GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART IV

Part IV | Renault, surfing on its Captur mini-crossover success, revealed its new Kadjar. After missing the beginning of the SUV market, Renault wants to make a come back after its lack of success with the Koleos in Europe. Based on the same Qashqai architecture, Kadjar wears a strong new “corporate” grille from Renault Design. The body is more dynamic than the interior, which offers just a simple, classic dashboard. Quality materials are used throughout. The middle market SUV war will be fierce during the next few years and we can only hope that the market will always be this competitive.
Seat seems to be showing a stronger presence these days. With its concept 20V20 presentation, the Spanish cousin of the VW Group wanted to send some rather different messages. First, this nice concept likely gives us a good indication of the evolution we should see from the mark moving towards 2020. Lines are sharp, like it was designed and shaped with a scalpel, making accurate lines, angles and triangles. The overall shape is very dynamic, perhaps a little aggressive at first sight, so the future direction is likely to be a bit more sober and elegant. The second message is that Seat will soon be arriving on the SUV market.  This concept is close to the Audi Q5 in size and it seems that the first production model will be a compact SUV in competition with Kaptur5 (Renault) and Juke (Nissan). After that, we should see some bigger versions.
As you can see, Geneva left us only a little hungry. The world market is heading in a strong upward direction, even if Europe seems to be a bit late in following… No doubt there will be a plethora of concept cars, model introductions and new features presented during the Frankfort show from September 17 to 27.  We can’t wait!


In order to wait, and to end this report, a little gallery of cars we did not talk about…






GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART III

Part III | Lexus surprised all of us with the unveiling of the LF-SA concept coming from the designers at Toyota ED2 Sofia-Antipolis (based in the south of France) and managed by Lance Scott. This small urban car makes a very bold statement. Based on the Toyota IQ platform, it seems to be coming directly from the latest comic book!  It might be small, but it is heavily sculptured and the car looks rather ‘thick’ and ‘heavy’.


Specifications seem to dictate fun and luxury in a segment dominated in Europe by Twingo, VW Up and Smart…. The lines seem to be confused at first, but after a longer look, they are completely mastered. We know Laurent Bouzige, the exterior stylist of the project, very well, so his work is not strange for us; the lines have continuity and the highlights on the surfaces are a signature of his.  Strangely, there is not really a body feature line, but more a connection between the front and the backlight. The front is the most blatant. We do not like the grille on Lexus cars in general, but this one seems even more enormous, with excess relief and too much aggression – especially for a city car. The grille really is too much and this feature of the car disturbed most of our designer colleagues. In spite of all this, the concept is a success. Surface changes are extremely controlled. It is like a sculpture, a sculptured body. If we look carefully, the back is taught, like animal is ready to pounce! The wheel detail, with large blades extending over the tire is interesting, even it is only suitable for a concept car.
The interior comes from Jacomir Cech and is similarly imaginative, with tense curves crisscrossing the passenger compartment.  The addition of elliptic curves with new combinations of materials on the doors gives a light and spacious effect in this small volume. The interior includes many details: the driver’s seat is different from the rest of the interior – the seat is in blue leather/alcantara with beige stitching; the steering wheel repeats the grille theme and has spokes which have metal inserts with an interesting patina applied by a local artisan.  The rear view mirror is an LCD screen. The door panels and central console are made with a 3D printing process and realized in foam imitating a honeycomb stitch structure. They are very soft and comfortable.
The grey exterior and blue/ivory colors for the interior give the concept a luxury feeling not often found in the city car segment. Even though the design is outside normal convention, the graphic treatment works well. This Lexus LF-SA follows an expressive and emotional philosophy that is very unusual in the more rational world of European design thinking. Contrary at our initial impression, this concept is a success, and even if the aggressive grille seems contradictory for a car of this size, its luxury look should please the girls.
Nissan revealed the SWAY Concept. From some years Nissan in-house designers have worked to rebuild a style language for the mark. With patience and accuracy, with small touches, show car after show car, they have arrived at this very successful concept that will be the next generation Micra. Nissan seems to be moving away from the frequently copied Germany style. The SWAY is almost a monospace with strong worked surfaces and a pronounced “A line” down the profile. A small error for us is the exaggerated swelling at the base of the A-pillar that we feel is inelegant. The contrasting anodized look of the cant rails which are connected across the backlight and the black glass roof panel give the impression that the roof is suspended over the greenhouse. Subtlety here is helpful. Overhangs, front and rear, are minimized and the wheelbase is long.  There is space for 3 wheels between front and rear wheelarches where typically there would be just 2 and a half. Large wheel arches create an impression of real power. One small drawback: body surfaces seem to be a little too complex, causing reflections that hinder us from the reading the true form of the body side. But all of this should be corrected in the final version.


Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer that is less well known than the likes of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, but nevertheless has a large product range with its own personal style providing a great alternative for customers wishing to buy something different. In Geneva, Mazda revealed 3 new cars:
The CX3 is intended to take its place in the growth market of Crossover compacts. Exterior style follows the Mazda tradition with an expressive grille and a strong character line. Interior is modern with a visual effect similar to the one used by Mercedes.
The second Mazda introduction was the final version of the eagerly awaited new MX5 Coupe; the incontestable n°1 small sports car in the world for over 20 years!!! In order to continue satisfying its regular customers, the new MX5 body is a little more round than its predecessors, but a larger grille and slim headlights result in a more aggressive appearance. Nice work has been done with the light running along the bodyside. Reflections change with the angle you view the car giving life to the form. The “nose” is lower than the previous version and the light climbs in order to reach its peak at the level of the front wheelarch. The light comes down again towards the back, including over the rear wheelarch. This is all accomplished with a fluid movement along the body. Truly, it is a sculpture in motion.  An interesting small detail: the rear lights are simple and round, enhancing the sporty look, they will remind you of some Italian sports cars.  Most important for us is still the retractable roof. This is a very nice feature at the MX5 price point, especially in comparison with other competitive products. We look forward to the pleasure of driving this new toy.


To be continued…





GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART II

Part II | After seeing earlier ideas and dreams, Volkswagen returns to the pragmatic with the presentation of the new GTE coupe. A slim profile, with a long roof line that is somehow elusive.  Is this also a hint of what we might expect from the new CC in 2016 ?  The Sport Coupe GTE is completely different from the conceptual design of VW sedans. With the addition of a tailgate, it moves closer to its Audi Sportback cousins (A5 and A7). The front is handled with an unusual and expressive aspect: you will notice the linear LED lights extending into a horizontal grill. The rear is designed with a rather muscular look.  This is new from VW and gets our attention. Apparently this style is a precursor for what will be a new Wolfsburg style direction. The cockpit is close to production level and includes a digital cluster like that on the high end Passat.  4 tactile screens are proposed, one centrally located for infotainment and air conditioning controls, one in the center console between the front seat passengers and two on the backs of the front seats. The trend is not only to take care of the driver, but also to provide as much distraction and enjoyment as possible for the rear seat passengers.
VW also revealed the Alltrack version of the Passat, a 4×4 explorer that uses the most powerful engines available in the new Passat.  Journalists chose this elegant, classic sedan as Car of the Year for 2015 from 7 finalists.  The interior, finished like the best VW production, also embraces the best technology of the mark. Pricing will determine if the new Passat can dominate the traditional middle class European market, but buyers may also see it as an alternative for more premium cars without losing quality and image.
Peugeot and Citroen did not show anything new during this show and for a good reason. It was necessary to leave pride of place for the introduction of the new mark: DS Automotive… On the booth as a first debut for the new brand, the DS5 raised its new grill complete with the new logo front and center.
A big surprise for us was the absence of any major news from BMW. The 1 Series does benefit from an important exterior restyling, with a finer front face similar to other BMW sedans.  The rear lights are now in two parts and less intrusive. In summary, the new Series 1 style will permit this entry to continue the fight at this end of the market.
BMW continues to penetrate the front wheel drive monospace market.  For some of us there was a big surprise, with the new Series 2 Grand Tourer, which offers either 7 seats or more space for 5 people and their luggage. BMW wants to cover the needs of every family.
OPEL has some problems on the European market and knows that it is under close observation from the now healthy General Motors headquarters in US. The flashy mark exposed a new entry-level vehicle (Less than 10,000€) the KARL. A small 5 door destined for the city or as a second car, the KARL is really in the Opel tradition with consensual shapes that should please as many people as possible. The interior is sober, but exudes quality with looking rich materials for this price range. Fit and finish is good and we think the KARL will help OPEL to rebuild the brand in Europe.
KIA pleased us by revealing the Sportspace Concept which is a precurser to its future D-class model. The concept was developed by a European styling department, based in Frankfort, Germany and managed by Frenchman Gregory Guillaume. The team, lead by Laurent Boulay, developed simple lines that are sober and elegant; there is no big flourish, no heavily sculptured approach to the design, just simplicity and elegance underlining the sporty yet functional style of the body. The long, long roof-line is underlined by an aluminum insert running from the base of the A-Pillar to the top of D-Pillar. A large integrated carbon surround panel emphasizes the exhaust outlets. The integrated grille and front lights stretch the apparent width of the car as the assembly wraps the front corners of the vehicle. It gives the car a larger look. So, the Sportspace name is really well suited to the vehicle… sporty and distinguished with an elegant simplicity that works perfectly.
To be continued…

GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART I


Part I | Of course, it is a long standing comment: Switzerland is a neutral country and every car manufacturer wants to reveal its concept-cars and new model introductions at the Geneva show, but with this first year of renewed growth in Europe we are left a little hungry. It is clear that Geneva is an easy destination for all Europeans and that the Palexpo hall itself, just a few steps from the airport, is relatively small and easy to visit. In summary, every year all the ingredients are in place for a friendly and convenient show.
The European market seems to be restarting, with 2014 being the first positive year since 2007. The market is changing too. SUV’s are taking more and more sales, mostly replacing monospace vehicles.
There were many novelties last year, but this year the predominant theme is face-lifts rather than new vehicles.  Even though only a few new cars were present, however, don’t forget that we are in Switzerland, so there is a welcome emphasis on sports cars.
For example, Audi presented the second version of the R8. Less revolutionary then the first, which was a totally new creation from the Ingolstadt company. Style is now underlined with sharper edges and the dramatic, graphic lateral element behind the door is no more. Well, it is still present, but in a more subtle form and split between the greenhouse and the air intake. The interior is 100% new, with the digital screen also seen in the new TT.  So, this R8 is not an esthetic revolution, but an interesting evolution.



Ferrari presented the 488GTB — technically it is an evolution of the 458 Italia, but returning to the more pure lines dictated by aerodynamics. Ferrari Design department was definitely paying respect to the history of the mark. The character of the vehicle is achieved with sculptured flanks and enormous air intakes in the rear quarters most surely required for cooling and aerodynamics.  The intakes are horizontally divided into two parts, like a signature, but also in order to visually reduce their enormous size. For the interior, sport is king. More of a simple approach: first all the main controls are close to the driver; second the clean, slim centre console, also oriented towards the driver. So, it is (almost) race-car basic, but with the necessary comfort.
From Bentley, Design Director, Luc Donckerwolke (who has since resigned), presented a study called “EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept”. This study, with just 2 seats, is positioned alongside the Continental, but with a more sporty style. Some will think it is like something… or it is inspired from something… but this concept is refreshing, with clear Bentley design cues. It has a typical Bentley front face, but it is more fluid than we are used to seeing.  The interior is so British, with elegance, good taste, technology and an interesting vertical, tactile screen.
to be continued…