The Little and Large Show; Stunning Range of New Models Takes Europe's Top Motoring Extravaganza by Storm
Byline: RUSSELL BRAY
GENEVA has claimed the crown as Europe's most important motor show.
While the biennial British show struggles to attract any world debuts of new cars, manufacturers are falling over themselves to take the wraps off new models at Geneva's annual extravaganza.
This year's show, which opened last week and continues until March 13, boasts almost 20 world debuts, with some manufacturers, including Citroen and Alfa Romeo, revealing TWO new models.
Here we take a tour of the stars of Europe's greatest motoring show.
There's something new from pretty much every arm of the motoring galaxy at Geneva this year, from cheap and cheerful minnows such as the Citroen C1 to fire-breathing monsters like the 4.8-litre Aston Martin Vantage.
Citroen had both ends of the spectrum covered all by itself, debuting both the titchy C1 and the big new C6 executive express.
The C1 city car is powered by either a 1-litre petrol or 1.4-litre diesel engine and is surprisingly spacious, though the boot is small unless you flip down the back seat. It feels clean, modern and easy to live with, as well as being quite cute. On five-door versions the rear side windows pivot rather than going up, to allow large door pockets.
While small cars are a big market for Citroen, the company also has a proud history of producing distinctive large cars that cover long distances with ease - and the sleek C6 keeps the tradition alive with typical gallic style.
With 3-litre petrol or diesel power, this is a flagship model designed to appeal to those who like their luxury with knobs on. Unusual features in the sumptuous interior include a fighter plane-style head-up display which projects information on to the windscreen and large handbag-sized door bins which take A4-size documents. The rear seats reminded me of those on the French TGV fast train while the concave rear window, last seen on the Citroen CX, allows for an unusually large boot opening.
Expect prices to be from about [pounds sterling]30,000 when the car reaches the UK at the end of the year.
It was fitting that the new Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo were unveiled at the same time as Citroen's new baby - they are 'brothers', built in the same factory in Eastern Europe and sharing 92 per cent of their common-parts to keep down costs.
However, the three-way deal could be a risky policy even though demand for affordable small cars is increasing.
Most people would rate Toyota quality above that of the two French makes and with a Japanese executive in charge of the factory in the Czech Republic you can be pretty sure Toyota's traditional top-notch build quality will be achieved.
So, when buyers move up to larger models, will they be disappointed if the French cars aren't as robust as the equivalent Toyotas - and what about the concept of 'brand loyalty' that manufacturers set so much store by?
With Citroen C2 superminis availableon deals now for just over [pounds sterling]7,000, I would guess the C1 will sell for about [pounds sterling]6,500.
Aston Martin's 175mph V8 Vantage is destined to become the company's best seller - even with its price tag of [pounds sterling]79,500 - as company chief executive Ulrich Bez seeks to provide a more exclusive rival to the 911 of his former employer, Porsche.
The Aston has a 385bhp 4.3-litre engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. The Midlands company is now planning to increase production to 5,000 cars a year compared to the mere 42 they made in 1993 before being bought by Ford.
BMW debuted its brilliant new 3-Series, previously reviewed on these pages, showed off the first facelift for the 7-Series since its launch in 2001 and took the covers off the stunning M6 performance version of the 6-Series Coupe.
With a 507bhp V10 engine and seven-speed gearbox, the M6 offers supercar performance in a discreetly aggressive package. …