Geneva 2019 Reflections – This New Generation

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]

(c) Christopher Butt

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.

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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.

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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.

(c) Christopher Butt

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.

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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“.

(c) Christopher Butt

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.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Geneva 2019 Reflections – This New Generation”

  1. I always enjoy DTW’s coverage of Geneva, it’s an annual highlight. I agree that the new 208 makes the new Clio look rather a non-event. I do like the Clio, but this evolution – classy though it is – is too subtle and incremental, so the car fails to look new at all.

    The Tonale (I can just hear the average English person pronouncing it ‘toenail’) is pretty good. The biggest concern is that it runs on the 500X/ Renegade platform. I don’t like the C-pillar, there is something wrong with it, it’s a bit weak looking. Also, the front could almost be mistaken for a modern-day Maserati, which could be seen as a positive, but an Alfa should look like an Alfa. Everyone is going for smoothly surfaced flanks now, and, from the side, it could almost be a Mazda.

    Speaking of which, guess what?, I prefer the production-ready Mazda CX-30 to the Tonale concept. Now the coupé-like Mazda 3 hatch makes perfect sense with the more family orientated CUV sister in the range, but another of our contributors spotted that from the outset. I guess it’s called CX-30 because 4 is an unlucky number in Japan. I know there is already a CX-4, but I think that’s a China-only model, so won’t offend any Japanese buyers. Still, I am not convinced 30 is a good answer, surely 35, or 3.5 would have been better?

    I like the Honda e Prototype, but am undecided by the FIAT 120. The Astons bore me.

    Car is the show for me is … the Polestar 2; I’m just so impressed with what Geeley has done for Volvo and now Polestar. The engineering, technology, style and choice demon interior materials; it’s a real zeitgeist car, in a good way, funky and desirable.

  2. I wanted to write and thank Eoin and Christopher for their work on covering the Geneva show. And thanks to SV for reminding me to do this by his post. I simply can´t put the boot into the Toenail. It is exactly what DTW has been calling for apart from being an SUV. The front looks super and it stays decent all the way around. The world wants these stilty cars and so AR can not turn its back on this, wrong as it is.
    Neither of the two French “superminis” do it for me. The Clio is too similar to the outgoing car (but hey, everyone is doing this) and the Pug is too blocky and butch (except Peugeot). I have forgotten what Citroen sells in this class. I suppose it ´s a C2 or Cactus. That leaves Citroen the winner in the looks department.
    The Battista flew over my head like a late night comet. I felt as bewildered as I do when trying to make sense of Baroque interior architecture.

    Ford and Opel´s absence from Genf is not cheering.

  3. Very good coverage indeed. Well done DTW. The commercial press and blogs don’t seem to have taken much notice of the Geneva show in North America, except for the ludicrously fast cars made for oilgarchs, oops oligarchs, to stuff in their garages much like they hang paintings by well-known people you’ve never heard of on their walls. Still, Prof Piech has left a legacy to honour himself.

    Like the CX-3, the new Mazda CX-30 will not really be a hatchback on stilts. It’s because of the torsion beam-beam suspension at the rear that Mazda have cleverly adapted to AWD. There’s no way to raise the suspension because a pesky propeller shaft is in the way. The CX-3 thus has only 155 mm of ground clearance and the CX-30 will be similar. To disguise this and make it look like a CUV, Mazda make the bodyside of the CX3 tall, and indeed once inside you fell like a kid in a bathtub sitting in it. Only your head is much above the windowsill/rim. The CX-5, which confusingly is based on the old Mazda3 with IRS, has 190 mm of GC. Mazda has thus taken the opportunity to reduce the luggage capacity of the CX-30 to half that of the CX-5, and that one’s the smallest in its class as it is. A bon vivant weekender, then, this CX-30, with only elbow room and a couple of inches of rear kneeroom to boast over the CX-3. Probably sell like hotcakes.

    The Tonale is another body on the not particularly wonderful Renegade chassis and mechanicals you say. That car and its Fiat 500x cousin you can hardly give away in Canada, although Americans buy quite a few. It doesn’t cut the mustard and the price is unreasonably high. You can dress it up in haute couture togs, but the rest is wanting. Saleswise, the Mazda CX-3 sells well in Canada and not well in the US — there must be a message to decode there about Jeeps and Mazdas.

    Can’t comment on PSA and Renault offerings because they simply don’t exist here.

  4. I also thoroughly enjoy the DTW Geneva coverage! Will there be more? 😉

    I am wondering: after last year’s Geneva and Paris were so disappointing, are there now more signs that the deepest valley of baroque over-styling, over-designing are behind us? The total amount of lines that originate and end nowhere appears to be diminishing again, or is that still wishful thinking? Especially the Alfa and the Fiat I am very willing to interpret as harbingers of a future worth waiting for.

  5. Thank you to all for the encouraging words – we do our best. Special thanks to our good friend and cohort from Hamburg who has done most of the heavy lifting on site at Palexpo. There will be one or two additional Geneva pieces over the coming days – although we may take a break from the subject over the weekend…

    1. I must add my compliments for the excellent quality of DTW’s Geneva coverage. It makes a very refreshing change from the largely uncritical and press release driven reviews found elsewhere. I know these publications, unlike DTW, rely increasingly on the manufacturers’ advertising shilling, but some appear to have sold out completely and are not worth the paper/ website on ehich they are written.

      I hope Max is right in his wish that we have passed peak “Baroque” and the pendulum is swinging back towards calmer and more elegant design.

    2. Here at DTW, we take nobody’s shilling, hence we’re poor as churchmice and just as irritating. While it does mean that we have nobody to pander to and can be as outspoken as we choose, it has the consequence of frequently reducing our venerable Mr. S. Kearne to supermarket-quality sherries – something of a sore point and a matter he is at pains to remind us of.

      I would by the way, also like to add my thanks to Robertas for his blow by blow ECotY reporting…

    3. This piece has now been revised and updated with additional insights and images…

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