Paris Auto Show 2008


A biannual affair, the Paris Auto Show is vast and dizzying. It claims to welcome more visitors than any other car show and if size is anything to go by, they sure have the space for 1,432,972 visitors!  This means that the visitor does get a bit of everything, from vintage to futuristic and for us at GCD it means choice green material.  Here is but a sampling of the show with a full gallery on the side, stay posted for the 2010 show.

Citroën C3 Picasso Concept

Specsheet :two petrol options - VTi 95 and VTi 120 (Mini’s efficient economy engines with responsive performance and lowered CO2 emissions), two diesel engines– the HDi 90 and HDi 110 DPFS (current 207 engines tuned to MPV drive boast low combined-cycle CO2 emissions of 125g/km and 130g/km respectively). UK launch expected 2009 at around £11,000.

The French are good at mix and matching objects and designs, and the Citroën C3 Picassois no exception. Making its debut at the Paris Auto Show ’08 the Citroën C3 Picasso personified all that is ying and yang in automotive design by marrying opposing qualities such as strength and comfort, quality and affordability, performance and economy, contemporary and retro design, square shapes and flowing curves and, almost successfully, style and practicality. This little marvel really lives up to its namesake, the artist Picasso. Bursting with unique cheeky character and charming looks, the C3 Picasso flaunts a new direction in body design, blending the roomy, versatile shapes of an MPV with the quality, agility and comfort of an SUV. And it works! Its curious but the strange mixture of all these opposing elements happily sitting on four wheels imbues the Citroën C3 Picasso with what most cars lack…ATTITUDE. You keep coming back to it, and its wonderful gadget laden interior, for more. It is a practical family/city car that hasn’t forgotten that its owner, probably someone in his or her mid-30’s still likes to have fun and doesn’t want to look like a wimp, or a cheapskate. It might be small outside, but its big on the inside as it features a removable boot floor that can be positioned at two different levels; in its high position the floor sits level with the boot and in the low position more storage height is available in the rear. When the rear seats are folded down, a flat loading surface is created right up to the back of the front seats and magnetic flaps fitted to the backs of the rear seats extend the flat surface between the bench and the boot floor. It's the details, such as a rechargeable portable light-source that can be removed and used as a hand-held torch and doubles as a boot light, that captured people’s curiosity. Drivers are afforded a commanding and unobstructed view of the road due to the high-set seating position and the car's three-part panoramic ‘wrap-around’ windscreen with its slim pillars creating a side vision angle of 29.5°. The boxy-ness and vertical proportions of the body’s design has eliminated the ugliness of the three-part windscreen theme that has plagued the Picasso brand since its inception.

GT Concept by Citroën

Specsheet :(from the virtual world) electric drive train powered by a fuel cell with zero pollutant emissions when played on Gran Turismo 5 Playstation 3.

The virtual GTbyCITROËN certainly will not emit any pollutants but just in case the designers made sure that the crossover to the real world version would be so ridiculously aerodynamic that it would only add to its imaginary green credentials. It is, however, a thing of beauty. The freedom to design a super machine for a virtual world released the designer’s imaginations and had all the little boys (and girls) inside of us crying for joy! People just hung around it not knowing why and for what reason. They were intrigued and beguiled by its insane lines that speed over the front wheel arches down the sides and back over the rear wheel arches off and under the flamboyant ‘derriere’. They were smitten by the massively sculpted air intakes in the front that encompassed the headlights and gently pinched the grill. And some rested their eyes in awe upon the beautiful carbon-fibre rearview mirrors that effortlessly flow from the gull wing doors challenging the wind to a duel. Aha! Its all fantasy and that's what we love, that's what we crave. The interior was even more impossibly possible with solid chunks of copper carved into the door panels and the dashboard. Steel and leather fused on the steering wheel for added ‘out of this world’ appeal while the centre console twisted and turned copper and steel into virtual shapes. I don’t suppose anyone thought of what this mass of metal would do in the rare case that the driver’s dream car came crashing down to reality, no I don’t think so…and in any case all the materials are natural so they must be ecological and virtually safe.

Citroën Hypnos Concept

Specsheet :Citroën HYmotion4 technology with a diesel hybrid drivetrain, rear axle-mounted electric motor, 52 mpg (U.S.), 4.5 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 120 g/km.

For many inside the industry and out there seems to be a reinforced misconception that green cars need to be small, ugly, and a drag to drive. The Paris Auto Show '08 was a clear backlash to that concept with most cars, mainly the French ones, searching to prove that life can be beautiful and thrilling in the green lane. That was the intention of the designers at Citroën when they were given the assignment to design the ‘free-spirited’ Citroën Hypnos. This four-passenger luxury saloon cross-over was designed to shatter any preconceptions about what green cars should look like let alone how they should perform. Equipped with Citroën’s HY Motion4 technology, Start&Stop technology, and ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mode, the 2-litre HDi DPFS diesel engine is extremely efficient on the motorway, cutting fuel consumption by 20% compared with a petrol engine. Doesn’t sound thrilling? Well perhaps the fact that the Hypnos only has a drag coefficient of .30 and can do 0 - 100 kph in 9.4 seconds (and 30 – 60 kph in 2.6 seocnds) would knock the socks off anyone…and if it doesn’t the interior design sure will. Inside a frantically sculptured exterior dressed in an executive-chameleon grey lives the most exotic and flamboyant interior to come out of a European motor show for quite sometime. Probably the rainbow was the limit was one of the mottos of this project as the seats are individually wrapped in reflective candy coloured packaging and textures. Angular prisms flow in and out of soft round surfaces from the IP panel laterally to the doors and back into the seats. These creases in the seats were supposed to represent areas that can be adjusted to improve position and lumbar support but unfortunately were just squishy coloured foam at the show. The space is generous inside eventhough some people’s egos might have a problem fitting in with the big coloured attitude spaces so to soften this experience (or enhance it) there is a ceiling-mounted camera that regularly measures the anthropometric changes in the driver’s expressions to previous data to gage his or her state of mind. The system adjusts the cabin lighting and scented air-freshener accordingly giving passengers innovative sensorial therapy. This is a reflection of Citroën's commitment to making technology “more human, accessible and attractive".

Ford Ka Concept

Specsheet :1.2-litre 69 PS Duratec petrol and the first Ka diesel – a 1.3-litre 75 PS Duratorq TDCi sub-120g/km CO2 emissions.

Making its debut in the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, this month with super sexy Bond girl Olga Kurylenko at the wheel Ford couldn’t ask to be more high profile for the launch of the new Ford Ka. The 1996 original Ka debuted to similar, if not greater, fanfare yet only time will tell if the new embodiment of its predecessor’s ‘small is fun’ ethos will shine through. Not only does the new Ford Kahave to share its platform and factory space with Fiat’s 500 in Poland but it also has to fight for street attention. In this respect the design does fall short inside and out. There is nothing particularly faulty with the exterior design, it’s just that it doesn’t have the groundbreaking effect the original design had, and when parked next to a Fiat 500…it looks boring, not fun. The interior design is not boring, it is however, bordering on vulgar with its late eighties, early nineties look. Clumsy large openings for the vents, manual windows, a hodge-podge of designs on the door panels, that will be available in 2009 in a hectic “combination of exciting interior and exterior design treatments based on three very different themes”. The themes are Ka Digital Art, vibrant designs in a ‘street fashion’ style, Ka Grand Prix, an exciting motorsports theme with chequered flag motif, and Ka Tattoo, a fashionable and fun tattoo design with the heart at its central motif. The version pictured here is Ka Tattoo, which is dominated throughout by a kind of golden green digital flower theme rather than a heart theme. Literally everywhere, from the floor matt to the seat to the gearshift and even largely plastered on the rear ¾ view, the tattoo motif detracts the eye from the actual design…perhaps purposefully. BUT! And this is a big but, there is something strangely appealing, and something that works…and its not really clear but lets say that its probably a familiar feeling of an old friend shining through. Ford’s brand identity is coming back, you may love it or hate, but you will see within 1 year Ford will have found its roots again and be back on top and it might have started with the new Ka!

GM Volt Concept

Specsheet :Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV), read Plug-in Hybrid,, with Lithium-ion battery pack extended with gasoline or E85 (ethanol). Top speed 100 mph, EV range city 40miles on battery charge with zero emissions.

"We believe the Chevrolet Volt’s exterior design is a balance between aerodynamic performance and styling. If you look closely you can see the rounded and flushed front fascia, tapered corners and closed grille are aesthetically beautiful and functional, enabling air to move easily around the car. In the end, we believe the vehicle is both aesthetically pleasing and extremely efficient.” Bob Boniface, Director of Design for the Volt project.

Hmm. Mr. Boniface couldn’t be more vague or blander in his description of Chevrolet’s signature car, “The Volt!”, which is being touted as the car to take GM into its second century of service and out of the credit crunch. Perhaps it is a reflection, or a sign, of the times but the new embodiment of the Volt is seriously, well, serious. The re-design of the original Chevy Volt Concept shown in Detroit last year has no apparent character of its own because the designers, or most likely marketing, wanted it to be as ecologically correct as possible. There are graphic hints of the original (see Matt Vela’s article at Businessweek ) but essentially the hot-rod has turned into a mild-mannered sedan. Forget speed and passion this is all about efficiency and eco-smart. With over 700 hours in the wind tunnel elements such as the closed grill, corner hugging headlights, molded fascia, steeply raked windshield, and almost seamless construction the Volt is about being slick rather than muscular like its namesake. The interior has also left behind all the brash chrome fixtures and bright colour palette of the original for a more executive techy look. The use of white as an accent element lifting and lightening the heavy blacks and dark greys add a distinctly European touch to a brand that is so typically American. Of particular appeal is the all-in-one centre console that, much like today’s Mac products, appeals to the design savvy consumer that dominates today’s markets. It is a product of the zero compromise policy shaping GM’s Chevy, from now on its all green. GM estimates that the Voltwill cost about two cents per mile to drive while under battery power compared to 12 cents per mile using gasoline priced at $3.60 per gallon…will the Volt be to GM what Prius is to Toyota?

Kia Soul Hybrid Concept

Specsheet :Gamma 1.6-litre gasoline engine with a 15kW (20 ps) electric motor and CVT (continuously variable transmission) that allows the gearbox to shift between gears to operate at optimal efficiency with an estimated CO2 figure of 117 g/km.

The Kia Soul made its debut at the British Motor Show this past July but as Kia is expanding their eco-friendly line-up the Paris Auto Show ’08 was the host of their Kia Soul Hybrid Concept. Kia Motors Corporation Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, has overseen the transformation of Kia Soul from 2006 concept fantasy to its 2008 production reality. “The new Kia Soul will be a breakthrough vehicle for Kia on its journey to be seen as a design-led company and the maker of distinctive cars which consumers aspire to own”. This urban cross-over is aimed at the young and young-at-heart and Kia, and probably Mr.Schreyer as well, want them to establish an emotional bond with their vehicle; we call this ‘soul appeal’. The proportions of the Soul are quite enchanting indeed, the ‘friendly’ face with rounded headlights and a small mouth sit on a powerful and high bonnet giving the sense that it is ready to do a little bit of hard work, just enough. Then the roof slopes down towards a very boxy and utilitarian looking rear-end with a touch of minimalism. One of the key features is the faked wrap-around glasshouse which is achieved by making the A, B, and C pillars in glossy black to unify the glasshouse graphic. Just as the exterior, the interior is young and uncomplicated by gimmickry so as to say ‘bring your own gadgets’. At the show the Hybrid version was shown with a transparent acrylic bonnet and floor so as to show off the new hybrid powertrain and battery pack. There was also a modern version of the old-school folding canvas roof, apparently available as one of the options to order, but they should have just used the roof space for solar panels to power small items in the car instead. Overall a well put together package that totally fulfils their market target’s need and more. If they can get the Hybrid version on the road at the same price as the gasoline model then it could this car’s CO2 emissions by 26.4%! Now that is music for the soul.

Mazda Kiyora Concept

Specsheet :Next generation MZR 1.3-litre DISI (direct injection spark ignition) petrol with smart idle stop system, with CO 2 emission of under 90g/km.

Kiyora means clean and pure in Japanese. The Mazda Kiyora that debuted at the Paris Auto Show ’08 this past October was designed as a filter to clean the air and purify water for its passengers...oh and to be the ultimate eco-city car! Based on the theme of water this little gem was truly a breathe of fresh air at the show. While all the French car makers were busy being eco on a grand scale with eco-saloons Mazda punched out this urban runner with clarity and style. This is a complex eco-friendly city car in terms of design and execution and yet in its complexity it feels comfortable and fluid. As with water there is no outside or inside there are forms and shapes that flow around, over, and under and this has been clearly interpreted by Mazda Europe’s design team. The key elements at play are the polycarbonate ‘windoors’ that allow easy access to the compact 2+2 arrangement inside, a flexible interior with rear seats that are elastic so one can both sit on them or fit extra luggage from behind, and a natural carbon filtering system that not only filters clean air into the vehicle without the aid of any mechanics but also filters rain water into a LIFESAVER® bottle citi™ for human consumption. The 'water droplet in the wind' profile that inspired the sideview of the car elegantly blends in the glasshouse into the rest of the body and follows the Nagare, or ‘flow’, design philosophy that has shaped Mazda concept cars for the last couple of years. This light and aerodynamic wonder is aimed at European urbanites, namely students who wish to drive to university during the day, shop in the afternoon, and club at night...forget studying! 

Nissan NuVu Concept

Specsheet :EV (electric vehicle) with a laminated lithium-ion battery and a quick charger of 10-20 min, total charger of 3-4 hrs, a range of 125 km and top speed of 120km.hr.

Nissan is pioneering electric vehicles for the very near future, more specifically for 2010! They are 100% committed to making fun, beautifully designed, small electric vehicles that will bring back a smile to city life. Would London or New York not be a friendlier place if it was full of faces like PivoII and Nissan’s latest addition, NuVu?! Perhaps it's a little too cute for these bustling ‘hard’ cities but as NuVushows the electric design language is growing up and maturing from ‘cute’ to ‘neat’. The theme is quickly understood, a tree (a conduit) with leaves (photovoltaic panels) that absorb the energy of the sun to grow (power accessories) and roots (plug and cable) in the earth to absorb (recharge) the energy (into a battery) and move (drive). Quintessentially Japanese! Only a culture that religiously changes with the seasons, hence NuVu’s golden and blue autumnal colour palette, and cohabitates with nature, hence the design allusions to the tree, and loves miniaturization, hence the 3m long footprint, could produce such design finesse in such a small package. Every detail is reviewed. The exterior is tall and open, with large friendly headlights and smooth lines all over; it is as if a gentle wind had molded the body slowly over time. The interior is fun and flexible so that every passenger has an individual role. The driver, usually the only person in the car, has a dedicated dashboard so that the 2nd front passenger can enjoy ample uninterrupted leg-room. This 2nd seat can move forward electronically to allow a 3rd passenger in the rear as well as allow for extra loading room if necessary. All materials inside the cabin are natural, organic, and recycled materials. Every electric concept car Nissan has developed gets closer and closer to an zero-impact ideal, and this is very nearly it!

Pininfarina B0 Concept

Specsheet :EV (electric vehicle) with an electronically limited top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), a range of 250 km (153-miles) supplied by a "LMP" Bolloré battery matched up with a supercapacitor.

Green cars are starting to look the way they are supposed to...like futuristic pods rather than muscle machines. A step in that direction was taken by one of the surprises of the show, Pininfarina and Bolloré’s baby B0 (B Zero), a fully electric zero emissions four-seater hatchback PRODUCTION car for 2009. Yes, production! And that was the surprise, following the dream of the late Andrea Pininfarina, the partnership has forged ahead plans to bring this little beauty to the road by the end of 2009 in its full electric glory. The styling is unmistakably Pininfarina with hints of the 2004 Nido here and there yet the B0 has its own personality. It is a smart city car with easy access four doors a and quiet and mature interior. Simplicity, and perhaps austerity, prevails as a theme throughout. The exterior is slick and lightly sculpted, nothing too fancy and nothing too cheap, ‘casual cool’. The short overhangs and black under-body graphic visually lightens the proportions of what could be a heavy overall shape for such a small wonder. Both the front and rear design treatments tell the story of what is there and nothing more, and it is this honesty that makes the vehicle refreshing. Replacing the iconic, unnecessary in this case, grill is a polycarbonate graphic wherein lie solar panels and headlights in the front which is then echoed in the rear with the integration of the tail-lights into the black rear semi-wrapped window; additional solar panels on the roof are there to help ‘top-up’ the power reserves. The B0 interior is equally simple, four comfortable compact seats with an upright position for increased viewing, integrated controls and a very classic black and white ‘tuxedo’ look; the techy stuff melts into the dashboard while the traditional company’s logo is front and centre on the driving wheel. Tailoring is an Italian trademark and this cat is cool, very cool.

Renault Ondelios Concept

Specsheet :Hybrid-diesel, 2.0 dCi engine with two 20kW electric motors, combined CO2 emissions 120g/km.

Renault is trying to make a name for itself in the luxury production car segment, but it keeps falling short of its dream. Perhaps its because they don’t understand that most people with money like the status quo, the established bling, the likes of Mercedes, Bentley, and Rolls Royce, and not the eccentric bourgeoisie. Enter the Ondelios, Renault’s latest posh offering at the Paris Auto Show ’08, a six-seater, state-of-the art Hybrid-Diesel that claims computer tested CO2 emissions of 120g/km. It is an arduous task to go into this vehicle’s overall design because there seems to be no coherent theme. Over designed would be an all-encompassing description of this whale-mouth-grilled, 23-inch jet-engine-wheeled, enormous butterfly winged (inherited from the Coupé Concept in Geneva), JLo-steroid-derriered car. If its product design you are looking for then you have come to the right furniture show? Indeed, if you look beyond the fact that this is a car you might want to have these seats, and surround sound high tech connectivity, in your home. Renault has taken the lounge concept to another level, we don’t think you can actually even lounge in those seats, they look too ‘laid back’. In fact the only place where innovation and minimalism lives in the Ondelios is in the dash where all the info and controls lay beneath a pristine white skin of fabric that is smoothly backlit (not entirely kid-proof!). Unfortunately, there was an opportunity lost here because the package might have been very interesting if designed in a different way and just keeping the ‘slippery’ body contour as the main theme and guide. With a remarkable claim to a drag coefficient of 0.29 (remember a Toyota Prius is 0.26) the fishlike shape the Ondelios could have inspired a new design direction for Renault as did the Avantime in the past. No such luck this time, all we can say is TMI (too.much.info) Renault.

Renault ZE Concept

Specsheet :EV (electric vehicle) powered by a 70kW electric motor and a lithium-ion battery and Zero Emissions.

Even if you tried it was hard to miss the Renault (Nissan?) ZE (Zero Emissions). Its fluorescent yellow-green glasshouse stood out from all angles and whilst one may think it entirely annoying to drive in such a car it was surprisingly calming. Apparently part of the increased insulation scheme generated by the sandwiched body sides and tinted glass area the ‘greenness’ helps modulate internal temperatures. With the aid of solar panels on the roof the vehicle automatically adjusts temperatures to ensure that climate controls for heating and cooling are rarely used thus keeping energy consumption down. If the set-up looks familiar its because its based on the Kangoo Be Bop (in turn based on the Kangoo Compact Concept of Frankfurt 2007) with compact dimensions, tall upwards architecture, which favours maneuverability in and around town. It is its tallness that will cause more drag and in an effort to reduce this the sideview mirrors have been streamlined into cameras set inside on either side of the dash, and the low-drag full-disc aluminum alloy wheels should improve aerodynamic performance. Materials have been seriously researched and fluids minimized in order to improve recyclablility and reusability at the end of life stage for the car. In this manner the ZE not only takes into consideration zero emissions but also the importance of approaching zero impact. In very Renault fashion the designers have considered how movement in cities is getting more restricted and less enjoyable and turned this in their favour by adding an electric scooter as standard equipment in the ZE. Recharged by the car’s own battery it can be easily unloaded from the horizontally loading rear hatch and used to zip around town. Staying in tune with the utilitarian appeal of the Kangoo the ZE is only a two-seater that appeals to delivery and working people who have to quickly load and unload in the chaos of a bustling city.