Paris 2012: Top 5 Concepts

We’ll be bringing you in-depth reviews of Porsche’s Panamera-based Sport Turismo Concept and also the production-destined Peugeot 2008, but for now here are five of our favorite concepts from this year's Paris Motor Show.

Smart Forstars

Smart says, “The Forstars is immediately recognisable as a member of the smart family, yet it also boasts striking new features, and its silhouette offers a look at Smart's future design idiom. It greets the viewer with a smile on its friendly yet assertive face.”

You can’t help but imagine that the designers at Smart must have a lot of fun at work. Earlier this year Daimler’s most juvenile subsidiary unveiled the For-us concept - a friendly, pint-sized pickup truck - and the Forstars concept is clearly a progression of the car we saw in Detroit. Situated dangerously close to a range of delectable AMG creations, the Smart refused to be cowed and, with the help of its ‘Alubeam Rouge’ paint job, attracted a lot of attention.

Powered by a 60kW electric motor that powers the car to 80mph the concept ought to be fairly sprightly but, as always with Smart, it’s more about how the car can enrich your life than how fast it will go. The name ‘Forstars’ is a reference to the glass dome roof and also the video projector integrated into the front bonnet, enabling “the work of film stars to be spontaneously shared with friends at any time”. Contrived? Yes, but undeniably very cool.

The Forstars boasts almost nonexistent overhangs and rhombic lamp designs – inside the rear right of which is the car’s charging socket. The lamps also feature indicators in the outer rings and stretch towards the outside of the car.  The ovoid theme of the exterior is also carried over into the interior, with hammock-esque seats covered in interchangeable throws and turbine style instruments read over a two-spoke steering wheel.

For all its motor show glamour and eccentricity, the Forstars does preview the next generation of road-going Smart cars – and there’s a clear evolutionary trail to follow from last years Forvision concept, through the For-us at Detroit to this latest variation of Smart’s Tridion theme.

BMW Concept Active Tourer

BMW says, “Exuding luxury, the interior is trimmed in soft full-grain leather with orange contrasting seams, while laminated wood milled from a single block links the upper and lower sections of the dashboard. The centre console, which appears to hover between the front seats, has been designed to maximize legroom.”

The Active Tourer is a very unusual BMW – it’s front wheel drive and it’s a plug-in hybrid. A transversely mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine powers the front wheels whilst the rear is driven by an electric motor. Furthermore, BMW’s current production hybrid cars can only muster a few miles under electric drive, but the Active Tourer can manage almost ten times that and, when the car uses it’s two power sources in parallel, it produces a handy 190bhp.

Whilst the powertrain is a significant development, the concept’s styling is also a first for BMW. With the engine mounted sideways rather than lengthways, BMW’s designers have been able to taper the car’s snout into an aggressive and stylish front graphic, and it’s clear from the silhouette than the Active Tourer will be a direct rival to the Mercedes B-Class (which was exhibited in both electrically and natural gas driven variants). In the metal, the Active Tourer is very well resolved and extremely convincing – it could go to market next week. The bonnet features arching feature lines and overall the car has retained the muscular stance of its sporty stable mates despite, ultimately, being a front-wheel drive hatchback with a short bonnet and high roofline.

A production version is due 2014, but the Active Tourer is more momentous as a statement than as a car. BMW, a bastion of rear wheel drive sports cars, is prepared to invest millions upon millions of pounds to develop a three-cylinder, front-wheel drive hybrid hatchback – now that’s something to shout about.


Nissan says, “The dramatically-designed four-seater takes the philosophy of Zero Emissions mobility and extends it into an exciting new domain. Powered by hydrogen fuel-cell, TeRRA offers four-wheel-drive capability and proves that Zero Emissions vehicles aren't just for the urban environment.”

SUVs and EVs are unquestionably strengths of Nissan Motor Company, and the TeRRA concept marries them well. However, never before has a car’s exterior aesthetic and interior styling been so comprehensively mismatched, although according to chief creative office Shiro Nakamura that’s entirely deliberate. “You have the big tires, high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows of the SUV vocabulary. But with a slender waist between pronounced fenders above the wheels arches, and a sculptured hood, we’ve created an ‘implied structure’ of musculature under the skin”, he says, whilst the wood and acrylic interior is extremely inviting and minimalistic where the exterior seems a little fussy.

Nissan have pondered a fuel cell 4x4 in the past with a hydrogen-powered X-Trail in 2008, but the TeRRA is a far more complete design. The front wheels are powered by the system featured in the Leaf whilst the rear wheels are driven by in-wheel electric motors – four wheels, two different powertrains, all electric. The fuel cell stack sits in what would normally be the engine bay.

Whilst we’re (slowly) getting closer to widespread electric mobility, we’re still a long way from having a feasible hydrogen infrastructure. Nissan know this and are keen to point out that, although the TeRRA won’t be making production, when hydrogen becomes a viable fuel for the general public they’ll be ready.

Peugeot Onyx

Peugeot say, “Onyx has the strength of a supercar, with extremely aerodynamic lines. It is made unique by its sculpted, chiselled style and by the innovative materials and structure.”

Peugeot Design Director Gilles Vidal gave a us a deep insight into Peugeot’s thought processes behind the Onyx concept, and you can read more in our interview with him here, but, suffice to say, the Onyx is one of the most interesting concept cars we’ve ever seen.

Endowed with classic supercar proportions, where the low-slung Onyx differs from other concept cars is in its approach to materials. Peugeot has shunned the hyper-processed materials used in most supercars and replaced them with raw, natural ingredients with the intention that they’ll age over time and the car will evolve.

Under the skin the Onyx is more-or-less what remains of Peugeot’s 908 Le Mans Prototype – a hybrid race car which Peugeot unexpectedly pulled the plug on before it saw any action in the 2012 World Endurance Championship. So be in no doubt, straight out of the box the Onyx is fast enough to see off most things on four wheels. The exterior shell is no less impressive – matt carbon fibre supplemented with hand beaten copper panels - and this contrast of craftsmanship with hi-tech materials is something Peugeot wanted to play on. Kerb weight is 1,100kg.

Inside, the Onyx takes some practical design cues from the 208 with a raised IP and small steering wheel. The dashboard is carved out of compressed newspapers and the seat coverings are cut from felt, which can be made from recycled wool. Notably, the interior felt is cut from one piece, with no stitching as this makes it easier to recycle.

Peugeot intend to leave the Onyx exposed to the elements so the copper forms a patina over time and the character of the car changes. We look forward to visiting it in a few years.

Ssangyong e-XIV

Ssagnyong says, “The e-XIV’s glass roof solar panel converts solar energy to electric power and operates interior equipment such as the air conditioning, audio system and internal lighting.  Drivers can also select their preferred method of driving by activating the car’s VCU (Vehicle Control Unit) via a smart phone or a remote control”.

Ssangyong’s back catalogue seems to consist almost entirely of SUVs, so it should come as no surprise that the surprisingly good-looking e-XIV concept is a vehicle of the ‘sports utility’ variety. Powered by an 80kW motor mated to a 2-cyclinder petrol engine, the e-XIV is good for 50 miles in electric mode with an extended range of around 370 miles, so about the same as Vauxhall’s Ampera. Charge time is four hours.

If you think you’ve seen it before it’s because you have (nearly). The e-XIV is essentially an electrified version of the XIV 2 concept seen earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show. Ssangyong have designed the exterior around the mantra of ‘Robust Aesthetics’ and, although not tough-looking in the same way a Toyota Land Cruiser is, the little concept is stocky yet well resolved.  The e-XIV also has a relatively small footprint, which supports Ssangyong’s claim that the car is suitable for both rural and urban driving.

Inside things get more exciting. With four bucket seats providing “comfort and privacy for each passenger”, the concept isn’t the most practical SUV, but it’s a stylish and more realistic take on what might be a production interior at some point in the future.

You may also like...

Paris Motor Show 2012

Interview with Gilles Vidal

Geneva Motor Show 2012 Green Car Design Review