ONE of the biggest events on this year’s motoring calendar is just a week away as car companies pack up their latest concepts and hottest new cars and head for Paris.
Not all has remained secret until the covers come off on press day and in our first look at what to expect on showroom floors in the months and years to come, who better to put the spotlight on than the French vehicle makers.
There is little news yet of what, if anything, is likely to be coming from Renault and to be honest it will nice if they keep everything under wraps until show time. It will show the latest generation of the Clio and if rumours are correct then hopefully we will see the new Renault Sport Clio there too.
Citroen will be displaying the latest version of the C3 Picasso, an MPV which has been so underrated in the South African market. It may not be worth making a huge song and dance over though, and the same could be said of the new DS3 Cabriolet which, like the Fiat 500 convertible, features fixed side pillars and roof lines and a central folding top.
It will have a number of concepts though, including the first European sighting of the stunning Numero 9 which is still set to be a showstopper all on its own.
Following in the steps of its German counterparts, Citroen will have something for the Chinese to get all excited about in the form of the long wheelbase C4 L, and not to be outdone it will also have an all-electric DS3.
This all leaves much of the excitement for Peugeot, which definitely has something to roar about. It will be unveiling the facelift for its RCZ sports car, with opinions already differing as to whether the outgoing model actually has the better looks.
It will also show an R version, which the company says will be the most powerful in its history, with some 194kW on tap. Some were expecting to see a roadster version but unless the company is holding something back then it is unlikely we will see that in the Parisian halls.
What we will see though is the GTi derivative of the new 208, a car which launches in SA in just a few weeks’ time. We will have to wait until next year for the GTi version which is going to boast 147kW from its turbocharged 1.6l engine, a wider track front and rear, tuned chassis and a more sporty exhaust system. Peugeot is claiming the 208 GTi will bring back the days of the hallowed 205 GTi, a car which, along with the Volkswagen Golf GTi, heralded the dawn of the true hot hatch.
Peugeot’s real stars will come in the form of two very different concepts, though. The first is likely to make it into production and will also be based on the 208 platform.
The 2008 will be the next in the brand’s small crossover arsenal and will essentially take on the likes of the VW CrossPolo and Suzuki SX4. The design obviously echoes that of the regular 208 but with plenty of plastic cladding and a slightly increased ride height, it aims to attract a more youthful audience that wants to pack sports gear and a six-pack or two in the boot and head for the beach or the mountains.
Under the bonnet sits a 1.2l three-cylinder turbo-charged engine that develops 82kW. While there is no guarantee that the 2008 will actually make it into full production, the engine is already earmarked for a number of future models as the company aims to make more use of small capacity powerplants that generate decent power but with less fuel consumption and less emissions.
On the subject of greener motoring, Peugeot’s main draw card for the show will undoubtedly be the Onyx concept.
With a carbon fibre shell and pure copper wings and doors, it is all about being striking while also being lightweight.
Underneath the advanced bodywork will sit a 3.7l V8 hybrid HDi diesel engine that is claimed to produce a massive 447kW.
The Onyx is not just about lightweight and green performance though, with plenty of unusual technology featuring inside the cabin. This will include a passenger compartment made from a taut piece of felt but even more intriguing is the fact that the entire dashboard and centre console is made from what is called "Newspaper Wood".
This material is produced from compressed used newspapers so who knows, maybe one day this copy of Business Day could be surrounding the instrument cluster in your Peugeot.
The Onyx is a project of the Peugeot Global Brand Studio which will also be showing a number of other projects, many of which are not based on four wheels. These will include the carbon fibre Onyx bicycle and also a three-wheeled hybrid supertrike which the company says shows a clear link with its history as a scooter manufacturer.