We perambulate the Palexpo press days in the company of Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt. [Revised and updated with additional text and images – Friday 8. March 12.50 GMT]
At last year’s Geneva show, our man on the ground lauded Mazda’s Kai concept in lavish terms, suggesting that we would shortly see something very similar in production form. One year on and his claims we can see were not idle ones; the new 3 hatchback (and to a lesser extent, its saloon counterpart, cleaving faithfully to the concept. “It’s one helluva statement car,” our correspondent tells us – “everything the A-Class tries to be but isn’t.”
Meanwhile at post-Marchionne FCA, Mike Manley’s minions have been somewhat industrious of late, aiming to make good a grievous and long-standing product deficit from the TransAlpine regions. Alfa Romeo displayed a somewhat speculative CUV concept, dubbed Tonale; a production version of which is likely to ride on a version of the platform shared with the current Jeep Renegade, making it arguably, Alfa’s E-Pace.
Describing it in styling terms as the “best Alfa in ages”, our Hamburg-based correspondent was impressed with the Tonale’s “fine proportions, clear graphics, good stance and (mostly) taut surfacing. Or in other words, the Tonale possesses most of the traits the Stelvio lacks“.
Despite the concept’s impressive styling, the prototype’s finish it seems left something to be desired – “bad paint, fake shutlines etc,” suggesting a rather hurried preparation perhaps? Naturally, whether they can translate it coherently into production form in 2020 remains another matter entirely.
Fiat meanwhile somewhat precipitously showed the Centoventi, a concept ostensibly intended to celebrate the brand’s 120th anniversary. Speculated to form the basis for the next generation Panda model, which is said be be on a new corporate platform and will be available in electric form, Auto-Didakt’s founder and leading light professed the Centoventi to be “the best Fiat design in years – it’s quite Giolitoesque.” I think he meant that as a compliment.
But what both of these concept cars signify and are clearly meant to, is that the Italian side of FCA and beleaguered brand-Fiat in particular are back in business.
Over at Billancourt (not literally of course), Renault were making a big splash of their forthcoming new-generation Clio, which was revealed a couple of weeks prior to the salon. Christopher was not all that taken it seems, telling us, “The Clio is a bit of a disappointment. It’s got a few more lines and less voluptuous surfaces, making it slightly better in every way than the previous one, but quite unimaginative as well.”
By contrast, La Garenne has for the second year in succession, garnered our difficult to please German elitist’s approval, simply stating, “the 208 is impressive. Less well resolved, but more interesting than the Clio, the latter simply pales in comparison. Yes, those fangs are not ideal, and that grille is too large. And yet this car still works. Its cockpit is quite obviously aiming to impress – but with its 3D instruments, slick switchgear and the best fake carbon fibre in the business, it does just that“.
And finally, while in the French quarter, it does appear that Mr. Butt has made himself a new friend. “Upon first, superficial glance, I rather like this little feller”, he gushed. Later adding, “it’s the smarter Smart“. Of course it remains to be seen as to whether the fun police have made a further arrest, but the current signs are positive. Advantage Linda?
Our Auto-Didaktic Geneva coverage will continue over the coming days. Stay tuned.