Small Is Big Again

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday September 14, 2007

Joshua Dowling

Frankfurt 2007 will be remembered as the year the world's largest brands rediscovered the city car. There was room for some automotive indulgence, too. Motoring editor Joshua Dowling reports from the show.

Nissan Mixim

This weird-looking concept vehicle is a three-seater, battery-powered electric car. The driver sits in the middle, flanked by two passengers. As Europe's car makers revealed small petrol engines or hybrid models, Japanese maker Nissan whipped the covers off a car driven by two electric motors (one for the front wheels, another for the rear), which allows rapid acceleration and a long driving range. Nissan still does not have a hybrid car in production but, inscrutably, says "if the motor industry is going to survive beyond the next few years, we are going to have to work hard to attract future generations of drivers - people who currently find it difficult to love the car".

Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang

The Bugatti Veyron has many records. It is the world's fastest accelerating, most powerful and most expensive road car. It also has the highest top speed (407kmh). Now, thanks to a limited-edition model to celebrate the recent sale of the 100th Veyron, Bugatti has another record to its credit: the world's most expensive road car that comes unpainted. Most car makers charge extra for metallic paint or special colours; now Bugatti is charging customers extra for a vehicle that is delivered sans paint, exposing the aluminium and carbon-fibre bodywork. A regular Veyron costs E1.7 million plus taxes; the Pur Sang costs E1.4 million. Only five will be built: they sold within 24 hours of the car's unveiling.

Mercedes-Benz F700

This is a car that can read the road - literally. The F700 concept is apparently a pointer to the next generation S Class limousine. The real thing won't have the elongated proportions of the show car but expect to see some of the styling cues - and some of the technology. Mercedes has come up with a system that detects bumps before you hit them. Sensors in the headlights scan the road ahead for potholes and bumps, prompting the system to adjust the suspension in milliseconds before it reaches them, to provide optimum comfort. Under the bonnet is a twin-turbo four-cylinder engine said to have small-car fuel economy and V6 performance.

Toyota IQ

This could be the Japanese maker's challenger to the popular Smart City Car. Less than three metres long (and only about 30cm longer than the Smart), the IQ can accommodate four occupants, whereas the Smart can carry two. The Toyota IQ was designed in the same French styling studio that produced the Yaris hatch and, as with so many cars on display at Frankfurt, it is not yet ready for showrooms. However, company insiders say it is a pointer to a new model primarily for sale in Europe and Japan, although if traffic and parking congestion continues to worsen in Sydney, the IQ could also end up coming to Australia.

Volkswagen Up!

Volkswagen has revived the people's car - in spirit, at least. The German maker unveiled a small car that has a fuel-miser engine under the back seat. Unlike the modern Beetle, which is more of a fashion statement and costs about $30,000, this small city car will be affordable. It was labelled a "vision of the future" by Volkswagen executives but is expected to be in showrooms within three years, priced from $15,000 and powered by a choice of tiny two- or three-cylinder engines that sip fuel at a third the rate of the average small car."

This car is about going back to our roots, with affordable transport," said Jutta Dierks, the managing director of Volkswagen Australia. "We always wanted to do a people's car again."

Peugeot Flux

This car proves that kids' dreams can come true. It's called the Peugeot Flux and although it looks a million dollars, it was in fact the result of a design contest for aspiring car stylists held on the internet. It was designed by a 20-year-old Romanian, Mihai Panaitescu, an industrial design student from Bucharest. The two-seater sports car concept is powered by hydrogen and has zero emissions, zero noise and zero chance of making it into production - but it was fun, all the same.

Lamborghini Reventon

If you think this looks like a jet fighter, you'd be right. The designers of this limited-edition Lamborghini said they were inspired by modern-day war planes - it is even finished in matt grey paint. Just 20 Lamborghini Reventons will be built and all are sold, despite the E1 million price tag (plus taxes), making it worth more than $2.5 million if it were available in Australia. Sadly, none is earmarked for our shores but expect the Reventon to make an appearance at the Sydney Motor Show. Powered by an uprated version of the Murcielago supercar's 6.2-litre V12, the Reventon is named after a Spanish fighting bull that defeated a matador in 1943.

© 2007 Sydney Morning Herald

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