clio of 2022 might be like in a low CO2 future. With its slippery tear-drop shaped body, a low roof line and a weight of just 995kg, of which 145kg is for the hybrid transmission, it offers incredible efficiency with a quoted fuel consumption of 282 mpg whilst generating just 22 g/km of CO2. It even has “normal” performance, going from 0 – 100 km/h in around 9 seconds.

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There were plenty of more familiar production cars, ranging from the Clio and Megane to the Scenic and Koleos, as well as the Twizy and Zoe.

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The crowds surrounded this stand all day long, and there seemed to be a steady stream of potential customers getting a close up, so hard to get pictures of the four cars that were on the stand: a Phantom, Phantom Drophead, Ghost and Wraith.

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After a few years in the relative wilderness, Seat seems to have come much more to the fore, and that is largely down to the truly excellent Leon. I’ve driven a couple of these and thought that they were excellent cars, and were I in  the market for a car in this class, would likely get my vote. 2014 saw the arrival of the Cupra versions, and these also were favourably received, offering much the same sort of performance and driving experience as you get in a Golf GTi, but with the Seat’s distinctive and elegant looks.

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New for this Show are the X-Perience cars. This would appear to be Seat’s version of Audi’s Allroad, or Skoda’s Scout, with slightly raised ride height, and lower body plastic cladding being the obvious visual differentiators. Currently only available with four wheel drive, a front wheel drive version will be offered in due course.

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The stand did also feature the rest of the range: Mii, Ibiza, Toledo and Alhambra.

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There were a lot of examples of the new third generation Fabia on this stand, with a mixture of Hatch and Combi (Estate) versions to inspect. Although not a particularly exciting car, I awarded this my “best new car, in the affordable world” prize. It looks neat, much better proportioned than the slightly gawky model it replaces, and the interior is well up to scratch. I suspect it might not quite drive as well as a Fiesta, but in all other respects, it has the Ford beaten, on cost, value and looks.

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On one occasion that I was on the Skoda stand, I came across a very impressive dance routine which ended up with clever positioning of the dancers to display the new car spread across their costumes.

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Skoda’s other models were present, but with single examples of most of them, with Octavia Saloon and Estate, the small Citigo, the slightly larger Rapid, the capacious Superb and the deservedly popular Yeti.

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The Tour de France Superb course car was also on the stand.

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Ah yes. A stand where every single model was making its show debut. And what a disappointment these cars are. Looking like they have escaped from “Cars” the movie, they have a certain comedic appeal, I suppose, from the outside, though those grilles are truly awful. And awful sums up the interior which is about as nasty as you get in any car these days. The new platform, shared with the Renault Twingo and a decent transmission should make the car a whole lot better to drive, but I have to say that I thought there is no good reason to buy one of these, especially the ForFour over a Twingo.

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Squeezed in between Subaru and Smart was this Korean brand whose fortunes may start to turn now that they have realised that wilfully ugly cars like the old Rodius are hard to sell. The latest production models include its replacement, the Rodius/Turismo, as well as the Rexton and recently facelifted Korando.

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Also on show were two versions of the XIV Concept, the AIR and more rugged Adventure,  which point at the direction we will see when a smaller model appears in the range in coming months.

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Apart from the Swiss, who still buy lots of Subaru, the marque has lost almost all its European customers, thanks to a diminution in brand values, coupled with styling that shows signs of several ugly sticks and interiors that are still way below class average. Americans are buying ever greater numbers of the cars, so catering for their tastes has clearly been the priority. The current range of Forester, Impreza and XV were on show.

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Newcomer here is the Vitara. I guess this can be seen as the replacement for the SX4, though no-one has said so in as many words. It is a neat enough looking small Crossover type vehicle, but it will be entering a crowded market, so it is hard to be sure how well it will deliver sales.

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Last year’s newcomer the SX4 S-Cross, to give it the full name was much in evidence on the stand. Looking a bit like a blandified early first generation Qashqai, this car has achieved some progress in the same market.

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Star of Suzuki’s range is the Swift, with the Sport version getting particularly fulsome praise for being fun to drive and excellent value for money.

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There was no sign of the Celerio which will arrive next year to take the place of the Alto and the Splash, so the cars you can actually buy now were both on show, as was the evergreen Jimny.

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One of the busiest stands of the whole show, there were several Model S cars on display, and I could get nowhere near any of them, let alone get a picture.


If the Lexus stand was the quiet one in Hall 4, then the adjoining Toyota one was the next least busy. One end of the stand concentrated on the latest Aygo, a model released to the market in the middle of the year. There’s no denying that Toyota have tried to be bold with the styling, especially the front with that “hot cross bun” grille. It’s a shame that the rest of the car feels cheap and the colour matched bits of interior trim, if the outside of the car is a nice bright colour, like orange or red, would drive you mad in hours if not minutes.

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The facelifted Yaris was also making one of its first public appearances. Toyota were pushing very hard the fact that this car is made in France, no doubt hoping to persuade the scores of patriotic buyers not to be tempted by a Clio or a 208. The new front end styling on this one is also not to my taste.

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More interesting was the concept version of their Hydrogen Fuel Cell car, the FCV. We are promised a production car in 2015, and it will likely look not that different from this. One to watch.

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One I hope they don’t build, at least not looking anything like this, is another concept, the C-HR. Think of this as Toyota’s riposte to the very successful Juke, but even more way out styling wise and you get the intent. I am sure that something of this size will arrive in the range before too long, but please, Toyota, not looking like this.

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Another concept vehicle was the i-Road, which looks like Toyota’s answer to the Renault Twizy, complete with a bit more in the way of wet weather protection.

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There were examples of the rest of the range on show, with an array of Prius models including the regular car, the Plug In Hybrid and the particularly capacious Prius +.

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Reappearance of another name from the past, Monegasque maker Venturi had an example of the product they want us to buy now as well as the elegant 260 Coupe that they made in the late 1980s. The Venturi America is an electric car which puts out 400 bhp and will go from 0 – 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and hit 220 km/h. Just 25 examples are to be built.

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One of the Show highlights was the Ducati engined XL1 Sport. Or so the Press told us. Sadly, VW clearly thought that once the Press had gone, there was no need to keep the car on display and it had been taken away. Shows how important VW think the public are – you know, the ones who actually buy their products as opposed to expect lavish launch parties and freebie long term test cars! At least there was a regular XL1, there, if you can call anything that looks quite so futuristic “regular”.

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Without the distraction of the XL1 Sport, centre of attention was focused on the all new Passat. This may look like a cautious evolution of the outgoing car, but unlike that one, which was a revamp of the 2005 car, this one is all new. Passat may not get many pulses racing, but it is a very significant car, selling in sales volumes that its other D-Segment rivals can only dream about, and it is now reported that over 20 million cars bearing the name have been made since its launch in 1973. A considerable number of cars were on the stand, both Saloons and Estates, in various trim levels, including the R-Line.  As well as the big selling TDi models, VW showed a hybrid GTE model. which looks interesting, and does not call for the same compromise in distance driven as in a purely electric model such as VW’s own eGolf. The Passat will not have the market to itself, of course, and it has been timed to arrive at exactly the same moment as Europe gets the long awaited fourth generation Mondeo, so comparisons are inevitable. Both are reported to be excellent cars, and I look forward to trying them, as I am sure I will before long. As a static object, my vote goes to the VW. The interior still looks a class above the (much improved) Ford. On the road, of course, the voting positions may well be reversed.

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Despite having a huge stand, there was not space to have lots of examples of the other models in VW’s expansive range, so in many cases, a particular car was represented by a single car. This included the passenger version of the Caddy and the Polo

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There was an e-Golf on the EDF stand outside, giving another chance to have another look at this well received all electric car.

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Volvo had a huge stand, but there was not a lot on it. Just two cars, both examples of the brand new XC90. These proved so popular that despite passing by the stand countless times during the day, I never managed to get a clear shot of either of them, let alone sit in one of them. From what I could see, though, this is a well resolved design, and the interior is absolutely fabulous. It’s been a long wait, but this car deserves to do very well.  The rest of the range was represented solely by a series of holograms which projected images onto a large recessed screen.


Hall 8 at this event always contains a special exhibition, and is well worth a visit. The theme for 2014 was “L’Automobile et la Mode” (The Car and Fashion) and it documented the cars’ relationship with fashion from the start of the 20th century through to today. It comprised an incredible display of over 50 cars from the past 100 years, each contextualized by associated vintage posters, video footage and clothing. The 50 hand-picked cars were chosen because they revolutionized the automotive fashion of their respective eras. Some were obvious, such as the Ford Model T and Citroën DS, but others were more obscure choices of car and fashion design collaborations, including the ’70s Courrèges Matra, and even the personal rides of some of the last century’s leading fashion figures, including Yves Saint Laurent and the head of Hermès. Regardless of the “excuse” to include some of the cars in the display, this was an absolutely fabulous collection of very diverse cars, and to be honest was almost worth the show entry price in its own right. An added bonus was that this Hall did not get anything like as busy as the others, so it was easy to see the cars from all angles without the photographer getting frustrated with the crowds.

1897 Panhard & Levassor M2F 6CV

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Citroen 11CV “Traction Avant”

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1934 Fiat 508 Ballila Sport

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Ford Model T

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The 1934 Peugeot 402 BL Éclipse Décapotable is notable as it was the world’s first folding hardtop production car.

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Surely one of the most amazing cars in the display was this, the Art Deco-inspired 1935 Voisin C28 Aerosport prototype. Its elegant lines and immaculately rendered details are stunning, from its graphic winged mascot to its covered rear wheel, including surely the best rocker edging ever?

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This 1939 Talbot-Lago T150C SS with Falaschi et Figoni body is often known as the “Goutte d’eau” (tear drop) for obvious reasons when you look at the shape of the body. Stunning!

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1937 Renault NervaSport

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1950s Renault Juvaquattre van

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1952 Peugeot 203 Coupe

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1949 Jaguar XK120

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1957 Mercedes 300SL “Gull Wing”

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1958 Subaru 360

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1958 Citroen DS19

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Perfectly reflecting the “Swinging Sixties” was the 1967 “Parisienne” version of the Renault R4. By the time it was produced, the small Renault had been on sale for 6 years and was very popular as a general purpose run about. Noting the success of rival BMC’s Mini, which had been the car of choice for many celebrities who spent a lot of money personalising their cars, Renault applied the same sort of philosophy to the utilitarian R4, with the wicker look panels on  the side giving it a certain “je ne sais quoi”.

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1964 Facel Vega HKII

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This 1968 Matra 530 art car by Sonia Delaunay is a one off which effectively predates the altogether less impressive VW Polo Harlequin (thankfully) limited edition by about 30 years

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1968 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

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1964 Morgan Plus 4

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1967 Toyota 2000GT

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A special highlight of this exhibition was the trio of amazing concept cars that were produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s by three different designers. All three are well known cars, immortalised in model cars when they were new, but you don;t often get the chance to see them for real. First up was the striking Alfa Romeo Carabo of 1968. This amazing car was penned by Marcello Gandini.

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Based on a Maserati Bora, this Giorgetto Giugiaro design exercise, the Maserati Boomerang, was the sensation of the 1971 Turin Motor Show despite at that time being merely a non-working model. So popular was it that the company considered it worth the effort and money to turn it into a working vehicle, which is how it appeared at Geneva the following year. An amazing design, and a real treat to see if here.

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Proving that it was not just the Italians who could produce striking designs was Bruno Sacci’s Mercedes CIII-II from 1970. Initially conceived to house a rotary engine, a small number of these cars were built and this one has recently been restored and can be driven on the road again. There is an article penned by a lucky journalist who got the chance to do that in the November 2014 issue of Classic Cars magazine.

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There were plenty of production cars from the 1970s, too, every one of which had something special to offer. One of my favourites was this fabulous little Citroen Mehari

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Citroen SM

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1971 Renault Alpine A310

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The Alfa Romeo Montreal was first shown as a concept at the Expo67 in Montreal (hence the name). It took over 3 years to translate this into a production car. Although stunning to look at, this was a complex car, and it is only recently that values have started to rocket to the sort of level you would expect for a V8 powered Alfa that looks as good as this.

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Peugeot relied on Pininfarina for the styling of their cars throughout the period of the late 1950s until well into the 1990s, and some truly elegant designs resulted. As well as the volume selling Saloons and Estate cars, a range of exotic feeling Coupe and Convertible models were produced, and two such were in this display: the glorious 504 Convertible which sold around 10,000 units over a 10 year period and the smaller 304S Coupe.

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Italian styling house Pininfarina also produced the Coupe versions of Italy’s largest cars in the 1970s, first, in 1972 the Fiat 130 Coupe, and then in 1976 the Lancia Gamma Coupe. Although widely rated as beautiful cars, and as neither was produced in significant volumes, both are quite rare today, values of neither has reached the unaffordable yet. I wonder if they ever will?

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This is the Courrèges fashion house edition of the 1975 Matra-Simca Bagheera, replete with its logo’ed leather bag attached to the inside door panel.

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Volvo 245 Estate

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Rather different from everything else in the display was this, the 1981 Renault RE30 F1 car in which Alain Prost scored his first F1 victory

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The ’80s were a mixed bag from an automotive taste perspective but the 1984 Peugeot 205 GTi has definitely stood the test of time, even if the tuxedo-clad models promoting the car in the advertising behind it now look slightly comical.

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Although this Citroen CX GTi was first registered in 1989, making it a 1980s car, the reality is that the design dates back to the first half of the 1970s, and this was in fact one of the last cars produced before the all new XM came in as a replacement.

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By the mid 1980s, people had more disposable income, and even before the inexorable rise of the Yuppie generation were prepared to spend it on things that they did not need but did want. Fashion and branding became ever more important and Range Rover capitalised on this when they added a more luxurious model to their range, and called it the Vogue, named after the fashion magazine.

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Mazda MX5

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The Pininfarina designed Peugeot 406 Coupe was widely regarded as one of the most elegant cars on offer in the late 1990s, and it was deservedly popular. Quite why Peugeot thought that they could then design cars themselves – with the resulting horrors like the 207, 307 and 308, remains something of a mystery.

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This is the 1999 concept version of the Renault Avantime which was then taken forward into production in 2002. Although appealing, as well know, the reality was not a sales success and the model had a very short life.

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Since the start of the 21st Century, we have seen all manner of spectacular concept cars at almost every major Motor Show. This is the 2001 Renault Talisman created under the careful eye of Patrick le Quément

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The Renault DeZir Concept dates from 2010. Whilst this electric Coupe did not go into production, elements of its design have appeared in the latest Clio and Captur models.

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Citroen SurVolt Concept

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The 2011 Peugeot HX1 with its modern luxury interior came with matching shoes, courtesy of Pierre Hardy

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The first years of the 21st century have witnessed a mixed bag of fashion collaborations. Among the bolder are those by Courrèges, hose figurehead Coqueline’s ideas about lightweight and electric propulsion led to new Bulle 2002 and Pixi 2010 concepts with real substance to follow on from her ’60s concept forebear, also exhibited.

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Also in the display were a number of cars which were very familiar, but which have received some sort of “change” from a well known name in the fashion industry.Paul Smith produced this old style striped Mini in 1997.

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Citroen 2CV Hermes

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Surely a lesson here in what not to do for any car maker keen to avoid future fashion collaboration disasters, is the horror that is the 2002 Citroen C3 by Dolce & Gabbana. Nasty doesn’t even begin to cover it…

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2014 Seat Mii Mango

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The be-winged 2011 Smart forjeremy by Jeremy Scott was widely derided at launch among car journalists. It still looks like nothing else in automotive history and has some superbly conceived and made interior details, though I have to say that I am with the journalists on this one. It is not for me!

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A collection of old commercial vehicles were from a museum, and made an impressive display.

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Opposite the commercial vehicles was a display with former police cars and memorabilia. Also an interesting reflection of bygone eras.

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Although the crowds until well into the evening were a bit of a frustration, and the inability to get to see the one car I wanted to more than any other, be in doubt that I really enjoyed my day at the Mondial de l’Automobile, and indeed the rest of the weekend based in Paris. Definitely one for the diary in 2016

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