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Geneva 2013 Motor Show.

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Mercedes CLA The Star Of Geneva 2013.

Small SUVs Establish A New Niche.
China’s Qoros Looks Credible, If Show Models Replicated.

“The horseshoe sweep of the Wraith’s cabin also echoes the cove at Le Canadel in the South of France where Sir Henry Royce and his design team spent their winters”

While the outside world worries about its future in a Europe of burgeoning unemployment, economic recession and currency crisis, here at the annual Geneva Car Show there is only one question; what is the car of the show?

Answer; it’s the Mercedes CLA of course. Not that there aren’t fearsome competitors for this honour.

This year has seen the birth of a new niche – the small SUV, a path pioneered last year by the Opel-Vauxhall Mokka. These new practical but handy-sized SUVs will prove very popular and many new ones were making their debuts all over the show. There was the curiously mis-named oxymoronic Ford EcoSport – is it an attempt to be frugal, or sporty? You can’t be both, can you? The Peugeot 2008 was unveiled alongside the latest baggage of its future-threatening massive financial losses. There is a HybridAir version of this too, which uses compressed air to back up the petrol engine. Renault’s Captur is another candidate, while Fiat had the 500L, and Suzuki the SX4.

Ford EcoSportPeugeot 2008Geneva 2013Suzuki SX4

Qoros Perhaps the most dangerous threat to Europe’s manufacturers was the new Qoros. This 1.6 litre VW Golf competitor looked good, with high quality finish inside and out. It is not clear yet whether Qoros is capable of repeating this in the production version, or whether it drives well. There will also be a turbo engine when it goes on sale across Europe later this year, at a starting price below 28,000 euros in Germany. Qoros, built in China by a partnership of Chery and Israel Corporation, said it will compete on value, not price, and with its long-wheel base and short overhangs, has much internal space and promises good handling. Next year, Qoros promises a petrol electric hybrid, and there’s an estate car on the horizon. Earlier Chinese attempts to assault Europe have crashed and burned and even if this Qoros is successful, because of an undeveloped dealer network, it is unlikely to mount a major threat for at least five years.

Rolls Royce Wraith There were plenty of pricey new supercars to keep the rich happy, led by the magnificently over the top Rolls Royce Wraith coupe. You can almost forgive the press relations writers if they lost control of themselves momentarily with this description of the interior.

“The contemporary finish presents an interior space that hints at the interior of an ultra-luxury yacht. The horseshoe sweep of the Wraith’s cabin also echoes the cove at Le Canadel in the South of France where Sir Henry Royce and his design team spent their winters,” Rolls Royce said.

Chevrolet Corvette StingrayNo mention of any similar inspiration behind the 6.2 litre 450 hp V8 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible. I suppose those numbers say it all. The new LaFerrari F150 will cost you 1.2 million euros before tax, but surely worth every penny if the 963 hp hybrid 6.26 litre V12 will allow you to claim the title of fastest car in the show. LaFerrari replaces the Enzo. Its petrol engine delivers 800 hp, and the electric motor 163 hp. The Bentley Flying Spur has a chubby new look and with its 6.0 litre twin turbo 616 hp W12 engine will only cost you about 160,000 euros.

Alfa Romeo 4C There were some new sports cars a little more affordable. Alfa Romeo’s beautiful little 4C coupe has a 240 hp 1.75 litre direct injection petrol engine and a starting price of 60,000 euros. This has to be good, because the 4C will lead Alfa Romeo’s revival and goes on sale even in the U.S. 4C sales in Europe start in September. The Toyota FT-86 is an affordable 30,000 euros and looks really smart.

BMW BMW showed off its new 3 Series Gran Turismo, a 3 Series with a hatchback or fastback, as the company will probably call it. Opel-Vauxhall added to its already impressive new model range with the four-seat convertible Cascada, which the company claims is a rival to the Audi A5. The redesigned Nissan Note looks smart, and has much technology usually associated with premium brands like a camera parking aid, blind spot and lane departure warning.

VW XL1I don’t usually bother with concept cars at car shows, but VW promises that its plug-in hybrid two-seater XL1 is ready for production. VW will only make about 1,000 a year annually at the start, and prices are likely to be on the unaffordable side for a while yet.

Mercedes CLA And the winner is, the Mercedes CLA. Mercedes unveiled the CLA, more than just an A class with a boot, a day before the Detroit car show opened in January, then proceeded to withhold it from the floor of the show. So it’s no secret that this is a simply beautiful car, looking like a scaled down version of the CLS, itself an attempt to make the worthy but dull mid-sized E class look a bit trendy. Not surprisingly, Mercedes goes on and on about how “connected” the CLA is, aimed at younger buyers who value their smart phones as much as autos. The body design is incredibly sleek, with a drag co-efficient of only 0.22. The cars are packed with high technology including radar-based collision prevention and attention assist anti-drowsiness stuff as standard. You can buy Lane Tracking and automatic parking systems, or four-wheel drive.

Mercedes CLA

Neil Winton
*photographs © Paul Cox Photographic

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