The Geneva motor show doesn’t really have the space (or the inclination?) for the huge automotive temples Frankfurt seems to attract, but the 2014 Swiss expo did see some really interesting new show stand designs from Toyota, DS and Citroen that all prove size isn’t everything.
Citroen’s now well-established but still sophisticated sub-brand DS premiered a separate space to its mother marque featuring a cool matt black wall of words tightly packed together that DS’s marketeers believe have a resonance with the brand. So far, so cool, except some of the black 3D words also lit-up white in sequence to make a really unusual and strangely hypnotic display.
Just a little way to the left, Citroen promoted its excellent Cactus production car with a series of large lozenge-shaped wood and gloss white cabinets big enough to fit examples of full-size Cactus cars and other stuff inside. When we spied the big three-dimensional ‘Feel Good’ letters perched on one section’s roof line, we did just that.
The third new stand detail that caught CDN’s eye was Toyota Aygo’s cave-cum-cafe. The numerous circular ceiling spotlights created a mesmerising tunnel effect from each end and the multi-coloured and fonted fridge-magnet-style neon wall signage looked fun and friendly. With comedy eyeballs, moustaches and mouths on sticks to stand behind outside for laughs – in a physical reverse of the usual end-of-the-pier face cut-outs of amusing cartoons – the whole ensemble suggested a much more human-focused approach to the launch of new city car – not something Toyota is always known for. The jury’s still out on the dynamic X-shape front of the Aygo itself, but love it or loathe it, there’s no confusing it for sister cars by Citroen (C1) and Peugeot (108) in this generation’s iteration. Refreshing.
Hidden deep in the back of the Qoros stand in Geneva are signs of a brand that is doing everything right for its customer base. The messaging is on target, the look and feel of the branding and displays is modern and clean, and the touchscreen information centers and massive touchscreen table all echo the message of a modern car brand.
On the side of the stand sits an interesting e-bike designed by the Qoros team and named the eBIQE (yes, for real). Next to it sit accessories that some premium brands would be happy to show off, and the tone of voice is uniform and clear, compelling and attractive.
Unfortunately, the cars themselves fail to fulfill that message.
Not that they’re bad for a brand new company, but the cars themselves feel flat and lifeless. Competent, but with none of the playful modernity of the brand as a whole. And that seems like a missed opportunity. Brands like Mini, Renault, and Kia are masterful at adding value through youthful and clever design touches, materials, and colors but without massive additional costs. Qoros has a strong baseline design, but the incongruity with the clever marketing message gives the impression of inauthenticity—something that is always harder to claw back than to simply instil from the beginning.
Hopefully the next generation of Qoros cars can tap into some of that marketing strategy and find a niche that truly is worthy of the clever brand and competent design they’ve shown us so far.
The movement of the four rings to the hood’s edge, the more aggressive 6-point single frame grille, the undercut tornado line and the near disappearance of the hood shut line ‘bumping’ up over the wheelarch. They all combine to make the new TT a lot more of an Audi, and a lot less of a ‘special’ car. Less of a TT in fact. Shame, as its interior is outstanding, yet its exterior just doesn’t invite you to investigate.
Mazda has prided itself recently on the long hood/cab-rearward proportions of both its 3 and 6 models. On the larger car it makes sense – the illusion is of a rear-drive, premium sedan. The 3 hatchback just about gets away with the treatment but, to some, it looks a little unbalanced in side profile. So applying this same set of proportions to the Mazda 2-previewing Hazumi concept has rather predictably odd results.
The long hood and pulled-back cabin look disproportionate on this size of car, while its interior space is extremely tight, particularly in the rear quarters. And don’t expect to fit your week’s shopping in the trunk.
This car is symbolic of a widespread desire to style even the humblest of cars as somehow exotic, often to the detriment of design.
As Volvo unveiled its superb Concept Estate here in Geneva, its Concept Coupe and Concept XC siblings looked down on the final piece of their triumvirate from the top floor of the brand’s show stand. But the interesting back story is how these three have been shrewdly created on a very limited budget.
Design director Thomas Ingenlath was given the budget to create one-and-a-half concept cars i.e. a full concept and a separate hard model. The problem was that his strategy required three cars to give an impression of the brand’s new direction. His solution is inspired.
The blue Coupe Concept that appeared in Frankfurt was subsequently modified into the Concept Estate we see here – they are the same car. Meanwhile the Concept Coupe that appears here is a simple mock-up (not that you can tell from ground level), while the Concept XC – shown in Detroit – was the ‘half’ car Ingenlath had budget for.
It must have been tough seeing the original show car attacked with an angle grinder to turn it into a wagon but, as the Estate was always seen as the most important of the three, this strategy – like Volvo’s new direction – is very smart.
There was a lot of talk around the show yesterday about the absurd volume of the music during Rolls Royce’s press conference, with conversations from the adjoining hall being drowned out and eardrums on the Volvo stand across the way being blown out by the excessive decibels. But we think that there’s a bigger change going on at Rolls Royce in general—a change of tune from the refined opulence of the “reborn” brand to an in-your-face ostentatiousness that Bentley seemed happy to maintain for the past few years.
In fact, the Mansory stand (located just across the way from Rolls Royce itself), usually a reliable supplier of disapproving head shaking, nows feels more like a direct competitor to Rolls Royce’s own Bespoke program than an absurdist tuner for eccentric rich Europeans.
The new headlamps on the Series II Ghost, the colors of the cars, and the slightly off-key (to us) video playing on a continuous loop on the stand all seem to point to a new tone for the Grande Dame of British brands, and one that we think will be interesting to watch in the coming years.
The new Vision C Concept that Skoda is showing in Geneva is a beautifully executed ‘five-door coupé’ based on the Ocatavia. Its sharp lines, hard surfacing, and fine detailing echo the crystal theme that Skoda is currently pushing and its connection to the VW Group is undeniable. Its place within that group, however, is increasingly less clear to us, as the Vision C’s incredibly angry face and sporting proportions seem almost to out-Audi Audi. Just a few years ago the world hailed the Skoda brand as a winner largely due to its friendly utilitarian accessibility, and now the brand appears to be throwing that equity away completely in favor of a market position that its own corporate siblings already dominate.
The news of VW’s apparent struggles to create a budget brand to compete with the likes of Dacia and (now) Citroën seem more than ironic given that Skoda largely led the march to that position, held it for years, and then abandoned it to compete with Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen itself in the market. None of that takes away from the design of Vision C Concept itself, which is elegantly proportioned, lovingly detailed, and pitch-perfect for the ever-growing “Sedan Coupé” space.
It’s just hard not to be disappointed that such an angry face is the centerpiece of what not so long ago was VW’s last remaining bastion of genuine friendliness.
We had the chance to spend some time with the new Citroen C4 Cactus and its designers earlier this month – read our First Sight feature here. Needless to say we were very impressed by this innovative yet rational family car.
To launch the car here in Geneva as well as showroom-ready cars, Citroen has also had a little fun by turning the car into a rather more robust-looking exploration vehicle.
The camouflage graphics, black steel wheels with chunky tyres and screw-on arch extensions pushes the car into the more SUV-end of the spectrum.
There was much consternation when images of the new ‘baby’ Jeep, the Renegade, were leaked online a day or so ago. Yet seeing it here in Geneva it’s hard to see why.
On a first ‘read’ it feels exactly where the brand should be in terms of leveraging its huge potential. First of all it’s the right size – not so small that it appears toy-like, yet the right size for Europe and an increasingly downsizing US. But the real win is that it finally strikes the right balance between ‘boxy’ and ‘organic’ – something the brand has grappled with and fluctuated between of late.
Its face is instantly recognisable, yet the slightly hooded lamps set in a softened rectangle grille graphic, add a hint of cheekiness, rather than aggression.
The interaction between the windowline that pushes down into the body and the upward-pushing rocker gives some dynamism to its profile.
Look closer and neatly-executed details such as the lamp graphics add to the sense of integrity.
We couldn’t access the interior this afternoon, but will try to do so tomorrow.
While there may be a sense of disappointment surrounding the Twingo’s very nicely executed but fairly conservative exterior, when you go inside the car the mood changes dramatically. When compared directly with the interiors on the new 108, Aygo, and C1, the Twingo positively shines with clever touches, interesting materials, and unexpected features. While the PSA/Toyota joint venture has produced an interior that looks and feels cheap above all else, the Renault feels more designed in the true sense of the word, rather than styled.
The Twingo features interesting colors, textures, and contrasts. On some models, the glove box is replaced by a closeable bag that can be removed and taken with you.
On the Aygo, heavily styled swathes of cheap plastic feel like a throwback to a bygone era of low-cost cars and was compared to the quality of some Chinese competitors.
Not everything goes in the Renault’s favor however, as it seems that the new package has compromised headroom and interior space in unexpected ways, the trunk is very small, and the front “service” hood doesn’t feature any of the cleverness that the Audi A2 that pioneered the style.
We have a feeling we’re in for a (mini) battle royale in the segment.