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Paris show: Small is big at French car extravaganza

Small heavyweight: Toyota’s new Corolla hatch – known as Auris in Europe – will debut at the Paris motor show, as will the all-new VW Golf.

Showtime in Paris set to bring big guns head to head in battle of small cars

25 Sep 2012

THE world’s biggest car-makers will face off this week at 2012’s biggest motor show, the Paris Mondial de l’Automobile, where new generations of the world’s top-selling cars will shape up in a battle that will help to determine global market leadership.

In the blue corner and representing Europe, we have the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf, new from the ground up on a flexible new platform that is set to spawn dozens of variants.

In the red corner and fighting for Japan, we have Toyota’s 11th-generation Corolla hatch and wagon promising a more involving driving experience.

These mainstream driving machines – both of which make claims to be the world’s top-selling car – will lead the small-car charge at the show where small is big in 2012.

The all-new Renault Clio, BMW’s first front-wheel-drive car previewed with the Compact Active Tourer concept, the Opel Adam light hatchback and a pile of hot hatches – the Audi S3, Peugeot 208 GTI and Volvo V40 T5 R-Design among them – will all get their first public outing at the show starting on Thursday night (Australian time).

All up, more than 40 motor companies will crowd their shiniest and most advanced new metal into the Porte de Versailles exhibition complex in the French capital, putting their best foot forward in defiance of the shaky economic conditions prevailing in Europe.

 center imageFrom top: Renault Clio Peugeot 208 GTi Opel Adam Audi S3 BMW Concept Active Tourer Volvo V40 R-Design.

The show will be a truly global event, with most of the major model launches beamed live on the internet.

Some of the stars of the show will be the most expensive automobiles, including McLaren’s P1 supercar – the formula-one bred successor to the McLaren F1 – and Jaguar’s long-awaited F-Type – the spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type.

But no cars will cause more ripples around the world than the Golf and Corolla (the latter called Auris in Europe), which are destined to not only reach more customers than any others but also shape the growth aspirations of two of the world’s automotive heavyweights.

Beset by natural disasters that caused it to surrender its global sales crown to General Motors last year, Toyota rebounded to the tune of 34 per cent in the first half of this year, selling 4.97 million units to eclipse not only GM but also the ambitious VW, which found homes for 4.45 million vehicles.

VW’s designs on world sales domination over the next few years will rest heavily on the new Golf, which rides on VW’s new MQB platform – short for modularer querbaukasten (modular transverse mix) – that is spawning a wide range of new-generation small models across the VW group, from the Audi A3 to the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia.

Bigger than its predecessor in most dimensions but with similar looks, the new Golf is a leap forward under the skin where a total re-engineering job has sliced 100kg from the kerb weight for greater fuel economy and sharper performance.

The new Golf is expected to arrive in Australia about the middle of next year – about eight months after Toyota’s new Corolla that also will get the glamour reveal in Paris this week ahead of its local launch at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney next month.

Although details of the Australian Corolla remain under wraps, the latest model promises improvements across the board, including sharper styling and dynamic performance.

The five-door hatch is expected to be joined on the Paris stand by the wagon version, but do not expect the sedan – that variant could trail the hatchback versions by up to 12 months.

Further up the food chain, BMW will unveil its answer to the Mercedes A- and B-Class and Audi A3 when it wheels out the production-oriented Compact Active Tourer concept, the first to spring from its inaugural front-wheel-drive platform.

This is set to herald a new range of small front-drive Beemers designed to ensure the Munich marque is well represented at the budget end of the prestige car market.

As well as teasing its big S-Class limousine, rival Mercedes-Benz will show an electric version of the B-Class and its latest work in the city-car segment with concepts such as the Smart Forstars, while Audi promises a raft of new models, including the A3 Sportback, potent S3 – and a mysterious concept.

Among other models to have a major impact in Australia are the Chevrolet Trax small SUV – to be sold under Holden badges here – and the Mazda6 wagon, which is set to join the sedan unveiled at the recent Moscow motor show.

Mitsubishi’s pioneering plug-in hybrid Outlander PHEV – due in Australia next year – will also go on display, while Opel’s baby Adam micro-hatch will be born right there on the Opel stand.

Not to be outdone, Renault will present the vital new-generation Clio light-car range – which is heading Down Under in 2013 – at the French company’s hometown show, with the star of the Paris line-up expected to be the Renault Sport-enhanced Clio RS.

Fellow French company Peugeot is warming up its own hot hatch, the 208 GTI, for a Paris appearance, although the star of the Peugeot display will surely be the stunning Onyx concept that previews a future hybrid supercar.

Lexus is set to unveil a concept called LF-CC, which is almost certainly the new generation of its top-selling IS, but this time in coupe format.

The up-and-coming Koreans will be well represented, with Kia showing its born-again Rondo 7 small people-mover and new-generation Sorento that is only weeks away from its Australian debut.

Its parent company, Hyundai, will spring a three-door version of its popular i30, although that is unlikely to come to Australia.

At the upper end of the spectrum, Land Rover will pull the covers from its all-new fourth-generation Range Rover, while one of the sentimental favourites of the show is expected to be the new Jaguar F-Type.

Maserati will premiere its scalding GranCabrio MC, while a revised Aston Martin DB9 will also make an appearance.

Of course, there will be much more. Plenty of surprises are assured, so watch this space in the days ahead.

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