We’ve enjoyed the second day of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show as much as the first. With most of the main launches taking place yesterday, today we’ve been free to explore the cavernous exhibition space and and take a close look at the many interesting concept cars, design studies and wacky one-offs presented by the greatest minds in automotive design.
For our coverage of the crucial production car launches yesterday, please click here. Read on for what we’ve discovered on day two.
What we love… The Honda Urban EV Concept
This adorable concept has received an inordinate amount of attention from the press, given that it’s ostensibly yet another all-electric urban mobility concept. The difference, however, is twofold: firstly, it looks fantastic, and secondly, it’s actually destined for production.
That’s right, this chunky little runabout could go on sale as early as 2019, according to Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo. There are certain features which we doubt will make it onto the roadgoing design - the suicide doors, for example, and the screens on the front and rear to display “messages” to other motorists - but we hope that the overall appearance of the concept is preserved.
It’s reminiscent of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Mk1 Golf and Marcello Gandini’s Autobianchi A112, though its designers would prefer us to refer to the first and possibly second generation Civic. It would join a small but growing number of retro-styled cars, such as the immensely popular Fiat 500, despite being Honda’s most progressive car to date.
Its simplicity stands out against a backdrop of hyperbolic, over-designed concept cars found elsewhere in Frankfurt Messe. Even the name ‘Urban EV Concept’ is unfussy, communicative and straightforward. We think this conventionally attractive four-seat city car is probably the best piece of product design on show.
Cars from the East: Chinese brands make moves on Europe
Despite its manufacturing prowess, China has never landed a direct hit on the European car market. In fact, apart from a handful of exceptionally cheap utility vehicles like the Great Wall Steed, and a couple of models sold under the MG badge, China is conspicuously absent from British streets.
That could be about to change, albeit slowly. Economic changes and the gradual drift away from the internal combustion engine both represent enormous opportunities for Chinese manufacturers, which have historically struggled to compete on quality, efficiency and refinement.
Chery has confirmed that it will sell its ExeedTX in Europe at some point. Its clever modular platform means that it can be built as a hybrid or battery-electric car, and as either a two- or four-wheel-drive.
The VV5S, meanwhile, is sold in China as a Wey, which is the luxury sub-brand of Great Wall. Here, that manufacturer is known for its cheap-and-cheerful Steed pickup truck, but the design and proportions of its new hybrid SUV are coming alarmingly close to British tastes. It’s forgettable, yes, but sadly that’s clearly what the market demands.
Our favourite underdog
Those Chinese companies will have studied SsangYong’s assault on Europe, which (in the UK at least) has seen it ascend from agricultural oddball into a savvy rival to mainstream SUVs. As a brand that used to specialise in laughably ugly off-roaders, the recent introduction of the Tivoli and Tivoli XLV has cemented its reputation for building cars you might want to own.
The Rexton is an extension of that process. It’s still a bit left-field - it has a ladder chassis for better off-road performance and its ageing 2.2-litre diesel engine isn’t the cleanest on the road - but its considerably cheaper than any of its rivals. It’s also nicer to look at than a Toyota Land Cruiser. SsangYong expects to sell 2,000 of these, and we wish them luck.
Our favourite new hot hatches
Another newcomer from Korea is the i30N, Hyundai’s first real stab at making a hot hatch. It’s an attractive example of its breed, and with 271bhp will compete with the likes of the Ford Focus ST. Hyundai is trying to market this is a serious driver’s car, having apparently honed its dynamics on the Nürburgring.
The 276bhp Renault Megane R.S. is another handsome hot hatch. We aren’t sure about the ‘Tonic Orange’ colour chosen by the French manufacturer for this show car, but we’re increasingly convinced by the high-performance additions they’ve made to their otherwise-ordinary Megane.
One headline-grabbing piece of tech is the four-wheel steering available on the R.S, which gently rearranges the car at high speed. A limited-slip differential is available, as is something called “R.S. Monitor Expert”, which enables the driver to gather data when driving on a track, and then post the fascinating information on social media for the world to see.
Quote of the day,
Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall boss Carlos Tavares shared his cautious optimism about Brexit and the future of Vauxhall's factory at Ellesmere Port:
“It’s all about efficiency, if we are efficient we will be profitable, and if we are profitable we will be sustainable, and if we are sustainable we will all keep our jobs.”
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