Paris 2012: Review
Monday 01 October 2012
Who were the big winners? Who were the big losers? What was the biggest shock? Here, we at Auto Trader will attempt to unravel the Gordian knot of news which has spewed (seemingly endlessly) from this year’s Paris Show. The Jaguar F-type, Volkswagen Golf and Renault Clio all played starring rolls, but what, if anything, flopped?
Whilst this was a motor show held in France, it was undoubtedly the Germans who impressed the most – especially Volkswagen and its associated brands (Audi, Bentley, Seat, Skoda etc…) who introduced several new models. The most noteworthy of these were the new Golf, A3 Sportback, S3, Seat Leon, Bentley Continental GT3 (alongside Bentley’s return to endurance racing) and the Skoda Rapid.
Britain impressed, as well, with the new Range Rover making its stunning world debut and Jaguar’s much-anticipated F-Type sports car also being officially unveiled. Aston Martin gave a debut to a revised version of the venerable DB9 GT car which featured updated styling and a 510bhp, 457lb/ft. version of the company’s 5.9-litre V12. Aston also announced that it was discontinuing the Virage model – a car which was supposed to blend the hard-core performance of the DBS, with the continent-crushing refinement of the DBS. It didn’t really work, however, and after just 13 months on sale, the car will no-longer be available for sale.
MINI was also on show, launching the new Paceman coupe/4×4/hatch (nope, us neither) crossover with much pomp and ceremony. Essentially a ‘coupe’ version of the ungainly Countryman 4×4, the Paceman is the seventh iteration of the re-born MINI. There is no doubting the massive sales success of the new MINI since its re-launch in 2001, the seemingly never-ending new models appear to be diluting the ‘exclusive’ nature of the brand and are sure to have the designer of the original Mini, Alec Issigonis spinning so fast in his grave that a gravity field is being generated.
The 2012 Paris Motor Show also saw McLaren Automotive’s debut at an international show. The Woking company showed off the MP4-12C Spider – a convertible version of the McLaren’s much-lauded MP4-12C supercar. The big news from Macca was, however, the unveiling of the P1 – the spiritual successor to the iconic F1 hypercar. Visually, the P1 looks astonishing; with every surface sculpted to provide the maximum amount of downforce whilst also keeping aerodynamic drag to a bare minimum. Full technical details have yet to be announced but we expect that the car will use a 750bhp version of the MP4-12C’s twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8. This is likely to be mated to a Formula One-style KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) power boost arrangement, which harvests some of the energy lost under braking which is then stored in a battery to provide extra performance on demand. Combined with the 750bhp V8, the P1 is likely to put out more than 800bhp, which should be plenty.
Unusually for the Paris Motor Show, the French brands were less dominant than we have seen at previous events. The major Gallic players, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen did not appear have the confidence that we have seen from them at previous Paris shows. There was only one new concept unveiled by Citroen, with the rest of the cars which were unveiled being those which we were all expecting. The new Renault Clio was, perhaps, the star of the French contingent with the diminutive supermini showing a bold new design direction Boulogne based manufacturer. The hot Renaultsport version was also unveiled, which also heralds a new direction for all future souped up Renaults. Gone are the days of high-revving, naturally aspirated hot Renaults with manual gearboxes. In a move which is likely to frustrate and anger large proportions of their fans, Renault has decided to make the new Clio Renaultsport turbocharged and only offered with a dual-clutch transmission. This follows the recent trend for engine downsizing to improve both efficiency and emissions, whilst providing the same amount of power as the outgoing naturally aspirated 2.0-litre unit.
The Peugeot 208 GTi, RCZ-R and the Citroen DS3 Cabrio were the most interesting offerings to come from the other two major French players, but none of these represents any major leap forwards in either design or performance and are indicative of a worrying lack of confidence emanating from the French automotive industry.
Ford also had a major presence at the show, debuting the revised Ford Fiesta (due early next year) and the all-new Mondeo (which is due to arrive on these shores in November 2013) whilst the estate version will be available from early 2014 onwards.
Next to Volkswagen Group, the Korean pair of Hyundai and Kia were probably the most prolific manufacturers at the show. The Hyundai i30 three-door hatch and Kia pro_cee’d were unveiled, with a performance version of the Kia also announced (but not shown). Kia also unveiled its Carens MPV and ix35 4×4 model.
Vauxhall unveiled its MINI-rivalling ADAM small premium hatch. Set to go up against cars such as the aforementioned MINI, the Fiat 500 and the Citroen DS3; the ADAM will offer high levels of personalisation to attempt to steal customers away from these successful models. The only worry we have is whether or not people will want to pay a premium for what is still, just a Vauxhall. Badge snobbery still has an awful lot of power in today’s market, unfortunately.
So, that was Paris. The whole thing was a metaphor for where the power lies in the European car market, with the Germans dominating, Britain looking to recover and France beginning to flounder somewhat. As Brits, we can be pr0ud of what the UK’s brands have achieved over the past decade or so – especially in the luxury and performance car market. Jaguar is getting back on its feet again, Aston is looking vibrant and Land Rover is continuing its successes with the all-new Range Rover. The state of the grand old French brands, Renault, Citroen and Peugeot is, however, worrying to behold.
Watch Auto Trader’s video round-up of the 2012 Paris Motor Show here:
By James Richardson