PetrolBlog’s Geneva Unconventional: Part Two

Time for part two of PetrolBlog’s Geneva Unconventional – searching out the good, the bad and the ugly of the Geneva Motor Show 2012.

If you missed part one, you can find it here. If not, read on for the next ten awards.

Warning, this update contains images of the Fiat 500L, which some readers may find distressing. 

11. The ‘surely it can’t look as bad in real life as it does in the photos’ award: Fiat 500L

In part one, I spared you the sight of the Fiat 500L, but this time I’m going in for the kill and giving it to you straight. The Fiat 500L not only looks awful, but it represents all that is wrong when a marketing department starts making the decisions. I suppose it’s natural to look at something successful and think ‘just how can we milk this for all it’s worth’, but that doesn’t make it right. Clearly Fiat looked at the success of the MINI and in particular, the various model extensions of questionable taste. It’s just a shame that Fiat didn’t look at the MINI Countryman and say ‘no, we’re not going to discredit an icon in such a way’.

I like the Fiat 500, particularly the basic, frugal models. They seem in keeping with the original 500 spirit and I’m looking forward to testing a TwinAir for PetrolBlog in a few weeks time.

But I’ve got no love for the 500L. It looks bloated, heavy and clumsy. Apparently L stands for Large, but it could just so easily stand for Lard. Or Laughable. Or Loathsome.

And not even a pair of beautiful models can hide its hideousness. The sign for the toilets behind the Fiat stand seems rather apt.

Fiat 500L with two models at Geneva Motor Show 2012

Rear of Fiat 500L at Geneva Motor Show 2012

12. Favourite New Small Family car: Skoda Citigo

This was the first time I’d had the chance to get up! close and personal with the VAG New Small Family (NSF) range of cars. Volkswagen has the up!, SEAT has the Mii and Skoda has the Citigo.

They’re fundamentally the same. Based on the same platform and available with same engines and three and five-door configurations, but each has its own unique identity. I suspect that the up! will be the most popular, with the VW brand and marketing budget helping to give it the highest profile of the three.

I loved Volkswagen’s up! display. The range of different options were a joy to behold and gives a clue as to how successful the car will be. The success will be through personalisation and Volkswagen may just have the makings of a profile rivalled only by the MINI and the Fiat 500.

Volkswagen VW up! at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

The sense of fun surrounding the up! was completely lacking on the SEAT stand. Once again SEAT seems to have drawn the short straw, with the Mii looking the least cheeky and least interesting. SEAT is supposed to be VAG’s youthful and exciting brand and yet, with a couple of exceptions, has a range of cars devoid of interest. Shame.

White SEAT Mii at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

Which leaves the Citigo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the range of options on display were less adventurous than the up!, but they were no less interesting. I especially loved the white five-door version, complete with black foil stripes and aftermarket black alloys. It’s a personal opinion, but I also think Skoda’s corporate ‘moustache’ suits the car more than VW’s corporate look. It looks more comfortable, whereas the VW’s feels a little more ‘crowbarred’.

The Citigo’s look and positioning seems totally in tune with the promise of a fun and frugal city car and I can see it being very successful for Skoda. It gets my vote, but I still adore the up!.

White 5-door Skoda Citigo at Geneva Motor Show 2012

13. Taking inspiration from Goodwood: Mazda

At last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, Audi took the bold step of filling their stand with nothing more than white cars. It divided opinion, but I wasn’t a fan. I even blogged about it.

I’m guessing that Mazda liked it though, as they did exactly the same thing at Geneva. But for me, it highlighted one thing – a range of cars that it’s difficult to get excited about. It’s probably no coincidence that they only car of note was the Takeri. And that was finished in red.

White cars on the Mazda stand at Geneva Motor Show 2012

14. Car of the day: Citroën C6

Did I mention that the Citroën C6 was my car of the day? I have a feeling I may have done, but just in case I didn’t, let me say it again. The Citroën C6 was by far and away my favourite car of the day. I want one so much.

Any excuse for another photo, eh?

Rear of Citroën C6 at Geneva 2012

15. Question most overheard in the Geneva press centre

The good people of the Geneva Motor Show were kind enough to lend me a Swiss plug adapter to charge my iPhone. As a result, I was sat next to the lady in charge of the press centre for an hour. Within that time, I lost count of the number of times the lady was asked one of two questions.

One of which was ‘why is the wifi connection so slow?’. There was no real answer to this, other than the fact that they increase the capacity every year and it’s never enough.

The other question was even more popular – ‘what’s the name of the wifi to connect to?’. The answer was ‘motorshow 2012’, although I’m pretty sure it will change in 2013.

The press centre was a hive of activity, with journos frantically uploading images and copy to ensure they were first with the scoops. There must have been a lot of Germans there, as even a few minutes into the day, many chairs were ‘reserved’ through the use of jackets and bags. Sadly I didn’t spot any towels though.

Oh, is it me, or does the Geneva press centre look like something out of the X-Files?

Geneva press centre

16. The ‘oh my god, this is the new Note’ award

This is the Nissan Invitation. I’ll openly admit that I didn’t know much about it before I went to Geneva and really only stumbled across it by accident. After seeing the Juke and the barely visible Micra, I chanced upon this permatan-coloured wonder. Turns out it’s called the Invitation and it’s Nissan’s concept for a new city car. As a British petrolhead, it’s significant for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s going to be built in Sunderland, with the creation of 400 new jobs. Good news.

And secondly, it’s rumoured to be the replacement for the Nissan Note. Yep, the car we spend the most time stuck behind on our favourite B-roads is going to be replaced by this chiselled and rather dramatic hatchback. Now I could be wrong, but I can’t see many Note owners finding this appealing, so the Invitation may attract a new breed of drivers. Hopefully those capable of driving at speeds of more than 22mph and without the need to straddle the middle white line.

Nissan Invitation concept at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

17. Most bizarre giveaway of the day

It’s two years since Ford revealed the B-Max concept at the Geneva Motor Show, so it’s no surprise that they chose Geneva 2012 to unveil the production car. You get the impression they’re rather proud of it, especially its clever combination of hinged front doors and rear sliding doors to provide a 1.5 metre access point. It’s achieved by integrating the b-pillars into the doors themselves. Nice one, Ford.

The company calls it ingenious and is keen to express this at every given opportunity. In fact, with every press pack, they gave away a rather large button that, when pressed, exclaims “INGENIOUS” in an excitable voice. It’s a bizarre thing and I get the impression my view of it is shared by the good people of the Ford press team. When I requested a press pack, I was presented the device with an apology and was told that ‘you probably don’t want this, but I have to give it to you anyway’. Quite.

Still, it might fetch £2.50 on eBay in a couple of years time.

Ford B-Max ingenious button

18. The ‘best opportunity to look at the back of people’s heads’ award

I didn’t pay much attention to the Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin or Ferrari stand. Sacrilege perhaps, but I was more interested in the obscure and the mundane.

The supercar stands were busy of course. It was virtually impossible to get a good look at the cars, let alone be allowed on to the stands. This was the view of the Ferrari stand at a quieter moment. It was the closest I got to the prancing horses.

The Ferrari stand at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

19. The ‘how on earth did this beauty pass me by?’ award

The Renault stand at Geneva was both vast and full of interest. I’ll comment further on this in a future update.

But it was the Laguna Coupé that stole the show for me. You may or may not know that the Laguna is no longer available new in the UK, marking the end for a car that has been a stalwart of the Little Chef car park for nearly 20 years.

Perhaps it’s me, but just how good does the Laguna Coupé look? In Monaco GP spec with gleaming white paintwork, the Coupé is a rather sexy and svelte animal. If you squint a little, it looks like the lovechild of an Aston Martin and a Fiat Coupé.

It may not be a precision instrument in the same way as as Renaultsport car, but with four-wheel steering and a competent chassis, it’ll be no slouch. And being a big Renault, the residual values will be appalling, meaning the Renault Laguna Coupé will be appearing on PetrolBlog’s radar sooner rather than later.

Renault Laguna Coupé at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

Rear of Renault Laguna Coupé at the Geneva Motor Show 2012

20. The most unfortunate female model of the day

The Geneva Motor Show is like going back to 1970s Great Britain. Back then, the London Motor Show featured an array of big-haired and big-busted women parading in front of Triumph Stags and MGBs. As Leslie Phillips may have said, ‘ding dong’. In 2012, it’s like nothing has changed, with an array of long-legged, bronzed beauties being paid to stand in front of some of the world’s most beautiful cars.

I could imagine many of the girls being delighted when their agent informed them that they’d be working on the Aston Martin or Maserati stand. Or perhaps the Alfa Romeo or Jaguar stand. Their beauty would reflect the profile of the brand they were chosen to represent.

Sadly for one girl, her job was to stand in the back of the SsangYong Actyon Sports. Poor girl. The last I heard she could be seen crying into a G&T in a back street bar in Geneva. Her dreams ruined. Her hopes crushed.

Girl in the back of a SsangYong Actyon Sports pick-up

You’ll no doubt be disappointed to learn that there’ll be third and perhaps final Geneva Unconventional update shortly. In the meantime, I realise must get on with announcing the PetrolBlog Car of the Year 2011…

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

27 comments

  1. March 10, 2012
    Simon Hingston

    Poor, poor girl. By next weekend she’ll be back begging for lava bread in Barry.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2012
      MajorGav

      Ha! She had such high hopes too.

      Reply
  2. March 10, 2012
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    Great post again – agree with every word. The Citigo is my favourite of the trio too. I liked the green 5dr – definitely looks best as the five-door I reckon. And you’re right, Skoda’s corporate details suit the car the best.

    And I’ve been singing the merits of the Laguna Coupe for ages. Pity they’re canning it. Like the C6, it’s another “in a few years” purchase.

    As for the odd Ford button, smart’s was much more useful. It’s a USB attachment that you plug into your laptop or PC. Press it, and they go into energy-saving mode. Good bit of eco-propaganda but a cool touch.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2012
      MajorGav

      Thanks Antony, appreciate that.

      Agree that the 5-door Citigo and up! are the best. Just so brilliantly packaged and in proportion.

      Can’t believe I’ve let the Laguna Coupé pass me by. I feel I need to hand in my petrolhead badge and leave quietly. It looks delightful and has a design that I think will age brilliantly. Definitely one for the future.

      Of course, I now need to rummage through my bag of USB sticks. I thought the Mazda Takeri stick was neat, but the Smart one sounds better…

      Reply
      • March 10, 2012
        Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

        Darn, didn’t get hold of the Mazda one. You’ll have to post a photo…

        Reply
        • March 10, 2012
          MajorGav

          Ha! Will do. Keep an eye on Instagram.

          Reply
  3. March 10, 2012
    Richard Lyle

    Point of information, Mr Speaker – Citroen sold four C6s in the UK in 2011. We’re going to be fighting over them in a couple of years time.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2012
      MajorGav

      Wow! Good information, Mr Lyle. I’ve always said that £5k would be the tipping point for me. But I’m probably going to raise this a little now…

      Having said all of this, I’d probably sell a kidney to buy a new one right now. I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with one.

      Reply
  4. March 10, 2012
    Joseph

    Is it just me, or is the Renault Laguna Coupe on of prettiest yet most underrated cars on sale today? Not often I’m polite about a French car!

    Like the Fiat 500 and VW Up! Leagues ahead of the old Fox.

    Great post again!

    Reply
    • March 11, 2012
      MajorGav

      Cheers Joseph. Yep, with you on the Laguna. Clearly its fan base is too small as us Brits can no longer buy it. Shame.

      Reply
      • March 12, 2012
        Robin Brownobin

        I had a go in a Laguna Coupe Monaco GP last year. Interior and driving nothing to write home about really, but wonderful exterior looks.

        http://www.motortorque.com/reviews/auto-1109/renault-laguna-coupe-monaco-gp-first-drive.asp

        I share your love of the C6 and the Invitation (hideous name though). Nissan wares do seem rather split-personality though. I know the Micra is a world car and all, but to go from that to your similar-segmented Note replacement, which looks stunning, is rather going from one extreme to the other.

        Reply
        • March 12, 2012
          MajorGav

          Interesting review. I guess I would have expected as much, but I was struck by how good it looked at the show.

          Reply
  5. March 11, 2012
    chrischasescars

    I’m enjoying these Geneva posts, from ‘across the pond’ in Canada. Looking forward to the next installment! Agree with you on feeling bad for the girl in the back of the SsangYong, although I often wonder how much any of the girls enjoy standing around next to cars while random guys ask to have their photos taken with them…

    Reply
    • March 11, 2012
      MajorGav

      Thanks Chris. Good to know we have readers in Canada.

      You know, I thought the same thing about the girls and the countless request for photos. It’s one thing when you snap them as part of a shot with the car. But on a number of occasions I saw girls being asked to pose without the car.

      Reply
      • March 11, 2012
        chrischasescars

        I suppose it could be a good opportunity for an aspiring model, but the girls at the shows I’ve been to have never looked very happy to be there.

        Reply
      • March 11, 2012
        Simon Hingston

        Well they are by far the more interesting subject most of the time!

        Reply
  6. March 12, 2012
    Darren Leslie

    With all the mention and photos of the girls, it almost made me forget about the hideousness (is that a word?) of that 500L. If it came from one of the up coming Korean or Chinese firms, it woyld still be ugly, but you could forgive them in a naive and finding there feet type way. But from an Italian car manufacturer that has a history of producing some beautiful cars, especially the small ones, it is quite honestly a disgrace. If I was there, and the designer of the 500L was there, I’d have hit him with one of his press packs…….maybe. He should go and look at the C6 as a way of producing a quite frankly beautiful and timeless car (and if you get one anytime, I expect a invite to have a look).

    Prehaps a future blog could be about the ‘useless tat’ that gets given away at motorshows these days? All I remember getting were brochures and prehaps the odd sticker.

    As usual Gav, an excellent write up. Look forward to the third installment.

    Reply
    • March 12, 2012
      MajorGav

      Thank you Darren. All being well, part three will be up later today.

      The thing with the 500L, is that they’ve so obviously tried to simply milk the 500 for all it has. The ’90s Multipla was hardly a looker, but its packaging and all round brilliance made it excellent. The 500L just looks like a 500 that has been eating too many pizzas.

      Reply
  7. March 12, 2012
    FailCar

    With you on the Laguna. I reckon in a few years I would be happy with a V6 and an R26.R parked next to it in the garage. If only one would depriciate as badly as the other the dream could come sooner!

    Reply
    • March 12, 2012
      MajorGav

      Nice garage! Fancy going half with me when I create a ‘Museum of French Fancies’. The list of French cars I lust after is growing by the day…

      Reply
  8. March 12, 2012
    FailCar

    I would love to have a Museum. But like a driving Museum where people could come and for a small fee have a ‘time share’ in say a Renault 5 GT Turbo, 205 Gti, AX GT, Escort Cosworth, E30 M3, Avantime, XM, etc etc.

    Business plan part 1:
    Buy lottery ticket…

    Reply
    • March 12, 2012
      MajorGav

      I have similar dreams of a Real World Dream Barn where people can ‘borrow’ such cars. No supercar nonsense, just everyday cars we can all enjoy.

      One day, Mr FailCar, one day…

      Reply
      • March 12, 2012
        Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

        I think I’ve also mentioned something similar before on Petrolblog. Plenty of real-world choices – like your own AX – that are becoming increasingly rare, but aren’t considered by many special enough to save. And it’d be a great shame if they were to disappear, and never get the chance to be driven. I’m deadly serious about getting hold of stuff like that and sharing it with people.

        Reply
        • March 12, 2012
          MajorGav

          Looks like we can share the cost three ways then. This idea may be more accesible than we thought…

          The PetrolBlog Ark. Saving the interesting, obscure and mundane for future generations.

          Reply
  9. March 15, 2012
    Gilberto

    Reblogged this on NARROW LANES.

    Reply
  10. March 18, 2012
    #Project924

    Another interesting post. It’s not just Mazda doing the white thing though, why are people still going with it? Think it’s really played out now. That said, the C6 always looks good and the Laguna Coupe looks fantastic… be great if they gave it the cup treatment!

    The real standout though is the Invitation, maybe it’s in context of what it’s replacing, but that thing looks cool. Cool enough to be stuck behind on a A road? No. But nice all the same.

    Reply
    • March 19, 2012
      MajorGav

      The Invitation was a real surprise.

      Wonder how it would look in white!? 😉

      Reply

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