THE PARIS MOTOR SHOW will be the gift that keeps on giving for automotive enthusiasts with plenty of new, exciting and practical vehicle reveals, like the new Land Rover Discovery, the Civic Type R and more. Here, we’ve listed our top 10 favourite cars from the floor.
10 Opel Ampera-E
Despite the trend of modular vehicle platforms, which allow brands to largely swap major components in and out, producing right-hand drive (RHD) versions of a car can still be an expensive exercise. If there won’t be sufficient RHD sales, there won’t be an RHD offering. Unfortunately, this will prevent the Opel Ampera-E from coming to Australia as a Holden. Sad – because as GM’s Pam Fletcher noted at the car’s debut, the Ampera-E is the first “democratically-priced” electric car that offers a genuinely impressive range – about 500 kilometres.
The Ampera-E is attractive, and has a smart cabin – but the goal here is defeating range anxiety. To prove its point, Opel drove 417 kilometres from London to the doors of the Paris Show, only to find 80 kilometres left in the “tank”. Plus, the 160kW electric motor makes the Ampera-E so sprightly that it beats an Insignia OPC to 50km/h. Sounds perfect for Sydney city traffic – but with the numbers not working out in Detroit, it’s not on the cards any time soon.
9 Honda Civic Type-R Concept
Paris was meant to be relatively quiet for Honda – sure, the new Civic hatch was scheduled to be revealed, but given that telling the hatch from the recent sedan is like playing spot-the-difference, there wasn’t much to get pulses racing at the 3pm press conference timeslot.
And that’s how it was until the last thirty seconds – when Honda Europe decided to initiate a surprise reveal of the next, ultra-hot Civic Type R hatch. Appearing in stealthy matte-grey finish, complete with a huge wing, enormous brakes and outrageously-large exhaust outlets at the rear, the Type R manages to transform the relatively pedestrian Civic into a weapon for the road.
It’s likely the current 230kW two-litre turbo four will be further tuned and the car that debuted sported a six-speed manual transmission. We spotted that through the window – shots of the interior were strictly not allowed, pending the further interior reveal later this year and a further specification dump early next year – so stay tuned.
8 Toyota C-HR
Having watched from the sidelines for a couple of years, Toyota is diving into the mini-SUV segment with its new C-HR. CEO Akio Toyota told media at the Paris Motor Show that the C-HR is an investment in Europe, but the C-HR will fill a conspicuous gap in Toyota’s Australian range. The success of the Mazda CX-3 has not gone unnoticed.
We saw this car in concept form at the last Paris Motor Show, in 2014. Rather than anaesthetise the show car’s sharp angles, Toyota has kept the C-HR true to the concept. So the looks are polarising – chatter at the show was love-it-or-hate-it. There is a lot going on here, from the Alfa-style hidden door handles to the Civic-esque high taillights. But to my eyes, it all comes together.
Importantly, the C-HR is unique – critical in this fashion-forward segment – and it doesn’t hurt that the interior is better than what you’ll get in a Yaris. It’s just a shame we won’t get the attractive Euro touchscreen: we’ll get a tired old six-inch display instead.
7 Skoda Kodiaq
At Skoda’s unveiling of its first SUV – the Kodiaq – CEO Bernhard Maier spoke frankly about the strategic significance of entering the crossover market. Sure, Skoda considers the Kodiaq important for Europe, where the Czech brand’s wagon-centric range appeals – but for Skoda in SUV-mad Australia, the Kodiaq is critical.
Thankfully, first impressions are positive. This seven-seater’s angular, muscular looks work and inside, like other Skodas, the Kodiaq resembles a last-generation Volkswagen cabin, which is no bad thing. The switchgear feels pretty good, and the eight-inch infotainment system is refreshingly easy to use.
The Kodiaq aims squarely at value-shoppers, with Maier promising it will offer “more car” than rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento. Certainly, it’s more practical: the boot measures 720 litres with five seats up.
According to Skoda, the Kodiaq embodies the brand’s core qualities: elegance, energy, and emotion – all with “the strength of a bear”. Sure, why not. However you package it, this value-laden and attractive European SUV is exactly what Skoda needs to finally make tracks in Australia.
6 Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ
Electrification and mobility were buzzwords on the lips of most manufacturers at the 2016 Paris Motor Show – but Mercedes-Benz was keen to remind us that ‘e-Mobility’ had been a theme at its showing right back in 2010. Six years later, Mercedes was ready to deliver, unveiling a dedicated electric sub-brand known as Mercedes-EQ.
Most electric cars at the 2016 show remained a hatchback of some sorts – Mercedes, though, burst that bubble by observing that the only serious growth in new cars is in SUV territory. The first Mercedes EQ product will be an SUV, previewed by the muscular Generation EQ concept, arriving within three years. It will be sized and priced like a GLC.
EQ will release ten vehicles by 2025, by which point Mercedes are hoping that fully-electric vehicles will make up 25% of sales. With a fully-functional interior, it’s not hard to imagine this vehicle in production – and in a parting shot aimed at Tesla, Mercedes reminded us that, with plants on three continents, it won’t be suffering from any supply constraints any time soon.
5 Volkswagen I.D.
In recent months, we’ve heard plenty of confidence from Volkswagen’s Australian arm in light of the diesel emissions issues that rocked the brand last year. Forgiving Australians love Volkswagens, and sales are back to normal: what emissions scandal? In Paris, we were reminded that Australia’s shoulder-shrugging attitude is the exception, not the rule: Volkswagen opened their reveals with an admission of the need for a ‘new start’ for the brand.
That new start is going to be built around electrification, and the explicit targets are Tesla and Apple, said VW’s chair of passenger cars, Herbert Diess. Europe is already experiencing an electric Golf, with a 300 kilometre range, but the real breakthrough, Diess believes, will come in 2020 with the release of the I.D.
The I.D. is Golf-scale outside but the removal of the engine means it’s Passat-sized inside. The goal is a 600 kilometres of range – but VW are aiming to price the I.D. at an accessible $35,000. If technology allows, VW want to project augmented reality on the windscreen. 2020 may be four years away, but these ambitious goals make for a satisfying new start.
4 Kia Rio
Never mind a slightly awkward press reveal of the new Kia Rio – this is a substantially-improved city car that, like other recent Kias, is pulling the Korean brand up by its bootstraps into much more refined territory.
Like sister brand Hyundai’s new i30, the Rio has taken a tour of European design studios, emerging not as a Toyota Yaris fighter, but, in Kia’s eyes, a contender in a more premium space against the Volkswagen Polo. Aesthetically, the new Rio will push perceptions of Kia to a new level: the cute, but downmarket, look of the old car is gone, replaced by a Germanic visual efficiency with stronger appeal.
Similarly, the new Rio’s cabin is leagues ahead of the current car. A floating infotainment screen will be present on mid- and top-end models, while materials have taken a step up and that new squared-off design has had a positive effect on practicality. So different is the new Rio that a new badge might even have been appropriate.
3 Hyundai i30
Overnight Hyundai revealed the new i30 with relatively little fuss and fanfare in Paris. Perhaps that was appropriate given that it’s an also-ran hatch in Europe – but to the Australians in the audience, it was clear that the newest Hyundai is a seriously important car. Peter Schreyer, the man responsible for lifting Hyundai and Kia into very respectable reputational territory, was on hand – and his team have done a remarkable job.
Unlike most new cars, the i30 doesn’t ‘wow’ onlookers more than the old car – in fact, it recedes into a more conservative design, eschewing Hyundai’s swooping angles for a distinctly pared-back, European feel outside. The aim is clear: this car is coming for the Volkswagen Golf, aesthetically, and with a 1.4-litre turbo and dual-clutch automatic, mechanically, as well.
Inside, the i30 takes a leaf from Mazda’s book with a floating navigation screen that isn’t entirely convincing, but the cabin now feels more solid and steps further upmarket. If they can get the dynamics right, there’s no reason why the i30 couldn’t be a serious contender to knock the excellent Volkswagen Golf into second place in a direct comparison.
2 Land Rover Discovery
Replacing an icon model is never easy for a car maker – particularly when the current iteration of the icon dates to a very different period. That’s the case for the Land Rover Discovery: the well-loved but utilitarian Discovery 4 had carried on from the British brand’s Ford-owned days.
These days Land Rover and sister Jaguar make cars to fit active lifestyles while “exciting the senses”, as CEO Ralf Speth put it in Paris. Can that mesh with the Discovery’s heritage of being a no-nonsense off-roader? On paper, at least, the off-roading ability remains but there is no doubt that the Discovery 5 is a step-change into premium territory.
Designed to comfortably fit seven 95th-percentile adults, the Discovery remains full-size and outside, a few visual cues remind of the car’s heritage – particularly the stepped roofline and asymmetrical rear. Inside, though, the Discovery feels closer to Range Rover Sport than a muddied Discovery 4 often seen on tracks back in Australia. Has the Discovery’s intent changed? Maybe – but that would only reflect the increasingly aspirational clients entering the Land Rover tent.
1 Audi Q5
Paris may have been full of electric cars and gaudy concepts but the real show-stopper was something much more everyday: the new Audi Q5.
With pride, Audi’s Rupert Stadler informed media at the Paris Motor Show that the first-generation Audi Q5 reached 1.6 million sales this year. That made the Q5 the best-selling premium SUV ever – an accolade that places huge pressure on the second-generation model that premiered overnight.
Remember, Audi’s design philosopjy is all about evolution – and you’d be forgiven for initially thinking you were looking at a first-gen Q5 wearing particularly attractive cerulean blue paint. The old car admittedly aged well – but put your specs on, and like the new A4, this generation’s sharper angles and sportier stance come into clear focus. Inside, the Q5’s relationship to the A4 is stronger than ever, with a beautiful cabin that largely carries across into the SUV.
For now, there’s a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel options. Later, a hotter SQ5 will undoubtedly make a return – and perhaps even an RS Q5 further down the track, if Quattro – or Audi Sport, as it was renamed overnight – has its way.