Paris Motor Show: Top 5 Popular Cars

8 Mins read

The bi-annual Paris Motor Show was the site of more than one hundred European and world debuts. TCF writer, Nick Smith, took the Eurostar to Paris to dig out any motorsport news, taking the time to look at all the new releases while he was there. In the first of three top five articles covering concept cars, performance machines and the more run of the mill vehicles at the show, he gives us his top five ‘normal’ cars from Mondial de l’Automobile.

#5 – MINI 5 Door.

While not exactly a new model the MINI 5 Door is a world debut in production form. It is also the first MINI Hatchback with more than the usual three doors, adding another bodystyle to the rapidly increasing MINI range. The new car joins the MINI Hatch, (which we assume will now be known as the 3 Door) MINI Clubman estate and van, MINI Countryman SUV and MINI Paceman three door SUV along with the Coupe and Roadster in an eight car range.

A proper five seat supermini is a first for the MINI brand since it returned to the market at the turn of the millennium.

The new model impressed because of the way they have translated the new 3 Door’s styling into the larger car. It is obviously a MINI and hides the extra practicality of the additional two doors well. It also shares its engine range with the 3 Door which means the 1.2 and 1.5 three cylinder turbos for the One and Cooper respectively with a 2.0 TwinPower Turbo in the Cooper S. Diesels come in the form of a 2.0 four pot and 1.5 three cylinder shared with partners Peugeot Citroen.

A John Cooper Works model is sure to join the range before long.

All the usual MINI features are included along with a claim that it is ‘the first car in its competitive field’ to feature LED Headlamps. We query that bearing in mind the MINI Hatch in both its forms competes with the Citroen DS3, which debuted the ‘nouvelle signature lumineuse’ or new light signature at Paris which will be implemented across the French brands range. It will be a race to claim that particular honour.

So, Nick liked the style, the choice of engines and the kit list. Throw in a little patriotic loyalty and the MINI 5 Door makes the top five.

#4 – smart fortwo and forfour/Renault Twingo.


The new smart and Renault Twingo range share platforms. (Credit: smart - Mercedes-Benz Renault - Stephane Foulon/Renault)

The new smart and Renault Twingo range share platforms. (Credit: smart – Mercedes-Benz Renault – Stephane Foulon/Renault)

When it was announced that Mercedes-Benz and Renault were to co-operate on their new city cars eyebrows raised. Now that smart and Renault have both launched their new models it was obviously a wise choice.

The first Twingo was only sold on the continent, then the second generation only came as a three door and was somewhere between small and tiny. Now the third generation has been developed in conjunction with smart it has grown up but retains its cheeky stance. They have also done a great job of hiding the shared underpinnings.

Of course as a joint development with Mercedes/smart it also takes on the signature feature of the little Benz brand, a rear mounted engine. With the tiny front and rear overhangs it doesn’t leave a lot of storage space. All the usual ancillaries under the bonnet fill up the space quite nicely with the battery and various fluids. The engine is mounted low down at the back though and you do still get a boot bigger than several competitors. Fold flat seating gives flexibility.

The smart will come in both three and five door bodystyles, known by the names fortwo and forfour. The shorter fortwo is the classic smart two seater while the return of the forfour has all the space saving features of the Renault. A folding front seat is added to all smart models which means the forfour can take, as the smart people were eager to point out, the longest package available at IKEA. The tridon cell, the super strong structure which allows the smart and the Renault to survive a head-on with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class carries contrasting colour on the smart and a modernised smart face and rear differentiate it from the Renault.

The smart and Renault hit the top five cars one of us could hope to afford because of their clever use of space, increased safety and the modern, yet individual styling of the two different models.

#3 – Vauxhall/Opel Corsa E.

The new Vauxhall and Opel Corsa is set to be a big seller. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

The new Vauxhall and Opel Corsa is set to be a big seller. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

Opel, and by extension the UK side of the business Vauxhall, usually use the Frankfurt Motor Show for their big launches. The only real exception was the Insignia which debuted at the last London show and the Adam which arrived at Paris in 2012. The arrival of what is expected to be one of the biggest selling cars in the twinned brand’s history was well trailed, so we knew to expect it. What we didn’t expect is how much the Corsa has grown up as it moves into its fifth incarnation.

The overall shape hasn’t changed that much but every panel on the car is new. Heavily sculpted headlights dominate the front end, hiding the grille which is almost a carbon copy of the one fitted to my Adam. The indicators are however integrated into the headlamp clusters rather than separate units as they are on the smaller model. At the rear the well-known Corsa shoulders lead into split rear light clusters which are clearly modelled on the Astra compact hatch.

Inside the car is again a fusion of Adam and Astra. Many of the controls are taken from the bigger car but the centre console is dominated by the infotainment set up from the stylish city car. All the cars on the stand included the Intelilink system, the touch screen sat-nav and stero setup which is working its way gradually across the entire range. The dash is highlighted by a body coloured strip, as opposed to the Adam’s full body-colour dash.

In terms of engines the pick of the range will be the 115hp three cylinder turbo charged 1.0 engine. It will make its debut in the Corsa before moving through Adam and Astra, probably finding a home in Meriva and Mokka in the process. It will probably be the range topping engine in the Viva when the new urban car is launched at Geneva next year.

A grown up interpretation of the Corsa with impressive kit and two distinct bodystyles would be enough to drop the car into the top five without the new 1.0t. Add in that engine and the way it blends the totally different looks of Adam and Astra and Nick was very impressed.

#2 – Volkswagen Passat Saloon and Estate.

The new Passat comes in saloon and estate versions with a plug in hybrid for the first time. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

The new Passat comes in saloon and estate versions with a plug in hybrid for the first time. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

Ignoring for now the fact that the new Passat brings a plug-in hybrid to the VW range for the first time, the Saloon and Variant, (estate) versions of the new rep-mobile would have made the top five without help. Putting the GTE into the mix just leap-frogged the Corsa and the smart/Twingo to put it in second place.

Despite the fact that the current Passat was launched at Paris in 2012, all the changes do require a new model, not just a nip and tuck on the old car. Its 85kg lighter than the outgoing model despite being larger in both saloon and estate forms. Safety has been improved with City Emergency Braking to help avoid those low speed shunts and distracted pedestrians while traffic, trailer and emergency assistance are all added.

Every part of the car has been redesigned, with the exception of the badge on the grille. The inside has been redesigned to provide a very up-market feel. Despite the fact that the architecture is shared with the firm’s group partner, Audi, there is virtually no crossover of components between the two models visually. Of course having been designed from the outset to carry the hybrid components, the Passat doesn’t inflict a cluttered display or set of dials on GTE drivers, unlike many other standard saloons with a bolt on hybrid system.

The plug in sockets, of which there are both 3-pin and high speed charger types, are concealed behind the grille.

The Passat took its top two position due to its great looking revised styling which is distinctively VW and no longer easily confused with SEAT and Skoda products. Its high quality fit and finish and well thought out cabin impressed as did the GTE’s plug-in hybrid drive train. The ability to 50km (around 32 miles) in complete zero emissions without sacrificing practicality was just the icing on the cake.

#1: Jaguar XE.

The new Jaguar XE brings the Birmingham firm back into a hotly contested market. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

The new Jaguar XE brings the Birmingham firm back into a hotly contested market. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

It isn’t very often you get to see history unveiled before your eyes but the arrival of the Jaguar XE was, in our humble opinion, one of those times. ‘So what?’ I hear you ask, ‘its just another X-Type.’ An X-Type it isn’t.

Debuting an all new modular architecture which will underpin the next generation of Jaguar Land Rover products would be enough to call this car a zeitgeister. Launching the all new range of Ingenium petrol and diesel power plants would also earn it the title. Re-entering the highly competitive medium exec market for the first time in five or six years would be worthy of celebration.

The new Jaguar XE is the first car in its class, which includes the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 on top of high spec offerings from a range of other manufacturers, to feature an ‘aluminum-intensive’ structure. Over 75% of the monocoque is made out of ally, whereas the 2003 XJ, the car which launched the aluminum craze had less than 25%. That makes it very light without sacrificing stiffness or structural integrity in an accident.

The engine ranges and gearboxes mix traditional Jag with the demands of modern fleets. Four pot petrols and diesels, mated to either a six speed manual or eight speed auto, provide for the Benefit-in-Kind focused drivers with CO2 figures low enough to get away with no road tax in year one. The XE is the cleanest and most efficient Jaguar ever built. Supercharged vees are also available in the S spec, which caters for those who feel a Jaguar should purr and howl.

The styling is fully Jaguar, with little to distinguish it really from the XF. Whereas in the volume mid-sized market of the Mondeo or even the aforementioned Passat, that would be a bad thing. In this class it’s a good thing because a large part of the buying decision, or at least leasing decision, will be image based. The XE looks more impressive, more interesting and most importantly more expensive than the competition.

The inside wouldn’t leave an XF driver wanting either. All the ususal safety features are included as is the JLR dual view screen which allows the front seat passenger to watch the Breaking Bad box set while the driver can only see the navigation. The manual gear stick does look a little out of place, but then a Jag really should be an auto but otherwise it is, on a point by point basis no less equipped or well-built as the XF.

Again, patriotic exuberance could be to blame for this car making it to number one but it is a very impressive machine. The fact that Jaguar, after the horrific wound inflicted on the brand by the Mondeo derived X-Type are heading back into this hotly contested market does a lot for the XE. In a class where the 3, the A4 and the C have pushed quality and style so high the new Jag prowls in, has a quick roar and will no doubt scare its rivals into prompt re-assessment of their offerings. It moves the class on, that is why it is the ‘normal’ car Nick wants the most after Paris.

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About author
I am a photographer, writer and podcast presenter, specialising in GT and Endurance racing. I've been with The Checkered Flag since 2014, covering a wide range of racing series from Formula Ford to Formula 1, with British GT the main focus of my work. You can hear me monthly on the British GT Fans Show which can be found in our Recommended Listening section.
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