3 March 2005

The Geneva Motor Show opens to the public today, with a healthy dose of real-world excitement topping the bill in terms of new metal. Even the traditionally radical concept cars are almost without exception thinly-disguised production models – Honda’s Civic and Seat’s Leon prototypes give a brave and faithful impression of the future look of those mainstream models, and both will feature in next week's Autocar.

The new metal count was at exciting and almost unprecedented levels for a single motor show. The likes of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Ferrari F430 Spider, Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Lamborghini Concept S - previewing the Gallardo Roadster - meant there was plenty in the way of exotica, but accompanied by more affordable new cars that really drew the crowds.

The new Italian trio of Alfa Romeo Brera and 159, and the Fiat Croma, proved to be among the biggest attractions on press day, while the Mazda and Ford stands pulled in the crowds with the all-new MX-5 and Focus ST respectively. The Blue Oval also claimed to have discovered a new segment with the SAV concept, a car that will sit halfway between the Mondeo and Galaxy when concept gives way to a production version next year. Also in people-carrier mode was Vauxhall, whipping the sheet off the new Zafira midi-MPV, including a 240bhp VXR version.

Baby cars also grabbed the attention of many, led by the three cars born out of a joint venture between Toyota and PSA-Peugeot Citroën. The venture has now given birth to the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107, while other small car arrivals included the Renault Zoë, a concept that will sire the next Twingo, Chevrolet's new Matiz, and next year's must-have convertible, the Mitsubishi Colt CC.

French manufacturers Peugeot and Citroen supplemented their small-car arrivals by the virtually production ready 407 Prologue Coupe and the executive-level C6. Other debutants to excite the executives included Lexus' all-new IS, complete with a diesel engine for the first time, and the new Cadillac BLS, developed especially for Europe by the American brand. The American Dodge brand was officially launched in Europe at the show, and the company used Geneva to reveal its launch model, the Focus-rivalling Caliber.

BMW's new 3-series and the new VW Passat were both given a first motor show airing, and Mercedes-Benz gave a first showing to the production B-class, while Audi's immense 414bhp RS4 was rolled out for its first public engagement.

The Geneva motor show is running until 13 March at Geneva’s Palais des Expositions – a five minute walk from Geneva’s airport. Admittance costs 12 Swiss francs for adults and seven for concessions. For more information, visit www.salon-auto.ch/en

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