Fleet News

Paris Motor Show: special report

Fleet News speaks to the leading manufacturers at the motor show.

Citroen turns the heat up on fleets

Citroen will be targeting business sales with its new C4 and C5 mid-range cars, after years of concentrating on small cars and retail buyers.

A Citroen spokesman said the firm would be going out ‘all guns blazing’ in the UK with the C4 and is confident the new, more radical design direction will strike a chord with company car drivers.

Alain Favey, managing director of Citroen UK said: ‘This Paris motor show is a real watershed for us. With the double launch of the C4 and new look C5, almost our entire range has either been renewed or significantly uprated in the last couple of years, giving us one of the most comprehensive and modern ranges on the market.’ ‘With the C4 and new look C5, we are set to mount our most serious challenge yet in the family and business car sectors.’

From launch in November there will be a near-complete range of C4 vehicles, in three and five-door form, with eight engines available, right up to VTS-badged 138bhp diesel and 180bhp petrol versions. Previously, high performance versions have tended to come later in the model life of Citroen cars, but the bold approach to styling appears to have rubbed off on the marketing and sales approach. Part of that approach includes different types of car for different buyers, with the three-door coupe a more sporty variant than the five door, not just in the way it looks, but in the way it drives as well.

Director general of Citroen, Claude Satinet, said: ‘The C4 is the main event for Citroen this year. We decided to approach the mid-range sector in the same way we have in small cars with C2 and C3. With the coupe and hatchback there are two cars with different personalities.’

He added that in three years time, a C4-badged monospace would replace the Xsara Picasso although there were no plans to rebadge the current car as C4.

Nissan sets the tone with its new model

NISSAN unveiled the first new model in its plan to replace the Almera and confirmed its confidence in British manufacturing by announcing it will be built at its Sunderland plant.

The Tone is a niche model inspired by compact MPVs and will be ready for production in 2006 and is based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance ‘B-platform’ which is used for the Micra.

Although the vehicle has a similar shape to the recently unveiled Renault Modus, the Tone is much bigger, with a wheelbase just an inch shorter than the X-trail’s.

However, the overall length of the Tone is relatively compact at just over four metres. Patrick Pelata, senior vice-president of Nissan Europe, said the car was one of a number of models replacing the Almera which competes in the heart of the UK fleet sector, but struggles for sales against about a dozen traditional lower-medium cars. ‘We will introduce a car based on this design in 2006 and it will be built in Sunderland,’ he said. ‘We wanted a car that would be easy to live with, particularly for families with young children. But it also needed to be fun to drive and affordable.’ The car will have more interior space than a Volkswagen Golf, according to Nissan, and appeal to drivers of traditional hatchbacks and small MPVs.

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn had already ruled out replacing the Almera with a traditional lower-medium hatchback stating earlier this year ‘there is no way we can make money from another Almera.’ (Fleet News, August 19).

Sunderland will continue to build the Almera alongside the new vehicle, although the Almera has a limited lifespan.

Other unveilings on the Nissan stand included European versions of the 350Z Roadster, Pathfinder and Murano, all of which will go on sale next year.

Ford pulls out the stops for new Focus

Ford devoted its entire stand at press day in Paris to the new Focus range, and gave crowds a taster of what the convertible version will look like.

Lewis Booth, chairman and CEO of Ford of Europe, said the new Focus would deliver ‘premium levels of quality but without a premium price tag’.

He added: ‘Our first priority with the new Focus was quality, but quality that is affordable. We want to products that capture owners’ hearts, turn heads and make them proud to own a Ford.’

With the original Focus selling more than four million units in 80 countries, he admitted that following it was always going to be a challenge, and that the new car had to stand out from the crowd.

The new Focus will come in three and five-door hatchback, four-door saloon and estate from launch. Add in the C-Max and the likely coupe and convertible and fleets could have the choice of more than half a dozen variants within the next couple of years.

The expansion of the range reflects Ford’s desire to fit all niches using its Focus brand, and the commitment the firm made in 2000 to introduce 45 new products in five years, which Booth said it was still on course to do, adding ‘we have no intention of slowing down the rate of new products coming on to market.’

Of the Vignale Concept (below), Booth said: ‘This is a concept of how the Focus family may grow. It captures the spirit of classic roadsters and Ford’s heritage with Italian design houses.’

Styled by Italian designer Alfredo Vignale, the car has a folding hardtop roof similar to that in the Renault Megane Coupe Cabriolet and Peugeot 307 CC, and its smooth-working mechanism suggests that it is a thinly veiled concept at most. It is likely to go on sale in 2006.

Stunning new Golf GTi unveiled

Exactly 30 years after the first Volkswagen Golf made its motor show debut, Volkswagen’s stunning new GTI version took pride of place at the manufacturer’s stand.

The latest addition to the best-selling Volkswagen of all time, which goes on sale in the UK from January, will be priced at about £19,995 for the three-door model.

The three or five-door hatchback is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI direct injection petrol engine offering about 197bhp. It sprints from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and has a top speed of 146mph.

A 2.0-litre TDI variant is planned for the future. Full-year sales of the new GTI are expected to reach 6,000 units.

Also making its debut at the show was a Phaeton V6 3.0-litre TDI, which goes on sale in the UK next spring. Pricing has yet to be announced for this model.

Mazda reveals its flexible new seven-seat MPV

Mazda used the Paris show to unveil its new compact MPV, the Mazda5.

It gets double sliding doors as standard and can seat up to seven people using what the company calls its 6+1 seating system.

The Mazda5 has six permanent seats in three rows and the possibility of unfolding a seventh out of the third row. When not in use the space can be used as a corridor or for storage. Pricing has yet to be announced for the new vehicle, due for an August launch next year.

Stephen O’Dell, director senior managing executive officer in charge of marketing, sales and customer service, said: ‘The dual sliding doors are an industry first for that segment. People wondered whether Mazda could really make a people mover that is sporty – I think we have shown that we can.’

The firm has also given its award-winning 6 an extra dose of ‘zoom zoom’ – unveiling a new 2.3-litre high performance model.

To be launched in the UK during the third quarter of next year, the Mazda6 MPS will produce 257bhp and its new direct-injection turbocharged engine is mated to a new 6-speed manual gearbox and an all-wheel drive system. Pricing will be announced closer to its launch.

New Skoda estate claims class-leading space

SKODA unveiled its Octavia estate in Paris, claiming class-leading luggage space with the latest petrol and diesel technology to offer low tax liability.

The Octavia hatchback went on sale this summer with Skoda pitching it as a lower-medium priced car with upper-medium car space. The Octavia estate (pictured) offers 580 litres of luggage space up to window level with the rear seats in place, and 1,620 up to roof height with the rear seats folded – more typical of an upper-medium car. However, when it goes on sale in the UK next year, its prices are likely to start at about £12,000.

Like the hatchback, the Octavia estate will offer a choice of two fuel-saving FSI petrol engines as well as two conventional petrol engines and two pumpe duse TDIs.

Skoda also showed a four-wheel drive version of the estate, which will be offered with the 1.9 TDI or 2.0 FSI engines and with six-speed manual transmissions and an increased fuel tank.

The 2005 model Fabia was also on display in Paris, with a new front bumper and redesigned rear light cluster.

The medium-spec Comfort model has been re-named Ambiente, while all versions have a revamped interior, with new seat fabrics, a new steering wheel and instrument panel surface.

Toyota reveals name for its new small car

Toyota has revealed that its new small car will be called Aygo when it goes on sale next year.

Thierry Dombreval, executive vice president and CEO of Toyota Motor Marketing Europe, said: ‘This new car, which will be positioned below Yaris, is an exciting addition to our range.’

Built in conjunction with PSA Peugeot Citroen, Toyota aims to sell 100,000 examples of the new car annually globally.

The firm also underlined its commitment to developing the most environmentally-friendly power units in the world with two more green vehicles.

The Toyota D-4D 180 Clean Power concept car is a showcase for diesel technology, which has even lower NOx and particulate levels, while still producing high power levels.

Likely to go into production next year, the new D-4D unit produces 183bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque while delivering what Toyota claims is the world’s lowest combined level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions for a diesel engine. They are 50% and 80% below Euro IV standards, although have no effect on a driver’s current benefit-in-kind tax.

The Prius GT is intended as a concept-only car, but is being used to remind buyers that hybrids can be sporty too.

The 1.5-litre engine is higher revving, and produces almost 110bhp, with a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds. It also has suspension modifications and better weight distribution.

The firm also announced 2005 model year changes for the Land Cruiser with a new common rail injection system, revised turbocharger and the introduction of a swirl control system increasing maximum torque to 302lb-ft between 1,800 and 2,600rpm, with 90% of the maximum available from 1,500rpm, making it the highest torque four-cylinder unit on the market. Maximum power is also slightly increased, to 164bhp.

Summer launch for new 1007

PEUGEOT’S new 1007 compact car made its public debut before it arrives in the UK next summer. It shared the Peugeot stand with a revised 607 and two concept cars – the 907 and Quark.

The 1007 is a four-seater offering access through two large electric sliding doors. The car will come with a choice of 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol engines as well as a 1.4-litre common rail diesel.

However, Peugeot also revealed a 140bhp 1007 RC concept car, hinting that higher-performance variants might become available. The 607, which has sold 125,000 units globally since its launch in 2001, has undergone minor styling revisions while mainland European markets will be offered a new V6 HDi model using the 2.7-litre engine from the PSA-Ford diesel partnership producing 204bhp.

However, there are no plans to introduce this version in the UK. The Quark concept car is a fuel-cell vehicle showcasing PSA’s development of the clean fuel technology, but is designed as a quad-bike.

New Astra shows off its sporty side

VAUXHALL’S bid to steal the Paris Show came in the shape of the Astra high-performance concept.

Based on the three-door version, a production version of the Astra HPC is likely to go on sale next year, boasting 240bhp and a top speed in excess of 150mph. The three-door Astra was joined by the new Astra estate, which as well as offering a versatile load area, has a longer wheelbase than the standard hatchback offering more rear legroom.

As well as the new Tigra TwinTop, there was a continuous damping control system for the Vectra and Signum to improve the car’s high-speed handling.

Fluence shares floor with Modus

RENAULT’S Fluence concept car shared the floor with the new Modus, which is the latest model to gain a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

The Modus, which has just gone on sale in the UK, is the seventh Renault to gain a five-star rating for occupant protection and is the first small car to gain the top rating. The Fluence was unveiled in June, and while it is unlikely to go into production, its design will influence Renault styling over the next few years. Renault also unveiled a racing version of the Megane, called the Trophy, which uses a 3.5-litre V6 engine and will make its track debut next year.

Chinese deal may safeguard the future for MG Rover

MG Rover is only weeks away from winning Chinese government approval for a deal that could safeguard its future.

Britain’s last remaining volume carmaker is confident of getting official permission to go into partnership with Shanghai Automotive, the country’s third biggest vehicle manufacturer.

By the end of the year, the two firms will have agreed on ambitious plans to jointly produce a wide range of cars, revealed MG Rover product engineering director Rob Oldaker.

Speaking at the Paris Motor Show, he told Fleet News: ‘We have yet to cement our relationship, but I can assure you that we will have our first collaboration car on the road in 2006.

‘Shanghai Automotive is State-controlled, so its management has direct access to the country’s decision makers. I have no doubt that our joint forward product plan will be approved…it will be a fantastic arrangement that has huge potential and I’m very excited by the prospects.

‘Both sides are already moving forward on the basis of a partnership and in the last few weeks, we have reached a combined product plan. Naturally, we have aspirations about the models we want to develop and they know what they want for their market.’

First fruits of the historic Anglo-Chinese partnership in car production will be a replacement for the UK firm’s long-running 45, but Oldaker refused to give details of further models – except to say the MG Rover will continue to import the Indian-built CityRover supermini.

He said: ‘What I will say is we are very close to where we need to be for the design of the first car to be frozen. I’m taking our proposals to China in the next two weeks and I expect things to move on rapidly from then.’

Under the terms of the arrangement, the UK company’s 430-strong engineering team will take the leading role in developing the cars and models of ‘mutual benefit’ will be built where demand is greatest.

‘This deal will be super news for Longbridge and the 6,000 people who work for MG Rover because it puts us into a market that has a fantastic growth rate. It means we have a great future,’ said Oldaker.

Last year, the firm’s share of UK new car sales was 3.5% at 144,000 units. So far this year, its market share has dipped to 2.5%. By contrast, MG Rover’s prospective partner built more than 800,000 cars in 2003 for Volkswagen and General Motors, its joint venture partners.

BMW in bid to copy 1-series sales plan

Marketing ideas that have made the 1-series a smash hit in the showrooms will be used again next year when BMW launches the latest generation of its top-selling 3-series range.

The ideas helped the German company’s UK division achieve its target of selling this year’s allocation of 6,500 examples of the new baby model by September 18, the first day of ‘official’ sales in the British market.

Corporate sales manager Bernard Bradley told Fleet News: ‘We tried really hard because the 1-series represented completely new territory and ended up picking up some valuable lessons along the way. I think we’ll be using most of them when the next 3-series arrives in spring,’ .

Speaking as the 118i version of the 1-series made its debut at the Paris Motor Show, Bradley said: ‘We were concerned that people might regard the new car as another compact-type offering, so we showed it to fleet decision-makers much earlier than usual.

‘We also provided all the service and maintenance and residual value information they needed to help them decide contract hire and leasing rates in advance of the launch.

‘As a result, instead of taking orders on the day the car went on sale, we were delivering them to customers and have every confidence in selling the 16,000 allocation we have for next year.

‘This strategy has worked so well that we’ll work just as hard to keep the fleet industry abreast of the relevant information with regard to the next 3-series as soon as we can. Launching that model is even more significant because with more than 60,000 annual registrations, it is our best-selling range.’

BMW also launched a diesel 3-series soft-top at the show. The 150bhp 320Cd Convertible has combined fuel consumption of about 45mpg and is Euro IV-compliant. It will go on sale early next year.

Jaguar keeps out of show limelight

JAGUAR kept a low profile at the show following the firm’s recent travails and demonstrations by union leaders outside a Ford event the night before.

However, despite the low key approach, with no press conference and no new models on the stand, the firm announced a number of model changes, which are part of the restructuring plan designed to bring the company back into profit. Of particular interest to executives and chauffeur fleets will be the confirmation that the XJ range is to be significantly bolstered by a diesel engine next year, most likely in the form of the 2.7-litre twin turbo unit recently introduced into the S-type.

The firm stated that it was in response ‘to growth in luxury diesel saloons in Europe and further enhanced the customer appeal of a car which is already segment leader in the UK.’ In fleet terms, the XJ6 compares on running costs, but the success of the Mercedes-Benz S-class CDI has convinced the firm to finally ditch its ‘petrol only’ approach to the XJ.

The lightweight aluminium body means that it can run with smaller, more fuel-efficient engines than its competitors.

The X-type range will be bolstered next year by the 150bhp 2.2-litre engine currently in the Mondeo ST TDCi, it was announced, giving the range more business user appeal, particularly as the 2.0-litre diesel motor has proved very popular with fleets. A new XK sports car, codenamed X150, will go on sale in early 2006, Jaguar confirmed.

This will be an all-aluminium car and will be the first production car to feature Jaguar’s new design language, developed by design director Ian Callum.

H2R recordbreaker off to a flying start

BMW is setting nine world records with its groundbreaking H2R Record Car shown at Paris, which it claims is a crucial step towards creating models ready for fleets to use. Using an adapted version of the 6.0-litre 12-cylinder engine taken from the BMW 760i, the carbon fibre-bodied H2R posted the results following one intensive day of testing at the Miramas Proving Ground in the south of France.

The successful record attempts have proved to be particularly poignant because this was a major hurdle to overcome before a production version of a hydrogen-powered car could be offered for sale by BMW.

In its quest for glory, the H2R attained world best times and speeds for a hydrogen-powered car in the flying-start mile, standing-start 1/8 mile, standing-start 1/4 mile, standing-start mile, standing-start 10 miles, standing-start kilometre and standing-start 10 kilometres. To comply with the regulations of the record attempts, the H2R remained in hydrogen-only mode for the duration. The H2R is a test bed for the forthcoming hydrogen-powered 7-series BMW has been examining the possible use of hydrogen-powered vehicles since 1978.

In May, 2000, BMW became the first carmaker in the world to run a demonstration fleet of 15 hydrogen-powered 750iL’s and in 2001 BMW started the CleanEnergy WorldTour aimed at raising awareness of the technology.

H2R records= Time in sec= Speed in mph
Flying-start km: 11.99 187.62
Flying-start mile: 19.91 181.85
Standing-start 1/8 m: 9.92 45.62
Standing-start 1/4 km: 14.93 60.62
Standing-start 1/2 mile: 17.27 65.15
Standing-start mile: 36.73 98.60
Standing-start 10 miles: 221.05 163.81
Standing-start km: 26.56 84.72
Standing-start 10 kms: 146.41 153.90

Lexus hopes for hybrid innovator

LEXUS showed the petrol-electric hybrid version of its RX sport utility vehicle at the show, though fuel consumption figures are still unavailable.

The company says in the combined cycle the figures for the RX400h will match that of a typical family saloon with a four-cylinder engine.

Powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine, the vehicle can be operated in petrol or electric mode alone, or a combination of the two.

It is due to go on sale during the first half of next year, as is the new-generation Lexus GS, also displayed at the show.

It will come with 4.3-litre V8 or new 242bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox with sequential shift.

The manufacturer also used the show to give visitors a glimpse of its future – with a concept convertible.

A spokesman said: ‘The Lexus LF-C showcases elements of styling and technology that are anticipated in the next generation Lexus IS model.’ It is rear-wheel drive, powered by a V8 engine and has a fully automatic roof.

‘Freshness’ is Audi key to success

AUDI is boasting the youngest product line-up in the premium sector following the public debut of the Audi A4 in Paris.

The company is on course for record sales both globally and in the UK by the end of this year and believes the freshness of its range will be a key factor in building on its success in 2005.

The latest version of the Audi A4 will arrive in the UK on January 1, while the new A6 has been here for a few months.

The Audi A3 was launched in three-door form in 2003, while the five-door A3 Sportback has just gone on sale.

The A8 went on sale in the UK in 2003, but the range was not joined by key six-cylinder variants until the beginning of this year, along with the range-topping 6.0-litre W12.

Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of management at Audi said: ‘We will end 2004 with new record vehicle sales, and yet more success awaits us in 2005. We will then be able to reap the rewards of our ongoing efforts this year.’

Audi revealed the new A4 will be priced from £18,765 on the road when it goes on sale – about £250 more than the outgoing model.

Honda displays a BIK record-breaker

HONDA’S new diesel CR-V will have class-leading fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions when it goes on sale next spring.

The newly revised CR-V will arrive in showrooms this autumn, but fleets will have to wait until next year for the diesel version.

But when it does arrive, it will offer company car drivers the lowest BIK percentage of any compact SUV on sale.

The CR-V will use the same 2.2-litre common rail diesel as the Accord, developing 138bhp and 251lb-ft of torque and achieves 42.2mpg on the combined cycle with carbon dioxide emissions of 177g/km.

The current best performers in the sector are the Hyundai Tucson with 187g/km, and the Nissan X-trail and Toyota RAV4 both on 190g/km.

The CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi will be Euro IV compliant from launch, although rival compact SUVs might be made to comply by the time the CR-V is on sale.

Honda unveiled its new FR-V six-seat MPV which will go on sale in November, with both petrol variants being joined by a 2.2-litre diesel next spring.

The FR-V 2.2 i-CTDi achieves 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and has CO2 emissions of 170g/km. From launch it will be offered with a choice of 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines.

Like the latest Accord, Honda has aimed to give the FR-V a more upmarket feel to distance it from the typical compact MPVs from volume manufacturers.

Honda also showed the latest version of the Jazz, which has a new 1.2 litre option giving the range a more competitive entry-point at £8,600 on-the-road.

New diesel engines in Merc sports tourers

Mercedes-Benz is planning to up the stakes in diesel engine technology with the introduction of two powerful new turbocharged units in a fresh range of sports tourer cars next year.

To go under the bonnets of production versions of the Vision R and Vision B prototype models unveiled at the Paris Motor Show, the next-generation CDI motors will bring dynamic driving pleasure to heavy-oil power, promised board member Jurgen Hubbert.

He said: ‘Thanks to four-wheel drive, air suspension and its V6 diesel, the Grand Sports Tourer promises excitement with 218bhp and 376lb-ft of torque. With a fresh common rail system and a variable turbocharger, this engine will be a core powertrain throughout almost the total Mercedes model range.

‘But a new four-cylinder, 140bhp turbodiesel with 221lb-ft of torque will also offer a unique experience. Our company has always been one of the driving forces for diesel technology, and these units will maintain that position.’

Shown in production-ready form, the concepts represent the German company’s proposals for more dynamic-looking cars that are equally suitable for family, business and recreational use. Shorter than the GST developed for the US market, the European version still seats six in luxury and its more compact cousin seats five.

Aston Martin Vanquish blasts on past 200mph

ASTON Martin revealed its fastest ever production car in Paris.

The 6.0-litre V12 engine in the Vanquish S produces 520bhp and a top speed of 200mph-plus. Buyers of the car will get a one-to-one performance driving course either at Millbrook proving ground in the UK, Lommel in Belgium or Romeo, Michigan to fully experience the Vanquish S’s awesome performance. It costs £174,000 – £5,000 more than the standard 460bhp Vanquish.

Land Rover future rosier

WORKERS’ acceptance of a revised plan for Land Rover will prevent a long and lingering death of the Solihull factory, believes managing director Matthew Taylor.

‘The decision also removes the temptation of our parent company to take investment away from the West Midlands,’ Taylor told Fleet News.

In an interview at the Paris Motor Show, he said Land Rover faced a difficult five years as it moved toward the standards demanded by Ford’s so-called roadmap for the future. ‘But I’ve always been confident that once we got the agreement, the workforce would make all the right moves,’ he said.

‘Now we have to work on the basic operating processes that run our business, working practices and getting everyone to fully appreciate just what is meant by achieving the standards that will make our products the best in their class.’

MINI buyers to get more choices

MINI has made a number of minor upgrades to 2005 model year cars. The One and Cooper have a new five-speed gearbox, while the Cooper S has marginally more power at 170bhp, as well as more colours and trim choices.

The John Cooper Works Tuning Kit also frees up more power, now upgrading Cooper S models to 210bhp.

Volvo hopes for UK version of XC90

VOLVO bosses haven’t ruled out bringing the company’s V8-powered XC90 to the UK.

They are currently unable to do so because of technical barriers involving the new engine and right-hand drive vehicles.

The manufacturer used the show to launch the new 4.4-litre engine, which produces 315bhp.

A spokeswoman was unable to say when the V8-powered XC90 could go on sale in the UK, if at all.

Chevrolet – that’ll be the Daewoo ...

FLEET customers are more likely to choose a vehicle wearing a Chevrolet badge than a Daewoo one, according to the company’s UK managing director.

Feedback from existing Daewoo dealers following the announcement that Chevrolet would replace the brand across Europe by the beginning of next year had been positive, he said.

Andy Carroll, designated managing director of Chevrolet UK, told Fleet News: ‘Our dealers are looking forward to having Chevrolet franchises because the Daewoo name had some negative baggage following the bankruptcy in Korea.

‘It will be a challenge to change the perception of customers who might associate Chevrolet with big cars, perhaps after driving a rental car in America, but the current Daewoo line-up has led to significant growth in the UK this year and our retail network continues to expand.

‘Daewoo might be a brand that some people wouldn’t have had on their shopping lists, but Chevrolet has no negative connotations in the UK.’

Carroll added that a range of new products and the introduction of diesel engines will improve the company’s chances of securing fleet sales.

The Chevrolet Lacetti will be offered with a diesel engine in 2006, while the next-generation Evanda – a large Daewoo saloon – will be engineered for right-hand drive for the first time and be offered with a diesel engine.

Carroll said there would also be opportunities for Chevrolet products already on sale in other markets around the world to be introduced in the UK as long as the car could be sold profitably.

Chevrolet revealed a concept car that would form the basis of next year’s new Matiz, as well as a three-door version of the Kalos, which will also go on sale next year.

A production version of the S3X sport-utility vehicle concept (pictured) revealed in Paris last week will be offered with a common rail diesel engine produced in South Korea.

The S3X show car uses a hybrid propulsion system and has three rows of seats and, according to General Motors president and chief executive Rick Wagoner, was designed with European customers in mind.

The hybrid system will not be offered in the production car, but will come with three rows of seats.

  • A NEW version of the Cadillac STS saloon made its European debut in Paris. Bob Lutz, General Motors vice-president, said the brand has become more focused on Europe, with European styling cues and the size of the products.

    The entry-level STS will be offered with a 210bhp 2.8-litre V6.

    Although there are plans to introduce right-hand drive Cadillacs, they are unlikely to be seen for several years.

    Hyundai tunes in with Sonata

    HYUNDAI will launch a new version of the Sonata next year, with classier looks, improved quality and a diesel option.

    The new Sonata is expected to reach the UK in the spring, with a 160bhp 2.4-litre petrol engine at launch. However, a 2.0-litre common rail turbo-diesel will join the range for the 2006 model year.

    The fifth-generation Sonata, which made its world debut in Paris last week, is longer than the current model and has a longer wheelbase.

    There is more headroom front and rear, while engineers have worked to improve the handling, ride and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels.

    Perceived quality has been enhanced by damped grab handles, an integrated audio system and two-tone dashboard.

    A 3.3-litre V6 model will be launched in other markets, but is unlikely to be introduced in the UK.

    Hyundai also revealed a revised version of the Coupe in Paris, with new rear light clusters, headlamps and front bumper and tidier vents in the front wings. It will go on sale in the UK in January.

    Now smart makes its diesel debut

    SMART’S funky forfour hatch was displayed at the Paris show as a diesel variant, with two 1.5-litre cdi engines offered, one producing 68bhp and the other 95bhp. It is the first time a diesel has been offered in the smart range.

    Also on show was a limited edition forfour sportstyle that uses some of the features which will go into the Brabus version of the car, launched next year. These include an engine uprated to 122bhp, a front spoiler and sports rear muffler.

    Biggest boot is even bigger

    A NEW idea in interior packaging should help Chrysler maintain its share of multi-purpose vehicle sales in Britain next year, it was claimed in Paris.

    Called Stow ‘n Go, the seating and storage system turns the US company’s Grand Voyager people carrier into the ultimate car for all reasons, said product development executive vice president Eric Ridenour.

    ‘Our vehicle has always been recognised as being the biggest when it comes to interior space, but this is a unique feature that should help us maintain our sales volume even though more competitors are now offering seven-seat models, he said. ‘The fact that we are unlikely to raise our prices will also underline our high value offering.’

    To be available from the end of the year, the system allows second and third-row seats to be folded into the floor when not required to free up a massive 4,550 litres of potential load volume. With the seats in position, their underfloor containers make available 340 litres of space – equal to the luggage capacity of the average compact car.

    Kia tests public reaction to hot-hatch concept

    KIA executives are currently gauging reaction to a new hot- hatch concept car the manufacturer is showing at the Paris show. Based on its new B-segment car to be launched next year, the sporty 2.0-litre petrol car, codenamed JB, could go into production by 2006, depending on public response.

    The company also used the show to unveil its new sports utility vehicle, called Sportage, which arrives in the UK in January. It will be offered with a choice of three engines, 2.0-litre and 2.7-litre V6 petrol engines and a 2.0-litre common-rail diesel. Pricing has yet to be announced but it is likely to start at under £15,000. Two trim levels will be offered.

    No identity crisis for new SEAT Toledo

    SEAT’S UK marketing boss used just three words to settle the argument over what kind of car the firm has developed to replace its Toledo model.

    ‘It’s a hatchback,’ SEAT UK’s head of marketing Mark McKenna claimed, despite the Spanish company describing the controversial model as a saloon.

    He added: ‘I know the factory people feel they have come up with a style that redefines the saloon, but our view is that the new Toledo redefines the amount of space that can be made available in a car that’s sporty to drive.

    ‘By any yardstick, this is a very roomy car compared with the alternatives in its sector, but the fact that it has a rear tailgate means we’ll sell it as a hatchback when it reaches the showrooms on January 7.’

    SEAT UK has ordered 2,500 examples of the Toledo for next year. Prices are still not confirmed, but the car is expected to carry a premium of about £500 over the smaller Altea multi-purpose model on which it is based.

    Suzuki aims for some Swift sales

    SUZUKI will make its first foray into volume diesel passenger car manufacturing when its all-new Swift supermini range is launched at the Geneva Motor Show next year.

    Revealed in prototype form at the Paris Motor Show, the next-generation model had a 1.3-litre Fiat-GM Powertrain turbodiesel engine under its bonnet.

    Suzuki president and chief operating officer Hiroshi Tsuda said: ‘We see a big future for this little car. It is our first global product and annual production will total 300,000 units from factories in Japan, China, India, Indonesia and Hungary. Despite that, we have focused on European tastes in the development of the Swift.’

    The Japanese company’s last small car, the WagonR+, was shared with General Motors and produced as the Vauxhall Agila, but the new Swift will be offered only as a Suzuki, he said.

    Two more new models will join the Swift next year – one of them an SUV jointly developed with Fiat – and from then until 2009, the company will introduce two completely new models each year in a bid to achieve a 5% share of global car sales and 2% of European sales.

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