The Quartz is the latest in a successful and intriguing line of Peugeot concepts, taking its now-established multi-material strategy and translating it into an SUV form. Its proportions are exaggerated to such a point that the car looks like the firm turned a sketch straight into a show car.
However, there’s method in the approach, with Peugeot design director, Gilles Vidal, telling us that the car was designed with such extreme proportions to avoid the motoring press jumping to the conclusion that the car must preview the firm’s next-generation of crossovers.
We can’t complain about Peugeot’s response to the “avoid assumptions” brief: the car’s oversized rims, huge bodysides, tiny glasshouse and exaggerated wheelbase have certainly given us an extra visual treat.
The French government has asked its carmakers to design cars that are practical, affordable, production feasible and can use 2 liters of fuel per 100km or less, which is rather more difficult than it sounds.
Renault has gone all-out and created a ground-up design that has the feel of a genuine concept car. Very clever aerodynamics that include extending rear fenders, rear-view cameras hidden within perspex bubbles and active wheel flaps take care of the efficiency bit, while both its interior and exterior receive the full concept treatment.
Citroën on the other hand has modified an existing C4 Cactus by adding lower side skirts, extending the C-pillar fins and replacing the airbumps with carbon panels. The two aspects the cars do share, however are trick wheels and lots of neon orange detailing.
Very different maybe, but both are very appealing in their own way.
Land Rover’s latest effort was high on the list of cars we wanted to see, to check out for ourselves the design direction that’s seen as great enough to abandon the Freelander nameplate.
The styling elements that caused concern when we first saw pictures of the car still feel a little hard to digest on a Land Rover, particularly the front and rear lamps, and some of the plastics seem just a little over the top.
However, look past the extraneous trim and the overall exterior design is more upright than the new wedgier profile and angled C-pillar might suggest. It gives you the feeling that there is still a Freelander buried under there somewhere – which of course there is, as the platform is carried over.
The interior is more challenging. When confronted with the rather old-fashioned gauge pack, clunky center stack buttons and cheap-feeling plastics in the door cards and between the seats, it’s hard not to feel disappointed.
The design feels like a generation older, one that the car has been built to maximize Land Rover’s profits at the expense of all else.
There’s still no doubt the Sport rides the same wave of allure that has made the Range Rover models a sales success. But for us, the execution doesn’t move the car on enough to justify its new nomenclature.
A rash of virtual reality Oculus Rift headsets broke out at the 2014 Paris motorshow as a handful of carmakers attempted to sprinkle some techno fairy dust onto their stands. The latest 360-degree head-tracking headsets allow the wearer to enter virtual worlds and are being touted by tech-heads as the next thing for gaming and more.
Volvo’s was probably the nicest space created to use the kit, paying homage to Oslo architects Snohetta and their Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion in the remote Dovre Mountains of Norway.
Peugeot’s example featured an interesting futuristic city scape but the wearing experience gradually made some of the team feel a little sick. Our limited consensus is that the tech is a great idea but the sub-TRON-style graphics viewed need a little sharpening before they become more useful devices for motorshows.
Secondly, people should be allowed to wear and view in private, as you look ‘a little Daft Punk’ when donning the bulky headgear.
The new Renault Espace is one of the stand-out cars of the show. It’s a sensible shift in typology to fit into the crossover zeitgeist but without appearing overly aggressive or bulky.
This opens up a new level of appeal to those who simply wouldn’t drive a straight minivan/MPV (i.e. 99 percent of the world). As well as a family car (more of which later), it’s also a good substitute for the big French luxo-limos of old. The Vel Satis, Safrane, 25 et al are dead, probably never to return, but sink into the front seat of this and there’s a familiar waftiness.
However there are compromises – that expressive, high and kicked-up window line and low roofline mean it’s surprisingly oppressive in the rear (although the huge rear doors offer great access), while the third row is bunker-like and very tight on space. In this configuration the luggage space is minimal. Compared to a Volvo XC90 it is very cramped indeed.
The market shift is understandable but it really doesn’t fit into the lineage of the Espace nameplate. Very good car, but not really an Espace.
While Fiat’s big story of the show was the unveiling of its 500X crossover, the firm didn’t neglect the regular 500, which has remained on sale in pretty much the same form since 2007. It showed a couple of cars with fun decals, including a car with a rough-textured wrap that gave the appearance of denim, and one with the outline of a Nuova 500 taped to each side.
It also had a wood buck of the original 500 that has certainly transcended its original, utilitarian purpose into a (sizeable) work of art you’d be proud to have installed in your house.
Hiding at the back of the Nissan stand is a Juke configurator that adds an extra dimension to every procrastinating car fan’s favorite pastime. Instead of simply replicating the Nissan website’s interface, visitors could change the spec of their Juke using a touchscreen, and this would then be projected onto a small scale model of the car.
The setup featured four projectors on each side of the car, plus two above, giving a surprisingly comprehensive level of detail, allowing you to change not just the body color, but wheels, door mirror caps and front lamp finishers. The only limitation, in fact, is taste. Or lack of it.
The Volvo XC90 has, thankfully, not been designed to slap you around the face with a ‘look at me’ design. It’s a mature, understated and conservative family wagon and all the better for it.
Its interior is a paragon of function – superbly packed, with a low beltline so even children can see out, and slim seats that genuinely free up extra space in all three rows. How sadly ironic that the new Renault Espace feels so cramped and claustrophobic (in the rear at least) by comparison.
It’s a car you know you’d appreciate the more you used, uncovering neat details along the way. From the now-familiar frameless rear view mirror to the beautiful metal speaker grilles and center console marquetry, this has to be the most special-feeling cabin of any mainstream family car.
But our favourite detail is saved for those riding in the third row – flip up the storage bin and there, in all its cartoon-like glory, is an injection-moulded spider and web. It’s the sort of ‘Easter egg’ that costs nothing, yet reassures you that someone has really cared about the experiences of those on board.
While Citroën wrestles with exactly what type of car should wear a modern DS badge or a double chevron logo, it’s nice to see that it hasn’t forgotten to recall a time when its cars changed the game.
Even after almost 70 years, familiarity with the 2CV hasn’t dulled the impact of its form, while the DS still staggers, even though it’s just a year away from celebrating its 60th birthday. While we were admiring this pair, a French journalist of somewhat senior years appeared, saw the cars and threw his arms up in an immediate expression of shear pride. It’s no surprise that today’s firm is feeling the pressure of defining itself, given the weight of its history.
I suspected when I saw the first pictures of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata that it would be a car worth checking out in Paris. The promise of even more petite proportions and a quite different personality seemed brave for such a well-known car.
Seeing it on the show stand here it’s far more than interesting – it’s charming, characterful and intriguing. And it really does feel adorably small.
There are some very interesting and brave features, surfaces and details from its sharply-creased hood edges to its ’90s BMW concept throwback rear lamps. But it all hangs together.
“You can look at it and think maybe it was influenced by Ferrari or BMW, but actually when I think of Mazda this car fits perfectly into that vision,” says Peugeot design director Gilles Vidal who’s also an admirer the sports car from Hiroshima.
It’s very impressive that Mazda has been brave enough to really push the creativity on a model line that has been so well-received over the last 25 years.