These cars won’t come to America, but we can lust for them just the same
The Geneva Motor Show is a feast for the eyes, not only in terms of the improbably expensive hypercars from brands you’ve never heard of, but also for the mass-market machinery that is inexplicably not for North American sale.
Consider this your window-shopping excursion down dreamer’s lane for cars that you might see on the road on a European vacation, or perhaps in a fever dream come true if enough chips fall into place.
Toyota Corolla Trek Hybrid Wagon
“No wagons for America!” we imagine a product planner barking in a stifling-hot Nagoya boardroom. “If they want one, put them in a RAV4!” Which is too bad, because the Corolla wagon is a looker. What’s more, it comes with a choice of 1.8-liter or 2.0-liter self-charging hybrid engines—which Prius-beating mileage. It’s not quick, either 11.1 or 8.1 seconds from 0 to 60, but the sharp looks make it appear quicker.
Citroën C5 AirCross
If Subaru got down with its funky side, it might create a clunky-cool compact crossover like this Citroën. Sure, it’s fascia is a bit Honda CR-V (steal from the best, right?), but it has good second-row space for your friends and plenty of room for cargo.
You may pronounce it “Camaireaux.” This sporty coupe borrows more than a few lines from Chevy’s muscle car, but in its own Gallic way that also harks to its iconic 504 Coupé (dig the French-blue memory-foam seats). Yes, this sleek electric two-door was first unveiled at the Paris Motor Show back in October, but it requires another look because Peugeot subsequently said the brand is returning to North American shores. Attention, Monsieur Tavares, please make this car your flagship.
Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4
While talking about the coming French invasion of America, we can theorize that more folks would be interested in this interpretation of the anonymous crossover. Although the exterior design is cool enough, the real magic is inside. The center-stack control actuators resemble piano keys. The wood inlay resembles distressed driftwood and sweeps throughout the dashboard as well as the front and rear doors. Its lines are angular, octagonal, and futuristic—which is proper visual communication for a 300-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain with a manufacturer-claimed 31-mile (50-km) battery-only range and an eMPG around 107. If you think the Volvo XC40 is cool, re-set your cool meter.
Shared on the small-car platform with Nissan and Mitsubishi, the redesigned Clio is a Versa that went to finishing school. Whereas the Versa screams downmarket rental car, the Clio shows that small doesn’t have to mean cheap. From the digitized instrument panel and iPad-sized center stack infotainment system, to the soft-cushion control buttons, swings, and rheostats, the Clio is the Versa that Nissan should make.
Whatever happened to the inexpensive, go-anywhere SUV? With the departure of the Nissan Xterra, and the price appreciation of the Jeep Wrangler, there’s an opening for an economical “real” SUV sold to people who don’t mind that the interior looks ripped from a 1990s parts bin. Built by Renault’s Romania-based budget brand, the Duster is a proper 4×4 with a differential lock and hill descent control. Probably a bit wheezy for American roads, the Duster offers a 1.3-liter gasoline turbo generating 148 hp and 184 lb-ft in its top trim. But the British press has raved about it, and with a price point that translates into the mid-$20,000 USD range, it could be a bargain.
Ah, poor Suzuki. It couldn’t hang on in the North American market, especially as its Vitara now resembles a Range Rover Evoque on a budget. But even if Suzuki had stuck it out, it’s a long shot that its Jimny micro-SUV would have made it here. Its wee 1.5-liter engine puts out a meager 102 hp and 96 lb-ft, with a top speed of 86 mph (138 km/h). And its interior is a bit Playskool. But it has a legitimate 4H/4L transfer case. And geez is it ever cute.
How many e’s are there in “Squeeeee!” Five seems about right for this huggable puppy of an electric vehicle. Angular in shape, but with soft corners and a front fascia that appears bemused at the world, the Honda e Prototype sadly has that sub-150-mile (241-km) battery range that dooms it to be a city car for Japan and Europe. Inside, there’s a retro-futuristic touch of an entire IP comprised of screens, while wood inlay adds a touch of mid-century-modern style.
If you let VW design the front, Nissan the back, and Kia the interior, this is what you’d get from this new five-seat midsize crossover. It has a bit of a parts-bin feel, but boasts a roomy second row for your leggy adolescent kids. If it can carry a price-value equation against ostensibly more expensive foes like the Honda Passport, the Korando could make a dent—if it ever gets to America.
Seat el-Born Concept
Could this be the transformation of the crossover? A people hauler that’s not a SUV, CUV, wagon, hatchback, or micro-van, this visionary five-seater could be the shape of things to come. The etched C-pillar graphics, reimagined flying roof, and stubby IP and center console screens are all innovative design transformations. There’s a monstrous central storage cubby and a huge back seat … all thanks to sharing VW’s stellar MEB electric-vehicle architecture meant for Europe’s narrow city streets. Hardly a concept, it should reach Seat dealers in 2020 with 261 miles (420 km) of range on the WLTP cycle.
Picture an Audi Q3, but $15,000 USD cheaper. That’s Skoda for you. It’s the perfect recipe for those who want premium feel on a budget. Granted, its undersized engine offerings would be a bit aired-out on American roads, but we could swap in VW’s 1.4-liter turbo-four and be fine. Interior instruments, gauges, and controls have the look and feel of analog-era Audi—a design that has yet to go out of style. Despite its tidy size, the Kamiq has a generous back seat that fits a six-footer.
Still just a prototype, this Estonian-made three-wheeled electric vehicle has the flair of a ‘60s-era Alfa Romeo Giulietta front and boattail Spider rear, while the inside is go-for-a-picnic charming. But it carries the modernity of a lithium-ion battery pack. As a three-wheeler, it will be graded as a motorcycle, not a car. Nobe is still in startup mode, but if you want to get in on the ground floor, they’re launching a Kickstarter in April. Just remember, three-wheeled transport hasn’t exactly taken off in past iterations—and this one is target-priced at an eye-watering $40,000 USD.