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by Tim Beissmann

Unless you’re an avid skier flying into the gateway to the French alps, Geneva in March is the time to carve your way around an exciting new array of production cars and concept vehicles at the famous Swiss lake city’s Palexpo exhibition centre.

The 2012 Geneva motor show is the 82nd running of a show that was first held in 1905 and also known as the Salon international de l’automobile.

While we have been bringing you lead-up coverage for weeks already, Europe’s first major motor show of the year officially kicks off on the evening of March 6 Australian time.

CarAdvice will be live in Geneva to bring you the news as it happens, but in the meantime here’s a guide to some of the key stars of the show to whet your automotive appetite…

 

Audi A3

The long-awaited third-generation A3 comes at a crucial time for Audi, with the nine-year-old current model showing its age. While the new model’s styling will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, it’s under the skin that the critical changes take place. The new A3 becomes the first model to sit on the Volkswagen Group’s versatile ‘MQB’ architecture, which will eventually be shared with about 50 different vehicles.

The A3 hatchback will be on show, with cabriolet and sedan body styles to be revealed further down the line. The A3 launches in Europe this year, but Australians will have to wait until early in 2013 to jump behind the wheel of Audi’s new premium small car.

Read more about the new Audi A3.

 

Audi RS4 Avant

The unveiling of the third-generation RS4 sees the go-fast nameplate return to its roots, with Audi to offer the car as a wagon only. Four years after production of the second-gen Audi RS4 ceased, the all-new model turns up the heat, with its 331kW/430Nm 4.2-litre V8 capable of launching the hot Avant from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds.

The RS4 Avant gets the traditional brushed aluminium exterior enhancements and a cockpit filled with racy carbon fibre. The RS4 is scheduled to hit Australia early in 2013, and should be priced to undercut the $154,800 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate.

Read more about the new Audi RS4 Avant.

 

BMW M6 coupe

BMW fans get their first taste of the brand’s fastest model when the M6 coupe hits the stand at Geneva. Powered by the same 412kW/680Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 as the M5, the M6 goes from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds yet uses no more fuel than a Ford Falcon on the combined cycle. The less polarising, more refined third-generation coupe will arrive in Australia in October alongside its M6 convertible sibling, which debuts in New York in April.

Read more about the new BMW M6 coupe.

 

BMW M Performance Automobiles range

Four cars from BMW’s new second-tier sports division will add extra spice to the German brand’s line-up. The X5 M50d, X6 M50d and the 5-Series-based M550d become the first models in the M Performance Automobiles range. All three are powered by an all-new 3.0-litre diesel engine with 280kW of power, 740Nm of torque and three turbochargers. The SUV models will go on sale in Australia around mid-year, while the M550d is left-hand-drive-only at this stage.

Also on display is the Concept M135i, the hottest version of the new BMW 1-Series hatchback to date. Full specifications are yet to be revealed, but the hot hatch’s traditional straight six-cylinder engine will produce in excess of 223kW of power. BMW Australia says it will consider a production version of the M135i if it is produced as a five-door model.

Read more about the BMW M Performance Automobiles range and the Concept M135i.

 

Chevrolet Cruze wagon

The most practical version of the Cruze small car will debut at Geneva before Holden slaps a lion badge on it and sells it in Australia early next year. At 4675mm from nose to tail, the Cruze wagon is 78mm longer than the sedan. It offers an additional 55 litres of boot space with the rear seats up (500 litres in total), and expands to 1500 litres with the seats folded flat.

The Holden Cruze wagon will initially be imported from South Korea, although Holden insists it has the capacity to add the third body style to its local production line and will test the market’s reaction to the wagon next year.

Read more about the new Chevrolet Cruze wagon.

 

Ferrari F620 GT

It’s not every day Ferrari unveils its most powerful road car ever. The F620 GT – as it’s believed to be called – supersedes the 599, and will blow it out of the water in terms of power and performance. The F620 GT’s 6.3-litre V12 engine is rumoured to produce 552kW of power and an almighty 936Nm of torque, helping it sprint from 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 3.1 seconds. Ferrari’s new flagship supercar will go on sale in Australia in 2013.

Read more about the new Ferrari F620 GT.

 

Fiat 500L

The Bambino is about to get bigger, with the all-new Fiat 500L headed for Geneva. Following the lead of the Mini Countryman, the 500L (the ‘L’ stands for ‘large’) is 600mm longer, 110mm wider and 150mm taller than the standard 500 city car. Like the not-so-mini Mini, the compact five-door MPV will be available with all-wheel-drive, while an optional seven-seat configuration is also expected. Designed primarily for Europe, Fiat Australia’s local importer has not completely closed the book on the 500L, but admits it’s unlikely to come down under at this stage.

Read more about the new Fiat 500L.

 

Hyundai i30 wagon

The new i30 wagon benefits from the sharpened styling and significant mechanical upgrades of the hatchback that was first unveiled last September at Frankfurt. The exterior borrows from the sleek design of the i40 Tourer, adopting the latest elements of the brand’s fluidic sculpture design language.

Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions replace the old four- and five-speed units, and the Australian line-up could also feature two new 1.6-litre engines: a 99kW/164Nm direct-injection petrol and a 94kW/260Nm diesel. The Hyundai i30 wagon will join the new hatch in Australian showrooms around June/July.

Read more about the new Hyundai i30 wagon.

 

Hyundai i-oniq concept

We know surprisingly little about Hyundai’s upcoming concept, with no leaks and few rumours on the car since Hyundai’s only official announcement in December. The i-oniq concept resembles a shooting brake in its profile sketch, and chief designer Thomas Burkle says it previews “the next evolution of the brand’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ form language”. There’s no word yet on if the i-oniq concept previews any upcoming production model specifically or if it is simply a design study.

Read more about the Hyundai i-oniq concept.

 

Infiniti Emerg-e concept

The Emerg-e concept has supercar style to rival the finest from Italy, yet its range-extended hybrid powertrain promises to make it more efficient than a humble hatchback. The mid-engined supercar concept is the most dramatic display of Infiniti’s design language to date, uniting the concave/convex grille, pinched side windows and exaggerated rippling panels in a futuristic and cohesive design. The Emerg-e’s powertrain remains a mystery, although it’s rumoured to combine a 1.2-litre engine with an electric motor to create what Infiniti describes as “vivid performance with zero emissions capability”.

Read more about the Infiniti Emerg-e concept.

 

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

 

The all-new A-Class breaks new ground for Mercedes, becoming the German manufacturer’s first ever conventionally styled hatchback. The premium small car has a bold face in line with the company’s current design language, while the interior promises to be full of quality materials and youth-focused, socially connected technology. The standard A-Class range will make a return to the Australian market in the first quarter of 2013, while a high-performance AMG version is also on the radar for further down the track.

Read more about the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

 

Mini Clubvan concept

The Clubvan concept is a unique spin on the traditional panel van theme. The near-production-ready concept is essentially a Mini Clubman with the rear seats removed and replaced with a long, flat loading floor. The Clubvan is expected to join Mini’s European garage to give the British brand a competitor for compact delivery vans like the Volkswagen Caddy. The 82kW/270Nm 1.6-litre engine from the Mini Cooper D powers the Clubvan, while the production model could also get a petrol option.

Read more about the Mini Clubvan concept.

 

Mitsubishi Outlander

The third-generation Outlander headed to Geneva remains faithful to the PX-MiEV concept that was first revealed at the 2009 Tokyo motor show. The aggressive, Lancer-inspired styling of the outgoing model makes way for more understated, refined features, giving the new SUV a larger, more sophisticated appearance.

The all-new Outlander is set to arrive in Australia before the end of 2012. A diesel engine will finally be added to the local powertrain line-up, accompanying a 2.0-litre petrol unit. Mitsubishi Australia will also launch a highly efficient plug-in hybrid version after it becomes available in mid 2013.

Read more about the new Mitsubishi Outlander.

 

Nissan Invitation concept

The all-new Invitation concept gives us a preview of Nissan’s upcoming light car. Looking a little like a sporty, futuristic Honda Jazz, the Invitation combines sharp exterior lines and a confident stance with a high-tech yet minimalist interior. Although a launch date is still unconfirmed, Nissan says the production version will have a comprehensive suite of driver-assist systems and hybrid-rivalling fuel economy.

Read more about the Nissan Invitation concept.

 

Opel Mokka

The Barina-based compact soft-roader will become the first SUV in Opel’s global line-up. The well-equipped Mokka will launch in Europe with two petrol engines and one diesel – all three equipped with stop-start technology for improved fuel economy.

Opel Australia – which opens its doors in the third quarter of 2012 – is hopeful of adding the Mokka to its line-up, but at this stage the car could still be more than 18 months away. The Mokka would give General Motors an answer to Ford’s Fiesta-based EcoSport baby SUV in Australia, which is scheduled to arrive in mid 2013.

Read more about the new Opel Mokka.

 

Peugeot 208

Peugeot’s light car will be the star of the show for the French manufacturer, with the all-new production hatch to be unveiled alongside two exciting concepts.

The 208 is completely new inside and out. A smaller, more refined grille replaces the gaping smile of the 207, while the stylised headlights, taillights and body contours gives the mini car a unique character. The 208 is shorter than the 207, although both the cabin and boot are more spacious. Three- and five-door models will go on sale in Australia in October.

Read more about the new Peugeot 208.

 

Peugeot 208 GTi concept

The 208 GTi show car signals the return of the famous sporting nameplate to Peugeot’s light-car line-up. The concept previews a future production model that be expected to go on sale in Australia in 2013. The car’s 1.6-litre turbo engine (shared with the Peugeot RCZ) could produce up to 147kW, putting it on par with the Renault Clio RS200.

Read more about the Peugeot 208 GTi concept.

Peugeot 208 XY

Another 208 concept on show is the urban-inspired 208 XY concept, which takes the city car upmarket with leather upholstery, touchscreen display, panoramic sunroof and 16-layer ‘pulsion’ exterior paint.

Read more about the Peugeot 208 XY concept.

 

Porsche Boxster

You may be hard-pressed to spot the differences, but Porsche’s entry-level sports car has been given a complete overhaul. The third-generation 981 model is longer and wider than the old model, giving it a more spacious interior, while its aluminium construction should make it lighter and more fuel efficient than ever.

The new 2.7-litre engine produces 198kW, while the revised 3.4-litre flat six in the Boxster S now generates 235kW. Acceleration has improved marginally, with the Boxster S now capable of hitting triple figures in five seconds flat. The new Boxster will arrive in Australia in the second half of 2012.

Read more about the new Porsche Boxster.

Range Rover Evoque Convertible concept

The Evoque Convertible concept is perhaps the biggest surprise of the show. While Land Rover insists there are no production plans at this stage, company executives admit the concept will be used to explore the potential of a luxury convertible SUV. If approved, the Evoque would join the Nissan Murano in offering an unconventional soft-roader soft-top option. Land Rover says the concept features a fully retractable roof system with integrated rollover protection, and maintains its lavish interior and all-terrain capability.

Read more about the Range Rover Evoque Convertible concept.

 

Toyota FT-Bh concept

 

While many concept cars aim to be as futuristic as possible, the engineers of the FT-Bh deliberately kept it simple to make it more viable for short-term production. The compact hybrid concept reportedly weighs less than 800kg thanks to its widespread use of lightweight materials, helping cut its fuel consumption to about half that of a conventional vehicle of its size. The teaser images so far reveal flowing panels and piercing lines, promising a dramatic departure from the standard Prius design.

Read more about the Toyota FT-Bh concept.

 

Volvo V40

Volvo’s long-awaited V40 compact hatchback joins the A3 and the A-Class at the show, becoming the Swedish brand’s first true competitor in the premium small class. Official images have already revealed the exterior, which has a conservative face similar to the S60/V60 but a more aggressive rear, with a muscular shoulder line crease and detailed tail-lights and bumper.

The V40 will launch with a range of four-cylinder petrol- and diesel-powered models, which will arrive in Australia showrooms in around 12 months’ time in early 2013.

Read more about the new Volvo V40.




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