The Paris motor show is underway for another year
Local hacks head to the Peugeot stand to check out the home marque's offering
Peugeot's show star is this: the baby high-rider HR1 concept previews the 208
The Focus ST's styling has split opinion; it's in Paris along with the rest of the new Focus range
BMW's stand is quiet now - but expect to see the world's press head here to see the new 6-series
Renault's stand mixes motorpsort with road cars; its show star is the DeZir concept
Paris will be a quiet show for Mazda; its stunning Shinari concept will be at Geneva 2011 instead
Peugeot has wheeled out the SR1 concept as a reminder for how its future cars will look
The covers have come off the new Citoren C4. It's bland, but nicely finished
One of Citroen's quirkier concepts, the Revolte, will be overshadowed by the innovative new Lacoste
This was, everyone agreed, one of the most spectacular openings to a European car show for many a long day.
Not only was it packed with headline grabbers like the new jet-powered Jaguar C-X75, and some expected executive mainstreamers like the new VW Passat, but with a whole suite of practical, good-looking hybrids and electric vehicles – such as Renault's showroom-ready Zoe – to underscore the fact that a seismic shift to electric traction really is about to happen.
Above all, everyone noted the remarkable change of mood from the previous Paris salon, two years ago, when recessionary fears were running so high – as one grizzled industry veteran put it – that the only thing most car industry bosses cared about was the overnight bank rate.
This year's event could not be more of a contrast: the recession might not exactly be over yet, but the fundamentally forward-looking automotive industry has long since decided to do what it always does in a crisis: build better cars and find a way to sell them to sufficient customers.
There was lots of gear-changing going on. Jaguar's designers – who by popular vote unveiled the show's most stunning concept car – reckoned their new mid-engined CX75 hybrid (which won't make production but bristles with design cues to forthcoming sports cars) was their first chance for years to take a proper look into the future. The new grille, design boss Ian Callum told us, wasn't far from a production car.
The array of new Lotus concepts – three sports cars, a coupé, a saloon and a city car – was unprecedented at any previous motor show, and simply swet up more burning questions for new boss Dany Bahar and his managers: could this extraordinary plan to raise volume and prices at the same extraordinary rate ever prosper?
The question will be years in the answering, but most agreed that even if these things had never been achieved before, they deserved a chance this time.
Manufacturers everywhere were getting serious about weight-saving, not just the likes of Lamborghini, whose spectacular 6.0-litre carbon concept, Sesto Elemento (named in Italian after carbon, the sixth element in the periodical table) scaled in at less than 1000 kilograms, an amazingly low figure for such a car.
Meanwhile the new Peugeot 508, the soul of a repmobile, is roomier and better equipped than its predecessor, the 407, but manages to slash more than 60 kilograms from its kerb weight.
What else? Too much to count, actually. Renault's new battery-powered Zoe looked terrific ("I'd drive it," I overheard at least one hot-hatch devotee say) and there must have been a lot of relief in the room, given that Renault – which made quite a fuss about its four electric prototypes a year or two ago – has been beaten to the production car punch by Nissan's excellent Leaf.
On the mainstream side, BMW's glassy new 6-series coupé (one of those concepts, like the long-awaited Vauxhall Astra GTC three-door, which everyone knows is the real thing) looked as all-round desirable as the competently humdrum new VW Passat did not.
Peugeot's stand was packed with goodies, from a new range of bicycles – the company is to start selling pedal-power again in the UK – to the impressive new scissor-door HR1 high-wheeler concept, 3.6-metres long, which featured the company's new and highly significant 1.2 litre, three-cylinder, direct-injection petrol turbo engine, making a healthy 110bhp, which linked to Peugeot's neat Hybrid4 electrified back axle, made a 150bhp car that could deliver 80mpg with 80g/km of CO2.
Cars like these are the future, everyone agreed, and from Paris's rambling expo near the Porte de Versailles yesterday, the future looked exceptionally bright.