Geneva 2016: Palexpo, Round 2

Toyota C-HR - Photo provided by Toyota Europe
Toyota C-HR – Photo provided by Toyota Europe

V12s, carbon fiber and supercars are the best distraction from reality.

The Geneva Auto Show has always been about glitz and glamour. This year has been nothing different with showstoppers like the Aston Martin DB11 or Lamborghini's birthday present to itself the 760 horsepower Centenario. All this gleaming carbon fiber and aluminum makes it easy to forget that these cars exist because of the millions of sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs that are sold by the millions each year. They may not be super cars, but there are some very interesting non-super cars on display this year inside Palexpo.

TOYOTA C-HR: Toyota has stepped up its design game with its latest compact crossover. The production C-HR looks very similar to the concept that was previewed at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. This new trend of concept matching production is very exciting because it means that manufacturing limitations are becoming less and less of a restrictive force to car designers.

Conception of the C-HR started at Scion for the North American market, but with that brand being resorbed by the parent brand this subcompact crossover will ultimately be badged a Toyota. This is great news for a quirky, non-traditional CUV. Instead of being a badge that is only focused on the youth market this will wear a badge that those in all age groups have confidence in. C-HR has its sights set on vehicles like the Nissan Juke and the strong selling Buick Encore. These two vehicles have been appealing to young buyers as well as retirement age buyers looking to downsize.

Toyota will offer the C-HR with three different engine combinations. The first will be a Hybrid powertrain though there are no specifics on this engine yet. Secondly there will be a turbocharged 1.2 liter four cylinder paired with a 6-speed manual or CVT in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Both of these engines will only be offered in the European model. North America can expect a naturally aspirated 2.0 liter engine paired with a CVT transmission. This might come as a let down, but this is the perfect combination to capture the interest of those car buyers who want an attainable low-maintenance car with eye-catching style.

Abarth 124 Spider - Photo provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Abarth 124 Spider – Photo provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

ABARTH 124 SPIDER: In discussions here at Victory & Reseda it has come to light that lately we have been a bit harsh towards Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. FCA still knows how to inspire us despite the financial turmoil they are experiencing. The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth is one of those vehicle. At first glance this might look like a simple badge slap, but there seems to be more to the 124 than that.

The 170 horsepower MultiAir 1.4 liter turbo engine at the heart of the 124 Abarth is a special engine. The snarl and pop of this engine is unlike any other and will add a character that is unlike anything that could come from Mazda. Fiat has taken a product that epitomizes simplicity and complicated things. This might be the best way that Fiat can differentiate its 124 from the Miata it is based on. Brash and bold has been the way Fiat has positioned itself in the automotive market. The purity of Mazda and the audaciousness of Fiat have come together in an exciting package that should hopefully entice buyers who would buy a Miata if they just didn’t have to modify to get more power.

FCA is having its troubles, but I know first hand there are great people who work there who are passionate about the products they make. I want to believe that this merger with Mazda will lead to a Fiat car that can get America excited about Italian cars again.

AUDI Q2: Audi says that it is, "rounding down" its Q line of SUVs with the new Q2. This is a further extension of the MQB architecture that underpins the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. Despite the trouble that Volkswagen AG has experienced with their diesel emission regulations issues Audi is still the luxury brand to envy. Audi wants young, tech savvy buyers to overlook the past and embrace Audi as their first foray into the luxury SUV market.

Audi designers have done their best to give this five foot long SUV an aggressive look that appeals to millennial buyers with chunky bumpers and flared fenders. Audi is very focused on offering a car like driving experience, but made even better by greater visibility that they believe comes from increased ride height.

The millennial-focused marketing continues with a color customizable C-pillar and a multitude of bright exterior colors that will help drivers "stand-out" on the road. This theme also extends into the interior where Audi offers WiFi connectivity, their virtual cockpit and autonomous safety features to get young buyers excited about the technological prowess of Audi.

Sticking with the theme of customization the Q2 will be offered with six engines. The base engine will be a 1.0 liter three-cylinder engine. There will also be a 1.4 and 2.0 liter TFSI engines. There will also be three diesel engines ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 liters. The American market will most likely only see the range topping 2.0 liter TFSI engine. After the recent scandal and realities of trying to engineer a “clean” diesel it might be better if Audi just left a TDI engine off the table for the U.S. market.

As someone in my mid-twenties I have to admit that this works. The new Q2 looks like a great all-rounder if I’m looking to take my first step into the luxury market. Audi is still going strong and will most likely have another sales success on their hand when the Q2 launches in the fall of 2016 in Europe.

HONDA CIVIC HATCHBACK CONCEPT: What a hatchback is supposed to look like is beginning to be redefined. With CAFE standards and aerodynamic concerns the utilitarian hatchback is being kneaded and stretched into a shape that looks much less hatchback and much more sedan-like.

This mildly disguised concept is a great glimpse at what the next generation Honda Civic Hatchback will look like. Even better is the fact that this long, lean hatchback will make its way to the U.S.

In a room full of supercars a Honda Civic might seem pedestrian, but there is something exciting about a car that is attainable by those of us not in the economic elite. With the 300 horsepower Civic Type-R in the works this is fast for a regular person. Unlike the Bugatti Chiron, I can actually picture myself behind the wheel of this matte grey Civic.

The design evokes the long lean interpretation of the hatchback that Mazda uses for its Mazda3. The character line down the side seems so sedan-like that it is a little difficult to differentiate this hatchback from its sedan counterpart. This might be a great selling point for dealers who know that a customer who can’t step up to a CR-V, but wants more versatility than the Civic sedan offers.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In - Photo provided by Hyundai Europe
Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In – Photo provided by Hyundai Europe

2017 HYUNDAI IONIQ: Hyundai might have chosen just the right auto show to launch the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq. A lot of money and time must have went into developing a car to tackle the Toyota Prius, but Hyundai went a step further and developed a plug-in and full EV version of the Ioniq.

The Ioniq is smaller than its Toyota Prius rival, but it is the more powerful hybrid with 139 total system horsepower. It also transmits power from the engine and the electric motor through a 6-speed dual clutch transmission instead of the Prius' planetary CVT. Hyundai believes that this will offer a more engaging hybrid driving experience.

DCTs have been a source of contention for car buyers who have issues in stop and go traffic. The addition of electrification might just smooth this out, but still allow for a more engaging driving experience once the Ioniq is at speed.

The addition of a full EV is the most audacious aspect of this whole endeavour. Instead of a stand alone model like the Nissan Leaf this EV was developed side-by-side with its hybrid and plug-in counterparts. I will be very interested to see if it is a viable competitor for the Chevrolet Bolt and the already well known Nissan Leaf.

I truly hope that I find myself behind the wheel of all three Ioniqs this year.

My best in show has to go to the Hyundai Ioniq. Hyundai will bring all it technological and manufacturing power to try and eat away at the mantle of the Toyota Prius. My biggest concern is that Hyundai might have overcomplicated the development process to create three different powertrains instead of focusing on one. Despite those concern the competition to be the most desired fuel efficient vehicle is just starting to heat up.

Geneva is a difficult auto show to cover because it is focused on the finer things in life. It isn’t about attainability, but rather what it would be like to live at the far end of the income bell curve. Despite all of this I think that these five vehicles really stood out as new directions for each respective brand. Others can distract themselves making marketing videos for the supercars this year, but V&R will continue to cover vehicles that are attainable and relevant to the car buying world at large.

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