You’d expect the French manufacturers to be full of beans at their home motor show. But in terms of creativity, there was only one winner – with Citroen the victor by a good five lengths.
Interestingly, the Peugeot-Citroen home-team rivalry was conducted this year in the light of the departure of Peugeot’s barely installed new design director, evidently because his Citroen opposite number, Jean-Pierre Ploue, had just been elevated to the position as design director of the whole PSA group.
There is an inspiration and an optimism about Citroen’s offerings – especially the remarkable Hypnos GT saloon – which frankly eclipses everything else at the show.
Its most striking feature is an amazing, avant garde interior created by British designer Leighanne Earley, whose work has been gaining more and more credence within the double chevron design team.
Throw in the remarkable Citroen GT, a car designed purely for the latest generation Gran Turismo console game (but built in three-dimensions just for the hell of it) - and the anti-establishment C3 Picasso - and you have a collection of cars that put Citroen right back in the mix when it comes to creating avant-garde concepts.
Compared with this, Peugeot’s dowdy Hymotion4 Prologue and its more rakish but wholly predictable Hymotion4 RC were hardly in the game.
And Renault? My feeling is that the company has done better than Peugeot this year. The Megane has been caught unhappily between boss Carlos Ghosn’s edict that mainstream models should have calmer, longer-lasting styling – and the more recent realisation that today’s cars only attain sales-making prominance if they look good.
The CE electric van concept was decent enough, however, and the Laguna Coupe gave their whole stand a lift. But the observer couldn’t help thinking that the true remedy for Renault will be for top management to use a much, much lighter touch on design issues. Citroen’s Paris exhibits show how well it can work.